The Queer Pleasures of Venture Bros. Fandom
by Melissa Rogers — University of Maryland, College Park
March 08, 2017 – 15:54
Encapsulating the capacious universe of The Venture Bros. (2003-present) in 350 words is impossible; more ink has already been spilled in the fannish cultural productions spawned in the seemingly interminable interludes between the cartoon’s jam-packed, irregularly timed six seasons, which give fans’ imaginations ample time to run wild. The essays in Volumes I & II of the e-zine The Journal of Venture Studies, for example, cover a wide array of topics including the show’s postmodernist nostalgic irony, the intensive production process of its creators (Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick), the kind of fan theory the show itself embodies, and, most usefully for my purposes, the sexual identities and behaviors of its characters. My curiosity about the queer pleasures of The Venture Bros.’ fandom is less about the latter, which have been the subject of much public conversation and debate (see this 2012 interview with Hammer and Public), than about what such pleasures might say about our own fanatical media viewership. That is, I am not as interested in speculating about the erotic desires of these layered fictional characters (even though I do, of course), as in how we make sense of our desires for them. How do we continue to obsessively love our favorite satirical sci-fi worlds at their most offensive and problematic? How do we reconcile our affection and sometimes rampant attraction for the kinds of deeply flawed, all-too-human animated hunks depicted in The Venture Bros., with everyday manifestations of our politics that are more radical and subversive than any cartoon has the power to be? It is easy and reductive to say that we simply ignore what is racist, sexist, transphobic, or ableist in representations of the characters we adore to enjoy what is potentially queer about them. Rather, we must grapple with these depictions every time we delight in fictional worlds partially built on our own fantasies, a kind of confrontation that is itself perversely pleasurable and difficult for killjoy feminist media theorists who use queer reading practices to navigate daily life. No pleasure is pure; neither are facile calls for "politically correct" and sanitized humor. So while I fantasize about using my scant words to write a Brock Samson/Warriana pegging slashfic, I leave you instead with a clip that revels in the queer bodily excesses of the Venture-verse.