If you're not familiar with the book and movie After, oh boy, are you in for a treat. The movie, which lands in theaters Friday, April 12, is based on the book of the same name, which is based on fan fiction of the same name — One Direction fan fiction, to be specific. While the movie may tweak certain characters and scenes, a lot of One Direction fans are less than thrilled about the release. Let me break it down for you.
Note: there are big spoilers ahead.
For a little background, After was written by Anna Todd and published on Wattpad in 2013 as a One Direction fan fiction. For deeper background, fan fiction is when a fan of something (TV show, movie, singer) writes a story of their own that features characters of the fiction or turns the real-life person into a character. Fifty Shades of Grey was originally published as Twilight fan fiction years ago before being turned into the story we know now. Many writers will take popular characters, like maybe those from Harry Potter, and plop them into a whole new world where the only thing you recognize from Harry Potter is the names. But some stories will keep a character, story, or person pretty close to real life.
In After, the main love interest was, naturally, Harry Styles. The female protagonist, Tessa, falls in love with him, despite him being a piece of sh*t person in the story.
If you had absolutely no background on the fan fiction aspect and picked up After in a bookstore after it was published in 2014, kudos to you if you even kept reading after you realized the love interest's name was Hardin Scott. Hardin. His name is Hardin. I mean, Todd had to change the names so they weren't the One Direction boys' names anymore, and Hardin Scott was the best she could do.
Throughout the book, Hardin repeatedly treats Tessa like absolute trash. He says cruel things to her, he picks on her for being studious and a virgin, he is evasive even after they start dating, and he blames her for everything. He's off being sketchy somewhere? He's going to yell at her for being concerned. He ditches her to go to a party with another girl? He gets mad at her for showing up.
Like I said, he is a piece of sh*t person in this story.
I can't say I know Styles personally, but as a longtime fan, I can confidently say he seems nothing like Hardin, thankfully.
And herein lies why One Direction fans are mad about this — because Hardin was originally written as Styles in the fan fiction, Styles keeps ending up tied to this absurd story. And when the character is as repulsive as this one is, it's troubling to compare Styles to him. I can't say I know Styles personally, but as a longtime fan, I can confidently say he seems nothing like Hardin, thankfully. And it honestly sucks to put him in the same conversation as this character.
Some One Direction fans are in support of this book and movie because it's just fiction and I guess they think some of the sex scenes are hot, but to a lot of other fans, it reads as manipulative and abusive and gives a bad rap to One Direction fan fiction. And let me tell you, I've read a lot of fan fiction in my time (in a variety of fandoms), and I've read a lot of it that's a whole lot better and less troublesome than this one. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren't getting published as real books and made into movies, because for some reason, continuing to promote unhealthy relationships is appealing to readers and viewers.
As a fan, I would care a whole lot less about a sh*tty character getting a girl he doesn't deserve if the story never had anything to do with one of my favorite celebrities. But knowing that Styles is probably one of the kindest and most well-respected young men in the industry, it just makes me sad for his name to be tied to this in any way.
I only read the first book in this series, but there are three more after it. I consulted the internet to see how the series ended, even though I felt pretty sure Hardin and Tessa would end up together, and what do you know, I was right. So even though Hardin is a total scumbag who once in awhile tells Tessa he loves her, they end up married with kids — and no doubt on the path to a destructive and abusive relationship. Maybe he redeems himself later in the series? But I don't want to have to read four books to find out of he gets any better, because after this book, I am pretty sold on him being an awful person. I'm so glad (please note my sarcasm) this is the story we're continuing to promote to young fans who think "fixing the bad boy" is the type of relationship you should aim for.