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In my ongoing bafflement as to why I’m apparently the only person on earth who doesn’t think Sheppard and McKay are particularly slashy, I was of course taken back to ye age-olde question, What exactly *does* it take to be slashy? Well, let me answer in four parts, with the fourth part first and the third part last, and– Okay, it was admittedly funnier on Sports Night. The point, though, is that I’m trying to be critical of how I arrive at the point where I’m comfortable saying these two characters are/aren’t slashy, so I came up with some broad categories of things that set my slash bells ringing. But first, a few disclaimers:

1) For “slashy,” it’s probably more accurate to read “Weird About Each Other,” which is how I’ve mostly come to conceptualize this idea over the past few years. “Slashy” to me implies “open and/or begging to be slashed,” so definitionally it requires a certain extra-canonical reading right from the start. What I like about saying two characters are Weird About Each Other is that it can (theoretically) be a point of agreement regardless of what you think might be going on between them off-screen. So for the most part, Weird About Each Other contains and encompasses slashy, but also brings in other characters, including het pairings and sibling acts, and then allows people to believe whatever they want about their sex lives, while still all agreeing that there’s something uniquely charged and interesting about their interactions.

2) I’m thinking here primarily about subtext, but the reality of course is that sometimes on tv, what used to be subtext suddenly turns into text. So while for the most part I’ve tried to avoid using canonical couples as examples, or even people who canonically seem to want to be couples, it’s a little tricky. What about all those Veronica Mars episodes back when we were supposed to think that Veronica hated Logan, or all the good years of the X-Files? What if only half the couple’s interest is clearly canonical, a la Hex? What about when nobody’s exactly sure if their sexual relationship is canonical or not, like Stuart/Vince or Xena/Gabrielle? Those are crucial studies in subtext, so I hate to discard them, but just be aware that I’m distinguishing the textual from the subtextual elements of those relationships and, as much as I can, dealing with the latter in isolation.

3) No, I’m not doing this to be mean to McShep fans. It only had its origins in me feeling mean about McShep fans (and by “mean,” I don’t mean that I don’t love y’all, I just mean frustrated by the hard sell that is the bread and butter of this fandom). I actually really got interested in subtext, and particularly in how and why people read canon so differently. This is my attempt to nail down how *I* read canon(s), which isn’t a better or a worse way, but it is mine.

4) This is NOT NOT NOT in any way to be perceived as a guide to what people should or shouldn’t be writing or digging on. Hell, I’ve made a fan career out of writing pairings that don’t rise to my own standards of slashy/Weird About Each Other – Giles/Oz, Ray/Ray, Ronon/Rodney, and that’s not even to mention the crossovers – and I love my fellow weirdos who do the same. I truly believe that anyone is slashable, and you can get good stories and bad out of any pairing. What I see as inherent in canon affects what makes me squee as a fan, but the two aren’t synonymous, nor are they supposed to be.

Onward!

Pairings that I’m willing to accept as canonically slashy/Weird About Each Other exhibit one or more of the following traits:

1. They are life partners
In broad strokes, I mean by this that they share living arrangements, they plan to do so as far ahead as the eye can see, and that canon recognizes that any change in this situation is a moment for extreme dramatic tension – a breakup or divorce, essentially. I am, however, willing to expand the definition to people who have a shared career/mission although they maintain separate residences, but only if canon indicates that they don’t have much of a life outside the career/mission, making it the functional equivalent of “where they live.” Under the primary definition, you get Jim/Blair (The Sentinel), obviously, and Xena/Gabrielle (Xena: Warrior Princess), who are almost anyone’s gold standards for ridiculously slashy, as well as Sam/Dean (Supernatural) and Vince/Eric (Entourage). Under the second, I would include Dan/Casey (Sports Night) and Mulder/Scully (The X-Files), Joe/Billy (Hard Core Logo) and Holden/Banky (Chasing Amy). This category is complicated by the fact that a lot of shows require communal living spaces and shared “missions” by their very set-up – everyone on Firefly lives on Serenity, everyone on SGA lives on Atlantis, everyone on Angel is part of the mission. However, being part of the same team is not the same thing as being Weird About Each Other – although I might argue that the latter is basically just a refined and juiced-up version of the latter. Part of the definition of being Weird About Each Other, though, is that there’s sort of a closed system between two people, where they understand certain things as belonging to “us” and affecting “our” future. So to use the Sports Night example again, both Dan and Casey are bonded to everyone else on the show by their shared investment in Sports Night and by their friendship, but even in the pilot episode, Dan can say that the one thing he knows about his future is that he’ll remain partnered to Casey; Dan’s commitment to SN is real and meaningful, and so is his loyalty to Dana and especially Isaac, but right from the first episode, he has that priority – he can give up Sports Night if that’s what he has to do, but he won’t give up Casey. Later on we see that Casey has already gone through that process, giving up national late-night tv to work with Dan on Texas local news. Holden and Banky’s conversation on the front steps of their office building is like the Idiot’s Guide to Weird About Each Other, where Banky explains in slow, small words that his entire life rides on being the emotional centerpiece of Holden’s life, and that if he isn’t that anymore, then they aren’t just the-same-only-different, their relationship is actually broken. Being canonically equivalent to life partners requires that the characters’ decisions expressly define whether or not they’ll continue to be with/have the love of their partners – Blair *can’t go* to the jungle with his mentor because it means leaving Jim, Sam *can’t quit,* move back to California and call his brother once a week because they’ve both come to view that level of distance as unacceptable (although Dean more than Sam, which is the emotional conflict at the core of 1st season Supernatural), Billy *can’t play* with Jenifur and keep HCL around as a side-gig. This isn’t supposed to denigrate other tv relationships – obviously, lots of people on tv are friends, and the health or unhealth of their relationships with each other are a (the?) primary source of dramatic tension – but just to say that there’s another level where two people have assumed joint responsibility for a life that they realize they share.

2. They’ve mastered the art of the eyefuck
This is the most freeform category, and it’s the one people are going to try to abuse to sneak in all their favorite pairings *g* Sexual chemistry is fairly subjective, so I only permit entries under #2 if it’s at the highest possible level of stunningly obvious. And actually, even “chemistry” is probably a misleading term, because it often seems to be one character who smolders, probably because those actors just naturally bring that hypersexual element to the table. In the world of fandom, it’s like having It. Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville) has It. So does Peter Wingfield (Highlander). Take an actor like that and give them a script that calls for them to show distinct interest in another character, and that interest becomes instantaneously sexualized, whether it was supposed to be or not. If the character is supposed to be interested in an opposite-sex character, frequently the subtext is whomping enough that it eventually gets cannibalized into the text, giving rise to pairings like Logan/Veronica (Veronica Mars) and Spike/Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The world being what it is, if the intense interest is supposed to be in someone of the same sex, it tends to stay subtextual. I usually consider the subtext in this type of case canonical if non-fans notice it of their own accord. I can’t remember who told me this story, but when somebody in fandom took a totally non-slashy friend to the last Highlander movie, in the midst of trying to puzzle out wtf was going on (a common problem while watching Highlander movies), the friend leaned over during one of the three minutes Methos was on screen and said, “So is he that other guy’s boyfriend?” I mean, if you’re not even sneaking it past the newbies, then come on.

3. They touch each other in somewhat inappropriate ways
This one is a little more complicated than it originally seems. I’m basically opposed to the simple touching=sex that can be so prevalent in this culture, but I do think that a willingness to be deeply and intimately inside someone else’s personal space indicates a certain level of trust and making oneself vulnerable. This means that different levels of touch register as meaningful for different characters, depending on what their baseline is. Aaron Sorkin characters are habitually touchy; they can hug everything in sight and it doesn’t necessarily mean all that much. If something Weird is going on in a Sorkin show, you have to kick it up a notch – like having Jed kiss Leo from his hospital bed (West Wing). For the most part, a kiss on the face is a gesture that carries enormous canonical weight and totally counts for purposes of establishing Weirdness – Buffy and Faith (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) both kiss each other at different times, Krycek kisses Mulder (X-Files). I tend to view hands as intimate almost on the level of faces, so that I put a fair amount of weight on clasped hands, particularly when the cinematography emphasizes it, such as Wes/Gunn in “Thin Dead Line” (Angel). A less inherently loaded gesture, however, can locate characters in this category if one or both of the characters tend to be protective of their personal space. Pembleton and Bayliss (Homicide) are so damn slashy because Pembleton hardly touches anyone of his own free will except his wife and Bayliss, so that the physical closeness they share particularly in “Life Everlasting” with their foreheads together and his hands on Bayliss’ face, which would be pretty striking with any characters, leaves you slightly gobsmacked. Thelma and Cassie (Hex) are also frequently filmed to emphasize their physicality with each other, particularly that rather iconic shot of them lying curled toward each other inside the protective sigil. It’s an emotionally intimate posture that implies something about the relationship and makes them look Weird About Each Other. Mulder was always very touchy with Scully, these little, protective gestures like putting a hand in the small of her back and leaning over her to be nearer to her eye-level when he talked – none of them expressly sexual, but all of them highly contact- and connection-oriented.

4. There’s no one else in the world that matters as much
Again, this doesn’t mean that their friendships with other characters aren’t real, but for some characters, there’s clearly one person who is *the* person they trust and value. Due South was a slashy show because there was never more than one person at a time who had a personal friendship with Fraser. Likewise, Pembleton could hardly bear anyone’s company but Bayliss’. Sam and Dean are a closed system because of their history and their ideas about what family means; no one else can ever come into that relationship and as things stand now neither of them have any outside relationship that can rival it. To my mind, Simon/River (Firefly) fall into this category even though they both have other friends, because it’s beyond my imagining that Simon in particular would ever go as far for anyone else as he would for River (I feel the same way about River, but there’s less canonical reason for me to think so; it’s just an instinct). Logan used to have a larger stable of people he cared about, but death and felony kidnapping have thinned the herd, and he’s basically down to just Veronica. Janeway/7 (Star Trek: Voyager) were slashy because for a long time 7 didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought except Janeway. A lot of the people I’ve already discussed come in under this heading as well – who’s in Thelma’s life except Cassie? Who’s in Mulder’s except for Scully, or Joe Dick’s except for Billy? Kevin Smith is particularly fond of writing these kind of relationships between men, from Loki and Bartleby (Dogma) to Dante and Randal (Clerks), the last of which has a very affecting speech in Clerks 2 that literally boils down to, don’t leave me, you’re the only person in my universe. I always count Murphy and McManus (Oz) because, although we don’t know a ton about Sean’s private life, it doesn’t seem like he has much of one, leaving the long-standing friendship with Tim pretty much his lone emotional connection (Tim doesn’t have any *functional* relationships except Sean, either, which sort of counts).

There’s a temptation to establish a category for a canonical willingness to die for each other, but I think that’s a lot like the touching issue: it depends on the character. You can’t get mileage out of it with a character like Buffy or Sheppard, because they have self-images that require them to take burdens like that on themselves as a matter of duty. In fact, heroic/action shows tend to define their heroes by a willingness to be self-sacrificing; it’s almost SOP, and if it happens often enough, it’s hard to assign it much weight – we tend not to embrace characters at all if we think they aren’t willing to die for the people who depend on them; we’re usually not even comfortable with characters who won’t put themselves on the line for strangers/innocent bystanders, let alone anyone they even remotely like. Even McKay, who’s allegedly so self-protective, puts himself in potentially mortal danger in “Hide and Seek,” the very second episode of the series, to save Atlantis as a whole, and continues to do it on a relatively regular basis, so none of those instances strike me as particularly “for” anyone, or as meaning anything more than McKay’s essentially a brave and honorable man who doesn’t realize that about himself. Just so you don’t think I’m cheating, I rule out Thelma’s self-sacrifice on similar grounds; she doesn’t set herself up to vanish into the afterlife *for Cassie,* she does it to protect the world from the release of the Nephilim – though she dies initially in a scene where both she and Cassie offer themselves up explicitly in exchange for the other’s life. Super ultra mega bonus points, however, for self-sacrifices that aren’t even about saving the other person, but just about being willing to stand with them even through death – Simon sharing River’s pyre, Xander’s unconditional love for Willow in “Grave,” Sam and Frodo at the end of all things.

What you may notice about this is that a lot of shows I love don’t make many appearances on the list, because I tend to like ensemble casts, which by definition skew away from the focus required to make two characters canonically Weird About Each Other. I don’t think of shows like Buffy and Firefly and Stargate:Atlantis as especially slashy, because they work so hard to establish the primacy of the team-relationship over the pairing-relationship; you have to bring someone in from outside, in a sense, someone whose connections to the team are shakier (Faith, Simon and River to a large degree, although if the show had lasted longer they probably would have been further integrated into Serenity and maybe become less Weird About Each Other), in order to establish a canonically slashy pairing. West Wing has the same dynamic among the staff, although Jed’s position removes him from their camaraderie in such a way that he can be Weird About Someone without disrupting the balance within the core cast – you already can’t be all-for-one-and-one-for-all when they all serve at your pleasure. Atlantis to me is a notably un-slashy show, with every potential slash or het pairing failing on almost every count: none of them nurture a partnership over and above the general good of Atlantis, none of them are very overtly sexual, none of them tend to touch each other, and all of them have close relationships with multiple people.

All of these shows are great for fanfic, specifically because canon doesn’t push writers into one pairing at the expense of others. There’s a lot of affection running in a lot of different directions, so it’s easy to lock onto the characters you like best and build around them. That makes them slash-friendly, in a sense, without ever being slashy.

Comments

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ixchel55
Aug. 16th, 2006 06:56 pm (UTC)
I have to say that I was never really enamoured of Sheppard/McKay. It's not because I can't see a case being made for them, but because to me, they just don't fit as a sexual couple. Life-long friends - yes. Brothers - yes. Lovers - not really. But that's just me. Because I don't see Ronon/McKay at all. And that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy your stories, because quality fic, no matter what the pairing, gets my admiration. But I just don't see a sexual connection between Ronon and McKay at all. I see more between Sheppard and McKay.

Now...Sheppard/Ronon? That I see all over the place. *G*

I guess when it comes down to it, a lot of it's just a matter of perception and personal taste.

I liked a lot of your examples, though.
hth_the_first
Aug. 16th, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC)
Because I don't see Ronon/McKay at all.

Dude, that's what I'm saying! Neither do I! They're not at all slashy in canon -- which isn't going to stop me from writing stories about them. Like I said, I actually have a fondness for writing stories about pairings I don't think are really "there" on screen. It really just becomes, what if it were there, how would that go? I hope people don't feel like I'm saying that kind of story is less valid somehow.

Now...Sheppard/Ronon? That I see all over the place.

There are a couple of times when I've felt they've been cracking the door open toward that in canon. It's never risen to my "oh, God, they're so in love, it's practically canonical!" benchmark, but I keep catching these little glimmers (particularly their hospital scene in Sateda -- the camera focus on their clasped hands, the long eye contact, etc.) that make me think, huh, if they keep going this direction, it's really going to get serious. I don't think they will keep going in that direction, though, because I do think they're more committed to the ensemble cast -- but I have to say that if you put a gun to my head and asked who's weirdest about whom on Atlantis, I'd say Sheppard and Ronon. But it's all relative; they wouldn't even make the needle move next to most of the other couples I used as examples here.


(no subject) - terrie01 - Aug. 16th, 2006 09:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
liviapenn
Aug. 16th, 2006 07:01 pm (UTC)

This is really interesting-- I especially like the idea of a shared "thing" as being "where the characters live" -- this is so true for Dan/Casey and Holden/Banky in a way I hadn't really thought of before (although Holden and Banky also physically live together, don't they?) This is also totally a Bruce/Dick thing-- Dick may have moved out, but the mission will always be "where they live." (Wesley/Gunn is like that too.)

Super ultra mega bonus points, however, for self-sacrifices that aren’t even about saving the other person, but just about being willing to stand with them even through death – Simon sharing River’s pyre, Xander’s unconditional love for Willow in “Grave,” Sam and Frodo at the end of all things.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Another thing I'd never really thought about specifically before, but just really works.

Would you say that SG1 falls into the same sort of ensemble everybody-is-mildly-weird-about-everybody category, or are there SG1 characters you consider weird about each other?

Atlantis to me is a notably un-slashy show, with every potential slash or het pairing failing on almost every count: none of them nurture a partnership over and above the general good of Atlantis, none of them are very overtly sexual, none of them tend to touch each other, and all of them have close relationships with multiple people.

To me, the thing that makes *me* weird about a pairing is pretty much exactly that: it doesn't necessarily have to be touching inappropriately or living together, but yeah-- what are they to each other that no one else is? What are they to each other that's kind of *weird* and intimate and not a relationship that you can easily just say "Friends!" or "Co-workers!" Lex and Clark, Jim and Blair, even "enemyslash" like Giles and Ethan, Fraser and Victoria, or Xavier and Magneto. I'm with you in that I don't as yet see any one pairing on SGA being *overwhelmingly* Weird About Each Other (except maybe John/Ronon, a little) ... yet.
liviapenn
Aug. 16th, 2006 07:08 pm (UTC)

Also, I think this is a major reason people are so invested in Rodney being an awesome ninja special forces killer with perfect aim who never drops his gun and/or John being a super secret physics savant who can solve Millenium Problems with nothing but a pointy stick and a piece of string. Because that's sort of a *surface* way to indicate that they are Living In The Same Place, and otherwise, what you're left with is two guys who don't even like the same Catwoman. ;)
(no subject) - hth_the_first - Aug. 16th, 2006 08:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - liviapenn - Aug. 16th, 2006 11:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ravenclaw_devi - Aug. 17th, 2006 09:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hth_the_first - Aug. 16th, 2006 08:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - liviapenn - Aug. 16th, 2006 10:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Helen's story? - marysuewriter - Aug. 16th, 2006 10:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Helen's story? - liviapenn - Aug. 16th, 2006 10:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zvi_likes_tv - Aug. 17th, 2006 09:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
voleuse
Aug. 16th, 2006 07:04 pm (UTC)
Oooh, thanks for writing this. I've never particularly thought about why I find particular pairings slashy, but this rings absolutely true to my own experience.

I’m apparently the only person on earth who doesn’t think Sheppard and McKay are particularly slashy

You are so not alone, there.
hth_the_first
Aug. 16th, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC)
You are so not alone, there.

That's always nice to hear! *g*
(no subject) - jacquez - Aug. 16th, 2006 10:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hth_the_first - Aug. 17th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - castalianspring - Aug. 19th, 2006 11:20 am (UTC) - Expand
mecurtin
Aug. 16th, 2006 07:26 pm (UTC)
I once asked my flist about the non-slashiness of SGA and got some interesting answers, most of which boil down to "the love is more about the team than the pairing". Which I love (see icon), but it definitely doesn't hit Weird About Each Other to the degree Jim/Blair and Xena/Gabrielle do, or even in the same direction. I *like* that about SGA & McShep, it makes their relationship more sane, but I can see why it doesn't ring the ding-ding-get-yer-hott-slashin-here button in the same way.
hth_the_first
Aug. 16th, 2006 08:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for pointing me to that discussion, that was really interesting!

Yeah, for me it's just...I guess a definitional problem? Like, I totally appreciate their friendship and their snark and the way they do rely on each other (as counterparts on the senior staff and teammates certainly should), but, you know, I've had friends. That's kind of what friendship *is.* I'm always baffled by people who say things like, "Did you see how Sheppard sat down on the floor beside him while he worked on the computer, OMG, they're so in love!!!" I'm like, what was he supposed to do, stand on McKay's head? Wouldn't practically *anyone* who wanted to have a conversation with someone on the floor sit down? And I think "sane" is a great word to apply to them; they like each other in a sane, comfortable kind of way, with good moods and bad moods and a bedrock of trust, which is a great kind of relationship to see on-screen, and I think it's also fun to read about, whether it's kept gen or whether a writer decides to drop a firecracker into the vat by adding in a sexual element to that relationship.
(no subject) - mecurtin - Aug. 16th, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - hth_the_first - Aug. 17th, 2006 11:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
cathexys
Aug. 16th, 2006 08:01 pm (UTC)
Wonderful list and explanation! I especially like how you distinguish between particular and general behavior (like the Buffy and Sheppard dying thing versus the only for you thing of other characters).

Of course, I disagree on McShep, but then slash always is in the eyes of the beholder, right? :-)

[and I just realized that Livia said it so much better with what are they to each other that no one else is... I think it might be about *choice*, i.e., if you *have* to live together it's very different than consciously choosing to do so (possibly even against all odds), etc.
hth_the_first
Aug. 16th, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks!

I think it's not so much eye-of-the-beholder as it is...the level you set your benchmarks at. Mine are super-high, I think. I mean, I agree with almost everything the McSheppers say about the pairing (look, they trust each other! look, they're playful with each other! look, they worry about each other!) -- I mean, all of that is totally true, and I see it. It's just that I don't hit my wow, can you believe how slashy this is? point until I get all that *plus* some of these other things. Different people want to put the magic number at different places on the sliding scale -- if you see what I mean.
some_stars
Aug. 16th, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
*sigh* yes. yes. this precisely. i have such a ridiculous and unhealthy THING for people who are each other's total universes like that, although I also include small teams--SG1 are all married to each other(i totally don't acknowledge the last few seasons *g*), for example, although any particular pairing within the foursome feels not quite right to me.
hth_the_first
Aug. 17th, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC)
There's kind of a weird grey-space with small, closed groups like the Scooby gang and boybands and arguably SG1 (though I've never so much seen it with them, maybe because I only started watching regularly four years ago, so even with all the reruns I've seen, the recent seasons are what I first think of when someone says "SG1"). My general feeling is that they lend themselves very well to slash, but I'm always reluctant to say, you know, *this* is how they all feel about each other, because other than the general (yes, love and friendship, definitely) -- I think you have to leave space for the individual relationships within the group to be different from one another. So like, if you say All the Scoobies Are Totally Weird About Each Other, I'm not going to say you're wrong, but at the same time, I'm going to stomp my foot and say that blanket statements are unfair because Buffy/Willow is not Willow/Xander is not Buffy/Giles is not Giles/Xander, and those relationships are all special and lovely in different ways, and it oversimplifies things to equate them with this kind of even-handed, oh, it's all Team Love. Which isn't what you were saying, I know, but it's just my general stance on Group Slut Fic *g*
frostfire_17
Aug. 16th, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC)
Hi. *waves* I don't think you know me, but...

This is absolutely fascinating--and I agree with pretty much everything you said. I'd like to put out my view on McKay/Sheppard, which is--I like the pairing so much because they aren't really all that slashy. Because any writer actually paying attention to the show dynamics knows that given their on-screen relationship, it's pretty unlikely that they'd just fall into bed together, and what this means is--long, plotty fanfiction, where the author has to work to get them together. This opens up a huge number of options that aren't available to, say, Jim and Blair or Ray and Fraser--you get to see the whole process of "well, we're co-workers and we like each other okay when the other one isn't being totally crazy" through becoming closer to each other, maybe being put into situations where they begin to fit in one of the four categories, and so on.

And I do realize that many, many McKay/Sheppard lovers do not ascribe to the above, and do just drop them into bed with each other. This is my personal opinion. :)

Really, I think it's the same reason I love Atlantis fandom so much despite the fact that the show is *cough* not actually that good. There's so much you can do with it. If your pairing is like Jim and Blair, or House and Wilson, and really seriously obviously married, there's less fanfiction potential. Or at least different fanfiction potential. (Although watching the show then becomes that much more fun.)

Anyway. *cough* The McKay/Sheppard fan puts in her two cents. And again, this was a fascinating post! I'm totally going to be measuring slashiness by these points, now.
hth_the_first
Aug. 17th, 2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
I like the pairing so much because they aren't really all that slashy. Because any writer actually paying attention to the show dynamics knows that given their on-screen relationship, it's pretty unlikely that they'd just fall into bed together, and what this means is--long, plotty fanfiction, where the author has to work to get them together.

The fandom could use FIFTY MORE OF YOU. This is an awesome attitude, very on-the-nose for the joys of writing less-than-obvious pairings.

If your pairing is like Jim and Blair, or House and Wilson, and really seriously obviously married, there's less fanfiction potential.

Nine hundred and fifteen million stories on the 852 Prospect archive stand in the way of that theory. *g* I do agree that it's different, and I wonder if some of the weirdness I've sensed in the McShep world (McShepWorld! The rides go *really* fast and the caramel corn never gets stuck in your teeth!) is a matter of people from fandoms like SV and TS trying to apply the skills they learned in reading/writing those shows to a show that's very different in lots of structural and character-dynamic ways.
(no subject) - frostfire_17 - Aug. 19th, 2006 01:11 am (UTC) - Expand
mikou
Aug. 16th, 2006 11:20 pm (UTC)
...I’m apparently the only person on earth who doesn’t think Sheppard and McKay are particularly slashy...

Oh no. You can add me to the list. Once in a while I'll read a highly recommended McKay/Sheppard story, but every time I watch the show, I wonder where the slashiness is.

Okay, that's not really true. There are instances I can point to where I can say 'There. The fandom will be all over that moment.' But to me, they don't have a sexual undertone. They represent team dynamics and maybe even friendship, but not much else.

It's much easier for me to see Sheppard/Ronon and I was trying to figure out why, with regards to your essay. I guess the 'no one else much matters' is the closest fit because Ronon has been a loner for years and doesn't seem to be inclined to follow orders, but he does so immediately for John. And many people seem a little intimidated by Ronon, where John doesn't doesn't have that problem. Obviously, others matter, but in their interactions, sometimes others fall into the background. This is especially true in season 1.

Of course, it's easiest for me to apply your theories to 2 other fandoms. Jack and Sawyer on "Lost" have got the eyefuck and the touching downpat. And Jim and Blair (The Sentinel) are practically poster children for slash.

Thanks for the interesting essay.
hth_the_first
Aug. 17th, 2006 11:59 pm (UTC)
There are instances I can point to where I can say 'There. The fandom will be all over that moment.' But to me, they don't have a sexual undertone. They represent team dynamics and maybe even friendship, but not much else.

I never thought I would become one of those "Christ, does everything have to be about sex with you slashers?" people, but suddenly I am. Like it's not even *possible* that they're sometimes nice to each other and concerned about each other because they're friends? *shrug*

I can see what you're saying about Ronon not having anyone in his life but Sheppard; I definitely think I felt that way when Ronon first showed up -- that everyone else on the show was just someone he put up with because Sheppard wanted him to. But I think he integrated so well into the cast that we lost a lot of that; as early as "Conversion," it seems like they're already The Team. I think the way I'd define my take on the Sheppard/Ronon is that it isn't canonically slashy, but it's a short, short step to get there *g*

Jack and Sawyer on "Lost" have got the eyefuck and the touching downpat. And Jim and Blair (The Sentinel) are practically poster children for slash.

I haven't watched Lost since 1st season, so I'm going to take your word for it on that. And as for Jim and Blair, not for nothing were they the very first example I used *g* It's hard to get more canonically Weird About Each Other than the two of them.

musesfool
Aug. 17th, 2006 12:21 am (UTC)
Super ultra mega bonus points, however, for self-sacrifices that aren’t even about saving the other person, but just about being willing to stand with them even through death – Simon sharing River’s pyre, Xander’s unconditional love for Willow in “Grave,” Sam and Frodo at the end of all things.

Yes. So much yes for this.

I'm also really glad you included some het relationships here, because for me it's the dynamic much more than the gender that pings, though I've never been successful at explaining why some things strike me as slashy (Wes/Gunn) and others don't (Frankentim) even when a similar dynamic is on display.
hth_the_first
Aug. 18th, 2006 12:10 am (UTC)
Definitely yes with the dynamic; I think there's less het than slash that hits that dynamic because a lot of times writers are lazy with their het on television. They figure, Cute Guy, Cute Girl, what more do you need? The fans'll love it! And a lot of fans usually do. But those of us who want those relationships really built and made so water-tight that they're inevitable often just don't get it from het relationships. I'm not sure, that's just a gut instinct.

A lot of the "ping," obviously, still has to do with personal taste, especially when theoretical sexual attraction comes in. Like I said, I like the idea of Weird About Each Other, because it relies less on what gets us off -- so like, somebody can say "I never saw Frank/Tim as slashy," and I can say "OMG! They're so in love!" and we would disagree with each other...but probably if I said, "They are pretty weird about each other, though, aren't they?" almost anyone on earth would agree with me. It's probably a fool's quest to find anything that all fans will agree on, but I've always been quixotic like that!
(no subject) - musesfool - Aug. 20th, 2006 04:53 am (UTC) - Expand
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wemblee
Aug. 17th, 2006 12:27 am (UTC)
In my ongoing bafflement as to why I’m apparently the only person on earth who doesn’t think Sheppard and McKay are particularly slashy

Totally not just you. *g* I'm also of the "I like the well-written fanfic but don't really see it on the show" variety -- I don't even really see them as friends on the show! (But then, I didn't see Clark and Lex as friends, either, no matter how often the show told me they were. Possibly because we didn't see them play videogames together. That is apparently my Ultimate Benchmark For Male Friendship.)

Your essay makes sense. I wonder if it's also... like, Starsky & Hutch and The Sentinel -- I don't think, at the start, TPTB behind those shows were aware of how homoerotic it was, because there was just less awareness of homoeroticism in general (of course, the TS PTB got hip to it...) Whereas SGA's PTB are more aware of that, perhaps, and can make things less homoerotic, intentionally? Not that I think they're standing there going, "You two! Too gay! Back it up!" :)
hth_the_first
Aug. 18th, 2006 12:25 am (UTC)
But then, I didn't see Clark and Lex as friends, either, no matter how often the show told me they were. Possibly because we didn't see them play videogames together. That is apparently my Ultimate Benchmark For Male Friendship.

Hee! And that's probably a good benchmark for most guys. With Lex, though -- I'm having trouble seeing that as something he does with his friends. Or ever. He's more the bottle-of-Cabernet-and-hours-of-conversation-about-the-meaning-of-life-as-reported-by-Heraclitus kind of guy. What I liked about his friendship with Clark was how much joy they both seemed to take in doing nice things for each other; I always got this sense that (say whatever you will about all altruism being selfish in some bedrock way), they both just got a really honest pleasure out of seeing the other one do well and look happy, and that they tried to help that along when they could. And really, what more do you want from your friends?

I think Sheppard and McKay are friends, but they're -- like pals at work. I kind of suspect they don't socialize all that much, but they eat lunch together, they have the occasional Batman conversation, and they harbor the familial love for each other that all the team shares. And there's nothing wrong with that! I think they make a cute team. I like them the way they are.

It is harder now to be as sort of naively Totally Gay as something like S&H, or even TS was. You can't be unaware of it anymore, so you have some people going the route of backing off, and some playing it off as more of a joke (like Friends always did with Chandler and Joey's Big Heterosexual Love).
destina
Aug. 17th, 2006 12:53 am (UTC)
I love this post. I'm going to eat it for breakfast, and because it's so incredibly tasty, I'm not even going to use ketchup.
giglet
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:02 am (UTC)
Huh.

ensemble casts, which by definition skew away from the focus required to make two characters canonically Weird About Each Other

But it's great for entire Teams being Weird About Each Other.

Sometimes I really like the "obsessession à deux" aspect of slashiness, the "weird about each other" so-in-love thing you talk about here. But sometimes it squicks me as being unhealthy and stalker-ish. Luckily, I like threesomes, which *can't* really be as narrow-focus, and which can also (with slash goggles, obviously) fit fairly nicely over the canon of ensemble cast shows. SG-1: Jack is Weird about His Team. All of them *together*. Or Popslash: when canon has five guys living together, working together, goofing off together, calling each other "family", (their parents vacationing together,) and literally piled on top of each other for *years*... can group sex fic be far behind?
hth_the_first
Aug. 18th, 2006 12:40 am (UTC)
Sometimes I really like the "obsessession à deux" aspect of slashiness, the "weird about each other" so-in-love thing you talk about here. But sometimes it squicks me as being unhealthy and stalker-ish.

You know, I hear people say all the time that those traditonally slashy couples are unhealthy and obsessive, and I always think, shuh, really? Because for the most part -- except when one of the people in the relationship is perhaps legitimately scary and dangerous like Logan Echolls -- the behavior itself seems not unlike a lot of married couples to me. I mean, I know in some marriages people have a lot of space and their own whole spheres of interest etc., but not always. My own parents, for example, would totally clean up on points 1, 3, and 4 on this list; my has bridge club occasionally, my dad eats lunch with his co-workers, they both have kids and siblings they love, but basically, their concept of coming home at the end of the day is to come *home* and be together. They started dating forty-four years ago, and yeah, I think they're the bedrock and foundation of each other's emotional world. It never seemed weird to me; it seemed like a marriage. What I find "weird" about these characters isn't that I think they're nuts, it's that their allegedly friends, and yet they act like it's a marriage.

Again, I'm not talking about the pairings where the dysfunction is the *point* of them -- your Clark/Lex, your Mulder/Krycek, your Logan/Veronica. Barring things like that, I think that if both your characters are reasonably healthy on their own merits (as much as anyone on tv is healthy), you can have them be Weird About Each Other without turning them instantly dysfunctional.

And far be it from me ever to discourage OT3s or GSF, in any fandom! These things are the light of my fannish life, though I did post a comment to LC above about why I kind of shy away from using the Weird About Each Other to talk about groups of people. Short version, I think it accidentally homogenizes the situation so that, for example, it starts to sound like Jack feels the same way about everyone on his team, rather than saying that Jack has a deep love for each of them that is totally distinctive and interesting in each case. So it's not *not* true, but I do think it hits my ear wrong somehow.
thelana
Aug. 17th, 2006 05:16 am (UTC)
I'm completely with you on not really seeing McShep on the show. Ok, maybe I do by now because I know about the vastness of their popularity so I keep looking for things to explain them. But when I watched the show without knowing the fandom? Never noticed. Still don't think that they are anything to write home about.

I have to admit that (1) [being partners] doesn't matter as much to me, mostly because I also quite enjoy enemyships. But (4) is really important to me. If I am to ship someething, I really have to believe that they have *something* special and unique. It doesn't always have to be as big as "nobody matters more" (especially since I'm a big fan of characters where the mission matters more than any person ever could), but it has to be something that I believe nobody outside can touch. Whether it is a family bond, understanding each other best, getting under each others skin, giving each other peace and comfort or giving each other passion or direction or mentorship. And it has to be twosided for me. (don't get me wrong, sometimes I'm specifically in the mood for angsty, tragic onesided pairings or stories)

There are a lot of popular pairings I can appreciate in fiction but I don't really see on the show, simply because their relationship on the show is nice, but doesn't strike me as special enough. Yeah, Grissom is nice to Nick and they have bonding moments, but he has had bonding moments with everybody on his team. I don't really see why those moments with Nick should be more persuasive of an interest in Nick than his moments with Warwick (or Cath or Sara or Greg) are. I'm guessing that is where chemistry comes in. But I think to me, that just makes somebody a pairing which might be fun to play around with, but if the canon foundation is nothing to write home about, it keeps the pairing from crossing into out of this world territory. To me chemistry usually just triggers "I like the bonding moments between X/Y bettter, because they have more chemistry" and not "those moments mean more in the context of the show.". They usually, in fic, usually make me think "Yeah, if they were the main/only relationship on the show, they might be really awesome." But in the context of this show they are just one of many.

I do think that a lot of pairings might be created by having a reduced viewpoint. Like, I like side character X. I look around the show with whom X has relationships. He has the most important relationship with Y and therefore I ship X/Y, regardless of what other relationships Y might have, because this is not my viewpoint, because I watch the show from the point of view of character X. Again, nothing wrong with that. And it can create great stories. But it does affect whether I see them on the show as a pairing. Or whether I see them as a healthy pairing.

For me the specialness has to be mutual in some way, for the couple to really have "superdupercouple" status.
hth_the_first
Aug. 18th, 2006 12:44 am (UTC)
I basically agree with everything you've said. Secrit handshake!
ravenclaw_devi
Aug. 17th, 2006 09:25 am (UTC)
(here via metafandom)

I think you just nailed down why I have no set pairing preference as far as Atlantis goes.
hth_the_first
Aug. 18th, 2006 12:46 am (UTC)
Yeah, I've said from the beginning that Atlantis is my Slutty Fandom of Slutty Slutitude. I'll pretty much take anything (except anything Elizabeth-related, because Elizabeth annoys me. And even then, I'll read the occasional Elizabeth/Ronon, because I love Ronon more than I dislike *anybody.*) Part of it is that they're all so prrrrretty, but yeah, a lot of it is that there aren't any pairings that strike me as so canonical that I have to explain them away in my head.
catwalksalone
Aug. 17th, 2006 12:12 pm (UTC)
Here via metafandom

I found this post really interesting, because I've been discussing Dan/Casey and Fraser/RayV, Fraser/RayK a lot with my husband lately. I can't help but slash them all for the excellent reasons you gave. He, on the other hand, can totally see Fraser/RayK (and he loves them riding off together into the sunset - did I marry a girl?) but doesn't get the others at all. (Just checking with him now he does get Holden/Banky and Dante/Randall - though he thinks Dante might need a little push.) He reads everything I write (perhaps not teh p0rn) - i.e. Dan/Casey - and really likes it, but still can't believe the pairing.

And yet he acknowledges the on screen chemistry, the touching, the prioritising of the relationship (Isaac's speech to Casey in Thespis? - tell me he doesn't think they're life partners), the getting so far into each others' personal space that they might as well just fuck right there and be done with it. But he doesn't get it. *shrugs* Just chalk up one more to subjectivity.

In terms of pairings that don't match up to your standards, at least in the case of Ray/Ray there's a whole 'nother reason why that pairing is going to work, canonically it makes sense that these two survivors would cling to each other. They understand each other on a deep and weird level. They don't have enough screen time to be WAEO but they are, just in a different way. Plus you write it so well.

I love the whole concept of Weird About Each Other - there should be icons.
hth_the_first
Aug. 18th, 2006 07:33 am (UTC)
at least in the case of Ray/Ray there's a whole 'nother reason why that pairing is going to work, canonically it makes sense that these two survivors would cling to each other

Word! A lot of times the pairings I enjoy most are the ones who *aren't* Weird About Each Other but that I think should be. Because they'd totally be good for each other! And I can prove it, in this 220k multipart epic of luuuuurve! I live for that, because you get to play both sides: you're really using the canon to get into who the characters are (rather than just the Action Figure school of fanfic), but at the same time you're bringing a whole lot of your own perspective and creativity to this version of reality. I assume that's how a lot of McSheppers feel about their pairing, too, and I wholeheartedly approve. "Not incontrovertibly canonical" doesn't mean "not totally fucking cool" by any means *g* -- and like with Ray/Ray, you can use canon to get there! It's win/win! It's CAKE!

The kind of shared mental space you and your husband have hammered out is exactly the kind I'm sort of hoping to open up in fandom in general. Just that, you know, you don't have to be a Bliddy/Blah shipper in order to acknowledge that there's something happening there -- the "chemistry," the "prioritising," the whatever you feel like calling it. Hands across America! Sometimes characters are just Weird About Each Other, and active fans of them as a ship and casual non-shippy watchers of the shows should at least be able to agree on that.
(no subject) - catwalksalone - Aug. 18th, 2006 08:36 am (UTC) - Expand
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