Pairing: Elijah Wood/Orlando Bloom
Title: The Shameful Truth of Beauty
Personal Website: Cathy's Homepage
Thanks: To vegetariansushi, aleathiel, and belladonnalin for beta-reading.
The Shameful Truth of Beauty
The first time I came out as an Orlijah writer in real life (face-to-face with someone, rather than safely shielded by email or LiveJournal), I felt extraordinarily embarrassed. I am not normally known for being shy, but in this particular case I shuffled my feet and made strange choking noises and blushed fire-engine red, before finally blurting out "I write ElijahWood'n'OrlandoBloom."
The woman I was speaking to, a fellow slasher I might add, pointed accusingly and laughed as she said, "The two *prettiest*!"
I melted into a small puddle of shame on the floor, not even attempting to justify my interest on any level other than the aesthetic.
So, okay. Let's just get this out of the way, once and for all...
Elijah Wood is not so much a human being as an embodied anime character.
Orlando Bloom is the most beautiful man in the world and, in defiance of all laws of nature, is actually getting more beautiful with each day that passes.
Right. Now that I have firmly exposed the shameful truth of their beauty, let's move on to more interesting matters.
What I would have said to my friend, if I had not been totally mortified by her immediate assumption of my aesthetic superficiality, was that I find Elijah interesting, as a writer, because his public persona is a perfect embodiment of the post-modern subject (and yes, I actually would have said that, in case you're wondering. I can't help myself. Being a doctoral student has forever corrupted the way I see the world). What I mean by that bit of academic short-hand is that the "Elijah Wood" we are sold by the machinery of Hollywood is made up of layer after fascinating layer, including: his film roles, his public celebrity performances, and his life story, which was written up in interviews, at the time of filming The Lord of the Rings, as the perfect coming-of-age story. I would have gone on to explain to my friend that Orlando is mainly interesting because his celebrity persona, at the time of filming, was constructed as the exact opposite: he's a blank canvas as an actor, he's an awkward public celebrity still uncertain of his role, there are hints of suffering in his past (with his severe back injury), and his life was written up in interviews as an improbable-dream-come-true story.
Also interesting are their character flaws... well perhaps flaws is too strong a word, as they are both too young for their vices to have a bitter, tawdry flavour. However, what flaws they have suggest such interesting contradictions within each of their psyches. Elijah bites his nails, commonly a symptom of anxiety, yet in front of a camera (any camera) he seems assured enough to own the world. He smokes. He's got a sharp, clever, sarcastic edge. He swears like the most foul-mouthed guttersnipe ever born. Yet he also seems genuinely sweet, affectionate, and good natured. Orlando, on the other hand, seems goofy, awkward with the press, not too articulate, and an adrenalin junkie. For someone so physically fearless, the soft tone of his voice makes him seem ridiculously shy, especially for someone now so famous. But he, too, seems at heart to be a kind, loving, protective person. These kinds of character contradictions are where good drama comes from; they are a godsend for a writer.
As if all of that wasn't enough, add into the mix the fact that Elijah and Orlando are both physical and psychological opposites, and you have everything you need for really satisfying friendship and/or romance stories, because these two characters do not just fall into friendship, or into bed, easily. The writer actually has to work hard to find some common ground for them if the story is to be more than a smut-a-thon. Not that I'm arguing against the occasional smut-a-thon, but my first love has always been for stories with plot, characterisation, complication, crisis and then, and only then, a satisfying climax (preferably in every sense of the word).
This is exactly what abundantlyqueer managed to achieve in her mind-meltingly good Clue series (linked below). In an ever-escalating progression, she contrasts Elijah and Orlando's similarities and differences in a gradual voyage of sexual discovery. By the end of the series, we've seen both boys slowly grow into the deep, erotic love they feel for each other, and this is parallelled beautifully by the gruelling film schedule, and the way in which that causes other, less important things to fall away for both Elijah and Orlando.
Lemur's Deconstructing Legolas (also linked below) on the other hand, explores friendship, and the way in which it grows and deepens, layer by layer, with each action and reaction between Orlando and Elijah. But the real beauty of the story is in the way Lemur contrasts this slow development of friendship with the most stunning depiction of the construction of an actor's film role, by showing a similar layering process used by the inexperienced Orlando in order to create Legolas.
These are the first two stories I read in Lotrips, and they affected me so vividly that Elijah and Orlando instantly became my One True Pairing. Not only that, the character possibilities demonstrated by these two stories inspired me so much that I've written something like 80,000 words of fiction trying to fathom all of the permutations and possibilities of the friendship and love between Elijah and Orlando, and I'm pretty sure I'm not done yet.
And that's why it used to be so mortifying to me when people would make assumptions about the beauty of Elijah and Orlando. Because for me, the beauty of the faces they show to the world is certainly real enough, but only a tiny fraction of their attraction. For me, as both a writer and a reader, surface beauty is a fictional topic which is quickly exhausted. There are only so many ways, after all, of saying, "I think Orlando's lovely. I think Elijah thinks so too," and vice versa.
But from now on, I am done with shame. The truth is that the things I find most compelling about Elijah and Orlando's beautiful faces are their expressions, because it's through the slight lift of a lip, or the flare of a nostil, the biting of a thumb, or the dimpling of a cheek, that I can find hints of the erotic, imperfect, contradictory, fascinating, and yes, beautiful, depths that lie beneath.
A good place to start are the following:
See Under: Clue, Getting A by abundantlyqueer
Deconstructing Legolas by Lemur
Recommendations of many more of my favourite Orlijah stories can be found in the Memories at lotr_squee.
There are more archives than you can poke a stick at in the Lotrips fandom (such as Mirrormere and Every Single One, to name but two). Unfortunately, the two main Orlijah archives are no longer available, so your best bet is to start with bloomwood_.