You see the worst (and sometimes best, but usually worst) side of fandoms when you’re on Tumblr. I remember soon after Lexa was introduced during season two of The 100, the fandom began to ship Lexa and Clarke. Soon the tag #Clexa was everywhere, as were gifsets detailing all the times they had – you know, looked at each other. Then, roughly halfway through the season, Lexa hinted having at a former (now dead) girlfriend, and the fandom went nuts. They couldn’t gif Lexa without screaming over her ‘heart eyes at Clarke’ or praising the ‘sexual tension.’
And then Lexa kissed Clarke, and Clarke kissed her back. And I thought, “Wait, what?” Not necessarily because two girls had kissed (it is a CW show, after all) – but because up till then, we had zero indication that Clarke was interested in Lexa in any way beyond the political. (Yes, the Clexa shippers will say ‘but look at the way she GAZED LOVINGLY at Lexa there’ but if we’re being realistic, Clarke had literally just killed her boyfriend, Finn, when Lexa kissed her. And also, Clarke had better things to do than fall in love, as shown over and over – and over – again throughout the show.) I was shocked at the sudden ‘HEYO, CLARKE IS BISEXUAL!’ bomb – not necessarily because it happened, but because there was no build-up. Except…well, in the fandom. And all the #Clexa hashtags. And all the gifsets. And all the articles fans were writing about how it ‘needed to happen.’
And I thought, “Holy cow, the fandom literally bullied the showrunners into this.”
It was considered a huge win for the LGBT+ community, and people praised the show for representing the queer community. The fandom went nuts. Clexa became a more popular pairing than the first season’s main ship, Bellarke (Bellamy + Clarke).
The thing that annoyed me most was the sloppy writing. Where Bellamy and Clarke had history and mutual character development built on shared experience, Clarke and Lexa had disagreement after betrayal after disagreement, and then suddenly – love. In order to bow to the wishes of the fandom, the show sacrificed good writing. (Maybe if we’d had another season or even half-season, it could have been more believable, but we didn’t have that.)
Soon after, Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters, and the fandom said, “Look, Poe gave Finn his jacket. Look, Poe hugged Finn. Look, Poe bit his lip. POE DAMERON IS GAY AND NOBODY CAN TELL US OTHERWISE.” And suddenly, Gay!Poe was everywhere. In fanart, in fanfiction, in headcannons spinning everywhere as the fandom enthusiastically (and sometimes aggressively) pushed their decision: Poe Dameron was gay.
Soon after, the release date for episode eight of Star Wars was pushed back for ‘re-filming,’ and J. J. Abrams announced gay characters were coming to the Star Wars universe. By this point, it would be uneconomical for Poe not to be gay – simply because if he wasn’t, the fanbase would riot and the franchise would lose money.
We’ve seen ‘hints’ get thrown around more frequently since BBC’s Sherlock aired and ‘Johnlock’ began to be shipped everywhere. We’ve seen Supernatural flirt with the idea of ‘Destiel’ since fans began to shout about how Castiel and Dean were oh-so-definitely in love because they care about each other. [I’m also fed up with every same-sex relationship getting labeled ‘gay’ simply because it’s intimate. There are so many kinds of relationships that go far deeper than sexuality, and reducing everything to a romantic ship is childish. But this is a bigger subject for another time.]
These days, social media is both a blessing and a curse to fandoms, as it allows fans to interact with The Powers That Be in very personal, immediate, and sometimes overwhelming ways. Between Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, showrunners , directors, and actors are constantly getting feedback from fanbases. Gone are the days of writing letters to studios – nowadays you can just fire off a Tweet and start a trending hashtag.
When Lexa died a very sloppy and poorly-written death on The 100, the fandom went nuts. The hashtag #LGBTFansDeserveBetter trended across the internet, and the next episode of the show featured the lowest ratings in the show’s history. This is the kind of power the fanbase wields – and as a result, we’re seeing showrunners, writers, and directors get literally bullied into bowing to the wishes of fans. Fandoms are forcing those in charge to bend to their will in the name of ‘representation’ and ‘social issues’, or else risk losing support to the detriment of the show/movie in question.
In order to give fans what they want (and not risk losing their jobs), the Powers That Be are being forced to bow to whatever the fanbase is clamoring for. Sometimes this is a good thing, but usually…well, it isn’t. Even if the fanbase is clamoring for a legitimate thing, the violence with which they take up arms for and/or against a thing is showing us a new type of fandom bullying. Whether you’re calling for representation in the name of social justice, or whether you just really didn’t like that last thing your favorite show did – bullying is childish and irresponsible, no matter what you call it. Watching a favorite show/franchise/etc. bend over backwards to acquiesce to an outraged fandom doesn’t make me want to applaud – it makes me want to ditch the show/franchise/etc. Both because of the weak will of those in charge, and the nasty ‘our way or the highway’ attitude of the fandom.
In short; I’d honestly just like it if fans returned to being fans, and stopped trying to write whatever story they claim to love (but really don’t, unless they get their way every time). Either enjoy the story, or stop watching it and go find something else you love.
[And yes, I’ve been very frustrated with fandoms in general recently, although I don’t know how you can tell.]