divergent sdcc

In Defense of the C (in TJLC)

I never used to think it was important, and on the textual analysis level where I like to reside, it isn’t: canon Johnlock isn’t a secret, it’s just a (mostly) subtle part of the text. We’re talking about the textual romance, not who really killed JFK. The whole term was a joke to start with. And at this point, it’s true that TJLC has connotations more about who your friends (and enemies) are, what jokes you do or don’t get, what Tumblr blogs you follow/follow you back and how much you’re fond of the term ‘curly dad’ (by which measure I’m definitely a TJLCer). But the truth is, there’s some relevance to the Conspiracy part of the program. Most notably, the relevance has to do with one’s relationship to TPTB.

The C reminds us that they’re lying liars who lie, always trolling us in order to avoid spoilers that have to do with the fact that canon Johnlock is a plot development as much as an always-present aspect of the characterization. We have to remember that, just in case we’re tempted to believe them without first checking whether anything Mofftiss say makes sense or is consistent with their previous beliefs and feelings. Of course, we ideally shouldn’t need the term 'conspiracy’ to remind us that people can’t be trusted if it means spoiling their own show, but sometimes (often) that reminder really is useful. I think that reminder is clearly necessary for many people, who may forget the way the game works even with that constant clue, which is (after all) in the name.

Honestly, I don’t think we need to interact with TPTB in the first place, but that bird has flown the coop, and part of being a fan nowadays is indeed interacting with people who’re in a huge power imbalance with you and are motivated to hurt your feelings in the short term in order to preserve something like the normal conditions we had before we could ask the author about inconvenient things we’d noticed about the plot. That stilted, awkward conversation is a part of what it means be to be fannish in the age of Twitter and Tumblr, and it’s going to take awhile to establish more ground rules and social expectations and experience. We’ll need to learn to gain some emotional distance from people and celebrities we don’t know but can’t ignore, somehow. BNFs used to be huge in fandom but aren’t as much of a center of gravity anymore, so there’s hope. And certainly, there are things Mofftiss or Ben C can and do say that are informative and helpful (and I have often commented on their better quotes myself), and these are a great contribution to the fandom. I think that there’s a potential increased role that the creators can play and do already, and it’s just a matter of working out how we as a fandom process the inevitably mixed bag of contributions.

Still, in this particular case, there’s an even bigger emotional volatility and investment in some fans than usual when it comes to either pairings or plot spoilers. We’ve already figured out so much, and the media has enough of a clue that Mofftiss have to do ever-more hurtful damage control. It’s not just our hopes and needs but also our rational judgment and even our dignity as queer people and (primarily) women that’s on the line with canon Johnlock, in a way it wouldn’t be with most shows (where creator wank is still prevalent). I realize this. There’s a reason to take it personally, because for many of the fans who see canon Johnlock happening, it’s very much personal rather than simply an intuitive interpretation of the text.

That’s why it’s important to keep the C in TJLC, after all. It’s not just an interpretation of the text, whether deeply felt and personal or almost entirely rational (as it actually was for a few fans). The C reminds us that this is also about an experiment in media, of a sort: a way of presenting a queer narrative that’s never been tried before, to my knowledge– softly, gently. Unspoken, gradual, incidental. Inevitably, there’s a social aspect to this reveal; the show requires its oblivious, slowly realizing audience as much as the true-believer fans to work as intended. There really is a secret, for those fans, and it has to be kept ever less secret until it’s finally, gradually, time for it to become obvious to everyone. In the age of the Internet 2.0, this does invite a sort of open conspiracy… and in a way, all of us are part of it.

I say 'open conspiracy’ because there’s certainly plenty of 'wink wink nudge nudge’ to go around for those in the know, as we saw in SDCC. They know, they know we know, and they’re expecting us to keep up our side and not be too loud or disruptive out there in the audience, just as if this back and forth was another performance, aside from the show (which it is). Certain things can’t be done or said while the performance is going on, just like you don’t text in the theater. They will put down anything too obviously primed to break the illusion, and in fact they have to. It’s the nature of the show they’re devoted to putting on. Anything more subtle, they’re happy to encourage (as Mofftiss and Ben C repeatedly demonstrated at SDCC). We have a secret code, of sorts, just like true conspirators would. They refer to us ('softly, gently’), they say we’re smart, they even essentially include fictional avatars for us as valued revolutionaries that deserve to win in TAB. We’re in on it. We’re plotting this with them, and we’re bound to win.

The C is important. It means we’re part of something big. We’re part of a history-making story more than a hundred years in the making, and it’s going to be magic.

Social justice, shipping, and ideology: when fandom becomes a crusade, things get ugly
Fans merely rooting for their favorite characters to get together has somehow evolved into ideological warfare.
By Aja Romano

“[Gatiss] isn’t saying other people can’t write that version of John and Sherlock getting together,” Moffat said. “We’re not. We’re not engaging in a clever conspiracy to write something under the radar; we’re just writing the show we’re writing.”

What Moffat said was pretty straightforward — Johnlock isn’t going to become canon onSherlock, and there is no reason to suspect otherwise. Yet many fans who believe in TJLC still feel that Moffat and Gatiss are merely lying in order to protect the conspiracy they have stated does not exist.

The Sherlock fandom is not alone in experiencing this kind of phenomenon — an intense all-or-nothing divide, most often focused on a particular ship, that functions as a kind of ideology. In essence, shipping in the world of fandom has increasingly taken on all the characteristics of a religious dogma — one for which shippers are increasingly willing to crusade.

I would say something specifically about the “no reason” part, but I’m just tired. Moreover, I’ve often encountered and actually (sometimes) agreed with the accusation that canon Johnlock believers are zealots and/or crusaders. I single out this article ‘cause its writer (@bookshop) is a longtime member of multiple fandoms, and a person I personally know to be reasonable and intelligent (as well as a slasher herself), though she’s not really in Sherlock fandom. I can’t dismiss the opinions of longtime slashers and sometime fellow meta writers without giving them their due. And of course, the denials by the creators exist. There are certainly denials, and there are certainly panicky, irrational people among us who tweet Mofftiss at unfortunate times, in unfortunate ways. I personally don’t hold it against Moffat or Gatiss if they’re a bit terse at those times; nor do I hold the viewers’ pain, worry and frustration against TJLC folks.

It’s unfortunate, however, that this (relatively natural) immaturity and frustration on the part of some so consistently stains the larger discourse. We’ve often said that we are (as slashers, as fans) misunderstood and/or maligned because the journalists who cover fandom activity don’t know us, don’t spend enough time with us. But this is clearly not the (entire) answer. Plenty of longtime fandom members– many if not most of them very slash-friendly–  within and without Sherlock fandom have come to this conclusion about TJLCers, more or less. This is evident in how we’re covered both by outside media and by meta folks outside our community within the Sherlock fandom, including (formerly) Johnlock-friendly meta writers. There are literally no outside media or fandom voices that really support us. 

I’m just putting this out there. In the end, I find it interesting because I’m something of a fandom scholar. I myself (believe it or not) have once been pretty close to an outside voice, in my opinion. I have long ago ‘gone native’, I admit, but I am a longtime slasher, a multifandom meta fan, and something like what they used to call an ‘acafan’ (ie, a person with some scholarly affiliations that unofficially or officially studies fandom). In other words, I fully understand where the media, the ‘normal’ fans and even slash-friendly or Johnlock-friendly fans are coming from, ‘cause I’ve been there.  While I understand that TJLC seems like this weird cult (if you talk to the wrong people), one that’s vaguely reminiscent of many vaguely deluded shipper movements (Harry/Hermione fans, or Harmonians, and the X-Files Shippers come to mind), I also think that anti-TJLCers are oddly inflexible. I honestly don’t know why. Chris Carter also denied Mulder/Scully to the max, and then they went for it. But I don’t think the Shippers had to face quite this much extreme pushback.

Of course, there’s a lot of external circumstances that are intersecting here. For one thing, naturally, everyone’s extra sensitive ‘cause this is political: this is about queer representation. People do get a bit self-righteous about it. Tempers flare. On the other hand, well, we have a right to have such feelings, too. The fact that no one of the deniers, no matter how intelligent and reasonable and slash-friendly, even considers that we might be on to something regardless of what TPTB say, or seems to open-mindedly read the better metas out there– that concerns me. We’re not just wrong– we’re crazy, we’re deluded, we’re brainwashed. I mean, yes, the people tweeting Mark were kind of rude, in my opinion. But to let this sort of thing define the related reading of the show itself– that seems a bit questionable to me. I’m not sure, still, why TJLC merits quite this much pushback.

I also think it’s problematic and just odd that even people who’re in fandom don’t understand that TJLC is a 100% rational and intuitive reading of the text, and not just ‘shipping’, as the Harmonians or the Shippers were. Maybe in this case, experience hinders understanding, since usually, shipping is all there is. However, I can’t really dismiss what seems like an ongoing misunderstanding after nearly 3 years have passed for people to realize that this is new. Something is clearly going on, that is actively preventing people, even intelligent, fandom-friendly and slash-friendly people, from even considering that they are witnessing a new thing, and we maybe deserve some respect. Not belief, mind you. I don’t think we deserve to be trusted or our metas taken on faith, by any means. But the opposite should certainly also be true: I don’t see why TJLC metas should be dismissed as the ravings of deluded charlatans, either, without really even being engaged with. The Harmonians also had meta ‘evidence’, but it was (as far as I can tell) almost uniformly badly argued and rather ridiculous. Some of the TJLC metas used as ‘evidence’ are equally ridiculous, but not all. And I don’t even think the majority are anywhere near as bad as the Harmonian meta, which was the reason I personally dismissed them at the time. One reason (in my opinion) is that we are right overall, so there’s only so wrong we can be about the particulars. Anyway, my opinion is that there’s something suspicious about just how casually and how extremely these claims about BBC Sherlock are being– nearly universally– dismissed and derided.

Anyway, it’s true that the way (a loud subset of) TJLC fandom interacts with TPTB is new (and riddled with difficulties) as much as TJLC itself is new, as I recently said. So there are new and unexpected glitches that JK Rowling’s fans never really experienced at the time. And I know I just recently defended the ‘C’ in TJLC, because I think it’s important. But that too, was a sort of in-joke; I wouldn’t literally introduce or describe our community as conspiracists. Like I also said, I agree that shipping can lend itself to extreme ideology, high conflict and bursts of emotion. But that sometimes unwieldy fandom brew doesn’t– and shouldn’t– deny or undermine the brilliance and insight that fandom ship-related discourse can also demonstrate, and at the same time. Some of us sound crazy, but some of us are brilliant. Some of us are rude, but some of us are quiet mediators. We are not the Borg. We are simply fans.

Veronica Roth at San Diego Comic Con on Friday, July 25th, 2014!

Ticketed signing*
10:30 am – 11:30 am
HarperCollins Booth #1029
*Tickets available in booth with purchase of FOUR: A DIVERGENT COLLECTION. Limited quantity available.

“Get Inspired with Veronica Roth” Panel
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Room: 25ABC
Comic-Con special guest Veronica Roth joins authors Walter Jury, Leigh Bardugo and Laini Taylor as they divulge what led them on the road to writerdom. From books to movies to comics and more, what are these authors geeking out about? Hear about their literary muses, their author crushes, and all things awe-worthy that inspire them to write the books they write. Moderator Aaron Hartzler will coax the most titillating answers out of these panelists as they dish on their evolutions and revolutions.