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[personal profile] gnimaerd
Today I saw something on tumblr that pissed me off.

I haven't talked much about Merlin on here in aaaaages chiefly cause I'm not all that active in the fandom anymore, despite still loving the show and its cast. Also I feel like everything I could say about my issues with it has already been said and really there's no more to add at this stage when I'd rather be focusing on enjoying Merlin for what it is than castigating it for failing to be what I wish it was. 

But there are days when I wish I was a bit more involved in fandom, if only to stop people getting away with shit like this:


(note the tags, btw)

I don't care what anyone says - the fandom is NOT 99% Merlin/Arthur OTP-ers and it grinds my gears when slashers insist on this idea, because it's an incredibly arrogant thing to claim and essentially erases my experiences and contributions to the fandom - and the experiences and contributions of a lot of my friends - as someone who couldn't give less of a crap about Arthur and Merlin's relationship.

Besides which, it patently isn't true for anyone who has bothered to step outside of the Arthur/Merlin bubbles that exist in the fandom as a whole. I would suspect Arthur/Merlin shippers DO constitute the majority, don't get me wrong, but not by that much. My rough estimation is 50% Merlin/Arthur shippers, 30% Arthur/Gwen shippers and 20% everyone else, and of those Arthur/Merlin shippers I'd guess many of them are multishippers who, even if their main interest is Merlin/Arthur, do enjoy other elements of the show. 

Beyond that, it's completely laughable to think that the majority of Merlin's VIEWERSHIP is only interested in Arthur and Merlin's relationship. I'm sorry but the fandom, which is much more diverse than these people are claiming anyway, probably numbers hundreds of thousands. The viewership, meanwhile, numbers MILLIONS. Proportionally, the fandom is a tiny fraction of Merlin's actual audience and the slashers have no business claiming to speak for 99% of them.

Ultimately, however, this claim is actually irrelevant - and THAT is what drove me to reblog with the wee mini meta essay I did, on the politics of inclusion in mass media and the history of romance/hero narratives in western culture. 

There is, in essence, a REASON why myself and so many others insist on the importance of the inclusion of women on this show and it has nothing to do with what a bunch of privileged straight girls want to fuel their porn with. 

This is what I responded with:

I may regret doing this but this quote (indeed the entire review) has been rubbing me the wrong way for a good hour now so to hell with it. I’m wading in.

Marginalising a female character to prioritise a homosocial relationship, fun as the subtext is, is seriously problematic for me. The women on this show are marginalised enough as it is - their relationships with each other are given fractional screen time compared to their relationships with the men on the show and their relationships with the men  are always second fiddle to the male characters’ relationships with each other.

I am here to tell you guys, as a queer girl and an english literature student currently writing a dissertation in part about how medieval romances are almost entirely homosocial, that the way Merlin prioritises the Arthur/Merlin relationship over every other relationship on the show is not progressive, nor would it be progressive if they did it any more than they already do. It’s regressive and at its core it relates to one of the oldest, most misogynistic tropes in the history of western hero narratives. This shit has been happening for a very, very long time. Men get stories and male/male relationships sit at the heart of them and women become objects within those stories, effecting those relationships, without being allowed any agency of their own.

This means that women as people in their own right cease to exist in these narratives - there are only men, and ‘others’ (women) who get in the way of male/male relationships. It also means that queer women UTTERLY cease to exist. (Indeed, we have never existed in these narratives. Ever. Which is why, problematic as her arc has been, I love Morgana, as a woman who can arguably be read as queer, for at least being SEEN in this sort of story. But we’ll get to how even that isn’t really mitigating damage done elsewhere in the way this show treats female/female relationships in a moment). 

So no, not every fan is watching Merlin for the boys. Not every fan is pulling for their ‘happy ending’ and not every fan wants to see the Arthur/Merlin relationship prioritised over every other one on the show. The vast majority may be pulling for an Arthur/Merlin canon but the vast majority don’t know shit about the politics of representation and the history of misogyny associated with romances and hero narratives, especially Arthurian ones. The majority (statistically) are straight girls with straight privilege who have been socialised to consider male/male relationships more complex and interesting than female/male or female/female ones their entire lives. 

I see every minute Gwen (in particular) spends on screen as a victory. Every moment when the men on the show consider a relationship with a woman more important than a relationship with a man is a relief, and every second Gwen and Morgana were allowed to relate to each other independent of any male character was a fucking MIRACLE back when it was still happening at all. 

Your slash does not trump women’s rights to fair representation, especially not on a show that officially has a higher proportion of female viewers than male (according to the BBC statistics I’m not meant to have access to but have my sources for thanks to a mate of mine) . And your slash certainly doesn’t trump my right, as a queer girl, to see female/female subtext that comes from a source other than TEH EVUL. I mean, it should tell you something, when the show’s main female homosocial relationship is also the source of the show’s Big Bad in the Morgana/Morgause dynamic, whilst the main male homosocial relationship is held up as this paradigm of all that is good and true.



I think this as close as I have come to coherently summing up my feelings on the issue in the last couple of years, tbh. I love Merlin. I think this show is pretty fucking fantastic, actually, whatever its detractors. But that wont stop me saying over and over that the Merlin/Arthur dynamic is over-emphasised to a damaging degree and that the show would be better and frankly far more interesting and original if it would give the women some space to develop in their own right.

Take for instance, the fact that NEITHER of the main girls are in this Saturday's episode. I think that's utterly appalling because would we ever get an episode that didn't feature either of the boys? Or featured them only in a few scenes in which they exclusively interact with women and carry out actions that will effect women or have been effected by women?

Hells no. So why are the women being treated like that? It's unnecessary and frustrating and frankly just kinda unoriginal. 

Date: 2011-10-20 07:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eviinsanemonkey.livejournal.com
*applauds you*

(I keep trying to articulate something beyond "this", but that's really all I got, so, THIS!!)

Date: 2011-10-20 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
heh well that's all I really need - POSITIVE AFFIRMATION IS GOOD. :P

Date: 2011-10-20 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eviinsanemonkey.livejournal.com
indeed!

and now I want to continue my Merlin rewatch so I can write angsty Gwen/Morgana fix-it fics...(and some fluff, because there is never enough fluff xD)

also, did I mention your dissertation sounds fascinating? I meant to, but I think I forgot to...

Date: 2011-10-20 08:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
I FULLY SUPPORT THIS AMBITION TO WRITE ANGST AND/OR FLUFFY GWEN/MORGANA FIX-ITS.

...i'm increasingly tempted to try some myself, despite having written no fic AT ALL in about a year now.

And thanks! I'm doing 'the voice of the female lover in medieval literature' and the first third or so of it is basically looking like it'll be a deconstruction of courtly romances and how they are actually ENTIRELY about male/male relationships. The woman in those texts has little if any agency and is usually just standing in for her husband's penis as something the rival lover needs to conquer. It's ALL about how the male characters relate to each other - the woman's desires are never taken into account. Indeed the romances I'm studying actually take their titles from the two main male characters rather than the hero and the heroine - kinda says it all. :P

Date: 2011-10-20 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eviinsanemonkey.livejournal.com
NGL, I kind of want to write an epic story where Morgana finds out about her magic and wants to gtfo of Camelot because of what Uther's response might be and Gwen is all "You are not going ANYWHERE without me." and they go on epic adventures gallivanting around the countryside/in towns/wherever learning about magic from Druids and by experimenting and being basically awesome.

well, really, I just want a fic where Morgana and Gwen go gallivanting around the countryside learning about magic and being basically awesome...

do it! *shifty eyes*

*nods* yeah, that sounds really, really interesting.

Date: 2011-10-20 08:34 pm (UTC)
ext_17679: (Default)
From: [identity profile] netgirl-y2k.livejournal.com
Yes, the list of things that drove me away from Merlin fandom is long and complicated and not applicable to anyone but me, but the sense of alienation I got from Merlin Fan being used like it automatically meant Merlin/Arthur Boyslasher was no small part of it.

Anyway, mostly what I wanted to say was You're so smart, yes.

Date: 2011-10-20 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
thankees. But yes. The silencing of fans who are not Arthur/Merlin shippers is a large part of what eventually led to me losing interest in the wider fandom, outside of interacting with an immediate circle of online friends (most of whom I see pretty regularly irl now anyway). Outside of specific LJ comms our POVs and interests are totally ignored by people who assume we just don't exist and after a while it gets... tiring. Seeing your interests at best sidelined, at worst mocked and constantly, unfairly criticised, by oblivious over-privileged slashers. Who needs that shit?

Date: 2011-10-20 08:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] olivia-j.livejournal.com
Randomly here via friendsfriends and YES. Not enough YES in the world, seriously.

Just... THANK YOU for saying this.

Date: 2011-10-20 08:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
thankees! I'm not normally someone for calling others out (tbh I think it does very little good in these situations) but apparently this comment was beyond what i could stomach without saying SOMETHING.

Date: 2011-10-20 09:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] atraphoenix.livejournal.com
There is not enough 'THIS' in the world. Very well said.

Date: 2011-10-20 09:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
Thankees!

Date: 2011-10-20 09:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] irony-rocks.livejournal.com
Wow. I don't even watch Merlin anymore, largely BECAUSE of the marginalization of the woman, so you get a hearty WORD from me.

Date: 2011-10-21 09:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
yeeeeah. Like I said I still love this show (it's my happy place) but it would be remiss not to admit that it has some MAJOR issues with how it treats its female characters. To be fair, I do actually think it's gotten FRACTIONALLY better since S1. At least Gwen gets things to do now, even if they almost entirely revolve around Arthur, and apparently a recurring female knight is going to crop up later this season which will hopefully solve the 'no woman on this show gains power without being linked to a man or being coded as evil' problem.

What hasn't got better is the way a lot of the fandom - especially in certain corners of the Arthur/Merlin fandom - reacts to and treats the female charcters. That's pretty much as is - indeed I reckon it's worse than it was a couple of years ago. =/

Date: 2011-10-21 12:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kathkin.livejournal.com
I think a lot of M/A fans tend to forget sometimes that it's not actually canon. Were they actually a gay couple, then yeah, that would be awesome and progressive and all, but they're not, they're just two straight guys (cause in canon in most TV shows everyone is straight unless explicitly stated otherwise, obvs.) who are really good friends, because the world doesn't have enough of that already, and as much as I love them, the fact that they are the focus of the show so much of the time is not necessarily a good thing. Arthurian legend is supposed to be an ensemble piece, as far as I'm concerned.

I don't mind M/A being the central relationship on the show (for obvious reasons) but I'm still bitter about the writers ruining A/G (srsly, I was one of the first shippers of that pairing and then S2 killed it for me, how did that fuck that up in S1 they wrote their romantic subtexts just fine) and I miss Morgana and Gwen interacting and why do they so rarely touch upon how Gwen feels about Morgana being evil now? And can we have Nimueh back? :(

On the one hand, the Merlin writers do seem to be pretty terrible at balancing different characters and storylines, but on the other hand they managed way better than I expected giving all the knights screentime and something to do in 4x01, so clearly they can do it if they put their minds to it (read: when it involves male characters).

(Obligatory 'it's 1am and this may not make any sense' disclaimer.)

Date: 2011-10-21 09:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
I think this is pretty fantastically well-said, actually. You've put your finger on something I've been struggling to articulate for a while about why I don't at all BLAME Arthur/Merlin shippers for wanting what they want, but kinda still wish they'd try harder to have some perspective once in a while.

To be honest I don't mind Arthur and Merlin's relationship being central either - to a certain extent I think it's inevitable. The show is called Merlin and Merlin's most significant relationship was always going to be Arthur. However, like you said, there needs to be BALANCE. When Arthur and Merlin's relationship is emphasised to the extent that it retards the development of their relationships with ALL the other characters, and, as a result, really limits the development of other characters full stop, then it becomes detrimental. The show just doesn't seem to WANT to strike a balance, however, because whoever's in charge doesn't see female characters as important enough to warrant proper development.

Date: 2011-10-21 12:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kathkin.livejournal.com
The response to the deleted scenes has been bugging me - when they cut the Arthur/Merlin moment with the round table from the S3 finale, the A/M fans (including myself) were pissed off and jumped up and down and accused the producers of actively trying to kill the pairing. But now they've cut all the A/G scenes (including a couple of tiny things that probably could have been fitted in, like the A/M moment) the A/M shippers are like 'lol you guys, stop whining'.

Date: 2011-10-21 01:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
Yeah, that's a pretty clear double standard. As I said, I'm not unsympathetic to Arthur/Merlin shippers (and I remember at the time thinking it was a pity that that A/M round table scene had been cut just because it made sense for the characters, regardless of my shipping preferences). But there is definitely insular attitude where certain subsections of the A/M community can't seem to see beyond their own interests to be sympathetic to others in the fandom. =/

Date: 2011-10-21 02:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kathkin.livejournal.com
The A/M round table scene was lovely and so short I struggle to believe it was actually cut for time. :( /OTP'ing
Even if it was a time issue in the last episode, some of them were such tiny little moments that I'm sure they could have been squeezed in. But then again some A/M fans I know routinely fast-forward through prolonged A/G scenes so, um. Might be another reasons why they don't care that the A/G stuff was removed. xD

Date: 2011-10-21 01:14 am (UTC)
ext_22293: (Default)
From: [identity profile] anjali-organna.livejournal.com
That post was a thing of beauty, let me tell you. BEAUTY.

Date: 2011-10-21 09:29 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-10-21 07:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/la_esmeralda_/
oh gni, i love you quite a lot.

Date: 2011-10-21 09:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
YAY.

(also since you are a weather god could you fix it not to rain during my driving lesson today? I DO NOT WISH TO DRIVE IN THE RAIN. I AM NOT READY. I WILL CRASH INTO A TREE AND DIE.)

Date: 2011-10-21 09:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/la_esmeralda_/
my powers have been doing quite well in london, i shall try and send them up to you. :D

although driving in rain is quite kl. you feel like there should be a soundtrack.

Date: 2011-10-21 09:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
ahaha perhaps when I've had more than five lessons THERE CAN BE A SOUNDTRACK. As it is I suspect that if it rains the soundtrack will be of me crashing into a tree. Possibly running over an unsuspecting pensioner.

Date: 2011-10-21 10:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/la_esmeralda_/
If a pensioner is busy climbing a tree, they had it coming. I have a theory test soon, omg, and I haven't even opened the book :/

Also re Merls (lol swinging like a willow branch), K and I accurately represented the show through wine glasses. On the right you have the boys and the strength of their togetherness. On the left, removed from all action and meaningful relationships with the others, you have Gwen. You may see an empty glass at some distance elsewhere deffo not touching Gwen. Guess who it is. She got carried off midway through the reenaction, which felt symbolic. :P

it was a late night hush.

Date: 2011-10-21 10:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
OH GOD I MISS YOU GUYS AND OUR RANDOM MERLIN!THEMED LONDON SHENANIGANS.

(am possibly maybe considering a weekend trip down at the end of November after my essays are handed in to give myself a break and something too look forward to. You guys likely to be around?)

Date: 2011-10-21 09:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] indes-elfwine.livejournal.com
YES.

Don't get me wrong, when it's done right? Arthur/Merlin is my OTP. Sorry Gwen, I love you dearly and ship you with dreamy Lancelot and pre-Dark Side Morgana.

That being said, Merlin is failing SO hard on the woman front. I really want a proper Lady of the Lake already (Freya doesn't count), for example. There is just something so incredibly depressing about going through a entire show without watching two women talk to each other. :(

Date: 2011-10-21 09:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
oh god tell me about it. You know that Merlin really, officially DOES have more female viewers than male, as well? At least in Britain. You'd THINK that'd lead the people in charge to try harder to given the women relationships with each other but APPARENTLY NOT.

Date: 2011-10-21 09:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] indes-elfwine.livejournal.com
Honestly, some of the worst fandom misogny I've come across is from women. On occaision, we are our own worst enemy.

I don't know how familar you are with Glee but I'm currently ripping my hair out over a particular subsection of fandom who insist that the Dave Karofsky character (who frankly I find triggering as hell since he sexually assaulted, threatened the life of and then carried out a sustained sexual harassment of my favourite character that forced him from his school and his friends) needs to be featured more in season three because Glee needs a great coming out story.

While completely ignoring the fact that Santana Lopez, the closted lesbian woman of colour is a) a lot closer to coming out than Karofsky was we last saw and b) entirely more sympathetic as she hasn't crossed the moral event horizon or attacked her same-sex love interest (even though referring to Kurt as that for Karofsky really squicks me out).

For that alone, surely she's the one who deserves the epic coming out storyline but she's not a white guy so in fandom's eye she doesn't count. *fumes*

Date: 2011-10-21 09:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
oh definitely - female slash fans can be HUGELY misogynistic. It's one of the reasons I tried to talk about straight privilege in my mini meta essay above, because the reason many are so misogynistic is because they've never considered how it would feel to want to see anything but hot dudes on TV.

But yusss. I'm familiar enough with Glee to know what you're talking about - I see ripples of the wank from that fandom on my tumblr dash from time to time. it's HUGELY depressing. =/

Date: 2011-10-21 10:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/la_esmeralda_/
Jumping in randomly out of curiosity -- I've rather bailed on glee, but is the show paying any attention to Santana's gay story or her relationship with Brittany this season?

Date: 2011-10-21 12:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] indes-elfwine.livejournal.com
Big things have been implied for episode four (Pot Of Gold)in November. Big things like Santana taking baby steps towards coming out and being with Brittany properly. I'm waiting with baited breath, believe me.

The only irksome spoiler is that apparently Finn is going to mansplain to Santana about how she's apparently being a hypocrite (not sure how) and ... yeah. Finn is the right person for this how?

Date: 2011-10-21 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heather.livejournal.com
I told you already but you're just so great <3

What burns me so much about this whole thing is the appropriation of queer rights rhetoric so that a bunch of straight girls can get their rocks off on conventionally attractive white dick. If that's what you're into, godspeed, but don't pretend you're doing it for me or speaking for me or anyone like me because on any given day, fandom is one of the LEAST queer-friendly and anti-oppression spaces I encounter and that includes slash fandom especially.

My friend rawles likes to say that slash is the sound of white men fucking and she's right because no one else exists for certain parts of genre slash fandom. If that's inclusiveness, no thanks.
Edited Date: 2011-10-21 06:53 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-10-21 07:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimaerd.livejournal.com
'slash is the sound of white men fucking' is the single most apt summing up of the problems in fannish subcultures i have EVER heard.

One of the things that drove me to comment at all was the fact that I had seen ripples and rumblings of that sort of queer rights rhetoric coming from a few corners of the fandom recently. Nothing explicit but enough for me to know that if I went looking I'd definitely find it (I didn't go looking, for my blood pressure's sake, but still...) it was in the way people were reacting to Gwen's absence (in particular) from tomorrow's episode. Something told me if I looked deeper I was NOT going to like what I found.

There's something horribly ironic about people calling their porn 'gay rights' and yet NOT getting that the arbitrary marginalisation of a black female character is a problem. I just... ugh. I don't generally wade into this shit any more because tbh I think we're limited in what we can achieve in these online spaces and it gets to the point where all we're doing is giving ourselves a concussion from banging our heads against a brick wall. I'm more focused on trying to get into the industry myself and change things from inside the system now. But I'd just reached the end of what I could stomach when i saw this being circulated the other day. I can't deal with smug, self-righteous slashers assuming that they can speak for me, as a Merlin fan OR a queer person. Just wasn't having it.

Date: 2011-10-26 05:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eppic.livejournal.com
this is glorious.

Date: 2012-07-12 10:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] babydracky.livejournal.com
I think you're right here. I do like Arthur and Merlin, and Arthur/Merlin but I don't watch the show because of that. In spite of the big scenaristic wholes, there are a lot of things that I like in the show.
I've always been a huge fan of Morgane le Fay/Morgause who are so strong and powerful characters! They are women who wants to be respect as a person and not because they are someone's wife/daughter/sister. They do exist as themselves and not thanks to male characters (like Guinevere or Viviane).
My favorite character is still Mordred though!;)

TV taught me how to feel, now real life has no appeal

Oh no!

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