A lack of diversity is hardly the main criticism levelled against Twilight, a controversial yet highly popular vampire franchise of the mid-2000s. Allegations of relationship abuse and sexism are far more prominent—and, if sexism weren’t prevalent in the novel, it certainly pervaded the series’ filming. Right before filming, execs famously told director Catherine Hardwicke that she needed to cut $15 million from the budget, or they would pull the plug despite the overwhelming international success of the source material. She was hopeful that, once Summit saw the number of stunts and set pieces she would have to remove, the studio would understand that these cuts were impossible. Instead, they told her, “great.”
The film that “would be interesting, at most, to 400 girls in Salt Lake City” grossed $393 million.
Evidently, Summit considered Twilight low-priority because of its predominantly female audience, a somewhat baffling outlook, given that the novels have sold over 100 million copies. But the studio seemed to downplay the interests and investments of women—especially Catherine Hardwicke.
In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Hardwicke revealed that she wanted the film to feature a more diverse cast. In her imagination, all the vampires had different skin tones; Alice, in particular, Hardwicke imagined as Japanese. Meyer disagreed. “She could not accept the Cullens to be more diverse,” Hardwicke imagined, “because she had really seen them in her mind, she knew who each character was representing in a way, a personal friend or a relative or something. She said, ‘I wrote that they had this pale, glistening skin!'”
Gif Via Tenor
(Does naturally glistening skin mean the Cullens are always sweaty? Where are our answers, Steph???)
Hardwicke was able to convince Meyer that Laurent, one of the antagonists, could be a person of color. In the novels, Meyer described his skin as “olive” in complexion, which gave Hardwicke some leeway in the casting. Eventually, Meyer became open to the idea of Bella’s high school friends being more diverse, hence Christian Serrantos and Justin Chon’s casting. But the vampires were off-limits.
Many feel that Twilight isn’t a film—or a story—in which diversity is an issue, largely because of the large Native American presence in the story. (Although it’s worth noting that Taylor Lautner’s claims of ‘very distant’ Native heritage are dubious at best… and, supposedly, were conveniently discovered only after his casting.) Casual fans and trained academics have pointed out the racism in Meyer’s portrayal of the Quileute: specifically, that Meyer relies heavily on stereotypes in their depiction. Characters fit into ‘noble savage,’ ‘bloodthirsty warrior,’ and ‘stoic elder’ archetypes. By associating a Native American tribe with werewolves, creatures associated primarily with violence and aggression, the narrative presents negative stereotypes. While anyone can become a vampire, only Quileutes can be werewolves, inherently associating this trait with racial & ethnic characteristics. The gulf between werewolves and vampires deepens: these white vampires develop supernatural abilities which make them more individual. When Quileutes become werewolves, their individuality ceases. They share a pack ‘hive mind’ and get matching tribal tattoos, reducing them to a homogenous group as is the case with racial stereotyping.
Image Via Business Insider
It’s also worth noting that the film conspicuously sexualizes the Quileute werewolves—to the point that even Edward asks, “doesn’t he own a shirt?” Then there’s the matter of the tattoo: while the Quileute people don’t have a ‘werewolf tattoo,’ the tribe reports that they were not consulted regarding the use of tribal imagery. Since the film’s release, many a horny white girl has gotten Jacob’s tattoo in a classic example of cultural appropriation. No, the Quileute people are not werewolves. But the tribe itself is very real—as have been the consequences of Meyer’s writing.
In associating her werewolf mythology with a real tribe, Meyer put the Quileute people in the compromising position of having their land and traditions disrespected by Twilight fans. In 2010, an MSN film crew disrupted the graves of Quileute elders while filming without permission on the reservation. When filming in Forks, WA, of course, the crew had the decency to ask the Chamber of Commerce. The Quileute Nation also says that they were never consulted for merchandising rights of their cultural artefacts and have seen little profit from the souvenir shops selling Quileute-inspired goods.
No one is saying that you can’t enjoy Twilight. But perhaps you shouldn’t without at least being aware of the racial bias within the narrative and the broader consequences of Meyer’s imaginings.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in some of the darker corners of the Internet, you probably know that fandom can get pretty strange. (Example: for awhile, it was a meme to write One Direction fanfics about teenagers whose parents sold them to Harry Styles. Based, of course, on a genuine story.) But if you didn’t know HOW strange, I promise that you’re about to find out.
Before we continue, I’m not here to judge fandom itself or to judge anyone’s, how shall I say, ~sensitive reading preferences~. (Is that a subtle enough way to say smut?) I think it’s probably pretty clear that I’ve spent a lot of time on the Internet, so let’s just say I’m only here to judge you if you lied about having HIV to get views on your fanfiction.
Which, regrettably, someone did.
1. Just You wait: hamilton aids fanfic
If you were somehow blissfully unaware as to the existence of the Hamilton fandom, all that is about to change. While many Americans were understandably wowed by a groundbreaking production that placed people of color into an important historical narrative, many Americans also conveniently forgot that these historical figures were vicious slaveowners before writing them into touching, cutesy coming-of-age-narratives. (Touching, incidentally, is the subject of most of these stories. Just in case you didn’t know that either.)
Image Via Variety
There’s a certain degree of cultural sensitivity that goes into writing. Some people would balk at that statement, thinking this means something along the lines of ‘don’t write about characters who haven’t experienced what you have.’ What this ACTUALLY means is don’t lie about having HIV on the Internet. If you thought that went without saying, it might (sadly) be time to think again.
Hivliving was a Tumblr account dedicated to social justice issues, run by HIV positive mods Israa (blueskysapphic) and Naj (allolesbean), the first of whom had penned a popular story that reimagined Alexander Hamilton as a teenager living with HIV in the 1980s. Israa claimed to be a nonbinary Chinese-Pakistani human trafficking survivor living in India; Naj claimed to be an American lesbian of color also living in India.
Unfortunately, I did say ‘claimed to be.’
When Naj posted her cash.me account asking for help with medical expenses, another tumblr user (digoxin-purpurpea) realized that the account had to be based in the U.S., given that this app was unavailable in India. Obviously, that meant two things: that Naj was probably scamming money, and that humanity might deserve to be wiped out via asteroid. In one of the most dramatic callouts of all time, digoxin-purpurpea (whose name and blog have since been deleted) posted the original message sent to Israa.
Image Via Forums.somethingawful.com
There really hasn’t been this much tea spilled since the Boston Tea Party.
Under a different username, digoxin-purpurpea discovered, through checking the location of people visiting their blog, that allolesbean was likely an American college student. Still, while allolesbean admitted to part of the deception, she still claimed that Naj and Israa were real people that she’d first heard of through a friend at summer camp. (Which, tbh, seems like the equivalent of the classic ‘I do have a girlfriend! She just lives in… uh… Canada.’) Inspired by their stories, this anonymous college student did what most inspired people would do: steal their lives and begin impersonating them on the Internet for money.
Image ViA fANLORE.WIKI
Allolesbean claimed that their summer camp ‘friend’ was a student named Alix, who was actually real. That is, REAL close to getting caught.
Image Via Fanlore.wiki
Hivliving subsequently admitted to lying and deleted the blog. I’d provide an apology post, but there really wasn’t one. It’s safe to say that anyone who would do something so troubling in the first place probably isn’t sorry for it. Unfortunately, it’s NOT safe to say that this story is over.
Digoxin-purpurpea wrote kinky Hamilton AU fic about cannibal mermaids. If you have to read that sentence again, go for it, but I’d advise against it. The author had also written a story about Alexander Hamilton having sex with a ghost. Now, I DID consider the logistics of ghostf*cking (aren’t ghosts intangible?) but that’s, thankfully, besides the point. Many Tumblr users accused digoxin-purpurpea of calling out hivliving only to exact revenge against the user who’d called them out for problematic smut. Does that seem plausible? Absolutely not. Does ANY of this seem plausible? It sure does not. All involved parties have since deleted their blogs, and these posts are available only on archives and forums.
2. My Immortal? My God.
One of the greatest mysteries about the infamous Harry Potter fanfiction “My Immortal” is whether or not it’s serious… second only to the mystery of who actually wrote it. In 2017, it seemed like we would finally get some answers. Then, it became quite clear we’d only gotten more questions.
Image Via The Daily Dot
If you’re not familiar with “My Immortal,” a quick Google search will rectify the situation AND possibly ruin your life. Imagine early-2000s Hot Topic culture in written form. Or just take a glance at the line: “I MAY BE A HOGWARTS STUDENT… BUT I AM ALSO A SATANIST!”
The story was authored by a young person under the pen name Tara Gilesbie, who claimed to be a teenager from Dubai. After 2007, her account went silent… until ten years later, when a poorly-written book from an unknown author was projected to outpace The Hate U Give on the NYT Bestseller list. This, obviously, prompted wild speculation—namely, that the author had bought her way onto the list. But one Booklist writer took an ever wilder guess: that the author had written “My Immortal.” According to publishers, she hadn’t, and for a startling reason…
UPDATE: SHE IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF MY IMMORTAL BC THE AUTHOR ALREADY HAS A BOOK OUT??? IT’S NONFICTION??? pic.twitter.com/3gERmLLT8f
Internet sleuths were quick to find the author, and there was a pretty large bread crumb trail from self-published author Rose Christo…
Image Via @FuriousGalaxyPizza Tumblr
Then readers began catching onto the fact that Christo DID have a book coming out with Wednesday Books, which lined up with the earlier Twitter evidence. Given that the book was called Under the Same Stars: The Search for My Brother and the True Story of My Immortal, it seemed that the sleuthing was over. The description only solidified what fans suspected:
Image Via Syfy
In the early 2000s, Rose Christo was separated from her five-year-old brother and shuttled between foster homes in Brooklyn to the Bronx and back again. Desperate to be reunited with her sibling, she traveled the five boroughs, unable to find any trace of him, as New York State’s child care agencies failed to help her time and again.
Then, with the help of one beloved foster sister, Rose created an infamous piece of Harry Potter fanfiction titled My Immortal, posting it online under the pseudonym XXXbloodyrists666XXX. The “44 chapters and 22,000 words of hysterical, typo-laden hyperbole” went viral as the most notoriously terrible fanfic ever read by the community. For years, fans, writers, and editors researched, debated, and contested the story’s origin and its mysterious author: Was this grammatically challenged rant actually written by a suicidal goth teenager named Tara Gillesbie living in Dubai, or was this a hoax perpetrated by a group of professional authors making fun of fanfiction?
The truth is a gripping, compelling, and surprisingly funny story of how a young girl infiltrated and used the fanfiction community to search for her brother by baiting their attention with a deliberately badly written tale, creating a 10-year mystery that garnered pop culture media attention and remained unsolved — until now.
After fans began bombarding Rose Christo’s since-deleted Tumblr, she updated her FAQ to include a description of the vetting process for her statements. The fact that she had been investigated thoroughly by a publisher, she said, meant that her claim to Internet fame was verifiable and unambiguously accurate.
Image Via Buzzfeed News
After her ‘outing,’ Christo began answering “My Immortal” related questions openly, despite frequent claims that she might get in trouble with her publisher. While some who had long been fascinated with the mystery of this fanfiction were delighted with the response, others wondered why she was willing to be so forthcoming while under contract.
Image Via @Furiousgalaxypizza Tumblr
When the publisher dropped the memoir only a month after its formal announcement, many weren’t surprised. The news had seemed too good to be true; Christo’s story was too akin to a fairytale to have actually happened. Many found it improbable that a bad fanfiction would have been the best way for Christo to find her brother, a strange decision for even a teenager to have made. But Christo herself still claimed to be the story’s author, insisting she’d been branded a liar.
But even the most ardent believers in Christo’s integrity couldn’t deny the truth when a man on KiwiFarms began posting that he was Christo’s brother—and that the two of them were white, not Native American. According to him, (user @DawnDusk), his sister was aware of his contact information throughout the timeline of her memoir. The forum itself is a pretty creepy place, so I wouldn’t recommend poking around, but it’s hard to question his claims given that the memoir had been cancelled.
We may never know who the real author of “My Immortal” was, but we know one thing: it sure as hell wasn’t Rose Christo.
3. Cassandra Clar(ify) Your Sources
Listen, I love the Shadowhunters universe. Cassandra Clare (real name Judith Lewis) has consistently made an effort to include LGBT+ characters in her writing—and not just when it became more profitable. City of Bones, which introduces fan-favorites gay Shadowhunter Alec Lightwood and bisexual warlock Magnus Bane, came out as early as 2007—incidentally, the same year I realized my uncontrollable obsession with the baddest b*tch in my middle school was not strictly platonic. (Was it the pink hair? The skate shoes?) It’s worth noting that Clare’s recent plagiarism scandal with author Sherrilyn Kenyon was logically unfounded, the allegations easily dismissed. Unfortunately, her early fanfiction is questionable. Let’s dive in and question it.
Image Via Amino Apps
Clare (then writing under pen name Cassandra Claire) authored the popular Draco Trilogy, three novel-length works of Harry Potter fanfiction following everyone’s favorite bad boy. Admittedly sexier than its relatively chaste source material, the Draco Trilogy was published from 2000-2006, one year before the release of City of Bones. Once under a publishing contract, Clare deleted her account and all of her fan writing. Of course, the stories are still available if you dig. But you don’t have to dig that deep in order to find all the drama surrounding Claire’s work—drama that got her kicked off of Fanfiction.net.
Image Via WRiters Digest
While writing the Draco Trilogy, Clare played a game with readers in which she dropped unattributed quotes (usually from Buffy The Vampire Slayer) for her friends to find. She may have also played some mind games—while some readers knew about the hidden references, she rarely stated outright that not all of the writing was explicitly hers. Generally, her Buffy quotes weren’t so suspect: all the quotations were direct, which seems consistent with her story of wanting them to be found. But some work was heavily paraphrased and not cited—technically not plagiarism but teeeeechnically a pretty shady way of avoiding criticism.
Look at this passage from Tanith Lee’s “Magritte’s Secret Agent” first…
The skin of his face had the sort of marvelous pale texture most men shave off when they rip the first razor blade through their stubble and the second upper dermis goes with it forever.
Now, look at this Draco Trilogy snippet…
‘I’ll be sorry when you start shaving,’ she said dreamily (she was quite lightheaded now), ‘I love that translucent quality your skin has, I always have. And when you rip that first razor through your stubble, that’ll go with it forever.’
In particular, Clare borrowed heavily from obscure fantasy novel The Hidden Land, never mentioning the references until she was publicly confronted for the following scene:
Image Via Fanlore.org
She later added a citation for the novel in a different chapter after using some specific world-building concepts that readers also pointed out… but she never added a citation for this particular passage.
Clare frequently defended herself, remaking an account under her current pen name, Cassandra Clare (an account which has since been deleted). On this latter account, she responded indirectly to the allegations by assuring fans that she’d have nothing to gain from stealing anyone’s work:
I’ve mentioned all this before, but I suppose it bears repeating: none of the characters are mine, they all belong to JK Rowling (obviously) and Draco’s & others’ lines come from many sources: some are made up, some inspired by many sources, including but not limited to : Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Forever Knight, Due South, the X-Files, Woody Allen, the Handbook for Evil Overlords, obscure British sitcoms, Monty Python, Shakespeare, and I could go on and on, but rest assured that no maliciousness is intended and I am making not one cent (even more obviously!) off writing this, nor would I even want to. If you want to play spot-the-quote, feel free! More fun for everyone.
Regardless of your opinion on the matter, it’s a scandal that’s stood the test of time because of Clare’s international success… good thing all that money probably helps to drown out the haters!
Okay—the Weasleys’ status as #1 on this list is NOT up for debate! Each one of them has their own unique personality, and they’re awesome friends to one another and to Harry (and everyone else). Overall, they have the chillest, most playful sibling dynamic in pop culture right now (even though Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out 8 years ago). The only one of them who I actively dislike is Percy—Percy brings dishonor to the good Weasley name, and I vote to 1. Create a wall-sized mural of the Weasley family tree (I’m thinking of the Black family tree at Grimmauld Place) and then 2. Scratch Percy’s portrait off the tree (like Sirius’ was).
The Hargreeves are all special in their own way *cough* Vanya *cough* but Klaus and Ben have the cutest sibling bond—one that can even *spoiler alert* transcend the boundaries between life and death. (Plus, Klaus is simply the best character even without Ben, and thats a FACT.)
Ahhh, the Salvatores. They made this list solely because of Damon, given that Stefan is both boring and a tool. As far as their dynamic goes, they might not get an A+ for the way they actually, ya know, treat each other, but they are there for one another when they need to be—they agree that no one but each other is allowed to ruin their lives, and they make a hell of a team against the Original Family.
Again, this duo makes the list because of Arya—I’m sure this is a very controversial opinion, but I don’t think Jon Snow is a super original or interesting character. He redeems himself through his close relationship with Arya, though. They relate so well to each other because in some ways, they’re both outsiders—Jon for being a bastard, and Arya for not fitting in with other girls her age, who don’t seem to have a comprehensive list of people they want to kill. Shocking.
I LOVE Twilight, and I don’t care who knows!!! The movie adaptation is so iconic that I can’t care how bad it is. While the best member of the Cullen clan is up for debate (my personal pick is Alice), you can’t deny that on the whole they’re a really tight-knit group. So what if they’re not actually related! They chose each other, and that’s all that matters :’)
Finally, a duo where both characters are amazing! (Also, I would like to specify I am referring only to book-Jaime, not show-Jaime, who is decidedly not amazing). Tyrion and Jaime’s bond is so special because Jaime is one of the only people who respects Tyrion, and Tyrion likewise respects and loves Jaime for it.
The Pevensies are the definition of siblings who find each other SO ANNOYING but love each other anyway. Yeah, Edmund chose Turkish Delight over his family. But so, what? Magic made him do it! Tbh, Susan is also the worst. But Lucy and Peter are everything a King and Queen of Narnia should be, and they totally make up for the many failures of their siblings.
Pride and Prejudice has some extremely questionable characters, AKA, literally everyone but Lizzy and Jane. But those two make up for the rest by being the best of friends, which they have to be in order to survive the nightmare that is the rest of their family. (Oh, Lydia.) Together, they manage to make things work. They never fail to hype each other up and always lend a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.
Looks like fears over Harry Potter being associated with Satan are still around. According to Sky News priests in northland Poland, known as the SMS From Heaven Foundation, have burned a number of books they consider to be sacrilegious, including Harry Potter books. Evangelical Christians have often spoken out against the Harry Potter series, believing that it promotes witchcraft and the satanic arts.
Image Via Wikipedia
Religious groups have often attacked the Harry Potter series, with Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic groups arguing the groups promote witchcraft through its positive depiction through the series. Some groups have even called for the books to be banned outright. Numerous book burnings during J.K. Rowling’s beloved series were destroyed, have taken place, so this latest bonfire is nothing new. The books have, however, been banned outright in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, however.
Other works went up in smoke in the SMS From Heaven Foundation’s burning, such as one of the Twilight novels by Stephanie Meyer. The works that were burned were posted on the group’s official Facebook page.