This was originally posted on my twitter as a thread but since I decided to cut down and not go into details about certain parts, and realising some of the things I could have added to the thread later but didn’t I’ve decided to make a blog post about it. Disclaimer if you read the thread there will be a lot of repetition.
If you don’t know what fandom is, fandom is basically the name given to a group of fans. Usually they can be found as a collective on social media, the most popular social networks that you can see examples of fandom are Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram. Over the years I’ve experienced fandom mostly on Instagram (not anymore), Twitter, and Tumblr. The most popular place that I use to connect with fandom is Tumblr. Since that’s where I’ve seen a lot of the fandoms I’m in come together.
As I said in the thread at the moment on mainstream television and movies there are no canon aromantic characters that I know of. I’m sure this is because of lack of awareness that aromanticism actually exists but let’s say that there is for a moment. Because I believe there are definitely some aro coded characters, whether that was by accident or not. But thanks to shipping I feel like they close the door on characters potentially coming out as aromantic because it has become such a prominent thing in fandom. People, for the most part, ship two characters together because of the chemistry between the actors and so that ship suddenly becomes popular because there’s “no way that won’t happen right?” Which I feel, with more aromantic awareness or let’s say a writer is aromantic or knows about aromanticism, may end up having writers backing out and becoming afraid of having a character come out as aromantic.
Why do I feel this? Because backlash from shippers is something that happens in every fandom and sometimes shippers can be scary, mean, and horrible just because their ship didn’t or hasn’t become canon. Shippers become scary when they feel like they’ve been baited or wronged when their ship doesn’t become canon because of their misinterpretation of a dynamic or the amount of chemistry that a pairing has. I’ve heard, these might just be rumours, over the years mostly in TV Shows that some writers have felt pressured to make a ship or another canon because certain shippers have become so loud and scary that they felt they needed to do it and it didn’t matter if this character was aromantic coded before hand, or if they were in a romantic relationship with someone else, they suddenly feel like they have to do it to get the views.
Personally I believe there has been many aro coded characters throughout all the television I’ve seen over the years but all of them have ended up going down the same route. And that was getting their romantic storyline, even the characters who didn’t seem phased at all with romance or “couldn’t” be romantically involved with someone because of whatever reason. Even characters who are canonically aromantic in their source material have been erased and made to be straight. Jughead Jones from Riverdale and Raphael Santiago from Shadowhunters were both actively erased of both their aromanticism and asexuality (Raphael was sort of confirmed as asexual in the 2×10 of the show but still the word wasn’t used, which I will go more into detail about whilst talking about them being aro).
I’ve been in fandom a long time and there’s something very common I’ve seen amongst the allormantics within the fandom and that is wilfully ignoring that a character is canonically aromantic. Their reasoning? Because either it’s “not canon enough” because it was confirmed by word of god from the author on twitter (like with Raphael) or even with so much evidence it’s “not canon enough” because the word wasn’t used (like with Jughead). And they do this just because of their “right to ship”. Not caring that this actually hurts real aromantic people.
In the same vein another thing that I’ve seen, which is very popular among alloromantics wanting to feel better about themselves actively erasing a queer identity just so they can ship them is bring out the “aromantic people can date”, which they are right that is true. But the moment you brought that up they have thrown every aromantic person who doesn’t date under the bus and implied that they can only relate to the aros who do date. So allonormative much? And most of the time the characters that they bring this excuse out with are the ones who don’t want to date. Jughead for example for years has expressed how much he doesn’t want to date, but do they care? No.
Something that really made me angry was I believe it was in December I saw one of Tumblr’s metrics post and of course it was the one for “Best Ships”. And guess what ship was on there? Bughead aka Jughead Jones x Betty Cooper, which is/was canon in the show. A ship that actively erases a queer character’s identity. I do have to admit that it’s not the fault of just fandom/shippers alone when it comes to Jughead because the writers actively made this decision to erase his aromanticism, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. A lot of shippers probably don’t know that he is supposed to be aromantic because it hasn’t been talked about much by people outside of the aromantic community.
Similarly within the Shadowhunters fandom Rizzy, the romantic and no longer canon (I believe) ship for Raphael Santiago and Isabelle Lightwood, was I would say the most hated ship in the fandom. The reason? It would have to be because of the aromantic erasure right? Right? Well… no. It’s because Rizzy is not only an unhealthy ship but because it gets in the way of their OTPs. Mostly Saphael (a non-canon romantic ship between Raphael Santiago and Simon Lewis) and Sizzy (a book endgame romantic ship between Simon Lewis and Isabelle Lightwood). I’ve been in The Mortal Instruments since 2014 after I read all of the books and Shadowhunters fandom since the show was announced. I believe and the aromantic erasure within The Mortal Instruments fandom has been prominent since before the show even existed. I’ve had countless messages sent to me that Raphael being aromantic isn’t actually canon because Cassandra Clare said it on Twitter and then said it was her own headcanon (you can’t have headcanons for your own characters). I’ve seen countless people say that it’s okay to ship Saphael, Rizzy, or Santifell (another Raphael ship involving Ragnor Fell) because aromantic people can and do date, which felt very invalidating for me as an aromantic who doesn’t. Especially since when I found out the show was straightwashing his aromanticism I was incredibly hurt and alloromantics decided to come message me on anon that I pretty much had no right to be upset because “it practically was never canon anyway”.
The last show I want to talk about until I go more into the headcanons part of this blog post, and something that I didn’t touch upon in my thread because it would’ve been too long otherwise and that is BBC Sherlock and how Sherlock Holmes is very heavily aro coded, more than probably any TV character I’ve ever seen. And how the fandom, especifically the Johnlock (the romantic shippers for John Watson and Sherlock Holmes), has made me turn away from the fandom and made me stop enjoying the show due to their unwelcoming and sometimes aggressive opinions on their ship. If I remember correctly there is an episode, I think it’s either in Season 3 or Season 4, where Sherlock practically uses the definition of aromantic (and asexual) to describe himself without saying “I’m aromantic”. But the reaction to the season 4 finale made me feel so unwelcomed and invalidated because their outroar on how the writers had been baiting Johnlock from the beginning, which I just couldn’t see since to me Sherlock has been heavily aro coded since day one. Plus I saw a lot of myself reflected in Sherlock and the way they got angry about not having their ship become canon was just awful to be honest. Plus John had just lost his wife, but this is going off track so I’m going to leave this here. Like I said above it was like they were wronged, like they were promised something and it was taken from them. And sometimes this makes them (not all) say awful things to the writers, which is scary.
Moving on specifically to aromantic headcanons. Queer headcanons are widely accepted until that headcanon is being aromantic. Suddenly the aromantic headcanon gets shut down, pulled a part, ignored, or invalidated. It’s like they’re thinking “how can this character, a character that I can relate to ~be like that~?” Because there’s no way a relatable character can actually be aromantic now can they?
Something I didn’t touch upon but was reminded of was that aromantic headcanons aren’t accepted by alloromantics unless they find the most awful character within a book series, a tv series, or a movie and find it in themselves to give them an aromantic headcanon. I’ve seen it within fandoms I’m in, a character I absolutely loathe because of how immoral he is was headcanoned as aromantic and it made me feel awful. It was Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern otherwise known as Sebastian Morgenstern from The Mortal Instruments series (who has also now appeared within the Shadowhunters TV Show). If you are unfamiliar with this character he is the main antagonist for the later books, who is a murderer that has killed children, he’s also a sexual abuser, and also tried to get into a romantic relationship with and kissed his sister. Like The Mortal Instruments has a lot of characters alone but it’s also part of a bigger universe called The Shadowhunter Chronicles so there’s probably millions of characters, better characters, that could be headcanoned as aromantic but you just happened to choose that one? Did you not even think how damaging that could be if an aro person saw it? Well guess what one did and it made them feel terrible about themself. Because we don’t seem like humans to alloromantics. Headcanons like this prove it, we are seen as murderers, as non-human creatures, characters incapable of any emotion. Just because we don’t experience romantic attraction. And I’m tired of this.
So it’s because of things like this that we can’t see ourselves reflected in the media that we consume or the fandom that we love, so it begins to drive us away. Because if we don’t feel like we are actually in the fandom or welcomed there what is the point in staying? Especially if we are reminded daily that we “aren’t normal” and that we are the “strange” part of fandom because we view a character, whether they are aro coded or not, as aromantic or we don’t ship characters at all in whatever we are reading or watching.
I should say that I am someone who does ship a lot of ships but at this point I’ve come to realise that I don’t know how I actually ship them. Whether I just enjoy their dynamic and want to see more scenes with them together or if I actually ship them romantically or if I just feel forced to ship something. Like there’s definitely pairings that I’m more invested in but is it because I relate to the characters more? Or do I want to see them become romantic? I just don’t know anymore.
Fandom used to be a place I loved that I felt welcomed in but not anymore and I’m tired of it. I no longer feel comfort in any because my headcanons are always shut down, and shippers feel like they’re the “superior” part of fandom, that they are above everyone else. And how they actively help the erasure of canonically aromantic characters who were originally erased by their TV adaptations.
Shippers don’t care, I know this. The backlash I’ve gotten over the past year or so for being so outspoken with #AroAceJugheadOrBust and the aromantic erasure with Raphael is evidence of that. They only care about their ship being canon and endgame, it doesn’t matter who they throw under the bus, erase, and dehumanize in the process.
TL;DR Fandom & Shippers stop being so terrible towards aromantic people, aromantic characters, and aromantic headcanons. Stop dehumanizing us and driving us away from fandom. Thank you.
Sorry for my inactivity when it comes to this blog hopefully 2018 won’t be similar to 2017 where I’m active for the first couple of months then go M.I.A. I do plan to do more positive posts when it comes to aromanticism and asexuality instead of negative ones about erasure. Here’s to 2018!