As I trekkie, I read my first slash fanfiction about twenty-five years ago, on a photocopied fanzine. I think you can imagine what a Star Trek fanfiction was about in the late Eighties (I suspect JJ Abrams knows). Then I was on the Gossamer project during the Nineties and on The Sugar Quill the next decade. I had a media studies paper published and I’m familiar with the work of Henry Jenkins.
I’m on AO3 now, although I tend to forget my nickname and often need to retrieve it from somewhere.
If you have no clue about fandom and transformative works let me put it this way, it’s like a sauna. At first you may feel self-conscious and too hot, but it’s only a matter of time and it will be so relaxing and casual.
So Caitlin Moran made Cumberbatch and Freeman read aloud slash fanfic taken for AO3 without the permission of the author, during the Q&A following the screening of the first episode of Sherlock Season Three.
The fandom was not happy about it for a number of reasons. I’ll have to admit the excerpt is rather unpleasant to watch, but to me the reason is basically that they did not ask for the author’s permission.
As person who takes fanfiction quite seriously, I think I can safely say that it’s totally ok to make fun of it. How I laughed the day I discovered the BDSM AU tag, meaning a world where BDSM is the norm, with extremely complicated implications and consequences (very nuanced). A couple of stories with that tag on AO3 are rather good, especially one in the Cabin Pressure fandom.
But you should not make fun of the people writing it. Never. This is why they should have asked for the permission of the author. A granted permission would have put the author on the same level as Moran and the actors, while what happened was that the author felt humiliated and worried while Cumberbatch and Freeman looked like they were tricked into doing something embarrassing.
This is a problem that is found in acting. You may have followed the case of Maria Schneider, who was psychologically forced by Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando into acting a scene she had not consented to, and never recovered completely. Or you may have read The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton, where an apparently unknowing volunteer is brutalized on stage by masked actors while the spectators remain silent and still, not knowing how to tell acting from reality, experiment from cruelty, and ultimately right from wrong, because they can not know if the volunteer is a real volunteer or only another actor. Or you may have attended a play by Enrique Vargas. If have ever tried acting yourself, then you know already.
How far are you entitled to push your actors and audience, in order to obtain a genuine reaction in the name of art and/or entertainment? Well, in my opinion, as far as they all explicitly consent to it. A step more, and it’s abuse (and it may even be illegal), it’s as simple as that.