A Tumblr meme that’s also a double-edged social critique disguised as a jaunty musical number? Is this real life?
Yes! Specifically, it’s “They are never ever gonna get together,” a magnificent amalgam of Tumblr and fandom culture set to a Taylor Swift song. There’s so much that’s truly great about this Tumblr meme-turned-musical-number that we have to count the ways.
1) For starters, the meme—which began with an original image by Tumblr user nissanissas—takes the ultimate in totally heteronormative mainstream media (a Taylor Swift song) and turns it into the ultimate complaint against heteronormative mainstream media.
Nissanissas took the chorus from Swift’s break-up anthem, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and rewrote it as a parody of slash ships—the fictional male/male romantic pairings that fans really, really want to see happen.
The image shows a number of extremely popular potential queer male romances, each with their own large fanbases, including Merlin/Arthur from Merlin, John/Sherlock (JohnLock) from the BBC’s Sherlock, and Derek/Stiles (Sterek) from Teen Wolf.
The meme illustrates the very simple, yet eternally farflung, desire of slash fans to see male characters fall in love with each other onscreen.
2) At the same time, the meme also manages to critique the blatant problem of slash fandom’s penchant for only ever fixating on two white dudes—a trend so prevalent that “slash is the sound of white dudes fucking” has become a common criticism…
3) …while making the point that even the most well-known and popular ships continue to be marginalized by the narratives they are in. Some of them—most notably John/Sherlock, Merlin/Arthur, Hawaii Five-0’s Steve/Danny, and Sterek—blatantly use queer subtext to pander to fans, without ever (so far) giving any sign of delivering on the homoeroticism.
This tease without any payoff has been termed “slashwink” by AfterElton and “queerbaiting” by everyone else. But these imagined romances, whitebread though they are, are apparently still too subversive to be part of a mainstream narrative.