Stitch @ Teen Vogue: On Woobification and Why Infantilizing Villains Can Harm Useful Discourse

If you’re going into a piece of media determined to empathize with the villain above the heroes of the piece, you’re not getting the same story as everyone else. As a result, these fans take their own headcanons as fact and harshly punish or harass other fans that have a different point of view. Point out that Kylo Ren and Hux are purposeful fascist allegories with the rise of the First Order tying back to Nazis? Expect to have people repeat the manufactured sob story about Kylo’s childhood (which literally wasn’t even that bad) as an excuse to spend the rest of their lives on the internet harassing you. (I know this because it’s happened to me and many others.) Try talking about how Loki’s initial entry into the MCU has him try to do a genocide and later try to take over the world as Thanos’ messenger. When you do, expect people to bring up how he’s a transracial adoptee suffering from abandonment issues and child abuse. We are literally not allowed to talk negatively/critically about the bad things villains do — even when we say explicitly that we like the characters we’re talking about — because he’s their blorbo or little meow meow now and fandom has decided to make that position sacred.

Think Your Fave Fictional Villain Is the Real Hero? Think Again.
Feel free to head on to the Teen Vogue social media post and check out incredible examples of the very behavior I’m talking about from villain stans who think the mildest criticism of their faves — including calling them villains or pointing out when they’re fascists — is violence that should be met with violence in kind. Share the link and report the assholes in the comments and quotes!

I think the funniest thing about the response to this article is the number of people who didn’t read it or read it in bad faith insisting this is “fake journalism” out to oppress villain fuckers because I hate villains. I know I don’t really like Kylo Ren, Hux, or their fans who’ve been harassing me for most of a decade of this point with no sign of stoping (and every sign of escalating), but the last thing I am is a “villain anti” or whatever the Terminally Online are calling it these days.

Last year, I wrote about how we like villains and which villains get the hype. That I think is the sort of piece the haters decided this one was. Sight unseen, fueled solely by Kylo in the header and my reputation in fandom, Rey/Kylo shippers and an army of villain stans once again descended in order to tear what they thought was my argument to shreds and accuse me of… shaming the youth for loving villains.

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Applied to Fandom: Power Fantasies

This begins, as it often does, with a tumblr post.

Tumblr user allofthefeelings made a quick little post about power fantasies, framing them as the reason why fandom is the way it is with all these aggressive, fighty people. And I agree and disagree simultaneously. The entire post is so small that I am going to paste it below:

I think it’s really important to talk about how different people have different power fantasies.

For example:

  • For some people, the idea of someone redeeming a villain is a power fantasy.
  • For other people, the idea of a villain being defeated is a power fantasy.
  • And for other people, the idea of a character owning their villainy is a power fantasy.

I would argue a lot of fandom conflicts re: villains come from people being unable to see that their fantasies, which put them in control of a narrative (and all three of these are designed to give the author or reader control of the narrative in different ways) are someone else’s horror stories.

Let’s get into it!

Allofthefeelings is correct that different people’s power fantasies contribute to an environment of fandom that’s hostile to people who don’t have that specific fantasy. The thing is, I think that we should build this out broadly to look beyond villains (which I think isn’t an incorrect approach but very limited despite that) to the ways people have, want, and grab for power within fandom spaces.

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My Big Ben Solo Problem

Originally posted on Patreon November 10, 2020.

I used to like Kylo Ren.

No joke!

I have a lunchbox I bought from Gamestop, stickers,  a bunch of tees from various nerd stores, and essentially okay, I was that person who bought Kylo merch back in the early days of the sequel trilogy.

Unfortunately, his standom ruined that for me with their insistence that Kylo was just a little baby who didn’t do anything wrong and the way a large amount of the fandom sees nothing wrong with harassing people who are even mildly critical of their ship.

(Please go through the comments and quote retweets on twitter to Ashley Reese’s tweet hyping her Snapewives article for an example of how awful his fandom insists on being in his name!)

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What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Weaponized White Womanhood

Note 3/31/21: Are you here because you googled “Jenny Nicholson racist”? Did a Twitter user link this to you to explain why ~people~ don’t like Jenny in the replies to a tweet calling out a breadtube user? Let me clarify a thing for you:

THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT JENNY AND IT IS NOT ABOUT WHAT SHE MAY OR MAY NOT SHIP. She’s mentioned in one segment in the article and over like 4-7 tweets (out of over 100) in the supplemental PDF/thread. It is literally not about her or about my beef with what other people ship in the Star Wars fandom but about white women and BIPOC who ship Rey/Kylo who tried to say John Boyega was a danger to Daisy Ridley over an IG comment about REY. Please learn to read and think critically and then GO AWAY. Thanks!

Content notes: As with a majority of my pieces, this one focuses closely on antiblackness including the antiblackness inherent in weaponizing white womanhood to excuse dogpiling and slandering John Boyega as a misogynist, as a potential sexual predator, as a bunch of other gross and untrue things. I talk briefly about some examples of Rey/Kylo fics from the fandom’s past including non-graphic (I believe) mentions of sexual assault and include links to a recap of one and an image of the other.

White women have most (if not all) of the actual observable power in transformative fandom spaces.

White women are the image of the typical “fan” in Western transformative fandom spaces.

They are frequently the most popular Big Named Fans (BNFs) in online spaces, the people who dominate discussions about and displays of Being A Fan. If you’re in transformative fandom and you see a particular set of headcanons or a white dude slash suddenly get supremely popular out of nowhere, chances are that a group of white lady BNFs are behind it.

White women in fandom often get to “graduate” from fandom, dominating what we and outsiders think about transformative with staff writer, researcher, and professor jobs that they can tie directly into their experiences and time in fandom.

(Look at the overarching fan studies academic field for an example or fandom-focused journalism on sites like WIRED, The Daily Dot, The Nerdist, and CBR. Chances are that many of the names you know in these fields, if you know any names, belong to white women.)

With that much power already, it can’t be a surprise that many white women in fandom will do pretty much anything in order to keep the status quo level.

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Rey/Kylo Shippers: A New Look At An Old Face of Fannish Entitlement

The day after the premiere of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (December 16, 2019), I watched a roughly seventy-second-long video of a young woman absolutely losing it over the idea that Kylo Ren – I’m sorry, Ben Solo – probably died a virgin.

I mean, she went on a whole tear about how this was actually about fighting for abuse survivors in the fandom to see someone like them make it to the end of the franchise (hello, Finn exists, binches) but like… at the end of the day, her real big beef with The Rise of Skywalker days before it actually got a wide release was that… Ben Solo didn’t get to plow Rey’s oh so fertile fields before becoming one with the Force.

That sentiment – that Ben Solo somehow deserves to get his dick wet in Rey and that The Rise of Skywalker somehow robbed him of the right to fuck when it’s obvious that he’s the ultimate Space Incel – is featured heavily across too much of that fandom’s response to the end of the film.

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Quick Coverage: John Boyega Ends 2019 With a Bang (And a Hearty ‘Fuck You’ To Rey/Kylo Shippers)

Note: I have an ongoing thread about this entire situation and the fans’ responses that fully covers the majority of what this fandom’s been up to with John.

In case you missed my lengthy post about how Rey/Kylo shippers really don’t like John Boyega, I’m here to remind you of that fact by covering the sheer unsubtle nonsense that’s been going on in this fandom for the past twenty-four hours.

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What Fandom Racism Looks Like: The Star Wars Fandom (Part One, Probably)

Few fandoms fill me with the kind of anger that the Star Wars fandom does.

In fact, there are times where I’d go so far as to say that I hate it.

Times like Wednesday night.

When I got home Wednesday night from my first A.C.E concert, I was flying high. It’d been a great night with fantastic music and a stellar performance. Everywhere I looked, I saw fans loving their thing and loving that they got to share that thing with other fans. For a few blissful hours, I’d experienced fandom at its best: people coming together in joy and in celebration over something brilliant.

And then I was rudely reminded that the Star Wars fandom exists and that a whole huge chunk of the Rey/Kylo shippers who dominate much of the fandom discourse is made up of just really terrible people.

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Finn, Reskinned

Originally Posted On Patreon: February 12, 2019


Quote Source: Who the heck is Ben Solo?

Fandom’s Ben Solo is just a reskinned Finn.

There, I said it.

Actually, I’ve been saying it for years and so have many other people in the Star Wars fandom who have seen the way that fandom claims to love Kylo as a villain while the majority of the fandom writes/treats him like a reskinned version of Finn.

I’m not surprised though.

Fandom has long been a space where “good” characters of color – like Scott McCall (Teen Wolf), Finn (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), or Sam Wilson (Captain America: Winter Soldier) – are always either brushed off for being “too boring” or vilified for their goodness.Read More »

Fleeting Frustrations #6: “At Least Kylo Never Lied To Rey”

Fleeting Frustrations #6_ _At Least Kylo Never Lied To Rey_.png

“I’m not a hero. I’m not Resistance. I’m a stormtrooper.”

That silenced her. He might as well have hit her across the face with the business end of a blaster.

“Like all of them, I was taken from a family I’ll never know,” he continued rapidly. “I was raised to do one thing. Trained to do one thing. To kill my enemy.” He felt something that should not have been there, that was not part of his training, well up in him. “But my first battle, I made a choice. I wasn’t going to kill for them. So I ran. As it happens, right into you. And you asked me if I was Resistance, and looked at me like no one ever had. So I said the first thing that came to mind that I thought would please you. I was ashamed of what I was. But I’m done with the First Order. I’m never going back.” Suddenly he found it hard to swallow, much less to speak. “Rey, come with me.”

– Foster, Alan Dean. The Force Awakens (Star Wars) (p. 222). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I know that this is a “Fleeting Frustrations” post which means that I should be able to get over the grievance I’m airing once it’s been aired, but let’s be real here: when have I ever let go of a single grievance in my life?

I haven’t yet and I won’t with this one.

In this rantypants installment of my grouchiest series, we’ll be talking about one of the Star Wars fandom’s most obvious signs of fandom racism: the idea that Finn’s biggest flaw to some folks in fandom is that he’s a liar… for not telling Rey that he was a Stormtrooper on the run mere moments after she’d beaten the crap out of him for thinking he was a thief.Read More »

What Fandom Racism Looks Like – When White Characters (Somehow) Aren’t White

wfrll - removing whiteness

Let’s keep this short and salty: did y’all know that there are people – thankfully a minority in their respective fandoms – that will claim a white male character or actor isn’t white for some reason or another.

Well, if you didn’t know before reading that sentence, I’m willing to be that you’ve figured out what you’re gonna learn today in this installment of “What Fandom Racism Looks Like”.

One of the weirdest things I’ve ever come across in all of my years of fandom is this relatively recent thing where fans of a white male character – usually one half of a powerhouse ship involving two white characters – somehow get it into their heads that said white male character isn’t actually white after all.

I don’t get it. Read More »

What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Beige Blank Slates

What Fandom Racism Looks Like - Beige Blank Slates

“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 »

Who the heck is Ben Solo?

who the heck is ben solo

In the past couple of months, there have been several tweets from twitter users with the hashtag “SaveBenSolo” because Ben Solo, should be protected and should survive Episode IX and if you don’t want that, then you’ve got no empathy to speak of.

Many of these posts are also tagged with “Reylo” (because saving this “Ben Solo” character seems contingent on Rey doing the saving despite him shutting her down in the last movie) while others claim that Ben Solo needs to survive because he is, as far as we know, the last surviving Skywalker. They use Leia’s distraught internal monologue over her “lost” son in Jason Fry’s novelization of The Last Jedi to paint a portrait of this Ben Solo as a mythical and magical boy, caught helplessly between destiny and other people’s desire for power.

Ben Solo, fandom argues, needs to be saved because he is the last, the best, the least responsible for his actions, and the most sympathetic…

But who the heck is Ben Solo?Read More »

Where Are Y’all Getting Your Characterization From? Finn Isn’t A Coward, Or Selfish, And He Doesn’t Need A Damn Redemption Arc.

I’m not Resistance. I’m not a hero. I’m a Stormtrooper. Like all of them, I was taken
from my family I’ll never know. And raised to do one thing.  In my first battle, I made a choice. I wasn’t going to kill for them. So I ran, right into you. You looked at me like no one ever had. I was ashamed of what I was. But, I’m done with the First Order. I’m never going back.

— Finn to Rey in Maz’s cantina in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I know that the Star Wars fandom – both the dudebro hubs and the supposedly feminist and progressive parts on Tumblr and Twitter – is racist as shit, but I still can’t believe the audacity of people calling Finn a coward and demanding he be killed off as like… a form of progressive protest on his or Rey’s behalf.

In her article “Star Wars: The Last Jedi Could Have Been Better If This Character Had Died” author Alessia Santoro goes above and beyond in order to “prove” that The Last Jedi would have been a better movie if only for one death – that of John Boyega’s Finn. She does so, of course, by completely crapping all over his character, problematizing his behavior and, wishing for his death because that’s the only possible way for him to matter to her.

Despite the fact that she – and many other members of the Star Wars fandom – claim that they really do like the character, there’s no bigger sign of disliking a character than by wanting them dead.Read More »

When White Villains Get Woobiefied: Kylo Ren Is Just A Monster In A Mask

Notes: The following post will mention childhood abuse (and who gets to have that kind of trauma respected/made up for them to give them weight and validate their actions) and spoilers from the film and novelization versions of The Last Jedi as well as mild spoilers for Last Shot. Images come from StarWarsScreenCaps.Com.

More care has gone into fabricating a sobbing wreck of a backstory for Kylo Ren where he’s been dealing with childhood abuse (that is supposed to explain why he’s somehow the most interesting/compelling character of the sequel trilogy) than has gone into showing any empathy or interest in analyzing the one character in the sequel trilogy who does have that backstory, but gets none of the empathy: Finn.

Today in “that’s literally not canon”, I’m going to be picking apart an article from The Mary Sue about how Kylo Ren’s story is about childhood abuse; one that says things like:

“Rey and Kylo relate to one another about their childhoods, which included parental abandonment and neglect, and abuse, as well as their Force abilities.”

First off:

As far as I know, there’s nothing that shows that Ben’s childhood included parental abandonment and neglect. Nothing. Nothing across two movies. Leia sending her Force Sensitive son (who was in late teens/early adulthood) to train with her Force Sensitive brother is not neglect.

We currently have ZERO canon that shows what his childhood was like, but we know that the whole point of the Ben-to-Kylo Ren transformation was that it came out of nowhere and that nothing in Leia’s relationship with her son prepared her for his full leap not just to the dark side, but to full on fascism.

The most we can say with confidence about Ben before he was Kylo, is that he was radicalized by Snoke who preyed on his insecurities at some point most likely when he was a teenager.

But we don’t know anything about what Snoke did – that presence probing Leia’s uterus back in that Chuck Wendig book does not count — but I suspect we never will considering his abrupt death in The Last Jedi.Read More »

Queer Coded Villains Aren’t That Awesome

Queer Coded Villains Aren’t That Awesome.png
AKA “Hux and Kylo aren’t the queer coded villains you’re looking for”

I woke up  on MLK Day swearing that I’d dreamt up a tumblr post where someone quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in order to defend Hux, Kylo Ren, and the First Order. When I went through my archives, not only did I find out that the post was real, but I then stumbled back over a post I made in response to one arguing that Star Wars’ Hux was coded as queer and that said queer-coding was a good thing.

And I mean –

A fair amount of people not only read Kylo Ren and Hux as queer-coded within their canon, but:

  1. Queer coded villains are actually kind of shitty and they definitely shouldn’t be something to aspire to or admire, and
  2. I don’t know how they leap to that conclusion of Hux and Kylo as queer coded in the first place.

For one thing, there’s a difference between a character – especially a villain – being coded as queer in their canon (typically via stereotypes about femininity/masculinity, style of dress, speech, interactions with other characters) and a queer fan deciding to read a character as queer because they see themselves in the character.

If they’re actually present in canon, queer coded villains typically come from a place of homophobia – conscious or otherwise. They come from a fear of supposedly non-normative genders and sexualities and from society straight up repurposing queerness (or stereotypes about queerness) as a go-to for “spooky and scary” because well –

Heterocentrism kind of needs to portray queerness as a dangerous avenue to stroll down.Read More »