hradzka: (pointy teeth)
[personal profile] hradzka
In 1959, the most popular television genre in America was the Western.

TIME magazine's cover story for March 30 of that year gives you an idea of the scope of the domination. Of the ten shows leading the ratings in the previous week, eight were Westerns. Of all the shows on TV (around 114 by my count) that weren't news that season, says TIME, 35 were Westerns. That’s more than thirty percent.

From the article, here’s how this looked if you were paying attention to the industry, or working in it, at the time:

TV's western boom began four years ago, and every season since then, the hay haters have hopefully predicted that the boom would soon bust. Yet every season it has been bigger than the last. Last week eight of the top ten shows on TV were horse operas. The networks have saddled up no fewer than 35 of the bangtail brigade, and 30 of them are riding the dollar-green range of prime night time (from 7:30 to 10 p.m.). Independent stations too have taken to the field with every wring-tailed old oat snorter they could rustle out of Hollywood's back pasture. This season, while other shows, from quizzes to comedies, were dropping right and left like well-rehearsed Indians, not a single western left the air. Indeed, 14 new ones were launched, and the networks are planning more for next year. Sighs a well-known writer of western scripts: "I don't get it. Why do people want to spend so much time staring at the wrong end of a horse?"

Today, the Western is largely gone.

You see them every so often -- TRUE GRIT got remade, and we’ve seen other flicks like APPALOOSA and 3:10 TO YUMA, with upcoming (sorry, Jon Favreau) sure-to-be-grotesqueries like COWBOYS AND ALIENS -- but they’re few and far between. It’s often said that Clint Eastwood and David Webb Peoples’s UNFORGIVEN is the eulogy for the Western, the last word on the genre. And folks who say that aren't wrong. At its core, UNFORGIVEN is about dispelling the Western myth and exchanging it for a colder, more jaundiced perspective: that violence in the Old West wasn't about honor and duty and courage, but was mostly just damn fool acts perpetrated by cold-blooded, selfish people who were drunk most of the time. As dramatized in the film in the personage of dime writer W.W. Beauchamp, who follows a number of the film's characters before being disillusioned or failed by each of them, this change in the audience's perspective (UNFORGIVEN states) is what killed the Western. The Western, in short, died because its audience grew up.

The problem with the UNFORGIVEN thesis is that violence and the fascination with violence remain today. They're just different kinds of violence. But the mythologizing persists; it just comes from different quarters. Ask Tupac Shakur, who attained great success and still felt the need to tattoo “Thug Life” on himself. Except of course you can’t ask him, because he’s dead now.

A related view, one you see mostly from leftist critics, is that the Western is an inherently individualist, racist, imperialist, selfish genre; they're not explaining its demise on such accounts as much as stating that it deserved to die. Molly Gloss, for example, makes this argument in her essay "Desperado:"

At its core, the Western is a story of breaking the wild land, its animals, its native peoples, by brutal, violent conquest. The cowboy’s insistence on “freedom” has all too often been the rationale for overgrazing, overcutting, hydraulic dredging, pit mining; and of course our mythic history takes no notice of Native American genocide, of land speculation, vigilantism, brutalities against the Mexicans, the Chinese.

Above all, the boiled-down western story solves every problem with violence. Our heroes shoot their way out of trouble with guns blazing, no matter how complicated the troubles. Our hero is above the law, dispensing his own violent justice and punishment. He lives by the Code of the West: if he’s insulted or cheated, if his horse is stolen, or, damn it, if his favorite hat is tromped on, he must fight or he’s a coward.

We’re in love with Shane, but he’s the guy our mothers warned us against.

Gloss's view is that the Western, in short, is nyekulturny; it's problematic, rooted in things that make modern leftists profoundly uncomfortable and things they fight against. It's worth noting, however, that Gloss's argument has several weaknesses. For example, when discussing specific Westerns, Gloss not only manages to somehow miss *the entire point* of SHANE, but also lists, among the examples of a genre that she describes as seeing the only fit way to solve problems as being violence, THE OX-BOW INCIDENT. This is a little like calling 12 ANGRY MEN an endorsement of racial profiling. Moreover, the current trend of leftist criticism is rooted in the fact that huge amounts of modern entertainment is fundamentally based in things that make modern leftists profoundly uncomfortable and that they fight against. So if the Western's nyekulturny nature is its problem, then why has only the Western declined in popularity? Some leftist comics fans have argued that superheroes are inherently conservative, because they're individuals effecting change through action, and that the genre is thus inherently problematic because its solutions to supervillainy aren't sufficiently collective. If the essential nature of the Western is individuals taking action, why do we have so few Western movies and so many superhero pics? Individuals take action in any number of movies, including the Matt Damon lefty fantasy pic GREEN ZONE; why has our unending thirst for individualism not boosted the Western?

Here's my answer: I don't think the Western is an individualist genre at all. The Western fell, in my view, because it was a profoundly *normative* genre. It’s about creating and establishing community norms, and ensuring that those norms survive; it's about developing land and communities. The Western went downhill after the late sixties because of the rise of the counterculture, and the celebration of the individual. If you're all about celebrating the individual who rebels against a society with norms, you're not going to get behind people who create norms and perpetuate their own society, especially if it's a society that you disagree with. That's why I think the Western fell from popularity: if you're Questioning Authority, seeking for the human condition in the choices of the individual, if that's exciting, the Western will seem staid and uninteresting, because it's about people trying to Build Authority. That's why I think the Western went out of fashion, and it's also why I think the harder left hates the Western.

But although I'm a righty, that's not why I love it.

The reason I love the Western is that characters are amazingly unconstrained. The West is a place where authority is not the government, not power, not even other people, but *the nature of the characters.* Characters' choices have weight in proportion to how obligated they are to choose one side of the question. Characters in a Western have options that are not open to characters in most mainstream fiction: they can do almost anything they want if they are physically capable of doing it, which means that they have a wider range of dramatic choices open to them, and their moral choices really have weight. And drama, essentially, boils down to characters making choices.

You don't just see this in Westerns. The crappy action flick TEARS OF THE SUN, with Bruce Willis, is an example: Bruce Willis is a military guy charged with rescuing a VIP from an African war, but the VIP won't leave without the African refugees she's been working with, thus complicating Bruce Willis's mission. Throughout, the VIP (female) is concerned with saving, protecting, and caring for the refugees. She is a touchy-feely humanitarian type, and so her reflex is to be concerned for others. (Eileen Jones notes that a similar dynamic occurs in PREDATORS, and that it's often a problem for female characters in action movies: male characters grapple with weighty issues of morality, while female characters "carry the burden of femaleness" and argue on behalf of inflexible conviction -- usually, when it comes to caring about the welfare of somebody not themselves whose very existence is a threat or inconvenient.) When Bruce Willis agrees with her, however, his choice has moral weight. Because for him, unlike her, it *is* a choice, not a reflex. In the Western, characters have a lot more choices, and a lot fewer reflexes.

None of this is why I'm writing about the Western.

The reason I'm writing about the Western is this: if the culture can change to such a degree that the Western, once the most popular of popular genres, sputters and goes out, what does that mean for the bulge of science fiction and fantasy productions we've been having of late?

And what does it mean for fandom?

In recent years, fandom has absolutely exploded. It’s also changed. Fandom is increasingly pornographic, which I think is a failure of imagination; more than that, fandom is increasingly awash in novelty. It used to be that any new genre show was cause for excitement; now we're awash in genre shows. It used to be that very few shows spawned active fandoms, and fandoms didn't just celebrate shows while they existed, but kept the love of those shows alive. Nowadays, there are lots of fandoms, and they swell in popularity when there's new product; then they peter out over time. Fandom is well on its way to becoming pure stimulus-response: love the movie? KINK MEME.

Suppose there is no stimulus. Then what?

What I'm wondering, and have been wondering for a while, is, "What happens when the boomtime ends?" Entertainment changes. Superheroes, science fiction, and fantasy will go out of fashion again. What's the new crop of fandom going to do, if they have nothing new to get excited about?

One possibility is that fandom is going to downsize. I think that's a serious possibility. Graying has happened to mainstream SF fandom; there is no law of the universe that says it can't happen to media fandom, too. If fans who are accustomed to bonding over content don't get new material that inspires them to create content, we could be seeing a lot less fannish activity, and a lot less people in fandom. I don't think that modern fandom encourages long-lasting devotion the way fandom used to. Look at SMALLVILLE; it used to be The New Hotness, and everybody was writing it and reading it. I had an flist that was chock-full of SMALLVILLE; I couldn't get away from the goddamn thing. SMALLVILLE has been on the air for ten years, and it's about to have its grand finale, but lots of its fans have moved on to other things and slashier pastures. People wrote STAR TREK when STAR TREK went off the air. People are still writing DUE SOUTH. Will people be writing MERLIN fifteen years from now? I really doubt it. Something new and slashier will have come along, and people will be writing that. If they're writing anything.

Another possibility is that genre fandom will have a downturn, and the rise of slash will continue. Slash, I think, is on the verge of becoming a genre unto itself -- ie, fans don't like a show and then come up with the slash pairings; the fact that there are slash-suitable pairings draw fans to the show. (I think this pretty much explains the existence of HAWAII FIVE-O fandom, and MERLIN for that matter.) I think this represents a sea change for fandom, and I think SUPERNATURAL may have been the last of the "show-first" slash fandoms -- ie, people liked the show first, and the slash fandom came along later. Now slash fans are actively looking for slashy originals, to the point that slash is the first thing that gets written. So we may see much less in terms of genre content, while slash will rise to become the dominant form (not that it isn't pretty much there already, but if the genre draw is lessened, then slash is going to be fandom's sole driving force). While I'm more worried about fandom as a whole shrinking, I think the Triumph of Slash is more likely to be the case: as the inevitable genre bubble burst comes, fandom will shift from a genre-heavy zone to take up a focus more limited to shows set in the here-and-now that have slash-friendly casts and story angles.

(Though it's going to be interesting to see what happens as gay themes get more mainstreamed, and slash is increasingly co-opted by the mainstream. Will fandom grow, or become marginalized and disappointed, because the stuff they love will not be done by them or for them? That's going to be interesting to see. I remember the days of slash fans saying they didn't *want* to see slash pairings made canon, because that would ruin things; nowadays, as queer fandom increasingly asserts itself, we're seeing fandom argue for more canon pairings. It's interesting development)

I don't know what's going to happen. But I think we're living in a time of plenty right now, and we should enjoy it, because -- to borrow the House Stark phrase of George R.R. Martin -- Winter is Coming. Like the Western, we've had a long damn summer. But the Western's ended, and ours will too.

I don't know when it's coming. But it will come, and it's going to leave a mark on fandom when it does.

Date: 2011-05-13 12:20 pm (UTC)
jcfiala: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jcfiala
I found this interesting, although I don't have time to make a longer comment.

Date: 2011-05-13 01:00 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
While I'm more worried about fandom as a whole shrinking, I think the Triumph of Slash is more likely to be the case: as the inevitable genre bubble burst comes, fandom will shift from a genre-heavy zone to take up a focus more limited to shows set in the here-and-now that have slash-friendly casts and story angles.

This post is interesting, but about three to five years too late; there are vast tracts of fandom set outside of genre shows already. Genre is already out. Probably the largest and most active fandom right now around LJ is Glee, followed by Hawaii 5-0.

poorly organized musing, forgive me

Date: 2011-05-13 04:21 pm (UTC)
marycontrary: (Default)
From: [personal profile] marycontrary
I think a good test case for whether a fan likes subverting authorial intention vs male/male is to have them read Tokyo Babylon. The authors mean to set up the life-long relationship between Subaru and Seishirou, but Subaru's twin sister Hokuto is more mature and has more interesting interactions with Seishirou. I enjoyed finding support for this possibility and re-reading characters' interior in light of this potential; for me, seeing two plots at once is a fun way to play with media I watch.

People who always hate female characters and marginalize them at any cost are uncomfortable to read. I wonder if they would leave fandom for shows that don't bother to include any female characters once the main stream is ready to write romance plots without them. There's also fan gender composition: the last writing fandom I remember with more male fans than female was Ranma 1/2, and I remember that nearly everything I read was an epic re-framing into a battle of good versus evil for the fate of the world -- though who was which changed between stories. (Epic for theme, not for length. Epic in the sense that it played with/created mythology.) I like a good romance novel as much as the next girl, but I would gladly trade half the current sex-focused output for more epics

Then again, a lot of authors testify that they wrote "fanfiction" for their favorite stories long before they knew others were. Pterry wrote the orcs invading the rectory for Jane Austin, right? Most writers cite something of the sort in their writing exercises before they launched themselves into their own stories. If the real draw is the pre-professional writers like Astolat and Maya, the supply of fandom work will probably continue.

Date: 2011-05-13 05:07 pm (UTC)
marycontrary: (Default)
From: [personal profile] marycontrary
Good point, "leave fandom" is a lot less likely than "prefer those fandoms exclusively" - but I still wonder, if professionally edited material fitting the slash romance genre becomes highly available, if people would look as hard for the fan-made stuff.

Date: 2011-05-13 05:12 pm (UTC)
marycontrary: (Default)
From: [personal profile] marycontrary
Anime fandom is something totally different.

Is it? My personal experience has been moving from anime to TV fandom. I never felt a hard division between them, either in tropes used or in author population, but I agree that my experience is a small enough sample as to be insignificant. Got any recs for popular modern anime fandoms I could go check out?

Date: 2011-05-13 07:08 pm (UTC)
brownbetty: (Default)
From: [personal profile] brownbetty
I would agree that it's a horse of a different colour insofar as it's got the influence of yaoi tropes, but I think Ranma 1/2 was unique in its gender composition.

I mean, I bet you a shiny internet penny that there is Pokemon fanart out there where someone has the uke sparkle-butt. But I ain't googling.

Re: poorly organized musing, forgive me

Date: 2011-05-19 04:41 am (UTC)
amalthia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amalthia
I like a good romance novel as much as the next girl, but I would gladly trade half the current sex-focused output for more epics.

I would too. It's so difficult to find good novel length fic in fandoms. almost everything posted is 5k-10k words.

Date: 2011-05-13 05:22 pm (UTC)
montanaharper: close-up of helena montana on a map (Default)
From: [personal profile] montanaharper
Fandom is increasingly pornographic, which I think is a failure of imagination;

And I think it's indicative of women finally starting to become empowered (and validated by our peers) with regard to our sexuality. We're discovering that it's something we can express, that we can share and celebrate with like-minded people and communities. Perhaps eventually the expression of womens' sexuality will even become acceptable within wider society/the mainstream; we can only hope.

Date: 2011-05-13 09:17 pm (UTC)
rheanna: pebbles (Default)
From: [personal profile] rheanna
Interesting post. I've written gen and het and slash in my time in fandom, but the key common factor for me has been genre: I've never fanned hard on anything that wasn't, at its core, some form of SF or fantasy premise. The idea of the fandom equivalent of a genre mass extinction *disturbs* me. ::shudders::

I have a couple of thoughts. The first is that SF and fantasy as a genre is more robust a genre than the western. The western by its nature confines a story to one place and one era. SF and fantasy provides a springboard to a much, much wider range of story possibilities. It's more flexible, which is part of why it's endured so long. SF and fantasy are also genres which are getting easier and cheaper to produce, with the advent of digital SFX, making them more appealing. That said, nothing stays hugely popular forever, and the current mass popularity of SF and fantasy dates from Star Wars in 1977, so we're probably due a generational shift fairly soon. And, also, you could argue that SF getting cheaper to make in itself leads to more *bad8 SF/fantasy getting made, which in turn is more likely to lead to a backlash.

But in some ways, y'know, I don't think the western did die; I think the underlying cultural need for stories that perform that function was transferred into police procedurals and maybe medical dramas. Because if the western was, as you suggest, a genre which was all about creating and enforcing community norms, isn't that generally the kinds of stories which police and to some extent medical procedurals give us these days? Shows like the CSI franchise and Law & Order tell stories where the main characters who we root for work together to track down people who break society's laws, usually using rational detection and scientific methods. The wrongdoers are punished and order is restored at the end of each episode (almost always); social order and the rule of law is maintained. And while there are many SF and fantasy shows and movies, I'd be almost sure that the volume of cop shows and medical shows is actually greater. Are those genres any less vulnerable to collapse than SF and fantasy?

My other thought is that I think what we have to worry about (maybe worry is too strong a word) is not the shrinking of fandom but its fragmentation. It's not just that there's more product available, it's also that product which was not previously accessible is now much more so (through downloads and streaming and scanlations and so on) and also that older products are more available through DVD box sets and hulu and netflix. We've all been given a lot more control over what we watch and when and how we watch it. Someone on my flist recently watched all of Highlander for the first time; someone else recently marathoned Lost; I consider myself a fan of Fringe but I currently have 4 episodes on my Sky+ box waiting for when I have time to sit down and watch them without interruptions, and after I post this I'm going to buy the first couple of seasons of SG1 from Amazon because I've been feeling nostalgic for that show and fandom lately. I think that there is just as much or more fannish activity out there as there ever was, but outside of the megafandoms it's going to be harder to find your cohort.

Date: 2011-05-13 10:09 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
But in some ways, y'know, I don't think the western did die; I think the underlying cultural need for stories that perform that function was transferred into police procedurals and maybe medical dramas. Because if the western was, as you suggest, a genre which was all about creating and enforcing community norms, isn't that generally the kinds of stories which police and to some extent medical procedurals give us these days?

This was almost exactly what I was thinking - I had slightly different takes about where the themes ended up. There's a frontier motif to westerns that is obvious (unsettled land), that manifests anywhere the protagonists move into the unknown. The unknown doesn't have to be terrain, and often isn't for us today, since we've mapped the world. But on a personal level, the unknown comes in the form of virtual terrain. That is to say, the western's loss has been science fiction and fantasy's gain. Shane and High Noon and Bonanza have become Battlestar Galactica and Finding Nemo and The Matrix.

Not all of the western themes made it one-for-one into other genres. No sci-fi production is a direct import of a western. As with all art, you borrow a little here, and a little there; simultaneously, the formula of any one western has fragmented and fed numerous other works. The violent element of westerns manifests in a lot of cop and urban dramas, as you say; and a little works itself almost everywhere, really.

In fact, the closer I look, the harder it is to discern the exact cocktail that makes a western a western. Aimless drifters, rebels on the run, valiant defenders of home and property, mismatched buddies on the road, a hero facing nature; not all of these populate every western, and all of them were in things other than westerns even when westerns were big. The easiest factor to describe is the physical setting, but it's really hard to say it's that simple.

- pokeyburro@livejournal

Date: 2011-05-13 11:50 pm (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
I think we are looking more at a cyclical change than a disappearance of one type of genre or another. Westerns haven't disappeared, they've just gotten less popular. Unless you are being very specific about the genre rules there is usually some type of western going on, they just look different. Dallas in the 80s was a western told from the viewpoint of the outlaw gang turned establishment. In the 90s Walker, Texas Ranger was a sort of western. Dr. Quinn was a western (I can see you rolling your eyes, stop it). More recently (and perhaps more traditionally) Deadwood. Everything else needed room too, though, and so the available market share is less at the same time that the pretty was being rubbed off of the myth so the last 30 years have had less of the western and more glamour-soaps, sitcoms, news magazines, medical dramas, police-procedurals, and courtroom dramas, but I suspect it will roll around again once it has been reimagined into something that seems almost new while still being familiar.

(also, are you sure that Supernatural isn't a Western? Buddy show with a faithful steed, messed up family dynamics, and they ride off into the sunset all the time?)

Date: 2011-05-14 04:30 am (UTC)
cofax7: "in twenty years there will still be porn" (cofax's law)
From: [personal profile] cofax7
Like your anon, I think you're a bit late on the "slash is its own fandom" discovery--in fact, I would go so far as to say you're a decade late, or more.

True hard-core slash fans (of which I am not one, to be clear) look first for the pairing, not the show. The ur-slasher moves from Cute White Guy Pairing to Cute White Guy Pairing: Man From Uncle to Professionals to Starsky & Hutch to Blakes 7 to Highlander to The Sentinel and so forth (with of course some Star Trek in there as well). Slashfen will outlive us all: they'll still be cross-stitching naked-Blair-in-Elf-Ears when the sun goes out, I suspect.

I'm not sure, but I suspect there may be an equivalent group on the het side, who are only interested in fandoms with a het romance aspect--of course, the difference being that they get their needs met by 3/4 of the media content out there, so they may not need fandom to supply it to the same extent. And at any event, they're not considered nearly as socially disreputable in mainstream eyes.

Anyway, I sympathize to a certain extent with your frustration about sex and porn, but really I'm more concerned about what Rheanna describes above as the fragmentation of fandom. There's too much going on, in too many different fandoms, and I can't find the good stuff. And from a purely selfish point of view, as a writer, having too many active fandoms around dilutes my audience. When I first got into SG-1, there were only 1 or 2 other fandoms of similar size around, so even as a gen writer I got a large readership; but now we've got a dozen or so active mid-sized fandoms going at once, not to mention all the older ones which are still trucking along (like SGA or HP). If I wanted to write for a tv fandom again, I'm not sure which one would be worth my investment (although that's rarely a consideration for me, tbh).

I do think there's still plenty of gen being written, and there always will be. It's just that people aren't ashamed of writing the porn anymore--if they ever were, really. Less defiant, maybe, and more matter-of-fact about it now, anyway. But certainly there are fandoms where I don't expect to find hardly any gen at all--like H50, or any of the RPF fandoms. The true genre fandoms, though--the sci-fi/fantasy fandoms, I think those will always have a certain amount of gen written for them, because that's part of the draw for a certain percentage of the audience: the story possibilities of the fantastic premise.

And there will always be fans for whom the story is more important than the porn.

And now I will use my entirely hypocritical icon. Although I don't think it's that hypocritical, in one sense. I think the porn in fandom, while maybe occasionally frustrating and annoying, also serves a real purpose--it's easier for lay people to understand, and it also shows quite starkly what "transformation" means in this context. Legally, fannish creativity is going to be protected far better by the crack-AUs with genderbending and alien sex rituals than it is by the slots-nicely-into-canon gen story.

Date: 2011-05-19 04:35 am (UTC)
lapillus: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lapillus
I do have to wonder if the fragmentation will end up partly reversing in a few years, at least if there is still a move away from scripted, and particularly SF&F based media (due to expense and, ironically, viewer fragmentation). Although perhaps not given how far off from the original core of famdom (Western/SF/Cop) things have spread. I do think part of it is simply that as fandom has gotten mainstream it has also gotten much, much larger which may provide critical mass for a lot more fandoms.

I'd agree with cofax that slash fans seeking potentially slashy source goes significantly further back, I say this as a slash fan of almost twenty years. And initially my media-fandom experience (as opposed to SF fannish experience which goes back a decade further) was very slash-centric in terms of both source choices (B7 to Professionals to Wiseguy) and in terms of what I was talking about and reading (with a moderate spicing of gen). Ironically, my interaction (and production) have grown progressively less slash-centric over the year, although it and gen are still where I'm most likely to be interested. And in terms of slash folks actually putting out more stuff, I think that it's more that it's become a more visible option which folks who wouldn't have found it in the under the table zine days can trip over in their local news and find with a very easy google search. Also, distribution has gotten much easier and much less fraught.

Which is not to say that it shouldn't be frustrating that it's crowding out, either in fact or in your ability to sort through it all, what you want to read or talk about or get feedback on creating.


Date: 2011-05-19 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jackiekjono
Also, thanks to cable TV/satellite and increased access to foreign shows, more people have an easier time finding the show that is exactly what they like rather than having to use fandom to reinvent the latest Aaron Spelling production to suit themselves.

Date: 2011-05-14 07:12 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] vito_excalibur
I think you're wrong about the Western, actually! I am not an expert, but in my experience, the Western is always very very conflicted about its normative roles. Either you have authority which is corrupt, like in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; because it's a lawless land, powerful men or families have carved out little fiefdoms, and usually Our Hero is in conflict with the existing power; or else there's things like The Magnificent Seven where Our Heroes are fighting for Civilization, but with the explicit awareness that Civilization has no place for them, and that they are fighting to make themselves obsolete.

Plus, you contradict yourself. You say that "Characters in a Western... can do almost anything they want if they are physically capable of doing it, which means that they have a wider range of dramatic choices open to them, and their moral choices really have weight." but earlier you say that "if you're Questioning Authority, seeking for the human condition in the choices of the individual, if that's exciting, the Western will seem staid and uninteresting." That makes no sense to me.

Also, I think that if you are waiting for people to become bored of sex, you will be waiting a long time.

Date: 2011-05-15 04:07 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] vito_excalibur
The anti-Western critique, as expressed by Gloss, is that it doesn't matter whether killing Liberty Valance is right or wrong, because the town is built on blood and imperialism anyway.

But, speaking as a big ol' lefty myself, that should be precisely what makes it immediate and relevant to us! Because that is the town we live in! All of us live in that town! And have to make our moral choices in that town! If I thought the Western was about making your moral choices in that town, I would be all over that shit like white on rice!

As it is, Westerns in fact seem hella constrained to me. The roles are very rigid; at least in movies. I actually like Larry McMurtry a bit more, whose characters display a bit more of the loopiness that you would actually expect to develop in people living mostly alone for long periods of time.

Re: the porn: I suspect gender probably comes into it in that women seem to like written porn more. So the kinkmemes don't do it for you; sorry dude, I don't think that means female fandom at large is Doin It Rong.

Date: 2011-05-15 06:26 pm (UTC)
montanaharper: close-up of helena montana on a map (Default)
From: [personal profile] montanaharper
But I think it could be *better* porn.

Better by your yardstick, or better by mine? The only objective criteria is a literal adherence to the rules of English grammar, and I'm willing to bet that I'd get people arguing even that with me; it's all subjective, and there are as many definitions of good as there are people to define it. Many, many years ago I posted a story that had a very specific construction and framework—a story within a story, where one of the characters was changing her reality through what she was writing. Some random guy on the internet read the story, didn't get the framework (possibly the fault of my writing, possibly the fault of his own failure of imagination, but it doesn't really matter), and rewrote it for me as a generic (slash, iirc) story, to show me how it "should have been done." I think that's why remix challenges have flourished: because fanfic is really subjective, and everyone has a different idea of how it should be done.

That said, let me give you a few of my subjective thoughts on slash and porn. The thing that makes slash pairings (and some het pairings) so compelling to me is the idea of a love that is so strong it overcomes all odds: e.g., men who live/work in a homosocial environment (the police, the military) that rejects homosexual attachments and who fall in love with each other. In that case, the sex at the end of the story is part of the climax (as it were *koff*), part of the payoff of the story. It's a tangible, demonstrable way in which we see these guys' love winning out over their social conditioning, and the characterization point that it makes is a simple one: these guys have chosen to follow their hearts regardless of the consequences, they value love. The climactic sex scene is both proof of this and emotional release for the reader.

And, okay, sometimes I just want to read hot, dirty sex between two guys I find attractive. But honestly, my desire for physical porn/PWPs is generally far outstripped by my desire for emotional porn.

On a slight tangent, I'm kind of confused about why you're spending time and energy read a genre (slash) that's not interesting to you. I realize that statement has the potential to sound snotty in text, but I mean it in earnest: what keeps you reading something that's otherwise not your cup of tea?

Date: 2011-05-16 10:40 pm (UTC)
montanaharper: close-up of helena montana on a map (Default)
From: [personal profile] montanaharper
"Better" as in "being a story in which more happens than getting the reader off."

Exactly my point. Your subjective opinion of what's better, which is fine. That's what you want. That's not necessarily what everyone else wants, and wishing that there'd be less of what you don't want of those things I've never really gotten when it comes to fandom. I'm not sure why people think that if there's less of something they don't like or don't care about (PWPs, John/Rodney, etc.) there'll somehow be more of something they do. There's no law of conservation of fanfic, so far as I've been able to determine, and I've never known anyone to swap from writing something they're interested in to something they're not just because other people complain about/denigrate the former.

Date: 2011-07-20 05:46 am (UTC)
butterflykiki: (Jane Austen quote)
From: [personal profile] butterflykiki

Heh. I've been fighting this personal mind-set of mine for... going on 8 years at least, to judge by the last time I posted about this. Even though I *know* that people won't start writing what *I* want to see if they stop writing what I consider boring, I still end up banging my head on the desk sometimes when I can't find what I want.

(Then I give up and write it for myself. WORK WORK WORK.)

I do think you, Rheanna and Cofax have a point about how the fragmentation of fandoms, plus the fragmentation of interests, makes it harder to find well-written stories of any kind. It's all separated out into "this is gen, this is het, this is slash". It makes me sad to read people commenting on stories with, "this is gen/het/(rarely but sometimes slash), BUT IT LIKED IT ANYWAY."

Because it shouldn't be about whether there's sex (or not) or of what kind. But I've seen this-- assumption, so many places, that it's not the quality of the story, but the slant of the interaction, that determines its readability. I'm not that into slash or het, but I've read good stories in each. But I think that starting assumption that so many people have that you *must* write slash to find an audience, or you *must* write het if there is a male and a female in the show... I dunno. This is why I like crossovers and AU's; there seem to be embedded plotlines in each concept, so no matter what, something is happening that's not just emotional.

I leave the political implications to porn to those writing it or exploring it for those reasons; I suspect them to be outnumbered by those enjoying for simpler reasons, but, hey. As long as there *are* stories written for other purposes, I don't think the concept of plot will die. I think the scattershot of so many, many fandoms will make it more difficult than anything else.

Date: 2011-05-19 03:33 am (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (BN3inBlack by heartagram)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
caveats: I've only been in fandom since 2002, and I'm your typical middle aged white female slash fan. But I think queer fandom, to use your terminology uncritically (RESISTS TANGENT) has changed fandom a lot. I am fascinated to see what will happen to fandom when subtext becomes text and queer characters become common. (Let the revolution come, Hollywood, kaythanx.)

Because we haven't said all there is to say yet about our beloved genres (including the Western; Firefly anyone????) when they are changed and stretched and transformed by feminist and queer themes.

Personally? I say BRING IT. I hope I'm alive to see it.

I agree with what you're saying about the death of the Western, in part, but I also disagree in part. But that is a whole nother post. Thanks very much for the thinky.
Edited Date: 2011-05-19 03:34 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-05-20 09:59 pm (UTC)
thedorkygirl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thedorkygirl
I'm too tired to comment properly, but basically - yeah. That's why I dropped out of fandom. Too much "oh hey! new shiny show!" and you had to keep hopping from one to the other. Too much slash - which I don't mind? But it's not my genre. I'm not gonna slash just cos I'm gonna slash. I've been seeing a LOT more people with bio warnings like "het pairings." (I do like slash! I've written slash! But for's to explore the show as a whole, not one narrow bit of it).

tl;dr: I miss Farscape.

Date: 2011-05-20 10:01 pm (UTC)
thedorkygirl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thedorkygirl
Oh yeah! And porn! I have very little interest in reading porn, really, especially PWP. I'm all about the UST, the angst, and the delightfully wrong dalliances. But just porn after porn after porn got to me, man.

Date: 2011-05-27 12:49 am (UTC)
grey_bard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grey_bard
Hmmm... I have kind of a weird perspective here, because I have two very different needs when it comes to fic. I want my imaginative elaborations of what-if what-if plotwise, and also, I like to imagine the mainstream fictional world as a bit gayer than it currently is intended to be on tv. And sometimes porn. I don't, actually, need both things in one place, though that's always fun.

As a producer, I'm more on the gen end, because that's how my brain works. Most of my story ideas are gen. As a consumer, I'm more on the slash end, simply because I read a lot and even sticking to the well written stuff, there's just more of it out there that I actually want to read.

I suspect that part of what you're seeing is the simple fact that for many people porn and relationships are easier to write, give a quick id-fix of satisfaction, and make a pile of happy readers. If you look by the numbers on and A03, consistently the most popular works are the ones with giant piles of plot and/or humor. Yours, in fact, fall into this category both in style and popularity.

You might think "If people like to read it, why aren't they writing it?" but clever plot and/or humor are hard. Someone can churn out vast amounts of porn in the time it takes to write one plotty story. And now it is becoming more socially acceptable to write giant piles of porn.

So while the plotty stories still get written - and as many, numerically, I would wager, as there ever were, or more - they're swimming in a vast sea of porn, which makes them a lot harder to spot without the help of recs or tags or dedicated comms.

Do I seek out things that are slashy on purpose, just because they are, sure. I think most slashers do, because slashiness is something we actively enjoy. But that's just one of the many things that can draw me to a fandom, and cause me to want to write fic.

Ficcing fandom has grown so vastly. There's an almost unlimited amount of fic and number of ficcers out there. My personal suspicion is that the number of genre fans in ficcing fandom hasn't decreased - the practice of writing fic has just become more widespread, and now includes many more people who aren't into the genre aspects as much or at all.

Fanfiction is about filling needs that you can't fill just by consuming what's already on tv. The fact that the different needs are separating out a bit into different tastes and factions hasn't really killed off or changed any of the motivating urges.

Think of the kind of fic you like... less as the Western, and more like the buddy cop show or movie. Once they were pretty much the standard kind of cop story, and there are still lots of them, but now there are more "scientific" procedurals, and wacky crimesolving cop shows, and gritty procedurals and so on. But the buddy shows are still there. There are just a hell of a lot of cop shows now!

And seriously, it sounds like you need a good source of recs. I suspect there's some stuff out there which you haven't read that would knock your socks of, hiding somewhere under the surface of the vast sea of porn.


hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)

November 2014




The collected poems from my descent into madness year spent writing daily poems are now available from Lulu as the cheapest 330-page book they would let me make ($16.20). If that's too pricey, you can also get it from Lulu as a free download, or just click on the "a poem every day" tag to read them here. But if you did buy one, that'd be awesome.

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