RPS, Boybands, and Dead Guy RPS
by Michelle Christian
About a year or two ago, as several of my friends got into RPS--or, in some cases, finally admitted to being into RPS--I really started to think about the whole concept of RPS and why I feel about it the way I do. These are my reactions and rationale, but I don't claim that my reactions are always, in and of themselves, rational. *g*
First of all, while I have no problem with my friends being into it--some of my best friends, you know, and knowing that most of them, at least, are not the psychotic fruitcakes who would stalk these poor guys or think that the actors/boybands are really, truly doing it, because they actually know the difference between fantasy and reality--the whole concept still bothers me on some basic levels. Just for me personally, if I find myself speculating on someone's private life, even as I love gossip, I feel...dirty. And not in a good way. It's the privacy issue thing, in part, since I feel very strongly that what someone does in
their life is their own business, unless they choose to make it mine. It's also, I just recently realized, a matter of--high-handedness, maybe? I have no problem playing with fictional characters' lives, fantasizing, maiming, killing, emotionally torturing, etc., heck I live for that sometimes. But it just seems wrong to do that with real people. And it's not like I don't have a healthy imagination or fantasy life or never speculated on what would happen if I met so-and-so and how they would just loooooove me, but...it feels different. I don't know how or why, but it does. Another reason is that what draws me to fandom, to writing and reading fanfiction, is the characters. And while RPS is more about slashing personas than people, that's just not enough to interest me, to hang my hat on.
And while I was examining why I don't like RPS, I realized that, at the same time, I do: Because I love many historical movies, love to springboard research from historical movies, and many of them are quite slashy. I mean, look at one of my all time favorite movies, "Becket": Not only about real people, but also about about a SAINT! Heresy with a side of perv! So, what is it that makes all this different, I ask myself. Why does a part of me give a mental shiver when I think about slashing Viggo and Orlando, but I'm okay with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday humping their way across the West? Really, it's all about boundaries.
First of all, no matter how accurate a historical movie is, it's still fictional. I seem to need that veneer of fiction, even while I love it when a movie is as historically accurate as possible. I might go and do research on someone or a certain period, but any slashy thoughts I have are going to be about the fictional interpretation of the characters.
And then my reinterpretation of them. And this isn't just the case for fiction, I realized, I feel the same way about the graphic arts. I've never been the biggest fan of photo manips, for instance, but I realized at a con a couple of years ago, when I saw someone had taken photos of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon and put their heads on some gay porn stars engaged in their craft what a big part of my problem was (other than, of course, that it was just horribly done): Drawings, by their nature, are an artists interpretation of characters, even though they're the characters as portrayed by specific actors. To me, photographs are much more about the actors. That's not the total of it--there are some photographs which are obviously of the actor portraying a character and others which are the actor himself--but, again, it's an extra layer of fiction that's part of my comfort buffer zone. Manipulating photos just seems to be more about the actors than their characters than does a drawing of the actor as a character.
Secondly, as is explicit in the "Dead Guy RPS" label, they're dead. I'm most comfortable with 100+ years, but obviously this doesn't always hold--Wyatt Earp died in 1929 and T.E. Lawrence died in 1935, for instance. But, it's still a good margin. I get more and more uncomfortable the closer the person is to my own lifetime. Some of that is the privacy
issue, with time working as its own buffer between them and me, and some of that is that the farther back in history you go, the less you can truly "know" someone: The past has its own layer of fiction.
And again, I can find the contradiction in my own rationale: There are two movies that I love which are totally slashy (well, one's slashy and the other one is more text than subtext), both about John Lennon, called "Backbeat" and "The Hours and the Times." I even made icons for both films but as much as I think they're slashy and as much as I love them, I just...can't...quite...do it. I feel icky. I enjoy them both, but I still feel icky. I have an even stronger reaction to "The Hours and the Times," which is all about the relationship and a specific event between John and Brian Epstein. It's accurate about everything I've read about these two guys, is a speculation on an actual event, and is based on the very real and rather odd relationship that these two people had, all of which makes it both extremely fascinating to me and my fascination for it feel kind of...ooogy. (Hope people are appreciating all these complicated psychological terms.)
I came to another conclusion: While many of my friends may have succumbed to the Sparkle, I don't think you could have designed a fandom with the purpose of repelling me and done as well. First, there's the RPS thing, with all the aforementioned problems. Then there's the fact that I don't tend to like coming-of-age/young teens/tweens-centered stories. There's exceptions to this, of course (Buffy, etc.), but for the most part it's true. There was a point where every other gay film coming out seemed to be a coming-of-age story, and I swore if I watched one more movie where a guy makes out/comes out to his high school/college sweetheart and the guy turns out to be an asshole, but gay!boy turns
around and moves on, a wiser and better twink, I was going to start killing people. Personally, I prefer my characters to be older and more bitter. Get back to me when you've had the shit kicked out of you by life, and have the scars to prove it, and maybe we'll talk, glitter boy. And then there's the fact that I can't stand the music... *g*
And, again, there's the character versus people/persona factor. Oogy and icky feelings aside, there's just not enough with a lot of these guys to hang my fannish hat on. With historical characters, I get the movies (extra fictional veneer) and can then go research them (with the past working--for rationale sake, if not in fact--as an extra layer of veneer). History as the ultimate movie tie-in!