Autostraddle March Madness: Canon vs. Fanon – Baby Gays

A few numbers from this year’s Autostraddle March Madness, through our first two sub-regions: 8, 23, 2 and 891.

Eight is the number of votes that separated Shane and Carmen from The L Word and Root and Shaw from Person of Interest in the Battle for Sarah Shahi Sapphic Supremacy.

23 is the number of votes that separated Callie and Addison from Grey’s Anatomy from OG Jane and Petra from Jane the Virgin. Callie Torres’ canon pairing, Callie and Arizona, had a smooth ride to the second round: easily dispatching another Jane the Virgin combo (Rose and Luisa).

2 is the number of brackets, out of the 891 that were submitted in Challonge competition, that are sitting at 100% accuracy through two rounds. Just two!

With only eight competitors in every sub-region, every match-up’s going to be tough so it feels like anyone can win at any point. The only real surprise for me, through two rounds of voting, is Debbie and Ruth’s upset of Emily and JJ in the Fanon region; I may have underestimated the G.L.O.W. fanbase. I worried about Brittana overcoming the allure of Bettina but the favorites from GLEE were able to advance with no problem. And, on behalf of the TV team, let me thank you for advancing Emma and Nico of Vida over Alice and Nat from The L Word: Generation Q…I think the team would have mutinied if you hadn’t.

So let’s take a look at that updated bracket, shall we?

Click here for a full-size image.
So, that’s where we stand right now…just remember: it only gets harder from here on out. I proudly present the Baby Gays sub-region of our Canon vs. Fanon contest!

Elena and Syd vs. Juliantina

Canon #1. Syd and Elena – One Day at a Time

Elena and her Syd-nificant Other got Heather’s vote for Best Queer Couple of 2020. Here’s what she wrote:

It’s funny that I’ve seen a hundred queer couples on TV at this point, and it was finally these two teenage dorks who really reflected my own reality back to me for maybe the first time. They’re sweet and they’re silly and they communicate and work to balance their own needs with each other’s needs and each have their own hopes and goals for the future, and personalities, but they make such a match together too. They make each other better and they make each other happier and they make each other feel safer and those are some of the greatest things anyone in your life can ever do for you.

Canon #8. Juliana and Valentina – Amar a Muerte

Juliana’s walking with her mother when she first spots Valentina and though not a word between them is spoken, her entire life is changed in that moment. When they meet later in the park, the chemistry between the two is palpable. They find refuge in each other: as Valentina copes with the loss of her father, Juliana stops her from giving into her worst impulses. When Juliana’s mother is kidnapped by the cartel, Valentina offers her sanctuary. Theirs is one of the greatest love stories ever told.

And, just in case Juliantina’s improbable love story wasn’t amazing enough already: the fan effort to have their story go on, even after Amar a Muerte‘s end, was successful. Production on the Juliantina spin-off has resumed after a prolonged COVID pause.

Cassie and Izzy and Bess and Lisbeth

One of the consequences of Lisbeth being off-screen so often is that Bess has more time to build chemistry with other people on the canvas. That, of course, has its consequences. As our intrepid Nancy Drew recapper, Valerie Anne, wrote last year:“Someone please explain to me why I still ship Nancy and Bess even though Bess has a perfectly lovely girlfriend RIGHT HERE?”

Pondering it further, Valerie told me: “Nancy and Bess is just a fun ship because Nancy is so SERIOUS so often and Bess is a little more breezy and instead of being annoyed by it, Nancy is charmed by it. They’re an unlikely duo and it has the endearing feeling of those videos where like a panther and a puppy have become best friends.”

Canon #2. Cassie and Izzy – Atypical

There’s something beautiful about crushing on someone…it’s idyllic…you get to imagine the best version of you and the best version of them and the best version of yourselves, together, without thinking about the outside world. But the moment that it becomes real and suddenly, you’re at the mercy of all these forces that you’d never considered before and that can be scary, so you act weird. That’s what happens to Cassie and Izzy in Atypical‘s third season and, for a while, it looks like they won’t make it.

“I’ve been thinking, you’re right, I’ve been awful to you and you’re so good and solid and wonderful, but I get it if you don’t want do this,” Izzie concedes. “I know I’m not easy.”

But Casey, who’s not sure about a lot, is sure about this one thing, “I’m not looking for easy.”

Canon #7. Bess and Lisbeth – Nancy Drew

When Bess first meets Lisbeth, she’s acting as a distraction: keeping Lisbeth busy while Nancy Drew breaks into the morgue. They flirt as Lisbeth fixes Ace’s car and, at some point, Lisbeth slips Beth her number. Asked about it later, Bess claims she doesn’t date — boys or girls — because she’s been on her own for so long, she never lets herself get that close to anyone. But, after running into Lisbeth while out on a mission, Bess thinks maybe she ought to let herself get close to someone and invites Lisbeth to dinner.

Though Nancy Drew hasn’t given Bess and Lisbeth nearly enough screentime — Lisbeth is gone more than she’s around, according to resident Nancy Drew expert, Valerie Anne — the couple compliment each other nicely. Lisbeth sees through Bess…past the fancy clothes she wears to play socialite and into her thoughtful, anxious insides. In Lisbeth, Bess finally finds her anchor: someone who serves as constant in a way few other people in her life have.

euphoria vs. dickinson

Canon #3. Rue and Jules – Euphoria

From Drew’s magnum opus on Euphoria‘s first season:

Rue (Zendaya) is a 17-year-old bored with everything in life but drugs. She’s a regular teenager, trapped in the suburbs, annoyed with her family, alienated from endless high school drama, and struggling with mental illness. Drugs are her escape. Unfortunately, this escape led to an OD and a stint in rehab. The show opens with her returning home from this stay, less invested in staying clean than immediately finding her next fix. That is until she meets the new kid in school, an enigmatic trans girl named Jules (Hunter Schafer). They meet, they become best friends, and then, they become something more.

Canon #6. Emily and Sue- Dickinson

From Valerie’s review of Dickinson‘s second season:

In the season finale, Sue goes to see Emily and tries to explain why she tried to push her off on Sam Bowles. She was afraid of the way she felt about Emily, the way Emily and her poems made her feel. She was afraid because she didn’t feel it anywhere else, not at her parties, not with Austin, not with Sam. Just Emily.

And then Sue comes out and says it. It’s not poetic but it’s crystal clear: “I’m in love with you.”

Emily doesn’t believe it. She’s been hurt by Sue before. But Sue shouts it. Emily pushes back, pushes her, but Sue says it again and again. She’s not backing down, not anymore. And then Sue says the thing that could be a line from one of Emily’s poems, “The only true thing I’ll ever feel is my love for you.”

Riverdale vs. Everything Sucks

Canon #4. Cheryl and Toni- Riverdale

It’s hard to draw close to someone like Cheryl Blossom. Over the years, she has honed her ability to keep people at arm’s length. It becomes almost a natural instinct when even Cheryl’s mother doubts her capacity for love and dismisses her as “a jealous, spite-filled, starving, emotional anorexic.” So when Toni tries to get to the root of why Cheryl called Jughead to tell him about Archie and Betty’s kiss, Cheryl lashes out at the attempt to draw close: “Get your Sapphic, serpent hands off my body!”

But Toni persists…and, eventually, Cheryl starts to relent. Cheryl admits she used to be such a carefree kid but then her mother crushed her spirit by taking away her first love: her best friend, Heather.

“You’re not loveless. You’re not deviant. Okay?” Toni assures her. “You’re sensational.”

Canon #5. Kate and Emaline – Everything Sucks!

As confident and brash as Emaline appears, when her boyfriend, Oliver, absconds to New York to become a famous actor, she’s at a loss. She had been doing all of this — drama club and acting in the A/V Club’s movie — for him and now she doesn’t know who she is. Thankfully, Kate’s there to reassure her and offer Emaline a glimpse at herself through Kate’s eyes. Kate offers niceties, at first — Emaline’s funny, confident and talented — but when Emaline accuses her of being effortlessly cool and cute, Kate finds the confidence to make bolder admissions.

“I think you’re the most sexy and attractive person I’ve ever met,” Kate confesses.

“You really think so?” Emaline asks.

“I think you’re perfect.”

Betty and Veronica vs. Penelope and Eloise

Fanon #1. Betty and Veronica – Riverdale

In Riverdale‘s pilot episode, Betty and Veronica kiss. They’re in the middle of cheerleading tryouts and Cheryl is looking for some sizzle and so Veronica gives it to her…and while their “faux lesbian kissing” doesn’t lead to anything in canon, it launched (or re-launched, if you follow the comic books) the Beronica ship. But perhaps Beronica’s biggest moment comes during Riverdale‘s musical episode, “A Night to Remember.”

Here’s how Kayla described it in her recap:

Veronica and Betty also sing it out after Archie convinces Betty that Veronica’s bad deeds are the result of pressure from her parents and reminds her how quickly Veronica forgave her after the Black Hood manipulated Betty into being mean to her. Archie and Betty start singing Tommy and Sue’s love ballad to each other rehearsal, and then the show just seamlessly shifts to BETTY AND VERONICA SINGING THE LOVE SONG TO EACH OTHER in what is definitely fuel for the Beronica ship. Somehow, this is the gayest scene to happen in the episode.

Fanon #8. Penelope and Eloise – Bridgerton

It was surprising to step into the world of Shondaland — Bridgerton is the first Netflix project from the great Shonda Rhimes — and not find out that one of the main characters was canonically queer. Sure, the entire show (and its source material) is about 19th Century London’s marriage market…which doesn’t lend itself to being anything besides a testament to (or indictment of?) heterosexual marriage…but this was Shondaland, right? But then we meet Eloise who so fervently resists the trappings of the patriarchy that you can’t not hope that she’s just not queer yet. A baby gay Anne Lister, perhaps?

The friendship between Penelope and Eloise is one of the highlights of Bridgerton‘s first season. There is no competition them, only the shared longing for a different life than they have been afforded. They are different — Penelope is far more amendable to society’s demands of women — but they are only truly seen by each other.

PLL vs. Nancy Drew

Fanon #2. Spencer and Aria – Pretty Little Liars

I’ve got to admit: even as I’ve revisit Pretty Little Liars patheon — watching old clips and reading episode recaps — I still don’t have the foggiest idea what would cause anyone to ‘ship Spencer and Aria. But people do: of the fanon femslash pairings for Pretty Little Liars, Sparia generates the most fanfic.

Obviously, they cute together: Spencer’s small frame fits perfectly beneath Spencer’s chin. I suppose, insomuch as any of the Liars were good at solving clues, I suppose Spencer and Aria were the best at it…and the show plainly encouraged the ‘shippers by referring them as Team Sparia on-screen (which feels like faux pas to me…like a band wearing their own t-shirts). But shipping? I don’t know about that.

Fanon #7. Bess and Nancy – Nancy Drew

One of the consequences of Lisbeth being off-screen so often is that Bess has more time to build chemistry with other people on the canvas. That, of course, has its consequences. As our intrepid Nancy Drew recapper, Valerie Anne, wrote last year:“Someone please explain to me why I still ship Nancy and Bess even though Bess has a perfectly lovely girlfriend RIGHT HERE?”

Pondering it further, Valerie told me:”Nancy and Bess is just a fun ship because Nancy is so SERIOUS so often and Bess is a little more breezy and instead of being annoyed by it, Nancy is charmed by it. They’re an unlikely duo and it has the endearing feeling of those videos where like a panther and a puppy have become best friends.”

Legacies vs. PLL

Fanon #3. Josie and Hope – Legacies

In her reflection on the queer legacy of Legacies, Valerie Anne charted the series’ history: from Rebekah Mikaelson’s 2014 threesome to the current Salvatore School where everyone seems just a little bit gay. During this iteration’s first season, Josie reveals that she used to have a crush on Hope. And while it takes a while for Hope to admit it: she had a crush on Josie for like a week when they were 14.

Here’s how Valerie captured what followed that admission:

Hope opens up to Josie in a way she has a hard time opening up, and it’s beautiful and heartbreaking to watch. Josie considers her carefully as she talks; because the thing is, people don’t often let Josie make decisions like this. They don’t take HER feelings into consideration as much as they should, because she’s usually the one who is catering to someone else’s feelings. But Hope is willing to upend her ENTIRE LIFE if Josie says so, just to save her some pain. While Josie fights back tears and takes Hope in, the song croons about not wanting to forget. “How could I blackout you?” Appropriate, given Hope’s recent journey of being unknown. In the end, they hug, and it’s decided Hope will stay. Josie misses Hope, too. And Landon is leaving, so they are both sharing a specific pain; they need each other. They were two points of a love triangle, but when the third point disappears, they find themselves on a straight line toward each other.

Fanon #6. Hanna and Mona – Pretty Little Liars

In Pretty Little Liars‘ second season finale, Spencer figures out that Mona is “A.” Mona corrects her: she’s a part of the A-Team and invites Spencer to join. As Mona drives frantically to Lookout Point, Spencer asks if A’s torture has just been Mona’s payback for the Liars’ tacit acceptance of Alison’s bullying. But Mona swears that she’s been over all that.

“[Ali] was never my friend, but Hanna was and you bitches took her from me,” Mona explains. “It’s not about betrayal, Spencer, it’s about revenge! You deserved everything you got! You stole my only friend.”

Torturing, blackmailing, committing violence…totally something you do because someone stole your “friend.” Sure, Jan.

Teen Wolf vs. Girl Meets World

Fanon #4. Lydia and Allison – Teen Wolf

Soon after Allison arrives in Beacon Hills, Lydia spots Allison at her locker, expresses appreciation her fashion sense and dubs her her new best friend. Over the years, they grow closer and fiercely protect the the other from whatever supernatural force threatens them. But when Lydia’s captured by the Nogitsune in the show’s third season, she begs Allison not to come find her: according to her premonition, the battle could be prove fatal.

Of course, Allison won’t let anything stand in the way of getting her best friend back. In battle, Allison summons unimaginable strength — killing an Oni with her homemade silver arrowhead, a feat once thought impossible — but, in turn, gets stabbed in the abdomen. As she lays dying, she worries about Lydia — “Did you find her? Is she okay? Is Lydia safe?” — and Lydia, who senses Allison’s death from afar, lets out a Banshee scream in grief.

Fanon #5. Maya and Riley – Girl Meets World

When I’m writing these blurbs about shows I’ve never seen, like Girl Meets World, I’ll watch some scenes on Youtube and read a lot about the couple, just to get a sense of who they are so I can write about it sensibly. But as I watched Rilaya scenes, I kept checking my notes over and over again: “are we sure that this couple isn’t canon?”

In the series finale, as Riley’s parents consider a job offer that would take their family to London, Maya can’t stomach thinking that her best friend might leave. There’s no way Riley could leave, Maya rationalizes, because there’s no replacement for her and no cares about her like Riley does. Later, they make a pledge to each other: “Time and distance have no power over us. You and I are together for as long as we live.”

As always, the clock’s set: you’ve got 48 hours to cast your ballot in this round of March Madness. We’ll be back on Monday to unveil the updated bracket and vote in our final sub-region: SCI-FI/Fantasy.

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A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. You can follow her latest rants on Twitter.

Natalie has written 400 articles for us.


  1. That Callie&Addison upset really destroyed my bracket, as I had JaneV.&Petra advancing quite far, but on the other hand I can’t for the life of me remember what part of me thought JaneV&Petra will also triumph over Eve&Villanelle and Hosie, I must have been quite mad!

    On the other hand you all now have to vote:

    So that I still have a chance to win^^

    Good Luck to all!

  2. I can only assume that Rilaya has basically no chance because Girl Meets World is so far out of the Autostraddle wheelhouse, but honestly it’s the show that was so far out of my wheelhouse that I only kept watching because of that pair’s chemistry (plus a chunk of nostalgia from watching the original growing up). And out of everything I watch or have watched, I think it’s still the pairing I was the most furious about not becoming canon. Usually I’m pretty cynical and minimize my expectations about such things, and I knew it was on Disney Channel, but…it was right there. It felt 99.5% canon, and everything would have only made more sense (logically and emotionally) if they’d just taken that last step! (And it feels really goofy to have this be my first comment here after reading for years and joining A+ and everything, but…*shrug* It means a lot to see them included I guess.)

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