Summary: This is a paper which is half a fan fiction and half an essay, which explores how fan fiction is a tool used to resist the hegemonic code that the Harry Potter Series has become a part of and supports. The 250-word drabbles contained in this paper revolve around Hermione's (and Snape's) discovery of the Harry Potter series, written by a squib named Joanne Rowling, and their further discoveries of fan fiction. Feel free to skip the essay components (unless you are my professor) and I hope you enjoy the drabbles. Warnings: Parody, Snape is super OOC, AU.
Disclaimer: All of the characters and settings in the drabbles below belong to JK Rowling. However, the essay component belongs to the various writers that I have cited as well as myself.
The One Where Hermione and Severus Help to Point Out How Fan Fiction is a Tool Used to Resist the Hegemonic Code that the Harry Potter Series has Become a Part Of and Supports
JK Rowling's Harry Potter series has reached millions of readers around the world. It has become so popular that it can be considered to be a part of the dominant ideology as demonstrated by Brown and Patterson's article, Never Tickle a Sleeping Bookworm, which categorizes Harry Potter readers into four categories including Slytherins, who are characterized as, "readers [who] rarely peruse Potter for pure unadulterated pleasure […] they read, rather, for kudos, for cultural capital, for the ability to pass themselves in conversation or to flaunt their expertise when the occasion demands" (827). After all, "hegemony is more than social power itself; it is a method for gaining and maintaining power" (Lull, 33). This article also describes two groups of non-readers, "Muggles and Death Eaters" (829). "Muggle readers are pretty much oblivious to, or utterly uninterested in, Harry Potter," (829) and "Death Eaters are actively antipathetic toward Rowling's high-profile literary creation, if not downright hostile. They hate Harry with a vengeance, [and] are appalled by the fact that fully grown adults read such pre-teen tripe […]" (829). These non-readers are categorized as outcasts, which further reinforces the idea that the Harry Potter series has become part of the hegemonic code. However, this paper is not focused on the counterhegemonic actions of the non-readers, but with a unique group of fans who are not only readers but also re-writers and resistors. Brown and Patterson's article places this group of individuals into the wider category of "Ravenclaw," which is characterized by, "tongue firmly in cheek, they are quite prepared to subvert the Potter product and take it to places that Rowling and the illustrious brothers Warner never dreamed about" (826).
The One Where Hermione Discovers the Wonderful World of Harry Potter
Hermione stormed into the room, "Do you know a Joanne Rowling?" she asked dangerously.
He thought for a moment, "Rowling…Rowling… Ah, yes. They're a pureblood family that started to produce a squib a generation. There hasn't been a Rowling in Hogwarts since I was in school. Dianne Rowling, I believe her name was."
"It seems that Dianne's been telling her sister stories about our world."
"You tell your parents things about the wizarding world all the time," he stated calmly.
"But they didn't write a bloody book about it! Or should I say three books out of a seven book series! They're even planning to release a movie next year!"
"It's a good thing she didn't know any of the real secrets about how to access Diagon Alley. Though we should strengthen our anti-muggle charms," Hermione started to worry.
"Don't worry Hermione, if there was any real danger about the wizarding world being revealed, something would have been done about it."
"I suppose… Do you know the worst part? She's written a book for each of the years that we were in school and it's all based on those rumors that used to surround Harry. It's depicting him how the public saw him for so long. It's not right… Not to mention how she depicts me!"
"And how did she depict you?" he asked patiently.
"Like some obsessive about the rules, teacher's pet, know-it-all!"
Severus gave her a steady look.
"I was not that bad!"
He chose to stay silent.
Marianne MacDonald's statement, "The fan writer's intention is frequently not so much to provide an homage to the fictional universe in question as to rewrite and reinterpret events in the story to suit the desires of the writer," (28) in her essay Harry Potter and the Fan Fiction Phenom, clearly describes my very use of fan fiction, although this statement can also apply to most fan writers. This ability to rewrite and reinterpret can sometimes coincide with "the primary goal of culture jammers [which] is detournement, […] which is instigated by 'rerouting spectacular images, environments, ambiences and events to reverse or subvert their meaning, thus reclaiming them'" (Warner, 147) Many writers may do this without consciously meaning to and "their reasons for starting to write fan or slash fiction sprang from a desire to react to narratives that had made an impact on them,"(28) as MacDonald found when she interviewed some writers of slash fan fiction - a genre of fan fiction which pairs two characters of the same gender together romantically. However, a quoted writer in MacDonald's article states, "'it is a way of enjoying a media product as more than a passive consumer'," (28) which does coincide with how "culture jammers want to reverse, subvert, and reclaim our identity as brand-trusting pawns of consumer capitalism."(Warner, 147) Most fan fiction resists the original series as fan writers naturally move away from canon and into their own alternate universes where they can mold the world of Harry Potter into whatever it is that they desire. Other writers can be more strategic and fan fiction can be used as a culture jamming tool where writers use the framework of Harry Potter fan fiction to challenge and subvert the ideals of the original series, thus reclaiming the text. After all, "[fandom] is a way of appropriating media texts and rereading them in a fashion that serves different interests." (Jenkins, 58)
The One Where Hermione Discovers the Wonderful World of Fan Fiction
It had started off innocently enough.
"I borrowed my mum's laptop computer to do some research on this J.K. Rowling and I found these fan sites for the books. The "Harry Potter" series has become so popular that fans are writing stories based on the book. It's surprising how many there are. And reading these summaries… it's kind of funny. Oh Severus, look at this one! The writer has me paired up with Ron!" she laughed, "Oh, and I'm paired up with Harry in this one! That's so ridiculous! They're like my brothers."
And then she was obsessed. At first, she had started reading them for a laugh, but soon she started to find that many of the stories were written well and the plot lines seemed almost plausible, other than the fact that their concept of magic was completely flawed. After all, how could all their spells be Latin translations of the intended result of the spell? Did they think that anybody who spoke Latin was magical? She began to consume them like she consumed potion journals. At first, I didn't pay much attention. After all, Hermione always became utterly enveloped in her current project. However, when I found out that she was reading stories about her and Viktor Krum, I knew I had to put a stop to that! And so, I did the only thing that I could. I found her fan fiction that was based on the two of us. Thank God for Ashwinder and WIKTT.
When considering that "'dominant' readings are those in which audiences appropriate texts in line with the interests of the dominant culture and the ideological intentions of a text," and "an 'oppositional' reading, by contrast, celebrates the resistance to this reading in audience appropriation of a text," (Kellner, 14) it can be seen that most fan fiction writers have an "oppositional" reading of Harry Potter, which they express through their fan fiction. This resistance is at times counterhegemonic, not only when considering their resistance against the hegemonic codes within the original text, but, because of the flexible quality of fan fiction, it is also a tool that can be used to demonstrate other counterhegemonic ideals as well. A fan fiction author has the freedom to incorporate their counterhegemonic ideals (whether they be political, about values, religion, etc.) into the characters and settings of hegemonicly supportive texts. In the original series, Hermione Granger's two love interests are Viktor Krum, a worldwide celebrated quidditch star, and Ronald Weasley, one of her best friends (who also plays quidditch). Both of these characters support the hegemonic code in that they are both around the same age/the same generation as her, among other details. In fact, in the series' epilogue, it is revealed that Hermione and Ron have married and have school aged children together, another supporter of the dominant ideology. In this fan fiction, I have resisted the dominant ideology by pairing Hermione together with Severus Snape, a sarcastic and sometimes cruel man who is at least twenty years her senior and was also her teacher, not to mention a death eater. Severus Snape does not appear to be an ideal mate for Harry Potter's main female protagonist; however it is a rather popular 'ship' or pairing in Harry Potter fan fiction. In fact, it has several archives dedicated to it, including Ashwinder and WIKTT (When I Kissed the Teacher), which started out as a mailing list. As of March 29, 2012, a total of 13,836 stories on , which is a general archive, have Hermione and Severus listed as the two main characters (compared to 21,995 stories which have Hermione and Ron listed as the two main characters). However, despite its popularity, many fan fiction readers find it an odd pairing and, as michelle states on the thread "Why are there so many Snape/Hermione romance FanFictions?" on , even describe it as "absolutely disgusting." Please note that many of the users who have commented on this thread have tried to read little to no fan fiction with this pairing and some have shown interest in the Hermione/Ron ship. The first page of the thread consists of users with similar sentiments and it isn't until the 53rd comment on the thread that another user, Foxears, defends the pairing and describes some of its appeal ("goodreads"). She addresses the age difference, and explains that "[Hermione] should be off age," and describes a common way how a relationship could form between the two characters in fan fiction ("goodreads). Further down the thread, the user, Keamy, replies, "That by far is the best explanation for the snape/hermione fan fiction I have ever heard...I may actually star shipping them now :D" ("goodreads"). This demonstrates how authors must still stay within acceptable boundaries, which are created by the dominant ideology, even whilst resisting the dominant ideology. This concept will be further discussed later on in this paper. Authors of the Snape/Hermione ship feel justified in pairing these two characters together through their oppositional reading of the original text; they may see connections between these two characters that the dominant reading dismisses. Oppositional readings allow authors and readers in the Harry Potter fan fiction community to come together and celebrate their resistance of the original text.
The One Where Hermione (and Severus) Discover the Wonderful World of Slash
Hermione rushed up to Severus with a gleeful look on her face, "You'll never guess what I found!" she exclaimed.
"I wonder if it could have anything to do with that fan fiction that you've been addicted to all week." Severus drawled without lifting his eyes from his potions journal. Hermione swatted at him with a pout on her lips and he put his journal down, allowing her access to his lap.
"I was browsing and I found some new pairings," she started to explain.
"Oh, please don't tell me you've found some horrid story about Longbottom and Bulstrode."
Hermione glared at him for interrupting, "No. I found several stories featuring you," she paused for a second, "and Harry!"
He blinked and she continued, "In fact, slash fan fiction is quite popular and many authors seem to think that you'd go great with Harry or Lucius or Draco or Sirius… Should I go on?"
"Oh, come off it. Even I thought you were gay. Remember that one Christmas party where Madam Hooch was throwing herself all over you? You didn't even blink!"
"That was because I was in love with you!"
Hermione smiled at the exclamation.
"Do you know what I did find curious though?" Hermione said thoughtfully, "There was a bunch of stories about Dumbledore and Grindlewald."
Severus chuckled and Hermione raised an eyebrow, "Well that makes more sense than me with anybody else but you. After all, they were an item once upon a time."
"Audience interpretations and uses of media imagery also eat away at hegemony. Hegemony fails when dominant ideology is weaker than social resistance. Gay subcultures […] use media and their social networks to endorse counter-hegemonic values and lifestyles." (Lull, 35-36)
Another oppositional reading of Harry Potter is a "gay reading," (MacDonald, 29) which inspires authors to produce slash fan fiction – "that concerns a romantic and/or sexual relationship between characters of the same gender." (Tosenberger, 200) This "gay reading" by authors of slash fan fiction is fueled by:
"considerable gaps in Rowling's story. The novels are told from Harry's perspective, and he often has only the most tenuous understanding of his surroundings. This leaves a lot of leeway for fan writers: 'While there's not a lot of overt homoerotic subtext, there's a lot of possibility. Very few of the large and interesting supporting cast are confirmed heterosexual, and ...there's a lot of room to hypothesize about characters' pasts, motivations, and inclinations.'" (MacDonald, 29)
These gaps in the story allow for the traditionally hot medium of a book, which is characterized as being "low in participation," (McLuhan, 23) to be transformed into a cool medium, which is characterized by being, "high in participation or completion by the audience." (McLuhan, 23) However, "slash fans are often accused of 'misreading,' 'distorting,' or, if the accuser is being positive, 'resisting' the text, but in this case, slash fans functioned as "ideal" readers." (Tosenberger, 202) The 'case' that Tosenberger refers to is JK Rowling's announcement that the Hogwarts Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, was gay. "While most slash fans picked up on the Dumbledore/Grindelwald pairing, not all felt Rowling had been sufficiently clear in presenting the relationship [since] heteronormative reading practices dominate in our culture." (Tosenberger, 202) In this case, it can be said that the intention of the text and the dominant ideology do not coincide, however it can be argued that Rowling's announcement does not change the dominant reading of this text or character because:
"Rowling's evocation of Dumbledore's feelings was possibly too subtle for readers lacking queer consciousness (or 'slash goggles'); Tison Pugh and David L. Wallace note in their postscript that 'most fans,' meaning general readers, were surprised by the revelation." (Tosenberger, 202)
Dumbledore is the only known character in the Harry Potter series that is gay, and this fact was only revealed after his character had been killed off, which reinforces the dominant reading of Harry Potter, but that doesn't stop slash fan fiction writers from writing about a plethora of homosexual pairings. Although slash "is one of the most popular forms of Potter fanfiction," (Tosenberger, 200) it is still an oppositional reading because it resists the dominant ideology, which is demonstrated through writers of slash fan fiction whose "motive might be called 'political,' a desire to address the fact that homosexuality figures too rarely in popular entertainment" (MacDonald, 29). However, within fan fiction communities there are rules, either written or silent, that all authors must follow, including authors of slash. These rules are a creation of the dominant ideology, and so, even as authors resist the dominant ideology, they are still partly confined by it.
The One Where Severus Tries to Immerse Himself in the Wonderful World of Fan Fiction and Doesn't Understand
"Hermione, what does 'Drabble' mean," Severus asked, "and 'HP/GW' and 'HBP compliant' and 'OOC'?"
Hermione looked up in surprise to see Severus standing in the doorway with her mother's laptop in hand.
"Are you reading fan fiction?" Hermione asked with shock.
"Well, I'm trying to, but I don't know what any of these blasted words mean. What good is a summary if you can't understand it?"
"Well, 'drabble' just means that it's a very short story usually 100 words exactly or a story made up of 100 word portions, 'HP/GW' indicates the ship, the romantic pairing, for this one, it's Harry and Ginny. HBP is short for Half-Blood Prince, the 6th Harry Potter book, and complaint just means that the stories follow the book's timeline and are compliant with its events. OOC stands for out of character."
"And why are they telling you all this?"
"They're warnings so that you know what the story is about."
"And what about this," he pointed to the screen, "This sentence doesn't end. It just says 'character death'."
"That's another warning to tell people that there will be character death in the story."
"They're giving the whole story away."
"They use warnings so that people aren't offended. Wouldn't you be offended if you read a fan fiction that had explicit slash scenes that took you by surprise?"
"Well, how do I find those ones that you showed me the other night?" he asked with a completely straight face.
Hermione laughed, "Try searching for PWP."
"No legalistic notion of literary property can adequately constrain the rapid proliferation of meanings surrounding a popular text. Yet there are other constraints, ethical constraints and self-imposed rules, that are enacted by the fans, either individually or as part of a larger community, in response to their felt need to legitimate their unorthodox appropriation of mass media texts."(Jenkins, 58)
This drabble demonstrates some of the warnings that fan fiction authors include in their summaries so that they do not offend readers and so that readers are prepared for the content of the fan fiction. "The information given usually includes which pairing(s) the story contains, the category of fiction, and a suggested age limit, which gives a potential reader some idea of how explicitly sexual the story is," as well as, "a disclaimer to the effect that Rowling is the owner of the characters and no copyright infringement is intended." (MacDonald, 28) These warnings and the disclaimer, which all fan fiction writers are directed to include with their stories, are a demonstration of how fan fiction writers are constrained by the dominant ideology. Depending on the archive that you are visiting, these warnings may just be included by the authors as a part of the summary or there may have specific categories of warnings that can be listed. For example, the warnings that are a part of Ashwinder's drop down list that can be included in a story are: incest, character death, self-mutilation, suicide, abuse, BDSM, drug abuse, torture, non-consensual sex, slash, implied character death, and violence. These warnings are a bit on the extreme side, but it is important to note that, while authors must attach the appropriate warnings to their stories, they are still free to write and post content which include instances of these warnings. Other warnings and labels that are more of a silent rule in the fan fiction community are: HBP-compliant, Spoilers, non-canon, OOC, AU, drabble, song-fic, etc. These labels describe the type of fan fiction that has been posted and will warn readers, who can then decide whether or not they are interested in reading that material. These more innocent labels may not seem to be dictated by the dominant ideology, but labelling your characters as OOC is a warning that describes your character/s are departing from the dominant reading of that character. The same is true for AU, which stands for "alternate universe." However, this existence of alternate universes allows authors to stretch as far as they want beyond the borders of the original text, as long as it is labelled as so. Furthermore, the inclusion of these warnings allow for fan fiction readers to easily search out stories that clash with and resist the dominant ideology. Just in case you were wondering, PWP stands for "Plot? What Plot" or, the naughtier version, "Porn without Plot", which is a genre of fan fiction which can be used in a way that allows the author to ignore having to justify their variation from the original text. Bond and Michelsonstate, "fan fiction requires the presence of an external canon, obviously—without it, you're not writing fan fiction, you're just writing fiction," (319) however, fans have progressed to the point where the most tenuous connection (using a character's name or the setting of Hogwarts) is acceptable, which is seen in PWP stories. Alternate universe stories must still connect themselves to the original text in a more substantial way than PWP stories which are, "frankly pornographic tales with little other action than sex." (MacDonald, 29) These warnings and labels are created by the dominant ideology and authors are constrained by these boundaries, however, they are also a sign of resistance against the dominant ideology because they allow writers and readers to continue enjoying and sharing this content as long as it is labelled accordingly.
Nevertheless, there is also the issue of the disclaimer that authors must attach to their work. While on one hand, "Rowling herself has expressed pleasure with the idea of fan fiction," on the other hand, "Rowling and Scholastic did sue to stop Michigan based RDR Books from publishing a print version of online The Harry Potter Lexicon" (Bond, 320). However, authors still resist against this requirement which supports the dominant ideology by posting disclaimers which give credit to Rowling, but also defines which parts of their work are their own. Alternatively, they may post humorous disclaimers that give credit to Rowling but also reduce the seriousness of the disclaimer itself.
The One Where Hermione and Severus Discover the 8 Wonderful Ways in Which They Could Have Fallen in Love
"Severus, I found a parody about the clichés that are used in fan fiction about us. Thunderspeak neatly summarized the 8 ways we could have possibly gotten together. Amusingly, from all the fan fiction I've read, I think she's pretty spot on." Hermione said in an amused murmur.
"Oh? And what are these 8 ways that would have thrown us together?"
"Well, we either suddenly realise how attractive the other is and fall in love, I become your apprentice, Dumbledore sets us up, we're forced together by a crazy marriage law, I find you hurt in the corridors and nurse you back to health, I go back in time and meet the teenaged you, I have some extraordinary talent that you didn't know about and, upon finding out, you fall in love with me, or sometime after the war we bump into each other coincidentally, you find out that Ron and I have split, and we fall in love."
"Most of those are ridiculous."
"Not really. I mean, Dumbledore set me up to be your apprentice and that's when I discovered your nightmares about the war, similar to my own, we bonded and became friends and you found out that I'm a terrific singer, which attracted me to you, and then I peeked into your pensive and saw bits of your teenaged life, making me realise that I was in love with you, forcing me to quit my apprenticeship and live with you.
"Well that marriage law one is ridiculous."
Thunderspeak's parody, Severus and Hermione FanFiction Clichés, pretty accurately describes most of the frameworks that HG/SS fan fiction is developed around. Even stories that seem unique can probably be put into one of the 8 aforementioned categories. Other ships and genres have similar frameworks which characterize the majority of their fan fiction. These frameworks are deemed as acceptable solutions to bypass problems that are common to all authors of that particular genre or ship. In this case, the problem is: "what scenario would force these two characters to interact so that I can develop their relationship?" Another problem inherent in Hermione/Snape fan fiction is addressed in the aforementioned thread, which is, in Sanjana's words, "that snape has watched her grow up from a girl to a woman." Foxears replies:
"Though in most of the fanfictions, that deals with this, Snape in the beginning thinks of her as a the little know-it-all (even though she's now a young woman). Then, for some reason, he is forced to realise that she is in fact a woman. Other just skip this problem by shipping them a long time after Hermione has graduated and the age difference would seam less and she would have changed in looks and personality that he doesn't automatically connect her to the eleven year old he first met. And there is of course people that doesn't bring it up at all." ("goodreads")
However, the last strategy is usually frowned upon by readers as it leaves something lacking.
MacDonald mentions Harry/Snape as well as Draco/Snape slash stories in her article which also share a common problem: "when turned into slash fiction, this antipathy must be negotiated and reinterpreted in order for a romantic relationship to make sense." (29) Most writers solve this problem in the same way by, "tak[ing] the development of the relationship from mutual hatred to mutual love or lust as their main theme." (29) These frameworks are used repeatedly throughout fan fiction and, because they are repeated so often, authors find comfort and confidence in using them to solve their problems, many of which are deemed problems based on the dominant ideology. The hegemonic code dictates what can be deemed as acceptable and what must be deemed as a problem, as well as, what readers must be warned about.
Fan fiction is an extremely flexible tool which can be used in an abundance of ways. It is a form of: expression, resistance, culture jamming, counter-hegemony, and much more. It can be whatever the author chooses to make it, even a critical essay about hegemony. However, even with these seemingly boundless possibilities, the dominant ideology continues to confine fan fiction and define it by its own terms. The hegemonic code sets the rules for fan fiction and fan fiction can only resist it, but, even as it does so, it is forced by the hegemonic code to announce its resistance and its variation from the dominant ideology, though it can never be forced to submit wholly to it.
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