Why the SQ movement should be stronger than it is...
This isn’t a pessimistic post about our chances as a ship, subtextually or maintextually. It’s a reflection based on my days shipping Xena/Gabrielle and the differences and similarities and the ultimate point is that we SHOULD be a stronger movement. Because Swan Queen isn’t just about one ship, it’s about a whole set of challenges to the core of what is absolutely wrong with euro-american ‘ownership’ and reimaginings of fairytale mythologies. At the core of what is so very wrong about Disney’s hegemonic ownership of these stories IS heterosexism, racism and sexism. But when the Swan Queen movement became about celebrating the fairytales themselves, we were sort of set up to lose a bit of our kick as a group…so, in order of 'could we please just thoughtfully address these issues’…
#1: OUaT writers/creators did not have the absolute right, on behalf of Disney, to repackage and ’re-imagine’ fairytales without challenge from women, PoC, queer folks and just about anybody who is marginalized by the propaganda that is Disney. Disney on a good day creates something like Frozen. Disney on a bad days says 'shut up about the homo.’ Disney films have included some of the most racist shit and it’s for good reason. The American propaganda system is dependent on certain subjugations based on race–the little 'Indians’ that you see in Peter Pan are there to shore up a certain heterogeneous colonial logic. We should have been more critical of this from the start and less celebratory of Disney’s ability to make us all buy the same version of Snow White 50 times. Disney has gay days but from what I understand as of late, they also have a code of resounding silence around their ability to convince queer folks to give them money while remaining conservatively heterosexist.
#2: Fandoms, from what I’ve observed, are way too individualistic and not celebratory enough of group accomplishments, on things like twitter and tumblr. Both forums encourage a kind of popularity that was definitely there in the Xena days, but there was still a bigger sense of 'ok, we need to really gather together ALL 15000 fanficts written and put them ALL into this master library’ that really nurtured a movement. Some of this is a temporal issue that we can work on just by utilizing master sites like fan fic . net to a more thorough degree (or Archive) but some of it involves rallying editors who rec a larger number of stories without being overly critical about specific head canons and other things that get in the way of a more robust library. For this we need people to stop leaving when they’re angry at the show and to actually do the work of plugging a movement AS a movement. Why? I mean largely this is about #1. Adam and Eddie DO NOT GET TO GET AWAY with what they’ve done to OUaT. It isn’t 'their’ show, they don’t own fairytales and neither does Disney, so to bring in some of the most regressive, toxic elements of general pop culture–namely rape culture which really throws most people over the edge and pushes them out the door while drawing a DANGEROUS and LOUD audience in their place–this is deserving of far more critical discussion, re-storying, and challenge.
#3. What I JUST said, keeps getting labelled as 'hate’. And I mean by people who should know better. Critical thought is not 'hate’. And I mean critical thought of Disney’s bullshit as well. So you love the movie Pocahontas–does that mean that I’m ruining your life if I point to the obviously colonial elements of that cartoon? No, I’m improving the state of the world by creating a space for truth telling. Same goes for the worst excesses of OUaT. We should be welcoming of critical discussion in a way that also allows for some growth as a movement not shrinkage.
#4. Xena fandom members were way more politicized in some ways (less in others) around the need for representation and the link to Queer Women’s rights. We do not live in a post-gay era but the American media wants us to think that we do, while networks like ABC practice very heavy-handed control tactics to maintain the overall illusion. This is very specific and it’s based on something I read recently about conservatism in The Gay Community (a conservative concept). When same-sex marriage and basically a kind of blending into 'normal’ life became the sole goal of queer political campaigns, we lost things that I’m not sure that a whole lot of people have talked about in the OUaT fandom (other than to drastically misunderstand concepts like bi-erasure and to appropriate them in order to validate heteronormativity) and I’m not sure that we can fix this larger political problem to create some unity around queer shipping in 2 years. I’ve found myself wondering about the many faces of Ellen as a kind of symbolic movement from a politicized Lesbian rights movement and interconnected Queer rights movement, toward an almost assimilative Gay rights movement and then a post-Gay ideal in which mainstream conservative Gay politicians and commentators are able to get away with saying that we no longer have to push for anything, we just need to shut up, wait our turn, and the American Dream will happen for all. Uhhh…yeah. Look, the Xena fandom was really overwhelmingly eurocentric at times and way too focused on Greek mythological origins of all things Western (I’ve not yet dealt with the show’s odd appropriations of Indigenous realities yet but I will someday) but at LEAST it wasn’t an audience that had anybody within its ranks who would ever fall for mainstream producers saying 'wait your turn, this has to be earned’. We pushed and pushed and pushed EVEN WHEN SO FEW OF US WERE WATCHING THE ACTUAL SHOW (can I say that any louder). And we didn’t say 'you should have known, I told you so’ when the Rift happened and a misogynist domestic violence storyline was used in season 3 to try to distract from the huge Queer/Lesbian movement behind the show. We raged in really constructive and eloquent ways and there was permanent records of it all, including academic dialogue and other non-fandom forums. And Xena, I mean…do we really think that we’ve progressed or have we lost some serious ground? Xena was also a Trans-inclusive show in many ways so we’ve lost a lot more ground than I think we realize…I mean I’m actually really worried right now about how much ground we’ve lost that needs to be regained. We need to remember why GLBT became the ordering of letter that it did, where Queer Nation politics came in and how the re-ordering of letters followed years of dialogue about important challenges to gender binaries and heteronormativity while also looking at the ways that anti-colonial politics shifts the conversation even more drastically. That history-telling is being left up to mainstream Hollywood film and really conservative media. Communities are struggling economically so the insult there is deep–that two white dudes get to repackage the formative myths of an oppressive system is insulting is also true because of class and economics and who has ACCESS to this kind of re-storying. Which loops back into the fanfiction movement and why MORE AND MORE writers need to be encouraged and more and more stories told in better ways.
5. Time. Balance. I mean how much do you pour into a fandom based on a show that doesn’t want its Queer fanbase (or women who aren’t into Twilight) anymore? I say you pour MORE time because nobody gets to tell us to go away from a show about fairytales and happy endings. That insult deserves more attention in ways that create happy endings and stories by us and for us and also as a push back. Don’t let this CS rape-culture bullshit take over, I say, push back! Unfortunately, there’s that odd fine line between promoting a ship and promoting a show. A&E did not have the right to repackage, in subtext, a story about a divorced Lesbian couple (I use that word strategically and I’m going to use it more often I think) only to back off on their queerbaiting storyline, only to straight-sanitize the whole matter. 'Swan Queen’ isn’t 'sunk’ because it’s about way more than just this show. So we should do something about that. Don’t just go silent, silence doesn’t speak to the assholes who scream about how dreamy Captain 'no means yes’ is, while telling Queer shippers to die. At the same time, people are going to need space and time to process. But in the timelines of tumblr, it’s forgotten in two days. Less than. Because the dashboard keeps floating quickly along. So we need a better anchor. The Xenites had anchors based on older internet ideals–main websites that few of us want to shell out money for any longer. Buying domain names and all of that, why bother when there’s tumblr? But tumblr shapes our memories in odd ways and our dialogues.
Personally, I’m going to continue fanfic writing. I’m also going to write academically about OUaT. It’s time to bust the lid off the show, not to back off and worry about the 'stahp the hate’ nonsense that keeps throwing people off their game. It’s all about more than 'shipping’, it’s about re-visioning and storying the world we want our great grandchildren to live in.