cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

Position Statement: Fanworks and remix

It's been brought home to me once again, largely due to my recent meta post on Supernatural, that people love to make assumptions about my preferences based on... not any of the things I actually said in the meta. So I thought I'd post my slash manifesto, and in future I will just point people here when they start assuming.

(If you're wondering if I'm talking about you here, then probably not. I'm mostly talking about comments I tend to see elsewhere due to the pingback bot, and the occasional snide anonymouse I don't unscreen.)

Relevant biographical info

I value transformative works and their related cultures highly, but they are not all I value in life. I also have:
  • a Doctorate in Creative Arts (for creative writing)
  • published original fiction and essays in actual journals/books
  • taught writing at university for several years

This is not a definitive list of things I've done, but it should give you a sense of the types of textual creation and analysis I do for a living, and how that likely informs my fanworks.

Am I a slasher?

I identify as one, sure.

That said, I actually love the playfulness of transformative works across the whole genre, more than I enjoy taking any one reading position. I'll often look at a text from a slasher's perspective, but that's not the only way I will read it, and it's not even always the primary way I'll read it. Also, I can read a text in several modes at the same time, and usually do. That means I can see slashy subtext and at the same time see other explanations for a character's actions, and think both have some validity, even if I prefer one explanation over the other.

If I had to nominate a favourite fannish genre it would be friendship romance, which crosses over enough with slashing and/or shipping (yes, I read het stories too) that I find it easier just to call myself a slasher and be done with it.

As of this post, my current top tags on my recommendation site for fanworks are as follows:

Top 10 Tags on rec_room

* fiction 3706
* pg-13 2322
* not:recced 2043
* stargate:atlantis 1508
* nc-17 1242
* mckay_sheppard 1225
* torchwood 1103
* angst 1087
* jack_ianto 816
* supernatural 696

As you can see, I far prefer PG-13 fanworks to NC-17 fanworks, but read/watch a lot of both.

I read/watch more fanworks in each fandom than just those with a pairing, although I do prefer fanworks in which friends or couples are the focus.

In short, if you assume I'm married to my tin-hat slashy point of view, based on the fact I'm doing a slash-centric reading of a text in a piece of meta or fanfiction, that says more about your assumptions than it does about my preferences.

Why I'm a fan of transformative works

There are two main reasons I'm a fan of remix culture, and transformative fanworks in particular.

First, it's political. I find many mainstream texts problematically essentialist (that is, they are chock full of sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, etc). Transformative works, as the name implies, can engage with texts in a way which allows me to transform those aspects, and actively speak back about the things I love, and the issues I find offensive and ethically dubious.

I also love the way transformative works re-tell the same stories over and over with variations on the themes: from epic tragedy, to the silliest slapstick, and everything in between. There's something delightful to me about the playfulness of that, especially as I don't believe in many absolute truths about either people or cultures. It also appeals to my curiosity; I like to see all the different consequences of characters' choices (all the possible "what ifs" or "turn lefts" if you like), that are implied by canon texts, but necessarily closed off by them.

Transformative works are also part of a community of practice, which means those transformations are part of a larger conversation about these texts and the issues they portray. For me (although not for everyone), the political possibilities in this community of practice, as well as in the transformative power of the art, is a big part of what draws me to fanworks. I think it's very feminist that so many women take part in this form of art practice, and that they can use it as a forum for talking about issues which are often silenced or stereotyped in the mainstream, like positive sexuality, polyamory, rape, misogyny, sexual harassment, domesticity, etc.

It's because of my interest in the political side of transformative works and their communities of practice (and remix cultures more broadly) that I volunteered to help build the Organization for Transformative works. Fanworks = activism for me.

Second, it's about love. I want to read and watch stories about love, and I don't just mean sexual love. I mean friendship. And family love between siblings, and parents and children. I mean transformative love from friendship to lovers or vice-versa. I mean love that isn't clearly defined in our culture, like frenemies or polyamory or asexuality. It's also about love of texts, about the way you can passionately engage with a novel, show or artwork.

Love is treated with such suspicion in mainstream literature; it's hard to find works which take it seriously without devolving into "isms". I'm deeply unsatisfied by most (but not all) mainstream books and films about love, with their relentless focus on heterosexual romances. They are often ghettoised as "women's literature," and chock full of misogyny and stereotypes. More importantly, there aren't enough friendship romances of the type I prefer in the mainstream, except in young adult fiction, which is often satisfyingly experimental.

Fanworks aren't perfect in this regard, either. There are still plenty of texts chock full of "isms". However, the focus on transformation, and the political possibility inherent in the form, means that I'm satisfied much more often by fanworks than by mainstream works on the same theme.

Multiple points of view

The single biggest assumption people tend to make in response to my meta is that I must be rabidly committed to one viewpoint (usually, it's assumed, a slashy viewpoint), and I'm trying to brainwash everyone into thinking the same way.

Just, no.

This is my fundamental philosophical standpoint:

  • It's the multiple points of view within transformative works that I love most.
    That includes takes on all varieties sexualities, and asexuality, and stories/art/meta in which sexuality isn't even relevant.

  • I appreciate it when someone convinces me to change my ideas about an issue due to a persuasive argument they have put forward.
    Having my assumptions challenged by other points of view is one of the most valuable things I get from this community. Actually, that's how I think and feel about fiction, meta, and art, both within remix cultures and in the mainstream. Even when I disagree with some else's opinion, I enjoy engaging with the freaking enormous range of ideas people have about the same text or issue.

So, that's me. At least for today. I might change my mind tomorrow, if someone presents me with a sufficiently persuasive argument songvid/fanfiction/meta. :)

This entry was originally posted at
Tags: fandom, feminism, meta, politics
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