In November, I did a lot of content consumption. It was all incredibly interesting stuff! Any errors on my commentary under the pieces are because I did this via a dictation software across the month! 😀
Peter Jackson’s trilogy, while spectacular and ground-breaking in many ways, is glaringly white. Worse, the human villains are all coded as non-white; “bad men” from the East and the South, complete with either veils and kohl, or bearing tribal tattooing and scarification and riding mythical elephants. Worst of all, the inhuman Uruk Hai – muscled and merciless – have black skin and dreadlocks. While some of this British colonial racism and eugenicist thought are a reflection of the source material itself, Jackson made a – possibly thoughtless – choice to remain “faithful” to those parts of the text and even to exacerbate them. As a result, racist fans were not alienated by the films but accommodated, allowed to believe that their extremely racist interpretation of Tolkein’s work was the correct one. The film trilogy benefited from their racist support and everyone involved in it is therefore complicit in the abuse now raining down on series’ cast of colour (particularly the black cast, and more particularly the black women cast). The comments directed at Nomvete and Cruz Cordóva are not generic racism: they are rooted in the racist lore and imagery that Jackson’s films perpetuated. One of most frequent comments on Nomvete’s picture is “better be an Uruk Hai”.
I grew up on Lord of the rings and so growing up in the fandom, I realized very quickly that the negative aspect of Lord of the rings where people of color were absent from the narrative was a bonus for a large majority of the fandom. Unlike the Harry Potter fandom which would go on to racebend characters like Harry and Hermione, the Lord Of The Rings fandom never really took to racebending as a thing they could or even wanted to do. Instead, they seemed really happy to be faced with a version of Middle Earth where all the elves were white, and all of the men were too. The films, that I grew up with, were integral to building a fandom identity as an extremely online tween for many people in English language fandom who are my age at this point.
The problem is that when faced with updates to the franchise where characters might be of color who aren’t background characters or silent extras, the fandom doesn’t have a good reaction. Even before we see who all have been cast within the upcoming series that Amazon is doing, there is a history of Lord Of The Rings fans being upset at the concept of racebending even within their own communities. People who are fan artists or fanfic writers that choose to portray these characters using ethnic groups in our world, can expect to get really rude messages from diehard fans of the franchise. They’re subject to racism, even if they are not of color themselves, because they have chosen to “deviate” from Tolkien’s vision. And we’re told that these are all white men. We’re told that the Lord Of The Rings fans, like the Star Wars fans who raged at The Force Awakens and the sequel trilogy having people of color in relatively prominent roles, are all white men.
But that is not true and honestly, that’s why transformative fandom has a white supremacy problem that I don’t see any way to fix. Because people assume it’s all white men, so white women have nothing to do with any of it. Which leaves them to wallow in the mire of white supremacy in fandom and get worse. Anyway, I don’t know what Amazon will do with their Lord of the rings show or the fandom that builds from it, but I am frustrated that 20 years after the original massive trilogy came out from Peter Jackson, fandom still maintains that they don’t have a race problem even while being publicly and actively racist.
I think it’s always instructive to revisit work by writers you admire, whether short- or long-form, reading with an eye toward their storytelling choices. How do they organize their thoughts and ideas, and build the connective tissue between them? How do they move between exposition and scene, or past events and present analysis, or telling and showing? Can you imagine what their outlines might have looked like? You can pick up a lot just by reading and trying to figure out how other writers construct their stories.
Personally, I hate outlining. I have to do it when I publish anything of note or length because otherwise my ideas kind of collapse on each other, but I complain the entire time.
I think that this column on the Atlantic is incredibly useful for figuring out better ways to be a better writer and one of the best suggestions here is to look at what other people are doing and how their pieces are organized. As you can tell from this recurring feature on my website, I read a lot of other people’s work. I do it because it’s fun, but it also helps me figure out how I want my work to be presented an organized. There are some writers who don’t do that, who don’t read other people’s work in and out of their field, and I think that you can tell because of how terrible their work is.
I’m only where I am today because of the people who came before me and wrote before me. I hype up James Baldwin and bell hooks a ton because I grew up reading their work. I could not create cultural criticism and commentary on fandoms without being able to look at their arguments in their theories and understand what makes a good argument in the first place. So, if you do nothing else, read what other people have written.
The discussion about the words we use took a troubling turn: Instead of being an opportunity to engage deeply with harmful attitudes, people—predominantly white people—are instead focusing on the superficial use of words themselves. They’re creating lists of “bad words” and alternatives, and using language in “callouts” that can be extraordinarily malicious. For example, women of color, especially Black women, appear to be targeted more frequently for their word use, sometimes in ways designed specifically to silence them. This mirrors other racist patterns where Black women are held to a higher standard, and one that is often impossible to meet. Similarly, callouts may be used to chill discussion or establish someone as “problematic,” undercutting their ability to participate in larger conversations. Language conversations have become highly performative, with a fixation on the words people are using, not why they’re using them or what they’re reaching for when they deploy language like “crazy,” “lame,” or the r-word.
This essay actually spoke to me because of how these callouts – and others – have been used against me to excise me from my spaces. I am incredibly purposeful about the language I use, when I use it, and what I use it about. And yet, people choose to read the most negative version of a definition into what I write without ever assuming that I am also queer, neurodivergent, or deal with the same shit they are. People always go for the worst possible reading of my words and like… as much as I’m a person in progress trying to be better, it is super clear to me that I am really being monitored and controlled in a way other people aren’t?
I get more shit for saying the word “unhinged” to describe racists harassing me and telling people I’m trying to take their porn or for my sidebar post about how people choose to misread me, than racists in any fandom do for being racist in fandom. I’ve had people accuse me of “having a history of ableist language” that a) don’t know me from adam and b) use racist and ableist slurs on main as white people… and no one cares. No one calls them out within their communities.
These callouts I get hit with don’t feel helpful, they feel… really fucking annoying actually. They feel like they’re trying to kneecap me and my ability to speak in a way that embodies my experiences and position in this space. And I don’t know about y’all, but it is very hard to respond gracefully to people who’ll read an entire piece about how people are accusing me of abusing them, stalking me, and being racist to me and then be like “ah but you called them unhinged so i feel uncomfy supporting this/you now”.
It is certainly true that the racialized origins of the “Sentinel AU” trope have been whitewashed. The Fanlore page offers no explicit acknowledgement of this fact, even though it indicates the use of “spirit animals” in the canon and fanon, which is an established marker of problematic cultural appropriation. While seemingly innocuous, this detail is illustrative of how racist tropes become decontextualized and normalized. Along with how the show and fandom are memorialized as perhaps a bit cringey but certainly something to be remembered with fondness, this further illustrates how whiteness works to invisibilize itself in fandom histories so that they can be read within a narrative of queer progressive politics that does not ask fans to reflect on their participation in and amplification of effectively racist structures.
These structures are not abstract but are embedded into the broader contemporary debates around what fandom is, who is included in it, and whose comfort and safety is prioritized in these ostensibly progressive and inclusive spaces. In fact, I would say that these framings of fandom history actively encourage fans to deflect from their complicity in these structures and frame all critiques of their spaces as ill-informed and bad faith attacks.
So, yes, “the youth” should know their history, but perhaps it is time that “fandom elders” reckoned with theirs as well.
Dr. Rukmini Pande is one of my dear friends in fandom, and she’s also one of my biggest inspirations as a scholar and thinker. In this piece got Flow Journal, that kind of orients itself around one of my other friend’s fandom artifacts, she looks at the way that white fandom refuses to actually see or know its own history. The Sentinel was a huge piece of fandom history. It had its own fandom, but it also developed as an alternate universe used in other fandoms to this day. (There are BTS fic writers writing Sentinel alternate universe stories!!) but none of these writers seem to know the origins of the setting, or the way that the original television show was racist. Whether you liked it or not, the Sentinel was a racist show that hinged on anti indigenous conceptions of what mysticism and connection looks like. It has good parts clearly, boat what’s also clear is that fandom at large doesn’t know or care to recognize that the show had a racist vein to it that has never been pulled from how fans continue to engage with it.
Often, when people like Rukmini and myself talk about the ways that we are treated by queer/feminist fandom, we talk about being told to “know your history” where people tell us to learn this fandom history that we supposedly never understood. And yet, the people who do this do not actually know or understand their own histories within fandom. They don’t know about what the Sentinel was actually about. They don’t know about race fail. They don’t know that fans of color have always been here and we’ve actually always pushed back against racism and fandom even at the direct expense of our lives and relationships within these spaces.
So when they tell us “learn your fandom history” I have to laugh, because these are never people who have even bothered to look up fandom history beyond what is on Fanlore.
To me, it’s clear that Cody and co. made this film for women like her in mind: white, able-bodied women. While the story contained feminist themes such as toxic female friendship and empowerment against predatory men, the racism and ableism in the script makes it clear that she wasn’t thinking about the women of color nor the disabled women who will inevitably watch the popular film. In a recent interview, Cody was thrilled that one of her most racist lines from Jennifer’s Body was quoted by fans, saying that the Thai food line was her “favorite quote” in the film. This, along with the lack of attention brought to the issue despite the large amount of social media discourse surrounding the film (aside from a few articles and tweets I found offhand), made me suspect of the lack of intersectionality of the film’s brand of feminism.
I actually read the heading and was like “oh well what if i’m in my feelings over this” but then I pulled back and decided to stop being a weenie and read the article in full. And the author is right. As much as I love Jennifer’s Body and what it means for me as a feminist horror fan who was dealing with something relevant around the time the film was released –
This film is made for white feminists. It isn’t intersectional, the jokes at marginalized groups don’t age well, and like Twilight, the fact that it’s being reclaimed by fans and defended means we can no longer talk about the concerns we have over the film. Because thanks to “let people like things” culture, criticism is a thing that gets snuffed out in haste to protect the squee, that sense of fandom enjoyment.
CL: I know we both started when we were pretty young. I would love to know, what keeps you going?
Aiko: I started when I was 13. So it’s been 20 years, and I had my daughter when I was 20. When I had her, that was the pivotal moment of, “OK, I need to really take this seriously.” Or, I need to find another career path that guarantees a paycheck — a steady paycheck, so I can take care of me and her. She’s been one of the main things that keeps me going. It’s inspiring for me. And then, I don’t know, I feel like I always am in this space where I want to create. You’re a Pisces, right?
CL: Yes! I did want to mention that, too.
Aiko: Our dream world, our fantasy world — I always want to bring that to real life. I always want to share that with people, and I always feel like I need to explain it more and I need to add more details throughout the years. I’m like, “Oh, wait, but I need you to see this layer of the world, and this layer and this layer…” There’s always another layer with us.
CL is one of my favorite artists and Jhené is a darling. I’ve been keeping up with both of their careers for years and so I loved them getting to talk with each other and unpack their career trajectories as well as how they kind of… developed their respective presences in the industry.
If you needed any more proof that Korean entertainment is becoming globally mainstream, look no further than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over the weekend, rumors surfaced that “Friends,” a song written by BTS’ Jimin and performed by Jimin and V, would be on the soundtrack for Marvel’s Eternals. On Monday, the rumors were confirmed, getting many ARMY excited about the group’s inclusion in one of the world’s biggest pop culture franchises.
The U.S. is not the center of the universe (contrary to some Americans’ belief), but it is the world’s largest exporter of popular culture and has been for a while. While the U.K. and Japan (and, more recently, Korea) are recognized as other cultural exporters on the global stage, American film franchises like the MCU remain the biggest stories in the world. If America’s “soft power” is to be effectively challenged, it’s probably going to come not simply from the rise of other countries’ entertainment industries, but from U.S. companies, like Netflix and Disney, investing in international markets as a way to grow, incorporating a wider variety of international cultures into their story offerings in the process. For better and for worse.
I’m so interested in how the MCU has increased a steady public push for more Korean actors and culture in their films. It’s small, but it is significant because it does feel like the MCU is almost… courting an audience of Korean fans. I don’t necessarily have a judgement value on that, but I will say that the MCU really does remain behind the times. The amount of time that passed between when I learned about Black Panther to when the film was announced and released was massive. And so too is the time it’s taken them to realize Korean actors – who already have established and incredibly large international audiences – are worthy of intense interest. Like how is Park Seo-Joon only now being cast in an MCU film when he’s honestly a really popular and charming actor? Where’s the MCU film that’s directed by a fun Korean director – because it’s doable – they just have to do work and pull free from their genre rules.
I don’t know, I’m just so annoyed at how slow the MCU is. I don’t depend on them for representation, of course, because that would be silly, but it’s just… frustrating how behind the times the whole company is and how it feels like we’re chasing crumbs we don’t need to because the world is wider than a single US superhero media franchise.
Wynonna Earp aired at a time when the Bury Your Gays trope was running rampant in several other series. Waverly and Nicole (Katherine Barrell) defied that idea, even getting married in the finale. Were you conscious of how you wanted to develop this queer storyline over the seasons? If so, what felt important to highlight about Waverly and Nicole’s relationship?
I was extremely conscious, but I also was open-minded. I always say to writers, you have to have a plan so you don’t go crazy, but you have to also remain open to the gift the universe is giving you. If the cast is giving you different chemistry or a different vibe or different strengths and weaknesses than you thought your character could have, you’d be a fool not to capitalize on that. I’ve been very involved with the LGBTQ community, particularly in media. Lost Girl was extremely progressive, as I said, so I knew there was a huge LGBTQ contingent of genre fans who feel underserved. There was such a lack of representation for so long that people really were looking for it and hungry for it.
I was extremely conscious of how we were going to portray Waverly and Nicole, and a couple things were important to me: Wynonna had a benefit of having so many female characters, or characters who identify as female, and characters who identified as queer that I knew that one queer character didn’t have to represent all queer people. Nicole and Waverly are very different people. Nicole identifies as a lesbian, and she’s very authoritative and organized, and it was really important to me that Waverley came out later in life. She didn’t figure out she was bisexual at 11; she figured it out when she was 21, and she met this remarkable person with whom she fell in love, which I thought was great. I have friends who went through that storyline. Not everyone gets to come out when they’re a teenager, so I wanted to tell a different story.
I always knew we wouldn’t follow the Bury Your Gays trope, but unfortunately, the year we premiered was one of the worst years for Bury Your Gays on television. I don’t have the specifics in front of me, but so many lesbian characters died that year on a variety of shows. There’s a famous scene at the end of Season 1 where Nicole is shot, but it turns out she was wearing a bulletproof vest, which was a direct fuck you to the Bury Your Gays trope. It was a very conscious decision not to kill off the lesbian character. I was very conscious of the responsibility, but kudos again to Dominique Provost-Chalkley and Kat Barrell, who play Waverly and Nicole, respectively, and have so much natural chemistry.
They’re fully fleshed-out characters. They’re flawed, they make mistakes, and they have misunderstandings, but it just works. I’m so grateful that the fandom has embraced them so wholeheartedly. There are still fans fighting for another season of the show but if Season 4 does end up being the final season, then we end with Waverly and Nicole’s wedding. It was a happy ending for two queer characters, which has been really rare on television. I hope things are changing, and I hope we are one of the first instead of the last.
I have complicated feelings on Andras’ work and that’s why I quoted this entire segment. I think that the queer relationships in the show are incredible and very well done, but the way that race was kind of handled especially with Dolls’ death and the non response to people who did criticize it on social media speaks volumes. one of the things that I think about often is how “Bury Your Gays” is used to kind of nudge showrunners away from killing off queer characters by people who explicitly do not give a shit when people of color in media, including queer characters, are killed off. I’ve talked about the orange is the new black fandom and how at the same time that white lesbians and in that fandom as well as the fandom for The 100 were yelling about the dissolution of relationships and queer white characters being killed off, Poussey’s frankly traumatizing death was being treated as a learning exercise for white people so that they could learn how to better ally themselves with black people. There were no campaigns about bringing her back.
(I have also talked about how Andras killed off Lost Girl’s only black character in the third season that she was on showrunner and how uncomfortable that makes me feel because I think it’s unfair to have a show with only one significant character of color and they get killed off in a way that is in hindsight really easily avoided. Nothing against her as a showrunner or writer specifically, but it is frustrating and it is both alienating and upsetting because the queer fans of the show didn’t care about any of the deaths of characters of color on either show but we are expected to care about white queer representation no matter what.)
Meanwhile, ALPHA arrives two years after CL showed support for Black Lives Matter and called on the K-pop industry and fans to “give back and show support for all that we have received from Black artists.” Moreover, for her new album, CL fine-tunes that balance between who she is and where she mines inspiration. Being that “sauce that is spicy, made in Korea,” of course, is CL’s twist on what hip-hop in recent years has demanded in spades. She is the wave who is “flowing like water,” who feels like World Golf Hall of Famer Pak Se-ri. In the fiery hip-hop “HWA,” CL is not only conquering K-Town and Seoul City, but she compares herself to South Korea’s national flower. “무궁화 꽃이 피었습니다” (“Mugunghwa has bloomed”), she raps. CL is being reverent, though with sneering vocals, as if to show no signs of fading. Surely this is what the folks behind CL all those years ago thought she couldn’t do.
Another CL piece. This is a review of her album ALPHA and I think that it really captures a lot of what is really great about her long awaited comeback. the weakest spots of this review are of addressing her past cultural appropriation and the way that she has continued to use a black aesthetic/black cool within her performance of hip hop. The review author seems almost to present it as something that doesn’t necessarily matter and that wasn’t really a big deal because black hip hop artists like Method Man showed up to cosign her behavior. That part is frustrating, because it divorces the reality of Korean hip hop and pop from how artists and producers unaffiliated with black cultures and people will take from black American experience is for artists who don’t have that.
However, it’s the only weak spot because of how much work it goes into presenting CL as an artist who goes above and beyond to be herself and represent Korea and Korean culture in her hip hop. While I think that CL still borrows heavily from African American hip hop cultural traditions, she is closer to what I want artist to do: she is closer to being authentic to herself in hip hop than trying to be authentic to hip hop itself.
I’ve been keeping up with what has been going on with Sam since last year and the struggles he’s been having after being kind of shoved out of Korean popular culture because he dared to call out blackface from high school students. I think it is incredibly unfair that he has been so mistreated and maligned by people who once loved him and even treated him as “Koreans black friend” simply because he dared to say “but you can be a little bit better and a lot less antiblack, here’s how”.
I hate that he doesn’t have the career he used to, and that people purposefully misrepresent him as a racist and a potential sex pest without any questioning who told them that he’s like this. And it’s all over him daring to push back against established Korean pop cultural attitudes towards blackface. He is an incredibly gracious man and so kind and gentle, and I literally couldn’t do that if I were him. I would in fact express a genuine emotion of anger if I was in his shoes. Because this is just messed up.
MGM may have put McKinney under contract; the record remains sketchy. Whatever the case, it’s obvious that after “Hallelujah!,” Hollywood didn’t know what to do with her. As the historian Donald Bogle argues in his book “Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams,” the 1930s offered increased opportunities for Black stars and extras, opening up new horizons and bringing accolades. At the same time, Bogle writes, “the day of the bona fide ‘dark star’ would be long in coming.” The industry’s tightening self-censorship mandates, which specifically forbade “sex relationships between the white and Black races,” only institutionalized its racism and further marginalized African American actors.
I love learning about old Hollywood history. Nina Mae McKinney Is an actress I actually didn’t know anything about until I read this article, and I think that this is a really great piece that shows you that we don’t actually know everything about the celebrities that built Hollywood or were able to build themselves in old Hollywood. As we think about increasing censorship of pop culture around the world, looking back at how her career was impacted by censorship that forbade “miscegenation”, I think that it’s important to look at our present time where the primary people being censored and fired are people of color talking about our queerness and our identity as people of color. Of course, queer white people are being censored too, but an alarming note is the way that queer people of color specifically are being targeted for speaking out against racism in various spaces as well as how the United States government and many people with power inside of it are claiming that they have to forbid conversations about real United States history to protect white children.
Anyway, I think that this is a really good piece and I want you all to read it, and also go look into the history of queer Hollywood celebrities because that’s really interesting and has literally nothing to do with this. I just always think about this when I think about old Hollywood
In her book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, author and Georgetown professor Marcia Chatelain explains that during the late 1960s, social unrest — particularly the riots and protests that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. — gave rise not to a larger social upheaval (the likes of which might have addressed structural racism or poverty), but rather to corporate intervention in the matter of civil rights. Companies like McDonald’s began to approach and appeal to Black communities, presenting their restaurants as sites for employment, ownership opportunities, and economic advancement. Coinciding with Nixon’s “Black capitalism” initiatives — which favored economic incentives over real justice — Black communities were especially primed for the framing of the fast-food franchise as a freedom dream. The catch, of course, was that the franchise model requires quite a bit of capital to get the dream up off the ground. And as history shows, wherever capital is concerned, celebrity is sure to follow.
The earliest vanguards of Black-celebrity-fronted fast-food franchises were Mahalia Jackson’s Glori-fied Chicken and James Brown’s Gold Platter chain. Both came and went in the late 1960s and ’70s, and attempted to leverage the clout and wealth of a well-respected star as a buttress against the economic peril that plagues the restaurant industry. While both businesses have been largely forgotten, their legacy remains, as the short-lived ventures helped to establish the role that Black celebrities in particular would be called upon to play in the fast-food industry: purveyors of Black culture who lend what Chatelain calls “authentic soulfulness” to the otherwise soulless products that fast-food companies sell.
As you all know, I am obsessed with authenticity as a concept ascribed to hip hop artists. I think that marketing is really important to understanding what the people in power think of and want from people who do not have power, and this piece is actually really good way to look at the history of marketing towards black people through fandom. Why is it that marketing companies for these fast food chains are aiming themselves at black communities across the United states? Why is a celebrity owning a fast food franchise something that is seen as part of the “American dream”?
I tried the sauce for Megan sandwich, if Lil Nas X does something with Taco Bell that I can eat, I’m there. I got the BTS meal at McDonald’s. But, I never pause to think about what it means that we’re seeing marketing towards fandom, and black fans in particular through black artists, increase at such a high rate. This article will make you think.
“Some of the members of the commission were very much opposed to showing the series because it uses a highly integrated cast of children,” the person, who did not wish to be named, said. “Mainly the commission members felt that Mississippi was not yet ready for it.”
Speaking of histories we don’t know, I didn’t know that Mississippi once banned Sesame Street. So I learned a lot from this piece and it makes me think about how whiteness responds to threats, or perceived threats. This piece was floating around my timeline because Sesame Street created its first Asian American puppet for the show and white supremacists in media and on Twitter reacted in horrifyingly racist ways to this child Puppet. there was no sense of awareness that they were talking about a puppet representing a child, as they layered on racist and sexist commentary over her existence.
And when I read the linked piece, I realized that this has always been what America is: a reactionary site of racist violence where even children aren’t safe and things aimed at children become pawns in a cultural war that most of us did not sign up for.
It’s easy to project dislike onto celebrities. “In our collective mind, we set up certain (often unrealistic) expectations of how celebrities should behave,” Anderson-Carpenter says. “And when they don’t meet our expectations, we tend to judge them more harshly than we would judge a non-celebrity who behaved the same way.”
Fan culture, of course, goes back hundreds of years – but mass media has warped the obsession into something much larger. It’s also proliferated hate, which could prove dangerous.
I need you all to know that I didn’t understand that people hated Anne Hathaway until a few months ago. that has me all kinds of messed up.
As you maybe have noticed, I’m very interested in anti fandom and how fans expressed their hate of the fandom object. I have a piece going up in a few days about the evolution of anti fandom and how that has changed from when I was a child to now, and this piece kind of orients itself around the original anti fandom where people just talk shit about the celebrities they loathed and I think that it’s a really good look at what anti fandom originated as, rather than what it has sort of become in transformative / queer fandom
anyway, what have you all read in November? As always I am nosy and ready to read your links! Especially as December is Hiatus Month!