THIS FEATURE FIRST APPEARED AT UK HORROR SCENE HERE. ALL SUBSEQUENT PARTS WILL BE PUBLISHED THERE FIRST.
I think you can probably guess what it is, but just in case you can’t (or missed the earlier entries in this series, in which case I suggest you go back and doing some catching up! Go on, you’ve missed some great stories!) it’s a play on words. In much the same way that Creepypasta came from the online term Copypasta (referring to a block of text spread throughout the internet via users copying and pasting it to email/forums), Crappypasta refers to Creepypasta that is, well, Crap.
That’s not to say it’s without merit — even junk food hits the spot now and then and as a horror fan there are films that I adore that are so bad they’re good.
In fact, the runners of Creepypasta.com look at all submissions and those that are below the required standard, but show some glimmer of potential if worked on, honed and polished, find their way onto Crappypasta.com.
Notable examples of Crappypasta include the notorious story below, which was posted to 4chan’s /X/ board on 28 March 2008:
So ur with ur honey and yur making out wen the phone rigns. U anser it n the vioce is "wut r u doing wit my daughter?" U tell ur girl n she say "my dad is ded". THEN WHO WAS PHONE?
Yep, this is a story so deliciously dire that it birthed its own meme. Unsurprisingly, ‘THEN WHO WAS PHONE?’ has become as popular as ‘All Your Base Are Belong To Us’ with a certain kind of web user.
However, it’s not just a poor grasp on basic grammar that can see a story dismissed by discerning fans — no, arguably the biggest bugbear guaranteed to infuriate CP fans is somebody fanficcing or piggybacking on the success of another popular story to find an audience.
This week I look at a character (and stories) reviled by some and positively adored by others for precisely this reason — Jane the Killer.
I’ve already spoke at length about the success of the Jeff the Killer Creepypasta. A story fuelled by a nightmarish image of an inhuman grinning face, Jeff has gone on to become one of the most recognisable icons of Creepypasta lore. It’s a story so popular that it still spawns countless imitators, with scores of serial killer monsters now flooding the web, such as Eyeless Jack, Laughing Jack and Liars’s Jimmy.
However, there’s a marked difference between imitation and actively adding a new piece to the lore. As Creepypasta is largely an unregulated commodity, authors often adapt elements created by other writers to create their own spin on the tale. The growing legend of The Rake was very much a collaborative effort, while the stories that make up The Holders series can be credited to multiple authors.
Jane the Killer is one such attempt to add a new element to JtK legend.
With his ‘Go To Sleep’ catchphrase and a back story that varies from telling to telling but often involves a brother named Liu, a gang of vengeful bullies and terrible chemical burns, there’s already a fair amount to work with when telling Jeff’s tale. What the creators of Jane the Killer attempt to inject is a nemesis.
The first Jane the Killer story appeared online back in 2012. Originally titled Jane’s Letter, it has been credited as the work of AngryDogDesigns, a DeviantArt user. You can read his post here.
The story is short, sharp and serves solely to introduce readers to its new antihero. It depicts Jane as somebody with a deep, personal vendetta against Jeff. She is portrayed as somebody so unhinged by her hatred for the grinning, white-hoodie-wearing super psycho that she is prepared to kill people just to rob him of the pleasure.
It also comes with a striking image, a heavily doctored photo of a young woman with an almost featureless white face.
This image comes with a spin on Jeff’s ‘Go To Sleep’ catchphrase — instead it reads: ‘Don’t go to sleep. You won’t wake up’.
Shortly after the first appearance of this story, another entitled Jane the Killer: The Real Story was published by PastaStalker64. This was a lengthier, slightly better written effort, that claimed to be the true story of Jane as told by her.
You can read it at the Jeff the Killer wikia (yes, that really exists) here.
It elaborates on Jane’s background, revealing that she was a neighbour of Jeff and witnessed many of the events in his story, even playing a role in saving his life. However, she would go on to become of his victims, losing her friends and family along the way and being left deliberately disfigured by the maniac. Driven by hatred and an insatiable hunger for revenge, she has taken to hunting Jeff.
In some ways this is quite skilful storytelling. By threading the well-established events of JtK through the story the author (PastaStalker64) is able to connect with an existing audience. The writing itself leaves a little to be desired, but let’s not forget that the original Jeff the Killer stories weren’t exactly Tolstoy. In many technical ways, this is actually better than the Jeff origin tales.
Since then original Jane creator MrAngryDog has released his own ‘origin tale’ writing that Jane (now given the surname Richardson)’s seemingly superhuman abilities derive from a scientific experiment funded by the Government involving something known as Liquid Hate).
He was even kind enough to create a handy infographic to explain it.
Oh, and she’s also a lesbian with a girlfriend called Mary and a wide circle of friends.
There has emerged quite the rivalry between camps of Jane fans, those that prefer the original Jane Richardson born of science, and those that prefer PastaStalker64’s Jane Arkensaw AKA Everlasting, born of fire. This eventually led to a surprisingly civil exchange between the two authors in which PastaStalker64 apologised for any unintentional treading on of toes and admitted that the original Jane image and character was created by MrAngryDog. However, it was agreed between the authors that Jane Richardson and Jane Arkensaw would just be recognised as two separate entities in the JtK mythos and culminated in the writers becoming positively chummy. You can read the whole exchange at MrAngryDog’s Tumblr blog here.
Further subgroups of fans have penned their own stories, from the inevitable ‘shipper’ takes on the story that suggest romance between the two to those that detail the climactic showdown between the two. In one of these a rather implausible plot development occurs in which Jane disguises herself as a hooker to get close to Jeff, then they sleep together (because obviously that’s the first thing you’d do when you tricked your mortal enemy upon whom you’d sworn bloody vengeance to lower his guard in a location far from any witnesses). After eventually dispatching Jeff some time later, Jane’s body is found dead from blood loss, having died during childbirth. There is no sign of the infant, and more tellingly, smeared on the wall in Jane’s blood is the slogan: ‘Go To Sleep’. This has inspired a whole slew of Jeff/Jane the Killer’s Son/Daughter stories.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of these fall squarely into the Crappypasta category, and are widely reviled by a large contingent of the Creepypasta community.
However, there are also massive groups of fans (the majority of which appear to be teenage girls) who are extremely passionate and vocal in their support of their preferred Jane. A quick look at DeviantArt turns up page after page of Jane fanart, and there are also plenty of pictures on Tumblr. YouTube hosts a number of Jane the Killer videos, many of which set to the emo strains of an Evanescence track, obv.
They regularly clash with Jeff’s own fangirls, plenty of whom hate Jane as a character because she wants to kill their beloved Jeff.
To be honest, it’s all a bit Take That vs East 17 (I’ve a very strong suspicion I may have given my age away with that analogy!).
One of the major criticisms levelled at Jane is that she’s seen as something of a Mary Sue (especially the Liquid Hate, superpowered Richardson).
For those unfamiliar with the term, a Mary Sue (or Gary Stu, Marty Stu or Larry Stu for male characters) is a type of young character (especially prevalent in fanfiction) who is impossibly perfect and seen as an idealised author insert. The name comes from a character (the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet — only fifteen-and-a-half years old) in Paula Smith’s 1973 parody A Trekkie's Tale, which was published in her fanzine Menagerie #2. The story itself poked gentle fun at a lot of Star Trek fan fiction, but since then this term has come to carry heavy negative connotations. The worst of these is that a Mary Sue serves as a wish-fulfilment proxy for the author, a perfect example of what they want to be, which in turn makes the character unrealistic in their perfection and not developed enough to be interesting.
There have been several people who are outspoken about the damage the term Mary Sue has done to fanfiction. It seems now that as soon as anybody inserts a female character into an established mythos, that character is quickly dismissed as a Mary Sue. It implies a certain sexism in online fan communities ,and poses the question, if Jane were to have been a male character (Jake the Killer perhaps) would the backlash have been as strong? The characters of Masky, Hoody and Ticci Toby have been widely accepted into the Slenderman canon.
Of course a simple reason for this could be that they are allies of the popular original creation, rather than sworn enemies. Let’s not forget how popular these Creepypasta icons have become, and how fiercely protective their fans feel towards them.
Which brings us back to Crappypasta. Is it fair to dismiss a work purely because you don’t approve of the character’s motivations? Isn’t all art — including literature — subjective, and as such, beyond traditional criticism?
There are definitely some works that resonate better with an audience than others (as well as writing these features, I review horror films so I’m encouraged to rate or rank the work of others based on my conceptions of quality), but to discourage any artist who was brave enough to put their work out there by simply labelling it as ‘crappy’ is pretty harsh.
Jane the Killer is not my favourite Creepypasta creation, but there are elements in the stories of both Richardson and Arkensaw that I appreciate. What’s more, I think the character gives us a fascinating microcosm of internet fandom — a character written into an existing online mythos, since adopted into multiple personas by different groups of fans who feel ‘Their Jane’ is the best one, and sparking an almost equal amount of love and hate from the community for a wealth of reasons.
With so much invested emotion from people who feel passionately about the character, plus an ever expanding mythos and fresh developments and new directions for the story on an almost daily basis, Jane the Killer is actually a hugely successful icon, despite her naysayers.
With so much going on around this particular story, I think it’s safe to say that there’s no danger that onlookers will ‘go to sleep’.
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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.