Ever wonder where the phrase “March Madness” comes from? Famed broadcaster Brent Musburger made March Madness part of the broader lexicon when he used it to reference the NCAA tournament in the 1980s, but the phrase actually dates back to 1939. According to the lore, Henry Porter coached the Athens (IL) High School Warriors to a second place finish in the annual statewide high school basketball tournament. Describing the fans’ excitement about the tournament, Porter wrote, a “little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel.” The sentiment resonates right now: if ever there was a moment where we all needed something to keep society on an even keel, it’s this one.
That “contributing to sanity” part, though? After the excitement of of the weekend’s games, I’m not sure March Madness is doing much for my sanity.
All three women’s games this weekend — the semifinals on Friday, the finals last night — were phenomenal (mediocre refereeing notwithstanding). South Carolina came within inches of beating Stanford, the tournament’s overall #1 seed. It was heartbreaking to watch Aliyah Boston and the Gamecocks fall just short of their season-long goal. Then, in the nightcap, basketball fans had a fairytale realized: David slew Goliath, as Arizona — an undersized, underappreciated team that had never been to the Final Four before — came in and defeated perennial powerhouse, UCONN. The Wildcats’ defense suffocated the Huskies and ensured that no one would overlook them ever again.
And then the Finals? ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME?! The Cardinal had beaten the Wildcats twice already this season — both times by double digits — but this time, Arizona just would not give up. Everytime Stanford went on a run, Arizona would answer: ramping up their defensive pressure and turning their defense into offense. In the end though, Stanford’s defense collapsed on Arizona’s Aari McDonald and dared anyone else to beat them… and the Wildcats just couldn’t do it.
Since we’re getting down to our final eight choices, we’ll break down the match-ups in their respective regions: Canon and Fanon.
On the Canon side, we had our closest match-up of the Sweet 16 between Cosima and Delphine and Brittany and Santana in the Classic sub-region. At one point, the girls from GLEE stormed ahead by a few hundred votes but then Orphan Black fans came back to give them the lead. It’s the second close match-up that Cosima and Delphine have survived, as they narrowly defeated Tara and Willow in the Round of 32… perhaps, they’re the Arizona Wildcats of our March Madness?
In the Sci-Fi/Fantasy sub-region, Waverly and Nicole easily dispatched Alex and Maggie in the Sweet 16. I was a bit surprised by the ease of the victory — after all, Alex made her way to the March Madness finals two years ago — but given that Wynonna Earp may be completing its run, perhaps I should have expected the fervent response. It’s worth noting that the past two winners of this competition have been part of shows that were also concluding. Is that a good omen for Waverly and Nicole in this competition?
#1. Waverly and Nicole – Wynonna Earp vs. #5. Cosima and Delphine – Orphan Black
In the Grown sub-region, Callie and Arizona easily fended off a challenge from Kat and Adena in the Sweet 16 and moved onto the Elite 8. The Calzona fandom came out strong in the third round of competition and they’ll need all that strength when they meet Juliantina in the Elite 8. The pair from Amar a Muerte dominated through the Baby Gay sub-region but have they met their match in the longest running lesbian couple on television? We’ll see.
#3. Callie and Arizona – Grey’s Anatomy vs. #8. Juliana and Valentina – Amar a Muerte
Over on the Fanon side of the bracket, I’d picked Buffy and Faith to win the Classic sub-region in our Challonge competition but when all the votes were counted, it was Xena and Gabrielle who came out victorious. They’ll meet the great ship, Supercorp, in the Elite 8. The Supergirl /Once Upon a Time match-up was one of the most anticipated match-ups of the entire tournament… and while it was closer than some of our other match-ups in the Sweet 16, the fandom still gave Supercorp a 400-vote margin over Snow Queen.
#2. Lena and Kara – Supergirl vs. #6. Xena and Gabrielle – Xena: Warrior Princess
Betty and Veronica continued their dominance in the Baby Gay sub-region, edging out Spencer and Aria by 300 votes. But our favorite Riverdale ship may have met their match in Eve and Villanelle. The pair from Killing Eve easily made their way through the Grown sub-region, even scoring an overwhelming win over Alex and Olivia in the sub-region’s finals. It was amazing to see a ship that kicked off in 2000 and still has a fervent following be dispatched so easily.
#1. Betty and Veronica – Riverdale vs. #2. Eve and Villanelle – Killing Eve
As always, the clock’s set: you’ve got 48 hours to cast your ballot in this round of Autostraddle March Madness. We’ll be back on Wednesday to unveil the couples that have made it to the Final Four!
South Carolina’s playing their best basketball of the year at exactly the right moment, with Aliyah Boston anchoring their offense in the post. Their defense has been stellar all tournament long — they held Texas scoreless in the fourth quarter in the Elite 8 — and can bring their brand of physicality to tonight’s game, I give the Gamecocks the edge.
But don’t count out the Cardinal: they play true team basketball and, on any given night, anyone can step up and lead them to victory. They’re no slouches on defense either, ranking second in the country in FG percentage defense, so we could be in for a defensive slugfest tonight. The thing I like about Stanford is their ability to shoot the ball from three, averaging 38.3% from long range this season. If they can get going from behind the arc, Stanford could win this thing handily.
I’m truly torn: my head’s with Stanford, my heart’s with South Carolina. We’ll see what happens.
The nightcap’s going to be a fun match-up as well: UCONN vs. Arizona. It’s hard not to think the Huskies have the advantage going in: they are, after all, perennial national championship contenders and that have been on this stage 21 times before (compared to just once for Arizona). But I like an underdog…and this Arizona team’s coming into this game with a chip on their shoulder and absolutely nothing to lose. I like what the Wildcasts can do from three and, if they can draw the UCONN posts into some foul trouble, we might have and upset on our hands.
But while we get excited for the women’s games tonight, we’ve got our own bit of March Madness business to handle. Over the last 48 hours, you’ve cast your ballots and winnowed the 32 remaining couples down to 16. Here’s how things look for the CANON VS. FANON Sweet 16:
In the Classic sub-region, the canon battle between Tara and Willow and Cosima and Delphine was one of the closest contests of the tournament thus far. The lead volleyed back and forth multiple times over the past 48 hours but ultimately the couple from Orphan Black pulled it own.
Meanwhile, Brittany and Santana coasted to a relatively easy win against the L Word powerhouse, Shane and Carmen. The win isn’t entirely unexpected — we do love Brittana around these parts after all — but the announcement of GLAAD’s upcoming tribute to Naya Rivera and news of her final role in the upcoming animated Batman movie….well, that’s enough to provoke a lot of nostalgia for even the non-GLEEks among us.
Canon: #3. Brittany and Santana – GLEE vs. #5. Cosima and Delphine – Orphan Black
Over on the fanon side of the bracket, things shook out a little differently: both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess easily fended off challenges in the Round of 32. Apparently, GLEE nostalgia doesn’t extend to everyone.
Fanon: #4. Buffy and Faith – Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs. #6. Xena and Gabrielle – Xena: Warrior Princess
The canon side of the GROWN sub-region offered some of the toughest choices in this tournament: Emma and Nico or Kat and Adena and Petra and JR or Callie and Arizona? I thought it interesting that voters went with the “older” couples in both cases: Emma and Nico got together on Vida during its second season in 2019, while Kat and Adena connected during The Bold Type‘s first season in 2017. Callie Torres first met Arizona Robbins in the bathroom at Joe’s during Grey’s fifth season (2009), while Petra didn’t hire JR to defend her until until 2018. We’ll see if that trend holds in this final match of the sub-region.
Canon: #3. Callie and Arizona – Grey’s Anatomy vs. #4. Kat and Adena – The Bold Type
Our other most competitive match-up of the second round came in the Grown fanon sub-region. After battling back and forth, Alex and Olivia edged out Callie and Addison. Admittedly, I’m surprised that the Callie Torres love didn’t carry over from canon to fanon, but I’m chalking it up to the inescapable advertising for the Benson and Stabler Law and Order reunion. Personally, if Alex Cabot isn’t involved, I am not interested.
The Special Victims Unit team will meet Eve and Villanelle in their Sweet 16 match-up. The Killing Eve pair easily dispatched a challenge from the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling to make it to the third round.
Fanon: #1. Alex and Olivia – Law and Order: Special Victims Unit vs. #2. Eve and Villanelle – Killing Eve
In the battle of the former March Madness champions in the Baby Gay region, Juliana and Valentina of Amar a Muerte came out on top. The fandom is definitely proving themselves stronger than their #8 seeding. They’ll face Emily and Sue from Dickinson in the Sweet 16, who pulled off what I’d consider to be a bit of an upset by dispatching Casey and Izzie. I guess that long wait between Atypical seasons — the show just started shooting its fourth and final season — took some wind out of the sails of the fandom.
Canon: #6. Emily and Sue – Dickinson vs. #8. Juliana and Valentina – Amar a Muerte
Over on the fanon side of the bracket, Betty and Veronica of Riverdale continued their dominance, despite an incredibly strong showing by Maya and Riley of Girl Meets World. The battle between the top two Pretty Little Liars fanon ships was closer than I’d anticipate with Spencer and Aria eeking out a victory. That makes for an interesting match-up in the sub-region’s finals: which fanon couple from a murderous town will reign supreme? Who’s your money on: Riverdale or Rosewood?
Fanon: #1. Betty and Veronica – Riverdale vs. #2. Spencer and Aria – Pretty Little Liars
It’s been all chalk — that is, all the higher seeds have won — and the trend continued during the Round of 32 in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category.Wynonna Earp‘s Waverly and Nicole easily defeated AvaLance from Legends of Tomorrow. With each round, WayHaught seems to be picking up strength so I like the couple’s chances as we head into the final rounds of this tournament. Standing in their way, though, will be the equally strong pairing of Alex Danvers and Maggie Sawyer, who advanced to the Sweet 16 despite a formidable challenge from Nomi and Amanita from Sense8.
Canon: #1. Waverly and Nicole – Wynonna Earp vs. #2. Maggie and Alex – Supergirl
Let’s be honest: we all knew it was going to end here. No matter how many great couples there were in the fanon portion of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy sub-region, this final match-up felt inevitable: Emma and Regina vs. Lena and Kara. Swan Queen vs. SuperCorp. Both easily dispatched their opponents in the last round, ultimately earning almost the exact same vote totals. This will be the match to watch in the Sweet 16.
Fanon: #1. Emma and Regina – Once Upon a Time vs. #2. Lena and Kara – Supergirl
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.)
Click here for a full-size image.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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 Susanna’s face to start a new life for herself, she resisted. Freedom without the woman she loved wasn’t freedom at all.
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.
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.
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.”
EVEN THE STRAIGHTS CAN SEE IT!
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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,” a href=”https://archiveofourown.org/users/celaenos/pseuds/celaenos” target=”_blank”>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.
This tournament marries two of my most favorite things: queer television and basketball. We borrow the moniker “March Madness” from the NCAA who uses it to describe its annual spring survive and advance championship tournament. But here’s an interesting thing we learned this week: according to the NCAA, women don’t participate in March Madness.
The disparity was hinted at last week, when photos of the men’s and women’s tournaments’ swag bags leaked across the internet. The men had hats, books, towels, shoes, socks blankets, bags, etc. all carrying the March Madness/The Big Dance branding, but the women’s swag bags — who were a fraction of the size of the men’s — all bore the “Women’s basketball” insignia. All this, while basketball players have all year, been wearing the word “equality” on the backs of their jersey.
Click here for a full-size image.
But not here: Autostraddle March Madness is all about celebrating women and their contributions to the fandom. Today, the voting commences for the CLASSIC sub-regions of the Canon vs. Fanon Contest. You have 48 hours to cast your ballot and then we’ll be back to unveil another region shortly thereafter.
Late in Buffy‘s third season, a spell goes awry and Willow unwittingly brings her own vampire doppelgänger to Sunnydale. When the pair finally come face-to-face, Willow’s taken aback by the vampire version of herself. She says, “I’m so evil and…skanky…and I think I’m kinda gay.” Buffy assures Willow that her doppelgänger’s personality isn’t a reflection of her…but, in the end, Tara wonders if maybe it should be…and, by Season 4, it is.
Willow and Tara meet in Wicca group and their shared love of magic brings them together…first, as friends and then as something more. Tara confesses her feelings first — I am, you know. What? Yours — but a few episodes later, Willow answers: “You have to be with the person you love. I am.”
Yeah, kinda gay.
Canon #8. Naomi and Emily – Skins
For years — since she was 12, in fact — Naomi Campbell ran from the way she felt about Emily Fitch. Even the moments where she allowed herself to feel the full weight of it — when she kissed Emily or when she held her hand or when they had sex — were just moments. They were fleeting, forgotten as soon as they happened, because loving another girl was such a scary prospect. But then Naomi’s mother reminds her, “[the] people who make us happy are never the people you expect…so, when you found someone, you’ve got to cherish it.”
And so she does.
She pedals over to Emily’s house and holds her hand through the cat flap…and promises to cherish it forever.
Canon #2. Shane and Carmen – The L Word
Early in Season 6, Jenny forces Shane to clean out her closet. She plucks a shirt out from “that horrible Paige era” and urges Shane to get rid of it. She finds another from Cheri Jaffe and, of course, that has to go too. Shane’s amenable to it all until Jenny picks up a shirt that reminds her of Carmen…that one, she refuses to throw away: Shane wants some remembrance of her. And while the stilted dialogue leaves her meaning a bit ambiguous, I’ve always thought of it as Shane acknowledging that, with Carmen, she was — until she wasn’t — the best version of herself.
Root and Shaw’s meet cute? More meet than cute. Shaw shows up to a meeting with a CIA contact, only to find Root impersonating her. But by the time she realizes it, it’s too late: Root sneaks up from behind and tasers her. As Root ties Shaw to the chair, she admits that she read Shaw’s file and she’s kind of impressed…not impressed enough to stop her from torturing her with the hotel room’s hot iron, but still, impressed.
“One of the things I left out of my file,” Shaw confesses. “I kind of enjoy this sort of thing,”
“I am so glad you said that,” Root admits. “I do too.”
And so begins the love/hate relationship that set the fandom ablaze.
Canon #3. Brittany and Santana – GLEE
Brittany and Santana weren’t supposed to be a thing. They were bit characters — the Kelly and Michelle to Quinn Fabray’s Beyoncé — who were meant to come in, toss a few barbs at the GLEE club and then recede back to Lima Heights Adjacent. Even when Brittany unwittingly reveals the truth about their relationship — Santana says, “Sex is not dating,” to which Brittany replies, “If it were, Santana and I would be dating” — it was supposed to be a one-off, throwaway line. But their talent, their chemistry and their fans made it more. They existed because the fandom demanded more, they existed because the writers and the actresses answered that demand with something great.
Canon #6. Bette and Tina – The L Word
When we first meet, Bette and Tina, their world — their relationship — seems idyllic. They are so deeply and effortlessly in love and are working to conceive their first child. But slowly but surely, the cracks start to show…and when Tina miscarries, those cracks become fault lines that threaten to destroy their relationship. But while they go through a cycle of cheating and reuniting and breaking up and dating other people, inevitably, Bette and Tina claw their way back to each other…each time, returning to their relationship, better people than they were before.
Canon #4. Alice and Tasha – The L Word
From the moment Papi introduces them at the club, Alice is immediately intrigued by Tasha. She checks her out, a few times, watches how she interacts with others — all tell-tale signs of interest — and Tasha ignores them, retreating outside to have a smoke. Undeterred by Tasha’s cold shoulder, Alice finds her later at the club and tries to make conversation. It is a struggle. Tasha offers short answers, never divulging more details than are needed to answer the question. But Alice keeps trying and Tasha appreciates the effort enough to let her guard down a little, inviting Alice for a ride on her motorcycle…and so begins one of The L Word‘s most beautiful love stories.
Canon #5. Cosima and Delphine – Orphan Black
Soon after Delphine shows up at her apartment, Cosima apologizes for having assumed she was gay. Before Delphine even has a chance to respond, Cosima steers the conversation back to the professional — “I just want to make, like, crazy science with you” — and they settle into an easy rapport about the Dyad Institute and their crazy science. But just when Cosima feels like she can breathe again…like her past mistake is behind her…Delphine brings up the kiss again. She can’t forget about it — in the best way — and, acknowledging the science of bisexuality, talks herself into doing the very thing she’s wanted to do since their first kiss: have another.
Fanon #1. Rachel and Quinn – GLEE
No one loves a good enemies to lovers trope quite like the gays…and Rachel and Quinn are the epitome of that. They start out on opposite sides of the spectrum: Quinn, the head cheerleader, dating McKinley High’s star quarterback, and Rachel, the lead underdog of the New Directions Glee Club, who secretly pines for McKinley High’s star quarterback. But through heartbreak, time and song, Quinn and Rachel find themselves on the opposite ends of an easy friendship…becoming, at once, each other’s biggest critic and biggest supporter.
Fanon #8. Alicia and Kalinda – The Good Wife
Is Kalicia the most trafficked ‘ship in the fanon? No, absolutely not. But there is something uniquely powerful about the Kalinda and Alicia fandom: it was so powerful, it compelled the writers to change the entire direction of the show…to the show’s great detriment.
The Good Wife started out as a vehicle for Julianna Marguiles about a woman emerging from the fallout of her husband’s political scandal. What it became, though, was an unwitting love story of a bisexual private investigator who worked, in secret, to ensure that the woman she loved would be able to achieve her dreams. The love story won Archie Panjabi the show’s first Emmy and created a fandom so fervent that it unsettled the show’s star and the show shifted its direction dramatically. From then on, the once BFFs were kept at arm’s length, going years without sharing a scene, including Kalinda’s final scene on the show.
Fanon #2. Myka and H.G. – Warehouse 13
Myka Bering is the only person who regularly calls H.G., “Helena.” She’ll call her H.G. in front of others but, in those moments when it’s just the two of them, she’s Myka and H.G. is Helena. She slips and calls H.G. Helena once, in Artie’s presence, and he chirps back, “Ohhh, it’s ‘Helena,’ now is it? If it’s all right with you, I’ll just keep calling her ‘the villain.’” It’s a sign that Myka’s the only one that ever truly sees her…the only person who believes in H.G.’s capacity to be good. And while H.G. struggles to live up to Myka’s view of her — what’s a bit of almost destroying the world between would-be girlfriends? — Myka’s faith never waivers…even when she wishes it would.
Fanon #7. Jade and Tori – VICTORiOUS
In a lot of ways, Tori Vega and Jade West remind me of Nickelodeon’s version of Faberry. Tori’s the bright, popular new girl at their performing arts school, who regularly clashes with Jade, the prickly goth girl. And while their tension could be chalked up to the ongoing rivalry between the two girls — and Jade’s jealousy over the ease into which Tori fights success at school — fans saw the potential for a queer love story. The show made the pairing a little easier to imagine when their teacher literally sent them out on a date.
In the moments where Jade and Tori settle into an uneasy truce, Jade is her best self. Despite their past skirmishes, Jade finds in Tori the one person who just lets her be herself.
Fanon #3. Jane and Maura – Rizzoli & Isles
Police procedurals are a man’s genre…but Rizzoli & Isles came in and broke new ground. It was a show, developed by a woman, led by two women — Angie Harmon as Boston Det. Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Alexander as Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Maura Isles — and based on novels by a woman. While police procedurals have gotten more diverse since Rizzoli & Isles‘ bowed in 2016, the show still stands alone in its depiction of women.
And, of course, it was gay. Not in the textual way…not in the way so many fans wanted it to be…but it was so, so gay….and somehow, also, not.
There are actual queer couples on screen today that don’t touch each other as much as Jane and Maura did. There are actual queer couples that never exchange the deep, longing looks that were commonplace on Rizzoli & Isles. Few actual queer couples on screen today can match their chemistry. But somehow, still, not actually gay? Go figure.
Depending on who you ask, Xena and Gabrielle’s placement here is troubling. To them, Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship is canon and they cannot be persuaded otherwise. But, in my defense: 1. I included Xena and Gabrielle among the choices for our A+ readers and they didn’t finish in the top 8 and 2. because of studio politics and Xena’s relationship with Ares, the show’s executive producer maintains that the couple weren’t canon.
Xander, Willow and Buffy are in Chemistry class when Mrs. Taggart interrupts Buffy’s ‘Ode to Faith’ — Buffy’s regaling of the pair’s slayer activities from the night before — to hand out a test. As soon as Mrs. Taggart leaves the room, Buffy turns back to her friends to continue where she left off. But Xander’s focused on the test so Buffy does the same until she’s interrupted by the object of her affection attention, rapping at the classroom window.
“Hey, girlfriend,” Faith says, opening the window and wordlessly inviting Buffy out to play. She leans over to the next window, wipes it clean with her sleeve, exhales to fog it and uses her index fingers to draw a heart with Cupid’s arrow — or you know, a stake, whichever — through it.
It’s enough to entice Buffy to skip the test and spend time with her partner in crime.
Fanon #5. Janeway and Seven of Nine – Star Trek: Voyager
In “The Gift,” Captain Kathryn Janeway reveals her discovery from the federation database: records from Deep Space Four about the Borg she’d come to know as Seven of Nine. She deduces that Seven — born Annika Hansen — and her parents were likely the first humans the Borg ever assimilated.” The revelation puts them on strangely similar footing: both groundbreaking women traversing the galaxy alone. From Jane, Seven learns to embrace her humanity; from Seven, Jane gets “brought…to life, as a deeply human woman.”
“I cannot function this way. Alone,” Seven of Nine says.
“You’re not alone. I’m willing to help you,” Janeway answers.
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.