Sunday, July 11, 2010

When Fandom Goes Wrong

First off, I feel the need to announce that I am the proud owner of a vuvuzela:

Congrats to Spain, and Paul the Octopus for making their victory happen and all that. Time to ignore soccer for another four years!

Anyway, now for the actual post. In case you are one of the few people that aren't friends I met through fandom, well, I'm in it. It's silly, but it's always been an escape. Writing silly short stories, drawing pictures, and laughing at macros of animes when I was little, and bands when I got older, is my way of forgetting about the pressures of homelife, homework, and whatever bothers someone between the ages of 11 and 19. And while I have taken breaks from fandom and whatnot, I've supported it almost every step of the way. It's just fun, don't worry, I don't take it too seriously and neither should you, blah blah blah. But only now, eight years in, can I honestly see one of the largest issues in the system.

Fandom, at least in the fandoms I have actively been in, are based around male figures. And example of this would be my (embarrassing) first love, Yu Yu Hakusho:

A few people my age might remember staying up until God knows when to watch this show on Adult Swim back when Adult Swim was a slightly mature anime block on Cartoon Network. While it's a little low tech in terms of the art (it was made in 1990, so no computer graphics in this baby), it focused on a guy named Yusuke who died, but was able to come back to life provided that he investigated various supernatural cases. The show is an anime made for boys ("shounen", because for some reason my brain never let go of the lingo), and because of it,had a mostly male cast, even though the girls kicked major ass when they wanted to. While the show was not the most evenly distributed in terms of gender, whatever. When the fandom was active, it was definitely guy-focused. It was all about Hiei/Kurama, but at its core, there's nothing wrong with sexualizing two guys. However, there was a bit of a pattern within the fandom that I didn't really factor in at the time... the vilifying of the female characters on the show, without any reason other than the fact that they were getting in the way of the homoerotic joy. Most people didn't slash Yusuke all that much, and yet his girlfriend on the show was dismissed as a bitch and hated on. And, of course, when you're twelve and you don't really know all that much, you don't sit down and wonder what the hell is going on with this woman hating mentality.

Fandom behavior such as the one I interacted in with YYH way back when is alive and well in some areas. Female characters are in the way of "teh pr0nzzz!!!1" This applies to a lot of shows/TV/book fandoms. And while it's all fun and games for the most part, there's something particularly unnerving when you constantly hear women talk about how all the girls suck. No, girls don't have to like every single girl on a program. Boys don't have to like every single guy, either. But the vilification of the women in the fandom is depressing, and makes the people that do like the girls be a little awkward.

This actually liking the girls becomes problematic in slash-dominated fandoms. A lot of these fandoms (Okay, all of them if you factor in Rule 34) have fanfiction circles of some kind floating around. Which are pretty basic. People write stories based around characters and all that good stuff. While a lot of fanfiction writers would like to tell you they have as much integrity as a fanfiction writer can have, there is obvious playing the game in terms of the stories they write. Some communities will even outright say that heterosexual, most of the time canon, couplings are banned from communities. Uhm, ouch. What's worse is that femslash, or slash couplings of girls, is nearly impossible to find sometimes, only a viable option when the male characters become "gender bent", or have their sex changed for the duration of the story. And this is not to say that every single person you meet in fandom feels this way. Trust me, they don't. There's plenty of queer people that like girls as well and will write them in a positive light, or have them getting down and dirty with someone. However, they are the minority and will be the one that gets less readers and less reviews, which can depress fanfiction writers and make them reconsider writing girls into their stories.

Another issue that seems to arise in these slash-oriented fandoms is simply the lack of association with actually queer men. There is a general idea that these men are gay. That's it. The possibility of bisexuality is never discussed in most fics, and if the guy was in a relationship with a girl prior to meeting his "tru wuv!!11oneone", she was a cover up or what made the guy realize that he wasn't in love with not just her, but every woman that came before her. Because apparently every single guy that's ever boinked another guy has only liked guys.

There is also this stress of being a "top or a bottom." Which is all well and good. I've had this conversation with my guys-that-like-guys before. Whatever. But the projection of characterization based on top or bottom can hurtle out of control as well. Bottoms are feminine, wimpy, prone to being the victim of sexual assault, and tops are larger, more in control, and aggressive. There is no exceptions to this rule, unless it's specifically a kink to the fandom ("Oh, I'm feeling risky today... I want to read a story with the guy usually a bottom topping! Om nom nom ;)" People do prefer certain positions. But trust me, just because you want to take it doesn't make you a lily white guy that may be prone to being raped.

The final issue that arises in fandom is a problem that specifically arises in real person-related fandoms... sexism and homophobia. How can that be? you may ask. That's pretty understandable. How the hell can a fandom focused on the love between two dudes possibly have tendency of being offensive. But it does happen. While fanfiction should be about fantasy and fun, the wanting for real person situations to be, well, real, causes the fandom mentality to hurtle out of control. All the points that I made prior become particularly obvious. Let's take the dude on top of this paragraph for example. This is Kris Allen from American Idol. Yeah, sorry, more American Idol examples, sorry. It's the fandom I'm currently most involved in.

So Kris Allen is straight. He has a really cool friendship with openly gay Adam Lambert. However, fandom seems to be obsessed with this. What started off as very fun "OMFG THEY'RE SO ~MFEO", has become "HIS WIFE HAS DEPRESSION, HENCE SHE IS NOT A GOOD ENOUGH PARTNER FOR HIM... HENCE HE SHOULD FUCK ADAM." It singlehandedly exemplifies all the issues I have with fandoms in the past- vilification of women by means of having Katy, his wife, be a horrible partner based on the fact that she battled depression and has a vagina, any stories implying Kris is just friends with Adam get very few reviews and are viewed negatively, Kris is assumed to just be using Katy as a beard, because there's no fucking way that he likes girls in real life, and he definitely is a bottom, because he's small and clearly unable to be a top in any relationship whatsoever. What adds to all of this is that people collage images of him with a limp wrist, his hip jutted out, or repeatedly put up the gif of him snapping his fingers in a Z formation as "proof" that he likes men. Uhm. Okay. What started off as just a lulz here and a omfg there has become legit conspiracy theories. Which is just... sad. Yeah, I said it. It's sad. It's instilling stereotypes on gay men, which is upsetting when half the fandom is based around a gay guy that is trying to break into the music scene. It's reiterating that women are inferior and that men that are bottoms are inferior as well. And while a lot of people want to say that they're just joking around, at the end of the day, these fantasies do become a lot of the mentalities younger people (and older people) in fandom have.

At the end of these posts, I usually end with how the hell we can stop this. But to be honest, I don't fully know. I've decided to separate myself from fandom, keeping in touch with the friends that I made, but definitely not venturing too much farther. I guess you can say that it's a public resignation from my position as a fandom protector. Because there is a problem in the slash-focused fandoms and until people aren't afraid to say that there is something going on, it's not going to be fixed.

If you excuse me, I'm going to spend the rest of the day playing my vuvuzela and reading comments. Feel free to give me your input. Is fandom actually a problem? Should people care how the images of women and gay men are portrayed in these fandoms? Am I just a whiny sensitive kid that needs to toot her vuvuzela and get lost? Please, let me know.