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.)Read More »
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