Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Shipping News Special: The Great Destiel Debate

Just a warning: I am suffering the hangover from hell so I’ve miss most of the Destiel drama but by reader request I’ll do my best to figure it out. If you’re going to read on then please remember that this is just my personal opinion, you can disagree with me if you want in fact I actively encourage it. Anyway let’s talk about talking about slash shall we.

From what I can gather someone asked Misha a rather direct question about Destiel and he replied with a typically vague answer (as is to be expected about anything shipping related). Then the same person wanted to ask Jensen a similar question and the woman screening the questions said that it would make Jensen uncomfortable. This sparked the age-old debate about whether or not it is appropriate to ask questions about slash. The fandom split, those that think it is uncomfortable to talk about slash and those that think avoiding the topic is homophobic. Let’s talk about that shall we.

I know my life has taken a turn towards all things Sterek but I have always been a firm supporter of the good ship Destiel. In fact it is through my involvement with the Supernatural fandom that I have watched the attitude towards slash shift dramatically in the last 5 years. Gone are the days of hushed whispers and secret clubs, slash fandom has come out of the shadows shouting, “notice us” but not everyone is happy about it.

Back in the day you were lucky if one brave individual would stand up at convention and as an extremely vague metaphorical question about possible homoerotic tension. Nowadays slash is one of the most talked about topics to the extent that it’s kind of annoying. There are only so many times you can listen to the same unsubstantial answer to the question: how do you think character A feels about character B? But that’s the nature of conventions, they’re like press junkets, it’s just the same people answering the same questions over and over again. Repetitive questions are annoying but inevitable there are only so many things to ask. (Seriously the next person that asks the “deserted island” question is going to get a slap).

While I’m not a fan of anything that could be called censorship, I do understand that screening questions is necessary because there are a lot of creepy assholes out there. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think there is anything inherently creepy about slash… creepy assholes are not exclusive to slash fandom, they are everywhere and they are ruining the fun for the rest of us.

I’ve made my views about talking about shipping pretty clear before but for those of you that are new to Pop Culture is Not Art here’s the gist: It is perfectly acceptable to ask respectful questions about something you are passionate about even if what you are passionate about is homoerotic subtext. As long as you are respectful there is no reason your question should upset or offend the person you are asking.

That said the person you ask is under no obligation to answer your question and really if you are asking about an ongoing series there isn’t much they can actually tell you. They can’t sink ships because that ruins the fun for everyone (also you should never say never) and they can’t confirm it because that’s spoilers. All they can really give us vague unspecific answers but that’s something fans have to get used to.

Look, I don’t know the details. I wasn’t there, I don’t know what the question was exactly, or what other questions had already been suggested. This whole drama has come out of hearsay but that doesn’t mean that the issues raised are any less relevant.

People have been jumping out of the woodwork talking all kinds of nonsense about whether or not it’s homophobic for Jensen to screen questions about Dean’s sexuality. As I said above, there should be no reason for anyone to be upset or offended by questions about queer ships – if you have been respectful and they are uncomfortable then that is their issue, not yours. Of course the big disclaimer there is respect, questions that are deliberately designed to make someone uncomfortable (such as: leading and/or overtly sexual questions) are not cool.

The thing is, there is a fundamental problem with the fact that so many people think it’s acceptable for an actor to feel uncomfortable answering questions about the possibility of a homosexual romance. That’s not acceptable. A lot of the fandom’s responses to this drama have been unacceptable (I saw someone suggest that talking about Destiel might make Jensen uncomfortable because it would mean thinking about his close friends sexually… I just, do you not understand the concept of acting?)

The underlying homophobia in patriarchal society should never be dismissed and the way that fandom thinks it is acceptable for an actor to be uncomfortable talking about queer sexualities is incredibly problematic. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable but we need to think about what it is about slash that makes it so unnerving.

I don’t want to defend this ideology in anyway, it’s not good, but without knowing the exact circumstances I am unable to condemn anyone’s behavior. Personally I think in this instance it comes from previous experience. There have been a number of creepy assholes asking Destiel (or sexuality) related questions in the past so by stopping people from asking those questions it lowers the chance of inappropriate interactions. It’s more about the bad reputation fellow slash fans have created rather than the fact that Jensen is unwilling to discuss his characters sexuality or slash pairings. But as I said above I don’t know the specifics.

It’s a privilege that we get to interact with our favourite performers in this way, and if we keep acting like creepy assholes we’re going to lose it. But for the last time, talking about slash in a respectable manner is NOT being a creepy asshole! It’s perfectly reasonable to ask about something that matters to you and there is no denying that shipping matters to a lot of us.

Then again the practice of screening questions should be used to prevent repetition – it’s super boring when a bunch people ask the same thing – but it should not be used for censorship. But just because I don’t condone censorship doesn’t give you license to say whatever the hell you want… I keep saying it but for goodness sake please be respectful, because this is not a slash fan problem this is a creepy asshole problem.

And that is all my hangover-ridden brain and handle at the moment. Just remember I am not on top form.

I’ll be back later in the week with more Shipping News