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:
Tan (but sometimes pale)
Dark haired with light, sometimes blue or green eyes
Draco’s best friend
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)
He didn’t have any characterization or lines in canon, but he sure did have all of that.
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.
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.
I love a tol and a smol and if you’re in fandom… chances are that you do too.
There’s something supremely thrilling about size differences in a pairing. I know people who’ve gotten into their ship of choice specifically because of the huge height difference between the pairings. Hell, I got into Devilish Joyspecifically because the lead pairing has almost a foot difference in height between them when she’s not in heels. Even before you get into macro/micro content, a lot of fandoms and different internet subcultures are pretty positive towards size differences and body differences.
Now, what does that have to do with fandom racism?
My nine year old niece wants to be a scientist when she grows up. For holidays and birthdays she begs for science kits and star wars stuff (because she dreams of being a scientist in SPACE). She does experiments and uses her telescope every night she can.
She’s also started getting into older movies about scientists and when she heard that Ghostbusters would be coming out with the core four characters as ladies, she was so excited because she would get to see a super cute Black woman onscreen as a scientist with Leslie Jones’ casting.
Except…that’s not what we’re getting, is it? At least, not from the first trailer…Read More »