My various stances regarding fandom culture and fictional discourse.
On fictional discourse:
Generally speaking, I am what is known as pro-ship or pro-fiction. What this means is that I am in support of allowing people to enjoy what they enjoy in fictional media without it being any sort of reflection of their real-life values.
This includes what are commonly known as ‘problematic’ tropes or scenarios, including pedophilia, incest, rape, abuse, murder, and any other tropes that often make people uncomfortable. Of course, note that this strictly applies to fictional media and fictional characters, because they do not exist in the real world. Fiction is the very place where these scenarios should be explored so that they can stay fictional and serve as a reminder for us of what we never want to see happen in real life.
Shouldn’t these tropes cease to exist or be abolished?
To abolish any and all tropes that make us uncomfortable is, to me, an incredibly anti-survivor and anti-victim take, given that many survivors and victims already feel extortionate amounts of shame for their trauma. They often turn to fictional media depicting their exact traumas so that they feel validated and less alone. Consequently, they would therefore be more likely to come forward with their truths. It is not up to us general viewers to decide whether those examples of media should exist or not, even if it makes us personally uncomfortable.
It is not okay to harass anyone over something they enjoy that does not harm anybody, especially over fiction, which is, as the word, suggests, not real. Many of us are aware that some media contains ‘problematic’ ideas, and we consume such media because the dynamic and the story itself is interesting to us, not because we think these things are okay in real life.
Furthermore, shipping pairings that present a dynamic that would not be acceptable in real life also does not mean that the shipper believes these dynamics are acceptable in a real context.
…So you’re a Mame apologist?
No. Not at all. Fuck Mame. I condemn what she does with utmost disgust. The problem lies only in when a reader or writer is unable to differentiate between real life and fiction, and/or spreads harmful messages to suggest that these problematic ideas are acceptable in a real life context.
Such (very uncommon) examples wherein such a problem arises include J.K Rowling being transphobic, or Mame refusing to acknowledge the non-consensual/ abusive behaviour of her characters for what it is. It is not okay for Mame, a real person, to suggest to other very real people that noncon/abuse is, in her words “BDSM with consent”, as it is both harmful as an idea and also misrepresents the BDSM community.
My point is, you can enjoy the Harry Potter franchise and TharnType or any of Mame’s works for what they are—fiction—while still condemning the real people who created them because they spread harmful messages in a real life context to real people and don’t acknowledge their nature of their work for what it is.
But fiction affects reality!
It does! You’re right about that. But for the vast majority of people, that level of impact realistically stops at “this trope/idea/scenario made me think about things from a new perspective” and not the great urge to reenact the exact scenarios they’ve just read about.
Let’s put this in a very wholesome context: coffee shop AUs are widely enjoyed by many, and are generally unproblematic and wholesome. However, after reading a super fluffy coffee shop AU that makes you squeal with kilig while reading it, you are most likely not going to find the sudden inspiration to pop down to your local Starbucks and waste the good-looking barista’s time by telling them the wrong spelling of your name just to have an excuse to talk to them again afterwards, because you, a rational social creature, understand that they are working, likely not being paid that well, and are not thinking about flirting with one of hundreds of customers that they serve on a daily basis.
Likewise, most people do not read a fic where the main romantic pairing are identical twins or where one of them is underaged, and think “Huh. I shall now go and enter into those exact types of relationships”. They are infinitely more likely to consume that content, possibly think it’s an interesting plot and maybe even that in that purely fictional context, that it’s hot or romantic, and then think “Yeah, but I wouldn’t do it in real life because I understand that that’s not okay.”
In fact, there is no psychological research to show for the notion that those who enter into such relationships, or inflict harm or abuse on others, are correlatively inspired by the fictional media they consume.
Let’s put it this way: racists, homophobes, bigots, rapists, misogynists and people who enter into problematic relationships have existed way before fictional media ever became mainstream. They don’t take on such behaviour because of fiction. If anything, controversial fiction is so often studied in literature classes because they teach us about where our values should lie.
I guarantee you that the guy who shot up Pulse in Orlando was not a fan of Mame’s work or any other tragic/’problematic’ queer media, nor are Trump supporters drawing inspiration to shout racist shit at BLM protestors after reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. That story exists to highlight the horrors of racial violence so that people understand that it’s wrong. Racists do that shit because they already had those perspectives either misleadingly taught to them by people they trust, or because they suffer psychological troubles of their own that lead them to make really bad decisions (that’s not to say that their actions are therefore excusable; more so just to shine a light on where people’s motives stem from).
To say that they did such things because they consumed certain fiction is about as pedestrian an argument as ‘video games induce violence in real life’ or ‘porn makes people misogynistic’. It’s just silly.
So how do I avoid seeing such content?
I believe in curating your own experience, especially on social media platforms, whereby it is possible to mute any key words related to topics, tropes, and ideas that we are uncomfortable seeing. Likewise, people should acknowledge that the content they post may contain such ideas and may therefore not be suitable for everyone. Therefore, it is important to clearly tag and/or label what we post properly if it contains potentially sensitive material or subject matter.
Therefore, if someone has properly tagged/labelled something and acknowledged it for what it is, it should already be an indicator that they understand that what they are creating and posting contains ideas and/or material that may not fall in line with what is acceptable in a real life context, and they are giving you full warning before you proceed. Similarly, on television, you are usually warned before any content that is not G-Rated is broadcast, so that you have full knowledge of something not being suitable for all audiences.
In that situation, you have that choice to either proceed at your own risk despite knowing what it’s tagged with, or you can choose not to consume that media. It is not, however, your place to harass, criticise, or condemn creators for producing that type of content simply because it makes you personally uncomfortable.
In a nutshell, if something is properly tagged and you’ve been given full warning, let other people enjoy things in peace. Don’t seek out and consume content that makes you uncomfortable. Leave fiction alone, and don’t bully or harass people over fictional characters who realistically feel no pain and don’t cause real suffering.
On real-person fandom culture:
Particularly, I have opinions about where to draw the line in interacting with celebrities/idols, but these apply to people you know as well.
What is harassment/inappropriate:
- tagging or directly replying to someone and saying unkind/irritating things to hurt or get a reaction out of them, especially on a repeated basis. this includes to their acquaintances, friends, and family members.
- saying hurtful, manipulative, threatening, or unnecessarily critical things about someone where you definitely know they are very likely to see it without deliberately searching for it. again, this includes to their acquaintances, friends, and family members.
- writing about real people as characters in their real-life setting as taking part in deeply controversial or illegal acts. This is because there are people out there who do not actually read fan fiction and could mistake it as a prose recount of real events, which if put in the hands of authorities could lead to legal issues of defamation. Even if they are simply being used as characters, the inspiration is still linked to a real person’s name, and your morals aside, it’s not a good idea to tread the line of setting yourself up for legal suit.
What is not harassment:
- calmly expressing an opinion about something or someone (even an unpopular opinion) that is not actually harmful to anyone, nor suggesting anything that paints any person’s character in a negative light. this may or may not include some reasoning, but is usually non-malicious
- stating factual information about a person, even if pertains to actions are largely frowned upon
- joking about something inconsequential and not actually harmful among a certain group of people that understand that it’s a joke and not meant to diminish any real feelings, e.g. Actual Cannibal Shia LeBeouf meme / Liam Payne Heart Been Broke So Many Times meme / Thirsty/Single Singto running gag
What is inappropriately sexualising your idols:
- sending them any type of unsolicited 18+/explicit content
- giving them sex toys or any other sex-related items/products as gifts
- touching any part of their body without their prior consent
- sending them sexually explicit messages/saying sexually explicit things to them in person
- spreading naked or 18+ pictures of them without their prior consent (i.e. such pictures should not exist in public circulation or have been taken without their consent)
- directly sending them/tagging them in sexually explicit fanfic/fanart that uses their real names or faces as inspiration
- publicly spreading sexually explicit edits or rumours of your idol and/or stating/implying that they are real
What is not inappropriately sexualising your idols:
- writing fictional stories with characters based off of them even if it is sexually explicit or ‘problematic’ in content so long as it is set in an alternate universe, especially if it is properly tagged and shows clear warning of potentially triggering or uncomfortable material
- drawing sexually explicit fanart of fictional characters that your idol has played and using their faces and bodies as reference, again with proper tagging and warning and making sure they never have access to it
- drawing sexually explicit fanart of your idols in an imaginary scenario or in a fictionalised context and using their faces/bodies as reference, with proper tagging and warning and making sure they never have access to it
- talking about how hot you think they are on social media or joking about how you wish they would perform sexual acts on you/you could perform sexual acts on them so long as you are NOT tagging them, NOT sending these thoughts to them directly, and NOT saying these things to their faces
- acknowledging that your idols are capable of sexual acts and feeling sexual attraction
- shipping them with someone for fun and making jokes about shipping them based on content they put out, so long as you acknowledge that what you are saying is a form of entertainment, and not intended to be taken as fact. this is especially true of artists who are professionally in an ‘imaginary’ relationship and understand that they have contractually consented to being publicly depicted as such.