Internet Authors Put TV Buddies in Unusual Romances

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News Media Commentary
Title: Internet Authors Put TV Buddies in Unusual Romances
Commentator: Cynthia Brouse
Date(s): 1998
Venue: The Globe and Mail (Toronto newspaper)
Fandom: due South, Buddy Cop Fandom
External Links: Internet Authors Put TV Buddies in Unusual Romances; archive link
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Internet Authors Put TV Buddies in Unusual Romances is an article by Cynthia Brouse that was published in the Toronto-based newspaper The Globe and Mail in 1998.[1]

Excerpts

Some TV producers claim they never read fan fiction, lest a writer should later accuse them of stealing an idea or plot. But Paul Gross, who plays Fraser on Due South and also serves as executive producer and writer, admits that he has read some slash stories involving his character. After he recovered from a boyish fit of giggles, Gross said, "It seems like a very strange pursuit, but it certainly doesn't bother me." As polite as the Mountie he plays, he added that what he read was quite well written and that as a writer he can see it would be a fun exercise.

He should know. Gross co-wrote a Due South episode in which Fraser saves his drowning partner by buddy-breathing underwater -- a scene that was shot to look remarkably like a passionate kiss. Was he tipping his hat to slash fans? "No, not at all," he said. "It's too marginal an audience to worry about." Anyway, said Gross, "no one's clever enough in television to be putting anything like that in."

And while some TV and film producers have threatened legal action against slash authors, Gross pointed out that a fan's fantasies are not an area into which his copyright extends. "I suppose that character is public ground," he said. "If you're willing to bring it into people's houses every week, the [fans] are entitled to certain liberties, wherever their imagination is carried by those characters."

Slash fiction -- named for the punctuation that pairs such male TV characters as Kirk/Spock (Star Trek) and Fraser/Ray (Due South) -- consists of fan-written stories, posted on Internet sites, that place the fictional pals in explicit homosexual fantasies. It has been around since the early 1970's, starting as an offshoot of the more traditional fan-written fiction and published in limited-circulation magazines. But while fan fiction helped keep a canceled series like Star Trek alive for a small core of die-hard, today's Web sites have made it possible for anyone to spread tales of TV character couplings around the world in an instant; a quick internet search will turn up slash stories based on shows from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Babylon 5 and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The quality of slash writing varies widely, as does the degree of sexual explicitness. A lot of slash is self-rated for adults only; some highly graphic stories are labeled with the acronym PWP for "Plot? What Plot?" or HSPABO for "Have spare panties available before opening." But while Mulder/Krycek stories may feature graphic (and sometimes violent) sex, the Due South Romance Association Web site (subtitled "Girls Who Like Boys Who Do Boys") is dedicated to romantic tales of RCMP Constable Benton Fraser and his partner, Chicago detective Ray Vecchio. Many Due South slash writers try to retain the strait-laced Mounties's innocence and logic, but they give him a new challenge. In one first-time story, Ray tells Fraser about his past experiences with men:

"Okay, what did we do? A little frottage, mutual masturbation, fellatio and you don't have a clue what I'm talking about do you?"

"No, Ray." Fraser circled one of his lovers nipples contemplatively. "Perhaps if you wrote it down I could look it up next time I'm in the library."

Slash fans are exasperated by the suggestion that the most radical aspect of their hobby is that women would read depictions of graphic sex between men. Slashers respond that not only are they appropriating commercial TV, they're reclaiming pornography -- both worlds that have traditionally been male-dominated. If there are few strong female characters in TV to write about, slashers can at least make the male characters do their bidding. They point out that sex between women for the pleasure of men is a staple of main-stream pornography: why shouldn't it work the other way around? Slash would seem to be the perfect porn for women; It's hot, and it features not just one beautiful male body, but two. And by definition, there are no women on the scene to be degraded (or to be jealous of), so the complaints of anti-porn feminists are neatly sidestepped. Sexually, it's a level playing field.

Wendy Pearson, a cultural studies professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., says that slash writers get to reinvent men. "A lot of slash writing looks at the identity categories that the late 20th century has slotted people into -- including straight and gay -- and has decided that they're far too rigid and divisive."

References

  1. Brouse, Cynthia. Internet Authors Put TV Buddies in Unusual Romances. The Globe and Mail p. C.6. August 8, 1998. Accessed October 1, 2008 through ProQuest Canadian Newsstand.