A Note on #SoapDick

As someone who used to be very active in the SJM fandom, I know I still have followers who enjoy her work and might be aware of this. I’m not going to go through the trouble of linking all of the things because it’s very easy to find, but in short, the BookBoyfriend subscription box had an “Illyrian Wingspan” themed box that featured a smutty, personalized letter; a smutty self-insert fanfiction; and most notably, a bar of soap shaped like a detailed penis. Since I know I still have a lot of followers from the fandom, I feel responsible to break down the problems with this. 

Disclaimer: Yes, I used to write smutty fanfiction for the series, always tagged appropriately. I stopped doing so in May of 2017, shortly after ACOWAR. As I’ve grown as a reader and writer, my attitudes about smutty content in books have evolved. I don’t want anyone to think I’m being a hypocrite here, so I’m admitting up front that yes, I wrote smutty fic in the past, but I still have a problem with this whole fiasco. 


It does not matter that the creators of this box attempted to give credit to SJM and Bloomsbury on the cover of their little smut fic pamphlet. It is ILLEGAL to take the characters and world of a published author, write fic about it, and sell it for a profit. By including this in a subscription box, that’s exactly what these creators did. I will not be surprised if Bloomsbury slaps them with a Cease & Desist letter in the next 24 hours. 


I do not have a problem with this on principle. You do you. But using a book series that is still currently marketed to young adults and creating an explicit sex-themed crate to go with it is entirely inappropriate. Further, this particular subscription box has only produced crates based on YA books. Odds are, its client base is comprised of teenagers. They literally sent a soap penis to actual children. They had an “18+ warning” on the box, but when most of your clientele might not be that age, it’s incredibly irresponsible to suddenly expose young clientele to that. To my understanding, there was no information that the “special bath product” was shaped like a penis. There was no way for clients of any age to consent to this. 


On this note, you can see easy parallels with the ACO books themselves. Yes, they were originally marketed as New Adult, but that category has collapsed, and Bloomsbury has made the call to market them to young adults (teens). Both Bloomsbury and SJM have been very irresponsible in not tailoring their content accordingly. I am not saying that teens can’t handle sex, but the amount of and description of sex in the books is not appropriate for teens who might not be signing up for that content when they’re looking for a fantasy adventure. Most of that is a subject for another post and is also something I’ve discussed before, but it cannot be separated from this subscription box disaster.

In short, I’m sure Bloomsbury will be tackling the situation later. I believe SJM should also say something about it herself, because it was her work that led to this even if she didn’t sign off on this particular box. That said, I don’t think she will. I find this disappointing from a professional perspective, but I won’t go off on that here. 

I just put together this post so that my followers who might still be involved in the fandom in any capacity can be informed and understand why this is wrong. This post is not a sign that I am in any way returning to the fandom. I just felt that, due to my history in the fandom, I had a responsibility to say something. 


“Beauty and the Bricolage”: Adaptation and Conversation Through Contextual Fairy Tale History | Sarah Viehmann on Patreon

Today, available to $7 patrons, you can read my paper, Beauty and the Bricolage: Adaptation and Conversation Through Contextual Fairy Tale History, which I wrote for graduate school on the process of retelling fairy tales, using ACOTAR as a case study. Enjoy!

“Beauty and the Bricolage”: Adaptation and Conversation Through Contextual Fairy Tale History | Sarah Viehmann on Patreon

NPCA/ACA Conference: Day 2, Part One!


Last week, I attended the National Pop Culture/American Culture Association Conference in Indianapolis! This continues a series of posts summarizing the post interesting things that happened and the things I learned. I attended a lot of panels on YA Literature, Fandoms, and Fairy Tales, which is very topical for this blog, so I thought it would be fun to put together a summary of events! Enjoy!

Day 1

Heteronormativity in Fairy Tales: Challenging the Prince(ss)

Featuring Yours Truly (Indiana University); AnnaMarie Christina Ramsey (San Antonio, Texas); and Megan Cannella (University of Nevada)

A Court of Norms and Poses: Anti-Subversion in a New Fairy Tale Novel

I kicked off the session with my paper on ACOTAR as an adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” and “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” I plan to continue this project and eventually publish it, but this portion of the project focused on how ACOTAR might closely resemble the plot structure of its sources, but it fails to continue the tradition of social critique present in the earlier tales. It also seems to devalue certain feminine values despite being hailed as “feminist.” Here is my graphic representing the plot movements of the stories.


My paper used feminist theory, adaptation theory, and a formalist approach to examine how well ACOTAR holds up the tradition of its predecessors. My conclusion is that it is a mixed bag. Some quotes for you:

In a 2015 interview, Maas stated, “I didn’t want to
be confined to one mythology when I created the world of 
A Court of Thorns and Roses, so it became a blend of
creatures that interest and frighten me. Which has really given me the freedom
to do whatever I want with Prythian and its inhabitants” (Maas 2015). This pastiche of tradition has been criticized as culturally
appropriative, a concern of third-wave feminism. However, it may also represent
an example of the Derridean concept of bricolage,
as described by Gordon Slethaug: “Within bricolage, textual reference may
be mere allusion to characters, situations, ideas, and styles, and these
fleeting allusions or citations provide keys to the new artistic production. In
this way citation, palimpsest, and bricolage supplement predecessor and force
new meaning onto culture and texts” (Slethaug 193). Much of Maas’s
interpretative work in adapting the tale features bricolage, and it
does force new meaning onto the story,
though it is far from the only adaptive choice of hers which does so.


This aversion to feminine domesticity is also revealed by the change
Maas makes in the tasks Feyre must complete Under the Mountain (her version of
the troll kingdom in “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”). While in the
source tale, the heroine must clean the tallow she spilled on her husband’s
shirt to prove that she is his true bride, Feyre must escape an enormous
carnivorous worm in a mud pit; solve a riddle to save her friend from being
crushed; and kill three innocent faeries, including one she believes to be
Tamlin. These tasks are all physical and mental with excruciating consequences,
and in between the tasks she is subjected to sexual humiliation at the hands of
the High Lord of the Night Court, Rhysand, by being forced to wear revealing
clothes, drinking drugged wine, and performing seductive dances. Feyre’s
femininity is not a strength that helps her save herself and her love—it is
instead stripped away from her and seen as a weakness used to mock her.    

In the end, I concluded that while ACOTAR is structurally a very competent retelling of its source material, it lacks the depth of social critique that makes it “hold up” to the tales it is sourced from. This is a project I plan to continue and may even make into a major part of my dissertation, but for now it’s an analysis of just one dimension of retelling fairy tales. 

A Failure to Ascend: The Sequel

This paper by AnnaMarie Christina Ramsey analyzed the race and gender representation in the Disney film Descendants 2. This is a continuation of the analysis she conducted on Descendants, the first film of the series. She pointed out that the only black character with lines in Descendants 2 is Uma, the villain, while the others are mere background characters. The characterization of the men of color (Jay as a thief and Carlos as a jock) are also limiting and problematic. Further, the female characters are also reduced to gendered stereotypes, in that Mal is known for her hairdressing skills and Evie for her baking–while Ben’s ability to soothe the warring females at the end establishes his dominance as a man in the narrative. Finally, difference is seen as negative, because Mal transformed into a ash-blonde in order to fit in to Auradon and only returns to her natural purple when she is rejected. Ramsey argues that representation such as this greatly affects the self-perception of the children consuming the media, and I absolutely agree.

Part of Your Destabilized Heteropatriarchy: A Critical Discussion of Fan Reimaginings of The Little Mermaid

This amazing paper was given by Megan Cannella from the University of Nevada and focused on how Disney’s Ariel is depicted in fanworks. She began her paper by arguing that fans position Disney Princesses as sites of rebellion and criticism through fanfiction and comics. She offered two fanfiction works as her sample, but clarified that the patterns she identified were consistent across Ariel fanworks. Her two primary observations were that when Ariel is depicted in her mute human form, she is more likely to be submissive and in her canonical straight relationship with Eric. When she is depicted as a mermaid, she is more likely to be in a dominant role and more likely to be depicted in a lesbian relationship. Cannella displayed word maps of the fanfictions she analyzed, showing how words for body parts and characters are either distant (Eric/Ariel) or more closely tied (Ariel/Rapunzel) depending on the fic. This paper had the room laughing but also created a fantastic discussion, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of this research plays out! 

Feminism, Film, and Fairy Tales

Featuring Kathryn N. McDaniel (Marietta College), Brian Walter, and Paula de Villavicencio (University of Waterloo)

Little Red Riding Hood: A Feminist Hollywood Star

Paula de Villavicencio’s paper took a comparative look at Charles Perrault’s fairy tale compared to the 2011 film version Red Riding Hood (which itself was adapted from the novel by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright). She argued that the film was less didactic that Perrault’s story, but that the cinematography and direction of the film highlighted some interesting elements of the story. She claims that the film takes a voyeuristic, male-gaze-oriented approach to Red’s body and sexuality, implicating the audience in their participation in patriarchal violence. I loved this argument and it makes me want to watch the film again! 

Smart Women, Beastly Choices: J.K. Rowling and Disney Studios Reimagine “Beauty and the Beast”

Kathryn McDaniel drew parallels between Rowling’s Harry Potter series and the 2017 remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and claims that these parallels were intentional due to the casting of Emma Watson, who had played Hermione Granger, as Belle. She also noted the use of the “Beauty and the Beast” story present in the Harry Potter stories–namely, Remus&Tonks and Bill&Fleur. McDaniel also noted that the Beast is first dismissive of romance, but must learn to accept it again, both as a genre and a value, in order to begin his transformation back into a human (as someone on the aromantic spectrum, I take issue with this theme, though not with the argument because I think McDaniel’s observation is correct). McDaniel seemed to suggest that the film was more feminist than not, and this prompted and interesting discussion at the end with others in the room who had a slightly different perspective.

Beautifying the Beast: Genre & Gender in Condon’s “Beauty and the Beast”

The third paper of the panel also featured on the 2017 Beauty and the Beast, but it focused instead on how gender ideology is presented in the film, particularly with regard to masculinity. He notes how the opening of the film takes a nearly fetishistic interest in the makeup sequence as the prince gets ready and hides the prince’s face for a considerable amount of time–already indicating an interest in gender presentation in the film. He spent time analyzing the dynamics between Gaston and LeFou (and my favorite observation of his was that Gaston is repeatedly given highly phallic objects, such as the collapsible telescope and the hunting knife). This presentation of gender ideology has extensive effects. Walter argued that the Disneyfication of children is in fact empire-building–through the way gender and other ideologies are presented in the film, audiences are taught to perceive divergence from the norm as inferior. Condon conceded that the inclusion of LeFou as gay is not insignificant: “Condon’s inclusion of the same-sex couple at the end allows the film to have it’s overwhelming WASP-cake and at least taste it for other relationship possibilities too.” 

I was thrilled to attend and participate in these two fairy tale panels, and they consisted of only the first half of my day! Check back in soon to see a post on the second half. 🙂

Day 2, Part Two

Day 3


I’ve been on the Struggle Bus trying to condense my term paper on ACOTAR into a comprehensible 20-minute presentation for the National Pop Culture Association conference on Friday, and I think I finally worked something out. I don’t enjoy trying to condense that much work into such a short presentation because you have to make a lot of assumptions about what your audience already knows, but I think it’s doable! Looking forward to tackling it on Friday. 

So I know you’re not in the fandom anymore but have you heard about a ACOTAR movie ? Because I saw rumors on it in the net and I was wondering if there is any confirmation about it ? Personnaly I think a movie is the worst idea ever, there isn’t any human who can play Rhys on earth and why can’t we make our own idea of the characters ? Did you heard of it ? Did you think it can be possible ? ( Sorry for my bad English)

I heard whispers of something in production, so I just looked into it. Apparently it has been acquired by Constantin Film (official press release here). I am generally very wary of movie adaptations of books (I would have said so even in my fandom days), so I’m not really sure how I’d feel about it. It’s really a wait-and-see thing in my opinion!

I’m the anon who asked you for “age problem” in the acotar series. Sorry to annoy you again but when I reread the series I found another thing about Lucien’s mother, she was described the first time as someone who looked a little older than Amarantha(acotar chap38), yet we discover later that she was barely 40 years old during the war (acowar chap47). This should not be the opposite as Amarantha was already a commander during the war? Or do faeries seem older cause of what they have experienced?

Got no answers for you here, nonnie. Just a big ol’ shrug.

Yes, I was a Feylin shipper too at a time but Maas kind of uses his “PTSD” to turn him into an asshole so I can’t ship him anymore with Feyre :/ and I have never been a big fan of Rhys, have some issues with the way he treated Feyre even in ACOMAF when he uses her like a bait or “forced” her to steal that book at the Summer court. But I suppose it’s no use talking about it now. Let’s cross our fingers to find our OTP one day ! :)

Yeah, I’d argue that Tamlin’s bad behavior was evident during the first book as well, but I totally understand why you feel that way about Rhys. I don’t agree that he forced Feyre to steal the book, but his treatment of her Under the Mountain was ultimately glossed over. Feysand was my OTP for a while, but I couldn’t feel that way anymore after ACOWAR.

I am a different anon but I would like to know what do you think of the first book of the series, ACOTAR ? Because I really like the first book, I fell in love with this universe and I love the story between Tamlin and Feyre even if it was simple, it was really sweet but when ACOMAF came out, I began to have issues with it..

I really enjoyed the first book the first time I read it, which is why I joined the fandom. I study fairy tale retellings and I thought it did a decent job with the fairy tales it was telling (my opinion on the matter is more complex now, but still in development). I was even a Feylin shipper at first, but as the series progressed that wasn’t something I was going to continue shipping. I enjoyed ACOMAF far more, but I did appreciate ACOTAR early on.

What do you think about the acotar series?

You might be new here.

Long story short, I joined the fandom in Spring 2016, fell in love with ACOMAF, proceeded to write a ~280,000-word fanfiction of what I imagined the third book would be, wrote many other fics before ACOWAR came out, and then, when ACOWAR did come out, was fiercely disappointed. A lot of the fandom that I spent time in crumbled apart (or were forced out) because we were critical, and since about August of last year I’ve distanced myself from interacting with the fandom. I don’t currently have any plans to continue reading the series. I don’t mind if people still ask me things about it and I will have conversations about it from time to time, but I don’t regularly engage with it on my own anymore. 

(part 1) How old do you think Rhysand are (not in years but physically speaking) ? I know it’s strange but I always wondered if there was a “correlation” between physical appearance and the age of the immortals from a certain age ? For example Tamlin is described at the beginning of the story as someone very young and at the end of ACOTAR when his mask falls, Feyre says of him that if he had been a human he would be in his thirties.

(part 2) Rhys “physical age” is not mentioned in the story (unless I missed a scene) yet he gives the impression of being older than Tamlin in appearance while there is not a big difference in age (in years) between the two (Tamlin has been a child during the war so he must have been about ten years old and we know that Rhys was in his thirties during this period) ? I know it’s strange but I always asked myself these kinds of questions ^^“

You’re right that we know he’s older than Tamlin by about 20-50 years (it’s never stated, but I tend to put him at around 550). Tamlin, at around 500 years old, looks to be in his late twenties, so Rhys at 550ish would look around the same or in his early thirties. I put him at 30 in my Modern AU fic. Of course, SJM is not at all specific about when Prythian fae stop aging (she mentions it in ToG, but not ACOTAR). So it’s really anyone’s guess, but the only thing that seems to fit is that late twenties, early thirties range.