Today!: Thoughts on fandom, our personal sexuality and how we relate to characters
(Finding a picture to use as the featured image was incredibly easy; I have an entire folder called “things I can’t handle” where similar pictures are saved)
Well it’s a day that ends in “y,” which means I have a lot of thoughts about the intersection of fandom, sexuality, and social issues. Because what else is new, right?
- The shift of power (a.k.a. “money”) to nerds has changed a lot of media as we know it, adding in more nerd narrative.
While before there was a fringe group of media to enjoy that was owned and operated by nerds–basically the realms of sci-fi and fantasy–a lot of people have grown up, gotten money themselves, and been able to put characters more like themselves and the people they know into the movies/tv shows they make. Not surprisingly a lot of the nerds that are media consumers have gravitated toward these characters in droves, myself included.
- Nerds like me gravitate toward nerdy characters, both in admiration and in shipping
So there’s an interesting thing that happens when we begin shipping these nerdy characters together, where we begin to project ourselves onto these characters much more than the classic characters; for example there are a fair number of people who could cite Luna Lovegood or Neville Longbottom as favorite characters for the reason that they are more relatable to the reader/watcher/etc. In the Community fandom there have been so many people that relate to Abed Nadir that it is a topic brought up fairly regularly by Dan Harmon as something incredibly moving and special.
- Nerds like me explore our identities and sexualities through fandom
I have such a clear memory in my head of being in junior high and loving super smutty fic because I had already figured that I would never have a boyfriend, have sex, or get married because I didn’t believe anybody could ever desire me much less want me. I lived out the exploration of my sexuality–including sex in general and my queer identity–through fic. In this way fic that includes sex was important in my personal growth, and this being explored through nerdy/fringe characters would of course be important. It is no surprise that, the minute I had somebody interested in having sex with me, I threw myself into being an actively sexual person.
- When nerdy characters are given sexualities in canon, it is often oversimplified into generic narratives that may not reflect a full spectrum of reality. This adds in a new dimension of problems that aren’t necessarily present when exploring the sexuality of other characters.
I think an example of this is the way that 80’s/90’s teen movies would portray nerdy characters. You either have the nerdy-character who hasn’t had sex yet but is obsessed with it–like the main character in American Pie–or you have the nerdy-character who has had sex and is obsessed with it and overly active–like Alyson Hannigan’s character in American Pie. Because this is such an ingrained narrative a character who is yet to show romantic or sexual attraction to anybody is either assumed to be asexual (but not truly asexual, as most people don’t have an accurate idea of what this means) or somebody who wants to have sex but lacks the confidence to make it happen. This oversimplification very rarely reflects reality, which can be frustrating for real-life nerds.
- Because there is a lack of queer and trans* representation in media, queer nerds like me have to write/draw/etc characters this way even if in canon the characters don’t exist this way
For example, what I’ve seen more of in the last year have been more ace people in my fandoms; or, rather, I’ve moved into more fandoms that have ace people. I saw this notably in The Hobbit fandom, which I think has that intersection because a lot of people identify with Bilbo who can be easily read as ace from the text and movies (same with Frodo as well, the little queer Bagginses of Bag End babies). There is an obvious intersection between people who are aro/ace and fandoms that have characters who can either be read this way or are explicitly said to be so.
But it is also true that it is incredibly rare still for characters in canon to be queer and/or trans*, especially lesser-known sexualities like asexuality, demisexuality, etc. Because of that people in the fandom need to be given the room to write/draw their favorite characters in different races, genders, sexualities, etc. than their canon counterparts. And as people in the fandom it’s okay for us to make our own headcanons, to make multiple headcanons, and to let others explore their own. I can read great fic where characters are asexual, and I can read great fic where they are super fucking sexual. It’s a continuum, man, let it be a continuum.
Bonus GIF Roundup of My Two Favorite Maybe-Sexual Maybe-Not Nerds And Them Loving People That I Think They Should Love
I cry. I cry.
And of course
I MOTHERfuCKING cRYYY