I know I covered a lot of deep stuff on part one, but it only gets deeper. I’m actually leaving a lot out. Like all of the DIY Panels (what my WordPress friends would call ‘Hallway Tracks’) I didn’t take notes on quite like I did for the sit-down panels, but I still have a solid 20 pages (front and back) with it all.
Women in Sci-Fi
I admit, I’ve been ‘out’ of Sci-Fi for a while. I was burned on it with the whole ‘Born Sexy Yesterday’ and ‘Disposable Ladies’ tropes. But in recent years, Canada has jumped up with things like Dark Matter and Killjoys to tell us all about how you can do sci-fi right again.
Before we got into just listing the shows we loved, we asked the big question. What is it about sci-fi that brings queer to the forefront? I feel that it’s the basis of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, which is hope. We look at the shows and we see the future we want. A place where gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, none of it matters. We have hope for a better future.
I was quickly reminded it’s also the safety. Sci-fi lets us make allegories for hatred, by having xenophobic aliens. The genre is expected to be bold and wild, so they’re free to play with boundaries. And really, it stops feeling like sci-fi when we don’t have our pan-inclusive, accepting world, because the future must have those things.
That comes at a cost however. Mainstream media will ignore us, and the art. That allows it to be more wild, but without the accolades, there’s no money and no future, which is why we get early cancelations. Also, we can be too quick to judge our shows when they don’t go boldly. And do we go too far?
This brought me to another panel, where we talked about the progress we are (or aren’t…) making. While we could all point at shows that push the needle of positive representation forward, there wasn’t a single show that hit all the marks 100%.
But. That’s actually okay. Because a step is not a leap, and previous works open doors for those that follow. As long as we don’t forget and ignore the past, we have a chance to keep moving forward and making what comes next better and better.
Not all steps are forward, however. Look at Subtext. Thanks to things like the Hay’s Code, we had such guidelines that “immoral” content was never to be shown in a positive light. While TV didn’t have the same rules as movies, they certainly did self-censor a great deal, to the point that even shows like Xena were forced to keep sexuality under wraps. And this didn’t always get better. Today, I would argue there’s actually more queerbaiting. Shows like Rizzoli & Isles, for example, were never going to give viewers the gay, but they played it the hell up.
As our expectations begin to change, where we are no longer satisfied with a wink-wink/nudge-nudge queer, we as a group start to demand diversity. We want to see ourselves. The intent of subtext was honorable, writers trying to find ways around the rules, but it’s time for the rules to change. Let ladies kiss. Let boys love. Move. Forward.
Sadly, we still need that representation to be visible. If you’re not going to tell us Jane is bisexual, then you need to show us that she is interested in men and women. You can make these things normal without being explicit, and still make it clear who is being represented.
Social Media and Fandom
I didn’t really shy from the tough topics.
Social media and fandom has a big problem. When I was young, fandom was almost a dirty word. You fanned by yourself, hanging posters and reading magazines (or zines) and wrote terrible, terrible fanfic in your notebooks. If you were lucky, you went to cons where people dealt mimeographed fanfic under the table, like drugs. There were dial-in-BBs, pen pals, and possibly a club at school that got you teased.
When I stepped into the online fandoms, with things like Xena Campfire Girls, we were open to all opinions, but demanded respect of the community and the people within. I was able to dig up the comment that the “Subtext-friendly” mailing list said about people who didn’t ‘believe’ in subtext:
That’s fine. We aren’t going to hunt you down and beat you or anything. You’re entitled to your opinion. I wouldn’t recommend you joining the list, however.
Now that said, look at the fandoms of today and what’s going on with Sanvers vs SuperCorp.
I freely admit to having been ignorant of this until TGIF/F, but in short, they’re having a war. If you like the fanon ‘ship of Lena and Kara, you can’t like the canon ‘ship of Alex and Maggie. Worse, some people in the Sanvers ‘ship argue that having the couple break up was as bad, or worse, than having one of them die.
Where went the respect we had for everyone’s ‘ship? What happened to protecting our community first? How did we lose our purpose?
Maybe it’s because there used to be lines between fanon and canon. We knew that fanon was on one side, and it was okay to be weird and to like those things, but they weren’t ‘real.’ Today, with our changed expectations and our desire to see change now, fans are less patient and more vocal. And fans have such ready access to fan-works, no longer needing to find the dedicated website for a specific fandom, which may not accept all works, we have another way to reach out and interact with show runners.
And perhaps this is not a good thing. At least, not until we can self-police ourselves better to not infight. We have to remember the history and not be silent when behavior crosses lines.
But that won’t be easy either.
Overall, Deep Thoughts
It’s interesting to come out of a con with this many deep thoughts. I’ve been to a great many, comic and sci-fi cons, over the years, and I’ve never returned home thinking so much about the meaning of fandom. And that is incredibly important to me. It’s certainly a place for fun and silly behavior, but at the same time, we are self-aware of who and what we are, and our impact on the fandom world.
I think, all told, there should be more events like TGIF/F all over.