I’ve been having some thoughts about fandom and selective empathy, and this is my attempt to get them down into some sort of coherent post.
Fandom is far more inclined to empathise with white male characters, I think this is fairly common knowledge. I’m interested in discussing how this comes about.
I think the reasons are twofold. The first is that in white male-centric fictional media (ie. the media that usually gains the largest and most active fandoms), the narrative overwhelmingly positions the audience to empathise with the cis white male character over the non-cis white male characters. Take Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for example. Steve Rogers; a man with super strength, twice takes hold of Black Widow’s arm in a forceful manner, and once pushes her against a wall. In both cases, the narrative positions the audience to take Steve’s side, because he’s the All-American White Dude unleashing his righteous anger against the mysterious, morally grey foreign woman. Maybe we’ve even supposed to admire his restraint, even though he has superstrength and she doesn’t. The fact that he’s taking hold of her against her will goes unchallenged in the film and unchallenged by fandom, because our empathy in these scenes is reserved for Steve, not Natasha.
Similarly, every Marvel film and tv series since Avengers has featured a female character getting killed, either for plot progression (GotG), to further a white male character’s arc (GotG, Thor 2) or to show how evil the bad guy is (Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Cap 2). These deaths are barely a blip on the fandom radar, and if someone does criticise it, there will be dozens of responses trying to explain how necessary the death was and how disposable the characters are. By this same reasoning, Coulson’s death in Avengers should have had the same response from fandom, and yet there was a massive movement to bring him back. Why does only Coulson’s death create such outrage? Is it because we’re used to seeing women murdered on screen as a plot device, but white male characters should be worth more? A white man’s death has to Mean Something. Dying for plot progression? That’s for female characters.
I do think that most mainstream media narratives have more empathy for white men and a lot of problems stem from that, but I’m not giving fandom a free pass either. Even when the narrative asks us to feel empathy towards a non-white male character, fandom often dismisses it. Look at the way Pepper’s response to being woken up by an out of control iron suit was bashed by fandom, or Jane’s emotional responses are used to discredit her, or Natasha’s moments of vulnerability are taken as evidence of her failure as a character. Even when fans claim to like a female character, the response is often to place that character on a pedestal as a ‘flawless goddess,’ a porcelain doll to be placed on a shelf and admired from afar while you play with the flawed toys you actually love.
There is a reason that I’ve seen several gifsets linking Rocket’s speech in GotG to Bucky Barnes rather than Gamora, who is in the same scene, or to Natasha. Part of it is the text itself, because Bucky’s trauma was given narrative importance through the use of close up shirtless brainwashing shots, and Gamora’s trauma was glossed over in a few lines of exposition. But the other part of the reason is that fandom is more inclined to feel empathy for white men in the first place. It makes me uncomfortable that when we see a character who isn’t a cis white guy, our instinct is to dehumanise and criticise the character, rather than squeeing or shipping or analysing blinking patterns. This doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
like in the flesh has only p much 2 problems and they are
- all (two??? maybe three???) of the poc are meant to be disliked by the audience
- the remaining main characters are white boys and i think the world could live with its current…
chill???? im sorry i was making an observation i had made after trying and failing to power through season 2 and im not rlly 2 far into every aspect of the show but also im not trying 2 overlook female characters, fuck i didn’t say there were No Female Characters, i just said that we don’t need another show that tends to focus on 2 white guys (bc, you know, amy kinda died, a spoiler i couldn’t avoid apparently)
also lukebrandnewberry does make a point that there is a lot of hate on queer kids n poc in small villages, i hadn’t considered that as a reason for it
Oh my god are you one of those delicate bliss ninnies who can’t deal with being disagreed with? Newsflash, people who point out you are wrong are not necessarily not calm, but I guess it probably soothes your sensitivities to think they’re frothing at the mouth.
You’re wrong. I’m sorry, you are. Even if we count Amy being dead, which, the show has been seriously hinting at her coming back, her being the First Risen (no big deal) and such, you still forgot about Jem. So maybe, be better informed next time you try to make an ‘observation’ if that’s how you take criticism.
Also, little tip on representation since you seem to like commenting on it, but if a show has zombies and other supernatural themes in it, it has no morals to claim its lack of POC is due to ‘realism’.
i understand that the lack of poc is a huge issue in the media but so is queer representation. we should be counting ourselves lucky that we got one okay i know it wouldnt be hard to have made kieren a poc and maybe there was a good chance for that but luke newberry just so happened to be better than all the other people that auditioned. personally i’d be a little pissed if the only reason i was hired for something was bc of the colour of my skin and not for my skills and talents and personality.
there are plenty of leading ladies in this show so just bc the main character is a boy and has a boyfriend dont mean shit. lets all be happy at the wonderful queer representation and the well written ladies we do have okay
amy isnt even dead shush you
"we should be counting ourselves lucky that we got one" ok but no? Please don’t do that? Please don’t tell people their complaints are invalid if they’re not content with the ONE crumb a show has thrown that way? ITF has a serious problem with POC representation and while it has good queer rep, that doesn’t make up for it? And why do you assume anyone who would have been cast would have been affirmative action?
Do the people talking about queer representation not realize that there are queer people of color? Or is this supposed to be “white fits all” type thing?
Plus, anyone that assumes “affirmative action” in the casting process, as if actors of color aren’t as talented as their white counterparts, is racist, end of.
Am I the only one who notices how Jill actively avoids talking about or even mentioning Braeden in scenes?
But I shouldn’t be surprised. She all but said she doesn’t Braeden in previous Wolf Watches.
No, you’re not the only one.
They are boring now because you all literally use the exact same excuses all the damn time. You coddle Derek like he is someone who can’t make choices for himself when he is a grown ass man. You demonize a black female and some of you (majority of you) want to act like it’s so hard for a white man to be interested in a black woman, like we aren’t desirable or something. It has also been brought to my attention that some of you find her extremely useless and that she’s just a love interest for Derek when she was established way before being his love interest (in case you forgot because some of you tend to). You also constantly ignore the receipts of her work. I mean, it’s not like she’s saved your white fave(s) three times or anything, right?
That’s the standard, white fangirl default “complaint” whenever a fictional black woman isn’t single and forever alone.
Rinse and repeat. No matter the fandom.