Talking Meme: 01 Mucca Picks a Topic

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Title: Talking Meme: 01 Mucca Picks a Topic
Creator: muccamukk
Date(s): December 1, 2020
Medium: online
Fandom: Sherlock, Supernatural, others
Topic:
External Links: Talking Meme: 01 Mucca Picks a Topic
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Talking Meme: 01 Mucca Picks a Topic is a 2020 essay by muccamukk.

The essay specifically addresses the youtube video by Sarah Z called Gay Fanfiction: Slash fiction has become somewhat of an institution in and of itself. But... why? Let's take a look. (June 22, 2019).

muccamukk wrote: "Mostly [the video is] a general outline of what fanfic is, a very slight history, and then goes into why she thinks so much of it m/m. I'm sure everyone saw this last year, but I'd like to take up two points of contention in the spirit of old women yelling at clouds."

Some Topics Discussed in the Essay and Topics

From the Essay

Sarah Z keeps using AO3 lists of top 100 pairings to underline that most fanfiction is m/m. This is like going into KFC, looking at the menu, and concluding that most people eat fried chicken. AO3 was started by m/m shippers, most of the early adopters were m/m shippers, and its primary userbase still skews heavily towards m/m shipping. Some of that is patterns of use, and part of it, a big part, is that the archive architecture is more useable if you write shipfic. Try to fucking find gen on there, I dare you!

The contention that most fanfic is m/m shipfic seems to come from the power of repetition, and maybe even the m/m shippers being older, louder and better funded? And I say this as someone who primarily writes in that genre. At this point, it seems like it's more or less taken as a given, and then all sorts of theories are built on top of it.

Sarah Z is partially explaining why people write m/m ship fic as a kind of, "I was the only queer in the village, none of the media I saw had people like me, so I projected myself onto a straight white dude and made him more like me." Which. Sure. Yes. Is a thing.

Except over on Wattpad, which has as a shit tonne of users and works posted, it goes, "I was the only queer in the village, none of the media I saw had people like me, so I wrote a story where a female character who is a power fantasy version of me was part of canon and interacted with my faves." Which is largely het. I've also been told Wattpad is where to go for really creative f/f original fiction. I can't work out the tagging, so haven't tried, but it was a reliable source.

Plus there's whatever's going on over on ff.net, and tumblr, and for some reason Instagram, and a tonne of other platforms. I frankly have no idea what that is, but I doubt it's the same as on AO3.

So I spent the whole video where Sarah Z would say "So why is most of fic m/m?" going "[citation needed.]"

Though, it just occurred to me that there's a certain amount of irony in this, in that initially Sarah Z pointed out that fanfic is often dismissed because it's just a teenage girl thing and therefore silly, but the demographic she's not only dismissing but completely ignoring is the younger female one inside the fanfic community.

Holy shit, the whole section on queerbaiting. This is proof positive that I probably have fanfic older than this youtuber. People wrote m/m long, long before there was a possibility of canon queer relationships, they will write it long after they're plentiful across all media. Queerbaiting is no more relevant to why people write m/m than it is to the price of tea in China!

(Aside: the insistence that My Ship Be Canon for Great Justice will never stop driving me batty. Yes, representation is important! But insisting that the most important thing is that your ship be made canon rather than any other kind of representation, or supporting shows that do have canon queer content is just ship wank in a social justice jacket. And I am absolutely looking at you Kirk/Spock, Johnlock and Destiel shippers. No, not all of you, but a lot of you.)

And then she cites Sherlock as an example of queerbaiting, and talked if not favourably about The Johnlock Conspiracy, then at least sympathetically. She's sort of well, maybe it got a little out of hand, but what do you expect when you queerbait? When A) the show runners always said that there would be no canon Johnlock, and then there wasn't canon Johnlock, and B) this led to bullying, doxxing, more bullying often in person, a bit of doxxing on the side, and at least one organised homophobic hate mail champaign aimed at a gay man. TJLC might have started out fun, but what it turned into is genuinely the most toxic thing I've ever seen in fandom. And I've Seen Some Shit. It wasn't even fun to popcorn by the end!

Fan Comments: At the Post

[muccmukks]: I think [the Sherlock and Johnlock wank was] very much how the youngest generations of m/m shippers see themselves, in a blend of feminism and misinformation and hot takes.
[cathexys]:

I really really wish we had a better definition of queerbaiting that actually distinguishes "I'd like this pair to be canon" from "The producers/actors/advertisers are actively taunting a queer relationship for ad purposes that they purposefully will not let come to pass."

Because the second one exists, and to call the former queerbaiting is kind of...not ok!!!
[muccamukk]:

Honestly the only time I can see the latter one was Teen Wolf, with a lot of "Well, Darek might be bisexual!" stuff floating around to keep the Strek shippers on the line. Dean went to a gay bar once in canon is not queerbaiting. Neither is anything that happened on Sherlock. That's just having a delusion that your ship will be canon, and grasping at straws to back you up.

There's basically zero advantage for the show runners to queerbait, from what I've seen (which doesn't mean they don't). The shippers will watch the show anyway! Not that saying it's not going to be canon when it's not actually helps either, given the conspiracy theories.
[cathexys]:

Well, there was the on a ship campaign in Teen Wolf as well and this weird they're dating one another ad cut for Rizoli and Isles that could have been a femslash vid!

The most extreme example, i always thought was The 100, where a production person actually went on an Autostraddle group to assure all the fans that Lexa was not going to get killed off. (Not quite the same but in that bait and switch category)

So...I do think we need the term, but I'm so so tired of it being used for any slash ship. There is such a thing as subtext which is...SUB!!! And your head canon is NOT canon :)
[lilacsigil]: I started watching Rizzoli and Isles and I do think that had some instances of queerbaiting - they kept putting them in situations where they would be mistaken for a couple or had to act like a couple and then when people assumed they were, had to say NO WE'RE TOTALLY STRAIGHT HA HA! I quit in the first season after an episode where they had to infiltrate a lesbian dating site.
[cathexys]:

Like, I think the problem is rarely IN THE TEXT! Like that's the entire point of queer readings and the reason we had slash in the first place (randomly citing Alexander Doty making all of American movies perfectly queer :)

It's when the paratextual commentary creates a supposed author/reader contract that then is broken. You can tease intimate homosocial bonds without queerbaiting. But you can't tease them and tell an invested subset of fans that you look out for their interests and have their back and then NOT go there!
[kimaracretak]: I'm pretty sure at this point it just means 'my ship looked at each other once but didn't immediately become canon, so I'm sad'
[nyctanthes]:

The contention that most fanfic is m/m shipfic seems to come from the power of repetition, and maybe even the m/m shippers being older, louder and better funded?

I wonder about this so much. I think it's become a truism. It might not stand up to scrutiny, but no one is giving it much scrutiny. For all the writing and talking about fandom and the fanfic portion of it in particular, the discussion hasn't evolved much beyond what you described above (projecting onto straight white dudes.) Which is strange considering how much more diversity there is in media these days compared to twenty years ago. And in platforms!

But folks are lazy, and this explanation is right there. Also, I'd guess that combing/scraping AO3 for data is a lot easier than other platforms. [kore]: Man, I wonder how anyone would even begin to quantify stuff on Wattpad, or even FF.net. Whereas AO3 is all neatly laid out by year and most-kudosed and you can trace authors through various fandoms &c &c.

[muccamukk]:

Yeah, I remember back when I was still reading fic on ff.net there was a petition going around to make K/S and ONLY k/s canon in the new movie, and then we launched into the whole "if you don't ship Spock/Uhura you're racist" thing, which wasn't helped by a tonne of people who actually were being really racist, and the whole fandom was just a dumpster fire. Which was too bad, as I was one of the people who actually did like the movie, multishipped, and just wanted to read some smut, man.

The one against RTD was pretty big. That Ianto shrine is *still there.*

Superwholock fandom just doesn't change.
[lilacsigil]: Yes, some K/S shippers were being racist and some S/U shippers were being homophobic and it was all terrible! I was extra sad because I did ship both pairings in TOS and was excited about it.
[havocthecat]:

Like, I have shipped Spock/Uhura for decades and yet, it's a thing that cannot be argued with (you would think, lolsob) that Kirk and Spock* (or Kirk/Spock) have an emotional bond that is deeply central and critical to Star Trek as a whole and they are literally emblematic of the entire synthesis of Humans and Vulcans in the Federations and it has been that way for the entirety of TOS and the films. D.C. Fontana, the brilliant writer who gave us so much of Vulcan culture, was also pretty much the point person in that symbology for the synthesis of Vulcan and Human culture in the Federation and Starfleet and Trek.

Which means that, yes, the Kirk/Spock shippers had a whole lot of ground and there's nothing goddamn wrong with that ship - you can ship both for great justice, if you want. I'm so sick of ship wars, can you tell?

I ditch so many fandoms because the look like they're turning into fandoms where you Ship For Great Justice Or Go Home and I'm kind of over it. A lot.
[kore]: ... from what I remember, at least three of the actual founders of AO3 were in academia or went into academia, and to me there's a difference between fans-who-became-academics, and academics-interested-in-fandom. The latter are more likely to at least mention Wattpad although they don't seem to know much about FF.net, which is wild because I think FF.net is about ten years older than AO3! But AO3 has a certain respectability; FF.net is never going to win a Hugo.... I think some of it may depend on the types of fandoms people are in? I know a lot of people into, like, animanga who are still on FFN, and in fact prefer its fandom organisation/classification to AO3's (Pokemon is the big one, but I'm sure there's others). AO3 gets the flashy Western live-action franchises, and the ensuing attention.
[impala chick]:

There's a reason we used to use the phrase 'The Powers That Be' all the time. When I think about how much goes into creating a TV show before the roles are even cast - it would be sorta crazy to have the whole crew change the show trajectory change mid-stream.

It's hard to watch shippers who view their ship as their religion, sort of. Like their whole fandom experience is built on that ship and they are only valid if their ship becomes canon, which is why they do some crazy shit.
[havocthecat]: Is there any large fandom where the shipping wasn't bitter and full of shipwars?
[princessofgeeks]:

I got into slash fandom very late, but even in the early 2000s I had zero expectation that my gay ships would be canon.

I wonder if Queer As Folk was some kind of representation milestone there.

And the My Ship For Social Justice is really always pretty misguided IMHO.

Not to say campaigns for better representation are misguided; far from it. But that effort has zip to do with shipwars, I feel.
[muccamukk]:

I hit slash fandom in about 2004, and though I back read what feels like most of the '90s sometimes, I missed the listserve period. I think the first big push for canon shipping I ran into was Star Trek 2009, so it wasn't actually that long, it just felt like a big shift to me.

I do agree that stuff like pushing back against bury your gays, dead bro walking, or fridging etc is great. I've seen it actually change how shows are run, and I really appreciate that. It just never has had anything to do with ship wars in a good way.
[minoanmiss]:

This post and discussion was informative and horrifying and also informative. And oMG I am so tired of the Why M/M Dominates Because We All Know It Does Right? discussion. I hear you. I enjoy M/M -- I enjoy everything, really. I just wish people would stop making it so fraught.

(I have emotional scars from the "K/S as a sociopolitical demonstration aka get rid of Uhura" discussions. ugh.)
[muccamukk]:

Occasionally I look in on what the children are doing! Then I back away very slowly and leave them to whatever it is.

As someone who shipped K/S since she was ten years old, the behaviour of the K/S people in AOS era put me right the fuck off the whole fandom. It was like they were trying to make a point, but not the one they meant.
[gwyn]:

I'm really confused about a lot of this (I thought this was about baking bread, too), but I especially get confused by why people leave out ffnet putting the kibosh on m/m fic and anything explicit. I never went there unless I had no choice back in the Buffy days, and fortunately I was in a fallow period when all that happened, but I remember how upset and worried about their fic being pulled down a lot of my friends were. So that's a major reason why a lot of us early adopters wanted what AO3 became, but I never see that mentioned.

God, spare me from these ignorant children who know nothing about fandom history but think they can expound on it, and don't have the capacity to understand terms like queerbaiting. Boo hoo, how difficult their fannish lives are. They would never have survived in the days when we had to know who to ask for zines under the table, or write letters to total strangers, hoping for some slash fanfic and never knowing if we'd hear back. Sending money through the mail blindly, not knowing if you'd get ripped off. Or the earliest days of internet fandom, where people got threatened with exposure to bosses or in divorce proceedings.

I was never a user or reader of ffnet but a lot of my friends took the ban on adult fic and rpf to be the signal that m/m slash was on the "do not post" list. They pretty much stopped doing it. So I don't know if they banned slash specifically, but enough people I watched melt down on my friends list took it to mean that--even if you don't quash the topic specifically, you can still effectively quash it by association. It's very much like the early days of web fanfic (as opposed to stuff being posted on usenet back in the day before everyone was able to have their own website and post fic there), where I remember archives slapping a rating of NC-17 on any kind of slash, no matter how generic or safe for the childrens it was. (Which was why I was adamantly against ratings of any kind until a few years into my using AO3--it pissed me off so much when I allowed a few archives to post my very gen fic and they ended up putting adult ratings on it just because it was two guys. There was very much still a hostile environment for slash writers at the time, even from people who hadn't come in during the zine days. People ignore that hostility ALL the fucking time in these discussions. Kids these days.)

[muccamukk]: Yeah, there was in the video no mention of AO3 being founded by (mostly) slashers because of ff.net's porn ban, strikethrough, and whatever that other site was called. It was very much AO3 is the only site and represent what fandom IS, not AO3 is the site the slashers hang out on, plus other people.
[muccamukk]:

I guess I feel like if you've watched 15 seasons of hat homophobic, misogynistic, racist, shitty, shitty show and then you get sucked into their usual trash, you can get mad when they do the same thing as ever, then I'm not going to have a hell of a lot of sympathy.

The argument goes: "If Castiel had been a female-presenting angel, she and Dean..."

No, she wouldn't have, because F!Castiel would have been brutally and lingeringly killed off in season five. Does anyone remember what show this IS?

I keep wanting to tell people to go watch one of the (MANY!) other CW shows with actual queer content, for fuck's sake. I've got better things than cosplay Charlie Brown trying to kick that football.
[kore]:

Hmm, what I saw (no idea if the actual ratings bear this out) was that a lot of Destiel shippers came back after 5.18, after not watching the show for years, and also some people showed up who hadn't really watched the show but were drawn in by apparently queer content. (In fact I don't know a whole lot of people, even fans, who were watching all 15 seasons.) Which also happened in The Magicians, because that didn't have Quentin/Eliot until one ep in season 3, that comes back a season later and then Quentin dies without knowing if Eliot gets un-possessed or not (long story; it means Quentin and Eliot can spend the entire fourth season together without their basically having been married for a lifetime). So there were people showing up after something that did look really pretty much explicitly queer and then, like you say, the same thing happened all over again with the football.

I don't disagree that SPN was terribly racist and sexist and basically worthless (and I noped out after the pilot because it was so awful), but I do think the creators were messing with the fans in a certain way that wasn't entirely the fans' fault. And that happened with the Magicians finale, too, which was a lot better than SPN. -- As opposed to the whole Johnlock thing, which sounded like a small extreme fringe of fandom that went way over the line. Or something like the writers calling Steve and Bucky an "epic love story" or however they said it, while it was extremely clear MCU was never going to pretend that going there was even possible. Which I think is what the person on Tumblr I quoted was trying to get at -- there's ships that have a shitload of subtext but they're not explicitly canonically queer and they're never going to be, and that's not queerbaiting but the meaning has slid so far it gets called queerbaiting nowadays. (Like the same kind of thing happening to "drabble" and "headcanon"....)

[muccamukk]: Right but the entire show is basically Dead Dove; Do Not Eat. Even if they had gone YOLO and made Destiel canon for the last three episodes (which anyone who'd seen more than a season of the show could tell you was NEVER going to happen), it would still have been a shitty terrible no good show. I just don't get why anyone could care about SPN enough to get pissed off at it any more. The fans played each other for suckers, then got mad about it.
So, I guess I do think it's entirely the fan's fault on the SPN front.
Is the 15.18 thing technically queerbaiting? Yeah, probably. Do I have even the tiniest grain of sympathy for anyone who took that bait? Sure don't!
The signs were there. They were warned. Nevertheless...

References