Thoughts On Incest Pairings

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Title: Untitled Essay (given the title "Thoughts On Incest Pairings" here on Fanlore)
Creator: nestra
Date(s): August 27, 2007
Medium: online
Fandom: Supernatural, wincest
Topic:
External Links: untitled essay, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

This untitled essay by nestra offers up her thoughts on incest pairings with an emphasis on Wincest as a popular pairing. It was written at a time when Wincest was the first widespread and accepted incest pairing in Western media fandom.

Topics Discussed

Among the many topics it touches on:

Essay

I don't know that I have the time to do this properly, but if I wait until I have the time, I'll never be done.

The vid that made me most uncomfortable at Vividcon was not a Dexter vid. This is possibly because I only watch Dexter vids with half an eye, in a vain attempt to remain unspoiled, but I think it's also because I've become pretty inured to violence through a couple decades of TV and movie watching. We'll see if I still feel that way once I've actually watched Dexter.

The vid that made me most uncomfortable was a Supernatural vid. Not "Want." Not "Women's Work." It was "Falling for the First Time".

(What should be a completely unnecessary disclaimer: I have no problem with sisabet, astolat, or anyone else who reads, writes, or enjoys Wincest. If you'd like to agree or disagree with me here, that's fine. Please keep comments civil, because otherwise I will come down with a heavy hand.)

But you know, a squick is a squick.

I firmly believe that you can't really control what your kinks are, and I try not to judge people for their kinks, because God knows I wouldn't want to be judged for mine. But I also believe that you can't really control what squicks you, and that no one should be judged for that either.

I have no one to blame but myself for the fact that I saw this vid. I didn't have a back button, but I knew who the vidder was, who the bidder was, and what the content was likely to be. Still, I didn't expect that instinctive flinch I had when the manipulated kiss came up. Up until that point, I could sort of pretend it wasn't about incest (and what seems to me to be a happy fun fluffy incestuous relationship), especially because I don't watch the show. But that one clip pretty much takes away my chance at denial, and I'm usually pretty good at denial.

As astolat noted, the fact that clips can now be manipulated in such a way that it looks like two actors are really kissing -- it's new. astolat says "the impact can become more powerful and visceral when it's in the same medium that we experience the original source in." And yeah, what she said.

The thing is, I recognize this reaction I'm having. It's the same argument I've seen people make about slash, or even non-canon het pairings. "But that's not in the show! You're just manipulating things to see what you want!" Well, yes. My viewing of shows through slash-colored goggles is no different. But this time I'm in the minority. I am at the bottom of the fannish Wheel of Fortune.

I feel sort of the same way I did when RPS started to catch on. I was at Escapade, and someone mentioned in a panel that Sean Bean was often characterized in fic as an abusive husband. I'm not trying to conflate RPS with incest, but the reaction for me was the same. It's that instinctive flinch of "That's not right."

And I think the other reason I reacted so strongly was because I subconsciously thought that Vividcon was my safe space. Objectively, that's an unrealistic expectation, at least in terms of what art I'm going to be exposed to. There's no vetting process that assures that I will like every vid in every show, or that nothing I see will offend me. (I remain convinced that every year I will see many people who hug me, and that better not change.)

I don't really have any profound conclusions. I'm glad so many people enjoyed the vid, because I like it when people are happy. At the same time, I can't pretend it doesn't make me uncomfortable, as does the popularity of incest in the fandom. But no one needs my permission to enjoy themselves. I guess I just wanted to present a different viewpoint.

Reactions and Reviews

Giving A Subversive Vid Its Own Subversive Reading

Several fans were so squicked by the vid that they consciously chose to reinterpret it as a vid about anything but incest:

[cofax]:

FWIW, I really enjoyed the vid, and have decided to subvert the meaning by reading it as gen (and ignoring the kiss). If slashers and fans have done so to the source text for decades, I figure I can do that too. *g*

But I may just be an unsophisticated vid-viewer, as well. I have to admit one of the things I liked about it was that it's a happy vid, and there aren't a lot of those about the Winchesters...[1]
[musefool]:
Yeah, I flinched at the kiss each time I watched the vid, and not because I am squicked by Wincest (though I'd be perfectly happy to read the vid as gen with subtext), but because I am creeped out by manips to begin with, and adding motion seems to make it worse. I like the vid a lot, but not having the kiss in would have made me love it unreservedly. [2]
[cofax]:
.... wonder if I can re-watch it and cling to my private subversive reading of it.....[3]
[nestra] (in response to cofax):
My sense of denial is usually pretty good. Just not with this. And I bet it would be easier for me if I were invested in the source. Since I'm not, I'm not as motivated to find my own reading.[4]
[Kestralsan]:
...I loved the vid but would have loved it more without the manipulated kiss. Like cofax, I read the vid a little against the grain -- more like them relearning each other after the Stanford gap. I think that's one of the great things about the vid, actually, that it can be read on multiple levels, but I do think the kiss detracts from that by positing one reading.[5]
[jenip]:

...I'm not into the Wincest, though I have read a couple of stories that I thought were well done. I prefer and am happy with my gen read on the relationship, and as I was watching the vid, I thought, "Eh, I can make this work with my view pretty much..." until the manip, which really took me right out of the vid. I think that was because I couldn't figure out where it came from, primarily, and then secondarily, it pinged my squick-o-meter a bit (not my beautiful cake). Suddenly I was watching something that I just knew hadn't been on my screen before, and it weirded me out. Not entirely sure why, or whether a non-Wincest manip would've had the same effect (as someone wonders above). I also wonder whether it would have had the same effect if I'd known there was a manip coming up. Interesting.

BUT. That was really well done, technically. I'm completely curious about how it was done.[6]

Sometimes An Incest Pairing Is Not About An Incest Pairing

A few fans explained that, for them, the attraction to Sam/Dean was not because of the incest theme but in spite of it:

[z rayne]:

... I don't think the appeal of the Sam/Dean pairing is solely attributable to an incest kink....[7]
[nestra in response to z rayne]:
No, I agree with that, and I know you've seen merryish's post, which has definitely given me food for thought. I can see how one could enjoy Sam/Dean without an incest kink being the primary motivator, though I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the incest sort of not mattering. Obviously it's the case, because people say so, but that's not the way my brain works on this subject.[8]
[merryish]:

I tuned in to Supernatural because I'm a horror fan, and I read and write Sam/Dean slash because I am a slash fan who watches Supernatural and isn't turned off by sibling incest in fiction. I find that I just can't get worked up about incest in fiction, because it's fiction. Any number of things that would bother the hell out of me in real life just don't bother me in fanfic, so here I am.

What that means is, the sibling incest angle is neither a squick nor part of the attraction for me. It's a fact of that particular slash pairing that I have to deal with as a writer the same way I have to deal with them being two basically straight guys (as depicted on my television). It makes the pairing interesting for me in pretty much the same way that taking two basically straight guys and getting them together in a sexual/emotional relationship makes slash interesting to me. But I'd still be writing Sam/Dean slash if one of them were adopted or something, or if they were second cousins, or whatever. Incest is a factor; but it's not the defining factor for me.[9]

[cathexys]:

...oddly, i'm totally with merry on the incest being neither appealing nor offputting all by itself for me. in fact, my visceral response to the scene has very little to do with incest and everything to do with what merry below describes as exposure of my fantasies (with maybe a generous helping of actor!squick thrown in). in other words, my responses are the same in Astolat's entourage vid (which i nevertheless love with a wholly passion) or even in vids that cut in sex scenes (though there it clearly is only the former and not the latter at play, b/c the actors' bodies are *not* used but the connection that occurs in my mind's still there).[10]
[nestra]:
hesychasm's journal, I said that my big problem was sort of feeling like a lot of people who were writing the incest were just going straight to the id and not putting any thought into what they were doing. But the comments in merryish's most recent post are pretty enlightening to me, because for some people, the incest thing is almost literally not a concern. I have a hard time understanding that, and I never would have figured it out on my own. But there it is.[11]

There Is No Fandom UN

[cryptoxin]:

Being new, for the longest time I assumed that "fandom" must have had serious, sometimes heated, but rational debates about these issues and then achieved some kind of fragile consensus. As though there were some kind of deliberative body or quasi-formal process at work.

(I will pause while you laugh at my naivete -- take as much time as you need)

Now the detente seems to me less like agree-to-disagree than "we just can't have these conversations without trauma and wank." And if -- big if -- every culture requires some taboos, fandom seems to have settled on things like premeditated squee-harshing, fics without appropriate warnings, applying any kind of negative moral judgment to other people's kinks, and publically quoting from other people's flocked posts. And even then, it's pretty hard to get drummed out of fandom -- maybe all but impossible.

I'm not at all sure that this isn't progress, though that's a question that should be asked. Or maybe it's just the internet in action.[12]
[nestra]:
I think it's safe to say that fandom never really agrees on anything. Certainly not all of fandom, and certainly not these days -- it's just too big. Back when slash zines were hidden under the table at Trek cons, maybe. Now there are people coming into fandom every day who don't know "the rules", and why should they? It's not like they're posted anywhere. So you have people asking the actors about slash and showing them manips. You have the warnings debate. You have "why are you taking this so seriously, it's just fanfic". And so on. [13]

Slash Fans Suddenly On The Outside Looking In

[cereta]:

But this time I'm in the minority. I am at the bottom of the fannish Wheel of Fortune.

This has really, really been my experience with SPN. The day after an episode, when people are squeezing about how obvious this scene or that was, I suddenly have a wincing sympathy for gen fans in my fandoms past.[14]

[cofax]:

It's been very interesting for me, as well; I feel like I've gone back in time, back to the days before I read much (any) slash, and I'm standing outside a little bit. Anyway, yeah.[15]

[nestra]:

at least in my circles, it seems like being into Wincest is the default assumption, and so I get comments with that reading in place, and I have to, "well, er..." Yeah. With my not being a fan of the show, that's not an issue, but other fans I know have had the same experience. I find it interesting, on a sort of sociological level, that we've gotten to a point where the incest (or welcoming, or at least tolerating it) is the default, but it's got to be hard to have people make that kind of assumption, even without malice. Sort of like those poor gen fans again. *g*[16]

[loligo]:

I almost have sympathy for all the XF noromos of days long past... only I don't, quite. A lot of the scorn for that pairing came from people who were anti-romance in general -- you know, all that girly stuff tainting our scary stories! (Certainly not all were like that, but many, because that was back when male fans used to actually hang out in the same discussions that we did.) But I kind of know how they feel now. "Why? Why are you tainting my beautiful story with this weird and totally unnecessary reading?" I can't think of another pairing that is so central to the source material and yet so divisive among people who are usually totally sympatico with each other. I don't think we need to waste our fannish energies in another huge, fandom-swamping Incest Debate, but I don't think there's anything wrong with those of us who are squicked by the Wincest politely mentioning our squick in appropriate forums on a regular basis -- I think it's good for new fans, for example, to see the whole spectrum of opinion.[17]

A Squick By Any Other Name

Source: Squick thread, Archived version

[samdonne]:

“Your squick and my squick are the same squick.”

I think I'm starting to dislike the terms kink and squick rather a lot, in the sense that they used to mean one thing (I felt), and now they're used for everything.

I shy away from those terms because they cheapen discourse and tend to kill discussion by allowing people to handwave what they don't want to hear. 'It's a kink/squick so it has no weight, value or consequence. I can safely express it/ignore it.' The terms carry implications of uncontrollability, irrationality and insignificance, or inconsequentiality; yet--I don't know about other people--but I have reasons or at the very least frameworks for my preferences; even the sexual ones. I don't particularly want to make it easy for people to just wave away what I have to say without working at it; otherwise I wouldn't bother to say it....
[veejane in response to samdonne]::
Good point. Also, although you wouldn't know it from the way I typed the above, the opposite of squick isn't kink, but squee.

“The terms carry implications of uncontrollability, irrationality and insignificance, or inconsequentiality”

I'm a bit surprised at this list, because I constantly see the word kink downgraded from "just shy of a diagnosable paraphilia" to "preference." Which in my mind tends to increase the control and rationality of the term, not decrease it.

(I think squick and squee are terms for automatic/unconscious reactions, and thus I do regard them as generally irrational. So it's not a complete misnomer to say that in this case I'm talking about a squick -- it's just not telling the whole story of "I went away and thought about it, and I still don't like it!" Which... I don't know if we have an accepted term for that.)
[samdonne in response to veejane]::
“you wouldn't know it from the way I typed the above, the opposite of squick isn't kink, but squee.”

Really? I didn't know that.

“I constantly see the word kink downgraded from "just shy of a diagnosable paraphilia" to "preference."

The way I perceive its use, it translates as, "It's the way God made me, so get over it."

“Which... I don't know if we have an accepted term for that.”

An opinion?
[veejane in response to samdonne]::
Yeah, the opposite of kink is usually called "anti-kink," which is so awkward I'm not surprised "squick" is being shoehorned into service.

“The way I perceive its use, it translates as, "It's the way God made me, so get over it."

Well, never let it be said that fandom cannot elevate a preference into a God-given right.
[cofax7 in response to samdonne]::
“Really? I didn't know that.”

Well, it's not like it's in the OED. ::peers at Vee a bit skeptically::

I do think that, generally, the definition of "kink" in fandom is somewhere between "uncontrollable fetish" and "preference", depending on the speaker.

“The way I perceive its use, it translates as, "It's the way God made me, so get over it."

That's how it's often presented. I don't buy that; it's not like J. Edgar Hoover came out of the womb with a fondness for tafetta. There are absolutely cultural, psychological, and environmental elements to kinks and fetishes, and they can change over time. ::shrugs::
[penknife in response to samdonne]:
“I shy away from those terms because they cheapen discourse and tend to kill discussion by allowing people to handwave what they don't want to hear. 'It's a kink/squick so it has no weight, value or consequence. I can safely express it/ignore it. I see what you mean, but I think "squick" particularly is a useful term in the sense that I first learned it (in the context of BDSM) to mean "I violently do not want to do/be exposed to/think about X, but I'm not making a moral judgment about X or saying other people shouldn't enjoy it." I can't think of another good (and short) way of making it clear that I mean "eww, I wish I could unsee that," not "eww, you should stop doing that."
[samdonne in response to penknife]:
I can't think of another good (and short) way of making it clear that I mean "eww, I wish I could unsee that," not "eww, you should stop doing that."

Hm, yes, I see where you're coming from. I guess I have a hard time imagining being completely judgment neutral about anything, and I do place a lot of weight on the private/public distinction. Once it's out there in a public space where I'll be confronted with it (not always via direct confrontation), I'm uncomfortable with language that implies my right (not the word I want, but I can't think of another this late in the day) to react to what you've done/expressed is null and void because it's somehow sacred/beyond reason/untouchable.

I'm sorry; I'm still trying to articulate this to myself, so I doubt I'm making much sense outside of my own head, yet.
[cryptoxin in response to everyone above]::
I'm ambivalent about the extension of these terms beyond descriptors of specific turn-ons/turn-offs in porn preferences. I'm thinking of stuff like "embarassment squick" or "kink" to refer to specific plot elements, character types, or settings/scenarios. I can't quite put my finger on why that troubles me, but it maybe has something to do with how I think about porn in utilitarian terms that reward a certain granular level of classification by increasing the efficiency of finding stuff that works -- where works = gets you off. Even as I'm (again) ambivalent about whether that ultimately narrows and limits the scope of our sexualities and desires in potentially problematic ways. But -- with fiction, I distrust the utilitarian impulse; sure, there's comfort reading and the familiar pleasures of genre, but I also want stuff that's new and challenging and unexpected. Stuff that expands my imagination, opens up new horizons, introduces me to different kinds of pleasure.

My pre-fandom orientation to reading is that I'll read anything if the writing's good and the author sells me on it. I can't recall picking out books based on the generalized equivalent of kinks or squicks. But maybe similar factors are always in play, and we just don't have a good vocabulary for it outside of fandom. I know that there have been lots of books that everybody around me raves about and encourages me to read -- but my instincts tell me that I won't enjoy it, and they're usually accurate if I end up reading the book anyways. And I can't always articulate what's behind those instincts, or formalize them into a set of rules and criteria.

This maybe ties in to my bafflement about warning for character death in fic - which is really the example of a only non-sexual/erotic squick warning in routine use that comes to mind, excepting canon-based spoilers. I kind of get it, but it's just so alien to my way of reading.

Sorry, this was really tangential to your original comment, about which my opinions really oscillate - but I rarely see the issue you're raising fully and thoughtfully discussed. Most often in fandom I've seen people quickly get polarized and defensive and shut down around the questions that you're raising, and it's a shame because they're fascinating questions.
[nestra in response to cryptoxin]: :
“I'm ambivalent about the extension of these terms beyond descriptors of specific turn-ons/turn-offs in porn preferences.” Yeah, I can see that. On the other hand, they're awfully useful terms, so it's not surprising that they get appropriated.
[Nestra in response to everyone above]:

I do believe that people don't really have control over kinks, and that's not something I would feel comfortable judging them for. I would say, however, that people should be cognizant of the way kinks (or preferences, or squicks, or whatever) influence their behavior. So there are people in this thread, who I respect, who have an incest kink. I'm fine with that. I would not be fine if they used that as a reason to justify thoughtless or cruel or rude behavior. There are people who have a deep moral problem with incest, including fictional incest. I respect that too, but I would also not accept that as a reason for rudeness or cruelty.

I don't know if I agree with Vee that "squee" is opposite of "squick". I don't know the etymological origin of "squee", but I do know the history of "squick" as penknife described. And I do agree that the vocabulary is lacking, but as far as I use the terms, they only apply to individual, personal reactions. I don't intend to use them as absolute justification for anything.
[veejane in response to nestra]: :
I... can't find a formal etymology anyplace reputable, but I'm under the impression that quick and squee entered the fandom vocabulary as a pair: they're both from the bondage world.
[Nestra in response to veejane]:
Yeah, I've read the origin of "squick", which was from something like alt.bondage, and I think is a conflation of "squirm" and "ick". I don't remember hearing about "squee" at the same time, though it certainly looks similar. I guess it would be something that makes you squirm (in a good way) and go eeeee!
[Veejane in response to nestra]: :
Do ya remember "squidge"? Now there's a word -- I presume fandom-coined -- that didn't survive. (Definition: squirm + crotchal moisture, so it's not like the word wouldn't be useful, you know?) I mean, it just sounds dirty. Onomatopoeia at work, people!
[Nestra in response to veejane]:
The squidge server is still in existence, though. squidge.org.

Is Wincest Really Tainting the Fandom?

[kyuuketsukirui]:

But they're not tainting it, that's the thing. They're not doing anything to canon.[18]

[nestra]:

No, of course not, any more than the MSRs were doing anything to canon. Only the people involved with the show can do something to canon. But I'd say that fandom can certainly affect your perception of canon and your enjoyment of the show to a greater or lesser degree.[19]

[loligo]:

Whoever said being a fan was all about rationality? *g* But seriously, fandom has been an intimate part of my TV-watching experience for over ten years now -- when I watch my favorite shows, I watch them with all my fannish friends mentally in the room with me. I respond not just with my own thoughts and emotions, but also with thoughts about how other people will experience the episode, how it will get spun into commentary and fic, etc.

And it kind of creeps me out that when I watch SPN, some of the most gorgeous, emotionally raw moments between Sam and Dean are accompanied by the knowledge that 5,000 of my fellow fangirls are at that moment squealing, "OMG did you see that?! They are so doing it!" Which is not to say that they don't have the right to do that; I guess I just want them all to experience the flipside of that knowledge. I want them to know that when they squee about it in their journals the next day, they have friends who are going to wince and scroll past quickly.

Like I said, I think this is something that we as a community can handle politely and respectfully, but I don't think it should be swept under the rug.[20]

[kyuuketsukirui]:

I don't see why it's any different than knowing that slashers are going to say the same of any pair of guys who happen to be within fifty feet of each other, or that some fans are going to hate a female character because she takes "their" man away, gets in the way of their favorite pairing, etc. Or that some fans will watch your "gorgeous, emotionally raw moments" and be all "Whatevs, get back to the INTERESTING part of this show. Where are the damn monsters?"

I don't think it needs to be "swept under the rug", but I think it's pretty silly to be bothered by the fact that not everyone takes the same thing away from a show as you do.[21]

[loligo]:

I see what you're saying, but here's the difference for me: the anti-slashers, the misogynists, the people who just want explosions and monsters and not subtext... they're not really part of "my" fandom. That is, these other issues you mention have been around long enough that people have kind of sorted themselves out into different cliques. Most of us spend most of our online time with people who approach the general fannish experience in ways that are similar to ours, and when we have friendships that cross one of the major fandom divides (e.g. slash vs. no slash) we've probably successfully negotiated how we're going to handle that difference, or the friendship wouldn't have lasted.

But I can't think of another pairing that's generated such sudden, widespread and passionate disagreement *among people who usually like the same things*. I think that's where a lot of the flailing comes from (it does for me, anyway); for the first time I find myself horrified by something that delights a lot of people with whom I usually agree completely.

The only comparable issue I can think of is RPF; that's one where there were (and are) bitter disagreements among people who usually see the fannish world the same way. But RPF for any given show or movie is really a separate fandom, in a way -- it's not tied nearly as closely to the experience of canon, so it's not omnipresent in one's viewing.[22]

[veejane]:

I want them to know that when they squee about it in their journals the next day, they have friends who are going to wince and scroll past quickly.

My -- "strategy" is the wrong word -- practice has been to just unfriend the journals whose content I can't handle. Which is frustrating. Not only does it cut me off from people I otherwise like, it feels like I'm making a political statement (bleh) and it makes me feel like I'm an outsider to the community. I feel like I'll lose people, that I'll miss out on their lives and never get that intimacy back.

But I know what I can handle and what I can't. "Scroll past quickly" just doesn't work for me, the vast majority of the time. I don't know what else to do but unfriend. It drives me bananas, makes me resentful, makes me wish my sensibilities were flimsier than they are.

In sum: I need a topic-filter and a pony.[23]

The Slash vs Gen: Is It An Apt Analogy?

[merryish]:

I don't think there's anything wrong with those of us who are squicked by the Wincest politely mentioning our squick in appropriate forums on a regular basis

I don't think there is either. I think -- and this is extrapolation, but I feel pretty comfortable with it -- that the divide between slash and gen fans in any given fandom is probably emotionally similar enough for analogies with the divide between wincest and non-wincest fans in SPN. I don't see any reason why the two can't coincide peacefully and still talk about the issue when and where it's appropriate, just the way gen and slash fans do.

Granted, I say that as someone not squicked by wincest, so maybe I can't fully see it from the opposite perspective.[24]

[veejane]:

I was going to say. Speaking from the opposite perspective, and actually as somebody who witnessed (mostly with popcorn) the noromo wars, it's not the same. The noromos of old were mostly annoyed (I thought) at the idea that a show about doing should become a show about feeling -- they liked the platonic focus on work, and found that when that focus changed, things got irritatingly goopy. (I'll also agree there was a certain amount of "the only good female is a sexless female!!" in there, as loligo notes.)

In other fandoms, I travel comfortably between gen and slash. Actually, my prime frustration with Supernatural is a lack of slash I can consume. (Come on, people!! Write me some!!)

A preference for one scenario over another is not the same as a major cultural taboo. It's one thing to say, "Well, I don't buy that scenario" or "that scenario is boring" or "that scenario doesn't turn me on" or even "that scenario interferes with the fit of my lovely OTP tinfoil chapeau" -- it's another thing to say "that scenario makes me so uncomfortable I have to leave the room." The question I've been wrestling with over the past several months is how to have a conversation that is as respectful and thorough and deep and fun as possible, while standing in the hallway.[25]

[merryish]

I don't actually know anything about X-files fandom, so I wasn't trying to speak to that.

What I'm hearing you say is that you think the reaction of someone with an incest squick to wincest is far stronger than the reaction of a gen fan to slash.

What I'm saying is, I know gen fans whose reactions to slash are just as strongly negative -- "Slash makes me so uncomfortable I have to leave the room." For them, it's a wrong twist of a platonic friendship in the same way incest is a wrong twist of a familiar relationship. (Note: I am deliberately not touching on any question of homophobia here, because I even though I don't get it, I don't think homophobia is required for a gen fan to be incredibly squicked by slash.)

Yet, even though the reactions to slash range from "I don't care for that" to "OMG get it AWAY", gen and slash fans manage (more or less, and with a few notable exceptions) to share fandoms and not step on each other's toes.

All I'm saying is that even in a fandom where the reactions of non-wincest fans range from "eh, not really" to "Oh HELL no", I still think we're totally capable of talking about our preferences without turning those conversations into kerfuffles. [26]

Using Manips or Blooper Material Outside of the Show’s Context is Like Cheating

[veejane]:

….I still wonder why the shudder moment seems consistently to come at the manip, and not at earlier juxtaposed visuals. (N.b. for those reading along: have not seen the vid in question; speaking from a theoretical standpoint on purpose.) untrue accounts thinks it must be pure squick, and the manip is an incidental carrier of the squick, but... I don't know. I perceive an intellectual difference between juxtaposition and manip, and would like to see a non-squicky manip of similarly high quality so that I can unleash my interpretation-fu.

(My secret pet theory is that even when manips are technically invisible, they'll still cause a weird distancing effect among people familiar with canon. Like, we know what's canonical footage and what's not -- I can usually tell in stills who's in-character and who's not --; attempting to blur that line may be brilliant or it may be annoying, but I don't know whether it can go unnoticed.)

(Also, if you get recruited into a fandom via manipped vids, will you feel "betrayed" by the source text for not matching the recruitment materials??)

[Katie_m in response to veejane]:

I'm pretty sure that there are some vids where non-IC footage is used--blooper reel footage, that kind of thing. (I'm thinking about The Sentinel in particular here, but I'd bet it's out there for dS as well.) I wonder if that gets a reaction as well?

[elynross in response to veejane]:

It definitely does for some people, and it can really depend on the vid. Some people are completely thrown out of vids by the use of blooper material, in part because so often it does seem "out of character." Additionally, some people are thrown out of vids when Buffybot scenes are used as regular Buffy scenes, or Faith as Buffy, etc. Again, that can depend on the context of the vid. If it's a comic vid, sometimes it seems to work better, or just a goofy fun vid (Melina's I'm Too Sexy for HL comes to mind, which uses blooper material), or if all the clips are highly decontextualized, as in a constructed reality vid of some sort.

[Melina123 in response to elynross]:

(Melina's I'm Too Sexy for HL comes to mind, which uses blooper material)” Hrm, it doesn't. Killa & Carol's Opportunities [27]does, to great effect….I think a couple of Central Consortium's now-ancient and not-online vids used blooper footage... I'm So Sick of You and maybe Goody Two-Shoes.

[Katie_m in response to elynross]:

or if all the clips are highly decontextualized, as in a constructed reality vid of some sort.” Yeah, I think this in particular is true of me--so long as I know that the vidder knows that I know that that clip is totally out of context I can relax and have fun. The out-of-contextness can even add to the fun, sometimes. I don't know that it would work for me with a really angsty vid, though.

[elynross in response to melina123]:

So many bloopers are flubs or deliberate goofiness, and the people go out of character during, so yeah, I can't think of any serious/dramatic vids that successfully use them. If nothing else, even if an outtake is played semi-seriously, it might jar some just because they'll be trying to figure out where it came from (I'm thinking of the kissing outtakes from The Sentinel, on this, one of them in my memory isn't entirely comic, but most people will know it's not from the show, so it might still throw people, that or a clip like that, if I'm wrong about the comic aspect of that one. *g*)
[rydra wong]:

I've noticed that I get a weird frisson of discomfort when I've seen wallpapers, manipped icons or whatever for SG-1 that use screencaps of Ben Browder as John Crichton to stand in for Ben Browder as Cam Mitchell.

That sends me right to: *flaily hands* - not the same person! They don't even look the same, dammit!

So for me, there's actually something of a squicklike reaction just from recognizing what my brain registers as "cheating"* (which may be one reason why manips of any kind tend not to work for me).

(*Very heavy scare quotes there.)
[Katie_m]:
A lot of graphical fanart doesn't work for me, actually--I think I've only ever seen one artist who could do drawn fanart that didn't squick me--but yeah, I don't think I've ever been totally unsquicked by a manip. Maybe it is the "but but but--cheating!" reaction, at least partly.

Maybe Our Reaction is so Strong Because the Manip Technique is New?

[cryptoxin]:

I think this is the third vid I've seen in the past few months with a Wincest kiss manip -- though each time I've known what to expect, so I have yet to experience the full, um, frisson of the unexpected manip scene.

I can't help but wonder whether your pet theory marks a transitional phase until everybody gets used to the technique and takes it for granted, or if it will always be vidding's uncanny valley.

I'm guessing that it's still a sufficiently labor-intensive process, thus precluding more casual, experimental use outside of the rare go-for-broke money shot. Which likely means that slashers will remain the pioneers for a while.
[cathexys in response to cryptoxin (going slightly OT)]:

“I can't help but wonder whether your pet theory marks a transitional phase until everybody gets used to the technique and takes it for granted, or if it will always be vidding's uncanny valley.

That was my first thought as well. Nestra, I appreciate your calm and rational analysis of your emotional response and I'm now trying to figure out my own reactions to the kiss. I read Wincest and don't have an incest squick, but I tend to dislike manips and wonder whether the same thing is happening here.

Part of me thinks that we might simply be in a transitional phase where in the end we can actually create visual texts to our heart's content the same way we do now with text. And there's something quite appealing about that. And yet I can't help but wonder whether the manip issue will remain.

Here's my general thoughts on that (and I'm thinking out loud here, b/c I don't spend much time looking at fanart and thus haven't articulated this properly yet): I love fanart even (or maybe especially) when the characters look more like "our" versions of the guys than like the ones we see on TV. Just like I like my guys to be "better," more interesting, more caring, heck, even more neurotic or psychotic than their on screen counterparts, I think that that slight distance is not a bad thing. In turn, in manips, I feel I'm a tad too close to the actor, to the body that inhabits the character onscreen (and this is weird coming from a former RPS fan but still...).

Likewise, I could imagine a cartoonish/drawn vid that I think might be easier to handle, b/c of the distancing effect, whereas the manipulated kiss "uses" the actors (' bodies), which doesn't so much cross a line for me as it weirdly doesn't allow me to sufficiently separate "my" Dean and Sam (or rather, the author's/ the community's?) from the one's on screen...

Photomanips are Like RPS – an Intrusion into the Actor’s Private Lives

[nestra]:

I've never been a huge fan of fanart, though in SGA, I've been exposed to a lot of really good artists. I think it's much easier to make a successful drawing than a successful manip, or at least in terms of what's successful for me. It's one thing to appropriate an actor's body to star in our heads or fantasies or whatever, but it's another step to art, and I think another step past that to manips.

Fanart has always been an interesting subject anyway, I think, because it seems to operate by slightly different rules than other sectors of fandom. It was taboo to make money on zines, but artists regularly sold/sell art for a profit, I believe. And I know that opens up a huge can of worms about text vs. images that I don't have the brain to get into at the moment. ;-)
[cathexys in response to nestra]:

“It's one thing to appropriate an actor's body to star in our heads or fantasies or whatever, but it's another step to art, and I think another step past that to manips.”

Yes, that's it!

The longer I am in fandom, the less happy I am with not thinking through some of the taboos we've so easily let go off lately, such as chan or RPS. And I do think that the debates over inappropriate con behavior and stalking and the fic-art-mani spectrum are somewhere somehow related. Which doesn't mean that they are bad or unethical or wrong...just that I wish we'd sit back every once in a while and actually think about what we're doing instead of answering an RPS=evil rant with an RPS is the greatest!
[nestra in response to veejane]:

I perceive an intellectual difference between juxtaposition and manip”

My first instinct is to say that the manip is inescapable. Shippy or slashy vids generally rely on subtext, obviously, where there is no canon support. But there is no real alternate reading for "they're kissing". And I also agree with astolat’s point that there's power in having this kind of manipulation in the visual medium, where it used to be limited to the textual one.

Are Photomanips the New Uncanny Valley?

[musefool]:
Yeah, I flinched at the kiss each time I watched the vid, and not because I am squicked by Wincest (though I'd be perfectly happy to read the vid as gen with subtext), but because I am creeped out by manips to begin with, and adding motion seems to make it worse. I like the vid a lot, but not having the kiss in would have made me love it unreservedly. Just my 11 cents.
[kestralsan]:
I'm the same with photo manips, mostly because they seem to have that unavoidable plastic quality to them. And while I can acknowledge that what was done in the vid was a pretty tremendous feat of technological wizardry, it's still like a gorgeously crafted story that doesn't fundamentally work. (Aside from the other reasons it doesn't work for me.)

Photomanips Pull Me Out of the Fanwork/Distract Me

[merryish]:
…. I hadn't ever seen [the manipped kiss] in the vid before, though I'd seen the kiss clip as it was being worked on -- and when I saw it all put together, I was thrown out of the vid by it. It's very cool, and on its own I think it's adorable, but it threw me out of the vid the same way a too-clever metaphor can throw me out of a story.”
[jenip]:

Wow, that was interesting. I'm not into the Wincest, though I have read a couple of stories that I thought were well done. I prefer and am happy with my gen read on the relationship, and as I was watching the vid, I thought, "Eh, I can make this work with my view pretty much..." until the manip, which really took me right out of the vid. I think that was because I couldn't figure out where it came from, primarily, and then secondarily, it pinged my squick-o-meter a bit (not my beautiful cake). Suddenly I was watching something that I just knew hadn't been on my screen before, and it weirded me out. Not entirely sure why, or whether a non-Wincest manip would've had the same effect (as someone wonders above). I also wonder whether it would have had the same effect if I'd known there was a manip coming up. Interesting.

BUT. That was really well done, technically. I'm completely curious about how it was done.
[nestra in response to merryish]:

until the manip, which really took me right out of the vid.”

Yeah, that's the moment that sort of takes away any kind of alternate reading. Though people seem to be managing.

“That was really well done, technically. I'm completely curious about how it was done.”

After Effects. That's all I know. Well, no, I read the explanation back when it was posted, which has something to do with basically taking each actor in an individual shot and smushing the two shots together. And masks. I think masks are somehow involved.

Photomanips Intrude Upon My Fantasy World

[merryish]:

I've been thinking about the visual angle. While working and posting otherwhere and whatnot. The manipped kiss did yank me out of the vid, and it's not something that I would have tried to do on my own. But now that you have me all thoughtful, I'm realizing I have the same reaction to manips in general.

Slash doesn't squick me. Slash *manips* can range from "eh, okay" to "OMG GET AWAY" for me depending on how explicit they are, with the most explicit making me actually flinch. (There's a cover of an old TS zine I had to actually rip off; I just couldn't look at it.)

Part of it is that they only rarely look real, but I think the real issue for me is that they take something intensely private (my fantasy life, for instance) and put it on paper for the world to see. And somehow, I find that feels violating, in a way that fiction just never, ever feels for me. Even the most explicit text never does it. Only images. I find them viscerally revealing of something intensely private, and the more explicit they are the more privacy-violating they feel.

Maybe text is a shield for me, somehow? There's a layer of interpretation between my brain and my writing and your brain (or your brain and your writing and my brain) that feels somehow absent when it's a visual image.
[lydiabell in response to merryish]:

the real issue for me is that they take something intensely private (my fantasy life, for instance) and “put it on paper for the world to see. And somehow, I find that feels violating, in a way that fiction just never, ever feels for me.”

Ooooh. I'd never thought about it that way, but this rings true for my reaction to explicit manips as well. The nearest I'd been able to come to an explanation was that the manips, being visual, kind of amount to manips of the actors as well, and that trips my RPF aversion. And that's part of it, but what you're saying is possibly even a bigger factor.
[cathexys in response to merryish]:

“Part of it is that they only rarely look real, but I think the real issue for me is that they take something intensely private (my fantasy life, for instance) and put it on paper for the world to see.”

This is *really* interesting! I was trying to argue for the distancing function of textual renditions above (and I love your concept of the shield), but I framed it more in terms of intruding upon the celebrities' bodies. But you are totally right: it's the other way around!!! It's *my* fantasy that is suddenly there, visually, in a way that text isn't and can never be.

Thanks for articulating this so clearly!
[nestra in response to merryish]:

“I think the real issue for me is that they take something intensely private (my fantasy life, for instance) and put it on paper for the world to see.”

And it's not like we generally sit around and read explicit fanfic together, whereas vid-watching at a con is a very communal experience.
[elynross]:

Which puts me in mind of the fact that while manips don't generally bother me (except when a shot is used that's clearly of the actor, not the character, and yes, my mind makes that distinction clearly, heh), public readings of fanfic are unbearable, and I completely am not into the latest surge in podfic, for similar reasons. It seems too public, hearing someone else reading my fantasy material!

Also, query: do you have the same reactions to fannish drawings of characters that are originally drawn? Like comic characters, or HP art, etc?

Are Photomanips a Form of Meta?

[marinarusalka]:

I haven't seen the vid in question, but I recall seeing another SPN vid with a manipped kiss, and it didn't so much squick me as jar me out of my immersion in the vid. Photomanips tend to do the same thing for me, though hand-drawn art doesn't. I think it's because I tend to view vids as a form of meta. So watching the vid felt to me like somebody writing an essay in favor of Wincest and saying something like "we know it's true, because Sam and Dean had that passionate kiss at the end of 'Skin.'" My immediate response is "but wait, they didn't!"

Which I realize is totally my own issue, because there's no reason to assume that the vidders intent their work to be viewed as meta. They may intend it as a form of fic, or as some other thing unique into itself. It just so happens that I process vids that way when I watch.

As for Wincest, my frustration in SPN fandom (such as it is -- I'm really not all that frustrated) comes mainly from the fact that it doesn't squick me, yet people always assume that it does. Like, as soon as I say I'm not into Wincest, people are all "yes, we understand, you can't help it if you're squicked." And it's kind of annoying to always have it assumed that I'm just in the grip of an irrational knee-jerk reaction.

I don't think Sam and Dean are having sex the same way I don't think that John was an abusive drunk or that Sam is a selfish jerk who doesn't appreciate Dean or that Ellen has been secretly evil all along. I'm not interested in reading Wincest the same way I'm not interested in reading any other characterization I don't agree with. There are people who genuinely believe these takes on the characters and see canon evidence for them (though the "Sam-is-a-jerk" interpretation has fallen out of favor this past season), and other people who don't really believe them but enjoy exploring them as an AU scenario, and I think that's peachy. I just wish that my reaction to Wincest didn't automatically get viewed as different than my reaction to any other aspect of interpreting the show.

References

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