Examining trends in fanfiction.
Across AO3, there are often tags that pop up, sometimes in all caps: DEAD DOVE DO NOT EAT. If you haven’t seen Arrested Development, you may be forgiven for not immediately understanding the reference. Even if you have, it’s weirder still to find the reference to a cult-classic-turned-Netflix-darling sitcom in the tags for a piece of derivative fiction for BTS or Harry Potter. Weirder still if the piece of fiction includes references to things like necrophilia, abuse, non-con, vore or any other extreme tag.
The Arrested Development scene is illustrative to the point of the tag. As it follows, GOB has accidentally killed one of his doves in his work as an illusionist, but wishes to return the dove. He has left it in the fridge, wrapped in a brown paper bag on the surface of which he has written “Dead Dove Do Not Eat.” Michael goes into the fridge at a later date, sees the mysterious package and it’s clearly written instructions, opens it and says “I don’t know what I expected.”
“Dead Dove Do Not Eat” is a warning. It’s designed to let the reader know, in advance, that what they’re about to open up and read is what it says on the tin. There’s no authorial subversion here, no dream sequences, no decisions to undercut the horror that is happening inside this work. If the piece says that it includes abusive situations between two beloved characters, graphic murder and then abuse of a corpse – it does.
DEAD DOVE DO NOT EAT is an instruction – do not pop into the comments of these pieces to complain about the tagged warnings. You are Michael here; you should’ve expected to see what you found.
Amanda Hudgins is an occasional writer, former rugby player and wearer of incredibly tall shoes.