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17 January 2010 @ 04:58 am
"Making" characters gay = a problem?  
Ah, livejournal gets an unusual amount of attention from me this month. Don't know why, feeling rant-y I suppose.

Another day surfing the Net, another thing to rant about. This time I thought I'd ramble a bit about my thoughts on “shipping” aka believing-that-two-or-more-characters-in-a-work-of-fiction-are-romantically/sexually-interested-in-each-other.

Quite a mouthful, I do see why shipping has become the common term for it.

Now, a lot of people get annoyed at shipping. There's the usual “ewww gays!” reaction from various homophobes, the “bitch needs to die!” reaction from the less stable yaoi fangirls and the “wtf?!” fan reactions to pairings of characters with little chemistry or screen time together.

My question is: how much of a “problem” is shipping really?

1) Is the depiction of two character who aren't together in canon (or haven't gotten together yet – sometimes shippers are right you know, just look at Dumbledore/Grindelwald) as lovers really that big of an issue? If you think of your favorite character one way (as straight, gay, bi, asexual, in love with someone, etc.) and then find some (or a lot) of fanart/fiction, which isn't canon by the way, that show said character frenching his/her best friend of the same gender, does that change anything?

Is it just the human instinct to prove people who disagree with us “wrong” that make shipping related flame wars start? Or is it just for fun?

Because really, some people take fandom as way too much serious business. So what if Harry/Snape squicks you? So what if there's a lot of it? So what if it's not canon? This is the fucking Internet! There's so much space here that it is possible to avoid the stuff you don't like while still getting to the stuff you enjoy. Are we really so spoiled that we need everything on the Internet – which, I remind you, is huge - to cater just to our particular taste?

Damn, how do you survive looking through a library?

Some people who aren't homo/heterophobes still dislike shipping, because it goes against canon. I do agree that many ships aren't canon-compatible, but as above, does other people's fantasies really affect you that much? And why do you go looking for it?

Yes, I'm pretty convinced very few anti-shippers are “victims” of shipping. How hard can it be to avoid pictures and stories about a pairing? I learned how to do that when I was twelve, come one!

2) What point 1 really boils down to is “don't like, don't look, then create your own part of the Internet to suit you”, which I think is a rule that would make a lot of Internet fandoms much friendlier. Combined with learning to respect people even though they disagree with you on such non-life-vital-things as the romantic relations of a fictional character, of course.

Point 2 is: are canon and/or straight relationships really always that much better? Yes, there are epic romances and fun relationships to read about. But a lot of the characters in my fandoms have badly written relationships. Also, way too many girl/guy friendships go into romantic/sexual territory in all kinds of canon.

Don't get me wrong, I love a lot of comic books and TV shows for their characters as well as their plots and mysteries and whatnot, but when it comes to romance I find that many heterosexual pairings suffer (and some homosexual as well). This is mostly due to lack of screen time and character development.

I can rant for hours about the treatment of and lack of female characters in main stream entertainment. Really, way too many female characters are just there to be “the girl” not to mention “the girlfriend”. That does not good chemistry make my friend!

Pairings are just so much more fun and interesting when both partners (or well, more than two, depending on the paring really) have actual lives outside of the relationship. Just thinking a person is hot seldom leads to a lasting relationship and love at first sight is not for everyone, not to mention unconvincing to me (unless the personalities of the people in question match really well, but still love at first sight is a pretty rare thing). Interaction outside of make-out sessions much appreciated!

Therefore, don't write all shipping off as “fangirls who want smut with people they think are hot/want to ship themselves with their favorite character”. There's plenty of that too, of course (and it can be ignored! There's no need for a damn crusade against it, jeez, it's not child pornography), but there's also a lot of characters who simply have more screen time and chemistry with their same-sex friends, than with their intended love interest. Again, point 1; it's a huge Internet.

And yes, I do get that it might sound hypocritical to say “why does all gal/guy friendships have to lead to sex” while at the same time promoting “friend-shipping”. This is what I have to say to that:

I love gal/guy pairings that develop out of friendships where there's Unresolved Sexual Tension leading up to the getting together. Ron/Hermione for example. What I don't like is that 90% of all girls who spend time with a guy character (or the other way around) somehow always find themselves kissing or more, sooner or later, with little to no build-up. It's like the writers think all vaginas and penises are magnetically attracted to each other or something.

Hell, I can even go so far as shipping good, close male/female friends, just because I love the way they interact. What annoys me with the constant relationship-changes in all kinds of canon is that it happens so often and to nearly all male/female friends.

It'd be like all male/male friends and all female/female friends in 90% of the main stream entertainment ended up kissing after a while. Just imagine that for a moment. To me, that is just as weird and unrealistic.

3) Why, oh why, must everyone always be “straight until proven otherwise”? Yes, a character that has been stated as straight by Word of God aka the author is obviously straight. Same-sex pairings with such a character just leads back to point 1 here, so let's deal with the not-outright-stated-sexuality-characters now.

These guys and gals are always hilarious to discuss in fandoms, especially with more conservative people. For surely, unless shown having sex with another man (anal of course, since all gay men only have bum-sex, for sex is all about penetration, and no heterosexual couple has ever tried anal in the history of the world *sigh*), a main character could never be gay! It just isn't done.

Well, this might be news for some, but although it is statistically probable that a lot of characters are straight, it's also as statistically probable that some characters in any larger group aren't straight!

This is how real life works anyways. You walk into a café for example and I can nearly guarantee that there'd be at least one non-straight person there (unless it's an anti-gay café of course and then there might still be someone!) if not more, just as there's a chance there'll be a comic book geek or a football lover there. Please, just think about that for a second.

Non-straight people are sorely underrepresented in main stream media and the possibility of people not being straight is seldom touch upon. The few characters we do get are generally stereotypes. Most lesbians are there as fan service to men who like women and a new trend has started with men fan servicing women who like men.

This is much like with the male to female ratio of main characters. Being a bisexual woman I often find myself feeling more than a little left out of main stream media's stories because of this. I do exist too you know.

Just imagine, if you indeed are heterosexual, a world where 90% of all relationships you were exposed to through TV, comic books, etc were homosexual, or polygamous or what not! How would that make you feel if straight pairings were the minority?

That's how straight pairings make me feel, and a lot of people with me I imagine. Not disgusted – far from it – but like the reality depicted doesn't quite correspond to my own. Just as the male-dominant-main-characters make it seem, to me, that the world depicted has a sever shortage of women.

So, in short: Shipping and fandom isn't serious business, you can learn to avoid stuff you don't like on the Internet, you can't argue that a character is straight in canon until that's been clearly stated and this is all for fun after all so why don't we just relax and get along or ignore each other, okay?

That's all for me, good night!
Current Mood: nerdynerdy
Listening to: Iron Man - Black Sabbath
crazytook on April 6th, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
wow, OK, so i think i got my computer to work and decided I'd just post all over your LJ. my apologies, but you just have so many interesting things to say! I swear i am not stalking you.

i agree with a lot of this! But, speaking as someone who often finds herself going "uggghhhh" every time i run into a non-canon pairing (a definition which i may be a little more liberal with than some...)I would like to...defend my people, i guess?

First off, I totally agree that yeah, don't like, don't look, or at least be polite is the best internet guideline i can think of. I also think that fanfic is a lot of fun and fantasy and go for it, do what you like, I often lurk around kink memes. But, I think here's where my problem is. There reaches a point where I just don't believe that the person posting a certain fic actually realizes the ship they are posting isn't canon. I've seen plenty of fics with the lead in of "these two characters are so clearly hot for each other..." or whatever (it's often more intelligently worded) that I now feel like I want to have a discussion with this person. Do they really think snape/harry is a canon thing? Book canon? Movie canon? What text, visual or written made them think this? Did I miss something? Are THEY the crazy ones? Why do we have to sexualize EVERYTHING? etc... I think the only point I get "upset" at is when I think that the non-canon fanfic/ship they are supporting reflects what they actually think about canon, cause let's face it, what you write in a fanfic does have something to do with what you think about canon.

And it isn't a need to be right (although, as a human being, I too have an ego and enjoy being right frequently) so much as it's about, yes, taking my fandom seriously. I mean, I studied theater in college, I'm an actor-despite my psychological career aspirations-story telling is very important to me. And it's important to me that we get that which is canon canon out there with everyone on the same page, or else, to me, it's like trying to discuss evolution with a creationist. No one in that conversation is accepting anyone's facts. We just have my made up world in my head vs. your made up world in your head. We need to return to the canon for the facts or else it's just pointless, mindless discussion.

And as I said earlier, I'm slightly more liberal with what "canon" is. Canon, in my opinion, is any interpretation that can be defended by either written text (a book or script) AND/or visual text (what you see on the screen) because I do NOT believe in the author as god idea.

As for the "straight till otherwise" I think that is sometimes a problem, I don't think it's ALWAYS the case tho. I personally assume everyone on star trek is bi until proven otherwise. (especially this latest movie). And there are certainly characters I wouldn't be surprised at if they were gay, etc... I think that yes there are homophobes, but for those of us who aren't, it's just like, this character isn't any random person on the street that you passed by. You have close ups. You know this character as well as your best friend who confides in you and on top of that, you're telepathic. So, you can make an educated guess to things like past abuse, mental illness, learning disorders, sexual orientation,etc... than you can a random person on the street.
Although, I totally understand the desire to make canon straight people gay or undeclared sexual orientation characters gay due to underrepresentation. Cause it is pathetic how under represented they are.
as far as shipper wars go, I'm against them. I don't see the point. I think I'm just really for a more "educated" discussion in fandoms, I guess. Ones that are actually based on canon or that bring canon into the picture, or announce where canon is in all of this. (i.e., i know it's not canon, but I really have fun shipping these two characters.) For me, it's just a discussion thing, do as you wish in fanfic. I do. But please don't get confused between your world and the one on the screen/book.

But that's it, that's all i have to say on it. It really is just about being able to discuss something i love with other fans, that's all.

Nonesane: Don't mess with the whales!nonesane on April 6th, 2010 10:47 am (UTC)
No worries, I know how Internet-happy (not to mention posting-happy) one can get after a long while of no computer. Post away! I love getting comments, especially fun discussion ones; if I didn't I wouldn't be posting these rants, right?

And hey, isn't stalking what lj is all about? I get most of my lj-friends through stalking! *cough* I mean, appreciating others' work *cough*

Ah yes, the old "Canon vs Fanon" problem. I see where you're coming from with the people who believe their take on a pairing is the TRUTH. And I agree that I too find those annoying, even if they're on "my side".

What I was referring to in my little rant are mostly those people actually - though I admit I was mostly speaking of people like them on the "opposite side" this time around, as I think I covered rabid-shipping-fanon-people in one of my earlier rants.

In other words I completely agree with you. Having polite discussions about what is and isn't canon is part of what makes fandom fun. Sure you can disagree, but as long as everyone respects each other it's all very enjoyable!

To really get a flamewar going you need "fandumb" - ie. people who're convinced their personal fanon is the TRUTH with little to no ability to discuss with any kind of maturity and who're unable to base anything on facts - on both sides. And sadly there tends to be lots of it, everywhere.

I am very aware that many of my ships have little to no basis in canon. Yes I can argue for some of them (Sirius/Remus, Dart/Kimo from Elfquest, etc.) and sometimes I'm even "right" (once again Dumbledore/Grindelwald). That I still haven't gotten over my surprise at the whole 'Dumbledore is gay'-thing probably says a lot about my usual expectations on my ships. But many of my ships I just write because I find the chemistry of the characters interesting and the "what if they were in a relationship?"-question a challenge to myself as a writer.

Usually when I end up in a fandom I end up with one or more favorite characters. The few "One True Pairing"s I have - when I just can't see those characters hooking up with anyone else - I can generally argue for (see above) but my favorite characters I like to explore by pairing them up with just about anyone (as long as the pairing doesn't squick me that is, but that's another rant).

Throughout my "fic-author-carrier" I've written quite a few weird pairings. Most of my earlier fics centered around slash pairings (because het was ewwww - yes, I was one of those fans, but at least I can say I wasn't "preaching the TRUTH" to anyone and I thankfully grew out of it) of a more mainstream kind (example: Heero/Duo from Gundam Wing, Duo was my favorite), but I soon started mixing things up, as well as got over my dislike for het-pairings and main female characters - it's one thing to not like a poorly written character, it's a completely different thing to hate a character just because they might get in the way of your ship *sighs at younger, stupider self*

I think my view on pairings in fandoms stems a lot from my love of AU-fics and writing such fics. I just love the idea of putting a character I like (and hopefully can write well enough) in a strange situation that's very unlikely to happen in canon (you never know about Star Trek though ;D ) and make it work.

As for the authors not being gods I'm not sure where I stand on that. Maybe I should say I'm more in the "you have to convince me"-corner. That is, if an author says "this and that character love each other" I will accept this as canon, but if their relationship is poorly written I'll criticize the author for doing a bad job at "convincing" me of these facts.

Also Word of God gets very tricky when there's more than one "god". Take "House" for example. I read from someone who'd had a class with several of the writers of House as guest lecturers and who'd found out that the writers actually shipped House with different people - some with Wilson, some with Cuddy, some with Cameron and a few with other people. This has, sadly, become rather apparent in later seasons, as the relationships House has tend to boogie around the place like an epileptic monkey and no one's motivations or personality seems to be completely solid anymore.
Nonesane: Lovely Couplenonesane on April 6th, 2010 11:02 am (UTC)
The quality of writing also varies, but that's not that unusual when there's more than one author - you always have a favorite.

As for characters' sexuality I tend to lean towards "anything is possible until proved otherwise", especially in fandoms such as Star Trek. Interspecies love is the best love ;)

The problem I personally have with "straight until proved otherwise", which I've found a lot of anti-slashers do have as an argument, is that it's used as some sort of fact. It's the same in a lot of mainstream media - but again, that's another rant entirely. In short, it's not really a problem in fanfiction itself, but in the people who criticize with arguments that just are personal opinions.

My likeness with the café was just an attempt to get through to "those people". I agree it's not a perfect metaphor, at least not for a fandom one has been in for a long time. But imagine it as a likeness to someone getting into a new fandom - maybe it works then?

Anyways, I've run into this a lot in real life as well. Most people just assume you're straight until proved otherwise - hell, even I've found myself doing that several times. That's not strange, that's just the culture most of us has been raised in, so it's not really annoying.

No, what's really annoying are the people who can't even accept the possibility of someone not being straight unless seen making out with someone of the same gender - and sometimes not even then. They make me want to face palm until my nose bleeds.

(And yes I've had people doubt my sexuality several times because bisexuality isn't really a sexuality, you've just not decided if your hetro- or homosexually, aaaaargh! But again again, that's another rant.)

Okay that's going to have to be it for now. Having a lot of fun discussing with you!

My replies to your other comments on my SH-rant shall sadly have to wait a until tonight. I've been at my parents' over Easter and am now going back to my place, so I'll be trapped on a bus for 7 hours, starting in about half an hour. *runs off*
crazytook on April 7th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
OK, I TOTALLY get what you're saying! And, yes, i absolutely agree like 100 percent with what you are saying. Yeah, people just need to be like...not morons. I have a strict no moron policy! And hey,don't worry about your younger self, I totally excuse youth,it's my favorite excuse for stupidity. And actually, if im talking to someone online that's being a total stubborn idiot and i find out they're 16 or something, I'm like "well, self, when you were 16 you thought bisexuality wasn't real and the Iraq war was a good idea, so give them a break." Oh stupid 16 year old me. i should go back in time and kick my own ass.

Yeah, I kind of agree with the "you have to convince" me thing with authors. I think I'm just of the opinion of "look, you put your work out there,I watched it, you no longer get to control how i see it, you are now just an expert opinion in the conversation, but are by no means the final word." hahah,and the house thing is probably the funniest thing i've heard all day.

Interspecies love IS the best love! I dunno, if the topic comes up,I try to take a guess at a character's sexuality, but I'm prepared to be wrong, I guess. Like Willow from Buffy. ...Although, there IS that vampire episode early on where it's hinted she might be gay. But Joss Whedon is a smart writer, so i don't know if that s the best general example. Like with the case of star trek, I kind of just assume they re all bi or omni-sexual (cause i forgot about interspecies love, wow, i can't believe i watch so much sci fi i just take that one for granted!) But, if you told me Chekov was just straight up gay (...which,not gonna lie, I'm kind of hoping they do cause how cute would it be if he had a little romance with some boy in engineering?!!!) I'll believe you.

I totally understand the frustration, though, of in real life people not believing you when you say you're one orientation or another. Funnily enough, as a straight chick living in NYC, I actually get it a lot. I guess I come off as a stereotypical lesbian or something, and I have two female friends I'm really close with that people often just assume I'm dating (if we were men, this would not be the case...i don't know how i should feel about that.) And i went through a whole year of college where people just did not believe i was straight. they were CONVINCED I was a closeted lesbian, and nothing me or any of my friends could say would make them believe otherwise. So, oddly enough, i get the frustration, even if it is the EXACT opposite!!! And, I have a really good friend who's bi, i am constantly arguing with people about how that IS a real thing. So, I get it. Feel free to rant, I'll rant along with you. I also get how those frustrations in real life can carry over to equal defensiveness or....like just frustrations when talking about fictional characters.

but that it for me for now. i love that it turns out we totally agree. hehe, you're kind of one of my favorite people on the internet right now.

Nonesane: Spoony Quote 1nonesane on June 12th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the young ones do have excuses. We have a lot of classes centered around the workings of the brain and the whole "the world revolves around me and I'm always right"-way of thinking has more than once been mentioned as how 12-17 year olds are supposed to think, so one can't really blame them for acting natural. It's the older ones, the ones that never managed to develop past that stage that annoy me.

And isn't it weird how no one ever seems to complain (or notice!) all the interspecies lurving that's going on in Star Trek (though I do question the possibility of half-breeds; that has to be some serious genetic engineering!) It's like they said in Doctor Who: humans are destined to go to the stars...where they'll proceed to fuck everyone and everything in sight.

I actually have a scifi story in the works where humans are more or a "side species" that have a rumour of being quite...obsessed with the idea of sex (mostly blamed on them not having a mating season, which actually gives them the advantages/disadvantage of numbers, as well as being relatively one-track-minded).

Chekov as gay in canon would be awesome. There needs to be more canon gays, bis and asexuals! Seriously, when was the last time you saw an actual asexual character in mainstream TV or movies?

Willow from Buffy was a tricky one, which I liked - watching her figure out her sexuality without it taking over her character completely was fun :)

Interesting about your situation - stereotypes are strong both ways it would seem! Because of that I'm so very grateful that I lucked out in the family and friends department. Not even my 90 year old great aunt would hesitate to come to my wedding should I end up with a girl and no one is bugging my sister - who's asexual - either *love*

I guess that's why, when I do encounter narrow-minded people, I react so strongly, since I know they're talking crap for no reason. It just makes me sad.

And I agree, it can carry over a lot into fandom. It's like with the lack of women in movies and TV - it just clashes with my view on reality and thus annoys me.

hehe, you're kind of one of my favorite people on the internet right now.

Awww shucks, that's awfully nice of you to say! I have a lot of fun talking to you too :D