Whoring for the WB and Other Crimes Against Slash

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Title: Whoring for the WB and Other Crimes Against Slash
Creator: Thamaris
Date(s): October 11, 2002
Medium: online journal post
Fandom: Smallville
Topic:
External Links: page one; archive link page one; page two archive link page two; page three; archive link page three
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Whoring for the WB and Other Crimes Against Slash is a 2002 meta essay by Thamiris.

"WB" is Warner Bros..

The Logic of Smallville Alarmists:

  • People believe what they choose.
  • Slash alarmists in the SV fandom believe that there is less slash on the show now, and that the amount will continue to drop.
  • Therefore, they see less slash on the show.

Some Topics Discussed

From the Essay

To see slash is a matter of re-reading words and actions, which you then code through your filter. Feminists have done this for decades; it's called "reading against the grain." Readers interested in hearing from marginal voices within a narrative do this: you simply accept that you're person who owns the subtext and look for the words and actions that you can recontextualize within the logic of the text.

No one else can own subtext because language doesn't work that way; words shift and change depending on a reader's experiences and beliefs, on the praxis of words in that reader's sphere. Writers therefore own their text, but because language is full of uncontrollable currents, text can't contain subtext; subtext always breaks free, and changes from reader to reader. No matter what the writer believes that subtext to be, the authorial subtext is only one of many, and often not the most interesting or thoughtful.

Puns, for instance, depend on the gap between the layer of text and its subtext: in The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer has his first narrator, a stuffy old knight, talk about a young hottie bathing in a temple, all pink and wet and ready for it. With his hormones on overload, he starts to babble about pussy. Not her pussy, you see--the knight's too much of a priss. No, he thinks he's being all respectable while he yaps on about pussy willow this, and pussy cat that. Everything but the sweet fresh cunt of the Amazon. The other narrators in the story snicker, 'cos it's soooo obvious to everyone but Sir John that he wants to bang the girl. When he's down, narrator number 2 steps up to bat. This second guy's a loud, drunken porn-lovin' miller who nearly falls off his horse laughing at the knight. The miller can't resist making fun of Sir Oblivious, and tells a story that's bursting with pussy. Real pussy, the kind that meows only if you rub it the right way. It's about this horny chick strutting her stuff for this cute guy, Nick, 'cos her husband just can't keep up with her. Nick even grabs her by the pussy, in case we missed the point, and you can just picture the miller cackling and the knight finally grabbing a clue. The joke there depends on a narrator who can't control the nuances of language: he tries to keep his pussy pure, so to speak, but words don't respond well to restraint.

As a reader of the knight's tale, the miller's doing exactly what slash fen do: he's reading against the grain, making his own meaning. The knight could argue til he's blue in the face as well as balls that when he says "pussy" he doesn't mean her, you know, and the miller will never believe him. He knows what he's heard, and it amuses the fuck out of him, so he's going to keep seeing a girl's spread thighs.

See, if you buy into the alarmist thinking of certain SV fen, you're displacing your sensitivity to slash onto a perceived lack of slash. Even if you don't want to see the demise of slash, you will, because you'll end up attuned to words and actions that might indicate it. This is the nature of interpretation, which always reflects our own biases, even if we don't always realize this. Granted, sometimes the nature of a particular text makes it harder for us to see the throbbing man-need underneath. But this is Smallville, guys: we're working with a show predicated on the undying, profound tension between two very similar men, a tension that begins with a kiss. Nothing can erase that starting point, what it meant to Lex and how it touched Clark; that's already embedded in textual and subtextual history.

But they don't want us to see it, you whine. Those nasty Powers that Be want us to believe in heterosexual goodness because it sells. So fucking what? You're going to let them tell you what to think, what to see? Are you a slasher or a bitch for the WB? They can kiss my ass--I see what I want, and I want to see sexual tension between Clark and Lex, want and need and anger because "I want you but I can't have you, or maybe I can, do it like that, yeah, there, that's good". No one can take that away from you, not if you're reading the way you want, the way those delicious boys and their delicious situation beg you to.

If you watch Smallville and you don't see what I do, the Heat, baby, then you're looking in the wrong place. Adjust your slashy glasses and join in the fun--the WB has enough people on their team.

Fan Comments

[wickedzoot]:

Set your filters, put on your glasses, and don't let either the alarmist or rightspeakers in *any* fandoms say ye nay.

[butterfly]:

People generally see what they think is there. Hell, that's why Superman gets away with his secret identity. Doofy Clark Kent can't possibly be Suave Superman. That's the reason that people keep moving into Sunnydale. "You hear things, but nobody believes it."

The power of "it couldn't possibly be true therefore it's not" works in 'real life' as well as fiction. My brother was shocked, sincerely shocked when mom told us that she and dad were getting divorced. And he'd heard how horrible the fights were getting. We'd sit on the stairs together, listening to them scream. Dad punched a hole in the wall once. But none of it really sunk in because he didn't believe it could be true.

You think that the show is going to be getting less slashy, therefore you see less slash. Like, to take a het example, I can see the power of the eventual Buffy/Xander eternal love because I want to. I love them together, ergo, everything that I see is tainted by that view. Do I believe that Joss is slipping hints of a B/X future? I kinda sorta have to. That's part of the whole shipper thing.

So, basically, to sum up what I just said: I totally agree with you.

[lexcorphope]:

I look at it this way, Tham. If they're looking in the wrong place, and they see less and less slash, and finally decide they must leave the fandom because TPTB stole all their subtext... great! Let me be the first one to open the door for them. I'll bid them a fond farewell. In other words, "More Clex for us, YAY!"

[thamaris]: I just wish [those fans] go now and spare the rest of us the burden of listening to how the show is failing them, and the lack of slash is slowly killing them. I'd happily step in and speed up the latter process, if they'd like, because the whining is driving me homicidal.

[snipped]

I'm just fed up with all the negative talk in the fandom; I want to enjoy it, enjoy the show, and if people can't, then why in fuck's name don't they go and find some perfect fandom that will fulfill all their needs and leave the rest of us alone with the prettiest boys in the world?

[poisoninjest]: Slash alarmists in the SV fandom believe that there is less slash on the show now, and that the amount will continue to drop.

This... boggles the mind. We're three episodes into the season, people, chill the fuck out, wait and see what happens. Besides-- "Vortex" was very much about Clark and Lex's relationship, and just because we didn't get a lot of eyefucks and groping doesn't mean it can't be slashy. "Heat"-- everyone seems to be going to extremes on this one, declaring it either a glaring example of HoNay or the Gayest Gay that Ever Gayed. (I found it very slashy and very het-- it's about sex, plain and simple. Straight sex, gay sex, ejaculating eyeball sex, fluorescent pink breath sex, popcorn sex, scarecrow sex.) As for "Duplicity"-- not every episode can be about the Clark/Lex relationship, and Clark and Pete's friendship and Lex and Lionel's relationship were two areas that needed exploring. (Lex's role on the show is clearly not All About Clark anymore-- it's about his father, his business ventures, his curiosity about meteors, his place in Smallville-- and I think that's scaring a lot of people.) Sometimes I think we've gotten so used to reading the Clark/Lex subtext as text that we can't see it anymore unless we're being beaten over the head with it. Finding subtext usually takes work and creativity.

It cracks me up that all the Jossverse slashers are squealing about little slashy moments on this season's Buffy and Angel-- The Look between Spike and Xander in "Beneath You," Wes feeding Angel in "Deep Down"-- when some SV fans aren't satisfied with watching Clark grope Lex in "Heat." ;o)

[gwendolen]: Being mortal enemies can be a very good thing *g*. One look at X-Files and Mulder/Krycek or Skinner/Krycek shows us that clearly. Some of the best stories in those fandom started out on the premise that at least Mulder hated Krycek.

Hm, in a way there are a lot of parallels between M/K and C/L. Friendship at first, but coloured with lies, then betrayal, hatred, pain, anguish, suffering and still there's the chance for love, unvoiced, unacknowledged or maybe one-sided maybe not. And yet, there's still hope for an happy-end. Ohhhh, such a great premise for stories *g*. But then I need my angst *eg*.

[snipped]

I think it's mostly the younger fans who want to be hit over the head with the slashy subtext. And who want it easy not with all the complications one has to think around once they are estranged or even enemies.

Fans for whom Smallville is the first fandom and don't go back to the beginning. Just thinking about that makes me viel old *g*. K/S- and Pros-zines were my beginning.

TPM made it especially hard on the fans, one of the pairing died in the end. Smallville is easy compared to some of the other fandoms and I guess those who start complaining now are spoilt, spoilt, spoilt.

I haven't seen any of the eps of season 2 yet but it can't be as bad as some other fandoms. Last two seasons of XF come to mind. Buffy! I've already mentioned TPM. Or classic SW.

Agree on the bugger off.

[slodwick]: I really am sick of people giving ultimatums (after only the third fucking episode of the season), declaring that if things don't start going the way they think it should, they're going to bail on the show.

You know what I say to those people? Go. Get the hell out of my space, because I don't need it. I love this show, I see the HoYay (and I can even see the HetYay), and I enjoy it. Why insist on trying to ruin my good time? Cause I can tell you know, it ain't gonna happen. As you said, as long as MR & TW are on the show, and continue to have scenes together, there will be no stopping me.

[theatlien]: Dear WB,

If you don't want me to read and write gay porn about Smallville on the internet, please don't put homoeroticism in THE SHOW'S TRAILERS.

Sincerely,

LaT

[thepouncer]: I'd never seen slash before Smallville, not really. Some relationships in Joss Whedon shows seemed almost explicit - Ethan/Giles, Spike/Angelus, Buffy/Faith, and Angel/Lindsey. There was definitely something there. But Smallville was like an explosion of Clark/Lex luuurrvve. They were so incredibly blatent last season that I'm amazed that anyone can deny it. But you are so right about the beauty of interpretation, because as a viewer I can choose how I watch the episode. I'm still seeing gobs and gobs of slash in the first three episodes, even without steamy looks between Clark and Lex.

I watched some X-Files episodes on FX last month. One had Krycek in it. I'd learned of the existence of Mulder/Krycek slash, but had never really understood why. Watching the expression on Mulder's face when he saw Krycek for the first time, I understand it now.

Lois McMaster Bujold wrote an essay where she discussed her love of classic Star Trek. She said her mother was amazed that Lois and her good friend would watch and squeee over the show during its original run. Bujold said she rewatched the episodes at a later point in her life and was amazed by the clunky sets and the dialogue, because it had been such a magical show in her youth. She said it was the power of imagination we bring as active readers or viewers that adds extra magic to the work. I think she's very right about this - when I choose to engage my imagination and bring extra attention to a story or an episode, I enrich the process immeasurably.

I still see slash in Smallville. I don't think I'll ever stop at this point.

[thamaris]:

I do think that viewers need to take responsibility for much of what they see and don't, instead of letting the show or our perception of TPTB dictate that. I never thought much about slash until I read it on the net, with the exception of one Wiseguy episode, which was so slashy even I recognized it back then. *g*

References