Hey guys, tonight I felt like talking about something I’ve been noticing more and more in modern television, film, and related media. I think other Tumblrinas have probably written on this before as well, but I’d like to try to articulate how this affects me personally.
So, slash has been around fandom since classic Star Trek, and perhaps well before that. It’s not a new idea to try to find potential romantic subtext between two characters, and extrapolate upon that. The difference, in this day and age, is that media creators are more aware of their fandoms than ever, and they can use this knowledge to boost the popularity of their shows.
Just like everyone else in the world, queer folks are always going to look for a character to connect and identify with in the media they consume. The problem is, most of the time, those characters don’t exist. When they do, gay characters tend to be there as a gag, a stereotype, or a throwaway character used to further the plot. So when there is subtext, whether imagined or not, involving a character’s orientation, it makes sense that LBGTQ people would want to latch on to whatever tiny thread of hope there is that, perhaps, this character is like them.
When shows like Sherlock or Adventure Time or Merlin (so I’ve heard, I haven’t actually watched) uses the knowledge that there is a chunk of fandom interested in seeing gay relationships portrayed, but only through jokes and hints, but then adamantly denies that queer subtext was ever their intention, they are erasing the queer community, and it is incredibly harmful.
To be told “Oh, you’re reading in to things too much, you FANGIRLS will latch on to any old thing, etc.” is extremely offensive. Of course people are reading in to subtext, because that is all we have. We want very much to be visible, normal people taken seriously in the world, so why shouldn’t that be reflected in television?
Making tons of boyfriend/gay jokes in Sherlock and then saying BUT THEY ARE FOR SURE SUPER STRAIGHT JEEZ GUYS does not make you enlightened. Using queer-baiting, such as the clearly gay undertones in episodes like Adventure Time’s “What Was Missing”, and then retracting that sentiment when it comes under fire, makes it obvious to the queer community that we are not real people, we are something that is taboo that can be used to garner viewership but then to not respect those same viewers. Then, there is the lesbian trope trotted out again and again, used, in this case, with Sherlock’s Irene Adler, that a canonically gay character is only gay until the right man comes along.
Shows that dance around the issue but never lay claim to it are not more progressive than shows that establish no gay relationships at all, because, ultimately, both are erasing gay people. Queer people should not be made to feel weird or wrong because they are always brushed under the rug in the public eye.
And that is why it annoys me when people tell us annoying “fangirls” to can it about gay shipping.
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