|Fist of Adora (fist_of_adora) wrote in catradora,|
@ 2012-04-01 11:11:11
Entry tags: fandom primer, meta, resources
Zone F: Fandom Primer
You probably know Zone F. Even if you've never seen a single episode, it's likely the show came to your attention before it even started airing, when it came out that it would have a canonical lesbian couple. (In a genre show! Wow, we didn't think that would last. That was the fandom's first wank, before we even started.) But how much do you really know about the show? The fandom's been growing in leaps and bounds, and with a lot of new people coming in, not everyone's had chance to see all the episodes. (Or even wants to.) So here you go, my best attempt at an overview, right up to the early episodes of season three, which is where we're at now.
The world this show is set in is divided into separate "zones", one of them - surprise! - Zone F. Zones are generally identified by letters or sometimes numbers (Darkney mentions "Zone 51" at one point), and they operate as separate, isolated territories with strict border control. Each zone is under the authority of a Zone Governor, who in turn answers to the Authority, the ultimate power (about which we know next to nothing yet).
The different zones are separate and barely seem to interact at all. Adam coming from Zone E to Zone F is treated as an almost unbelievable feat, and Adora fleeing back to Zone F after her kidnapping is only possible due to special circumstances. Other zones seem to be somewhat mythical to the ordinary citizen - the world basically ends at the zone border, although higher-ups in the Force (= highly militarised zone police) or the Zone Administration are aware of their counterparts in other zones, and occasionally travel elsewhere. There are also other cross-zone organisations, such as the Order of Engineers, but those are very rare and elite.
From what little we know, zone governments vary wildly from benign to oppressive, and the Authority is just fine with either. They're also apparently just fine with violent coups, revolutions, or other methods of changing government so long as they end with one person clearly in charge, whom they then acknowledge as Zone Governor. On the other hand, they're also rumoured to perform violent crackdowns on rebel groups within a zone if they become too powerful. This apparent contradiction has been a major worldbuilding WTF since the start, and fannish theories vary from "bad writing" to "social experiment". *g*
Nearly all the action of this show takes place in Zone F, under the rule of Zone Governor Hordak, which is pretty much a dystopian Big Brother state. However, the tech level is ... seriously inconsistent, with sci-fi gadgets going hand in hand with a somewhat 1980s infrastructure, and this is what makes the rebellion even possible. (Gravity control, energy weapons, supercomputers and cloning: yes. Internet, ubiquitous CCTV, GPS tracking, facial recognition software: no. *eyeroll*) The rebel bases are all outside of the cities, and so someone who joins the rebels is said to have "gone to the woods".
The capital of Zone F hasn't been given a name, although most episodes are set at least partially there. Characters tend to speak of "the capital", or just "the city". Other places of note in Zone F are the Norwyn Institute - where students train to become members of the Order of Engineers - and the Island, a notorious Alcatraz-like prison.
I'm going to use the season 3 promo artwork from the official website for the character profiles - I like it best so far.
Adora (Olivia Thirlby)
Our intrepid heroine. She is, in no particular order, Hordak's protegée, Catra's girlfriend, a Force Captain (= strike team leader) in Zone F, and - after the pilot - a double agent.
Having grown up as the surrogate daughter of Zone Governor Hordak and his right-hand woman Weaver, Adora grew up a good soldier, often fighting against the "terrorists" plaguing the zone. In the pilot, she discovers that all is not as it seems in Zone F: the attack she's investigating turns out to have been engineered by Hordak himself. When she captures rebel Hawk, she lets him go. After that, she is recruited to the rebel side and works for them as a mole, under the code name "Shera".
This is naturally complicated by the fact that her girlfriend Catra is a fellow Force Captain. At first Adora doesn't dare tell her the truth - Catra has a very poor opinion of the rebels'/terrorists' competence, and she's much too aware of her own advantage to risk siding against Hordak. Later, after Catra knows, they are still of two minds about the rebels, but it never seriously comes between them.
Lateron we find out that Adora has a brother, Adam, who grew up with their mother. Adora isn't an orphan after all - her mother is Zone Governor Marlena of Zone E, and her father is none other than Hordak himself. (More on that below. The family angst is huge with these people.)
Especially early on, Adora is something of a hothead, preferring problems she can beat into submission, but she necessarily becomes more adept at circumspection as "Agent Shera". Once Catra finds out the truth, she often offers Adora advice, which Adora takes. Mostly. *g* Her interactions with the rebels are mostly with Hawk, her contact, rebel spymaster Kowl, and the eccentric Razz, who finds out "Shera"'s identity by accident.
Adora's rebel identity isn't known to most rebels, which means when she encounters them as Force Captain Adora, they see her as the enemy. This has led to several interesting conflicts for her as she has to defend herself while trying not to harm her opponents and not exposing herself to other Force members.
What else? Oh yes - Adora, like all Force Captains, uses a weapon called a grav-pulse glove, which the fandom has affectionally nick-named The Fist. (Only genuine with the capital letters!) It can crumble walls and crush vehicles, and Adora really enjoys hitting things with it. She has something of an unholy love affair with The Fist. (And if you think that sounds dirty, well, I promise you, you're not the first. *g* Just check the appropriate tag here on the comm - the fist -, or on AO3 - The Fist (Zone F).)
Catra (Crystal Reed)
Our intrepid antiheroine. The most common adjectives applied to her are "ambitious", "scheming", and "manipulative". (And "sexy". Can't leave that out. *g*) She, like her girlfriend Adora, is a Force Captain in Zone F. She's good at portraying the loyal soldier, but is really in it for power and influence. She has little actual loyalty to the Zone Government, which comes in handy when she discovers her girlfriend is actually working with the rebels. For Hordak and Weaver, she is basically a nonentity at the start, which galls her extremely - which is why they believe her fake betrayal and Adora's vincication in the season 1 mid-season two-parter. After that, she appears to be up-and-coming in Zone F, and Weaver even takes to mentoring her somewhat, trying to stoke a rivalry between Catra and Adora.
When Adora convinces her that the rebels actually stand a chance, she starts hedging her bets. More than once she's played both sides against the middle, but in a pinch you can always count on her to do one thing above all, namely protect Adora. Once she discovers the truth, she's a huge part of Adora's massive improvement in the sneakiness department, and more than once, she manages to derail Imp (for whom she has a particular loathing, perhaps because he once turned down her application for his department) when he starts to discover something amiss with Adora.
Catra, unlike Adora, isn't above taking drastic measures to protect what she values - which is herself, and Adora, and both of their safety above all. See, for example, the episode where she kills the two Force soldiers who witnessed Adora's covert meeting with Hawk, without batting an eyelash. Or the one where she blackmails the student engineer. For some fans, she's too dark - there are debates on whether she's good for Adora, or whether Adora would be better off with, say, one of the rebels. (*cough*Hawk*cough*)
When Adora is kidnapped at the end of season 2, Catra initially blames the rebels - not entirely without reason, admittedly, since Adam was working with them. She leads a strike force into battle with a rebel group, and captures Hawk and some other rebels, but is eventually convinced that they knew as little about Adam's true plans as Catra (The scene where Catra interrogates Hawk is ... pretty intense. Yeah. *g*) In season 3, ironically, Catra is working closely with the rebels herself, having taken Adora's role as double agent now that Adora's bridges with Hordak appear burned.
The Rest of the Main Cast
Hordak (Ian Buchanan)
When we first meet Hordak, all we know is that he's the Zone Governor of Zone F and a sort of surrogate father to Adora. Later, we find out that in his younger years, he was called Randor, was married to a woman named Marlena and had two children with her, Adam and Adora. Marlena came to power as Zone Governor of Zone E, and they clashed more and more as she began to listen to other advisors over him. Eventually he left her, taking one of their children with him, and went to Zone F, where he started building a power base of his own under the elderly then-Governor Primus, whose successor he became. (How he managed to cross the zone border is so far Shrouded in MysteryTM; here's hoping for more flashbacks!)
Hordak is a dictator, using every bit of the latitude the Authority allows the zone governments, and more. Occasionally the Authority comes poking in the form of Zone Inspector Darkney, but so far he's always managed to weasel out and hide the dodgy things he's done. (Sometimes with the help of the rebels, even - it's believed that getting noticed by the Authority will cause a crackdown of epic proportions.) Unsurprisingly, this has produced some Hordak/Darkney fic.
Hordak appears to have soft spot for Adora, even after he realises she's working with the rebels - as things stand, he's still trying to capture her so he can win her back (read: brainwash her). It's hard to say whether his affection is genuine or whether he's just feigning it to use her as a bargaining chip. Fandom basically falls into two camps - redeemable!Hordak, who does love his daughter in the end, and evil!Hordak, who merely wants to use her for some nefarious plan. There's no doubt that he hates his ex-wife Marlena and the son she brought up, though.
He also has a temper, likes to throw things when he gets angry, and tends to blame other people when his own plans fail, regardless of whether they suggested better strategies (as both Weaver and Imp have done). (This has led to a lot of Hordak/Imp BDSM, unsurprisingly.)
Adora has inherited a bit of his temper, it seems, though not the inclination to shift blame.
Weaver (Danielle Cormack)
Weaver is a bioengineer, and Hordak's right-hand woman. She is also a surrogate mother to Adora, has a contentious relationship with Catra, and is loyal to Hordak. Mostly.
She is a member of the Order of Engineers, and was trained at the prestigious Norwyn Institute. The Order is one of the few cross-zone organisations, and higher-ranking members are known to travel to conferences in other zones. It's not known why the members of the Order all seem to wear a hood and a cloak, especially since no two of them look alike, but they do. Weaver's hood half obscure her face, and there are exactly two instances so far where we see her completely without it.
Her specialty is bioengineering, which she likes to use in less-than-ethical ways. (See below under "Golem", for example.) Her position as a member of the Order, a cross-zone organisation, also means she has a somewhat wider perspective than characters who've never left Zone F.
Unlike Hordak, fandom is pretty certain Weaver's affection for Adora is genuine - we've seen her help Adora out of some tight spots, even if that meant keeping things from Hordak. And she seems genuinely devastated when she finds out Adora has disappeared. On the other hand, when Weaver begins to take an interest in Catra, she deliberately sets out to play Adora and Catra off against each other - it seems she's "mentoring" Catra mostly in order to separate her from Adora. (She might even have succeeded if the both of them were actually loyal Zone F citizens. *g*)
Early on, there was quite a bit of Adora/Weaver fic, but that has slowed down to a trickle. The most popular Weaver pairing by far is Weaver/Casta - fandom loves former friends turned enemies. And redemptionistas love Weaver in general, maybe because her turn to the dark side seems less ... petty ... than Hordak's. (Or maybe not; who knows what gets fandom going and what doesn't? Not me, that's for sure.)
Glim (Sharon Taylor)
Glim is the leader of the rebels. She is the daughter of Ange, a woman who staged a failed revolt against Hordak's predecessor Primus shortly after Hordak arrived in Zone F. (Hordak's help in that revolt gained him Primus's favour, and eventually made him his successor.) Ange was lost when the revolt was put down, although her body was never found. (There's more than one fic in which she reappears. Fandom is nothing if not predictable. We expect the show to follow suit any day now. *g*)
Glim, growing up orphaned (we know nothing about her father, btw), wants revenge against Hordak, and started her own rebellion because of that. She has not reached the point where her rebels could go straight against Hordak and expect to win, but their ultimate goal is to depose Hordak and install Glim as the new zone governor.
She tends to be overly impulsive, but has learned several lessons on that front since the show started. One day she may actually make a good zone governor if the show goes there.
Glim's weapon of choice is her headband, which emits a blinding beam of light. She generally prefers blinding her opponents to beating them up. (Unlike Adora. *g*)
Glim is sometimes shipped with Bow, and there's also a surprising amount of Glim/Darkney, considering they never appeared in a single scene together, due to that one episode where Hordak and Glim and Adora all do a merry dance trying to prevent Darkney from finding out what's going on in Zone F, and Glim and Darkney especially have some rather entertaining near misses. (Oh fandom, never change.)
Bow (Boris Kodjoe)
Bow is one of the more prominent members of the rebellion. In light of the upcoming Avengers movie, let me just say that Bow is Zone F's Hawkeye. He is a master archer and uses all sorts of gimmicky arrows, some of them on the more absurd side. He is also a singer; that was his career before he joined the rebels. Next to Glim herself, he's the most wanted among the rebels because he used his last public appearance before he went "into the woods" to deliver an impassioned speech against Hordak's abuses of power.
(Yes, Boris Kodjoe can sing!)
Bow is most often seen at Glim's side as her main advisor, along with spymaster Kowl. Bow and Kowl have a peculiar love/hate relationship; the two of them constantly clash and bicker, which naturally translates into slash. *g* Kowl tends to win their arguments based on wit. Bow doesn't have much interaction with Adora until late in season 2, when Adam's presence starts changing things; in season 3, he's one of the first to stand up and defend her when other rebels are unhappy about the presence of a former Force Captain among them.
Adam (Bradley James)
Adam is an out-zoner, from Zone E, and Adora's brother. In season 2 he turned up in Zone F, ingratiating himself with the rebels (whom he found with suspicious ease). He's kind-hearted, and looking to find his sister and bring her home, but he also wants revenge against Hordak for taking her in the first place. (He's fully on his mother's side in the conflict between Hordak and Marlena and the rivalry between Zone E and Zone F, which seems to mostly consist in attempting to win the - somewhat nebulous - favour of the Authority. Of course, it's not hard to be better than Hordak! Though perhaps not in the Authority's eyes. *g*)
Adam is deeply disappointed when Adora refuses to ditch everything and come with him, decides that Hordak has brain-washed her and that Catra is a bad influence on her. So he abducts Adora, and takes her to Zone E. This doesn't exactly endear him to her. Adora does meet their mother, but eventually convinces Adam to help her return to Zone F. (How he crosses the zone borders so easily is still something of a mystery.)
He was on the regular cast in season 2 only, and after his guest appearance in the season 3 pilot he seems to have gone back to Zone E permanently. Why there's season 3 promo artwork for him is anyone's guess - it may just be that he's popular and plays a huge role in the pilot, though fans have speculated he may return later in the season.
Scorpia (Lexa Doig)
Scorpia is a martial arts expert. Her rank is "Force Specialist", which translates to "wetworks person", and she's working for Hordak's spymaster Imp. This means she is aware of far more of what's going on under the surface of Zone F than most people, and she clearly doesn't have any problem with that. She has been seen, among other things, setting up "terrorist attacks" to be blamed on the rebels, and assassinating high-ranking people who were suspected of being rebel informers.
Scorpia and Catra have been working together a lot in recent episodes as Scorpia has been deputised to Catra's squad while she's searching for Adora. (See the plot summary below.) The two of them don't get along, and not just because of their incompatible goals. Scorpia's job is basically what Catra used to want before she started to hedge her bets about the rebels' cause, so there's a lot of jealousy there, and Scorpia in turn hates that as a member of Catra's team she has to answer to the younger woman for the time being even while she's also reporting back on her. (Seasons 1 and 2 didn't generate much of it due to lack of interaction, but season 3 has triggered a small avalanche of Catra/Scorpia.)
Imp (Daniel Dae Kim)
He is Hordak's spymaster, and a master of disguise. He often moves around incognito, and always seems to notice when something is amiss. Since he's spying on his own people as much as coordinating other espionage activities, he is not exactly liked. Catra especially has taken a dislike to him, which is rather ironic considering her own lack of loyalty, but can be attributed to a serious case of sour grapes.
Imp is Hordak's closest confidant next to Weaver, and the only person we see who's unquestionably loyal to Hordak. He's a bit of a suck-up, but the two of them seem to actually be friends. They're often seen playing an unnamed (obviously chess-derived) board game, and Imp is also the only person we have ever seen Hordak apologise to. When Imp was injured in an assassination attempt, Hordak's fussing about him was almost cute. (Wow, talk about a word I never thought I'd type in connection with Hordak!) All of this has - naturally - led people to write slash about them. (It's not a huge pairing, but Imp-fic has a tendency to be interestingly twisty.)
One of Imp's more successful schemes was framing Kowl - a known rebel - as a Zone spy, which actually worked for a while until Adora was able to clear his name.
Grizz (Brian Austin Green)
Grizz is Hordak's bodyguard, a physically powerful but not particularly smart or introspective person. He is often manipulated by the more scheming characters, such as Catra or Weaver. However, he is good at his job and has saved Hordak's life several times.
When Hordak's people managed to capture Casta and held her in the prison facility called the Island, Grizz was her jailer. He prevented two escape attempts and only lost in the end because Adora and Catra tag-teamed him.
Darkney (Lanette Ware)
Zone Inspector Darkney works for the Authority and visits different zones, making sure they comply with the Authority's rules (whatever those are). She is Hordak's nemesis even more than the rebels are. Despite generally arriving without much physical backup, Darkney is the only person we've ever seen capable of intimidating Hordak, just with a few well-placed threats.
The first time she turns up in the series, she'd been sent on a surprise inspection by the Authority to investigate why Hordak was having so much trouble capturing the terrorists in his zone. She's met most of the non-rebel characters, though Hordak does his best to run interference, worrying someone may say something wrong. (Yes, he's completely paranoid about her. There's a reason why her third appearance was a comedy episode.)
When she appears in fic, it's most often as a plot device to get Hordak in trouble, though there's also a significant amount of Darkney/Hordak fic. (If you like sub!Hordak, this is probably the pairing for you.)
Hawk (Steve Bacic)
Hawk is the owner of a shipping and logistics company and generally assists the rebels when it comes to transport. On the surface of it he's a successful businessman with no grudge against the zone government. When he was younger, his father vanished, and he was placed in foster care. For years, Hawk's company took government contracts; then Hawk found out his father had been a test subject in some of Weaver's questionable experiments, and switched sides. He started poking around, found out about his father, and made contact with Glim's rebels.
In the pilot, it's encountering Hawk which becomes the turning point for an increasingly suspicious Adora. She captures him, but no longer believes him - or the rebels - to be responsible for the attack whose perpetrators she is supposed to be going after, and in the end she lets him go. He's her rebel contact after that, and they've become good friends.
Hawk is also involved in the most controversial scene of the pilot. When he makes contact with Adora a second time, they end up in a classic "pretend to be a couple" scene as she aids his escape. Plenty of people were pissed off about a lesbian heroine being made to kiss a man, but it remained her one and only heterosexual moment. *g* Adora/Hawk is a reasonably popular ship, though, and since that Catra/Hawk interrogation scene in the season 3 pilot, there's more and more Adora/Hawk/Catra.
Casta (Salma Hayek)
Casta, like Weaver, is a member of the Order of Engineers. She studied at the Norwyn Institute at the same time as Weaver, and the two of them were fast friends at the time. Eventually they clashed over Weaver's unethical attitude towards bioengineering, and went their separate ways. Casta later joined the rebellion, dissatisfied with the Order's science-for-science's sake attitude. Among other things, she is responsible for creating Glim's headdress with its light-blast capability, and Bow's bizarre collection of special-effects arrows.
Casta can often foresee Weaver's strategies since she knows her that well, and the rebellion has avoided a few traps laid by Weaver thanks to Casta. Unsurprisingly, the two of them are shipped a lot. The community for the pairing is called, fittingly enough, hooded.
Casta is also seen teaching other rebels; she appears to be a teacher more than a researcher by inclination. A student of hers called Ari appears in a handful of episodes.
Razz (Adjoa Andoh)
Razz is a tech-whiz with attention-span problems. While she can manage seemingly impossible feats every now and then, more often than not she gets distracted and overlooks some key step at first. She always gets there in the end, though, which is why people don't hold much of a grudge over her failed gadgets and such. She sometimes works with Casta, but Casta gets impatient with Razz's ditziness, while Razz finds Casta patronising. More often she is seen in the company of Kowl, with whom she appears to share some important past experience.
She is also one of the few rebels who know early on that "Agent Shera" is actually Force Captain Adora - she managed to stumble across evidence by accident, and had to be told the truth to stop her from asking incriminating questions.
Kowl (Willie Garson)
Kowl is the rebels' counterpart for Imp - their spymaster. Imp is his nemesis more than Hordak himself. This made it especially crushing when people believed Imp's plot to implicate Kowl as one of Imp's agents. Even after the plot was exposed by Adora, Kowl's relationships with most of the rebels remained tense for a long time. His usual banter with Bow took a turn for the vicious for a while.
Kowl prefers to avoid physical fights, but is in his element when it comes to witty banter and verbal duels.
Due to his position, he is also one of the few people who know from the start that "Agent Shera" is actually Force Captain Adora, and in season 3 is aware of "Agent Claw"'s identity as Force Captain Catra.
Other relevant characters
Marlena (Frances McDormand/Sarah Jane Morris)
She is the Zone Governor of Zone E, and the mother of Adam and Adora. And Hordak's ex-wife, from the time when he was still called Randor.
From what we hear, she seems to be a much kinder ruler than Hordak, and Zone E seems to be a more pleasant place. But all we see of it is from Adam's naturally biased POV, so we don't know for much for certain.
One thing we do know: There's a rivalry going between Zone E and Zone F, in which Hordak and Marlena are trying to win the Authority's favour - though what benefit exactly they're hoping for remains unclear. Marlena has some kind of connection with the Zone F rebels, possibly partially funding them in an attempt to undermine Hordak.
The images show present-day Marlena from the argument scene in the season 2 finale (full screencap of Marlena and Adam here), and young Marlena from an earlier flashback scene (full screencap of Marlena and Randor here). Forgive my fiddling with the colours - they just looked silly next to each other unaltered, given the weird filter they use for the flashbacks.
Golem (Olivia Thirlby)
Golem is a clone of Adora, engineered and trained by Weaver. She appeared in all of one episode, and she doesn't have a real name, only her code name. Nonetheless, she's a fan favourite, and Adora/Golem has something of a dedicated following. *g*
When Weaver finds out there is an assassination planned, it's Golem who's supposed to take Adora's place in order to trap the assassins. Weaver is willing to sacrifice Golem for the purpose, considering her eminently replaceable. Adora realises what's happening, wins Golem over to her side, thwarts the assassination and makes it seem like Golem was killed in the attack. Then she shows Golem a way to sneak out of the city. We never hear from her again, though of course we live in hope - there was never a body, after all. *g*
(The images are from that scene, showing both women. Here is the full screencap.)
The Story So Far
In the pilot, Adora finds out all is not as it seems in Zone F, makes contact with the rebellion, and becomes a double agent. Hawk becomes her rebel contact. In the following episodes, Adora sneaks around trying to find out more about what's really going on, and Catra becomes suspicious. In the mid-season finale, Catra finds out about Adora's connection with the rebels, and betrays her to Hordak.
In the following episode we find out that Catra and Adora set things up, and they are both proven innocent in Hordak's eyes.
Season 1 ends with Adora fully committing to the rebel cause - no surprise there, but a satisfying conclusion nonetheless.
At the beginning of the season an out-zoner - Adam - pops up with the rebellion, and slowly wins their trust. Meanwhile, Adora slowly convinces Catra to give the rebels a chance. In the mid-season finale, Adam finally meets Adora and reveals that he's her brother. Over the next episodes, we find out some truths about Adora's family. Adora, however, refuses to burn her bridges by leaving Zone F with Adam, even if that means she can't see her mother.
In the season finale, Adam takes matters into his own hands and kidnaps Adora, taking her to Zone E.
In the season premiere, Adora returns to Zone F, but can't return to the Force - the kidnapping and the following investigation has exposed her connections with the rebels. Adora stays with Glim et al., and Catra - who pretends to believe Adora has been brainwashed by the rebels - is tasked with finding her and "rescuing" (capturing) her. Scorpia is ordered to team up with her (and make sure she stays on track).
This is where we currently stand, with Catra playing cat and mouse with Adora, while Adora has to prove herself to the rebels. Catra and Adora can only meet in secret. Ironically, Catra is now working more closely with the rebels, playing informer herself, under the code name "Claw".
This is a very femslash-heavy fandom. The most popular pairings are:
Adora/Catra. Naturally. This isn't just the biggest pairing in the fandom; it's fast becoming the pairing that ate fandom. (Hi, all you new people! Welcome aboard!) The main LJ community is catradora, though force_captains, a fic-only comm, also sees a lot of activity.
Because it's so big, you can find just about anything in this pairing - from complete AUs (Policewomen? Baristas? Ice skaters? All there. And let's not forget the dog AU ... Adora makes a lovely St. Bernard. *g*) to missing scenes, if you can imagine it it probably exists. (Just ask at zonef_finder. *g*)
Catra/Scorpia was a rare pairing until recently, but it's fast on the upswing since the two started working together. Check catra_scorpia. :)
Adora/Golem. All right, this isn't all that big a pairing, but it totally deservers a mention here because it has such a consistent, tightly knit following, even two seasons after the one and only episode Golem appeared in. *g* The shippers mostly hang out at the Golem-centric comm melog
Het is comparatively rare in this fandom; there are really only two pairings that reach any significant size.
Adora/Hawk used to be the uncontested biggest het pairing. You can tell the approach of early Adora/Hawk from the name of the comm alone: rebelpartners. This is also, hands down, the pairing involved in shipping wank the most. (Let's not get into that here, okay? No wank in the comments, people.)
These days there's also a significant following of Adora/Catra/Hawk threesome fic, thanks to a steamy Catra/Hawk scene in the season 3 pilot. Threesome shippers tend to avoid the very OTP-y pairing comm - there's been more than one blow-up between Adora/Hawk OTPers and threesome shippers, so the threesome people mostly hang out at zonesomes instead.)
Adora/Adam, now in early season 3, is almost as big a pairing as Adora/Hawk. We'll see if that sticks, now that Adam isn't around any more ... The incestuous vibe is a feature, I'm told - perhaps that's why the original pairing comm adoram has basically fallen into disuse in favour of the newer siblings ...
Zone F m/m is even rarer than het; the largest m/m pairing is maybe half the size of the larger m/f ones. That doesn't mean we don't have dedicated shippers, though!
Bow/Kowl is easily the biggest m/m pairing, and it's attracted some multifannish BNFs, so it's probably better known among the larger fandom than some objectively bigger pairings. Squabbling, semi-antagonistic colleagues/friends - what doesn't scream instant!slash there? *g* The pairing comm is kowlbowl ... (Why in the name of everything good people actually use the pairing name "Bowl" I will never understand. It's not even searchable!)
I'm not going to go into shipping wars here; there's just too much bad blood. If you honestly want to know, check out the Fanlore entry - it gives a pretty decent summary. So here are the ones that aren't shipping-based that you should know about:
As mentioned above, our first kerfuffle happened before the show even started. Half the fandom was convinced Adora/Catra as a canonical couple would be a) a gimmick, b) exploitative, and c) temporary. And the pilot only poured more fuel on the fire, what with the Adora/Hawk kiss.
Then there was Catra's seeming betrayal of Adora in the mid-season finale. That one was worse, as we'd actually had time to fall in love with the two of them on screen. So we all raged, and flailed, and cried bitter tears. (And wrote angstfic. Oh, season 1 angst, sometimes I miss you. *g*)
Other than that, there's the incest wank over Adora/Adam - not shipping wank so much as people debating the morality of incest pairings in general. This post by the fabulous lady_ange gives a good overview and some great examination of what it means to have a pairing you ship turn into incest along the way, complete with Luke/Leia parallels and all.
Every now and then people come to blows over Catra/Adora, and whether it's healthy, and how horrible it is that Catra keeps manipulating Adora. (Catra is manipulative by nature, but hardly abusive, and Adora is hardly a victim. My take? They have the relationship that suits them.)
Worth mentioning here: Out of that kerfuffle came an amazing piece of meta about how criticism of Catra so often turns into depriving Adora of any agency at all, and about the nature of consent. (Alas, this then turned into a mini-kerfuffle itself when one author decided the meta was intended to call her out, and did a flounce, and her friends all went in and dogpiled the meta writer. *sighs* This is really not a calm fandom.)
I'm not going to try and include a comprehensive reclist here - this post is getting too long as it is! For fic and art recs, the following pages are the most useful:
the recmecatradora Tumblr account
Beyond that, best just check the newsletter (zonenews) and follow links from there. :)
And just because no Zone F fandom overview would be complete without mentioning these, let me just list the two without-a-doubt most influential fanworks this fandom has seen:
One of the most influential early fics. Written during season 1, when the only thing we'd seen of anything outzone was one appearance of Darkney, it posited Zone F as a Matrix-like virtual reality (which would explain SO MUCH, LOL). It ends with Adora and Catra breaking out of the VR and overcoming Weaver, who is the true villain of the piece.
There was a lot of VR fic after that, and "mindzone" is still the name of the trope within the fandom. It's lost a lot of traction as we found out more about the world outside Zone F, but you still see it turn up. The community mindzone, created by the author of Mindzone the fic, is for fics with that trope, whether or not they are compatible with the original fic.
This amazing fantasy AU artwork for zonef_reverse and the fic created for it created an alternate universe in which Adora isn't merely a double agent, but literally transforms into an alternate personality called "She-Ra" with the help of a magic sword, and joins the Great Rebellion in order to save the world from the evil cyborg Hordak and his sorceress Shadow Weaver, who reign over the Fright Zone. A great many AU fics are set in this alternate world, which fans have named "Etheria". The comm for the AU fandom, which I'd say comprises almost a third of Zone F genfic and a significant portion of f/f and m/m, is called into_etheria, and you can check AO3 for all the Etheria fanfic.
One other thing of note: Lou Keynes, one of the writers, tends to make regular cameos in Zone F episodes, sometimes in masks that make him nearly unrecognisable. Fans like to play "spot L.K". (Let me just point you to this Tumblr picspam, and you'll understand. Or maybe not. *g*)
And that's it, folks: Zone F! The one and only! :D
ETA: OMG OMG OMG *flails* 3.14!!!!1!11!!!1! I don't even have the words! Yes, people, I will update this for the wedding episode. U GUISE I CAN'T EVEN. OMG!!!1! *dies*
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