Recent adaptations of popular comic book series have taken the step of diversifying their original storylines by racebending (Gaston and Reid 2012) key characters – for example Iris West (played by Candice Patton) on DC Comics and The CW’s The Flash television series and Mary Jane Watson (rumored to be played by Zendaya) in Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man: Homecoming who were re-imagined as Black women. Using papers, such as “Misogynoir and Antiblack Racism: What The Walking Dead teaches us about the Limits of Speculative Fiction Fandom” (Johnson 2015), this study will look at how the seemingly progressive spaces of comic book fandom become hostile territory when Black women are introduced as main characters and love interests. Both Iris West and Mary Jane Watson are iconic figures in comics, though perhaps more for their personalities and roles as superhero love interests, than for their red hair.
However, once these characters were rumored or confirmed to be racebent, many fans of color observed that fandom discussions around them began to follow certain predictable patterns. Namely, a majority of comic book fans responded to these casting decisions/rumors with outright racist rhetoric.These included attempts at decentering their importance to the narrative,desexualizing the characters (to remove them as romantic interests), and declaring the characters’ appearances (their red hair) their most iconic aspect. This paper will focus on the misogynoir directed at both the characters and actresses in these re-defined roles. Additionally, I will demonstrate that these aggressions are not limited only to male-dominated white “geek”spaces, but also cross over into parts of fandom that are traditionally held to espouse a more progressive politics.
PCA 2017 was my first big academic conference. The year before, I’d done a presentation at a smaller,local conference up at FAU and that got me interested in participating in these conferences. While I’d been in graduate school working on an MA in literature/English, I wanted to focus more on the fan studies track because of how I spent much of my downtime working on and thinking about fandom. And when the news about Zendaya maybe playing Mary-Jane Watson originally dropped and I saw the sheer rage coming from dudes who’ve been fantasizing about wanting to fuck MJ and folks in transformative fandoms paces who’ve been hoping they could use MJ as an audience proxy to fuck Peter Parker… It all clicked together. I talk a ton about misogynoir in fandom spaces and even then, I was like “how can I maket his academic and interesting?” And I do believe that I did!
(Bonus fun fact, this topic was actually one of my original potential thesis topics!)
(The actual paper in progress has more references than the video did/does so I’m linking to some of those too!)
“Black Men and Patriarchy, Intraracial Sexism, and Misogynoir” Trudy @ GradientLair
“The Power of Black Women in Fandom” Kerri Evans and Britta Darling
“Race and Ethnicity in Fandom” Robin Anne Reid and Sarah N. Gatson
“New Audiences, New Textualities: Anti-fans and Non-fans” Johnathan Gray
“Not So Star-Spangled: Examining Race, Privilege, and Problems in MCU’s Captain America Fandom” by Rukmini Pande and Cait Coker in The Darker Side of Slash Fan Fiction: Essays on Power, Consent, and the Body