Over the last decade or so, there has been a wild increase in the production of so-called ‘fanfic films’. We’ve had Fifty Shades of Grey, The Kissing Booth, 365 Days, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and, arguably the worst addition to the genre, After. The five (!?) After films are based on a book that was first published as a ‘dark’ Harry Styles alternative universe fanfiction. Mr Styles is a mysterious, tatted up English university student, who falls for reader-insert Tessa. In all iterations of the story, the two begin a toxic, on-and-off relationship, and, of course, sex is a key part of the narrative.
Fanfiction is not inherently terrible, despite the ongoing meme-ing and cultural ridiculing of its existence. It’s a space to challenge copyright, an opportunity to lower barriers of access to budding writers, and a place where norms of representation can be disputed. However, the representation of relationships and sex in fanfic films that are being made for young audience is completely crap. In After, a relationship with absolutely no respect is made sexy, and the sex itself is largely based on some type of manipulation. The best way to enjoy this film is laughing at it, with pals or a partner (though even that becomes tiresome). There’s better fanfic out there—if five versions of this story can be made, there’s no excuse for not finding ones of actual quality.