Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Fan girls for equality

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Last week, the Supreme Court heard the arguments for and against California’s anti-gay Proposition 8, as well as the Defense of Marriage Act. Rallies were held to support the rights of sexual minorities, and the Human Rights Campaign began a social media campaign to get users to change their profile pictures to a red equality sign.

Equality signs were everywhere, from my friends on Facebook to celebrities on Twitter, to say nothing of the discussions on Tumblr and even in this very paper on the subject.

And then we have the fans.

Holding signs like “FAN GIRL FOR EQUALITY – LET MY GAYS MARRY” with pictures of Kurt and Blaine from “Glee” and “DON’T MESS WITH DUMBLEDORE’S RIGHTS,” it seems like these media-savvy consumers use popular characters as reasons to support rights for gender and sexual minorities.

This isn’t endemic to America, either.

When marriage equality was passed in England, there were some Twitter users who decided that it meant BBC “Sherlock”‘s lead role could finally get married to John Watson, as so many ardent fans support.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about fandom, if several fans have an opinion, chances are a lot of them will, especially if that opinion has to do with slash. “Slash” refers to the idea of “slashing” male characters, making them into couples in works by fans, regardless of the source material’s storyline.

Sometimes these works try to fill in gaps where viewers can see close relationships between male characters (“Star Trek”‘s Kirk and Spock, for instance, who were the first known slash pairing).

Sometimes fanworks turn any form of male interaction into subtext for a relationship, such as the rivalry between the Harry Potter series’ Draco and Harry. Many authors of such slash fan fictions are women.

Sometimes fandom media is wonderful.

Being a fan of the comic “Young Avengers,” I love seeing the artwork of the title’s lead couple, Billy and Teddy, and seeing the discussions that go on in its tag on Tumblr is utterly fascinating — whether they’re in-depth character analysis or critiques of representation.

On one hand, I’m grateful for the support for the LGBTQ community from fandoms. Not only have I made friends through various media, but even on an abstract level, having support for an issue that is important to me is a great feeling.

On the other hand, the thought that someone supports a cause solely because it means their favorite fictional characters can get “married” makes me massively uncomfortable.

I recall once stumbling across a romantically-themed photoshoot of two women costumed as Billy and Teddy of “Young Avengers.” All I could think was “Why? They’re gay men.”

Even more than that, I’ve seen other pictures of women costumed as canonically-straight characters, yet in romantic positions. To me, it feels weird and quite frankly fetishizing.

I feel that, on some level, it’s about the characters. Fans like these people, they like the way they’re written and their relationship is portrayed. Even so, I can’t help but recall back in high school when a good friend of mine asked me to kiss my then-boyfriend just so she could see.

It’s not appropriate. Other pictures surfaced online using the red equality logo that felt a lot less exploitative. For instance, one turned the equals-sign into a facsimile of “Doctor Who’s” perennial enemy the Dalek, using it as a witty way to say “exterminate hate.” Another put a picture of puppet-Dumbledore from the YouTube series “Harry Potter Puppet Pals,” which I found more amusing than anything else — it was a joke, rather than “support these rights because of this character.”

This phenomenon isn’t restricted to any particular form of media. Works of fan fiction “slashing” characters from television shows, books, cartoons, and on occasion even religious texts can be found with a quick Google search. Just like published fiction, some of them are well-written, while others are incredibly not. The problem lies in that a lot of this fiction boils down to simple reasons for the characters to have gay sex, that they take these characters down to their bodies and perceived sexual tension rather than their actual relationships or more importantly, actual queer relationships.

I’m glad that people support the same thing that I do, but I want people to think about is the reasons why they support something.

Video games have been able to change my way of thinking. I’m more social than before, for instance. Books have done it, too. Harry Potter helped me to learn that differences between people, regardless of race, gender or creed, boil down to just that: differences.

But more than media, dialogue has changed my mind. Talking to people of differing ideologies, learning about their thoughts and wants and needs, becoming friends with them has done more than fictional characters ever did. For some, it’s different, and that’s perfectly fine.

But take a moment and think. When you support an issue solely because of fictional characters, it reduces the issue. The end result is good, but getting to that result in the process marginalizes the struggle of real people.

Fandom being so welcoming of the thought of LGBTQ individuals is heartening. It makes me feel like there’s a space for me, when wider nerd culture can be incredibly hostile to those who differ. However, in that safe area, there are times I feel like I’m an animal on display: “Look at him! The wild gay man! See him do tricks!”

Thanks, fan girls, for your support but do me a favor and please support the LGBTQ community for the right reasons.

Reach the columnist at baorteg1@asu.edu or follow him at @BrandoBoySP

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  • APA 6th ed.: Ortega, Brandon (2013-04-02). Fan girls for equality. The State Press .
  • MLA 7th ed.: Ortega, Brandon. "Fan girls for equality." The State Press [add city] 2013-04-02. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Ortega, Brandon. "Fan girls for equality." The State Press, edition, sec., 2013-04-02
  • Turabian: Ortega, Brandon. "Fan girls for equality." The State Press, 2013-04-02, section, edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Fan girls for equality | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Fan_girls_for_equality | work=The State Press | pages= | date=2013-04-02 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=12 December 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Fan girls for equality | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Fan_girls_for_equality | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=12 December 2019}}</ref>