2022 was a busy, stressful year and obviously as the year wound down, I basically slowed my output drastically as I dealt with my dad getting sick, ultimately losing him, and reconnecting with my family as a result. However, I still did a lot of work I’m proud of, and I want to close out the year by sharing some of my best (or most interesting) work. I’ll also talk a little bit about each thing as I go through so you get a sense of my thoughts about them!
On Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling’s Transmisogyny, and What We Owe Each Other
This isn’t a new conversation, but Return to Hogwarts and responses from fans past and present on social media invite us to revisit the question: Is it possible to separate the art from the artist?
The answer, of course, is complicated and nuanced. Except for the moments when it’s pretty straightforward. The idea that we can separate the art from the artist hinges on a form of privilege and a misunderstanding of how creators can put themselves and their beliefs into their work. French philosopher Roland Barthes’ essay “Death of the Author” is used as a way to explain that it’s “just art” and can be consumed without any input from the creator, making the creator someone whose shouting doesn’t impact the narrative or your understanding of it. Unfortunately, when it comes to bigotry, that’s not necessarily an approach that works.
I didn’t get a lot of pushback against this piece – that I know of – when it posted, but one of my former followers, an H.P. Lovecraft stan that somehow missed that I am… the opposite of that, then insulted me for about three hours once I reposted the link because even though Lovecraft was absolutely As Racist As We Know, it was wrong to… lump him in with Rowling? Beyond how I think that I’m extremely correct to make the connection that I did (that while Lovecraft will be meeting me in the pit ASAP, Rowling is currently actively hurting trans people with her rhetoric), it’s also… there’s a difference in what people get out of each creator’s actions?
I think consumption of creative content can be tricky, but it’s clear that there’s a distinction between consuming content from someone actually harmful in their living life and someone who’s been dead but still sucks ass. There’s not a whole lot that Lovecraft can do to me/mine despite being a racist who’s still widely read… but a bigot like Jo or an abuser like Nobuhiro Watsuki (namedropped because of the Rurouni Kenshin news from Jump Festa that’s fresh on my mind)… they hurt people right freaking now. They’re complicit in other people’s violence. We can’t distance them from their art… or us from our continuing engagement. Whether it’s watching RK in the coming year or playing Hogwarts Legacy… we have to stand for something.
Quick Coverage: Romancelandia Takes the ‘Girlboss, Gaslight, Gatekeep’ Meme A Little Too Literally on Twitter
Romancelandia is peak “Let People Like Things” culture and because the romance genre and its fans have gotten unnecessary backlash or has been used as the butt of jokes, people kind of… take any perceived or actual slight against the genre to go wild.
The big issue? They think criticism – or anything coming close to it – is a direct violent attack because they’re women that must be met with aggression in return. Sound familiar?
“Don’t Mess With Romancelandia” is a recurring joke around the book-oriended corners of the internet because it happens so often that the hammer of romance readers/creators comes down on people.
As with other fandoms dominated by white women, if you’re seen to “come for” anything they love or have built their identities or personalities around, they then have carte blanche to come for you in the name of… feminism? I guess. It’s supposed to be funny, but I don’t think it’s very funny to crack jokes about a fandom of (largely white) women creators and consumers that see nothing wrong with dogpiling random people over mild jokes specifically because they’re men or otherwise seen as outsiders.
Spaces fueled by (white) women’s righteous rage and entitlement… don’t really feel safe to me? Because it’s clear that the outsiders aren’t just cis and assumed-het men? (Not that I love that?) But eventually, if we play along, people of color and trans people in these spaces are redefined as outsiders trying to colonize it. Romancelandia is a part of fandom – heavily shaped by marketing, true – and so it has the same problems where white women think they’re the people in charge of dictating what is/isn’t romance and how we can talk about a space we’re all supposed to be sharing.
This instance was really wild to me because it was something so mild (Jack Edwards marveling at Extreme Sexual Dimorphism in romance, a thing I personally get a kick out of as a Korean webtoon stan) taken out of context and reframed as an “attack” on romance novelists and (cis/het) women. But if you spend any time looking at what he actually said, he didn’t… say anything. It is in fact weird that we have such extreme size difference in romance that I’m not allowed to laugh at how the Adam Driver analog in Love Hypothesis said he “could fit her entire breast in his mouth”… like that’s funny. Why is he so big? Adam Driver is not that much bigger than Daisy Ridley, y’all. It’s weird that someone reading romance for the first time or analyzing it from the perspective of a historian can both get dogpiled and insulted solely because… they’re assumed to be cis/het men. Seriously, I know performative misandry is all the rage in these online spaces but… it’s really not cute.
The Lie of “Let People Like Things”
The choice to frame all criticism of villains and their fandoms as puritanical hatred of women and a desire to control female/queer sexuality neatly sidesteps issues people – many of whom enjoy these villains themselves – bring up in fandom about these villains and, more often, their toxic fans. You know, things like John Boyega being harassed and misrepresented by Kylo Ren super fans from December 2019/January 2020? Or the same fandom’s ongoing harassment campaign of yours truly? People aren’t criticizing Kylo’s fans because they can’t understand the allure of a villain to women/queer people, but because those same fans have gained a reputation for publicly being very racist and abusive over the years.
A recurring theme across 2022 for me was “okay you’re allowed to like something completely head empty but I’m not even allowed to ‘I like this, but’ a single thing”? Because people around the internet have decided that we should Let People Like Things… but only in the exact same ways they do? If we don’t, then we’re “no fun at parties” or automatically Anti Fandom? Even though we love villains or gore or questionable relationships?
When Hannah M. wrote Queerness in Fanfiction: Gender, Queer Bodies, and the Omegaverse for Tor.com, one of the most common responses on social media was… accusations that the article was inherently anti queer/trans people who like omegaverse? Even though… it was simply mildly critical. The author had to deal with people literally calling them transphobic and homophobic over an insightful article that… didn’t do any of what fandom brained weirdos on the internet decided it did. Like we’re supposed to let people like things but then they laugh at the idea that we might like to engage with media and fandom in critical ways despite loving these things. I don’t understand it… I probably never will.
Shipping Is Supposed to Be Fun, But Ship Wars Ruined It
What makes ship wars so devastating for fandom is that everyone believes they’re right – even bystanders unattached to a specific ship in the war — and is willing to do the most (harassment, shaming, shunning, and more) in order to protect their preferred pairing. For Griselda, a multi-shipper who’s been in multiple fandoms across the decades, there’s a simple explanation for ship wars. “Different ships have different dynamics that appeal to different fans. And people are prone to thinking subjective preferences are objective truths,” she tells Teen Vogue. “I have noticed that across fandoms, you get basically repeats of the same arguments about different ships because the underlying dynamics are the same. “Oh, should she go for the Bad Boy or the Boy Next Door?” That sort of thing.”
Ultimately, I think ship wars at their truest form are… silly. At the end of the day, for the most part, there’s nothing fans can do to make their ship canon. No amount of bribes in the form of cupcakes or votes or tweets will make the showrunners or directors give you what you want, because you want something that wasn’t planned. The problem, however, is the way that we fans react towards one another over our various ships. It’s hard to be wrong. That’s why I try to limit being incorrect to once a season. I reject wrongness. However, when it comes to ships, I’m actually quite fond of Live and Let Ship? If you actually saw what I shipped and how next to none of it was canon… you’d understand. However, fandom from about… 2012 onward has been obsessed with the idea of “winning” ships. Who ships the least problematic, most canon pairing. Which frankly takes the fun out of shipping because I want Shuri and Namor to bang out of mindless thirst for both characters… not because I think I’m correct about them?? And I refuse to fight either way.
On Generalizing Entire Fandoms: Revisiting #NotAllFans
I have to generalize fandoms and fans as racist because it’s not like I can generalize them as anti racist.
Not now at a time when people are explicitly saying that racism matters more to queer/feminist fandom than fans of color or anti racism – and collecting hundreds or even thousands of notes for it. Not now at a time when white people in fandom are using BLM as a shield to excuse attacking Black people or bringing up the murders of indigenous children in Canada to shut down discourse. Not now when people continue to harass me for the “crime” of talking about racism from fans/in some fanworks and the focus of whiteness in fanworks?
What else am I to think of fandom as a whole when those people are still around but fans of color who speak of racism are successfully threatened, harassed, silenced and deplatformed?
I cannot stand wimps in different fandoms who spend more time moaning about the fact that someone is “generalizing” a fandom as racist than they do the fact that racists think their fandom space is a safe one for racists. It’s always a sure sign that the person throwing a tantrum doesn’t actually care about racism in fandom… only about the potential that they might be lumped in with them.
And the thing is, that these people don’t ever pause to think “wait… what does it mean that racists feel welcome in my fandom”. Like I’m watching people scold a Rey/Kylo shipper specifically for giving antis ammo rather than for using the n-word as a non-Black person. Like, excuse me? I’m not “generalizing” Reylo shippers as racists. I’m watching some random person call Finn a “nigga” and fans care more that someone like me might see it than that someone in the fandom is that comfortable with racism that they can say a slur about a Black character… I’m not generalizing their fandom by pointing out years of racist misrepresentation of Finn and harassment of John Boyega and Black fans and journalists. If you don’t speak up except to condemn your racist co-fans for making you “look bad” rather than for racism? You deserve to be lumped in with them.
Caleb McLaughlin Is A Perpetual Student
If McLaughlin wanted to, he could surely be living a life focused on pleasure instead of peace. He’s spent the majority of his teen years starring in one of the biggest TV shows of the 21st century. Even before Stranger Things, McLaughlin pursued the arts, first appearing as Young Simba in a Broadway production of The Lion King between 2012 and 2014. After several guest appearances on television, he landed his breakthrough role as Lucas on Stranger Things, an opportunity that changed the trajectory of his life. Suddenly, the New York native had millions of Instagram followers and was appearing at Comic-Con in front of audiences that packed Hall H, all at the age of 15.
Interviewing Caleb McLaughlin was just… so incredible? I loved him on Stranger Things and there’s this instant sense of “that’s my lil bro” that comes across when talking to him. Our interview was very fun, very casual, and I left it feeling like I’d had a conversation with one of my nephews? Caleb is cool and gracious and just so stinking kind. I still can’t believe that I had this opportunity.
Lies Fandom Tells About Why Black Characters and Celebrities Don’t Get Shipped
“If the media doesn’t provide well written black characters or representation of black people in romance situations, then there aren’t many options for shippers to ship.”
This is bullshit.
If you go to a buffet and you only eat one thing, you can’t just sit there and say everything else at the buffet is nasty or gross. That’s incredibly ridiculous and I would laugh at you. You would deserve to be laughed at.
I am so tired of people in fandom pretending that they’re doing what they do to characters of color – primarily Black ones in this context – because there’s a lack of content. Fandom has always chosen to ignore Black characters and to deny their agency. It’s not that there’s a glaring lack of well written Black characters, but that fandom will always prioritize white characters over the Black ones in a given piece of media. Fandom is choosing not to focus on the Black characters in pop culture pieces they love. They’re choosing not to consume Black Media ™ and then they turn around and are like “maybe if Black people were actually well written we’d care”.
Excuse me? Fandom loves a blank slate they can layer onto and “fix” but only if that character isn’t Black. It is frustrating to see people constantly argue passionately to defend a status quo that is purposefully exclusionary… I’m so annoyed.
What is an anti? Exploring a key term and contemporary debates
Stitch: I think that the majority of fandom is entirely outside the anti/proshipper binary because binaries are incredibly reductive and miss a lot of what’s going on in any case. However, I would say that instances of harassment from antis are seen as more common because people don’t talk about the harassment they get or witness from the people who claim to be antiharassment in fandom. It all ties into how we are made to understand what the two sides—antifandom/shippers and proshipper/fandom—are capable of. Proshippers are supposed to be the people who will do whatever it takes to protect fandom from the encroaching hordes of extremely online conservatives like evangelicals or TERFs; antis are people associated with those communities. One group, off the jump and for various reasons, is already linked with harassment, so people then don’t look deeper at what fandom as a whole has become across the past four or five years, where practically everyone is capable of and interested in unleashing harassment for (im)moral reasons in defense of their specific fandom thing. Because the conversation is front-loaded with “antis are bad and love harassment,” there’s no room to understand that it’s not a binary problem; these spaces breed really polarized opinions and harassment that only shows up as part of the story.
[6.3] Because the scenario is set up where one group harasses minors, survivors, and POC while the other supposedly doesn’t, it balances the scales in a way that completely obscures the real machinations going on behind the scenes. There are antifans/shippers who do harass people of color, out and harass queer people, and mistreat survivors, and there are also proshippers or anti-antis who do the same thing in defense of fandom. (I’ve seen many proshipper/anti-anti accounts harass scholars like Rukmini Pande—including trying to use clear right-wing tactics to get her fired—and support accounts defending white supremacist violence like that committed by Kyle Rittenhouse.) This is on top of the harassment aimed at people of color and teenagers in these fandom spaces on the regular, just for talking about issues that upset or offend them as vulnerable people in online fandom spaces. What’s clearly understood as wrong and harassment from one portion of fandom is seen as acceptable when done by another, because it’s supposedly done as defense from harassment.
[6.4] I think the harassment from antis is seen as common because of who has power in fandom. But consider that proshipper/anti-anti accounts can have thousands of followers on Twitter alone, and that they regularly misrepresent and blow up in-group issues to indicate a systemic problem while dismissing or silencing issues from their own group. It may be common, but in a way, it’s also elevated racism and other forms of bigotry from the profandom/fiction side.
Getting the opportunity to talk about the anti/pro shipper divide – and where it fails fandom as a whole – for the Journal of Transformative Works was actually an incredible experience. I wish more people had read it, but I also… recognize that people are so fandom-pulled that they’re incapable of recognizing that there are more things happening than they think? We’re watching people declare anti racism in fandom at any level is anti fandom and other folks go “oh yeah sure that makes sense”. I actually have never rejected the classification of “anti” as a fandom position we need to be sharp with. I was one of the loudest people talking about anti fandoms in Voltron and DC Comics and yet… here I am now…
Anyway, I think this is a fair assessment of anti fandom that looks at anti sex attitudes in fandom but also addresses the way that bigots have co-opted the fight against antis to be bigoted in and of themselves. Because we’re told that anti fans are a problem in fandom not because they dislike things but because they’re willing to hurt and harass people over them, yes? But then the people claiming to fight antis in fandom… harass and hurt people e over simply expressing dislike. Including dislike of racism. Insofar as you can watch what I do and what I’m into, the thing people are actually harassing me for is talking about racism in fandom in the context of shipping. They can’t actually point to where I’ve sporked shippers’ fics or harassed someone for “problematic” content. In fact, my work and my interest in problematic content have been used to excuse harassing me! So it’s really a thing I wish more people would clock and comment on in the future, that the line between anti fan and pro shipper isn’t one where the latter is against harassment in fandom because… they’re both pro harassment of fandom as long as they think the targets deserve it.
[Stitch Takes Notes] Slash/Drag: Appropriation and Visibility in the Age of Hamilton
Simply writing slashfic or M/M romance when not a queer dude isn’t objectification alone. In the same way that writing romance with leads who aren’t the same ethnicity as you isn’t automatically racist objectification either. What makes it objectification is how you treat other queer dude characters, queer men in mainstream media, and how you treat actual queer men.
For the most part, I’d argue that the majority of what I have read (and I have read a lot) of fandom’s M/M content isn’t objectification. However, we can’t see every author’s internal politics? We can see, sometimes, when they fight with queer dudes on twitter or snidely subtweet a man who has an opinion on M/M or when they like homophobic tweets but that happens far less in fandom than in Romancelandia (I FEEL).
Again with the whiteness, first of all: the main people who are fully subjectified by slash fandom as Coppa understands and defines it (and as fandom actually largely does it)… are white men.
The funniest thing about my Notes series is that when I was in college I never took notes? This is how I learned to take notes for university… but I never did them? The idea of studying filled me with rage. I’d leave little comments in margins but that was all I could bring myself to do. Now, I find such joy in annotating a work of fan studies that I get giddy about it.
Working on Coppa’s piece was a really good exercise for me because it let me unpack my problems clearly as I worked through the article. Coppa is an icon in slash fandom and fandom studies, but this article makes several leaps to justify her own stance and her interests in slash fandom. There’s next to no engagement with the whiteness of slash fandom or how it and drag and Hamilton don’t subvert as much as you’d think with regard to whiteness.
I know that whenever I talk about the limits of imagination in fandom re whiteness (like with the Goncharov phenomenon), the most unintelligent among us simply hear “liking things is racist”, but truly, the fact is that slash fan/dom studies continues to overlook the ways in which whiteness fuels so much of our collective interest and in/action around specific characters. To me, Coppa’s article is more of the same and shows the longstanding precedent in slash fandom to simply… not think about characters or people of color as slash fans or slash objects outside of a very narrow lens.
To White People Using Will Smith to Self-Victimize: It’s Not About You
When white women claim a Black person is “scary” or “abusive” – especially in a situation where they’re not even remotely in danger – they’re doing so to trigger a particular defensive response. They’re trying to weaponize their tears and fears and very often, they succeed. Instead of people paying attention to the situation or calling Rock out for his misogynoir, they’re making up stories about the Smiths’ relationship (including saying that Smith must have hit other people before). They’re trying to say that watching Will Smith slap Chris Rock in defense of his wife is the exact same thing as being a child cowering from an abusive parent… so that their criticism of Smith and portrayal of him as a “Black Brute” can’t be rooted in respectability politics and racism. Instead of being about their disappointment that Smith isn’t the squeaky clean Black man they’ve believed him to be, it’s about their trauma. That’s why so many people are referencing how the slap and cussing combo has made them see Smith differently, how he’s somehow disrupted or ruined their childhoods. It’s also why they are making Smith’s slap about other situations and other people – things that matter to them more than Chris Rock – like Amy Schumer or the late Betty White. It’s all about trying to make you feel bad for people who aren’t even remotely affected… specifically white women. Because they can’t imagine a world where a Black woman, Jada, is so loved that her husband would get up and slap someone to defend her honor. They’re used to being the Regency romance lead. To be faced with anything else, especially a Black woman being defended? That’s earth-shattering to them. As romance novelist Jenny Trout points out at the end of a thread about the situation, “It’s just frustrating to see white people, white women in particular, justify why it’s okay for them to pretend to be victimized by this. One person got their gums polished last night and it wasn’t you and it wasn’t about you.”
This article about The Slap is actually why I have my DMs on twitter closed. It was embarrassing to watch entirely unrelated white people cry and scream and moan over a single slap that’d be seen as chivalry in action coming from a white actor… and it got annoying having people DM me about how they weren’t gonna let me invalidate their whiny ass feelings over the slap. (I was “invalidating” their feelings by pointing out that it wasn’t about them but they could slide into my DMs to try and spank me and dismiss my feelings? Okay.) The Slap was about the three people involved. That’s it. Unless you’re Will, Jada, or Chris, you are not involved. Not even if you were a celebrity in the room at the Oscars.
Anyway, I really love this piece because I got to be incredibly sharp about something that was so stinking annoying: people pretending that a Black person they don’t know and have no access to is a direct danger to them. It’s so frustrating to have to watch people pretend to be hurt by things that don’t affect them… so they can have an excuse to lash out and be antiblack in response.
Dear Fandom, Stop Punishing Black Women for Their Relationships
The harassment takes on another level when women of color – usually Black women – are the ones in relationship with a white fandom favorite. When it comes to Black women, fandom often tells us that the object of desire wouldn’t want us. So when the celebrity object or fictional object turns around and actually ends up with a Black woman, fandom always reacts poorly and aggressively to the reality that well… we are wanted. One of the best examples of this phenomena lies in the way that FKA Twigs was subject to horrific harassment during her time dating The Batman star Robert Pattinson. FKA Twigs directly addressed the idea that Pattinson’s fans thought she was “unworthy” of him in her interview with Louis Theroux.Thoughts
I can’t imagine caring enough about a celebrity relationship that I harass any of the people involved. Actress and singer IU and one of my favorite actors Lee Jong Suk just had their dating life revealed. My first thought wasn’t envy or anger, it was concern because I doubt that they wanted to go public like that. My ult of ults, Miyavi? I was a fan of his wife from well before they got together and I’m lightly rooting for them and their kids. If John Boyega gets married right freaking now, I’ll cheer.
I understand the grip that the parasocial relationship has on fandom, but it’s genuinely frightening how scary folks get about celebrity relationships especially when the partner in question is a Black woman. It’s really unfair and cruel how fandoms that normally can’t agree on anything all do agree that a black woman is the “worst” partner for their specific celebrity favorite. The violence fandoms direct at Black women just for thirsting over the fandom object – let alone dating them – is just disturbing and I wish people paused to think about what they’re saying and how they look.
Turning Red Shows Fandom at Its Most Unrealistic
Pretending that the problems in fandom, like toxicity, harassment, and bigotry, are because of anti-fans or outsiders ultimately whitewashes the reality of being in these communities. “If we do say that fandom was so integral to the development of people’s identities, and that is what people say all the time, then isn’t it important for us to understand what the larger dynamics were?” Rukmini Pande, author of Squee From the Margins: Fandom and Race, tells Slate. Pande’s research, which combines her personal experience as an Indian woman in white community spaces with anthropological dives into other fandoms, belongs to a growing body of academia about the relationship between race and fandom communities. “We do remember that there were LiveJournal communities that were just dedicated to bashing female characters. There were Tumblr [blogs] that were consciously editing certain characters out of pictures. There was and continues to be fanfiction that portrays certain characters in certain ways. That is as much a part of that space, but once you see that, it [feels like] a personal attack, because people identify so much with those spaces.”
I’m still really obsessed with Turning Red and also… getting a byline in Slate was a huge goal for me that came through in 2022.
I pitched and wrote this piece because I cannot stand the way people in fandom gloss over the issues of fandom past to pretend fandom in 2002 is better than it has been in 2022. Both eras of fandom have good sides and bad sides. The only thing is that when we bring up the things we saw and experienced twenty years ago in fandom, we’re accused of lying or of trying to make old fandoms look bad. But things like doxing, racist harassment, bullying people over ships? Those didn’t start with the Voltron fandom. Fandom has always been somewhat exclusionary, with people being punished for not following what BNFs wanted or harassed for shipping the “wrong” ship or excluded for speaking about an issue like racism in fandom.
Pretending fandom has always been a utopia up until Gen Z got their soft little baby hands on it… that doesn’t help any of us do and be better.
Who’s Afraid of A Black Blaise Zabini? Everyone in 2005 Harry Potter Fandom… Apparently.
The thing that stands out to me about the notable backlash to Blaise being described as a Black man and then played by one – Louis Cordice in the film series – is that it showed really plainly in the antiblackness from fans in fandom when it came to things like… shipping.
Blaise went from one of the most popular characters and most-shipped in fandom – at a point where people would be like “wait how did you even do this” – to… not that.
We’re told that the reason why white characters and celebrities have all of this content and Black ones don’t… is because the white characters and celebs have more. They have more romance, more interactions, more interest for fandom…
But all Blaise Zabini had for eight years was that name and a Hogwarts house. And that was enough to fuel thousands of fan works and a pervasive fan-canon shared widely for him… up until the moment he was revealed to be Black.
Then he got the treatment all other Black characters get from the start.
I worked really hard on my piece about Blaise Zabini and fandom. Back in January I basically blacked out and hyperfixated on researching (Blaise Blogging) and I had livetweeted some of my documentation as I tracked down the shift in people liking Blaise in canon. I sat with it and turned out this incredible piece. If I could recommend only one thing I did in 2022 to readers, it’d be this piece because I worked so hard on it and it was so rewarding to complete.
It’s actually why I’m doing a shift in Patreon content and website content in 2023. I want to do more long form, focused pieces analyzing things important to me. So uh… Thanks Blaise!
On Queerbaiting, Betrayal, and the Quest for Better Representation
I know “betrayal” is a strong word, but there’s no other term that captures the full effect of what queer fans feel as a result of queerbaiting. For many queer fans, queerbaiting removes the confidence they had that the media they were watching was made with them fully in mind. It reinforces that to studios (and some celebrities), queer fans are walking rainbow wallets to be discarded once empty. Part of why queer fans have gravitated to shows like Taika Waititi’s Our Flag Means Death or The CW’s Batwoman is because these shows don’t hold back the “good stuff.” In these series, queerness – especially as seen from characters and people of color – isn’t something we get hints of before it’s snatched from us. It’s part of the narrative and made stronger for it.Thoughts
I do not understand people who think pressuring a celebrity into coming out will do anything good for them or the celebrity. I don’t understand the entitlement to anyone else’s queerness especially at a point like now where people are explicitly denied opportunities because they’re queer. Forcing the kid from Heartstopper to come out because him holding hands with a woman was “queerbaiting” to grassless weirdos… that left such a bad taste in my mouth.
I’m not even saying celebrities can’t queerbait… but the entitlement we’ve developed where we risk outing marginalized people in a hostile landscape just to satisfy our own curiosity and need for representation? That needs to stop. If a celeb isn’t out and you think they’re queerbaiting or closeted… mind your business. Goddamn.
12-Year-Old “Percy Jackson” Star Leah Jeffries Deserves Better From Fandom
We see this happen again and again: cast a performer of color in a lead role — especially when the character they’re playing is a racebent legacy character — and the internet will explode with complaints that the casting is just “woke” pandering. Cue the harassment and abuse towards the actors, who would probably like to celebrate their role in peace. See: Ncuti Gatwa taking up the mantle of the Doctor in Doctor Who, Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, Anna Diop as Starfire, and on and on ad nauseum.
If “woke pandering” sounds like poorly tossed word-salad, that’s because it is. In 2022, “woke” exists far from its original definition amongst Black social media users. What started out as a comment on people being “asleep” before they awaken to full awareness of social justice issues has since shifted. As The Urban News pointed out in a 2021 op-ed, “The term “woke” has come to encompass everything and anything conservatives don’t like, from defunding the police, or abolishing capitalism, to the use of gender neutral terms.”
I think that the point where you think it’s okay to harass and be racist to/about a twelve year old girl for being cast as the female lead in a fantasy show is the point where you should probably just remove yourself from the internet. At that point, you are incapable of being fixed. There is nothing there that an external source can do because you’re fighting a child and harassing one over fiction. That little Leah gets hate long before the filming finishes for the new Percy Jackson series speaks to the actual moral deficit in these fandoms… children should never be targets for your ire at any level. And yet… she has been targeted repeatedly as a result of being cast as Annabeth.
(Things I Wish Weren’t) Applied To Fandom: The Three Rules/Laws of Fandom
Fandom – understood as progressive, transformative, queer, generative, feminist, etc – is simultaneously a lawless space where anything goes or else nothing will… and a space where we have to have rigid rules to protect people from everything from actual harassment to mild complaining or criticism in someone else’s space. For the past four or five years, we’ve seen an increase in people longing for the “LiveJournal Era”, a time when people supposedly were nicer to each other and didn’t fight each other over ships.
That era they’re longing for? Never actually existed and it was moderated in ways that continue to be damaging to fans to this day.
I always find it weird how people who claim to be against policing in fandom… set up rules for other people to adhere to in fandom and punish them when they don’t stick to them. The point of the Three Rules were absolutely to serve as guidelines at a time of fierce fighting, not to control fandom and provide a system to then harass others. Come on.
“First Kill” Stars Talk Fangs, Queerness, and Their Bond on Set
The moment that Netflix Geeked dropped the first look at the genre-blending vampire romance First Kill, the buzz has been buzzing. The series, in which a vampire hunter and a vampire fall in love despite the deep loathing their respective families have for one another, was instant catnip in a post-Vampire Diaries world. The fact that both of the main characters were young women? That sealed the deal for fans hungry for representation, as vampire shows and films historically haven’t been that great about race or queerness despite their origin stories in literature: Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla was the first lesbian vampire and scholars have argued that many aspects of Dracula speak to Bram Stoker’s own queerness.
Speaking with the stars of Netflix’s First Kill was just absolutely amazing. They’re so cute and funny and have excellent chemistry. I’m so mad at Netflix for canceling the series without giving it a real chance because it was honestly one of the best shows ever. And the way it ended?? UNFAIR!!
[Stitch Takes Notes] The cult structure of the American anti
I recognize that Aburime is obviously working from a terminally online understanding of anti fandom and antis, one fueled, perhaps, by their own experiences with those groups harassing them or their friends over ships, tropes, or NSFW content. While that level of bias makes the errors across the piece understandable, it does not make them acceptable and I can already tell that a bugbear across my note-taking will be the editor’s inability to guide Aburime across this piece in ways that don’t revolve around reaffirming their confirmation bias.
Sam Aburime’s essay purporting to present “the cult structure of the American anti” was one of the most poorly written but widely read pieces of fandom media in 2021. It’s so sloppy and shitty in its scholarship that I remain stunned that the Journal for Transformative Works let it go to print… except for how I understand that fandom folks love to believe they’re under attack and this does just that.
Aburime’s scholarship is bad. They don’t make the points they claim to be analyzing. For all that they rage against US centrism especially in BL and slash fandoms? Theirs is a poorly written and research slog through anti fandom that doesn’t engage well with any of the points it tries to make.
And yet, because it takes the popular fandom stance that Antis Are Everywhere, it gets lauded as unbiased and integral fan studies work… when it’s so shitty that it would earn a failing grade if turned in for a graduate level course. I had so much fun pulling this piece apart and noting how bad it was and where the arguments fall flat. I have to remember that whenever people who really like that piece tell me/say anything about my skill at writing analytical pieces… they think Aburime’s work is good shit. Like of course, if all you want is an academic who’ll validate what you do to other people in defense of fandom, someone like Sam will be great even though they don’t even do a good job making the points they’re trying to make. Of course that simplistic, sloppy scholarship is more to your taste. Hah!
On White Queer Fandom and the Erasure of Fans of Color
Fans of color should not have to choose between our queerness and our identities as people of color, especially when we’re not from the United States. However, queerness in fandom is often highly reliant on white queerness — queer white histories, queer white feelings — and so fans of color are implicitly or explicitly told to choose. We’re not seen as Real Queer Fans if we’re not doing exactly what everyone else in queer white fandom will do and if we ever question fandom practices or priorities, especially racism or how race is handled at all, we’re actively reframed as anti fans or outsiders out to destroy fandom as we know it.
A thing I’ve spent about a decade being annoyed about is the way that fandom is constantly positioned as something that’s only for queer fans of color if we toe the line? If we don’t talk about racism. If we like the same white blorbos. If we don’t remind white fans that we’re here too. The things that we’re expected to care about and prioritize above ourselves as fans of color in fandom… I have never been able to stand it. I hate it in fact.
I loved this piece because I got to talk about how fandom excludes us and tries to control us. I got to talk about how, no matter what position you take up in fandom, queer white fandom generally sees us as pawns, not people of color. Individuals and smaller groups within the spaces differ, but after years of analyzing and existing in these spaces? The general theme is that fans of color are weaponized against each other and within fandoms to provide a handy attack point to tear down other fandoms and people.
We deserve better than what fandom consistently gives us and we should never be expected to put “peaceful” fandom above our right to exist in fandom sans racism.
On Celebrity Deaths, Fandom Friends, and How to Grieve Online
Grief, increasingly, is a significant aspect of fandom as the people in our offline or fannish lives pass away, but it’s also something that fandom can help us navigate and manage thanks to the connections we’ve made and the media that fuels us.
“Fandom helps people cope with loss by giving them a community and a venue in which to share their grief collectively,” says Katie Day Good, associate professor of strategic communication at Miami University. “When a celebrity dies, fans may experience what scholars call ‘disenfranchised grief’: a loss that is very real, but isn’t necessarily visible to, or acknowledged by, the general public or one’s immediate community. But within the fan community, especially in the virtually networked spaces of social media, fans can experience the dual comfort of having the source of their grief acknowledged by like-minded others and being able to collectively grieve with them.”
It’s wild looking back at this piece now that my dad has died and going “oh, fandom isn’t really this space for me anymore”. There’s no point where the people harassing me over my work paused to go “maybe we should hold off a month or two”. The week of my dad’s funeral, when I wasn’t even on here (or in the country!!) , I had people clammoring for my job over a villain article they weren’t willing to read in good faith. Vulnerability isn’t something that makes people have sympathy for me. I watched people dig in harder, mock me more at one of the worst periods of my life so far… and no one cared about what I was going through. So… fandom has changed so much for me in the six years since losing Maggie… Geez.
What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Racist Fanworks, Done Out of Spite
Someone who writes or draws a racist fanwork because they’re mad a person of color – or even over-eager white allies – has spoken about racism in fandom… is a racist. I refuse to continue pulling punches and protecting these people by blurring the awfulness of their behavior.
If fans of color say “hey, making this Black character a big-dicked top with no interiority calls back to stereotypes about desire and threats inspired by Black male sexuality” and someone writes a massive story in the fandom doubling down… that creator is racist. They are doing this to hurt fans of color and to tell other racist and/or white fans “hey, do what you want because I’ve got your back
It’s so tiring to have the benefit of the doubt always extended to racists in queer/feminist fandom while the worst is assumed of people of color trying to talk about the racism they experience in fandom spaces. We’re supposed to be equals in escapism here, peers, but what’s clearer every day is that as much as people want to pretend that’s the case… fans of color are still second class. We’re still treated as outsiders who cannot be trusted. We’re still punished by people writing and drawing racist fan works directly in response to speaking about racism in fandom. How evil are these people, my goodness.
“Rings of Power” Star Ismael Cruz Córdova Is Shifting the NarrativeThoughts
Long before landing in Middle Earth as the wood elf Arondir in Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, Ismael Cruz Córdova made previous stops on Sesame Street and popped into a galaxy far far away for The Mandalorian. Born and raised in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico, Ismael made his film debut in the 2003 film Stray Bullet and has been performing across film and television ever since. With this role as Arondir, he’s succeeded in hitting what he calls an “unshakeable” goal: “To get to where we were told we couldn’t be.”
Ismael’s Arondir is a big deal for two big reasons. He’s the first Black elf in any adaptation of Tolkien’s works thus far. Second, part of Arondir’s storyline with the human healer Bronwyn (played by Nazanin Boniadi) echoes the deeply moving love story that Tolkien depicted with Beren and Lúthien and Aragorn and Arwen. Together, those aspects combine to make a pivotal character whose story is both moving and imaginative, taking Ismael’s career to new heights as Arondir becomes a monumental character in the Lord of the Rings universe.
All of the interviews I’ve done in 2022 felt like speaking to friends or making new friends. Ismael was no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed our phone interview and I hope to speak with him again as the rest of Rings of Power looms in the distance. Ismael is so cool and fun and I just… really got even more hyped up for the show because of him!
Meme-ing For A Reason #19: Adults Aren’t Marginalized In Fandom, Sorry
The kinds of people who think fans over 25 are as marginalized in fandom as fans of color don’t exactly like to acknowledge racism in fandom as a thing that exists and that needs to be handled. In fact, they tend to declare that fans of color are those “puritanitcal youngsters” trying to steal your porn and police fandom even when we’re actually in fandom as long as or longer than they have been.
Genuinely, I just got such a kick out of remembering someone really did make a thread claiming that “ageism” was on par with racism in fandom and suggesting we team up on a boycott. It was so weird. It’s so weird to think that you’re oppressed in fandom because a teenager thinks you’re annoying. It’s also weird not to know the history of fandom and how anti racism is treated in these shared spaces…
“Till” Star Jalyn Hall on Playing Emmett Till, Authenticity, and Support Systems
Chinonye Chukwu’s Till, the latest in a very short line of films and television to tell Emmett Till’s story, might just be the most successful at portraying the horror and humanity behind Till’s lynching in Money, Mississippi, back in 1955. What fuels that success? The choice to cast All American actor Jalyn Hall, a rising star amidst a stunning cast. Even though he’s not present for much of the film, which follows the aftermath of Till’s murder, he approaches the performance with a carefree joy that keeps Till’s humanity – and age — at the forefront of our minds.
Again, love interviewing the folks I spoke to in 2022. Jalyn was at the top because he is just such a sensible kid who absolutely Gets It and talking with him was just enlightening. Till is a hard film to watch and I cried for most of it… and I could do that because Jalyn’s performance was just brilliant.
On Woobification and Why Infantilizing Villains Can Harm Useful Discourse
When a villain tells the audience and hero some dramatic sob story about how traumatic their childhood was, we can sympathize with them while also seeing the story as a manipulative tool. The last thing you’re supposed to do, however, is agree with them. The last thing you’re supposed to do is watch them monologue their way through yet another excuse for trying to commit genocide or for fascism and go, “Ah yes, being mistreated as a child absolutely means they did nothing wrong and the heroes are wrong for trying to stop them.” And yet, this is exactly what large amounts of incredibly online fandom does when faced with a hot-to-them character doing bad stuff with a thin gloss of trauma to distract from the rot within.
Sometimes I think to myself… “do you think fandom weenies on the internet understand that ‘don’t like don’t read’ as a fandom mantra doesn’t mean they get to lie like mad about an article they didn’t read”. Because none of the responses to this piece made sense. It’s exceedingly pro villain, it’s pro dark content. It’s not actually talking about Harry Potter. And yet, the fandom weenies have spent over a month subtweeting the piece… a piece that is actually pro Liking Villains and of course once again trying to get me fired in the name of [lies they made up about me and that fandom is too mindlessly racist to confront].
I loved writing this piece because I was fresh off newly terrorizing everyone over Mahito from Jujutsu Kaisen and it felt good to unleash my thoughts about woobification, a thing I believe ruins villain stan fandoms. I can’t wait until sometime mid 2023 when I drop my Mahito glorification fic because then you’ll see exactly what this piece was actually a precursor for!
On Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, and Black Girl Nerd Culture
Black women fans are largely erased from the cultures of fandom we are active participants in. As Wanzo points out, there are and have always been rich cultures of Black fandom. However, these fans aren’t exactly counted in the conversations we have about what fandom looks like and what kinds of people become fans. Across nerd history, the average nerd – be they an anime expert or a science fiction superstar – is assumed to be a bespectacled white geek, socially awkward, but passionate about whatever they’re into. Rarely, outside of Black fandom spaces — which are carved out by Black fans to protect themselves from harassment including racism — is the typical fan a Black one, much less a Black woman. That’s all due to the ways that nerd cultures generally exclude Black people by default, starting with the assumption that we’re not smart or curious enough to be into nerdy things unless we’ve got an agenda or are trying to pick up a partner.
It is so entirely on brand for me to close out 2022 while sipping on some Love Black Women juice. Black women in fandom are so precious and important. I love them. I love us (when my Gender is aligned). I love how much work we put into Being Here and loving each other.
I hope 2023 is better for Black women in fandom.
One thought on “2022 Writing Wrap Up (NonFic)”
Wow, this oeuvre was extremely neat to have listed. It was a productive year and one where there were a lot going on as well. Ah, fandom.