MELBOURNE—Recent statistics from the Australian Bureau of Pop Culture indicate that the quality of fan-written fiction about a series, or “fanfics”, tends to go downhill along with the series’ popularity.
“It’s really quite sad, actually,” said Barbara McTodd, a top researcher of international pop culture. “We found that just before the series reaches its peak of popularity, the quality of fan-written fiction reaches a similar peak. The drop in quality is also just a tad bit faster than the decline in popularity. What you end up with, years after the initial release of a book, movie, or video game, is a pile of terrible smut written by pre-teens for adults.”
One case study followed the quality of sexually charged Harry Potter fanfics from 2003 through November 2013. The first fanfic to reach over 100,000 views describes a loving moment between Ron and Harry.
“Harry reached to stroke Ron’s cheek. ‘Are you sure you’re okay with this?’ asked Harry. Ron nodded.” (from “Merry Christmas, Ron” by potterhead731, posted October 2003). A recent fanfic describes an analogous scene with the line, “Harry ripped off Ron’s robes like a wild animal would do to Nigel Thornberry. Ron panted like a winded wildebeest. ‘We are going to fuck now, okay?’ Harry barely asked for permission before shredding Ron’s pants with a pants-shredding curse.” (from “Ron’s Happiest Christmas” by snookivoldemort, posted August 2013).
The two fanfics were read against each other in a blind screening. Readers ranged from professional book reviewers to strangers walking by on the streets.
“Almost 95% of the time, the subjects agreed that the more recent fanfic fell into the arbitrary category of bad while the first fanfic fell into the less arbitrary category of bonertastic to bonerrific,” explained McTodd.
American scientist Arthur Bosh claims to have conflicting statistics, however.
“When I asked college students to compare two fanfics blindly, the students often claimed that the language used in the older fanfics was outdated or no longer relevant. Some of them, in fact, failed to recognize that the older text was the original work,” Bosh stated. Bosh asked college students to rate the following passage below in comparison to a passage from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
“Gale wasn’t sure he could handle it anymore. In fact, Gale wasn’t sure how he could have ignored Peeta’s gorgeous physique and muscular thighs until now. Peeta was stunned. No one had ever found him bathing naked in his secret bathtub before. Peeta tried to hide himself in the tub, but unfortunately, the water was clear. Peeta looked Gale up and down. Damn, Gale was a fit young miner.” (written by Bosh for his study)
According to Bosh, the college students rated the fanfic passage as “hotter, more dangerous, and more realistic. Some of the students even went so far as to say the passage from the actual book did a poor job of character representation.”
“So I wouldn’t take the McTodd study to be explicitly meaningful,” Bosh concluded. McTodd claimed her findings to be more valuable than Bosh’s, as they contained a more random survey of test subjects and actually compared two fanfics. Sociologists worldwide have taken great interest in the two studies, claiming the subject to be very close to home. Further studies will be conducted throughout 2015, culminating in a 2016 forum hosted by UCLA’s department of sociology. One thing is certain, however. These fanfics are seriously hot.