October Membership Drive: OTW and the Fourth Wall

Written by Aja, Development & Membership staffer

In April, we wrote about the increased mainstreaming of fandom, and how misunderstandings and miscommunication about fandom had increased along with media attention.

Since then, it’s become evident that the impact on fandom as a whole of major phenomena like Fifty Shades of Grey and Bronies has been profound. From Twilight fandom to One Direction fandom, fanfic authors are “P2P” (pulling to publish) their fics. Major media outlets are hosting fandom shipping tournaments — AfterElton’s garnered over 5 million votes and prompted them to start a weekly column on slash fandom. Businesses are starting to embrace fandom too, taking cues from their own fandom-heavy userbases.

All of this has well and truly obliterated the Fourth Wall, that legendary divide that “protects” fans from the attention of the media and The Powers That Be. The execs behind Teen Wolf not only filmed two characters on a boat in homage to their being shipped, but held a fanfic contest in which they received over 10,000 entries. Writers and producers are actively seeking ways to interact with fandom, at a truly unprecedented level. What’s more, we’re reaching a stage at which many writers and producers are fans themselves.

The effects of this obliteration of the fourth wall have had a deep impact on my personal life. Three months ago, I was hired to cover the fandom beat for the Daily Dot, a media outlet that strives to report on internet communities and culture. I landed this dream job in part because the OTW, by representing fandom positively and introducing me to so many other fans who own their fan activities, has emboldened me to write about fandom as though it were a normal, everyday part of the internet—which it is.

The reality is that the fourth wall was always a myth. There never was any secret divide keeping us out of the eye of TPTB and mainstream media. There is no way, at this point, to hide fan activity and fanwork, or pretend like they just don’t exist. But what we can do is control how the conversation about us gets spun. We can drown out the voices who think fandom is weird or creepy. We can do it by being open about fandom, by having discussions about fandom, and by simply letting ourselves enjoy all the things that fandom has to offer us. And we can do it by supporting fandom organizations like OTW.

In my role as a journalist, I’m trying to report about fandom as objectively and neutrally as possible. In my role as a fan, I’m continuing to have discussions, write fic, and support the fan creations that make me happy. And in my role as a member of OTW, I’m telling people that fandom is a legitimate culture, full of amazing people doing amazing things. I’m not only supporting preservation of fanwork and fandom culture, but the building of a whole new system of protection that stands between fans and the media. It’s the protection of fanwork and fan culture, the body of which speaks for itself in proving how creative, diverse, and wonderful fandom is.

It’s a much stronger structure than the fabled fourth wall could ever be.

Help support positive representations of fandom by becoming an OTW member today.