Sometimes, I take notes on the academic work I’m studying or using for articles. Last time, I covered Slash/Drag. Today I’m tackling Samantha Aburime’s “The cult structure of the American anti”, a symposium piece published in a 2021 edition of Transformative Works and Cultures. Following editorial (not peer) review, Aburime’s work has become a dominant reference across fandoms and the “final word” on antis and anti fandom. As such, I feel as though I should analyze the piece and take notes about where it gets things right, where it gets things wrong, and what my reactions are to such a piece and its value to fan studies.
In the interest of full disclosure, Aburime has had me blocked on Twitter from before I knew of their existence and that has been a mutual block for at least a year. Despite that, I provide Aburime with the same amount of academic respect that they approach me/my work with.
Now, let’s start with the abstract:
The online-based group known as antis, which originated around 2016 in the United States, exhibit morality-based, cult-like behavior and perpetuate hate speech and censorship in online spaces.
First, there are multiple errors in the opening sentence. “Anti fandom” as we know it significantly predates 2016. On fandom wiki Fanlore, there’s documentation that refers to people labeling themselves as “antis” (or anti ____) in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom twenty years ago. Even in 2016, this would’ve been an incorrect statement to make if you were only using Tumblr fandoms because in 2012, the “anti Sterek” tag really kicked off alongside tags like “teen wolf fandom problems”, “anti scott mccall”, and “scott mccall defense squad” tags.
Which leads us to the second problem in the abstract… The way that Aburime positions antis or anti fandom as something that exists solely in United States fandoms or fandoms “infected” by “Western thinking”. (Which is in and of itself racist, I feel…)
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Today we’re doing some note-taking over Francesca Coppa’s “Slash/Drag: Appropriation and Visibility in the Age of Hamilton” in the 2018 book Companion to Media Fandom and Fan Studies.
when bucky barnes comes out with dark eyes and no memory, i think of myself. of how certain words make me fall back into the places i never want to return to. of how i can’t erase everything that’s been taught to me by the people who hurt me, but i’m trying. that love, above everything, helps me ground myself to the present so i’m not sent tumbling.
Coppa uses an opening quote from Tumblr user Inkskinned that really answers some unrelated thoughts and questions I’ve had about the violence people direct towards people who criticize fandom especially in the context of “comfort characters” – which tend to be white male presenting dudes in canon who are queered and, to an extent on top of that, “feminized”. Inkskinned clearly identifies with Bucky and his trauma is familiar and used to unpack and map their own trauma and responses to triggers left behind. So what happens when someone like Inkskinned – who is probably lovely, I do not know them and did not search them out at all as I did notes – sees someone talk critically (unpacking him or jabbing at him) about Bucky? Chances are… even if it’s privately, they’re not gonna have a great reaction because he has become their emotional support damaged white man.
Why slash? The question has been asked again and again, by journalists in sensation pieces, by scholars in academic articles, and by fans themselves in essays and convention panels and blog posts: why have women created this enormous archive of romantic and erotic stories between male characters from television and film? Why Kirk/Spock? Why Holmes/Watson (retroactively dubbed “Johnlock” in the age of portmanteau pairing names)? Why do we ship Dean/Castiel on Supernatural?
Anyway, moving on from that opening quote, Coppa starts by poking at the question/s asked of slash: Why? Immediately, the whiteness jumps out because in the “whys” are revealed some “why nots”.
Why not Sulu/Chekov? Why not Luke Cage/Danny Rand? Why not Scott McCall/Stiles (or another character if you don’t multi-ship your fandom bicycle)? Why is slash fandom preoccupied with white men for the most part? (This has shifted a bit in the years after Coppa’s chapter was published but a hefty amount of East Asian people – different diasporic communities whose homeland’s source media has become popular in fandom spaces – have spoken about how they feel about the way Western fandom understands masculinity/men outside of their narrow spaces.)
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This is a pint-sized primer about the differences between queer representation, queer coding, queer reading, and queer baiting because I wanted to have something small to keep around and kind of… wave it at folks that want an easy way to know the difference.
This is literally the simplest I could make this (because I’ve got dense academic brain) and so it skims over a lot of crunchy academic writing to make its points and be as clear as possible.
If you want more in-depth texts or conversations about this, I personally love the late Alexander Doty’s work along with Harry Benshoff’s Monsters in the Closet, but there are a bunch more academics and whatnot writing about this in media fandom and related academic fields. I’d be happy to point y’all in the related directions.
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Writers these days are awfully sensitive. I keep seeing published authors – and people who want to be published – wailing on social media about their fear of censorship and how we’re basically just a few bleak moments away from turning to book burning as a society.
When these writers wail about censorship, what they’re generally wailing against is… the right that readers have to comment critically about the content they’re consuming or prepared to consume. Readers criticizing a newly/unreleased book (via an advance copy) for unaddressed problematic or even bigoted content isn’t the same as a government deciding what people can create and consume when it comes to content.
Over on Intersections in the Darkest Visions in her article “Criticism Will Never Be Censorship“, my friend Lyana pokes holes in the very flawed idea that criticism is what’s really wrong with publishing these days… (instead of how publishing allows bigoted, problematic, and just plain flawed content to be bought, published, and promoted without thinking of marginalized fans prior to like… all of that).
It’s an amazing article across the board, but here’s one choice quote from it that should get you on your way over there to read the whole thing:
“Social theory is not something convenient you can toss away the minute it’s no longer profitable for your writing. Media doesn’t stop affecting reality because it happens to be fictional or in a more speculative genre. If anything, speculative fiction can have the most powerful effect on its readers because its foundation rests on the worlds we create, not the world that we currently live in.”
Go check out “Criticism Will Never Be Censorship” right now!
Stitch Takes Notes is an ongoing and flat out random feature now up on my website wherein I share the non-urban fantasy notes I take for various academic/academic-adjacent books I’m reading.
I’m a huge fan of Screening the Closet: Queer Representation, Visibility, and Race in American Film and Television, Melanie E. S. Kohnen’s book on whiteness and queer representation/visibility in Western media.
Everything about this books speaks to my own (more informal) work on race in fandom and I want to shake it at a bunch of people. I’m largely reading it for fun – as opposed to reading it because I need it immediately for a piece – and I’ve been taking notes on it and putting it into my context/the context of fan-studies in a totally sweet Batman notebook.
I’m not going to put all of my notes out there because then you’d probably wind up with half of the book quoted online because of how much of it I find valuable, but I wanted to put some of my notes up so that y’all can see the connections I’ve been making from the book.
So here are some notes and quotes from when I was going over pages 18-19 and page 25 of Kohnen’s brilliant book:Read More »
2018 sure was a year…
I did a lot of really awesome things, but I’ve also had a really rough year with no sign of it getting better. As I write this, I’m still unemployed and I have no idea when or even if I’ll be able to get health insurance, pay for my wordpress subscription/domain name, or even buy holiday gifts for my family.
But it hasn’t been all bad.
In 2018, I hit a bunch of personal, professional, and academic milestones.Read More »
It’s almost midnight so… This will be short.
My roommates in the dorm are super sweet young women who have been nothing but generous and kind since we all moved in back in August.
They are awesome and without roommates as amazing as they are, I doubt my dorm life would be anywhere near as amazing as it has been!
I’m smushing the 5th and 6th together so I don’t mess up my blogging goals for December too badly.
2017 was a really good year for me book wise.
As in I bought a lot of books.
I’m really good at sales. I mean, if there’s a book I want on sale, chances are that I’ll find it. Couple that with our on-campus Barnes and Noble and the fact that I’ve made bargain bin diving a hobby and well… I’ve bought a bunch of books.
2017 was also the year that I started seriously preordering books in order to support my favorite writers. I have minor memory issues so if you don’t remind me repeatedly to do something, I straight up won’t do it. I’ll think about it every once in a while, very fondly even, but my brain needs active reminders or… in the case of book pre-orders, it needs choice taken out of my hands.Read More »
I flew to San Diego in April for PCA/ACA, a national conference for well… pop culture (and American culture apparently). I’m going to do another “Stitch’s Stuff” post on the conference itself, but this one’s about San Diego.
Prior to April of this year, the farthest away I’d been from my home in South Florida was New York. When I was eleven or twelve, my parents and I took a Greyhound bus all the way from Miami up to visit my family in the Bronx. It’s almost 1300 miles.
This year, I flew almost twice that distance to get to San Diego with my darling friend Katelynn at my side.Read More »
I think I finished the first Tokyo Ghoul series at the beginning of the year.
I still haven’t shut up about it.
The series is one of my major special interests and, it’s a series that I haven’t let go of even though I’ve technically stopped reading the manga. (The sequel series, while it contains interesting aspects of worldbuilding and develops some of my favorite characters very well, has problems I’m currently unwilling to engage with so I’ve dropped the series for now.)Read More »
Can I count Coco for December 2nd?
Because I’m gonna.
I saw Coco today with a friend that I hadn’t seen in over a month. I lived with Host Family for about a year and a half, only moving to the dorms for this last year of graduate school because I wanted to be closer to my friends and family members in the next county.
I’d made plans to stay in their lives because I truly love the family and without them, I couldn’t have lived in Miami since 2016.
Host Daughter, a younger woman who’s like a little sister to me, is one of the aspects of living with this family that I missed. And when Host Mom offered me a chance to spend a few days with them, I took it.
Same goes for seeing Coco.
Coco was like… Everything.
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Clearly, I haven’t been stressed enough so I’ve decided that I’m going to challenge myself to write about one thing I read, did, wrote, bought, saw, etc in 2017 every day for the rest of December.
For December 1st, I’d like to talk about…
I hate the Joker.
I think it’s practically a part of my identity this point like I’m known for my intense Joker dislike back in meatspace (and like… obnoxious conversations about cannibalism but like… whatever).
To me, the Joker represents some of the worst things about superhero (villain??) narratives and his fanbase is generally super annoying to me because they claim to like him “as a villain” but then jump through hoops to talk about why he’s “just misunderstood” or “totally a badass”.
So why am I writing my thesis about him?Read More »
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