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And now for something completely different...

Over the course of the past week, claudiapriscus and I have been having a discussion on tumblr. When we had come to a satisfiable end, claudiapriscus thought it might be nice to document the discussion and post it on LJ and see what other people thought.

The discussion started off with us complaining about the tendency in some fandoms to "woobie-fy" the villains, rather than be disgusted with their evilness... but it then moved into us discussing other fandom trends, like using queer relationships to double-down on heteronomativity, or the trend towards associating yourself with being an activist for queer representation when really you just want to see pretty boys kiss.

We also briefly discuss LJ vs. AO3.

This isn't usually the sort of thing I would post, because I do get really critical of a large portion of the fandom here... but, on the other hand, because I usually don't talk about it, I AM interested to see what happens if I do.

(Spoiler warning for Thor, Avengers, and, especially, Thor 2.)


Original Topic of Discussion: Unpredictableevil/hells_half_acre reblogged a photoset of Loki from the beginning of the Avengers movie and a meta arguing that there was evidence that Loki had been tortured by Thanos, and may be acting against his own will (or with a broken will) in Avengers. One of the subsequent contributors to the meta mentioned that Joss Whedon often layers his work and that they wouldn’t be surprised if the evidence of torture and implications of that torture were expressly intentional.

claudiapriscus reblogged the photoset from unpredictableevil and added: Whedon likes his layers on layers, but he talks about them too. I doubt he’s on board with woobie!Loki. You know what the gifset leaves out? All the looks of sheer pleasure he gives when getting on with the murdering and maiming.

And the conversation evolved from there...

unpredictableevil: I think it’s a mix. The best villains are grey - able to arouse both sympathy and disgust.

claudiapriscus: I think that already exists, though. I mean, you have the first movie, Loki’s massive daddy issues, the fact that he thinks genocide is a good way forward to resolve his daddy issues…Thor 2, where out of petulance, he aids the attackers, leading to the death of the mother he does care about, which then makes him angsty and full of grief-rage, but still doesn’t stop him from what…removing/killing (?) Odin and replacing him? Plus he’s charismatic. I think the tendency in fandom to want to make him into a torture victim who is acting out of fear arises from the desire to whitewash away the fact that he is a villain, and has earned his villain status. Especially because it doesn’t add to the sympathy/disgust thing; it just provides excuses to get rid of the disgust.

unpredictableevil: Oh, I completely agree. I mean, granted Thor 2 is after the events talked about above - and I haven’t actually seen Thor 2 so I can’t speak to it at all…

But yes, there’s a disturbing trend in all fandoms to turn villains into woobies that they can love and pity instead of actually address how they’re horrible people.

I wasn’t speaking on behalf of those people - I was just explaining what I personally thought and how this discussion supported part of that headcanon [of the best villains being able to arouse sympathy as well as disgust].

I think you can be a torture victim and still be a horrible person. I mean, seriously, if Loki wasn’t an amoral idiot having a temper tantrum, he never would have ended up as a possible torture victim to begin with. He would have just said, “Oh, so, I’m adopted and my dad’s an ass. But hey, at least my brother loves me and is pretty cool - and I’m treated like a prince and all. Could be worse!”

claudiapriscus: Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to jump down *your* throat or anything- I know you’re not in that category. I may have just spent a little bit too much time searching through the MU tags (poor comics fandom, it’s been totally swamped, there’s no distinction between universes) recently and it’s kind of a hair trigger reaction.

I don’t think there’s been a fandom where I’ve liked the source material and some of the fic so much and yet had the general tenor of the fandom annoy me so much. AU hardly has any meaning. I mean, I guess it makes sense because they are movies and thus there isn’t the constant reminders week to week of where canon actually stands, but still.

Also, random thought: have you ever noticed how very same-y fanon is, when it starts going that way? Like meta-fandom. So many of the uber fluffy Sam/Gabe (and Dean/Cas, or even wincest, I guess) falling into the same dynamics and tropes as say, so many of the fluffy MCU slash.


unpredictableevil: No worries. I completely understand why it’s a spot of annoyance. It’s also a spot of annoyance for me - or, better said, a spot of “I am quite disturbed by this trend.”

Also, it must be super annoying for the tags to be swamped with MCU stuff - it’s why I attempt to remember to tag all MCU stuff with “MCU” in the hopes that people will have a filtering extension set up and can blacklist that tag if they just want to hang out in the comics world.

I don’t participate too much in the fandom, but I have noticed that fanon gets same-y pretty quickly. You can basically just interchange the names in some stories and no one would bat an eye. Tropes are tropey, and there seems to be these standard archetypes that people cling to - and cling to so hard that they’ll deliberately change characters that don’t fit into those archetypes and then insist that they were like that the whole time.

I’m sure I’m guilty of it too though - I do have my tropes that I cling to and characters that I prefer.

claudispriscus: Lies and more lies. I’ve read your fics, and you fit the tropes to the characters. I care less about the tags here on Tumblr, because hey, it’s all good, but the tags on Ao3 drive me mad. Basically anything in the marvel world- 616, 1610, MCU, any specific MCU film-will pull up 999999 fics set in some Marvel Meta ‘verse, each stuffed with tags and tags and tags and there’s little hope of actually finding what you’re looking for. (In other news, people who tag their woobie!baby!Loki fic with ‘Journey into Mystery’ are going to the special hell.)

The meta fandom thing might actually interest me, in an academic sense, if it didn’t hit so many of my “urgh, DNW” buttons. I’m really disturbed by the roles and small boxes the female characters get relegated to (if they’re not just all together erased). I am not a fan of regressive gender roles and the romance tropes that utilize them, and I don’t actually think it’s actually all that transgressive to apply them to male characters if the male characters are coded in every way with hetero-normative (to say nothing of sexist) expectations (e.g. in pairing x/y, one character will be the “man” and [the other character] will be the “woman”). And even more subjectively, I don’t like stories that strip out all the interesting characterizations and interpersonal conflicts in order to fit every character into some bland, tired hangout sitcom dynamic (seriously, it’s like “changing channels”). Grrr. YMMV, DLDR, and I will defend to the death fandom’s right to write and read whatever fandom wants. But god, these are all my kryptonite and with LJ pretty much DOA anymore, it’s so hard to kind of self-segregate. You’ve just got to look at all of it. Especially because so many of the ‘meta fandom’ type fics on Ao3 have tagged every single character mentioned, every single possible pairing, every single movie, comic book, and cartoon related to all the characters.

Grrr. this whole subject makes me grumpy. KIDS, GET OFF MY LAWN.


unpredictableevil: Oh god, yeah… trying to find stuff on AO3, especially in the MCU fandom for certain characters is infuriating. I was just having this discussion with another friend that centered more around ships that have become very popular with fandom and so certain characters tags are inundated with that ship and…well, if the fic has features that ship than you know the characterization is off from the get-go, because the only way those two people would be put together is if one or both of the characters had a severely altered personality.

Anyway, that’s a whole other topic, I know…

The meta-fandom thing also interests me in an academic sense, but I agree that I would not want to do the research myself. I also agree that nothing gets me angrier than hetero-normative gay relationships in fic and what that says about how those writers view gender roles and femininity in general. What drives me more crazy about it is that you see some of these authors also claiming that they want their ship to be canon because “queer representation” and “I’m an ally” and “media should be more socially progressive” - meanwhile they’re stripping a character of his personality because they can’t fathom a relationship where one character isn’t a submissive delicate flower who can’t open jars and needs someone strong to look after them, and the only “real” sex is penetrative sex, and the “feminine” partner always has to be the one being penetrated.

Ughhhhhhhhh… that’s kind of two topics too though. Anyway, yeah… get off my lawn, kids. :P

claudiapriscus: I’m going to be all tumblr and be all: THIS POST. THIS POST RIGHT HERE. Which is just a shorter and more emotive way of saying you are so goddamn right it’s not even funny. (but I prefer the way that involves swearing.) That is exactly it. Those tropes/fics offend me- as a subjective reader, not saying that everyone will feel the same way, nor that all fics that fall into these broad categories are like this, but the ones that are are really annoying, and there’s enough of them that I feel justified talking about trends- on so many freaking different levels. Because yes, there’s the completely messed up thing of using supposedly queer relationships to double down on heteronormativity. There’s the even more messed up thing of claiming to be an activist for doing so. (Which is a new low for slacktivism. It’s not often that you see anyone claiming that straight men watching lesbian-themed porn is progressive, feminist, or anti-patriarchy.) Which brings us to the whole issue of fetishizing someone else’s sexuality, and I suspect whole papers could be written on that subject. And then, then if you can get past all that, if you can get past the way actual female characters are demonized, excluded, or at the very best, relegated to even more minor roles than canon affords them…ditto PoC characters, more often than not….then you get the lovely final parting gift of the resurrection of the most sexist bullshit in regards to gender roles. It’s worse than freaking Twilight. And truth be told, I’d like to think it was all 15 year olds who simply didn’t know better, except it so often isn’t. WTF, fandom.

Rant, rant, rant. But I never see this stuff discussed. Possibly because of the likelihood of being flamed out of existence, IDK. But the point is that it builds up.

And while I’m ranting, let’s look at the pairing tag issue. Y’know, I spotted an Ao3 Tony/Pepper feed here on tumblr. I followed it. Do you know how often Tony/Pepper tagged stories actually involve Tony/Pepper? It’s like one out of ten or fifteen. Most of the others just have the briefest allusions to past Tony/Pepper. And the rest seem to be about Male Character A, B, or C, consoling Tony after that bitch breaks his heart. (so often, it’s Loki.) Arghghghgghg.


unpredictableevil: I’m going to double down on the Tumblr-isms and also say. YES! THIS! THIS POST!

Doubling down on heteronormativity is not queer activism. Also, wanting pretty boys to kiss is not queer activism.

What I think happens is that a fan does genuinely support better and more representation of LGB relationships in the media. Separate and apart from that, they also want two pretty boys to kiss. The result is this weird belief that those two things are the same thing. And we know that’s not the case from shows like Teen Wolf, that HAVE LGB characters already, and yet because those LGB characters aren’t the SPECIFIC pretty boys that the majority of vocal fans want to see kiss, suddenly there’s an “activist” trend trying to claim that because the specific pretty-boy pairing isn’t canon, the show is somehow failing at representation.

(I’m leaving off the T in LGBT, because as far as I know the only show that actually has a Trans* character is OITNB [edit: also Orphan Black]... and most of this weird slacktivism that I see is about relationships rather than genders… actually, I should probably leave off the L too, and put a caveat on the B that explains that the same “activists” only seem to campaign for male bisexual characters… I wonder why that would be :P )

And I’m not trying to be self-righteous here. I’m fully aware that I enjoy pretty boys kissing, that a lot of my free time is spent fetishizing other people’s sexuality - specially gay male’s sexuality, since that’s basically the only sexuality that I don’t/can’t experience myself. But the important distinction is that I KNOW I’m doing it and I don’t pretend that it’s NOBLE of me or that I’m being somehow progressive. I’m not being progressive, I’m being a bit gross.

And yeah, to continue the rant about MCU ships… I’m a big fan of Clint Barton. I can maybe get behind the Clint/Natasha ship, that’s okay… but do you know how many fics tagged with Clint or Clint/Natasha are actually Clint/Coulson? It’s ridiculous. I mean, it’s great that people are using their imaginations, blah blah blah… but COME ON. They had one scene together. ONE. Clint and Natasha have an entire history and are shown to be very good friends! And how come I can’t find a really cool story about Clint that’s NOT framed in a unbelievable romance? Blah…

claudiapriscus: I so hear you. On all of this. (my we’re really just of the same mind tonight or what). Like, yes on the sexuality thing, too. I don’t have a problem with wanting to see/imagine/write/read about two pretty boys kissing, but yeah, the problem comes when that’s elided with actual progressive gestures/stances, because it has the effect of…well, I don’t know how to quite say this right. It makes queer activism all about what gets someone, and especially a lot of straight women, off, so to speak? Even if it’s unintentional. Instead of it being “representation and activism is important, and on a totally separate and unrelated note, these two pretty boys kissing is pretty damn hot, y/y” it kind of gets perverted into activism for the purpose of sexually objectifying someone else’s sexuality. I think that’s why the lesbian-themed porn and straight guys keep coming to mind. It’s all about whose interests are being served- whose interests are considered primary.And activism should always serve the interests of the oppressed and marginalized parties, not the appetites of the privileged.

On the pairing issue, yeah, I so hear you on that too. Most of the reason I followed the Tony/Pepper tag is because I fucking love Pepper Potts, but the ship tag is the best bet (although still highly flawed, see complaint above) of finding her in a primary role. Now, part of this is because they’re a canon couple, and so even the gen fics ten to tag with it because they’re not going AU, even if it’s not the focus of it. That was something that made so much more sense when, say, there were gen communities, and pairing communities, so you would know which each tag meant in context. Dean/Lisa on a D/C comm would be certainly understood differently - i.e. background or previous pairing- than Dean/Lisa on a het comm (relationship or smut fic), and ditto with the gen comms (relating to what was seen in canon, with romantic elements possibly acknowledged but not central). I kind of wonder if it’d be possible to resurrect something similar on Ao3 with collections, where people could add their fic to a collection the way they would have added them on LJ to a comm.

I am pretty sure I’ve got some clint stuff bookmarked. I’ll have a look. (though you’ve probably already read it, haha)


unpredictableevil: Another tumblr move of me is going to be this:

activism should always serve the interests of the oppressed and marginalized parties, not the appetites of the privileged.

YES. EXACTLY.

And yes, LJ was really good for finding like-minded communities, or knowing what you were more likely to find based on what community it was posted to. I remember explaining that to someone once when they posted an anti-John fic to a community that primarily shipped John/Dean in (disturbing to me) fluffy ways, and then didn’t understand why they got so much hate on the fic.

AO3 is nice because it’s such a vast archive that has basically anything that you could want - but that’s also its downside, because you’ve got to wade through way more stuff you don’t want to find what you want… and if people don’t tag or summarize well, you’re basically doomed to miss really good fic and accidentally subject yourself to really bad fic too.

Anyway, if you can shoot me some good Clint stuff, I’d appreciate it. I’ve had a few recs from another friend that I’m still working through, but other than that, I actually haven’t read too much Clint stuff because I just keep getting frustrated about having to sift through all the Clint/Coulson, or the “it says Clint is in this, but it’s actually about pairing X/Y and Clint just plays a supporting role that isn’t that interesting.” Much like your problem with finding Pepper stuff.

Comments

( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
claudiapriscus
Jun. 14th, 2014 10:27 pm (UTC)
And I'm still working on that rec list!
franztastisch
Jun. 14th, 2014 10:38 pm (UTC)
Do you have any objection to me jumping in here and going: friends?

I feel we would get on. :)

ETA: I too freaking love Pepper Potts. :D

Edited at 2014-06-14 10:39 pm (UTC)
claudiapriscus
Jun. 14th, 2014 11:10 pm (UTC)
Please! I can never have enough pepper Potts loving friends!
hells_half_acre
Jun. 14th, 2014 11:18 pm (UTC)
Yay! I was actually going to suggest that you guys should be friends, but you beat me to it! ;)
franztastisch
Jun. 15th, 2014 10:53 pm (UTC)
Woo! Added. :)
hells_half_acre
Jun. 14th, 2014 11:20 pm (UTC)
No rush! Taking your time saves me from drowning myself in Clint fic and never getting anything else done ever... as wonderful as that would be. ;)

Also, I'm behind in my Ironman movies, but if you wanted to throw some good Pepper Potts fic into the list, feel free! I do have Ironman 3 ready and waiting to watch on my computer, I just haven't gotten to it yet.
claudiapriscus
Jun. 14th, 2014 11:30 pm (UTC)
Will do! There's some good post im3 pepper fic. Also, I wrote 1500 words of FEELS fic about it as well.
franztastisch
Jun. 14th, 2014 10:38 pm (UTC)
Dude, this is super interesting and I'm so glad you posted it here where it's really easy to read because (bad person) I was ignoring it on tumblr (tumblr is terrible for discussions.)

But but (to copy) YES! THIS! THIS POST!

Oh were to start: Actually, best to start here: I am very good at blanking things I don't like. I am very good at compartmentalising, and I am very good at forgetting things I don't like. I, like you, love Clint Barton and I, like you, despise Clint/Coulson. As I ship Clint/Natasha, my problem for finding fic is not as big as yours (aside: AO3, while wonderful, is terribly for finding genfic), but you do have to wade through SO MUCH CRAP to find what you want because of this meta-tagging-however-you-referred-to-it. Partly, I guess this is because AO3 is still in beta mode. So I guess we could get a bunch of people together to request segregating relationship tags etc to make this easier. But yeah. This is something that comms on LJ do SO MUCH BETTER. And why I am forever grateful to be_compromised for existing. (Another aside: read cat_77 stories for gen Clint and Natasha, which very little Coulson, if I remember correctly. She's on AO3 too.)

Erasure of female characters and - what did you call it? - doubling down on heteronormity? Is super irritating even though, like you, I do often read it. But it's an evolution, right? Because in SPN I read some really disturbing shit, because it was fandom standard (there was a icon once: SPN fandom; where RPF is the moral high ground. It's true. Everything's going to be awful if incest is your standard) but I can't read Thor/Loki for that very same reason (also, Loki = meh. And Loki fans are crazy weird). I can’t read Clint/Coulson because Coulson = Avengers dad so it's incest to me. Also Coulson = meh now. It's a weird desensitisation thing where, because it's fanfic, it doesn't matter. Or something. And you should have seen some of the stuff I read when I was in bandom. I mean, I'm grossed out just thinking about it. But I had no other frame of reference and no one pointed out that it was weird or wrong. I just thought that's what fandom was. (Another aside: education in school regarding rape/consent would have helped A LOT in realising that it was weird - and I went to good schools and had pretty good sex ed.)

The only other thing is the problem I have with the other side: the people who point out that there are HUGE problems with fandom (and here are) but sound sanctimonious and make me - (break out the tumblr words) a white, privileged, straight (for arguments sake) cis female - feel like a bad person for exactly the same reason they're defending all these marginalised groups; because that's how I was born. And sometimes I feel the whole argument is terrible because a lot of people are shouting and a lot less are actually listening. And I'm not saying it shouldn't continue (because it should) but the internet is my escapism, you know? I don't want to come on it to find that people's whose opinion's I might otherwise agree with seems to think I'm worth less because I happen to be part of the majority.

So. That's a thing.

ETA: Oh! But I never explained why I mentioned the blanking at the beginning. Basically, I can search through AO3 and almost not see all that stuff I don't want to. I can do it with tumblr and LJ too - it's how I got by without tumblr saviour for so long. As such, while many of these things annoy me when I think about them, I can not think about them and get on dandy and grand.

But yes. Woobiefying villains pisses me off (even more so with Loki because it ignores the fact that we have, for the first time in a good long while, been given a genuinely interesting bad guy, and because Tom Hiddleston is attractive, he has to be retconned into a good guy because bad guys can't be attractive or whatever.)

And sometimes MCU fans just annoy me because the MCU is, by an large, pretty inclusive and intelligent and clever, and people so often miss the point. But I guess that's true for many fans. Missing the point is sort of where the internet lives.

Edited at 2014-06-14 10:47 pm (UTC)
hells_half_acre
Jun. 14th, 2014 11:43 pm (UTC)
Tumblr really is horrible for discussion, and since it's primarily a site for pretty pictures, I often skip long discussion posts as well - so yeah, no worries about not reading this discussion as it was happening!

Thanks for the comm rec! I've add it to my "feed" page or whatever the heck it's called now.

It's true that there IS an evolution when it comes to fandom - and I'm sure if I went back to some of the stuff that I read while I was in the Naruto fandom, I'd be appalled with myself... but then again, as you say, that was the fandom standard. The fandom I started with, Due South, actually had a pretty high standard, which is probably why I'm a little more cheesed off about this kind of stuff than your average bear.

I guess the thing is that I would be a little more forgiving, if I pictured all these authors as 15 year-olds who just don't know any better - but then as soon as that image gets disturbed, you're like "wait, you're an adult? You have no excuse then!" :P

I think Clint/Coulson reads as incest to me too. That really is a good comparison for the level of squick that I feel at the thought of it.

And sometimes I feel the whole argument is terrible because a lot of people are shouting and a lot less are actually listening [...] And sometimes I feel the whole argument is terrible because a lot of people are shouting and a lot less are actually listening.

I forget what I was watching/listening to the other day - but they described commenting on something on the internet as opening a door and shouting into a room that is filled with people who are shouting.

I don't want to come on it to find that people's whose opinion's I might otherwise agree with seems to think I'm worth less because I happen to be part of the majority.

Yeah, there's that about it. I have a few people on my tumblr who like to reblog things that hate on cisgendered white people... I kind of just picture them as, and this is kind of horrible, but I find it helps if I picture them as abused kids who finally escape the house and the first thing they do is punch someone - it's not about the person they punched, it's about the fact that they can't punch the people that they actually want to punch. And the same goes for opinions - if they have to make my opinion worth less than theirs because they've been around someone all day that kind of looked like me who acted like their opinion was worth MORE, than that's understandable - but I've still put my opinion out there, and maybe it gets heard and maybe it doesn't, but that's really life in general.

Basically, I can search through AO3 and almost not see all that stuff I don't want to. I can do it with tumblr and LJ too - it's how I got by without tumblr saviour for so long.

Yeah, I can't really do that. My compensation is to just be absolutely brutal with the "unfollow" button - but when it comes to wading through fic on Ao3, I just end up getting frustrated because I can't narrow it down enough.

But, as you point out, AO3 is still in beta - so it may still improve, though it's been the same for many years now.

Yes to everything you said about Loki.

Missing the point is sort of where the internet lives.

Haha, this should be the internet's slogan. :P
katsheswims
Jun. 14th, 2014 11:45 pm (UTC)
Interesting discussion.

I'm with you on the enforced stereotypes to make one guy the "weaker/feminine" one in order to make them a couple. I just don't understand when I see fic requests/searches where someone says they only read "bottom"-whoever. That doesn't matter. (And it really limits their reading pleasure!) Though it tells me the person probably sees one character in the submissive role. (That's not to say that sometimes I guess people just have a craving to read certain things, which is fine--I just don't have a preference for what "roles" each individual takes on during sex or the overall relationship as long as they're together...)

I totally agree that it's hard to find what you're looking for on AO3 because there's just so much (and that's good!) but people improperly/misleadingly tag (not on purpose I'm sure).

Also Clint was actually the character that first made me explore MCU (and comics marvel/avengers etc.) fanfics. Like you I've discovered there is not much out there that features him and those that do are Clint/Coulson. Not something I search out, although I have read a couple fics with that pairing because the summery was so good (not to mention they're often a side pairing in lots of stories). But I thought I'd give you a couple fic recs to check out that focus on Clint.

Hawkeye's Merry Men. Summery: "Nobody ever thinks about what happens to the minions, such as the strike team that accompanied Hawkeye to the Helicarrier. Whatever became of them?" This is a long fic and GEN. It's AU after Avengers and has a few arcs.

Through the Glass. This is marked Clint/Coulson pre-slash but I can read it as GEN. There was nothing that struck me as romantic between them. This is a dark take on why Clint joined SHIELD. And I think it deals seriously with the implications and consequences.


Edited at 2014-06-14 11:46 pm (UTC)
hells_half_acre
Jun. 15th, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
Yeah, the topping/bottoming thing is really just a symptom of a larger problem in our culture - which really all boils down to misogyny, where being penetrated is seen as weakness. I saw it discussed elsewhere, where it was pointed out that even the description of it shows what our culture thinks about it. "Penetration" is something that happens TO something BY something else. There is automatically someone who is an active in the act and someone who is a passive. In the discussion I saw, someone questioned how our culture would be different if instead of heterosexual sex being seen as "the man penetrates the woman," it was seen as "the woman consumes the man."

It's something I'm actually quite passionate about, because (not to get too TMI here, but...) in my experience there's actually nothing that makes me feel MORE powerful than having someone caught between my legs doing their best to please me - the only thing that comes close is when I've had both a man AND a motocycle between my legs - and yet our culture calls THAT "riding bitch", which is again, language designed to DENY me the power that the position allows me to feel. In that position, I control both the man and (by extension) the motorcycle, and yet I'm denied that power by being compared to a female dog used for breeding.

I mean, not even going that far - the topping/bottoming thing ITSELF is coded language, because the person penetrating is ON TOP and the person being penetrated is ON BOTTOM... regardless of their actual positions.

Language is important, yo. :P

That being said, I completely understand having a bit of a fetish for seeing a particular character getting penetrated, or a particular character doing the penetrating, and requesting that on places like the kink_meme, where you're mostly just reading for the porn-factor. But if readers are avoiding romance-fic, where it's about plot and character and emotions and such, because specific heteronormative gender-roles aren't present in the couple, then I'd suggest they might be happier reading more mainstream stuff like harlequin.

Thanks for the recs!



Edited at 2014-06-15 12:33 am (UTC)
grasshopr_molly
Jun. 15th, 2014 02:10 am (UTC)
I just posted a fic with the tag "'top' and 'dom' are not synonyms" for...exactly this reason. (I have occasionally done weird things with AO3 tags, but I do try to make sure I get all the really informative ones in first.)

Did you see the search on spnstoryfinders a few months ago that requested Jared/Misha or Sam/Cas, but specified it had to be bottom!Misha because (and I quote to the best of my memory here) "Jared is so tall and it doesn't make sense for someone built like that to be submissive"? I just...

Edited at 2014-06-15 02:11 am (UTC)
hells_half_acre
Jun. 15th, 2014 02:19 am (UTC)
*rolls eyes so hard they fall out of my head, travel to the airport, and book a flight somewhere*

I won't even get into the fact that most professional doms are women and their clients are often big tall "manly" men...

It really does make me weep inside that so many people, women especially, have this weird cultural bias embedded so deep into their psyche that they don't even realize the ridiculousness of it.
liliaeth
Jun. 15th, 2014 04:02 am (UTC)
Actually, I'm going to have to at least slightly disagree with you on this one.
for a lot of people, preferring one character as a bottom, isn't about seeing that character as weaker/ but because in the majority of the fics I've read, the bottom character is the emotional center of the story. He (usually it's a he) is the one everyone else cares about, is the one who's hurt, the hero. The one that's least likely to be bashed. And will generally be the main character.

Take for example SPN.
My favorite character is Dean, so if I want a story that's about Dean, that actually deals with his issues, rather than force him once again in the caretaker role for woobie Sam or woobie Cas, then I pretty much have to look for bottomDean fics.

Reading only bottomDean fics also keeps me from reading Dean turned into an asshole fics, which is one of the many reasons Sam-centric fics just don't work fo rme. (I generally hate bashing fics, but the moment you turn Jensen or Dean into an asshole, you lose all my interest in the fic)

Well that and most bottomSam fics just turn him into someone I just don't recognize from the show.
hells_half_acre
Jun. 15th, 2014 04:34 am (UTC)
Interesting. I did not know that.

Still, I wonder what it says that we're primarily making the "bottom" character the emotional centre of the story. I don't have an answer. It's just interesting to ask. Why is a character more likely to be written as an asshole if they're the "top"? Why do people change Sam's personality when they make him a bottom?

These are all interesting questions to consider. And sort of more where I was trying to go with the discussion on top/bottoming thing.

But yeah, totally not judging you for only reading bottom!Dean fics, if you've found that that's the only way you can find a good fic about Dean.
liliaeth
Jun. 15th, 2014 04:56 am (UTC)
yeah, I'm not saying that there isn't some play of heteronormativity in this. And a lot of it does have to do with the fact that most fanfic is written by women, who seem to often identify with the bottom/submissive party inn the pairing. It's not everyone who does this, but it does happen a lot and it does become a trope that gets very easy to identify after a while.

Don't know if you ever read J2, but to me, those are just original fic with the J's cast in the roles the writers wants.(and I personally just think Jensen's far prettier than Jared*eg*, yes, that's me being shallow) And it becomes even more obvious in those, that it doesn't matter which of the two is the bottom, or what personality they've displayed in public, they'll still get given specific tropes to fullfill.

For example, would you ever call Jared, shy? Jensen, sure, up to a point in that he doesn't like sharing as much about himself, but Jared?

Yet I can't begin to count the number of J2 fics with bottomJared, that start off with the idea of Jared being shy. Because the shy submissive/bottom, has become such a trope that people don't even hesitate to wonder if it actually fits the person they're actually writing about.

Same with Sam and Dean, I wouldn't call either of them shy... but the moment you get into slash fic, nine out of ten times, the bottom/submissive of the two will be called shy. Yet the only one of the three of them I'd even consider shy, is Cas, and even then only up to a point.

Hell, even Stiles, who's probably one of the least shy people on television, suddenly becomes this shy insecure woobie when put in Sterek fics. (one of many things that turned me off from the pairing as soon as I actually watched the show)
hells_half_acre
Jun. 15th, 2014 05:24 am (UTC)
Agreed agreed.

I only read J2 AU, so I never expect the fics to reflect the actual personalities - because, IMO, the names are just a short-cut to tell the audience what the characters look like and nothing else - the writer still has to tell us what personalities they have in the particular fic we're reading.

But it's true that you get the same tropes - submissive=bottom=shy=woobie, and dominate=top=confident=strong.

And yeah, if there's one thing Stiles is not, it is shy/insecure. After I started watching the show, I couldn't do Sterek "non-AUs" anymore because of that... again, I'm fine with AUs, because the names are just short-cuts for looks and I don't expect them to have the same personalities. I mean, yes, usually people stick with the basics, Stiles=talkative, Derek=quiet, but that seems to be the only thing that remains the same.

Edited at 2014-06-15 05:26 am (UTC)
claudiapriscus
Jun. 15th, 2014 11:36 am (UTC)
I sometimes think most people on Ao3 think the name of the game is to see how many tags they can collect per fic.
quickreaver
Jun. 15th, 2014 03:39 am (UTC)
Just to clarify something: what does "doubling-down on hetero-normativity" mean, exactly? Little vague on that.

I gotta be honest, I find the way AO3's tagging is used (and abused) to be almost prohibitive to me locating decent fics there, for the very reasons you both have noted. I still get most of my better reading from LJ, even if the fandom here is supposedly shrinking while the 'new guard' breeds on AO3 and tumblr. And I don't read fics on tumblr. Like, ever. I might get the odd rec from there, but typically those tastes are skewed very young and the format is nearly illegible.

There is also the frustrating tendency of conflating wanting one's ship canonized with the issue of providing better, believable representation of non-straight lifestyles in our media. This, perhaps, frustrates me more than it should and I'm not sure why.

Re. the top and bottom thing, as well as 'feminizing' one male partner into the female role, is another source of bafflement. But maybe that's more of a personal id thing, and not necessarily mysogeny? Some folks have rape fantasies, but that doesn't mean they actually want to be assaulted.

I dunno. But it's a good thing to open up conversations!

Edited at 2014-06-15 03:40 am (UTC)
hells_half_acre
Jun. 15th, 2014 04:27 am (UTC)
Just to clarify something: what does "doubling-down on hetero-normativity" mean, exactly? Little vague on that.

You understood it well. It just means taking a queer relationship, in this case, a male/male relationship and effectively making it a male/female relationship in which both partners adhere to stereotypical gender rolls with one male playing the part of the female stereotype.

I still get most of my better reading from LJ, even if the fandom here is supposedly shrinking while the 'new guard' breeds on AO3 and tumblr. And I don't read fics on tumblr. Like, ever. I might get the odd rec from there, but typically those tastes are skewed very young and the format is nearly illegible.

Yeah, tumblr is horrible for fic. I do occasionally get recced a fic that is on there (always always short-fic) and I basically have to ctrl+ that sucker until the font is big enough to read. :P

I do find good fic on AO3 though, and even though it's probably slightly horrible from some perspective, I like the fact that I can use the hit, kudos, and bookmark counts to judge quality of fic before I click. On LJ, I basically have to remember which authors write really good summaries but really horrible fic or vice-versa.

But yeah, AO3 sucks for other reasons, as we mentioned above. These days I'm primarily reading on AO3, but that's largely because at the moment I'm a bit of a fandom butterfly when it comes to fic, and I don't want to take the time to figure out which LJ comms for my new fandoms are good ones and which ones aren't, etc, because I'm not sure how long my attention to those fandoms is going to hold. So, using AO3 is part laziness, is what I'm saying.

Re. the top and bottom thing, as well as 'feminizing' one male partner into the female role, is another source of bafflement. But maybe that's more of a personal id thing, and not necessarily mysogeny? Some folks have rape fantasies, but that doesn't mean they actually want to be assaulted.

Oh for sure, which is why I don't have a problem with it in general - I mean, some of us have really weird id. For instance, I like kink-fic where someone is basically abusing a position of power - do I want that to happen in real life? Nope.

I think that it's more a product of the ingrained misogyny of our culture when we're talking about people who can't FATHOM that there doesn't HAVE to be a submissive partner and a dominate partner, or a feminine partner and a masculine partner, or they can't fathom that people might sometimes be "tops" AND sometimes be "bottoms" and that it doesn't actually say anything about their personalities and/or is not dependent on body-type/looks/gender/sexuality/etc. That's more what I was talking about when I say it's a product of misogyny - the acceptance that female=weak as the only reality.

I guess it's the difference between liking a trope and thinking that trope is the only reality - like, people like rape fic, but they don't think rape is the only way to have sex IRL.

There is also the frustrating tendency of conflating wanting one's ship canonized with the issue of providing better, believable representation of non-straight lifestyles in our media. This, perhaps, frustrates me more than it should and I'm not sure why.

Exactly! I think it frustrates me so much because the energy that they put into complaining about it, the energy that some put into CAMPAIGNING for their ships to be canonized on the grounds of representation - that energy could be put to use being vocal and campaigning for ACTUAL representation. Pick a show and tell them what sorts of characters they should try adding, when you know they're looking to add characters, or pick a network and tell them what kind of pilots you would like to see in pilot season - more POC leads, more non-straight leads, more female leads, etc.

It frustrates me, I think, because if it was really an issue that they cared about, they would be doing something that would ACTUALLY help - rather than pretending that wanting pretty boys to kiss makes them some sort of champion for social justice.
claudiapriscus
Jun. 15th, 2014 11:51 am (UTC)
I really started thinking about the heteronormativity thing in regards to that a/b/o slash fic that was stolen and scrubbed and put up on an ebook site. I followed one of the links to the site after one of the added comments on tumblr mentioned that it had been getting "good reviews".

And it was true, there were a couple of good reviews, but there were a metric ton of very confused and not-so-good reviews. It kind of turned looking at the reviews into a game of "spot the fangirls" because, duh, fanfic assumes a lot of familiarity with the characters and the tropes and the premise, even when it's a meta-fandom sort of fic, so the non-fan readers were like, "wait, what, what is going on, how does this even work, none of this is explained, and then this happens, there's no character development, what the hell is this?" But the other comment I saw time and time and time again? Was that it was supposedly m/m, but that the whole thing read exactly like an f/m drippy regency romance- the characterizations, the gender roles, the sex, the pregnancy (oh, mpreg. It threw the hell out of the poor non fan readers).

And I'd kind of had thoughts along the lines about the way so much of the meta slash fandom fits the characters into the most regressive gender roles and romance novel tropes, the kind that went out of fashion in a big way in the 70s and 80s, but for some reason, reading those comments really crystallized it for me.
hells_half_acre
Jun. 15th, 2014 03:29 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, I was thinking a lot about a/b/o fic when we were discussing double-down on heternormativity. It's basically the pinnicle of it, because your also changing biology in those fics to make one character more female.

That being said, I think some a/b/o fic can be used to explore gender in our society, etc - but for the most part, the trope is pretty much an excuse to have a regressive gender-role romance from the 1970s and 80s and somehow avoid the feminist criticism of it because you're supposedly using men.

Though, again, as I said elsewhere, I'm fine with these things as kind of, kinks of the id - just as long as there is an understanding that that's all it is.
claudiapriscus
Jun. 15th, 2014 11:43 pm (UTC)
I do think though without being- well, without being all "this is the worst thing ever, STOP IT IMMEDIATELY" - it is possible to explore what is done in fandom with an eye to understanding some of the mindsets, deep-set biases, and etc etc that exist in both fandom and society.

So to that extent, I'm comfortable with criticism that points out, say, when a/b/o is just used to resurrect sexist tropes (which by dint of context become both sexist and well, kind of homophobic) because I think that it's necessary to have those discussions for people to realize the line between kink and actually really regressive attitudes. I mean, look at a lot of old "romantic" tropes- many of them are straight up rape, but "she came around" or whatever, but they're not quite the same thing as rape fantasies because until there was enough discussion and criticism and rejection of rape as romance, there wasn't room to make the distinction, and thus it's arguable that a lot of people participating in that culture internalized those messages about rape (including 'she must have wanted it' etc) without ever recognizing them. Which is a totally different thing than going, "yes, this is rape, and as fantasy within a safe context, I enjoy it". IDK. I'm saying things poorly and probably beating the dead horse because I'm tired and I can't quite think straight.
hells_half_acre
Jun. 16th, 2014 12:04 am (UTC)
I think I get what you're saying. And I think I completely agree. :)
claudiapriscus
Jun. 15th, 2014 11:44 am (UTC)
I think you can say to a certain extent that kink and culture tend to influence each other quite a bit- I've read that most subs are women, and I've read a lot of idiots arguing that this threatens/proves feminism 'wrong' because then to really be happy, women (it's always "women") need to get back in the kitchen. But it would make sense that living in the culture we do, that women might react to being told for their whole lives that their purpose is to be submissive, or living in fear of rape or whatever, that that might influence their sexual desires, especially within the safety of a situation they actually control. And I kind of see the fanfic thing the same way- all those slash tropes we were talking about are definitely hitting buttons, but there can still be a lot of stuff going on in the background. And some people are more self aware of this stuff, but I think a lot are just revealing deep-set attitudes towards the world. (And it explains so much of the hate directed at female characters and actresses, which at least in my experience, tends to go hand in hand with the people that double down the hardest on the gender roles in m/m and argue for those roles to be natural and immutable.)
hells_half_acre
Jun. 15th, 2014 03:20 pm (UTC)
You also see that kind of circular feeding cycle of culture and expectations of gender when it comes to a lot of things.

For instance - comedy. Women are actually culturally socialized to laugh more than men are, especially to laugh more when men are attempting to be funny. Laughing a lot serves a ton of purposes, it can diffuse tension, make the woman seem more submissive, and the men feel like they are being listened to and that they've done a good job at being funny, etc. (conversely, a woman laughing after she herself says something can make it seem like she already knows that what she just said actually silly and not to be listen to.)

And then after all this training, what we're then told is that men are funnier than women - women aren't funny - the comedy industry is basically a boy's club and the a lot of the time women are the butt of the joke... and women laugh at it, because if you don't laugh at it, maybe the guy snaps and kills you. I mean, the woman probably isn't consciously thinking "I have to laugh at this or this guy might snap and kill me", but that's usually what subconsciously is going on when women find themselves automatically laughing at jokes they don't even find funny.
claudiapriscus
Jun. 15th, 2014 11:33 pm (UTC)
I hadn't really thought about the laughter thing, but you're totally right. And it's something i've done. I mean, I remember once getting stuck on a ski lift with a couple of guys who were telling horrifically racist jokes, so racist that they went so far out of my experience of racism that I didn't actually get them, but it was all I could do not to laugh, which was weird, because all I felt was revulsion.
dairygirl
Jun. 15th, 2014 12:12 pm (UTC)
A thought provoking discussion. Thank you for sharing it. I admit I am in the "like to see these two male characters together because I enjoy seeing these two attractive characters together with fun characterizations" but I have gotten tired of the "penetrative sex is the only real sex" and the overwhelming number of male/male pairings in a fic because that is realistic. There are a few stories it bothers me less with how rich the plot and characters are but yeah, I never realized how mimicking heteronormative it all was. I recall only one story in all my reading where two male characters did not have penetrative sex and it was qualified by each of the two characters had been physically and emotionally damaged by such sex so they had to find alternatives.

I also must be in the wrong fandoms because I have no clue about the activism. My first thought was what? That is so far removed from fanfiction, I am stunned.

To your discussion about villains, I wobble because I like that Loki is not as bad as all that but upon rewatching Avengers and Thor 2, I start to see that MCU Loki goes beyond being a trickster and poorly understood character into the arena of malicious god who deliberate attempts to cause pain that has me reconsidering my stance. (I'm still looking forward to watching Thor 3.) Let's just say, I read less Loki fic than I used to. Villains as portrayed in film and TV tend to be of the evil, unredeeming variety, and it's easy to dismiss them. In real life, there is ambiguity and nuance and "he was such a nice guy" as quoted by many neighbors of said evil person. I know I am capable of evil acts and I consider myself a good person. Just my two cents in the discussion.

Edited at 2014-06-15 12:18 pm (UTC)
hells_half_acre
Jun. 15th, 2014 03:49 pm (UTC)
I recall only one story in all my reading where two male characters did not have penetrative sex and it was qualified by each of the two characters had been physically and emotionally damaged by such sex so they had to find alternatives.

Yeah, it's pretty much a given whenever you read slash that it has to culminate in a penetrative sex scene. When I wrote my only explite slash story (a Merlin fic), I couldn't bring myself to do that though - my two characters had non-penetrative sex that was still treated as the culminating sex scene - and I purposefully left it like that with absolutely no expectation from anyone that they were ever going to have penetrative sex, and if they did, who would be in what position.

And I think part of the reason I wrote it like that, (besides it being a more realistic form of sex when two people who are not very sexually experienced first sleep together) is because I'm tired of the "penetrative sex is the only sex" thing.

I also must be in the wrong fandoms because I have no clue about the activism. My first thought was what? That is so far removed from fanfiction, I am stunned.

I mostly just see this with the tumblr crowd - so, yes, it's a trend that's separate from fanfiction.

Villains as portrayed in film and TV tend to be of the evil, unredeeming variety, and it's easy to dismiss them. In real life, there is ambiguity and nuance and "he was such a nice guy" as quoted by many neighbors of said evil person. I know I am capable of evil acts and I consider myself a good person. Just my two cents in the discussion.

Yeah, even the Loki of actual mythology is much different than the Loki of MCU. He very much is a film/TV type villain - which makes people woobie-fying him all the astounding. I can understand it more during the first film (which was why I originally reblogged the photoset about the beginning of Avengers and the reasons for why Loki started tipping more into the very-evil category.

But yeah, the fact that in real life villains are more ambiguous and nuanced is the reason why I do like having "he was such a nice guy" arguments about TV/movie villains too. Grey-villains, as I like to call them, are much more interesting... where maybe they're convinced that what they're doing is the good thing, when in fact it isn't.

Villains who are evil for the sake of being evil can be fun too, but in the end I don't really find them as fascinating as those that are capable of both evil and good and can't always tell which they are doing.
claudiapriscus
Jun. 15th, 2014 11:55 pm (UTC)
Something that I find interesting about Loki- at least my reading of him in the films- is that he DOES (or did) have the potential to...make better choices, to be a good guy, to be that sympathetic character who gets handed shit but overcomes it. But what makes him specifically interesting to me is that he makes such deliberate choices to be a villain. It's not "woobie, destroyer of worlds" (in tvtropes parlance), the kind of menace who really, if someone had given him a hug, maybe he woudn't be trying to commit genocide. He's funny, charismatic, and clever. He could do better. But he doesn't want to.

I mean, another trend you see in fanfic with him is to give him this hugely tragic backstory, where he's abused and abused and abused- as to justify things, or to make him even more woobieish- but there's so little of that evident in the movies. Odin was kind of a dick, yeah. But in what we actually see, Loki has't had a hard childhood or anything, his jealousy is revealed to be just that, and just that irrational. (That is, he starts out maybe having an argument about Thor, but the movie quickly reveals how much that's simply an excuse).

There's a really interesting reversal and exploration of some of this in Journey into Mystery, which READITREADITREADITREADIT. Ahem. Which really underlines the degree to which it wasn't circumstances that made Loki (albeit comics Loki, in this case) who he was, it was his choices. (which of course means he could choose differently.)
blades_of_grass
Jun. 16th, 2014 12:43 am (UTC)
I'm here via elvit. She sent the link to me because we are both involved in metafandom_ru community which discusses such topics as in your post. Thank you for a very-very interesting treatment of the fanfic within society. Can I translate this and post in the community?

My views on slash have been undergoing a very similar evolution - from 'yay, homosexual relationships depicted as norm!" to "wait, is this the same shitty patriarchal norm that I hate with a passion?" to "am I really reading m/m fics as a thinly masked f/m fics and if yes, what does it say about my perception of LGBTQ persons". And I think each fan may travel down this road at her or his own speed - given how interconnected the fandom is, I hope such discussions will be more and more common. Which is not saying that reading and writing tropey fics for the sake of entertainment will ever be a thing of the past, because well, we have not got rid of hurtful norms in real life yet, right? I just hope that we can continue studying fandom for what it can tell us about us and our society, and having even more fun doing it.
hells_half_acre
Jun. 16th, 2014 08:35 am (UTC)
Hi! I checked with claudiapriscus, and she agreed that it's fine if you want to translate the discussion and post it to the community. :)

I also hope that we can continuing studying fandom and having conversations about what it can tell us about ourselves and our society. :)

And you're right, I think the journey of realizing ones own biases and pre-conceived ideas is one that everyone takes at different speeds.
blades_of_grass
Jun. 16th, 2014 01:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the permission! I'll post a link.

I'm really sorry - when I re-read my comment I realized it sounds like I was bragging about my views being so much more progressive. I really did not mean it like that. For one thing, I'm sure I got many, many more blind spots and unquestioned beliefs and tastes. Sorry for the bad wording.
hells_half_acre
Jun. 16th, 2014 06:10 pm (UTC)
Haha, don't worry! I didn't read it like that - I read it as though you were saying that this is a topic you've put a lot of thought into, and still continue to put a lot of thought into. And that's a good thing!
claudiapriscus
Jun. 17th, 2014 01:34 pm (UTC)
It didn't read like bragging to me either. I think it's a pretty natural progression, whatever the topic.
redrikki
Jun. 16th, 2014 05:33 pm (UTC)
So many thoughtful topics raised in this. Where to start?

The wooblification of Loki (and other villains. I'm looking at you, Draco Malfoy) I think stems from a) the fact that the actor is hot and b) the fact that people have trouble liking problematic things and thus try to make them unproblematic. If Loki is a tragic victim instead of an ass who made poor life choices which hurt lots and lots of people, then it's okay to over look his crimes and let him hang out with the good guys.

The erasure of women in slash fic has bothered me for a long time. In part, because it cuts women out of the narrative, but also in part because it basically claims that in order for men to have healthy relationships with each other there need to be no women at all and then they need to have sex. Er...what? On the same note, I'm also bothered by all those stories in the MCU where Bruce (or Steve) is suddenly Tony's best and only friend and Rhodey just sort of disappears. I don't know if its a conscious erasure of a major PoC character or what, but it troubles me as much as people deciding Pepper needs to go so Tony can have sex with Steve of all people.

In the comments you talked about the discourse around penetrative sex and how it's framed in both language and fanfic. I think fandom's collective obsession with ending every single slash fic with sex as a shorthand for a healthy relationship stems from the same place in our society which spawned the word 'friendzone.' It's not a real relationship until the sex comes out, because non-sexual relationships are viewed as less meaningful and important.
hells_half_acre
Jun. 16th, 2014 06:29 pm (UTC)
Oh man, very well said and I agree with everything!

the fact that people have trouble liking problematic things and thus try to make them unproblematic.

Very good point. I think this is also why people get VERY defensive when you criticize their favourite characters/things for being problematic. There's a trend these days that suggests that if you like something that's problematic, then YOU are problematic - even though the two have nothing to do with each other. Ironically, it actually probably reflects better on a person to be able to say, "I like this thing, but I recognize that it is problematic."

I completely agree with you on the erasure of women, and possible erasure of POC characters like Rhodey.

I think fandom's collective obsession with ending every single slash fic with sex as a shorthand for a healthy relationship stems from the same place in our society which spawned the word 'friendzone.' It's not a real relationship until the sex comes out, because non-sexual relationships are viewed as less meaningful and important.

Very good point. There's a deification of romantic love in our culture/society, that places it on a pedestal above all other love, which is frankly ridiculous... it's is like saying that apples are the best fruit and no other fruit is a fruity as apples. And contained within that deification is this idea that romantic love can ONLY be demonstrated/expressed by having sex (specifically penetrative sex).

It drives me crazy, and I kind of just want to shake some sense into everyone.
claudiapriscus
Jun. 17th, 2014 01:48 pm (UTC)
Regarding the friend zone and real relationships- yes, that is SO true, and it is something that really bothers me. I love friends-that-are-lovers stories, but I hate hate hate the fact that so many stories (fic and original fiction) treat romantic relationships as "leveling up" as if romantic love is more profound or inherently more valuable than any other type of relationship. this is one of the reasons I think I am such a gen person on the whole. I really love intense friendships, but pairing fic almost always treats the friendship aspect as secondary to "love" and lust. My few otps are the ones that balance and treat as equally important the pairing characters' romantic and platonic and familial relationships with others and with each other.

Also, yes on Rhodey. He's awesome. And yet he gets less attention than far more minor characters. He might as well be invisible. And that's really damning, IMO.
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