so, here’s a three-am thought.
I think that (one of) the reasons I don’t love kylux as a ship (despite, obviously, weeping real tears over Children Wake Up every Thursday night), is because hux is a character created almost entirely out of wholecloth by fanon. He is remarkably consistent from fic-to-fic, but the thing you recognize him as is that-hux-from-that-other-fic, not hux-in-canon, because literally all Hux in canon does is look mad + offer terse pieces of exposition + fire the weapon that one time.
and the thing is? fanon hux was familiar the very first time I saw him, even before having other fic to compare him to.
because fanon hux? is fanon arthur from inception.
another character created almost entirely from fandom wholecloth, since his actual part in the movie was like five minutes long.
like. they’re SO MUCH the same? with the combination kinky/prudishness (prudish til you get him in bed, whereupon he is The Most Kinky), the charmingly repressed rage, the Love of Research and Order, the way lust/interest/affection is coded into irritation at The Neat and Tidy World being All Roughed Up by the hot mess of the other half of the ship? I would bet actual money that you could C&P “hux” for “arthur” in a baker’s dozen of inception AUs and the character is like…pretty much the same?
and, well. I’m pretty sure that arthur isn’t the first time I met this guy, this crowdsourced tight-lipped furious perfectionist with his neat clothes and his scowling defensiveness and his biting sarcasm and his embarrassed desire to have a dude who is both sweaty and emotional take him apart. I know I’ve seen him before, in lots of different places, wearing lots of different hats, most often slipping into characters that barely take up space in the canon at all, or revising canon characters years in the future, etc. (Draco, in all those fics where he grew up into someone eerily like Hux and Arthur and Erestor and Carlos in all those fics written before Dylan Marron was cast. For one.)
and without shitting on kylux OR arthur/eames at all–because I’ve read and enjoyed both of them, and also the heart wants what the heart wants, and I get that–I think it’s maybe worth. I don’t know. considering why it is that we gravitate towards This One Crowdsourced Dude. The familiar fanon ghost who leaves one shell behind and drifts into another, like a poltergeist. Or, like, a copy of a copy of a copy, dragged from harddrive to harddrive. a familiar ghost we drag around to install in fresh new bodies.
I think it’s especially worth considering why we’ve collectively/subconsciously resurrected this dude in a fandom mostly lacking in white guy/white guy ships. because he wasn’t THERE. I just rewatched TFA yesterday, and I can confirm: fanon hux is not in the building. a lot of loving effort went into imbuing canon hux with fanon hux. thinking about why we a) established that effort, and b) why we gravitate back to him, Our Fanon Guy, when there are other objectively more developed and interesting canon characters to fall in love with?
marmolita replied to your post:
Since I don’t read tfa fic can you tell me more about this fanon character? I’m wondering if I’ve seen him in other fandoms; it would be interesting to track to the source.
Sure! He’s usually something like this:
-very tidy/a neat freak
-pays a great deal of attention to his personal presentation (ie: is his uniform wrinkled? Is his hair mussed? Is he blushing? Has he lost his hat, or his leather gloves, has he got blood on his coat? Are his cufflinks okay? Is his suit endangered? All of these things would make him unhappy and definitely happen to him as a direct result of making out with his troublingly messy love interest)
-just wants the galaxy/con/workplace to be Well-Ordered
-is super competent/a genius/good at his job
-very loyal to one or two friends, who are probably also his colleagues, because work is all he truly cares about
-definitely a perfectionist
-is often hilariously bitchy, and definitely big with the sarcasm
-often described as cool/cold/chilly (actually maybe he’s the fandom cousin of the Frigid Workaholic Romcom Heroine who desperately needs a dude to mess up her life and teach her to relax?)
-burns with fury at seeing people be inefficient and/or unprofessional
-speaks in a slightly elevated register that has room for cursing but never for phrases like kid or buddy or cute boyfriend
-emotionally repressed; expresses feelings through workplace shouting and biting comments and maybe whiskey but that is all
-probably hiding childhood trauma
-is very prim about sex until he is having it, at which point he is revealed to be The Kinkiest
-”hates” his love interest, who is sweaty and bloody and emotional and is gonna Mess Up his overly clean life
-but obviously only in a Doth Benedick Loathe Beatrice So Entirely kind of way
-tight-lipped with rage
-embarrassed by how much he is into Inappropriately Messy Guy/embarrassed BY Inappropriately Messy Guy
-the idea of control is a big part of his sex life–either exerting or relinquishing it
rosaline-queen-of-apricots replied to your post:
it’s not just a fandom thing, it’s the ‘opposites attract’ kinda thing, i.e. Spock/Kirk, Newton/Hermann, Sherlock/John etc
While yes–opposites attracting is a common trope, and Spock and Sherlock definitely bear a familial resemblance, what I’m interested in is actually the more specific thing of fandom picking up a very minor character and filling him up with ALL of these traits.
It’s not the character himself–the character qua the character can be and has been written really wonderfully–it’s the fact that we resurrect him in the shells of minor characters at all.
Hux–a very minor character who barely appears in the movie
Arthur–a MUCH smaller character than fandom would suggest
Erestor–literally had like two lines
Draco–was canonically a child, but all the fic was about him as an adult, some ten to fifteen years in the future, when he grew up into This Very Particular Character.
This isn’t fandom picking up on opposites attracting within the canon.
This is fandom CREATING a specific character to be opposite someone else.
#this is good things to think about#but i am personally offended that you would compare spock to hux#he isn’t quick to anger he is very patient#he has a dry sense of humor but it isn’t biting or sarcastic#he doesn’t strive for order he strives for logic (and there is a difference)#he isn’t prim or otherwise about sex he literally has sex every seven years biologically have you SEEN amok time#he isn’t embarassed by loving kirk is embarassed by his emotions and ‘not being vulcan enough’#like spock is SO DIFFERENT from this stereotype honestly did you just think ‘emotionless and detached = neat freak sour character’#cuz that is such a disservice#anyway this analysis of hux is v fascinating and resonates a little bit bc i’ve seen loki take on this sort of personality in some fics
Firstly, I cannot argue with your Spock analysis! (Also, I adore Spock! I have a Spock tattoo! I promise that I love him truly.)
Now that I have said this piece, I’m gonna go on a long clarifying tangent, because it is a running theme in the tags on the post/the asks I’ve been getting. But know that the tangent is not directed at you, defender of Spock! I’m just reblogging this version because it collected the fragmented pieces of the discussion into one post, for context’s sake. :)
ANYWAY. The point I want to get to is that character archetypes totally exist, and that is not a) a problem, or b) what I am talking about.
Spock and Sherlock and Jeeves all more or less share a type, which is just a thing that happens when people tell stories, both consciously and subconsciously. That doesn’t mean the characters are identical or interchangeable, but you can see how they bear a kind of family resemblance to each other. For example– “it would have cost me my soul” and “it was worth a wound" and “there is a tie that binds” are rhyming moments of Great Import to all three characters, although they refer to moments that are specific to their canons. The characters ARE different, but when you put them together in a iineup, it’s easier to see how they’re similar. That resemblance, imo, is neutral.
What interests me about the fandom ghost isn’t that he is an archetype, or that many characters are very similar to each other. What interests me is that this is a character type that fandom periodically yanks out of the drawer and dresses up in the clothes of a minor character.
That’s a very specific thing to do. It’s not something we are inheriting from any canon. It’s something we are doing, collectively, as the great migratory fandom thing we are.
We (collective fandom we) have imbued minor characters with these traits so often that I can trace it as a type the same way that I can trace Sherlock Holmes as a type. That is a) VERY interesting to me, from a nerdy Henry Jenkins-style crowdsourced-story “the people talk back to the culture” way, and b) EVEN MORE INTERESTING GIVEN THAT THIS GUY IS HERE ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY TO GIVE US A WHITE GUY SHIP WHEN THE CANON DOESN’T HAVE ENOUGH WHITE GUY SHIPS READY MADE FOR US. When we talk back to the culture, sometimes we speak bullshit.
Again, I don’t think any individual person is Wrong or Bad for liking or writing the ghost (I have liked the ghost! he can be very likeable!) but I think the fact that we keep resurrecting him and resurrecting him and resurrecting him IN FANDOMS THAT DO NOT HAVE HIM AS A PRE-EXISTING CHARACTER tells us something about what we as Fandom want. It’s a symptom that tells us something about the state of Fandom, the way a bechdel test fail does not tell us whether a movie is good or even feminist, but DOES tell us something about the state of hollywood.
TFA isn’t an incredibly diverse movie, but unless you pump up the empty balloon of Hux’s character with the ghost the only other white guys to pair Kylo Ren with are his blood relatives and Supreme Commander Gollum.
This is in a movie where he and Poe snark at each other with Poe on his knees; where he ties Poe up to a table and digs into Poe’s brain, where he looks at Finn from across a crowded massacre and Feels A Literal Magical Tug, where he and Rey basically mindfuck each other for agonizingly long minutes. There are Other Opportunities here, is what I’m saying.
Kylux is the most popular pairing in TFA fandom. Expanding Hux’s character is a choice that fandom made. Kylux is a choice that fandom made. The fact that Fanon Hux came canned and prepackaged for us–our ready made mayo sandwich–is SOMETHING TO PAY ATTENTION TO.
It’s not the character of the ghost, or his origins, or the canon characters that bear a family resemblance to him that really matter, imo. It’s the fact that WE, FANDOM, keep resurrecting him when we aren’t seeing a familiar enough white guy ship in the canon cast. That’s a canary collapsing in a mine, is what I’m saying.
I am reblogging this because its truth makes me uncomfortable. I have looked in the mirror of my fannish desires and ugh.
I love this ghost.
This is so interesting.
I tell myself that the reason I like Kylux so much is because of the conflict. Inner conflict, conflict between Hux/Kylo, etc. I like angst, and I like when two halves of a ship are clearly bad for each other. I love hateships, and I always have.
But of course, there’s lots of potential for angst and hateships with Reylo and Darkpilot. And, while I do love both those ships, I don’t find them nearly as compelling as Kylux. Out of all available Kylo-centric ships, Kylux is what I latched onto.
But - would I have latched onto Kylux as hard if they weren’t white?
I love OP’s commentary so much, because, like a lot of other people, that question does make me uncomfortable. And I’m fascinated by the idea of this ghost - this fandom spectre - who is oh so safe and familiar and comforting, like a steaming bowl of rice pudding. So soothing and creamy and so very, very white…
Yeah, the popularity of Kylux definitely debunks that “white M/M is only so popular in fandom because most media has more compelling white male characters than anything else”-meta that was going around some time ago. Because TFA has offered us a lot of other options. Want childhood trauma? - Rey with abandonment, Finn with being brought up in a horrible oppressive system. Want a clean slate character to fill up with your own headcanon? - Jessica Pava. Want M/M? - Stormpilot.
And yet, here we are. Fandom elders are telling us this is a pattern, but for me it’s the first time it’s been so apparent.
I guess we have to admit that we aren’t just transformative, but also emulating problematic patterns from popular culture like focussing on the white male characters and sidelining female and POC characters.
As for the fandom ghost: I’ve got another one: Q in the Craig!Bond verse. He fits the personality pattern and when he was introduced in Skyfall he didn’t have that much screentime, but got tons of fandom attention already long before he reappeared in Spectre. I kinda noticed how little the whole fanon had to do with canon Bond-verse, but I guess it bothered me less, because canon Bond-verse is a horrific mess.
My personal explanation for latching onto this ghost-character is something we like to blame on female (particularly original) characters: self-insert. I noticed how when I try to write Hux, I draw a lot on myself:
- emotionally detached? - check
- perfectionism? - i try to work on it but yes
- clever with science / good at job, less so with people? - check
- hidden childhood trauma? - check, ok well less hidden nowadays
- hates people being inefficient? - ughh when people can’t put away their 5 yoghurts at the check-out line and don’t move out of the way (grrrrr though i’m not very confrontational and only roll my eyes)
- sarcastic and snarky? - well i wish i was more witty but yes
- weird control thing? - check
So now the question is: why do I self-insert as male despite being female? Maybe to keep a bit of a safe distance? That’s something someone trying to remain detached would do, right? Maybe because the usual next step where the prissy ghost is being taken apart by magic!cock and reveals his sexual needs would feel weird with a female character both in terms of the shitty damsel-saved-by-knight-trope and me being afraid of slut-shaming, but somehow it’s ok when it’s a guy? I think @ingu wrote something interesting about anti-reylo people critizising abusive dynamics in reylo while being ok with it in kylux.
Another aspect is that the other character the ghost is shipped with is usually quite fucked up, unstable, violent, clearly hurting, etc (true for both Craig!Bond and Kylo Ren) and somehow in need of being saved and reigned in. Now a lot of people are being vocal about not wanting Rey to be sacrificed to heal the abusive asshole, but we still seem to have the need to wrap him into a blanket and so we self-insert into a male character to do this.
I dunno, maybe I’m just digging too deep, because as far as I recall my first kylux thought was “lol wouldn’t it be funny if those two assholes were hate-fucking and accidentally developed feelings” - like it was a sort of wish to torture them through the horrible agony of being in love and the sentimentality only happened later.
Since I’ve been @ed I’ll jump in with my two cents on this question, drawing on a few points I’ve made previously here, here, and here. I would argue that the above comments are 100% on point, the popularity of this fandom ghost is without a doubt due to its function as a fandom-wide self-insert, and a direct symptom of the ‘white male as default’ human mentality of western society as whole.
Self-insert, however, may not be an entirely accurate, instead, I would argue that these characters exhibit the common characteristics and traits which participants of fandom are likely to identify with. Their experiences and circumstances are such which under-represented groups are able to easily appropriate and reframe with their own perspectives.
If you look at fandom’s depiction of Hux (and also, I believe, Arthur), much of their shared characteristics can be directly reflected in those experienced by, as an example, women. Their preoccupation with looking well-kept directly mirrors women’s experiences with the need for make-up, with body-image. Being hypercompetent and yet not respected (especially by that frustrating object of desire), mirrors women’s real life workplace struggles. As @cyanwrites has raised before in this post discussing the role of age in character preference:
(older) Millenials identify with Hux (not the ‘genocidal bastard’ part, but being hard-working, under-appreciated, and having to suffer an idiot colleague on a daily basis)
While the op says that they do not see canon Hux in what fanon has made of him, I don’t quite agree. It is exactly because Hux has shown specific characterisitcs:
- competent, high-achieving, and hard working (a very young general, many inferences can be made from this)
- is frustrated (and targeted) by people ‘less-competent’ than him (kylo)
- does not hesitate to stand up for himself
- highly professional and even guarded exterior (contrast leia’s commanding style)
that fandom is able to imprint and expand on him. And the thing is, there is absolutely nothing unnatural about this. If you look across fandoms, just about every other depiction of a fannish character will have some sort of difference. Even established official writers for tentpole characters (especially in comic books) will reveal deeply varied interpretations of the same person. This is the essence of fandom, and the origin of creativity for those of us interested in exploring our understandings of these figures we have felt attracted to for various reasons.
Now as for the why, I would say that Hux being young, white, male, and also, not ugly (at least in most people’s eyes, it seems), does unquestionably play a role. And this is the symptom of sustained social conditioning that we fans have not managed to escape the effects of despite our deep awareness of the issues present. White men are not just presented as inherently complex, they’re presented as inherently desirable, they’re presented as inherently important. And at the same time, this comes as a direct result of the serious under-representation issue faced by minorities.
The point being, fandom does not exist in a vacuum, and the real life social-issues faced by minority groups become obstacles when a fan is already struggling to manage and explore their own feelings formed under the influence of these issues. Here, I can think of two examples.
First, in the context of star wars, the fandom hate for Reylo is one of the best example of the danger and deterrence that fans experience when wanting to explore what might be an ‘unethical’ subject matter. The simple issue being they cannot divorce themselves from the shame and guilt and anger of seeing or placing a woman in a position of ‘less power’. There is an element of internalised misogyny at play. Where a fan may want to explore sexual themes or unhealthy/abusive relationship dynamics with unequal power, the woman’s body is off-limits. The same is repeated for other minority characters, whether it is race, or gender identity at play, people are terrified of doing something wrong and being attacked for it, so they don’t do it at all.
More than this, there is an issue where many authors simply don’t know what to do with a minority or female character when it comes to their headcanons. Mako Mori, the asian female protagonist of Pacific Rim isn’t written out of fanfiction for shits and giggles, it’s because often, like the white male authors of the world, fandom doesn’t know how to write an asian female without turning her into a stereotype and an insult. The symptoms of the disease that is media under-representation is exhibited directly by fandom.
And in the wider fandom context, the phenomenon of ABO fiction is also a perfect reflection of this in the context of female sexuality. Where women are able to forego the shame that lies behind expressing and controlling their own sexual desires while embracing the pleasures behind ‘humiliating’ kinks, most of which are invariably tied to the real-life oppression of female sexuality. This is something I’ve discussed in a skype ramble you can read here.
All of this ties back to the fact that most Kylux fanfiction is not in any way healthy or vanilla. One in three Kylux fics on AO3 is Explicit, compared to 24% of reylo and 14% of stormpilot. So much of Kylux is kink and porn. And the rest of it reflects many deeply unequal or downright abusive dynamics. Kylo’s disregard and invasion of Hux’s mind and privacy has been all but normalised within fanon. And Children Wake Up, the most popular kylux series by far within the fandom, contains a deeply imbalanced relationship dynamic wherein Hux has been stripped of all agency and power, and a Kylo Ren who demonstrates little respect for Hux’s boundaries or desires. What this shows is that fandom, at its heart, is attracted to tropes, kinks, and general subject matter which are deeply unpopular when it’s used against women, poc, and other minorities. Even your most vanilla coffee shop or high school au might just be recycled tropes and cliches people will shame and pick apart if produced for a mainstream audience.
The white man, here, is not only a ‘blank’ slate which people understand and understand how to utilise safely, it is also an ‘empowered’ slate which does not carry the real-world baggage faced by minorities. When Rey is even so much as threatened with the danger of abuse and rape, a mob rises up to attack Reylo shpipers. When Hux and Kylo are actively stripped of power and emasculated by a fandom’s most popular depictions, there is equivalent emotional response. White men, are seen as inherently equal in power, whether or not that is the reality, and as a result, it allows fandom to enjoy its most shameful and perverse harlequin tropes or 50 shades dynamics, with zero guilt or baggage.
It is an appropriation of the white male body for the expression of female sexuality and emotional experience. Does it reclaim power for minorities, or does it just perpetuate the very issues they experience? Maybe neither, maybe both.
Interesting meta. I’ve got to say that as a hippy, slobby, bohemian artist type who’s never worn makeup and buzz-cuts their own hair occasionally to minimize brushing, who maybe picks the socks off the floor sometime in the month, and spends all their time on Tumblr instead of working, this hyper-competent well-dressed character is *definitely not a self insert* for me.
But then this is one of the many fandom iterations of Hux that I find exhausting and boring. (I didn’t like Arthur either, come to that.) It is interesting that it turns up so often, but I don’t think it’s a monomyth - I think it’s far from being the only interpretation of Hux out there.
Take CWU Hux, who is someone who suffers from being too sensitive in an insensitive society - someone who is now slowly learning how to be fully human. That doesn’t fit the same mold at all. Take MySpace Hux - an asexual teenager with a scary kink who’s almost as afraid of himself as other people are. That doesn’t fit the mold either.
I am all for taking a background character and using them to fill your own needs in a fandom. I often go for the sidekick and walk on characters precisely because they offer more freedom. But I don’t know that Hux fits that bill.
I mean, I think we actually have more background material on Hux than we do on Finn. We know who Hux’s father was and what he believed in. We know what Hux’s end-game is (his belief that he’s destined to be Emperor.) We have information in general that covers officer training under Hux Sr, pre-Endor, so we can make inferences about what sort of a childhood he had. For Finn we’ve pretty much got nothing - we don’t know his parents or home planet, we don’t know what the Stormtrooper training for young children was like. We pick up Finn’s story mere months before we see him in the movie, when he’s already pretty fully formed as a character.
We’ve met other Imperial officers, but Finn is the first non-clone stormtrooper we know as an individual. Backstory wise he’s much more of a blank slate than Hux. How did he get to be the person that he is? IDK, and I’m finding it quite frustrating, because - in the movie at least - he doesn’t seem to carry any of the scars I’d expect from someone who grew up literally brainwashed by a military junta.
So yeah… I guess I’m going off topic there, but does anyone else feel that Finn just seems too well adjusted for someone who grew up the way he did? I mean, seriously, if he’s the star product of the Stormtrooper program then the stormtrooper program is doing great things in the area of child rearing. I’m sure ‘good job, Phasma, good job Hux’s dad,’ is not supposed to be the takeaway I’m getting, but it kind of is.
- the-stranger-love liked this
- elvexdreams reblogged this from wildehack
- reduceyourcarbonyaoifootprint reblogged this from wildehack and added:
- fucklepug liked this
- snickfic liked this
- furrywolftimemachine liked this
- methaemoglobinemia liked this
- discourse-receptical reblogged this from math-is-magic
- goldenfalls liked this
- confirmedsinbin reblogged this from bendingsignpost
- caniwritemywayout liked this
- humanbeanisnotamused liked this
- pareidoliarps reblogged this from pareidoliarps
- bitterbiracialbibliophile reblogged this from penmaries
- puredespair liked this
- sparkle-gore liked this
- thebibliosphere liked this
- hiddlestwinkle reblogged this from centrumlumina
- hiddlestwinkle liked this
- soufre-de-paris liked this
- zoerussle liked this
- puddlet liked this
- doorsclosingslowly reblogged this from sqbr
- awesomewannaberebel reblogged this from wildehack
- rhodoflove liked this
- the-natural-disesther liked this
- peonypossumprincesa reblogged this from labyrinthphanlivingafacade
- labyrinthphanlivingafacade reblogged this from labyrinthphanlivingafacade
- purpleimber liked this
- selfindulgentbitch reblogged this from selfindulgentbitch
- shunnaoaddict liked this
- theawkwardturtleduck reblogged this from sqbr
- exocarapace liked this
- strigineserpent reblogged this from sqbr
- alternative27angel liked this
- ladysparrow01 liked this
- chaos-in-harmony liked this
- katbelleinthedark reblogged this from dying-suffering-french-stalkers and added:
- squaresandcalliopsis reblogged this from dying-suffering-french-stalkers
- classicalcaster251 liked this
- unbreykmyheart reblogged this from labyrinthphanlivingafacade
- raven-clique liked this
- matt0044 reblogged this from theozilla
- suspiciousspud liked this
- havingbeenbreathedout liked this
- wildehack posted this