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Some Further Thoughts on Realism in Slash - Mo's Journal
January 29th, 2007
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Some Further Thoughts on Realism in Slash

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From:thelana
Date:January 30th, 2007 11:54 am (UTC)

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Often the argument seems to come down - in my experience – to queer vs. straight.

I agree with that. No, it's not all encompassing, but often, if certain experiences, like coming out, friends dying of HIV or other things are part of your personal experience, they are just more interesting to you than they might be to people to whom these are just "stories". If it's your personal experience, then there is more emotional resonance. If it's not particularly your experience then you might soon come to the conclusion that if you have read 5 coming out stories it feels like you have read all of them. Same with "X comes out and if villified for example at his/her job". Maybe if you are a straight reader you might to some extent identify with the evil straight people, not as in agreeing with their opinion, but as in "I'm straight and I don't feel that way at all; straight people are portrayed unfairly".

I admit that my interest in a lot of gay issues are limited. Then again, I have odd taste. If I read fanfiction on a show that is about characters kicking ass, then I want the fanfiction to reflect that. If the show is about characters investigating crimes then I want the fanfiction to reflect that. To me reading a fic about a crazy space show and ending up in a story that is about coming out issues or domestic issues or abortion discussion I'd be annoyed. My personal fanfiction preference and focus is stories that fit the tone of the original source if possible. Many people don't share that preference. My take on canon is probably slightly analogous to your take on realism. I think that canon (just like realism) isn't a dirty word and having more slices of canon (or realism) can make a story a lot better [at least it makes it better to me].

But it probably is a question of interest. I for one, love crime procedurals. I could watch endless amounts of crime stories and still find them interesting from anew. Tons of people in my environment don't agree and find crime procedurals tedious. So maybe if people aren't particularly interested in gay interest stories it's less about them disliking realism, but that their focus of where they want realism is elsewhere (like getting the characters' eye color right or getting the crime procedural details right or getting the characters' mother conflict right or getting their blue color background right or getting their historical details right).

Now I'm totally with you on the issues with physically unrealistic sex. And I definitely don't get people's dislike of condoms. And realistic awkward, non-perfect sex has made for some of the cutest, heart warming and funniest stories I have read.

I do think that one additonal thing that has to be considered are "story rules" for lack of a better word. If you for example set out to write a grand sweeping love story, it might make more sense to end it with a grand sweeping love scene. Doesn't mean that it has to be an unrealistic scene, but it might mean that a non-perfect awkward scene might be out because thought it might fit realism, it might not fit the tone of the story. Same if you want to tell a story that focuses on an action plot, it might not fit to include any type of angst that might come up along the way (of course, in that situation I'd recommend just leave the sex out altogether if you don't have time to deal with the sex angst).

I have to admit that from the canon POV that I'm coming from, lack of emotional realism bugs me much more. I like slash, I want characters A/B to hook up, I want the author to take me there. At the same time, it annoys me when the author just assumes that it is a given that the characters are in love (or gay or emotionally unattached) when that's not how it is portrayed in canon. Again, I realize that many people aren't interested in/bothered by that at all, but to me just writing out or ignoring a canon love interest, canon examples of straightness or some other kind of canon major attachement bugs me much more than lack of lube or condoms. I think all of these are examples to fast forward writing. The writer has the "goal" in mind (which is usually character A on character B in a sexual way) and things that might stand in the way (like canon issues or grabbing a condom) are just ignored.
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From:mofic
Date:January 30th, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC)

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My take on canon is probably slightly analogous to your take on realism. I think that canon (just like realism) isn't a dirty word and having more slices of canon (or realism) can make a story a lot better [at least it makes it better to me].

I think a big variable here is just what it is about the particular canon that appeals to the particular individual. For a lot of slashers, it's the characters (and even the relationship between characters) that appeal and they want to see more of that and less of what the show or movie or book is ostensibly about in their fanfic. For some, fanfic is all about what is left out of canon, and that often includes sex.

I write X-Men slash. When I started writing fanfic, my then 12-year-old son asked me if I write "action scenes." I felt like saying, "Yes, but perhaps we mean different things by 'action'." I do write combat scenes, and I think I've gotten more comfortable with writing them and hope I've gotten better at writing them over time. But they're never going to be the focus of my stories, because that's not what interests me about the X-Men.

I'm totally with you, btw, on making the relationships believable and aligned with canon. There are few characters that can't be slashed, but if the guy is shown heterosexual in canon and in love with a woman, you've got to show a process - and a believable one, one that's true to his character and to his canonical love interest's character - that gets him from there to involved with a man.
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From:thelana
Date:January 30th, 2007 03:10 pm (UTC)

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Hah, believe me, I know that out of all the opinions there are in fandom liking the actual plot of tv shows or movies is probably one of the most unpopular ones :) I'm guessing that it has a lot to do with the fact that if there are people who do enjoy plot, they probably don't feel like having a livejournal for that :) I think fandom as a whole probably encourages character focus. Probably because character awareness probably makes the difference between casual enjoyer to actual fan for many people.

As for the action, it's less that I want it to be the main focus, it's more that when I decide to follow a tv show/movie/comic I accept that the events there are a big part of the characters life. It's more about how the battle affects these characters than about the battles themselves. If somebody wrote a story where A and B get together and decide to give up being X-Men, I'd be disappointed. If they wrote about them falling in love and stop being crime investigators, I'd be disappointed. If the characters decided to stop being pirates, I'd be disappointed. If I love something, I have to love the universe as a whole, otherwise, why bother? After all the scenario had a big part in why I started being attracted to the characters. If I didn't want the scenario I could always watch a pure people soaps from Dawson's Creek to Queer as Folk.

If the whole point of fanfiction is to take the characters out of the context that shaped them, why even bother? You could just as well write original fiction. I guess I just don't see the appeal of writing stories that are about showing that you can take any character and make them bland curtain picking white fence housewife types. But again, this is deeply personal preference and all about how I personally watch things.

There are few characters that can't be slashed, but if the guy is shown heterosexual in canon and in love with a woman, you've got to show a process - and a believable one, one that's true to his character and to his canonical love interest's character - that gets him from there to involved with a man.

Word. And to me, that journey there can be the most fascinating aspect of the whole thing. I think it's sad that it seems a lot of people like to skip that. To me saying "Okay, in this universe A and B just happen to be in love" is just as jarring, maybe even more, than saying "Oh, btw, AIDS doesn't exist in this world so nobody is using condoms".

BTW, I'm straight and while I honestly confess to not being that deeply interested in gay issues, I most definitely want my characters to be *men*. Too weepy girly men are the biggest turn off to me. After all, I got attracted to them as male characters, so why would I want to change them into something completely different from the way I know them? I do think that my priority is more about them being realistic as characters in the way they have been established than about them being necessarily realistic as gay/bi men. Maybe that's a big crux of a different type of "off" feeling relationships, that some characters might are just written as typically straight in canon and some writers just extrapolate that characterisation instead of taking the journey and describing how a guy like that would react to being gay/bi, having to see himself that way.
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From:mofic
Date:January 30th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)

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I think fandom as a whole probably encourages character focus. Probably because character awareness probably makes the difference between casual enjoyer to actual fan for many people.

I think that's part of it. I also think that fandom attracts people who want something more than what they get in canon. Not just more episodes, particularly with tv where you get another one every week. But more of something that they just touch on and don't focus on in the episodes. And for action/adventure canon, that's often relationships between characters.

Maybe that's a big crux of a different type of "off" feeling relationships, that some characters might are just written as typically straight in canon and some writers just extrapolate that characterisation instead of taking the journey and describing how a guy like that would react to being gay/bi, having to see himself that way.

I don't think that all slash characters need to identify as gay or bi - after all, many real life MSM don't. But I can't believe it hasn't even crossed their minds that they might be labeled as such! So when that seems to be the case in the fic, it's a turn off for me.

In X-Men there are, of course, parallels between the mutants coming into their powers and gay people coming out. Mutants are typically born into normal families, think of mutants throughout their childhoods as "other" and usually in a really negative sense. And then something happens and they suspect - at least - that they might be part of that category. Here's a snippet of one of my characters going through that kind of self-questioning:

Oh, I was out East a lot but I never called. What could I say? "You don't know me but some guy named Logan fucked me in the back of my truck and then gave me your number." I couldn't quite picture it. And what could this professor do for me anyway? Was he going to drive the truck so my mom and the kids had some money coming in? School just wasn't in the cards for me anymore. And the stuff I knew? Well, who could help me with that? Nothing to do about it except shut up and not let anybody know. After all, tell people and they might think I was one of them. That kind. Mutants.

Maybe I was, though. I kept trying to deny it but there was something going on with me and it had to have an explanation. It was getting so I didn't just kind of know things about people I saw but sometimes I'd hear voices in my head, too. More and more as time went on.

It wasn't even just that, just what was happening in my head. Sometimes I'd be reaching for something while I'm driving, like maybe my coffee cup or the next tape in the book or something. But before my hand would get to it the thing would just be there - in my hand - like it flew there or something. And once when I was home in between jobs my mom was just beside herself with Ginny. She's the youngest - just five - and the quietest of the bunch of us. She was crying and crying and wouldn't say what's wrong. Well, I knew before Doc Sherve looked at her that it had to be appendicitis - I could feel right where it hurt, almost as if it was my own body.

So I didn't know what was going on with me but I couldn't keep denying there was something there. Then one day I'm sitting in this truck stop and there's a TV and the news is on and there's this guy talking about mutants and psionic powers and some of what he's saying sounds a lot like me. So I'm getting a little uncomfortable and embarrassed even though nobody knows me there and probably nobody knows what I'm thinking. But I'm just listening so intently to all this guy says and then his name flashes on the screen: Professor Charles Xavier.
::end of snippet::

There's lots of that kind of thing in X-Men. And it just doesn't make sense to me that you have a fandom where it's understood that finding out you're part of an oppressed minority is an emotionally affecting experience but putatively straight guys start fucking each other senseless with nary a thought of how others might categorize them...


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From:thelana
Date:January 30th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)

Re: .

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I also think that fandom attracts people who want something more than what they get in canon. Not just more episodes, particularly with tv where you get another one every week. But more of something that they just touch on and don't focus on in the episodes. And for action/adventure canon, that's often relationships between characters.


*shrug* I entered fandom for The X-Files after a particularly cool Monster of The Week character (Eve) was left open ended and I was dying to know more about it. Yes, I also loved Mulder and Scully, saw the chemistry and wanted more, but the MOTW stories occasionally drew me in as well. No, not to the extent that I wanted to read fanfic on all of them, but to the extent that they at least affected me and I wanted to talk about it. When somebody polls best or most emotional or most memorable moments of a tv show, I often list guest star stories too. Why? Because guest stars are often more limited and therefore you often can do more radical things with them (have them die, get married...).

To me, a lot of shows with a procedural structure try to say something meaningful with the MOTW episodes, try to showcase certain moral questions (that often can't be answered). If I was a fic writer maybe I would write fic about the characters meditating on those issues or experiencing those issues. Since I'm not a writer I talk about those issues myself.

There's lots of that kind of thing in X-Men. And it just doesn't make sense to me that you have a fandom where it's understood that finding out you're part of an oppressed minority is an emotionally affecting experience but putatively straight guys start fucking each other senseless with nary a thought of how others might categorize them...


Heh, that might be why I'm a total DC girl rather than a Marvel girl. To me "I have superpowers, how do I use them for the good of the world, how do I have a normal life in spite of them, how do I make sure that my powers cause more good than harm, can you fight evil, how do you protect the ones you love..." are just much more interesting to me than oppressed minority angst. I could never get into the X-Men because they just felt too incestuous to me (mutants interacting with mutants, fighting to protect fellow mutants, fighting other mutants...). On the other hand, most DC heroes have a normal family or a civilian identity. Because of that it feels more rooted into typical reality to me, rather than typical reality being mostly hostile.

In that way X-Men is certainly is utopically more progressed (regarding social changes and stuff). But yeah, I do like the movies and I do like the characters, but I could never really get into the comics.
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