My Immortal, and its Impact on Fanfiction
by, 28th August 2013 at 12:58 PM (218 Views)
Welcome back to what will most likely be an abandoned, colossal failure. But things can only go up from here, so I'm going to be optimistic!
For now, let's delve into My Immortal.
Before I begin, let me remind you that I'm not an expert in anything. This is just me pretending to be smart.
What is My Immortal?
My Immortal is a Harry Potter fanfiction. The story revolves around a Gothic vampire named Ebony. She attends Hogwarts and tries to juggle her love of music, love interests, and depression while fighting against Voldemort. The story is incomprehensible most of the time, features a lot of self-indulgence on the author's part, and canon characters are usually written out-of-character.
While there are many legendary badfics, this is probably one of the most iconic, having inspired dozens of clones, parodies, knock-offs, and elevated its author to a myth, a legend on the Internet. It is THE primary example of "so bad, it's good." Ebony herself has has become an icon in the world of bad original characters and Mary Sues.
If you haven't read the fic or seen adaptations already, my description is pretty shallow. But give the story a chance and read it [url=http://myimmortalrehost2.webs.com/[ here.[/URL] If you're already familiar with the story, please read on and see my views on parodies, and a few things that make MI great.
My Immortal Parodies: Why They'll Never Be as Funny as the Original
Originally Posted by Baradorable
It's always good to have a sense of humor with your work. Taking something way too seriously can make things less fun, and sometimes people can't take the story seriously if it's trying so hard. (In retrospect, the original Yu-Gi-Oh! is a good example, as they're still taking an (albeit dangerous and magical) card game so seriously.) When you're writing to make people laugh, poking fun at yourself could make things even funnier.
That doesn't work with My Immortal, and many stories that fall under the "so bad it's good" category. Part of MI's charm is that it takes its terrible ideas to heart, and works with them unironically. It's melodramatic and silly, and it's funny because the author was serious. That's not to say you can't have a "so bad it's good" story without a healthy humor about itself - The Rocky Horror Picture Show did both purposely and perfectly. RHPS parodies aren't as funny because the movie/stage show already is funny.
Let's look at Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series. It's funny (opinions vary; it's more comedic than the original source at least) because the source took itself so seriously, allowing the Abridged version to poke fun at it in a loving manner. Now try to find an abridged version of The Simpsons, or South Park. If you actually find one, you'll probably find that it's not as funny as the original source. It's because the original source was already comedic.
That's not to say you can't make a good parody of a funny story. If the original story itself is hilarious, it just means it will be harder for the parody to top it.
But what about fanfics that aren't exact parodies? Many fanfics and characters try to emulate MI and its legacy. Do they fare better?
Clones, Children and Rip-offs: We've Seen it Before
During My Immortal's rise of popularity in the late 2000's, it inspired thousands upon thousands of similar fanfictions for many, many fandoms. TVTropes even lists some other badfics on My Immortal's page: FanFic/My Immortal - Television Tropes & Idioms (Yes I know, linking to TVTropes and all that.)
While it's not as evident in some of these fics (though the Tempation story does reference Dumbledore's infamous "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU MOTHERFUCKERS"), there are dozens of fics that rip off elements from MI in order to cash in on its success. Many start with the same traits:
- Main character with 4-5 names in their full name
- A long "Hi, my name is ______" opening paragraph
- Random GAWFFICKNESS
- Explicit whoring.
- Ridiculous spelling mistakes
Which is why most of them are never remembered or outright disliked. We've seen it all before, and done better. Few clones ever manage to get recognition, and it's usually because they started to find their own voice and originality. Even My Immortal never described someone's junk as a mancarrot. Unless you can put a fresh spin on these ideas, they're just boring.
To put it another way, think about The Abridged Series again. 2006-2009 saw a huge the Abridged boom of other Abridged Series. And tons and tons of them kept using jokes ripped straight from YGO:TAS's playbook, "my hair is talking," "screw the rules, I have _____," "super special awesome," etc. Those were funny in the original context and were original at the time. Regurgitating the same joke and expecting it to be funny on its own is just like watching Disaster Movie. A reference isn't a joke itself. Copying something exactly isn't likely to be funny.
So now we've learned that we can't do a parody of MI, and a straight-up clone isn't good. We'll need to work a little harder if we want to create a memorable Sue and story. But now, let's look at something that lead to My Immortal's place in history.
The Bathtub Scene
Many fics play all their cards at once, bringing out the crazy cross-overs, racecars and mastication within the first three chapters. It lacks subtlety, and when you bring your best, what do you have afterwards? Without the proper build-up, you can take people out of the story or unsatisfy them if you can't top it, thus messing with the story's longevity.
Subtlety is what makes all trolls great, and it's what lead MI to becoming so big. No one can tell if the author is serious, or just trolling. Because the fic started as bad and slowly got worse over time, it looked like a natural progression. A good fic should feel like a slow descent into madness, not being plopped straight to hell and left there.
Rising action, as described by Wikipedia's page on dramatic structure, is "a related series of incidents build toward the point of greatest interest. The rising action of a story is the series of events that begin immediately after the exposition (introduction) of the story and builds up to the climax. These events are generally the most important parts of the story since the entire plot depends on them to set up the climax, and ultimately the satisfactory resolution of the story itself."
If MI started with the time-travel and Hedwig, it would have been an obvious troll fic. It slowly built up its insanity, thus making it more believable that the author could take such chaotic ideas as Marty McFly seriously.
The bathtub scene of MI is the perfect example. The story was weird to begin with, but it slowly built up Ebony as this attractive character and showed that the author was thinking a little differently than most people. The story wouldn't be as satisfying if they brought this right off the bat.
The bathtub scene also marks a change in the story, where things can get crazier and less coherent. Anything could happen, and everything did happen. If a story wants to be crazy and have people think it's real, you have to be subtle, be believable. Slowly work towards the insanity.
So the fic for our bad character must start off as bad, or at least mediocre. The story needs to work towards being awful for it to be believable to bystanders. Once more, while the story is inspired by MI, we can't continually take things from it. But we're trying to create the perfect character, not write a fic. (Or maybe we will? Who knows.) Why is this important? because the story and how the character affects it/is affected by it influences the writing and development of the character.
Next time, we'll talk about the concept of a Mary Sue, controversy, and what makes them memorable. Also, expect to see more about MI as we examine ideas and tropes for stories.
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