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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[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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[Thread Collection] Blaise Blogging [1/7/2022]

I spent most of the past 36 hours researching and thinking about Harry Potter fandom and the barely still-around documentation of the racism that fandom enacted about characters of color – especially Blaise Zabini. They’ll be turned into organized thoughts eventually, but for now… thread collection:


Harry Potter fandom really has been openly racist for ages because they sure did ship Blaise with Draco and/or Hermione right up until the reveal he was Black and then, after the in-fandom rioting, he got the treatment that most Black characters get and his fanworks/ships went 📉

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White Fannish Entitlement Strikes Again

Near the end of June, I made the mistake of commenting on Star Wars fandom stuff when I saw screenshots of some members of that subfandom gloating about John Boyega briefly losing his blue check/verified status on Twitter as well as kind of assuming the worst about his exit from Rebel Ridge – especially once people started kind of claiming that he was “difficult“. (Like fully going “perhaps he will have his MeToo moment and people will know that he’s truly garbage… like we have all along” in some tweets I glimpsed.)

Aside from the comment calling me a bootlicker of color (for making a thread about fandom nonsense from their camp and not immediately writing a Teen Vogue article about John Boyega, who I have no access to and still cannot reach for clarification or an interview), one comment that stood out to me called me a coward because I didn’t like… leap into the way of actual non-fandom white supremacists in defense of Rey/Kylo fandom. Again, a fandom full of people that hate me for pointing out their co-fans’ racism.

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Fandom Racism 101: Femslash Fandom Has These Issues Too

It is also interesting to note that Glee debuted in 2009, the same year as RaceFail ’09. In many ways, this event, though not engaged with at the same level in all fandom spaces, marked a watershed in the ways in which debates around these issues were framed. While fans who point out the overwhelming whiteness and US-centrism of fan spaces and texts still face backlash, there has been a definite shift in the ways these categories are approached.

“Yes, the Evil Queen is Latina!”: Racial dynamics of online femslash fandoms” by Dr. Rukmini Pande and Swati Moitra

I have written a lot about M/M and “dudeslash” fandom practices over my time of thinking critically in fandom because that was, for a very long time, the loudest part of the fandoms I was in, and adjacent to, and the thing I wrote the most as a fan creator. However, that may give the impression that femslash and F/F fandoms do not have the same issues that wider fandom spaces do and that would be incredibly incorrect.

For this Fandom Racism 101 installment, we’ll be talking about how femslash fandoms also suffer from some of the same issues that other fandom spaces do. We’ll also cover some reasons why more people don’t know that femslash has these issues, how we can clock racism in femslash in its most obvious forms, and some examples of how these fandoms fail… alongside ways they can be better about their practices.

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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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Thread Collection: Third Wheeling (11/11/2019)

Tweet from 11/11/2019

One thing I genuinely hate because of fandom is “[Black Character who is obviously under developed] hooks up two of their clueless white friends and gets them to realize their love”

Because the Black characters are never written out beyond how they can help the white folks. Eve gets Bond/Q together. Sam gets Steve/Bucky together. Rhodey gets Steve/Tony together. Finn gets Rey/Kylo together.

The second I see a story where a Black character is turned into a sassy romance guide for a white ship, I just… get so pissed? Because THAT reduces them/us.

Fandom: We love [Black Character] so much! He’s a fandom favorite!

Also fandom: *really only creates content for [Black Character] that views them shallowly, relies on racial and sexual stereotypes, literally reduces them, and/or uses them to get a white ship together.*

Me: 🤔

When Transformative Fandom Passes The Buck On Representation In Fandom

“Well if there were more well-written characters of color, I’d focus on them,” is a recurring excuse for the way content is unfairly weighted towards white characters in Western media fandoms.

I have heard it used for over a decade and it’s an excuse used to successfully argue that the thing stopping them from caring about Black/brown people in their shows is… quality and quantity.

Back when we were hearing the first rumblings of rumors for Pacific Rim Uprising’s John Boyega connection, my friend Holly over at DiverseHighFantasy posted on Tumblr that:

The PacRim fandom is already chanting for no romance in 2, but wait till they see whiteguy Jaeger Tech #3 and whiteguy cafeteria server in a 2 second shot together.

The post on Tumblr currently has over fourteen thousand notes and considering how from the jump people were insulting Holly, accusing her of “a homophobic microaggression”, saying “let women like things”… .it probably hasn’t gotten much better. From John Boyega’s interviews and how he talked about why he wanted to be a producer – this film was his production company’s first outing – we knew that the film was going to probably have a diverse cast of characters.

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Fandom Racism 101: Clocking and Closing The Empathy Gap

How does fandom’s empathy gap come into play when the trauma of POC is on the table? Why does the empathy that fans extend to white characters, fans, and performers, hit a hard wall at POC – especially when it comes to Black characters, fans, and performers in my direct experience?

In the Slate.com article “I Don’t Feel Your Pain”, author Jason Silverstein uses the following example as he describes the racial empathy gap:

Let’s do a quick experiment. You watch a needle pierce someone’s skin. Do you feel this person’s pain? Does it matter if the person’s skin is white or black?

For many people, race does matter, even if they don’t know it. They feel more empathy when they see white skin pierced than black. This is known as the racial empathy gap.

The way that non-Black people literally do not believe that Black people feel the same levels of physical pain – documented through over a century of studies – is one way that we see the empathy gap play out. However, this isn’t the way that it tends to play out in fandom because there’s no one out there pricking fans of color with pins to see if we bleed the same color and amount. (Yet.)

But what they do is constantly privilege white feelings over Black ones.

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What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Migratory Slash Fandom’s Focus

Note: The section on RPF and whtiewashing deals pretty plainly with real person fan fiction – where a real celebrity is treated like a character in fan works – but from the POV of “stop whitewashing them” rather than a judgement call on the fandom itself. I’d suggest skipping this section, scrolling down to the solutions section of the piece, and waiting a little bit for me to finish writing my actual RPF-focused installment of What Fandom Racism Looks Like later this year because it’s been in the works for a while and will tackle K-Pop RPF, Hockey fandom, and the One Direction fandom’s endless racism towards Zayn. 


The Fanlore page for Migratory fandom describes it as, “the most recent term used to describe the idea that slash fans are always on the lookout for the next shiny, new juggernaut pairing”.

First seen in fandom discussions across Fail_Fandomanon – one of many multi-fandom anonymous memes – the term is a reference to this idea that slash fans are constantly moving to the next fandom that’ll provide them their dose of slashy goodness. 

On the surface, there’s nothing even remotely wrong with moving to another fandom because the one you’re in is running dry on content. Honestly, I’m right there with folks because when a fandom I’m in is dried up entirely or the fan content it’s creating has been done to death before… I always feel like jumping ship at least for a little while.

So I get the motivation.

But this is “What Fandom Racism Looks Like” and you know that means that there is something I find frustrating about migratory slash fandom that falls under this series….

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What Shipping Says About Fandom Antiblackness

Note: I originally did this as a thread in like… 2018 but I think it’s still extremely relevant and so… it’s a blog post now! (If it was a blog post before this, pretend it wasn’t. Mkay?)


I love seeing folks who ship ships that came about as a way to distance a Black character from their white faves be like:

“The only reason antis are mad are because they think [Black character] is nothing without [white character]”

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[Stitch Talks Ish] Episode 2: Stitch Talks About The Rey/Kylo Fandom and Weaponized White Womanhood

Episode Notes:

Transcript:

Hi, everyone, welcome to the second episode of Stitch Talks Ish.

It’s been about two and some change months since my first episode where I talked about like five minutes of The Tablo Podcast. And, and right now I’m back to complain again — not about Tablo this time.

If you follow me on Twitter, which you could if you wanted to, (and weren’t blocked,) I’ve been talking about the Star Wars fandom’s antiblackness from pretty much at the beginning of 2020. We’re only 12 days in. So I’m going to cover, as best as I can for podcasts, everything that’s happened, and about some really frustrating, and even worrying things that I’ve noticed about what’s been going on with the Reylo fandom, which is the ship name for Rey and Kylo Ren, and just overarching, transformative fandom.

So to start, I guess we have to begin from the beginning.

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