Mary Sue-perego: A psychotherapeutic analysis of women in fanfiction

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Feehily, Elaine
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The aim of this research was to carry out a psychotherapeutic investigation into the experiences of fanfiction writers using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis and, in doing so, explore their motivations for writing fanfiction, and the impact it has had on them. Three semi-structured interviews were carried out with female fanfiction writers who have been writing fanfiction for the past ten years. The themes that emerged were how they use fanfiction as a way of working through their issues; exploring their hidden self and aspects of their personality they’ve never fully expressed; intimacy; and finally, the act of sublimation and escapism. The study revealed that being involved in fanfiction can act as a way of sublimating, an attempt to explore what is going on in the writer’s internal world in a creative way, like a painter or musician would do. Seeing or writing about characters going through similar difficulties to their own reassured the participants that they can get through their difficulties by projecting their insecurities onto a particular character and working it out through them, or they could escape into a world where they avoid their own issues and concentrate on characters who do not share the same hardship as them. Fanfiction is process orientated rather than outcome orientated, with writers often not prioritising getting good feedback to eventually become a published author, and tending to keep the fanfiction side of their lives very private and separate from their offline lives, and vice versa.