Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Womens Studies

Major Professor

Michelle Hughes Miller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kim Golombisky, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David A. Rubin, Ph.D.


Fandom, Queer fandom, television, identity, interpretive communities, social networks, Tumblr


This thesis examines a queer fan community for the television show Once Upon a Time (OUAT) that utilizes the social networking site Tumblr as their primary base of fan activity. The Swan Queen fan community is comprised of individuals that collectively support and celebrate a non-canon romantic relationship between two of the female lead characters of the show rather than the canonic, heterocentric relationships that occur between the two women and their respective male love interests. I answer two research questions in this study: First, how are members of the Swan Queen fan community developing counter narratives of love by engaging in meaning-making processes and interpretations of OUAT? And secondly, how do they talk about the purpose and importance of their narratives for themselves or the Swan Queen fan community? In order to answer my research questions, I consider how the Swan Queen fandom developed and how they convey their meaning-making strategies online. To do this, I have analyzed the Tumblr blog of one Swan Queen fan and have used their blog as a nexus between other Swan Queen fans that use the website for their fan activities. Swan Queen fans argue that the show runners of OUAT use subtextual codes within canonical storylines in an effort to queerbait the show’s queer audience members. Moreover, the show runners refute the notion that they are queerbating queer fans at all by arguing that the fans’ perceptions are baseless and that any perceived queering of the characters Emma Swan and Regina Mills is purely “unintentional.” This response has only served to alienate the show’s queer fan base further as it led to increased complaints that the show runners were gaslighting the entire queer fandom. Additionally, Swan Queen fans maintain that the show’s introduction of canonical storylines featuring romantic relationships between Regina and Robin Hood and Emma and Captain Hook are heterosexist and dangerous. The storylines between Emma and Captain Hook, queer fans argue, often promote rape culture, thus perpetuating violence against both queer and non-queer audiences through storylines grounded in fairytale concepts of “True Love” and “Happily Ever After”. As such, Swan Queen fans push back against and reject this violence through their own interpretations and counter narratives of “True Love”. In accordance with previous research, I have found that historically marginalized groups such as the queer community continue to experience widespread and often aggressive attacks by queerphobic individuals and hate groups that are intent on preserving traditionally heterocentric institutions in our society, including (but not limited to) mainstream media broadcasting. Furthermore, fandom has become institutionalized in the same manner and typically operates within hegemonic, heterocentric standards. Conversely, queer fandoms such as the Swan Queen fandom operate outside of these standards, and fans respond to antagonistic efforts to silence them or cast them in an inaccurate manner by creating close-knit social communities to combat these actions and provide a space wherein individuals are able to counter dominant narratives that serve to further marginalize them. This study elucidates how this effort may occur and questions the effect this membership has on those who participate within a queer fandom. It is imperative that such research takes place, as there are very few accounts of how queer fans navigate the complex intersection between fandom and queerness.