It’s Always Been Fanfiction; The Boundary of Legitimacy Between Fanfiction and Adaptation

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Robertson, Alexandra E.
fanfiction , adaptation , copyright , legitimacy , storytelling
Adaption as a mode of storytelling is often praised within the mainstream, while fanfiction, which similarly builds off an existing text, is considered unworthy of the same praise. Instead, fanfiction is often accused of, being ‘unoriginal’, ‘simplistic’, and ‘poorly written’. This major research paper aims to identify how this separation between adaptation and fanfiction is reinforced through the notion of legitimacy. Legitimacy dictates what is considered worthy of attention in the mainstream and its purpose is to serve a hierarchy of art and taste. This paper claims that legitimacy, in this case, is made up of four parts: legality, credibility, acceptability, and profitability. Legality examines the ways that copyright laws and fair use dealings have created a grey zone for the creation of transformative works like fanfiction. Credibility details how the author and canon attempt to hold power, and the ways that they are unable to retain that power. Acceptability examines the ways in which adaptation and authorship are male coded, while fanfiction is dismissed due to being a female coded practice. Profitability is the revenue that can be made off of each style of work in a capitalist society and the associated valuing of the work. After the boundary is established of what creates a legitimate and illegitimate work in the mainstream, this paper examines how the boundary does not ultimately stand up to scrutiny by examining two works: BBC’s Sherlock and Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments. These works do not hold up to the boundary, as they are unable to be completely legitimate or illegitimate. Ultimately, this paper argues that the boundary, as must fail to allow the continued, unencumbered production of art.
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