Why I Like Slash

2017-11-13

I am a queer person, and I use the term queer to describe non-heterosexual/non-cisgender people. If you don’t like that term, you may not want to read this article.

There’s a nasty stigma around slash fiction that all the enjoyers and creators of it are crazy fangirls that fetish same-sex relationships between men. But in my experience, that’s only a very tiny minority. Most slash writers are women, yes, and queer women at that. Here is a forum that talks a bit about the phenomenon of transformative fiction, and why generally women and other minorities are drawn to it more than to straight, cisgender, white men. Basically, minorities enjoy expanding past, or even straight up changing, canon because they crave representation, and material they are able to relate to.

But I’m not here to get into a big conversation about demographics and socio-political zeitgeists. I want to talk about why I like gay fanfiction.

To clarify, when I say “gay”, I don’t mean just mean gay male fanfiction. I have almost as many female/female ships as I do male/male. It’s sad that, as many queer women are involved with fan fic, that the amount of femslash pales drastically in comparison to dudeslash and het fic. (More on that at this link.)

First of all, fan fiction is not exclusively smut. Sex scenes do take up a good portion of the medium, but in most cases, smut accompanies real plot lines, usually a buildup of romantic tension between characters. Most fan fiction sets up the scenario where the characters in question finally admit their feelings for each other…which is usually then followed by sex as a form of catharsis for all the romantic and sexual tension that’s built up over time. The sex is usually a celebration of the getting together, not just porn for the sake of porn.

Second of all, I mentioned above that most slash fan fiction is about two (usually white) cisgender males, written by female-aligned persons. My friend Gemma made a YouTube video about that phenomenon, which you can watch here. It’s easy to pass off male/male fan fiction as young straight women using it as masturbatory material, but, I also stated that most slash fiction writers are queer themselves. So why would gay (I’m using that as an umbrella term here) women spend their time writing about the relations between two men? Sexually, aesthetically, and emotionally, what do homosexual relationships between men have to do with us?

Right now, on Fanfiction.net, the dominating fandom in TV is Supernatural, with over 120,000 fan fictions written for it. On Archive of Our Own, the number of fan fictions is over 170,000. Of those AO3 fan fictions, the top three most commonly written about pairings are all gay relationships between two white men, one of which is incestuous. Dean Winchester/Castiel (Destiel) takes up almost 40%, Dean Winchester/Sam Winchester takes up 14%, and Sam Winchester/Gabriel takes up 6%.

The loathsome BBC Sherlock series has 102,021 fan fics (as of this writing) on AO3, and over 50% of them are Johnlock. Again, two white guys. This leaves the next dominant pairing of the fandom, Sherlock/Molly, in the dust with only 6855 (currently) fics to its name.

And the pattern continues. Marvel Cinematic Universe? Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes, Steve/Tony Stark, and Clint Barton/Phil Coulson. BBC Merlin? Merlin/Arthur. The entire pantheon of Star Trek? Kirk/Spock. All of Star Wars? Kylo Ren/Hux. ALL WHITE GUYS.

But, maybe with the exception of Kylux, pretty much all of the fandoms I just named all feature white men as their main characters. They are the most developed and central to the story. And usually, their connection to each other is the most meaningful, even though both parties may have female love interests in their life:

  • Except for his brother, Dean Winchester’s most important connection is to Castiel. The angel even says himself that he and Dean have a “profound bond”. Even though Dean’s supposed “love of his life” is a woman named Lisa, who is promptly shunted to the side whenever the plot shows up and eventually put on a bus, never to return to the show.
  • Bucky Barnes is Steve’s best friend for life, and when forced to choose between Bucky and his loyalty to the Avengers (not to mention his own personal freedom and safety), Steve picks Bucky without a moment’s hesitation. Even though Steve is maybe? dating Peggy Carter’s niece?
  • And everyone, even non-slashers, sings praises to the deep friendship of Kirk and Spock, the slash pairing that more or less started it all. Even Gene Roddenberry himself wrote into the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture that their connection “had been the touching of two minds which the old poets of Spock’s home planet had proclaimed as superior even to the wild physical love which affected Vulcans every seventh year during pon farr” and called them soulmates. Even though Kirk is the essential “ladies’ man” and Spock is “supposed” to have no feelings.

Even a fandom like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which is dominated by strong female characters, a good amount of which are lesbians/queer, the second most popular relationship tag on AO3 is a non-canon m/m pairing (two white dudes, of course; ones who have little to no significant interaction, I may add). The first and third are het couples, and the very prominent lesbian pairing that is canon comes fourth.

However, there are exceptions to every rule. The Once Upon A Time fandom (I wrote a bit about feminism, or lack thereof, in the show in this post), despite the fervor of the Emma Swan/Captain Hook shippers, currently has more Emma/Regina Mills fics on AO3 than any other pairing. A f/f pairing! And one of them is sort of a WOC! (Lana Parrilla is Latina, but her character isn’t necessarily. I mean, Mills is a pretty white last name.)

But this is not about me trying to convince you to ship what I ship, or even have a deep in-depth conversation about the nuances of fandoms in cases of race, gender, or sexuality. I’m just trying to explain why I like slash.

Kirk and Spock. Dean and Cas. Steve and Bucky. Holmes and Watson. These are indelible bonds that endure the test of time. Kirk loved Spock so much, he threw away his entire career just for the chance to bring him back from the dead. And to quote the greatest movie of all time: death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.

When I ship characters together, it’s not because of how attractive they are or if I think they’d have hot sex scenes together. I see this connection between them, this kindredness in their souls that scream that they are at their strongest together, and that they make each other feel whole and content. And I’m sorry to say, but I usually see that in pop culture between the main man and his “bro” rather than between the two heterosexual love interests. Very seldom do I see the protagonist and their opposite sex partner share that intense yet tender bond (there are the exceptions: Buffy and Angel, Smallville‘s Clark and Lois). Maybe that’s because screenwriters don’t know how to write meaningful romance. Or maybe actors have trouble portraying that deep need. Whatever the cause, for the most part, slash just seems to work better. So until Hollywood dramatically improves its m/f relationships, I’m gonna keep on shipping the gay. ~TRL

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Kingsman: The Slash Service???

Hartwin.png

If you’re like me, you’re getting pumped for the upcoming sequel to the incredible Kingsmen: The Secret Service. I will watch most anything if it has Colin Firth in it, but thanks to Kingsmen, I have added a new British hottie to my ever-growing list: Taron Egerton.

Like any fandom, the Kingsmen franchise has its community on Tumblr. When I dared to venture outside my cozy world of Star Trek, Supernatural, Hannibal, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, all of which have big time OTPs for me (Kirk/Spock, Dean/Castiel, Hannibal/Will, and Buffy/Angel, respectively), I was surprised (although I probably shouldn’t have been) to find out that Kingsmen also had a dominant pairing.

I personally hadn’t found Kingsmen to be a pairing oriented movie. Yeah, there’s the last scene where Eggsy has anal sex with the princess, but that was pretty much the extent of any “romantic” content in the movie. There is a girl in the movie, a fellow trainee for the Kingsmen who befriends Eggsy, but there’s no hint of romance to their relationship.

But the main relationship of the movie is between Eggsy Unwin and his Kingsmen mentor, Harry Hart, aka Galahad. Eggsy, as a baby, lost his father early in the movie (his father was also training to be a Kingsman and was also being mentored by Harry, but he sacrificed himself by throwing himself on a live grenade to save his fellow agents), so when I watched the movie, I was under the impression that Harry was supposed be a surrogate paternal figure for Eggsy. But some people saw their relationship from another perspective.

Hartwin: the portmanteau name for the romantic or/and sexual relationship between Eggsy Unwin and Harry Hart

While I don’t ship Harry and Eggsy in the slash sense, I’m not against people supporting this pairing. It’s a little squick-ish for me, since I see this as an adopted father-son relationship, but there’s nothing abusive or unhealthy about it. Harry and Eggsy do genuinely love and care about each other. Some people who have an issue with age gaps in their pairings will probably not ship Hartwin (at the time of this publication, Colin Firth is 56 and Taron Egerton is 27 – that’s almost three decades between them, and I’m pretty sure Eggsy is actually 19 in the film). I say that pairings with wide age gaps always have other factors to be taken into consideration.

The phrase “age is but a number” should always come with a grain of salt. For example, an adult with a child or young adolescent is never okay. But notice above that I listed Buffy/Angel as one of my OTPs. This is a ship between a 16-18 year old high school girl and a 250 year old vampire – if this is ringing familiar of Twilight, well, I don’t blame you.

But there’s significant distinctions between Buffy Summers and Angel, and Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. First of all…Buffy and Angel aren’t complete idiots. Second of all, there’s no creepy, pathetic codependency between them. Buffy is strong with or without a boyfriend, and Angel doesn’t insist on keeping tabs on her 24/7 or try to control her life. And third, and most pertinent to this discussion, Buffy is a mature young woman who can handle an adult relationship. Bella is a frivolous airhead whom Edward constantly infantilizes.

So even though there’s a wide age gap between Harry and Eggsy, and I still stand by my opinion that it’s a pseudo father-son relationship, it’s still a relationship between two adults. Yes, Eggsy can act like a dumb kid sometimes, but underneath that rough, chav exterior, Eggsy shows intelligence and maturity. Harry facilitates him in achieving his destiny as a kickass secret agent. It’s not so much of a “coming of age” story. It’s more like a “you’re an adult, time to start acting like it” story.

Eggsy and Harry kind of remind me of Buffy and Giles. I always believed that Buffy never really needed a Watcher, but she did need Giles. Buffy’s dad didn’t die, but he was an absentee father, so Buffy needed a fill-in for that role in her life, and Giles was the person to do it. It’s the same way with Eggsy and Harry.

So Hartwin isn’t really my cup of tea. I only ship it in the friend or familial sense, but, I wouldn’t condemn anyone for shipping them romantically. With two such attractive men with great chemistry as Colin and Taron, it’s only natural that people might see potential there. I always say, as long as it’s not advocating abuse, incest, pedophilia, or total codependency, ship and let ship.

Kingsmen: The Golden Circle premieres in theaters in the U.S. on September 22, 2017! ~TRL

How To Speak Fandom

It occurs to me that I’ve used some jargon that someone who doesn’t spend half their life on Tumblr might not understand. So here’s a quick manual to knowing the lingo of fandom and fan fiction.

  • Ship – (can be a verb or noun, depending on the context) derived from the word “relationship”. To ship two people is to believe that they should be in a relationship.
    • I ship Mulder and Scully so much. Mulder/Scully is my ship.
  • Pairing – a synonym for ship.
    • The pairing of the Joker and Harley Quinn is problematic.
  • OTP – “One True Pairing”; two characters you ship so hard, you could never see either party with anyone else.
    • The Doctor and Rose Tyler are the OTP of many fans of Doctor Who.
  • BroTP – two characters you ship, but only in a platonic sense (brotherly love).
    • A lot people think Sherlock Holmes and Molly Hooper should date, but I just see them as good friends. They’re my broTP.
  • NoTP – two characters you are very against being together.
    • Wincest is my noTP, because Dean and Sam are brothers.
  • OT3three characters you ship together (yay polyamory).
    • Kirk/Spock/McCoy is an OT3 for some Star Trek fans.
  • OC – “Original Character”.
    • For my Walking Dead fan fiction, I created an OC who dates Daryl, but then gets turned into a walker.
  • OOC – “Out Of Character”.
    • It was so OOC for Superman to kill Zod in Man Of Steel.
  • Canon – recognized or established by the source material.
    • The Star Wars expanded universe is supposed to be canon, but has some continuity issues with The Force Awakens.
  • Headcanon – a personal theory by a fan, not necessarily canon, but could be supported by the canon.
    • I have a headcanon that Harry Potter is bisexual.
  • Fanon – a fan theory that is accepted by pretty much the entire fandom, even though it’s not actually canon.
    • Will Graham from NBC Hannibal is probably on the autism spectrum, but it’s never really been confirmed by the writers. It’s mostly fanon.
  • Slash – fan fiction that is romantic or sexual in nature and focuses on the relationship between two men. This term arose in the 1970s when many viewers of Star Trek believed Captain Kirk and Spock were actually in love, and began to share their Kirk/Spock (Kirk slash Spock) fan works. The term slash later became a general term for works about men in amorous situations with each other, even though the “/” is now used to denote gay, lesbian, and heterosexual pairings alike.
    • I was reading a fan fiction about Captain America and Bucky Barnes last night. It was very slashy.
  • Femslash – the same as slash, but with female/female pairings instead. The first significant femslash pairing was Xena/Gabrielle from Xena: Warrior Princess.
    • I wish there were more Swan Queen fan fictions to read. Everyone seems focused on Captain Swan and Rumbelle. Femslash is such a small community.
  • RPF – “Real Person Fiction”. Writing about real life people, namely celebrities, and sometimes shipping them with other real people.
    • There is a surprising amount of RPF about the members of One Direction.