Travel Size for Your Convenience
by Rana Eros
Blair Sandburg is shorter than Jim Ellison, without a doubt. Obi-Wan Kenobi is shorter and undeniably slimmer than Qui-Gon Jinn. When they're up close and personal, you can see that Methos is a tad on the shorter side than Duncan and less bulky, and if you cross your eyes and squint into the sun, you *might* be able to see the height difference between Curt Wild and Brian Slade, and you might be able to convince yourself that Arthur Stuart is not taller than both of them.
According to a great deal of the fanfiction, however, you'd believe every single one of these couples consisted of one Hulking Brute (TM) and one Pint-Sized Anorexic (TM). To illustrate the absurdity of this trend, I would like to point out that the Pint-Sized Anorexic (hereinafter referred to as the PSA) in Phantom Menace fandom and the (frequent, they switch) Hulking Brute (HB) in Velvet Goldmine fandom are played by the same actor. Now, insofar as the characters are not the actor and vice versa, I willingly accept certain physical differences in Obi-Wan and Curt Wild. Interestingly, though, Obi-Wan should actually be taller than Curt Wild, given that they stuck the actor on boxes so he'd fit in the headshot frames with Qui-Gon. And even Obi-Wan does not top six feet, so he still could not tower over six-plus Arthur.
(Fear not, my gratuitous references to such a lesser-known fandom as Velvet Goldmine are nearly at an end.)
Of course, Curt Wild wore less loose-fitting clothing (less clothing period) than Obi-Wan, and that does seem part of the trend. Blair is fond of layered flannel and oversized coats. Methos camouflages himself quite nicely in a lovely collection of sweaters, some apparently stolen from Duncan's wardrobe. I'm sure most of us have seen the rather shapeless Jedi robes by now (why oh why can't the Jedi uniform involve a kilt, I ask you?), and I'm told Daniel Jackson's uniform fits him less well than Jack O'Neill's does him. All of these baggy clothes not only lend an air of slenderness, but they also often look about the right size to nicely fit the larger partner. It's a very appealing image to slash writers, no doubt about that, but we seem to have gone overboard. Rather than a sexy description of how Duncan's favorite sweater drapes just so over Methos' leaner chest, we get Itty Bitty Baby Meefos drowning in the sea of knit that is Big Daddy Dunky's cuddliest item of clothing. And forget Blair's square, strong hand sliding into Jim's back pocket and curving around his ass, some authors seem determined to make Blair of a size where he could fit his wee wittle self right into that tight-fitting denim. I could give more examples, but I think I've made my point. It's hard to enjoy the eroticism of a story when I'm worried one partner might inadvertently step on the other and squash him into oblivion.
So, how exactly did the PSA and the HB come into being? I have a theory that it actually has very little to do with any actual size difference in the characters and more to do with a particular type of mis-characterization. Just as there is a PSA and HB in every fandom, there also seems to be a Resident Victim and a Big Bully. Not surprisingly, the two sets seem to correspond. Hence, sweet, angelic, long-suffering Blair is also made pocket-sized to underscore precisely how helpless and vulnerable he is compared to musclebound, abusive, bull-headed Jim. Abused former pleasure slave Methos cowers before the enraged ranting of judgmental, domineering, sadistic Duncan, youth-slender limbs hairless and golden in the firelight in contrast to a distinctly hirsute Highlander. Poor Obi-Wan, he of the terminal case of low self-esteem, can't look his stern, murderous-tempered master in the eye without giving himself whiplash, which is fine, since he would never dare such presumpt!
I'm a big fan of contrasts in coloring and physical build when it comes to my slash pairings, but I view the PSA much as I do the Fembot and the Regressed Infant. I won't cry when he shrinks himself into oblivion and an actual *man* once more takes his place.
ion anyway. It's as if some authors use the physical inequality to justify whatever mental or emotional victimization they wish to portray. And when the characters do show a little backbone in these stories, it's always done with a "oh, isn't that cute, look how fierce he is" air. Sickened yet? I know I am.