Right place, wrong kerfluffle

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Title: right place, wrong kerfluffle
Creator: sophia_helix
Date(s): August 8th, 2005
Fandom: Harry Potter
External Links: https://sophia-helix.livejournal.com/365815.html
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right place, wrong kerfluffle is a post written by sophia_helix in 2008. It discusses the desire of shippers, in this case Harmonians, to see their ships become canon.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts from the Essay

Heh. Everyone else is off discussing Round MCLVIII of It's Not OK to Ask Your Friends to Support Your Illegal Fanwriting With Cash, No, Not Even a Little Bit, and me, I'm struck with the bug to talk about the Harry Potter shipper disaster, which is soooo last month. Figgers.

I've been watching said disaster unspool from afar, with growing distaste and a sort of whiplash from turning to gape at new developments, each more unbelieable than the last.

"I can never have a real relationship thanks to this book!"

"We are all persecuted artists now!"

"Being a Harry/Hermione shipper is like being black!"

"JKR is part of a massive global conspiracy with Ted Turner to make billions and control our minds!"*

*No, I'm really not kidding. These are all real, paraphrased statements seen in HP fandom this month.

At first my disgust was just dismissive; clearly, the fourteen year olds have invaded fandom, and their shippy loves WILL NOT BE DENIED. I was even forced to admit that, had I been fourteen and in fandom when this dropped, and had I been a H/Hr shipper instead of an equal opportunity pornster, it's possible I would have been just as bratty and delusional. (I base this on the passionate campaign I undertook in eighth grade against the school adminstration to -- ahem -- allow Magic: The Gathering and pogs [remember those?] to be played on campus. We actually won, but it's kind of hilarious looking back now how much I cared back then.)

It's gone from hee-hee wank-spectating disgust, though, to a deeply unsettled feeling. It's started to really bother me that people have had this insane response to the book, to the point where I've almost considered engaging a few people in "debate", insofar as it can be done. I've only just put my finger on what the problem is.

To begin with, it's not like fans haven't been outraged by canon choices before. Every fandom I've been in has been full of negative reactions to TBTB, ranging from annoyance to actual hatred. We're fans; it's kind of what we do.

What I keep tripping up on with the HP debate are a couple of things:

1) Who the hell allows an author's creations to upset their lives to this degree?

which leads in a roundabout way to

2) What the hell are we, casual readers? WRITE THE FANFIC THE WAY YOU WANT IT.

"We write fanfic! Subtext is our rallying cry! It's our sworn duty to write around disliked canon!"

I mean, I get that it's harder to write around established relationships, I really do. My favorite character is Remus, he reads as gay to me, and I'm not really happy about Remus/Tonks. I'm going to write around it, but I'm not happy.

But they're not wailing, "Now we have to write around mooooore established relationships, oh noes!" They're wailing that their preferred ship was not canon, which just seems to me to be the antithesis of what fandom is about.

Part of it is about respect for the canon creator. I understand that, at this point, it's impossible even broach that with the Harmonian crowd. Never mind the fact that everything else they liked in her work led to reams of the fanfic they've enjoyed, she's somehow lost...something? Anyhow, it's not an appeal that works at this point with the people howling "JKR has destroyed my ability to believe in the power of love!"

But part of the reason a fan should not expect everything in canon to go his/her way is that the person in charge of canon is an autonomous artist (at least autonomous when it comes to fans), and that they get the right to do what you want. You get the right to bitch about it, of course.

You DON'T get the bizarre, unimaginable right to bitch about it because it wasn't what you wanted to happen. And by that, I mean that you get to say "Boy, I hate that X and Y got together, I really think Y would be better with Z," but you do not get to say "IT TOTALLY LOOKED LIKE Y AND Z WERE GOING TO HOOK UP IN MY BIZARRE-O WORLD, CURSE YOU FOR DESTROYING MY LIFE." One is a comment on a work. The other? Entitlement.

And in this case, it's off-the-wall entitlement, given the fact that a) it didn't even look, at any point, like this Y and Z were going to hook up, and b) JKR's expressed confusion with the IDEA that this Y and Z might hook up. It's not like she was cackling, "Hee, watch me sow the seeds of H/Hr and then mindfuck the poor unsuspecting fans!" She was writing the pairing(s) she wanted to write, with all the intent and clarity she felt was necessary, and a section of fans took what might be in a theoretical sense and turned it into a should be.

Mostly what the whole kerfluffle makes me think is that, if an author's stated intentions and actual output are not treated as important and defining, at least as far as regards actual canon, then what is?
I'm being flip, but I really am quite shaken to imagine that there is a rising school of thought that canon creators *owe* something to fans (never mind that that "something" is varying and often contradictory among factions), and that canon itself can somehow become uncanon. I don't mean writing around or ignoring canon you don't like (we have a genre for that, and it's called AU), but literally insisting that canon as written is wrong.

Excerpts from the Comments


i actually had that same discussiomn today though not about hp but rather about sga and sv where fans get real hateful when the slash is a little less obvious. of course i don't think of slash as canon, so i can happily have even a canon het and a fanfic slash relationship co-exist...but it's almost a bizarre sense of wanting to see the slash in text when to me that would be the thing that'd probably dry up the wonderful fic wells :-)

now, het shippers have it a bit harder, b/c it's more difficult to write around, but there's always future and whatnot...and isn't half of the fun to work *around* canon??? to make your fic do things against yet with canon? [1]


and isn't half of the fun to work *around* canon??? to make your fic do things against yet with canon?

That's definitely my point. The reasoning of "make it canon!!" is so foreign to me, probably because I came up in five years of UST in X-Files.

Once again, I can probably write this off to "HP fandom, you so crazy," but I guess that would certainly be flip. *g*


Man, I ran across that in SV, I didn't realize it was happening in SGA, too. Most of the SGA people I know are old-hand slashers, used to digging their subtext out of glaciers and carrying it uphill both ways in the snow. *g*

It frustrated me in SV, that when the show had what I still considered a very high slash level (I still do), people were wailing about TPTB undercutting the homoerotic subtext deliberately. With Rosenbaum, particularly, they couldn't get rid of it if they tried. *g*

Slashers these days have it too easy! Bah! /BOFQ rantiness

i think it's a weird ambiguity where we want out UST to become full canon yet if it actually happened, we'd be bored out of our mind and would have nothing left to do...i mean, there's a reason most shows jump the shark after the romantic tension-ridden pairing gets the hapy ever after, and a reason why so much of our fic is first time rather than happy marriage...

[elynross]: I think most shows jump the shark upon consummation because they're not very well-written -- and I think the comparison with first-times is valid. With both UST and first times, the tension is built-in to the relationship, it doesn't have to be created, in a way. When you write a sequel, or try and write past the consummation, you have to find some other focus, or some other way to reintroduce tension/barriers. Farscape managed it with John/Aeryn, and Buffy did, with several relationships, but not the happy ever after kind. It's possible to have the consummation and stick new stumbling blocks in the way, or write the romance in in a way that makes it more interesting, not less. It just doesn't happen very often. Heh.
[wemblee]: THANK YOU. My God, that drives me nuts (at times). It's so frustrating to me. I'm like, "You're intelligent, wildly creative women, WHY are you looking to straight fanboys to give you canonslash? On a show with military characters? Did I mention it's written by straight fanboys?" *sigh*

They're wailing that their preferred ship was not canon, which just seems to me to be the antithesis of what fandom is about.

What it really feels like to me is the companion sentiment to when fans get gleeful anytime someone in TPTB says something that indicates sympathy or support for their fanonical pairings -- I have a sig from Tim Minear where he jokes about being an Angel/Lindsey shipper, for instance.

Whenever something like this happens, it makes the rounds, delighting those that feel validated, and leaving others either disinterested or potentially *un*validated, or "disvalidated," even.

I've read around quite a bunch about the "Harmonions," and yeah, I agree, as media fans we work with what we're given to craft what we aren't, but... For some people this kind of validation is really important. It means they're right, what they see is real -- and it's only real if the creator validates it. To have it "destroyed" by canon means it's not real.

I don't think they're fans the way we're fans, you know? Particularly not like I am, as a slash fan, where I never have canon in my favor, really. *g* But for these fans, it was never fanon. In their eyes, they were never making it up. It's very much like a Christian with a literal belief in the Bible, whose whole faith rests on that one certainty, so that when that's torn away by some external force -- there's nothing left to support their belief. There's no flexibility to it, no... faith. Not really.

They're playing in a different playground than we are altogether.
[Sophia helix]:

I don't think they're fans the way we're fans, you know? Particularly not like I am, as a slash fan, where I never have canon in my favor, really. *g* But for these fans, it was never fanon.

Innnteresting. I never thought of it that way, I guess, because that's so the opposite of how I approach fandom. (I mean, I fled XF when my pairing *became* canon, because it freaked me out.) But you're right, if people are in there just hoping that their pairing becomes canon, I can see that rage would follow...

But I still don't see how they could refuse to accept the author's professions that she was never TRYING to make that canon, and that they've misinterpreted her intentions. To be a little sacriligious, it's kind of like God writing "I REALLY MEANT THAT PART ABOUT NOT KILLING ANYONE, PERIOD" in flaming letters across the moon, and people arguing "But it totally sounded like we're allowed to kill people for being gay!" *g*

I wonder if they were fans in anything else, pre-HP, really.

And a sense of betrayal can really work on people -- and... they really do believe it was THERE in some "real" sense, not that they were taking subtext and reading more into it. And if they see it, someone had to put it there, right? Some of them don't seem to understand that subtext, by and large, isn't conscious on the part of the creator. It can be, but.

And oh, if God did that? There'd be a lot of people saying He was a false god, because he wasn't in their image.
[Sophia helix]: The problem with HP, wiser folk than me have said, is that it's a first-time fandom for so many, and so not only are they not familiar with pan-fandom rules of behavior, but they keep thinking they've "invented" things that were invented before they were born, in some cases. So I definitely think that comes into play (and I'm not just talking about young-in-age fans; I mean young-in-fandom fans too).

In their eyes, they were never making it up.

I think that's key. There are slash fans like that: some of the real die-hard Sam-hating J/D shippers in SG-1 come to mind. But not a lot, and the rest of us think they're crazy.

It's ... harder to write off hetshipper as crazy, because often source texts do take sudden left turns with a relationship. And even though I never saw any evidence of H/Hr, and knew from the get-go that Harry was going to date Ginny, the H/Hr read didn't feel as, well, creative and subversive and subtextual as, say, Harry/Draco would be. Or Harry/Ron, or whatever.

They weren't reading subtext. Or so they thought.

But yeah, this whole thing has been fascinating in a train-wreck kind of way. I'm so happy I'm not in HP fandom, let me tell you.

[Sophia helix]:

See, I've totally been down with some of the H/Hr arguments before; it's a sort of side pairing for me, and the people shipping it never bothered me until now. But I've always taken that kind of argument, even when it draws on canon, as proof of the fannish pairing, not why the two characters are absolutely destined to end up together in the text. I like reading essays (or stories) that convince me of why a pairing works, but to me, everything outside canon is just speculation.

And again, where I keep losing the thread of the current argument is when people refuse to accept the author's statements that whatever subtext entered the book was unintended on her part.

Granted, I only watched the lotrips tinhats from the waaaay sidelines, because, weirdness, but what you all are describing -- that idea of fans who have jointly embraced a certain version of fanon as canon, and who are striking out at anyone, including the creators, who suggest their fanon isn't canon -- sounds awfully familiar.

I've definitely been seeing it in SGA, just as Cathexys said above. I've seen/heard the reverberations of it in SG, and you don't even need to look at the Daniel Jackson S6 mess; Amanda Tapping was getting vicious hate mail because Sam had canon sex with someone other than Jack in S8. And those are just the first two most recent coming to mind.

These are fans who have somehow gotten it into their heads that they have a say in what is and is not canon. I don't know where the HP fans are getting that from, since I've never heard of JKR adjusting her canon to suit any portion of fandom's preferences (all my HP knowledge comes form fannish osmosis, though, so it's possible I've missed it). But given the increase in interaction between fans and producers thanks to the Internet (TWOP, official and fan-run show sites, producer blogs, etc.), any number of TV fans have proof that TPTB on their show have listened to fans and adjusted canon accordingly in the past. So I can see where they would think, "They did it for the fans of X Idea, they should have done it for us." To many people just coming into fandom recently, producers taking fannish desires/preferences into account is the norm, even if what they want is way the hell out in neverever land and what's been granted has (usually) been pretty minor.

Anyway, while it's incredibly disturbing to see more and more of this, I can't help but think that with the increased interaction, we should've seen it coming. Or at least that we shouldn't be so surprised now....

Conflating the actor and the character has always happened, hasn't it? Another one of those things that I understand on an intellectual level, but that I think I'm glad I just don't get.

I wonder if involvement in fandom itself has caused more of this? Slightly differently than the kind of thing you're talking about. We're much more active, and interactive, in our viewing, so it might be easy to move to a point where you feel like you should have more say in the direction of canon.

Heh, yeah, I've seen this attitude, too. "I'm a fan, I care about these characters, so why are TPTB pandering to people who don't even know [whatever] about the show? They should care more about writing/showing what I want."

It seems to me, though, that... Well, it's not like you could draw a line, with "sane" people on one side and the "crazies" on the other, but there are definitely people I never would have guessed would have this sense of entitlement who are showing signs of it lately. Not tons of people, but even seeing one or two is kind of freaking me out.
[sophia helix]:

I can't help but think that with the increased interaction, we should've seen it coming. Or at least that we shouldn't be so surprised now.

Well...for one thing, this argument makes me cringe because then I worry that creators will take back what little things they've given the fans, much the same way as people worry that enough blantant copyright breaking will make some creators retract their vague blessings on fanfic. You're probably right that a sense of entitlement for "supporting" them or whatever is a natural outgrowth of including fan nods, but I don't like it. :)

The other thing is that I get confused by people who THINK that, honestly. I mean, sure, I've watched episodes of shows (mainly Jossverse) ones where I thinking they had to have been poking around in fan circles to write this. But it's the level of individual reciprocation that bugs me. I hate it when people say "OMG, this thing happened in canon and it totally happened in my story, they're reading my fic!!" I even hate it when TWOP reviewers call things "shout-outs," even when they're kidding, because it seems so smug. And if someone who probably IS being read by the creators looks presumptuous for assuming they're getting shout-outs, what does that make Mary Sue Fanwriter look like?

Anyhow. You're probably right, but I still feel distanced from people who have made that leap.

Heh, I was about to go all, "Canon: it's like the Bible, in a way," but you went and said it. *g*

My personal inclinication is to be a canon-nazi, and I make every effort to write (and read) canon that follows the lines of characterization and plot as laid down in canon, but I don't think that DEFINES fanfic.

Before I got to this part, I was about to ask, "Y'think it's mostly self-described 'canon-snobs' that are getting upset?" but you're not freaking out and you've identified as a canon-nazi. Which pretty much buggers my theory right there, which was (how's this for redundancy? *g*): "Canon. It's like the Bible, in a way. And by that, I mean, you pick and choose which parts you pay attention to, whether you realize it or not."

I mean, I sometimes want to say, "Look, I know you want the sense of satisfaction that happens when The Author and you are sharing a wavelength and the pairing you've slaved over in your fanfic is actually canon and your predictions and interpretations are right, and okay, I understand that you want to stick close to canon *and* you really like this pairing and you're trying to reconcile it and how do you keep writing this pairing and stay self-identified as a canon-snob, but... do you use random capslock? Or [insert thing that JKR does that annoys you here]? 'Cause that bad capslock is canon, baby."

(Of course, that's getting into a whole, "When you're talking books, is style a form of canon?" and a whole 'nother post, so...)

All that said, I remember when I was young and writing and playing in an obscure fandom and I was really, really invested in my pairing being, if not canonical, than sort of having a subtext intended by the creators. It was a same-sex pairing. (Wait, why am I talking like this? You know the fandom.) Suffice to say, it was not canonical nor intended. And... I got upset. I mean, I was young, but I got so upset. I don't know why. Why did it bother me? Why did it need to be "official"? No one was arguing with me at the time. Was it because my close fannish friend/mentor was all about that? Why did it matter?

re: respect for the canon creator

I wonder if hanging so much by the author is what leads to that kind of bitter disappointment, though. She sinks your 'ship and suddenly she's not "in your corner" anymore, maybe. I don't know. I shouldn't be psychoanalyzing fans I don't even know, it's just... a reflex? Bad habit? *g*

It's weird, fans and entitlement. The huge sense of entitlement can (seem to? does?) rip fandom apart, but at the same time, I don't think fandom would exist without it. Would so many of us write and draw and whatnot if some part of us didn't think, deep down, just a little bit, that these guys are *ours*? I know I'm not the only fan that'll point to a beloved character on the screen and go, "That's my boy/girl." I didn't make him/her up, I didn't do the work to get that character into a published book or on a screen. But it's reflexive. "That's my boy/girl."
[sophia helix]:

When I was 17 and in *my* first fandom, I was very invested in any little scraps of UST the creators threw our way. The pairing was obvious and het, so it wasn't surprising that they were destined for Hookupsville, but it still mattered to me very much that my pairing be validated by the creators. It would never have occurred to me, back then, to have shipped a pairing that didn't seem likely to happen on the show.

I don't know when my viewpoint changed on that, but it seems like an *important* change. Maybe going multifannish/multi-shipping does it? Otherwise, if one pairing and one fandom are your world, you're more prone to the sort of embarrassing and inappropriate outrages we've been seeing. *I* feel like true fans love the source, but can function independently from it; maybe others would feel that true fans only work in pairings sanctioned or made likely/established by canon. ::shrug::


I just read a comment by a Spike fan today that said "Joss doesn't deserve Spike".

WTF? What planet are you on? Is there cotton candy every fucking day? Do you know who Joss is? Do you understand that Spike. isn't. real. and he does not want to fuck YOU?


That was mostly to say that HP is not alone in its delusions of fan entitlement, and scary-ass stalking behaviors.

here via metafandom.

"I can never have a real relationship thanks to this book!" "We are all persecuted artists now!" "Being a Harry/Hermione shipper is like being black!" "JKR is part of a massive global conspiracy with Ted Turner to make billions and control our minds!"

Yes I've seen every one of those wanks on FW, and it made me lose all respect for those extreme H/Hr shippers. I can find you quotes where many of them put on a front that if H/Hr didn't happen, they'd deal with it. Oh so this is dealing with it? Hermione is a whore, JKR is a bitch, Ginny should die? Whatever *rolls eyes*

The reason why the extreme H/Hr's have left a bad taste in my mouth, is because they are shipping H/Hr as if it were a religion. H/Hr is blessed by God, but R/Hr is the devil and should be stopped. I don't know if you're american but I am, and this was the exact same crap the extreme religious right was throwing at us to get people to vote for Bush. Bush was picked by GOD, Kerry is the devil. Het is the only way to go, cause gays are teh evil so don't vote for Kerry/Edwards! If you don't agree, you must be evil too. Ugh it makes me sick.
[sophia helix]:

"I hate you! I don't care what you think!"

"...so why are you making such a big deal about this?"

"Because I don't care!"

"Do you mean you don't care what we think as long as we agree with you and do what you want?"


I'm going to be nasty and assume, once again, that most of the whiniest Harmonians ARE teenagers, so maybe that makes some sense. *g*

Further Reading


  1. ^ August 12 2005, 00:56:42 UTC