Racebending fandoms and digital futurism


  • Elizabeth Gilliland Louisiana State University




Afrofuturism, Fan art, Fan casting, Fan works, Tumblr


Online fan art can be a way for communities to celebrate a particular fandom, characters, or relationships; yet though these pieces have been studied for their ability to create community and express identity, one area that has yet to be fully explored in connection to fan art is as a form of activism. The racebending movement on Tumblr suggests an effort by fans to reclaim books, films, and television from the whitewashing that often takes place in the entertainment industry. In particular, this project explores Tumblr art devoted to recasting popular fiction with people of color, and how this activism has ties to movements such as Afrofuturism, as well as relating the history of the term "racebending" itself. I will examine how these recastings are performed to gauge the intention behind them, and to trace how they are being used as a commentary on society. I believe these rewritings of popular fandoms not only indicate a desire by fans to see more portrayals of diversity, but are also in essence creating an ethno-futuristic space. Though for the most part, the television and film industries continue to whitewash their programming, these fans protest that notion through creating their diversified fan art; in essence, rejecting the homogenous entertainment of the past and present in favor of a self-made, heterogeneous future.

Author Biography

Elizabeth Gilliland, Louisiana State University

Graduate Teaching Assistant and PhD candidate, English Department, Louisiana State University