Human Empanada

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Fanfiction
Title: Human Empanada
Author(s): Impertinence
Date(s): Feb 27 2012
Length: 100,994 words
Genre: Slash Royalty AU
Fandom: Hockey RPF
External Links: archived link

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Human Empanada is a Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews fic written by impertinence that features arranged marriage in a royalty AU setting originally posted to AO3 in early 2012. It is a notably controversial fic in the hockey RPF fandom[1] for the portrayal of the main relationship, which many found to be dub-con at best, but which the author maintains is not.[2] The fic was also part of a trend of fics in hockey RPF fandom where Patrick Kane was put into D/s situations, generally focusing on him misbehaving and having to be punished (mainly with physical force).[3] The title often pops up in Fail-Fandomanon "Worst Title" threads, having become an obligtory mention by early 2019.[4]

It is somehow, despite the title, not a Hannibal fic and, in fact, has nothing to do with cannibalism. It also has nothing to do with the Human Centipede movies[note 1] or Pushing Daisies.

The Fic

The original summary for the fic was:

Kaner, a traditionally useless Prince of America, and Tazer, the Heir Apparent of British Canada, don't know each other when their mothers arrange their engagement. Once that's done all they have to do is get to know each other, get married, consummate the marriage, refrain from killing each other, negotiate a treaty with California, and try not to piss off Mexico again. Falling in love isn't part of the plan. That's politics, boys.

and initially the story was marked as "No Archive Warnings Apply" while only having tags for the royalty AU aspect, pining, and a D/s relationship between the main characters.[5] There was also an initial warning in the author's note when the fic was originally posted:

Warning: At one point one character tells another he's only good for sex. It's said in anger and isn't mean to be true, but if that's not your style, I'd suggest caution.[5]

The fic was quite popular, appearing on many reclist for hockey RPF fics.[6][7] In particular, thefourthvine posted a glowing review of the fic:

Perhaps you have been thinking to yourself, "This hockey RPF sounds fun, but... I have an allergy to hockey. If only there were a way to read hockey RPF with no need to google the name of the Edmonton team and why icing is bad!" (Although I tell you what: those things are not critical in basically any hockey story, and, tragically, if you really want to know them, you can always just ask me.) This story is for you. In it, Kaner and Tazer are princes. Of an alternate North America. It's awesome. And you don't need to know anything about hockey, or who they are, or anything. This is a perfect starter story, basically.

I mean, it is so awesome I'm recommending it without hesitation even though I cringe every time I see the title. (My life lately is bizarrely and tragically full of Human Centipede references, and the result is I am basically flinching in response to "human [whatever]" these days, unless it's, like, "human dignity." And, uh, for the record - I don't think anyone out there has not heard of this thing, but if you haven't, don't google it. Seriously. This is an area where any innocence you have should be lovingly nurtured, and preserved, if necessary, with firearms.)

Anyway. Back to the story. Going into it, I was dubious. I admit it. I don't know, in retrospect, why I was dubious - I mean, arranged marriage, royalty, hockey players: obviously this is destined to be a good time. But for some reason I couldn't think about Prince Patrick Kane without laughing a little bit (it was probably the mullet), and here's the awesome part: neither can he. But he manages to surprise everyone. It's wonderful.

So wonderful that I came as close I can these days to reading this story in one sitting. Although I had to take frequent breaks in certain spots because of the extreme tension. Which, when you are biting your nails out of concern for the characters in an AU where hockey players are royalty, you know you are reading a fucking great story.225: Other Worlds

Another glowing review came from pluckyminna, who posted the following to Tumblr:

URGENT QUESTION

WOULD YOU LIKE TO READ 100K ABOUT WEIRD LOOKING DUDES

WHO FAIL AT EVERYTHING

AND ESPECIALLY BEING MARRIED

SPOILER ALERT: THE ANSWER IS HELL YES

[...]

WHAT’S THAT

DON’T READ HOCKEY RPF

DON’T CARE

READ IT ANYWAYtext post by pluckyminna

It can be considered something of a fandom classic in the hockey RPF fandom, even though it's quite controversial in some circles, with many people saying things like "ive never actualy read Human Empanada by impertinence and i know i should and its not like i dont want to but i can never seem to get started"[8] and "How can I not read this?? You had me at 'traditionally useless Prince of America'..."[9] By late 2015, the fic had been deleted[10], with one anon on dekedangle-rpfanon saying this about the deletion:

I'm genuinely saddened at the thought that we won't have any more "I just read this terrible abusive fic" threads where the first 110 comments are people saying "Human Empanada, right?" and other people going "wait, what's with that title?"[10]

The Title

Part of the fic's notoriety comes from the completely bizarre title that makes it sound like some kind of shockfic or an episode of Hannibal. While impertinence has never made a direct statement on the meaning of the title, several people over the years have attempted to explain the meaning of it in the fic on Fail-Fandomanon:

IIRC, there was an incident when the main character was younger when he fucked something up diplomatically (it's part of the world of the fic, with modern royalty) that had to do with an empanada. Later he fucks something up again, and that's the major conflict of the story. Thus he is the human empanada. Or at least that's how I saw it. It's not really a title that makes sense unless you've read the fic, I guess?Fail-Fandomanon "Hated fic titles(of fics you love, or not)" thread
[anon1]

I think Toews committed a diplomatic gaffe by refusing to try the host's empanadas? So I think "human empanada" is supposed to refer to him, and be shorthand for "human social disaster" or something. Except that's not how metaphors work!

[anon2]

Toews caused a diplomatic incident by refusing to try some empanadas. Kane is supposed to be a walking diplomatic incident, ie., a human empanada.

It takes like 90% of the fic to get what the title even means and it always comes up in these threads.

[anon3]

Walking Diplomatic Incident would be a better title. Not great, but better.

Tazer causes a diplomatic incident as a teenager when he refuses to eat an empanada. Kaner is probably supposed to be the 'human empanada' because as POV character he sees himself as a walking diplomatic problem (and does end up causing a big one, hence the resulting shunnage). No, there are no forcibly conjoined humans in the fic.Fail-Fandomanon "Fic Discussion/Last Fic Read" thread

Controversy

Due to the fic having been deleted, much of the discussion that went on in the comments is lost to time. However, from nonnie recollections on Fail-Fandomanon, the wank was two-fold: when the awkward nature of the relationship between the two characters was pointed out to impertinence, she "threw a royal fit, even though she'd recently been accusing another author (marycontraire? maybe?) of abuse in their fic."[11] Another anon went on to clarify:

Human Empanada was before marycontraire's fic (I think it was 'I'll keep an eye on you if you keep one on me'), but yeah, it was a big deal that she was criticizing her for very similar content. From what I remember re: marycontraire's fic it was based on how it was tagged, like it was tagged D/s or BDSM when most of it was emotional manipulation and the dynamic wasn't explicit or negotiated for most of the fic (I remember being annoyed by the tagging too, but I wouldn't have jumped on the author in the comments for it).[11]

The general gist of the wank seems to be that many readers felt that the main relationship was inadequately warned for and said as much in the comments, which both impertinence and her friends responded to poorly.[12] Impertinence later made a post on her Dreamwidth where she reiterated that she didn't personally think she wrote an abusive relationship.[13] In the comments of that post, several people suggested that really all that had to be done was for a warning to be placed on the fic.[2] By October 4 2012, the initial warning had been updated to the following:

Warning: At one point one character tells another he's only good for sex. It's said in anger and isn't mean to be true, but if that's not your style, I'd suggest caution. Additionally, when this fic was posted, several people interpreted the relationship as abusive. I did not, and neither did any of my betas; however, if abusive relationships are a trigger for you, I advise that you read with caution.[14]

At some point between then and October 2014, the fic also gained the tag "Additional Warnings In Author's Note"[15] before being deleted in late 2015 thanks to the aftermath of Patrick Kane's rape allegations causing a huge purge of both Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews fic and fic featuring Patrick Kane. It never, at any point, appeared to have a different AO3 warning than the initial "No Archive Warnings Apply."[5][14][15]

Then, somewhere around June 2012, marycontraire posted i'll keep an eye on you if you keep one on me, another Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews with D/s themes.[note 2] This fic was posted with "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings," rather than "No Archive Warnings Apply," and locked to signed in AO3 users.[12] Impertinence and her friends then went to marycontraire's fic and "showed up in to tell an author who CNTW that they should basically warn anyway ... despite the fact that that author's fic and one of Imp's fic contained many of the same elements, and Imp's marked 'no archive warnings apply' and not tagged in a way that Imp was asking the other fic for. Instead, Imp added a passive-aggressive author's note."[12]

In response to the controversy[note 3], marycontraire added the following author's note to the fic:

Please note that the author chose not to use archive warnings on this fic, and it was tagged solely for searching purposes. I don’t believe that authors should ever feel obligated to warn readers about the contents of their writing as a matter of principle, and I don't personally see some themes that others have perceived in this story. I do, however, feel comfortable saying that this is an extremely challenging fic that readers seem to find either very rewarding, very upsetting, or both. If you’re looking for a light read with a side of kinky sex, this is not the D/s fic you are looking for."Spoil me/warn me!" thread on Fail-Fandomanon

Several years later, impertinence responded to an ask[2] asking if she had an response to her being accused of being "pro-abuse" with the following:

anyway. jockromance is likely referring to HUMAN EMPANADA! aka a fic I wrote in 2011/2012. It’s Kane/Toews and, among other things, features physical violence between the two of them. I didn’t initially tag or warn for that, largely because it hadn’t occurred to me or any of my 3 betas that the physical violence was a problem. That oversight was probably because we were all in the same very insular circle of hockey fandom, and had our own interpretations of the characters that were kind of weird, and it just didn’t occur to us to think about how that would translate to the outside world. Big mistake! I posted the fic and it got quite a bit of reception regarding the abusive aspect of the relationship, ranging from people who just kind of said “this is fucked up” to people who were madder about it.

I don’t blame people for being mad; that’s their prerogative and it should’ve had a tag from the beginning. I replied pretty pissily and behaved pretty badly, for reasons I’ll go into in a minute. Some friends were also pissed, and dove into the comments as well. I do want to say I don’t really make a habit of telling my friends what to do; I didn’t tell any of them to dive in, nor did I work too hard to prevent them. Some posted comments without telling me they planned to. It was a Mess and all of it could’ve been avoided if I’d acted with some more maturity.

[...]

The truth is, I can be a jerk, and I am very frequently impulsive. The wank in the comments of Human Empanada was kind of a perfect storm: I was defensive, I was pissed, I was unwilling to reconsider my actions. Part of that is because I’d worked hard on that fic and didn’t want to think it had been a failure. The bigger part was that I myself have a history of abuse, and because of that, I was reacting more personally than the situation really warranted.

IDK. I’m as guilty as anyone of assuming people on the internet haven’t changed from when they were a giant asshole x number of years ago. I don’t have a big ideological issue with people thinking that I’m an asshole and not wanting to associate with me; sometimes basically all my close friends are friends with someone I’m pretty sure hates me, and that’s life! You reap what you sow, etc. I have been on the internet for a long time, and my behavior both on the internet and off it has changed radically in that time, for various reasons. But I’m NOT pro abuse, in RPF or otherwise, and jockromance’s implications that I am, or that I haven’t experienced abuse, are not factual.

Post-Controversy Commentary

As with many notorious fandom fics, such as The Milk Fic, several anons on Fail-Fandomanon read Human Empanada out of curiosity. Several of these reviewers expressed that while they generally enjoy the sort of under-negotiated and dub-con vibe that Human Empanada was purported to have, the fic left them feeling skeeved out due to the fact that there was no sense that the author understood what type of relationship was being written.

And I was actually all set, for about half the fic, to come here and argue with the yikes!abuse thread, because, hell, un-negotiated D/s may be a generally bad idea in real life, and, sure, there were some infuriating aspects to the dynamic - but that's the point! Surely the fic was setting up a classic apology-and-make-up for the big finale?

I was so sure this was gonna happen, meme! So sure! Partly because the initial dynamic seemed to depend on Toews being capable of figuring out enough of Kaner's deal - his rock-bottom self-esteem; his general good-heartedness - to A) fall for him like a ton of bricks and B) offer physical affection and reassurance, even if Toews was apparently completely incapable of ever once bringing his heart into his mouth and using his words.

There were all these little moments where Toews was physically affectionate in a way that left Kaner baffled but which seemed to imply that he had some kind of handle on what Kaner was feeling. Which ... made the D/s scenes swing kinda wildly between hot and ick, because if you're crediting Toews with that level of insight, he was presumbably picking up on how much Kaner loved being dommed, but also on how often he was weirded out or just plain scared. So ... not great! But I enjoy fucked-up dynamics! A good, meaty set-up for some hardcore untangling, at the very least.Anon review of Human Empanada on the "Last Fic Read" discussion thread
I finally read Human Enchilada.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Why?" And you aren't wrong! It wasn't like I hadn't read a million and one bad comments about it depicting an abusive relationship.

But one of my iddy kinks is one character being a total asshole to other, so I was actually excited about diving in.

Well, today I learned that my iddy narrative kink about one character being a total asshole to the other is entirely dependent on the author's self-awareness that he is, in fact, an asshole. Of which Imp has literally none.

The more you know.gif?Another anon review of Human Empanada on the "Last Fanwork Consumed" thread

The general consensus was that while an individual reader's mileage on whether or not the relationship depicted between Patrick and Jonathan was abusive, Human Empanada was overall not a very good fic. There was much discussion about the nature of impertinence's prose, which many readers found to be immature[16], flat[17], dull[18], or otherwise difficult to read. One anon in particular posted a particularly scathing review of impertinence's prose:

The narrative is a close third pov in present tense. The narrator is an insipid young drinker with no interesting ideas in his head, no curiosity, and no retrospective insight. The prose is flat to the point of blandness, which a writer like Raymond Carver can pull off because of what's going on underneath the bleak facade of his sentences. There's nothing going on behind these sentences. No insight into character, no commentary on their society. It's a bare recitation of event. Tedious event. No metaphor, no description, no surprise, no insight, no delight.Anon Critique of Human Empanada

The fic has also occasionally been discussed on Twitter, generally poorly.[19][20]

Notes & References

Notes

  1. If you don't already know what the Human Centipede movies are, it's probably a better idea not to google them. If you must know, however, here is a link to the first film's wikipedia article.
  2. This fic can be found for download still with some googling, and this date was determined by downloading one such copy. Since it was locked to members when available, no links to such downloads will be posted.
  3. It's actually not entirely clear whether this warning was always present on the fic or not, but the general consensus seems to be that it was added later.

References

  1. fail_fandomanon "Controversial Fanfics" thread. Posted Nov 25 2017. Accessed March 24 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ask from impertinence's tumblr. Posted Jan 23 2015. Accessed March 25 2019. Archive Link.
  3. dekedangle-rpfanon "Fic Discussion" thread. Posted Aug 21 2015. Accessed March 25 2019.
  4. fail_fandomanon "Worst Titles" thread. Posted Jan 20 2019. Accessed March 25 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Human Empanada. Wayback Marchine link dated March 10 2012. Accessed March 24 2019.
  6. HOCKEY RPF: JONATHAN TOEWS/PATRICK KANE FIC RECS by colourmeshocked, posted May 06 2013. Accessed March 24 2019.
  7. HOCKEY FIC REC MASTERPOST by rkatz-rkatz, posted Feb 13 2014.
  8. Text Post by fuckyoucanada. Posted April 28 2013. Accessed March 25 2019.
  9. Goodreads Fandom: Hockey Slash Comments. Posted Jan 24 2013. Accessed March 25 2019.
  10. 10.0 10.1 dekedangle-rpfanon "Fic Discussion" thread. Posted Nov 24 2015. Accessed March 25 2019.
  11. 11.0 11.1 fail_fandomanon "Controversial Fanfics" thread. Posted Nov 25 2017. Accessed March 25 2019.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Does anyone remember lucyzephyr? on Fail-Fandomanon. Posted July 20 2013. Accessed March 25 2019.
  13. RSS Feed of impertience's Dreamwidth. Accessed March 24 2019.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Human Empanada. Wayback Marchine link dated Oct 04 2012. Accessed March 25 2019.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Human Empanada. Wayback Marchine link dated Oct 15 2014. Accessed March 25 2019.
  16. Anon comment on Fail-Fandomanon. Posted July 29 2012. Accessed March 25 2019.
  17. Anon comment on Fail-Fandomanon. Posted June 16 2014. Accessed March 25 2019.
  18. Anon comment on Fail-Fandomanon. Posted May 24 2015. Accessed March 25 2019.
  19. "leslie 🐾 on Twitter: "and I was so deep that I couldn't just stop I …". 2019-03-25. Archived from the original on 2019-03-25. 
  20. "tiny bird 🕊️ on Twitter: "hey guys who was it that rec'-ed the "huma…". 2019-03-25. Archived from the original on 2019-03-25.