|See also:||Any Two Guys, Two White Guys, Fanon|
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In fandom, a blank slate character is one who has little to no canon information or depth, but who becomes popularly adopted by fans and fleshed out with fanon characterisation and backstory. Such characters are often said to be created out of wholecloth by fandom.
Blank slate characters are heavily linked to migratory slash fandom, as many popular slash ships involve one or more (typically white) blank slate characters - who often have little to no interaction with one another in canon - being turned into fleshed-out characters by fandom, often featuring common traits drawn from popular fics in the fandom. Stitchomancery coined the term "beige blank slates" in an essay to refer to white blank slate characters who receive this treatment.
Blank slate characters are often cited as examples of the immense creativity of fandom, which takes a character with little to no canon detail and develops them into a fully-fleshed-out character. However, others have also observed that many of these types of character have the same characterisations from fandom to fandom, to the extent of being virtually interchangeable (see: Any Two Guys). Fandom's tendency to give the blank slate treatment to minor white characters far more than minor characters of colour despite there being no clear reason to do so is also an example of fandom racism.
Some characters who were blank slates early on in a franchise might become more fleshed-out in canon in later installments, but are still considered blank slates for the purposes of the early fanworks and fan activity around that canon. For example, the character of Michelle Jones from the Marvel Cinematic Universe was effectively a blank slate in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but later became more prominent in the film's sequel and became a canon love interest.
Some characters might be blank slates in one media adaptation but have more canon to work with in other forms of media from the same franchise, which fans will often draw from in their fanon characterisations. For example, Clint Barton/Hawkeye was a blank slate character in early Avengers Movieverse fandom, leading fans to draw on his comics characterisation in their fanworks.
- Admiral Piett from Star Wars
- Arthur and Eames from Inception
- Armitage Hux from the Star Wars sequel trilogy
- Blaise Zabini and Daphne Greengrass in Harry Potter fandom
- Clint Barton from the Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Darcy Lewis in early Thor Movieverse fandom
- Figwit, a background elf in the Lord of the Rings films who became a fan favourite character and was given backstories and a variety of names
- Michelle Jones (MJ) prior to the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home (some fan characterisations drew on the character of Mary Jane Watson for material for her character, but she was for all and intents and purposes a blank slate)
- Morn from Star Trek: DS9
- Nathalie Sancoeur from Miraculous Ladybug
- Otabek Altin from Yuri!!! on Ice
- Phil Coulson from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, prior to his development in the TV series Agents of SHIELD
- Q from the Daniel Craig era of Bond films
- RK900 from Detroit: Become Human
- Sweet Alice from Starsky & Hutch
- The Zircons from Steven Universe
Meta & Further Reading
- Fandom Ghost: Created Out Of Wholecloth By Fanon by Wildehack (2016), was referenced in Stitch's essay.
- What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Beige Blank Slates by Stitch (2019)
- What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Beige Blank Slates, posted to Stitch's Media Mix, January 1, 2019 (Accessed February 20, 2020).
- This discussion on Tumblr goes into this tendency, specifically regarding characters like Armitage Hux and Arthur from Inception, in considerable detail. (Accessed February 22, 2020).