I know what you’re thinking: this my third or fourth “Fleeting Frustrations” post in a row to talk critically about fandom or something a particular fandom does. I know it doesn’t seem all that fleeting and well… you’re right.
Because every single time I try to settle in the squee and have fun in my fandom(s), I’m reminded that Black people and characters aren’t respected in fandom.
This latest incident?
A Black Panther post-film story that pairs M’Baku up with a white female reader and portrays the Jabari as primitive and an author who apologizes to the person who requested the story – not the Black fans rightfully offended by the racist fanwork.
I don’t know about y’all, but I am tired.
I am tired of being reminded that non-Black people generally got something completely different out of Black Panther than Black people did.
I am tired of folks – whose people either dominate the Western market or have their own media empires pumping out content – whining that Black superhero fans got one movie where they were the main heroes and the primary faces on the screen.
I’m tired of thinking about the people who watched Black Panther, a film that revolves around Black excellence and Wakanda is a country untouched by the Transatlantic Slave Trade and created fan content where:
- Wakandans were enslaved in the American South
- Wakanda had slavery within its borders
- White characters from other Marvel franchises vacationed in Wakanda
- White characters were centered in stories that used Wakandans as mammy figures for them
- White characters from other Marvel franchises ruled in Wakanda
- Wakandans are portrayed as culturally/socially backwards
(Note: You can see more examples of the wild and worrying shit that fandom did in the wake of Black Panther‘s release in my tongue-in-cheek Black Panther Fandom Racism bingo card.)
I am tired of Black fans who push back against what is a constant in transformative fandom – Black characters being mistreated and erased – being viewed as threats to fannish exploration. Or gatekeepers trying to keep white fans from just having fun.
Black Panther came out in 2018, four years after the MCU fandom on tumblr’d had a mini-racefail about Sam Wilson being more likely to be a member of Hydra than Tony Stark following Captain America: The Winter Soldier and two years after some seriously screwed up responses to both Sam and T’challa in Captain America: Civil War‘s fandom.
(From rewriting Sam as abusive to Bucky, turning T’challa into a sugar daddy for the Avengers, and shipping T’challa with the guy who murdered his dad to start shit with Tony and Steve, the MCU fandom was royal.)
From the moment that Black Panther was announced, Black fans in transformative fandom were prepared for this. On my old blog on tumblr, I had conversations with other Black fans about how we were ready for the nonsense that would happen. We made fandom PSAs – and that should tell you how serious it was because I loathe fandom PSAs – about how much this movie means to us.
And then the movie comes out and we get that content.
We get slavefic from fandom where white savior Avengers rescue T’challa from a hell of their own design and complicity.
We get tons of incest – primarily cousin-cest between Killmonger and T’challa or Shuri.
For some reason, people were creating shippy content for sixteen-year-old Shuri that paired her up with grown ass adults even after we had her age confirmed by the powers that be. (Bucky/Shuri shippers were the worst about it because many of them spitefully leaned into the ship as if they were actually doing something with it…)
The “Darcy Lewis [From Thor/Thor 2] stories started, placing her into Wakanda as a would be consort. Hell, every single white character you can think of in the MCU probably got a shot at the throne. The characters that really didn’t? The Black ones. Including the ones actually living in Wakanda.
I could go on.
I almost want to.
Needless to say though, that Black fans in the MCU fandom have been tired. That we’re sick to death of transformative fandom spaces showing us how little we’re wanted and how little we’re liked.
We’re tired of folks who clearly only watched Black Panther for the Bucky cameo at the end deciding that they get to colonize Wakanda for their white faves.
Which brings us to… this.
This is an MCU fic writer writing a story where M’Baku and the Jabari people are written as primitive tribesmen for a white self-insert to observe and adore. This is a non-Black author deciding that it’s more important to apologize to the person that requested the racist story she wrote than to apologize to Black fans.
This is truly what fandom racism looks like, right down to how this kind of racist fanwork and behavior is not punishable under a single TOS across any fandom platform or social media.
Folks are out here creating dehumanizing content about Black Panther characters so they can live out their fantasies of being the female lead in Mandingo and yet –
That’s not “real racism”?
It bothers me. Like the constant racist reactions to Black Panther that I’ve been detailing in general, but also this specific thing. This thing where white fans’ll look at a Black character who has zero interest in whiteness and decide “well I want that” and request or create content that lets them live out a further fantasy of being adored.
It bothers me that to the majority of people in transformative fandom that’d see this situation or who saw the original author getting roasted for her racist content, this isn’t racist. Time and time again, racist stories and other fanworks are brushed aside because the author didn’t know better or they didn’t mean to be racist or they just found the idea “hot”.
This story takes an African tribe from Wakanda and portrays them as primitives for the self insert to observe. It was written literally fulfill a white fantasy about Black masculinity and center a white reader insert in a ship with a character that has less than zero interest in or attraction to white people.
It was clearly racist and so are a ton of fanworks and fanwork-creators in this fandom. But as always, the focus gets turned around to how mean Black people are instead of how racist transformative always is.
Fiction may not directly shed light on what people are like offline, but let’s be real here:
I honestly can’t imagine that people who would create or defend that kind of racist content are actually allies to real Black people in fandom or in offline communities.
Bonus: if you came out of Black Panther wondering how you could recenter whiteness in the film and/or its fandom, you have zero business writing fic or doing art for it. Mkay?