“You Are Not Alone” DVD Commentary Pt. 1

(Crossposted from my LiveJournal)

I can’t believe it’s been five years since I began this odyssey of a fan fiction. I was so young. I was still in high school, I was a junior, and I was playing Paulette Bonafonte in our production of Legally Blonde: The Musical​ at the time. But “You Are Not Alone” has been the project nearest and dearest to my heart, and I’m glad I decided to write it, and I’m glad so many others have enjoyed it too.

Sam Tyler became a concept after I watched the first episode of Life On Mars, the UK version, starring John Simm. His name, as a lot of people pointed out, was a possible anagram for “masterly”, and since Rose Tyler was the first companion on Doctor Who, a seed of an idea was planted in my mind: what if the Master appeared earlier on? What if instead of running for Prime Minister, he was a shop clerk? What if instead of being found as a little old man at the end of the universe, he was found as a charming young man just perfect for the Doctor to adopt and fall in love with?

And “You Are Not Alone” was born.

I knew I wanted Sam to start out just like Rose: uncomplicated, unassuming, but immediately heroic and likable. Eventually, he would grow more and more similar to his true identity, revealing deeper layers of brilliance as the story went on and Sam was exposed to more of the Doctor’s life. But in this first story, Sam is nearly identical to Rose Tyler. A lot of people complained about this, but most were patient, and rewarded with Sam’s character arc.

So YANA is not a crossover with Life On Mars, I would like to say off the bat, but I did borrow characters and names from the show when starting the story. Sam Tyler, obviously, and his girlfriend, Annie Cartwright. Plus the name of the shop Rose worked in was changed from “Heinrik’s” to “Hunt’s”, for Gene Hunt, Sam’s boss.

The beginning of “Rose” is so memorable. Mannequins, especially the faceless ones like the ones in that department store, are so creepy. Russell T. Davies is the king of writing one-offs, if you ask me.

So we begin with Sam getting locked inside the basement. The Autons are stalking after him. And then-!

“Run!”

Enter the Doctor, the dashing hero!

I love the Ninth Doctor so much. I weep that there was only one season of Christopher Eccleston, but I do respect his stance on the treatment of crew members and I applaud him for standing up. I can’t help but wish that he would return for a multi-Doctor episode. Can’t you just see how f**king amazing his Doctor would have fit in with Ten and Eleven in “The Day of the Doctor” special?!

So the Doctor rescues Sam and they make their escape. Nine is so damn handsome, to be honest. Everyone always drools over David Tennant and Matt Smith, but everyone looks over Christopher Eccleston. It’s really not fair.

The Doctor tells Sam to get out, and he does, and the shop blows up. Sam goes home and goes to bed. I added in a sidenote about Sam being “allergic” to aspirin because aspirin is toxic to Time Lords–foreshadowing, heh heh! Then Sam falls asleep and has a romantic dream about the Doctor and the Master’s young selves, Theta Sigma and Koschei.

A lot of people commented at this, asking if I somehow knew the Doctor’s real name. I and a few other seasoned Whovians kindly explained to them that Theta Sigma had been the Doctor’s nickname at the Time Lord Academy.

I also got several comments saying this was the best Doctor/Master fan fic they’d ever read…apart from this other one. Guys, don’t ever tell a writer something like that, it’s a big hit to the ego to hear that you’re the second best. Just say the story is good and leave it at that.

The next chapter we’re introduced to Mickey, I mean Annie. I actually really love Annie and I wish I could’ve given her a bigger role in the story. But, since this is about the Doctor and the Master, her part is small. If anyone hates Annie, I think it’s undeserved. It’s not her fault I underwrote her. She does become somewhat of a hero in the end. Anyway, Annie has been worrying about Sam all night, since Sam is a dingus who forgot about their date. Her worry isn’t unfounded. She cares about Sam, after all.

The Doctor then appears, and here we have one of the funniest scenes in DW, with the Doctor rifling through items in Sam’s living room, reading a book at high speed, commenting on a celebrity couple in a magazine (that the man is gay and the woman’s an alien), scattering playing cards all over the room, and commenting on his satellite dish ears in the mirror. Then there’s some sexy falling on top of each other when one of the Auton’s arms attacks them both, and Sam has another flashback. This will become common as he spends more time with the Doctor. Sam really is thick for not figuring out that he’s really the Master. But then again, he doesn’t learn of fob watches until later, so maybe it’s not so absurd after all.

I have to comment on the Drums™ here. I really hated this plot point when I watched DW the first time, especially when I got into Classic Who. There’s no evidence of the Drums™ haranguing previous Masters, so why is this suddenly an issue now? The Classic Masters did evil shit because they enjoyed it. This whole “poor Master, he was just tortured his whole life” concept is woobie-ifying and undignified for an antagonist of the Master’s caliber. Sure, Anthony Ainley and Eric Roberts’ Masters were pretty insane, but that was more a product of being trapped in non-Time Lord bodies, their life forces being strained beyond their limit. Roger Delgado’s Master certainly wasn’t a victim of the Drums™.  This retcon is really annoying. I had to work out early on how I would justify this dumb McGuffin in my version of the story.

Oh yes. I planned much of the story out when I first began writing it. After I realized people really were interested and I was garnering a lot of readers, I knew I would have to give them a well thought-out epic, with plenty of foreshadowing and connections throughtout. I didn’t expect a lot of people would like my story because at the time, I believed I was an oddity for seeing erotic subtext between the Doctor and the Master. Turns out, there were plenty of people like me out there.

The Doctor leaves again, Sam decides to investigate him in depth, Annie is abducted and copied as a rubber girl, attacks Sam and the Doctor, and Sam comes inside the TARDIS for the first time. It’s a magical moment. Sam gets upset about the supposed death of his girlfriend and the Doctor’s callous reaction to it. Again, even though Sam really does fling her aside for a life of traveling with the Doctor, he honestly does care for her. He’s just preoccupied. They’re much better as friends than as partners.

The Doctor and Sam trace the Autons back to an underground boiler room, where the Nestene Consciousness is camped out. I thought it was incredibly poignant that the first villains the Doctor and Sam face together are the Autons, since the Master used the Autons to invade England in his introductory story. How poetic that the Master would unwittingly help the Doctor defeat them in their first adventure together as traveling companions rather than friendly foes. Sam discovers he can hear the Nestene Consciousness on a psychic level, giving us more hints that he is not all that he seems. The audience already knows who Sam really is, but the real attraction is watching Sam’s slow discovery. Another flashback shows us the Master and the Doctor in their first (televised) battle of wits, again, showing us the irony of the Doctor and the Master now facing the Autons together.

The Doctor gets in trouble and is incapacitated by the Autons, but Sam officially takes up his role as the Doctor’s right hand man, rather than just some guy along for the ride, and leaps in action, saving the Doctor. The Nestene Consciousness is accidentally dissolved and the Autons fall back into inanimation. The day is saved.

Sam and the Doctor make their goodbyes, but then, the Doctor has second thoughts and returns, offering to take Sam on as his companion. Sam eagerly agrees and runs into the TARDIS, ready for adventure. One last flashback shows us that Koschei was seemingly abandoned by Theta in their youth, which spawned the beginnings of the Master’s hatred for the Doctor. His anger stemmed from heartbreak, and his grief spiraled into mania over the hundred years that Theta was missing. But more of that later on.

And that’s the first adventure. The Master is in the TARDIS, and the seeds of a romance are planted.

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Irene Adler: Lost In Translation

To modern filmmakers, she is always the love interest. I have seldom seen them adapt her in any other way. In their eyes she is an archetypal femme fatale who is smart, and usually nefarious, but mostly sexy, and always powerless to Sherlock Holmes’s superior brain and also because she’s feemail, and as we all know, feemails are weak and can’t help but fall in love with the hero.

And yet there is but one woman to them, and that woman is the eternal Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable, but always sexy, memory.

“A Scandal In Bohemia” was the very first Sherlock Holmes story I ever read. She’s immediately introduced as the woman (The Woman) who utterly defeats Sherlock Holmes, the only one he respects and sees as an equal. As a burgeoning young feminist (and lesbian), I was so excited about this powerful woman who managed to gain the respect of Sherlock Holmes of all people.

I was subsequently disappointed with her many adaptations…

The Story

Irene Adler was an opera singer who has an affair with the King of Bohemia. They apparently had a compromising photo taken together, because all these years later, when the King is getting married to some other lady of nobility, Adler informs him that she has the photo of them, and that she will absolutely send it to his future in-laws. It’s not really clear why she wants to ruin the King’s reputation. It’s clearly not out of jealousy because she doesn’t care about the King. She doesn’t want money. She just wants the truth about the King to be known for what he really is.

This leads the King to hire Sherlock Holmes to steal the photo from her, since all his other attempts to get the photo have failed. Holmes manages to trick Adler into revealing where the photograph is hidden, but when he goes back for it, she and the photograph are gone, because she’s outsmarted Holmes. She’s no longer interested in ruining the King because she’s in love and she and her new husband have run off to America together. The end.

Historical Context

Arthur Conan Doyle was pretty liberal for a white, middle class man of the Victorian Age. He was friendly with Oscar Wilde and didn’t believe that homosexuality was deviance, but rather like a mental illness (and that was actually a progressive point of view for that time); he wrote a story about an interracial relationship (that produced a biracial child) in one of his stories–and it was actually sympathetic to the white woman who loved a black man; and for the most part he seemed to respect women as people. Doyle is like Star Trek: The Original Series–definitely suffers from the social prejudices and attitudes of the time, but still forward thinking in historical context.

It’s important to note that this is a story about the sexism of the Victorian age. The only two reoccurring women in the Holmes serial is Holmes’s landlady and Watson’s wife (or possibly wives because Doyle was shit at continuity). Women in Victorian literature didn’t have much agency. Even in Jane Austen novels, the female protagonists’ arcs often revolved around finding a husband. This is why Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play A Doll’s House was such a scandalous piece of literature. The main character, Nora, forges her father’s name in order to borrow money (because women weren’t allowed to own property or take out loans), and ends up leaving her shitty husband at the end. In most places, the play was banned from being performed at the time. Compare characterless homebodies like Mrs. Watson or Mrs. Hudson/Turner to a strong female character like Irene Adler, who has her own career, has affairs out of wedlock, and never once loses her power to a man. She outsmarts the smartest man in London, and leaves behind a letter that essentially says, “Suck it, Your Majesty, I do what I want.”

But why is this a feminist narrative? Well, I’ll explain, but first I have to explain the concept of…

The Unreliable Narrator

What’s important to remember as that this story is framed as a personal account from Watson, who doesn’t know what really happened between Adler and the King apart from the King’s own telling of it. We’ve already established Watson as an unreliable narrator (he can’t even remember if he’s married half the time), and so what we’re really getting is a tenuous third-hand account of the story of Irene Adler and her affair with the King. We never hear Adler’s side of it, so we have only the King’s point of view to go on–and of course that view is going to be biased toward the King. “Boo hoo, I’m just trying to get married for political gains and that mean old slut Irene Adler is trying to ruin it for me.”

When you really get down to examining the narrative beyond Watson and the King’s opinion of it, Irene Adler is the antagonist of SCAN–but not the villain. This is one of the rare instances where Holmes finds himself on the side of wrong. The King is trying to cover up a past affair before he marries somebody else so he doesn’t look bad, and Adler is trying to expose a powerful man as the jerkass he really is before he becomes even more powerful by marrying someone we get the sense he really doesn’t care about or love.

Why It’s About Sexism

At the beginning, Watson explains that Holmes calls Adler The Woman because she’s apparently the only female opponent that’s ever bested him. Before Adler, Holmes was actually pretty chauvinistic toward the intellect of women, and it isn’t until Adler knocks him down a sexist peg that Holmes realizes the error of both the King’s and his own ways. Holmes is humbled by the experience and realizes that she’s the real hero, and he admires her for her cleverness. He keeps her photo as a means of reminding him not be such a sexist dick.

For some reason, this always gets mistranslated two ways: 1) a smart, sexually liberated woman is inherently villainous, thus we get adaptions like Guy Ritchie’s movies and BBC Sherlock where Adler ends up working for bad guys (and it’s almost always Moriarty). Notice that she is almost never the one in charge; she’s always Moriarty’s stooge. Because God forbid a woman just be clever and do things on her own. And 2), a man can’t POSSIBLY admire a woman without wanting to have sex with her. Irene Adler spoke to Sherlock Holmes maybe twice in canon, and once was to ask him to be a witness to her wedding—to someone else! They were never interested in each other, and yet, in nearly every adaptation, she’s Holmes’s paramour.

Also, you’ll notice that Adler is always portrayed as very, very smart, but NEVER smarter than Holmes. She’s usually a damsel Holmes has to save. Because again, nothing is more threatening to a man than a woman who doesn’t need him. It drives me absolutely insane that modern adaptations of Sherlock Holmes take one of the few proto-feminist characters of Victorian literature and diminish her into a sexy bad girl. I guess they just didn’t get the point of the story. Either that or modern filmmakers are scared of the gay subtext in Holmes and Watson’s friendship and decided to disparage that way of thinking by giving Holmes a girlfriend and Adler was the obvious choice she’s feemail and on Holmes’s level. Of course, we can’t have her be smarter than him! That would be like saying that men aren’t the best! Because women always have to be less good than men and fall in love with them and hey wouldn’t it be great if she were a dominatrix who prances around naked and also punches people but needs to be rescued by Sherlock Holmes because he’s just soooooooo irresistable even though you said you were a fucking lesbian FUCK YOU STEVEN MOFFAT-

What was I talking about? Oh, yeah.

And when they speak of Irene Adler, it is always under the dishonorable title…of Sherlock Holmes’s girlfriend. ~TRL

Three’s Company Too

Today I want to talk about polyships! Polyships deal with polyamory, where more than two people are dating each other at the same time. This is a little different than polygamy, where one person is married to multiple people (usually one man with several wives, like in the Mormon religion) or open relationships (which usually imply two people who are in a committed relationship, but permit each other to see other people outside of the relationship). Polyamory connotates three or more people seeing each other.* If you want to learn more about about polyamory, I suggest watching the movie Professor Marston and the Wonder Women–it’s about the man who created Wonder Woman, his wife, and their life partner.

(*Note, my definitions of these terms may not agree with other people’s, as everyone defines their relationships differently.)

So I want to talk about a few OT3s of mine, and I have to first bring up Sense8, that wonderful Netflix show that is a freaking love letter to the LGBTQ+ community. (Spoilers ahead.) There are two throuples (couples involving three people instead of two) in the show. Lito and Hernando were a gay couple (Lito identifies as homosexual, but Hernando’s sexuality is never specified, so he could be gay, bi, or pansexual), but they end up bringing a woman into their relationship, Lito’s coworker Daniela. She at first just wants protection from her abusive ex-boyfriend, but she eventually becomes a special part of Lito and Hernando’s relationship, and they form a family.

The other polyship was a bit of a surprise. Kala’s storyline was set up as a classic love triangle story. Even though she is in an marriage to Rajan, she is clearly in love with Wolfgang. Her arc is set up to lead the viewer to believe that she will ultimately leave Rajan for Wolfgang. But in the series finale, Kala is torn between Wolfgang and Rajan, whom she also ends up loving. And even though you would think Rajan and Wolfgang would be rivals and hate each other, they get along quite well. In the end, they decide to just Kala have both of them, and Wolfgang and Rajan actually end up loving each other as well. It was one of my favorite parts of Sense8.

So my first ever polyship was Steve Rogers (Captain America), Bucky Barnes, and Peggy Carter, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I headcanon all three characters as bisexual, and I think both Peggy and Bucky are great for Steve. And I think that over time, Peggy and Bucky could love each other too. They would all bring something to the table if they were in a relationship: Peggy, her strength; Steve, his loyalty; and Bucky, his sensitivity.

…and the sex would be amazing.

My most recent polyship, however, is from Wynonna Earp–that is, the titular Wynonna, Agent Xavier Dolls, and Doc Holliday (yes, THAT Doc Holliday). They’re another trio of bisexuals, according to me. It’s clear from the beginning that both Dolls and Doc absolutely adore Wynonna. And even though they hate each other at first, Doc and Dolls grow close and form a special bond. Even though all three of them are rough and tumble demon hunters, there is a special tenderness in the way they interact with each other. (MAJOR SPOILER) And when Dolls dies, Doc is just as broken up as Wynonna–which just proves he loved Dolls as much as she did. (Plus their ship name is the Ghost River Triangle, how perfect is that?)

So that’s my little tribute to polyamory and the awesome ships they produce. Let’s give them three cheers! (Pun intended.) -TRL

13 Months After 13 Reasons Why

Warning for discussions of sensitive material ahead, including suicide and rape.

(You see, Netflix? That’s what you’re supposed to do. Put a trigger warning beforehand.)

Hey, it’s Catherine. Catherine, the Red Lady. That’s right. Don’t adjust your…whatever device you’re reading this on. It’s me, live on the internet. No return engagements, no encore. And this time, absolutely no requests. Get a snack. Settle in. ‘Cause I’m about to tell you why 13 Reasons Why is garbage.

I read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher in high school. I knew going in that it was about a girl who commits suicide and then leaves behind a series of cassette tapes (what is this, 1994?) narrating why she killed herself, and why her classmates are to blame.

I wasn’t greatly affected by the book because a), I already knew what was coming, and b) I wasn’t suicidal in high school. Depressed, yes, suicidal, no. I didn’t really think much of the book to be totally honest. It was about Stephanie Meyer level prose. Just milquetoast teen melodrama.

Then about a year and a half ago I learned that that book I read in high school was getting its own Netflix series. And I remember thinking to myself, this could potentially be very bad. Suicide is a touchy subject for most people. That’s not to say there should be a taboo on the subject. I think a certain amount of healthy discussion can actually help prevent suicide. It’s all in how you handle it. The important thing is to show suicidal people the consequences of committing such an act, without glorifying suicide or shaming those who might be contemplating it–as if suicidal people don’t have enough to feel bad about. It can be a tenuous feat, which is why most people don’t even touch it. Between glorification and victim shaming, I’m sad to say that 13 Reasons Why succeeds in doing both.

It’s been roughly 13 months since the first season debuted on Netflix, so I think now is a fitting time to discuss it, especially since a second season is in the making why??? Why would they do this?????.

Everyone’s hot take on 13RW is that it’s suicide glorification…which is true. Hannah Baker leaves a suicide note behind for the express purpose of inflicting guilt on everyone she felt had wronged her. Suicide isn’t about other people. Suicides are singular events. People kill themselves because they truly feel they have nothing to live for. They aren’t thinking about revenge or how sad everyone will be about their deaths as they do the deed. They’re just thinking about how everything will finally stop, and maybe there will finally be peace.

Even though it’s mostly Hannah’s point of view guiding the audience through the flashbacks, it’s a boy named Clay who is the narrator. He was in love with Hannah, and only sees her as this guileless cinnamon roll who was too good, too pure for this world™️. Since the two main points of views come from the victim herself and the guy who was blindingly in love with her, of course Hannah’s death is going to feel romanticized.

But at the same time, 13RW also manages to shame suicidal people as well. It paints suicide victims as pathetic and vengeful, as people just seeking attention. Hannah’s tapes torture the people she talks about on them, and then she ensured those tapes were distributed. Not to her parents, who might be horrified to learn of what their daughter went through in that last year but at least they could make sense of this horrendous tragedy and not wonder forever if it was their fault…but to the people Hannah deemed responsible for her death. The backstabbing friends, the slut-shamers, the rapist, and the dismissive counselor. And also Clay; for some reason Hannah decided to torture him for 10 tapes or so before finally revealing that he wasn’t to blame because he was actually really nice to her. And then there’s the contingency that if the tapes are properly listened to and shared, an ally of Hannah’s was going to make sure the tapes went public. It was very clear that this girl was seeking revenge, not peace.

…oh yeah, and all the obvious ones, like the graphic rape scenes and Hannah slitting her wrists onscreen (in the book, she just takes pills, but I guess that doesn’t have any shock value), but everyone else has already covered that.

Look, I appreciate what Selena Gomez and the creators of this show were trying to do. Suicide and depression are serious topics, especially for teenagers, so they made a show specifically targeted at teens to dissuade them from killing themselves. But like the book, this series didn’t have anything poignant to say on the subject. It was essentially thirteen hours of angst and violence porn that only caused an upsurge in teen suicide rates. I haven’t heard of anyone who was comforted by watching the show–only traumatized or further depressed by it. I don’t know that there’s a positive way to portray suicide…but this definitely isn’t it.

And I beg of you, if you are contemplating suicide, consider this your sign not to. Talk to someone. If there’s not a counselor or someone close to you you can open to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (America): 1-800-273-8255. Or if you’re not American, go look up the hotline for your own country. Because speaking as someone who has been depressed for years and feels as though surviving each day is an uphill battle, believe me when I say: there is always something worth living for. ~TRL

(PS, I wasn’t serious about that “no return engagements” thing, that was just a joke. I’m still going to make posts on here. That is, if I’m still able to if and after Congress repeals net neutrality.)

Neo-existential Nihilism On The Rise…In Cinema

Existentialism is a pretty ubiquitous term, as my History of Theatre professor once said to me. Essentially existentialism is the examination of the individual and how their own free will shapes the path that their life will take. This is going on the idea that there is no grand scheme or cosmic force that affects the universe or its events. An existential crisis may lead the individual to ask the questions, “What makes life meaningful? Does life mean anything at all?”

Well, a nihilist would say “no”. The word nihilism literally comes from the Latin word meaning “nothing”. A nihilist rejects all conception of intrinsic value in life and existence. There is no meaning to life, so why even try to seek it? Why bother with anything if there’s no point to living?

Take Sherlock. In the beginning, the show seemed like a fun modern imagining about a socially inept detective and his everyman best friend solving crimes and righting wrongs. But at some point…the story changed. By the last season, Sherlock and John were no longer solving crimes. It seemed like all their characters seemed to exist for was to suffer. It was no longer a story with a definite beginning, middle, and end, but just a montage of pain and suffering. It’s like the writers didn’t give a shit anymore about telling a story or honoring the original material. They just wanted to squeeze their money’s worth out of teenage girls in love with Burberry Cumbercooch’s lizard face. The writers presented these mysteries, like how Sherlock survived falling from atop a tall building, or where it was all leading with Moriarty, only to laugh in the viewers’ faces for daring to care about the story in the first place.

Or better yet, look at Star Wars. The original trilogy is a masterpiece in story telling. The reveal of Luke Skywalker being Darth Vader’s son is revered as the most amazing plot twist in cinematic history. People became enchanted with this idea that stories could be clever and tie together in ways you would’ve never seen coming but make perfect sense once the answer is revealed. But the new movie, The Last Jedi, seems to spit on one of the core reasons the original movies were so beloved. The makers knew that people would be speculating about Rey’s origins, because her character was purposely made mysterious to get you wondering about her, only to tell the audience that Rey’s parents are nobodies. There’s no grand plan, it’s just nothing, and the makers think you’re stupid for picking up on clues specifically put there for you, and for trying to solve a mystery when there never really was one in the first place.

Oscar Wilde once said “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” And nothing has proven him more right than this new age of social numbness, what I call neo-existential nihilism. It seems like humanity is caught in a backwards slide, losing more and more of our empathy day by day. A giant halfwitted bigot is running the United States, Congress is doing nothing to stop him, there’s a new hate crime or school shooting every week, and the only people who seem to give a damn about standing up to it is high school students–the same ones who are getting slaughtered. We live in a time when we care more about getting to own guns than the lives of children. It’s an idea that sounds like it belongs in a gritty dystopian society YA novel, but it’s not. It’s our horrifying reality now. Did we really, as a people, become so disenfranchised with our own species because of Columbine, and 9/11, and all of humanity’s other atrocities, that we lost the ability…to care?

I Need A Wayward Sisters Spin-off ASAP

I need to scream about Supernatural for a second. **Spoilers for last night’s episode if you haven’t seen it yet.**

OH MY GOD???? I NEED A SPIN-OFF OF JODY AND DONNA AND THE GIRLS HUNTING LIKE THREE YEARS AGO???? Claire is such a badass!!!!! I love her!!!!!! And I ship her with Kaia so hard!!!!! And I don’t know if that thing that came out of the rift was Kaia resurrected or a Mirrorverse Kaia or what but whatever, Dreamhunter is my new OTP!!!!!!!!

And Jody keeps adopting all these daughters! She and Donna being hunters moms together???? I’m here for that shit!!!

And I love Patience and Alex too! They all bring something to the team and I just don’t mean abilities. JUST SIX BADASS LADIES KICKING SUPERNATURAL ASS. SAVING PEOPLE, HUNTING THINGS. THE FAMILY BUSINESS!!!!!!!!

(I need Charlie and Eileen on this team too. If only they weren’t dead.) ~TRL

Why I Like Slash

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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 fetishize 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