Meme-ing For A Reason #19: Adults Aren’t Marginalized In Fandom, Sorry

The “distracted boyfriend” meme where the distracted boyfriend represents “a grown ass adult in fandom who should know better”, their girlfriend in blue represents “their bio that says ‘minors DNI’ or ’21+ only”, and the woman in the red dress represents “someone under 21 in fandom having an opinion on or criticism of fandom”.

I don’t know how to say this but fellow grown ass adults in fandom… you are not a marginalized person within fandom because you’re older than twenty-five. Being 25+ isn’t a marginalization in fandom – or many other places until you get up into the fifties and sixties – and it’s not at all comparable to being a fan of color.

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[Guest Post] Engaging With Characters of Color

When it comes to fandom, characters of color consistently receive less fan engagement  in comparison to their white counterparts. There are many ways that fans engage with their favorite characters, not just in art and writing, but also through fancams, zines, playlists, or the humble shitpost. After all, someone has to do the hard work of editing Community dialogue onto screenshots of unrelated media. When it comes to fan engagement, it might not stick out in all fandoms, but there is almost always a bias shown in not only the amount of fan content created for characters of color but the type of content as well. Yes, a character may have a decent number of fanart and gifsets when scrolling through their tag on Tumblr. However, this love is often not reflected in the amount of fanfiction or meta within the same fandom.

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Meme-ing For A Reason: Racism In Escapist Fandom? More Likely Than You Think

The “it’s more likely than you think” meme where the top text reads “Tons of horrific and active racism in the fandom [space] *I* use for escapism as a queer person?”

As I write this, there are Star Trek fans mad about Star Trek: The Animated Series character Admiral Robert April’s upcoming appearance in Strange New Worlds. April is now being played by Canadian actor Adrian Holmes, who currently plays Uncle Phil on Bel-Air, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot. Obviously, Holmes looks nothing like the original admiral… but is that such a bad thing? After all, as Jamie Lovett points out over at ComicBook: “Despite being one of Starfleet’s most highly-decorated captains, April has previously only appeared in canon in a single episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series.”

One episode in a show older than most of the people complaining.

And yet, there are people screaming and moaning about “the wokes” forcing “political correctness” on Star Trek, a show that has apparently never delved into progressive politics or had people of color in main roles. Except… Star Trek, while imperfect in execution, was a science fiction pioneer in how it portrayed a relatively progressive society with diverse people learning, loving, and living together. From day one it was a show that put people of color and women on-screen… and had detractors because of that.

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Meme-ing For A Reason #17: No Critical Engagement, Just Compliments

The “No Take, Only Throw” meme where the dog (representing fandom) first asks people to “Please engage meaningfully”. When A hand reaches out to take the ball/engage meaningfully, the fandom-dog says “No critical engagement! Only compliment!!”

There’s a tweet blowing up right now that asks people to “talk about arbitrary things in fics that make you not want to read them”:

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Who’s Afraid of A Black Blaise Zabini? Everyone in 2005 Harry Potter Fandom… Apparently.

When we talk about “toxic fandoms” and racism, the easiest example people go to are male nerds mad about Black people being cast to play comic book redheads and other “historically white” characters. However, one little known or talked about example is the way that the Harry Potter fandom from 2005 practically went to war over the one-line reveal that Slytherin Blaise Zabini was actually Black.


One perfect example of antiblackness in fandom that proves false these claims that Black characters and celebrities are just “lacking” something to make them worth shipping (characterization, canon romance, tapping tropes) and that is why no one ships them?

The Harry Potter fandom’s response to Blaise Zabini before and after JK Rowling’s reveal that Blaise was male (2004 in a Q&A) and Black (“He recognized a Slytherin from their year, a tall black boy with high cheekbones and long, slanting eyes” in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Chapter 7: “The Slug Club in 2005).

Blaise Zabini’s only appearance prior to that book and film was in a single line in the first Harry Potter book (““Well done, Ron, excellent,” said Percy Weasley pompously across Harry as “Zabini, Blaise,” was made a Slytherin.). However, people instantly made up all sorts of headcanons for this character based off of a name and Hogwarts house.

For the eight years between Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, here’s all what fandom frequently decided Blaise Zabini was:

  • Italian
  • Tan (but sometimes pale)
  • Dark haired with light, sometimes blue or green eyes
  • Draco’s best friend
  • Draco’s boyfriend
  • A pain in the ass to Hermione
  • Sometimes shipped with Pansy Parkinson
  • Sometimes a girl
  • A bisexual Chad
  • A cool badass
  • Occasionally very Gender (and written as androgynous or gender queer/fluid)
  • A pureblood
  • Interesting
  • Sexy
  • Charming

He didn’t have any characterization or lines in canon, but he sure did have all of that.

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What Fandom Racism Looks Like: “Then Make Your Own and Stop Complaining”

A friend sent me a Reddit post in the r/FanFiction subreddit made by a Black fan venting (it’s literally tagged as such) about how it feels for her to read fan fiction while Black and essentially looking for support. Fandom being fandom – aka “racist as hell” – the most highly upvoted comments in the sub on her comment are from people insulting her, insisting that she’s an entitled “Black American” for venting, and complaining about “wokeness” in fandom (and some that even wind up getting in digs at people like myself apparently leading the charge).

A common thread across many of the comments? They’re not just telling the OP to “make your own” – especially in the case of Reader Inserts, but they’re also assuming she doesn’t contribute anything to fandom at all in the first place. If she’s “just” complaining without contributing – even though she says she’s a writer and has a clear history of engaging on the sub and other parts of reddit as a writer -, then it’s not her place to complain.

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[Stitch Takes Notes] Slash/Drag: Appropriation and Visibility in the Age of Hamilton

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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On Generalizing Entire Fandoms: Revisiting #NotAllFans

Originally posted on Patreon December 3, 2021. (A few edits were made to the piece before public posting.)


There’s a James Baldwin video from a 1968 appearance on the Dick Cavett show that features prominently in I Am Not Your Negro.

Recently, the clip has been floating around social media, and I think it’s actually incredibly relevant to conversations we keep having in fandom. Especially the part transcribed below the video:

JAMES BALDWIN: I don’t know what most white people in this country feel. But I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions. I don’t know if white Christians hate Negroes or not, but I know we have a Christian church which is white and a Christian church which is black. I know, as Malcolm X once put it, the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday. That says a great deal for me about a Christian nation. It means I can’t afford to trust most white Christians, and I certainly cannot trust the Christian church. I don’t know whether the labor unions and their bosses really hate me—that doesn’t matter—but I know I’m not in their union. I don’t know whether the real estate lobby has anything against black people, but I know the real estate lobby is keeping me in the ghetto. I don’t know if the board of education hates black people, but I know the textbooks they give my children to read and the schools we have to go to. Now, this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.


A common complaint I’ve gotten whenever I mention that a specific fandom is racist or say, generally, that fandom as a space is racist is… “don’t generalize this fandom” or “it’s wrong to generalize a fandom for what a few people do”. Some people literally pull the #NotAllFans approach I spoke of years ago.

This has been a constant over the years with people deigning to acknowledge racism in fandom being bad or terrible but then turning around to hit me with “but you shouldn’t generalize a fandom as racist because that’s just as bad”.

That’s… not how that works.

Racism is absolutely worse than people saying “hey that’s racist”.

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Applied To Fandom: Accessible Anti Racist Policy/Practice

This was originally posted on Patreon! Thanks to my awesome Patrons for giving me feedback across the process and helping me use my words effectively to get the ideas out!


Tackling racism in/from the big institutions within fandom – a Big Named Fan with a 20k following, that fan studies scholar with a book and a bad reputation, or the Organization for Transformative Works itself – is scary. They’re huge, they have followings that they don’t even need to actively weaponize against you, and it’s hard to wear down a big rock in your online community.

So, when it comes to figuring out how to handle racism in your fandom communities and make these spaces inhospitable to racists, let’s start small.

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Meme-Ing For A Reason #16: You CENSOR FANDOM?

Is this our first text-based meme for this series? I do believe it is!

Rather than me pulling from a photo meme, I jacked the “You kick Miette” meme for my own ridiculous ends. I’m very pleased with the result.

I know a lot of people have been watching the various conversations about what content is “allowed” to be in fandom spaces with bated breath and anxiety – especially as we know that conservatives in the United States and elsewhere trying to ban books about queerness and race/racism. It is documented that the people and stories most often affected and silenced by censorship – even non-governmental – are queer or “non-white”

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State of Fandom Racism 2021

Episode Description

In which I cover the current state of racism in queer/feminist fandom. Newsflash: it’s even more racist than previous years and yet, next year will be worse!

Episode Notes

Transcript

0:00:01.8: State of Fandom Racism, 2021.

In 2021, Fandoms got more racist, so much more racist. Sure, the dude bros’ mad that anyone not like them gets cast and things are up and about, but my focus is on queer feminist Fandom, and friends, it’s a scary fact that so few of you realize how deeply enmeshed open, white supremacist ideologies and languages are in these spaces. Think about how often people use ‘woke’ in a derogatory way, about fans of color talking about racism, and you might start to see a corner of the full picture.

Queer/Feminist Fandom in 2021 has been a place where people are openly racist in the defense of whatever they like or care about in Fandom, it doesn’t matter what they’re into. It just matters that they feel as though their side is the right side, and that justifies being super racist in its defense.

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Meme-ing For A Reason #15: What If We Improved Fandom Somewhat?

Matt Bors’ “We should improve society somewhat” comic panel turned into a meme where the person on the left says “We should improve fandom somewhat” and the person on the right popping out of the well saying, “Yet you are in fandom yourself & have ships. Curious! I am very intelligent.”

People critical of the institution of fandom in any capacity and with any heat whatsoever are seen as outsiders to fandom. No matter how we deliver a critique, or how gently we suggest that fandom could be a little better, it is received as aggression and violence.

It’s seen as well… anti fandom.

Even when the people speaking are long-time fans, people who’ve lived online and moved through tons of different fandoms, we’re always seen as outsiders, especially when it comes to us talking about ways that fandom can be made more accessible for all of us – instead of just white women and queer people.

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Link Lineup – November 2021

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! 😀


Confronting the Questionable Legacy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’

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.

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