Let’s keep this short and salty: did y’all know that there are people – thankfully a minority in their respective fandoms – that will claim a white male character or actor isn’t white for some reason or another. Well, if you didn’t know before reading that sentence, I’m willing to be that you’ve figured out […]
Stitch is considered something of an expert on the subject of fandom racism dynamics, since this is something she has intensely studied. I never argue with her findings, but I am constantly surprised by the ways in which fandom seeks to revert to a certain status quo. What I’d like to do is build on this by tying fandom racism back to how its been learned from the source material, and fan’s understanding of how racism works, through the material they’ve been consuming, because their performance of these forms of racism don’t exist in a vacuum. White people (all races really) have been unconsciously inundated with decades of racist messaging in American films, books, and TV, and fandom often becomes nothing more than the act of regurgitating what was consumed, especially if these things have never been critically examined.
I don’t think we can fight against how fandom racism is performed without acknowledgment, or understanding, of how its performance is tied to the decades old, racist narratives in Popular media.
There’s also a new angle to this as well. Since the source material being consumed has become more diverse and inclusive than ever, what I’ve been witnessing, is fans trying to bend these narratives to fit their world view – worldviews that have been informed by years of racist narratives. This is just as much an attempt to keep things the way they’ve always been, and they are no less different, from the harassment campaigns against PoC actors, in an attempt to center Whiteness in Geek media, and reassert the status quo of PoC, and other marginalized groups, on the fringe of narratives that center White characters. This is what such fans are used to, and this is what they twist these stories to reflect. This particular form of fandom racism is often engaged in (but not necessarily exclusive to) White women in fandom, while the more public and aggressive forms of racism are usually engaged in by White men.
I’m going to reiterate that the reason fandom acts this way is that fandom isn’t the slightest bit progressive or woke. In fact, its fairly conservative, and quite a lot of them are thoroughly unimaginative, as well, as the participants do nothing but reproduce the same narratives they’ve seen over, and over, and over, from the source material (and sometimes other parts of fandom, which accounts for the sheer numbers of coffee shop AUs in fanfiction), – narratives that have been overwhelmingly written, and helmed, by straight white men, who themselves have only the most rudimentary idea of what its like to be a member of a marginalized group.
That’s another reason I’m against racial allegories in fiction, especially the ones referenced above by Stitch. Such narratives do nothing to further dialogue, or deepen understanding of racial issues, because the writers of these narratives do not live, or understand, race in any personal capacity. All fans get out of these stories is a foundational understanding that “racism is bad”. The Handmaid’s Tale, Zootopia, The Gifted, Teen Wolf, and Bright, are bad racial allegories because they get the depiction of racism wrong, have suspect intentions, borrow the oppression of Poc, while not including them, or take little to no account of the systemic and institutionalized nature of racism, often showing it as a problem of individuals simply not liking some people.
Contrast those stories to Jordan Peel’s discussion of racism in the movie Get Out, or the music video, This Is America, by Childish Gambino, or the discussions surrounding the movie Black Panther. The understanding of racism is different when written by those who have actual knowledge of the subject, something which most fans of the media listed above, do not have, so all they can do is reproduce the media they’ve been given, and can only approach these subjects in their meta and fictions with the performative wokeness that they are engaging in now.