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DoorQ.Com | From Slash to Bromance — Moving Beyond Subtext
 
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From Slash to Bromance — Moving Beyond Subtext

Recently, I’ve had the good fortune of having one of my hobbies turn into a freelance job. I’ll be editing translated manga into casual English for a major distributor of yaoi titles. In Japan, these homoerotic stories are sold in magazines that can be purchased almost everywhere. There are even anime versions running on TV. That there is enough of a market here for more than one distributor making money importing and translating them is pretty amazing. But times are changing for those of us who have long read and written slash fiction based on TV shows.

Despite popular opinion amongst critics, slash in fanfiction usually doesn’t spring from a vacuum. [Yes, I said usually. I am well aware of pairings that would make a stomach turn like Legolas/Sauron or even Jean-Luc Picard/Elrod the Elf guy, and I am reminded that there exists Icabod/Horseman slash. Heck, I once did quite a rant on a panel about bizarre pairings that ended with me suggesting that even Opie/Barney Fife was fair game in some Slashers’ eyes]. Thankfully, this strangeness is a minor part of Slash Fanfiction. Typically, there is smoke that inspires that fire in the writers.

They call them Bromances now, but  the phenomena has been around for a long, long time. It’s a combination of writers writing much stronger parts for male characters than female characters in a series and a very strong personal chemistry between the pair of male actors. For Slashers, this phenomena begins with Star Trek’s Kirk and Spock. No matter how many broads were thrown at Captain Kirk or the few that were thrown at Spock, there was never anyone closer to them than each other. Heck, Kirk more or less chose Spock over his own son. But these Bromances were not confined to Sci-fi in the 70s. Starsky and Hutch had an even hotter Bromance. Executive Producer, Aaron Spelling, called them ‘prime time homos’ [you should Google that, it’s hilarious]. However, by and large, the actors told the media at the time that Dave Starsky and Ken Hutchinson loved each other – like brothers. And that era being a simpler time in mainstream America, few saw the subtext that was percolating between the characters. It was simply beyond the grasp of any regular viewer’s imagination. There was no way such subtext would move anywhere past making out after flub takes that would go on the crew gag reel.

Things got interesting in the 90s for Slashers as it seemed that subtext was inching toward the surface at the same time that the pleas for openly gay characters (who weren’t some sort of freaky serial killers) were starting to be heard. In my orbit, there was even the first signs of fan service  from media in North America from one show and vehement denial in the face of the obvious from another. Sometime between the original run and 1997 season of due South , series lead and by then Executive Producer and staff writer, Paul Gross, was shown some of the slash fiction about the lead characters in the show during an interview. He was very amused by this development. That following season featured a lot of the subtext peaking through into text on the show. It even ended with the leading men literally riding off into the sunset together. Oh, here is one of those aforementioned gag reels. But that’s Canada. They actually have Gay marriage up there.

South of the border in the US during roughly that same time, there was UPN’s action adventure series, The Sentinel. The first review I read of that series talked about how inordinately close the lead characters were. Of course, hag that I am, that meant I was totally there. I was not disappointed. Not since Starsky and Hutch had I seen characters with that much subtext between them. It was so obvious that our normally oblivious, stand up comedian neighbor thought those guys were doing all sorts of things he didn’t want to think about – and he never noticed that Mulder and Scully were having a romance. Between season one and two, series lead Richard Burgi joked that he wouldn’t mind if his character, Jim Ellison’s, series sidekick, Blair Sandburg, played by Garett Maggart, moved upstairs into his room and they got on with things. That didn’t go over well with either UPN or its affiliates who were already unhappy about the network’s weak performance. The next season featured a parade of female characters to insert between the male leads. It didn’t really affect the chemistry between the characters, but it did muddle the show enough that it fizzled out.
Nearly fifteen years later, it is a brand new world for slashers. Though subtext remains subtext in the shows itself, the showrunners don’t try to run away from it. In fact, they really give it some fan service. The most accommodating of the shows is Supernatural. Frankly, that slash makes me queasy as the characters are brothers. In the parlance of the genre, I’m beyond squicked. Somehow, the show has acknowledged the fans without actually supporting their fetish or alienating them. They’ve even found a clever and humorous way to write the fans’ obsessions into the series. I give you episodes entitled The Real Ghost Busters  ; The Monster at the end of This Book ; and The French Mistake .
I find that development an inconceivable leap from the days where the slash was hidden from all but trusted insiders of the fandom. Even non sci-fi shows like Hawaii Five-0 are acknowledging the chemistry of their leading men by doing things like a video  that rivals anything a panting fangirl could dream up. And then, I am reminded there were those Lord of the Rings ads on TBS.

I have to think that the day is soon coming that the passion between a pair of male leads on a TV show will be subtext no longer. And then what are we fangirls going to write about??

5 Comments

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  1. dS fan says
    May 25, 2012, 8:02 am

    Actually, Fraser and Kowalski in “Due South” left on their adventure in Canada at sunrise.

    I personally think it’s one of those urban myths that Paul Gross deliberately inserted subtext into the latter seasons of dS after being amused by fanfiction – which must have featured Fraser and Ray Vecchio, not Fraser and Kowalski. I’ve seen all sorts of references to PG inserting the subtext, but I’ve never seen any statement from him that says “Yes, I put in more subtext, and I intended for Fraser and Kowalski to be a romantic couple.”

    If PG did do that, then he probably did it as a joke to tease viewers. Yet the F/K slashers are so serious that their pairing is “canon.” But it’s not – no more than F/V is canon, or any other pairing other than Kowalski/Stella and Vecchio/Angie. Even Vecchio/Stella isn’t canon, because viewers don’t know if they were a couple or just business partners in a bowling alley.

    I really wish more dS fans would just enjoy the show as it was intended to be from the start – a story of Fraser’s friendships with those he meets in Chicago, especially with the two Rays. dS was never intended to have a romantic couple as the main focus.

    Reply
  2. dl says
    May 25, 2012, 2:36 pm

    Thank you for your comment. I didn’t say that PG made a romance between Ben and RayK subtext. I said he was the first to really provide fanservice as he was aware of the slash between the characters and found it amusing. And I have yet to meet any Fraser/Kowalski slasher who thought of the paring as canon. I actually wrote slash for the pairing for a number of years (http://novad.org The stories are under the Adventures of Benton and Ray), and I’ve sat on many a panel with other slashers. None of them thought the pairing was canon. They were certain they were being teased. The watershed with dS was that it was acknowledged at all — even as fan service.

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  3. dS fan says
    June 11, 2012, 9:50 am

    Oh – you’re another one of those F/K fans who decided to make Ray Vecchio homophobic and make his friendship with Fraser less loving and giving than it was on the show. I’ll never understand slash fans like you, who decide that just because Fraser is in a romantic relationship with one Ray, he doesn’t need the other Ray anymore and doesn’t love him as a friend, and makes the Ray who’s not Fraser’s romantic partner into a horrible person – which he definitely is not on the show!

    As I said, more dS fans should just enjoy the show AS THE WRITERS INTENDED! Fraser doesn’t need to be paired with one Ray at the expense of his friendship with the other Ray. Nor do you have to drink the Stella Kool-Aid and pair her permanently with RayV because Fraser’s with RayK – which you did in your series.

    dS fandom would be a much happier place for more people if Fraser and the Rays were all friends, and Fraser didn’t love one Ray more than the other, and Stella was not in any of their lives.

    Reply
  4. dl says
    June 11, 2012, 10:56 am

    No, I’m one of those dS fans that thought of it as an amusing TV show and decided to experiment with writing a parody of it and other fanfiction. Thus, all of the cartoon bad guys and actual dialog from things like Dudley Do Right and Pooty Tang. All of my fanfiction was parody. I no more took it seriously than I can your comments.

    Reply
  5. dS fan says
    June 21, 2012, 10:07 am

    Parody or not, your hatred for Ray Vecchio is pretty blatent. :-( I hope that no more stories like yours are being written. I think those who make RayV homophobic and a villian against his BFF Fraser and against Kowalski must have serious issues. Why can’t they accept the fact that RayV would never do anything deliberate to hurt Fraser, including making homophobic slurs, and would try to be friends with Kowalski for Fraser’s sake? But no -F/K slashers like to play up the Catholic stereotypes and make RayV much different and less loving to Fraser than he was on the show!

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