Read to the end for a conversation with activist and author Kim Kelly
Sorry, We’re Going To Talk About The Omegaverse Now
Allegra Rosenberg, Commotion Investigator, coming to you live with a Kerfuffle Report from the Fandom Quadrant, where last week a bunch of people Tweeted Through It regarding a lengthy and arcane blog post about the Omegaverse fan fiction trope: which for the uninitiated is a common Alternate Universe (AU) setting for fan fiction where some people are Alphas with the ability/biological urge to impregnate others who are Omegas. The blog post is here, there’s some good responses in the comments, another response essay here. The author, bless her soul, believed she had a new and important point to make. Did she??????? Maybe!! I don’t know, I don’t really want to relitigate it.
The question of “why do [people/women/queer women] like to write smutty M/M fan fiction which often isn’t very good” is the eternal flame that will never die. It’s a decades-old commentary trope known alternately as “Thoughts on Yaoi” or as Fanlore puts it, Why Slash. There’s even a well-trod subtrope, which the Tor essay certainly takes up at times, known as Why Isn’t There More Femslash. These questions will fail to come to a satisfactory conclusion past the heat death of the universe. People will, despite all laudable efforts to get them to “interrogate their preferences” or “broaden their palates,” write exactly what they want to write and read exactly what they want to read. Just by probability alone that is most often going to be something dumb and simple and boring, like Omegaverse fan fiction that plays the trope completely straight by depicting — oh my god, I can’t finish this sentence, my grandma reads this column.
As a commenter points out, Omegaverse (or A/B/O as it’s known) is literally just a fetish erotica genre. Everything else is incidental, including its usually-nonexistent social justice bonafides. And there’s something just a touch myopic about the essay’s claim that fan fiction is inherently queer, or that fan fiction being queer is the most important thing about it, something which it needs to “live up to” as a bastion of liberatory transformativeness. I mean, yeah, a lot of it is queer, and that is important, but I would say just as much or even more of the extremely broad medium we think of today as “fan fiction” is the sort of mainstream, heavily hetero teenage Reylo-core Fifty-Shades Harry-Styles-self-insert stuff that you see outside of Archive Of Our Own, on Wattpad or Twitter or Tumblr or the digital spaces where horny high schoolers and moms congregate that I’m barely aware of (TikTok? Amino? YouTube comment sections?)
Omegaverse has long crossed over to those parts. Even the lawsuit as made famous by Lindsay Ellis centers on heterosexual Omegaverse, something which (despite me personally believing defeats the entire purpose of the trope) is incredibly popular on platforms like Kindle Unlimited and Literotica. Sequestered in one’s own fandom bubbleplex, it’s difficult to get a bird’s eye view that encompasses all of the above, let alone understand how it all interacts via the medium of constantly-context-collapsing social media platforms.
What I find most interesting, beyond the usual sordid pleasures of distantly observing intra-community spats, is how Omegaverse is a perfect example of the kind of participatory, communal ground-up worldbuilding that Hollywood NFT booster dudes dream of for their stupid metaverses. Sorry, but it’s true! It began as a one-paragraph prompt on a Supernatural forum in 2010 and is now a sprawling, complex public domain fictional tropeworld that a non-zero amount of people make a living off of. Importantly, it could only ever have become as powerful as it is because it is, at its core, nothing but pure horniness. Pornography is the great innovator, after all: that’s how we got VHS beating Betamax and simple online credit card payments.
People love nothing so much as looking at the world through the lens of a fictional sorting system: astrology, Hogwarts houses, Myers-Briggs types. People also love being horny. Omegaverse combines the best of both worlds. And because people increasingly view life, the universe, and everything through the lens of media (“Ruthkanda Forever” being the nadir of that sort of approach) it makes an unfortunate amount of sense that Omegaverse is fair game. There was that TikTok trend last year where people made videos as if they lived in the Omegaverse; one can even buy merchandise on Etsy to advertise one’s A/B/O status.
Omegaverse might be considered a sort of through-a-glass-darkly complement to hentai: it’s a genre for and by mainly women (of all sexualities) which spread from Western internet spaces into global ones and is now widely beloved by a variety of demographics. In the same way that hentai went mainstream, thanks to such luminaries as 4chan users and Elon Musk and the ahegao face meme, we will probably be seeing more of A/B/O in increasingly public contexts. And unfortunately it will probably not be as morally radical or subversively queer as the writer of the Tor essay wishes it would be.
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Meta Is Sinking, There Is No Sight Of Land, Tab In Unlovable Tab
Meta has decided that the future of both Facebook and Instagram is TikTok. Both apps are pushing a new update to their news feeds that will inundate users with shortform video content hosted inside the company’s Reels product. Facebook’s update adds a “feeds tab,” which is “a chronological feed of posts from those you follow.” But there’s still going to be a Home tab, where the app will still “recommend personalized content from creators and friends.”
I think this an embarrassing disaster, but before I get into all of that, I want to first acknowledge how threatened Meta, and by extension, it seems, Silicon Valley is by TikTok. One has to wonder if American venture capitalists are so obsessed with “decentralization” right now because they realize they can’t compete with the way Chinese tech companies use data to build immersive recommendation algorithms and hope to burn the whole thing down with the blockchain. Anyways, on to Meta’s current floundering.
From where I’m sitting, Meta is trying to accomplish two things. In the short-term, they are desperate to continue their strategy of making bootlegs of popular and relevant social networks for the lowest common denominator. They look for innovations from apps like Snapchat, TikTok, Discord, and Twitch, take the core features, dumb them down, and then inflict them upon an increasingly geriatric users. Meta seems to think that if they give Barstool Sports, Shithead Steve, and the Daily Wire some new hoops to jump through, they can magically turn their audience back into college students.
The longer-term goal with moves like the new tabs dropping this week is simply to buy time. Meta, a company that has actually tried and failed to launch a Facebook phone, has decided for no reason that they can suddenly sell enough headsets — a device that has also been tried and has failed to take off — to make their big bet on VR pay off. It’s as if an aging marathon runner decided to keep running races while using all their free time to not only train to be a Formula One racer, but also learn how to build the car, too.
Please Don’t Eat Food You Buy Off TikTok
Look, this should go without saying. In a normal, healthy world, I wouldn’t have to be writing this! But this is not a normal, healthy world so here I am. Don’t order something called “pink sauce” from a woman on TikTok. It appears to be mayonnaise with chili powder and honey and she is shipping it unrefrigerated via standard mail. You will get very sick if you eat this sauce.
katato in the Garbage Day Discord sent me this thread. Someone tried to figure out what’s in the “pink sauce” and the verdict seems to be that it’s “2 parts oil to 1 part Mayo, .3 parts whole garlic & .4 parts dragon fruit that had excess moisture removed.” But as The Verge has pointed out, a lot of the people who bought the sauce say it’s showing up spoiled.
I’ve seen a few folks link the pink sauce with another influencer biohazard, Caroline Calloway’s snake oil. But it also sort of reminds me of Belle Delphine’s gamer girl bathwater. If you’re wondering why this kind of thing keeps happening, my best guess is that modern social platforms blend together capitalism and megalomania in a very specific way where you start thinking you can just sell people random shit laying around your house.
Speaking of capitalism and megalomania…
Web3 People Still Don’t Know Why We Need Web3
Devin Finzer, the co-founder and CEO of OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace, was recently asked by Andreessen Horowitz general partner Kathryn Haun why people would want NFT concert tickets.
Finzer’s big bright idea was that NFT concert tickets could be used as collateral for loans. It’s an idea so bad and so grim that I’m actually having trouble following the logic tbh. In fact, I want to talk this through just to get it out there.
I buy a Metallica ticket or whatever and it’s an NFT. I go to the concert and then display the NFT on a marketplace like OpenSea afterwards. Metallica fans start collecting concert ticket NFTs and decide the one I have is either rare or valuable — maybe something crazy happened at the concert idk. The bidding war that ensues around my ticket raises its theoretical value on OpenSea and I then take out a loan with it as collateral. Excuse me, but none of that makes any fucking sense. But more importantly, it exposes what is perhaps the biggest flaw with all the NFT stuff right now: it’s all based on a world where NFTs already contain value. But, aside from other NFT collectors, and maybe the few weirdos out there who actually bought soccer league digital assets, there aren’t any fandoms I know of who value NFT memorabilia. It’s all hollow. There’s no there there. Either the people driving the Web3 push don’t realize this and just assume fandoms spring out of nowhere fully formed or they know it’s all fake and they’re committing large-scale fraud.
You know who has figured out what they think about the blockchain though? Minecraft. The company behind the game, Mojang, released a big statement this week, writing, “NFTs are not inclusive of all our community and create a scenario of the haves and the have-nots. The speculative pricing and investment mentality around NFTs takes the focus away from playing the game and encourages profiteering, which we think is inconsistent with the long-term joy and success of our players.”
Also, everyone should follow Molly White, the creator of the very excellent Web3 Is Going Great, but you should also specifically check out this maddening and heartbreaking thread from White sharing stories from screwed over Celsius customers.
The Fetterman Campaign Continues Its Trolling
This week, the senatorial campaign for John Fetterman, the final boss of a video game where you fight various Allentown dive bar bouncers, started a petition to put Mehmet “Dr. Oz” Oz into the New Jersey Hall Of Fame. (The joke being that Oz actually lives in New Jersey, but is running for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania.) I think the art of good, well-done political trolling has been tarnished over the last few years because of, you know, the rising tide of American fascism. But I do really appreciate Fetterman’s team politically weaponizing a specifically Pennsylvanian kind of mean sarcastic politeness.
A Very Reddit Wedding Problem
I’ve been trying to settle on a holistic description of a Redditor. Something that accounts for all the different communities that use the site, whether they be right-wing culture warriors or people complaining about their mothers-in-law. And I think the closest I’ve come is: someone obsessed with a hobby or interest to point of slight irl disfunction. I’m still working on it, but I think it covers this recent post on r/AmITheAsshole.
The two getting married are puppeteers at a “local (but fairly prominent) theatre” and they still use puppets to communicate with each other in their relationship. Excellent stuff. The couple are “insisting” that their guests buy “quality (but not nearly the quality of professional puppets) puppets to use” during the wedding. They said the puppets should cost between $150-$500. This is all, of course, objectively nuts. But, as I wrote at the top, that’s why they’re hashing this out on Reddit. Let’s see what the comments had to say:
“Yta, is this an episode of criminal minds? Jfc”
“What the fuck did I just read. Puppets are often creepy to most folks, your ask is insane and I don’t foresee a large turnout. $150-500 on puppets they’ll use once? Instead of wedding gifts for your life together? Wtf is the matter with you?”
“If ‘cringe’ had a superlative, it would be this. YTA.”
A Very Funny Twitter Thread About Ramen
Twitter user @ItismindofJson tried an instant ramen called Buldak and posted a very funny thread of tweets immediately afterwards. I have had this ramen before. This is not an overdramatic reaction. It will melt the inside of you. I mean, it’s name literally means “fire chicken” in Korean. Definitely click over to the original poster’s account for more funny tweets about the spicy ramen. Though, a warning, he did post a photo from the toilet.
BONUS: Here’s Kim Kelly’s Biggest Pop Culture Blindspot
Everyone loves to ask the internet’s most-plugged in writers and creators questions like “what are you reading,” or “what’s in your bag,” or “what’s your money diary,” etc. So I decided to do something different: What aren’t you paying attention to?
Kim Kelly is an activist and author of Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor and an absolutely essential follow if you care about the labor rights movement in America right now. I asked her what her big pop culture blindspot is and it turns out I have the same one (If you haven’t noticed by now, a big reason I’m doing this miniseries is because I actually have a lot of my own). We both didn’t grow up with Nickelodeon. You can check what that has meant for our development as good nostalgic millennials after the paywall jump!
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