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All about the Fanfiction-to-Film Pipeline and “The Idea of You” (2024)

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

Listen, I grew up a massive fangirl in the early 2010s, so naturally, I spent an egregious amount of time reading silly little fanfictions to feed my pre-teen parasocial relationships. It’s super comforting to know that this fact is probably relatable to a lot of people because otherwise, admitting that would be really embarrassing, especially at the uncomfortably adult-sounding age of twenty-two. 

So, if you’re like me and you had the formative experience of that one orange reading app called Wattpad, you might know about those oh-so-famous boyband fanfictions. However, if you’re not familiar with fanfiction, allow me to open you up to a whole new world.

Fanfiction is essentially a type of fiction which uses already existing characters, fictional worlds or even celebrities as characters in a fictional story that is usually incredibly self-indulgent or sometimes a little, teensy-weensy bit strange. I shudder when I think about some of those One Direction fanfics from back in the day. If you know what I’m talking about, then you know. I fear if I elaborate, I may be unearthing some secret code that I shouldn’t. 

The premise of these fanfictions is usually romantic, but they can also be used to explore different endings to books, shows, or movies or even to reimagine a completely new story in a beloved world of your choice. 

Now fanfiction has a notoriously bad rep in the literature world- it’s often seen as unserious or just plain silly. I would argue that we just hate when women make a space for themselves to just exist, since the fact of the matter is that most fanfiction is made by women for women. Fanfiction often gets lumped together with other genres which many deem as “not real literature” such as my favourite, sappy romance novels. I have a serious bone to pick with the fact that every time literature is associated with women or made for women, it gets downgraded!

However, recently there’s been a huge shift with increasingly more fanfictions rising from the ashes of their deeply gendered bias. Fanfiction has been on a high lately, with many popular and iconic fanfictions being signed on by big publishing houses. Some of #Booktok’s faves, such as The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, find their origins as a Reylo (Rey+Kylo Ren from Star Wars) AU or rather an alternate universe fanfiction! 

Enter The Idea of You, a new feel-good rom-com that recently dropped on Amazon Prime, starring none other than the princess of Genovia, Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine, or as you might otherwise know him, Prince Henry from the movie “Red, White and Royal Blue”. (I refuse to mention that he was also in that one Purple Hearts movie on Netflix that we all unanimously hated). 

Now, The Idea of You is a movie that follows the story of a single mom who ends up in a whirlwind romance with the (much younger) lead singer of the fictional boyband August Moon. Is this story familiar to you yet? 

Well, for me, I immediately had to pause and think, is this what I think it is? 

IS THIS A FANFICTION THAT GOT TURNED INTO A MOVIE?! 

Short answer no, 

The long answer is yes, it was partly inspired by One Direction during their peak era, according to Robinne Lee, the author of the original novel of the same name.

A movie like The Idea Of You is important in so many ways as it features an older woman—a mother—as a protagonist. This is something you don’t often see in the romance genre, especially not on the big screen. A piece of fanfiction like this being turned into a big film is an important step in diversifying the stories we see on screen, especially for women who are more than sick of seeing the same old male gaze-y films!

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that fanfiction has been published and then adapted for the big screen in recent years, and I think it’s about time we started giving fanfiction its due. You might be interested to know that the movie series Fifty Shades of Grey also started out as fanfiction—Twilight fanfiction, to be specific! 

Fanfiction deserves its space to be seen as more than just silly little stories, it’s a form of literature that gives a space for women to tell their stories the way they want them to be told. And with more and more fanfictions being turned into movies, it’s also a superb tool for bringing the female gaze into film! 

Nuhaa Isaacs is a Cape Town born and raised student at the University of Cape Town. She is currently studying toward a BA triple majoring in English Literary Studies, Media and Writing as well as Gender Studies. She has been a staff writer for Her Campus UCT since 2021, and a current member of the Social Media Sub-committee at Her Campus UCT. Sappy romantic fantasy novels and incredibly specific Spotify playlists are everything to her (as well as her three cats: Zuri, Shelley and Peanut). You can find her on Instagram (@nuhaa_i) or Tiktok (@nuhaaorwhatever) probably posting silly little outfit videos. Get in touch via email for any formal inquiries: nuhaa.isaacs@gmail.com.