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.
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 📉
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….
Now it’s 2017 and I’ve got at least four different posts on racebending under my belt because nerds still don’t know how to behave.
This is an ongoing project looking at the continuing state of fandom’s reaction to racebending following my first piece on how badly comic fans respond to racebending in the works that they love and three years in, people are still cutting up about racebending while claiming not to be racist.
They’re not racist, they claim in comment sections across the internet, but the idea of Black women being cast as aliens, goddesses, and the iconic love interest of the Fastest Man Alive, still sends them into literal conniptions. They assume that racebending is Social Justice Gone Wild, not the best actor/actress being chosen for the role. At multiple points, I’ve seen them claim that white redheads are being erased from popular culture.
Of course, these same people screaming about authenticity and sticking to the source material stay silent in the face of whitewashing (as in the case of Deadpool actor Ed Skrein initially being tapped to play a Japanese character in the upcoming Hellboy remake).Read More »
They crowd into my mentions or any comment field they can get a hold of, trying to shout down my commentary by insisting that they’ve finally found the one way to get one over on supporters of racebending.
It’s supposed to be the kind of comment that leaves Black comic fans stumbling around in a haze formed by our hypocrisy (because if we don’t want characters of color whitewashed, we shouldn’t keep pushing for white characters to be racebent).
Well, it’s been a little bit over a year and I honestly can tell you that yes, fandom is still filled to the brim with racists who think that if they scream about red hair and “blackwashing” loud enough, that no one will notice that the only time they know or care about changes to characters’ races when it concerns white characters being cast with actors of color.
Look, if the only thing you care about when it comes to casting is an authentic hair color, then I have to introduce you to the wonders of hair-dye and wigs. And then I get to beat you with a bag full of them for complaining endlessly when these (usually female) characters are racebent since you stay silent when a white male character isn’t done to style.
Neither of the two actors playing Barry Allen look like him.
Neither of them have his canon personality.
But where’s the press reporting about how terrible both of them are for the job because they don’t have blond hair and because it’s so strange to imagine this iconic blond character being played by men who have dark hair?
Suddenly, authentic appearances don’t matter and there’s no fuss about “iconic” anything.Read More »
Why are comic book fans so darn mad when a comic book character gets the racebending treatment?
For the most part, comic book fans are so very predictable when it comes to race.
Nothing pisses comic fans off more than a historically white character being racebent and therefore turned into a character of color or when a character of color takes over a legacy title (Like Superman, Spider-Man, or Ms. Marvel).Read More »