Skip

What if Kirk had a three-way with Leia and Xena?
May 7, 2004 12:39 PM   Subscribe

If you can't get enough Sith-on-Sith sexy slashfiction action, you could check out the entire category of such work, broken down to what types of character interaction takes place and who is involved. It's just a tiny sliver of the work indexed by The Slash Page Database Project. Oh, the creativity of sexless nerds...
posted by mathowie (54 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Oh, you poor darling, let me kiss your boo-boos" said the Jedi Master as he cradled his apprentice in his arms. "Where does it hurt?"

"Here, master. And here. No, lower"


Disturbing.
posted by moonbird at 12:50 PM on May 7, 2004


oh, the humanity!
posted by quonsar at 1:00 PM on May 7, 2004


Makes me want to pull an Oedipus.

(...gouge!)
posted by JeffK at 1:02 PM on May 7, 2004


wait... that's not a lightsaber!
posted by Capn at 1:09 PM on May 7, 2004


Ultimately, Gene Roddenberry is to blame for all of this, and he's conveniently dead.
posted by tommasz at 1:21 PM on May 7, 2004


Do you know that the people who invented databases actually thought of them being used to organize knowledge as a way to increase the sum of human learning.

suckers.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:23 PM on May 7, 2004


"Qui-Gon/Jar-Jar".

It really is an infinite universe.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:32 PM on May 7, 2004


Is this SFW?
posted by 111 at 1:35 PM on May 7, 2004


Oh, the creativity of sexless nerds...

Well, you know, we slashers could say the same thing about creating a big ol' sprawling website dedicated to linking to other people's content rather than creating its own, but we don't.

Also, I have two children; hopefully they should serve as evidence that while I may be a nerd (I prefer geek, but what the hell,) that I'm not sexless. If not, I think my husband has an account, and he can vouch for me.
posted by headspace at 1:49 PM on May 7, 2004


This isn't just the product of contemporary computer nerds. The Tijuana Bibles may have invented slash.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:55 PM on May 7, 2004


Hey! Some of us nerds get plenty of good loving, thank you. We just read better quality slash than that Jar-Jar shit, that's all. Paging KateMonkey...! Back me up here! (She writes the stuff, whereas I'm just a passive consumer.)

(And at the moment I've been reading some great fics about Aubrey/Maturin from "Master and Commander"--which basically writes itself, given the books'/movie's canon and subtext--and Starsky/Hutch--ditto, given episodes like "The Fix". I got the first season on DVD as a birthday present from my hubby, who finds the whole slash fandom subculture funny.)

I can't go searching for it right now, because I'm at work and it's definitely NSFW, but the guy who maintains the slash database, Minotaur, also hosts Minotaur's "Sex Tips For Slash Writers", probably on the same site. He's a gay man instructing slash-crazed hetero and queer women on how to write believeable, anatomically correct sex scenes for their favorite male-on-male TV/movie/book couples.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:11 PM on May 7, 2004


Well, headspace, since you're a slasher, can you explain to me what the appeal is? In general, I get the appeal of fan fiction. But slash? Really, what's so interesting about writing stories in which Elrond and Legolas get together? Why is there an entire genre devoted specifically to male characters having sex with each other in fictional universes? Is it the porn? Is it that the authors have a compulsion to make stereotypically heroic "masculine" characters seem a little more vulnerable in every possible fictional universe in which they are found? Really, what?
posted by deanc at 2:17 PM on May 7, 2004


Fanfiction is rather common, and slash fiction is a very popular sub section of it. The name slash fiction comes from the / in between the two characters being written about, and generally all slash is same-sex couples. Slash breaks down into FPS (fictional person slash - like Kirk and Spock) and RPS (real person slash - like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck). It's a staple on the 'net.

The people writing it understand that sometimes it's awful, silly, wish fulfillment. But they enjoy it.

Personally I think baseball is stupid. But I'm not calling all baseball fans loud, obnoxious, brainless drunks. What's cool is subjective. Everyone should probably remember that.
posted by FunkyHelix at 2:36 PM on May 7, 2004


Oh...some more links, and something LotR as it was mentioned. Enjoy. :)
posted by FunkyHelix at 2:43 PM on May 7, 2004


Yeah, sorry if I came off as pooh-poohing the genre. I think it's really interesting an amusing reflection of our culture. I know people in it don't take it that seriously, so it's cool. I kid 'cause I love.

I think people do slash fiction as oppposed to simple fan fic because it's just a bit racier and more interesting. And since it's so outlandish, you can do anything you want. Try writing a Simpsons episode or LoTR story that any die-hard fan would enjoy. Now try writing some hot Flanders-on-Homer action ("D'oh! I love-diddly-doodley you" seems like an obvious title). Slashfic practically writes itself.

Eek.
posted by mathowie at 2:50 PM on May 7, 2004


Personally I think baseball is stupid. But I'm not calling all baseball fans loud, obnoxious, brainless drunks.

Baseball's not sexual. For most of us anyway. A better analogy would be this:

Your neighbor is sexually excited by "The Antiques Roadshow". It's none of your concern that he's turned on by it, and you certainly have no right to tell him to stop jerking off while watching it. But he shouldn't advertise that he's turned on by it, and once he casually mentions it, your across-the-fence conversations will be very strained.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:55 PM on May 7, 2004


Oh my god, Matt. I think you broke me.
posted by FunkyHelix at 2:56 PM on May 7, 2004


deanc:

1) Slash is not just porn.

Yes, yes, there is plenty of porn in slash, but there is also plenty of porn where Arwen and Legolas go at it, too. There's probably fan fiction where Arwen and Treebeard go at it. Everybody likes porn, porn is good, porn is fun, yay porn. There are lots of reasons why individual people like slash, but I can only tell you what the appeal of it is for me.

For the porn aspect of it, I like men, one man good, two men better. It's just as voyeuristic and unrealistic as straight guys' fixation on hot lesbian action.

For the non porn aspect (and I primarily write non-porn slash,) there's a challenge to figuring out how these presumptively straight characters might interact on a more homoerotic level. There's also the appeal of examining what the difference is between platonic love and erotic love. It's about reading the subtext- a mental exercise if you will, to watch an episode of your favorite television show, and find the niches where your alternate reading could actually fit into the canon.

There are plenty of slashers who do slash because they want an erotic writing and reading experience that is devoid of the typical masculine/feminine dominant/aggressive tropes in mainstream romance.

(If you've never read a romance novel, let me give you a summary of every romance novel ever written: the spunky heroine doesn't want to get married, and in fact, hates the obnoxious, overbearing "hero" of the piece. If it's a Regency, then she marries him to save the family home/take care of the family/etc. and she comes to love him because he has hidden virtues she never saw before/flaws that only she can correct, if it's any other genre, the villains kidnap her, the "hero" kidnaps her back, there's a quasi-rape scene that awakens her feminine eroticism, and they live happily, and marriedly, ever after, because women, after all, just need a big strong man to keep them in line.)

Conversely, there are plenty of slashers who like to infantalize or feminize one of the men in the m/m stories, so that they are both getting their kink (two guys together) in a familiar, traditional masculine/feminine style. These folks are the ones who tend to write domestic fiction, where the boys get together, live happily ever after, and in some of the more bizarre (in my opinion,) subgenres, actually manage to get pregnant to fulfill all aspects of the traditional romance template. (Mpreg.) And, perhaps surprising to you, but not to folks who know slash- people who feminize male characters generally get the very short end of a very critical stick. The general, prevailing opinion is that if you're writing about men, you should write about men, even if they happen to have sex with other guys.

Still others write slash to subvert the presumptive prescription of heterosexuality in various media. Until the past few years, gay people did not exist on tv, and yet, Starsky and Hutch touched each other in a way that men generally do not, Kirk loved Spock in a way men don't generally display in the real world; it was both a political and creative endeavor to speak the love that dare not speak its name.

Likewise, there are many people who write slash because mass media values masculine relationships over masculine/feminine, or feminine/feminine relationships, and consequently, intensely devoted male friends were more interesting as subject matter for fiction than male/female pairs. For example, I got my start in Homicide fan fiction- the show not only featured these deeply intense m/m friendships, but there were (for most seasons) 8 to 10 male characters to play with, but merely 2 female. Slash fiction reflects the fact that mass media tends to invest more in the male/male paradigm, platonic or erotic. Or, to put it more simply: the guy characters were more interesting to play with.

You could ask a thousand slashers why they write or read slash, and you will get a thousand different answers. These are just some that I've seen discussed.

2) Slash is not necessarily male/male.

Although the genre pretty much started with Kirk/Spock, there is actually femmeslash out there, and not just for shows like Xena. Femmeslash is a smaller component of the slash community, but it has a thriving presence for most media that has a complementary cast of female characters.

3) Your mileage may vary...

Some slash is really well written and reflects the media that spawns it. Some slash is exchangeable heads porn made specifically to get you off. Some slash is domestic, some slash is tragic- slash is exactly like any other form of fan fiction, with the added component of a focus on the relationship between two men. And some slash, you're just not going to understand if you're not actually a slasher. The Sith Academy site that Matt linked to is actually a humor site; it's slash humor, but the stories were never intended to be taken as a serious examination of the deep, deep love between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, or Obi-Wan and Darth Maul- they're erotic humor. Other Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan sites are an examination of the relationship they had in the movie, with an attempt to reecontextualize it with homoeroticism as text instead of subtext.

Overall though, I can explain all day and it might be illuminating, but I don't know that it'll actually help you understand. It's like asking someone why they like strawberry ice cream instead of chocolate. You may have a zillion reasons for liking what you like, but at the end of the day- you just like it. My initial reaction here is predicated entirely on the fact that I thoroughly resent the geek pot calling the geek kettle black. (I know you didn't do that, I'm just clarifying.)

I mean, c'mon, it's not like we're furries. (Just kidding!)
posted by headspace at 2:58 PM on May 7, 2004 [5 favorites]


Can I just <3 on headspace, asparagirl, and funkyhelix? 'cause I'm way too tired to start up the Standard Slash Defense A Go Go right now.

It's one part playing "what if" and getting fed up with universe canon, another part going "aw yeah" and throwing in a boom-chicka-wow-wow soundtrack, and another part just screwing around for the hell of it. Or, at least, that's why people write fanfiction. Slash is just a genre of it.

Also, dude, it is Not. Always. About. Men. Damnit.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:00 PM on May 7, 2004


I know people in it don't take it that seriously, so it's cool.

Oh, I don't know about that. People can get really attached to their 'ships and I've seen nastiness happen as a result.
posted by eilatan at 3:04 PM on May 7, 2004


People can get really attached to their 'ships and I've seen nastiness happen as a result

I think a great deal of the stuff that gets wanked is 'shipper related in some way.
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:08 PM on May 7, 2004


I think a great deal of the stuff that gets wanked is 'shipper related in some way.

Hee, or, funnily enough, people taking the "brave stand" to talk smack about slash!

--

PS- I was a bit more humorless in my original response than I intended to be; I'm sorry for that.
posted by headspace at 4:15 PM on May 7, 2004


headspace, that was the very best explanation/defense of slash I've ever read. I bow down and worship at your computer chair.

Still others write slash to subvert the presumptive prescription of heterosexuality in various media. Until the past few years, gay people did not exist on tv, and yet, Starsky and Hutch touched each other in a way that men generally do not...

DingDingDing! We have a winner! This is one of my main attractions to the slash genre. Yes, yes, thinking about hot hunky actors lip-locking is nice mental candy. If men like hot gay women, women like hot gay men. (And bi chicks like me like everybody!) Witness the huge female fanbase for overtly gay shows like Queer as Folk. But you can't watch episodes of "Starsky and Hutch", or certain episodes of the X-Files, or a few other shows, without thinking some of the characters are about to jump each other's bones. Not "wouldn't it be cool if...", but rather "they obviously are". In other words, we're not projecting! We're pointing out what is blatantly there, sometimes even texturally or canonically supported. And yet these intepretations are denied by the mainstream "official" readings of the show or book or film, which seem to go out of their way to deny canonical evidence of homosexuality or explain away intense homoeroticism.

I mean, does anyone really think Sherlock Holmes was straight? If Conan Doyle had written him in any less coded terms, he'd be an Oscar Wilde story. He's the first literary detective figure, the progenitor of the mystery novel--after Poe's Dupin (who was also canonically gay, though also often misread as straight). You'd think the connection between finding out other people's deep dark secrets and keeping your own deep dark secret would be an obvious psychological parallel. He was a drug user (linked to generalized moral "depravity" in Victorian times, very often linked to the gay subculture). He's mentioned over and over as being eccentric and "bohemian" (code word again) and non-religious (shocking) and reads and quotes Catullus (who wrote in Greek about explicit male/male sex), and oh yeah, there was that little teensy thing about his not liking women and being a confirmed bachelor. Yes, there was Irene Adler, but Holmes liked her not only because she was unusally smart in how she fooled him and because she dressed as a man to fool him. (Hey, Mrs. Norbury famously fooled him too, but no hint of attraction there.) And when you add in Watson to the equation...well, there's the story where Watson gets shot and the usually-stoic Holmes gets crazed and threatens to kill the attackers. Or that Holmes enignmatically "can't congratulate" Watson, his best friend, on his upcoming wedding to Mary Morstan. Or a hundred other things. And Holmes fans will actually spend long e-mail discussions talking about things like how to figure out what month a story was set in by references to the weather and the moon phase, or what breed of dog Toby was, but if you so much as mention that, um, has anyone else noticed x y or z, it's like "huh? you must be a perv."

In that sort of a case, reading slash isn't so much about wanting actors or characters to have sex in your head, but finding a safe place to talk about queer cinema, TV, and books. I don't read Starsky and Hutch slash because I think "wouldn't it be cool if...", but because anyone watching certain episodes of that show would have to be dumb as a post not to come to the same conclusion: that those two guys were in a relationship. Even in the 1970's, David Soul (who played Hutch) admitted as much, saying that if people wanted to read the show as a love story, that worked too. Even the producers and creators on the commentary interviews for the first season DVD said as much: the success of the show was about the relationship (and the car). Of course, they're only halfway admitting now, thirty years after the fact, what slash fans have been saying all along.

In short: it's not (just) about the sex. Hell, the majority of stories I read are rated PG! Give me a good "Sam comforts Frodo on the way to Mordor and Frodo talks for the ten-thousandsth time about just how very glad he is that Sam is here with him" cry-fest any day.
posted by Asparagirl at 4:19 PM on May 7, 2004


An addendum to the whole Holmes/Watson thing I mentioned above: there is one exception to the code of silence about the close relationship those two had. Some Sherlockians actually put forward a well-regarded (in the Sherlockian scholarly community, such that it is) theory that Watson was actually a woman. Which is nuts in every canonical way possible--a female doctor in 1881? In the British Army?! In that roundabout way, they're acknowledging the unsual nature of the relationship, but yet still forcing the characters into mandatory heterosexuality. It's incredibly bizarre, far moreso than any queer literary history buff or slash fan would ever dream up.

Similarly, I've heard that there's an older prominent P.G. Wodehouse fan who decided (via a monogrpah on the subject!) that the close relationship between Jeeves and Bertie Wooster meant that Jeeves (the valet) was actually, secretly, Bertie's father. Why did he come to this crazy conclusion (especially given that some of the humor in the stories is based on Jeeves and Bertie's class differences)? Because Jeeves obviously loves Bertie, looks out for him, protects him, steers him away from women who would be bad for him...which is just what a, um, father would do. A secret father masquerading as a valet. Right.

It's another case of "we see the evidence, but we refuse to recognize the conclusion unless we can fit it into our preconceived strictly heterosexual worldview". Slash is taken to mean that the characters will do wildly uncharacteristic things like love each other, physically or emotionally, when it really just lets the characters be themselves.
posted by Asparagirl at 4:36 PM on May 7, 2004 [1 favorite]


Which is nuts in every canonical way possible--a female doctor in 1881? In the British Army?!

They almost certainly have in mind James Miranda Barry who like Conan Doyle graduated in medicine from Edinburgh - though at a considerably earlier date.

Coincidentally her life story is about to made into a film with Sean Bean cast as her patron, Lord Charles Somerset (who was, ironically, accused of a gay relationship with Barry). Now if only they'd cast Orlando Bloom in the title role...
posted by Flitcraft at 5:44 PM on May 7, 2004


Now if only they'd cast Orlando Bloom in the title role...

I like the way your mind works. :-)

I mean, Rachel Weisz is awesomely hot, but how the hell would that bird ever pass as a man?
posted by Asparagirl at 5:50 PM on May 7, 2004


Why does it strike anyone as odd that some people think romance between their favourite male characters is nice to read about?

If you get fanfiction, and you get het fanfiction, not getting slash seems like a serious crisis of the imagination.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:56 PM on May 7, 2004


Great comments, everyone! And what great insights on the phenomenon. I had been thinking lately that the whole slash genre is just screaming for some academic coverage. There's a perception of slash being strange and perverse above and beyond the strangeness and perversity of things like pornography about sorority orgies and, say, Brazilian she-males. Which is unfortunate.
posted by halonine at 6:38 PM on May 7, 2004


Fan fiction is for terrorists.
posted by bargle at 8:01 PM on May 7, 2004


halonine: I think slash has had some academic coverage. I read an academic essay online a long while ago that tried to explore how slash fiction worked as a literary genre. I wish I could find it again - if anyone knows it, I would be very happy for the reference.

Basically, it identified not gay sex in and of itself, but angst about gay sex as one of the key aspects of the genre. That is, that the romantic and sexual tension is the story is heightened by the fact that characters who normally are considered, and consider themselves, as heterosexual must deal with erotic feelings for a member of their own sex. The slash story is not just a romantic story, but often a coming out story as well - the angst in the situation makes for much more drama than any simple romance would have.

Others seem to feel similarly - this essay on "Why Queer as Folk isn't Slashy" presents a similar conception of what makes slash, as does the wikipedia entry.

That said, I wonder if The Net's first Enterprise Slash Fiction was included in the database.
posted by jb at 9:11 PM on May 7, 2004


he moans against Wally's ear, "Oh, Wally…."

Wally lets out his own moan at that. Bart's voice is low and deep with arousal, and he sounds like….

Like….

Like Barry, Wally admits to himself, before pushing his hand down the front of Bart's suit

posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:30 PM on May 7, 2004


I mean, c'mon, it's not like we're furries. (Just kidding!)

Ha! That reminds me of The Geek Hierarchy
posted by deanc at 9:37 PM on May 7, 2004


halonine: I think slash has had some academic coverage.



Sure, there's been some coverage...
  • Slash chapter in "Textual Poachers"
  • Slashing the Romance Narrative. By: Kustritz, Anne. Journal of American Culture, Sep2003, Vol. 26 Issue 3, p371, 14p. EBSCOhost's abstract:
    The article focuses on the Renegade Slash Militia, a group of slash writers and readers. The term slash fan fiction refers to stories, written by amateur authors, that involve placing two television or film characters of the same gender, usually male, into noncanonical romantic relationships with each other. Although part of a long history of fan activities, slash offers its own particular challenge to normative constructions of gender and romance, as it allows women to construct narratives that subvert patriarchy by reappropriating those prototypical hero characters who usually reproduce women's position of social disempowerment.
  • Slash Fiction and Human Mating Psychology. By: Salmon, Catherine; Symons, Don. Journal of Sex Research, Feb2004, Vol. 41 Issue 1, p94, 7p. EBSCOhost's abstract:
    The stark contrasts between romance novels and pornography, both multibillion dollar global industries, under score how different male and female erotic fantasies actually are. These differences reflect the different selection pressures males and females faced over human evolutionary history and highlight the utility of using unobtrusive measures to study aspects of human nature. Salmon & Symons (2001) examined slash (the depiction of a romantic or sexual relationship between typically heterosexual male television protagonists, such as Kirk and Spock from StarTrek) as an erotic genre, placing it in the context of romance and female sexual psychology. The topic is revisited here with attention also being paid to slash between two female television characters and the appeal to people of fiction in general.
  • "Slashing The Borg: Resistance is Fertile"
  • Confronting Enterprise Slash Fan Fiction. By: Lee, Kylie. Extrapolation, Spring2003, Vol. 44 Issue 1, p69, 14p
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:28 AM on May 8, 2004


(Oops, the final citation was left in by mistake. "Confronting Enterprise Slash Fan Fiction" is personal essay rather than scholarship.)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:34 AM on May 8, 2004


More scholarly sources:
Russ, Joanna. "Pornography By Women For Women, With Love." Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts: Feminist Essays. Trumansburg, New York: The Crossing Press, 1985
Penley, Constance. "Brownian Motion: Women, Tactics and Technology". Technoculture. Eds. Andrew Ross and Constance Penley. Cultural Politics, v. 3. Minneapolis: Minnesota UP, 1991
Penley, Constance. Nasa/Trek: Popular Science And Sex In America . Verso Books, 1997
Lamb, Patricia Frazer & Diana L. Veith. "Romantic Myth, Transcendence, and Star Trek Zines." Erotic Universe: Sexuality and Fantastic Literature. Ed. Donald Palumbo. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986
Jenkins, Henry. "Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing as Textual Poaching." Close Encounters: Film, Feminism, and Science Fiction. Eds. Constance Penley et al. Minneapolis: Minnesota UP, 1991
Bacon-Smith, Camille Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. University Of Pennsylvania Press, 1992

And the already mentioned Textual Poachers by Henry Jenkins.

There are a bunch of other papers and articles, but I'm just going on what was available when I was research on my own

There's also the The Generic Slash Defense Form Letter, but I don't have a date citation for that.
posted by Katemonkey at 5:13 AM on May 8, 2004


This is an interesting thread.

One thing that's always puzzled me about defenses of slash fiction (though this might just be coming from a primarily academic perspective: in response to what halonine says, my understanding is that discussing slash has been in vogue in the academy for some time) is the tendency to use the language of political insurgency when speaking of slash, often with little or no perceived ironic distance. Of course, academics have lowered the bar in recent decades for considering something subversive, and often find it pleasing to frame themselves as such (something that this thread got me to thinking about), and perhaps my idea of what constitutes subversiveness is stricter than the norm.

For example, I'd consider Peter O'Toole's performance in Lawrence of Arabia to be subversive, or Nile Rodgers' penning of "I'm Coming Out" for Diana Ross*, because those were interested in inserting the codes of non-normative sexual identities into mainstream media. But slash fiction more often than not defines itself by using popular cultural icons and removing them to a space outside the mainstream (see, for example, Asparagirl's comment above about "finding a safe place to talk about queer cinema, TV, and books"). This is just my opinion, but it doesn't seem to me that such an act can be considered subversive. If writers of slash fiction were sneaking into Barnes and Noble and slipping photocopies of their work into copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, that'd be different. (I don't mean to denigrate the writers and readers of slash here, which many (though not myself) find to serve socially useful purposes--I'm just sort of thinking out loud, to throw something into the conversation.)

One more thing, regarding the queering of texts. Asparagirl says:

We're pointing out what is blatantly there, sometimes even texturally or canonically supported. And yet these intepretations are denied by the mainstream "official" readings of the show or book or film, which seem to go out of their way to deny canonical evidence of homosexuality or explain away intense homoeroticism.

To an extent, and on a case-by-case basis, this is something I agree with--you'd be blind not to. (The case of Lawrence of Arabia mentioned above is a textbook example of this.) But, like any academic these days, I have heard and read some bad, bad queer theory papers, just like I've heard and read some bad, bad psychoanalytic papers, and sometimes the fields of queer theory and Freudian psychoanalysis join forces to form an unholy combination of academic badness that takes the overreading of texts to new heights.

While I do think that you'd be blind not to admit that scholars have been historically resistant to the queer codes in some texts, you'd also have to be blind not to admit that the queering of texts is an expedient activity in today's academic culture, and that given enough latitude you can pretty much queer any text that has two men or women in it, if you put your mind to it. (The thing that I notice about Asparagirl's statement I've quoted above, for example, is that she differentiates between what is "blatantly there" and what is "sometimes even textually and canonically supported." (Italics mine.) Aren't those the same? If not, why not? Why aren't all things that are "blatantly there" also "textually and canonically supported"?)

I suppose the question I have here (which doesn't have a definitive answer) is--how do you distinguish between a queer reading or a "slashing" that's productive and explores a meaning of the text that the dominant culture has been heretofore unwilling to acknowledge, and a queer reading that's merely reductive, expedient, and essentialist? Is this a matter that's entirely subjective? (I, personally, don't think so, but acknowledge that in many cases my own subjectivity determines where I draw the line.)

*One of the most interesting facts in the liner notes for the new two-disc edition of Ross's diana is that, according to Rodgers, Ross had no idea that she was singing a song that was almost immediately adopted as a gay anthem, even though Rodgers himself acknowledges that this was his explicit intent--Rodgers presented Ross with the song and told her that it was about her, Ross, "coming out" from under the thumb of the record industry, after which she proceeded to sing the song with abandon. Now that's subversive.
posted by Prospero at 8:52 AM on May 8, 2004


How do you distinguish between a queer reading or a "slashing" that's productive and explores a meaning of the text that the dominant culture has been heretofore unwilling to acknowledge, and a queer reading that's merely reductive, expedient, and essentialist? Is this a matter that's entirely subjective?

Nope, not entirely. We recognize the folks who are writing slash to expeditiously get their rocks off and nothing more, because they're the ones writing Any Two Guys slash, porn Mad Libs for lack of a better description, plug in new adjectives and names, and it's a brand new story.

I mean, characterization is a slippery thing, because there is no one true interpretation of every single textual moment in any given piece of literature or media, but even with variations in interpretation, you can still tell which people have digested and understood the canon and which people think it would just be hot for Chekov and Sulu to do it.

It's not necessarily a quality indicator (though I think usually people who watch or read with a critical eye enough to immerse themselves in the canon generally write better stories for that fandom [which is a value statement for the story's success as fan fiction, not just as fiction],) because there's plenty of Any Two Guys slash that is exquisitely and erotically written. But ATG stories don't have the emotional depth or canon resonance that a more deliberately textual-subversive story will, because the ATG people aren't concerned with the canon subtleties.

They aren't concerned with using the extant canon to make their story plausible; they aren't concerned with the symbolism and coding of the original text, because that's not the point of their stories. The point is to get you off, so it doesn't matter if the characters speak in linguistically recognizable dialogue; it doesn't matter if the characters' interact in a canonically "possible" scenario. They just have to have sex, and hot sex at that, full stop.

These stories are distinguishable from the stories written by people immersed in the text of the canon (whether they are writing solely for the challenge of re-interpreting the text, for the pleasure of interpreting queer markers to a presumtively heterosexual text, or, you know, just for the sheer pleasure of rewriting existing canon to add that bowm-chicka-bowm-bowm soundtrack,) because you could literally change the names and adjectives and have an entirely original story.

And, they're distinguishable from the Plot? What Plot? stories, as well. PWP stories are generally specifically engineered to be wankterial, but they still incorporate major themes and distinguishable canonical elements from the source media. (Sort of like the topical humor column at the back of a news magazine- they're something light, a change of pace, but still consistent with the tone of the magazine. Time would never print a New Yorker-style humor column; an Angel PWP is equally unique to Angel, and wouldn't survive a name and adjective change to become an effective Lord of the Rings story.)

And, you're not incorrect in that sometimes (especially as a media ages, and/or storylines turn more hostile to an explicity erotic reading,) folks just see what they want to see. Some people will in fact, ignore the text, or dance all over Occam's Razor to create a reading that's completely contrary to the canon, just to create more slashable opportunity. Smallville's actually in the middle of that right now- Smallville in its first seasons was a virtual garden of Eden for slashers- the actors playing Clark Kent and Lex Luthor touched one another inappropriately, stared at each other's mouths when they talked, and generally were short of nailing each other right in the Kent barn only by grace of a fade away shot. The possibility of queer interpretation between those characters was so obvious that even the mass media picked up on it; columnists rarely talk about Smallville without talking about the more-than-friendly relationship between Clark and Lex.

However, now in the third season, the characters are making their transition toward becoming arch enemies, which is pretty disappointing to a lot of ardent Clexers, because it's harder to make romance out of outright antagonism, so there's a lot of denial and blinkered interpretation showing up. Some people ignore the context of a scene *to* assign slash markers to it. For example, Clark assaults his best friend, rips his shirt open because he thinks he's wearing a wire; Lex looks violated and frightened after this attack. Rather than acknowledge the fact that this is an assault and a violation, some people focus only on the aspect that they can subvert to a slash-reading- oh boy, Clark ripped Lex's shirt off, that's so sexy!

But again, you can tell which stories come from the perspective of truly interpreting the text and which come only from a desire to keep the characters together in a romantic sense: again, stories that ignore the context of the canon, rather than interpret it, are plainly visible to the readers- providing, of course, that the readers are members of that fandom. Someone extrafandom may be able to pick out the ATG stories, but may confuse them with PWP stories, because they don't know the canon; however, unless you're both deeply acquainted with the source material and cognizant of fanon* trends, it's impossible to determine the difference between strict canonical reinterpretation and wishful thinking.

Which is an incredibly *long* way of saying that no, it's not entirely subjective. There are some basic, foundational structures binding all slash stories, that help categorize them into types, genres, along with value statements on their success as fan fiction and fiction; but, as with many art forms, while an "outsider" can judge the relative quality and success of these stories as *just* fiction, only someone with an intimate knowledge of the form (for that specific piece of media,) can judge whether it is successful fan fiction.

(*Fanon: a fannish interpretation of the canonical text that has become embedded in the fannish psyche as unquestionably true. For example, it's canon that Scully has red hair. It's fanon that Scully uses strawberry shampoo.)
posted by headspace at 9:38 AM on May 8, 2004


headspace: Some people will in fact, ignore the text, or dance all over Occam's Razor to create a reading that's completely contrary to the canon, just to create more slashable opportunity.

I actually find this to be a misuse of Occam's Razor primarily because the simple story is not always the best story. How good of a story would Hamlet be if Hamlet walked right out of the ghost scene to the breakfast table and slit Polonius's throat? Or if Polonius dipped some poison into Hamlet's ear?

I can see compatibility with cannon as a criteria, but I dislike seeing Occam's razor misused. And PWP? Much of this discussion is so jargon laden that it is hard to know what is being talked about.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:15 AM on May 8, 2004


PWP means Plot?What plot? or Porn Without Point Generally it's a flat out sex scene. It doesn't matter who the people are, the fandom they're from, etc. There's no story outside of two characters having sex for the masses to get off on. They just happen to have the names of characters/people from the current must watch program or movie.
posted by FunkyHelix at 12:09 PM on May 8, 2004


Well, I thought I had made an effort to define the terms; I'm sorry if I didn't clarify them well enough. And you can object to the use of Occam's Razor here, but again, it's a question of using or abusing canon. For example- we only see 23 hours worth of any give television show for a year; we never see Clark Kent use the toilet.

Someone could posit that Clark, being an alien, has a completely alien body and he never ever needs to void any kind of waste whatsoever... or we can assume (that since Clark thinks he's a normal boy with unusual strength and speed, until he finds out he isn't *just* a boy, in the pilot episode,) that he does use the toilet- as otherwise, he would have noticed at some point that he never uses the bathroom when everyone else does. Or, the alien biology argument requires that even though bathrooms canonically exist in Smallville, Kansas (we've had scenes shot in bathrooms,) no one actually uses it at all. They're there for no reason.

So if you posit because "we didn't see it, it didn't happen," then you have a choice: Assume that no one in Smallville ever uses the bathroom (even though they exist,) and therefore, Clark never considered it particularly alien that he also never used the bathroom- because it's a canonical fact that Clark thought he was just an unusual human being, or Clark uses the bathroom like everyone else, and thus reasonably assumed he was a human being who just happened to have unusual abilities (until he is informed otherwise.)

That's an example of the kinds of Occam's Razor arguments we have in fandom- figuring out what someone *must* have done (that we didn't see) and therefore, what a character *might* do given a certain set of variables, is an integral part of applying Occam's Razor to fan fiction, regardless of the genre.

If we know that Character A would in X, Y and Z canon situations refused to hit a woman, then we know that Character A would not be reasonably characterized in a fan fiction story if he were hitting a woman. It's not about telling the simplest story at all; it's about figuring out how to tell a story about Clark Kent and Lex Luthor, and not a story about a couple of guys who happen to be named Clark Kent and Lex Luthor, but in no way resemble them in behavior or speech.
posted by headspace at 12:34 PM on May 8, 2004


That last bit didn't make sense, let me try again:

Occam's Razor arguments in fan fiction are centered on figuring out what the characters did (that we didn't see) or what characters would do, given an unknown variable situation.

For the "what we didn't see" aspect, it's reasonable to assume that Clark (since he thought he was human, albeit an unusual human,) has used the bathroom- even though we've never seen it. It's reasonable to assume that Lex went to work if we see him returning home with his briefcase, even though we never saw him at work.

For the "what they would there for do" aspect, it's reasonable to assume that since Lex didn't hit his first wife when he found out she was trying to kill him, and since Lex didn't hit his *second* wife, even while she was holding a gun on him, then Lex probably *wouldn't* hit a woman for so minor offense as calling him a "bald freak."

Occam's Razor helps establish a characters' parameters; it informs the way a character would react to certain stimulus. Using the example from my first post on this particular subject- it's not a reasonable assumption that Clark was so aroused by Lex that he just *had* to rip his shirt open, but people are willfully ignoring the application of Occam's Razor there: either Clark was angry, Clark was looking for the wire Lex was wearing, therefore Clark tore open Lex's shirt to find said wire (the most reasonable conclusion, given the scene in question,) or Clark had an alien woody and wanted to get in some hot monkey love, and thus needed to quickly remove Lex's shirt.

The latter is a case of ignoring Occam's Razor to force subtext where it doesn't exist.
posted by headspace at 12:51 PM on May 8, 2004


But slash fiction more often than not defines itself by using popular cultural icons and removing them to a space outside the mainstream (see, for example, Asparagirl's comment above about "finding a safe place to talk about queer cinema, TV, and books"). This is just my opinion, but it doesn't seem to me that such an act can be considered subversive.

I see your point: fanfic authors remain outside the "official" creation of TV shows/movies/texts by definition, so whatever we do is automatically segregated and minimized.

Except...that this is starting to change. Example #1: Creators hiring slashers. Melissa (Missy) Good was a well-known fanfic writer of "Xena: Warrior Princess"--she wrote thirteen fanfic novels about the series. Late in the series' run, she actually got herself hired on as a staff writer on the show. Her episodes were just as slashy and technically open to interpretation as the previous writers' ones, but fans who saw her name in the credits knew that the question of "are they or aren't they" with regards to the Xena/Gabrielle relationship was settled, at least in the context of those specific episodes--not to mention knowledge that the creators of the show were aware of their fanbase and their strong point of view on the Xena/Gabrielle thing.

Example #2: Creators acknowledging that they have a slash fanbase and screwing with them. There's an "X-Files" episode called "The Red and the Black" where, after a typically intense confrontation with one another involving pummelings, wrestling, and loaded guns (raises eyebrow), Krycek kisses Mulder. (Windows Media Clip here--the slashiness is fairly dripping off the screen) The episode was written and directed by series creator Chris Carter, who reportedly kept yelling at actor Nick Lea (Krycek) "closer, closer!" (to Mulder's mouth) everytime they filmed the kiss scene to make it more, um, dramatic. The X-Files fan community went ga-ga, the slashers even moreso. Which was the whole point: there's no fan like a devoted slash fan, who will likely talk and write ad nauseum about your characters and episodes, so that's a good asset for a TV show to have. (And as a further exercise in How Deep Is Your Heterosexist Denial?, some x-philes claimed that the kiss was just a "Russian friendship thing", since Krycek speaks Russian to Mulder just after it. No such custom exists.)

Example #3: Creators taking the advice of their slash fanbase. There was a story on the front page of the New York Times a few years ago about both "regular" fanfic and slash fanfic, and one of the characters prominently mentioned was Dr. Kerry Weaver on "ER", and how people wrote stories about her, not always to slash her with other chicks, but also just because they felt the character's personal life was somewhat neglected. Within the next year, she canonically on-screen got a lot more time devoted to her personal life, including a lesbian relationship and episodes devoted to the consequences of coming out in the workplace. Did the existence of Weaver slash push the show into saying "well, if the fans see it and seem to want it, okay then"? It kinda looks that way, though I don't know a definitive answer. But I suspect it wouldn't have happened without that Times article.

the queering of texts is an expedient activity in today's academic culture

True. There's always the danger that we assume the whole world is secretly gay, gay, gay! But while in academia the trend may lie that way a little too much to be taken seriously, when you're a non-academic fan community of a mass-market advertiser-driven censored-for-the-common-public's-taste TV show, more often than not any homoerotic content will be censored or implied. The battles creators have had to have to put explicit homosexual relationships on screen are well-known (think Joss Whedon and the flap over Willow coming out as lesbian on "Buffy"). It's not a level playing field by any means. All things being equal, I tend to give the benfit of the doubt to the slashers.

Maybe in 20 years when open homosexuality is more common on TV, slash will go away. It's the "Queer as Folk" effect: if it's actually gay, not just repressed subtext or coded text, it doesn't count as slash. And no one wants to read or write it.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:41 PM on May 8, 2004 [1 favorite]


I once accidentally ran into a Hanson erotic fan fiction community. I can never truly be a whole person again.
posted by abcde at 2:02 PM on May 8, 2004


Thank you for the extensive and well-written explanations, headspace.

I think that one stereotype of members of slash culture that is held by people outside the culture (and which you've debunked here) is that all writers of slash fiction accomplish what they're doing by "forc[ing] subtexts." I think it's primarily that perception that leads people to believe that slash fiction is the lowest form of art known to humanity. The distinction between those writers of slash fiction who are engaged in it for primarily pornographic or expedient purposes (those I think of as the "forcers of subtext"), and writers of slash fiction who are writing slash in order to examine implicitly expressed non-normative features of the text, using textual evidence itself as a strong foundation, is one that hasn't been sufficiently explained to me until this thread.

In your opinion, would you say that, of the two kinds of slash writers I've described above, the latter is far rarer than the former? I imagine that it must be a much smaller community, but that who you'd consider to be a member of that community would depend on your own standards of judgment. For instance, I don't think the print version of The Lord of the Rings can sufficiently sustain a slash reading, as I understand it--those books have some of the most sexless characters in modern fiction, and there's ample secondary evidence that proves that Tolkien didn't swing that way, so to speak. You'll notice that I'm deliberately not referencing the film version here.

On preview--actually, I will open that can of worms. One misperception held by slashers that I often see is that all strong male friendships in fiction necessarily have an erotic component. (This, I suspect, may have something to do with the fact that the large majority of slash writers are women.) For instance, the romantic pairing of Kirk and Spock has always seemed like a forced subtext to me (and, in this case, I do know the TOS canon very, very well, and consider myself to be a smart enough reader to pick up legitimate instances of queer subtexts when I see them). On the other hand, based on your description of Smallville (which I've never watched), a queer subtext for that show seems perfectly plausible.

Now, while some fans of the LOTR movies will swear up and down that they are loaded with gay subtexts, I think that there are two possible readings--one in which the culture depicted in the films is one of Tolkien's books (and which was already outdated by Tolkien's time), in which unusually strong same-sex friendships could exist without an erotic component and were often depicted in literature; and one in which the culture of the films has the values of our culture, which, compared to the culture of a century ago, is obsessed with attributing erotic signs whenever it can. Based on Jackson's willingness to include explicit erotic content in his other, less-known films (I'm thinking specifically of Heavenly Creatures here), I'd say that his relative prudishness in the LOTR movies is measured and deliberate, and that he therefore must be attempting to duplicate the culture of the books, with their sterile sexual atmosphere. But there are so many cultural anachronisms in the film versions that he doesn't entirely succeed, which in turn leaves the sexual identity of the characters open to debate.

Anyway, because of that, the LOTR slash culture seems as if it might fall in a gray area between the two categories of writers that I describe above.

On second preview, after Asparagirl's post appeared, which is another nice one--the interesting thing about the three cases you site in which the show's writers cater to their fan base is that here, economic considerations can be seen to drive the way that cult fiction is written (and it is undeniably true that fans of cult shows drop a [i]lot[/i] more money and time into their programs than fans of non-cult shows--not just with respect to general obsessiveness, but by consuming ancillary merchandise, etc.) I can't see the writers of Everybody Loves Raymond adding a gay character in response to the demands of a hypothetical EBR slash community, for example. (If there is such a community, and considering how big the Internet is, there probably is, then I don't want to know about it.)

Maybe in 20 years when open homosexuality is more common on TV, slash will go away.

Or perhaps over time, the political divide that separates cult fiction from mainstream fiction (for SF/fantasy has always been more progressive and liberal humanist than its contemporary programming) will become more pronounced.
posted by Prospero at 2:29 PM on May 8, 2004


Oops--hit "post" instead of "preview." Read "cite" for "site" in paragraph 7, and imagine that I used the proper wacky MeFi tags for my italics.
posted by Prospero at 2:32 PM on May 8, 2004


One misperception held by slashers that I often see is that all strong male friendships in fiction necessarily have an erotic component.

Well, I will definitely say that a large part of subtext is in the eye of the beholder. I mean, Smallville- the show that mass media calls beyond gay- is also a show that Foundation for the Family lauds as wholesome entertainment. And I think somebody who already likes slash is more likely to "see" slash, or see possibilities where an innocent interaction could be turned into slash. (Sometimes we go overboard and see slash everywhere, which is commonly referred to as "having the slash goggles on.")

The thing is, even within a single fandom, with people who are (theoretically) watching the same program or reading the same book with the same monomaniacal interest, there still isn't a universal agreement on which pairings are most supported by canon- and that's true, even for het fan fiction. Using Smallville again as an example, there are people who see, and believe, in the possibility of a romantic story for Lex Luthor and Lana Lang. There are people who see, and believe in the possibility of a romantic story for Clark Kent and Chloe Sullivan. See also, Lionel Luthor and Martha Kent, etc..

One of the main, interfandom, sources of conflict for any particular media is "who has the OTP?" OTP= One True Pairing- the one that's the "right" pairing for the show, the ones the producers see, the actors are trying to give us, the writers are coding messages for, etc., and it's an unwinnable argument for the most part. I mean, some pairings are so whackadoo that they can't be supported by canon at all- for instance, characters who have never shared screentime, and do not know one another in canon- people may write the pairing because they find the possibility interesting, but it's completely speculative. But any character who spends screentime with any other character has the base potential to be a pairing. The more canon evidence for a relationship, the more likely they are to be a popular pairing, but yeah- it's a combination "how much canon supports this" *plus* "how much I like the idea of it."

I personally don't see the Kirk/Spock, because without Pon Farr, making Spock a sensual or sexual being is contrary to the very heart of the character. Making Kirk strictly homosexual is contrary to the very heterosexual urges he's shown in canon. (I could probably whang it around to find a plausible *bisexual* reading for Kirk, but it's impossible to negate the fact that he is canonically, sexually attracted to women.)

It's interesting that you use LotR as an example, because one of the debates I've seen come up (tangentially; it's not my fandom, so I don't really know the deeper workings of it) about it springs in the debate between "any two guys as long as they are pretty" and "the two guys who actually have subtext" between the Legolas/Aragorn folks (I think? Maybe it's Leglolas/Boromir? I know it's one of the humans!) and Legolas/Gimli. People don't tend to slash Legolas/Gimli, even though they sail off together in the end, even though there's *tons* of situations that can be used as subtext between them, because Gimli isn't pretty. I'm sure the Legolas/Aragorn or Boromir people have canon indications they use as markers to create their fiction, but (from an outsider's point of view) that's a good examination of finding the subtext versus creating the subtext.

I think also with LotR- and this really is speculation- that you have to consider the time in which the original piece was created. Authorial intent doesn't necessarily prevent subtext from existing, but there were also very few authors in Tolkein's time and before who did deliberately write homoeroticism. Even if Tolkein *wanted* Legolas and Gimli to kiss at the end (which I doubt he did, I'm just using it as an example,) he wouldn't have written it that way. Just from my outsider's point of view, I really do see the subtext basis for Sam/Frodo stories, and I don't think it takes a lot of work even with Jackson's reinterpretation of it, to nudge it that way. There's a devaluation of the worth of *romance* in art and literature, a concept that romantic or erotic fulfillment of a relationship somehow lessens it, and I don't think that's necessarily true. I think that some pairings and their friendships can *transcend* erotic, physical desire, but that doesn't, in any way, lessen the fact that the characters do not just love one another, but are in love with one another.

You're right though, in that the main argument against slash is that we're all *forcing* subtext. We regularly have people showing up in slash communities, complaining that all slash is out of character, because all of these characters are straight. Which, you know, I don't disagree that writing Kirk as a homosexual isn't out of character- but I don't agree that writing Kirk as *bisexual* automatically is. Since we have varying levels of canon support for our various pairings, in some cases it's easier to make the argument that the subtext is there; in some cases, some people really are just writing the guys they think are pretty- even if they do do a lot of excellent, speculative backstory to keep it in character. And there are folks (the Any Two Guys folks) who don't really care- they use faces and names to give a quick thumbnail reference for what they look and sound like, and proceed to write original erotica based on them.

There's no definitive answer on which application of slash is "right", but I can see why people think that any friendship is fair game. In any fandom, any pairing can have its fans, but if it helps at all- within that same fandom, you have people staring at other people going, "That could never happen." *grin*
posted by headspace at 2:59 PM on May 8, 2004


Just tossing this into the mix, as well-- slashers are writing for a particular audience, and the circle of invention and reception that occurs between the (usually) women who are writing and those who are reading is a whole other erotic exchange in itself. Erotic slash is not just written for the pleasure of the author; it's written for the pleasure of her circle of readers. I'm really fascinated by slash as a product of the female sexual imagination -- and there's not much doubt that this is a primarily feminine form, no? -- and also by its communal nature, how it is attuned to instantaneous feedback and then response within the collaborative fantasy that is created. I honestly don't think that the act of creating personal readings for fictional characters is anything new; it's just that the web makes it visible, easy to find, easy to share, and so on. I've read some that's made my hair stand on end with its clumsiness and lack of any decent writing chops, but then I'm a prose snob. I've read other stuff that has been beautifully written, modulated, sensitive, erotic and intensely felt.
posted by jokeefe at 3:44 PM on May 8, 2004


headspace: I agree that those are good plot decisions to make. However, I don't think the rule you are using here has anything to do with Occam's Razor (which is very limited in scope and intent.)

People don't tend to slash Legolas/Gimli, even though they sail off together in the end, even though there's *tons* of situations that can be used as subtext between them, because Gimli isn't pretty.

I think another problem here is that while there are a few elf/human pairings in the cannon, elves and dwarves treat each other with mutual antipathy. Dwarves are not very sexual at all. And while much of the most erotic stuff in Tolkien's writing centers on Elves, they seem to be very picky in pair-bonding. Those who think that Tolkien didn't have an erotic sensibility, should crack open the Silmarillian. The Lay of Luthien is briefly referenced by Jackson, and to be honest, one of my dreams is to wake up, and find out that someone expanded it into an opera.

Ultimately though, any homosexual subtext runs up right against Tolkien's Catholic subtext. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a love story between Frodo and Samwise. But I suspect that Frodo and Samwise are an idealized agape friendship, which in a lot of the sources that Tolkien is spinning off of is more valuable and deeper than romantic love. But I think that one of the distressing things about our contemporary culture is that we just don't see and acknowledge that non-sexual relationships can be just as deep and loving as sexual relationships.

I also don't see Kirk/Spock. It's not that I don't want to see a gay subtext in the the original series, it's not that I'm blind to those subtexts, it's just that Kirk is such a heterosexual icon that I can't see it as anything other than parody. Which actually should be a genre in its self, putting two characters together because they are such heterosexist icons that they need to be lampooned.

The definitely seems to be a bias towards assuming that relationship = sexual. Perhaps another variation on slash includes the game modding communities where people put a lot of work creating alternative plotlines where you can romance various characters in the game. Also there seems to be some level of denial, "well, she says nothing about her sexuality, therefore, she must be heterosexual." Another argument that bothers me is that "because she would die for you, she must be in love with you."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:57 PM on May 8, 2004


I wish I could do more than say thank you for the food for thought about LotR, Kirk- I really just don't know the fandom. I've only read The Hobbit, and I've never seen the movies. I only offer it up as an example from my outsider's POV of the "creating subtext/ignoring subtext" argument. Because I'm so thoroughly invested in the various subtextual readings of Smallville (and I'd like to point out that I don't write *only* slash for Smallville; I'm also looking for het and eros-free subtext as well,) any example I offered from my own fandom would have been biased.

The definitely seems to be a bias towards assuming that relationship = sexual.

But that's too far broad a brush to paint *all* of slashdom with. Now I will use my fandom- I just don't *see* any sexual potential between Lex Luthor and Pete Ross. When I write about Lex and Pete, it's *not* from a slashy position, because for me, it's not there. The Clark/Lana shippers (shippers=fans of a particular relationship pairing) just *don't* see the Clark/Lex. A fandom is made up of lots of people, and not *all* people are making *all* friendships sexual.

Also there seems to be some level of denial, "well, she says nothing about her sexuality, therefore, she must be heterosexual."

And see, that's where I'd say you're being presumptive. She says nothing about her sexuality, therefore she must be straight (unless proven otherwise.)

Another argument that bothers me is that "because she would die for you, she must be in love with you."

I don't know, this might be a semantic argument, but I think if you'd die for someone, you're in love with them. That doesn't *have* to mean that you want to have sex with them. I am in love with my children; I am in love with every single fascinating detail of them, from their eyelashes to their toes, and I would fight, kill and die for them. But I don't want to have sex with them.

Of course, in fan fiction, there's a lot more of the physical element to that kind of "in love" between friends, because fan fiction is ultimately a hobbby- it's meant to entertain, it's for fun, it's meant to arouse, but just because someone can write a Sam/Frodo forest orgy story doesn't mean they don't also see the purely agape love that they share when they interact *directly* with the text.
posted by headspace at 5:13 PM on May 8, 2004


But that's too far broad a brush to paint *all* of slashdom with. Now I will use my fandom- I just don't *see* any sexual potential between Lex Luthor and Pete Ross. When I write about Lex and Pete, it's *not* from a slashy position, because for me, it's not there. The Clark/Lana shippers (shippers=fans of a particular relationship pairing) just *don't* see the Clark/Lex. A fandom is made up of lots of people, and not *all* people are making *all* friendships sexual.

Which is why I said "bias." And I was also thinking in general terms. Something that popped into my head while I was finishing up another chunk of the lawn, was that one of the downsides to queer theory and queer readings of subtext is that the eros is overemphasized and the philios dismissed into oblivion. That is, every relationship that involves large degrees of emotional intimacy also includes sexual intimacy as well. It is not necessarily the case that behind every set of blood brothers, that there is some hot gay sex to write about.

And see, that's where I'd say you're being presumptive. She says nothing about her sexuality, therefore she must be straight (unless proven otherwise.)

Well, there, you are being presumptive. My opinion is that since the cannon offers no clues as to her sexuality, that the question of her sexuality is left open for fanfic writers mod creators to explore. So far, good fanfic and mods have taken differing sides to the issue.

I really don't have a horse on either side of the question of this character's sexuality. Except that as a bisexual man who has been out for 12 years, been there, done that, stood up to prejudice, answered questions on speaker's panels, testified in front of the city council, and had my heart stepped on more than a few times, I really dislike narrative that does queer characters badly. (Except when you are talking about the previously mentioned Spock/Kirk parrodies.)

I also find it presumptive (and heterosexist) to treat absence of evidence as evidence for heterosexuality. To start with, it treats heterosexuality as normative and homosexuality as marginal. Secondly my experience as a bisexual man is just the opposite. Straights are obsessed about talking about their sex lives. Lesbigays are more likely to keep things private or ambiguous. Lesbigay people and friendly straights can see through the ambiguity. For example, most lesbigays suspected that Melissa Etheridge was gay long before she came out, because how many straight people can play the pronoun game successfully for three straight pop music albums? Saying nothing about your sexuality in informal settings is something I've found to be fairly reliable gaydar.

Knowing what I know of Time Warner, the episodes of Smallville I've seen, and the larger D.C. canon (that I'm very familiar with) I have serious doubts that we will see it "proven" that Clark swings both ways. Why is it justified to write slash about a character with a 50-year tradition of wholesome heterosexuality, but "presumptive" to suggest that a 5-year old underdeveloped character with no canon about her sexuality might, possibly, concievably be written into a good narrative as gay or bisexual?

I don't know, this might be a semantic argument, but I think if you'd die for someone, you're in love with them. That doesn't *have* to mean that you want to have sex with them. I am in love with my children; I am in love with every single fascinating detail of them, from their eyelashes to their toes, and I would fight, kill and die for them. But I don't want to have sex with them.

Hrm. I guess to clarify, the argument is that the character (Imoen of Baldur's Gate BTW) wants a romantic and sexual relationship with the protagonist because she would give up her life for him/her. My opinion is that there is far too much text offered in the game that establishes their relationship as siblings.

In regards to Sam/Frodo for example, I don't think it is much of a stretch to write erotic slash involving them. But I think that recasting their relationship as an erotic love rather than as an idealized platonic love requires a pretty shallow reading of the text.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:57 PM on May 8, 2004


You have totally missed my point. I never once said that "everybody who has no canonically identified sexuality must therefore be queer," I never *once* said that, because I don't believe it's *true*. You are actually arguing with a slasher who can't *stand* the "everybody's gay!" slash. I don't see it for all pairings, I see its *deliberate absence* from some characters, and likewise, arguing with somebody who thinks that *silence* on the matter is, in fact, an open niche to explore the possibility that the character is queer. They could go either way.

Absent any evidence to the contrary, a neutral character can be written as hetero- OR homosexual. If there is canonical evidence of a particular sexuality, it has to be taken into account when writing the character, no matter *what* kind of pairing you're writing. The fact is, I have absolutely NO expectation that DC will ever, ever let Superman be gay. In fact, I have every reason to believe that Superman will *always* be portrayed at heterosexual. That doesn't mean, however, that I can't examine the relationship the Smallville incarnation has with his Smallville-incarnation best friend Lex Luthor, and decide based on the *show's* subtext that *this* Clark Kent has the propensity to be bisexual, and choose to write about that. Fan fiction is not about what is, it is about what could be.

If you think adding a romantic element to an agape friendship is shallow, then I'm not gonna change your mind, nor am I going to try. However, I will say that your presumptive is showing because you sit there and wave the queer card at me and it never once occurs to you that I too might be queer. Not all slash writers are *straight* women, you know.
posted by headspace at 7:27 PM on May 8, 2004


(Heh, not all slash writers are women, come to think of it...)
posted by headspace at 7:45 PM on May 8, 2004


headspace: You have totally missed my point. I never once said that "everybody who has no canonically identified sexuality must therefore be queer," I never *once* said that, because I don't believe it's *true*. You are actually arguing with a slasher who can't *stand* the "everybody's gay!" slash. I don't see it for all pairings, I see its *deliberate absence* from some characters, and likewise, arguing with somebody who thinks that *silence* on the matter is, in fact, an open niche to explore the possibility that the character is queer. They could go either way.

I guess I see a conflict between this statement, and your earlier statement that I'm being "presumptive" for supporting queer readings of a character with an ambiguous canonical sexuality. I'm wondering if that statement was just badly phrased.

If you think adding a romantic element to an agape friendship is shallow, then I'm not gonna change your mind, nor am I going to try.

No, I said that it was a shallow reading of that particular text. That is, I believe that LotRs strongly defines Sam and Frodo as an idealized platonic love. Some flavors of Chistianity make a big deal out of the love of Peter for Jesus. Tolkien dispised both metaphor and coding, but he was not above using mythological archetypes to construct his stories. A Sam/Frodo romantic story could be emotionally deep, it could be moving, it could be painfully intimate, it could even be good. But it misses the entire point of that relationship Tolkien wrote.

Here is another example, the movie Frankenstein compared to the book Frankenstein. The movie Frankenstein is good, it's deep, it is moving, but it is based on a shallow reading of the book. There is a doctor, and a monster and that's pretty much it. The movie Count of Monte Cristo is a shallow reading of the Dumas novel. There is a prisoner who escapes and discovers a huge treasure. However the movie Count is simply seeking revenge, while Count created by Dumas sees himself as the hand of god, rewarding good and attacking evil through byzantine plots.

While I agree that fanfic is about what could be rather than what is. I think there is a tension between the adaptation and the text. In my mind, a romantic relationship between Frodo/Sam stretches that tension to the breaking point.

However, I will say that your presumptive is showing because you sit there and wave the queer card at me and it never once occurs to you that I too might be queer. Not all slash writers are *straight* women, you know.

My presumption is based on the fact that I can't imagine a queer writer saying the following: "And see, that's where I'd say you're being presumptive. She says nothing about her sexuality, therefore she must be straight (unless proven otherwise.)"

It's quite possible that you misinterpeted me, and I misinterpreted you. If so, I apologize. But this argument really rubs me the wrong way.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:14 PM on May 8, 2004


"And see, that's where I'd say you're being presumptive. She says nothing about her sexuality, therefore she must be straight (unless proven otherwise.)"

I dropped a colon, my apologies. The "She says nothing, therefore she must be" was supposed to be an example of the presumtive; those are not my particular thoughts on the matter.

And again, I don't know anything about LotR; I don't know a lot about Tolkein. But I do know that while authorial intent does count in my book, reading (or watching a movie, or watching a television show) is not the presentation of a fixed, immutable text. A book isn't finished until somebody reads it, and every person brings their own experiences to that- hence the reason why some people identify with some works of art, but don't identify with others.

People are built to recognize patterns, even when they weren't necessarily crafted. Just like the winds don't deliberately stir designs of bunny rabbits in the clouds, the fact that someone sees the image of a bunny rabbit in the clouds doesn't mean they are *mistaken*. Perhaps Tolkien didn't intend for anyone to see Frodo/Sam as anything but a platonic ideal doesn't mean it's not a legitimate reading of the text.

You may not like it, you may think it cheapens it, and you're entitled to your opinion-- but so are the folks who don't think it lessens the work to look at their relationship that way. Nothing can lessen the original; the book itself, however, remains unchanged, and no amount of interpretation can change the words he wrote down.
posted by headspace at 8:38 PM on May 8, 2004


« Older OMG ITS SO GROSS EWWW!!1!   |   a bunch of crap and one great link Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post