Because We Love Our Gods: Mythoi, Logoi, and Real Person Slash
I do not write RPS--Real People Slash. OK, to be honest, I don't technically write slash. But I don't write about real people, and that's the main thing. The first time I heard about RPS, it totally squicked me out--I mean, these were real people! How can you write about real people?!!? I mean, if I found shit like that about me...uwaaaaaugh!
That was my basic reaction. That was the feeling I had for years. But now, I'm defending RPS. I managed to kill my squick in five minutes, not by reading any, but by playing Devil's Advocate to someone who was virulently against RPS. I ended up convincing myself that there was a legitimacy to RPS, and I'm going to share.
The first issue that comes to the fore, with either fanfic or RPfic, is the question of public domain. Public domain is "is the body of creative works and other knowledge --writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others--in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. Such works and inventions are considered part of the public's cultural heritage, and anyone can use and build upon them without restriction." (http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public+domain)
Now, there is the fact, in regards to fanfic, that there are copyright issues--but the aspect I want to focus on in is that of "the public's cultural heritage." One thing that makes fanfic unique is that it's building on cultural heritage; on the television shows and books that give us cultural references and influence our culture. There comes a point where this cultural reference becomes de facto cultural heritage and thus trumps copyright, at least in the eyes of many in the public. I have heard the argument, made by an actor whose character was routinely slashed, that characters are, in many ways, part of the public domain because they are broadcast into our homes every night--by being so broadcast, and to all, they were shaping aspects of our cultural heritage. Also, according to Henry Jenkins, the writer of "Textual Poachers," the television shows and movies are our modern-day mythos--since we live in a world that in many ways has been stripped of mythos (or where mythos has been so belittled as to make it very weakened) we are left only with logos, and to fill that void, people have begun to create new mythoi, such as fandoms and religious fundamentalism (and yeah, the argument can be made that they come from the same mythic urge), and as such, the ficcers have the right to use them as they see fit. They become public domain because they fill a psychological need for the mythos within our cultural heritage.
And if that is the case--then aren't our celebrities our new gods, and therefore, don't we have the right to use our gods as we need them? And in counter to that--doesn't a real person have a right to his or her own identity and experiences? Doesn't an RP-fic undermine this? Even if well-intentioned, isn't it an affront to that person's very identity?
Before I go any further, I should probably define my terms.
Mythos (pl. mythoi) - "Myth," derived, like the words "mystery" and "mysticism": to close the eyes or the mouth. A mode of knowledge rooted in silence and intuitive insight which gives meaning to live but which cannot be explained in rational terms. Mythos is concerned with what is thought to be timeless and constant in our existence, concerned not with practical matters but with meaning. In the premodern world, mythos was seen as complementary to logos, and as another way of arriving at truth.
Logos (pl. logoi) - "Word"; rational, logical, or scientific discourse.(Both definitions taken from Karen Armstrong's "The Battle For God.")
Now that I've defined everything, I'm going to return to the crux of my argument. We, as human beings, need our gods. We need our celebrities, our larger than life figures, to help us make sense of our own lives. We see the foibles of the rich and famous, and they make us feel better, because that proves in the new Gods are fallible. After all, look at mythology--just about every mythology has their Gods fucking right on up in some incredibly human way, because we need that in order to make sense of our own mistakes and blunders and heartaches--we need to think something greater than ourselves has the same damn problems we do. Well, we don't have any gods any more, other than our celebrities, and RPficcers are simply creating a mythology of sorts. Personal mythology through their stories, but a mythology nonetheless because they are responding to their own, primal needs. (I am biased, I know, because I say this as a writer who writes to work out her own problems and because otherwise her head would be an unpleasant place to live--the act of writing is the act of pulling from the subconscious and making it conscious in an altered form that is one that can easily be held up to the light of day, as the subconscious so rarely can be--the best way to know the deepest part of a writer, in many cases, is to read the opus of their work, because there will be threads and themes and things like that, which will tell you more about the person than many people could even know just by knowing that person for years). We can't use gods anymore, so we use the closest thing because, really, who actually sees a celebrity as an actual human being? No one does. Because they give that status as "ordinary human being" up when they agree to fame and all it entails, and enter the realm of mythic. They become ubermensch; the supermen. They become the acceptable modern gods in a logos-based world that does not otherwise allow us access to mythos to answer our basic questions of humanity and what it means to be human and fallible.
More important than that, though, is that part of why celebrities get so little protection is that it that know what they are signing up for when they get famous. Yeah, it's fame, but fame has a price, and you lose many of your private rights because you are in the public eye. If you don't want people writing slash about you...or if you don't want photographers following you around, you don't want to be in the papers and the tabloids...then be an accountant. You can rag on RPficcers left and right, but they do about the same thing as rags like the National Enquirer and all that, only they do it out of, as near as I can tell, a sense of enjoyment and affection for who they write about--it's in many ways a labor of love.
Because we love our gods.
And this is our worship.