Trekkies And RPS

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Title: Trekkies And RPS
Creator: NovaD and commenters
Date(s): April 17, 2003
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic: RPS, actorfic, Star Trek RPF
External Links: Trekkies And RPS
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Trekkies And RPS is a 2003 post by NovaD.

In it, she comments on RPS, her appearance in the film Trekkies, and her series called The Secret Logs of Mistress Janeway.

The Post

Trekkies didn't deal much with slash because the producers had a hard time finding authors who were willing to speak on camera about it. They spoke to me of lots who admitted to writing it until the camera rolled. I ended up on screen because someone had given Braga a hard copy of my work and I didn't mind talking about it. Incidentally, Trekkies II is in the works. The emphasis this time is on non-US fans and some alum from the first film.

On the other topic. I don't want to rain on anyone's writing parade and I certainly make no judgement on idividual tastes, but to weigh in on someone who has spoken to a number of actors on the subject of slash in general and RPS in particular, I have distanced myself from the latter in a big way. I've found that actors that shrug at or even are amused by slash do get offended by RPS. It's an issue of folks reading something on the net and thinking it's true and in some cases, an issue of stalking.

Do what you want. It's a free country, but remember that to the actors, you are no longer playing with characters. You are playing with a real person's life. Even at the risk of being flamed, I feel I needed to say something about the dismay I've encountered from actors over such stories.

NovaD

Some Comments

[Farfalla]:

> I've found that actors that shrug at or even are amused by slash do get offended by RPS. It's an issue of folks reading something on the net and thinking it's true

That's true. The lowest common denominator, the people who are too dumb or asleep to read huge warnings and signs will read it and think it's either true or referring to a true practice of the actor or other real person.

I dunno. I don't believe in RPS until after 4 am, which is about when all my mental inhibitions separating personal fantasy from literary smut dissolve under the mists of no-sleep....

...however, parody is parody is parody and that's also important...

Farfalla, whose mother used to write RP-het Beatles novels in middle school...
[James Richard Sheldon]: I just always figured RPS was standard practice, given stuff like the Nifty Archive's large and extensive collection of celebrity stories (http://www.nifty.org/nifty/gay/celebrity)...
[Ruth Gifford]:

This is a huge debate in the fanfiction community and it can get as ugly as the slash debate got on asc back in '97 (been there, done that, have the scars).

My own opinion is that this is fiction. The writers know it's fiction; every piece of RPS written by a slasher that I've ever read included a disclaimer to that effect. Therefore the readers should know it is fiction as well.

As for the actors being upset, well I daresay it depends on the actors.

A thing to remember here. A good number of the writers involved creating the canon fictional universes we take so much delight in turning sexual are not pleased about it at all. And yet, we still write slash. I'm not saying that it's right to do so, but bringing morality into this issue becomes tricky and flame-ridden quickly.
[Kira]:

Ultimately, whatever we do in any given situation we have to look at our own conscience. We're the only ones who have to live with our own actions, and if we don't feel bad about writing slash, we should write slash. If we don't feel comfortable with something we should steer clear of it, but I think it's wrong to judge others for their actions.

I personally am not too fond of the idea of RPS, but that's me, and who's to say I won't change my mind some day. It's happened before.
[Ruth Gifford]:

>Ultimately, whatever we do in any given situation we have to look at our own conscience. We're the only ones who have to live with our own actions, and if we don't feel bad about writing slash, we should write slash. If we don't feel comfortable with something we should steer clear of it, but I think it's wrong to judge others for their actions.

Thank you. I wish everyone had this sort of attitude.

>I personally am not too fond of the idea of RPS, but that's me, and who's to say I won't change my mind some day. It's happened before.

I used to be dead against it, which was why it was banned back when I wrote the ascem FAQ. I've since changed my mind. I may change my mind again.
[Alara Rogers]:

Well, except that most slash isn't parody.

"Parody" has a specific legal definition, I believe. It doesn't apply to absolutely any derivative work; a parody is protected because it's a form of political speech, used to satirize.

Most slash is not satirical.

I am rather disturbed by sentiments like "Hey, Shatner should just laugh it off if I write a story about him having sex with a guy." I *am* bisexual and if someone wrote a story about me having sex with a female co-worker I would be furious. It has nothing to do with whether or not people think it's real or not (although I will say that I believed for the longest time that the writer of "Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited" actually *knew* Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley personally, because otherwise how could she write them? I knew the story was fiction, that was obvious, but I thought the personalities were accurate. There is no good reason to think this is true.) It has to do with our rights to appropriate fiction.

See, human beings aren't fictional. If we appropriate someone else's fiction, that's not any kind of moral transgression against a real person. Some writers do get offended, which is why I feel that when single-individual writers of creator-owned works get pissy over fanfic people should STOP WRITING IT. But corporations like Paramount have no moral high ground-- they have no one writer working on Star Trek, and honestly, many of us are just as legitimately in tune with the spirit of Trek, or more so, than Berman and Braga.

Actors aren't fictional.

Some would argue that by virtue of being public figures actors have given up the right to control their own fictional presentation. I disagree. Actors grant us license to imagine their *bodies* in the context of fictional beings. Very, very few actors have the moral high ground to get upset because the character they play is paired sexually with another character. If those lines had been written for them, they would have had to go along with it. They're not in control of the character, and they are giving their physical image to that character.

But characters aren't actors. Characters are often the wrong species, the wrong age, sometimes even the wrong gender (cf all the women who played Peter Pan on Broadway.) Actors are *always* saying things like "I'm not my character," "Well, my character is very different from me," "I don't write the lines, I just say them," "I don't get to pick when my character appears on the show," "this is just my job"... etc, etc. Actors maintain a very strict distance between themselves and their character.

For this reason I find RPS with *actors* particularly reprehensible. One can argue that boybands, at least, are performers playing a role that has the same name as them and which is intended to fool the audience into thinking that's the real person. This doesn't generally happen with actors. When they're not in character, they are ordinary people. And RPS seems to lend itself very well to misconceptions about people. There appear to be LOTR-RPS fans who actually *believe* the actor who played Frodo and the actor who played Legolas are lovers. Despite the fact that Ian McKellan, an out gay activist and the guy who played Gandalf, has said "No, they're not gay, more's the pity"-- and this is a guy who is a pro-gay ACTIVIST, who is unlikely to have any desire to help fellow actors stay in the closet and who probably has a better gaydar than any straight woman could ever have. Sure, no one believes that any one story is true, but if everyone on the mailing list acts like Dom and Elijah are lovers, it must be true! Bleh. Boyband slash fans at least seem to have a *slightly* greater grasp of reality.

Now, in terms of parody, writing about people having sex with each other for purposes of political satire is certainly protected. There's apparently a novel that was banned in Russia that slashed Stalin and Khruschev. Presumably that was a political satire. A guy I know wrote a story in which George W. Bush raped and beat a prisoner to death, and while it was an awful, pointless story, it had a political point to make. Most slash does not exist to make a political point. It exists to be a work of fiction, to explore a relationship, or, frankly, to get people off. It isn't protected by the laws that protect parody. And this is true of both fan fiction and RPS. But fan fiction only violates copyright laws. RPS borders on libel and defamation of character.
[Rae Trail]:

I weigh in on the anti-RPS side, Alara. If I were a celebrity I would be very nervous about anyone sharing their fantasies of my sex life with the world at large. And I heartily agree with the point you make above, about writers of creator-owned works getting pissy. This is why I wouldn't try to publish McCaffrey Dragon universe slash, even though the characters are so tempting. It's the only other fandom I would want to slash. However, Ms. McCaffrey has pulicly and vehemently stated that she wants no one else playing with her characters, and I respect that. As an aspiring pro-writer myself, I must allow her copyright to Pern, and all things Pernese. However, Paramount, as you say, is a different kettle of fish altogether, and I have no moral qualms about using their toys in my games. I would never try to slash Shatner and Nimoy, as I see them as completely different people than the characters they portrayed, and people with a right to their private sexuality as are all human beings.

Each to hir own, though. If Hy wants to do a Kirk/Shatner, I will probably read it. My morals aren't all *that* good!
[T'Thrill]:

Personally, the idea of RPS totally squicks me! But I'm certainly not going to tell anyone what they can or can't write, that's what headers and summary's are for. However, I would like to know how the wind is blowing legally when using real people in stories. This is certainly taking a giant step beyond writing about a character (which the production companies have failed to stop).

With all the problems the artists, including those in the music industry, have had in recent years, I would think there would be some very real legal issues if any of them wished to push the point. Recently, it seems the courts are siding more and more with the artists when it comes to name infringement and personal privacy. To think they won't know, or won't find out, that such stories exist may be taking a big chance. Most websites are manned and maintained by individuals who are in relatively close contact with the artists themselves. All it would take is for one person to send a copy of the story, or location where it could be found, to the one who maintains the sight and I'm pretty sure the information would be passed along.

Since I don't know if it has ever been challenged, I just think it might be something worth checking into before proceeding too deeply into RPS on this list.
[Saya]: Great post, Alara, just my thoughts... Myself, I'm afraid anything that involves real persons (read: actors), be it slash or het romance with a mentally obsessive fan's alter ego, or worst, the fan herself, is a big squick for me, and I can tell I'm not a least bit prudish or easily squicked... I was shocked when I, during my recent venture into HP fanfic came across some groups dedicated to Alan Rickman (who, I am quite sure everyone knows, plays Prof. Snape in the movies) and saw adult women squealing like teenage fangirls after him and the groups' archives full of porn fics about the man himself, usually paired with the writer herself... I mean, should someone *get a life*... Or, maybe I just don't get this idolatry thing, I used to know many local celebrities (musicians, actors etc) around here and never thought I should worship them even if they were great in their profession..
[James Richard Sheldon]:

Regarding slash in general: It seems to me to be rather arrogant to assert sole control of a fictional universe, and to take away fans abilities to interact with the material in print format.

Especially in television, though, where slash is one of the limited ways in which a many one communication method in which most people sit and zone out in front of the TV becomes a more democratic, participatory medium, I'd be more concerned about defending.
[Farfalla]: I know that. The point of my entire post was that although RPS titillates me in moments of private weakness, I'd never write it seriously, only as ridiculous parody. Me personally. I really don't believe in it- when rational- on principals that are basically the same as what you said. :-)
[NovaD]: In my case, the Logs are not about the actors. I don't know them and would not make any kind of inuendo about their sexual behavior. I'm writing about their characters. The ones who've read it, know that.
[Mark Stanley]:

Just chiming in with my own (currently ambiguous) opinion about RPS. I've never been opposed to people writing RPS about performers. I've always been squicked by people posting it publicly. (To me, writing it privately is not qualitatively different than fantasizing in the privacy of one's own brain.)

As I've gotten into LOTR fandom, I've found myself reading publicly posted RPS. I sort of swing between guiltily reading it and swearing off it. (I'm heading into a "swearing off it" phase right now. The fact that I've been reading the stuff makes me uncomfortable with myself, and I prefer not to be uncomfortable with myself.)

I'm quite comfortable speculating about whether an apparently single celebrity is really gay/bi. It fits much more comfortably into my ethical parameters than reading RPS or RPhet about them. (I don't speculate about married celebrities, or those who've made a definite statement about their sexual orientation either way. I don't like to mess with people's public self-identification, even if it's actually a closet. *Especially* if it's a closet. Outing people is bad.)
[laughing1icorn]:

Seems like there's really two issues here: legality and taste. Legally, it's my guess that as long as the fic is written about public figures, and as long as the author makes no claim as to it's truth, it's probably completely legal - possibly even more legal that playing with characters that someone can prove ownership of. Ya can't own real people, and as long as they're famous, there's not much you can't say about them, short of actual libel, which is a different kettle of fish.

Then there's the taste issue. My immediate reaction to the idea of RPS, and RDF in general, is that it's creatively bankrupt. People are are free to fanticize about whatever they like, but if you're going to bother to share it (which isn't always neccessary, you know!) seems like y'oughta have made some kind of effort. Don't bother asking me to read it.

This opinion aside tho, as soon as you start regulating taste (and I mean as a Nation, not as an e-group) you have started down a slippery, slippery slope.

I, myself got onto this huge Jacques Cousteau thing many years back (well, he's a fascinating real life character!), and created this wonderful post-apocolyptic fantasy story about him. When I realized I liked it enough to start writing it, however, I went to the trouble of creating a vast cast of fictional dopplgangers, for Cousteau, the Calypso, etc.

As the years have gone by, tho, and neither Captain Cousteau nor the Calypso are with us any more, and the genre of 'alternative history' fiction has become much more popular, I'm rethinking that. In all likely hood, I wouldn't really move on it untill his widow (he remarried a 40 yr old woman, while he was in his 70's, and even had a couple of kids!) has passed away as well. She'd probably never see it, but I wouldn't be writing about the real guy she married, I'd be writing about my fantasy ideal of him, no matter how many true facts about him I use, and I don't think I'd want her to see it. I'd be embarrassed [sic].

It's a tricky question tho, as you'll note that many pro writers have published fictional works about real folks - some of whome [sic] have not been dead for much more than 20 years. What's the difference, really
[Hypatica Kosh]:

Remember that recent semi-fictional biography of Reagan by whom, Morris? Can't be all that different.

I guess RPS can be tasteless, although what I have in mind is more serious*, rather than wank-off material. (The latter category is not so much tasteless to my mind as boring, since the author is the only one gratified.)

*-like literary fiction, but without the credentials

And it's not like people object to the "mental masturbation" stories like the "Bill Gates of Borg versus Captain Picard" genre, or "Do my bidding, Steve Case. Bow down before me. Bwahahaha!", or, for heaven's sake, Celebrity Death Match . . .

now that is tasteless . . . I mean, I watch COPS or Blankiest Black shows and laugh my ass off (I guess that's tasteless too, but it's funny) but Celebrity Death Match, well, maybe the celebrities were too obscure for me. yeah, that's gotta be it. I mean, I don't watch MTV or E! or Entertainment Tonight or any of that braindrain programming. so I found it tasteless and not funny to boot . . .
[Alara Rogers]:

> It's a tricky question tho, as you'll note that many pro writers have published fictional works about real folks -some of whome [sic] have not been dead for much more than 20 years. What's the difference, really?

Possibly the "being dead" part. Also, it depends on the nature of the fiction, the extent to which it is *obviously* fiction, and the nature of the individual involved.

Example: A story in which Hillary Clinton is accidentally transported to a fantasy universe where she teaches young women that they should stand up for their rights uses a public figure to perform a public action that is consistent with her publically stated beliefs and publically known actions, in the context of a story that is obviously fantasy. (This story actually exists, by the way. It's in one of the Chicks in Chain Mail anthologies.)

Example: A story in which Hillary Clinton has a lesbian relationship with Princess Diana and then has Diana killed when she plans to out them takes two public figures and has them perform private actions which are not consistent with their public personas, in the context of a story that involves believable real-world actions. This could be done for the purposes of satire. However, if it was done to be sexually titillating, express genuine romantic and/or angry emotion, or, basically, was anything other than satirical, then it would be highly offensive, possibly bordering on libel or defamation of character, and actually runs a significant risk of making people believe that it's at least partially true.

Example: The same story as above except it's Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe involves dead people (I *think* Jackie Kennedy is dead, isn't she?). It's equally as offensive but the people it would most offend aren't around to be offended anymore.

My feeling is that you should, generally, take the effort to fictionalize the thing, as nothing says "This is a work of fiction" like changing the real people's names to something fictional. If you're going to write something that is consistent with who the public figure was, you may not have to (and sometimes doing so would miss the point, such as in a story in which Mahatma Gandhi tries practicing civil disobedience against the Nazis and gets his movement wiped out). Writing about people having sex, though, is generally something that should stay obviously fictional, unless the purpose is satire...

[...]

I have to confess that when ff.net *had* an RPF section I did go trolling through the Nine Inch Nails section trying to see if anyone had slashed Trent Reznor with Marilyn Manson (and being shocked to see that no one had...) But the whole thing bugs me in a way that stuff I just plain don't like does not bug me. Like, Mulder/Krycek makes me want to whoop my cookies and the fact that Blair is, judging from the Sentinel art I've seen, the ugliest man on TV makes me think Sentinel slash is gross. But I never try to argue that people *shouldn't* write those things. I do wish people would just *not* write RPS; since that isn't gonna happen, me lacking the whole Queen of the Universe shindig thing, I'll avoid it heavily, which is why I started this whole thing by requesting disclaimers. :-)

References