On Twitter I’ve been boosting what I can, when I see it. This means linking to articles about the hate crime shooting spree in Atlanta (and the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, violence, racism, etc) across the past year and change alone. I also shared donation links from foundations specifically to benefit and uplift Asian American communities and help the victims of the latest attacks to hit the news. I neglected to do that here as I was focused on using that bigger platform to boost and be helpful that way.
However, it’s important to make things clear here as well: I stand in solidarity with Atlanta’s Asian American community as well as with Asians and other people of color who are subject to the horrors and hatefulness of white supremacy everywhere. White supremacy is a rot that must be rooted out of society and solidarity is a community building/reinforcing tool that will help us do so.
Rather than center myself at any point, I’m sharing some of the links I shared on Twitter so that folks who read this site can see how they can help and what they may have been missing. This will include donation links to GoFundMes and foundations.
As Popova points out, what “dark fic” is ultimately depends on individual reader and creator interpretations of the trope or pairing. This, along with the intensity of the dark content and what it’s used for in the story, leads to people forming personal catalogs of dark content on main, works they enjoy and ones they very much don’t. Across fandoms and age groups within fandoms, two people may have vastly different understandings of what dark fic looks like and what kind of dark fic they’re okay with consuming and creating.
One person might view Real Person Fiction itself as “dark fic,” because it crosses established personal boundaries for the relationships we have with celebrities and ones they have with each other. Another one might only count RPF that uses extreme elements: for example, an alternate universe that places characters from an idol group in the universe of The Purge and has them enact horrific violence against each other. Even Omegaverse, my favorite trope/genre in fandom ever, can be considered dark fic by some people, because it often serves up gender/bio essentialist worldbuilding wrapped around some werewolf-y characters getting intimate.
I’ve wanted to talk about the concept of “dark fic” – which my expert fans agree is one of those unhelpfully broad fandom terms that says everything but means… less than you’d think – for a hot minute now. For starters, y’all know I don’t actually like fandom terms that are hard to define because at the end of the day we’re all sitting here like “okay but what actually are you trying to say here” and “dark fic” is no different.
Especially when it comes to not uh… making liking or hating it your personality. Both things are extremely embarrassing for me to see because I don’t think that they’re healthy approaches to content because the positioning alone (interested/hating) isn’t enough to give you a good grasp of a person especially when you consider that one person’s dark and upsetting content is… someone else’s Tuesday afternoon.
Over on Henry Jenkins’ site, he’s using his platform to host what he’s calling a “Global Fandom Jamboree” that focuses on scholars speaking on their work on their own and with the other scholars in their field, more or less.
I won’t be linking to everything in roundups like this again, but I’ll be tweeting infrequently about the parts of this project that really stand out to me. And of course, if they move me extra hard, they’ll probably wind up in my end of the month link post!
Fans can react in concerning ways when their celebrity favorites screw up or misspeak in ways that hurt fans. It’s as if the attachment to a particular celebrity unlocks a desire to do whatever possible to maintain that celeb’s power and positive press. Even if the celebrity has been accused of actual crimes, even if we have proof of them doing something inexcusable, their stans will rally in order to protect them from criticism and accountability.
Enter: Nicki Minaj and the hold she has on her fans, known as Barbz. Not only do a subset of fans feel personal responsibility to promote her, but she herself has actively mobilized them over the years against people that she is in conflict with, on scales both large and small.
Once again, I forgot to post this when it went up uh… two weeks ago.
Nicki Minaj is just… a really good example of what happens when celebs actively make the choice to hurt people. She has millions of dollars, a fanbase that loves her, and some level of talent. And what has she spent a lot of 2021 doing? Antagonizing critics, harassing the woman her husband harmed when she was a teenager, and beefing publicly with other celebrities and even just random social media users. Like what got into Nicki’s head to make her think defending former Little Mix member Jesy Nelson’s blackfishing and attacking actual Black woman Leigh Anne Pinnock for calling it out was in any way necessary?
If I ever reach some sort of financial success and you see me out here fighting with people on social media – especially if I’m dead wrong – understand that something has gone horribly wrong.
I am not going to waste too much energy on Jesy Nelson but I will point out that as hard as she’s blackfishing and trying to present herself as Extremely Biracial Black Woman, she’s also actively weaponizing white women tears and activating white/queer fandom (via stan twt)
Especially against Leigh-Anne, an actual Black woman. And because she’s got Nicki in her corner defending her blackfishing (hypocritical after the Miley Cyrus stuff), this means that her non-Black fans will feel extra empowered to be actively antiblack towards LA & her Black fans
She wants to be Black (visually) but also clings to her white womanhood, the thing that lets her get sympathy and causes people to defend her violently, something that actually no one does FOR Black women but is often aimed at them in different fandoms.
It’s been a while since we had a fandom racism bingo card. Last time, it was my partially tongue-in-cheek one about the fandoms for Korean pop and hip hop with a heavy tilt towards cultural appropriation and antiblackness. This time, like it says on the label, it’s about misogynoir in fandom.
As always, I do look towards my fannish past with this, and I recommend people learn their fandom history about the nature of bingo cards to deliver understanding of/clown on tough topics… like this one about racism in the immediate aftermath of racefail 09. It’s not an inherently “anti” thing unless you’re one of the extremely fandom-minded individuals that believes criticism of fandom at any any level or with any sharpness is automatically “anti fandom” in action and if you think that… well.
Anyway, one statement that lives in my mind on the regular comes from a speech Malcolm X gave in 1962 at Ronald Stokes’ funeral where he said that
“The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman. The most un-protected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the black woman.”
Fandom, especially when it comes to antiblackness, is not exempt from the issues that plague the wider world.
In fandom, misogynoir is accepted as a thing people do and it always has been acceptable in fandom at large regardless of how much people claim fandom as a space for women. Despite the perception that queer/women’s fandom is super progressive, it’s become increasingly clear to Black fans in particular that that’s far from the case. Misogynoir – aimed at Black fans, celebrities, and characters – is an acceptable norm in fandom and something that isn’t just defended, but that has become a bonding activity on a level that even sees other Black people partaking in it to build and maintain community bonds, not just non-Black people.
Back in 2019, I wrote What Fandom Racism Looks Like: PickMe POC to talk about trends I’d been noticing in transformative fandom – queer/women’s fandom focusing on creating transformative fandom works to (re) claim the text as their own – where some fans of color would trot themselves into the line of fire and set themselves up as racists’ first line of defense from “mean” people of color who dare to talk about racism in fandom.
September was super busy and I’m really satisfied with everything I’ve done. Once again, half of it can’t be revealed yet because it’s stuff I did for upcoming work, but the other half of it has been… pretty great content dropped on my website and Patreon.
The biggest thing that happened in September was that I attended Fiyah Magazine’s Fiyahcon 2021 – and had a great time attending and speaking on panels. I also… won The 2021 Ignyte Critics Award??
Jeanne and I catch up and compare notes about the rest of Loki, how our expectations were met, exceeded, or underwhelmed , and the current state of fandom discourse (which has managed to shift so hard in just a matter of months).
I got my friend Odawel to talk about one of the big things they learned from the Fire Emblem fandom and how it speaks to the way that white people in fandom can miss big bad issues in plots on their way to stanning certain characters!
When I say I’m a diehard Fire Emblem fan, I mean it. I’ve played almost every single one, most of them upwards of twenty full playthroughs, and I could probably recite the entirety of Path of Radiance to someone line by line if I was pushed.
That’s why when I heard about the combat changes for Fire Emblem Three Houses, I held off. I wasn’t sure I wanted to play something that altered the core game mechanics, but then one of my white friends told me, “Hey, I played it, and it’s definitely different, but it’s still a Fire Emblem game. And let me tell you. You’re going to love Dimitri.”
I mean this in the nicest way possible (which is still a bit mean, I know), but Anita really does need to do some heavy work to unpack her issues without unloading them onto other people. Across the series, Anita has increasingly used the language of therapy to get around certain issues with their relationships. There are all of these moments where the different characters make a point of going “we’re in therapy now” or “so and so is trying to work out their issues in therapy”.
But then it’s like… never effective?
Asher has been in therapy for half of his appearances and yet, he’s still really not able to handle the fact that he’s not Jean Claude and Anita’s main man or that Micah isn’t interested in him or that he still has extensive scarring from being tortured like 300 years ago.
Anita is in therapy for every single thing under the sun and yet chapter six still opens with her anxieties over relationships and stress over her not having the love she thought she’d have… all over holding Rafael’s hand and walking with him in-step.
September has been… a lot. I’m putting this together at the halfway point of the month and I just… want to take a nap. I want to rest. But I already got a bunch of content consumption down for the month so I felt I could pop this in the schedule and keep it moving. Cool? Cool.
How Do We Criticize Our Own? (Also, Stop Calling Lizzo a Mammy)
I love Princess Weekes. I adore her insight, the nuance and brightness she brings to tough topics, and her really great POV on fandom. This is no exception.
Criticism is something I feel very strongly about. I cut my teeth on cultural and social criticism (which overlaps often) by Said, Baldwin, and hooks to say nothing of critics in the present. Criticism is like… opinion backed up by facts and explanation. You don’t have to agree all the time – and I know the joy of going full Mariah “Sorry I Don’t Know Her” Carey when I see criticism I dislike or disagree with. It’s valid. You’re valid.
But people can’t quite understand how you criticize media made by your community – or that we can. Criticizing Wynonna Earp or Lost Girls for their very beige queer representation (and fridged Black male characters) doesn’t mean the shows are bad. It just means that they can’t be 100% what I need as a fan. Talking about what a show like Killjoys – which Princess mentions and has queer characters of color in main, supporting, and villainous roles, as a show you wish people liked more… isn’t hating on either Emily Andras production (she was creator of WE and producer/showrunner of LG at one point).
We get to critique things on our own time and on our own dime. What’s important is making sure we’re creating and consuming criticism in good faith and for the right reasons. If I got into a show for spite just to write about it and piss off the fandom… that’s not a good reason. My critique would be bad and biased in a way that’s not helpful. If you engage with criticism, knowing you can’t stand having your worldview challenged or your interests criticized, whatever response you have in a heated media fan moment? It’s unlikely to be good… or in good faith.
The concept of “critical consumption” seems to kick everyone’s ass in fandom.
Let someone know that you think that critical thinking and reading should feature at least a little bit in how they engage with the content they consume for their fandom – source media or fanworks – or how they create it and you can expect a whole lot of incredibly angry people acting like you’ve just told them you want to burn every single Arthur/Eames age-gap omegaverse story on the internet.
Or, you know… they call you an anti for using your brain.
So uh… I wasn’t expecting to win the Ignyte Award for Critics in 2021. Part of it, is that I don’t expect anything really and this way I get to be pleasantly surprised in the end.
The other thing is that the past two years have been a hell so upsetting that it has been hard to believe in myself and the power of my community. I’ve done my best work, tried to be my best self – but a lot of times, the reaction has been frankly horrific harassment including dogpiling, spammy comments, and successful attempts at destroying and disrupting my life/career.
So far, the only thing I haven’t gotten have been death threats. There’s been at least one false police report filed (according to the person who filed it), different kinds of slurs, and still-active attempts to destroy my reputation and career. But not death threats… yet.
All because people think I care… about what sort of fictional characters they want to see kiss on the mouth.
There’s no such thing as an “unproblematic fave.” People — and the things that we create — are informed by the world around us, and we can be exposed to some pretty problematic environments that are hard to move away from. And if people, especially ones we admire, are going to continue making both positive and negative choices, then what actually matters in fandom isn’t finding some mythical angel celebrity who never does anything wrong. Rather, it’s unpacking our own responses. What do we do with the realization that someone responsible for our fandom happiness in some capacity has been careless, or made a mistake, or been intentionally cruel or predatory?
A) I forgot to link to this article last week when it went up! My bad! Things have been very busy!
B) As with the majority of my work, this pulls from experiences I’ve had within fandom and how I had to fight off the knee-jerk response to go “no that person couldn’t have done that”. I mention it in the piece (and have mentioned it elsewhere, I’m sure) but I used to be a huge BIGBANG fan. My bias wrecker was the rapper TOP. My bias… was Seungri. My nieces and I listened to his solo stuff regularly and we thought he seemed cool… until I started seeing threads on Twitter about the Burning Sun nightclub scandal and the extent that he was… very much not cool.
Instantly, I cut him off. I took the BIGBANG songs out of my playlists, deleted his solo songs from my phone, and resolved to never say a nice thing about him again – a thing made that much easier by the knowledge of the things he’s rumored and confirmed to have done. We don’t speak his name in our house and he’s basically dead to us.
But that sort of merciless pruning isn’t the norm. We link so much of ourselves to the celebrities that we love that sometimes, when our favorite public figures are accused of something minor to majorly awful, we look for reasons to keep on moving. We look for excuses to explain away the minor-to-major bad thing our person did. Sometimes, as seen in multiple fandoms and especially in the case of Seungri and his still-active fanbase, we hurt others over the situation rather than acknowledging the harm done by this public figure.
But we don’t have to. We can see when our favorites do bad things – whatever they are – and decide on our own how we’re going to handle it without defending them or hurting someone else in their name.
Struggling with selective reading comprehension issues and think I’ve said something I clearly haven’t? Use this resourceto brush up on your lackluster reading comprehension skills and consider leaving me out of your journey!
(And if you think me linking to a resource for something folks CLEARLY struggle with when they come to my site is “abusive“, you need to speak to someone else about that.)