how is it possible to love fictional characters this much and also have people always been this way?
like, did queen elizabeth lie in bed late sometimes thinking ‘VERILY I CANNOT EVEN FOR MERCUTIO HATH SLAIN ME WITH FEELS’
was caesar like ‘ET TU ODYSSEUS’
sometimes i wonder
oh my GOD
the answer is yes they did. there’s a lot of research about the highly emotional reactions to the first novels widely available in print.
here’s a thing; the printing press was invented in 1450 and whilst it was revolutionary it wasn’t very good. but then it got better over time and by the 16th century there were publications, novels, scientific journals, folios, pamphlets and newspapers all over Europe. at first most were educational or theological, or reprints of classical works.
however, novels gained in popularity, as basically what most people wanted was to read for pleasure. they became salacious, extremely dramatic, with tragic heroines and doomed love and flawed heroes (see classical literature, only more extreme.) books in the form of letters were common. sensationalism was par the course and apparently used to teach moral lessons. there was also a lot of erotica floating around.
but here’s the thing: due to the greater availability of literature and the rise of comfy furniture (i shit you not this is an actual historical fact, the 16th and 17th century was when beds and chairs got comfy) people started reading novels for pleasure, women especially. as these novels were highly emotional, they too became…highly emotional. there are loads of contemporary reports of young women especially fainting, having hysterics, or crying fits lasting for days due to the death of a character or their otp’s doomed love. they became insensible over books and characters, and were very vocal about it. men weren’t immune-there’s a long letter a middle-aged man wrote to the author of his favourite work basically saying that the novel is too sad, he can’t handle all his feels, if they don’t get together he won’t be able to go on, and his heart is already broken at the heroine’s tragic state (IIRC ehh).
conservatives at the time were seriously worried about the effects of literature on people’s mental health, and thought it damaging to both morals and society. so basically yes it is exactly like what happens on tumblr when we cry over attractive British men, only my historical theory (get me) is that their emotions were even more intense, as they hadn’t had a life of sensationalist media to numb the pain for them beforehand in the same way we do, nor did they have the giant group therapy session that is tumblr.
(don’t even get me started on the classical/early medieval dudes and their boners for the Iliad i will be here all week. suffice to say, the members of the Byzantine court used Homeric puns instead of talking normally to each other if someone who hand’t studied the classics was in the room. they had dickish fandom in-jokes. boom.)
I needed to know this.
See, we’re all just the current steps in a time-honored tradition! (And this post is good to read along with Affectingly’s post this week about old-school-fandom-and-history-and-stuff.
Ancient Iliad fandom is intense
Alexander the Great and and his boyfriend totally RPed Achilles and Patroclus. Alexander shipped that hard. (It’s possible that this story is apocryphal, but that would just mean that ancient historians were writing RPS about Alexander and Hephaestion RPing Iliad slash and honestly that’s just as good).
And then there’s this gem from Plato:
“Very different was the reward of the true love of Achilles towards his lover Patroclus - his lover and not his love (the notion that Patroclus was the beloved one is a foolish error into which Aeschylus has fallen, for Achilles was surely the fairer of the two, fairer also than all the other heroes; and, as Homer informs us, he was still beardless, and younger far)” - Symposium
That’s right: 4th Century BCE arguments about who topped. Nihil novi sub sole my friends.
Note that the printing press in China is invented much earlier and it has basically the same effect. Social conservatives in the censor bureau censored huge amounts of literature and poetry because of the devastating effect it had on the literati class (who formed most of the government bureaucracy, let’s not forget: So your state governor can’t work this week because he’s having Baoyu / Daiyu feels.) This did not stop it from leaking out anyway, in secret editions and hand-copied versions. And OMG the feels that these people have. There’s basically a constant struggle between the censors and this underground fandom, most novels are copied chapter-by-chapter, with people inserting fanfic chapters when they don’t have all the material (so if you have chapters 2, 3, 4, 10, 12 of your favorite book you might write your own 5-9 and circulate them) or just writing straight-up fanfic (famously in Water Margin and Red Chamber it _becomes canon_ after the author’s death.)
This post is the best thing, every part of it. Nothing to add except wow.
I’ve reblogged this before, but it had less information on it then. Shakespeare is almost entirely stuff we’d call fanfiction nowadays and his histories are RPF. We have evidence medieval nobility did things a lot like weekend-long LARP as entertainment, with paid performers as game organizers and NPCs. For centuries, there have been rumors that Queen Victoria knighted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in order to pressure him into retconning Reichenbach and continuing to write Sherlock Holmes stories.
I was an enormous Tolkien geek in middle school, and went as far as reading a lot of his letters/a lot of Simarillion meta. The short version is, he deliberately left gaps in the Silmarillion because Tolkien, as a professor of language and mythology, believed that for nearly all of human history storytelling had been participatory and involved many tellers of the same tales. He thought early-to-mid 20th century pop-culture and mass media were destructive because people did far less telling of stories, claiming of stories, and reworking of stories. I am pretty sure that, despite being a stuffy old professorial Christian white dude who would probably not read any porny fic or watch shippy vids, Tolkien is beaming in his grave over such things’ existence - over participatory storytelling having finally made its glorious comeback, over the 20th century’s approach to narrative being firmly established as an abberant nightmare that is thankfully mostly over. Did we get mythos we all reference and participate in to come back in style? Oh, by Harry Potter’s scar and every Jedi’s lightsaber, have we ever pulled that one off.
I am really really glad someone brought up Iliad fandom, because fandoms in ancient Greece = actually the best thing ever. *cuddles PhD topic* Participatory storytelling is a thing of beauty.
Also, ha and a hell no to ‘highly emotional novels’ being a 16th century innovation. Greek and Roman literature had novels! Awesome novels! In so many different flavours of awesome! Not just tropetastic romance/adventure, but also gay romance/adventure! Science fiction! Crack! Historical RPF! And parodies of other novels! And parodies of science fiction!
Seriously. Trust me. Awesomeness all over the place.
#we never joke about legally blonde #like really let’s just #first: obvious girl power message about how we don’t need no man and how you can do what you want with hard work #including the things people say are quote hard like get into harvard law (see photoset) #second: genuinely clever #like seriously clever wonderful well-written comedy that doesn’t stoop to low brow type humor #oh no sir no one is slipping and falling on a banana or making jokes about sex here #third: GIRLS CAN BE FRIENDS AND NOT HATE EACH OTHER #elle is so nice to even vivien who she probably is allowed to not like #she asks in the movie how could she be so mean #she genuinely does not understand cruelty how WONDERFUL ELLE WOODS IS WONDERFUL #FOUR: REESE WITHERSPOON LITERALLY IN THIS FILM MAKES YOU CRY WITH LAUGHTER #and then cry with tears #over a dumb girl comedy #that’s the best part because it’s all about some dumb cali girl majoring in fashion merchandising and people expected that #and they got one of the best movies in recent memory
The tags, though.
Also, an A+ musical with a fascinating take on Elle/Emmett! All-around awesomeness :D
That was the summer of 1963 - when everybody called me Stiles, and it didn’t occur to me to mind. That was before President Kennedy was shot, before the Beatles came, when I couldn’t wait to join the Peace Corps, and I thought I’d never find a guy as great as my dad. That was the summer we went to Kellerman’s.
Just legitimately rolled up the window of my car so I could yell OH MY GAWWWD in a packed parking lot. So. A+
Nerdfighter Benedict? Or just failed Vulcan?
As far as I can tell, there are eight possibilities here. (I’ve spent a fair bit of time thinking about this.)
1. Benedict Cumberbatch is a hardcore nerdfighter and when Martin Freeman threw up a gang sign, Cumberbatch was like, “I have one of those.”
2. Cumberbatch, who obviously has a relationship with Star Trek, just naturally changed the Vulcan sign (pulling in the thumbs, turning the palms inward, crossing the arms) in precisely the same way that I happened to change the Vulcan sign when I first made the nerdfighter sign in the halcyon days of 2007.
3. One of the interns on set who has gained the trust of Benedict Cumberbatch was like, “If you do your hands like this, the Internet will get really excited.” And so he did.
4. BBC, in their infinite wisdom, staged the entire photo and Cumberbatch was taught the nerdfighter sign (I MEAN LOOK AT THE PERFECTION OF HIS NERDFIGHTER SIGN! He seems so comfortable and confident in it, almost as if it is muscle memory, almost as if he has flashed it to his laptop screen on hundreds of occasions in the past, but I digress) and this photograph was staged to get people psyched for Sherlock, although what tiny segment of nerdfighteria is not already psyched for Sherlock? Also, if this is the case, who is Martin Freeman trying to advertise to? Residents of the West Side?
5. Benedict Cumberbatch has a relative or a friend who is a nerdfighter and so he is passingly familiar with nerdfighteria and liked what he has seen and wanted to make us all very happy.
6. The nerdfighter sign also happens to be the hand sign of some obscure English gang with which I am unfamiliar called like The East London Wanderers or The Slightly Intimidating Liverpudlians or whatever.
7. Nerdfighteria actually figures in the plot of the new season of Sherlock. Perhaps a nerdfighter has been (wrongly no doubt!) accused of a murder.
8. Benedict Cumberbatch was playing some kind of British version of Rock Paper Scissors against two invisible opponents, and he went double scissors (as any smart person would).
John’s commentary »> the actual photo, actually.
The bigger problem for us with Elementary is:
What if it’s terrible? What if it’s awful? Then it degrades the brand.
If there’s this completely unrelated rogue version of Sherlock going around and it’s bad, it can be bad for us.