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…