azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
posted by [personal profile] azdak at 09:01pm on 13/08/2007 under ,
Over on [ profile] muncle, [ profile] sithdragn asked "What are your bullet-proof weak spots in MFU fiction? Those things --be they situations, characterizations, sexual situations, anything-- that appeal to you so much that you'll try just about any story to see them?" And my first reaction was "She means kinks! I don't have any kinks!" But then, as I was writing a comment, I realised that in fact I do, and then my comment got too long so I'm posting it here instead.

When following fandom discussions, or reading certain types of fic, I quite often get the feeling that I'm suffering from a kind of virtual Asperger's syndrome. I simply don't get shipping. I don't grok it, I don't grasp it. I can bandy around terms like OTP and Spuffy with the best of them, but at some level I don't really know what I'm talking about because I have never ever experienced whatever it is that “shipping” refers to. I honestly do not care if Buffy ends up with Angel or Spike, or the Immortal, or Xander, or an OC – I like Spike a lot more than Angel as a character, certainly, and I adored watching the train wreck that was canon Spuffy, but that doesn't mean I feel any desire to see that story continued (or not continued – if someone writes a good story that continues the relationship, then cool, I'll read it. If they write a good story where Buffy ends up with Angel instead, then cool, I'll read it.) For me, liking Spike has nothing to do with who he gets paired with. Nor do I care who ends up with anybody in any of my fandoms, I just don't. In fact, in fandoms where there are no canonical pairings, I infinitely prefer not to have them imposed in fanfic (which isn't to say that there aren't plenty of stories where the fic is so good I'll put up with the pairing, but I'd personally be very much happier if the writers left that bit out).

But it's worse than this. Not only do I not really know what it means to “ship” a pairing, I'm also not very interested in sex between characters. I don't mind if it's going on the background, but I get bored if its the whole point of a story. And I skip over passages of explicit sex, because it doesn't turn me on, and sex when you're not turned on is a rather yucky experience (as I tell my kids when they ask me why grown-ups like to have sex, they'll understand when they've got the hormones and till that happens I can't explain it to them). So while I think I get the meaning of “squick” (because I'm pretty sure it's how I feel when I get to the NC17 bit of a story, or when one character refers to another as his/her “lover”, or when a story gets shmoopy) up till now I didn't know what a kink was. I knew it was something that reaches down inside a reader's gut and makes them go “Guh!” no matter how badly the story it was in was written; that it somehow lights up the pleasure centre in the brain without having to go via the normal route of being really well done; but I'd never actually felt it.

Until I watched Season 2 of Slings and Arrows. And I suddenly realised that I have the most terrific kink, it's just that it doesn't crop up very often, so I'd overlooked it. It turns out that I have a kink for antagonist characters who suddenly do the right thing without then turning all nice and coming over to the side of good . Evil characters who stay evil, and yet briefly find their values bring them onto the side of the hero, those are the ones who do it for me. In S&A it is Brian, the ghastly old actor who Geoffrey sacks, and who is malicious and malevolent and yet, when he hears about Geoffrey's idea that Macbeth should appear naked says “But that's a very interesting idea”. He can't stand Geoffrey, he has every reason to hate him, he's bitter and he's nasty, and yet at that moment he stays true to his artistic values even though that means supporting Geoffrey. It was when I caught myself hoping that Brian would be the one to play King Lear in Season 3 that I realised there was something slightly funny going on – why was I suddenly so interested in him?

Then there's Snape. I'm really not a Harry Potter fan. I've read the books, but I found them to be in general very tedious, way too long, very self-indulgent, and clumsily written. And yet, and yet, that one moment in Book 1 when Harry discovers that Snape was NOT trying to knock him off his broom but to protect him – that was enough to keep me reading just to see what was going to become of this nasty, greasy, bitter bloke who nonetheless tried to protect a boy he hated from his enemies.

Then there's an episode in The Man from UNCLE where the agents try to persuade a cowardly conman, whom Thrush has mistaken for a scientist, to work for them. Buzz refuses. He spends much of the episode on the run from both UNCLE and Thrush, trying to outwit both sides, and he won't be persuaded by any of the agents' moral arguments that it's for the sake of saving the world etc etc All he wants to do is look out for number one. And yet, at the climax of the episode, when the baddies threaten to kill Illya if Buzz doesn't cooperate, he does what they want rather than escape, because selfish though he is, he's too much of a decent man to allow someone else to die. That's the sum total of his reform – he remains a conman to the end, but just for a moment his values coincide with those of the good guys and he finds himself, however reluctantly, on their side.

Given this, I suppose it's no surprise that Blake's 7 was such a huge factor in my fannish development, because Avon hits that kink with a sledgehammer. He's nasty, he's selfish, he's cynical in the worst way, he has no truck with the revolution, and yet he repeatedly finds himself acting heroically against his own better judgment. And it's no wonder that I like the much maligned Season 4, where many fans are of the opinion that Avon was going insane because his nastiness was so over-developed compared with earlier seasons. I was delighted that Blake was gone because it gave Avon more screen time, and as far as I was concerned, the worst he behaved most of the time, the more thrilling it was when in defiance of all rationality he did something ridiculously brave or clever to help someone else.

Perhaps kink is the wrong word, given that this response, however visceral, isn't really an id thing. It's more a kind of button pushing. I have another button, which gets pushed much more frequently, and like real kinks it works no matter how sentimental the story or how badly written the context in which it occurs. I always, always cry when a character speaks to a character they have loved knowing they're dead and cannot really hear them. I have a heart of stone most of the time, but I sobbed my little eyes out when Wesley asked Illyria to be Fred for him as he lay dying (and believe me, I do not ship Fred/Wesley); I wept buckets at the end of The Amber Spyglass, when Lyra and Will agree to go to the bench at the botanic gardens in Oxford every year so that, in their separate universes, they will know that the other one is there; I cannot read Kipling's There is a Road Through Merrow Down (which is about trying to catch up with his adored daughter who died when she was six) without weeping uncontrollably. And so on and so forth. It really doesn't matter who it is or what the circumstances are, it just kills me. Every single time. (Also, I cannot listen to Puff the Magic Dragon without crying, but that's a special case, since no-one actually dies. Except maybe Puff, since all his scales fall off. Sniff!)


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