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

You’ll see more of this inexplicable ability of Snowbarry shippers to relate to Iris, but here the reasoning behind starting to ship Snowbarry before the show started and based almost certainly on Candice Patton and her melanin is I don’t ship Westallen because Iris is Black and therefore I can’t relate to her. They’ll hide it behind excuses like there’s just something about her that rubs her the wrong way, or they’ll call her “toxic,” or they’ll point to Barry and Caitlin standing near each other and helplessly declare that Snowbarry is simply more “aesthetically pleasing” (dog-whistle translation: the white people look better together). It’s the reason that Snowbarry shippers decided that Iris West was unworthy of the love story that the narrative promised – and is still delivering – to her, and quite literally made it their life’s mission to rip it from her. Although, as I said, I’m not ruling out the pee. I don’t kink shame here.

(And if you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of Twisted, it’s because after Danny fell out of love with Lacey and fell in love with Jo, the ratings fell and the show was cancelled soon afterwards. #PoorJo?).

Black Mirror recently returned to Netflix, and the excellently-made (although let’s be real, they’re all excellent) “USS Callister” episode expertly tackles the attitude and mindset of the white male nerd, and what really goes on in his mind as he sits behind the computer. And it certainly resonated with most people, brilliantly weaving in the male entitlement, misogyny, and power fantasies that we recognise when we talk about people like that. It’s a pretty well-known truth that white male entitlement is a massive problem in fandom spaces, especially as women and minorities become more prominent in those genres.

However, at the risk of derailing the conversation a little bit, the problem with fandom doesn’t just stop at the white male nerd who hates diversity and spends all of his time saying so on Reddit, while angrily downvoting a movie because it’s for women and Black and brown people in it. Not because it’s a mischaracterisation (there are literally articles talking about how it’s the most sexist place on the internet, and it’s also a hotbed for white supremacists – although like all places on the internet it’s not all awful all the time), but in laying the blame on characters like Robert Daly, and all the nerds he’s supposed to represent, you’re ignoring the nuance of the problem. Much like I mentioned that white women have never not been complicit in the system that has kept them above people of colour but especially women of colour, the white women in fandom aren’t immune to finding whatever reason to hate any woman of colour, especially if they’re a woman who has the affection of the white male lead. The reason we don’t realise it as much is the same reason we don’t realise it in real life – because white women women have typically been the face of feminism, and because of society’s inability to see white women as anything but virtuous, we don’t automatically assume that their intentions are to discriminate. They’re discriminated against, how could they ever discriminate against anyone else? 

The white women in fandom who engage in this kind of behaviour recognise that the more normalised it becomes for women who look like them to not be centred in whatever love story is being told at the moment, the less chances they’ll get to be the star of the show. Quite simply, they want to keep their privilege, and their status as women means that they won’t be seen as the aggressor while their status as white means that they’ll still be afforded the privileges of white people no matter what they do. And, because of what I mentioned earlier, we’ve become so used to seeing whiteness as the norm that even those who aren’t white still subscribe to the feeling of whiteness needing to be centred. 

This is why, from what I can gather, fans of either relationship don’t like each other. On the surface, there’s nothing really wrong with Snowbarry. Barry and Caitlin are two nice people who get along well, and for the people who like their dynamic better, it’s nothing but a harmless ship. But for the people who want to see a Black woman being the centre of a love story in the superhero genre, Snowbarry is just a representation of Jo taking Danny’s love away from Lacey, and the fact that people hated Iris from the moment she was cast, the trailer, or the pilot does not help. It’s the desire to have the most desirable man fall out of love with the Black woman and pursue a white woman instead because she wasn’t good enough. That’s why, from what I can see, WestAllen fans are so defensive.

White women have literally been getting their love stories for centuries – not to mention the fact that they’ve been given the love stories that Black women were originally entitled to because they couldn’t handle not being the centre of attention and screamed at people until they got it. It doesn’t matter how much fans talk about how “harmless” it is and how it’s “just a ship” – when you’ve seen white women be the centre of attention over and over and over again but still demand it, it gets to be a little tiring. Not to mention the fact that they are so entitled that they’re still demanding that the writers kill Iris off so that Snowbarry can happen. After all, if they just want to see nerdy scientists fall in love and kick ass, they should go and watch Agents of Shield.

(Snowbarry shippers don’t just want to see nerdy scientists fall in love and kick ass).

Like I said at the beginning, if you take all these things together, it doesn’t constitute racism. Sure, it looks bad, but you could put it down to personal preference, or being a person who thinks that the friendzone exists so that’s why you don’t like Iris, or whatever. But when you consider how the exact same thing happened on Twisted, and other shows with a similar romantic setup, it gets harder to ignore. And when you consider the later articles, you get a clearer picture of the reason that Iris West fans call some of the people who don’t like her racist.

This is the kind of racism that fans perpetuate – demanding the erasure of a Black woman so that a white woman can take her place. In the beginning, fans were so galled by something about Iris that they picked the only white woman they could see and declared that they would “make Snowbarry happen like they made Olicity happen.” Now, this doesn’t sound like a very big deal (apart from expressing a rather strange desire to tweet to people a lot, maybe), but it is. It speaks to the entitlement of people in fandom that a white woman be the one to receive the love story, a little like Susan B. Anthony wanting white women to be the face of feminism. You’re going to see this entitlement a lot throughout this series, especially because contrary to popular belief, Snowbarry shippers didn’t all disappear after the first season. As soon as they saw Barry wanting Iris’ Black love, they mobilised like the IWDS did, and as you’ll see, the closer Iris’ Black love gets to Barry, the more they hate her.

For some reason.

The next part, The Many Faces of Iris Westwill be published shortly.

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