Mapping the American Century


Fanfiction and americanization

Over the last twenty years, Young Adult Literature has become increasingly popular. The number of novels within the genre in 2009 was ten times more than in 1997. The rise of Young Adult Literature is not just something found in the US, but in other countries as well. In many other countries, like the Netherlands, the genre has become a staple for teens and young adults. This fits in an ongoing process of Americanization, as many of the novels are either written by American writers, set in America, or both. This Americanization through Young Adult Literature can be challenging to prove, especially because there is still a lack of Dutch authors within the genre. One way in which it can still become visible is in the reception of the books, and, even more importantly, the way fans engage with the stories. This is where fanfiction comes in to play.

Young Adult Literature

Fanfiction are fictional stories based on existing literature, movies, and even based on celebrities, written by fans. While there are many different people writing fanfiction, the majority seems to be teenage girls, most of them between the ages of 13 and 17. Because of the rise in popularity of Young Adult Literature, fanfiction has also become more popular, not just in terms of writing but also the amount of people that read it. Proof of this is, for example, the immense success of Fifty Shades of Grey, originally written by E.L. James as fanfiction of Twilight.

Fanfiction is a reflection of how people engage with Young Adult Literature and the ideas they represent. Because many of the books represent American culture, it is to be expected that this influences Dutch fanfiction. Often, titles are in English, and the writers rely on certain English words and phrases to better express themselves. We can also see that certain elements take on more American forms. The stories often take place in America, the characters drive at sixteen, and schools seem to be somewhat modeled after American ones.

While we certainly see the American influences, another thing that stands out is the fact that there are just as many Dutch influences. Despite the reliance on English, the main portion of the stories are often written in Dutch, and the grading systems in the fictional schools are often based on the Dutch system, to name just two examples. The writers are aware that their stories take place in America, so these Dutch influences are not self-evident. Dutch writers are actively picking and choosing which Dutch and which American elements they want to use, in order to best express themselves and tell the story they want to. By doing so, they are creating a new hybrid identity, that is as American as it is Dutch. While this might not align to a traditional interpretation of Americanization, it still involves the Dutch culture taking over certain aspects of American culture. However, instead of merely copying, fanfiction shows us that younger generations are shaping American culture to fit their own narrative.