The Invisible Literary Movement of One Direction Fanfiction

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Today I watched After in a movie theater filled with 50 teens making farting noises and running up and down the stairs. It was a little terrible. But I’m happy I finally got to see After after having to cancel on two different showtimes. Obviously there are huge problems with the movie version (see my last post), but that didn’t seem to matter to the audience of my theater.

The teenage girls taking up the front rows had to be sixteen, which means that five years ago they were 11 years old. I don’t know if any of them have ever read After on Wattpad. But I was around their age when I stayed up all night to read all three books and other fanfics I had saved. From what I’ve observed, the new version of After is about power through female pleasure. That is a pretty interesting take. But as I was explaining to my mom, who knows nothing about the original story, people will only see a movie about a freshman in college learning how to hook up. The very very strange thing about this film is that to most audiences, this relationship is not anything special. The film relies on the viewer to understand that this relationship is the ultimate ~forbidden fantasy~ (just not with that actor). The plot that the educated viewer understands is that this relationship is so hot and steamy because that guy was originally the Harry Styles. But no one knows that anymore because the movie’s plot is so removed from the Wattpad origin.

These are some of the things they should have done differently in the movie.

Hardin should have had longer hair. Tessa and Hardin didn’t have any chemistry at all and the movie was really dependent on music and the audience’s imagination to make it romantic. There’s so much wordage (LOL) that the book used that were mostly Tessa and Hardin’s thoughts. Like chapters and chapters of Tessa describing how badly she wanted to have sex with Hardin, or how Hardin admitted he was falling in love with Tessa. And we got absolutely none of that in the movie. But it’s really hard to make Wattpad translate into a movie. But I applaud the efforts.

That’s nothing that anyone can change though. I doubt anyone will be able to pitch that more viewers will watch a franchise when half of the story can legally not be told, ever.

I felt like such an adult buying my ticket and my popcorn and drink with a credit card.  When I got out of the movie, I saw my reflection in the mirror-walls and my first thought was I look like a grad student. I have been saying and tweeting very positive and affirming things like “It’s great to be employed,” “It’s great to be working full time,” and “It’s so hard working full time.” Because it’s true! Truly, why not tweet the things that are true, real, undeniable, and how I’m feeling? Anyway, if I had seen After in high school I probably would have left the theater sad as shit, thinking some bullshit like “oh wow when will I ever get a boyfriend.” But after growing beyond Wattpad romance and experiencing life, graduating college, dancing at a Lorde concert under confetti stars and feeling the wind in my hair in an Uber down Sunset, singing “Mamma Mia” at Tramp Stamp Grannys with a drink in my hand and my makeup smudged, all I could think to myself while walking out of the movie theater alone to my car was stuff like “I’m the person I wanted to be.”

It takes a lot to grow. Plants know this. It takes a lot to grow up. It takes a lot to face life. It takes a lot to make decisions (good or bad)*. And I’m at a point in my life where I can say I have made all good decisions and I’m having insane career success and at the same time I’m so young. It makes me so grateful for myself that I can also have a part of me that loves 1D fanfics and can narrate an entire history and explain the weirdness of After. It’s something that people might ridicule but my personal thesis is that everything is evolving. I always argue that literature is changing and it doesn’t matter that I like one book over another. It doesn’t matter what book is more popular or critically acclaimed. Everyone is producing content. There are so many books out there. There’s so much to argue.

I love seventeen-year-old me for making the sacrifice for myself of staying up till 1 AM and reading After because I absolutely loved what I wanted to do.

Anyway. I’m currently watching Childish Gambino’s Coachella livestream on YouTube. I’ve watched the YouTube livestream every year since I started college. I wish I could go to Coachella but the year I missed Lorde was the last good year to go. Also Beyoncé and Lady Gaga the last two years were probably not-to-miss either. One day I will go.

I am almost halfway through grad school. Something keeps telling me that there’s something else out there. I remember at UCLA I really wanted to write about pop culture and entertainment. My brain is essentially DUMMY THICK with Tumblr shitpost culture so I understand so much internet crap, but I don’t get to be that expressive in an English MA. I try to be as creative as I can with my literature papers. I am actually getting published soon.

[writing this part one day later]

Billie Eilish just said during her Coachella performance “We will never be in this moment again.” That is a thought I had earlier today when I thought about After being part of a literary movement that was basically invisible to everyone who was not involved in 1D internet culture. There’s so much that I was part of when One Direction was huge and I feel like it has so much meaning in my life than I am able to give it credit for. I didn’t write a major fanfiction story that spanned millions of views but I wrote some things online when I was fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen, and there were a few couple hundred clicks every time, which was so major to me when I had no idea what I was capable of. I was there during this literary movement of One Direction fanfiction where writers were churning out huge fucking books with real content in them, and because it’s little tween culture, it was invisible to everyone. And somehow After made it out of there and is here, six years too late from that time period for most people to understand the cultural importance of this.

It’s literally impossible to harness that kind of viral power right now (because One Direction is literally dead and no one at that level is looking for fics right now) unless you are in the biggest tween market, which has to be something like BTS’s fanbase. There are probably viral fics going around the BTS internet corner. And it’s probably multi-lingual! But I’m not part of that fan group right now. I love being nostalgic for One Direction, but After is like this glaring sign in my face that literature is totally evolving. And when I sit in class and listen to the same dude talk about the same point in Shakespeare every single week and how he teaches that same point to his high school students, I literally die a little inside because I think that we need to open up the scope of literature a little wider because Anna Todd wrote three (and more) GIANT novels on the notes app of her iPhone and it was all about One Direction. And now it’s a movie. In 2019.

I saw on Twitter that someone was accepted to UCLA and wrote an admissions essay on how much they loved One Direction. I am really happy and I like to think that’s also part of my impact. It takes guts to openly like what’s out on the tween market and I’m happy I did even when I felt embarrassed. Look where it got me today LOL.

Here is a link to my thread about After on Twitter (click here).

If you have not listened to Coachella Queens Maggie Rogers and Billie Eilish yet, please do. Their albums are so fucking great. I don’t care for Billie Eilish’s aesthetic AT ALL (spiders? no thank you) but both of her albums so far are sooooooooo good. Maggie Rogers is on a Lorde tier of dance bops except they all have a twangy vibe to them. My Americana Lorde! Speaking of Lorde, I’m ready for her to come back. She said it might take like ten years for her to make a new album, and while I respect artistic integrity, that would kill me. So wherever you are Lorde, I hope your brain is cooking with some mid 20s (age) -inspired dance bops because I’m ready for them.

If you’re confused about the timing of this post, it’s because I spent an entire week writing this. The dates of when I saw After don’t matter, except for the record I did watch it on opening night. I bolted out of a meeting at the end of it and drove around the corner to catch the closest showing. I also got to watch Captain Marvel recently and I thought it was really good. The part where Carol Danvers finds the records and photos of herself with Lawson (the last photo taken of both Carol and Lawson) was filmed in the Southern Regional Library at UCLA in UCLA Housing. When I worked there last summer we found out they were filming that movie in that library but we never spotted any actors at all, so we thought it was something minor. But they did in fact film in that library! Brie Larson was on the hill and so was Samuel L. Jackson and we never saw them! I am crying because I literally worked on the hill all summer! Oh well I guess that’s just Hollywood magic.


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