Sexualized Saturdays: Asexuality in Fiction and Fanfiction

Sherlock-BBCI have to admit that before writing this post, I had never purposefully sought out fanfiction involving asexuality, if only because I was too scared to. I’m not trying to say that I think all ace fanfiction would be terrible or poorly written—one of my favorite fics stars an ace character—but I’ve had a lot of bad experience with stories that have unfortunately made me a little terrified to see how other people interpret my sexuality. As such, I generally get my fanfiction kicks from reading stories that simply have no pairings, or no overt romance and sexual tension, as I more or less know what to expect from them.

Though I know there has to be plenty of well-written stories involving ace characters, there are also plenty of bad ones, and I sometimes feel as if this lack of quality comes from not only certain misunderstandings about asexuality, but also from how the original source material and writers treat asexuality.

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Why Is There So Much Slash Fic?: Some Analysis of the AO3 Census

harry and dracoIf 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.

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The Depiction of “Asia” in Pop Culture

So I was in Boston for a week on a business trip. While I was there, I stopped by the Boston Museum of Fine Art. To my surprise, upon leaving I was rather disappointed. I think that was largely due to the museum’s presentation of “Asia” as one solid unit as opposed to allowing for diversity of cultures by depicting it as a series of diverse countries. The sad thing is, this is frequently done by pop culture as well.

asia1First off, we have that Sherlock episode, “The Blind Banker”, where Sherlock and Watson track down some Chinese mafia bad guys working for Moriarty. At least I think they were Chinese. I’m not exactly sure because Moffat wasn’t straight-forward on that one. When I first saw this episode, I’m fairly certain I watched it with Luce and Saika, who spent the majority of the time yelling “This actress is Chinese but her name is Korean; the teapots are Japanese and so are the lucky cats! This makes no sense! Couldn’t anyone do their homework?!” at the TV. So needless to say, it was a very Asian episode, but there was no fact-checking. If something was considered stereotypically Asian, be it teapots, ninjas, acrobatic circuses, etc., chances are it was in this episode and just attributed to China for the sake of simplicity. That’s a no-no. Attributing every Asian thing to China is like making every South American thing Brazilian; it’s just not correct.

asia2Sherlock is the most obvious case of this happening in a plot that I know of, excluding every parody movie along the lines of Scary Movie and Not Another Teen Movie where everyone and everything gets stereotyped like it’s nobody’s business. It also happens frequently in more episodic TV series. In almost every crime show, at some point they have an “Asia” episode, where chances are the crime takes place in Chinatown, the Yakuza are involved, or something along those lines. Blue Bloods just did an episode like this a couple of months ago and it was a hot mess. That’s the opportunity to throw in every stereotype about Asia you can possibly can, almost like getting Asia out of the show’s system.

More frequently, however, this done through casting. How many shows exist in the world where it seems that the casting director said, “Okay, we have one Asian, that means we’re good on that score”? So many shows. Even looking at Elementary, which we practically tout as a gold standard for portrayal of racial diversity on broadcast television, only has one Asian character. To be fair, it’s Watson, who is one of the two protagonists, but even as minor characters go, there are very few other Asians in the show. There is more than one Asian in New York City, and Elementary is only portraying one. Granted, Watson’s ethnicity is never made an issue: she’s just a normal person that happens to be Chinese and happens to be a woman. And Watson has characteristics that show her relationship to her ethnicity, such as her preference for natural remedies and her “tiger” mom. But she is so much more than her race, and that’s what Elementary does so well: making characters more than the stereotypes that surround them. However, just doing a better job than everyone else doesn’t mean it is the end-all, be-all.

To be honest, I’d be interested to see Elementary try and tackle a Chinatown episode just to see how they treat it. It could make for really interesting TV viewing, namely because they are so good at creating characters who are more than stereotypes. Hopefully, other television shows can look at Elementary, see how they treat different groups, and apply that to their own writing. And take it further.

Fanfiction: Not Necessarily a Voice for Minorities

Reading your fanfic!

Reading your fanfic!

Let me start this post by saying that I LOVE fanfiction. Yes, the caps are necessary, because that’s how much I love fanfiction. I can safely say that most of my free time I’m either on Tumblr or reading some sort of fanfiction.

But recently I have been very frustrated with fanfic. After writing about both the lack of lesbian couples in pop culture and about queering straight characters in fanfiction I’ve started to realize something. Fanfiction, which has so often been hailed as a way that authors and readers could write/read about characters of varied genders, races, sexualities, and physical and mental abilities, is not actually an epitome of acceptance and diversity. In fact, in many ways fanfiction has the same sexist, racist, and homophobic issues that the mainstream media has.

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If There Are No Lesbians Then I Don’t Care

Orphan Black Lady Geek GirlI have noticed an upsetting trend recently. No one seems to care about queer ladies being represented in the media. Seems that any time a show announces that they will be including gay characters, or any time someone critiques a show for not having gay characters, more often than not those characters tend to be male. Gay men, despite also not having much representation on television, seem to at least currently hold the market on representation. Why is that? According to GlAAD’s most recent Where Are We On TV Report, there are fifty LGBTQ+ characters on broadcast TV. 61% of those characters are gay men, while only 20% are lesbians, though there are more bisexual women (14%) than bisexual men (4%) on broadcast TV. And of course only one of those characters is a transgender woman. Thank you, Elementary

I think the lack of queer female characters largely has to do with with how society has sexualized queer women. When I was younger, I remember hearing that queer men are less accepted in society because straight men are uncomfortable with queer men, but queer women are more accepted because straight men find them attractive. Yep, that’s right, there is this misconception that because queer women have been heterosexualized and fetishized, they are somehow more empowered than queer men. If that’s empowerment, then sorry, I don’t want it.

So you know the stats, but how many queer female characters are there in our geek wheelhouse? This is including both cable and broadcast TV shows.

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Sherlock @ Comic Con

Sadly, neither Benedict Cumberbatch nor Martin Freeman could go to Comic Con. Happily, however, they sent video messages. And they’re below for your viewing pleasure.

General observation: the sunglasses really make the Bilbo costume. That’s where the compliments to Martin Freeman end however. Because while we know Freeman as an actor, we (or at least I) don’t know him as a person. And here’s the thing with humor: if you do not have an fairly intimate relationship with the person you are joking with, any joke has to be over-the-top and obvious. While I believe Freeman was in fact joking about attacking people, his delivery made me think a couple times about whether he was being serious. And that makes it an unsuccessful joke.

On to our second segment. Benedict Cumberbatch is frickin’ adorable. And funny. To be honest, I really had no idea what was going on in the first half of his message; I was distracted by his rather good looks. But the concept of him trying to spoil us and being thwarted was an interesting idea and rather well executed. And it helps that Benedict Cumberbatch is gorgeous.

I’m sorry, I really didn’t intend to make this into a fan girl post. But that sort of happened in the last paragraph. Sorry. But Sherlock is coming back! And it’s this fall, which is honestly sooner than I thought. Either that, or Sherlock Series 2 ended longer ago than I remember. Either way, we have more things to be excited about, including Benedict Cumberbatch.

Sexualized Saturdays: River Song

Oh, Steven Moffat, why do you so often introduce ladies that you claim are bisexual only to never give any hint or evidence in the actual show that they are? River Song is not the first character to be outed outside of her TV show, but is there any evidence in the actual show that River Song is bisexual? And does it matter if there isn’t?

tumblr_leo5unpjjl1qzb8r6o1_500River Song is one of those characters that I find extremely confusing. Don’t get me wrong, she’s extremely interesting, but she’s a time traveler, we meet her out of order, she ends up being Rory and Amy’s daughter, as well as the Doctor’s wife and murderer. Everything with River was very confusing. Add to that a confusing representation of River’s sexuality and suddenly you need some damn strong headache medicine.

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What the Puff: Pipes in Pop Culture

I smoke tobacco pipes. I’ve enjoyed them since I turned 18 and even make them. So, I am pleased when I see television or movies including characters smoking their pipes. You’ll never know where pipe smokers are going to turn up in these things, from Colonel Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds to Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean. Even the First and Fourth Doctors in Doctor Who were seen smoking pipes. However, I’m almost always infuriated when I see how they smoke them. This is because many times the characters smoke their pipes wrong. Typically, these characters seem to be most interested in making as much smoke as possible. This isn’t wrong because of arbitrary etiquette, but rather is wrong because it ruins the taste of the tobacco, burns the mouth, and can ruin a pipe over time.

Gandalf Smokes his Pipe Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: vocation, Vocation!

Within Catholic-flavored Christianity, you’ll sometimes hear people talk about Vocations and vocations. A “vocation” or “Vocation” concerns the big questions of what you’re going to do with your life. It usually involves a combination of figuring out what you want to do, what you actually could do, and what your deity wills for your life. “Little v” vocations are something like being a doctor, being an artist, or being a teacher—they involve you practicing your skills in a particular field, usually include a significant time commitment, and in some way contribute to the rest of the human race.

France Info thinks some people are “called” to work for them.

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SuperWhoLock: The Comic

In case you haven’t figured it by this point, I really don’t interact with fandom/the internet. This is partially because I’d like my time to myself instead of getting absorbed in GIFs, and partially because I’m so super-strict-must-stay-to-canon and a lot of fanfiction is whateva-whateva-I-do-what-I-want.

Enter SuperWhoLock: The Comic by Alanna. SuperWhoLock is a crossover of Supernatural, Sherlock, and Doctor Who. I’m a bigger fan of Doctor Who and Sherlock, but I know about Supernatural well enough. But if you’re a fan of all three, you can consider yourself a SuperWhoLockian.

Now I was dubious at first. This isn’t my thing, but I gave it a shot. Ten pages, I thought. Ten pages was a decent-ish enough shot in my opinion. Forty minutes later I was still reading the thing and very excited. I was just so drawn into it and couldn’t stop. And that forty minutes didn’t count the twenty minute break I took for a phone interview. I was just that sucked in.

I really loved the art style. I can easily see someone getting turned off by the black and white. And it does get hard to tell who is who sometimes, especially Castiel, since he doesn’t appear too Castiel-like in some angles. But I think it gives the entire thing a grittier, more down to earth feel that really works with the story.

And I guess the real reason I really love it is because it is so in line with everything’s different canons. Castiel is very Castiel, Watson is pretty Watson, and really it’s only Sherlock that strikes me as a little off. I might be the only one who thinks this, but I think Sherlock would be way more down for thinking angels were real than Watson. Even according to Sherlock’s own logic (“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”), it seems like it would be fairly easy for him to accept Castiel as an angel and for Watson to be skeptical. So I was slightly confused when it was Watson who accepted it and Sherlock confused.

Anywho, all of the gripes I had with it a fairly minor in the grand scheme of the comic. It is very coherent and a delight to read. Here is the Table of Contents; start on page one of the prologue. You can do it.