When it comes to showrunners interacting with fandom slash ships, we’ve heard this song a million times before.
This is amazing. It’s everything we (at least sorta, kinda) already know put together in an easy-to-understand, non-hysterical, text.
What I pull from this is that Merlin is the fucking best.
I actually think Merlin is a pretty interesting study because (in addition to making me write this fic in order to deal with my frustration over the ‘NO HOMO’ aspect ) it was one of the major canons that prompted me to write, way back in 2010 in the Before Time when we were all on LJ, a post in reaction to queerbaiting before any of us were calling it queerbaiting.
I would never say that Merlin didn’t queerbait. It also oversold the Arthur/Merlin pairing to its fans—maybe not in the way that TW and SPN have, but, I mean, it did have a slash dragon, and it did have cast members being like “welp obviously they’re the OTP.” But it definitely didn’t fall into the kinds of awkward and manipulative interactions with fandom that have characterized what we’ve seen in shows that have come after it. I think Merlin only got to step 2 on this list and never ever went beyond it to any kind of backlash against people who shipped it, unintentional or otherwise.
BUT I also don’t think Merlin experienced the kind of concerted campaigning (what I call “slashtivism”) that shows undergo now from fans who want the ship to be canon and actively resent the show for not going there. I honestly believe that if Merlin had started airing in 2014 instead of 2008, it would have seen a much, much different kind of fandom engagement because of Tumblr. I think that’s both a blessing and a curse, because while I really, *really* fucking wanted Arthur/Merlin to become canon, I would also have hated to have seen a show that gleefully welcomed queer fans and ran with its homoerotic subtext until the end become burdened by the kind of beleaguered relationship to its slash OTP that TW has had. It’s kind of a depressing thing to think about.