karaokegal (karaokegal) wrote,

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Essay-Heterophobia in Slash-fandom.

Written in response to this question by sarahetc in the You Pick the Topic meme .

You used the word "heterophobia" a few posts back to describe much of the
Torchwood fandom's tendency to ignore Jack's character as it's been
established in favor of writing ever-more-emotional/smutty/weepy/whatever
Jack/Ianto. Have you encountered this phenomenon in other fandoms? Was
the general reaction and/or your reaction similar or different?

I actually coined the phrase “heterophobic” to describe myself. This was before my return to fandom, via House MD and LJ. I used the phrase to describe my rather smug status as a fag-hag, to the extent that I had virtually no straight friends, except for my husband. It was my way of setting myself apart from normal people. In other words, fag-haggier than thou. In retrospect, it’s not a very nice aspect of my personality.

Then I saw my first episode of House MD and the House/Wilson subtext jumped out at me and I googled House/Wilson slash and found house_slash and LJ. For the first few months, I was immersed ONLY in slash fiction and I was a fairly heterophobic House/Wilson slasher in relation to House/Cameron as either a canon possibility or in fiction.

Let’s draw a distinction between being against a particular pairing and being a heterophobe. I don’t think every House/Wilson slasher who can’t stand the House/Cameron concept falls into that category. Some of them are hunky dory with House/Cuddy, for example. They may just be Cam-haters or have the age-discrepancy or employer/employee issues as arguments against the pairing. But, there is a certain amount of EWWWWWWWW HET!!!!!

When I undertook to write my first House/Cameron fic as a challenge to myself, I know a small number of those who had enjoyed my House/Wilson fics were put off. Some were willing to read and others weren’t . There’s a scene in my first House/Cam fic that was nick-named “The Hummer from Hell” which I’ve heard caused actual nausea. On the other hand, I got some comments along the lines of “Only for you would I read House/Cameron and Only for you would I read Het.” I treasure those along with my “I never read RPS, but I love yours.”

I did start reading just enough good het-fic to declare myself bi-fictional both as a reader and a writer. As I moved into other fandoms, such as Alias, CSI-NY and Deadwood, I was always wearing the slash-glasses, but open to the possibility of writing Het, especially when requested for birthdays and such. Those were all fandoms with “normal” situations in that the canon pairings were all het, even if the subtext seemed to jump off the screen between certain m/m pairings. I will say that in those ship wars, to the extent that I was aware of them, I did sense a certain amount of self-righteousness about the slash side of the equation, with the implication that those who didn’t wear the slash glasses were actually homophobic. It wasn’t shouted very loudly, but it was the kind of thing that would come up in wanks from time to time.

The argument that slash fandom is a way to support gay rights sounds good and may have some merit, except it’s also mostly about the HOT, right? We the slashy, like the idea of hot guys getting it on. So would you say that Jayne (since I’m now semi-qualified to throw Firefly references around) was being supportive of Homosexual rights when he was intrigued by Inara’s female customer and said “I’ll be in my bunk.” (I got my first “I’ll be in my bunk” as a comment on my Jack/Rhys story. I was thrilled. OK, I might have gotten it before, but I didn’t recognize it.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I avoided Torchwood when the UKers and those with access started babbling about it, especially the OMG canon-slash, boys kissing!!!. I didn’t need a new fandom, certainly one I couldn’t see in the US etc etc etc. Then I saw a picture of Barrowman as Jack Harkness and the world changed.

I pretty much conceived my first Who-verse fic the minute I saw The Empty Child/Doctor Dances episodes of Dr. Who, because I was taken with Jack/Algy. It took from July to September until I actually got to see an episode of Torchwood. Before that happened I read a shit-load of Torch-fic, almost all of it slash and I got the lay of the land regarding the Jack/Ianto relationship as interpreted by the slash-writers. Following Sturgeon’s law, some of it was awesome and most of it sucked. BUT, I was still willing to interested in the relationship. Until Cyberwoman/Greeks Bearing Gifts/Countrycide.
After that my Ianto-hate was so strong that I was cheering Owen for kicking him in CJH.

That’s just my bias though. I still consider myself a slasher in good standing. I write more slash than anything else with multiple pairings in multiple fandoms, and I feel myself fairly qualified to diagnose the heterophobia in the Torchwood fandom.

And again, I’m willing to allow that some Gwen!hate is just Gwen!hate. Hatred of the character and the way she dominates certain story-lines. Hatred for the possibility of Jack/Gwen because they are unsuitable for each-other, and the situation causes Gwen to cheat on Rhys. BUT as I read both the fic and episode reviews, I’m telling you people, I have never seen this level of anger and threat against a character and a pairing.

If my AU version as postulated HERE and Ianto/Jack were talked about that way, it would easily be considered homophobic.

My theory is that the J/I contingent are very protective of their canon-slash because they’ve been waiting so long for it. There it is on the screen, two men kissing and not just in a QAF type series, but something that normally wouldn’t have it. For that reason, I think they are willing to accept whatever is dished out to them on screen as the be-all and end-all of relationships and defend it against “interlopers” to the death.

And I think those watchers who want on-screen canon-slash NO MATTER WHAT would resist ANY Jack/Female pairing. For instance, what if he decided to hook up with Toshiko? You can’t really violate her relationship with Owen, cause there ain’t one, but I suspect it would drive the same folks into a frenzy that my beloved Jack/Owen would not.

I’m no longer blaming the crash and burn of my Jack/Rose story on the heterophobia, but I think it’s out there and it’s extremely strong in the Torchwood fandom and it’s really, really unfortunate, if inevitable, as long as canon m/m pairings remain as rare as Arcadian Diamonds.

I still stand by my userpic.
Tags: house babble, house md, torchwood, torchwood babble

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