Written by Ass. Prof. Jacob McElroy
Fanfiction is a very active force on the internet. We see it everywhere, from Shadow/Shrek, to Jack Frost/Elsa, even spanning to Max/Ruby (yes, that Max and Ruby). But why is this chunk of an often horrifying sub genre so prevalent on the internet? Well, there are many possibilities.
However, mostly I would blame DeviantArt for our problems.
Obviously this site is the breeding ground for all hell. The phrase is “if it exists, there is fanfic of it on deviantart”. Shrek+Anything is featured on the site. It’s honestly quite amazing. The amount of work that goes into some of these pieces is staggering. This is very much the breeding ground for the worst fanfic on Earth, but I think that it’s important to ask why it’s so successful. What does it mean for our morality and state of mind as a collective?
I have one major theory. I don’t think that people like any of this shit. I don’t think anyone looks at pregnant Shadow the Hedgehog and gets off on that. I think that people make this as a challenge to both themselves and other creators and everyone else is just in the crossfire. Let me break that down. First, the creator of the art. They make this to challenge themselves; What does that mean? I believe they see themselves as some sort of next level troll. They think “what can I make that’ll make people just freak out?”. They keep upping their own ante, and in doing so, they force other creators to do the same.
Meanwhile, we have the general public just watching in awe. It’s like when you see a car accident on the side of the road; You have to stare as you drive by. Although it isn’t pretty, we feel something deep inside of us that draws us in. And because all of us are looking at this stuff, creators get views and think that we like it, so they make more. It’s a violent cycle that will most likely never stop.
That, however, is just my thoughts, and I’m sure that there are many other ideas as to why this all exists. What theories do you all have? Do you think people actually do get pleasure from fanfic? I’d love to hear from you all, and remember, Depression is merely anger without e n t h u s i a s m.
This is a diagram by Oliver Selfridge, one of the pioneers of AI. From this image, you can clearly read “the cat.” Yet, the H and the A are the same shape exactly. If you are an English speaker, your brain corrects the letters. This is digitization, according to philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett. For evolution to occur, copying must be high fidelity, but not perfect. This means genes are reproduced with some distortion. It is argued that the high fidelity copying of genes is also true of language, or memes. That high fidelity replication depends on digitization, and it is the key to replicative cumulation in human culture. To Dennett, our minds are software, and our words are virtual machines designed by cultural evolution, installed by repetition. In this sense, the meme is simply a “way” of doing things.
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Which one is funnier? This is the question posed by Professor of Memetic Studies and Chair of Undergraduate Memetic Studies at the Dolphinger Center for Memetic Studies at NYU, Calvin Tran. His theory is that memes, as a literary genre, have a much clearer, more stronger purpose than many are granting them, causing meme communities to stuff them with cluttering details and captions that are on the whole unnecessary.
"Conceptually, a meme is an indivisible artform -- the whole meme is self-sufficient and does not need extraneous captions as is popular to screencap on instagram and tumblr," writes Professor Tran. "The captions are actually not a part of the meme; they simply latch onto the meme like a parasite, not seriously supporting the meme's concept in any integral or structural manner. In fact many times, the captions can stand on their own and simply be a one-liner joke, independent on the accompanying photo."