[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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Short and Salty #1: They’re All About The Whiteness

Normally, I keep my saltiest thoughts to twitter or my Dreamwidth account. It’s better for all of us.

However, this salty thought is part of a currently shelved follow-up to my What Fandom Racism Looks Like article on Beige Blank Slates and I figured… “Why Not”.

So, have at it, friends and folks:

Attraction is supposed to be subjective.

This subjectiveness, in fandom, is used to say that attraction and desire can’t be connected to or criticized for on the grounds of morals or politics as if Black people weren’t legally prohibited from marrying outside of our race until the 60s and as if people of color aren’t seen as inviable partners to most white people.

Sometimes, when I look at the fandom darlings that fandom loves – the dark/light haired go-to duos like Aziraphale/Crowley (Good Omens), Merlin/Arthur (Merlin), and Hux/Kylo (Star Wars) – I genuinely question what I’m seeing and how subjective attraction is.

Across multiple Western slash fandoms, when you look at what gets popular and what characters just get the fans a-thirsting one thing stands out to me about their attractiveness –

The most attractive/appealing thing about these guys – or the thing fandom actually finds integral to their adoration – really is their whiteness.

Even if they won’t say that.

“A discipline overrun with whiteness”: #FSN2019 and Making a Statement – A Guest Post

In April 2019, I was invited by Zina Hutton, Cait Coker, and Robin Reid to be part of a Roundtable on Race and Racism in Fandom and Fan Studies at the PCA/ACA 2019 conference held in Washington DC, USA. The intention was to discuss Fandom and Fan Studies 10 years after the events of RaceFail ’09 to see if things had changed and, if so, how. While I didn’t speak to the events of RaceFail ’09 itself, it did inflect my critique of institutional responses that followed in the wake of a more recent event.

What follows here is a rough estimate of the things I said at the conference, much of which was unscripted. I should note that these are my views alone and that I do not speak for Rukmini Pande, who was also involved in the series of events I plan to discuss.

At the same time, I should also be clear that many of the points that follow are points that fans of colour (hereafter FOC) and acafans of colour (as well as acafans working on critical race theory in fandom) have already noted. In a multiplicity of ways, I am echoing their work, restating it, forcibly reinscribing it as best as I can, and ascribing it as best as I can (and Rukmini is part of this, though again she is not the first).

As previously noted, these conversations have been around for far longer than us, and to assume that we are the first to voice this discomfort, this anger, this complaint (per Sara Ahmed) is to be complicit in this erasure and our own eventual erasure. These are not just my words, this is not just my voice.

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Stitch Takes Notes #1 – Kohnen Pages 19, 25-26

Stitch Takes Notes is an ongoing and flat out random feature now up on my website wherein I share the non-urban fantasy notes I take for various academic/academic-adjacent books I’m reading.


stitch takes notes

I’m a huge fan of Screening the Closet: Queer Representation, Visibility, and Race in American Film and Television, Melanie E. S. Kohnen’s book on whiteness and queer representation/visibility in Western media.

Everything about this books speaks to my own (more informal) work on race in fandom and I want to shake it at a bunch of people. I’m largely reading it for fun – as opposed to reading it because I need it immediately for a piece – and I’ve been taking notes on it and putting it into my context/the context of fan-studies in a totally sweet Batman notebook.

I’m not going to put all of my notes out there because then you’d probably wind up with half of the book quoted online because of how much of it I find valuable, but I wanted to put some of my notes up so that y’all can see the connections I’ve been making from the book.

So here are some notes and quotes from when I was going over pages 18-19 and page 25 of Kohnen’s brilliant book:Read More »