Dear “slash” fandom.
This article's opinion bothers me at many points. Because yes, I am one of those "slash" shippers (I really don't understand the author's issue with this word).
But this author is conflating two different things. They equate not writing letters to TPTB and dominating polls and running campaigns and literally demanding that TPTB make a SPECIFIC canon with "it’s okay to fantasize about queer relationships, but it’s not okay to ask for them to actually be represented."
And just, no. I will never tweet at a PTB that Destiel or Sterek needs to be canon. I will not be angry and rant against or quit a show because the ship I like isn't "canon".
Because as the author points out, shippers as a whole (not all, obviously, or we'd never have ship wars) treat each other's ships as equal. And while I'd never use the word entitled like the author suggests some do who would agree with my line of thinking, what "right" do the Sterek fans have to insist that their ship be canon over those who ship Scott/Stiles? (I use Teen Wolf here instead of Supernatural because Wincest has additional complications besides being a male/male relationship.) Both sets of shippers are just as enthusiastic and see their pairing having a basis in canon.
Me, not wanting to bombard a show's creators with demands for my specific slash pairing to be canon is not me "denying the fact that representation is an extremely important thing in media". I know that it is. I want bisexual characters, gay characters, lesbians, asexuals, non-binary characters, polyamorous characters...and so forth. I was very thrilled the other day when reading a book written in the 70's featuring a bisexual character, a (brief) polyamorous relationship, and gender and sex-fluid people. I know the psychology behind representation in the media and I understand the individual testimonies from people for the want/need for representation. I have felt the same myself.
I do fully agree with this statement:
And here’s the thing: the wink-wink, nudge-nudge sort of nods to slash ships aren’t okay on their own anymore. They’re not funny, either, because “HAHA, GAY!” is not a punchline.
But that is EXACTLY what you get when you *demand* your non-canon slash pairing become canon. (And yes, sadly, there is a difference between the imagined het non-canon pairings and the slash ones. TPTB never appeared to laugh at the idea of Sheppard/Weir or Sheppard/Teyla, while they all were exceedingly uncomfortable with McShep.) One easy example: SUPERNATURAL. Seriously. The original subtle winks/genuinely funny humor about Wincest in S1/S2 ("we accept tenants of all sexual orientation" "two queens yeah right") became the S4 episode with the gay couple cosplaying Sam and Dean that was meant to be heartfelt but has always felt scornful and mocking to me. We get the BS "nods" to Destiel combined with that sense of "NO WAY THEY'RE NOT GAY you stupid fangirls". We get various PTB on twitter mocking the very idea of Dean being bisexual. Another example: Michael Shanks' seeming disgust and outrage every time someone brought up Jack/Daniel at a con. From other things, I've never detected that Michael Shanks himself is particularly homophobic. But he sure as hell got more and more defensive anytime someone suggested Jack and Daniel were romantic instead of best friends. THAT is the result of shippers pushing for their specific pairing.
When the author states:
The people who run many of these shows have outright admitted to knowingly including parts that allude to the relationships so many slash shippers love. It’s not imagined. It’s purposefully being included. It’s a part of the show, and that means we can talk about it, dammit.
That's not them giving into queer representation of any kind. That's them playing the fangirls who keep them going. That's them queer-baiting - they have no intent on following through. It's blatant PANDERING. And damn right we can talk about it; how about we tell them how we don't appreciate that kind of behavior, particularly when it interferes with the writing of the show?
Now, while I'm not saying this right, imagine if you are an author who writes a novel. Say that the main character is bisexual and this is ether explicitly stated or very heavily implied by that character dating people of both/all genders (and never having it be deemed only a "phase"). Now, I, as an author, would feel honored if readers started shipping that character with various people that I don't match that character with because it means they've become invested. I've grown up too much with fanfic to be upset by this (the way many execs or people like Michael Shanks might be). However. I'd get pretty upset if a large portion of my readership suddenly began demanding that that character was either heterosexual or homosexual ONLY and should ONLY be in relationship with Character Y because Character X is gay/straight. And that I as the author was wrong that the character was bisexual. Now, biphobicness aside, there are some fundamental issues with my readers telling me I am incorrect about a character I created. Looked at this way, I understand why some PTB are so upset when people demand their ship become canon. While TV is made of a million compromises and actors and execs all have influence over the characterization that a writer created, nonetheless, thousands of people tweeting at you telling you your character should be in a relationship with x and everything else you're doing is wrong, I can understand the defensiveness (even if they shouldn't react that way).
My point is, it's not about pushing our specific slash ships. That only gets us pandering, annoyance, and assholes who demand in return that Dean will never be bisexual. You want representation? Let's demand REPRESENTATION. Tweet at TPTB that you want more homosexual characters. More polyamorous characters. More bisexual characters. Support the queer relationships and characters we DO get, like Danny on Teen Wolf or Sara Lance on Arrow. Let's critique a show when it uses biphobia as a characterization because while we can accept that yes, some bisexuals ARE slutty and that's totally okay, we don't want to see every single bisexual fitting that stereotype. Let's write to the studios themselves and ask "were are the shows with female leads? where are the shows with a gay lead or a racial minority lead?" to encourage them to start looking for pilots that show diversity initially.
"It’s okay to ask about raging homoerotic subtext. It’s okay to ask after a character’s questionable sexuality."
Indeed it is. But when given an answer (even if it's "Dean is not bisexual"), perhaps direct your energy elsewhere, such as suggesting the introduction of a character of a sexual minority. (What I wouldn't give to see a lesbian hunter who doesn't take the Winchesters crap, isn't charmed by them, AND doesn't die.) And asking about subtext is NOT the same as pushing YOUR ONE pairing. Again, if we care about representation in our media, then it's not about Destiel or Sterek being made canon. It's about asking for representation itself.