Praxis

Real body, fake person: Recontextualizing celebrity bodies in fandom and film

Melanie Piper

University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia

[0.1] Abstract—Comparisons between real person fan fiction (RPF) and film or television texts dramatizing real people have been made in debates over the ethics of RPF as a fan practice. In an effort to direct the scholarly focus on RPF from these ethical issues to the texts themselves, I propose examining the similarities between the textual process of adapting real people to fictional characters on both the cinema screen and the computer screen. This paper examines the work RPF writers do in appropriating the various bodies of their celebrity subjects: the fragmented intertextual body of the star image, and the celebrity's physical body as a signifier of star image and status as a real person in the world. I argue that the fannish textual process of adapting real public figures to fictional contexts shares a common element with adapting public figures to the screen in the biopic: both work to recontextualize the public self of a celebrity through the representation of a fictionalized or speculated private self. To illustrate this, I will be engaging with a case study of The Social Network (2010) fandom through works in its kink meme, and how the adaptations of textual bodies are at work in fictionalized fan writing about real actors performing in the Hollywood fictionalized film about real tech entrepreneurs.

[0.2] Keywords—Biopic; Celebrity; Real person fiction; The Social Network (2010)

Piper, Melanie. 2015. "Real Body, Fake Person: Recontextualizing Celebrity Bodies in Fandom and Film." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 20. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2015.0664.

1. Introduction

[1.1] There is an ongoing debate in fan spaces as to whether real person fiction (RPF), where fan fiction is written about actual public figures rather than fictional characters, is an unethical denial of a celebrity's personhood or simply a logical extension of the fannish tradition of textually poaching popular culture (McGee 2005, 177). In these discussions, comparisons have been made between RPF and film and television texts, such as biopics, docudramas, and historical dramas, that dramatize real people and events. In a column intended to act as a primer on real person slash (RPS) for a nonfannish audience, Aja Romano (2012) invites readers who judge RPF as "weird" to consider television texts like The Tudors (2007–10) and The Kennedys (2011) and the behind-the-scenes and off-the-record historical moments that filmmakers construct for viewers. In an essay on One Direction RPF, V. Arrow (2013) declares that "any media 'based on a true story!' is RPF," all with equally tenuous links to actuality. Debates about the ethics of RPF and RPS in fan spaces such as the fail_fandomanon Dreamwidth community have repeatedly included comments that question whether fans who are uncomfortable with RPF fan fiction have similar qualms about biopics and other screen dramatizations of real people.

[1.2] There has thus far been comparatively little scholarly attention paid to RPF in studies of fan fiction (Thomas 2014, 171). The existing body of scholarly writing about RPF has tended to focus on RPF as an ethical gray area (McGee 2005; Arrow 2013; Thomas 2014), a fan practice that interrogates the constructed nature of celebrity and the ways fans similarly construct their own online personas (Busse 2006a, 2006b; Arrow 2013), and an increasingly complicated practice for fans to navigate and maintain the fourth wall as celebrities perform public versions of their private selves on social media (Hagen 2015). A recurring point of consideration in both scholarly work and fan debate about RPF is whether fan fiction based on a real celebrity dehumanizes its celebrity subject or whether the subject of RPF is a textual public persona that is significantly distanced from being a "real person." With this paper, my aim is to turn the focus toward looking at RPF as a textual process of adapting a real person into a character and consider whether this textual process does indeed have similarities to that of adapting a real person to a character in legitimized Hollywood screen texts. To do so, I concentrate on the ways that fan and screen texts dramatizing real people appropriate the various bodies of public figures: both the body of the star image and the image of the physical body. Through an examination of The Social Network (TSN), a 2010 based-on-a-true-story movie that spawned a significant online fandom, I highlight how these bodily appropriations work in constructing characters that are the intersection of known public personas and the unknown, speculated, or fantasized private selves of their real person subjects.

2. Appropriating textual and physical bodies

[2.1] Fan fiction, as it has been largely understood thus far by fan studies, is the work of media fans who claim pieces of a favorite text, rewriting and re-presenting it in ways that give themselves and the fellow fans they share the work with something they feel is missing from the original source. Sheenagh Pugh (2005) writes that a common understanding of the motivations of fans to write fan fiction is because they either want "'more of' their source material or 'more from it'" (19). For those seeking more of the original source, this could mean writing scenes missing from the canonical source text, extending the timeline of events beyond the canon itself, or reproducing characters the fans have connected with in order to continue to see more of the same kind of interaction. For those who want more from the source canon, this could mean pairing together characters who were not in a relationship in canon, bringing into the spotlight minor characters that fans may feel the canon overlooked, or changing the circumstances of the canon entirely with alternate universe settings. With the RPF fan work, because of the dispersed and often contradictory nature of the celebrity image that forms the canon source text, it is possible for a fan work to simultaneously seek more from and more of the celebrities depicted by fictionalizing elements of public and private life.

[2.2] In RPF, where the names, likenesses, and biographies of public figures are attached to the character in the fan fiction, the canonical source material is made up of textual fragments from the star image. Richard Dyer's (1987) concept of the star image consists of "everything publicly available" about the star in question, including their performances, publicity materials, interviews, gossip, and what others have written about them (2–3). Dyer's concept of the star image is congruent with Cornel Sandvoss's (2007) writing on the textual boundaries of fan objects, in that fan texts are "constituted through a multiplicity of textual elements; it is by definition intertextual and formed between and across texts as defined at the point of production" (23). The disparate and intertextual nature of the public figure as a textual fan object can often produce contradictory readings of the text, as fans define the boundaries of what the celebrity text is to them (29–30). The result is a variety of interpretations or adaptations of the celebrity as character, where individual fan authors can choose which elements of the star image to include, emphasize, or disregard (for example, playing up certain characteristics that may fit their narrative of the celebrity, or ignoring elements of a celebrity's private life, such as real-life spouses in order to write their preferred RPF pairing). Busse (2006b) writes that as no single definitive RPF canon exists, fans can define for themselves what constitutes canon and choose to treat any piece of information as truth, regardless of its objectively true status (215). The place where these disparate elements of the star image and their disparate fan readings and anchors in actuality converge is the physical body of the celebrity. The mediated celebrity body acts as the structure around which elements of the star image are organized and the most obvious visual signifier of that star image as a text. At the same time, the representation of the celebrity's physical body as the fan sees it on screen or in photographs denotes their actual physical self and status as a real person in the world, existing beyond its mediated form. The ways that RPF fan works use the celebrity body appropriates both the signifier of the celebrity's physical, private, off-screen self and the major signifier of the textual star image.

[2.3] As a subset of fan fiction, RPF has proven to be divisive in fan spaces, regarded as "highly controversial and contentious" (Thomas 2014, 171) and "roundly denounced" as a legal and ethical gray area (McGee 2005, 173). At the same time, RPF fandoms connected to legitimized narratives or legitimized artists—like TSN—have been described as carrying an expectation of drawing highly skilled fan authors to their communities (Arrow 2013, 325). The biopic as a film genre faces similar critical division, with biopics often attracting acclaim and regarded as an Oscar-bait form while at the same time facing criticism and derision for mistreatment of historical fact (Bingham 2010; Vidal 2014). Mainstream and legitimized works that use the likenesses of real people and public figures as the basis for their characters are not exempt from controversy over their treatment of the truth, with the financial imperatives at stake in such works sometimes leading to public denouncement or legal action by their subjects. In recent examples, Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz, one of the subjects of the film Foxcatcher (2014), publicly threatened the career of Academy Award–nominated director Bennett Miller over the film's gay subtext, which Schultz claimed was "jeopardizing [his] legacy" (Swartz 2014). Scarlett Johansson successfully sued author Grégoire Delacourt over the use of her likeness for a character in the novel La Première Chose Qu'on Regard (2013), and while Johansson's claim that the book fraudulently exploited her celebrity image was rejected, the novel was ruled to be defamatory in its claims about relationships in which Johansson had not actually been involved (Agence France Presse 2014). Incidents such as these suggest that the controversial elements of RPF concerning the ways it uses the likenesses of celebrities to commit author fantasies or speculation about their private lives to writing are present in reaction to mainstream works that are seen to use still-living public figures in similar ways.

[2.4] It is the appropriation of the celebrity's physical likeness that forms the basis of many of the controversies in works such as these and arguments about the unethical status of RPF. Similarly, the physical body and performance of the actor appropriating the characteristics of a real public figure serves as the "emotional hook" and a source of potentially vital authenticity in screen works like the biopic, transforming the film from a recounting of public biographical details to a more rounded portrait of the subject as a public and private individual (Vidal 2014). As the physical body serves to denote a real, private person who exists separately from its mediated public image, RPF fan works' use of the physical body in imagining the private self of a public figure has been considered a dehumanizing process. The appropriation of the physical body in RPF can involve using gesture or expression as a way of showing the character's emotional state, which requires the fan writer to use existing physicality seen in public texts and interpret what they mean for the inner self of the character/public figure. This is a similar form of discourse to celebrity gossip blogs, Web sites, and magazines, where the celebrity body is a "crucial piece of evidence to be read and negotiated" in perpetually seeking a glimpse of the celebrity's "real" self (Meyers 2010, 181). In the case of RPF, however, this "real" self is clearly designated as being a work of fiction.

[2.5] The physical body can be appropriated in fan fiction for private purposes other than the interpretation of public gesture. When fan fiction contains explicit sex, the physical body of the celebrity is most often appropriated to pair them up with another celebrity, and in the case of publicly heterosexual celebrities who appear in slash fiction, going against the celebrity's expressed sexual orientation. Appropriating the physical body of the celebrity to imagine his or her private life can also involve bringing in characters, such as spouses and children, who are not public figures by choice but rather through their association with the celebrity subject. This can be one place where even fans who enjoy RPF can draw their personal line of taste: public figures are fair game, but writing or reading anything that involves their noncelebrity significant others is off-limits (Thomas 2014, 173).

[2.6] In reframing the scholarly examination of RPF from ethical debates and ethnographic consideration of fan practices to the texts themselves, I propose that RPF fan fiction follows a similar textual process of adapting a real person to a character as the mainstream biopic film. Clearly, the two forms are vastly different in numerous elements of their intended purpose, audience, medium, mode of production, and degree of public visibility. I argue, however, that in spite of these fundamental formal differences there is a similar textual process at work in adapting real public figures into computer screen characters in RPF or cinema screen characters in the biopic. That is, both appropriate elements of celebrity bodies to recontextualize the existing public self through the representation of a fictionalized private self.

3. Recontextualization in RPF

[3.1] One approach to writing RPF and creating RPF characters that draws heavily on the fragmented star image and the physical body as its anchor is akin to the "recontextualization" method of fan fiction writing that Henry Jenkins (1992) describes. With the recontextualization approach, fan writers seek to fill in the blanks left in the original canon, such as with a missing scene, episode coda, or piece of character backstory, and invite other fans to reread the original media text in light of the context established by the fan work (162). The recontextualization approach is in line with Abigail Derecho's (2006) classification of fan fiction as a form of archontic literature, where the relationship between the canon and fanon is an open, unfinished, and nonhierarchical one. Recontextualization in fan writing involves repetition of existing canon and the addition of fanon material that builds the archive of related, interconnected texts among fan works and canonical works (65–66). Often, recontextualization-based RPF fic uses existing textual fragments of the star image—part of an interview, part of a screen performance, part of any other kind of public appearance—to create the imagined or fantasized private moment behind that particular public moment. For example, as will be discussed later, part of an Empire piece about the filming of TSN is used as a starting point for a fic that imagines the emotional states of the actors based on the public record of the magazine article. By recontextualizing the public moment within the fiction, the author invites fellow fans to reconsider the public text in light of the imagined private one. The repetition of archontic literature occurs as the original element of the star image exists in the mind of the readers as they consume the fan fiction. Likewise, if they revisit that element of the star image, the fan fiction continues to exist in their mind. The fan can choose to conflate the two variations on the celebrity's star image and imagine the star image in light of the fictionalization, or keep the two compartmentalized, acknowledging the invented, separate status of the fiction and not indulging in the fantasy reimagining that the fan author has proposed.

[3.2] Recontextualizing public moments serves to regard the fans' celebrities of choice as objects that need to be personalized and made real, much in the way fan fiction about fictional characters works to make the characters more real and identifiable to the fan. By "re-creating the character in an image that humanizes and gives identifying detail to the character," the distant, one-way parasocial interaction between fan and fictional character, or fan and celebrity image, is closed, as fan writers attempt to flesh out the character with traits, thoughts, or actions that they recognize in their own lives (McGee 2005, 165). This method of RPF writing prioritizes the agency of the fan author over the agency of the celebrity subject. Through this creation of "fictional narratives that supplement and enhance those disseminated by the media" (Busse 2006a, 254), the fan author narratively defines an alternate reading of the canonical text of the celebrity public image in creating their RPF character. As Jenkins (1992) writes in establishing the notion of fan fiction as "textual poaching," the fan author does not solely engage with "the preconstituted world of the fiction" (63)—or, in the case of RPF, the preconstituted mediation of the real world—but has the freedom to create his or her own world by drawing together varying combinations of the disparate textual materials available in the broader canon of the star image.

[3.3] I argue that this process of presenting a portion of the known public life alongside the fictionalization of a speculated or fantasized private self is not all that dissimilar from the way biopics recontextualize the public life of a celebrity through the representation of an imagined private self.

4. Recontextualization in biopic

[4.1] In his work on Hollywood screen biopics, George F. Custen (1992) writes that across the variety of biopics in terms of subject, style, and narrative construction, the major consistent factor of what constitutes a biopic is that it is "minimally composed of the life, or the portion of a life, of a real person whose real name is used" (6–7). Custen argues that in the classical Hollywood era, studio heads, particularly Fox's Daryl F. Zanuck, were integral in shaping the biopic as a text that personalizes history and constructs its "great man" subjects as figures who are relatable to audiences by giving them clear motivation for the actions that led the subject to greatness (18–19). By including narrative elements such as the depiction of the biopic subject's home life and familial and romantic relationships, as well as a retelling of their publicly known achievements, this biopic trope presents the lives of its subjects in terms of greatness that arises from the conditions of everyday life that the subject shares with the audience. Presenting the everyday life of the biopic subject and tracing its connection to their public achievement solidifies the aim of the biopic to "reveal the 'real person' behind the public persona,'" an aim that has persisted through to the modern era of the biopic (Bingham 2010, 5). Like the RPF character that becomes more identifiable to fans by filling in the fictionalized thoughts and actions of their private self, so too does the mainstream biopic subject become explainable and identifiable to audiences through access to a fictionalized behind-the-scenes representation of the subject's private life that proposes a version of who they "really" are.

[4.2] The biopic viewer, like the fan fiction reader, can choose to compartmentalize the variations on the celebrity's star image. However, the legitimized Hollywood film is branded with a greater connection to truth than RPF fan fiction, with the latter often marked up front by disclaimers deliberately announcing its status as fiction. This is in contrast to the variations on a "based on a true story" title card often seen at the beginning of a biopic. As a for-profit venture, the Hollywood biopic is assumed to have enough adherences to truth in dealing with the likeness of a real person to avoid accusations of defamation. It is understood that the biopic is not a documentary, and thus some degree of fictionalization or invention, such as composite characters or the compression of time, is to be expected (Bingham 2010, 5). Even so, the biopic carries the weight of an intended connection to actuality that RPF fan fiction does not similarly claim. Thus there is less of an expectation that the viewer will strictly compartmentalize versions of the real person, and the recontextualization of the public image in light of the presented private self is less of an invitation to play and more of an argument for a possible actuality.

[4.3] The form, medium, mode of production, subject matter, and intended audience of the biopic and RPF fan fiction are inherently vastly different. The mainstream biopic seeks to not simply recount the biographical details of a person's life but also to uncover some fundamental truth about the person, his or her position in history, and cultural significance (Bingham 2010, 10). It is a publicly visible enterprise, financed by corporate interests, intended for wide distribution and viewership, intended to make money. The subject—or his or her representatives, if the subject is no longer living—can choose to participate in the production of the film, and often the biopic is adapted by purchasing the rights to an existing text that the subject may have participated in, as is the case with TSN and Ben Mezrich's 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires, with Eduardo Saverin serving as a consultant to the latter and Mark Zuckerberg's lack of involvement and public denouncement of both. The biopic can spark a public discourse about its subject and the film's treatment of the subject, open to criticism for the ways it does or does not adhere to truth, and open to having its inaccuracies corrected in the public sphere. Conversely, RPF fan fiction is written by fans for fans to share among a small, specific community. There is no money at stake, and no permission is sought from the subjects of the fiction. RPF fan writers often seek to keep their work hidden, to not only protect the RPF subjects from finding fic about themselves but to protect the writers and their communities from mainstream public attention and derision. This desire to remain covert was seen in TSN fandom when a Dvice blog post about TSN fic, which was subsequently reposted and added to by Gawker, directly linked several fan works while not making a distinction between fan fiction based on the film and fan fiction about the real Mark Zuckerberg. The post's headline described the fic as "strange" and "scary," and resulted in some authors locking their fics or considering deletion, and the mark-eduardo LiveJournal community changing its posting default to locked.

[4.4] In spite of these substantial differences between the production and consumption of biopics and RPF, the textual process of fictionalizing a public figure into a character that blends the known public self with an unknown, speculated, or fantasized private self are quite similar in both. In order to illustrate the similarities between the textual process of creating characters in biopic and RPF fan fiction through the appropriation of celebrity bodies, I am choosing to focus on a kind of fan fiction that may be as far removed from the mainstream as possible—that is, fan fiction generated in the context of the kink meme, where generally anonymous fan writers are ostensibly writing for a potential audience of one by filling specific prompts left by their fellow fans.

5. The kink meme context

[5.1] Kink memes have become a staple of fic generation in contemporary online fic-writing fandom. The typical setup of the kink meme invites fans to post prompts (either anonymously or with user names attached) involving a particular pairing and a story idea. The prompt can be as simple as a one-word kink or trope (despite the name, not all the kinks of the kink meme are of a sexual nature and may simply be based on narrative or character tropes), or a more elaborate story premise. Jamison (2013) describes the kink meme as a "game," a "writing underground where stories start and percolate" (8). Stories developed in kink memes may be perpetually unfinished works in progress, anonymous works that authors would never dare attach their name to, or ultimately rescued from the arena of the meme and archived elsewhere, such as Archive of Our Own or the author's personal fic archive. As Jamison writes, the aim of the kink meme game is to fill the requests of fellow fans, regardless of how out of character the scenarios may seem: "the writings it produces aren't sacred, nor are they put up to be. It is really no place for purists" (9).

[5.2] With its collaborative and generally anonymous nature, the kink meme exists to put the id first, prioritizing the kink over the kind of well-crafted characterization that Arrow (2003) argues would usually be associated with a fandom like TSN's. The anonymous nature of the kink meme allows authors to write fic they ordinarily would not want attached to their fannish pseudonym. For fans who might be ambivalent or uncomfortable with crossing certain lines in RPF, the kink meme is an anonymous safe space to experiment with writing real people, just as it is a space for experimenting with writing or reading some of the more controversial or divisive fic kinks. By drawing on examples of Jesse Eisenberg/Andrew Garfield slash from the TSN kink meme community, I aim to illustrate the textual process of appropriating celebrity bodies that is at work in RPF fan fiction and how this may not be all that dissimilar from the bodily appropriation of the biopic.

6. Appropriating the physical body in TSN RPF

[6.1] The focus on the body in fan fiction has its roots in performance rather than literature, using the body as the "storytelling medium, the carriers of symbolic action" as theatre does (Coppa 2006, 236). In order for the performative style of fan fiction to be deployed in RPF, the image or sense of the celebrity's physical body is appropriated and used as a key storytelling medium in the fiction. While fan fiction based on fictional or fictionalized screen media objects also appropriate the body of the actor who embodies the character on screen, in RPF the central character mapped onto the appropriated body is composed of the celebrity's public persona and private self as the author constructs them.

[6.2] Rather than the actual physical body of the celebrity being appropriated, in both RPF and the biopic it is the image of the physical body and the use of the physical body as a means of representing character and the "inner self" of the subject. Reading the physicality of others is an everyday part of attempting to determine meaning in social interaction: a focus on appearances to understand the "reality" behind them (Goffman 1997, 21). The physicality of the actor is used to project the inner self, the personalized motivations, behind their biopic character. In the written form of RPF, descriptions of the body are used to convey emotion, whether a generalized gesture, such as wide eyes of shock, a furrowed brow of confusion, or a smile of joy. It may also be something that is particular to the RPF subject, such as Jesse Eisenberg's anxiety and the way it manifests in fan fiction through the description of fidgeting gestures that have been observed in press material.

[6.3] In appropriating the image of the physical body, the work of the biopic is to present a recognizable facsimile of its subject for the viewers. For the audience, the necessary degree of screen resemblance can vary, depending on how prominent a media figure the biopic subject is. For actors, the degree of physical resemblance in terms of elements such as posture or voice can help them find the character, such as Eisenberg's discussion on TSN's DVD commentary about finding a way into Mark through his rigid upper body posture, something Eisenberg attributes to Zuckerberg's actual background in fencing. In RPF, writers often invoke physical features of the subjects that fans tend to fixate on, such as mentions of Andrew Garfield's "Bambi eyes" and "ridiculous hair" in a Jesse/Andrew fic where the actors role-play as their characters during sex. Perhaps the most obvious distinction in how the image of the physical body is appropriated in biopic and RPF contexts is the intention of adhering to reality behind the appropriation. In film, the physical resemblance and recognition of the biopic subject works to make the fictionalized elements of the film appear more plausible. After all, if the biopic subject has a distinct and well-known voice, the fictionalized dialogue of the film seems more plausibly accurate when delivered in a close approximation of the subject's accent or vocal cadence. In RPF, particularly in the context of slash fic and kink memes, the image of the physical body is given the most attention in sex scenes, which are inherently created by fan fantasy and are not intended to carry any resemblance to the celebrity's actual actions. Invoking the image of the celebrity's physical body in fan fiction works to make the fantasy seem accurate enough to be enjoyable for its readers, but does not have the same weight of making it seem a plausible depiction of behind-the-scenes events as the biopic. The appropriation is used to recontextualize the public image, but not to the extent that it is expected to be believed as a representation of reality.

7. Appropriating the star image body in TSN RPF

[7.1] A counterpoint to the idea that fan fiction about real people denies them their personhood takes the stance that the star image, or the public persona of a celebrity, does not in itself constitute a real person. This public persona is seen by some fan writers as a constructed commodity that is readily available for fictional adaptation, just like any other media text that features fictional characters (McGee 2005, 174). Kristina Busse (2006a) goes so far as to argue that RPF can potentially act as means of rehumanizing the textual object of the star image through the fan activity of "inventing backstories and inner lives" (256), and it is the process of fans rewriting the celebrity based on their own point of view and desires that results in a hybrid that authors and their readers can more readily identify with than the celebrity image alone. In one example from the TSN kink meme, a request for fic that shows Jesse reacting to Andrew's performance in the 2010 clone organ donor drama Never Let Me Go personalizes Jesse by having him engaging in similar practices as the fan: viewing the film, and being moved by it to the point where he perhaps becomes a proxy for the fan's own fantasies of hurt/comfort sex with Andrew Garfield in the role of the comforter, following their viewing of the film.

[7.2] In fan fiction generated by TSN's kink meme community, the ties between the element of the star image that has brought the community together—Eisenberg and Garfield's performances in TSN—are readily apparent, with a number of anonymous prompters asking for their fic scenarios to be written with either Mark/Eduardo or Jesse/Andrew. This is particularly unique to TSN, given that the film can be considered a kind of mainstream RPF, making the RPF subset of its fandom "RPF about people acting out RPF," a meta rabbit hole that allows fan writers to further blur the boundaries of fact and fiction (Arrow 2013, 325). This is not universally the case for RPF based on media fandoms, with RPF generally regarded as a separate entity from its fictional canon (Arrow 2013, 324). Where there is crossover between fictionalized characters and their performers, such as in TSN fandom, the distinction between film character and actor is diminished. Qualities of both actor and character's image and physical body can be adapted to the requester's prompt. For example, much fan writing about Jesse Eisenberg characterizes him as socially awkward, a trait that could be said to be shared with the screen portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg. These characterizations of Jesse don't stem entirely from conflating character with actor. There are textual fragments of the star image that include these characteristics as part of Eisenberg's persona, such as mentions in interviews with and profiles of Eisenberg regarding his issues with anxiety, including it as part of his self-performance in his monologue during a hosting stint of Saturday Night Live (1975–), his performances as similarly awkward characters in films such as The Squid and the Whale (2005), and writings about Eisenberg, such the Flavorwire headline that proclaims him to be "more annoyingly awkward than Michael Cera" (Bailey 2013).

[7.3] On the TSN kink meme, prompts asking specifically for Jesse/Andrew fics are often inspired by or incorporate a specific text from the broader body of the star image. There are stories written from prompts asking for Andrew being turned on by Jesse's appearance on Saturday Night Live, Jesse and Andrew sharing clothes after apparently wearing the same shirt at different public appearances, and an epistolary fic that evolves the Jesse/Andrew relationship through text messages that take place after a promotional press conference, to name just a few. In these stories, a text of public record is the canon that the fan molds their fiction around, filling in the gaps of the public record with the imagined private selves of the characters, written with the purpose of fulfilling the anonymous prompter's request. To expand on an example in detail, a request posted to part 5 of the kink meme in April 2011 asks for fic based on a specific quote from an Empire magazine feature about the production of the film. The scene referenced is the climactic final argument between Mark and Eduardo, when Eduardo learns he has essentially been forced out of Facebook and stalks through the office to smash Mark's laptop:

[7.4] [Garfield] leaves to change into his own, casual clothes, before returning to crouch behind the camera as it hovers close to Eisenberg. Just before the camera rolls, he leans toward the Zombieland star and hisses, "You're a fucking dick and you betrayed your best fucking friend. Live with that." It's shocking to hear. It certainly helps with the take. And it is evidence both of Garfield's professional generosity and Fincher's nous—for the abuse was at the director's instruction, to help Eisenberg get in the right headspace for the scene. (Pierce 2010)

[7.5] The kink meme request asks for something that reveals the speculated private moments behind this moment of public record (that has itself been mediated and vividly rendered into prose by Nev Pierce, author of the original Empire piece): "I just want how [sic] Jesse felt about it, or how Andrew felt about doing it. Just something angsty" (tsn-kinkmeme 2011). It is a moment rife with undertones of angst. The two actors, who by all accounts became friends during the shoot, perform the final moment of destruction of their on-screen friendship, through a long, grueling night shoot in which Garfield has already destroyed 25 computers in take after take. It is a moment that conflates character and actor, even in Pierce's writing itself, as the actors are identified in an off-camera moment (referring to Eisenberg as "the Zombieland star," highlighting that he is an actor and this is another role) addressing each other in character (Garfield's assessment of Mark addressed to Eisenberg as "you"). It encapsulates the tropes of role immersion and character bleed that often act as the catalyst for a Jesse/Andrew slash relationship in fan fiction.

[7.6] The fill for the request is written from Andrew's point of view and includes the details of the article, such as how many takes have been done and how late the shoot has gone on to this point. It offers the imagined off-the-record moments that the Empire article does not reflect: the specificities of the conversation between Andrew and David Fincher, Andrew's need to show his support for Jesse before delivering his assessment of Mark, and Jesse's apparent state of mind—shown through descriptions of the physical body, such as posture, gesture, and facial expression—before and after Andrew gives him the line. It recontextualizes the Empire quote through the lens of the slasher: putting Jesse and Andrew's friendship and possibly more alongside the vitriol expressed in the article, creating a conflict between their "real" emotions and what is required of them in the scene. The result is a fantasy of the relationship between the two actors anchored in the known canon of the mediated star persona.

[7.7] A similar method of using or recreating elements of public record to act as a warrant for the fictionalized material of the film is at work in the biopic (Lipkin 2011, 3). In publicity paratexts for TSN, such as interviews, press kit production notes, and DVD commentary, there is an emphasis on both differentiating between the actual people and their fictionalized versions, and the film's grounded basis in actuality. While elements of the public image of characters like Mark Zuckerberg that may be more immediately recognizable to audiences, such as his 2008 interview on 60 Minutes, are not present because the events of the film took place largely before Zuckerberg was a public figure, there are elements of Zuckerberg's public image appropriated for the film. With the depositions of two lawsuits brought against Zuckerberg over the formation of Facebook acting as the framing device of the film and its Rashomon (1950)-style structure of multiple subjective narrators, this is perhaps the most prominent element of public record appropriated for the film (aside from the use of the Facebook name and branding). While the depositions are not presented verbatim in the film, their presence acts as an element of Zuckerberg's public image that the fictionalized elements of the film use to fill in the speculated private context: we as viewers bear witness to versions of events skewed by the perspectives of different characters and are invited to make up our own minds about the events of public record from the behind-the-scenes moments the film posits as what has led to the moment of public record. To use the example of the laptop-smashing scene that forms the basis of the kink meme fic discussed above, it is a matter of public record that Eduardo Saverin's Facebook shares were diluted. The behind-the-scenes moment we see on screen that recontextualizes this fact is the sequence of reactions from the characters of Eduardo, Mark, and Sean Parker in this scene, as well as the context of the fictionalized story that has preceded it. Once again, it is a matter of viewers being invited to recontextualize the public elements of the star image in light of the fictionalization of the private moments behind the scenes of the public event: a moment of "let me show you how it could have happened" between author and audience.

8. Conclusion

[8.1] Through a textual process of supplementing the public body of the celebrity star image with the imagined private self of the celebrity, both RPF fan fiction and screen biopic can work to recontextualize public moments. Both forms invite their audiences to reconsider the actual in light of the imagined. Both carry the option to compartmentalize the fictionalized and mediated versions of a public figure, but with the mainstream Hollywood biopic carrying a larger weight of assumed accuracy than the invitation to play of RPF. While only one approach to writing RPF fan fiction in one fandom has been considered here, it is a step toward considering RPF in terms of its textual process.

[8.2] By refocusing critical attention on RPF fan fiction to the texts themselves, rather than their ethical issues, perhaps some light can be shed on how public figures are textualized, adapted, and remediated as transformative works in both fannish and mainstream contexts. A consensus on the ethics of RPF is unlikely to ever be reached in fan spaces or the mainstream, but the consideration of RPF texts themselves can shed light on what it is that makes a real person into a fictionalized character. The consideration of RPF texts in conjunction with other forms of media that adapt real public figures into characters as well as and how the processes between the two exhibit similarities despite their vastly different conditions of production, can reflect the liminal spaces between fact and fiction that audiences can occupy as both fan fiction writers and readers and as consumers of mainstream dramatizations of real public figures.

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