Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Reluctant Geek - Girl on girl action

So obviously usually my Saturday nights involve sex, drugs and rock and roll (OK, maybe not the middle one). But they say a change is as good as a rest, so a few weeks ago I decided to stay in on a Saturday and watch TV. Well sort of... the TV in question was the Eurovision Song Contest (that covers the rock and roll element right?) and since one of my weird but wonderful friends is an inexplicably huge fan of aforementioned competition we all gathered at her house for some spangle-covered, sequin-encrusted, good old fashioned Euro-cheese. (There was actual cheese too in the form of some achingly retro cheese and pineapple on sticks!)

I’ll be honest – the music wasn’t grabbing me and whilst I appreciate a bit of good old fashioned randomness as much as the next person (unicycles and angel costumes anyone?), I suspect my attention might still have wandered. Wandered that is, were it not for the fact that the atmosphere in the room changed as soon as the Slovenian entry sashayed on stage. As it turned out, the gathering’s verdict on Slovenia was pretty much focused around the fact that the female singer was 'hot", "fine" and walking around on a pair of "legs up to most people’s head height." (Surely this would just be kind of inconvenient?!)

Now don’t get me wrong. I know my friends so this jovial objectification was no particular surprise... however when it evolved into detailed imaginings of some kind of love tryst between Slovenian leg woman and befrocked Swiss cute girl, I couldn’t help but ponder the question of how many living rooms up and down the country were engaged in similar discussions.

Probably the majority if we’re being realistic about it, but I suspect ours was one of the few that could have applied the correct term to this blatant fantasising. Yes ladies and gentlemen, we were inadvertently fem-slashing the Eurovision Song Contest.

Faithful readers might remember that a month or so back I talked about the ‘regular’ form of slash fiction, if such a term isn’t a misnomer. This process of imagining (often through fan fiction) heterosexual male characters from films and TV into complex, intense romantic and/or sexual relationships with one another is still pretty much hidden from the casual viewer. And femslash is a sub-genre of this already most niche of genres. As the name suggests, it requires taking two straight female characters and coupling them. Think Willow and Buffy before Willow came out, or the reams and reams of literature that would have Xena: Warrior Princess pair off with her erstwhile companion Gabrielle for some mythological fun.

Ironically though, despite its comparatively tiny corner in the slash community, this idea of lesbian subtext between ostensibly straight female characters seems to be far closer to ‘making it mainstream’ than male slash ever has. Which is even stranger when you consider that slash fiction frequently arises when an already complex on screen relationship is taken by fans to its next logical step. As The Bechdel Test has taught us, there just aren’t that many storylines where women are portrayed as having meaningful same sex friendships, so theoretically the pool of material for fem-slashing it up is pretty small. From Danerys’ ‘close’ relationship with her handmaid in Game of Thrones to Xena and Gabby - when it *does* happen, producers and writers seem fairly willing to nod towards the girl on girl subtext that their fans are so keen to will into existence. I mean, honestly, when every fan fiction writer and their dog were busy slashing Willow up, Wheddon eventually made her gay in response!

So what is this all about? Are we already back to the homophobic notion that two women together are somehow more palatable than two men? Do we still somehow see fem-slash as softer, more romantic and therefore more suitable for pre-watershed hints than the alternative? Whilst I wish that male slash were afforded the same courtesies (rather than the abject horror that greets it in some quarters) I’m glad that TV shows are increasingly willing to portray strong female relationships, with all of the implied complexity these might involve.

And actually, fem-slash can be a really fun way of re-examining some of the fantasy and sci-fi canon that has written women into bit parts in the past. Arwen/Eowyn slash throws Lord of the Rings into a whole new light, while Alice/Bella Twilight (sorry) re-imagining takes steps towards combatting some of the misogyny and sadism of the original.

Really, the potential for those illicit and therefore deliciously naughty pairings is everywhere. But when you’re finding them on Eurovision, it might be time to back off a bit...

This week Kate will be pretending to be a mermaid down in Cornwall. (Or alternatively, shivering miserably in the freezing British weather!)

1 comment:

  1. Is this similar to "shipping" or "fanshipping" (short for relationshipping)? Like the bawdy older brother of it?

    Also, check out my crazy fan-ship of Purple Pikmin and Chibi Robo:
    (Queue the anthem of all fan-shippers, Dido's White Flag: "I will go down with this ship...")