What is Sweetweird and why is it controversial in SFF?

The Owl House poster depicts the main characters in a ready pose

Dawn of a new day Twitter fandomAnd, this time, the speech reached a new and exciting literary genre term: “sweetweird.”

Created by a science fiction and fantasy novelist Charlie Jane Anders“sweetweird” describes a specific genre of media that focuses on the power of loving and nurturing friendship in a strange, strange and difficult world.

Anders introduced the term in her 2021 autobiographical work Never say you can’t survive, but “sweetweird” really took off on Twitter after I wrote a newsletter about the genre over the weekend. Her work has since caused an internet controversy over art and aesthetics and whether “sweetweird” is a good or bad aesthetic movement for sci-fi and fantasy.

What is “Sweetweird”?

Anders writes in Sweetweird statement. “We don’t have to respond to the ridiculous indifference of the world around us by turning mean and ugly, or by expecting everyone else to be horrible. At the very least, we can create friendly, supportive spaces in the midst of chaotic nonsense, and perhaps help each other survive.”

Anders argues that Sweetweird’s work goes against the heterogeneous idea that the world should make sense. Instead, the “unreality of our consensus reality liberates us,” she writes, giving way to “decency without conformity, joy that does not depend on a false sense of stability.” This type looks at the face of trauma and says that people should hold on to each other, not grow apart.

As you can imagine, society, salvation between people, and the chosen family are prominent themes in queer cartoons and SFF novels. Anders argues that this is no coincidence. Gay stories tend to be weird because “queer culture has always been so prized by the chosen family, and gays have always seen the irrational at the heart of heterogeneity and balance.” she lists Adventure time As one of the founders of the genre, with contemporary works such as Our knowledge means deathAnd the owl houseAnd the Star Trek: Lower Decks Everything fits Sweetweird’s criteria. steven universeAnd the She-Ra and the Princesses of PowerAnd the Everything everywhere at once Count too.

“The real world will continue to get more nonsense, as we struggle with a complex apocalypse in constant slow motion. And we will continue to find comfort in stories where people comfort each other, without finding some miraculous logic behind their worlds,” Anders wrote. “Things are going to be very strange no matter what we do – but we have the power to make them sweet, too.”

Is ‘sweetweird’ just a ‘mop’?

Cast She-Ra conquers the cover of the start page on Netflix.
image via Netflix

Is the term Anders about to take off? Mostly not. a A quick look at fandom and SFF Twitter Today reveals a lot of mixed feelings about the “sweetweird” and her statement. Comparisons abound, with users complaining that “sweetweird” is actually “Hopepunk,” a niche-type term for speculative fiction that takes an optimistic look toward a bleak and bleak future. Others go a step further and say Sweetweird is just a disguised “doormat”.

For beginners, the Rite Gud podcast Raquel S. Benedict and Bodhand JR . host He described the mop as an “uplifting and very optimistic” educational and dominant movement in SFF, rooted in a deep neoliberal conception of right and wrong. Squeecore worships happy endings, leans toward relaxed and warm storytelling, and generally trades in symbolic representations for marginal characters. It’s full of awkward humor. It’s also highly marketable, and remains the most popular aesthetic item in mainstream SFF today, the two argue.

It’s hard to say exactly what a “mop” is. Frequently cited examples are, passersby Novels and Tamsin Muir closed grave series. But even these works are hotly debated by SFF fans. he is passersby So comfortable and cozy, or is it just a light adventure streak? he is closed grave A mop up for a Tumblr-esque sense of humour, or is it just a twisted, lesbian sci-fi story about trauma, grief, and death? Overall, there seems to be only one thing the entire SFF community can agree on as a doormat: Joss Whedon’s wallet.

In defense of children’s cartoon enjoyment

Steven Universe and Pearl happily standing on the Steven Universe poster.
image via Cartoon Network

Much of the anxiety about mop, candy, and any other term you wish to use is rooted in a concern that Americans will become gullible. Have our artistic preferences become immature? Are gay adults becoming too focused on happy stories? Are they immersed in children’s cartoons and escape from reality to experience real art?

Anders admits that she enjoys being eccentric because she is “exhausted” in “sinister” storytelling that oozes viciousness and extreme violence. Perhaps this, more than anything else, is why critics are so interested in the good relationship and the doormat. There is a lot of tension in contemporary pop culture criticism about enjoying lukewarm content, lest steven universe And the Shi ra It protects us from the biggest problems of reality.

But cycling among the artistic aesthetics is a perfectly natural part of life. The job of art is not to constantly challenge us by showing us every single worst aspect of the human experience. Art has no function at all. It exists to express feelings and to experience them. The works of “Grimdark” lost their appeal to me, for example, when I went through enough shocking nonsense during the pandemic to warrant a break from stories about people robbed and murdered in a grieving world. There will always be a time for those stories when life is less stressful.

There, to be clear, condensed, Institutional centralization of American pop culture going on now DisneyAnd the NetflixAnd the Microsoft. These companies define the de facto artistic aesthetics agenda. When a Marvel movie hits theaters, the MCU blocks any other big-screen viewing options in most US theaters, such as The famous Scorsese commented. In the same way, these companies are sure to push a lot of high-profile cartoons, movies, TV shows, and video games that feature simplistic, black-and-white morals and are highly marketable to children and adults alike. This type of content tends to over saturate the market.

But if the mop is highly neoliberal, the odd thing is the opposite. Anders writes about the politics of societal thinking and gay joy in the face of institutional collapse, in which societal bonds hold together even when people make mistakes. By comparison, Benedict and JR’s squeecore has a very high belief in institutions, sees the world in a simplistic view of right and wrong, which is, fundamentally, about good people doing good and having a good time while bad people doing bad and being bad. time. The Sweetweird media, by Anders’ definition, is more skeptical. Think Nimonathe exact type of string that would likely be categorized as a mop, even though it’s just that.

When rhetoric about “hopepunk,” “sweetweird,” “cottagecore” and all descriptions of other grotesque movements pop up, genre categorization becomes poetry division. Surprising Quiz: Are You Thinking Adventure time mop more or less than close enough? he is smiling friends sweetweird because of its focus on friendship, or is it too much? he is loki Still holding on because it’s part of the MCU, even though it’s about the villain’s deep personal transformation? Or are we really pouring ink on fine particles that most people don’t use while ignoring the larger issue of how market trends are increasingly coming under the control of a select few big companies? Seriously, we’re very close to a Spreading monopoly in American literature as it is.

When it comes to genre dominance, today’s theoretical mop is theoretical bleak tomorrow. The market requires a dominant aesthetic. So let’s not pile on the gay writer’s “take it or leave it” work of genre critique that highlights aesthetic similarities between stories across media. At the end of the day, the genre classification is best defined in hindsight. But the corporate monopoly on our theater bookshelves and marquees is an entirely different story.

(featured image: Disney)

Want more stories like this? Be a subscriber and support the site!

Mary Sue has a strict comment policy Personal insults are prohibited, but are not limited to anyoneSpeech that incites hate and trolling.

Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected]

.