Seeking Alternatives Within a Text

4 Apr

This has to be a first for me: finding academic writing about a culture I was already somewhat involved in. Usually things go the other way around, so for me, it was something of a surprise. I have, in fact, seen several “fan videos” (we do call them vids). In point of fact, I know that there are a handful of various vids out there that are based off some of my fan-writings, admittedly circulated through a very narrow audience. I’ve been engaged in “rewriting” and fanfiction for several years now, in point of fact, and have engaged with various other members of those communities. To be totally specific, I’ve mostly engaged with the various Disney and other such animated film communities, which should surprise absolutely nobody who has spent a little time with me. I bring this up not only to offer some personal commentary, but also to provide a comparison. Because there is a strong urge within the various animated film fandoms to also perform acts of slashing; I’ve actually written slash fics that dealt with this.

And the reason for a lot of this is because of the desire to seek alternatives that are already available within a text. Most standard texts, be they Star Trek or a Disney film, do not portray unconventional relationships. The homosexual is pushed to the outskirts, and if they appeal, they are often in disguise. Yet a lot of fans still see the coding inherent in the texts. The selection from Penley therefore came as little surprise to me and was, in point of fact, somewhat justifying. I particularly draw attention to page 100, where Penley points out a key moment in a Star Trek film that offered a homosexual reading. The fact is that these moments are often expressed in texts, offering at least a foothold for various people to read into them.

For Penley, there was another moment during the episode where Spock goes into Pon Far, which is also one the expressly assigned episodes we watched for class. Maybe it says something about the way fandom has trained me to read popular texts, but I couldn’t help but notice the inherent bending going on there. Spock and Kirk speak of one another in highly passionate terms, ones that come off very much as the way two lovers would speak of one another. Add in Spock’s dismissal of the female earlier, and it’s all too easy to use this episode as a ground for slashing.

Which is, again, what I’ve seen time and time again. Most of the others I know in fandoms who so readily engage in slashing are often those who are marginalized themselves. Some of my co-creators have been homosexual (or possibly bisexual; I didn’t delve too deeply) women, male-to-female transsexuals, gay males, and various other marginalized peoples. It seems to me that these (should I say we? I never feel quite marginalized enough, those I’m accepted easily enough into most of the fandoms…) peoples would readily look for alternatives, for ways of entering into the text and expressing desire and social constraints that are not readily available to them. This is especially complicated when you consider that most films and television operates under Mulvey’s famous “Male gaze”, wherein heterosexual male paradigms are essentially forced onto the viewer. Fan creation then seems, at least for me, to be a way of seeking the alternatives and expressing them, working through it all.

(for the insanely curious, most of the slashing I’ve seen and done involved the new BBC series Merlin, where I’ve even seen a vid involving Merlin coming out to his parents. I’ve also done and seen loads in just about every Disney film imaginable. It’s popular to slash in fandoms)

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