Skipped in Translation
Updated: Mar 13, 2022
Culture & Community / News & Opinion
Your containment fiction, dear author, is being watched. More specifically, with the potential of having videos about their content made via YouTube channels dedicated to translating and covering the material. There are innumerable quantities of confic content being generated on that well-trafficked video sharing platform. Most of it is SCP-related, with a growing quantity of Backrooms content complemented by a trickle for RPC and a growing stream for the Liminal Archives. By far the biggest winner in this attention economy would be SCP, at least at present, with a crowded scene of content creators struggling for SCP-inclined eyeballs.
With such demand meeting a finite supply, it is inevitable under capitalism that somebody will try to exploit that situation for a quick buck. One of the most popular ways of making that buck on YouTube is through cheap animations. People love watching animation, so it seems, or don’t have the media literacy to realize they’re being patronized with cheap trash pumped out and tailored to the lowest common denominator. In the worst cases, there is no art to these animations, nor is there any love by their creators for the source material. Whether through malice or ignorance, they simply get many details wrong.
Take a recent example. SCP Wiki author Nagrios' works SCP-4051 and SCP-139 were featured on hit SCP-themed animation channels The Rubber and SCP Orientation. The details of the characters' genders were not respected, and the author lashed out on Twitter to highlight as much.
The vocabulary for what can happening in this case is called “Straightwashing”, which is the removing of gay or queer character attributes when adapting a piece of media for a new medium. This can be a character who was gay in the original source being straight in the adaptation, or otherwise removing these aspects from a story when remaking it to tell the same story in a different way. In this case, it’s the original material on the SCP Wiki being straightwashed in the adaptation to YouTube. While it’s bad enough for this to be happening in recreational media, it is indicative of the larger struggle for LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream culture.
Following the mass shooting at the Orlando-based Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, many media outlets, political organizations, and prominent politicians avoided mentioning that the victims were largely LGBTQ+ folks when referring to the tragedy. This erasure is the reason for why things like Gay Pride exists as an organized concept, why so many on the SCP Wiki see including LGBTQ+ themes is so vital and necessary. This is also what makes it all the more frustrating when, even after all the effort the SCP Wiki communities put into being inclusive and having a broad spectrum of characters, that adaptations choose to ignore depth in favor of defaulting to heteronormative presentation.
One of the things that makes this aggravating situation a real kick in the teeth is the financial side of it. These YouTube channels aren’t pumping out this content for its own sake; they do not have the passion that is shared by the authors, or those even by other such YouTube content producers. It is strictly a business model, a successful one at that.
Creative Commons licensing is flawed when it comes to intellectual property monetization. Authors have no expectation of exclusivity for their content, as soon as it is released under the Creative Commons Licensing. Anyone who is properly attributing the source will have no difficulty making money at the expense of the original creators who actually put time, thought and effort into the writing of the original article. Unless the adapter is feeling generous, that author won’t see a single slim dime.
There is widespread discontent regarding this issue amongst the power users and authors of the SCP Wiki. Many of them see the removal of LGBTQ+ characters and character traits, and even the author's name, as being malicious, to deliberately ignore parts of the original content. However, it is far more likely that these changes are being made as compromises for time, due to either a lack of understanding the proper way to utilize a character with neopronouns. There is also a fear of potential backlash due to the audience receiving such aspects of the SCP Canon with hostility. Unfortunately, it can boil down to cisgender folks being trepidatious about asking questions for fear of inciting backlash, thus leading to correctable errors going unaddressed. It’s not even necessarily an intentional decision being made on their part.
Oftentimes it can simply be a matter of resources. If a voice-acted work is lacking in feminine voice actors or vice-versa, the gender of a character may flip out of necessity. It’s possible they didn’t understand a non-binary character to be such, assuming their gender without carefully inspecting that assumption before entering the production phase. Ultimately, there are many reasons other than explicit malice which might explain why something LGBTQ+ could be removed in an adaptation, determining their validity is an exercise left to the reader.
It seems that the vast majority of these videos’ audience would either not notice, not care, or even prefer that their videos not address these aspects of the characters being represented. It is no secret that there exists a gaping chasm between the writers and power users of the SCP Wiki and the attitudes present in the wider fandom. To put it bluntly, there is a lot of distaste for the usage of queer themes and LGBTQ+ characters/imagery, maybe not in the SCP Wiki, but certainly around it. For many audience members, this aspect of the SCP Wiki is an unwelcome intrusion rather than a natural evolution. For those who have been a part of the process of making the SCP Wiki a more welcoming and inclusive place, this probably seems shocking.
This can be seen in responses to SCP authors complaining about their unhappiness regarding unfaithful adaptation of their works. The attitude is often dismissive, insinuating that because there has been so much progress on the English SCP Wiki and beyond to include LGBTQ+ characters and themes that there is no reason to be upset about an adaptation failing to represent that. This dismissive argument is representative of the wider division within the fandom regarding LGBTQ+ influenced writing. The divide revealed during the 2018 Pride Fiasco remains unbridgeable.
Doing better is possible, if the SCP Wiki wished to do more than commemorating Pride once every couple of years they could organize their Internet Outreach team to actively communicate with content creators, or better yet community members could organize on their own without inviting the slow compromising processes of staff to get involved in the process. Communication is a two-way street. If SCP fans and SCP authors can stop watching one another and start speaking instead, they could make straightwashing part of the past.
© Confic Magazine