Community, Soul-Searching, and Pleasure: The Significance of Real Person Fanfiction in BTS Fandom
Abstract Fanfiction is a kind of literature that is strikingly difficult to define. A genre and a medium all at once, it brings fans together in community around their favorite pieces of media ranging from television programs to boy bands. Real Person Fanfiction is a subset of this phenomenon, utilizing real people (frequently celebrities) and their public lives as source text rather than fictional characters or works. With an ongoing source text and frequently vibrant digital fandoms, Real Person Fanfiction serves a critical role in fandoms centered about real people. In an attempt to unravel the intertextual phenomena that unite archives of Real Person Fanfiction and determine the role fic plays in fandom, I address the following question in this thesis: Focusing on fanfiction centered about Korean pop group BTS, how are character archetypes produced and maintained in fanfiction and what cultural work does fanfiction do within fandom itself?
By conducting a close reading of BTS music videos, fan videos, articles, and other material about the members of BTS, I argue that character archetypes initially rise as a result of a general reading of official and easily accessible material such as music videos. The persistence of character archetypes evinces a reliance both on source text and larger fan text, including the vast archive of fanfiction about BTS hosted on websites like Archive of Our Own. By conducting a survey of BTS fanfiction readers and writers as well as several in-depth interviews with fans, I conclude that fanfiction does the cultural work of bringing fans not only into conversation with the source text but also into conversation with each other, facilitating the formation of digital community and establishing fanfiction as a site of personal development, soul-seeking, and pleasure.