I totally get what you're saying about fandom and canon (or at least I think I do) and that what's really important is a love of the material, and I agree to that respect, but personally, reading the words "canon doesn't matter" kind of rustles my jimmies, because for some people (like me) and in some spaces, canon is extremely important. 1/?
People will find importance in canon for whatever reasons that are individual to them, and I think it’s important to consider that. There are also spaces where discussion of canon IS important, like when it comes to issues of representation. I think you’ve read my post about the phrase “there is no heterosexual explanation for this” and my rebuttal of “not every emotionally intimate relationship between two characters of the same gender is inherently gay” in response to people claiming that 2/
certain same gender pairings are “obviously” “gay for each other”, when there’s nothing in the canon that points to anything beyond an emotionally intimate relationship. One of the people who commented on it made a really good point that while it’s fine to ship something regardless of canon, it’s a different thing entirely to claim that something IS canon when there’s no evidence for it, or evidence that’s up to too much interpretation, because claiming that such a relationship IS canon 3/?
when in fact it’s barely hinted at and interpretable at best, it means that it’s much more difficult to call for better representation, when someone who is against representation can go “see? look at all the people who say [interpretable pairing] is canon. they don’t need anything more explicit!” 4/?
I think that there ARE spaces in fandom where that’s an important discussion to have. So I disagree with you that canon doesn’t matter, because there are places for it, and for individual people, it’s very important. But I agree entirely that there shouldn’t be arguments in fandom about what is or is not canon that basically involves gatekeeping “canon” or being mean to others because of what they think is or is not canon. 5/?
In a perfect world, people would be willing to agree to disagree about what is or is not canon and accept that other people have different opinions of how far canon goes. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so I definitely agree that it’s bad for people to assert that their view of canon is the “correct” view, and - if I may be so audacious as to assume intent - is really the point you’re trying to make. 6/? (I think?)
I think that not caring about canon has its place in certain fandom contexts, but not all of them. It’s kind of like it’s a different analytical framework, one that’s useful sometimes but not other times. 7/?
And certainly, I think canon has importance in places that exist at the boundaries of fandom, like when canon is considered in historical studies or in literature reviews. Though that’s also getting into discussions of where fandom ends and other disciplines begin, so it’s probably a moot point, and probably depends on someone’s perspective and intent. 9/? (or 8?)
I’m gonna stop myself here from going into literary theory/criticism/whatever about when and where canon matters, but I think I’ve made my point that while I agree with the sentiment of what you’re saying, I disagree with the statement that “canon doesn’t matter” in fandom. Because I think it does, but just not in every context. 10/10 (or whatever number)
As always, you’ve got a wealth of thoughtful and well-worded discussion here. You’re a brilliant human being, and one of the reasons I love talking to you is because of your deep analytical perspectives. I think another reason I jive with you as a friend is because we tend to hold similar perspectives. It’s fun, because we both entertain creative or emotional discussions extrapolated from source materials, and we both acknowledge what canon objectively contains.
I apologize: I thought I’d been more clear with the context of what I was criticizing regarding fandom’s relationship with canon. I think I also banked on followers knowing I’m a logically centered individual who cares deeply about facts and not just heart. I suppose not, and I’m sorry if I were misleading. My mistake! How you disagree with my phrase “canon doesn’t matter” is not what I was intending to suggest and it’s not the values I have regarding canon. That one sentence wasn’t meant to stand on its own that much. We do in truth consider canon’s importance the same way!
My critique intended to be about the discussion of “What are the canon materials?” rather than “What information is in the canon?” As I read it, your response goes through both, and where you say you disagreed is mostly when you looked at the latter (but I was intentionally honing in only on the former). Maybe it’s a good idea for us to separate these concepts rather than conflate it into a large debate of “what is canon?” from too broad an angle.
My critique was about how fans police others’ engagement for things like Watsonian interpretations, headcanons, speculative meta, and fanfiction writing. If people want to analyze Edward Elric’s personality only from FMAB, or if they want to include minor tie-ins (ex: Prince of the Dawn, Sacred Star of Milos, omake, etc.), either perspective provides interesting analytical angles. They’re both valid ways of handling the character’s personality.
Especially since I experience the “What is canon materials?” conversation with the HTTYD fandom, I tend to see the debate centered on continuity and OOC/IC interactions. Also, at times, how “big” a material is - like video games being “less authoritative” than the films. These conversations are more about how people do or don’t emotionally reject RTTE for their personal headcanon/discussion space. These are people who acknowledge the show’s implications rather than deny RTTE’s existence or the implications of the content. It’s exactly because people engage and examine its contents, that some people might like to talk about Hiccup through RTTE lenses, and others will never entertain such speculations.
(You know this stuff, I’m sure, but I’m spelling it all out to be clear, and for other readers to follow.)
What I’m saying is that in angles like these, what is or is not canon doesn’t matter, because we have the right to recreationally interact with Hiccup through some of the officially licensed materials, or through all of them. We have the right to completely ignore ALL canon and imagine him as something else, too!
That discussion that I focused on is about what people accept as “the most official materials” versus “unofficial materials.” Your focus for the majority of your message looks to me like a nuanced angle on something else - the other “spaces,” “places,” “frameworks” you bring up. That’s about whether or not people acknowledge what’s inside those materials. It’s about whether or not people are able to acknowledge that things happen in official materials, or are able to correctly discern objective versus subjective information within that media. That’s not something I was covering in that conversation because it wasn’t contextually relevant, but yes, you’re absolutely right that these distinctions are important!
The viral post you mentioned is one I’ll never forget from you, because I agree with it 100%. It’s the same frustration I hold, so it was so enthralling to see it put to words. It’s poor thinking for fans to subjectively interpret canon materials and try to push it as The One Truth… when it is not objectively what the source material contains. Feel free to tie things together how you want for funsies, that doesn’t make it what the source ACTUALLY says.
This is why I mentioned, at the start of my discussion, that I get uncomfortable when people dismiss officially licensed materials as “fanfiction” or “not real.” These exist whether we like them to or not. The reason it’s important to distinguish fandom from canon is because canon is what feeds us, and is what provides authority for what the franchise is. Whether or not you like the materials or engage with them for things like headcanoning, they’re there, and you have to be able to acknowledge: these materials exist. The companies gave them to us.
Because a product exists, you can’t say “bye” to the consequences of its existence. You have to know it exists, and what it does/doesn’t contain. It’s poor thinking for individuals to extrapolate materials from canon that were objectively not intended by the creators, but fans still try to push it as “the true story.” What the source material objectively contains cannot be replaced by emotional wants or denials. That’s where things like representation or romance come into play, as you mentioned: it’s (usually) fine to relate to and interpret the characters as you want, so long as you can separate that from the objective reality of the source material. You have to be able to acknowledge what the source material contains.
I want to make it very clear:
There’s an enormous difference between emotionally deciding which canonical materials you engage with for your creative frameworking…
…versus denying the existence of what officially licensed products contain, or insisting that your subjective interpretation is objectively true.
For the former: canon doesn’t matter. That’s my discussion of the previous post. Policing fans by telling them one source is canon and one isn’t… when it’s all licensed materials… is forcing people to engage with canon a certain way. We all have the right to engage with all licensed materials to the depth we want. If I want to accept RTTE and analyze Hiccup from RTTE to GOTNF to THW… let me enjoy that! Don’t tell me to quit analyzing RTTE!Hiccup because it doesn’t feel like he’s IC to you (and ergo, outside of your own mental “canon”). It’s fiiiiine! I can write analyses about RTTE!Hiccup!
For something like the “what is canon materials?” discussion you mentioned as far as academic documentation of a body of works, that is a REALLY interesting discussion, but yeah, as you pointed out, a little outside the boundaries of this current conversation. But I’d love to talk to you sometime about it!!!
For the latter: you better be able to know what the licensed materials actually contain. You shouldn’t deny something exists. Whether or not you call it “canon,” you should be able to acknowledge it’s an official product and not something a fan put on AO3. You should be able to objectively understand what’s in officially released products. If the books have problematic elements, if a show lacks explicit queer representation, if there’s a racial stereotype that’s handled poorly, that’s a truth that you can’t imagine your way out of! You can reinterpret characters for fun in your fandom discussions, but you can’t deny the reality of what the creators produced. Ignoring the truth of these issues, or making your interpretations “reality” you force on others… is dangerous illogical thought that has severe consequences for how you interact with the world and its issues.
As you say, there’s value in all these discussions. We’ve known each other a long time, so I know you know I’m a logic-oriented individual, someone who isn’t going to say “everything is okay!” and let subjectivity fly over objective information in source materials. When I say “canon doesn’t matter,” it’s not about subjectively letting our feelings erase what is objectively presented on screen / on paper. When I say “canon doesn’t matter,” it’s about whether or not someone wants to talk about tie-ins, or only select portions of officially released products. But when I say “canon doesn’t matter,” it is also with the assumption people are smart enough to distinguish subjective interpretation from objective observation, the angle which you brought up with the nuanced discussion we’ve seen. Thanks for speaking with such finesse again on why we can’t lets fans’ desires get in the way of what they call “truth.”
I love to both discuss things from a creative speculative angle and let my imagination wander or reinterpret characters… or discuss materials from a Doylist acknowledgement of how something gets sociologically presented. Hell, I hold such a huge value to official products and canon materials that I engage with almost no fandom content (fanfictions, comics, etc.). So yeah! I also believe that canon is very, very important, and is something to be talked about!
I think it’s important to understand the impacts that official materials have, and I get frustrated when people pretend something DreamWorks or Disney officially sanctioned is “fanfiction.” I think it’s important for fans to discuss back and forth about what they think objectively happened when there’s a lack of clarity. For the romance thing, again, as you said, it’s a good discussion to have of “what is WITHIN canon?” when looking at whether or not it’s obviously queer, or if you’re reading into it.
I also love to create synthesized interpretations for what characters are like and I get frustrated when people try to police me on what I can/can’t include into my canon analyses.
I just have no patience for laypersons who debate “what is canon MATERIAL?” when looking at whether or not a video game should be considered “okay” to synthesize with a movie, and gatekeeping in the sense of what fans can include in our creative engagements. Whether or not X is “as canon” as Y doesn’t matter at the end of the day if you disagree with [insert username here]. It’s your recreation. It’s still a franchise product. Know it exists, know the objective materials, and move on. Do with it as you will and let your friends do with it as they will.