So I didn’t read a lot or consume content outside of pure relaxation or research purposes this month. I have been busy as hell. I keep looking at my emails and guiltily slinking away because I have so much to do and limited time to do it because it’s also birthmonth, the one month where I’m basically absolutely allowed to do nothing at all. (Or so I’m telling myself.) Which means that I basically read fan fiction, watched horror movies with BTS Nieceling… and restarted My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic from the beginning. That’s largely it.
Fans had begun to notice him calling his male friends “hubby,” “bae,” and “lover” on Twitter and Instagram, which rang off alarms with swathes of rap’s homophobic fans. Straight men of all ages still use “pause,” so his terms of affection caught a side-eye from many, as did a photo of him and a hospital-bed-bound male friend feeding each other from double cups, as well as a video of him doing a bumbling, twerk-adjace dance to his “Perk” song. A YouTube commenter on the dancing video noted, “For those who say he isn’t gay… explain this, don’t worry, I have time,” capturing the sentiment of many rap listeners at the time.
When asked about his “bae” comments, he clarified, “It’s the language. It’s nothing stupid and fruity going on. It’s the way we talk, it’s the way we live. Those are my baes, those are my lovers, my hubbies, whatever you want to call them.”
First of all, I love the concept of a “Young Thug Week” anywhere.
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.
Some of the great things I read between last time… and this time! Feel free to pop what you’ve been reading into the comments so I can catch up with your cool thing too – especially if you literally wrote them!
DOOM was a worldbuilder, and he was committed to that practice as much as anyone else in music. For me, Mm..Food? was the gateway to an entire universe. His flawless collaborative album with producer Madlib, 2004’s Madvillainy, is an endless array of non sequiturs, multilayered lyrics with hidden meanings, and more of the villain persona, all spat over jazz-inspired production. “Fancy Clown” is the embodiment of the DOOM experience: a narrative about DOOM stealing the girlfriend of a guy named Viktor Vaughn. The catch: He rhymes from Vaughn’s POV. DOOM even released two albums under the alias Viktor Vaughn, a more down-to-earth version of the comic supervillian’s character. (Dr. Doom’s real name was Victor Von Doom.)
This article is just… so good. I didn’t know that much about DOOM before he passed away and my life is poorer for it. DOOM seems to have been the sort of hip hop nerd that I would’ve done well to know as a kid. He was brilliant, skilled, and nerdy on main with a bit that did not quit. I loved this piece so so much because he was someone my older siblings probably grew up listening to and now I do feel like I can understand part of their own journeys through hip hop a bit better.
Critics have been around for as long as we’ve had artists, and they’ve been the objects of disdain for just as long. Which makes sense, because no one enjoys getting criticized, and no one enjoys having someone tell them that the thing they love is bad. But it’s hard for me to remember any cultural moment quite like this one, with giant high-profile celebrities shouting down critics every week and fans accusing critics of stopping their fun just by writing reviews.
Has criticism suddenly gotten more harsh than it ever used to be? It doesn’t seem to have: Old-school critics are complaining that criticism has gotten more insipid than it ever was before. “Editors and critics belong to a profession with a duty of skepticism,” Christian Lorentzen wrote at Harpers in April. “Instead, we find a class of journalists drunk on the gush.” And Lorentzen’s complaint in and of itself is an old argument, because with criticism has always come people complaining that it isn’t critical enough.
Judging from the in-fighting among critics, criticism is neither especially meaner or especially nicer right now than it was 10 years ago. It’s not criticism that has changed. Instead, it’s the reception to criticism that has changed. And as far as I can tell, that’s because of a major shift in the way we talk about popular things.
I remember seeing a Taylor Swift review get 7 out of 10 in the review (a solid C, a passing grade where I’m from) and trigger waves of harassment towards the reviewer. When Wonder Woman 1984 came out and Black women reviewers talked about how bad the film was, they were harassed endlessly over a movie many of the people freaking out about… hadn’t seen at that point. People treat criticism of fandom – and more specifically, behaviors and bigotry in fandom like uh… racism– as an attack on fandom.
At this point, people hate criticism. They just want to enjoy things, but then they never stop to think that perhaps… critics enjoy crafting criticism. Like I don’t enjoy writing about racism specifically – especially as it’s increasingly racism against me that I get to unpack – but I do enjoy writing and thinking critically. I like looking at a problem and going “okay so this is like this because -“.
And yet, in fandom, everything but criticism falls under the umbrella of “let people like things”? I just think that there’s a difference between pushing back against genuinely poor and too harsh criticism and not wanting anyone to do any criticism because… people enjoy the thing being criticized.
Speculative fiction around human mating cycles and otherworldly physiology date as far back as the mid-20th century, but in recent years, the omegaverse has spawned from writers in the Supernatural fandom. It’s since spread across the fannish world, appearing everywhere from the Overwatch fandom to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What makes A/B/O so interesting isn’t just its out-of-the-box premise but how it challenges our understanding of human bodies and physiology in order to create deep, lore-rich erotica narratives. Just as the sci-fi writers of the 20th and 19th century encouraged us to rethink the present by looking to the future, A/B/O reshapes our grasp on sexuality in everyday life.
Ana Valens’ insightful writing on sex, kink, gender, and different internet sub/cultures has been a true highlight of 2020 for me. I have learned so much from her work! Ana is also a delight to speak with and so when I saw her talking about Omegaverse and looking for people to talk to, y’all know I was there. I’ve spoken about it a ton, but Omegaverse has actually become one of my favorite tropes/settings in fandom – as a writer and reader – and so I was happy to be one of the sources tapped for this incredible primer!
Winding down 2020 with a HEFTY list of links to stuff that I found interesting between November’s second collection and now! Enjoy!
Edward Said on Orientalism
I first read Edward Said’s Orientalism in a class I took for my history degree on British cultural artefacts and colonialism. Edward Said’s views on the ways that culture was used as a tool of imperialism have helped me understand the ways in which literature – and later, fandom – is used to shape a dominant cultural narrative (that does shift depending on where the culture is coming from). I’m fascinated by Said’s work and I think it continues to have stellar applications across a wide range of fields because he’s still right!
Even as the number-one pop group in the world, even with their hard work day in and day out, even with tens of millions of adoring fans redefining the concept of “adoring fans” by literally healing the planet in their name, these guys still suffer from impostor syndrome. RM explains, “I’ve heard that there’s this mask complex. Seventy percent of so-called successful people have this, mentally. It’s basically this: There’s this mask on my face. And these people are afraid that someone is going to take off this mask. We have those fears as well. But I said 70 percent, so I think it’s very natural. Sometimes it’s a condition to be successful. Humans are imperfect, and we have these flaws and defects. And one way to deal with all this pressure and weight is to admit the shadows.”
I really freaking love BTS. You may have missed that… somehow. In case you have, this fascinating and well put together Esquire feature serves as a stunning first look at the group – but also works if it’s your fortieth. I chose this segment of the feature because RM’s words about the “mask complex” and while they have the fear that someone will unmask them… They’re going to keep going and admit to their shadows/flaws. Unless you’ve spent the past 2-ish years living under a very large rock (or you don’t follow me on social media, which is… plausible) while I love BTS a unit, I have extra adoration for RMbecause of how he carries himself and the way he expresses his hopes and fears. This was, overall, an incredible feature that gave us tons of brilliant moments that will either spark your interest in BTS or rekindle the embers of your interest!
“I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race,” he says, holding my gaze. “Let’s just leave it like that. It makes you angry with a process like that. It makes you much more militant; it changes you. Because you realise, ‘I got given this opportunity but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me.’ Nobody else in the cast had people saying they were going to boycott the movie because [they were in it]. Nobody else had the uproar and death threats sent to their Instagram DMs and social media, saying, ‘Black this and black that and you shouldn’t be a Stormtrooper.’ Nobody else had that experience. But yet people are surprised that I’m this way. That’s my frustration.”
2020 has been a year where I have consistently been proven correct about things. Case in point? I knew that the Star Wars fandom’s unending racism absolutely was impacting how John moved throughout the world. I knew it was taking a toll on him across his time as Finn. And I mean, he confirmed it. He also talked about how antiblackness in the industry – from the people working around him and from casual oversights – left him essentially wounded. Star Wars should’ve been a positive and affirming nerd experience for John, but it really was not.
I haven’t shared a lists of links in a while, huh?
Well here’s some of what I’ve been reading, speaking on, and watching across the internet!
Roundtable of Legends of Korean Hip-Hop: The Quiett, Swings & Paloalto | THE VETERAN EP. 1
I’m doing this like intense and incredible speed-run through Korean hip hop across my project because I want to know and listen to everyone and out of nowhere (for me, a person who does not follow HipHopLE on social media and does not read Korean well enough that that’d make any difference anyway), here comes a casual conversation between three of the “greats” in Korean hip hop. Out of the three men here, I’m more familiar with The Quiett’s work but I’ve listened to them all and seen them in things.
One thing that stood out for me was how this understated “three dudes talk hip hop history and memories” was one of the things that felt really close to the things I grew up with in terms of Black rappers siting down and talking about their own histories. So it’s interesting and they touch on a lot of incredible memories and moments in their lives as rappers, producers, and dudes who ran (run?) their own labels or crews.
The funny thing about writing about race is that my instinct is to always start off with an apology. Sorry, I’ll think, imagining readers clicking on the piece, sorry I’m going to make you uncomfortable.
As I’ve said before in my review of Empire of Shadows, I have a complicated relationship with SJM’s books. Some of her worldbuilding interests me, as do one or two of her characters, but her worlds and stories are so problematic and so white, cis, allo and straight that now I’m just waiting to read the last books of her series to say good bye to her writing completely.
While I certainly can’t speak for every black writer and their intentions, but based on my own work and experiences in understanding and loving blackness in all its complexities, nothing about my work speaks to the Mantans of the American entertainment world. Truth-telling, providing context within the story, and humanizing black children is my main focus. A far cry from minstrelsy.
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