A Semi-Coherent Rant on Homoerotic Subtext

This is something I’ve talked about before with reference to the Bromance in Teen Wolf. But that was through moderate, restrained and I’m done with that. My temper has snapped and it’s time for a rant.

I am bloody sick over the fawning over shows because of their pathetic subtext. Call it slashwink. Call it “queerbait.” Call it homo-bromance. Call it what you will, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of it being used as a complete replacement for actual GBLTQ content or characters. I’m sick of the massive praise and joy of the latest hint of homoerotic subtext with barely a breath of criticism of the complete and utter erasure those show actually have.

And enough with the fucking “fanon” wish-fulfilment. Slash fans over and over again pretending that the characters are being presented as “bisexual really so it’s INCLUSIVE honest” – of course because it makes their thrice damned ONE TRUE PAIRING canonically possible. Stop! Your desperate attempt to morph the show to fit your fantasy doesn’t make it inclusive or real. Desperately trying to cast Dean as bisexual as canon? Really? And there is no damn indication on the show that Stiles is bisexual (no, Word of Gay doesn’t count, especially when it’s “could maybe, sorta, possibly” slashbait). And if one more person asks me “How did he get the numbers of all those drag queens?” as some kind of proof of his bisexuality, I’m going to scream. He has the numbers because the writers wanted to make a recurring homophobic joke, you clueless fetishists! So they could drag up the drag queens whenever they thought they could get a cheap freaking laugh out of it. The same damn reason they had Stiles fake!come out to his father so he could hit back with a gay joke. It’s not like they didn’t do it before – Scott and Danny dancing, appropriating the hundreds of gay teens who have been evicted from proms for daring not to be closeted – remember that? Yes, mere mention of TEH GAY is considered funny – it’s a homophobic convention that’s been going on since the 60s, if not earlier. Yes it’s old and yes it should have died but it keeps on going – not least  because of slashers grabbing them and jumping up and down with glee over a tired, homophobic, trope.

And don’t tell me that the people who are uncritically squeeing and fawning and praising are the exception. They’re not, they’re really not and, just like with the m/m genre, there’s a distinct lack of criticism of this bullshit and a lot of hostility towards those – especially gay and bi men – who presume to do so. Challenging this subtext is not even slightly the norm.

And yes, the use of subtext instead of inclusion IS BECAUSE OF YOU! Slash is part of the cause! Stop wringing your hands and pretending that slash fandom bears no responsibility for this! That it’s unknown and hidden and why would anyone ever try to direct things at you, the great big secret?! It’s ridiculous to pretend that slash isn’t part of this and then turn round in the same damn breath and be so bloody happy that ZOMG the slashers being TWEETED by the writers of a show and isn’t it amazing?! Or how this actor acknowledged an OTP! Or how you all mobbed a show creator on Twitter and now he’s talking about your pairing! ZOMG!

The writers, the actors, the networks they know about slash. This isn’t new! Or shouldn’t be to you by now! They play to it, all of them. They write the little moments like Stiles passing out on Derek or Castiel talking about his “profound bond” with Dean because they know you’ll lap it up. They produce vids like Tyler Hoechlin cuddling up with Dylan O’Brien on that boat or scenes at conventions like Misha Collins pretending to kiss Sebastian Roche because they know it’s throwing red meat to a large and loud portion of their fanbase. You are having an effect. You are a market they are playing to – and they are playing to you WITHOUT being inclusive because that is sufficient for you.

And don’t tell me this slash fandom is somehow making progress. Supernatural has been running for 8 freaking seasons. Eight. It has openly acknowledged slash in its own canon since season 4. Actual inclusion? Virtually non-existent. Bit characters, usually for comic relief. And why should they do more? They don’t need to be inclusive, and the “offense” risk that brings, because they’ve got a legion of slash fans ready and eager to scream “ZOMG BEST GAY THING EVAH!”

Why make tokens for inclusion cookies anymore? You just have to have hot 2 guys share a lingering look and a gazillion fans will jump up and down panting and hail you as more gay friendly than a rainbow full of glitter covered unicorns. The writers, actors, producers et al are HEARING you, they hear what you’re saying, they see what you’re writing. Congrats, you have been noticed.

But what they’re hearing you say is not “inclusion of GBLTQ people is important,” they’re hearing you say “ZOMG my hot fetish is so hot! Mooooar subtext, rawr!” because that is what you’re saying. Even the protests to make GBLTQ characters canon isn’t “we need some better representation of under-represented GBLTQ characters” it’s far more “MY OTP IS HAWT! I WANT TO SEE IT!”. No-one’s complaining about there being only one GBLTQ character on Teen Wolf and him an under-used token – they’re complaining because they want to see their hawt STEREK!

They’re listening to you – but what the slash community is demanding only pretends to be GBLTQ friendly.

These shows aren’t improving with your slashing. Supernatural, Teen Wolf, Sherlock, Vampire Diaries, Hawaii Five-0, Merlin (and how many others – Being Human UK & US? Grimm? A gazillion more fandom staples) – how many GBLTQ Protagonists? How about main recurring characters?

And this is not only damaging on the inclusion on these shows but it’s also damaging on both criticism and expectation. I’ve seen 2 blogs criticise Teen wolf – rightly – about its crappy depiction of women (we agree, we did too) and it’s awful depiction of race (we agree – and wrote a piece but then Racialicious released their piece a day before, curse our schedule!) and both PRAISED Teen Wolf for its depiction of gay characters. That should be character, of course, single – Danny who only shows up when straight people need something and then for the briefest moment. But hey, he wasn’t been beaten to a pulp! PRO GAY GUYS!!!! This is how low our expectations are – but hey, we got the slashwinks right?

And I’m bloody sick of being asked about boycotting shows for their failed inclusion by people who are loving the damn slashwink bullshit (and completely ignoring GBLTQ erasure in those same shows) – have you seen our watch list? If we boycotted the erased series we wouldn’t have watched half of them – if we don’t include the blatant tokens only a tiny fraction are left!

And don’t even dare to say “baby steps” to me because I am done with that. It is 2012 it’s time to grow the fuck up and start striding – or, since we’ve got so far to catch up – bloody sprinting. We have a media culture that can manage to produce Captain Jack Harkness and openly gay school kids on Glee (for all the many many things wrong with that show), True Blood (for all its many problems) can fit in several gay characters, Lost Girl can have a bisexual protagonist (yes it has problems, but it and Torchwood remain the only programmes I’ve watched not aimed at a GBLTQ audience that actually has us as protagonists). Don’t tell me Supernatural just cannot cannot cannot possibly manage an actual gay character or Teen Wolf couldn’t pull out Danny from the plot box now and then or the Vampire Diaries couldn’t manage a gay character who isn’t putting his straight daughter through torturous conversion therapy while she screams that she’s born this way (yeah that was really fucked up, by the way). Screw your damn baby steps, subtext isn’t a baby step, it’s not even standing still – it’s a great big step backwards to a time when hints were all we can manage. It isn’t the 90s anymore, let’s stop settling for it.

All in all, I am so bloody sick of slashers revelling in, praising and supporting the subtext and completely ignoring or hand waving the erasure and the tokenism. And I am sick of these shows that continually erase us or token us throwing out this subtext and calling it inclusion. We deserve better than this.

9 thoughts on “A Semi-Coherent Rant on Homoerotic Subtext

  1. WHAT. Vampire Diaries did WHAT? Okay yeah I definitely am glad I stopped watching that show when I did.

    I, weirdly enough, never thought of shipping as anything that occurred outside the vacuum of the fandom, but when you lay it out it’s obvious. Especially these days in our increasingly communication-filled world, of course fans and creators have much more direct lines to each other, so of course shippers will have some effect. It’s something to think about, certainly.

    • Yes it did. It was one of those television moments when you watch and think “I’m not seeng this. Seriously I AM NOT SEEING THIS!” andalmost had to re-watch because I couldn’t believe they’d go there

      Shipping and slash has an odd view of itself. It’s often painted as small, very select, very narrow and Not a Big Thing so is Powerless and even oppressed in its own right. Yet at the same time the actors, writers and creators of shows like Supernatural and Teen Wolf (and many more – these are 2 of the most blatant and overt) are clearly pandering directly to them. It’s not an unknown subset any more – it’s a major force of fandom and one that has been both noticed and is INFLUENCING the media creators and being targetted by them (you can see the Twitter fest over the writer of Teen Wolf, for example). Which makes it mcuh more powerful – and able to cause damage with tat power

  2. Wow, that bit with the Vampire Diaries… WOW… that’s horrible.

    And in reading this entry, it’s like I could hear ALL the fangirls screaming your name in denouncement, as well as the complete lack of fucks that you give.

    It really does feel like Captain Jack Harness and Bo from Lost Girl are the only ones who show LGBT people that don’t treat them like total crap in a show that’s not directly aimed at people who identify as LGBT. They’re not perfect, but they’re better than most. Heck, as much as I abhore Scott Pilgrim, the Movie, even that had a gay character who wasn’t treated like crap and who even eventually threw Scott out on his slacker ass, and they show outright that he’s gay, and having a rather awesome, active social life.

    But that was just a single movie as compared to an ongoing TV series.

    Although I’m not innocent either when it comes to subtext and pairing up women in TV shows. Heck, I’m on the Swan Queen ship for Once Upon A Time and I’ve written more than my fair share of fiction.

    • Vampire diaries set a record for sheer insensitive bullshit with that one.

      Oh a whole load of slashers hate me – gay man as a person not an object goes against the grain y’know.

      Those 2 are the only GBLT protagonists in the genres (Speculative fiction) I watch I can think of. Even outside of it, unless it’s a programme directed at us (Queer as Folk, the L Word), an actual GBLT protagonist is so damn rare. Neither are flawless and I don’t like how Lost Girl has always made it clear that, dalliances aside, it’s the man who is slated to be Bo’s twu lub (to say nothing of the casual Nadia death:
      Lauren: Nadia, after years fo work you are finally awake and back with me
      Nadia: Yay I love you!
      Bo: Despite constantly pining after Dyson, I am jealous
      Nadia: Rawr, I am evil!
      Lauren ZOMG EVIL! Bo!
      Bo: I shall stab her with knives!
      Lauren: Yes, make with the stabby of my girlfriend I have been pining for for utter years and sold myself into slavery to save. It’s not like we can’t possibly try to find another solution! It’s not like I haven’t been willing to spend years trying to save her when it fit the plot!
      Bo: *stabby*
      Nadia: *ugh* I’m dead. Was it even worth adding me to the credits? – hey Lauren, don’t geel guilty
      Lauren: Ok. *obligatroy episode of grief* Done now. Moving swiftly on…

      • Wow, I haven’t gotten that far in, having only watched the first season.

        But when I did watch the first season, I did look up what was written about Bo and Lauren’s first time together, near the end, which is all but mandated by a guy, and so it takes away from that first time together as opposed to the twu luv of Bo and Dyson.

        And then, of course… there are the sitcoms. Having seen 3 episodes of Will and Grace, I believe that there is a special hell waiting for those straight guys that wrote those shows as well as others like The New Normal and whatnot.

  3. i think you brought up some really serious and great points here. whether or not i fully agree with them or support/enjoy the idea of slash, especially in teen wolf, some of the things you said really made me think about how television is really affecting us all and the way we view different concepts, like sexuality.

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