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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

"The Idea of You:" Fan Fiction on the Big Screen

This month, Amazon introduced Michael Showalter's rom-com, The Idea of You, to the delight of middle age moms everywhere, starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galzitine. In the brief time since its release it has gotten quite a bit of attention from audience members and the internet as a whole. particularly about its saccharine plot that resembles something you'd find on 2014 Wattpad.

The Idea of You tells the story of Solène, a divorced, 40 year old art gallery owner living in Los Angeles. One summer she takes her teenage daughter and her friends on a trip to Coachella to see their favorite boyband, August Moon. By chance, Solène ends up meeting 24 year old, Hayes Campbell, the band's lead singer. The pair soon pursue a romantic relationship. It's a fantasy story ripped straight from one of those cheesy romance books you see at the grocery store. Regardless, the film has been getting fairly positive reviews since its release and currently holds a score of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes.

I have never been a particular fan of rom-coms so I did not go into this film with high expectations and the highest praise I can give it is, "fine." It's a perfectly acceptable cheesy movie for you to watch with your mom or whenever The Bachelor gets cancelled. But the most interesting about The Idea of You is how much it's reminiscent of a trend from a decade ago, and that trend is One Direction fan fiction.

I am not the target demographic for this film, but I was absolutely the target demographic for what was going on in the early 2010's. From the ages of 7-13, I was a massive fan of One Direction, I'd been to three of their concerts, two of which were in the same weekend. And if you were on Tumblr, Twitter, or Wattpad during those years, it was impossible to not come across at least ten pieces of amateur writing about some ingenue somehow getting involved with a member of 1D. This ranged from dating them while on tour, going on magical adventures with them, or the ever popular, getting kidnapped by them. I knew dozens of girls who would devour these online stories, and a few who even wrote their own. It was a massive trend at the time that was impossible to avoid if you were on any of those three websites.

It was clear to me before I even watched this film entirely that it is 100% a One Direction fan fiction with a million dollar budget. But this actually isn't even the first time this has happened.

In 2013, 24 year old amateur writer, Anna Todd posted a story on Wattpad under the moniker, Imaginator1D, titled: After. It was a about college student named Tessa who meets a rugged bad boy, Hardin, heavily inspired by Harry Styles. Year later, After would be turned into a film adaptation. Today, the series has five film installments, with a sequel and prequel currently in development. The point is, The Idea of You is not the first time Hollywood has tried its hand at adapting One Direction fan fiction. It is abundantly clear that the character of Hayes Campbell is supposed to be Harry Styles, from his name, to his British accent, to his boyband membership. And when you look at the film after learning that information, it becomes profoundly more creepy. It goes from an innocent, fictional rom-com, to a middle aged woman's fantasies about dating a pop star who was in his late teens when his band was at peak popularity. The film's writer, Robinne Lee told Entertainment Weekly that she "regrets revealing Harry Styles as an inspiration" because of all the backlash it's gotten her in the past week.

In terms of content, the film is sort of a mixed bag. At its core, the plot is saccharine, predictable, and fanciful, but there is also a lot of surprisingly relevant social commentary. Throughout the film there are themes of double standards, shame. heartbreak, betrayal, and you do find yourself rooting for Anne Hathaway's character after learning her backstory. It is marginally better than most things you'll find on Amazon Prime, and Anne Hathaway gives a pretty decent performance. You won't enjoy it if you're not the target demographic, and that's okay. But when it comes to the film industry, let's make Wattpad writing a thing of the past.

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