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Racism Within Comic Book Fandoms...AKA White Rabid Fan Girls Hating Black Love Interests...

I’m not really a fan of comic books, but I do enjoy the genre when various comic book adaptations end up on TV. Well with the exception of that fucking awful Iron Fist, I mean, who the fuck thought it was a good idea having The Mortal Iron Fist being played by the whitest white man you’ll ever come across, I mean the guy couldn’t even fucking… you know what, this isn’t about that shit show. Ahem.  Moving on.

Anyway, as I was saying, I really enjoy watching comic book TV shows – well, as long as they have black people on them that is. Gone are the days when I watch TV that doesn’t have proper representation. With very few exceptions, I’m no longer watching TV that don’t include POCs in meaningful roles.  As I declared on Twitter, I’m rooting for everybody black these days. Shout out to Issa Rae

Anyway, I was sent a link to a series of opinion pieces, written by a British blogger called Vivian. The basis of these blog posts were  about the rampant racism within the comic fandom community, especially the racism as it pertains to the first and only black leading lady on a DCTV show. Iris West, or Iris West-Allen as she’s known these days, something that apparently drives the white RFGs who watch the show, batty as fuck. Heh.

The first post was entitled Not Just an OTP: An Ugly Truth and a Confession, and honestly, it’s one of the best things I’ve read in a while.

The disclaimers at the beginning of the blog post made me laugh out loud: Here’s a couple of examples:

2) This second half is about racism, written by a Black woman. I talk about white people. I talk about white women. I talk about white supremacy. I talk about racism, sexism, and misogyny. I talk about the elitism and entitlement of nerd fandom. I talk about the presence and weaponization of white femininity. I talk about racial hierarchies within fandom. I talk about misogynoir. I talk about police brutality. I talk about Taylor Swift, Maria Sharapova, and Miley Cyrus. If any of these topics cause you pain, do not read any further. If any of these topics cause you anger, do not read any further. If any of these topics prompt you to use the words/phrases tumblrina, SJW, special snowflake, race-baiter, race card, libtard, “you’re the REAL racist,” or anything similar, do not read any further.

7) Also, if you happen to be, say, a white woman, and you don’t do one of the things that I say white women do, I’m not talking about you. I’m talking specifically about the white women who do those things. Seeing as I don’t have enough words, consider this my blanket “not all men/white women/people who hate X character for whatever reason are Y.”

Lol, yeah, and anybody who wanders onto this blog by accident, that goes for you too.

Vivian writes:

We finally came to look at subtext, and how what writers weave underneath their explicit storytelling can lead people to see potential for romantic relationships. However, it’s at this point that the similarities between Olicity and Snowbarry stop. Because when it comes to Subtext, Olicity shippers use what’s going on in the show to justify their shipping, while Snowbarry shippers are notorious for either misinterpreting what happens or making up scenarios to support what they want to happen. Because they want to ship Barry with Caitlin, they use any excuse to say that they’re in love. One of the reasons they do this is because they don’t like Iris. And one of the reasons they don’t like her is because she’s Black.

I’m not racist, you sigh deeply, already penning a four-thousand-word paper in your defence, I just don’t like Iris. She’s a badly-written character. She has no chemistry with Barry. She’s a bitch. She’s not a scientist. She doesn’t belong in STAR Labs. It’s not racism. It has nothing to do with her skin colour. I wouldn’t like her if she were green with purple polka dots.

The part about not being a scientist struck me hard. There’s a certain kind of snobbery that exists within these fandoms when it comes to which women are acceptable and which aren’t when it comes to comics, and some of the assholes who consume them. So basically Iris being black and not a scientist/action woman means that the racists would be out in their droves. And the fact that the titular hero loves her? Ha, those heifers would be in their feelings forever, because they just can’t imagine the main love interest being somebody who does not look like them. Apparently they find it easier to identify with a blue-skinned alien woman, than with a black skinned human one. Go figure. That racism shit is deep, man.

Vivian continues:

As you may have noticed, I’m Black and a woman, so all of these arguments are old news to me. I’ve always been morbidly fascinated with the reaction of fans who are called racist for not liking Iris. There’s generally fervent denial, first of all. Most of the time they’ll respond with what I just wrote, followed by how they like Cisco, or Joe, or Wally. Which is my first problem with fandom’s definition of racism. You see, when someone hears “you’re racist,” they tend to assume the accuser thinks they descend into ferocious fits of uncontrollable rage whenever a person who is visibly non-white dares to be onscreen. And that think that because they don’t, they can’t be racist and so their reasons are perfectly valid.

This, to be quite frank, is bullshit.

It’s always fascinated me how blind white people, and some non-black POCs are about their mostly obvious racism. I mean, it’s 2018 for fuck’s sake, and I still hear white people say shit like “I can’t possibly be racist, I like *insert another POC character who doesn’t affect their worldview*. Of course they like Joe or Wally – those characters don’t upset their standing in quite the same way that Iris does. They aren’t trying to imagine those characters or the actors themselves shagging them. So many of the female fans of The Flash are here because they find Grant Gustin hot, (listen, each to their own, but man Grant Gustin is as average a white man as you can get, so I just can’t relate) and they want to imagine themselves in place of the *usually generic white woman who ends up playing the love interest*. Iris being black affects that. They don’t look like her, and they just can’t fathom that this character that they lust after, is madly in love with the brown/black girl.

Vivian continues:

When people say “Snowbarry shippers are racist,” shippers take this to mean “Snowbarry shippers hate Iris and don’t ship Westallen because Iris is Black, and they hate Black people.” What they actually mean is “Snowbarry shippers don’t like Iris and don’t ship Westallen because Iris occupies a position normally reserved for white women. Iris does not adhere to the stereotypical portrayal of Black women in entertainment, so they are uncomfortable because they can’t point to stereotypes to deem her unworthy – though they still try. Moreover, because of the lack of Black women as leads, they find it harder to identify with her, latching onto the nearest white woman instead.

So much this. I remember watching Merlin, and scratching my head at the sheer number of fans who shipped Arthur and Morgana, despite firstly, there being no suggestion that Arthur was ever into her like that, and secondly, their familial ties to each other. I guarantee that those people who bitch and moan about West Allen being incesty, (despite the fact that canon has Barry being in love with his non-related friend Iris, before he ever moved in with them) are the same fucking moronic assholes who shipped Arthur and Morgana, and even more recent, I bet they’re the same wankers who think that Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow are the ship to end all ships. You know I’m right.

I watched the latest episode of The Flash last night, and there was a white female meta character who Barry and his team had captured in the season four opener. I forget her name, but she was the only character out of all the metas who empathized with Barry, and I know as sure as I’ve ever known anything in my life, that those racist Flash fans would have been running all over the internet proclaiming that Barry had more chemistry with her than he had with Iris. I know I’m right, because a lot of white people are predictable as fuck.

These fans are not racist because they don’t like Iris for being Black; they are racist because their actions towards her and discourse about her show that they are opposed to the position that she as a Black woman is occupying. Their ingrained bias means she’s held to a higher standard, they do not allow her to have feelings, they think she is unworthy of the love of a lead character, and they would rather she be demoted in place of the white woman on the show.”

Sleepy Hollow’s Abby Mills anybody?

But I’m not racist, you cry, missing the point entirely. Racism is not a part-time occupation that you grow out of just because you’ve watched all of Fresh Prince. If you grew up in a society where Black people are subject to harsher rules than their white counterparts, where most of the leads on network television are white with “diversity” roughly translating to one white woman and one Black man, where Black people on science fiction/fantasy shows are usually the first to be sacrificed – you are capable of racist behaviours.

I want to throw up an A-fucking-men gif right about now.

But I’m a person of colour, you point out, naively assuming that there are get of jail free cards for being racist, I can’t be racist! While I do congratulate you on your status as a person of colour, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be racist. In fact, you can be just as racist as white people, you just lack their power. Because when you are a non-Black PoC, chances are that you recognise that Black people are at the bottom of hierarchy and you are somewhere in the middle. Thanks to white supremacy, you know that you can tear down Black people in order to elevate yourself. The attitude of white people to this – thanks to a mixture of the history of slavery, colourism, and classism – pretty much boils down to “at least they’re not Black.” It’s why some fans pretend to love Linda Park (played by Malese Jow, who is half Chinese American and part Cherokee) but never actually talk about her. They would prefer Barry to be with a white girl, but hey, at least she’s not Iris. It’s why much of the racism Iris receives is from the Latin American and Asian portions of the fandom, where anti-Black racism is rampant. The racism she receives is anti-Black, which means that it is, you guessed it, exclusive to Black people. And society is rather good at being racist to Black people.

Listen….back when I used to watch Merlin, the one time I went looking for spoilers, I happened to wander into a cesspool full of hateful Merlin fans, I noticed that there were quite a few Brazilian/Portuguese rabids on there who were writing the most dreadful things about Angel Coulby. One of them even called her an ugly gorilla who needed to die. I was so shocked. That shit hurt my soul, because I just automatically assumed that these people would be rooting for the black woman and the black character, but nope, some of these motherfuckers are more racist than your average white person.

Vivian goes on to post various screencaps of the abuse that Candice Patton has received, as well as the comments made by racist fans about Iris West. Check some of them out:

The terrible thing is, this isn’t even the really bad stuff. This is pretty harmless in comparison with what comes later.

Anyway, it’s a terrific, insightful piece of writing, so I urge you to pop on over and have a read of the whole thing.

I will be posting the second part of Vivian’s opinion piece shortly.

1 Comment »

  • a) So happy to see you posting again!

    b) Oh the racism in ALL fandoms (every-fucking-where, actually), and the vacuous way people will pretend they are not racist (or misogynists) with the whole, “Oh, I support Black women, just not *this* Black woman.” Which is so much bullshit, it’s breathtaking.

    Off to read Vivian’s piece now.


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