What the Fandom
What the Fandom
Why Do Shippers Ship? Well...
It's certainly not for *your* amusement. This week Brett White at Comic Book reader seemed baffled by the shipper's response to the Captain America: Civil War trailer. And while he and I are forever going to disagree on a few fundamental things ("the friendship between Steve Rogers and James "Bucky" Barnes is vastly more interesting than a romance between them" yeah okay Jan), he did ask a question that almost merits an answer: "What's the point of it if that ship will never be explored canonically?" He goes on to ask "where's the pleasure in consuming media through numerous layers of purposeful self-deception" which tells me he has a fundamental misunderstanding of what shipping really is, but let's play along here. Why do we ship who we ship? It's not in spite of canon, it's because of it. Let's be realistic. The "canon" is failing us. And I'm not talking about the limited representation that the LGBT+ or POC community gets from mainstream media today, though that's a part of it. Right now the dominant stories of our culture are owned by corporations. Disney. Warner Bros. Fox. It's such a mundane fact that it doesn't seem like a huge deal BUT IT IS. Stories are our mythology. They're how we self-identify our culture. They're our heritage. They are who we are. So what are we supposed to do when our stories- our identities- are owned by a company whose only interest is sales? Either our culture dies, or we find other ways to preserve our heritage. The studio has zero interest in queer representation. That's not speculation, that's fact. They care about their bottom line and with movies as big (and expensive) as everything in the Marvel cinematic universe, the studio will never do something as "risky" as pairing two leading male characters together romantically. And you know what? The story they're telling isn't just selfish, it's boring. How many giant blockbusters do we have about male friendship? SO MANY. How many giant blockbusters do we have about the intricacies of desire and the pain of loss? We've heard it all and decided that the stories being told by the dominant media are incomplete. We're not going to sit here and wait. We're going to take back our ownership of storytelling. Shipping isn't about deluding ourselves. It's about revising. We see the potential in stories that mainstream media is too cowardly to realize. Still don't get it? Far be it from me to tell people how to interact with media. Some people are born to be media critics- and they're important too. They start important conversations about representation and story that need to be addressed. But shippers aren't going anywhere, and if you don't "get it", it's probably because it isn't *for* you. That's the other important thing about shipping. That side of fandom has always been a heavily female and heavily queer space. Which means that we're not writing for men (in the same way 90% of tv and film isn't being written for us). We're used to being excluded from the cultural conversation because we always have been. So we've created our own spaces. And anyone is welcome there- anyone. But the price of entry is forgetting what you think you know about culture and "canon" and who owns the media. Because shippers are living proof that the media belongs to the audience, not the other way around.
What is a 'Furry'?
There is no one single definition of what a furry is. Even within the furry fandom, people cannot always agree on just what makes a person a furry or not.  Some would argue that to be a furry, you must think and talk like one (i.e. use furry specific words and phrases). Even if you go to conventions, wear a fursuit, draw the art, writes the stories etc but don't talk using furry lingo, you're not a furry. Basically, someone that may walk the walk but doesn’t talk the talk. Others would argue that even liking anthropomorphic creatures makes you a furry. You may have no idea the furry fandom exists or have ever heard of a furry convention, let alone any of the websites; simply liking 'anthro' critters makes you a furry.  The way I see it, if or if you don’t consider yourself a furry is a matter of personal opinion.  As with any hobby, most furries are normal people just like anyone you'll meet at work/school or going to/from work/school or anywhere. Then there is the small percent that are hard core fans and have taken what for most is a hobby and perverted it (sometimes in an all to literal sense). As is with so many other things in life, the few that take it too far tend to be the loudest. The silent majority are often forced into silence by the loud majority for fear that people will label them as being in the same class as the minority that have perverted it.  One unfortunate side effect of the internet and the relative anonymity that some sites grant their users is people are able to engage in activities (even if only on a virtual level) that they would never even consider doing in real life. An example of this is trolls of message boards that say things to people they’d never say to them in person. I think a lot of the stereotypes associated with furries are because of this. In conclusion, as with any hobby, there are some furries that have taken it too far and/or perverted what for many is a fun harmless hobby. If only the silent majority were not so silent, people would realise there is more to furries then perversion. (Most taken from Urban Dictionary, a post from 2005) - This pretty much sums up the basics of what a furry is.
5 Struggles Every Shipper Has
Whatever your fandom, the struggle is real. We all know these feels. We might fight in ship wars against each other, we might accidentally insult someone's OTP or be totally confused by each others' obsessions... But at the end of the day fans need to stick together. Because if you ship, eventually you're going to run into these problems. And you'll need someone to commiserate with. 1. You can never find that perfect fic Whether your OTP is the current fandom favorite or an obscure couple only five other people have ever heard of, it can feel like an impossible task to find the *perfect* fic. Sure, you'll read (and love) yet ANOTHER coffee shop au full of tropes you know like the back of your hand, but you'll be craving something more for the rest of your shipper life. And don't even talk to be about that unfinished WIP I've been checking for the past three years. 2. Your Ship > Your Sleep Schedule When is the last time you went to bed instead of staying up late reading fanfiction? Does it feel like never? Because it feels like never to me. You forgo silly mortal needs like sleep for more important things like digging up more images of your OTP, beta-ing just one more chapter, or rolling around in feels. And speaking of feels... 3. EVERYTHING gives you feels Every song on the radio? Written for your OTP. Every time you order coffee? You get the same order as your favorite character. Literally everything anyone says? Your shipper brain will find a way to react to it and you will be overwhelmed by feels. It's a constant barrage and there is no escape. 4. The world doesn't get you And vise-versa. Shippers tend to create our own special language, and we start to speak it exclusively. I can absolutely tell you what "ao3 mcu a:aou abo bdsm ot3 hs au pwp" means, but I have no idea what the Pythagorean theorem is. Look at our lives, look at our choices. (And before you ask, you know you'd read that fic, don't lie). 5. You've got a family for life The shipper family is one of the most welcoming, creative, beautiful groups of people I've ever encountered. There's so much love in this community. We scream and cry and FEEL like the world is ending... and we're all in it together. Whatever your ship, you're always welcome among us. You've always got a home. ... there's nothing like a weird Harry Potter gif to break up the feels parade. Let's show some pride shippers! Anime, Superwholock, HP, Trek, Marvel... How much do you relate to this?
Female Fans and Fragile Masculinity
"Supposedly, girls will watch so-called boy’s content, with male leads and action-packed adventures, but boys won’t watch girls’ shows, starring girl protagonists and girl-friendly story lines." That quote comes from Libby Copeland at Slate.com where she discusses the prevailing theory behind a lot of our favorite media: that there's no point in making action movies about female heroes because boys and men won't go see them. Why alienate half your audience? Why indeed. Though there's not really any data to back up the claim, plenty of producers and show runners and marketers and merchandisers have been working under this assumption for decades. And it shows. The proportion of films that are about men is far greater than those that are about women. Check out this info graphic from the New York Film Academy, which illustrates how disproportionate womens' film roles have been in recent years: And superhero movies are no exception. We had a great conversation two weeks ago when we found out that Ike Perlmutter was no longer going to be the head of the Marvel films. His comments about female-led superhero films (which were part of the Sony leak) revealed that the studio had zero interest in pursuing films about female heroes. The examples he gave seem very flimsy after examination (Elektra, which was barely any better than the Daredevil film it was attached to, and Supergirl, which was DECADES ago), but he's not alone in expressing the sentiment. What are female fans to do? Right now it seems like our options are to not watch any movies ever (sounds a bit dull), or see them, without seeing ourselves in them. However, female fans have found a third option. We've found a way to relate to the characters we see. Instead of rejecting characters based on their masculinity, we discover subtext and alternative readings of the comics and films that offer an alternative reading of masculinity*. *For the purposes of this meta, I'm adhering to the assumption of a gender dichotomy that producers are working under. We take characters and make them ours. This is something transformative fans have been doing for decades. We refuse to accept the intentions of the creators. Since most films and tv shows are designed by committee, anything taboo or subversive is often hidden under layers of surface palpability, if it's even there at all. So female fans have trained themselves to see beyond what we are given, listening with incredulity to what we are told. While most superhero films seem to laud masculinity and traditionally masculine traits, we can decide otherwise. Captain America doesn't have to be a masculine hero just because he's been presented that way. We can choose to read him as feminine. Writer mathilda reads Steve Rogers as a non-masculine male figure: "... But performative masculinity has a tension to it that performative femininity does not, because performing itself is seen as innately unmasculine. You cannot learn to be a real man, you are or you are not. You can’t make one or learn to be one. Because our story about masculinity is that it just is. It is an ur state of being. The most natural way for a human to be. Steve Rogers came out of a bottle. And Steve Rogers’s weapon is a shield. Steve does not attack, he defends. Steve Rogers is the only Avenger who does not thrust forward with a phallic weapon. From Loki’s staff to Clint’s arrows, Black Widow (who pairs so well with Steve because she is a phallic woman) has guns, Tony essentially is a giant penis (sorry, friends, that’s all I see), and of course no one would even pretend that Thor’s hammer isn’t Thor’s penis. But Steve has a shield. And a shield isn’t particularly feminine. It is not a cup or a sheath or a hole. It is just anti-phallic. And that is Steve. the non-phallic man. Because you can’t make a man in a machine. Only a strange kind of monster." While it's extremely unlikely that any of this was planned by the creators of the character, Steve Rogers as a literary figure can be read this way. And it's readings like this that have begun to resonate with the female audience. Because the stories we are told lack satisfying female narratives, we revise them to become narratives that represent our experiences and identities. What does a "satisfying female narrative" even look like? At this point these stories feel so rare, it's easy to miss them when they happen. Often because they are so uncommon, they must be carefully crafted to have the widest appeal. Tony Stark is allowed to be reckless and selfish, Steve Rogers is allowed to be stubborn and single-minded. But female characters don't have the privilege of being flawed. Because there are so few of them, they must be all things to all people, because we don't know when we'll get the next opportunity to explore a character like her. "Screw writing “strong” women. Write interesting women. Write well-rounded women. Write complicated women. Write a woman who kicks ass, write a woman who cowers in a corner. Write a woman who’s desperate for a husband. Write a woman who doesn’t need a man. Write women who cry, women who rant, women who are shy, women who don’t take no shit, women who need validation and women who don’t care what anybody thinks. THEY ARE ALL OKAY, and all those things could exist in THE SAME WOMAN. Women shouldn’t be valued because we are strong, or kick-ass, but because we are people. So don’t focus on writing characters who are strong. Write characters who are people." -MadLori, Screw Writing Strong Women Because there are so few female characters that are allowed to be flawed (like Peggy Carter, above, who is both brave and afraid, proud and sneaky, powerful and powerless), fans create our own version of a "female" narrative, one that does not rely on characters being presented as feminine. We create fanworks where we depict male characters as damsels in distress, as fallen women, deceitful enchantresses, blushing virgins, and coerced brides. And through our narratives we reveal these archetypes for what they are: incomplete. Male characters carry female experiences. When Steve Rogers feels vulnerable, it doesn't sound like a commentary on the male experience. When Tony Stark is assaulted, it doesn't seem like a divine punishment. Male characters are allowed to be individuals while female characters have to be universal. Even amazing characters like Peggy Carter are seen as women first, person second. Fortunately, the showrunners used her experiences as a platform to tear apart this tradition. But that is one show among many, and she is one hero among a sea of white men named Chris. When fans apply 'feminine' experiences to 'male' characters, we are in a way humanizing ourselves. Because male characters get to be human. And we are human, too. We don't passively absorb, we create. This process of re-shaping and re-imaginging a story is the essence of transformative fanworks. While films are still being produced in a way that encourages passive acceptance, female fans consume and then they respond. Via critique, fanfiction, and fanart. And we're not just pulling ideas out of nowhere. We're often responding to something tangible within the original work. Something that we've been told to accept without reservation. Writer lorimori deconstructed the characterizations of Marvel's antagonists which subtly echoed feminine narratives: "Thor and Loki’s respective appearances immediately set them up on opposite sides of the divide. Thor is a golden, muscular hero, a soldier, while Loki is a pasty, lanky master of deception, manipulation, words, and magic, all of which have traditionally been considered women’s weapons. There is this classic dichotomy in traditional mythology where men use (righteous) force while women use (evil) trickery and sorcery. In fact, Loki’s whole character arc stems from resentment that he can never rule Asgard because of an accident of birth – remember he spits at his father: ‘No matter how much you claim to love me, you could never have a woman Frost Giant sitting on the throne of Asgard.’ . When women defend and even side with villains, people tend to explain it away as a female character flaw: women are either deluded enough to think they can ‘fix’ these characters or worse, they’re just masochists who love ‘bad boys’. What they forget is that women in both history and fiction have always been set up as the evil ‘Other’. Even if they’re not conscious of it, I think women instinctively understand which side of the yin/yang dichotomy they’re on. Women might love Thor, but they can’t really identify with him because he is a manifestation of divine, socially-sanctioned, male-coded power in a world where female power is typically seen as illegitimate or evil. But if you give your story’s antagonist ‘feminine’ traits in order to immediately distinguish him as the evil Other (and don’t even get me started on queercoding), then yeah, no shit, women are going to identify with that." Whether this subtext was intentional or not, fans are responding. Not only are they seeing the films, but they're making their own fanworks dedicated to the characters. This means that female fans are creating a vast portfolio of tangible appreciation for the original work. The original media is speaking to us in code And while some people might not be aware of that code on a conscious level, we're responding anyway. And not only are fans responding, but we're transcending the original message. There are fanworks that subvert tropes, and fanworks that surpass them. Fanworks that don't fit within a genre because they adhere to none of the common tropes or accepted character arcs we know. Which means it's not just archetypes we're subverting, we're creating an entirely new genre of work, one that recognizes and celebrates the humanity of every individual. We recognize (on both a conscious and subconscious level) the language creators are using to speak to us, and we are responding with one of our own. *Male and female. I don't believe that there's any essential difference between these two genders. The only difference is the way we are forced to interact with the world. People assigned male at birth are given a set of behaviors deemed appropriate for them (coded "masculine") while people assigned female at birth are given a different set of behaviors (coded "feminine"). Basically, "boys" are trained to be boys and "girls" are trained to be girls. And it's determined based on an arbitrary set of rules that has no bearing on our internal lives. But since that's the world we've been given to live in, we need to tear it apart before we can build something better. Is this an ideal situation? Of course not. It is, however, proof that fans can transcend gender presentation to find their own narratives reflected in the characters that they care about. Why is there this assumption that boys and men are incapable of doing the same? When have they been given the opportunity to try?