“certain bodies could be read as blank slates not already overdetermined by race” – a partial quote from page 17 of Melanie E. S. Kohnen’s Screening the Closet: Queer Representation, Visibility, and Race in American Film and Television.
Some of fandom’s favorite characters are “blank slates”.
Beige blank slates, that is.
General Armitage Hux from the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
Arthur and Eames from Inception.
Q from Skyfall and Spectre.
Clint and Phil Coulson in the first Thor movie.
Various minor white male characters in a show or film that somehow became one of/the most popular characters in their source media or fandom.
In this installment of “What Fandom Racism Looks Like”, we’ll be looking at the idea of the “blank slate” primarily in Western media-focused slash fandom spaces.
We’ll be asking what a blank slate looks like, what these fans and fandoms get out of these characters, what characters will never be considered blank enough to be loved, and how, while the claim that fandom prefers “blank slate characters” might well be true and there are many instances where the Beige Blank Slate provides necessary representation within fandom, the preference that prioritizes white male characters above all others kind of messes up something that has the potential to be great.Read More »
Note: I absolutely wrote the wrong title down initally because I am a space case. Deal with it.
I went and saw Fantastic Beasts this past week.
Considering that my video review is almost an hour long, obviously it inspired a whole host of grouchy thoughts on my end. Mainly that the film’s beautiful cinematography and the way that the magical creatures first brought to our attention in Rowling’s 2001 magizoological textbook are brought to life on the big screen don’t make up for barely unbroken whiteness, Rowling’s misuse of Native cultures in and out of the film, and what reads to me as a really shitty narrative about abuse survivors.
I fell out of love with the Harry Potter series pretty early on. I liked the idea of the franchise and owned all of the books at one time or another, but with every new tidbit that Rowling revealed about her characters and the world that they lived in, I found myself increasingly disenchanted. This is all thanks to Rowling’s constant need to express regret for everything except how lacking her works were in diversity and her new material which contains things like confirming/canonizing her “lycanthropy as a stand-in for AIDS/HIV” stance or the way she views Native cultures as a monolith while misrepresenting and misusing Native peoples and cultures.
I watched Fantastic Beasts specifically because I wanted to check the film out and provide an honest opinion of it. I did go into it expecting to hate two specific things (the lack of diversity and Johnny Depp) but I was surprised at all the other things that made me annoyed or uncomfortable throughout watching it.
Note: If you’re unfamiliar with the critical slant I tend to take when watching films, understand that this isn’t going to be a review where I say super goopy things about the film. I think I say one and a half nice things about it and they’re not very nice at that. So be prepared for a rather caustic look at the thing you probably love!
Notes, clarification, warnings, and links to thing you might want to read are under the cut!
AKA How to appropriate cultures and lose respect in the process
Content notes: Aside from discussing racism in different forms across different cultures, this post also will talk briefly about the Holocaust and Transatlantic slavery. Note that I am AfroCaribbean and my lens is vaguely Western tinted as is much of the racism that I speak of. This doesn’t render my thoughts on racism (especially anti-black racism) invalid, but tends to kind of keep it narrow.
If you want to share your experiences with cultural or historical appropriation in fandom as a fan who is from somewhere else in the world or that has a different cultural background, feel free to message me and we’ll work something out in terms of posting here or on my tumblr.
If you’re arriving to this party a little bit later, head on over to the introduction post for this hybrid essay series so you can get a feel for how things are done here.
It’s been a long month full of conversations about shipping and race. Many of these comments have been insightful and almost all of the responses that I have received so far have been positive.
This month, we’re looking at aspects of cultural appropriation in fandom and the ways that fandom frequently takes the culture and history of real and marginalized people and applies them to white characters.
In addition to defining cultural/historical appropriation and discussing why they’re not cool, we’ll also be looking at specifics like the use of horrific events in history (the Holocaust and the Transatlantic Slave Trade) as background/scenery for ship within fandom, and the Alpha/Beta/Omega trope and how fans tend to coopt and mutate actual history in order to manufacture gender/race –based oppression for cis white male characters.
We’re covering some heavy stuff both in terms of content and density. When talking about this aspect of how fandom gets it horribly wrong when creating fanworks, we’re going to look at:
Defining cultural appropriation in fandom and why cultural appropriation seems small but is a big deal
Defining historical appropriation in fandom
Why certain kinds of Alternate Universe (AU) ideas are and should always be a BAD IDEA in fandom
Manufactured oppression in fandom spaces & fanworks
The way that cultural and historical appropriation in fandom doesn’t necessarily respect or honor anyone.
I know this seems like a lot of text content, it’s all for a good cause. So let’s get started!
This is part one of a hybrid essay-rant series focusing on fandom (the collective community) and its intense race/racism problems. If you’re new to my blog and to this project, start here with the introduction post. Make sure to click the links and read the content because they’ll add further nuance to the essay here.
In addition to talking about race and racism, this post also mentions incest (with regard to how fandom interprets familial relationships to suit their shipping needs).
One thing that becomes overwhelmingly clear when it comes to the treatment of characters of color is the lengths that fandom is willing to go to in order to get them out of the way of their favorite white character ships. There are so many techniques that we could tackle, many of them framed subtly enough that it’s difficult to combat them, but for the purposes of this post we’re going to look at five of the most popular:
Willful misinterpretation of relationships
Theorizing that a character of color is really evil (and therefore shouldn’t be shipped/the relationship should be placed under suspicion)
Deciding that a character of color in a POC/White Fandom Darling ship is actually asexual and/or a “strong [race/ethnicity] man/woman/non-binary person that don’t need no significant other”
POC reduced to an agony aunt character to get white characters together