Last night, for no better reason than because we could, IdleMuse, Electric Sheep and I did a dramatic reading of the infamous Harry Potter fan-fiction ‘My Immortal.
For those of you who don’t know what My Immortal is, let me explain. Some time between 2006 and 2007, a girl named Tara Gilesbie wrote a story, centred around the works of JK Rowling.
The fandom of Harry Potter is a large one, and there are certain stories that reach a certain level of fame within a certain community. My Immortal is one of these stories. However, it didn’t reach fame in the Harry Potter Fan Fiction community. Instead, it came to the attention of ‘preps and flamers’ (better known as trolls).
These days, youtube is littered with dramatic readings of the story by various people. You can find it with spelling errors pronounced or corrected, with funny voices and accents, and done by people who can barely contain their laughter.
Tara Gilesbie is probably the Rebecca Black of the fan fiction world. She was young, and enthusiastic about what she was trying to do. Now, there is a a lot of speculation as to whether My Immortal is actually a ‘troll fic’, but I want to assume for the purposes of this post that it’s a real story written by a real person.
There are a few things that genuinely worry me about the story. Firstly, the quality of the writing, and I’m not talking story telling here. I mean simple things like spelling and grammar, and mistakes that a quick proof read would fix. I simply don’t understand how someone can make such mistakes.
Since it’s something I’ve never really had any trouble with, the idea that other people can’t remember the differences between ‘of’ and ‘off’ and other such word pairings (your and you’re, they’re and their, etc.) really makes me wonder about the quality of our education system. It’s been proven time and again that for a lot of people, the way that they get taught in schools is simply not effective, and yet nothing has been done to try and help these people learn in ways that are suitable to them. Tara Gilesbie is obviously one of these people who has been failed by contemporary education and needs an alternative way to learn the language she speaks. (Maybe if they had Gerard Way teaching…)
Another thing, and perhaps a more personal worry, about the story and the author, is the attitude towards self harm. More than once, the protagonist of the story states that she wants to sit around with her friends and cut her wrists (as a form of relaxation), and on multiple occasions, the author says that she will cut her wrists for every negative review she receives. She also blames late updates on having to go to the hospital for cut wrists more than once.
Is it just me, or is this attitude towards self harm a disgusting point of view to have? As a person who has experienced self harm for other reasons, the thought of sitting with friends and doing it as a social activity is one that is abhorrent to me. Self harm, to someone suffering from depression, is a way of relieving pain. Bear with me here, because it’s very difficult to articulate. For me, personally, the internal pain and intensity of feeling that accompanies a severe depressive episode is such that I feel like there is pain, self loathing, sadness, hopelessness, guilt, and something that I cannot locate the words for, are all bubbling up in my veins, searing and white hot fire that is seething and writhing inside with nowhere to go. Taking a sharp, gleaming knife and forging a place for the pain to leave my body seems, at times, the only solution.
So, to me, the culture of casual self harm because of how ‘cool’ it is and because it’s like a badge of honour amongst that particular friendship group, is sickening. I’ve seen people, mainly kids in their early teens, who consider themselves to be ‘gothic’ (and no, I don’t mean that they think they’re members of a Germanic tribe from ages past) but the world at large see them as ‘emo’, with cuts up and down their arms that look like they annoyed a cage full of feral cats. Thin scratches are their harm of choice, with short sleeves so best to show them off.
I wish I could fathom why people felt the need to do this kind of thing, why they think that it’s something so worth bragging about. If I could work out why, then maybe I could work out how to persuade them to stop.
All that aside, spending nearly five hours with some of my best friends reading out what is in fact possibly the worst piece of writing ever produced and laughing almost continuously, was a fantastic way to spend the evening, and I recommend it to anyone, as long as you think you can stomach the mutilation of the English language.