The Ray Wars
|Event:||The Ray Wars|
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The Wars began with the casting of Callum Keith Rennie as Detective Stanley Raymond Kowalski. In the season opener for the third season, Kowalski is introduced -- not as Kowalski, but as Detective Ray Vecchio. The original Ray Vecchio, played by David Marciano, was undercover for the FBI as Mafia boss Armando L., for whom he is said to be a "dead ringer." Not only does Kowalski look nothing like Vecchio, he has a completely different attitude, style, and personality.
A number of fans, who liked Vecchio just as he was, became upset by the way the show presented the change. Rather than introduce Kowalski as a character in his own right, the show framed the change as something to be accepted, just in the same way that Fraser had to accept it. This caused some fans to consider the show over at the end of second season, even to the point where some said the show jumped the shark at that point. Other fans thought that adding RayK was the best thing that could have happened to the show because the slashy subtext between Fraser and RayK was so strong and they couldn't see the slash between Fraser and RayV. At its heart, the Ray Wars were a shipping war as well.
Unlike some fandoms, this became a rallying point. Lists -- where most of the fannish discussion occurred at the time -- were created where membership hinged on whether you supported Vecchio or Kowalski. Some lists staunchly defended their right to choose in either direction. For a fan who simply wanted to enjoy the show, regardless of whether it was Vecchio as Vecchio or Kowalski as Vecchio, it often felt like the battle lines were drawn.
One of the root causes for this dissent was the effort some fans took to see that the show survived. It was one of the first shows in the '90s to be revived after cancellation through fannish effort -- at one point, several hundred rubber ducks were mailed to the show's producers -- and the reward was a show that no longer featured one of the main reasons for bringing the show back, that being Vecchio as played by Marciano. Some fans felt that supporting the show in the wake of this change was disloyal to the effort and expense given to keep the show alive.
A RayV-fan perspective
Many Ray V fans felt that the show went out of its way not simply to replace Ray V, but to obliterate his presence from the show by getting rid of his house and iconic car. From a Doylist pov, all the destruction in "Burning Down The House" was necessary to set up the radical production changes of Due South's third season, but to Ray V fans, they felt gratuitous and hurtful. Many Ray K fans were also thoughtless or overtly callous in their comparison of Ray K to Ray V in terms of looks and their physical attraction to him, and this too was hurtful to Ray V fans. It also ignored the size and depth of the Fraser/Vecchio fandom; Due South was a huge and happy slash fandom right from its premiere in 1994, and F/V was a huge pairing online, in zines, and in vids.
[more about Ray V fans to testify to their feelings/experiences here)
An example of a pro-Ray V mailing list is Two Axes (referencing a line where Ray Vecchio offers to help Fraser rebuild his father's cabin after Victoria burns it down). From the mailing lists FAQ: "Do you believe in your heart of hearts that Ray would NEVER leave Benny for an undercover assignment? Do you think that Benny and Ray are the perfect slash couple? Have you searched in vain for a place to indulge your love of Due South without the constant need to defend your dislike of the third season? Well, you've come to the right place. TwoAxes is a list dedicated to fanfic and discussion of all aspects of the first two years of DS with a heavy emphasis on the love between the One True Ray and the Mountie. WARNING: On TwoAxes derogatory remarks about the third season, especially RayK bashing, while not required, are actively encouraged! If you are not comfortable with this, now is the time to leave. Don't let the screen door hit you."
A RayK-fan perspective
(background, explanations, stories from RayK fans here)
- SergeAsylum mailing list. From the FAQ: "No Vecchiosmut. Period. Dot it, file it, stick it in a box marked 'Done.' You can talk about him, just post stories about him having sex somewhere else. Get over it." The list would not even permit threesomes fan fiction that involved Fraser, Ray Vecchio and Ray Kowalski.
A RayV-fan and RayK-fan perspective
(background, explanations, stories from fans who were fans of both RayK and RayV here)
A post-war-fan perspective
(background, explanations, stories from fans who came in after the wars here)Raine Wynd remembers:
I came in after most of the Ray/Ray wars were over as a actively broadcasting fandom (I became a fan in 1999), although I freely admit to having added to some of the flames, simply for writing Ray/Ray in 2000 and later. To the best of my recollection, I was the third or fourth author to write that pairing. I saw my work critiqued for the pairing; I had an interesting time proving to some that I was an equal-opportunity slasher. At the time I was first a fan, most of the activity was still on mailing lists; the migration to Yahoo!Groups from egroups was a recent memory rather than a historical one. There were lists I wasn't eligible to join because I had written Ray/Ray, or had written the other pairing, or simply had written the other character -- or stated on a list that I had no objection to either.It's been interesting to see how LiveJournal has influenced the way the Ray/Ray wars, post-the-burning-fires. It feels like it's not even an issue -- and it started to feel that way in around 2004. - Raine Wynd, October 2008
I came in near the end of the Ray Wars, and while I was a Fraser/Kowalski slasher, most of my friends from TS had been Fraser/Vecchio fans. There seemed to me to be bad behavior on both sides, and both had enclaves which reinforced insular behavior and tribalism; Two Axes, a Vecchio-centric list, was then known for its bashing of Ray Kowalski and third season, but there was a lot of Vecchio-bashing on the Ray K lists, too, and the Militant RayK Separatists (aka MRKS) didn't have that "militant" in their name for nothing. I agree with Raine Wynd above that the wars started to feel over around 2004. - Speranza, October 2008
Recent historyEarly 2009 saw an echo of the Ray Wars in a discussion that took place on several journals. Belmanoir opened the subject, saying that there was a strong Kowalski and Fraser/Kowalski bias in due South fandom and that she felt both marginalized and unable to talk about it due to the fandom's history:
The Ray Wars are over. I'm sure our awareness of that history, and our desire to make sure it never repeats, is part of what's made us the most friendly, considerate, awesome fandom I've ever been in. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean there's no tension in the fandom. It doesn't mean that F/V or Ray/Ray shippers never feel marginalized. To a certain extent, our past has also made us afraid to have healthy discussions about things that bother us. The last thing I want is constant drama and wank. But I'm also tired of feeling like I can't say when something bothers me because I'll be setting off the next Ray War. I don't believe that the community we've built is quite so fragile. I think we can handle it.
Other people said they felt like the fandom norms created as a result of the Ray Wars were having a chilling effect -- fans couldn't have public discussions about what they liked or didn't like about the characters or pairings. Akamine_chan summarized the discussion as: Some people feel that saying "I don't like X" is demeaning and disrespectful to anyone who does like X. So instead of saying "I don't like X," they want you to say, "I like Y." Other people don't agree with this, don't see how "I don't like X" can be hurtful.