In 2016, I made a list of things that I wanted to see fandom leave behind as we moved into the next year.
Fandom left absolutely NONE of those things behind in 2017.
I’m not going to talk about the stalking, the increase in harassment, the doubling down on the claim that Armitage-fucking-Hux being a more interesting character than Finn or Poe Dameron are in the Star Wars fandom. No, I’ll save those hot takes for another day when I don’t feel quite so much like doing a salt-and-burn on several fandom spaces which have crossed boundaries I didn’t know existed.
For now, I’m going to talk about how fandom is incapable of letting Black people – real Black people and the Black characters we love – feel things without rushing to delegitimize those feelings.
To a significant chunk of the Star Wars fandom, Finn is a traitor and a coward for turning against the fascist organization that stole him from his family and brainwashed him.
The Flash’s Iris West is supposedly spoiled because she made a private comment about her frustration at having her friends disrupt their wedding celebration and ignore their wishes/needs.
For years now, the Star Trek fandom has preached about how Nyota Uhura is supposedly too dependent on Spock and would be better off if she was single (like she was in the sixties).
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Sam Wilson? Well, he just exists to make sure that Steve and Bucky get together and has no feelings about anything other than how proud he is to see his favorite white guys get together.
Same goes for Wakandan king T’challa, a Black character who fandom sees in terms of what he can provide for the white characters in the MCU. His emotions and characterization don’t matter, not when the throne of Wakanda is up for grabs.
Black fans expressing anxiety over The Last Jedi and writing about their lack of a desire to watch the film because of the way Finn is treated in the film are mocked and compared to violent racists like the ones who boycotted The Force Awakens specifically because of Finn’s presence.
WestAllen shippers (many of whom are Black women) were called immature, greedy, selfish, petty, and the like for expressing first their annoyance with Felicity interrupting Iris and Barry’s wedding mid-vow exchange and then their giddiness at The Flash’s attempt to show how Iris felt about the proceeding.
All of 2017, many Black fans who expressed any emotion in fandom that related back to their Blackness or the way Black characters were treated in and out of fandom could expect to get racism in return from fandom.
Attempts to reframe conversations on racism and callouts of racist acts or fanworks as bullying.
I was lucky; I didn’t get even half of some of what my friends did. However, what I did get – condescending messages/responses, accusations of reverse racism, being linked to and insulted on sites that ranged from TV Tropes to straight up white supremacist hubs accusing me of wanting to kill all white people – was more than enough for me. It’s been exhausting.
Just this week, someone on Twitter posted a screenshot of a Black fan on Tumblr talking about how watching Rose electrocute Finn in The Last Jedi was upsetting to them (they didn’t say they were triggered, but the description of their feelings was kind of obviously well… that) specifically to mock them.
Maybe the Twitter user didn’t know that the user was Black.
But I don’t have the luxury of assuming that their anti-black racism – mocking a black person for being upset by something they see as having anti-black connotations is anti-black – was accidental.
I’ve spent much of 2017 witnessing nerds of all ethnicities in these supposedly free and fun fandom spaces mock, gaslight, and harass Black people in various fandoms who dare to talk about Black characters’ treatment in fandom and canon. I spent much of the past year watching people who identify as liberals, who call themselves feminists, who are ostensibly all about that equality, dismissing conversations about the racism that Black fans and Black characters are subject to in fandom as “not real racism.”
I’ve had the dubious pleasure of witnessing and experiencing anti-Black racism in fandom spaces throughout 2017, most of it centering around silencing Black members of fandoms like Star Wars and The Flash as they talked about their feelings – positive and negative – about Black characters.
I’ve seen several non-Black fan creators, in response to Black people criticizing blatant racism in their fan works, doubling down on their work and promising to continue making more of the work, even when they got their “nice and measured” discussion explaining why drawing Black characters larger than they are is racist.
In 2018, I’m going to be centering Black folks’ feelings on Blackness and anti-Blackness. I’m going to be centering Black people, full stop. In and out of fandom.
I’m going to celebrate Black people and the Black characters we love. I’m going to talk about and share commentary on media centering Black people – or that should center Black people. I want to do my part and carve out spaces for Black folks in fandom to talk about the good and the bad parts of fandom.
2018 is going to be a great year for Black media. At the start, we’ve got Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, Pacific Rim 2, a whole host of YA lit by and about Black people, and Black superheroes on the small screen as well.
As Black members of fandom spaces, we’re frequently subject to anti-Black racism disguised as “preference” or “just an opinion”. We’re subject to violent racism in the supposedly fun spaces of fandom that other fans write off or ignore because there are apparently worse things in the world.
If we, as Black fans, don’t go full tilt into supporting, celebrating, and sharing content about Black characters (both positive and critical), no one else will.
I don’t have a huge platform. I’m not a big name in fan studies or fandom.
But I’m determined to make sure that I use my platform to make sure that Black characters, Black people, and Black feelings are centered the entire way.
That’s why I’ve made “let Black people feel things” my theme for 2018.
Alongside my usual content (Urban Fantasy 101 articles, the Anita Blake reread, and the like), I’m going to be writing, sharing, commissioning, and recording content about Black people and Black characters that will focus on our feelings.
You know because there aren’t enough outlets that do that, and I want to do my part, using my platform and presence to give Black people a chance to talk critically about fandom and media without being silenced by the “fandom is supposed to be fun” contingent.
Q: How do we pitch essays/share content with you?
A: You can use my website contact form to send me emails! You can’t attach files or send me images, but it’s a good place to start if you have a post or post idea that you want me to see. You can also message me on twitter where I’m @stichomancery or tweet me if you want me to retweet or otherwise share something you’ve written. While I’m active on tumblr, I don’t check my tags and I refuse to do any sort of business via Tumblr’s IM service.
Q: How much are you paying for the posts you commission?
A: Right now, my goal is to commission two posts a month at $30 USD each and it’s contingent on what I earn from Patreon. By the middle of the year, I’ll hopefully hit another goal (or get a job) that will make it possible to offer either more commissioned posts (3 or 4) or increase payment to $40 a post (for two posts a month).
Q: What can I do if I’m not Black?
A: Share Black people’s posts, fan works, and thoughts about Black characters! Practice good allyship! Speak up about antiblackness in fandom and media!
Q: What if I’m Black and don’t agree with you about something being anti-Black?
A: Short answer? Make a post about your feelings on the subject because Blackness isn’t monolithic. If you send it to me, I’ll probably share it.
Long answer? If you’re coming to me with, for example, a complaint that Rey/Kylo Ren, slavefic, and/or those weird “Civil Rights Movement AUs starring white guys” in fandom can’t possibly be anti-Black because you/other fans that are interested in those things are Black too… Keep it.
I had enough of “Black people like this so the thing isn’t anti-Black” messages in 2017 to know that I don’t want to deal with it in 2018.
5 thoughts on “Let Black People Feel Things in Fandom 2018”
This is a a part of what I have begun calling “Weaponized Fandom”. Where people engage in fandoms for the express purpose of harming marginalized people who also engage in that particular fandom. How else does it explain people who go into the tags for characters of color to erase, vilify, and belittle those characters in their own narratives? It would be different if they kept to their own tags for their ships or characters but they don’t. They actively seek to harm marginalized people for their participation in fandom,and are well aware that what they’re doing is wrong because I’m just not accepting the disingenuous cluelessness that they didn’t know something they put in a tag for a character of color was racist, or something they put in a canon gay ship tag was homophobic.
This needs to be a word, and needs to be said. And yes, it is primarily White fans, both men and women, who are doing this!
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I think “weaponized fandom” is a good term for it. These people are literally twisting the unspoken rules of fandom to use as shields from critique and as a weapon to wound fans of color.
Why else would someone draw a Black character with horribly over-exaggerated features or write them in very racist situations and then tag it with the character;s tag or a tag that fandom predominantly uses for them… unless they WANT that outrage directed towards them. If you’re in fandom and you SWEAR up and down that call-out culture is so awful, why continue to support or create racist fan works? Why continuing to support fan creators who seem to thrive off of getting call-outs from fans of color BECAUSE of their racist works?
How about the way that a fandom rule is “don’t put hate in the tags” which leads to people of color being yelled at over critical commentary for fandom’s (white) faves… as rude commentary on characters of color largely populates ship/character tags for them as well as the regular search for the media they’re in?
Like you, I think that the claim of cluelessness (“I didn’t know calling a Black woman’s hair nappy is racist” witnessed today in the Flash fandom as an example) is largely disingenuous (or more likely, straight up lies). The internet exists. We’re all currently on it. And it’s not that difficult to look up resources: how to draw certain features, how to write about other ethnicities, queer stereotypes to avoid, what is/n’t racist when it comes to portraying people of color.
There are resources for creating content for marginalized people that doesn’t trade on stereotypes. I don’t think there are many people in fandom that don’t know how Google works or how to search for things.
And yet… “I didn’t know that was xyz” remains the go-to for folks when we’re talking about fandom racism? Mkay. Sounds pretty convenient to me…
(Also I would LOVE to maybe get you to write a thing for this mini-movement at some point because your points on fandom and media racism are always well… on point! Let me know if you’re interested and we can work something out!)
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I am interested,and would love to participate. Let me know what you have in mind, and how it works, as I’ve never done it before.
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