some_stars: (it's a metaphor you see)
fifty frenchmen can't be wrong ([personal profile] some_stars) wrote2011-06-18 08:43 pm

oh the Holocaust, will you never cease to stir controversy?

Here is a thing in X-Men: First Class fandom about which I am uncomfortable! It is both a Jew thing and a queer thing.

[PRE-POST DISCLAIMER: Obviously queer experiences and Jewish experiences of the Holocaust sometimes overlapped or were the same, being as there were in fact gay Jews. I mostly talk about them in opposition because it's shorthand for "people who were persecuted and/or deported FOR being queer" and "people who etc. FOR being Jewish," and also because this post is quite long enough.]

This thing is a particular subset of the "using the Holocaust as prompt for fic" thing--which, btw, I don't inherently object to, both because it would be futile and because in this fandom, there really are a ton of legitimate ways to get story ideas from the Holocaust, and actually it would be kind of iffy for someone not to deal with it at all, to any degree, at least in a more-than-snippet-length fic. My specific problem at the moment is the endless stream of prompts/ideas/stories that are basically: "homosexuals were also persecuted and deported in the Holocaust; therefore Erik, being a Jewish victim of the Holocaust, must feel [---] about homosexuality."

This concept relies on many lazy and therefore offensive assumptions. There's the assumption that the experiences of gays and Jews in the camps were parallel in kind/location/extent/aftermath/other aspects, and misconceptions about what those experiences were, and the assumption that the average Jewish deportee would necessarily know about the persecution of homosexuals, and that if they did know then that knowledge would make them feel sympathy and identify the gay victims' persecution with their own, and a whole lot of other stuff that's just...wrong. Certainly not things you could just assume based on whatever you've absorbed from pop culture and maybe a school textbook or a documentary or something.

I know nobody wants to go to the library for their h/c romance fanfic, and I don't really blame them; I wouldn't want to either. But a Wikipedia article of less than 5,000 words is not sufficient--clearly, because these prompts keep showing up full of wrong and/or misguided assumptions. (And honestly, even the Wikipedia article should offer you a sense of scale--so at least a vague idea of what people at the time and right after might have known about--and some idea of how gay vs. Jewish experiences were different before, during, and after the Holocaust itself, and also an idea of how very little was generally known about this in 1962.)

And really...I don't think I'm being too much of a hardass in wanting people to avoid writing a story focused on (not just mentioning) something they don't know about. These prompts are offensive because they're ignorantly exploiting the persecution and murder of queer people by viewing it through the all-consuming lens of "this involves gays, it could lead to slashiness," and because they show absolutely no real thought regarding what, if anything, a Jewish survivor, in that time period, might think about that persecution and murder. I'm not going to tell everyone what to decide about that, but I haven't yet seen a single "Erik's thoughts on the Nazi persecution of homosexuals" prompt that shows any sign of knowing there's a decision to be made--any thoughtfulness or more-than-Wikipedia knowledge, or even thoughtfulness about that Wikipedia knowledge.

There ARE good stories to be told on this general topic. Some of them could/should even be slash stories, although I would hope they were more like 'stories with slash in them,' meaning, stories where the author's sole/central purpose in bringing up the historical issues isn't to provide an impetus for getting the characters together but rather as an aspect of characterization. I mean, god knows I also feel these things about the Holocaust-related stories that only involve Jewish experiences--that's just a post that is way too big for me to make right now or probably ever.

The gist of it would be pretty similar though: DON'T ASSUME SHIT. Either don't deal with this stuff up front/at length (and you can choose not to center it without erasing it), or READ A BOOK, okay, just--remember that the experience of Holocaust victims is not directly or easily analogous to other kinds of trauma you're probably more familiar with, remember that it wasn't exactly the same for all groups in all places at all points between 1933-1945, THINK. Think about it beyond "how will this lead to kissing?" Think about it beyond "this is the most extreme hurt I can imagine, so it'll let me write lots of comfort." Think about it as a historical event, happening in a political and cultural world quite different from your own, with many, many facts that you need to not get wrong.

--and because I really don't want to write a post about X-Men: First Class fandom's treatment of the Holocaust in general, let me bring this back to my actual topic: writing that Erik feels such-and-such a way about homosexuals BECAUSE--direct and simple causality--they were sent to concentration camps just like him (something about which he as a Jewish survivor is somehow automatically knowledgeable) is just...wrong. It erases ten thousand crucial details of both queer and Jewish experiences under the Nazis and after the war, and it clearly shows that you don't really care about those details at all. If you did--if you even cared about characterization for your story--you'd let that information form your concept of how Erik has been affected, rather than forming a plot-convenient concept and grabbing a couple out-of-context details from Wikipedia to prop up your idea.

Shorter soundbite version: READ A BOOK. Please, okay, it's not asking a lot. Like--in Sherlock Holmes book fandom, as far as I could tell when I was in it, almost everyone had read at least one or two books (history books, other period material, etc) to allow them to write the Victorian London setting and a m/m romance therein more plausibly, and that wasn't a question of exploiting and misrepresenting victims of brutal persecution and murder and genocide, it was just to make the pastiche sound and feel more appealing. In Criminal Minds fandom, people read books about real-life profiling and serial killers to give their stories a satisfying veneer of accuracy and realism. In most of the historical or professional (law/police/medical/scientist/etc) fandoms I've been in or around, research and accuracy has been highly valued.

Fandom will not cease to thrive if people do research; fans can and do put in that effort when it seems important to them. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Read a book. Thank you.
snowynight: An Asian doctor who's also Captain America (Default)

[personal profile] snowynight 2011-06-19 02:32 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for writing this article. It's sadly very relevant.
lilacsigil: "Magneto Was Right" (magneto was right)

[personal profile] lilacsigil 2011-06-19 03:02 am (UTC)(link)
I remember the fandom all this when X1 came out, only they weren't the young cute guys then, so there wasn't quite as much fic. And there were no kinkmemes. I'm hoping the rush of Holocaust H/C will die down, because, while it is most certainly a very important part of Erik, it's *not an simple topic*.

...I have to say, I'm enjoying that the "hey, disabled Charles is sexy" fic is outweighing the "oh noes, disabled guy can NEVER LOVE AGAIN fic".
feanna: The cover of an old German children's book I inherited from my mother (Default)

[personal profile] feanna 2011-06-19 10:18 pm (UTC)(link)
"hey, disabled Charles is sexy" fic

Can I ask for links? Because there's the one that I've read (and probably most people, but I'll link it here, in case anybody hasn't: http://sinuous-curve.livejournal.com/386460.html ), but there are more?

But enough of that. I do definitely agree that assuming that because somebody experienced the camps (and there were many different ones, oh so many) doesn't mean that they'll come out of it with any certain attitude towards something. As I read sometime somewhere: The camps/Auschwitz didn't teach people positive things. That's not to say that some (amazing) people didn't get to show how great they were IN SPITE of the horrors, but in general when you are starving to death and scrabbling to survive (even if maybe not starving, but being threatened by death (of self) in some other way, that's when you shut your eyes and GET THROUGH IT, not open your eyes and learn (again some amazing people manage to do this).
This said, I wouldn't want to generalize in the opposite direction from the one in your post either, so really, I agree, PUT SOME THOUGHT INTO SHIT AND THE INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES!
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)

[personal profile] lilacsigil 2011-06-20 11:21 am (UTC)(link)
I enjoyed Fighting Fit (contains some recent-disability body hate at the start, and some ableist comments from other characters). Also Alekhine's Defense which is not about Charles being in a wheelchair, but doesn't avoid it, either.

I'm hopeless at finding things on kinkmemes, but I could swear there were a few more on http://xmen-firstkink.livejournal.com and some unfilled prompts there too.
rydra_wong: the illuminated Sarajevo haggadah (sarajevo haggadah)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2011-06-19 06:44 am (UTC)(link)
Permission to signal-boost?
illariy: entrance into a swimming pool (Zoe Saldana)

[personal profile] illariy 2011-06-19 01:14 pm (UTC)(link)
The gist of it would be pretty similar though: DON'T ASSUME SHIT. Either don't deal with this stuff up front/at length (and you can choose not to center it without erasing it), or READ A BOOK, okay, just--remember that the experience of Holocaust victims is not directly or easily analogous to other kinds of trauma you're probably more familiar with, remember that it wasn't exactly the same for all groups in all places at all points between 1933-1945, THINK. Think about it beyond "how will this lead to kissing?" Think about it beyond "this is the most extreme hurt I can imagine, so it'll let me write lots of comfort." Think about it as a historical event, happening in a political and cultural world quite different from your own, with many, many facts that you need to not get wrong.

Here via [personal profile] rydra_wong. I agree with this paragraph so much. It's paying respect to survivors.
marina: (Default)

[personal profile] marina 2011-06-19 03:09 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for writing this post.
littledust: Erik and Charles exchanging yet another look. ([xmm] running up that hill)

[personal profile] littledust 2011-06-19 03:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this.
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)

[personal profile] carmarthen 2011-06-19 06:54 pm (UTC)(link)
I am not in this fandom, but I am in a fandom with some similar (less raw) issues, and thank you. Especially for

Fandom will not cease to thrive if people do research; fans can and do put in that effort when it seems important to them. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Read a book. Thank you.

(And oh man, most of what I know about queer people and the Holocaust is from going through an exhibit on eugenics, but...yeah, totally different in both reason and effect from the persecution of Jews. I could actually fairly easily see Erik resenting gay people because of those differences.)
majoline: picture of Majoline, mother of Bon Mucho in Loco Roco 2 (Default)

[personal profile] majoline 2011-06-20 03:39 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this post.

[identity profile] zahrawithaz.livejournal.com 2011-06-24 02:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Here via starlardy38.

THANK YOU for this post.

[personal profile] alara 2011-06-25 05:53 am (UTC)(link)
According to the research I've done -- and I was researching the Holocaust to write Magneto long before there were *any* X-Men movies, let alone one in which Magneto is one of the featured characters on a kinkmeme -- many of the Jewish survivors were actually fairly homophobic toward the gay people in the *same camp* as them, because homophobia was a common bigotry of the time and the gay people were even more despised in the camp hierarchy than the Jews were, making them a safe target for suffering people to take out their suffering on.

The most horrifying thing I learned about the treatment of gays in the Holocaust was that, after the Nazi regime had fallen and the camps were liberated, most of the men who were imprisoned in concentration camps for being gay ENDED UP IN PRISON AGAIN, because being gay was still illegal and having been in the camps for being gay was considered proof of your crime. I can't even imagine how someone could be so hateful that they could imprison someone who'd been in a concentration camp, threatened with death for who they were, after liberating them from that camp, because the new goverment *agrees* with the old government that being gay is a crime, they just don't think it's a crime that deserves death.

Erik could be more progressive and open minded than the average Jewish survivor, but there's no canon-based reason why you'd have to read him that way. And anyone who's read "Maus" knows that Jewish camp survivors in the US were capable of awful racism toward black people, so why they should be automatically tolerant of gay people, I don't know. It's tempting to read Erik as progressive and liberal and free of any prejudices except the one against humans, but honestly... the mother he loved, who was murdered in front of him, is human, and yet he's able to accept the racist beliefs of her murderer even at the same time as he's declaring that he has to kill the guy for killing her. This is *not* a man who seems particularly tolerant, or liberal, or free of prejudice... or even someone who's real good at thinking "those people were oppressed in the way that I was oppressed, therefore I have common cause with them." I mean, the vast majority of Jews are humans, not mutants, but he's quite happy to declare war on humanity anyway. I love the guy, but if you're looking for a character who's going to be tolerant and who's going to have empathy for the suffering of others, look at Charles, not him.

So yeah. Everything you said.