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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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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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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Meme-Ing For A Reason #14 – Racist Clown Shit

The “clown applying makeup” meme with the top panel with the man applying base paint saying “Before you talk about racism in fandom as a POC, have you considered fighting and stopping racism everywhere else first?”. The second panel, where the clown has his makeup on, says, “Actually if the AO3 does anything about racist fanworks or behaviors, next they’ll have to take down [nonbigoted thing] and it’ll open them to lawsuits”. The third panel, where the clown is being fitted for his wig, says, “Would you yell at a librarian for the library having Mein Kampf on the shelves? No? Then don’t talk about how the AO3 could do anything about racist content.” And finally, the fourth panel with the fully made up clown, says, “If AO3 tries to do anything about racist fanworks, there goes the entire danmei, anime, and kpop tags”.

The thing about the statements in that meme is… they all exist in some form. You can read one of them below in the screenshot in my second embedded tweet and the others went viral over twitter – like the full clown take about AO3 doing anti racism leading to wiping out entire East Asian media fandom collections.

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Meme-ing For a Reason #13: Racists in Fandom Shouldn’t Get To Run The Show

Captions:

Image A: The “Don’t make me tap the sign” meme with bottom text that reads: “Declaring that the real problem with how we talk about racism is “angry” POC and not racists harming and harassing them is… racist. Bitch.”

Image B: The “Don’t make me tap the sign” mtoeme with bottom text that reads: “If you’re angrier at POC in any fandom for being “mean” – cussing, snarking, etc. – when speaking about racism in fandom than you are at racists for BEING RACIST IN FANDOM… you’re a fucking racist.


Why do racists keep getting to define the rules of engagement? Why do they get to position themselves as neutral and unbiased, when they’re clearly biased in favor of white supremacy in a given space? Why is it that racists get to declare POC “too angry” to listen to and have people listen to them instead… As they angrily insult the “too mean” POC simply asking people to stop being less racist. Do people think this isn’t their entire goal? To make listening to anti racists/stopping racism in any space or capacity too hard or scary to do.

It’s wild that we have to be nice to racists… or else they won’t listen to us? Because kindness is so important to them.

Apparently.

Except… have you ever noticed that the people who insist that conversations about racism just have to be done at their tone and in a way that they’ve previously signed off… are some of the nastiest assholes on the internet?

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Meme Anthropologist: The Origins of Lil Meow Meow

Seeing people recently kind of… gank “lil meow meow” for their fandom sexyman – almost always a white man with a background including somewhat horrific violence – has been wild. It’s a meme format that has recently picked up steam across the past few weeks on Tumblr and Twitter and has been used to “jokingly” refer to how people basically woobify a certain class of villains the way we do our cats.

The thing is? It actually has its roots in my primary fandom, BTS.

But you wouldn’t know that from all the people that insist on applying the meme to various Tumblr Sexymen like Loki and Kylo.

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Meme-Ing For A Reason #12 – I Am Not The Roadblock You Think I Am…

As we’ve covered, there’s a specific class of fandom weenie that I cannot stand because of how willing they are to support racists and racism in fandom using their POC-ness as a shield. 

I use “PickMe POC” as a term for them – which remains not a slur despite what rabid racists in fandom insist – but they also define themselves as POC TOO. As in “I’m a POC TOO… and this isn’t racist/this other POC is actually the real problem in fandom and somehow racist against me for pointing out racism”.

In the… decade or so since I started actively speaking out against racism in fandom spaces and in media – primarily antiblackness, but I’ve talked about whitewashing, anti Native racism in fanworks, the weird way white fans can approach East Asian celebrities or characters in different fandoms , etc – who pushes back against me has shifted.

First, the loudest people were white people who prefaced everything with “I’m queer and” or “i’m a trauma survivor and”. But as people started to absorb a particular form of Tumblr social justice diss-course that hinged even more heavily on specific identity politics, it shifted to “I’m a POC and”. 

That wasn’t really a thing in fandom discourses when I was growing up in fandom. 

(Probably because for most of modern fandom, anytime you’d preface a conversation on racism by talking about how you were affected by racism here as a person of color, people would basically laugh you out of the room and/or gaslight you because you were “too close” to the issue and couldn’t be seeing things straight.)

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Meme-Ing For A Reason #11 – Yeah, I’m Not Playing Ball

I’m “cheating” this month by using a meme I didn’t create! I can’t remember who the OP is, but if you know or are that person, thanks for that, link me to the original and I’ll boost it because it rocks. One of my friends tagged me in this meme, which uses Dr. Manhattan blasting someone into stardust from Watchmen and it’s perfect because this is… my experience.

There are so many people in different fandoms who think I need to take their wild and absolutely incorrect interpretation of my work seriously and… I don’t think I will.

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Meme-Ing for a Reason #10: Blocked For Not Being Nice To Racists

A version of the “for the better” meme where the Anakin on the top left is saying that “racism in fandom is a huge problem and we need to listen to POC who talk about it”. The Padme on the top right then asks, “Even POC who aren’t “nice” when talking about this, right?”. Then the bottom left Anakin represents someone blocking the fan of color for not being “nice”, leaving the final Padme staring in stunned silence.

No one is more surprised than I am that I’ve been able to get to ten memes in this series. While I’m genuinely hilarious and my meme game is on point, there are only so many memes in the world that work with the concept of “hey fandom is super racist and more attached to that than anything else”. But hey, here’s one more.


I have talked on end about how absolutely irrational people are when faced with my work.

The “i can tell from a post about white silence/violence and a link to an adult literacy resource that stitch is verbally abusive like my estranged father” weirdo from last month proves that. Fandom is not okay and racists in fandom are so sensitive that they publicly perform being triggered… by Black people expressing or creating boundaries and speaking about what hurts us.

This is not normal.

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Meme-Ing For A Reason #9 – Spare Some Oppression, Please?

A screenshot from the Disney Robin Hood film with the disguised titular character representing “people in fandom with ‘problematic’ ships” and the text at the bottom, implied to be speech from him, saying “May I please have a spare crumb of oppression?”

It is incredibly strange seeing people say things like “TERFs and queerphobes hate [a specific subset of shippers] the most” and frame themselves as oppressed minority any/everywhere because of what they enjoy writing, reading, and thinking about in fandom.

Not in the context of “consuming and creating queer content that shows nuanced, positive, and/or erotic relationships and dynamics triggers bigots” but just… because they are into consuming and defending supposedly problematic content that happens to be be queer and/or consumed by queer fans at all. (Like comparing the people against them or merely critical of the thing on their own time and at any level to TERFS, Nazis or the people behind the Comics Code, even when, in many cases… they’re actually talking about other queer people who aren’t even talking to/about them when talking about their issues with something in fandom.)

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Meme-Ing For A Reason #8 – Hello, CIA? I’d Like To Report Some Anti-Racism In Fandom, Thanks

The top right of the meme has (not Voltaire) saying “I disapprove of what you say, but will support and profit from your right to say it.”. He represents “people in different fandoms reacting to bigoted fan content and/or fans”. On the bottom right is a Karen who called the cops on Black folks barbecuing with text that says “Hello, CIA?”. She represents “people in different fandoms reacting to Black fans applying anti-racism and critical race theory to fandom”.

I am always very fascinated by how many of the people online who claim to be “radically anti censorship” and who appear to be very strong advocates for freedom of speech also… actively work to silence other people and censor them. 

Most often, as we’ve seen lately, via constant and successful attempts at silencing Black and brown people who write and teach about anti-racism in any space they (these white anti-censorship advocates) consider their own.

As I said in What Fandom Racism Looks Like: White Silence/Violence, I make a point of connecting things in the world we live in offline with fandom. 

This is no different. 

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Meme-ing For A Reason #7 – You’re Out of Touch, Much

The “Skinner, Out of Touch” meme where Principal Skinner represents people in fandom first asking “Is fandom racist?” before then deciding that “no it is the newer fans who are sensitive and out of touch. There’s no racism here, just weenies.”

The phenomenon of white people deciding that in fact there is zero racism in a space they inhabit, usually because they supposedly haven’t seen it, is bigger than fandom.

People of color experience this annoying micro-major aggression everywhere. We get to deal with it at work, in the grocery store, while watching the news – 

Basically, if you’re a person of color that has been in or around a racist place (digital or otherwise), chances are that you’ve had a run in with someone who thinks that there’s no racism anymore.

They’ve never seen racism and/or they’ve decided that what racism they have seen is too small to count and therefore, what you’re talking about is nonsense.

This is similar to how people deny that white privilege is even a thing in the first dang place. 

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Meme-ing For A Reason #6 – You Used To Be Able To Hide Your Dogwhistles…

The Drake “Hotline Bling” meme where top Drake is rejecting “Making racists and racist fanworks unwelcome in fandom spaces” and the bottom Drake is totally down with “deciding that anti racism in in fandom is inherently anti fandom instead”.

In his 2019 release How To Be An Antiracist, historian Ibram X. Kendi defines an antiracist as “one who is supporting an antiracist policy or expressing an antiracist idea”.

There are few actual antiracists in fandom.

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