Source: Slash Shipping, Pseudo-Progressivism, and Reinforcing Patriarchal Standards in Fandom
Sometimes, when I see a white dude slash ship pick up steam across transformative fandom, all I can think about is how the ship seems like it exists just to check off boxes on an imaginary checklist that’s been shared across slash fandom spaces for the past forty plus years.
Sure, sometimes the ships are populated by characters who have chemistry in some way. But often, it just kind of feels as if the fans are putting together elements to a formula in order to get the “perfect” ship.
It doesn’t actually feel… organic.
Have y’all ever seen the term “migratory slash fandom” before? It’s a term that covers how slash fans seem to always be ready to hop onto the next (white dude) slash ship and leave one fandom for another if the conditions are right. Which is honestly fair on some level because folks should be able to bounce from a fandom that’s not working for them or where they can’t get the content they crave.
But why is it that when these slash fans migrate, they migrate to the same kinds of ships involving white male characters?
Aside from the way many One Direction RPF fans moved to BTS fandoms, for the most part, migratory slash fandom moves mainly and solely from white dude slash ship to another. Characters of color really aren’t part of the formula and they don’t matter to the majority of folks in slash fandom.
Ships like Sam/Steve or T’challa/M’baku aren’t populated by the same kinds of shippers as Clint/Coulson was. These characters weren’t seen as simultaneously blank and interesting enough to build a fanbase for.
I talked about this in my WFRLL: Beige Blank Slates post, but here it is again:
characters of color aren’t seen as neutral enough to shape into anything new and interesting. They’re not seen as interesting to begin with for a majority of slash fandom. They’re also not seen as valuable enough to care about in fandom. It takes effort to create content and because of how fandom has perfected its formula and has its favorite archetypes waiting for a dark haired dude and a light haired dude to slot into… there’s really no room for characters of color.
And Migratory Slash fandom isn’t really interested in making room
That’s something I feel like we should be able to talk about more: that fandom’s preference and its patterns actively exclude characters of color because it’s just easier to create content for white characters. But it’s only easier and visibly more rewarding because fandom isn’t really putting in the effort at times.
Think about how many times you’ll see someone say that they couldn’t get into a ship involving one or more characters of color because it was too hard to research how to write characters of color responsibly or because they couldn’t get a guaranteed audience for their stories –
Only to find out that for the white dude slash ship(s) that the person favors, they write alternate universes where one of the characters has an incredibly obscure career that requires tons of effort to convey properly. At the end of the day, fandom makes it clear that characters and people of color aren’t really worth the effort.
And part of the problem is that the formula that sort of got settled in stone with Kirk and Spock way back when, hasn’t been allowed to evolve or be dissected to figure out how to get fans to stop actively ignoring the characters and fans of color in the room.
How do we even get this kind of thing fixed because at this point, too much of slash fandom is exclusionary and I don’t think many people realize how that’s happened…
2 thoughts on “The Slash Ship Checklist”
I see you’re, as the hip and cool kids say these days, shaking the table.
I was hoping you’d tackle this topic one day, especially after I read this. Its like the fans are working off some kind of template, and its not that I don’t enjoy some fanfic, but I’ve read so much of it that a lot of it does tend to blend together unless the writer is especially outstanding.
Slash Fic Gothic
You have blond hair, he has brown hair. You always have blond hair, he always has brown hair. You dye your hair brown, but suddenly his hair is blond, and you feel as though maybe you are him, and he is you, and you have blond hair again, and he has brown hair.
His gaze is impossibly fond, his eyes are impossibly blue, he pulls you impossibly closer, your heart beats impossibly fast, the bulge in his pants is impossibly hard, he should maybe get that checked out.
You don’t remember ever working out and yet you look down and see you have a six pack. When you next see yourself in the mirror you have an eight pack. When he takes of your shirt you have ten, twelve abs. You’re scared to look again in case there are more.
His eyes change colour depending on his moods. At first you thought it was a trick of the light, but now you’re not so sure. They switch between blue, green and grey. Once you thought you saw a flicker of red. You make sure to kiss with your eyes closed now.
You’re white, and so is he. Sometimes he’s your enemy, but you still love him, don’t you? Of course, it makes sense. You’re not sure what you like about him, exactly, but there must be something, right? There’s this intangible thing between you, isn’t there? You feel like you may have more chemistry with your non-white friend, but that can’t be right.
You don’t remember taking your clothes off but you’re naked now. Well, all you remember is toeing out of your shoes. You always toe out of them, although you don’t quite know what that means.
Your pronouns mix into a blur and you no longer know where you end and he begins… You reach out your hand to his hand on his arm… your arm… his… You are sitting and he straddles you but is facing away… There are hands everywhere…
THE ACCURACY HURTS.
You smell like sandlewood. You don’t know what sandlewood even IS.
Once your shoes are off, you pad everywhere. You try to walk, but you can’t, your feet don’t comply. Your only option if you want to get from room to room is to pad.
Your tongues battle for dominance. There can be only one victor. One tongue is not walking away from this battle. Will it be yours?
He tastes like smoke and wine, whatever he had for dinner, and something distinctly him. You don’t know what that taste is or where it comes from… only that it is distinctly…him…
Is he The Smaller Man? Or The Larger Man? Are you The Pale Man? Are you The Slender Man? The Blond Man? You no longer have a name… you are just an epithet.
You thought you were about the same size, but, the clothes come off… and he’s The Larger Man. So large. He’s got six inches on you. You can tuck your head under his chin. Ten inches now… is he growing? Are you shrinking?
It’s weeping. OH GOD WHY IS IT WEEPING?
Sometimes one of you is an alien, sometimes both, but that’s okay. Either your species’ reproductive organs are conveniently identical, or one of you has some sort of eldritch, lubricated opening somewhere which makes the whole business a lot less gay. You’re not sure what eldritch means. Whoever the alien is smells of pine needles.
Come to think of it, neither of you are gay. It’s just that you can’t imagine living the rest of your life without doing this four or five times a day, because you love each other so much. In fact, you didn’t even know two men could do this before five minutes ago. Fortunately, even though this is your first attempt at full-on anal, you both perform perfectly.
You’ve both been gay all your lives, but it’s never come up in conversation before, Even though you’re both 35 years old and spend a lot of time together on stakeouts, in the lab, or working out in the starship gym. You know the names of each other’s childhood pets. He drove your mother to the ER that time you were out of town, and she thinks of him as her other son. You once took his sister on a date because she sort of looks like him, but of course it didn’t work out. You can’t remember what sorts of animals the pets were or your mother’s face. He’s never had a sister. You’re glad you saved yourself all these years for him.
You’ve spent the entire night with him, finally able to say confess you mean to one another over two six-packs of beer. Beer be damned, the first time you kiss both of you snap to near-painful attention and you have unceasing marathon sex until four am. You wake him three hours later, sun streaming through the bedroom windows, with bacon, eggs, and toast on a silver tray. You don’t remember being able to cook before this morning and never buy eggs. There are no beer cans on the floor.
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