“… [S]ince the 2016 election, as American political engagement has boomed — the 2018 midterms had the highest voter turnout percentage for any midterm in 104 years — fan fiction scholars have noted a spike in stories featuring the U.S. Congress. What makes this boomlet strange is that at its core, fan fiction “is about genuinely liking a person,” says Dr. Amber Davisson, coauthor of Politics for the Love of Fandom: Fan-Based Citizenship in a Digital World. And historically, well, not many people like Congress. As of August of this year, the institution’s average Gallup approval rating was 17 percent — somehow an improvement over the first half of this decade.”
Before this article, I had no idea that congressional fanfiction existed. I’m Canadian, so it’s not something went looking for for obvious reasons. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. Despite the fact that fanfiction does have its roots in a love for whatever is being written about, it’s also a form of expression whose very purpose is to transform a work into something else. It’s about love, yes, but love for something doesn’t mean you have to like it all the time. Sometimes, loving something is about wanting to make it better. In other words: just because I don’t approve of Congress, doesn’t mean I don’t want to see a world in which I do approve of it. Disapproval does mean an absence of love.
Though the article goes on to talk a little bit about this, it fails to mention that nothing about this “boomlet” of congressional fanfiction is strange, because it’s doing what fic has done all along: transforming the work. From Camille Bacon-Smith’s Enterprising Women (1991), to Anne Jamison’s more recent fic (2013), fandom and fanfic scholars have argued that part of what makes fanfiction such an interesting medium is its resistance to its source material—whether that be through gender or race-bending, Fix-It fic, or through the plethora of AUs that have come into regular circulation among fan communities.
Of course, all these things most definitely also have their problems. Racism and fetishization exist in our communities just as they exist everywhere else on the Internet and beyond… but the rebellious way that fanfiction reclaiming narrative is a perfect vehicle for working through feelings of frustration, hopelessness, anger or joy—and these days, a lot of those feelings get tied up in politics.
How do you feel about congressional fanfic? Did you know it existed? Are you surprised? Let’s talk!
Ashworth, Samuel. 2019. ‘McDreamy, McSteamy, and McConnell’. Blog/Magazine. Longreads (blog). September 2019. https://longreads.com/2019/09/16/mcdreamy-mcsteamy-and-mcconnell/amp/?__twitter_impression=true.