Authentic Representation and Author Identity: Exploring Mental Illness in The Hobbit Fanfiction
This paper addresses concerns with authenticity claims that surround mental illness and author identity in fanfiction. I will apply the critiques surrounding representation in media (see Mitchell and Snyder, 2001; Couser 2003, 2009) found in disability studies and fandom studies (see Jenkins 2012) to fanfiction. In this paper, I analyze two pieces of fanfiction which focus on Thorin II also known as Thorin Oakenshield, a character from J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit novel and Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. I explore how in these texts the authors portray mental illness through their characterization of Thorin II. How the author’s actual or perceived personal mental health status may impact their writing, and readers’ responses to their writing, is explored through the lenses of identity politics (see Calhoun, 1994) and authenticity (Couser, 2009; van Dijk, 1989). In the context of disability and fandom studies, these fanfictions act as examples of a) combination fictional/ autobiographical writings which work to provide what the authors’ perceive as accurate portrayals of mental illness, and b) how the author’s mental health status impacts the perceived credibility of their work.