Climbing Up The Walls

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Title: Climbing Up The Walls
Creator: obsessive24
Date: August 2008
Format: digital vid
Length: 4:21 mins
Music: Climbing Up the Walls by radiohead
Genre: darkvid, shipvid, incest
Fandom: SPN, Firefly, Heroes, multifandom
Footage: Supernatural, Firefly & Serenity, Heroes, David Lynch's Lost Highway, Queer as Folk, The L Word, other[1]
URL: LJ post
(formerly available for streaming on imeem)

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

A constructed reality vid, obsessive24's "Climbing Up The Walls" (2008), chosen for in-depth vid review after its premiere at Vividcon, shows the dark and damaging side of the incestuous sibling relationships (that fans construct) for the television shows Supernatural, Heroes, and Firefly.


The vid demonstrates that the conditions for incest are created by each show's dire external circumstances, which force the elder siblings to devote their lives to the protection of the younger ones, and then makes the case that on each show, this claustrophobia has led to an unhealthy sexual obsession. In the vid, the three elder siblings are aware of (and tortured by) their incestuous impulses (and perhaps even realize that they have become predatory monsters), but there doesn't seem to be any way out: the vid uses lots of prison/jail/fence imagery, and repeatedly returns to a sign that says, significantly, "Dead End."

This vid is both an AU storytelling vid -- aka a vid that posits what would happen if these character pairs really did have a sexual relationship -- and a meta-critique of fandom's tendency to imagine (and indeed, often celebrate) incestuous relationships for these characters. It succeeds on both levels.

AU storytelling

It supports its AU storytelling with a cohesive narrative structure. The younger sibling is constantly in physical and emotional danger, older sibling devotes himself entirely to protection of younger sibling, forming an extremely intimate relationship that ultimately turns sexual. O24 effortlessly parallels the three storylines through the use of similar imagery and continued motion.

The storyline of each pair is easy to follow on its own and as it relates to the other two. CUTW's triple narrative and visual artistry packs a punch that would make it a successful vid even without the added meta.

Meta critique of fandom

The critique of fandom becomes apparent when one views this vid in the context of the three fandoms represented. CUTW is not notable for venturing into the socially taboo territory of incest. Constructed-reality vids and fanfiction featuring these three pairs in incestuous relationships are legion.

For example, in the Supernatural fandom, the incestuous pairing of Sam and Dean (known as Wincest) was by far the fandom's most popular pairing. This pairing is frequently shown to provide these two characters with emotional succor and intense sexual pleasure. By and large, even fanworks that address the taboo of incest in a serious way may end up supporting an incestuous relationship as relatively healthy for Sam and Dean.

---Other people should add a summary of the other two fandoms here---

The thesis of CUTW stands in stark contrast to the majority of incest-focused fanworks in these three fandoms. CUTW is making an unambiguous argument that these pairings would be emotionally devastating for the characters involved. The incest is not natural or healthy--it is a dead end that traps its participants.

CUTW is more than just AU storytelling -- it is commentary on the practices of fandom. The main indicator that CUTWs has a strong meta component is that O24 included all three fandoms in the same vid, and chose to show each with the exact same storyline. The storytelling is very well done both artistically and emotionally, but the specific details of the individual characters are not the focus of CUTW. Nathan-Dean-Simon and Peter-Sam-River are essentially interchangeable insofar as the vid addresses their actual characteristics. The true story of the vid is thus the contruct of "an incestuous pairing" and not a deep dive into character-based storytelling.

Reaction to the vid

Fandom responded to CUTW with grace, artistic appreciation, and good humor. O24 was soundly praised for creating a superb vid, both during Vividcon 2008 and in comments at her journal. [2] [3]

This response was not because fandom failed to noticed the critique inherent in the vid.[4]

During screenings at VVC 2008, it was widely asserted that the intensity of the vid was impossible to ignore, even for the most diehard incest shippers. CUTW's inclusion of horrified images of the siblings' parents and childhood photos near the end of the vid were cited as specific emotional triggers.[citation needed]

Other critique -- both positive and negative -- focused on the use of external source.[5] [6]

This open-minded reaction to a critical vid about much beloved fannish pairings supports the interpretation of the vidding community (and fandom in general) as a highly self-reflective community, capable of critically evaluating its own practices.

  • "I really loved obsessive24's Climbing Up The Walls, the SPN/Firefly/Heroes incest vid, which parallels all three of these intense and claustrophobic sibling relationships, makes brilliant use of manips and stills and external source to believably construct them as incestuous, and then illustrates the consequences and degradation. Summary: incest is a DEAD END."[7]
  • "I was struck by something I haven't seen mentioned, which really stood out for me because I'm so extremely word-oriented: the prominence of the signs reading "Haven" and "Dead End." [...] that, to me, sums up what the vid is saying about the incestuous relationships it depicts: they are a haven from a callous and dangerous world in which the siblings fundamentally have no one but each other [...] but ultimately they are dead ends. They are traps (all the shots through bars, through cages). And they end by turning the elder sibling into a monster, turning the defender into what must be defended against."[8]
  • "I was expecting to love it. I didn't. I thought it was an excellent vid, both technically and creatively. It had a fantastic premise, and a strong argument that was carried through the vid. It just didn't work for me. [...] So why didn't I love it? I think, primarily, it was the use of external source that threw me off. [...] The thing about these three pairings - and the thing I was expecting to see explored in the vid - is that they're already so incestuous; there's already so much canon support for the pairing. So, in a way, using (obvious, and liberal amounts of) external source and manips to create a story for the vid seemed to be overlooking the actual story of these characters - which, when it comes down to it, is not all that different."[9]
  • "[...] this vid is creepy and twisted and takes great joy in popping the happy little romantic bubble we tend to put ourselves in when we think of our beloved class-E felony ships and it does it so damn well it makes your jaw drop."[10]
  • "I came out of Climbing Up the Walls with the idea of not just the incest and older sibling in some ways as predator, but a thought about how the younger (and invaribley "special" sibling) as both a victim and willing collaborator in their victimness. [...] there's a high possibility that the very thing that makes them need protection also leads them to make absolutely sure they have someone that will be both protector, outside focus, and someone that, despite what they are/do/will be, will never ever leave them. In other words, the obsession not only goes both ways, but that it's constructed specifically by both parties to create a tight space of unconditional acceptance."[11]
  • "[...] people seem to bring a variety of interpretations to this vid. [...] IMO, most of the disagreement, or rather, discrepancy in viewpoints, appears to arise in people's estimation of the power balance/responsibility/control in these relationships, between the older and younger siblings. Some people see this as a vid where the older sibling is entirely in control and has sucked the younger one into a destructive cycle; others see it as a much more balanced relationship, with the younger sibling being complicit in the dysfunctional pairing, etc."[12]
  • "[...] let's start with this: INCEST. This vid is about incest. And it pulls no punches. [...] What we have here is an incest narrative with all the fanon taken out. Yeah, sure, there are three sibling pairings, here, but it almost doesn't matter; the central story is the same for all of them: fucked-up families, needy and vulnerable younger sibling, obsessively protective older sibling, and then the robo-claw comes out. But the point is: this vid is awesome, and so incredibly rich (there's so much here I could write several lengthy essays about this, for reals), and brutally real. And the brutality should in no way scare you off."[13]


  1. ^ "On tech" notes at end of vid announcement post, 22 Aug 2008. (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  2. ^ From VVC con report 1: Vid recs, general thoughts by bradcpu, 22 Aug 2008: "[...] most impressive about it is that she took such a complex, AU, meta statement on fandom and fan art... and made it look so incredibly straightforward and simple. People may disagree in what they think about the statement she makes, but they don't have to waste time debating what that statement is. It's just a vid that's incredibly well-executed in every way, from concept to editing." (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  3. ^ comments at obsessive24's vid announcement post (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  4. ^ Panel report: In-Depth Vid Review post by thuviaptarth, 24 Aug 2008 (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  5. ^ From Climbing Up The Walls review post by amathela, 22 Aug 2008: "[...]Incest is one of my big fictional kinks, precisely because of what obsessive24 is saying, and that's the same thing the vid - effectively - illustrates. So why didn't I love it? I think, primarily, it was the use of external source that threw me off." (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  6. ^ From vid rec post by futuresoon, 21 Aug 2008: "A particularly twisted and awesome aspect of the vid is its use of external sources and altered images [...]" (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  7. ^ Vividcon! post by astolat, 18 Aug 2008 (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  8. ^ thoughts on a couple of VVC vids by shoshanna, 20 Aug 2008 (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  9. ^ Climbing Up The Walls review post by amathela, 22 Aug 2008 (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  10. ^ vid rec post by futuresoon, 21 Aug 2008, (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  11. ^ con report: vividcon 2008 by seperis, 18 Aug 2008. See also comment thread at the same post. (Accessed 25 Nov 2011).
  12. ^ Vid Rec and Review: Climbing up the Walls by obsessive24 by 12-12-12, 22 Aug 2008 (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)
  13. ^ The One That Is Evidence for the Prosecution. From 190: I'm Going to Vidding Land recs post by thefourthvine, 5 March 2009 (Accessed 25 Nov 2011)