As I was casually strolling through the Space Husbands tag on Tumblr I stumbled across a post about Zachary Quinto being shown graphic slash fanart and I immediately had terrible flashbacks to Martin Freeman on the Graham Norton Show. Geekiary staff can attest to the fact I was raging about it before I even even clicked play. In fact I didn’t even WANT to hit play… but my willpower is weak and I watched it.
And wow, my opinion was completely the opposite of what I was expecting it to be. I actually enjoyed that clip. So what was different? Why did Martin Freeman’s experience bother me, but Quinto’s make me smile? Well, lots of reasons…
Lets start with who’s participating in this discussion. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is a single homophobic bone in Martin Freeman’s body. I firmly believe he’s an ally, but he is (most likely) straight and the angle of that clip seemed to be “hey Martin! Look at your character kissing another man!” Now Graham Norton, the presenter of that infamous Freeman clip, is a gay man himself, but I find that does little to alleviate my discomfort when there is a room full of people giggling and booing at a picture of two men kissing. Words used to describe it was “wrong” and “appalling.” The crowd groaned and booed and was definitely not on board with it. The entire thing took a turn for the uncomfortable very quickly and it’s pretty hard to watch.
In the Quinto clip we have Quinto, a gay man, Alyson Hannigan, who played one of the most famous lesbians in TV history, and host Andy Cohen, the first openly gay host of a late night talk show. At no point in the Quinto clip did I feel that homosexuality was something that was being made fun of. In fact, Quinto even says that the My Little Pony fan art was “even weirder” than the slash fanart. Yes, ok, he’s admitting that he finds the fanart a little weird here, but explicit fanart in general is a little unusual to most people. The reactions of the guests, host, and audience for this clips make me feel like the gay thing is a-okay with this crowd. A little bit blush worthy, maybe, but not something to boo over.
To give you some perspective about where I’m coming from, I am a slash fan, yes, but I also consider myself queer. The actual term for my sexuality is “pansexual,” but I find that I’m most comfortable just using the word queer as a general umbrella term towards my interest. When the topic of slash is brought up in public, it’s not just a critique on something I (not so) quietly enjoy as a hobby, but on the very real issues of homophobia and biphobia that I have to deal with so often in my life. When these phobias leak into my fandom life, things get uncomfortable. Just a couple of weeks ago a fan brought up her sexuality at a Supernatural convention in New Jersey and was booed away from the microphone. Many in the crowd felt that it was going to be a Dean/Castiel related question or something related to Dean’s subtextual bisexuality, but the fan couldn’t even get the question out before the jeers began. She was intercepted by Jensen and Jared’s body guard and promptly escorted from the auditorium. ‘Uncomfortable’ is an understatement in this situation.
Now I understand not wanting to hear Destiel related questions at every convention, but when a person says “as a bisexual” and then gets booed, the context hardly matters. I don’t care how annoying you find the Destiel question (I rolled my eyes when it was asked at BurCon), but booing someone who has just admitted their sexuality in front of a room of hundreds is never appropriate. I don’t even know if I’d have to courage to say that in front of a crowd, let alone to an actor that she no doubt admires. Then shortly after that incident came the horrifically biphobic comments that began spreading through fandom (“Dean can’t like men, cuz he likes women!”) and it became almost unbearable to participate in fannish things. I had to leave the Internet for a while because it was all just too upsetting.
So when things like the Destiel question at conventions or actors being confronted with fanart on talk shows comes up I worry. I’m afraid there will boos and insults from the crowd. I’m afraid that my happy little fandom place will turn into a storm of bigotry and hate. But with this clip I felt safe. They played “Sci Fi or Oh My” and had to guess if a picture was a normal sci fi picture or “sexy.” When the first picture flashed across the screen the crowd…. cheered. They cheered and whistled and applauded. They didn’t boo at it. Quinto and Hannigan were all smiles and the host seemed to be genuinely enjoying the art (“I’d hate to lose that picture!” he shouted as the K/S fanart disappeared). He never once said it was “wrong” or “appalling” or anything else demeaning.
I’m incredibly surprised, but I genuinely enjoyed that clip. I hope that if actors are confronted about slash again in the future it looks more like this interview and not the whole Graham Norton debacle.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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