The Ray Wars

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Event: The Ray Wars
Participants: due South fans
Date(s): 1997 – ?
Type: Flame War
Fandom: due South
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The Ray Wars, also known as the Ray/Ray Wars, were a long and bitter feud between due South fans of the character Ray Kowalski and fans of the character Ray Vecchio. This feud had lasting repercussions for due South fandom.

The Wars began with the casting of Callum Keith Rennie as Detective Stanley Raymond Kowalski, a move that replaced the original Ray, played by David Marciano, who had gone undercover for the FBI to impersonate a Mafia boss. In the season opener for the third season, Kowalski is introduced, not as Kowalski, but as Detective Ray Vecchio. Not only does Kowalski look nothing like Vecchio, but he also 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 the second season, even to the point where some said the show jumped the shark.

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 very strong, and they hadn't seen the slash between Fraser and RayV. So, at their heart, the Ray Wars were a shipping war as well.

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 had taken 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.

General Trauma

I still have scars from the Ray Wars, and I didn't even participate in the fracas*. I was just...collateral damage, or something. [1]

I am still angry about the Ray Wars. The worst thing about them (among many, many, many bad things) was discovering that people I had almost universally adored had this one thing in them that was (IMO) completely vile. Talk about clicking on a spoiler! I DIDN'T NEED TO KNOW THAT ABOUT YOU. [2]

Unfortunately, the fandom was the Ray Wars. Nowhere was safe. It was horrible. [3]

From a fan who didn't think it was that bad:

It always astonishes me how politely DS fandom can wank. I mean, there's barely any capslock, lots of big words, and hard evidence of trying-to-see-another's-point-of-view while disagreeing. Though everyone agrees on the sheer awesomeness that is Diefenbaker. [4]

RayV-Fan Perspectives

Many RayV fans felt that the show went out of its way not simply to replace RayV, 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 the episode "Burning Down The House" was necessary to set up the radical production changes of Due South's third season, but, to RayV fans, these changes felt gratuitous and hurtful. Many RayK fans were also thoughtless or overtly callous in their comparison of RayK to RayV in terms of looks and their physical attraction, and this, too, was hurtful to RayV 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.

However, as Season 3 and 4 wore on, the number of RayK fans grew, and, because of this growth, some RayV fans felt that their POV was being diminished more and more on the combined mailing lists. A RayV fan who might comment about Vecchio being a good cop would be confronted with a list of "canonical" evidence that in fact he was an immoral cop who treads (and fails) the line between right and wrong and would be off the force if it wasn't for the intervention of Ben Fraser. A Vecchio fan who talked about the friendship between Benton and RayV would be shown a list of quotes or scenes in which Vecchio had treated Fraser poorly. And so it went, with aspects of Vecchio's character being re-interpreted by the newer fans.[5]

Naturally, not all fans saw this as "character bashing". One fan wrote, years later:

I realize that the Ray Wars in their initial incarnation were not just about people criticizing the Ray not-of-their-choice mercilessly.... But it seems to me as though latter-day revisiting (to borrow Kat's word) of the issue starts with something as straightforward as someone saying something that isn't exactly nice about a Ray's behavior.

I don't get that. I really don't. I actually think it's kind of horse-shit. Fraser's flaws and foibles are open season for comment and it's just "discussion," but let someone say something negative about a Ray (and in my own experience, the Ray is usually Vecchio), and suddenly, people aren't being "fair" or are judging the character overly harshly. To be frank, I think that the worst fall-out of the Ray Wars is that the rawness of feeling and the sensitivities opened in the initial skirmishes have had the lingering effect of closing off or dampening down the possibility of any kind of genuine critical discussion of either Ray in mixed-Ray company, lest the fans/sympathizers of the Ray being criticized think their guy is being bashed (and here I mean "critical" in the sense of a comment that is negative in nature, in the sense of saying one didn't like certain conduct on the part of a Ray, or one thought that a Ray behaved badly in a given instance). In my opinion, that shouldn't happen. Vecchio and Kowalski aren't perfect. The fact that they aren't is what makes them seem fully rounded to me as characters and I think people should be able to talk about the ways in which they aren't perfect without having to be worried that their comments are automatically going to be construed -- or, to be more accurate, mis-construed -- as Ray "bashing. [6]

To some extent, what Season 3 and Season 4 fans were expressing was simply a reflection of what they were picking up, sometimes subliminally and sometimes explicitly, from the show. Many fans speculated that with the shift to a new production team, the writers felt they had to establish a new partner for Fraser while also making Fraser more realistic and approachable. This required them to shed many aspects of the first two seasons which only reinforced the POV of the new fans. Not surprisingly, some RayV fans responded by calling Seasons 3 and 4 "The Seasons That Do Not Exist."

All of this turmoil led to some fans creating "RayV safe zones" where they could talk about their perception of his character without being challenged. An example of a pro-RayV 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.

Over time, the segregation led to deeper divisions. In 2002, there was a less than flattering list of reasons given by a RayV fan as to why she preferred Vecchio:

First of all, [RayK] is not the original. Very rarely is the second of anything better than the first....

Second: nose is waaaaaaay too small. Except for rarities, like Paul Eye-Candy, the Moo likes decent size honkers. Dustin Hoffman,Spock, mmmmmmmm.

Three: WAaaaaay too needy. Go to a shrink if you've got issues, whiner. Ray V's got issues with his abused childhood but its done with a bit more class, a bit more understatement. Far more elegant.

Four: generally like them dark-haired.

Five: identify with Ray V, don't identify with Ray K (also identify with Ma Vecchio. Ethnic thing, I guess). He's the Sancho Panza I would be, I think, given the chance.

Six: A needy [RayK] makes Fraser come off too strong and confident. Liked the Mountie's character better in the earlier incarnation. Some people say its a logical development that he's in Chicago longer and learning his way around. Pish tosh, is what the Moo says to that.

When Ray came back in COTW I went nuts! And he and Benny HUGGED!!!!!

Can tolerate the Blond Waste of Skin as a necessary sidekick, but... [7]

A fan in 2012 explained:

I was in the Vecchio camp of the Ray Wars. I'm still in the Vecchio camp of the Ray Wars, because I still feel like that was a, just the ... It was really crappy. And we were ... I, at least, was trying to adapt. I mean, I watched most of the next season. Because it's like, I like the show, and I'm really sad that Vecchio's not here, but that doesn't mean the show is going to suck. And as it happened, I didn't like the entire way that the next season went. I didn't like what happened to most of the characters' personalities, I didn't like the writing, I didn't like a lot of it, so I stopped watching. But Callum Keith Rennie was already—he already had a fan base, and a lot of those fans came in thinking he was great. And a lot of other fans who didn't know him, and just started watching that season, and really liked him a lot. And some people who'd watched the first couple seasons wound up liking him better. There was one very popular author who was all, "Yay, I like Rennie's Vecchio; I like Kowalski better, and I'm going to write him now." Which all would've been salvageable, I think, except people got their knickers in a twist. I'll be as even-handed as I can; people got their knickers in a twist on both sides. But I will say, from my end of things, it was kind of rough having people who hadn't sat through the first two [seasons] — who hadn't watched the first two years; they'd never seen the first two seasons — come in, and basically start trash talking Vecchio and Fraser's relationship with him. And it got more vitriol as time when on, and people started reacting, and reacting to other peoples' reacting, and it got kind of bad. So. Yeah. One day, I might be able to write up my view of what happened there, but it's like, Okay. It's just like ... But it's over now. (laughs) I still think that, you know, they should have behaved better. But they think that, they probably think that I should have behaved better, so. [8]

RayK-Fan Perspectives

As more and more fans fled the combined mailing lists, the negative attitudes towards each Ray solidified. With fewer dissenting voices, the "RayK POV" about the show and the characters become established fanon in their circles. In the minds of some RayK fans, the Ray War was over because their point of view prevailed. In contrast, many season 1 and 2 fans still experienced the conflict bitterly. It should be noted that the perception that one side was the "winner" was not universally embraced. Both sets of fans felt equally disenfranchised and both sides resisted the calls to "let bygones be bygones."[9]

Certainly, RayK-only mailing lists like SergeAsylum did not help matters. 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 mailing list would not permit threesomes fan fiction that involved Fraser, Ray Vecchio, and Ray Kowalski.

A RayK anon on Fail fandomanon recounts their perception of the splintered mailing lists:

Trolling was a little harder in those days, since you had to actually join the mailing list in order to talk to people. And if you acted up, they'd just unsubscribe you and that would be the end of things. That meant that a lot of the serious wank went on in private emails. Unsurprisingly, that meant that things got personal really quickly. And, of course, you passed those emails around to all your friends, so that they'd know who to hate. People also liked to join the mailing list for the Ray they hated and share the posts with their friends. I was actually a member of TwoAxes, the RayV mailing list for years, just so I could cut and paste all the RayK bashing into emails and send it to my friends. (I should probably point out that I was fifteen years old at the time.)[10]

Even in shared spaces and on supposedly neutral mailing lists, the debate over which "Ray" was better was seen, by some, to often favor RayK at the expense of Vecchio. This is what one hostile RayK fan had to say about Vecchio on Ride Forever in 1999:

I have always viewed Ray Vecchio as rather parasitic in nature. He only helped Fraser out of guilt for his rather ignorant comment about Fraser's father - 'the dead Mountie thing'. From there it only seems that he uses Fraser. Ray had a bad reputation at the 27th and it only got better because of his association with Fraser. Without Fraser's obviously superior policing skills, Ray Vecchio would have eventually slipped up and did one of two things - been killed on the job from carelessness or thrown in jail for his underhanded dealings when trying to solve a case on his own. Fraser was the balance and good conscience that Ray Vecchio did not have. Without Fraser, Ray Vecchio was a two bit detective on a downward spiral.

Ray Kowalski on the other hand was more on an equal level with Fraser. He had many commendations and treated Fraser more as a partner than someone to use. Ray Kowalski didn't need Fraser to do his job. There was definitely a genuine affection between the two. A true brotherly love. And when Ray Kowalski disagreed with Fraser, he came out and said it. They 'talked' to each other.

That is why at the end of COTW you find Fraser with Ray Kowalski and not Ray Vecchio. Ray Kowalski was Fraser's true friend. Ray Vecchio was someone that Fraser hung out with based on a forced union. Fraser makes his choice. Ray Kowalski - not Ray Vecchio. [11]

Not all RayK fans shared this point of view. In 2002, Speranza wrote the following:

".....a lot of Ray Vecchio writers were extremely demoralized (more accurately: heartbroken) by the canonical turn of events and David Marciano leaving the show. This was exacerbated for them by two things: the fact that the new production of the show required the destruction of a lot of old sets and props (the Consulate, Vecchio's house, the Riv) and the establishment of new ones (which felt a lot like Vecchio being literally burned out of the show's memory) even to the extent of there being a new Vecchio! The fact that many fans took to Kowalski didn't help any, and in fact caused a split in the fandom, the fabled "Ray wars."

In short, a lot of very good, very heartbroken writers left the fandom, and a lot of others have been either valiantly or bitterly struggling on without them. Whereas Kowalski writers have had no such problems; in fact, we have all of canon to play with and an infinite number of happy endings to write.

Myself, I've always been extremely sympathetic to the Vecchio side of the fandom in that I know that I would personally not be able to deal very well if one of my BSOs was replaced on a show. I've always felt, as a devoted Kowalskite, that F/K fans should try to be as respectful as possible. We were lucky--we got COTW. They got Fraser running off with the new guy and Vecchio canonically married to Stella. I try to give Vecchio fans all the respect that I would give anyone who's suffered a loss, and even when there's unpleasantness, which there sometimes is--well, grief makes you unpleasant sometimes. I try to empathize with the grief and ignore the rest."[12]

RayV-Fan and RayK-Fan Perspectives (Swinging Both Rays)

A banner by Ophelia for the Bindlestitch mailing list. It reads "Attempting to foster peace between the Rays using homeopathic therapy and porn, porn, porn."

For those fans who liked—or even tolerated—both Rays, negotiating the Ray waters was trickier. One phrase was "I swing both Rays", a play on "I swing both ways" or being bisexual. The quote's origin is traced back to a FAQ on the DSX fan fiction list, when the administrator ruled that third season material could be included on the list.[13] Elaine W. also set up a mailing list by that name: "a fan fic and discussion list for anyone who swings both Rays... and besides, where else can we discuss the important issues in life, like how to write fan fic when both your main characters have the same name?"[14] Other fans would proclaim they were Ray/Ray fans, effectively pairing of the two characters.

In 2000, the Bindlestitch mailing list was formed proclaiming itself bi-Ray and promptly asking members to participate in a "Hey Ray You Suck!" challenge. The goal was to make fun of the war and ease tensions. It worked.


-- Attention, listmembers: D'you hate Stanley Ray Kowalski? I mean, do you *really* hate him? That smirky flat-assed nasal-voice blond interloper who stole Fraser away from the *real* Ray and sent the show hurtling right into the crapper?

--Attention, other listmembers: D'you hate Raymond Vecchio? I mean, do you *really* hate him? That balding whiny skinny-ass Italian cartoon who was a walking waste of space until the *real* love of Fraser's life came along?

-- Attention, still other listmembers: D'you hate both the Rays? I mean, do you flat-out *despise* 'em? Do you watch the TV screen gritting your teeth as you contemplate just how great this show *could* have been if the godlike Mountie hadn't been saddled with a pair of whinging asshole Yanks as putative partners?

Then this is the interactive Bindlestich list project for you. If you can't stand one *or* both of the Rays, submit an essay to the list explaining all the many exquisite details of your hatred. Tell us when you first realized you hated him/them (and be *specific,* please--"the first instant I laid eyes on him" is simply not enough). Tell us all the many, many, *many* things you just can't stand about him/them. Give us every example you can of why your hatred is justified in the sight of God.

Get as mean and petty as you want. Insult how they look, how they dress, how they talk, what they say, who they sleep with, their policing skills, how they hold a pencil, their friends, their parents--leave *no* stone of pure unbridled pettiness unturned! Make it personal. Try and make 'em cry. [15]

Some fans felt it was impossible to separate out the two Rays—they were both integral to the show, and, by liking both, their enjoyment of the show doubled:

A 2001 comment:

I think the Rays war was/is much more heated than the debate over slash/non-slash. Slash is black and white, to be simplistic. Either you see it or you don't, either you read it or you don't, and some people don't see it on the show but enjoy reading/writing it. The battle lines aren't necessarily drawn by seasons or Rays.

Fans can be completely unaware of or totally ignore slash without any impact on their enjoyment or perception of dS, but it's not possible to watch dS, belong to a list or read fic and ignore the "other" Ray, whichever one that happens to be. Fans may try, by separating the seasons and treating them as different shows, but I don't think it's possible to forget that there is another set of season and another Ray.

Fortunately, I adore both Rays so I can wallow in all 60+ eps instead of only half that number. [16]

For other "Ray neutral" fans, it was their love of Fraser that allowed them to enjoy both characters. A 2001 comment:

"So, see, Fraser -- warts and all -- is kind of It for me; Kowalski and Vecchio and Welsh, et al. are gravy. And what that means, for me, is that I have a really hard time working up a great deal of sympathy for either of the Ray camps when tempers flare and words get heated just because someone ... criticizes ... one of the Rays. As someone who has both participated in and observed endless discussions on Fraser's passive-aggressiveness, on the idea that he takes the Rays for granted, on the notion that he might be genuinely fucked-up and out of his gourd, etc. and who's done all of that while peering through the lens of Fraser-love, I'm sorry, I just can't see how criticizing Vecchio's behavior in Juliet is Bleeding or Kowalski's in parts of Strange Bedfellows, for example, is cause for accusations of character-bashing or attack. Vecchio behaves badly in JiB. He may have reasons for doing so, but that doesn't change the fact that he does. It's perfectly valid for the badness of his behavior to be pointed out, regardless of whether the person doing the pointing is someone who identifies as a Kowalski fan."[17]

A fan in 2006 wrote:

The thing that made the Ray Wars different from most shipping wars is the sheer nastiness of the fan bashing that took place. It's one thing to rant and rail about the plot, the characters, and to be upset that one's pairing was blown out of the water, etc. It's another thing to vilify the fans of a pairing just for liking it, and this is what both sides were guilty of in pretty equal measure. Both sides felt like the persecuted underdogs, and both sides were crappy to the other. Neither of them came out of this looking good. [snipped]

As one might expect, Vecchio fans were highly displeased with the loss of Vecchio, and further outraged that he'd been supposedly replaced in such a careless fashion. To them, it was completely out of character for Fraser to simply move on to this new friend, when he'd been so obviously close to Vecchio for all this time. In the slash part of the fandom, which is really where the Ray Wars were mostly bitterly fought, the replacement of Ray was seen by many as tantamount to betrayal. They (over)reacted accordingly.

At first, the Vecchio fans were the majority holders in the fandom. They were established, and organized, and for the last two years had had no reason to think that they'd ever have to change what they were doing. In their righteous indignation over the loss of their beloved character, many of them took to merrily bashing Kowalski, the producers, the writers, and (this is the important part) any fan who admitted to kind of liking Kowalski. Or, in too many cases, any fan who didn't profess undying loathing of Kowalski.

So, at first, the Kowalski fans really were the persecuted minority opinion in the fandom. They were treated like crap, and in many places their character and their own opinions and presence were explicitly unwelcome. I believe there was even some serious discussion about whether Kowalski stories should be allowed at the Hexwood archive, which was at the time the fandom's main source of fiction. (But I may be wrong about this and projecting some other fandom dispute onto it.)

The Kowalski fans responded to this by creating their own spaces. The Serge mailing list was one of the epicenters of Kowalski fandom, and there were soon other groups and lists that catered to Kowalski fans, where they could talk about their character without Vecchio fans constantly jumping their shit.

Now, if the Kowalski fans had retained the moral high ground, things might have played out differently. Unfortunately, the Kowalski fans didn't take long to descend to the level of vitriol and fan-bashing that the Vecchio fans had already poured forth in such great quantities. Incensed at being insulted, belittled, and sometimes banned outright, some of the Kowalski fans felt no qualms about retaliating in kind. Some Kowalski fans also felt, in their own righteous indgination about being crapped on by the Vecchio fans, that theirs was the side of right and good, and therefore it was *okay* for them to be vicious and nasty.

One of the central issues in the Vecchio vs. Kowalski debacle was the final episode of the series, "Call of the Wild." Without going into tedious detail, this episode ends with Fraser and Kowalski riding off into the sunset (no, really), and Vecchio marrying Kowalski's ex-wife, Stella. For those who remember the reaction of the Buffy/Angel shippers who were convinced that Buffy would appear in the final episode of Angel so that they could ride off into the sunset together, think that reaction, only imagine if Buffy *had* been in the episode and ran off with Spike instead. "Call of the Wild" spawned an entire sub-genre of "fixit" stories from Vecchio fans, which all, in one way or another, got Fraser back together with Vecchio.

Personally, I got really sick of all of it, really fast, so I don't have a lot of personal knowledge about how things played out in the long run. What I do know is that within a couple of years, the Kowalski side of the fandom had pretty much "won" the pairing wars (helped in no small part by the canon ending of the show), in that nearly all the posted slash fiction was Fraser/RayK, with very little Fraser/RayV. This was an astonishing turnaround from the previous state of affairs. Unfortunately, many Kowalski fans were not particularly gracious in their victory, and pretty much treated the Vecchio fans the way that they had themselves most loathed to be treated. [18]

Gradual Easing of Tensions

By 2001, tensions were still high, but, on non-slash mailing lists, there were cautious discussions. On the Ride Forever mailing list, one fan asked:

I assume you belong to slash lists, and maybe they're limited to Fraser/RK, but if they're not restricted, is there a lot of stone throwing between the two camps (BF/RV vs. BF/RK)? Do the two groups remain calm when discussing the merits of their pairing of choice?

Another member answered:

Um, it depends. Most 'mixed lists' I happen to be on are populated by 'any two guys' slashers. Most of them will pair up anyone and everyone (F/K, F/V, V/K/ F/K/V/T/W, etc), which I can do for fun, or as a joke, but not seriously. There has been some sniping on the F/K lists I'm on, but it never lasts long. Oddly enough, I feel more comfortable saying I dislike RayV as a person on this list than I do on the F/K lists. Don't know why. Maybe because people in dS slash fandom are still incredibly sensitive about the Ray Wars.

Another fan opined that as a slasher you would have to pick only one pairing:

After all, even if the show is full of subtext, it's unlikely that BF was equally attracted to both Rays in a romantic sense. That would be defying the odds somewhat.

Which is why some fans felt:

I agree with that, which is why I find it very difficult to 'swing both Rays', as it were. [19]

The changes did not take place universally. One mailing list moderator commented in 2000:

I ended the Kowalski feud on my list by making all discussions of RayK and seasons 3/4 taboo, but I hope that things won't go that far on this list. [20]

And, even with time, many fans resisted the calls to "just get over it". This from a fan in 2001:

"By my lights, there are a couple of things that make any kind of revisiting of the Ray Wars a sticky proposition: First, the people who actually went through them have very definite feelings about that experience. Second, the people who didn't go through them don't have all that easy a time contextualizing what it was like for those who did, and therefore, have some trouble wrapping their minds around why those who do have the history cannot let go of it. The third problem I see is that there sometimes seems to be a different standard that gets applied in terms of how those who did go through the Ray Wars should be processing that experience, not only for themselves, but also for the sake of those who didn't go through it.

It seems to me as though there's a little more ... sympathy and empathy with the people who lost a favored actor than there is for the people who were mistreated by those in the first group when members of said first group were expressing their ire. Kowalski fans who went through the Ray wars get reminded that the newer school of dS fans didn't live through that, and therefore, it's unfair/counter-productive/not conducive to fandom harmony to keep harping on how some Kowalski fans were treated in the wake of Vecchio fans venting their unhappiness that he'd been replaced. However, it seems as though a converse admonition isn't always given to Vecchio fans along the lines of, "look, get over it; no one in this fandom was personally responsible for David Marciano leaving the show, so it's pointless to keep harping at the rest of us as though a) we are somehow responsible, or b) there's some way we could undo it." That subtle, sometimes insidious double-standard ... rankles me. It rankles me, and I'm somewhat removed from the Ray Wars because a) I came in at the tail-end of them and 2) I'm not really Ray-identified in terms of my dS fannishness (yes, I love Kowalski, and find his interactions and chemistry with the Mountie entrancing, and think that he's a pretty interesting nut all on his own..... Believe me, I get the whole "please, get over it" sentiment, but I think that this reaction has to be applied equally all the way around. In other words, and to be perfectly blunt: If those on the Kowalski side of the fence are expected to stop remarking on how mistreated they felt by Vecchio fans in the advent of The Switch, or to stop extrapolating from that experience what their interactions with other Vecchio fans outside that experience are going to be like, then ... Vecchio fans who felt mistreated and betrayed by the dS PTB when David Marciano left need to ... stop remarking on that as well. Conversely, if sympathy is to be extended to one set of fans and their unhappiness over the goings-on is indulged, then that sympathy and indulgence has to be applied all the way around. Anything less is bad cricket.

Now, intellectually, I understand and, for the most part, am on board with calls to let bygones be bygones, and to not dwell on the past, etc. But emotionally, I can see and understand and empathize with why that's not all that easy to do. History is baggage and no matter how much any of us want or try to look at the whole Ray War issue as some kind of intellectual exercise, the bottom line is that people acted badly during the course of the Ray Wars. People were treated badly during the course of them, and as much as it may discomfite those who didn't directly go through it to have to deal with the lingering resentments, I don't see that that can be helped. It isn't always possible, when the issue is how you were treated because of something, to just say "okay, well that's done now and I'm never going to think about it again," and it's doubly difficult to do that when you're not doing it for yourself, but doing it because someone else needs/wants you to or thinks you should. Fans on either side of the trenches of the Ray Wars may never be able to forgive/forget. That may not be an outcome anyone particularly likes, but sometimes, things just ... are as they are, and the only thing that can be done is to acknowledge that and quietly hope that maybe one day down the line .. things will change."[21]

Still, by 2003, tensions in the fandom eased sufficiently that some fans were willing to discuss the show at panels at slash conventions. Even then, care was taken to pick topics that would not prove to be immediately divisive, such as Benton Fraser. For example, at Bascon 2003, Morgan Dawn and Mary E. hosted the following panel:

Fraser: Saint or Dark Manipulator? (Due South) Does Fraser live in a delusion that he somehow shares with those around him? Does being friends with Fraser mean falling sway to this delusion or Is he actually the only completely sane person In a nasty, greedy world? (This discussion will be Ray-Ray neutral!) Moderators: Morgan Dawn and Mary E.

Post-War-Fan Perspectives

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. [22]

Speranza says:

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. [23]

By 2012, fans had reached the meta commentary stage:

Due South, which is considered to be and has historically considered itself a medium-to-large fandom, simply isn't [large enough to sustain fandom conflict]. When issues such as the infamous Ray Wars flare up, there is nowhere for dissenters from the main trunk of the fandom to branch off too. Continuing the metaphor, the fandom is bigger than a household but is nowhere near city-status, behaving more like a small town; decamping from the village means setting up an isolated farm in the country by yourself. There are a number of dS "ghost comms" out there that are inactive simply because there are not enough people in the fandom to keep them going, either as fandom-split comms or as supplements to the main dS comms. Despite that, however, the real fear is not so much a split (truly, the motto of dS fandom could be “we’ve survived worse, and with better manners”) as the loss of a cohesive culture.

Due South fandom gets amused grief for being too polite in its wankage, and for glossing over serious divides with platitudes of fan-unity, but the fact is that such measures are critical for the fandom to maintain a cohesive sense of “dS culture.” It is quite reasonable to speculate that the splinter ghost comms failed due to the fact that many dS fans declined to participate in them for fear of being seen as rude and divisive. As a result, rule #2 (“people will respect each other”) has taken on a nearly mythic importance in the fandom. After the genuine crisis of the First Ray Wars in the 90s, which miraculously did not destroy the fandom as a whole, fans have managed to keep the fandom together by relying almost entirely on rule #2, and successfully so on the whole, which is nothing short of amazing. [24]

In 2012, Therienne looked back:

I was, and it was very frustrating. (laughs) I was ... Because it was such a change in the show, and it brought in such a different crowd of people who were there not for what the show had been in the past, but what it was now. It was a fundamentally different show. And ... Although it was a younger crowd in some ways—and I know this because I met a lot of them in person—they did not particularly care about what had come before, and they didn't want to hear it. And that was very frustrating for the people who had been around forever, who were saying, Try and see it both ways. And they just wouldn't. And it was ... You know ... It was frustrating to —it did destroy a lot of that fandom, unfortunately. And I know that—Or let's say it destroyed a lot of the old fandom, because I know that Due South went on for a very long time after that. There were tons of stories written with the new Ray. And it was a very big fandom for a very long time. I wasn't there as much, in part because of what happened with the Ray Wars and the fact that the show had changed so much—it was no longer something I wanted to watch. I did not see a lot of the final season, just because, about halfway through, I gave up on it. It was not the show I had been watching....

Yeah, it was—It had changed. It was—There are shows that can change the main character and move on, and really succeed. And to me, that one didn't. Because it wasn't the same show. And, unfortunately, like I said, I met some of the fans in person and their attitudes were very much ... They were very, very young. Let's put it that way. It was a very young crowd of people, they would talk through anything that didn't have their characters on it when it was on the screen, and then they would leave, after what they had seen was over, even if it was in the middle of what someone else was watching. If you were at a convention or something like that. So it was not great for people who had been in fandom for a while to have to deal with this new way of dealing with it—which was not to care, basically. And like I said, I know a lot of people did continue in that fandom, and there was a lot of great stuff there, but it was after that first wave—a new wave of fandom. A new, completely new fan base where they turned over and a lot of people left. [25]

Recent History

The Ray Wars came up as a historical topic during the 2010 Con.txt Fanlore panel, leading it to be the Question of the Week in July on the Fanlore Dreamwidth community. It can be read here.[26]

However, echoes of the Ray Wars reverberated in fandom beyond the end of the original conflict.

2009 Echo

Early 2009 saw an echo of the Ray Wars in a discussion that took place on several journals.[27] 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.[28]

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. [29]

Others chimed in:

"I am still angry about the Ray Wars. The worst thing about them (among many, many, many bad things) was discovering that people I had almost universally adored had this one thing in them that was (IMO) completely vile. Talk about clicking on a spoiler! I DIDN'T NEED TO KNOW THAT ABOUT YOU."[30]

Still, many fans found the conflict a "blast from the past":

"Yes, this, exactly. I got into Due South when the Ray wars were a thing of memory and hurt feelings and people still licking their wounds, and now it's like "blast from the past!". It's very odd, yet strangely reassuring. There will always be wank, and apparently, there will always be *the same wank*, so one never has to worry to miss something, because the universe will come back around to it eventually."[31]

A blast from really distant past:

"I missed the original Ray/Ray wars, but the legend lives on. The classics always come back around eventually. It's like Troy reincorporating, and Greece decides to attack it on principle."[32]

See also: Fandom Wank: Due South fandom wanks like a Mountie..., Archived version (2009)


More recently than 2009, an individual sometimes known as the "RayV troll" or "ds anon" has been leaving negative feedback on Due South fanworks and appearing wherever fannish discussions of Due South occur, complaining about how the fandom doesn't respect Ray Vecchio.[33][34] They have left anon comments on AO3 fanworks[35] , tumblr posts, very old livejournal posts[36], and Fail_Fandomanon. It appears that the troll entered the fandom long after the Ray Wars, perhaps in 2010.[37][38]

In late 2020 anons at fail_fandomanon remarked that ds anon hadn't been around in a long time.[39][40]

An Alternate Universe Ending To The Show and The Wars

In 2008, the last few pages of the original draft of the final script were auctioned off at a Due South convention. In this version, Fraser returns home alone. The final scene mirrors the series opener with Fraser achieving the impossible by chasing a criminal across a fearsome mountain pass in winter. The two Rays, back in Chicago, both still working for the police force, amicably head out to dinner with their boss. By canonically not favoring one Ray over the other, this version of the show may have helped ease some of the Ray Wars. As one fan explained:

"And without wanting to restart the Ray wars, I gotta say -- I want to go back in time and make them film the original version -- it's fabulous. If you want to go and break your heart, go see the scans that lipstickcat' made of the last six pages."[41]

The scans:

Meta/Further Reading

Similar Events


  1. ^ montanaharper's 2009-07-11 comment on thefourthvine's dreamwidth post, Major Fannish Events, 10 July 2009. archived.
  2. ^ tzikeh's 2009-07-12 comment on thefourthvine's dreamwidth post, Major Fannish Events, 10 July 2009. archived.
  3. ^ daegaer's 2009-07-13 comment on thefourthvine's dreamwidth post, Major Fannish Events, 10 July 2009. archived.
  4. ^ [1], Archived version, comment by quartz, February 18, 2009
  5. ^ In contrast, read this somewhat calmer exchange between two Due South fans in 2010 where a RayV fan queried a writer why she chose to portray Vecchio as a corrupt cop; reference link.
  6. ^ "A Different Take on Ray vs Ray" dated May 17, 2001.
  7. ^ Ficlet Help post to the Ride Forever mailing list dated June 13, 2002; reference link.
  8. ^ Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Arduinna (August 2012)
  9. ^ See: "A Different Take on Ray vs Ray" dated May 17, 2001.
  10. ^ Fail fandomanon comment 2014-07-22 04:07 am (UTC). (Accessed 27 July 2014)
  11. ^ Two Rays post to the Ride Forever mailing list dated November 11, 1999; reference link.
  12. ^ August 2002 post to the Serge mailing list, quoted with permission.
  13. ^ Mitch Hudson's I Swing Both Rays Website archived on the WayBack Machine, dated 1999.
  14. ^ The was founded in May 1999 and is currently offline (accessed - or rather not accessed) Nov 4, 2013.
  15. ^ Bindlestitch website, now offline, taking with it the list member essays to the challenge.
  16. ^ Which war was nastier? post to the Ride Forever mailing list dated August 5, 2001; reference link.
  17. ^ "A Different Take on Ray vs Ray" dated May 17, 2001.
  18. ^ janegradell at Not really a FW Greatest Hit, Archived version, December 10, 006
  19. ^ Heartbroken Fraser posted to the Ride Forever mailing list dated August 5, 2001; reference link.
  20. ^ Let's Make A Deal post to the Ride Forever mailing list dated April 12, 2000; reference link.
  21. ^ "A Different Take on Ray vs Ray" dated May 17, 2001.
  22. ^ Raine Wynd, October 2008
  23. ^ Speranza, October 2008
  24. ^ Fandom: The Social Contract dated Mar. 21st, 2012; reference link.
  25. ^ Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Therienne
  26. ^ reference link.
  27. ^ See akamine_chan's collection of links, 19 February 2009. (Accessed 15 August 2010); reference link. See also The Ray Wars live? dated Feb 18, 2010; reference link. Additional reference links are here; here; here; here; here; and here.
  28. ^ belmanoir. untitled livejournal post. February 13, 2009. (Accessed 15 August 2010); referebnce link
  29. ^ akamine_chan. Fandom politics, part deux - about fear. 16 February 2009. (Accessed 15 August 2010); reference link.
  30. ^ comment in the Major Fannish Events dated July 2009; reference link.
  31. ^ comment in Don't Be That Guy post by cimorene dated Feb 23, 2009; reference link.
  32. ^ comment at Fandom Wank: Due South fandom wanks like a Mountie..., Archived version
  33. ^ tumblr reblog by jackymedan, November 2015. archived. The post claims that the troll had been around since 2005ish, but this editor, who was in dS fandom circa 2007-2008, hadn't heard about them until the 2010s.
  34. ^ shayheyred. The trolls, they never die, posted to livejournal 13 March 2015; archive link.
  35. ^ For example, see this 2012 comment on a 2008 fic: Comment on From There to Here, dated 13 Sep 2012, Archived version
  36. ^ For example, on the 2004 Fraser/Kowalski ship_manifesto post, ds_anon left comments in multiple threads in 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, and 2018: December 18, 2012 and January 3, 2013, September 16, 2013, October 3 and December 17, 2013, August 26, 2016, March 2017 and January 2018
  37. ^ In a 2016-01-26 FFA thread, one anon posited that they entered the fandom around 2010.[2] (Skeptical anon who replied is assumed to be the troll in question.)
  38. ^ In a 2016-05-11 FFA thread, an anon purporting to be ds anon said they didn't know about the show until 2010.[3]
  39. ^ Re: Meme Grievances, Archived version, 2020-12-01
  40. ^ Re: Meme Grievances, Archived version, 2020-12-02
  41. ^ untitled post by Sandy Hereld dated 2008;reference link.