So here’s the thing. I write fan fiction. (If you don’t know what this is, go here.1)
I’ve been writing fanfic for years, really, starting with a long, long, desperately long and self-indulgent Star Wars…thing or things that just has so many disturbing overtones of my abusive ex that I kind of can’t deal with it; middling with Gundam Wing because I had a friend who was into it and then she turned out to be a duplicitous individual and that went south; and now I mostly write Supernatural fic although I read all sorts of fandoms and pairings.
At the minute, I exclusively write a pairing known in the fandom (for the sake of brevity) as Destiel.2 I’ve written almost 100 fanfics in this pairing. I love doing it. It’s fun, it’s harmless, other people enjoy them, and the pairing makes a very happy space in my head and, to be quite honest with you, I don’t have that many of those. I’m not saying it’s a philosophically unalloyed uber-good or anything; I’m saying it makes me happy and it’s fun and that’s why I do it.
I do not do it so a 15-year-old boy can get bullied so badly for not being a fan of Destiel that he becomes withdrawn, and his mother and teachers are worried about him.
I do not do it so that people can become so frustrated with a few — a very few — loud obnoxious voices in the pairing’s fandom that they are ready to dismiss all of us as antisocial nutbags.
I have found some of the kindest people I have met in this fandom. People who would never dream of insulting someone else based on what character he likes or doesn’t like. But over the last few months, I have also noticed this trend towards what I can only call extreme fandom bullying. Bullying that leads to people leaving a fandom they love, something that they found support or comfort or straight-up amusement in and that’s not right. I have heard stories about people having their Twitter accounts wiped or banned; I have heard about people being reported at ‘cons because they said they liked a ‘ship someone else did not; and I have heard more times than I want to about someone getting shit online for saying what they like.
I can’t answer the ‘What is the point?’ question about bullying. I have no idea what the point is meant to be or even if there is one. Why would you want to make someone else who enjoys the same things you do miserable? Yes, we all go back and forth over favorite characters, favorite episodes, favorite moments — but the point is to share, to appreciate, to enjoy, not to mock or belittle or abuse.
I can’t answer this question, but I can say, as a Destiel shipper, as a Supernatural fan, as a Doctor Who fan, as a general fandom person, that I think this is wrong. This is not how we should be engaging with each other over things that we love. Fandom is about loving something — maybe a little more than someone not in the fandom understands — but that’s what the rest of the fandom is here for: we understand. We know what it’s like to stay up all night watching a season on DVD because you just have to know what happens to your favorite character. We know what it’s like to need a box of tissues to mourn the death of someone who never existed. And we know what it’s like to cheer because your heroes finally get the good moment they deserve.
So I think this kind of bullying, harassing, cruel behavior has no place in Supernatural fandom or in any other fandom. I have my own ideas about what we could do to intervene; I think a good start might be something like a fandom ‘safe space,’ analogous to those created in the “real world” for at-risk folks. I also want to hear from you. This isn’t something that I — or anyone else — can fix on her own, so lets figure it out. Have you been fan-bullied? fan-policed out of enjoying yourself? have you seen it happen to your friends? what do we need in order to stop it, lessen it, or support those to whom it has happened?
1. A few other terms that might come in handy: ‘slash’ indicates a pairing as in ‘Mulder/Scully.’ It’s just shorthand, don’t freak out. These days, folks mostly seem to run with mashups of character names: Johnlock (John Watson/Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock), Polivia (Peter Bishop/Oliva Dunham, Fringe), Thoki (Thor/Loki, Thor), Naudrey (Nathan Wuornos/Audrey Parker, Haven), etc. This habit can lead to unfortunateness; work out for yourself what the canon pairing in The Hunger Games ‘verse, Peeta and Katniss, comes to. A pairing may also be referred to as a ‘ship — short of ‘relationship.’ This has also been turned into a verb as in “I ship Peter/Olivia” or “I shipped that so hard.”
Back in the day when I started reading fic — the late ’90s — ‘slash’ almost always referred to male/male pairings. Use has changed and ‘slash’ refers to pretty much any pairing but I tend to regress and use it for m/m out of habit. ‘M/M’ is ‘male/male’; betcha can’t guess what ‘f/f’ is and if you don’t know what a fandom is, then why are you here?
2. For those not in the fandom, this translates to Dean Winchester/Castiel. If you need an explanation of what Supernatural is, go Google it and don’t say I didn’t warn you. (But take my advice and don’t do an image search until you’re fully prepared to face the consequences.)
There are plenty of other pairings in Supernatural, including Wincest (Dean Winchester/Sam Winchester); Sabriel (Sam Winchester/Gabriel); Wincestiel (Sam Winchester/Dean Winchester/Castiel); and Megstiel (Meg/Castiel) to name a few. Yes, they’re all a little silly sounding but, like all shorthand things, they’re also pretty fun. And we don’t have a Peeta/Katniss problem.