cest_what: (natasha in sunlight)
I've been thinking about movie-verse Black Widow in relation to this excellent blog post lately. In particular the idea that because women in comics/video games/geek media tend to be portrayed as unrealistically sexy and eye-candy-esque in their clothing and poses while doing kickass masculine-coded things (being amazing fighters, hackers, engineers etc), people often consider that that competence itself is part of the fantasy, rather than a quality that's realistic for a female character.

I have mixed feelings about parts of Natasha's arc in Avengers. On an individual character level, the fact that Natasha is afraid and deals with it is great: it's part of what gives her the human depth that's missing from her role in Iron Man 2. On a broader level, the fact that Natasha, the only female Avenger, is also the only one of them we see frightened and running scared, is unfortunate.

What I don't have any mixed feelings about, though, is that in addition to seeing her scared, we see Natasha doing things that are fucking hard, and that we see the effort it takes. Natasha's coolest moment in Iron Man 2 is, undoubtedly, her fight scene in the corridor. It's well choreographed, her hair looks great, her outfit looks great, and basically the whole thing looks really cool. It's also effortless: she doesn't break a sweat, she never looks less than stunning, and every move displays her body in, not a hypersexualised way, but in an entirely photogenic way. It's not something you would look at and think "god that's so objectifying", but in the most literal way, that's absolutely what it is: there's nothing at all to take you inside the character's POV, you're just watching a beautiful kickass fantasy woman do cool shit.

I think the photogenic damn that's cool moments are really important for action movies and superhero movies in particular. Natasha gets as many of them in Avengers as the other Avengers do. But she also, like the other Avengers, gets the moments where effort makes her ugly. When she catches a ride on one of the alien planes, for example, you see her look incredibly cool as she jumps and then you see her with this brutal grimace of effort while she struggles with the aliens and wrestles the vehicle into submission.

In Avengers, unlike in Iron Man 2, Natasha's super agent competence isn't undercut by a need for her to be unrealistically attractive in every shot - especially during her fight scenes. Sometimes she is, sometimes she isn't, just like the boys. It's a pretty simple thing, but I almost think it's the most important thing the film did for her.
cest_what: (Default)
I swear that this is the last post I'm going to make on this subject, but I think I've worked out what it is about Homestuck's failings as a social fandom that bothers me so badly.

The problem is not that there's no one to talk to. I've been late to more than one fandom, and been pretty content wandering about abandoned fic archives reading everything I could and boring my friends list with my three-years-late flail.

The problem is that there's discussion going on, interesting and lively and highly visible discussion, but it's inaccessible. There's nothing wrong with a BNF-heavy fandom, BNF blogs can be really excellent sites of discussion and engagement and ideas. But not on Tumblr. Tumblr assumes that the goal is not mutual communication, but celebrity - many people hearing your voice and seeing your art, without you hearing anything from them that isn't related to you. So the only ways to speak to somebody are:

1) the Ask box, which you are expected to use to ask the cool and interesting opinions of the person you're talking to, not to express your own opinions

2) private messaging, which is explicitly called "fan mail", just to drive home that even though mutual communication is possible, it's not the point

3) commenting on posts, which is set up so that the only way for the poster to respond to a comment is to make a whole new post for it, again driving home that the point is not a conversation but feedback on your awesomeness

4) reblogging with commentary, which is understood to be a method of creating dialogue only secondarily, and at the original poster's discretion - there's no feeling that it's the polite thing to do to engage with the commentary on reblogs of your text posts. A lot of the time you probably don't even see it.

So because so much of Homestuck fandom has actually been born on Tumblr, rather than migrating there from LJ, fannish engagement is fundamentally constructed to be top-down, or centre-out. It's not that you can't engage with fandom ideas, it's that only the people immediately around you will hear. You can't affect the conversation. It's controlled - not deliberately, but controlled all the same - by people in the centre. Even writing fic doesn't feel like a contribution that affects fandom, with no conversation around it.

I feel, basically, as though I've been relegated to being a consumer of my own fandom. Like sitting on a couch with a small group of friends, chatting as we watch pop culture commentary on TV about something we love. I can talk about what they're saying with the person next to me, but that's about it.

(I know it's not quite as clear-cut as that, and that there's more than one hub of conversation, and that probably more gregarious people than me, or people more comfortable with the dynamic of Asks maybe, can manage to work this system to connect with the fandom in a meaningful way. But it's definitely a simile that works for me.)

The things I love to pieces about Homestuck fandom, the things that make it the best fandom I have ever been in, are that I adore the canon like nothing; that unlike the only other fandoms where I've loved the canon this much (due South and Hikaru no Go), it's also exactly the kind to inspire me to write the kind of stories I'm best at; that both canon and fic are full of girls; that it's also the most multi-shippy place I've ever been; and that people create the most AMAZING fanworks, I am constantly in awe of the fic and art and videos and everything else that fans of this webcomic create.

The thing that makes Homestuck the worst fandom I have ever been in is that, despite having written 6 Homestuck stories, having spent eight months reading and being excited about it, having talked about it everywhere I have a platform, having written meta, speculation, reaction to updates, having participated in a major fest, having recced fic, having engaged in every single way I know how ...

... I don't actually feel as though I'm in it.


Anyway, the conclusion I'm coming to is that, I guess, I can't actually do this anymore. I'm not going to stop loving the webcomic, and I'm not going to stop reading Homestuck fic at least fairly regularly, but I have to either pull back quite a bit from Fandom altogether for a while, or I have to branch out so that Homestuck isn't my only fandom.

So hey. Uh.

Avengers is cool, right?
cest_what: (Default)
I've been thinking a lot about hetfic lately. When I started out in fandom it was 2006, femslash barely existed on my radar, and het was that less-cool, way-more-mainstream thing that some other people did in other parts of fandom and mostly I didn't get why you would bother.

Then fandom rediscovered feminism (again? I guess?) and I personally discovered that having called yourself a feminist from the time you could read did not actually mean that all of your thoughts and opinions were feminist by default and you got to not question yourself and your assumptions. And that maybe this thing where we as a community didn't really want to read fic with girls as main characters was less awesome and progressively subversive than previously thought.

Which meant that het, along with femslash, became itself cool and subversive. And, especially in fandoms with no or very few important canon relationships between female characters, where femslash was as a result going to be a particular hardsell, focusing on important female–male relationships as a reader and a writer became an act of feminist fannishness.

Which is a pretty common fandom arc to have followed, I think? But it isn't everybody's. So I would find these new fandoms that had a lot of het, and I would read that as feminism, and cheer. Only sometimes it isn't. Homestuck in particular is excellent for hetfic: of my 165 HS saves at pinboard, 61 are het, with only 30-something each for slash and femslash. And it was only after a few months in the fandom that I began to realise that some of those het writers and readers are actually, you know, crazy revelation, coming from a place of unacknowledged homophobia. The "I just happen not to like slash it's personal taste" folks and the "I have no interest in two guys together because I'm a straight dude" folks. (Because ... personal sexuality is totally a bar to appreciating romances that don't cater to it, that's why no queer people through history have ever been into hetero romantic literature, and also why Homestuck is exclusively populated by people who are turned on by underage grey-skinned aliens with horns. In their personal lives.)

Which led to me feeling weird about het again. Because I don't want to be part of a movement to make fanfiction less subversive of mainstream constructions of sexuality and gender and the dynamics of romance. I don't want to de-claw it in a way that makes it palatable to anti-queer prejudices. That would be the opposite of cool.*

Except, OK, last night I was reading this Jade/Dave ficlet, and I had one of those revelations-that-shouldn't-have-been-a-revelation-because-it's-completely-obvious. You go to fanfiction for what you can't already get everywhere else, and that applies to het just as much as it does to every other kind of fic, doesn't it? The Jade/Dave ficlet above has the kind of deeply personal gender dynamics and shivery exploration of male physical and emotional passivity and vulnerability, without being explicitly about power - just about these two characters and the ways they respond to each other - that I couldn't find in one in a hundred YA romances. It's really fucking hot, and really appealing, and it's human and individual and it's what I read hetfic for. Even though I didn't realise it.

Anyway that was way too many words to say not very much, except that mainstream romance is hopelessly limited and limiting and fandom is awesome and hetfic is important, and also I read a story I really liked last night. YAY \o/

*Which is not to say that people shouldn’t read and write exactly what they want to read and write, or that wanting, say, Elizabeth/Darcy stories with mainstream nineteenth century gender politics and notions of satisfying romance is a less valid fannish desire than wanting Thor/Loki alien incest slash, etc. etc. you know this line and it's really not the point here.


cest_what: (Default)
c'est what

October 2014

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