Sexing Up the Boy Bands

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News Media Commentary
Title: Sexing Up the Boy Bands
Commentator: Omar J. Pahati
Date(s): April 9, 2002
Venue: online
Fandom: Popslash
External Links: online here; WebCite
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Contents

Sexing Up the Boy Bands is a 2002 essay by Omar J. Pahati at "AlterNet."

Excerpts

The fan fiction universe has grown to include many sub-genres and unusual concoctions that original fan fiction enthusiasts could never have imagined. The newest of the sub-genres is music group slash -- "band fiction," if you will. Too impatient to wait for the next installment of VH-1's Behind the Music, fans have taken to re-inventing their music icon's personal lives. And in doing so, band fiction writers have stirred up a divisive controversy in the fan fiction community.
The content of band fiction varies greatly. There are stories of band member conflicts, chance meetings with fans, songwriting meetings, family relationships of the bands, record biz goings-on and much more. Quality, too, is inconsistent; for every readable, engaging story, there might be ten other pieces of schlock. Sifting the wheat from the chaff can be a chore.
... band fiction represents a significant change in the fan fiction universe, because instead of creating fantasies around fantastical characters, band fiction features characters who actually exist. Many feel that Real People Slash (RPS) is creepy at best, and unethical at worst. When made-up stories about real celebrities -- in a way, rumors posing as literature -- are passed to thousands upon thousands of readers via the Web, that creepiness is multiplied. The issue of RPS is much debated in the fan fiction community. Writing on a fan fiction discussion board, one author named Ghost says, "If you write real person slash, you should not be surprised when the lawsuit smacks you in the face for defamation of character, slander, libel or anything else an attorney can come up with. An ethical person wouldn't even distribute such things. A lie is a lie is a lie."
All controversy aside, band fiction continues to draw in readers and aspiring writers. CABS is a good place to start for the new fan fiction writer. They have writer guidelines and a place to have works in progress critiqued. Their reference page, "The Art and Ethics of Boy Band RPS," has become a manifesto of sorts for band fiction. To quote from it: "Sure, there's an appalling amount of subliterate teeny codswallop out there, when it comes to 'real person' fanfic. Sometimes, it's superb."
But without a doubt, the most slashed musicians are boy bands. N'SYNC and Backstreet Boys top the list on FanFiction.net, with about 14,000 submissions between the two. It seems that their brand of sensitive- but-sexless, male-but-safe pop music translates nicely into homoerotic fantasy. And for boy bands' predominantly female audience, slash can be a perfect way to re-imagine their idols as sensitive, emotional men, reinforcing the image they portray in their music videos.
Though it might seem on the surface like playful, raunchy fluff, these stories also hint at a deeper desire -- the attempt to humanize musicians who otherwise seem like inaccessible gods. In place of their carefully crafted images, the musicians of RPS are infused with non- musical desires, deep emotions and fallibility. Often these themes are extracted from the songs themselves. Other writings are based on tabloid news and rumors. It's all fantasy and much of it is hacked together (Aaliyah likes Usher, but he's dating Alicia Keys. What is she gonna do?), but here and there you can find a well written one.