In Defense of Slash

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Fanwork
Title: In Defense of Slash
Creator: AC
Date(s): on or before 2001
Medium: online meta essay
Fandom: Meta, fan fiction
External Links: in English and translated into Hungarian; Magyar, at Writers University; WebCite
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Contents

In Defense of Slash is an essay on slash fan fiction written by AC. It quotes heavily from Textual Poachers and Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth.

It was posted to Writers University.

Excerpts

...the inherent value of the show lies not in its creation and production, but in how it is ‘reworked’ by the fans. As Jenkins states (1992:51) the fan, like the boy in the story

“has the power to bring the toy to life and only the boy grieves its loss. Only the boy can make it 'Real'..... Seen from the perspective of the toymaker, who has an interest in preserving the stuffed animal just as it was made, the Velveteen Rabbit's loose joints and missing eyes represent vandalism, the signs of misuse and rough treatment; yet for the boy, they are traces of fondly remembered experiences, evidence of his having held the toy too closely and pet it too often; in short, marks of its loving use.”

Similarly, although the creators and producers of a TV show may intend for their product to be interpreted in one way, it is the reworking by its loyal fans, which perhaps may be in diametrical opposition to the original intent of the material, which gives deeper meaning to the work. It is this tension between the creator and the user which motivates fan textual poaching. The fans struggle with the material, "to articulate to themselves and others unrealized possibilities within the original works.... In the process, fans cease to be simply an audience for popular texts; instead they become active participants in the construction and accumulation of textual meanings." (Jenkins 1992:23-4)
Jenkins (1992:176) quotes fanfic writer Jane Land in explaining that “all writers alter and transform the basic Trek universe to some extent, filtering the characters and concepts through own perceptions. This is perfectly legitimate creative license.”

One of the most controversial of all fanfic sub-genres is of course slash -- stories which feature homoerotic relationships between what are perceived to be traditionally heterosexual characters. These stories vary widely, from admittedly frivolous ‘Plot, what plot’ (PWP) stories, to lengthy series centering around stable, committed relationships. The degree to which sexual contact between characters is described in a slash story varies as much as the amount of sexual contact varies in ‘het’ stories. There are some ‘slash stories’ which do not contain ANY sexual contact at all -- they are considered ‘slash’ simply because they presuppose a sexual relationship between two male characters.

Slash has been denigrated in many quarters, more so than other types of fanfic. The terms ‘mental masturbation,’ ‘the obvious projection of sexual fantasies on characters,’ and similar dismissing observations have been applied to it. Jenkins (1992: 202) warns that in focusing on the erotic underpinnings of slash, “we ignore its larger narrative content and its complex relationship to the primary text. Slash, like other genres of fan fiction, represents a mode of textual commentary.” There is an inherent sexual undertone to the genre (as it supposes a sexual relationship as background material if not part of the active plot); however, Bacon-Smith (1992:239-40) explains that “the sexual response to the genre, while its most obvious characteristic to an outsider, represents but a single one of the many complexly interwoven reasons why women write homoerotic fiction.” Further, Jenkins (1992:188) asserts that slash “may be fandom’s most original contribution to the field of popular literature.” He adds that slash is “not so much a genre about sex as it is a genre about the limitations of traditional masculinity ....” (191)
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