As a feminist who critiques pop culture, I often struggle with lady villains, queer villains, disabled villains, and villains of color. The reason for this is pretty simple. On the one hand, villains can be dynamic, interesting characters and I love seeing minority characters in such a role. Villains are great, fun characters who are often more relatable than the hero, and fandoms do tend to latch onto and be protective of their favorite villains. On the other hand, when almost every TV show I watch only (or mostly) has minority characters filling the role of the villain, it often speaks to the terrible prejudice in our society.
As the holidays loom ever closer, the part of us that is so over all the never-ending choruses of carols is constantly at war with the parts of us that try to keep the cheer of the season in the forefronts of our minds. While it’s easy to slip into the familiar mindset of Scrooge and the Grinch, I implore you to allow this year to be a year of giving. Of course, this site being all about geeks, nerds, and all the lovely in-betweeners, I’ve found a couple sites for you that fit with our theme and exemplify the giving spirit.
First up is Fandom 4 Causes: a website that simply wants to bring people of a like charitable mind together to participate in a variety of causes. Fandom 4 Causes reports on charities from both a global level and a community level. It’s an interesting touch, I think, and really gives the sense that fandom is a community where people care about their fictional characters just as much as the well-being of their own neighbors. Since the site runs off user-submitted ideas, it’s also a great place to submit causes that are important to you personally. It’s a great resource to take advantage of!
Second is The Box Scene Project. As we’ve discussed many times on this site, fandom usually takes it upon themselves to add into canon what has been unfortunately left out, usually taking the form of little to no representation for people of color or for QUILTBAG characters. So, what better way to show support, ally or otherwise, than to help donate to causes that aid marginalized groups? The Box Scene Project doesn’t stop there; check out some of the things they’ve done:
The Box Scene Project is a fan-based non-profit organization. Our mission is to achieve equal representation for LGBT*/minority characters, actors, and issues on network television.
Since our inception, we demonstrated fan support for equal representation by successfully lobbying for the release of a deleted scene between TV’s most popular gay teen couple, and raising over $100,000 for charity by offering fans prizes and items from their favorite diverse celebrities and television shows.
An admirable goal, I think. And while a little less open-ended than Fandom 4 Causes, it’s still a worthwhile project.
None of us can avoid the negative feelings that surround the perception of fandoms, and in some cases, it is warranted. However, by no means should that stop anyone from trying to make it better. Fandoms can come together and achieve some really great things, especially in terms of charity. Even if you don’t feel comfortable donating in the name of fandom, or you just don’t care to, I encourage you to donate this season anyways. There are tons of causes that would appreciate it, and truly every little bit helps.
Teen Wolf writer Jeff Davis has explained before that in the Teen Wolf universe, there is no racism, sexism, or homophobia. Instead, supernatural creatures occasionally fill in as the group being discriminated against. He said:
I’m trying to create a world where there’s no racism, there’s no sexism, there’s no homophobia. And I know it’s not real life, but I kind of don’t care. I’d like to create a world where none of that matters: you have the supernatural creatures for that to work as an analogy. In my mind, if you can create a world like that on TV, maybe life starts to imitate it.—writer and creator Jeff Davis discussing Teen Wolf (x)
Saika, not too long ago, did a post on just this issue. Does the utopia erase the struggles of minority groups or portray them as having been overcome or even nonexistent? It’s true that creating a world without discrimination could affect people enough to change things. It’s the whole “be the change you want to see in the world” thing. I agree with Saika that both portraying discrimination and portraying a utopia can have its ups and downs depending on the narrative, but there is still something that has always bothered me about the utopia, and I couldn’t put my finger on it until very recently.
In this week’s episode: Dean’s still a fucking liar, Sam doesn’t know what’s going on, Kevin is smarter than everyone, Cas gets a baby, and there are a lot of white guys. You’re watching Supernatural.
Queer representation or ship representation? Obviously the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but there is a big difference between wanting Destiel to happen in Supernatural and wanting Dean to be bisexual. Or wanting Sterek to happen in Teen Wolf and wanting Stiles to be bisexual. It’s a distinction I think is often forgotten by the fans.
Since the days of 8 Bit Theater, webcomics have been a continuously evolving medium. What used to be a tidal wave of comics created from repurposed game pixels has finally leveled out into something more conducive to tackling more serious issues. One such comic that I’ve been following for a long while is The Princess, drawn and written by Christine Smith.
The Princess follows the story of Sarah, a young girl in Everytown USA, who lives with her mother and gets into hijinks with her friends. Through the eyes and mouths of babes, Smith tackles many difficult issues including the effects of divorce on kids, abusive parents, and bullying. Of course, the hot topic of the entire comic is Sarah, who is transgender.
What sets this comic apart from others which also discuss transgender issues is how young Sarah is. For older readers enjoying the comic, it presents the idea that you don’t have to be older to realize how your life should be lived, and that it’s okay for a child to be transgender. For the younger audience—although I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how many of those there are—it offers reassurance that yes, this is okay. What they may be feeling is perfectly normal. Though it’s important to have media with this message for an older audience, presenting this message of acceptance and understanding in a manner that’s accessible to readers of all ages is invaluable.
With the aforementioned dealing with serious issues, I would be remiss to ignore the deep family and societal issues concerning our transgendered protagonist. For one, Sarah is bullied by a pair of kids who hate her for her differences—one of whom picks on her because he can’t understand his feelings for her (but this luckily isn’t presented in the typical ‘boys will be boys’ mindset). Aside from this, her mother also doesn’t exactly approve of Sarah living her life as Sarah. Her mother wants Sarah to be happy, but the fact is that she just doesn’t understand where her daughter is coming from most of the time. Initially she doesn’t accept it at all, but she does make the change and the effort to acceptance. But acceptance comes with an overprotective streak which causes a deeper rift between her and Sarah’s father.
Outside of Sarah, The Princess also offers a diverse cast of varying sexualities and nationalities. Sarah’s father is a proud gay man who wants his daughter to be able to live as openly as he can. Sarah’s first crush is an older transgender boy named Mars, who has an Indian girlfriend. Her best friend Erma, who protects Sarah with her words and her fists, is asexual. And in the more recent arcs, Sarah has a new crush and maybe-boyfriend, Jules, a young African-American. Literally every character is interesting and diverse, which is just how life is. Though Sarah faces a lot of hardships in her life, she has a bunch of people who love her and accept her for who she is, and that’s such an important message. This message, combined with a cute art style and excellent writing, well, there’s no way I couldn’t recommend it. Give it a read, if you have the chance!
Since Game of Thrones hit the mainstream viewership, I have pondered the concept of alternative sexual lifestyles in the medieval, fantasy setting. It’s an interesting concept, and one that surprisingly hasn’t been touched on much in a lot of famous Middle Age pieces, like the Arthurian legends.
I always found this weird. Anyone who knows anything about Roman and Greek culture knows that homosexuality was not “taboo,” so to speak. Art, stories and historical records talk about LGBTQ+ relationships. Even Zeus had a relationship with Ganymede, who was described by Homer as the the most beautiful mortal ever to exist.
I have complained before about the lack of diversity and minority representation in fanfiction before, but complaining about it isn’t enough for me. In my head and in my heart, I have always truly believed that fanfiction is both for pleasure and entertainment, as well as a safe space for authors to finally create stories with diverse characters that you don’t often get to see on TV. However,
a trend has emerged such that most fanfiction centers around two straight, white male leads whom authors write as queer, otherwise known as slash fanfiction. These types of pairings have dominated fandom to the point that there is significantly less fanfiction featuring any other type of character or pairing. Canonically gay characters, any lesbian pairings, female characters, or characters of color seem to be almost utterly left out of fanfiction. And in some cases, even when they are incorporated, they end up being vilified even more in the fanfiction than in the TV shows they originally come from.
On top of this cross-fandom endemic problem is the issue that these typical slash pairings have dominated so much of the fandom that many authors have confessed to me that they would write different fanfiction if they thought other people would actually read it.
It was then I realized that I was part of the problem.
Lal: “I am gender neuter. Inadequate.”
Data: “That is why you must choose a gender, Lal, to complete your appearance.”
Oh, Star Trek, you are one of those shows that consistently disappoints me. This conversation from Star Trek: The Next Generation perfectly illustrates how our society tends to view gender in a strict gender binary. In the episode “The Offspring”, the robot Data creates his own android progeny named Lal. He decides to create Lal gender neutral, so that Lal can choose what gender to be. It seemed like a great idea, but it quickly turned problematic when Lal declared gender neutrality “inadequate” before promptly choosing a female gender. For people who don’t fit the gender binary, this statement is wildly offensive. The message seems to be if you aren’t male or female then you are… inadequate. How fucked up is that?!
Sixteen pages usually isn’t enough to cover a topic in any grandiose sense, so I’m not sure why I built up the expectations that I did. Maybe it was the summary, which said that Akihito Yoshitomi’s Secret Stream would try to tackle internalized homophobia? No. That was definitely it. After reading the sixteen pages, though, I’m not sure if the summary was holding onto the same hopes that I had when starting, or if Yoshitomi thought that he was truly saying something meaningful, without realizing that they weren’t really saying anything of import in the end.