The Hth Field Guide to Slash & Other Associated Strange Attractors

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Title: The Hth Field Guide to Slash & Other Associated Strange Attractors
Creator: hth the first
Date(s): August 16, 2006
Medium: online
Fandom:
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External Links: The Hth Field Guide to Slash & Other Assorted Strange Attractors; Archive for page one, page two; Archive for page two
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The Hth Field Guide to Slash & Other Associated Strange Attractors is a post by hth the first.

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Excerpts

In my ongoing bafflement as to why I’m apparently the only person on earth who doesn’t think Sheppard and McKay are particularly slashy, I was of course taken back to ye age-olde question, What exactly *does* it take to be slashy? Well, let me answer in four parts, with the fourth part first and the third part last, and– Okay, it was admittedly funnier on Sports Night. The point, though, is that I’m trying to be critical of how I arrive at the point where I’m comfortable saying these two characters are/aren’t slashy, so I came up with some broad categories of things that set my slash bells ringing. But first, a few disclaimers:

1) For “slashy,” it’s probably more accurate to read “Weird About Each Other,” which is how I’ve mostly come to conceptualize this idea over the past few years. “Slashy” to me implies “open and/or begging to be slashed,” so definitively it requires a certain extra-canonical reading right from the start. What I like about saying two characters are Weird About Each Other is that it can (theoretically) be a point of agreement regardless of what you think might be going on between them off-screen. So for the most part, Weird About Each Other contains and encompasses slashy, but also brings in other characters, including het pairings and sibling acts, and then allows people to believe whatever they want about their sex lives, while still all agreeing that there’s something uniquely charged and interesting about their interactions.

2) I’m thinking here primarily about subtext, but the reality of course is that sometimes on tv, what used to be subtext suddenly turns into text. So while for the most part I’ve tried to avoid using canonical couples as examples, or even people who canonically seem to want to be couples, it’s a little tricky. What about all those Veronica Mars episodes back when we were supposed to think that Veronica hated Logan, or all the good years of the X-Files? What if only half the couple’s interest is clearly canonical, a la Hex? What about when nobody’s exactly sure if their sexual relationship is canonical or not, like Stuart/Vince or Xena/Gabrielle? Those are crucial studies in subtext, so I hate to discard them, but just be aware that I’m distinguishing the textual from the subtextual elements of those relationships and, as much as I can, dealing with the latter in isolation.

3) No, I’m not doing this to be mean to McShep fans. It only had its origins in me feeling mean about McShep fans (and by “mean,” I don’t mean that I don’t love y’all, I just mean frustrated by the hard sell that is the bread and butter of this fandom). I actually really got interested in subtext, and particularly in how and why people read canon so differently. This is my attempt to nail down how *I* read canon(s), which isn’t a better or a worse way, but it is mine.

4) This is NOT NOT NOT in any way to be perceived as a guide to what people should or shouldn’t be writing or digging on. Hell, I’ve made a fan career out of writing pairings that don’t rise to my own standards of slashy/Weird About Each Other – Giles/Oz, Ray/Ray, Ronon/Rodney, and that’s not even to mention the crossovers – and I love my fellow weirdos who do the same. I truly believe that anyone is slashable, and you can get good stories and bad out of any pairing. What I see as inherent in canon affects what makes me squee as a fan, but the two aren’t synonymous, nor are they supposed to be.
1. They are life partners

In broad strokes, I mean by this that they share living arrangements, they plan to do so as far ahead as the eye can see, and that canon recognizes that any change in this situation is a moment for extreme dramatic tension – a breakup or divorce, essentially. I am, however, willing to expand the definition to people who have a shared career/mission although they maintain separate residences, but only if canon indicates that they don’t have much of a life outside the career/mission, making it the functional equivalent of “where they live.”

[much snipped]

2. They’ve mastered the art of the eyefuck This is the most freeform category, and it’s the one people are going to try to abuse to sneak in all their favorite pairings *g* Sexual chemistry is fairly subjective, so I only permit entries under #2 if it’s at the highest possible level of stunningly obvious.

[much snipped]

3. They touch each other in somewhat inappropriate ways This one is a little more complicated than it originally seems. I’m basically opposed to the simple touching [equals] sex that can be so prevalent in this culture, but I do think that a willingness to be deeply and intimately inside someone else’s personal space indicates a certain level of trust and making oneself vulnerable.

[much snipped]

4. There’s no one else in the world that matters as much Again, this doesn’t mean that their friendships with other characters aren’t real, but for some characters, there’s clearly one person who is *the* person they trust and value.

[much snipped]

Comments to This Post

I have to say that I was never really enamoured of Sheppard/McKay. It's not because I can't see a case being made for them, but because to me, they just don't fit as a sexual couple. Life-long friends - yes. Brothers - yes. Lovers - not really. But that's just me. Because I don't see Ronon/McKay at all. And that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy your stories, because quality fic, no matter what the pairing, gets my admiration. But I just don't see a sexual connection between Ronon and McKay at all. I see more between Sheppard and McKay.

Now...Sheppard/Ronon? That I see all over the place. *G*

I guess when it comes down to it, a lot of it's just a matter of perception and personal taste. [1]
Dude, that's what I'm saying! Neither do I! They're not at all slashy in canon -- which isn't going to stop me from writing stories about them. Like I said, I actually have a fondness for writing stories about pairings I don't think are really "there" on screen. It really just becomes, what if it were there, how would that go? I hope people don't feel like I'm saying that kind of story is less valid somehow. [2]
See, I always thought Sheppard/Ford. But really, I don't see it with any of the pairings anymore, not since they Wraithified poor Rainbow. That's what fanfiction is for, I guess - I never really saw any HP pairings, either, come to think of it. And the only Firefly pairing I loved was canonical. But like Hth said, I like to think of them like action figures - when you're playing with them, you can put any two together and make up stories - it's almost more fun when they're not plausible in canon, which is why a good crossover is such a thing of beauty. [3]
To me, the thing that makes *me* weird about a pairing is pretty much exactly that: it doesn't necessarily have to be touching inappropriately or living together, but yeah-- what are they to each other that no one else is? What are they to each other that's kind of *weird* and intimate and not a relationship that you can easily just say "Friends!" or "Co-workers!" Lex and Clark, Jim and Blair, even "enemyslash" like Giles and Ethan, Fraser and Victoria, or Xavier and Magneto. I'm with you in that I don't as yet see any one pairing on SGA being *overwhelmingly* Weird About Each Other (except maybe John/Ronon, a little) ... yet... Also, I think this is a major reason people are so invested in Rodney being an awesome ninja special forces killer with perfect aim who never drops his gun and/or John being a super secret physics savant who can solve Millenium Problems with nothing but a pointy stick and a piece of string. Because that's sort of a *surface* way to indicate that they are Living In The Same Place, and otherwise, what you're left with is two guys who don't even like the same Catwoman. ;) [4]
Really, reading this post has been refreshing if for nothing else than me going "see, I knew I wasn't a freak for not being totally up in McShep's pants". :) [5]
Also, with the truly epic slash pairings, I find that actor chemistry has a big influence. Starsky and Hutch? Wouldn't be half as memorable as they are if not for Soul and Glaser and their famous connection. Same thing with The Invisible Man - the chemistry between Ventresca and Ben-Victor just sizzled off the screen and they often said in interviews how much that helped the show. So when it comes to SGA, and I see yet another couple of actors meeting and falling into this epic new friendship as Hewlett and Paul McGillion have done, and having that translate to the screen as often as the writers can let it, I have to wonder why that's not the focus of the fandom. Seriously, though, I think some people aren't watching the same show I am. I've never been this out of touch with the rest of the slashers in a particular fandom. [6]
This is absolutely fascinating--and I agree with pretty much everything you said. I'd like to put out my view on McKay/Sheppard, which is--I like the pairing so much because they aren't really all that slashy. Because any writer actually paying attention to the show dynamics knows that given their on-screen relationship, it's pretty unlikely that they'd just fall into bed together, and what this means is--long, plotty fanfiction, where the author has to work to get them together. This opens up a huge number of options that aren't available to, say, Jim and Blair or Ray and Fraser--you get to see the whole process of "well, we're co-workers and we like each other okay when the other one isn't being totally crazy" through becoming closer to each other, maybe being put into situations where they begin to fit in one of the four categories, and so on.

And I do realize that many, many McKay/Sheppard lovers do not ascribe to the above, and do just drop them into bed with each other. This is my personal opinion. :)

Really, I think it's the same reason I love Atlantis fandom so much despite the fact that the show is *cough* not actually that good. There's so much you can do with it. If your pairing is like Jim and Blair, or House and Wilson, and really seriously obviously married, there's less fanfiction potential. Or at least different fanfiction potential. (Although watching the show then becomes that much more fun.)

Anyway. *cough* The McKay/Sheppard fan puts in her two cents. And again, this was a fascinating post! I'm totally going to be measuring slashiness by these points, now. [7]
I mean, you could *sort of* argue that Jim and Blair were just friends and not weird about each other? But then you have to make X (where X equals Blair's need to do research and Jim's need to have a guide around all the time) HUGE and almost implausibly uncanonical in its hugeness-- like, if Blair needs to be around Jim all the time for his research, why don't we ever see him *doing* any? And if Jim needs Blair around all the time to keep him from zoning, why don't we ever see him zone? It's actually simpler to solve for X = they are (or want to be) lovers. (Like [Not Exactly FunnyHelen's story where they both get amnesia and assume that they're lovers because *it's the most likely explanation* of their life].) I don't think anyone on SGA is at anywhere near that point yet, but then, Blair and Jim were always turned up past eleven when it came to slashiness. [8]
I think there's less het than slash that hits that dynamic because a lot of times writers are lazy with their het on television. They figure, Cute Guy, Cute Girl, what more do you need? The fans'll love it! And a lot of fans usually do. But those of us who want those relationships really built and made so water-tight that they're inevitable often just don't get it from het relationships. I'm not sure, that's just a gut instinct. A lot of the "ping," obviously, still has to do with personal taste, especially when theoretical sexual attraction comes in. Like I said, I like the idea of Weird About Each Other, because it relies less on what gets us off -- so like, somebody can say "I never saw Frank/Tim as slashy," and I can say "OMG! They're so in love!" and we would disagree with each other...but probably if I said, "They are pretty weird about each other, though, aren't they?" almost anyone on earth would agree with me. It's probably a fool's quest to find anything that all fans will agree on, but I've always been quixotic like that! [9]
Your essay makes sense. I wonder if it's also... like, Starsky & Hutch and The Sentinel -- I don't think, at the start, TPTB behind those shows were aware of how homoerotic it was, because there was just less awareness of homoeroticism in general (of course, the TS PTB got hip to it...) Whereas SGA's PTB are more aware of that, perhaps, and can make things less homoerotic, intentionally? Not that I think they're standing there going, "You two! Too gay! Back it up!" :) [10]
Sometimes I really like the "obsessession à deux" aspect of slashiness, the "weird about each other" so-in-love thing you talk about here. But sometimes it squicks me as being unhealthy and stalker-ish. Luckily, I like threesomes, which *can't* really be as narrow-focus, and which can also (with slash goggles, obviously) fit fairly nicely over the canon of ensemble cast shows. SG-1: Jack is Weird about His Team. All of them *together*. Or Popslash: when canon has five guys living together, working together, goofing off together, calling each other "family", (their parents vacationing together,) and literally piled on top of each other for *years*... can group sex fic be far behind? [11]
There are a lot of popular pairings I can appreciate in fiction but I don't really see on the show, simply because their relationship on the show is nice, but doesn't strike me as special enough. Yeah, Grissom is nice to Nick and they have bonding moments, but he has had bonding moments with everybody on his team. I don't really see why those moments with Nick should be more persuasive of an interest in Nick than his moments with Warwick (or Cath or Sara or Greg) are. I'm guessing that is where chemistry comes in. But I think to me, that just makes somebody a pairing which might be fun to play around with, but if the canon foundation is nothing to write home about, it keeps the pairing from crossing into out of this world territory. To me chemistry usually just triggers "I like the bonding moments between X/Y better, because they have more chemistry" and not "those moments mean more in the context of the show.". They usually, in fic, usually make me think "Yeah, if they were the main/only relationship on the show, they might be really awesome." But in the context of this show they are just one of many.

I do think that a lot of pairings might be created by having a reduced viewpoint. Like, I like side character X. I look around the show with whom X has relationships. He has the most important relationship with Y and therefore I ship X/Y, regardless of what other relationships Y might have, because this is not my viewpoint, because I watch the show from the point of view of character X. Again, nothing wrong with that. And it can create great stories. But it does affect whether I see them on the show as a pairing. Or whether I see them as a healthy pairing.

For me the specialness has to be mutual in some way, for the couple to really have "superdupercouple" status. [12]
Oh, brilliant! This is a great post. I've been thinking about shippiness and subtext a lot recently, partly because I've identified as a slasher for so long, but have lately come to realize how often I ship het pairings as well, and the criteria you outline here definitely play a major role in how I read the subtext of any given pairing. [13]

References

  1. comment to this post by ixchel55
  2. comment to this post by hth the first
  3. comment to this post by norah
  4. comment to this post by liviapenn
  5. comment to this post by jacquez
  6. comment to this post by castalianspring
  7. comment to this post by frostfire 17
  8. comment to this post by liviapenn
  9. comment to this post by hth the first
  10. comment to this post by wemblee
  11. comment to this post by giglet
  12. comment to this post by thelana
  13. comment to this post by greendreaming