If you're even a casual Harry Styles fan, you've likely heard that After is based on fan fiction about the British boy bander. It follows a series of stories Anna Todd, then a student, posted on the free fanfiction site Wattpad about a romance between Styles and a fictional girl named Tessa Young. (Styles' character's name was changed to Hardin when the story and its sequels were published as novels). Styles has never commented on After or the books that inspired it, but Todd doesn't think he has a problem with her fictionalized depiction of him.
"Sony [who managed One Direction] paid a writer to make the first original fan fiction about the band — I can't imagine they were upset," she told the BBC in 2018. While it's unclear if Sony did in fact commission fanfic about One Direction, it's plausible that the band quietly supported the Wattpad story when it came out in 2013. (Bustle reached out to Sony Music for comment but didn't receive a response).
The story initially came out chapter by chapter, becoming so popular that over six million comments have been left on Todd's work. This led to a book deal for Todd with Simon & Schuster imprint Gallery Books in 2014, and then in 2015, a movie deal with Paramount.
However, not all 1D fans have championed the story, which imagines Styles as an aggressive "bad boy" Tessa meets at college. One offended fan even created a petition at Change.org titled "Do not produce a glamorized fanfiction!," which urged United Talent, who represent the novels, not to go through with adapting them into a movie.
Others also took issue with the story for perpetuating rape culture. "[After] was based on a fanfiction that portrayed Harry as a verbally abusive punk," the description of the Change.org petition reads. In response, Todd told Cosmopolitan that she was trying to reflect the struggles of two people in a formative part of their lives. "It was just sort of a reflection of me. [Tessa] doesn't know who she is," Todd said.
When the The New York Times reached out to One Direction, their representative said that "the band had no comment on the novel." The publication points out that fictional representations of people are protected as free speech, so After is perfectly legal.
Todd has also said that because Styles is merely her inspiration, the character of Hardin is not intended to cloud people's perceptions of him as a real person. "I love Harry Styles just as much as anyone, and I would never do anything that would hurt his feelings,” she told the Times.
As for how Harry Styles really feels about After, we may never know.
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