Fandom Ghost: Created Out Of Wholecloth By Fanon

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Title: Fandom Ghost: Created Out Of Wholecloth By Fanon
Creator: wildehack
Date(s): April 29, 2016 (original post)
Medium: Tumblr
Fandom: Pan-fandom
Topic: Fanon trends
External Links: Fandom Ghost: Created Out Of Wholecloth By Fanon", Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Fandom Ghost: Created Out Of Wholecloth By Fanon (originally untitled) is a tumblr post originally written by wildehack, and expanded upon by subsequent commenters. It discusses the phenomenon where a specific character archetype is applied to (almost always) a white male side character, ostensibly for the purpose of shipping him with a more-developed-by-canon "messy" white male character. There is some debate with regards to whether the phenomenon solely applies to minimally-characterized side characters (also known as blank slates), or whether it also applies to main characters whose canon traits are replaced.

The archetype may be related to the "blue oni", "frigid romcom heroine", and/or "Byronic hero" archetypes.

This meta essay specifically referenced the character of Hux from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, drawing parallels between Kylux and Arthur/Eames from Inception. This post was widely shared and very influential in discussions ongoing in Star Wars fandom at the time. It also influenced and inspired other meta, including Stitch's 2019 essay What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Beige Blank Slates, which further popularised the concept of a fandom ghost or archetypal blank slate.

Topics Discussed in the Post and Comments

  • The concept of the "fandom ghost"
  • Fanon
  • Unconscious racial bias in shipping preferences
  • Migratory Slash Fandom

Original Post

wildehack[1]: so, here’s a three-am thought.

I think that (one of) the reasons I don’t love kylux as a ship (despite, obviously, weeping real tears over Children, Wake Up every Thursday night), is because hux is a character created almost entirely out of wholecloth by fanon. He is remarkably consistent from fic-to-fic, but the thing you recognize him as is that-hux-from-that-other-fic, not hux-in-canon, because literally all Hux in canon does is look mad + offer terse pieces of exposition + fire the weapon that one time.

and the thing is? fanon hux was familiar the very first time I saw him, even before having other fic to compare him to.

because fanon hux? is fanon arthur from inception.

another character created almost entirely from fandom wholecloth, since his actual part in the movie was like five minutes long.

like. they’re SO MUCH the same? with the combination kinky/prudishness (prudish til you get him in bed, whereupon he is The Most Kinky), the charmingly repressed rage, the Love of Research and Order, the way lust/interest/affection is coded into irritation at The Neat and Tidy World being All Roughed Up by the hot mess of the other half of the ship? I would bet actual money that you could C&P “hux” for “arthur” in a baker’s dozen of inception AUs and the character is like…pretty much the same?

and, well. I’m pretty sure that arthur isn’t the first time I met this guy, this crowdsourced tight-lipped furious perfectionist with his neat clothes and his scowling defensiveness and his biting sarcasm and his embarrassed desire to have a dude who is both sweaty and emotional take him apart. I know I’ve seen him before, in lots of different places, wearing lots of different hats, most often slipping into characters that barely take up space in the canon at all, or revising canon characters years in the future, etc. (Draco, in all those fics where he grew up into someone eerily like Hux and Arthur and Erestor and Carlos in all those fics written before Dylan Marron was cast. For one.)

and without shitting on kylux OR arthur/eames at all–because I’ve read and enjoyed both of them, and also the heart wants what the heart wants, and I get that–I think it’s maybe worth. I don’t know. considering why it is that we gravitate towards This One Crowdsourced Dude. The familiar fanon ghost who leaves one shell behind and drifts into another, like a poltergeist. Or, like, a copy of a copy of a copy, dragged from harddrive to harddrive. a familiar ghost we drag around to install in fresh new bodies.

I think it’s especially worth considering why we’ve collectively/subconsciously resurrected this dude in a fandom mostly lacking in white guy/white guy ships. because he wasn’t THERE. I just rewatched TFA yesterday, and I can confirm: fanon hux is not in the building. a lot of loving effort went into imbuing canon hux with fanon hux. thinking about why we a) established that effort, and b) why we gravitate back to him, Our Fanon Guy, when there are other objectively more developed and interesting canon characters to fall in love with?

#this post brought to you by: #literally crying over the CWU update #and then being fucking FLOORED by bomberqueen17's poe/hux fic #and then wondering why I've never written hux #and being surprised that this thought dredged up weird years-old inception resentment

Wildehack's Subsequent Comments

marmolita replied to your post: Since I don’t read tfa fic can you tell me more about this fanon character? I’m wondering if I’ve seen him in other fandoms; it would be interesting to track to the source.

Sure! He’s usually something like this:

  • very tidy/a neat freak
  • pays a great deal of attention to his personal presentation (ie: is his uniform wrinkled? Is his hair mussed? Is he blushing? Has he lost his hat, or his leather gloves, has he got blood on his coat? Are his cufflinks okay? Is his suit endangered? All of these things would make him unhappy and definitely happen to him as a direct result of making out with his troublingly messy love interest)
  • just wants the galaxy/con/workplace to be Well-Ordered
  • is super competent/a genius/good at his job
  • very loyal to one or two friends, who are probably also his colleagues, because work is all he truly cares about
  • definitely a perfectionist
  • is often hilariously bitchy, and definitely big with the sarcasm
  • often described as cool/cold/chilly (actually maybe he’s the fandom cousin of the Frigid Workaholic Romcom Heroine who desperately needs a dude to mess up her life and teach her to relax?)
  • burns with fury at seeing people be inefficient and/or unprofessional
  • speaks in a slightly elevated register that has room for cursing but never for phrases like kid or buddy or cute boyfriend
  • emotionally repressed; expresses feelings through workplace shouting and biting comments and maybe whiskey but that is all
  • probably hiding childhood trauma
  • is very prim about sex until he is having it, at which point he is revealed to be The Kinkiest
  • ”hates” his love interest, who is sweaty and bloody and emotional and is gonna Mess Up his overly clean life
  • but obviously only in a Doth Benedick Loathe Beatrice So Entirely kind of way
  • tight-lipped with rage
  • embarrassed by how much he is into Inappropriately Messy Guy/embarrassed BY Inappropriately Messy Guy
  • scowls defensively
  • the idea of control is a big part of his sex life–either exerting or relinquishing it

rosaline-queen-of-apricots replied to your post: it’s not just a fandom thing, it’s the ‘opposites attract’ kinda thing, i.e. Spock/Kirk, Newton/Hermann, Sherlock/John etc

While yes–opposites attracting is a common trope, and Spock and Sherlock definitely bear a familial resemblance, what I’m interested in is actually the more specific thing of fandom picking up a very minor character and filling him up with ALL of these traits.

It’s not the character himself–the character qua the character can be and has been written really wonderfully–it’s the fact that we resurrect him in the shells of minor characters at all.

Hux–a very minor character who barely appears in the movie
Arthur–a MUCH smaller character than fandom would suggest
Erestor–literally had like two lines
Draco–was canonically a child, but all the fic was about him as an adult, some ten to fifteen years in the future, when he grew up into This Very Particular Character.

This isn’t fandom picking up on opposites attracting within the canon.

This is fandom CREATING a specific character to be opposite someone else.

Tags from pastel-damerons[2]: #this is good things to think about#but i am personally offended that you would compare spock to hux#he isn’t quick to anger he is very patient#he has a dry sense of humor but it isn’t biting or sarcastic#he doesn’t strive for order he strives for logic (and there is a difference)#he isn’t prim or otherwise about sex he literally has sex every seven years biologically have you SEEN amok time#he isn’t embarassed by loving kirk is embarassed by his emotions and ‘not being vulcan enough’#like spock is SO DIFFERENT from this stereotype honestly did you just think ‘emotionless and detached = neat freak sour character’#cuz that is such a disservice#anyway this analysis of hux is v fascinating and resonates a little bit bc i’ve seen loki take on this sort of personality in some fics

wildehack[3]: Firstly, I cannot argue with your Spock analysis! (Also, I adore Spock! I have a Spock tattoo! I promise that I love him truly.)

Now that I have said this piece, I’m gonna go on a long clarifying tangent, because it is a running theme in the tags on the post/the asks I’ve been getting. But know that the tangent is not directed at you, defender of Spock! I’m just reblogging this version because it collected the fragmented pieces of the discussion into one post, for context’s sake. :)

ANYWAY. The point I want to get to is that character archetypes totally exist, and that is not a) a problem, or b) what I am talking about.

Spock and Sherlock and Jeeves all more or less share a type, which is just a thing that happens when people tell stories, both consciously and subconsciously. That doesn’t mean the characters are identical or interchangeable, but you can see how they bear a kind of family resemblance to each other. For example– “it would have cost me my soul” and “it was worth a wound" and “there is a tie that binds” are rhyming moments of Great Import to all three characters, although they refer to moments that are specific to their canons. The characters ARE different, but when you put them together in a iineup, it’s easier to see how they’re similar. That resemblance, imo, is neutral.

What interests me about the fandom ghost isn’t that he is an archetype, or that many characters are very similar to each other. What interests me is that this is a character type that fandom periodically yanks out of the drawer and dresses up in the clothes of a minor character.

That’s a very specific thing to do. It’s not something we are inheriting from any canon. It’s something we are doing, collectively, as the great migratory fandom thing we are.

We (collective fandom we) have imbued minor characters with these traits so often that I can trace it as a type the same way that I can trace Sherlock Holmes as a type. That is a) VERY interesting to me, from a nerdy Henry Jenkins-style crowdsourced-story “the people talk back to the culture” way, and b) EVEN MORE INTERESTING GIVEN THAT THIS GUY IS HERE ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY TO GIVE US A WHITE GUY SHIP WHEN THE CANON DOESN’T HAVE ENOUGH WHITE GUY SHIPS READY MADE FOR US. When we talk back to the culture, sometimes we speak bullshit.

Again, I don’t think any individual person is Wrong or Bad for liking or writing the ghost (I have liked the ghost! he can be very likeable!) but I think the fact that we keep resurrecting him and resurrecting him and resurrecting him IN FANDOMS THAT DO NOT HAVE HIM AS A PRE-EXISTING CHARACTER tells us something about what we as Fandom want. It’s a symptom that tells us something about the state of Fandom, the way a bechdel test fail does not tell us whether a movie is good or even feminist, but DOES tell us something about the state of hollywood.

TFA isn’t an incredibly diverse movie, but unless you pump up the empty balloon of Hux’s character with the ghost the only other white guys to pair Kylo Ren with are his blood relatives and Supreme Commander Gollum.

This is in a movie where he and Poe snark at each other with Poe on his knees; where he ties Poe up to a table and digs into Poe’s brain, where he looks at Finn from across a crowded massacre and Feels A Literal Magical Tug, where he and Rey basically mindfuck each other for agonizingly long minutes. There are Other Opportunities here, is what I’m saying.

Kylux is the most popular pairing in TFA fandom. Expanding Hux’s character is a choice that fandom made. Kylux is a choice that fandom made. The fact that Fanon Hux came canned and prepackaged for us–our ready made mayo sandwich–is SOMETHING TO PAY ATTENTION TO.

It’s not the character of the ghost, or his origins, or the canon characters that bear a family resemblance to him that really matter, imo. It’s the fact that WE, FANDOM, keep resurrecting him when we aren’t seeing a familiar enough white guy ship in the canon cast. That’s a canary collapsing in a mine, is what I’m saying.

Reported Examples of Characters Whom The Ghost Possesses

Female Fandom Ghost thread (AKA The Queen Bee)

present-mirth: I think what’s being said here is amazingly on point. It’s fascinating, the way that over time we remodel certain characters in fandoms - deciding they have certain traits and committing to this idea despite no real canon evidence, to the point that reading a fic where they don’t fall act in that way feels genuinely OOC.

In my view - and I’m sure it’s not an original one - Mr Fastidious-Kinky White Guy has a sister, a female character who is recreated again and again across fandoms. She’s the flawless pal of the main white boy couple, you know, the one who mostly exists to roll her eyes at their stupidity and probably save the world off screen while they’re getting their shit together.

Now, I’m being unfair. This character, as you’re saying with Hux, can be brilliantly written and wonderfully entertaining. I first came across her when deep into an obsession with Merlin, filling the role of Morgana - and perhaps significantly she mostly appeared in modern AUs. This Morgana was heart-stoppingly beautiful, wicked smart, eternally snarky, and in turns mean to and indulgent of ‘her boys’, who meanwhile spent the majority of each fic dithering about getting together. And I loved it every time. Actually, Morgana was generally my favourite part of these stories. She got all the best lines, and often felt like a refreshing and well-drawn character. If she didn’t much resemble the canon character, well, it’s hard to reconcile an increasingly murderous witch with a nice coffee-shop AU, especially when you genuinely like the character and want her to have nice things.

It was only a couple of fandoms down the line that she started to bother me. In particular, I found her in Teen Wolf. Mainly it was Lydia who took on the role, although most of the other Teen Wolf ladies could be co-opted into it. Again, I don’t mean to condemn the fandom. There are plenty of fics where lydia is a gloriously complex character. And as in Morgana’s case, there are plenty more where this archetype-Lydia is wonderfully written and puts a smile on my face. But ultimately, she is an archetype, created by the fandom to facilitate the getting-together of the white boy love interests.

And what I find particularly difficult about Morgana-Lydia-etc is that all too often, she’s not actually a minor canon character. Unlike Hux, she’ll often have be drawn in some detail by the writers. Maybe not in ways we always like or approve of, but she’s not an empty shell, and there’s really no need to superimpose a prepackaged character onto her.

We’re not gifted with a huge number of complex female character arcs on screen, and I think it’s interesting that we’re collectively so willing to put aside women in fanfiction and elevate minor male characters like Hux, especially while we’re simultaneously praising a movie like SW:TFA for being more diverse than typical blockbusters. I don’t really have an answer for why - I suspect that if I tried I’d descend into amateur hour psychology that anyone with a brain could tear apart in an instant. But I think it’s something we need to recognise in ourselves.

wildehack[22]: ABSOLUTELY. It’s a different but related thing, I think? The way canonically well-developed female characters (especially female love interests) get possessed by this “eyerolling at the boys and telling them what their feelings are while being badass conveniently elsewhere” ghost in fic.

Which, I should note, is a thing I have 100% written. Because I was being lazy, and rested the story on a sexist trope instead of doing justice to the characters. It can be done well, as you’ve mentioned, but I think mostly it’s lazy writing.

marmolita[23]: This one hits me harder than the ghost dude actually. As I read the initial description of Morgana above I was thinking, “that sounds just like how teen wolf fic treats Lydia.” And following the rest of the description, it also seemed a lot like Elizabeth and Teyla both in SGA, and like Natasha in Avengers fic, and even Karen, Marci, and Claire in Daredevil fic.

And yeah, the most frustrating thing there is that all these female characters are actually well-developed characters! They have agency and great stories! Why are they always turned into the sassy, snarky bff who tells her boys to get their shit together and date?

#this is why I get so pissed at kinkmeme prompts about like #foggy is marci's gay best friend #Marci snarkily tells Foggy to hook up with Matt #Karen ships Matt and Foggy #like no #just no #stop it #we don't need to fuck up great female characters in order to have someone in the fic validate our shipping preferences

lazaefair[24]: YES, I started noticing the Female Fandom Ghost in the Star Trek Reboot fandom, when fanon Uhura and Nurse Chapel and T'Pring and Winona Kirk and Number One started reading an awful lot like the exact same character with slightly different styling - ostensibly gorgeous and sassy and competent, but appearing onscreen solely to support Kirk/Spock. Eye rolls and everything. And that Female Fandom Ghost is really, really at odds with actual canon characterization for basically all of them.

I started seeing it in Stormpilot fics, too, with Lesbian Rey. But at least Stormpilot’s not a white male gay ship featuring the Male Fandom Ghost, so there’s that. I guess.

maple-spinner[25]: I noticed Female Fandom Ghost in Skyfall fics, when Eve had the same personality as Lydia from Teen Wold and Morgana from Merlin. She showed up as MCU Natasha for a while, but that seems to have decreased as we’ve seen more of Natasha onscreen (or FFG has evolved?? or I’ve gotten better at avoiding fics with that archetype?)

When I tried to backtrack FFG the furthest back I could remember seeing her was Cordelia Chase’s Queen C characterization in Angel fics, so I’ve been calling Female Fandom Ghost ‘Queen Bee’

It’s interesting that Male Fandom Ghost personality has so much in common with Female Fandom Ghost

otherpeoplescreativity[26]: Yes, yes, yes!

I also see this in Star Wars Prequel fic, where Obi-Wan and Anakin are the “true romance” and Padme is your Lydia archetype - the fond yet nagging parent-shepherdess who finds “the boys” cute and exasperating. It’s why I recoil at most ObiKin stuff even before it establishes that there’s no such thing as a deeply powerful *friendship* in fiction. Padme is not even the slashed pair’s friend, not really; she is their enabler. That is not a trope well done, that’s woman-shaped-tool.

I needed these words, thank you.

veilchenjaeger[27]: #i feel like many fandom writers have a lot of internalised misogyny #and since fandom gets called out more and more for not including female characters #many writers might try to change that #so this trope is very convenient #it’s a good female character who is neither the Bitch Getting In The Way #nor a weak character #she is cool and strong and probably what a lot of girls want to be? #so if you don’t want to use the misogynistic tropes of either having no female characters at all #or having the female character(s) taking antagonistic roles #it’s a nice simple way out #you don’t actually need to develop her #you can concentrate on your white dude ship (which is the main point of the story!) #i mean minor characters are great but they don’t always need their own stories #especially not in short fics #but you want her to be an interesting character #you have a simple way out of the ‘you write her in a sexist way!’ trap bc #in itself this character is a strong and good one #you have a comic relief and you can use her as a plot device #(again this is something minor characters are sometimes simply there for) #she’s the perfect character for anyone who doesn’t know how to or doesn’t want to develop their female characters #and like the White Dude Ghost you met her 208045 times in all your fave fics #so you KNOW how to write her while you’re probably struggling with writing the canon character #also letting a female character have flaws might feel sexist in itself for some people #so she has to be flawless #sigh #i’m just saying i think this has a lot to do with internalised misogyny

Self-Inserting, the Feminine Ghost, and the White Male as Safe Substitute

lovethatcoat[28]: Yeah, the popularity of Kylux definitely debunks that “white M/M is only so popular in fandom because most media has more compelling white male characters than anything else”-meta that was going around some time ago. Because TFA has offered us a lot of other options. Want childhood trauma? - Rey with abandonment, Finn with being brought up in a horrible oppressive system. Want a clean slate character to fill up with your own headcanon? - Jessica Pava. Want M/M? - Stormpilot.

And yet, here we are. Fandom elders are telling us this is a pattern, but for me it’s the first time it’s been so apparent.

I guess we have to admit that we aren’t just transformative, but also emulating problematic patterns from popular culture like focussing on the white male characters and sidelining female and POC characters.

As for the fandom ghost: I’ve got another one: Q in the Craig!Bond verse. He fits the personality pattern and when he was introduced in Skyfall he didn’t have that much screentime, but got tons of fandom attention already long before he reappeared in Spectre. I kinda noticed how little the whole fanon had to do with canon Bond-verse, but I guess it bothered me less, because canon Bond-verse is a horrific mess.

My personal explanation for latching onto this ghost-character is something we like to blame on female (particularly original) characters: self-insert. I noticed how when I try to write Hux, I draw a lot on myself:

  • emotionally detached? - check
  • perfectionism? - i try to work on it but yes
  • clever with science / good at job, less so with people? - check
  • hidden childhood trauma? - check, ok well less hidden nowadays
  • hates people being inefficient? - ughh when people can’t put away their 5 yoghurts at the check-out line and don’t move out of the way (grrrrr though i’m not very confrontational and only roll my eyes)
  • sarcastic and snarky? - well i wish i was more witty but yes
  • weird control thing? - check

So now the question is: why do I self-insert as male despite being female? Maybe to keep a bit of a safe distance? That’s something someone trying to remain detached would do, right? Maybe because the usual next step where the prissy ghost is being taken apart by magic!cock and reveals his sexual needs would feel weird with a female character both in terms of the shitty damsel-saved-by-knight-trope and me being afraid of slut-shaming, but somehow it’s ok when it’s a guy? I think @ingu wrote something interesting about anti-reylo people critizising abusive dynamics in reylo while being ok with it in kylux.

Another aspect is that the other character the ghost is shipped with is usually quite fucked up, unstable, violent, clearly hurting, etc (true for both Craig!Bond and Kylo Ren) and somehow in need of being saved and reigned in. Now a lot of people are being vocal about not wanting Rey to be sacrificed to heal the abusive asshole, but we still seem to have the need to wrap him into a blanket and so we self-insert into a male character to do this.

I dunno, maybe I’m just digging too deep, because as far as I recall my first kylux thought was “lol wouldn’t it be funny if those two assholes were hate-fucking and accidentally developed feelings” - like it was a sort of wish to torture them through the horrible agony of being in love and the sentimentality only happened later.

ingu[29]: Since I’ve been @ed I’ll jump in with my two cents on this question, drawing on a few points I’ve made previously here, here, and here. I would argue that the above comments are 100% on point, the popularity of this fandom ghost is without a doubt due to its function as a fandom-wide self-insert, and a direct symptom of the ‘white male as default’ human mentality of western society as whole.

Self-insert, however, may not be an entirely accurate, instead, I would argue that these characters exhibit the common characteristics and traits which participants of fandom are likely to identify with. Their experiences and circumstances are such which under-represented groups are able to easily appropriate and reframe with their own perspectives.

If you look at fandom’s depiction of Hux (and also, I believe, Arthur), much of their shared characteristics can be directly reflected in those experienced by, as an example, women. Their preoccupation with looking well-kept directly mirrors women’s experiences with the need for make-up, with body-image. Being hypercompetent and yet not respected (especially by that frustrating object of desire), mirrors women’s real life workplace struggles. As @cyanwrites has raised before in this post discussing the role of age in character preference:

(older) Millenials identify with Hux (not the ‘genocidal bastard’ part, but being hard-working, under-appreciated, and having to suffer an idiot colleague on a daily basis)

While the op says that they do not see canon Hux in what fanon has made of him, I don’t quite agree. It is exactly because Hux has shown specific characterisitcs:

  • well-kept
  • competent, high-achieving, and hard working (a very young general, many inferences can be made from this)
  • is frustrated (and targeted) by people ‘less-competent’ than him (kylo)
  • does not hesitate to stand up for himself
  • highly professional and even guarded exterior (contrast leia’s commanding style)

that fandom is able to imprint and expand on him. And the thing is, there is absolutely nothing unnatural about this. If you look across fandoms, just about every other depiction of a fannish character will have some sort of difference. Even established official writers for tentpole characters (especially in comic books) will reveal deeply varied interpretations of the same person. This is the essence of fandom, and the origin of creativity for those of us interested in exploring our understandings of these figures we have felt attracted to for various reasons.

Now as for the why, I would say that Hux being young, white, male, and also, not ugly (at least in most people’s eyes, it seems), does unquestionably play a role. And this is the symptom of sustained social conditioning that we fans have not managed to escape the effects of despite our deep awareness of the issues present. White men are not just presented as inherently complex, they’re presented as inherently desirable, they’re presented as inherently important. And at the same time, this comes as a direct result of the serious under-representation issue faced by minorities.

The point being, fandom does not exist in a vacuum, and the real life social-issues faced by minority groups become obstacles when a fan is already struggling to manage and explore their own feelings formed under the influence of these issues. Here, I can think of two examples.

First, in the context of star wars, the fandom hate for Reylo is one of the best example of the danger and deterrence that fans experience when wanting to explore what might be an ‘unethical’ subject matter. The simple issue being they cannot divorce themselves from the shame and guilt and anger of seeing or placing a woman in a position of ‘less power’. There is an element of internalised misogyny at play. Where a fan may want to explore sexual themes or unhealthy/abusive relationship dynamics with unequal power, the woman’s body is off-limits. The same is repeated for other minority characters, whether it is race, or gender identity at play, people are terrified of doing something wrong and being attacked for it, so they don’t do it at all.

More than this, there is an issue where many authors simply don’t know what to do with a minority or female character when it comes to their headcanons. Mako Mori, the asian female protagonist of Pacific Rim isn’t written out of fanfiction for shits and giggles, it’s because often, like the white male authors of the world, fandom doesn’t know how to write an asian female without turning her into a stereotype and an insult. The symptoms of the disease that is media under-representation is exhibited directly by fandom.

And in the wider fandom context, the phenomenon of ABO fiction is also a perfect reflection of this in the context of female sexuality. Where women are able to forego the shame that lies behind expressing and controlling their own sexual desires while embracing the pleasures behind ‘humiliating’ kinks, most of which are invariably tied to the real-life oppression of female sexuality. This is something I’ve discussed in a skype ramble you can read here.

All of this ties back to the fact that most Kylux fanfiction is not in any way healthy or vanilla. One in three Kylux fics on AO3 is Explicit, compared to 24% of reylo and 14% of stormpilot. So much of Kylux is kink and porn. And the rest of it reflects many deeply unequal or downright abusive dynamics. Kylo’s disregard and invasion of Hux’s mind and privacy has been all but normalised within fanon. And Children Wake Up, the most popular kylux series by far within the fandom, contains a deeply imbalanced relationship dynamic wherein Hux has been stripped of all agency and power, and a Kylo Ren who demonstrates little respect for Hux’s boundaries or desires. What this shows is that fandom, at its heart, is attracted to tropes, kinks, and general subject matter which are deeply unpopular when it’s used against women, poc, and other minorities. Even your most vanilla coffee shop or high school au might just be recycled tropes and cliches people will shame and pick apart if produced for a mainstream audience.

The white man, here, is not only a ‘blank’ slate which people understand and understand how to utilise safely, it is also an ‘empowered’ slate which does not carry the real-world baggage faced by minorities. When Rey is even so much as threatened with the danger of abuse and rape, a mob rises up to attack Reylo shpipers. When Hux and Kylo are actively stripped of power and emasculated by a fandom’s most popular depictions, there is no equivalent emotional response. White men, are seen as inherently equal in power, whether or not that is the reality, and as a result, it allows fandom to enjoy its most shameful and perverse harlequin tropes or 50 shades dynamics, with zero guilt or baggage.

It is an appropriation of the white male body for the expression of female sexuality and emotional experience. Does it reclaim power for minorities, or does it just perpetuate the very issues they experience? Maybe neither, maybe both.

kat2107[30]: If I may add an opinion here to the Why a man and not a woman?

Most of us are women and it’s just easier to hurt (and I am talking about non-con, torture, blood, biting shit here) a man than it is a woman.

Because, let’s face it, despite the very real existence of violence against men, the main victims, both in personal statistic and the amount of incidents one person experiences are still women.

I too am drawn to perfectionist characters who love their control, leaders who clean up other people’s messes. And have a dark side. That btw applies to both Hux AND Leia and they’re my favorites. But I would never hurt Leia the way I hurt Hux. NEVER! Though I would totally (and did) write epic fanfiction about her in my younger years that nobody ever got to read because the internet didn’t yet exist.

wisekrakens-blog[31]: You know what I’m seeing through my queer-colored glasses? Feminine wish-fulfillment.

Not self-insert – it serves its purpose but god, it gets a bad rep in 99% of the fandom that isn’t “I found this literally two weeks ago,” and the Fanon Ghost plays a central role in countless fandom classics. I’m talking straight-up James-Bond-level wish fulfillment.

The Fanon Ghost is described as (I’m quoting from @wildehack up there)

  • pays a great deal of attention to his personal presentation
  • is super competent/a genius/good at his job
  • is often hilariously bitchy, and definitely big with the sarcasm
  • often described as cool/cold/chilly
  • speaks in a slightly elevated register that has room for cursing but never for phrases like kid or buddy or cute boyfriend
  • emotionally repressed; expresses feelings through workplace shouting and biting comments and maybe whiskey but that is all
  • probably hiding childhood trauma
  • is very prim about sex until he is having it, at which point he is revealed to be The Kinkiest
  • ”hates” his love interest, who is sweaty and bloody and emotional and is gonna Mess Up his overly clean life (but obviously only in a Doth Benedick Loathe Beatrice So Entirely kind of way)
  • tight-lipped with rage
  • embarrassed by how much he is into Inappropriately Messy Guy
  • scowls defensively
  • the idea of control is a big part of his sex life–either exerting or relinquishing it

A lot of these traits are distinctly feminine-coded, meaning they’re used extensively in media as shorthand for either ladyfolk or a less-than tree-felling beard-growing chaw-spitting Manly Man. (Man, don’t even get me started on the non-androgynous NB struggle. I feel you, you know I feel you, but that’s neither here nor there atm.)

Meticulous personal presentation is the basis for half-a-hundred Get Out of the Bathroom jokes. It’s the reason for makeup and hair products and clothes that look nice but are incredibly uncomfortable, and those horrific 20th century advertisement campaigns telling the world that if you don’t wear this specific deodorant, your husband’s going to leave you. The Fanon Ghost’s presentation-as-armor is one of the first things that clued me into the female-coding, actually; the next was his penchant for being “emotionally repressed” and “coming off as cool/cold/chilly” because of it, because feminine folks, especially in popular media, are so rarely allowed to have emotions that aren’t nice and clean and positive. That’s Emotional Repression 101 – You Are Not Allowed To Have These Feelings – and the only way feminine folks and the Fanon Ghost who stands in for them can express their anger is though passive-aggression or by outright ignoring the people who enforce the social norm: hence “tight-lipped with rage.” “Speaks in a slightly elevated register” would, I hope, speak for itself. (See what I did there?)

Sex, or the lack thereof, has been a feminine symbol of power and agency since the (American) Free Love Movement in the 1960s. “The idea of control is a big part of his sex life – either exerting or relinquishing it” follows that well-worn pattern exactly. But fanon, more than most things, doesn’t exist in a vacuum: here’s where we start running into the tropes created by-men-for-men that, unfortunately, the predominately feminine fandom hasn’t yet been able to purge. The Secretly and Immediately Kinky Virgin honestly baffles me, but it’s a major trait for the Fanon Ghost as well as a plot hole-free way for feminine writers to express their own kinkiness. “’Hates’ his love interest” and “is embarrassed by how much he likes him” is beat-for-beat Hero Winning Over the One Female in the Cast, as is “scowls defensively” and “probably hiding childhood trauma.”

Because feminine characters can’t be compelling without severe psychological trauma, I guess. Love you, Hollywood/various publishing houses!

But the traits that are truly wish-fulfillment, and not just trappings, start with “is super competent/a genius/good at his job,” and continue through “is often hilariously bitchy, and definitely big with the sarcasm.” Because who doesn’t want to be hilarious and good at things? (Not Ian Fleming: he just wanted to kill people and have lots of sex. Apparently with lesbians. Because he was so much a product of his times.)

I remember reading once, I sadly forget where because I am awful at names, that sarcasm is a weapon of the oppressed. It’s humor, so it’s mostly unoffensive; it’s true, so it can’t be argued against; and it’s muttered under the breath within earshot of one or two like-minded folks, so it’s hard to catch. Sarcasm isn’t something Thor would have much use for, but Loki? Sarcasm is half his personality.

All narratives need a character that the audience can identify with, can learn about the world with, or else the story is hopelessly inaccessible. The Hobbit has Bilbo; Harry Potter has Harry Potter; Supernatural has both Sam and Dean, depending on who’s in the process of going demon and which argument they’re rehashing that season. The primarily feminine fandom keeps reinventing the Fanon Ghost in the guise of Draco, Arthur, Hux, because this is who they choose to identify with: a character without any of the surface trouble of growing up feminine, but who’s coded feminine all the way down.

costis[32]: I think that part of it (I’m ignoring the diversity thing for now) is that people see themselves in the “messy emotional character.” Now, this isn’t anything new, people always relate to characters. It’s how we get involved in the story. And people have a certain type of person that they want to see themselves with. Obviously not every single person in a fandom wants exactly the same person, but it’s enough that some people will start writing it, and then other people will catch on, and think (not consciously) that this is something that they see themselves in, too. So the fandom ghost gains popularity and people forget that the character wasn’t originally like that. Now, where does the ghost come from and why are they the one chosen? The ghost is a convineint archetype (I’m not sure when it originated and gained popularity) that can be shoved into any character. People love the ghost. I’ve seen so many “romance fantasy” things where one of the characters, most often a straight girl, fits this archetype where she’s “a lady in the streets and a freak in the sheets.” There’s just something people find attractive about this. (My guess would be that people want someone who’s admired and most likely a good worker, but who can fulfill their desires at the same time) So when people need a go-to character to ship someone with, out comes the ghost, ready to fulfill their every wish.

certifiedspacetrash (user deactivated): Reblogging for commentary. Idk, OP. I agree with @ingu that Hux is not a blank slate - he has enough identifiable characteristics and traits in the film for fandom to work off of - just as many as many of the heroes do. How much more do you know about Poe from the film alone, than Hux? About the same, I’d say.

I was never in the Inception fandom, but you see a lot of the same archetypes circulating in fiction. Hell, you can trace every western character archetype back to ones established in ancient Greco-Roman plays.

This is where it gets more complicated, because I’m mixed race, bi, and a guy. So what I am reclaiming or perpetuating by shipping this?

And I think ingu inadvertently hit the nail on the head of why I personally do not enjoy “Children Wake Up” despite its often stellar prose - because it’s 300k+ words of systematically abusing and humiliating Hux in every way imagineable, a Hux who is written as already constantly terrified due to a childhood of frequent gangrape, who is an exclusive bottom and bdsm sub, and who never has any agency in the fic. Yeah no thnx.

And while it is certainly an interesting point to think about that perhaps people wouldn’t accept such fics with a woman or a poc in place of british isles Hux, somehow I don’t think that would be the case. I mean, 50 Shades is about a woman, and it’s way more popular than any other fanfic has ever become.

I feel like this is the mayo sandwich conversation again but with different phrasing. I don’t think anyone is wrong or bad for indulging their fictional kinks with a very select audience. I don’t think you have to select certain characters because of their ethnicity or gender or culture to be “allowed” to enjoy that kink. Or reveal your own childhood trauma before you get a stamp of approval from a stranger on tumblr (who is more likely themselves white, straight, cis etc, think about that for a moment) for being allowed to have a certain kink.

That said, you do not have to share or like anyone’s else’s fanfiction kink. It can make you sick to your stomach due to your own personal history, and that is also 100% ‘valid’.

By all means, hate, revile some work of fiction that really does not work for you. Write essays about why it infuriates you. But maybe not, ya know, accuse vast amounts of strangers of being racist/sexist/fascist/nazis etc based on a very limited amount of information in a fictional realm for a closed, select audience. Which is what I see happening with people’s reaction to the popularity of Kylux.

But I also think ingu has a fascinating point re the type of fanfiction being written in the different ship tags. I don’t think I’ve seen a single Kylux piece that did not have at least one overt suggestion of bdsm. Certainly all the most popular ones do.

But I don’t think people go “oh fuck, I want to write this scene but I don’t want to get shit for being sexist/racist/smthist, let’s use the two white guys for it!” I think the black, red, vinyl, starched collar, stiff upper lip aesthetics of the First Order appeals to a certain sexual interest group. The First Order aesthetics from the film whets our creative spark in a way that probably wasn’t intended, but may have been (The Night Porter, anyone?).

I think Kylux shippers are of roughly two sorts (with some people being both types, ofc) - the ones that want to see villains redeemed or changed, and the ones that want to explore villains / byronic heroes / antiheroes / fucked up dynamics without necessarily seeking to ‘correct’ them (how much gangrape and torture does it take to turn a general into a rabbit? Stay tuned! (We’ll also be handwaving Kylo’s mass-killing of children tho he was just mindcontrolled)).

I don’t dislike Reylo because I see Rey as in a weaker position to Kylo and that sets off some kind of non-PC alarms in my head. She fucking kicks his ass and would have killed him if the planet wasn’t collapsing - how would she be more helpless than him? I dislike Reylo because I prefer not to ship my trash with my wholesome wheat bread xD and would rather, personally, explore two assholes who are both fucked up in very different ways fucking eachother and seeing where that takes them, than the proverbial Belle taming the Beast. That’s just me, though.

Idk where I was going with this longass rant but yeah, Hux has plenty of easily discernible characteristics onscreen, some members of gen x (aka “generation screwed”) identify with these (overworked, underappreciated, forced to endure idiot coworkers, control issues, has hoop dreams, etc). Some of us, who are very self-critical don’t see ourselves as rays of sunshine who have never done any wrong in their lives. We look at Kylo, estranged from his family, torn between emotional extremes, doing bad things and regretting them and trying to fix that by doing more bad things, being abused by a man in position of power, and we think - fuck. It me. Regardless of our personal gender or skin colour.

And it is byronic heroes we’re talking about, here (Hux and Ren). That’s really what I see with yall’s discussion of the fandom “ghost.” It’s something that’s existed since Greek antiquity at least, and it’s not tied to whiteness. Japanese fiction, anime, games, manga is swimming with byronic heroes. The work that probably turned most of us onto it, the main man most people think of when they hear the word, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, wasn’t white.

That man of loneliness and mystery,
Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh—
He knew himself a villain—but he deem’d
The rest no better than the thing he seem’d;
And scorn’d the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.
He knew himself detested, but he knew
The hearts that loath’d him, crouch’d and dreaded too.
Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
From all affection and from all contempt

I think if Hollywood cast more young, striking actors who happen to be PoC, women etc as villains / byronic heores we would see lots of fanfic of them. But Hollywood is still in some weirdass reaction to being accused of racial stereotyping (which they 100% still do), and almost refuse to cast poc or women as bad guys. If they are, they’re either cast very old; or they’re the mary sue badguys - 100% beautiful, geniuses, incredibly powerful, no flaws whatsoever - and that tends not to inspire a lot of writers.

But there certainly is something to be said for writers being afraid of, or wary of, or unsure of how to write poc or women.

I recall on a Nostalgia Chick skit about The Little Mermaid, Nella saying “It’s impossible to write women. Everyone is judging you.”

ingu[33]: I like your points! I’m by no means saying that the ‘fear’ is a conscious choice for most people, what I hoped to address was the specific representation of fandom’s (or rather, its participants)’ internalised issues when it comes to sexism and racism, in kylux and the white bread phenomenon. But it can’t be denied that the fact that the pair being shipped are villains make it easier to justify the dark themes that have been popularised.

regular-lord-reckoner[34]: I’d like to toss my two cents in here if that’s alright.

I’ve been thinking about this all morning and it’s definitely an interesting point but (and maybe someone’s already pointed this out) I don’t feel like this ghost type is an exclusive male-character only trait?

In fact…it’s actually a pretty huge trope re: virtually all female characters in romances?

The stuck up/frigid/super busy/prudish but secretly a sex kitten type who meets the laid back, messy guy who changes things.

I hate to reference Family Guy for anything ever but there was actually a bit about this very trope in which there’s a commercial for some TV show or movie and it’s this business woman answering all these phones talking about how busy she is and then this dude comes in, hangs up the phone, and he’s like, “Over the next hour i’m going to show you how all of your problems can be solved by my penis”. The title of it is something like Busy Lady Who Doesn’t Realize Something’s Missing From Her Life Because of How Incredibly Busy She Is.

Again, not the greatest source material, I realize, but it was one of the first examples that popped into my mind. The reason the joke works, though, is that this is a pretty prevalent trope for female characters in romances.

Look at Hermione and Ron. In spite of Hermione being far more complex and multi-faceted she still gets written off most of the time as bossy, stuck up, and someone who would rather die than get expelled (even though down the road she skips an entire year to defeat Voldemort). She gets paired up with Ron who one of the first things she ever says to him in a disappointed/superior tone is “You’ve got dirt on your nose”. And even though there’s also more to Ron than being the more lackadaisical one they’re still on that “opposite attract!” spectrum.

I think too of Jurassic World. We’ve got Claire who is a no-nonsense businesswomen focused on her career so she doesn’t have time for silliness and she walks around a jungle setting wearing crisp, all-white numbers. Then we’ve got Owen who’s a real hands-on, rugged type who isn’t afraid to get down in the dirt and isn’t concerned with being top dog (because of course, he just already is he’s a man he doesn’t have to work himself to exhaustion to prove he’s the best he just is, duh). These two end up together, though.

And unfortunately 50 Shades of Grey is one of the best selling novels out there and regarded as like…the height of romance for a lot of women instead of a guide book on Signs That You’ve In An Abusive Relationship 101. We’ve got the shy, naive almost prudish Ana and then dude sweeps in, gets her in the bedroom, and it’s time for the kinky shit.

But we’re talking about male characters, Anna. I know but…I’m willing to go out on a limb here and guess that most of this fan fiction is being written by women? Women who therefore might be projecting what they know onto what they’re writing it just doesn’t seem as glaringly obvious because it’s two dudes instead of a guy and a girl.

It’s not that it’s wrong, necessarily, but I guess my point is it makes sense to me why this would be such a prevalent character type, especially when said character is usually the one we get the POV from. It’s perhaps a bit of self-insertion going on here.

Not in all cases, I’m sure, and again it’s not a bad thing necessarily. There is, admittedly, something kind of nice at times of seeing two opposite types of people come together and build a romance with one another. But I think the reason this seems to endure is because it’s a formula that, for the most part, has been all we’ve seen. There have been exceptions, of course, but by and large I feel like the romances I’ve seen have primarily consisted of women who have to be “the brain” and therefore the more strict one and the guy who’s more laid back. Ultimately she loosens up and learns how to have fun and the guy…I dunno, gets the girl? He never really seems to learn anything. (And, of course, when the trope is flipped on its head we get manic pixie dream girls who exist to help shake the guy out of his boring routine and teach him how to have fun and he teaches her…Idk, he gets the girl, that’s what matters)

As for why it’s usually a character plucked from obscurity I’m guessing it’s convenient? When a character is well-established and there’s little to be vague about in terms of their past or what they’re really like it’s hard to project this idea onto them because then it seems obviously OOC so if they don’t already fit the type then, well…let’s find someone who could! So a character no one knows as much about then…yeah, go nuts. Self-insert to your heart’s content, who’s going to be able to tell you that you’re wrong?

That’s at least part of it, I have no doubt it’s also for a large part of the fandom a fumbling grasp to see two white dudes go at it no matter how much more diverse or well-paired the main cast is. That’s for a whole other discussion as well as how fandom treats women period.

#like i mean obviously i love arthur #but i had noticed that the popular idea of him as a character is someone who's completely uptight (except in the bedroom) #who always follows rules and like things neat etc. etc #and that eames was always devil may care who gives a fuck about rules #watch me mess this up etc. etc. #but...being that i've seen inception 435345345 times that's...not really how they are? #but yeah #i maybe be way off on this but it just kinda struck me that this isn't just a fan fiction problem or an obscure male character thing #it's..pretty much how most female characters are written in terms of romance #and whether right or wrong good or bad i think maybe women who are writing fan fiction might be letting some of that influence that?

mathildia[35]: I think this is happening now with Graves from Fantastic Beasts. What’s interesting is that this character with this secret desire for a certain kind of nasty sex with rough emotional men, that he can never speak about, but longs for, maybe represents the way a lot of women feel and the reason this character comes back again and again is that writing slash is a way of expressing that.

oceaxe-ifdawn[36]: ...Anywho, leaving Arthur for a moment, let’s turn to This One Crowdsourced Dude. TOCD is US. He’s our self-insert - he takes on our “shameful” desires and makes them real, he turns our failings (uptight, anxious, pedantic, neurotic, obsessed with fashion/status in a way that we’re told is shallow, bitchy, nerdy) into sexy characteristics that draw people to him rather than put them off. He’s the BAMF we all want to be, and he doesn’t even have to be polite to win himself the hottest dude around (be that Harry, Eames or Kylo).

That’s my take, anyway, and I personally will never have enough of TOCD. Because I fall in love with characters like Harry and Eames, and I want them to fall in love with someone like me - prickly, sarcastic, afraid to be vulnerable, but an ABSOLUTE DEMON IN THE SACK (wink).

#why do we love the things we love #and what purpose do they serve

violent-darts[37]: (A variation of this ghost is in C/C stuff in MCU, oh god yes.)

Genuine curiosity, for those into the pairing! What’s the proportion of Fucked Up/Abusive Dynamics in Kylux?

This is by no means something that applies to all iterations of the ghost at all (it was very variable in Arthur in Inception, not really present in C/C from what I saw, and indeed the further back you go the less it is; conversely there are other fandoms where it’s always been an element), but one specific extra facet I could see in SW:TFA fandom that I have seen SOMEWHAT more often in reluctance to HET-ship with the ghost in other fandoms is that of basically being more comfortable subjecting a white cis male character to being in A Fucked Up Harmful Ship I Find Hot. This is particularly the case given both of them are evil: both of them are Bad People.

So someone looks at Kylo Ren and wants to write EITHER him fucking someone up in flat out sadist mode OR wants someone to turn the tables on him and make him cry, right? This is a legit id-vortex of fandom, let’s be real. (And that’s fine: this is a blog that is pretty cool with the id-vortexes, guys, so no worries - I’m just pointing out this specific one.)

With Rey, with Finn, with Poe, there are some serious purely Doylistic reasons for Discomfort at seeing them in that position - in either direction. This is especially the case in terms of the various forms of extra hostility that are present in current fandom, where how you write a character who is part of a minority can and WILL be taken, by certain people, to be A Statement Of Your Views And Feelings On Race/Gender/Whatever. So if you write Finn as victim, there’s anxiety about getting flack because Clearly You Hate/Want To Victimize Black Men, or can’t stand to see them as powerful, or whatever. Adjust as appropriate for Rey and Poe. If you write any of the three of them as Aggressor/Tormentor, you think they must be evil! And frightening!

With Hux, especially since Hux IS a cypher with no personality, there isn’t. Victim or Tormenter, he’s a privileged white guy in a position of power, so there’s no extra subtext.

(Except of course nothing is actually neutral, and the subtext then becomes: this white-boy pairing is the juggernaut of the fandom, eclipsing all the others!)

This, mind, ISN’T meant to say “well this is why, so the OP’s point is totally void”. I actually think they have a totally valid and pertinent point, and I can chart this empty fandom ghost through six of my fandoms, and kinda resent his presence in all of them. In and of itself, if the dynamic I’m thinking of here IS part of it, that ITSELF actually is a canary-tweet for a bunch of other Issues that are worth thinking about.

(This, by the by, is related to the dynamics that can make m/m fic hyper popular with women to start with, to the sidelining and Projecting Bad Shit on female characters - having a FEMALE character pining and lusting helplessly and eventually getting fucked senseless by a male character smacks into raw places in the psyche as WELL as guh-places in the id, where having that spot in the fic occupied by a male character means it’s just the guh-places. That this is part of the contributing dynamic doesn’t ERASE the problem of “huh, it’s kinda messed up how fandom ignores and/or dumps on female characters” - it’s just a part of the complicated mix of it and something to THINK ABOUT, and think about what it says, and maybe where even if some of the initial impetus is within this fair-enough space a crapload of the SIDE shit is maybe something y’wanna stop, see also: demonizing the canonical female love interest, etc.)

And literally I don’t READ Kylux because that’s not what I want out of that fandom. (On the other hand I do avoid WRITING for TFA because my motivation to write the stuff that I want isn’t actually worth dealing with the prevalence of antis, purity police and morality patrol I have seen in the fandom, even on the edges. *hands* So, you know.) So I don’t KNOW if it’s an aspect. But it is one that I wonder about.

Other Responses

See Fandom Ghost: Created Out Of Wholecloth By Fanon/Other Responses

Rebuttals/Extenuating Factors

spaceoperafeerie[38]: hoshit, this is some great damn meta. Like, *so* great. The mayo white guy spectre haunting dudeslash fandom.
What interests me about the fandom ghost isn’t that he is an archetype, or that many characters are very similar to each other. What interests me is that this is a character type that fandom periodically yanks out of the drawer and dresses up in the clothes of a minor character.
Kylux is the most popular pairing in TFA fandom. Expanding Hux’s character is a choice that fandom made. Kylux is a choice that fandom made. The fact that Fanon Hux came canned and prepackaged for us-our ready made mayo sandwich-is SOMETHING TO PAY ATTENTION TO.

Just - this is great stuff. I can’t get over it.

But of course I have stuff to add. From the op:

literally all Hux in canon does is look mad + offer terse pieces of exposition + fire the weapon that one time

This brought me up so short. I am NOT arguing for Hux’s complexity as a character, because that would be ridiculous. I would argue, however, that to dismiss and minimize the entirely horrible and fascist-to-its-bones, spit-flecked speech he makes before “firing the weapon that one time” (the weapon that destroyed five planets) is kind of astonishing. That many fannish viewers, kylux shippers and *not*, can so easily ignore the material and ideological horrors perpetrated by these characters, always brings me up short.

deputychairman[39]: You know where my tastes & sympathies lie and I’m absolutely with you, but I wonder if the reason more people don’t react to the fascist horrors is because nobody on screen does either? Poe changes clothes, washes his face and gets right back in the cockpit - torture, what torture? - Finn drops his Stormtrooper armor and steps straight into another life, no introspection or agonising over his identity or that massacre he witnessed or the former colleagues he fired on (which I don’t think he *should*, but you could see how someone MIGHT feel internal conflict after such a major life change); those planets get blown up and the action never even slows down. We don’t know anyone who was on them - they look anguished then the scene cuts away and everyone goes back to running/shooting /reuniting /abducting/ strategising etc. Which leaves us a lot of space to fill in in fanfic, but less to hold onto to make the atrocities seem *real*, you know?

#like that post about how Fight Club fails at condemning whats-his-name #and his toxic masculinity #because he's the POV character so it's hard to not sympathise with him #same happens here that it's hard to feel horrified by the First Order #when nobody on screen seems to #i still think we SHOULD be horrified #but i can see how you might skim over the impact #unless you really want to sit down and think about it #which often people don't #idk why im even advancing this argument when #i was actually horrified and the clear Nazi imagery of the First ORder really stayed with me #partly because I saw the film with a 4 year old on my lap #and a 6 year old who wanted to know whenever people were dead #QUITE A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE DEAD KID #MUMMY SHOULD NEVER HAVE BROUGHT YOU TO SEE THIS #'ah yes now this is called TORTURE darling' #'and the Geneva Convention prohibits it but as you can see these are the baddies #because they don't resopect the Geneva Convention AT ALL!' #swtfa #and the fandom ghost

spaceoperafeerie[40]: I partly disagree. Seeing it happen - from a huge distance - changed Finn’s entire emotional (and physical) trajectory. So saying no one reacted to the FO isn’t quite accurate. (Besides, the “what about the villagers?”/“kill them all” established, I thought, irrevocably where they stood and how we should feel about them, supported further by Finn’s panic and fear.)

Both the staging and content of Hux’s speech seemed fairly unmistakable & closed to interpretation, idk.

robinasnyder[41]: I’m going to say this is interesting and more than a little uncomfortable. But I don’t agree with the whole thing, especially huge swaths of the last portion. Especially the bits dealing with race. If you follow what I reblog you’ll see the “throwing stones in glass houses” tag, where I post about the racist implications of tfa and mainly kylux, which has gotten incredibly popular despite their being very complex characters of color that could have been easily the most popular if they were white.

When people start saying how people prefer kylux due to it being dark, I roll my eyes and point to Sherlock. Sherlock has two white m/m pairings that fit into similar molds, the heros, Johnlock and villains, mormor. I took to mormor like a duck to water, so I’m not saying that it’s not possible to be attracted to a pairing for the darkness. But Johnlock has a lot of dark versions and is one of the most popular m/m pairings in current fan history and includes the heroes.

What I don’t like about the previous comment is the implication (which I’m pretty certain was unintended) that it’s somehow okay to not write people of color because the writer finds it scary. That is badly infantalizing toward writers, who will go to insane lengths to research star wars facts to get them right, but who won’t take time to find one of the many “how to write poc” guides. It’s also so insulting to poc, specially, in this case to black people, the latinx community, and also Japanese/Asian people (since the previous comment sort of lumped them all together). Come on! We took time to learn about the proper way to write anal sex and bdsm. Is it so hard to apply to same effort to not writing Finn as a horrendous stereotype?

Now, back to the original point of this post, which is the fandom ghost. I am certain of its existence. I am uncomfortable with the implication of Hux being written like Arthur, not because I write him that way or I even like him written that way, but I have seen it.

There was a shift in this pairing. We started out talking about “oh, look at all the sinning”. The ship started out totally owning up to hw awful Hux and Ren were as people. There was rough, vicious sex with sometimes no feelings at all. Hux was petty and mean and I liked him that way. The ghost was there, in some fics, but it never completely sat right. The very mean and cruel and not even that repressed Hux the “I’m gonna be emperor, I’m gonna blow shit up, I’m gonna kill Ren for not trying to control himself, and then fuck him with my gloves” Hux which leaned on the ghost, but also reveled in the pain and hurt he could cause was ny favorite. It was dark, and not in the hannigram hyper non-con/dub-con way. It was the entirety of the pairing. It is now a subgenre of the pairing.

But a shift came to the entire tfa fandom.

I don’t think it started with stormpilot, but I think the effects that followed were a reaction to racial issues across the board. Let’s start with stormpilt and work our way back to Kylux.

I never really liked Stormpilot that much. I wrote a fic for it. It’s okay. I prefered Jedistormpilot. I prefer Finnrey so much. I wanted more of Rey. I didn’t like reypava because it always seemed like “hey, let’s put Rey with some girl who doesn’t actually show up that much but she has boobs and we must justify shafting the interracial het ship. Bonus points because Pava is also not white. Look how progressive we are”. (Also, there’s been a lot more phasma/rey than rey/pava recently, which kinda goes along with the shift).

the problem I have with both stormpilot and reypava is that there was this feeling of superiority like “We’re so progressive and good because we ship two guys who aren’t white. Aren’t we awesome! Give us cookies!”. There was also a lot of sameness in how the characters were written. There wasn’t a lot of variation, which turned me off badly. From other fans I have heard there was an issue with white washing Poe, or playing into the latin lover stereotype, while people wrote Finn as either a baby who can’t do anything, or a heavy racial stereotype.

So people began to leave the pairing, part out of pain for seeing how bad the racial issues and part out of anger for being told they’d done wrong. Some of those people fled to Kylux.

The old Kylux tag was for people who loved characters who were unapologetically awful. CWU is from that era, btw, and has allowed Hux and Ren to grow as if they are horrible people who begin to get a world view shift, but are still selfish and awful people. At the begining, Kylux fans often scoffed at why anyone would want to buy Kylo Ren merch when they could have Finn and Rey merch.

Then came the shift where instead of being like “yeah, Kylo Ren sucks ass, both metaphorical and literal” it became “my son, I must protect him”. The “my son” joke moved into reality. People started to defend Ren’s actions. They gave Hux a reason to do what he did that made his genocide seem okay. They started to try and say that Hux and the First Order weren’t built on Nazi imagery.

If it sounds like I’m blaming the stormpilot people for infiltrating Kylux, I am not. I still follow people who’s work I love in the Kylux tag who originally wrote Ren as awful, who now excuse so much of what he does.

I myself moved from writing kinky/dub-con voyeurism “these two are terrible” porn to writing much more fluff. I am also part of the shift. I won’t deny it.

OP’s point is that the fandom ghost which has embodied Hux is something that comes from fans making up a white m/m pairing. My point is that this is true. The Ghost has actually settled in more recently, that it Hux has become more like Arthur. we start to excuse what Hux does so we don’t feel bad about liking him, and in doing so we water down the cruelty and the viciousness and write tropes we are more used to. We cling to the idea that people we like can’t be that bad.

I follow and love a lot of blogs of people who are black and who love tfa and finn, and who write a lot about fandom racism. At first they only got bullshit from reylo shippers. I even saw a few of them praising Kylux for “staying in ther lane”. They were fine with us and we had no porblems with them. But recently I have seen more and more Kylux shippers giving shit to these people.

This is a product of the shift. Also, I believe, people feeling guilty because they know their ship has a race problem, and they want to feel like good people, and good followers of social justice, so they turn on the people they see as a threat. These peole, mainly black women, who want to talk about racial problems in the fandom but haven’t bothered the Kylux fans specifically because they were mainly talking about Finn and Finn doesn’t “get in the way” like he does with Reylo. They may have mentioned one or two issues, but the Kylux people have been increasingly rude and defensive.

I love Kylux. I love this ship. I latched onto almost immediately and set up camp. Two of my fics are on the top 3 AO3 pages for kudos. One has over 1k kudos. I’m writing in the big bang. The majority of what I post is Kylux. I am as culpable as anyone. Which is why I wrote this. We have a problem. Our Ghost problem is a race problem. The Ghost has become more and more prevelant as we do our best to convince ourselves that Ren and Hux aren’t really all that, that evil. And the evil (read: closer to canon) Hux and Ren have become a subgenre.

Which isn’t to say don’t enjoy the fluff. I am neck deep in Kylux fluff. My big bang is so much fluff. So much. I am a part of this. I still ship the hell out of this ship, but I also recognize the problems we are having as fans of tfa and Kylux, and just being fans in general.

I am certain I don’t have this all right. This is a theory I have been percolating on for a while. I’m still thinking about things. I am certain I have stuff wrong here. I know I was probably too vague in some places, that I might not hace the facts right, that my observations may have been wrong. To the best of my current knowledge, this is what I think. But I own up to the possibility of being wrong. I imagine I’ll learn how I was wrong as I continue to read and try to learn.

la-belle-laide[42]: Weighing in from inception fandom, as a long-time, voracious reader of fic and, if i may say so, a prolific writer ( we’re talking like hundreds of thousands of words ) BUT being not as well read in kylux, I need to say ‘Hmm" to this. Maybe because I’ve read SO MUCH In verse Arthur /Eames, I can say I haven’t actually seen too much of this fandom Arthur? I mean yes, some. There was a time around 2010 - 2011 ish, where Arthur was written this way and Eames was written and sloppy and flirty and kind of gross? But it didn’t really last. Fandom Arthur really evolved after that, and honestly I think fandom realized that there wasn’t much canon basis for Eames being lazy, lecherous and badly dressed, and Arthur being repressed and cold. He’s so not. We used to discuss this on the, what was it called, that lj group? We used to call it the FAPFAP, lol I can’t remember what it was really called.

No one has more fun in the movie than Arthur and Eames. Arthur is flirty, smirky, and bad ass and actually not the best dressed or most put together one in the film. Eames dresses nicely, is way more closed off and bitchy than Arthur, and is the smartest one on the team.

Fandom I think did give Arthur sharper teeth and made him way more of a BAMF . Fandom gave him all kinds of backstories and issues, weaknesses and strengths and quirks to the point where in ‘verse Arthur is one of my favorite characters even counting published works. (That in 'verse one where Arthur cleans the house like a maniac while dancing? “Unexpected Plot Twist” and any of the myriad other military ones? That phase fandom went through when Arthur was from the deep south? Omg there are so many Arthurs in this fandom.)

And Eames is so different to Kylo Ren they’re not even close to being the same archetype, so the dynamic has to be different. Eames is Tom Hadry’s creation, he is gay James Bond and Kylo Ren is…well, Kylo Ren.

Again, I haven’t read anywhere near as much Kylux as I have Dreamhusbands but I think this sells Inception fandom way short, or maybe I’ve just read all the good, fleshed out fics and not many of the OOC tropey ones?

In Tfa my favorite ships are rey/finn, and weirdly enough Poe/Ben. (NOT Kylo Ren.) I have dipped a toe into Kylux but, yeah lukewarm and maybe for the reasons listed above.

Fandom Arthur is so much more than that is what I’m getting at. Or maybe I’ve just read the good stuff! Those tropes are kind of an instant backclick for me!

That said I do so much LOVE meta discussions like these.

Edited to add: canon Hux is straight up RageOut! Graham Chapman from Monty Python, spot on, and that’s prob because Graham Chapman was often sending up Hitler. Maybe that’s why I can’t visualize Hux as being anything close to fandom Arthur but again: I’m not as well versed in Kylux so I’m not saying it doesn’t exist! Only that fandom Arthur has come a long way.

graveexcitement[43]: i think a lot of this stuff is really interesting, but i do want to point out that TFA fandom engaged in a massive shipwar/shitfit over whether Reylo was an acceptable ship and a big part of the discourse was that Reylo was considered abusive. that people aren’t openly shipping kylo with rey, finn, or poe very much… may have something to do with that. because holy fuck, that was a shitshow. (not to say that fandom doesn’t have a problem with racism / that the ghost isn’t a Thing, but in this particular fandom, there may be confounding factors.)

thelastswallow[44]: I’m going to admit there was a certain amount of skimming here, but while this is interesting, I don’t think it’s surprising. Archetypes are archetypes for a reason and as readers we’re always going to project onto characters, particularly where sex and romance are concerned. We like what we like.

However, I actually think it’s a shame that canon Hux got erased by fanon Hux. Minor character he may be, but he’s functionally he plays such a lynch pin role. If you look at the first order characters they have so little belief. Finn obviously defects immediately. Phasma lets the shields down so enemy forces can invade with nary a whimper. Really, the destruction of starkiller base is all on her. Stormtroopers sneak around, officers leave their posts, and Kylo nearly chucks the whole thing in the moment anyone calls him ‘Ben’. Really, the only character we see who displays real conviction is that stormtrooper with the club who takes on Finn at Maz’s place.

But Domhaill Gleeson, god bless his heart, oozes conviction from every pore. He sells this hate filled zealot, who rejoices in the extermination of billions of people, not because he loves pain and suffering, but because that is the necessary process by which he can achieve a perfect galaxy. I think in this case, that’s a rather more interesting than ‘sempai-love-me’ guy who just needs to get his perfect hair messed out of place.

I got various answers when I asked before, what drew people to Kylux. I feel like when the movie came out, it was all about PoexFinn. That seems to have changed. The history I got suggested an expanding fandom that people retreated to because they were getting so much shit about other pairings. As if the chances of Kylux happening are so remote that the pressure was seriously off.

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