I’m sure our readers know that I am a big fan of Big Time Rush, but you may not know that I am also a fan of Supernatural. In fact, I was the one to tell Ladies Geek Girl and Saika about the show in the first place and encourage them to watch it, so…
I’m not very active in the SPN fandom anymore, though, because my work schedule makes it difficult to keep up with the show, which is why I don’t really post about it. (I am watching the anime version right now though, so expect a post or two about that once I finish the series) Back when the show started, however, I followed the fandom pretty closely through LiveJournal and forums (these were pre-tumblr days folks!) so I was very aware of the shipping and all that in the fandom. One of the things I noticed that irked me, which I’ve also noticed in the BTR fandom, was that any time Sam and Dean (or Jared and Jensen, for that matter) showed affection or concern for one another everyone jumped all over it as being proof that they were gay for each other.
Why does this bother me? Well, for one, I related strongly to the family dynamic in Supernatural. I saw myself in Sam so much and the relationships he had with Dean and John hit really close to home with my own relationships with my brother and father. It was wonderful to see them try, fail, try again, make headway, etc. in their relationships with one another and the strength of familial love between them reminded me of my own and gave me hope that no matter what troubles may exist in my own family we could get through them because we loved each other.
Then I went online and that love was turned from something purely familial into something lustful and I was made to feel uncomfortable and confused. Why did it seem no one could believe that these men loved each other as father and son, brother and brother? Why did any sign of affection have to be turned into something romantic or sexual? One of the phrases I saw thrown around a lot in the SPN fandom and even more so in the BTR fandom is “Straight guys don’t do that.”
And any time I see that phrase, or some variation thereof, I want to ask “Says who?”
Really, who says that straight men can’t show affection to one another? Apart from Western gender norms there is no reason that straight men can’t care for one another. In a time when we are trying to fight stereotypes and encourage people to be open and accepting of themselves and others I find it very troubling that this stereotypes is being enforced so strongly by fandoms.
When it comes to Big Time Rush I have a different perspective but come to the same problem. As opposed to Supernatural where I don’t ship the Winchesters with each other romantically, I do ship the BTR guys in romantic ways. The thing is, I don’t do this because “Did you see the way Kendall put his arm around Logan to comfort him?? No way would a straight guy do that!” I do it because “Do you see the way Kendall and Logan interact and make each other better people, but can get jealous and protective of each other at times? I think their love is more romantic than friendly” Despite agreeing with the ship, it still bothers me when fans exclaim that every interaction one of the guys has with another is not proof of affection but is instead indicative of their sexuality.
That’s really my problem. I don’t think that homosexual men are the only men capable of showing care for another man and to say so puts gay and straight men into neatly defined boxes of what they can and can’t do, how they can and can’t behave, etc. and that’s a) not the way the world works, and b) damaging to any progress we as a society may want to make to acceptance and freedom of expression.
One show I’d like to mention that depicts the friendship between two men wonderfully and pokes fun at these stereotypes is the comedy Scrubs. In this medical sit-com the main character, Dr. John Dorian, or J.D. for short, is incredibly close with his best friend Dr. Christopher Turk, usually referred to simply as Turk. J.D. and Turk share private jokes, spend most of their time together, and are devoted to each other so much so that their significant others often feel that they are competing with their friendship and losing. They are also constantly teased for being gay and while this does cause problems for them from time to time, they never let it ruin their relationship.
Despite being a sit-com, Scrubs had a lot of heart in it and tackled some serious issues and one of them was this ongoing situation in which these two men have their sexuality questioned simply for being friends and it was handled very well. While J.D. was usually unfazed by the accusations, Turk had a harder time accepting it and we got to see his character grow and become more comfortable with himself and his emotions as he really inspected them. It was great seeing him realize that his friendship with J.D. was nothing to be ashamed of and stop trying to downplay his affection for his best friend.
The thing is, he shouldn’t have to feel that it was shameful to begin with. I think many people in our society are trying to promote LGBTQ people and lifestyles, but while doing so many people are falling into the trap of stereotyping LGBTQ men and women, as well as straight men and women with typical gender roles. “You’re an affectionate man? Just accept that you’re gay and be proud” seems to be a persistent problem not only in fandom but in our larger culture as well. I’d really like to see those of us in fandoms turn away from this kind of thinking and let people be who they are and realize that sexual attraction is what defines a person’s sexuality, not how well they fit into gender stereotypes.