Even when female characters exist in canon materials, though, they’re rarely written in dynamic or compelling roles — in short, if they aren’t leads, then they often exist as an afterthought to the men, not alongside the men. For example, the BBC’s Sherlock has female characters, but the main characters are two guys, Sherlock and John, and as a result, most of the fic in Sherlock fandom is about Sherlock and John. Characters like Molly Hooper and Mrs. Hudson are framed by their relationships to the men, and thus may not hold as much potential for fanficcers as do the main characters. As AO3 Census creator centrumlumina says, often the most popular ships are born out of a canon rivalry, a best friendship, a divine bond — and most of the the time, these are relationships that men get to have.

I think the most compelling theory I’ve seen floating around is the one that says that fanfic authors, especially the 80% of them which are female-identifying, are societally conditioned to regard female sexuality or female pleasure as unimportant or undeserving of attention. Think about some of the non-canonically supported ships that you know. Mycroft and Lestrade have been in one scene together in all nine episodes of Sherlock, but Mystrade is a huge ship. In Teen Wolf, Stiles and Derek are constantly shipped together, despite sharing very few canon scenes. Meanwhile, Allison and Lydia, who are getting a lot of screentime together this season, have barely five hundred fics on AO3. (Sterek has about twenty thousand.) I don’t mean to disparage one ship or the other — what I’m curious about is why fandom seems to have latched onto the male ship over the female one.

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[Trigger Warning: Emotional abuse]

A friend of mine and I were discussing Tangled recently, and when I asked him why he hadn’t liked the movie, he replied, “It was just too dark to be a kids’ movie.” It took me a while to understand what he meant by that—surely a movie about a princess and her animal companion friends wasn’t dark? Then I realized that while the characters themselves may not have been particularly bleak, the theme of the story was. The driving force behind Tangled is the twisted relationship between Rapunzel and Mother Gothel, and understanding it is key to understanding why Tangled was such a great movie.

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If it exists, there’s porn of it—no exceptions. That’s actually a rule of the internet. But most often, when we talk about fanfiction, we’re talking about a relationship between two guys. This is commonly known as “slash” (accordingly, a relationship between two girls is “femslash”, etc).It’s hard to explain this phenomenon to those outside fandom: the usual explanation runs something along the lines of, “Well, there are a lot of straight girls in fandom, and they like reading about two guys together… what?” I’ve used that explanation myself when trying to explain to my brother why, upon ascending to the internet, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy can no longer keep their hands off each other. (To be fair, it was a much better explanation than the first one that popped into my head, which ran something along the lines of, “Because… shh”.) Now, however, there’s some legit data on the inner workings of fandom, and it means we might do well to rethink the assumptions that lead to this explanation.

Slash’s reign as king of the internet was pretty much verified after The Daily Dot challenged someone to actually count the number of fanfics for every pairing on AO3, an extremely popular fanfiction archive. Tumblr user destinationtoast did all that and more, proving that the top ten AO3 ships were all slash and that Sherlock Holmes/John Watson far outpaced both Supernatural's Destiel and Teen Wolf's Sterek. They then went on to prove that M/M was the largest category on AO3, double the size of its closest competing category, Gen (fics which do not center around relationships).

To see why slash rules the internet, however, one would need to turn to the actual producers (fanfic authors and artists) who use AO3. Tumblr user centrumlumina did just that with a survey of 10,005 AO3 users. The general assumption, as we know, is that the average slash fan is a heterosexual female fan. However, centrumlumina’s results suggest that perhaps the combination of “heterosexual” and “female” ought to be questioned.

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Last month, the U.S. cover for Garth Nix’s long, long-awaited book, Clariel, finally hit the internet. For those of you who don’t know, Clariel is a prequel to Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy, and it may just answer some questions about how the magic in in the series works. Free Magic? The Charter? From the very first page of the very first book, Nix launches his readers into a fully-realized world which he, infuriatingly enough, never fully explains. All the rules appear to be there, and Nix knows all of them — but we don’t. Until now… maybe.

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I hang out on Tumblr a little too much, because Tumblr is way too good at thinking up uniquely creative fandom endeavors that eat up all my time. So it was that I stumbled upon the above picture a few months back. Did someone actually go to where the incredibly depressing “Doomsday” was filmed and take that picture? Curious, I clicked on the blog and quickly discovered many more such pictures: Les Misérables in London, Torchwood in Cardiff, even Star Trek Into Darkness in Los Angeles—all centered around an iPad photo of the original scene. And I was hooked.

Fangirl Quest is just what the name implies—Tiia Öhman and Satu Walden, two Finnish fangirls, are on a quest to visit filming locations all over the world. Once they’ve arrived at the exact location, they take photos with a method they call sceneframing: Satu holds an iPad with the relevant screencap while Tiia takes the photo. Who needs selfies? Sceneframing is the new cool.

The two of them have just finished a truly epic roadtrip through the United States and Canada, and were kind enough to talk to me via email about their blog and their adventures. Check below the cut for my interview with the fantastic girls of Fangirl Quest!

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Being respected by the narrative—being empowered by the narrative—can go a long way towards alleviating the negative connotations of a stereotype. It teaches the audience that yes, this stereotypically queer character can also contribute to the plotline, no matter what they act like. Jack, a stereotypically ready-to-sleep-with-everyone pansexual, is the leader of Torchwood; Cecil, who spends an awful lot of time fawning over Carlos on-air, is arguably the most important person in Night Vale; and Charlie, a rather non-stereotypical kickass lesbian, saves the Winchesters’ butts more than a couple times. So what if they’re queer? Who cares who they sleep with? They aren’t the punchline to a 1960s-era joke.

Conversely, a stereotypically queer character doesn’t work when they’re not empowered by the narrative. Irene Adler from Sherlock, for example, is drawn like a straight guy’s fantasy lesbian: hot, all about sex, into the kinky stuff. Oh, she’s a Moffat creation, so that explains that. But Irene’s being a lesbian stereotype isn’t enough to dismiss her—the narrative does that for you. She’s supposed to be Sherlock’s intellectual equal, but he has to walk her through the first crime of the episode before she solves it; Moriarty teaches her how to play her long con; she up and ruins said con by having pesky female feelings of rooooomance (for Sherlock, who’s not even a girl). Of course, she’s the only lesbian character on the show, so she’s a stereotype and a horrible representative. Supernatural, similarly, had the Ghostfacers’ gay intern, and I’m still convinced to this day that the only reason he was in the show was so the Ghostfacers could say the line “You gotta go be gay for that poor dead intern!” The character was erased from the series for the sake of a joke. Hell, I don’t even remember his name.

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I’m still working on catching up with Elementary (no spoilers, please!) but I’ve finally gotten to (and a little past) the Season 1 episode where Joan and Sherlock encounter a Chinese gambling ring. At first, this sort of threw me for a loop, because up until then I’d been enjoying Elementary's inclusivity and non-token-ish diversity. BBC Sherlock's “The Blind Banker” had about conquered the market on terrible representation of Chinese mafia, right? Well, yes. But fortunately, Elementary's “You Do It To Yourself” did not encroach on Sherlock's absolute monopoly on poor representation—rather, the episode did a far better job of handling the trope of the Chinese mafia than did its more famous cousin.

Spoilers and trigger warning for sexual abuse after the jump.

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So you’ve watched The Day of the Doctor countless times, you’ve read all there is to read about it, and just to switch things up, you’ve watched The Night of the Doctor a million times, too. No matter what you do, it’s still ages until the Doctor Who Christmas Special, and you’re sick of pointing your sonic screwdriver at your door only for nothing to happen. (Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.) What can a Whovian watch in the meantime? Fortunately, the BBC has got you covered.

Your first option is The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

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I spend a lot of time on Tumblr, and so I have to ask: is it just me, or does Tumblr seem to be really, really into demons? There’s the conventionally attractive demons on Supernatural, of course, and demons, devils, and the Devil have made their way into most genre media. But the concept of demons seems to be, well, Tumblr vogue—especially the cute, grumpy type. Just look at Tumblr’s webcomics: Satan and Me, Belial and Reno, and now today’s web crush: Bara Demon and Guy.

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A couple months ago, Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out, and suddenly the casual Tumblrite couldn’t walk two virtual steps without getting hit in the face by Sebastian Stan. There were so many gifs, theories, and emotions about the movie that I briefly considered blocking any mention of Sebastian and his character, the Winter Soldier, but as that would actually mean blocking the majority of content on my dashboard, I refrained. And somewhere within the deluge of feels, I found this amazing fic. So all in all, I’m pretty glad I didn’t block anything.

Out of the Dead Land by emilyenrose starts, as most Steve/Bucky fics do, post-Winter Soldier. Bucky, the aforementioned Winter Soldier, waits for a Hydra operative to pick him up after the battle on the Helicarrier with Steve. Hydra, however, has its own problems, and no one comes for him. Convinced that Steve Rogers knows someone who looks like him, Bucky Barnes, and could give this Bucky a mission, the soldier hunts out information on Bucky Barnes and goes to Steve’s apartment, pretending to be Bucky, in an attempt to be useful. The “pretending to be Bucky” bit, at least, doesn’t work out so well for him.

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The last Harry Potter book was released approximately seven years ago, and as we all know, seven is an important magical number, which is probably why many tributes to and anecdotes about the series started popping up around the web last month. While I loved reading the Harry Potter series, Harry and his magic have both influenced—and been influenced by—other books in the YA genre. Young children discovering their magic and through that, themselves, isn’t a new idea. And many books which deal with children and magic are more diverse and address social problems more directly than does the beloved Harry Potter series. If you’ve grown up with the Harry Potter series and want to read more books like it, continue on to find some magical, diverse recommendations.

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After a long wait, we now know that the next Doctor is Peter Capaldi! Yeah, I wanted a non-white, non-male Doctor too, but Moffat’s said that Capaldi was the only actor he auditioned for the role, so as long as we’ve got Moffat on board I suppose the Doctor will always be white and male. As white male choices go, though, I think Capaldi was a great one. For those of you who don’t know, Capaldi is a 55-year-old actor most known for his role as Malcolm Tucker in the British political satire The Thick of It and its spinoff In the Loop. Like David Tennant, he’s Scottish; unlike Tennant, he’ll get to keep his accent as the Doctor. Capaldi is a huge Doctor Who fan and is delighted to step into the Doctor’s sizable shoes, and I think Capaldi’s going to bring a very different sort of energy to the role. Not gonna lie, I’m a massive fan of his. Let me tell you why.

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There’s a lot of opinionated posts out there on Martha Jones. Some people think that she was the worst out of all of Ten’s companions, and some people think she was drastically underrated, but almost all the opinions on Martha center around her race. Martha was the first major companion of color on Doctor Who (Mickey Smith, a previous companion of color, only traveled with the Doctor for three episodes).

I used to think that Doctor Who had done a terrible job portraying racism with Martha, but after rewatching Series 3, I started to change my mind. Yes, Doctor Who hadn’t portrayed much overt racism with Martha, but perhaps that was the best option from a storytelling perspective. I wouldn’t have wanted the show to smack the viewer over the head every episode with “We are in the past! Look at this racism!”, and I also wouldn’t have wanted them to avoid taking Martha into the past, so I think the writers managed to strike a fair medium between the two. What Doctor Who did show us was a fairly accurate portrayal of casual racism. 

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For a franchise about breaking free of socialized norms and clichés, High School Musical is absurdly heteronormative. Heteronormativity, for those of you who aren’t sure, is the idea or belief that heterosexual relationships are the norm and thus everyone and everything must be straight (and often includes the belief that men and women must follow certain gender roles). Now, it seems unlikely that Disney will ever have a queer character in any of its media, but it has a long history of promoting and extolling the virtues of heterosexual romance. Think of any Disney princess movie, where “true love’s first kiss” will transform a beast into a man or a woman into a princess, and heterosexual marriages can save whole kingdoms. High School Musical is no different with its heterosexual romances.

Spoilers for all the High School Musical movies below.

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Suzy, the reformed porn star turned church leader, is the one who gets to me most. It’s implied that she uprooted her life and possibly even changed her name to get away from her past. There’s nothing inherently wrong about being a porn star, but it clearly wasn’t something that she herself was comfortable with, as she says she was a “horrible person” and she’s now become the leader of a church chastity group. We have no idea what brought about this character change, but for her to do a 180 like this, we have to assume that it was something incredibly important to her. Then along comes Dean Winchester, who tells her that he dreams about the porn she’s been in, and all of a sudden Suzy’s vow of chastity disappears, as do most of her clothes. What led her to make her vow of chastity and why did she break it for a guy like Dean, who she met an hour ago? Dean even still talks about her as if she’s a sexual object — he’s a fan of “that thing she did with the tacos”, not her. Is Dean just that attractive? Get off my lawn, Supernatural, I’ve had it up to here with your bullshit.

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Can I just repeat this? Sleepy Hollow has two leads. How many times have I got to say it? And yet when the show went through its Abbie Central arc, Ichabod still got to be involved—in “For The Triumph Of Evil”, when Abbie was forced to face her demons by the Sandman, Ichabod refused to sit idly by, downing the potion to accompany Abbie to dreamland before anyone could stop him. In “The Lesser Key of Solomon”, when Abbie was trying to track down her sister, Ichabod again insisted on coming along. But when the show turned tail and went Ichabod Central, all of a sudden Ichabod’s telling Abbie to stay in the car for two episodes straight—and she actually does it. If we view Abbie Central and Ichabod Central together, the story can literally be seen changing from a Friends-esque “I’ll be there for you (’cause you’re there for me too)” arc to a “Mystical White Male insists on butting into everyone else’s plotline and keeping everyone shut out of his own” arc. And we get more than enough of that on other TV shows.

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So it’s Friday, you’re back from your super-early-morning Black Friday shopping, and you want to read a nice fic before you crawl under the covers and don’t come out for the rest of the weekend. Well, in that case, I’ve got just the fic for you.

can’t be hateful, gotta be grateful by HalfFizzbin is jam-packed full of fluff and Thanksgiving goodness. Stiles and his dad are invited to Stiles’s grandma’s for Thanksgiving, and Derek tags along because Stiles’s dad can’t help but take in strays, and also Derek’s sort of been pining after Stiles. (Of course he won’t admit to it, in the same way that Stiles won’t admit to stealing Derek’s leather jacket.) Upon arriving at Stiles’s grandma’s house, she demands to know why Stiles has brought a complete stranger home and Stiles manages to trick her into believing that Derek is his boyfriend. Chaos and a happy ending ensue. Also, Derek helps to make mashed potatoes.

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After last week’s weird promo in which Dean did a Vulcan mind-meld with a dog, I’d pre-emptively written off this episode as bad. Just no two ways about it, straight-up pure uncut terrible. So you can imagine my surprise when the episode turned out to be… sort of funny. If you didn’t stop to think about it, it was almost… enjoyable. It wasn’t even written by Robbie Thompson, but I… liked it?

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