I think the general mindset and culture of Tumblr is effecting what people choose to write about in fic

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Title: I think the general mindset and culture of Tumblr is effecting [sic] what people choose to write about in fic (see article)
Creator: anonymous fan, and anonymous commenters
Date(s): April 7, 2015
Medium: online
External Links: discussion is here, Archived version
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I think the general mindset and culture of Tumblr is effecting [sic] what people choose to write about in fic is a post and comments at Fail-Fandomanon.

Link to screenshot of the discussion.

NOTE: this is not the actual title of the post, but instead, from the first line of the first post.

Topics Discussed

  • Tumblr
  • social justice
  • "good fans" and "bad fans"
  • fanfiction today as very Victorian
  • problematic fans and being feared labeled as such
  • self-censorship
  • different platforms and differing content
  • fannish drift to different platforms
  • issuefic vs flawed older fic "from the heart"

The First Post

I think the general mindset and culture of Tumblr is effecting what people choose to write about in fic, and how they approach the characters and relationships, and gradually I'm not being able to find anything to read that hasn't been influenced by it. I think fandom really was better on a different platform, but not just for the usual reasons of Tumblr being useless for communication, I think the way it's organized somehow shapes the culture that's arisen, or encourages it.

Excerpts from the Comments

Tumblr allows wank to go viral. And because you're posting everything on your own blog instead of "neutral" communities, you feel the need to make Important Points and Take A Stand on Things.

Yes, it's become much more All About Me, including how people watch and respond to canon, as if someone else disagreeing with their experience of canon is the same as someone else dismissing their experience as a person, and therefore their identity, and therefore the identity of the entire group they belong to. I think that's where all the highly individualized headcanons come from, the idea that your experience of canon and how you understand that from the perspective of a person of your identity is a story that must not be silenced and is unassailable and sacred, that projecting onto the canon and not drawing any distinction between your own life experiences and emotional reactions and what you think is happening in canon, is actually a way of analysing it from a social perspective, and it's oppressive to question your responses, which is actually disagreeing with your analysis, but it's become way more personal, I think due to Tumblr.

Wow, I think this really solidified a few lingering discomforts I've been having about headcanons on tumblr lately. Thanks, nonnie!

Yep, meta also has turned into "here's how this made me feel as a person from this background *proceeds to talk all about life experiences and memories triggered by watching canon, not about canon itself*, and because canon reminds me of a time I experienced something -ist, it means canon is -ist as well, and because that's my very personal experience and I'm part of X marginalized group, you are also -ist if you question that!". Mark Reads is currently taking this approach to 'review' Moving Pictures, where for the past couple of reviews he hasn't actually mentioned what's going on in the book except in passing, and mostly it's all about what it brings up for him about his own life (he's much better with other things, it depends what he's reading). This is a much more common approach on Tumblr, especially the more special snowflake the identity of the person doing it I've noticed, and it's crowding out all other forms of meta, because even if someone tries to write meta about the actual canon, people still respond less to what they've said, and more by questioning and policing the identity of the writer.

as if someone else disagreeing with their experience of canon is the same as someone else dismissing their experience as a person, and therefore their identity, and therefore the identity of the entire group they belong to.

I've even had this process used against me by someone else. There's this one character I headcanon as bi (due to massive hints and suggestions in that direction in canon). This character is a fascinating character but not exactly a good person and there are definitely some problematic aspects to his depiction (including some of those massive suggestions that he could be bi). I am capable of acknowledging these facts and can engage with them on an analytical level, while also exploring and fleshing out my own understanding of the character on a more emotional level.

According to some people in the fandom, clearly headcanoning him as queer means I have ~ issues with queer people. Of which I myself am one. My actual identity has gotten ignored or dismissed by people "reverse engineering" my headcanon and my experience of the canon into a sweeping statement I must totally making about my own people with that headcanon.

Yes yes yes. It's all so personalized. Doctor Who fandom is like this - if you disagree that it's Problematic or find anything valuable in it, you're dismissing everyone's experiences with sexism and homophobia!

I would go farther and say There Is No Private On Tumblr. On LJ, if you posted to comms, you were saying HEY, LOOK AT ME. If you posted unlocked to your LJ, you were saying, I DON'T MIND IF YOU LOOK AT ME. And then you could post flocked with the implication DON'T LOOK AT ME. (Now there were variants on this--flocked porn you could access just by asking, or people who'd request no links to anything in their LJ, but as a general rule it was true.) But on tumblr, there are no such filters. The best you can do is tag obscurely and ask people not to reblog--and with search the way it now is, the former becomes infinitely less effective. So everyone effectively becomes part of a screaming-at-the-top-of-their-lungs-in-a-crowded-room culture, and whoever screams the loudest, wins.

And everyone thinks tags are talking to people. Maybe I'm just sorting using tags I'll remember and it's not about you, tumblr! Just because you can sort content, doesn't mean it's directed at you, or make tags a comm replacement. Maybe that's part of tumblr being all about the self, but I always find the idea of people being 'in the tag' weird, because most people are just on their own dash. Everything you do on tumblr seems to be about someone else, hvdu organize your blog to your own liking. (Or write the fic you like, or follow the characters you actually enjoy, or....)

Tumblr is very, very concentrated. (Which is why I think opinions can often seem more annoying there than they would otherwise.) And I think that results in a more concentrated type of fic style, in a way you wouldn't find on another platform. I think this might be part of why I'm finding the fic by a writer I used to really like less and less to my taste. More cutesy modern AU, more vaguely issuefic-y stuff, and all very in line with what I see lauded on tumblr. Which, it's their prerogative to write what they want, but I'm just not that fond of the style or themes. And also, I feel like it has become more...same-y, in writing. A lot of the older fic I read had a lot more flaws, but it felt like it had more heart, and more personality, and was more enjoyable for it.

I guess this is why I am glad I never bothered to try to figure out tumblr. Like I feel sort of pressured sometimes into trying to use it, but I just can't be bothered.

I do see it spilling into fic, however. I can't tell you how many stupid mundane AUs or issue!fic I have to scroll by now to get to something interesting and canon-based. Then it's a question of how I view the characters v. The prevailing canon view.

And I guess I don't even know what "problematic authors" even are. Which I guess is good, bc like I am sooo not into SJW crap, but I'm sure whatever I've written has "problematic" elements bc lol I like interesting and flawed characters and I write them like they are in the show. IDGAF.

Meh, the only sort of good thing that tumblr has done for me is give me more JonxSansa to read, but it went from like 3-4 extremely talented authors who don't ignore the tons of issues btwn Jon Snow and Sansa Stark going from half!brother to lol married, to a bunch of authors who write absolute shit, so, maybe not so much.

In some fandoms, definitely. People are more worried about falling into the bogeyman trap of being a "problematic writer" instead of thinking about stuff like context. What I'm more worried about is it affecting the type of independent media that relies on Tumblr, like webcomics and the like. Ava's Demon is a good example. A writer tries to be inclusive but people still feel so entitled and rip on them for any misstep. I don't want the tumblr culture "writing" these inclusive stories.

I notice people posting "fic snippets" on Tumblr and then stitching them together into a fic (or even just throwing them into a collection on AO3), and to me it's as jarring as when someone Storifies a bunch of tweets into an "essay." I don't think prose (or the human mind) works that way. It's all fragmented.

Yeah, though I think this extends to fandom as a whole really. I mean, ignoring the lack of meta, it just seems like tumblr's opinions/a lot of the art/etc is...very, very same-y. Far more so than before fandom moved to tumblr.

Generally I'm a stan for tumblr stuff, and got dogpiled on another post for being too much of a "tumblr sjw" for the culture here, which is quite disheartening, since I started on LJ and have come to realize that the LJ/DW fandom is no longer what it was either, but mostly a kneejerk reaction to what the LJ fandom evolved into on tumblr. But that's neither here nor there.

That said, I actually kind of agree with this. What I'm seeing from being very deep into tumblr is that the gaze has become so academic and hypercritical that everyone's afraid to do anything. The only way to never be "problematic" is effectively to be silent. Added to that, there's a lot of radical feminism (not "extreme feminism" but a specific ideology separate from mainstream/liberal feminism) which is more Victorian and focuses on blaming women for the patriarchy because they weren't perfect moral guardians. This means that all fiction is expected to serve an aspirational/inspirational function, rather than other functions stories could have, like excitement, catharsis, exploring darker parts of the psyche, etc. This means that we're seeing a resurgence of the Utopian genre of fiction which was popular with women writers in the Victorian era, which basically exists to posit an ideal society, and equal parts inspire you to aspire towards it, and shame you for not being that perfect yet. Utopian/aspirational fiction isn't all bad--that's what Star Trek was, after all. But as the sole form of acceptable writing, I find that incredibly limiting.

There's also a lot of loss between the fiction/reality divide, where people are coming to literally believe that fiction can wag the dog of reality--for example, rape in fiction causes rape in real life, representation in fiction improves the lives of real-life minorities and oppressed peoples in a direct way. There's perhaps some truth to fiction's power to influence on SOME level, but this is taken to the level of, if you write a Bad Thing in fiction, you might as well have raped a teen or punched an oppressed person in the face. It's the belief that "bad art" can LITERALLY directly cause bad things to happen, and therefore the only morally sane approach is to make as much "good art" as possible, but everyone's too terrified to do it because if they make "bad art," not only will they be dogpiled and excommunicated, but God will kill a kitten. This, as you can imagine, is extremely stifling, and not at all a conducive environment to making any kind of art.

But "useless for communication," you are completely wrong, there is a ton of communication going on there, you are just too old and out of touch to figure out how it's happening lmao. (I'm old too, so don't get too mad. But seriously, there's SO much communication going on.) Tumblr culture has a LOT of serious problems and I'm pretty sure it's self-destructing--but we can't talk, LJ self-destructed too, and we tore each other apart bloody before we did it. I loved LJ fandom like my own family, but I remember a lot of the same culture of ruling fear and mass bullying that goes on on tumblr from there too--that goes back at least to the 80s and 'zine culture, where you even had to be "sponsored" by someone at a con to be taken seriously. We started SJ on LJ, not tumblr--I remember early iterations going back to around 2002-03, it got serious in around 2007, and became impossible to ignore in 2009. So it had been steadily building up until tumblr got started, and many initially went to tumblr to get AWAY from the constant guiltmongering and finger-pointing. If you recall, DREAMWIDTH was originally considered the "special snowflake" haven! My old flist on LJ was all, "Oh, we'll never move to Dreamwidth, all they care about is talking about disability and alternate sexualities there." Then they all did...or went to tumblr, or focused on their offline lives. My point is, the culture's always had issues, it's always been in flux, it's always cannibalized one community after another because it's never been stable, fandom always aspires to goodness while the means we attempt to reach this end is mostly bullying each other like the mean girls in high school, and we always claim the moral high ground while doing this--hell, the Godawful Fanfic archive in 1998 claimed it was helping the authors it mocked behind their backs with "useful crit." Everything people are whining about with tumblr is nothing new, but an evolution of the culture we already had, that was already poisoning itself but we were too young and naive and happy to find our tribe to see it.

I just want a community where we can squee about things, and try to work together, and I guess ignore each other when that breaks down. I want to really support each other and help each other become great. There's so much terror of being the one who doesn't fit in, or the one who is friends with the one who doesn't fit in, I just wanna throw out a wide umbrella and say, you all belong here. No one can kick you out.

Anon, this is basically everything I want to say about Tumblr and fandom. I'm currently resisting copying and pasting it to my own Tumblr, in fact. Especially the part about the fiction/reality divide. Once upon a time, I never would have guessed I would start publicly defending the non-con/dub-con fans and incest shippers, but here we are. My fandom is inclusive of everyone, including the people who want an outlet for ideas and desires that aren't acceptable in real life. The denial of that sort of thing is one of my least-favorite parts of Tumblr.

This is a great comment, the aspirational/inspirational part explains for me the different reaction tumblr audiences seem to have to Buffy than fandom used to. Buffy's not aspirational (outside of little moments), it sometimes examines the effects of sexism but is more about that than offering solutions, but newer fans seem to think it's so problematic because it's failing at it's job of being aspirational, not having it occur to them that that that might not have been what it was mainly trying to do. Catharsis and exploration of deep psychological processes and emotions is what I mainly love fiction for, and my main SJ interest is that you can and should be able to do that while sill having good representation of different groups, but I want no part of this new moral purity and simplistic, black and white view of good and evil, it feels like a regression to something really fundamentalist and ugly in the name of righteousness.

tumblr: all talk, no listen.

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