There’s probably no better time to be a fan than in 2015.
Gone are the days of writing letters expecting no reply. Want to know why Writer So-and-So killed off your favorite character? Tweet!
But like all good things, this new level of creator/audience interaction can also be a double edged sword.
Beloved author J.K. Rowling is known for being active within the Harry Potter fandom, even though the series concluded more than seven years ago. During such interactions, Rowling has been recorded time and time again giving little tidbits of information that did not make it into the books.
The most famous of these facts was the reveal that Dumbledore was gay, which was hinted at in several different ways but never explicitly divulged. She also recently confirmed the existence of LGBTQ+ wizards other than Dumbledore and made clear the existence of Jewish wizards, via her Twitter account.
As a writer myself, I understand that, when you write, there are just some things you have to omit. A protagonist’s seven-generation family tree rarely has a place in the main narrative you are trying to tell.
However, if a portion of a character’s identity is vital to them, especially if that identity is part of a group that has historically been discriminated against, then that information should be present in the body of the work itself.
I’m glad that J. K. Rowling told the world of Dumbledore’s sexuality and all of these other attempts she’s made to make the universe more inclusive, but imagine how powerful it would have been to have Dumbledore outright state his orientation within the pages, especially since there are so few LGBTQ+ characters who don’t adhere to stereotypes.
This is especially important when one considers the “death of the author” philosophy, which basically states the intent of the author is irrelevant and all that should be taken into account is what appears in the work itself.
Death of the author was an easy enough philosophy to abide by when the author was some crusty 45-year-old you’d never meet living in a run-down studio apartment. However, now that you can tweet your favorite author asking her if the main character would binge-watch “Friends,” in one sitting and actually get a reply from that author, things get a little more complicated.
I am wary of this trend of giving away information that doesn’t make its way into the creator’s actual work. It almost feels like a way for the creator to have her cake and eat it too. In this way, authors get all the praise for creating a character from a marginalized group without actually incorporating that experience into their works.
Yes, you run the risk of offending people, but the kind of people who would take offense over the mere existence of gay characters or religious or racial minorities in fictional works are those who would be displeased no matter what you do.
If authors can conceive entire fictional species unique to the world of their novel, the least they can do is work said experience into their writing rather than give it a passing mention outside of it. They can definitely give, at the very least, a passing mention of background information to a character within the minority.
Creators, especially authors, should tread carefully when it comes to interacting with fans online. Our media is moving toward being more inclusive to people from all backgrounds. Though this is undeniably a good thing, there are risks involved and those wishing to create works for a varied audience must take that risk 100 percent.
Rosie Brown is a sophomore prospective journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.