She Is Candy What?? Gender and Racial Identity in Non-Human Characters

Curator's Note

Among characters who present in inhuman ways, particularly characters without a direct counterpart in our universe, aspects of their identity are often up for debate. The quality of that debate has a great variation within fandom spaces, informed by the fandom tendency to avoid topics of race and racism while often embracing discussions of characters’ relationship to gender, taking pride in the perception of fandom as a gender-marginalized space.

In the fandom for Dimension 20: A Crown of Candy, which aired between April and August of 2020, the nature of the show made discussions about character identity notable; namely, everyone and everything in the show was made of food. This made the tension between fandom and racial awareness much more apparent, because while characters with no externally gendered characteristics were generally accepted to embody genders analogous to our own, nonconforming or otherwise, the same was starkly less true for characters clearly coded and often explicitly stated to be BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), particularly the Black main characters Jet, Ruby, Saccharina, and Amethar Rocks.

Conversations about gender were afforded nuance and a playful tone, while conversations about the racial identities of characters stalled at the concept that they might even have a racial identity. Posts that could have inspired a wide public discussion about the adaptation of race into fantastical settings instead became debates over whether people with marginalized racial identities might deserve to see themselves in this show. Despite race and gender both being social constructs, race was seen as a step too far, something unsavory and undeserving of serious discussion. The frustration amongst BIPOC fans was palpable, as the matriarchal position of a T-bone steak with eyes and the gender nonconformity of a slice of cake with legs were the topic of spirited and open-minded conversation, but the mere suggestion that any of those characters might have a relationship to gender informed by their racialization was unacceptable to the fandom at large.

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