For the past few weeks, my Twitter feed has been full of Faberry. More specifically, my Twitter feed has been full of Glee fans reminding, cajoling, begging, wishing, hoping, praying, pleading with friends and family to vote for Rachel Berry and Quinn Fabray in E! Online’s March Madness-style TV’s Top Couples poll. E! started with 64 couples, narrowed it to 32, then 16, then eight. The final four saw three same-sex pairings, including Brittana. In the end, Faberry took home the crown with 62 percent of the votes. In fact, Faberry shippers organized a get out the vote effort that set a new record high for page views for any single post in the history of E! Online.
No matter which angle you approach it from, it’s an awe-inspiring victory.
Consider, for example, the fact that Rachel and Quinn aren’t technically a couple on Glee. That means the alternate narrative to their story — via fan fiction and fan videos and fan forums and that mighty beast Tumblr — is so potent it managed to overpower longtime TV couples, and classic will-they/won’t-they couples, and even Glee‘s established lesbian couple Santana and Brittany. It is the apex of pop culture co-opting, and a clear sign that television writers don’t have the final word when it comes to the fate of their characters. Ryan Murphy might drive Rachel and Finn right at your TV screen, but after the episode, a fan fiction writer can drive Finn right off a cliff and be done with him. Goodbye, Finchel; long live Faberry!
But for me, the Faberry victory is about more than the rise of fan-based communities; it’s about a long chain of dominoes that are falling over one-by-one on a march toward equality.
It says something that three of the top four couples in E!’s poll were gay, and that the final round of voting pitted one same-sex pairing against the other. Actually, it says a lot of somethings. It says that queer fans won’t sit quietly by and hope against hope that TV writers will remember them, will drop some crumbs on the floor to appease them from time to time. It says that the collective voice of queer fandom is loud and flush with power. And, to me at least, it says that the tide has turned when it comes to mainstream acceptance of gay and lesbian characters and couples.
Let’s just put it in context: While this poll was going on, California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Prop. 8 unconstitutional. Washington governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation allowing same-sex couples the right to marry. The New Jersey Senate passed a marriage equality act. And Maryland’s House of Delegates planned to begin debating a similar same-sex marriage initiative. Equality is on the minds of American legislators, and in the words of Harvey Milk, “They only need to know one of us! They vote for us two-to-one if they know they know one of us!”
And I say it all the time, but it doesn’t make it any less true: Knowing a gay or lesbian TV character is tantamount to knowing one of us.
When same-sex TV couples win, real-life gay couples win.
The cherry on top of the Faberry victory was the tweet Dianna Agron sent out after learning the results of the poll. Just an adorable photo of her and Lea Michele labeled “for the voters.” Ten years ago, actors with huge lesbian followings were terrified as being labeled or typecast as gay. I’m sure there’s still plenty of that going on in Hollywood today, but the actors like Michele and Agron, like Naya Rivera, like Shay Mitchell are adding a new voice to the mix; one that says, “People are people.” Both Rivera and Mitchell have told us they’re honored to play gay ladies on TV. And apparently Agron and Michele are just as thankful for their lesbian fans.
I know fandom likes to talk about “MFEO!” and “OTP!” and “ENDGAME!” and that’s fun for sure. The thing fans don’t talk about as much is “EQUALITY!” Luckily, “EQUALITY!” is a by-product of love. Real love, TV love, movie love, fan fiction love. Fandom is loud, fandom is proud — and fandom is changing the world, one shipping war at a time.