One of the first ideas the reader of fandom discourses will get familiar with is that fanfiction will provide what canon lacks. This can explain fanfiction written from the point of view of a side character, queer romances for non-romance fandoms and the abundance of emotional plots to action-packed canons. Neugarten discovers this idea further in her paper on disordered eating

in the strange and magical fictional world of Supernatural (…)

Neugarten, J.L. (2021). Brittle. Re-thinking Narratives of Disordered Eating through Fanfiction. Frame Journal of Literary Studies, 34 (2), 87.

Strange, magical and fictional all matter in this description because

(while) many readers may recognize Sam’s feelings of helplessness and even his disordered eating, the plot element of demon hunting is so far removed from real life that Sam’s suffering always remains somewhat distant from readers. This defamiliarization of an eating disorder can be viewed in two ways. On the one hand, fanfiction can help inform people about taboo topics such as eating disorders by mixing these difficult topics with beloved characters and settings thereby making them more accessible. On the other hand, this combination arguably reduces or obscures some of the complexity of the topic. (…) Many people with eating disorders struggle with an ideal of physical fitness. However, the fact that Sam is a hunter makes his struggle more extreme. While this makes his eating disorder more foreign and unfamiliar, it makes it more specific and thus recognizable as well.

Neugarten, J.L. (2021). Brittle. Re-thinking Narratives of Disordered Eating through Fanfiction. Frame Journal of Literary Studies, 34 (2), 87.

In Neugarten’s description, the unfamiliarity of canon setting is also what makes it more recognizable to the readers.

I was interested in the exploration of this duality. Fanfiction can showed me that sometimes what is a foreign language makes us able to speak of the unspeakable. What did fanfiction show you about something foreign yet very, very familiar?

The representation of eating disorder in a fanfiction
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