Sexualized Saturdays: Queer Representation or Ship Representation?

Slash-ship-Dean-Castiel-DestielQueer 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.

mackinThis past summer, Sterek fans threatened to boycott an episode of Teen Wolf because it would feature a plotline focused on Dennifer, the relationship between Jennifer Blake and Derek Hale. If they cared about queer representation and not just ship representation, they’d have cared about the episode because it featured canon gay couple Danny and Ethan quite heavily. In the same vein, just recently some Destiel fans threatened to boycott an episode of Supernatural because Castiel would be shown having sex with a woman.

In some ways I understand that fans are upset when characters that they believe are queer are shown being nothing but heteronormative. However, more and more often in fandoms, I’m seeing queer representation tied almost exclusively with shipping certain pairings and that is not going to get us anywhere.

charlie-carver-keahu-kahuanui-teen-wolf-2In an article by The Daily Dot, a Tumblr user going by the name helloiamfine summed up the issue with shipping and queer representation perfectly, saying:

People are making Destiel and queer characterization for Dean a synonymous issue, and they’re not. If the complaints focused on the real life issue of queer representation rather than ship loyalty, it’d be a lot easier to emphasize how monstrously in the wrong these writers are in their current commentary and engagement of fans.

I do understand fans wanting to combine queer representation and their favorite ship. tumblr_mhgx9rANMY1qj84c9o1_500When queer characters are portrayed on TV or in movies, they are rarely depicted in a sexual or romantic way. You may see two queer characters flirt, but queer characters kissing or having sex is definitely a rarity. Based on that, it is understandable that fans, both queer fans and allies, would want to see not just queer characters, but queer relationships.

I'm No AngelHowever, the focus on ships could be hurting the fight for more queer representation. The Powers That Be may be willing to have a gay character but not a same-sex relationship. While I agree that that is all kinds of bullshit, we may have to start picking our battles. On top of this, trying to force writers into making two main characters show same-sex attraction is not always the answer. For example, while Jeff Davis has not said definitively that Stiles is bisexual, he has hinted at it being a possibility and leaves enough ambiguity about Stiles’s sexuality in the show that he could take the character in any direction. Davis has not hinted about this in any way regarding Derek’s sexuality, however. And while Derek having dated exclusively women on the show so far does not necessarily mean he’s straight, his character does seem less likely to be written as a queer character by Davis. However, it is likely that, if Stiles was revealed to be bisexual, he would end up in a queer relationship at some point—even if it wasn’t with Derek. So Sterek fans then would have to decide: do they care more about their ship or about queer representation?

This is a question I think all shippers need to ask themselves. Are you as a shipper giving priority only to seeing your ship happen, or to actually having more queer characters and relationships on TV?


6 thoughts on “Sexualized Saturdays: Queer Representation or Ship Representation?

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  3. I believe most of the people who I saw that were planning to boycott the Supernatural episode where Castiel had sex with a women…
    Were doing so largely because:
    A. It was written by two writers who have consistently written problematic and shoddily written episodes in the past, and they were worried about something as emotionally wraught as a character’s first time being handled by the writers that are fairly consistently regarded in fandom as the worst writers on the show?
    B. Spoilers revealed that he was going to have sex with her, only for her to torture him?
    C. They regarded Castiel not as a gay character, but as an asexual or demisexual one, and the thought of him having meaningless sex with anyone seemed bizarrely out of character and erasing of their own identities. Or were offended by the notion that once Castiel became human, he would immediately want to have sex, and the implication that would be drawn about people who have no sex drive somehow being less human?

    Just a thought.

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  5. I’d really like for my favorite ships to happen (Destiel and Sterek, obviously) but… it is more important to me that there be some queer representation. With Teen Wolf for example, it doesn’t even have to be Stiles that’s bi. And Derek doesn’t have to be queer either. I would just like it if someone queer got more of a storyline. We had Danny, but they never really did much with him. And now this season he’s just gone, no explanation, no nothing. And now there’s Mason, but we don’t know much about him, either!

    The same goes for Supernatural. They had Charlie, but they never gave her enough to do and then they took her off the show!

    I think that sort of stuff bugs me even more than the whole queerbaiting with the ships thing.

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