Autostraddle March Madness: Canon vs. Fanon – Grown

We’re through the first full weekend of March Madness and, boy, did my brackets take a beating. I’ve never seen Game of Thrones but, based on what I’ve heard, my men’s bracket probably looks a lot like the Red Wedding. Two of my Final Four picks? Already gone. Only three of my Elite 8 picks have survived. I only guess six of the 16 teams remaining in the field correct?

On the women’s side, things are a little better but just slightly. I was sitting pretty through the first day of the tournament — since all the favorites won — but on the second day, there were some unexpected upsets. Out goes Gonzaga, out goes Rutgers. I don’t even know where Wright State is but they pulled off a miraculous upset of Arkansas. And I’m still fuming about the one upset that wasn’t: Troy should’ve beaten Texas A&M. Fingers crossed that today’s tournament action doesn’t eliminate too many of my picks.

But what about Autostraddle’s March Madness? Well, we’ve still got a few hours left for readers to cast their ballots in the Classic region. Once that voting is complete, I’ll update the bracket and see how everyone did in our bracket challenge. But if you’ve already voted for your favorite classic shows, now you can turn your attention to the GROWN sub-region.

In the spirit of continuing to make Autostraddle March Madness more interactive, I’ve reached out to some fanfic writers to offer their thoughts on what makes their favorite subjects worth shipping. If their ships advance, you’ll hear more from those writers as the tournament progresses. (If you’re a fanfic writer who’d like to advocate for your favorite ‘ship, let me know.)

Bracket for the 2021 Autostraddle March Madness contest

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Vida vs. GenQ

Canon #1. Emma and Nico – Vida

The first time Emma spots Nico, she’s so wrapped up in herself that she doesn’t recognize that Nico’s not the bartender at the wedding she’s attending. She asks for a drink, turns her attention back to her phone and then slaps down a tip after Nico slides the pre-made drink towards her. But by Vida‘s end, Emma sees Nico as clearly as she ever has…and, honestly, she doesn’t want to see anyone else. She does the unthinkable (for Emma): gives up her penchant for meticulously planning everything and just exist, with Nico and no plans.

Canon #8. Alice and Nat – The L Word: Generation Q

Alice has always thought of herself as an “outside the box” queer lady — eschewing all the heteronormative standards that other queers took comfort in — but then she met Nat. Somewhere between the burnt eggs and puke-filled crockpot, the dream of a wife, 2.5 kids and a house with a yard became the thing she longed for…a fact she didn’t realize fully until the dream nearly got snatched away. She bent over backwards trying to cement her love affair with Nat — including a throupling that went all the way wrong — but, in the end, all Nat wanted was Alice.

“I love you. I am in love with you,” Nat confesses. “And I feel like my complete and total self when I’m with you. And you make me laugh. Even when I’m mad, which is so f*cking annoying, but it makes me love you even more.”

Petra and JR vs. Rosa and Jocelyn

Canon #2. Petra and Jane Ramos – Jane the Virgin

The first time JR kisses Petra — in “real life” not just in Petra’s dreams — Petra’s there to confront JR about her shifting allegiances. Convinced she’s being followed, JR pulls Petra into a kiss before she can get any words out…and it’s enough for Petra to forget why she was there in the first place. Once they’re in JR’s car, Petra collects herself just long enough to interrogate JR’s loyalties but when JR takes her hand and gently caresses her knuckles, Petra forgets that it’s all a rouse. But, later that night, the rouse becomes real…realer than anything that Petra Solano had ever known.

“I love you,” Petra confesses. “And I used to think my worst nightmare was turning into my mother; now I know it’s living without you.”

Canon #7. Rosa and Jocelyn – Brooklyn 99

When it comes time to introduce Captain Holt and her new girlfriend, Jocelyn, Rosa’s a bit reluctant. Holt has a penchant for being a little judgmental, after all, but he’s so hurt by her declined invitation, she hires an actress to play her girlfriend instead. Naturally, the whole thing blows up in her face. But Rosa was never worried that Holt would be too judgmental — he’s hilarious when he’s judgy — she was just worried that Holt wasn’t going to like her…and, she really wants Holt to like Jocelyn because she really likes her.

As if being the test dummy for all Jocelyn’s cosmetology school projects wasn’t proof enough of that.

Calzona vs. Ruisa

Canon #3. Callie and Arizona – Grey’s Anatomy

Callie’s in the bathroom at Joe’s, crying, when Seattle Grace’s new paeds doctor finds her. People have been talking, Arizona tells her, and the talk is good…when Callie’s ready, she’ll have a long line of people, just waiting for her. Like who, Callie asks dismissively, and Arizona moves in close.

As Carmen would describe it later,“She let their breath mingle together. She swept in for the kiss that launched one of the greatest queer love stories on network television. Seven seasons of laughter and dance parties and break ups and divorces and pain, but more than all of that, love. Undying love. It all started right there, underneath the busted out lights of a dirty bar bathroom.”

Canon #6. Rose and Luisa – Jane the Virgin

Nearly everything about Rose is a lie. She’s a lawyer and a socialite, married to hotel magnate Emilio Solano…and, of course, in her spare time she moonlights as the notorious drug lord, Sin Rostro. But every now and then, she allows herself a bit of truth…and the truest thing about Rose Solano is that she loves Luisa more than anything. After all, theirs was “the greatest love story ever told.”

Through out Jane the Virgin‘s run, there was a sense that Luisa would give up everything — including her health, sobriety and family — for Rose…and that’s true…but it’s also worth noting that every time that Rose could’ve escaped…every time she could’ve used someone else’s face to start a new life for herself, she resisted. Freedom without the woman she loved wasn’t freedom at all.

Kadena vs. Sinley

Canon #4. Kat and Adena – The Bold Type

Am I going to pretend, for the sake of this contest (and my personal sanity), that Season 4’s harsh re-write of Kat and Adena’s relationship doesn’t exist? Yes, I absolutely am. Let it exist in the same mythic space that keeps Season 6 of The L Word and all of Skins Fire far, far away from the minds of queer women everywhere. Instead, I want to encourage you to recall Kat’s bravery the night she shows up at Adena’s door and tells her that she really, really likes her.

Or better yet, remember that night in the airport…that night, where for 14 hours, this airport become a world of their own making…a world where no draconian immigration policies will separate them. Remember how they breathed each other in and created a sense of permanence for each other that could survive anything.

Canon #5. Sophie and Finley – The L Word: Generation Q

Riese’s words about the couple, post-season one, capture their allure the best:

I think one of the most thrilling parts of watching television is when you THINK you’re picking up on some chemistry but you’re not sure if it’s intentional and then… suddenly, it is! Sophie and Finley were the only match-up we didn’t see coming…and also turned out to be the one with the most genuine chemistry and intimacy behind it. I never would’ve imagined these two together from the first few episodes but retroactively it makes perfect sense, much like Alice and Dana did in the first season of the original series. These two are happiest and most themselves when they’re together and are incredibly adept at providing emotional support to each other in ways other partners have been unable to.

Alex and Olivia vs. Dani and Bette

Fanon #1. Alex and Olivia – Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

From the TV Team’s 2018 opus which may have inspired this bracket competition in the first place, MAKE IT GAY, YOU COWARDS:

Sometimes when you unwittingly end up shipping non-canon couples and you talk about it publicly, people (read: the straights) start to look at you strangely. It’s not their fault really, they haven’t spent a lifetime mining subtext for some inkling of representation so, of course, they don’t get it. But, if you bring up the fact that Olivia Margaret Benson of SVU should be gay and that she and the love of her life Alexandra Cabot should be building a family together, even the straights are like, “you right.”


Also, if NBC thought that they could steer me away from this very firm belief by adding an canon queer female character to the show?! Think again.

Fanon #8. Dani and Bette – The L Word: Generation Q

There’s an energy that radiates off Dani when she’s around Bette Porter. Part of it’s admiration…when she tells Pierce how inspiring Bette is, she actually does mean it. She’s worked for so long in a world that valued money above all other things that seeing someone who isn’t motivated by that — who genuinely wants to work for the least of these — is intoxicating.

But when she says, “I’ve never felt like that about anyone before,” she’s not just talking about her admiration for Bette…she’s talking about something more. She wants Bette and, after the campaign, that energy radiating off Dani is 100% thirst.

Eve and Villanelle vs. Jane and Jacqueline

Fanon #2. Eve and Villanelle – Killing Eve

In Killing Eve‘s first season finale, Eve breaks into Villanelle’s Parisian apartment. When she’s caught, Eve pulls out a gun and points it in Villanelle’s direction.

“What are you going to do with that?” Villanelle asks.

“I’m going to kill you,” Eve answers tentatively.

“No, you’re not,” Villanelle answers dismissively. “You like me too much.”

She’s right, of course, Eve does like her too much — she’s obsessed with her, in fact — and Villanelle admits that Eve’s the center of her masturbatory fantasies. Why then, do I consider Eve and Villanelle fanon? Because, given the chance to consummate their mutual fantasies, Eve instead plunges a knife into her gut.

Fanon #7. Jacqueline and Jane – The Bold Type

For a definitive answer about the Janequeline ship, I reached out to Tati (AKA superkitten), the writer behind one of the most celebrated Jacqueline/Jane fics in the fandom. She started shipping the pair just “2 minutes and 13 seconds into the pilot.”

“That’s when we got the slo-mo scene of Jane staring into Jacqueline’s office, her mouth falling open at the sight of Jacqueline’s red shoe-clad feet resting atop her desk, to the sound of Leon Else’s “Black Car.’ A few moments later, we saw their eyes meet across the room when Jacqueline arrived for a meeting. The charge between them was electric, it hit me like a freight train,” Tati wrote.

She rightly points out — and this is something the TV Team talks about all the time — if Jacqueline Carlyle were Jack Carlyle, the couple would have “an official ship name and think pieces would spring up everywhere discussing the possible implications of a relationship between a young writer and her superior in the workplace.”

JJ and Emily vs. Beth and Ruth

Fanon #3. Emily and JJ – Criminal Minds

In their 200th episode, Criminal Minds puts Jennifer “JJ” Jareau through it: she’s kidnapped, beaten and tortured. At one part, she starts to hallucinate…and she doesn’t hallucinate about her husband or the men on the team coming to save her…she dreams of Emily Prentiss. Emily hadn’t been a part of the show for 38 episodes — she’d moved to London to work for Interpol — but still, Emily was person JJ’s subsconscious imagined.

Outside, JJ’s team is searching for her and call Emily in for her assistance…of course, Emily races back to the States on an Interpol jet. When they finally get to JJ, still handcuffed to the ceiling, JJ just says, “Emily, I knew they’d call you. I knew it.”

Fanon #6. Debbie and Ruth – G.L.O.W.

Yotoob is the writer behind two of the most trafficked Debbie/Ruth fanfic in the G.L.O.W. fandom so they seemed like the best source to understand why fans are drawn to the pairing.

Yotoob admits:

“I have a weakness for unresolvable conflict…the fact that Ruth cannot talk to Debbie without nearly passing out? The fact that Debbie continues to insert herself into Ruth’s life for no logical reason? The fact that Betty Gilpin makes her face throw full cartwheels every time she so much as LOOKS at Ruth? The fact that they HATE EACH OTHER BUT ALSO HAVE TO TRUST EACH OTHER TO CATCH EACH OTHER WHEN THEY THROW THEMSELVES FROM THE TOP ROPE?…I never stood a chance.”

OG Jane and Petra vs. Callie and Addison

Fanon #4. Jane V. and Petra – Jane the Virgin

When you ask anyone about the moment that Jane the Virgin fans really knew that Petra and JR would become something, most people point to that scene in the stairwell, when JR comforts an upset Petra after she hears new revelations about her mother. But too many forget that that scene had already happened once before: in the show’s 12th episode when OG Jane finds Petra in the stairwell, upset over the arrival of her abusive ex, Milos. That moment drew fanfic writer, celaenos, to the pairing.

“I’ve always been drawn to sort of relationships in canon where opposites attract and they start kind of in a strange and — sometimes, depending on how it’s presented — antagonistic/bickering place,” celaenos explained.

Fanon #5. Callie and Addison – Grey’s Anatomy

In hindsight, it’s amazing that Callie and Addison weren’t fast friends on Grey’s Anatomy. They were both outsiders — unwelcome interlopers who had unwittingly injected themselves into this tight group of residents — and they’d both shared the bed of Mark Sloan more times than they’d care to admit. But Callie and Addison only start to draw close after they work together on the Jamie Carr case. It’s then that the fandom started to take notice of Callie’s bisexual energy.

Long before she’d trade shots at Joe’s with Erica Hahn or makeout with Arizona Robbins in the bar’s bathroom, there was Addison Forbes Montgomery Shepard…and it should’ve been canon.

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 later this week to share information about the other sub-regions.

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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 401 articles for us.


  1. Okay I thought this would just be a fun little poll because obviously I love (almost) all wlw ships and I’m just excited to see whoever ends up winning. But then I saw Emma and Nico on the list and never mind my non-competitiveness because there is no greater ship than Emma and Nico and I cannot even with my feels. My babies need to win!!!

    • I’m laughing so hard that I am the only quote and whole resource used for Debbie/Ruth… thank you for the shout out haha

      Debbie/Ruth forever, rip season 4, sorry I abandoned that one fic yikes

      yotoob x

  2. A mixture of very easy and very hard decisions as always–I feel like the problem with Alice and Nat is that they’re much better in the throuple?! Alice and Nat and Gigi, while they lasted, were both hotter and more balanced as a family.

  3. This is all so much fun, thank you, Nathalie!!! Also, Yotoob truly writes the ultimate Glow fanfic! Also: Skip Callie for Izzie and you have one of my beloved fanon couples.

  4. Only mildly offended that my all time favorite Grey’s Anatomy fanon ship of Cristina Yang and Teddy Altman having a steamy affair behind Owen’s annoying ass back isn’t here, but I’ll allow it.

  5. I’m so devastated that Abby and Chris from Work In Progress didn’t even qualify in the grown category. I don’t know what the rest of the A+ members have been watching this year but I feel robbed to not be able to vote for them.

    Emma and Nico it is.

  6. Sad to see that Deanoru – aka Karolina Deans and Nico Minoru from Hulu’s Marvel’s Runaways – didn’t make the cut at all. How many shows are there in which two of the female leads are together in an OTP pairing?

  7. Even though I’ve been watching Grey’s for what feels like 84 years, I never knew Callie & Addison was a thing people shipped. But now that I do know, I need fanfic immediately.

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