I dunno about you guys, but a lot of times when I can’t fall asleep, I end up wandering through AO3, hoping to find a fun fic that can make my thoughts stop chasing themselves around my head and settle down. It’s like storytime when you were a kid, except with more porn. Generally this technique works out for me, because I’ll give anything a try at least once, and sometimes this technique doesn’t work out for me, because… I’ll give anything a try at least once. However, even my laissez-faire approach to fanfic consumption took pause when, at three a.m., digging through the bookmarks of someone I’d never heard of before, I found a Supernatural fanfic advertising itself as a Dean/Cas romcom with a good portion of it in all caps. Now, I gave up on SPN a good while ago, but I did ship these two pretty hard back in the day, and well, I missed them. And it was three a.m. So I decided to give it a try. And as it turns out? I’m really glad I did.
Queer representation is not a sneaky thing. It doesn’t creep up like a ninja, and it doesn’t hide behind equivocation. If something has queer representation, it’s because it includes a queer character who at some point has audibly and unambiguously expressed romantic or sexual interest in the same gender. Anything else is speculation. Hell, even Word of God is tricky—JKR may have said that Dumbledore is gay, but anyone who just reads the books and doesn’t bother to dig up an interview from ten years ago will have no idea.
I bring this up because of a recent trend I’ve seen in fandom, where all sorts of interactions and statements that don’t fit the above criteria are being held up as proof of a queer pairing’s now-canon status. Continue reading
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.
If it exists, there’s porn of it—no exceptions. That’s actually a rule of the internet. But most often, when we talk about fanfiction, we’re talking about a relationship between two guys. This is commonly known as “slash” (accordingly, a relationship between two girls is “femslash”, etc). It’s hard to explain this phenomenon to those outside fandom: the usual explanation runs something along the lines of, “Well, there are a lot of straight girls in fandom, and they like reading about two guys together… what?” I’ve used that explanation myself when trying to explain to my brother why, upon ascending to the internet, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy can no longer keep their hands off each other. (To be fair, it was a much better explanation than the first one that popped into my head, which ran something along the lines of, “Because… shh”.) Now, however, there’s some legit data on the inner workings of fandom, and it means we might do well to rethink the assumptions that lead to this explanation.
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.
After two seasons of showcasing nothing but heterosexual relationships, Teen Wolf will be taking a big risk next Monday by showing a gay sex scene between Danny, who’s already been shown as canonically gay, and Ethan, one of the Alpha twins. The two have shown a mutual attraction to each other; whether they are romantically interested like Scott and Allison, or just looking for a quick hookup like Lydia and her many S3 boys, it’s only fair to give their relations the screentime that it deserves. Continue reading
Queerbaiting happens when The Powers That Be (TPTB) of a show or other work openly acknowledge that their text could have a queer reading, but don’t ever actually make any of their characters queer. It’s when TPTB try to satisfy the slash-loving part of fandom’s need for shippy content by allowing their characters to engage in long, heated stares, share dialogue that could be read romantically, and be physically affectionate with each other—without alienating their straight audience and pigeonholing their show into a ‘gay and lesbian thing’. It’s the showrunners placing suggestive things into the text and then yelling “No homo!”
This creates a couple of problems.
First, this plays into the assumption on the part of TPTB that fans who want to see real queer relationships on a show are simply fangirls who fetishize gay relationships. They pay lip service to the idea of the ship in question, but don’t take it seriously, because they assume that the people who want it to become canon are just in it to see two hot guys (or girls) make out. This is patently not true. Although gay-fetishizers will always be a part of slash fandom, a large part of the fandom is queer, and we read these characters interactions as queer because we are desperate for shows that represent our own experiences.
Second, whether intentionally or unintentionally, queerbaiting perpetuates the idea that queer relationships are not important and that they’re not worthy of representation. It’s like, “Sure, we’ll give you some suggestive dialogue, but actually spend time telling a story about you in a thoughtful and complex way? No, we can’t be arsed. You don’t matter enough for that.” Continue reading