What is Slash? (Fanfic Symposium essay)

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Title: What is Slash?
Creator: The Brat Queen
Date(s): November 19, 2003
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic: Fanfiction, Slash
External Links: What is Slash?, Archived version
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Contents

What is Slash? is an essay by The Brat Queen.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.

Excerpts

Okay, okay. You want more than a quick and dirty summary. Fine. I can do that.

Let's start off with some examples (and let's play try to guess the fandom while we're at it):

1) A manservant works for a rich, single woman for many years. She's often engaged but each and every time he secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) works to make sure the marriage never happens, thus ensuring that he can continue to work for her. His devotion to her is so strong that at one point he even violates the most sacred rules of conduct - something he lives his entire life by - in order to destroy something that would bring embarrassment to her should anyone find out about it. When telling her about it, he explains it was part and parcel of his hope to "remain permanently in [her] service". When she asks why on earth he would want such a thing, he merely replies "There is a tie that binds".

2) A woman's parents are killed when she is a child. She spends her life wishing she could get revenge on the man who did it. Years later, as a young woman, she discovers the location of the murderer. She does everything she can to track him down and destroy him, but the man she's lived her whole life with does everything he can to stop her. Finally they have a confrontation about it. She rails against him, decrying "You and your stone cold heart! You don't know how I feel! How could you!?" Later, after the murderer is taken care of, she says "You were right, y'know, not bringing me along. You knew I'd take it too personally." He quietly replies, "It wasn't that at all. [He's] taken so much, caused you so much pain. I couldn't stand the thought that he might… take you too."

3) A group of heroes are under attack. There's a way for them to save the day, but only if someone can manage to escape and get the information they need. The leader of the group, a woman, stands her ground, insisting that the others go. Her second in command, a man, comes to her side, says no and insists that it has to be her and her alone. She hesitates, locking eyes with him, unable to tear herself away. One of their group, watching this, nudges her to make a decision by reminding her "Hearts get in the way, right?" She finally leaves, never breaking that eye contact until she's thrust completely out of the room.

Now take these scenes and ask yourself would you be surprised if you later found out that those characters were in love with each other? That they wanted to sleep together? Heck, that maybe these scenes were indications that they already do?

Fine. Now explain to me why it changes when we find out that 1) Is Jeeves and Wooster, from Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, 2) is Batman and Robin, from Batman: The Animated Series Robin's Reckoning and 3) Is Angel and Wesley, from Angel the Series Sacrifice.

Gender doesn't change the implications that those emotions have. No, really, it doesn't. No, really, it doesn't.
The "straight until proven queer" argument is also a false one because it's not one that's actually supported by the world we live in. Pride parades and Supreme Court rulings aside, gay people still have to deal with living in the actual closet. Just like on TV, they can't come out and act gay as much as they would like.

Moreover the assumption falls flat because it relies on the belief that sexuality is something that can be easily interpreted based on looking at someone.

[snipped]

"So and so isn't gay! He's never dated another man in his life!"

Are you sure? How do you know? How old is this character? Have you really heard about each and everything he's ever done ever? Is he the kind of character who'd be inclined to talk about his personal business? Is he in an environment where he could talk about dating another guy in the first place? (And before you answer that question with "Yeah, sure, he's constantly surrounded by his loving family and friends!" you may want to ask a gay person how nerve-wracking it was for them to come out to their family and friends. Go ahead and ask me if you'd like. I have the most supportive family in the world and it still gave me nervous butterflies.)

And, assuming that he hasn't ever dated another guy, who's to say for certain that he doesn't want to?