Fleeting Frustrations #12 – Fandom Coverage Fails

I’m no stranger to having deeply critical views on a fandom in a moment when said fandom is publicly Going Through It on Main.

After all, I made a point of poking hard at Rey/Kylo fandom’s embarrassing public death throes and how it poured tons of hatred in John Boyega as a result of not getting catered to with a happy ending for their Pasty Prince Charming.

However, there’s a difference between me roasting a racist fandom that continues to dismiss and harass Black people they think are “opposite” to its goals on my small website… and someone randomly using their platform on a massive site like The Mary Sue to launch a dismissive and condescending attack at a fandom trying to make sense of a Bad Ending.

I have no idea what possessed Jessica Mason to write this hot mess of an article where she explicitly compares Destiel fans upset and hurting over the way that Supernatural ended to Trump supporters like the Q Anon set, writing that:

The problem is not with representation, though. What’s scary here is the way that fandom is encouraging people to disconnect from reality. That’s what conspiracy theory thinking, whether it’s Johnlock or QAnon, does. It conditions people to ignore objective facts because they just don’t fit their worldview.

It’s been fascinating and terrifying to watch all of this happen in fandom at the exact same time that Donald Trump is exploiting the conspiracy-addled minds of his supporters to subvert the election. Because it’s all the same. No matter how strong the evidence is that Trump lost or that the final episodes of Supernatural were just (hate to say it) poorly written and executed, that doesn’t fit with the narrative some people want to believe. And it’s thanks to Trump that we know how devastating ignoring reality can be.

But it is such a supremely dickish move, one that I can’t believe The Mary Sue let go to “print”. We’re bare weeks out from the series finale of Supernatural, a show that let down so many of its fans in its final throes. Like at least give them a little bit more time before you roast them, maybe?

Additionally, what actually stands out to me the most about Mason’s piece is the hypocrisy.

As Mason smugly scolds fans for caring about (queer white dude) representation in fandom – even though, in the case of Destiel fans, they’re actually pretty tame at the moment – and misrepresents recent fandom history a la Voltron Legendary Defenders (because what she wrote is not actually how the fandom at large or even the majority of Klance fans were behaving)… One thing she doesn’t call out is the awful behavior of her own favorite fandom.

Rey/Kylo shippers.

In September 2019, Jessica made such a massive stink over a (now deleted) article where a small blogger with only a few hundred followers compared Rey/Kylo shippers’ behavior to that of Q Anon. In the opening to her entirely unnecessarily rebuttal What You Ship Doesn’t Make You A Bad Person. Or a Good One., a piece that led to the blogger in question getting harassment for months on end, Mason writes that:

Last Friday, a post made the rounds on twitter that got a lot of Star Wars fans and other shippers talking. The post, titled Twilight of the Conspiracy Theory: A Glimpse into the Dark Side of Reylo is…bad. It’s based on an incorrect understanding of fandom and a very flimsy definition of “conspiracy theory.” The post posits that Reylo shippers are engaged in conspiracy type thinking because they…think their ship might go cannon? Instead of understanding that fans and shippers who think Reylo is endgame are just reading the the [SIC] text of the film and engaging in other normal fandom behaviors like making memes, the author of this post compares shippers to QAnon, what they acknowledge as a domestic terrorist organization (like I said, the post is Very Bad). What’s interesting here isn’t the faulty logic and incendiary content of that post, it’s the fact that it exists at all and the larger issue it represents: ship wars becoming an issue of morality.

The now-deleted post compared Rey/Kylo shippers who swarmed in response to criticism, clogged up the space underneath official Star Wars tweets, and were very annoyingly creepy. While sharply critical, it wasn’t a condescending attack on a fanbase “just minding its business”.

Mason is capable of talking about the Rey/Kylo fandom with so much empathy. After all, they’re “just reading the the [SIC] text of the film and engaging in other normal fandom behaviors”, right? They’re normal fans… unlike those pesky Destiel fans who are just…

*looks at notecard*

Oh, Destiel fans are also just reading the text and engaging in other normal fandom behaviors?

In fact, I’d argue that Destiel shippers have more of a leg to stand on than Rey/Kylo fans do because they actually got ship teased.

Meanwhile, Rey/Kylo fans pretty much forced the Sequel Trilogy to change in a way that centered the white characters of Kylo Ren and Rey and minimized the roles for characters of color like Finn and Poe from The Force Awakens.

Rey/Kylo fans, no matter how they and Mason like to claim otherwise, weren’t just reading the text. They were grabbing the author’s hand –and I mean that some of them were literally trying to force authors to write what they wanted – and trying to course correct their way.

They harassed writers whether or not they were linked with Lucasfilm, threatened boycotts, harassed Black/brown fans and creators… and yes, harassed the shit out of John Boyega for not being their token. Like they did that for five years, amping up at the conclusion to the trilogy when Kylo died and John Boyega made it clear that he wasn’t about their nonsense. They were (and remain) awful to him because their ship (representation to them, if you will) didn’t end up engame.

That is not normal fandom behavior unless your understanding of fandom is far more fucked up than mine is.

In 2019,  Mason made it clear that comparing Rey/Kylo shippers (who have not actually taken a break from harassing Black/Brown people “in the way” or who won’t cooperate) to Q Anon made that post bad and wrong and unfair to the poor women shipping their thing and reading the text.

But here she is in 2020 making the same comparison she said made the Star Wars post she dunked on bad… to a fandom that also was just reading the text themselves.

Interesting.

And by interesting, I mean “telling”.

It’s telling that this is the state of fandom coverage where folks get paid to air their grievances and be actively incorrect… and still get to be viewed as Experts In Fandom. And by folks, I mean white people, usually women, who insist on shaping fannish discourses and controlling conversations so that things they don’t care about in the moment aren’t talked about.

Like I said in this thread I did in a fit of giggles [lightly edited for clarity]:

“I don’t have a horse in the race with Destiel, but isn’t it weird that she’s cool with giving Rey/Kylo shippers (notorious for antiblack harassment of folks in fandom who won’t do what they want) all kinds of empathy but has decided that Supernatural fans are BAD WRONG for being upset?

As far as I can tell, Destiel fans have donated to charity and are trying to find out what’s gone wrong with their canon.

Do you know what Rey/Kylo fans have been doing for five years? Harassing every single person that publicly doesn’t validate their head/canon. Between Dec 2019-Jan 2020, they harassed like 5 authors and John Boyega. Because of their need to have their ship be canon even after The Rise of Skywalker.

I never even hear about Destiel shippers and I’m nosy as HELL (so if they’re harassing folks it’s likely in fandom, not externally).

I just think that if you’re a writer on the Mary Sue and purporting to represent fandom as an expert, you should at least keep your messaging consistent. If your ship’s fans being compared to Q Anon is wrong(🤔), then you shouldn’t compare possibly queer fans of M/M ships to it?🤷🏽‍♀️”

I just feel strongly that if you’re going to position yourself as an expert in fandom (and even treat that as a moral stance of being better than other experts who aren’t enmeshed in the cult(ure) of nice) you should uh… be able to at least pretend you care about fandoms that aren’t yours?

Years ago, I liked Supernatural. I was in the fandom, I watched it intensely, and then, when it failed me enough times… I left.

I have some level of empathy for how the fandom feels like they were failed and I too want to know what’s up with the difference between the Spanish language dub and what aired on The CW. And in general, I want to know… why did the show make the effort to let down a bunch of different subsets within fandom by its end?

There are conspiracies within fandom that range from the mild (the Bigger Luke theory) to concerning (tinhatting in RPF, anyone?).

We know that things like TLJC have inspired super aggressive fandom behavior and that the VLD fandom sparked a new wave of folks thinking it’s okay to harass folks over what they ship. We know that fandom isn’t a utopia and that folks in fandoms frequently overstep in their attempt to get Their Thing confirmed canon or to make sure it’s the most popular thing in a given fandom.

We live in The Bad Place, so it stands to reason that fandom’s not that great either. (And I, more than most of these fandom experts who insist on sticking on the celebratory unless they can get clicks on pieces about drama they can’t even begin to engage with responsibly, understand what fandom is really like…)

However, at this point there has yet to be a fandom conspiracy as harmful and as wide-reaching as Q Anon.

And if you’re an “expert” in fandom, you can’t claim that Destiel shippers are on that level… especially not after getting upset when Rey/Kylo shippers’ similar behavior (to QAnon fans) earns itself a write up comparing the two.

About Stitch

Stitch writes about what needs to be written.
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