Autostraddle March Madness: Canon vs. Fanon Final

Despite what this contest (and the 2018 edition) might suggest, I don’t ship couples. With rare exceptions, I’ve always said, “I don’t care what happens, just as long as the story is good.” So when I say I never imagined this contest to be another battle in the long line of internet shipping wars, you know I mean it. Instead, what I was really interested in — besides introducing people to new shows, perhaps — was figuring out why Fanon still calls to us.

We’re living in the renaissance era of canon queer ships right now. There have never been as many queer folks on television as there is right now. When you think about the earliest depictions of lesbian and bisexual women on television — like Tara and Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even Bette and Tina on The L Word — could they have imagined a world where couples like Syd and Elena of One Day at a Time or Callie and Arizona of Grey’s Anatomy even existed…much less got front-burner stories that were even more dynamic than their straight counterparts?

These days, stories spring up faster than even the TV team can rush to cover them. Streaming services have led the push for year-round content…so even when you’re not seeing new episodes of your favorite queer character on one show, there’s an opportunity for you to discover a new one on a different show. There’s more diversity within those depictions too: more characters of color, more non-binary people, more trans people. Even genres that had previously been reluctant (read: scared) to feature queer characters are embracing them now: we’ve got trans and non-binary superheroes and an entire world of queer animated characters.

And yet, fanon still exists…and, surprisingly, it’s more popular than ever. According to a recent analysis of Top 100 F/F ships from Archive of Our Own, 54% of the most often written about couples are fanon, compared to just 33% being canon. It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that our finalists in this Canon vs. Fanon contest are among the top 10 most written about ships on AO3 last year.

“Truthfully, sometimes the only thing canon ships really have going for them is that they’re canon,” Lynne Arlington, the brains behind the most read Supercorp fic on AO3, told me. “But most of them time: canon is just bad. A canon ship surviving an entire run of a series in a coherent and interesting way is kind of a rarity.”

And that gets to the heart of it, right? Fanon allows us to utilize the backstory developed on-screen without having to subject our characters to the unnecessary drama that oftentimes constrains television writers. We’re able to avoid tropes that TV writers just can’t…mostly because they don’t know enough about queer fandom to know what the tropes are. Fanon embrace the chemistry between two characters and letting that dictate story, instead of forcing story to dictate chemistry. Fanon allows for queer community in a way that canon often doesn’t…there can be (and should be) more than one queer couple in a space at a time. After all, if there’s one thing that this canon renaissance has taught us for sure, it’s that there are never enough.

And, on that note, a look at our championship bracket:

2021 Autostraddle March Madness Bracket: Canon vs. Fanon. WayHaught vs. Supercorp

For a better view, you can use the full-size version of the bracket or check out our updated Challonge bracket.


CANON CHAMPION: Waverly and Nicole – Wynonna Earp

Waverly and Nicole press their foreheads together on the front porch of their forever home.

Representing Team Canon is Waverly and Nicole from Wynonna Earp. The Sci-Fi/Fantasy region is always our toughest of our March Madness contests but Waverly and Nicole managed to overcome some stiff challenges to make it to the finals. They competed against four popular ships — ThunderGrace in the opener, AvaLance in the Round of 32, Sanvers in the Sweet 16 and Cophine in the Elite 8 — and managed to defeat each one. What’s been incredible about WayHaught’s progression is that, with each round, the support seemed to grow more fervent, even as their opponents grew stonger. In past years, for Waverly and Nicole, that hasn’t been the case: they’ll start strong, dominate in the early rounds and fizzle just ahead of the finals, but this year — perhaps driven by the show’s (possible) end — Wayhaught’s fan support has been growing and growing.

But even I thought they’d met their match in Amar a Muerte‘s Juliana and Valentina. After seeing their run through the 2019 contest, I knew how formidable the Juliantina fandom could be. They’ve powered their ship to a spin-off and a movie, surely they could pull off another win here…but Waverly and Nicole were not to be denied. I watched the lead volley back and forth between Juliantina and WayHaught as the votes flooded in, but in the end, the pair from Wynonna Earp moves on to to represent Canon couples in the finals.

Supergirl crosses her arms, Lena's wearing a leather jacket, all is gay and beautiful

FANON CHAMPION: #2. Lena and Kara – Supergirl

Representing Team Fanon will be Lena and Kara from Supergirl. Admittedly, I thought that the Final Four was just a formality…of course, SuperCorp would win. I thought that Supercorp’s true test had been in the Sweet 16 — a battle with the formidable Swan Queen — and after that, it’d be smooth sailing into the finals. But Autostraddle readers had a different point of view: their semi-final match-up with Eve and Villanelle was a surprisingly close one, with Supercorp pulling it out in the end.

The SuperCorp pairing hasn’t been as formidable through their half of the bracket as our canon ships were and the competition wasn’t nearly as fierce. Does that mean that they’re a weak finalist? I wouldn’t be so sure: according to the aforemention fanfic study, they were the most popular fanon ship on AO3 last year. If the fandom’s got that much energy behind it, they could easily pull out a victory here.

What’s the allure of SuperCorp? According to Arlington, “there’s a real substance to it…of two women with legacies and complicated pasts finding a connection with each other and trusting each other, and that substance got more and more strong as season two went on and has really kept building over the last few seasons. Their relationship (platonic or otherwise) has become an anchor on the show that has kept me tuning in week to week.”

#1. Waverly and Nicole – Wynonna Earp vs. #2. Lena and Kara – Supergirl

WayHaught vs. Supercorp

As always, you’ve got 48 hours to cast your ballot in this final round of Autostraddle March Madness. We’ll be back on Wednesday to announce the winner and which reigns supreme: CANON or FANON!

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. Spends her Thursday nights trying to make #Shonday happen.

Natalie has written 162 articles for us.

60 Comments

  1. Okay listen obviously I ship Supercorp. Their chemistry is off the charts, they hit all the romantic tropes, and they have so much potential.

    But they can’t possibly win here. They are the biggest queerbait ship ever and we deserve better than that.

    Wayhaught has the most beautiful love story ever and they are actually canon. They are fully developed queer characters with fleshed out storylines and relationships with other characters on the show. Their relationship matters to the plot and over the course of four seasons we watched their relationship grow and evolve so much On SCREEN. Also they are played by two queer actresses and the writers and cast really care about us. The show literally ended with their wedding. How does it get better than that? Wayhaught represents the kind of stories and representation we deserve to watch on screen. So I just feel like we should support that instead of eternal queer baits that don’t care about us and will never be canon anyway.

    Also let’s give this win to Waverly and Nicole as a late wedding present please?

    • I dont ship Supercorp, because I am also not a fan of Supergirl – probably because my first introduction to the character was with the New 52 and that Supergirl was so different.

      Yes, Waverly&Nicole are better, but Supercorps hardcore intentional queerbaiting is just such a low bar to clear and hitting all the romantic tropes when queerbaiting is a mark against them.

      I love Kat Barrel and Dominique Provost-Chalkley and they do care about us, but they weren’t cast when they were out/known as queer to clarify.
      As for Emily Andras, she clearly has real problems with diversity in her shows.

      And sure the show ended with their wedding, but it was surprisingly short and it was kinda sidelined for Wynonna and Doc.

      As for representation and stories, I feel it was so unrevolutionary that without the charisma of all the actors the couple wouldn’t have taken off.

      PS: You all can @ me, I’m ready.

    • Ditto! Honestly I tried to watch Wynonna Earp, but I’m not really a fan of the supernatural, western, or horror genres so s smash them together and I can’t watch. But I did enjoy reading the summary of their canon romance.

      And SuperCorp, yes, we can ship non-canon pairings but we actually DO deserve better than intentional queer baiting. I mean Supergirl actually has Sanvers of which I’m a big fan (damn, the departing actress and the character write out) and Dansen which seems pretty bland to me.

    • Oh my God. Sometimes I think we are the worst enemies of ourselves as a community.

      There are dozens of shows and films where queer people and queer relationships are at the forefront nowadays. Can it get better? Yes, of course it can, and we should always strive for better content. We’ve loved Wynonna Earp for all that it is, but we need to stop treating media people who write lgbtq+ stories like they just invented the wheel.

      Also, yes, queerbaiting sucks. But most of us have grown as people and as creatives, through fanon ships, and we’ll keep loving fanon ships regardless of what happens in canon, and regardless of whether baiting is involved or not, because that’s what fandom does.

      I don’t care what the showrunners will do with Supercorp in canon, I don’t even watch Supergirl anymore, haven’t watched it in years. But I find it absolutely *hilarious* that a queer ship they didn’t plan for, and didn’t even want, will be at 1st or 2nd place in this poll.

      This isn’t about the shows, this is about queer fandom and in queer fandom, Supercorp reigns supreme.

    • I completely support this comment. I’m die hard Supercorp trash, won’t deny it. In fact I started to watch the series BECAUSE of the fanfics. However, I really appreciate what Wynnona Earp and their cast have given us. Canada as always is saving the gays (Lost Girl anyone??) And even if Supercorp and the fandom get a lot of my feelings, I think the most honest vote is Waverly and Nicole. They all deserve it, because of the honest portrayal, the care, the love, etc.
      I don’t know if Supercorp is just blatant queerbait or not, sometimes I think the writers and actors give us what they can all things considered. I’m a grown woman, I know that kind of production entails a lot of complicated agreements outside of the writers and actors power. And that is exactly why I think Wayhaught deserves the win and Supercorp a well deserved second place.
      When I came out of the closet with myself, a show like Wynnona Earp was something not yet imaginable. Things were better than before, the L Word was already there and it was a big part of my realization. But still certain things would not seem possible. Shows like Wynnona Earp and Lost Girl deserve to be recognized for being unapologetically gay and give us the characters and spaces we deserve.

    • Meu deus, é isso, é exatamente isso. Merecemos mais que queerbaits, não sei nem o que dizer, porque você já disse tudo, e hoje você não vai passar frio moça, porque você estará coberta de RAZÃO.

      • This is exactly it! I enjoy fanfics and fan content but that’s less “necessary” with a canon ship so more non-canon ships and content is consumed and made! So now I’m utterly torn because WayHaught is a fantastic canon ship but SuperCorp is spectacular as a ship regardless of how baity it is in the show itself. Ahhh, worthy opponents if we’re trying to deduce who reigns supreme, Canon or Fanon!

  2. I didn’t think I’d end up voting against SuperCorp before this…but Wynonna Earp just wrote TV’s best love letter to queer fans for a finale and Supergirl is definitely gonna fuck us over and do something stupid for an ending. It’s nice to be appreciated.

  3. Please PLEASE vote for the actual queer ship played by queer actresses and made by queer show runners and writers. No queer bait for Waverly and Nicole.. they had one of the best story archs ever and just ended with a wedding and them having the literal last word of the series. Bring this home for them and stop letting shows bait us when THIS is possible y’all. Pretty please.

    • I love Wayhaught but I vote for Supercorp, I really like Kara and Lena’s Chemistry.
      Even losing all hopes for them to be canon.

      I think supercorp will still win the polls especially since they have always been in the lead in the polls.

    • I love wayhaught alot because they are the first couple that represents the lgbtq relationship in the show and also I love their friendship in real life domkat🦋👮‍♀️

  4. According to the multiverse theory, all possible universes exist.

    Therefor, there exists a universe where SuperCorp has been cannon since s02e13, and WayHaught is just the combined fever dream of the fandom and if we’re lucky, Waverly ended up with Perry.

    —-

    Consider this into your calculations – while both ships have enough angst to block the Suez Canal for more than 6 days and 7 hours … which ship has more variety in angst*?

    * Excluding AUs, where the author is free to come up with whatever angst they please.

  5. Ok, i love both ships. But on one side is a show which is the master of queerbaiting and on the other side is a show which gave us all what we desired and needed. Sooo wayhaught it is!!

  6. I ship SuperCorp. I love WayHaught too but (Since SYFY MY NEW FAVORITE CHANNEL! Let these two get married and to top it off a Happy ending aka didn’t kill one of them off at the last moment break up cus that’s some CW Crap! *Breaths* Sorry had to vent) I am voting Supercorp in hopes the evil producers at CW Will see that SuperCorp can win and do something the fans would like to see just once in the TV Show! AKA Get Supergirl and Lena together even if it is just for a bit or even in the end. As in for instance Supergirl ends up going to the future and takes Lena with her. Since its the end of the show would be better than in the death of one of them. which I can see CW being total …. And having Lex kill Lena and or Alex. Or even the worst killing Kara and Lena which I just have no words. Honestly, after Clexa (The 100) was destroyed by CW Writers they are lucky I even stuck around for Supergirl. (They destroyed Sanvers… They missed a Sweet Opportunity to have AgentReign I mean the storyline for that could have been an AWESOME SPINOFF!) Tho I am okay with kelly and Alex It doesn’t seem to fit well. I am happy they are letting Azie Tesfai step in this last season to help write cus I think she will do way better than those idiots.) CW Should hire better writers! Check out Ao3 there are tons of writers that would have made the show so much better. (Yes I write fanfic)

    Also, I am one of many who have decided to never watch CW show again if Supercorp doesn’t happen.

  7. Is this even a contest?! We are talking about queerbate verses an actual queer relationship. A relationship so authentic it helped the actresses come out. Let’s show the media that we aren’t going to vote or settle for anything less than #wayhaught happy ending!

    • I can’t argue that SuperCorp doesn’t float between a lot of queercoding and too much queerbaiting. However, I truly believe they gave us as much as they contractually could (including sneaking in a canon AU where SC is married!). I believe DC simply forbids going further. I read the heavy romantic coding in S5 as a gift. But as Lynne Arlington said, SuperCorp read as purely platonic is tremendous, and could probably win similar contests.

      All of you saying queer > queerbait(code) are right… but this is Canon vs. Fanon after all – vote your heart!

        • There wasn’t. They literally think that Lena pleading the fifth means they were married. You can plead the fifth to not incriminate yourself, but that’s it. If they really had been married, she would have claimed spousal privilege. Pleading the fifth means nothing except Lena didn’t want to incriminate herself. People built up headcanon around it to make it look like they had to be married in that AU.

  8. We just got our grrls back (even if one is in the Phantom Zone), so I’m so glad they got all the way to #1 Fanon (past Xena & Killing Eve, what?). Voting for them of course, but all the Kudos to WayHaught if they win – they’ve worked hard for it (they = show, actors, fans, and even network).

    May the best ship sail true! (*fingers crossed behind back*)

  9. Y’all, I’m Team WayHaught here, but I think some of y’all are missing the point of this being a canon vs fanon showdown. No one in their right mind is gonna argue that *the television show Supergirl* deserves a win over *the television show Wynonna Earp*, but that’s decidedly not the question. If Supercorp wins this, it won’t be because we love being gaslit and queerbaited, it’ll be because SuperCorp has an impressive and prolific fandom teeming with crazy talented fanart/fic/gif/vid creators, and a lot of SuperCorp fan content is arguably more enjoyable than most canon television content.

    That having been said, I think we can all agree that WayHaught is a way better ship name than f-ing SuperCorp. LuVers was right there. I’m still mad about it.

  10. I don’t think there is real competition. As much as Lena and Kara are a nice couple, unfortunately it is a fanon that goes against the real nature of the characters, sorry but it makes no sense. The CW writers could use Alex for something serious with anyone, they didn’t want to do it, they’re getting worse every minute and they honestly don’t deserve it. If it were up to the actresses I would vote for them, but the story is getting worse.
    Wayhaught instead is what we all dream of, the positivity of a real, authentic, equal queer story. Two women who discover each other, grow and create together an unstoppable strength. They have finally become the center of their world, we Erpers adore them and there is no way that they are beaten by an erotic dream that does not exist.
    I’m sorry but as a community we deserve respect and loyalty in a real and fair representation. This is all that Emily Andreas, along with Dominique and Kat, gave us. Long live the Wayhaught, by far the best ship ever!

  11. Juliantina didn’t make it?! Whaaaat?!?? I knew this was gonna be tough competition.

    I have to choose just one, I know. I love both ships equally so that makes it a hard decision. Honestly, I’ll be happy with either one winning.

    I know we all deserve more than queerbaiting shows & ships. Yet as others have said, the fanon category is about what fandom has made that ship to be, it’s not about the show itself and it’s definitely not about the show writers, show runners, & producers. Just vote for whichever ship makes YOU happy.

  12. Voting for supercorp. Yes it’s been queerbaiting thus far but they have one of the best stories ever written and it could be so much bigger if the producers would just stop being chicken shit.

    I love wayhaught too obviously, but tbh I never managed to get as sucked into that fandom as I did with supercorp.

    Hope everyone can remain respectful and remember that without the fanon ships that came before, and those fighting for more representation, we would not have the canon ships of today

  13. I am giving my vote to Supercorp.
    Since, Wynonna Earp gave us a happy ending and is already over. So, why not root for Supercorp. What if the writers after seeing this much attention for Supercorp decided to make them canon.
    Also, since supergirl is ending so I am hoping that we’ll get atleast something for Supercorp

  14. Rang 89 on the Challonge board?!?! Not too shabby for some random 2am guesses and gut feelings. And who would have thought that Root&Shaw and Syd & Elena wouldn’t make it past round 1? Not me, that’s who. Or that Villanelle and Eve wouldn’t make it to the final round?

    But I’m not too disappointed because I ship both those finalists. And with Wynonna Earp giving us that finale (and having advertised the final episodes just when the tournament began) and Supergirl just having started its final season…those to are worthy march-madness opponents for the finale.

  15. While I understand the point of canon vs fanon, many supercorp voters say their story or the writers “could be/do better” and state themselves it is queerbait. I know nothing of the SuperCorp fandom and have only seen clips of the ship but based on these comments and what I have seen, I feel that Wayhaught is a better option. I cannot remove my bias but the writer have already done well and given us a healthy queer relationship that has helped its fans and even the actors. Let the best win but hopefully the Earpers will prevail.

  16. But the point people are missing is nothing can take away from Wayhaught. However, Supercorp does not have the same luxury. Winning a poll like this is further evidence to condemn the queerbaiting showrunners, into shaming them for a decent ending. It’s what Supercorp deserves.

  17. Why does fanon call to me? When a lot of couples (but not all) become canon, they seem to just drop into lazy writing and tropes. With fanon, everything basically has to be built from chemistry that happens on screen. Fanon is the shy smiles, the stolen glances, the subtextual conversations…the sheer romance of it all that canon couples rarely engage in any more.

    • Sweetheart maybe you just like queerbait ships and it’s not fault of canon ships.I bet you haven’t watched Wynonna Earp.Otherwise you wouldn’t say these kinda things because WayHaught doesn’t have lazy writing.It’s way better than any other ship especially the fanon ones

    • I don’t think you’re wrong. Often when a romance becomes canon it gets super boring and tbh that’s true if it’s a gay relationship or a straight one. There’s something about unresolved sexual tension that’s just so good.

  18. I love all these earnest comments for canon rep, I swear I do. We deserve lovely canon rep and it’s doubly dope if that rep comes from out queer people.

    That said, my clown shoes have been on for Supercorp and are staying on for Supercorp.

    Sometimes queerbait feels like picking up on the most staticky version of my favorite song on the radio. I’m literally only catching every fifth word and a teensy bit of melody, but like… as clear as the canon station comes in, it’s just not my favorite song.

  19. I’m not surprised supercorp beat villanelle. Villanelle should have been on the canon side. Supergirl is actual fanon and villanelle is more canon than supercorp could hope to be and I love supercorp with all my heart

  20. My jam isn’t supercorp or wayhaught, but I really don’t like some of the arguments here about ‘healthy relationships’ or whatever. I ship canon and noncanon stuff (that weren’t part of this March Madness which is fine) because it’s interesting and compelling. Not because I need lessons in morality or what ‘healthy’ is. It’s fiction and I’m grown lol.

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