In a previous post, I wrote about fan fiction and promised to go deeper into the subgenre of fanfic called Slash.
Disturbing to some, incredibly hot to others, completely unknown to most, what is slash fiction, and why?
Slash is said to have originated with fans of the original Star Trek who chose to interpret the chemistry and friendship between Kirk and Spock as having sexual and romantic undertones. Kirk/Spock, Kirk-Slash-Spock.
Fanfiction writers and readers can explore emotions and relationships that aren’t possible in the “canon” of the show but that they swear are there hiding in the subtext.
It’s easy for most of us to understand the appeal of making our favorite TV will-they-or-won’t-they couples do naughty things to each other. What’s more challenging is to understand why so many of these slash fans are women and why their favorite pairings appear to be straight male characters.
Here’s a detailed analysis that is, tragically, written in white lettering with a black background. It’s worth the eyestrain.
Some in the slash community resent the obsession with why women are so interested in making straight male characters go moony over each other. Yet it’s an aspect of the fandom that interests outsiders the most.
Lex/Clark. Mulder/Krycek. Angel/Spike. The Winchester brothers on Supernatural. (Yep, there are tons of Sam/Dean slash fics out there. It’s called Wincest. The characters on the show have commented on it in one of their meta-themed episodes. “They realize we’re brothers, right?”) You might notice one theme among these frenemies: they’re all ridiculously hot men. What’s not to slash?
But that’s not all there is to making homoerotic subtext all texty. Here, Ralph Fiennes reads aloud some Voldemort/Harry Potter slash on a bizarre talk show, in his pajamas. (Not by far the most disturbing slashdom in Harry Potter fanfic. Can we all agree that would be Dobby and the Sorting Hat?)
Here’s my nutshelling of some of the reasons for the female dominance in this fandom:
1. Identification with the hero, who is usually male and the one who gets to have the most adventure and save the day. Male characters are often more fully drawn and less often in a victim role.
2. Women know what it’s like to be female, the freedoms and restrictions. We don’t really know what it’s like in men country, allowing us to ‘go with the flow’ more. Cat Anestopolous calls this the “Tourist approach” to understanding m/m slash by and for women.
3. Reframing traditional masculinity wherein these hot, butch dudes we fantasize about are secretly seething with girly emotional access and vulnerabilities.
4. Some chicks just like to watch. ‘Nuff said?
But, as with so many shows, the female characters came and went, expendable, eye-candy. Often they were girlfriends or love interests who were subsequently put in jeopardy, kidnapped, raped and/or shot if they didn’t die of a quick, painful disease. They existed solely for the boys to angst over and rescue. The real pair-bonded ‘ship always resurfaced; Starsky and Hutch, or S/H, 2gether 4evah. If one were going to invest in a character arc, there simply weren’t any female ones.
This is what a friend of mine says about her interest in slash (with a bow to Henry Jenkins, author of Textual Poachers):
I will say that when there was a strong woman (Dana Scully), I felt no desire to slash since the central male/female relationship was satisfying enough. Some of my favorite slash fandoms are from shows that actually failed me in some ways, not living up to the potential of their ideas. Sentinel, Supernatural. (Except for Doctor Who-Master John Simm and Doctor David Tennant were just too pretty and dysfunctional not to slash.)
There are other subsets in the subgenre of the subculture of fanfiction: femslash, hurt/comfort, Mpreg (male pregnancy), angel slash. (Not making that up.) I’ve run out of room to do them any justice but they’re out there. Google for yourself.
One thing’s for certain. As with fanfiction in general, there’s a thriving, supportive, enthusiastic community out there for those wanting to join and explore. You’re never alone if you find it endlessly interesting to make hot guys fall for each other.