The Apology!Fic Rant
by Martha W.
Apology!Fic is a story where the whole purpose and emotional core is formed around the author's need for Hercules to apologize to Iolaus. I'm not sure it matters what the apology is for. It usually seems to be an apology for the fact that life is hard. It's as prevalent in gen as it is in slash, maybe even more so.
Many of these stories seem to be based on the idea that Hercules shouldn't treat Iolaus as an equal independent personality capable of making his own decisions and entitled to take risks for issues that Iolaus feels strongly about. Instead, the Apology!Fic author feels Hercules should treat Iolaus rather like the female main character in a Victorian novel, or in a Doris Day movie circa 1953. Those Doris Day movies were written for a purpose, to show women who had stepped into men's roles during World War II that now it was time to give up their jobs and careers, stop making decisions, get back into the kitchen, take the shoes off, and get pregnant -- not unlike what the Nazis, those guys we were supposed to be fighting, considered to be women's proper role in society.
Now the purpose of Apology!Fic is not necessarily to show that Iolaus should not be allowed to willingly assume the burden and risk of being a mortal hero, equal partner to Hercules, no matter how well qualified he is or how much he wants to. The purpose is to make it clear that what Hercules (and the author) really feel, no matter what Hercules says or does in the canon, is that Iolaus is not equal to that risk or competent to make those decisions, and that that should be emphasized with constant apologies and expressions of how grateful Hercules is that Iolaus is willing to do the things that Iolaus' chosen mission in life requires. When Hercules assumes that Iolaus is an adult and will make his own choices about risk, Hercules is just being mean and brutal and inconsiderate.
You'd think an author would have to ignore a lot of cannon to write a story like this, especially the episodes where Iolaus takes on some dangerous mortal or immortal threat all on his own and triumphs without Hercules' help, like Lost City, Love Takes a Holiday, or King for a Day, for example. But often these stories refer to cannon, taking incidents where Iolaus throws himself into peril to help Hercules or to save someone else, and gets hurt -- or maybe just dirty and a little bruised -- then has Hercules apologize profusely for any inconvenience. Because obviously, Iolaus shouldn't be in charge of his own behavior and responsible for his own safety. He should be treated as a child, like Doris Day in those 50s movies. Yes, he looks like a full grown healthy intelligent adult man in his thirties, and the canon shows him administering beatings to men three times his size, jumping into battle with hydras and dragons, and mouthing off to hostile gods. But the author knows appearances lie. He is just a child, Hercules' child; actually, Hercules' pet, since you expect a child to grow up and become independent, and there's no expectation like that in the author's mind for Iolaus. Expecting Iolaus to do the things he does readily and constantly throughout the series is wrong! It's MEAN, and shows how Hercules takes Iolaus for granted! Hercules should make his real feelings clear and formally thank him for all the risks Iolaus takes, no matter how patronizing it would be.
The thing that always really bothers me about these stories is that the Iolaus these authors see, the co-dependent little man-child who goes around in a constant state of frustration over how he is expected to make his own choices about risking his life, who angsts over how he is never formally apologized to and how he is taken for granted, is exactly the kind of warped personality who would willingly betray Hercules to Dahak.
Hey, maybe it's really Rob Tapert writing these stories under different pseudonyms!
That would explain a lot.