Joxer?! And Other Things I Don't Get
by Lucy Gillam
I wasn't sure I was going to do this column, since it's basically just a discussion of fanfic trends/pairings/genres I don't personally "get," and I wasn't sure anyone would be interested in such a subjective column. Then it occurred to me: what better way to get submissions than to say "I don't get this" and invite people who do get them to write.
I want to emphasize here that I'm not talking about fic trends, etc., that bother me, disturb me, or that I think are particularly problematic. You won't see me ranting about domestic discipline stories, much as I loathe them, because I don't believe that's an issue of "taste," but one of ethics. You won't see me ranting about extreme smarm, even though I've made my feelings clear on it, because, well, I've already ranted about it, and because again I think there are issues that go beyond taste into characterization and genre definition. And I'm not getting into "bad" characterization, because that gets into how we define and judge fanfic. These are things I just don't understand.
Obligatory Disclaimer: The statements below are not the opinion of the columnist, but rather are statements of objective reality and Divine Wisdom that should be taken as immutable guidelines not only for fanfic, but for a worthwhile life. Disagreement is certain indication of poor taste and limited intellectual capacity.
Please, folks, it's been a rough week, I just turned 30, and my innate weirdness should be no surprise by now. Everything herein should be taken with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
#1 Joxer/Ares slash
Joxer?!?! I mean, Kevin Smith can stand in tight leather and read the phone book and I'll die happy, but Joxer?!?! Sure, Ted Raimi is cute, and can do dashing and sexy, but Joxer?!?! With Ares?!?!
Let me explain why this is sick and wrong.
What charm Joxer has rests on him being a sweet, sincere, pretty much hopeless loser. Well, loser by Greek warrior standards, anyway. As a human being, he's pretty terrific, but a person who'd fall in love with him would need to be able to see beneath the surface, to appreciate his compassion and essential goodness.
Which brings us to Ares. Who have we seen this man, er, god, involved with? Callisto. Mavican. Hope (okay, that one might have been purely political, but he didn't exactly seem to be suffering). Discord.
I'm not seeing a lot of compassion and essential goodness there.
As much as I like Joxer (and I do, really), any person who really loved him would have to have a softer side. And as much as I like Ares (and I do), I'm just not convinced he really has a softer side. This is a guy who cheerfully tried to kill his own father. And we're not even going to get into the things he's tried to do to Xena.
I could easily buy that Joxer might have a crush on Ares. The War God is, after all, everything Joxer keeps saying he wants to be. And I could see Ares taking advantage of that, seducing Joxer toward some nefarious end. It's the whole serious-romantic-never-knew-love-like-this-before thing that utterly throws me.
Which brings me to:
#2 Mulder/Krycek Romance
Wait, wait, wait. Close the e-mail, or at least delay it.
Do I see the UST between Mulder and Krycek? Whoo, boy, do I. Do I even believe it might to some degree, be intentional? I could believe it (mostly because I thing Chris Carter is a sadistic @#$% who loves messing with his viewers' heads, including those of the slash fans, but I could believe it). Could I ever see the two of them succumbing and boffing each others' brains out? Sure, assuming they could stop hitting each other long enough.
It's when we get to the lovey-dovey life-partner thing that I start to squirm. Because it either requires that Krycek's history be massively re-written, or that Mulder be really, really messed up.
We'll deal with Krycek's history first. This is a man who, to all appearances, has:
Now, I've seen lots of explanations for why Krycek is actually an innocent little lambikins, but ... well, let's just say I'm a big believer in Occam's Razor, the principle that given two possible explanations, the simpler one is more likely to be correct. Now, this may seem like an odd principle to apply to the X-Files, but in truth, I think it's far more likely that we never actually saw Krycek shoot Bill Mulder because it was artistically more satisfying to end with Krycek appearing in the mirror than show the shooting, rather than that being Chris Carter trying to tell us Krycek didn't really do it.
- killed Mulder's father
- participated in, if not actually pulled the trigger for, the murder of Scully's sister
- aided in Scully's abduction, or at least prevented Mulder from stopping it, which also makes him complicit in her cancer
- betrayed Mulder in Russia (sure, he suffered worse for it, but that was after he sold Mulder out).
That's not to say I haven't read some stories that convincingly re-wrote these events - Bren Antrim's stories come to mind. But on the whole, these explanations remind me of the margin notes in the Geneva Bible, which explain that of course what God really meant was (insert explanation that brings the text into line with early Protestant theology). I just get this uncomfortable feeling that the writer is trying too hard, and that if it takes this much effort, it's not terribly convincing. We've all seen shows explain an actor's departure or a story line that contradicts past information in ways that made us go, "yeah, uh-huh. Pull the other one." It can be done, sure; doing it in a way I believe is another matter.
Which leads us to Mulder's mental health, or the lack thereof. This is a man who is certainly dancing on the edge a great deal of the time, that's granted. His obsession has led him down some very odd paths, and he's shown himself willing to do just about anything for the people he loves. He also has a mile-wide streak of, if not self-destruction, at the very least disregard for his own safety. And yes, he has shown himself to make some rather poor romantic choices.
However, to place him in a romantic relationship with a man who has been complicit in some of the most painful events of his life takes his instability to whole new realms of psychosis and self-destructive behavior. And before we take him there, we have to remember that this is a man who has been a functioning, relatively stable (especially given his time as a profiler) member of society. When not under the influence of drugs or other outside influences, he has generally behaved in ways that at worst could be described as reckless. Sure, he's a little weird, but the gap between weird and psychotic is a quite large one.
Now, having said that, if Krycek had only hurt him, I could perhaps see Mulder getting past it, since Mulder clearly doesn't place a terribly high value on his own well-being. It's even remotely possible, given his shaky relationships with his parents, that he might have found a way around the murder of his father. What I simply cannot see him forgetting or forgiving is Krycek's role in what happened to Scully. 'shipper issues aside, I think we have plenty of evidence that Scully is the single most important person in his life. Can we really accept that he would betray her by literally sleeping with the enemy? And if we can, can we still like him?
As I said above, that's not to say that I haven't found some M/K stories convincing and very well done. At the same time, even those stories make me a little uneasy as I read them. As yummy as the pairing can be, I just can't get over a feeling of fundamental wrongness.
#3 Same Actor Crossover Pairings
I love crossovers. Really, deeply love them. When they're done well, they're the most enjoyable stories in the fanfic universe - heck, look how often tv does them during "sweeps."
At the same time, crossovers have the potential to be the absolute worst stories in fandom. Why? Because as countless sweeps stunts have demonstrated, it takes more to make a successful crossover than "combine ingredients and stir." Bringing two universes, two sets of characters, two styles of writing together is not an easy task. Someday, I'll write a column on crossover promises and perils, but for now, I'll just leave it at: not for the faint of heart.
Among the most perilous of these are crossovers between shows/movies/etc that share an actor. For example, Sentinel fandom had a spate of TS/One West Waikiki (a short-lived series also starring Richard Burgi) stories. These crossovers, in addition to facing all of the challenges other crossovers face, have to come up with a convincing explanation for two characters that, aside for possible differences in hair style and maybe age, look exactly alike. Some blithely put it down to "everyone has a double," while others create family connections. On one level, these crossovers can be among the most interesting I've ever read. On the other hand, when the slash element is introduced, I start to squirm again.
Why? Well, for one, many, many of these stories strike me as skating a fine line between character slash and actor slash. I should mention that this is a touchy subject for me. I've always had a very hard time losing myself in tv and movies the way I lose myself in a book, and part of that is never quite forgetting that what I'm seeing on-screen is an actor playing a part. Because of this, slash only really works for me in the written medium. There, I can keep the character a separate entity, one who just happens to look like that actor guy <g>. When a character played by the same actor is introduced, I get reminded of the connection and get twitchy.
So some of it's just me. But some of it ... you see, with some of these stories, I get the sense that the writer is very interested in exploring what would happen if these two characters (or sets of characters) were brought together, how they'd interact, etc. Or, if say, Blair were to have a fling with this guy who looked just like Jim but was really nothing like him otherwise, what would that say about him? His motivations? How would Jim react? How would the other guy (in this case, Mack Wolfe) react? All very interesting questions.
Other times, though, I get the feeling that the writer is really just throwing these two characters (say, Blair and Mack) together because she like how Jim and Blair look together, and this is a way to get that same look with a little variation on the theme. And that, to me, treads uncomfortably close to that actor/character line.
Which doesn't even get into actually pairing two characters played by the same actor. Intellectually, I get the appeal: this guy is really gorgeous, so seeing two of him go at it would be doubly hot (although again you've got that line). Viscerally ... eeeewwww. Sorry, the incest taboo is one I just can't get around. Again, I'm probably more sensitive than most. I'm adopted, and thus not biologically related to my brothers. I've read more than one gothic/V.C. Andrews-type novels have a two people raised as brother and sister suddenly find out they're not and decide to jump in the sack, which just ... (Lucy pauses to look at the family picture on her desk) ... eeeewwww. And while not all these crossovers actually write the characters as related, the specter of incest is too there for me. I just ... eeeewwww.
So, these are the things I totally don't get. Now is your opportunity to tell me how full of shit I am. Think Mulder and Krycek are soul mates? Think Ares and Joxer are the hottest couple since ancient Greece? Want to tell me why Doyle and Alan Cade belong together? I humbly (yeah, right) await your replies.