let's get the seven lines. (bookshop) wrote,
let's get the seven lines.

the myth of a "western media fandom"

I wasn't really around—or rather, wasn't paying much attention at the time—to the backlash around Us, Lim's "representative" fanvid that left a lot of people feeling unrepresented. But I knew about it, registered it, have felt vaguely weird about it ever since.

I wasn't really around because I was, of course, off frolicking in Japanese fandom, without giving much thought, at the time, to what that said about me as a fan, anthropologically speaking.

At Vividcon last weekend, I had this long rant with my old-school fandom friend Franzi about how when people say "Western media fandom," what they really mean is this very specific chronological order of television-based slash fandom that trace their origins from zines through the early days of usenet and mailing lists and archival through to the current expanded crop of fandoms and fandom-hopping that's led to the pejorative term "militant slash fandom."

Roughly, as a historical timeline, it looks very generally something like Starsky & Hutch-->Star Trek-->X-Files->Highlander->Sentinel->Due South->briefly, popslash (nsync & backstreet boys RPF)->SGA->House->Merlin-> whitecollar/hawaii50/suits/sherlock/avengers/everythingever.

There were, along the way, other large fandoms like Hercules/Xena, Remington Steele/Beauty and the Beast, Buffy and Harry Potter, but to my understanding, they were doing their own things and didn't really operate within the tradition of these serial fandoms, whose members really did pass on their knowledge and tropes and traditions to new members of those fandoms who would then eventually move on or expand their fandom activity to one of these other specific fandoms within the chronology.

I don't want to give too much credence to the idea of "migratory slash fandom," but it does happen. I've seen it happen, we've all seen it happen. I also think that in a post-Tumblr fandom this concept is useless, because Tumblr makes it so demonstrably easy to be in every fandom at once. 

So, in that sense, I understand the impulse behind this recent Vividcon vid, "We Didn't Start the Fire."

But in every other sense that I understand and experience fandom for myself, I am just like, ...what the hell is the point of doing yet another marginalizing vid that tries to draw lines around what "Western" fandom is and where it stops and ends? 

To me, this exercise seems ultimately vague, alienating, misinformed, marginalizing, and pointless.

* Vague because they seem to be using "media" to mean books, musicals, movies, band RPF, and tv shows; but not other kinds of RPF? not gaming? not web comics? not YouTube fandoms?

* Alienating because, hello, no matter what you attempt to include, you're bound to leave something out that deserves to be in a lineup, like, to pull a few off the top of my head, The Mighty Boosh or Nerdfighters or HOMESTUCK, wtf.

* Misinformed because of the absolute lie that all of these fandoms have something in common beyond originating from "the West," whatever that is. Like, I'm sorry, but this video seems to be arguing, to me, that Firefly has more in common with Newsies than with Cowboy Bebop or Trigun, which is absolutely so offensive and so blatantly WRONG that I'm having trouble even understanding why someone could research the fandom and not realize that it would be an offensive and incorrect assumption to put into their vid.

Or that Pirates of the Caribbean owes nothing to gaming fandom even though it was based on Monkey Island.

Or that the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, which was of course part of my very first fandom, the Jane Austen fandom, is somehow connected to Panic!At the Disco and Sleeper Cell and The Simpsons instead of being a part of two centuries of Austen/Heyer fandom with its own distinct culture and traditions, including every Regency Romance ever written.

Just. These things are not all the same. They shouldn't be treated as the same, and they especially should not be treated as the same at the expense of erasing international fandoms that have influenced some of these works just as much, if not more, as other items on this list.  For god sakes, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN IS ON THIS LIST as if it has more in common with Red Dwarf and The Goonies than with Akira Kurosawa djklfajs;dl. I mean, really? Am I the only one really troubled by this?

I get labeled a "militant slash fan" a lot, and one of the reasons that label rankles with me, in addition to the reasons I've described elsewhere, is that it *does* ignore the reality of that very specific history of "migratory" slash fans—and it's not even a disreputable history, just a history of how Western slash fandom got passed down through generations to the point where it proliferated easily around the internet the way it does today. And it ignores the fact that those slash fandoms did not, do not, never have applied to everyone. I came into fandom by way of literary fandoms: Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and Harry Potter--with a random bout of Kevin Spacey fandom in-between. (And really, Harry Potter fandom was so unlike *any* slash fandom I have ever been in, ever) Years and years later, I eventually wandered into 3 anime fandoms and multiple Asian pop fandoms, mainly by way of following my own intellectual curiosity in part, and my friends in part. This is nothing like the pattern that i'm describing regarding the entity that, IMO, should rightfully be called "western media slash fandom." And I hate, hate, that the fact that after having this very erratic fandom-joining pattern that doesn't line up with any tradition I know of, I am so often getting lumped in with "western media slash fandom" because I have landed at long last in Inception fandom, which is itself an anomaly.

But even more than my personal history/experience, and even more than any connection to the concept of migratory slash fandom, it makes me cringe and wince and feel awful in a way that I can't articulate to see SOME of my fandoms make this very arbitrary list while others get left off. If you asked me why Pride and Prejudice is worthy of being considered "Western media" moreso than Homestuck, with its vast amount of cultural overlap and broad international reach, I honestly would be at a loss. Or why Dresden Files, which certainly falls into the tradition of popular slash fandoms this video seems to be targeting, isn't mentioned? No clue.

And then there's the fact that my beloved Hikaru no Go, which has at its center themes of internationality and cultural crossovers and being united by our shared passion, on a scale that does not stop at national borders but which literally unites us around the globe, is not on this list because it's not "Western."

That stings. Just a little. Okay, it stings a lot.

Mostly, it just makes me wonder why? And that's why I think this exercise is ultimately pointless. Because, let's face it, with the fucking AO3 resisting internationalization at every turn, with manga/manhua/manhwa fans fighting even to have their genres recognized as distinct and separate from each other, with the OTW not even standardizing UTC as its official time zone, with Us and Sherlock and the Pixiv vs Tumblr art appropriation backlash, how many fucking more displays of appropriation/erasure and divisiveness between Western/International fandoms do we need right now?

I wrote an article the other day on the Jannoskians. None of you have heard of it, but it's a HUGE fandom, and the boys behind it might just be the next One Direction. That fandom? Australian. Where does that fit on the international map?

Trying to draw lines around what is and isn't "western media" just leaves us unable to understand how vibrant and cross-cultural fandom actually is.

And I think that's such a huge shame. It saddens me so much.
Tags: i hate anime, i hate sci fi, i heart japan, meta

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