Not Just an OTP: In The Beginning, Fandom Created Snowbarry

And no, fangirls immediately shipping the lead male character with the nearest white girl as soon as a woman of colour and especially a Black woman comes into the picture is not new. A few years ago, a show called Twisted started airing on ABC Family. It starred Avan Jogia (Victorious) as Danny Desai, a young man who returns home after spending time in a juvenile detention centre for murdering his aunt. Lacey Porter, played by Kylie Bunbury (Pitch) was the girl he’d been in love with, and was still in love with when he returned. Jo Masters (Maddie Hesson, The Finder) was her best friend; the two had a wedge driven between them by Danny’s arrest and incarceration. Where the three had been close before, Lacey was now popular and outgoing, while Jo was shy and a loner. Lacey was also Black, while Jo was white.

Which meant that white fangirls started shipping her with Danny pretty much as soon as the series started. Much like Caitlin was cast as the unlucky girl that Barry just couldn’t see because he was blinded by Iris, Jo was the forgotten friend who deserved Danny’s love more than the evil, popular Lacey (#PoorJo). It was relentless and unshakeable, despite the fact that Danny was completely in love with Lacey. That is, until the writers catered to the whims of those shippers and slowly but surely (and to the dismay but utter lack of surprise by Black women) write Lacey unsympathetically and out of her own love story.

Fans could tell who was going to be the main love interest, and weren’t happy about it.

Now, of course, Danny Desai is not white; like his actor, I’m assuming that he is half-white and half-Indian, but that’s not the point. Not only is Jogia ambiguously brown enough to be “exotic” but not so brown that he’s no longer attractive, he also had a built-in fan base from when he was on Victorious, where he dated, you guessed it, a white girl. But like I said, that’s not the point – the point is the power. Danny is the lead of the show and by default is the most desirable male on it – it’s the concept of the Queen taking the pawn again. The romantic partner of Danny would be the girl that is held up as the standard; she’s going to be pursued, she’s going to get the romantic speeches and the romantic music and the romantic, longing looks. And, not to put too fine a point on it, white women are not used to that. They are used to being centred in the love story, rather than the afterthought. The Black girl is supposed to be the supportive best friend whose romantic partner (if she gets one; most don’t) is secondary to the white male lead, and only figures out that he likes her in the last few minutes of the film, after the white girl has received her romantic speech and earth-shattering kiss scored to whatever band is leading in the charts at the moment. (That feeling of familiarity combined with frustration because you can’t pinpoint what movie you’re thinking of is because all the movies are like this. It happened in High School Musical, for crying out loud).

That is, if we’re in the movie at all.

So when white fangirls saw Danny utterly in love with Lacey, and saw Iris greet Barry as if he’d come home from war, they recognised what was going on. They weren’t going to be centred. They weren’t going to get the epic love story. Or they would, but they’d get it after the Black girl (both Jo and Caitlin had their own love interests), and it certainly wouldn’t get as much focus. The hero would be looking at some other girl with desire, and it would be a girl that did not look like them. And they were not happy about it, which is how ABC Family ended up centring Jo in the story instead of Danny. As I’ve come to discover, there are some white fangirls who simply cannot relate to a woman who is not white. This is mostly because they haven’t had to; all the women in these stories are always white, so they’ve had no practice in relating to someone who doesn’t look like them. Girls of colour, on the other hand? Relating to white girls is second-nature. I’ve related to Lizzie, to Kim, to Ren, to Gabriella, to Hermione, to all the Loises, to Natasha, to both Mystiques, to Katniss, to Clary, to Kat and Bianca, to Meredith, to Blair and Serena, to Annie, Naomi and Silver, to Peyton, Brooke, and Haley…the list is literally endless.

Because Hollywood has been putting white women over women of colour for years, so why should this be any different? Who cares about representation? Who cares about little Black girls getting to see themselves as the romantic heroine without going through a bucketful of trauma (Hollywood might be ambivalent on Black women, but it simply adores Black pain) to get it? Caitlin and Jo clearly deserved the love of the hero despite doing little else other than be white and in front of the camera.

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