Was "My Immortal" a genuine work of terrible fanfiction, or was it a big ironic joke all along?
For fiction enthusiasts in the early 2000s, Fanfiction.net was the place to be.
In 1998, Fanfiction.net launched as a hub for fanfiction stories. The Internet was still in its Golden Age of lawlessness and creativity, with decentralized fan communities spread across personal websites and niche forums. Each brimmed with their own politics and drama, and for fans of children's novels, especially Harry Potter, fanfiction was serious business.
Battle lines were drawn over which Harry Potter characters you shipped (in explicit detail, usually). Fanfiction with the correct ships would be lauded as the greatest thing since real Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, and bad ships would be derided as blasphemy. Dissent could mean being banned forever from the biggest online communities for your favorite series.
But while many members of fan communities were primarily concerned over what fictional characters other people preferred to imagine having sex, there was a lot less focus on the fact that the vast majority of Harry Potter fanfiction was just straight-up trash. As in, more often than not, the writing was piss-poor, full of endless cliches, unrealistic dialogue, and self-insert Mary Sues.
It was from this online environment, characterized by stupid ships and constant in-fighting, that My Immortal was born.
Using a Black dialect isn't a meme—it's cultural appropriation.
As Black Lives Matter protests have rightfully taken the world by storm over the past couple of months, we're long overdue for thorough evaluations of just how often aspects of Black heritage have been co-opted by white audiences.
It should be obvious that much of fashion and music as we know it today was invented by Black people. We (hopefully) all know by now that we can no longer accept Blackface and use of the n-word by non-Black people as the norm—and Internet users have tried "canceling" offenders in the public eye, with varying degrees of success.
A throwaway gag about a "crazy" invention points to everything wrong with our species.
HBO's Silicon Valley is one of the great satires of modern capitalism.
The main cast is a blend of absurd personalities that are somehow still believable. The clashing of world-changing ideas with massive egos and even larger sums of money perfectly captures the tragicomic nature of a modern era when we are ruled over by technocrats with questionable senses of morality and humanity—who are made billionaires overnight.
Still, the show is far from perfect. The depiction of Jimmy O. Yang's character, Jian-Yang, is often pretty offensive, and T.J. Miller's personal life and history are troubling enough that maybe the show as a whole shouldn't be given a pass. But Silicon Valley, especially in its early seasons, does such a good job of converting the alienating weirdness of its real-world setting into fodder for both high-brow and low-brow comedy that I'm drawn back to it again and again.
And each time I return to the show, there is one scene in season one that haunts me more than anything else...