Winding down 2020 with a HEFTY list of links to stuff that I found interesting between November’s second collection and now! Enjoy!
Edward Said on Orientalism
I first read Edward Said’s Orientalism in a class I took for my history degree on British cultural artefacts and colonialism. Edward Said’s views on the ways that culture was used as a tool of imperialism have helped me understand the ways in which literature – and later, fandom – is used to shape a dominant cultural narrative (that does shift depending on where the culture is coming from). I’m fascinated by Said’s work and I think it continues to have stellar applications across a wide range of fields because he’s still right!
The Boundless Optimism of BTS
Even as the number-one pop group in the world, even with their hard work day in and day out, even with tens of millions of adoring fans redefining the concept of “adoring fans” by literally healing the planet in their name, these guys still suffer from impostor syndrome. RM explains, “I’ve heard that there’s this mask complex. Seventy percent of so-called successful people have this, mentally. It’s basically this: There’s this mask on my face. And these people are afraid that someone is going to take off this mask. We have those fears as well. But I said 70 percent, so I think it’s very natural. Sometimes it’s a condition to be successful. Humans are imperfect, and we have these flaws and defects. And one way to deal with all this pressure and weight is to admit the shadows.”
I really freaking love BTS. You may have missed that… somehow. In case you have, this fascinating and well put together Esquire feature serves as a stunning first look at the group – but also works if it’s your fortieth. I chose this segment of the feature because RM’s words about the “mask complex” and while they have the fear that someone will unmask them… They’re going to keep going and admit to their shadows/flaws. Unless you’ve spent the past 2-ish years living under a very large rock (or you don’t follow me on social media, which is… plausible) while I love BTS a unit, I have extra adoration for RM because of how he carries himself and the way he expresses his hopes and fears. This was, overall, an incredible feature that gave us tons of brilliant moments that will either spark your interest in BTS or rekindle the embers of your interest!
Twenty years on: how Eminem’s ‘Stan’ shaped online fandom
How do these aggressive stans resemble Stan? They don’t write letters, that’s for sure, nor are they lonely. They gravitate instead to the platform where they have the best chance of snagging their heroes’ attention and bonding with kindred spirits, hence the birth of “stan Twitter”. Another difference is that they focus their rage on people who dare to slight celebrities, from journalists to rival stars, rather than the celebrities themselves. Self-proclaimed stans of Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj and BTS have harassed writers on Twitter for making fairly mild criticisms of their heroes, with rape and death threats standard fare.
“Stan” was the first Eminem song I ever heard. As a tween, it didn’t quite connect that he was talking about fannish behavior that would go beyond the reasonable to the just plain horrifying. Tween!Stitch couldn’t have ever imagined that they’d be ringing in their thirties on stan twitter, or that they’d occasionally find themselves watching the way that folks near (if not dear) to them overreacted in the name of their stannish object. This is a really interesting piece that looks at the evolution of “stanning” and what pop culture fandom ultimately took from one of Eminem’s most disturbing songs.
The Weeknd’s Grammy Noms Response Is Vital. Justin Bieber’s Isn’t
Which brings us back to Justin Bieber’s Grammys criticism, an infuriating display of white privilege that showed an inability to see the larger context of genre choices. Overlooking the fact that labels are the ones who submit albums to specific categories, not typically the Grammys themselves, non-white artists are rarely afforded the luxury of crossing over into pop categories even when they make pop songs. We saw this at the 2020 American Music Awards, where both Doja Cat and The Weeknd were given awards for Best Male & Female Artist Soul/R&B, despite the fact they both made pop anthems this year.
I love this article so much. It perfectly encapsulates the way I felt when I saw the Grammy nominations this year, realized how white the lineup was aside from some un/predictable nominees, and then came on twitter to see folks sharing Justin Bieber’s Boss Baby level tantrum. Not getting a Grammy award must suck. The issue is that Justin Bieber was basically losing his shit because he didn’t get nominated for the specific thing he wanted – but he did get four other noms. Meanwhile, The Weeknd had an excellent 2020, put out incredible music, did stages where he was just captivating in performance, and… got zero nominations. Really?
Supernatural, queer fans, and loving media that loves you back
Keep loving queer media. Keep seeking it out. Keep supporting it. Keep demanding better from shows that do us dirty.
We can make queer-affirming media. We can support that media. We can love that media. And that media will love us back.
Supernatural as a show lost me several years ago. Which is fine. I fail out of a lot of shows. What’s not fine is how the show went on to fail its fans in its dying moments. Y’all know from the past that I am not one to pull my punches when it comes to problematic media or fandoms. However, even I was like “what the heck, really?” over the Supernatural series wind down basically thumbing its nose at its fanbase – at multiple sides of its fanbase. Supernatural had its faults but even I was not expecting it to do the things it did in its death throes. And I’m angry on behalf of fans that expected better just this once. So read this piece and think about what Supernatural did… but also how we can be better creators (and, to an extent, consumers)!
White Rage, White Guilt: How Long Do We Wait for White Women to Learn?
Ultimately, for many, the act of purchasing these books was performative. Instead of being read, these books decorated coffee tables and bedspreads for Instagrammable shots. Meanwhile, the sudden, explosive demand in many bookstores was overwhelming.
You know what, even I haven’t read all of the anti-racist books I bought in 2020. Difference between me and the women in this article? Between me and the folks signalling their commitment to anti-racism with a bookstagram-worthy display on their coffee table? My journey to anti-racism didn’t begin with George Floyd’s murder.
Because even though I did not begin as a level 100 social justice scribe, I made a point of unlearning my internalized antiblackness and even pushing back at stereotypes people within my communities have held about other people of color. From 2010, I have been invested in growth and being my best self… but for myself. Not because it looks good or because everyone’s doing it.
Reading those anti-racism books aren’t going to help fix a person more focused on the performance of doing the right thing than being a better person… and I hope those women who built out their book back catalogs to show they totally care about the cause figure that out soon.
RM: “I spend a lot of time thinking about where I am now” BTS BE comeback interview
So you’ve started to ask yourself who you are as a musician?
RM: I listened to Lee So-ra’s seventh album again today. I keep changing my mind but, if I had to pick between her sixth and seventh album, I like her seventh a little more. And then I listen to the most popular songs on Billboard, and I feel kind of thrown off. Um … There’s something Whanki Kim said that’s been running around in my head lately: After moving to New York, he embraced the style of artists like Mark Rothko and Adolf Gottlieb, but then he said, “I’m Korean, and I can’t do anything not Korean. I can’t do anything apart from this, because I am an outsider.” And I keep thinking that way, too. That’s my main concern lately.
Yes, I’m recommending a second BTS piece. Deal with it. This is RM’s interview from the comeback interviews done following the release of their latest album BE. While I genuinely do recommend that you read all the ones out so far – and wait impatiently with us for SUGA’s in January – this interview holds so many inspirational nuggets for me.
I also desperately want someone to get in touch with RM for me and like give him my number/email so we can talk about Show Me The Money and the current state of hip hop worldwide (because he’s also overthinking that shit and I know he has an opinion on the current season as well as maybe something like GOOD GIRL). Let him come on my podcast, BigHit! It’d be entertaining!!
Hocus Pocus, Tales from the Hood and the privilege of low-stakes horror
Older siblings and cousins solely exist so they can expose you to movies that you know damn well you have no business watching at such a young age. Tales from the Hood definitely falls under that category twice. It’s a socially conscious horror movie and a pretty violent one at that.
You know… I’m a big ole scaredy cat. I loved this piece on “low stakes” horror and it reminded me a bit of the first episode of History of Horror’s latest season. In that episode on Hell Houses, I was reminded that the things that horror by white male directors seeks to subvert and pervert… are things that are already either inaccessible or terrifying to me. I hate being in suburbia. I will never go to a cabin in the woods. I do not do backpacking. I will not wander through Europe with strangers. Good fucking night. So those things are already terrifying to me before the “white” horror element gets introduced.
Why The Memeification of Breonna Taylor Is Misogynoir at Its Finest
In an effort to resurface Taylor’s story back into public consciousness, Twitter users began using the phrase, “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor,” as a non-sequitur punchline in an attempt to draw attention to her case by way of viral engagement. This text-based Tweet, for example, sets up the viewer to think that they are reading an innocuous shrimp and grits recipe but then abruptly segues into Taylor’s call for justice: “The secret to making shrimp and grits is to start by peeling two pounds of shrimp. Make a stock with the shells in a carrot, celery, and onion reduction. Finally, use that delicious stock as the base for your grits and arrest the three police who murdered Breonna Taylor.”
However, when used as a punchline, the calls to arrest Breonna Taylor’s murderers are ultimately defanged; it is simply an easily digestible memeified catchphrase.
No witty words, just anger that Breonna Taylor’s murder was made into memes by people on her side supposedly. It wasn’t white supremacists turning the digital artefacts of her death or her face into memes… it was “I’d vote for Obama a third time if I could” liberals. I will never stop being angry about their ineffective asshole selves.
When Black Women Go From Office Pet to Office Threat
The “pet to threat” phenomenon is not limited to academia. Bri Hardeman, who is 23 and just starting her career in risk assessment, has experienced being infantilized as work. “In the beginning, I had a co-worker who was often commenting on how cute and precious I was, and I eventually had to ask him to stop because although I do look young, I’m a professional,” she said.
We first talked about Erika Stallings’ work and experiences back in August. I think this piece about the “pet to threat” phenomenon is absolutely relevant to experiences of misogynoir in fandom that have affected me and other Black fans. Why? Because if you’re like me and not a pet, not moldable or willing to cosign or defend racism in fandom, you are a threat and threats exist to be eradicated from the face of fandom. And beige betties do so love to escalate while shrieking that they are in fact the ones under fire.
Anyway, if you’re basking in your metaphorical pampered pet status as a PickMe BIPoC, remember that you’re not a real pet and so you’re only as loved as you are useful. So when you get turned into a threat as a result of standing against racism and maintaining your boundaries… Good luck! You’ll need it.
Revisiting parasocial theory in fan studies: Pathological or (path)illogical?
Parasocial theory, particularly the modern, scientifically tested version of Horton and Wohl’s ( 2006) original framework, is potentially quite relevant to fan studies and to analyses of K-pop fandom in particular. The K-pop industry is sustained by the strong, one-sided emotional connections that fans form with idols, which may very well be parasocial relationships but are not necessarily negative. This piece only briefly touches upon the various ways that Horton and Wohl’s theory can be applied to popular fan studies topics, and there’s still so much to discuss and learn. I hope future research secures a place for parasocial theory within fan studies, just as I found a spot for Jungkook on my bedroom wall.
Y’all, I love this paper. LOVE IT. I talked about it on Patreon, tweeted about it, and desperately want to find the author’s email address so I can tell her how much I loved it. This piece perfectly encapsulates so much of what I’ve gone through positively as I dig into Korean idol fandoms and actively engaged with ARMY across 2020. Fan studies needs to look to established fans and scholars doing work on the idol-academic complex and the positive parasocial relationships that form (rather than zeroing in on the negative ones or writing off the spaces and industry entirely as “fake” fandom).
How Long Must We Keep Talking About Race?
White people fail to understand that Black people do not get to treat our skin color like a fad. We are Black before the hashtags, the Instagram pics, the headlines, and the interviews. And we will be Black long after all of those things fade away. We do not have the luxury of waking up and deciding that we are done demanding that this nation treat us fairly. We do not get to sit at home and decide that we are done fighting for justice. I do not have the luxury of forgetting about Breonna Taylor because I understand that I am not exempt from what happened to Breonna Taylor. As a Black woman in America, I am wise enough to know that it was Breonna that day and could easily be me tomorrow.
Deadass, if I could stop writing about racism in and otu of fandom, I would. I would love someone to Thanos-snap racism out of existence. No more racism. No more antiblackness. No more microaggressions disguised as queer women’s fandom behavior. No more harassment. No more deaths. I spent the tail end of 2020 anxious as hell that we were definitely heading full speed towards some race warring (less anxious now but it’s still there). Imagine what I could do if I was just free to vibe. I could paint. Learn Korean (god I am trying though). Bake more. Write about queer characters. Not panic about people that look like me being slaughtered because of their Blackness.
I would love to never feel the need to write about racism again… because we somehow fixed racism.
Boys Run the Riot, Visual Kei, and Gender Euphoria Through Fashion
I used clothing as a means of self-expression when I couldn’t exist as the person I knew I was. I reveled in the androgynous styling and outfits of Visual Kei artists of the mid 2000’s. I bought items from Harajuku clothing store SEX POT ReVeNGe and wore them whenever an opportunity presented itself. The idea of a more androgynous masculinity didn’t seem so entirely out of reach to me when I looked at popular Visual Kei frontmen and band members. It was something that suddenly seemed possible; that men didn’t need to conform to the normalized Western standards of masculinity to be seen as a man.
I used to be a Visual Kei fan back in the day, gravitating towards Due Le Quartz and Malice Mizer super hard as a tadpole. Now I realize that some of that may have been because queer baby Stitch was seeing gender performance/presentation that pinged their brain before they even had language to describe being enby. Gosh! This piece speaks to me deeply across multiple levels and I’m really looking forward to starting Boys Run the Riot once it’s out next year!!