Fandom: Case Study

Fandom: Star Wars; Particularly a nice corner bases of the now Legends/Extended Universe series Republic Commando.

Cohesion Tactics: Enforcing cultural or social norms, Punishing infractions

Incident Summary: Gena and Izzy’s calling out on Dakka and Vik’s bigotry is faced with silence and/or antagonism by those who “support” Vik, claiming critical critique of the writing/fandom is reflective to inherent racism/misogyny in the fanbase/fandom is “ruining their fun” and that as nonwhite fans simply “hate white people”. Gena and Izzy’s “supporters” continue to be critical and informative about the fandom in general through their writing, while getting personally attacked and mocked, even more actively in recent due to genderfluid and trans fans creating headcanons (fan theories) making certain characters trans or genderfluid. As of this writing the events are still currently playing out with no possible end.

Big Name Fans:

  • Gena (ordowennen/nullclass)
  • Izzy (izzyovercoffee/tapcaftogo)
  • Vik (merliaseidon/andriktheunsmiling/trackaflitnat)

Tertiary Fans Involved:

  •  Dakka (Antagonized Gena at first, could be said to be the catalyst of the following chain of events)
  • Kaz, Bobbie, CJ, and Rev (people targeted by Vik due to their relationship with Izzy/Gena)
  •  Zach, Jacen (People not targeted by Vik but have spoken up against their racism/transmisogyny)
  • Ace (Supports Vik, recently targeting Izzy following the events of August 2017)

The first event started over Skype in June 2016. Gena was creating in their words, an “aggressively nonwhite fan cast” (fan chosen people to act/represent the characters) for characters in the Republic Commando series and asking for suggestions.

While some people in the chat had given them suggestions, Dakka (who was a known troll and despite it seemed to manage to stay within the group), stated to accuse Gena of being racist against white people.

Gena and Izzy (who are nonwhite), were merely seeking to create something that was closer to their identity in a very white-heavy fandom.  (This could be seen as an example of contemporary fandoms as identity). When Dakka continued targeting Gena and Izzy with the intent of proving nonexistent reverse racism, the chat did nothing to curb it. Instead Vik left, and escalated to open aggression when Gena, Izzy, and a third chat member tried to continue the conversation. Gena and Izzy were booted from the group by Dakka, citing they needed a “timeout”.  They were invited back, but promptly left due to their mistreatment.

After that, Gena was blocked by Vik and she wrote a statement regarding the matter on her Tumblr blog. Izzy, frustrated at the general silence of the chat group on Dakka’s open antagonism, and refusal to cut ties or even acknowledge it, responded in kind with a Tumblr post of their own after their departure. [1]

This further escalated to each Gena, Izzy, and Vik placing statements on their character’s blogs about the schism and that they would no longer interact with people who supported or wrote with Vik or Dakka. This is actually fairly common phenomena in Tumblr roleplay, specifically in larger fandoms. While useful as a heads up, it can also be a point of contention in a smaller fandom group like this.

Izzy and Gena’s additions:

Comapred to Vik’s:

Since the dispute, and the blocking on skype and Tumblr, Vik began dismissing their genuine concerns and criticisms as “ruining their fun”. In the months following the fall out, Vik would continue to make passive aggressive posts about them (known on Tumblr as “vagueblogging”), and began mocking people in the public character tags on their headcanons, but was particularly harsh towards posters they knew were in the same circle as Izzy and Gena.

For example, Rev writes as the main character, Etain, a character many of the fan base feels was poorly written and not handled well. They “fix the canon” of sorts by creating headcanon (fan theories) that help mitigate the rather inconsistent characterization in the novels and makes her more than just a convenient love interest for one of the other characters. In the series she becomes pregnant, and has to handle the matter as well as being a general at war. She is treated unkindly by the child’s grandfather, a man who is clearly emotionally abusive under the guise of love in some cases.  Parts of the fandom (mostly the male part), treats him with great sympathy. Vik aggressively makes (misogynistic) posts about the female character and that her pregnancy was just her being selfish, forcing herself upon the child’s father. Going further, blaming the criticism of the abusive character on “daddy issues” and their supposed hatred against cisgendered white males. ”

Vik was so incensed that they even went so far as to making posts about their real life, citing if their actions and such online were any indication of how they were in real life, that would be laughed out/fail in their careers of choice. Also making posts, and then consciously editing them afterwards in attempts to make either Gena or Izzy look less sympathetic.

It should be known that neither Izzy of Gena has actively sought out Vik and company since their break away from the group but both still write fandom critical posts in the public character tags. While they vagueblogged back; they have only kept it in regards to the nature of fandom itself, despite Vik’s constant antagonism. Several of the tertiary fans of the group like Zach too have written similar critical posts in regards, and were not faced with as much antagonism as it would have been Gena or Izzy, but nonetheless have been targeted because of “which side they chose” in the schism.[2]  They also no longer were actively role playing on their blogs and more or less left the roleplay aspect in order to give space, and just writing headcanon and theory on their personal blogs.

Gena, only after months of incidents, finally openly addressed Vik via a call out post, linked because it is far much easier than to screencap.[3] (Which was sort of the inspiration for this case study.) On Tumblr, a callout post is a post documenting the events and providing cited sources on a person’s actions and behavior, usually meant to warn others and to some extent, publically shame. It is a way for members in a fandom to punish infractions and/or enforce social norms. Outside of the callout, neither has actively gone out their way to provoke Vik, who seems to be an antagonistic force for someone who claims to be in the fandom for fun.

What had triggered this was in August 2017, Vik began mocking people in a specific character tag. They had stated a post about how one of the characters was more genderfluid and another could be trans.[4], [5].  Feeling threatened by the general support of these theories by others , Vik began targeting the two again, saying their headcanons only diminished the character to some caricature, disregarding that many of the writers writing and accepting these headcanons are LGBTQIA+. They would later backtrack and write a rather disingenuous post about accepting some of the headcanons, but made no attempts to stop provoking Gena and Izzy.  Currently Izzy is handling with Ace, who is now claiming that the two of them are responsible for chasing away people in the fandom for their constant need to call out bigotry in the fandom being equated to gatekeeping or bullying.

So, every clearly the moment of this writing, the issue is still going on, and unfortunately as this is nebulous world of Tumblr, there is no outside third party to police this, leaving it upon the community itself, which is already heavily divided into camps. As this is a rather heavy issue too, I don’t see it every really being resolved. Simply that the nonwhite and LGBTQIA+ fans will simply try to keep to their own and stay vigilant against those trying to enforce the “norms” of the fandom, even if they might be racist, misogynistic, queerphobic.

Nonetheless, I believe these events and actions while not entirely positive could be classified as enforcing a cultural norm and punishing infractions. The cultural norm being keeping the Star Wars mostly white and cisgender, and punishing the infraction of headcanoning characters to reflect the nonwhite and LGBTQIA+ writers themselves because they are tired of being underrepresented or misrepresented in the fandom, and reclaiming their own space in it. Likewise, the conflict back could be punishing the infraction based on societal norms, pressuring the fandom to change with the times and fan base, given that modern fandom is utilizing fandom as identity, it is not surprising to see many characters reinterpreted as nonwhite or somewhere under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.

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