Madeline Potts is a certified member of Generation Z and in "Potts Shots" she'll be watching older movies she hasn't seen before. This week? Madeline explores a movie based on fanfiction and how it makes her feel as a lover of fanfiction.
Yes… that Harry Styles fanfiction. I vaguely remember reading it when it was "all the rage" in high school. I was expecting a toned-down PG-13 50 Shades of Grey from this movie and that's what I got.
"Before him, my life was so simple and decided and after him, my life is just… after."
That pretty much set the tone for the entire movie.
As you would expect from a fanfiction being turned into a movie it was resoundingly cheesy. Like I wanna bang my head against a wall this is worse than Hallmark but also give me more cheesy. The story follows two central characters Hardin Scott (you can just guess who that's supposed to be) the bad boy and Tessa Young the innocent virgin girl. It's a classic bad boy who meets a nice girl and takes her innocence away ark. The twist in After, however, is that Hardin "wasn't" doing this all willingly. He didn't pursue Tessa for her brain or looks, he pursued her on a dare. His friends made a bet that he couldn't get the innocent freshman girl to sleep with him and he took them up on it.
There's a lot to unpack in After. From the stereotypical mansplaining of classic books to the way that Tessa just melts in Hardin's arms without a second thought. One second she's defending herself in class and the next she's getting in his car and following him to "his favorite spot in the woods." I mean I know you want adventure Tessa, but did your parents teach you anything about not going into the woods with a man you just met. She even goes so far as to cut ties with her mother (who thinks that Hardin is bad news) and move in with Hardin in the apartment he's watching for a professor. She even begins to give up friendships in exchange for more time with the bad boy she so desperately believes could be good. Even when we get to the end of the movie where Tessa finds out the true reason Hardin pursues her she eventually goes back to him after he writes a letter about how he never experienced love until he met Tessa Young.
So what did I think about the film? I was angry. I grew up with fanfiction but I don't think I realized until now how fanfiction has changed throughout the years. When I was a kid devouring Harry Potter fanfiction it was all about Ginny joining the Harpies and Harry being an Auror and them creating a family together. It wasn't until I was in high school that I started noticing this new genre of fanfiction, the 50 Shades of Grey, bad boy/ good girl genre. I'm sure that it's been around pre 50 shades but the important thing to note here is that THESE STORIES, the stories that show abusive relationship cycles and woman who give up their lives for the opposite gender are the fanfiction's that are being turned into movies that we see on the big screen. And these stories are so detrimental to their target audience, they are telling girls to strive for a relationship like Hardin and Tessa. That finding a boy you can fix is more important than finding a man who can support you and lift you up in your endeavors. They are even, at one point in the film, insinuating that it's okay to cut off ties with your family and friends if it true love. True love with this boy is more important than having a support system around you because this boy is your support system.
Yes these tropes have drama, intrigue, and they are damn sexy but I think that we all need to take a look at the fanfiction's we decide to highlight and think twice. While adults can decipher the difference between a healthy relationship and a bad one, these kids can't. I know that when I was a kid fanfiction was almost more important to me than the original work itself. After is an example in what we shouldn't be putting on the big screen.