Skyfall rained manna down upon the film industry this week, but who cares about $88 million at the box office? The real news is that slash fans, the huge contingent of fandom that comes for the story but stays for the male/male romance, have found their latest pairing to obsess over—their One True Pairing, or OTP for short.
Wait. Make that double-oh-TP. Or, more specifically, 00Q.
Even if you haven’t seen Skyfall yet, you may have heard that the latest James Bond installment rebooted Bond’s sexuality along with the franchise, by inserting a scene that implies that the famous British spy may have had liaisons with his share of Bond Guys along with Bond Girls.
But despite the scripted implications when Daniel Craig’s Bond exchanges mind games with the villain, played by Javier Bardem, the many fans who’ve already produced a sizeable fanwork-based fandom in the 5 days since the movie came out in the U.S. have fixated on a different pairing: Bond and the young technical mastermind, Q; or as the fans are calling it, 00Q.
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Ben Whishaw, who plays Q, is known for BBC's series The Hour, but now he’ll likely be known as the actor who stole scenes as the fresh-faced gadget whiz when paired with Craig’s taciturn Bond. Although the character is only in the film for about 15 minutes, his chemistry with Bond is apparently enough to grab fandom’s attention. Whishaw is only in the movie for a couple of scenes, but it's enough to have inspired hundreds of fics, a slew of fanart, fanmixes, a kink meme, A Softer World meme (a popular fandom meme based on the comic of the same name), and an impressive Tumblr presence.
Though it may seem a surprise choice for a winter fandom fling, there are a number of reasons why members of fandom were predicting this ship would be big before the film ever landed.
It looks familiar.... 00Q wouldn’t be the first time fandom built a surprise ship around very little canon: the characters of Arthur and Eames from Inception had less than five minutes of total screen time together, but what they had was enough to fuel a surprisingly large Inception fandom for two years and counting.
Also like Arthur and Eames, Q and Bond fit a certain type of pairing popular among slashers and influenced considerably by Japanese yaoi (erotic male/male manga): the larger, protective alpha male and the smaller, feyer, often nerdy twink.
There’s even at least one crossover between the two fandoms, because, well, why not? Previous iterations of this dynamic include John McClane and Matt Farrell from Die Hard, Marcus and Esca from last year’s The Eagle, Marcone/Dresden from The Dresden Files, and, of course, Derek/Stiles from Teen Wolf.
It’s a suit fandom. The first and most obvious one is that Skyfall, with its glitz, glamour, and, of course, attractive men in suits, appeals to a large contingent of slash fans. Among several of the slash fandoms of the past few years, glamour and suits have been a recurring theme: Sherlock, Inception, White Collar, and, naturally, Suits.
It’s short. Film canons—the stories fandoms are based around—are easy to digest. In the case of James Bond, although it’s a franchise, the character reboots make this one practically a stand-alone film, which is even better for slashers who don’t want to sit through the Timothy Dalton era before they can write about Bond and Q waking up married after that drunken night in Las Vegas.
The timing is perfect. Many fans who’ve spent the last year engaged in one of the other currently huge slash fandoms are currently in the middle of a waiting period: Sherlock, Avengers, Teen Wolf, and Star Trek are all in a holding pattern until the latest iteration of their franchise airs. Just as fans were getting restless, Skyfall landed in their laps.
- It fits a pattern. As an entity, a certain subset of slash fandom tends to flock to the same fandom at the same time, something that’s become known, usually pejoratively because of its racial implications, as the Migratory Slash Fandom. While there’s often heated debate over whether or not it actually exists, it is true that where there are two hot white guys and a lot of banter in a high-profile story, a slash fandom is often swift to follow. This seems to hold twice as true if either or both of them are British.
“[S]o i think i’ll watch skyfall later because Q’s fucking adorable face is killing me and i wanna join the 00Q ship ok they are perf,” wrote one fan on Tumblr yesterday, in a nod to the way fans often join fandoms based on their interest in certain pairings before they ever see or read the story their fandom is based around. It’s also a sign of how loud and how large the fanbase for this pairing has gotten just in the week since the movie has been out.
And, of course, how uniform. “You managed to add white dudes who WEREN’T EVEN IN THE MOVIE,” noted feraline after looking through the tag sets for the Skyfall fandom on the Archive of Our Own.
But while it is true that 00Q can be said to fit certain patterns, it’s also true that fandom is excellent at doing subversive things with the status quo. Besides, since many fans do tend to move from ship to ship quickly, there’s a possibility that 00Q may be a fandom for a season, rather than a juggernaut ship. Though it is part of a franchise, Bond’s relationship with this particular Q is brand-new, which means that it may have all the disadvantages of any other standalone film: if there’s no sequel, it’s tough to keep the fandom going, as members of The Social Network, The Eagle, and The Losers fandoms have found out in recent years.
Still, if any character has proven his staying power time and again, it’s the shaken but never stirred man of the hour.
And, as we all know, the fanwork for the pairing may fade, but Bond—James Bond—is forever.
Illustration by wani/Pixiv