UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

How real are people? : sports-centric real person fiction between mainstream and fanfiction Tuffentsammer, Judith Louise


This thesis examines real person fiction (RPF) as a subgenre of fanfiction, which is online stories written by fans for other fans about books, movies, TV shows, or even celebrities. RPF is fanfiction—often abbreviated as fic or fanfic—about celebrities and can be written about anyone from actors to musicians, politicians, or athletes. RPF is what Stacey Lantagne describes as “aggressively fictional,” meaning that it bases its representations of celebrities on their media images, which Richard Dyer calls the star image. As writers and readers of RPF extrapolate their characterizations from this source text, they do not make any claims as to the truth of their stories. RPF is simultaneously widely derided even in online fan communities which historically challenge conventions, yet also exists in mainstream media: (Auto-)biographies and biopics in particular are widely popular and, unlike online RPF, impact the wider public’s perceptions of celebrities. While fanfiction’s subversiveness and capacity to function as social critique is equally lauded and questioned, I argue that sports RPF succeeds where other fanfiction and mainstream RPF frequently fails: in critiquing societal norms and creating a quasi-utopian space. The specific context of mainstream sports business and fandom is one of hegemonic masculinity, i.e., in men’s sports, masculine values and standards are reinforced in order to exercise power over people who do not adhere to these same standards, such as women and/or queer people. Online fanfiction-centric fandoms, on the other hand, are what Kristina Busse has described as a queer female space, referring both to the fact that the majority of online fandom members are queer and/or female and that many of the stories shared within the community are erotic and feature non-heteronormative relationships. Regardless of whether it is fantasy-centric reader-/self-insert fanfiction, in which the fan imagines themselves as part of the story, or fics extrapolating from displays of homosocial behavior by professional athletes and writing male/male romantic relationships between them: It is this clash of fundamentally opposed spheres which creates the quasi-utopian space of sports RPF fandom.

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