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Devaluing canon - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Devaluing canon
Basically going off of this post at fanficrants.

Okay, so you want to write a ship that's contraindicated by canonical pairings. Anakin loves Mace Windu rather than Padmé; Willow goes bananas over Riley instead of Tara; Remus loves Sirius rather than Tonks.

Personally, it's not my thing--I do my best to keep to write within the boundaries of canon even if I'm not wild about it, 'cause hey, that's why I'm writing fanfic instead of original fic; it's just the way the game is played, and not doing it would feel as weird to me as having a rook move diagonally in chess--but if you must, then do.

But please, don't devalue what's actually in the canon when you do it.

I've talked before about not insulting other fanon ships when there's no need to. Before HBP, I mentioned that R/Ters shouldn't do things to devalue R/S, because if you're positing R/T, you don't need to acknowledge R/S, and it's better if you don't. Why throw down a gauntlet and use your story to argue ships rather than, I don't know, telling a story? If both ships are equally fanon, then the best approach is to not address the subject of "competing ships" at all.

But when you're dealing with the canon, you're dealing with a different sort of animal. The canon is how we know what we know about the characters. Anakin is in love with Padmé. Kind of dangerously sometimes, but very sincerely. Willow loved Oz, then Tara. And Remus loves Tonks, and Harry loves Ginny, and Bill loves Fleur, and Ron loves Hermione, and in all of those cases, it's reciprocated. These are things that are true of these characters no matter what else you decide to write about in fanfic.

That means that any counter-shipping has to be aware of the actual, canon ship. You can't use the fanon approach of just ignoring it.

And that means that R/Sers have to deal with R/T, H/Hrs have to deal with R/Hr and H/G, A/Oers have to deal with A/P, and so on. The canon has given us a piece of information about that character's romantic preferences, and that information is part of who that character is. It may not be a more important part than something else, but it is part of the absolute information that we have, and is no longer in the realm of fannish speculation.

So let's see. How is this approached?

  • Tonks morphs into Sirius so that Lupin won't have touch an icky, icky girl, and that's why he puts up with her.
  • Anakin realizes that he's just been idealizing Padmé, while his True Love is Obi-Wan. Oh, and Padmé is just a weak-willed twit.
  • Ron is an abusive lout, and Hermione runs to Harry (or maybe Draco) to avoid him.
  • Harry is an abusive twit, and Ginny runs off to Draco for some comfort sex.

And so on. I don't read much Buffy-fic, so I don't know the clichés there, but I'm willing to guess that you see some abusive Xanders, manipulative Taras, and self-obsessed Angels.

Stop it. Please. Just bloody freaking stop it.

If you like a character as he or she is, then please keep that in mind. Remus is not going to string along a woman who loves him just because he can use her morphing abilities to make her look like someone else. That's just skeazy, and Remus is a classy guy. Anakin sells his soul for Padmé's sake; honestly, the boy's probably not faking it in the sack (not to mention that their love is the cornerstone of the continuation of the saga, and devaluing it devalues the twins as well). Ron's not perfect, but he's obviously seen as a good guy who is not just Hermione's love interest but also one of her two best friends. Harry also loves and trusts him. Turning him into a lout or a Death Eater is ridiculous. If you want to break up R/Hr, come up with a reason that's respectful to both of them and their canon functions. Harry might try to crucio Bella, but he's never going to lay a finger on Ginny. Oh, and btb, Ginny=not a slut, not someone who is going to cheat on Harry right and left, etc.


Characterization counts. If you really think that characters A and B as presented in canon are badly paired, even though neither is presented as craven, then there must be some reason for it other than, "I don't like people like that in real life, so character A can't like them, either." Write the characters as they would actually behave in a given situation. And if your counter-ship is a kind of behind-the-backs of the canon ship, it's not going to be remotely sympathetic if the person in the canon ship does nothing but complain about how his/her canon partner is just awful. I mean, in that case, why does character A love character B in the first place? It's a lot more interesting if character A loves character B deeply, but is conflicted because of character C, who is also a good person. And all of them need to be loved for themselves. I mean, if you want to think about it, imagine the scenario reversed, and your fanon pairing being ridiculed by the canon pairing--Sirius dressing up as Tonks, or Harry punching Hermione in the face, or Obi-Wan weeping ineffectually and driving Anakin crazy. You'd know that both members of the relationship were out of character then, so why would they be less out of character if the canon relationship--the one that's an established part of their personalities--is portrayed that way?


Just please. Respect canon characterization, even if you're not going to stand by canonical choices. Don't devalue a canon ship, even if you're going to do a different one.

Rant out.
58 comments or Leave a comment
calixa From: calixa Date: August 15th, 2005 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
equustel From: equustel Date: August 15th, 2005 08:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank. You.

I'm a bit tired of the knee-jerk "bo-ring!" reaction to canon ships of late, in every fandom. If nothing about the relationships the way they are interests you, what drew you to the canon in the first place...? The slash potential?

dramaturgy From: dramaturgy Date: August 15th, 2005 09:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
likeafox From: likeafox Date: August 15th, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
To tell the truth, in never-gonna-happen pairings (eg. H/D, D/G, etc.) I actually prefer the ignore the conflicting canon ship method. Of course, this is because in most of the never-gonna-happen ships I read I also ship those characters in other almost-certainly-gonna-happen ships, and it hurts to see my ship (eg. H/G, R/Hr, etc.) debunked, no matter how much I enjoy the other pairing.

Also, for me the ignore it and hope it goes away method of dealing with a conflicting ship is far preferable to some of the stuff fic writers do, such as killing/evil-izing Ron or making Ginny a bitchy slut, or making Harry use Ginny, only to dump her later because he never liked her in the first place. Most of the time I read non-canon ships because I enjoy them, not because I don't enjoy canon ships. I would never want to actually break up Harry and Ginny, and I don't want to see that happen in any fic, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying a good H/D fic (and there are those out there who keep the two very in character, especially now that HBP has shown that third dimension to Draco).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 15th, 2005 11:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also, for me the ignore it and hope it goes away method of dealing with a conflicting ship is far preferable to some of the stuff fic writers do, such as killing/evil-izing Ron or making Ginny a bitchy slut,

Oh, absolutely; ignoring is better than that. But I don't think a canon choice can be legitimately ignored by fanfic--the canon choices are how we know who a character is, so even if you decide to go AU (speculate that Ginny and Dean went off to celebrate alone after the Quidditch win or whatnot and Harry never got together with her), Harry is still the sort of person who would fall in love with a person like Ginny, or at least more to the point, the sort of person who doesn't dislike someone like Ginny. It says about him that he likes girls, people with a rather biting sense of humor, a partner who shares his priorities, etc, etc, etc. You can't ignore his canon preferences to make him wild about a whiny boy with no sense of humor who doesn't care a whit about his mission--that's out of character.
seangaffney From: seangaffney Date: August 15th, 2005 09:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I haven't really seen a lot of manipulative Taras, to be honest. Most of the Willowfics that have her with someone else either try the 'Willow is straight in this fic and never met Tara' approach, or go with the 'Tara is too sweet to keep Willow when she really loves someone else so lets her go off with her true love' deal.

Now, manipulative WILLOW, a whole lot of Tara/someone else fics have that. In spades.
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: August 15th, 2005 09:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
AMEN. Amen, Amen, Amen.

I was actually sat at work today thinking about this and made a few quick notes with the intent of writing a rant upon this very subject but I think you've covered everything I wanted to say far more eloquently than I would have. My specific gripe is against Using-Git-Oh-Be-Sirius-For-Me-Tonks!Remus, which something that I absolutely despise. It's completely out of character, utterly disrespectful to all characters involved and frankly, if those who write it really think that Remus could be so sick and selfish in regards to someone who loves him as Tonks clearly does, they certainly haven't been reading the same books as me.

Anyway, thank you very much for putting my feelings into words.
caitie From: caitie Date: August 15th, 2005 09:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Word to you entire post, but (personally speaking) I think this is one of those sorts of things that's easier in theory than in practice. Whenever I'm lucky enough to be a fan of canon (and I say lucky because I am primarily involved in TV fandoms, and canon is almost never consistent), the devaluation of canon relationships and characters drives me up the wall. But I can look back and think of time when I was on the other side of the problem, particularly when I think of Gilmore Girls in regards to Chris messing up Luke/Lorelai or Dean interfering with Rory/Jess. I let myself get bogged down in hatred for a character specifically because I liked another relationship better.

I like to think that you'd be hard pressed to find a fan that hasn't been on both sides of this conflict, but perhaps I'm an example of one of the not-so-exemplary shippers. *meep*

This icon is particularly appropriate for this post; the reason I chose it was because I was sick and tired of seeing that particular picture of the trio chopped strategically so that it can be used as a Harry/Hermione moment. There is NO trio without Ron, dammit!
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: August 15th, 2005 09:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, actually I don't care whether or not a story acknowledges the canonical relationship. I prefer a straightforward AU to a story where Rosie Cotton is a slut so Sam can love Frodo instead. And I read non-canonical relationship stories as AUs -- I always have. Whether or not the author put the label there is beside the point.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 15th, 2005 11:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
But even an AU doesn't escape the canon-compliant cause--if Sam loves Rosie, that says something about who he is even if he'd never met her (for one thing, he's at the very least bi). AU requires even better understanding of the characters and what they would do in changed circumstances than plain old canon speculation.
cheddartrek From: cheddartrek Date: August 15th, 2005 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Agreed! Excellent post.

I've been lurking around your journal since about 2/3 of the way through [i]Shifts[/i] when I realized that there was more of it here than elsewhere. A friend has been pestering me to create an account here since she wants me to read her "friends-only" journal and I've just done it.

I didn't know you liked "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I've just picked up the obsession myself. I never watched a single episode of it until two weeks ago when our cable and internet were both out. We rented Season 1 from Blockbuster and I got hooked. I'm on Season 4 now.

I don't fancy reading much Fanfiction in this area either, but I would really like to find a good fic about Giles in a "Father Figure" role. I can't get enough of him and most of the fic I've found is Buffy/Giles Romance.

cambryn From: cambryn Date: August 15th, 2005 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

I am getting SO tired of people belittling, bashing, making up crazy theories, and calling JKR a hack in the name of shipping.

I'm lucky in that I already enjoyed the now canon pairings, but if, oh, H/Hr happened, though I would be shocked and dismayed at my own inability to see it, I would not call JKR a hack writer, I would not make up insane theories how Hermione must have drugged Harry with a love potion, how Hermione is some sort of slut...

It's just rude, and uncalled for.
I don't even go near shipping fics that don't have pairings I agree with unless they come very highly recommended, because so often I see the characterization changed to fit those pairings... Very odd how dedicated people are to bashing though.
harmonicalesson From: harmonicalesson Date: August 15th, 2005 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know how often I read your entries on fandom and exclaim, "Yes, exactly!" but it's a lot. Thank you, yet again. :)
From: mbs_bookworm Date: August 15th, 2005 10:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
lacontessamala From: lacontessamala Date: August 15th, 2005 11:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well said. I get really annoyed when I read fic that turns Tonks into a gender-bending pity lay. And, you know, all the rest of it. What you said.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: August 15th, 2005 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Eh, what's A/O and A/P? Are we still talking HP?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 15th, 2005 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, it's a pan-fandom rant. Anakin/Obi-Wan and Anakin/Padmé. :)
fallohidepride From: fallohidepride Date: August 16th, 2005 12:49 am (UTC) (Link)
(Stalked you here via Shifts, which I adore, btw.)

Amen. Thank you. I absolutely respect fandom's right to ship non-canon pairings, but you have to at least acknowledge the fact that, oh right, the people who created the characters you love so much have decided that they have different relationships. And that was a needlessly convoluted sentence. In a nutshell: THANK YOU.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: August 16th, 2005 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! *Shakes head* I don't get why people can't just accept that.
(Deleted comment)
doomandnachos From: doomandnachos Date: August 16th, 2005 04:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. Just, thank you. You have summed up perfectly a lot of my post- (and pre!) HBP annoyances.
Remus is not going to string along a woman who loves him just because he can use her morphing abilities to make her look like someone else. That's just skeazy, and Remus is a classy guy.
THANK YOU. That whole scenario is stomach-turning, especially put forth by women who would be deeply affronted if some RL man ever tried to use them as a susbstitute. (Almost as bad are the people who harp on Tonks for getting supposedly mopey over Remus in HBP, but think that Remus mourning Sirius for the rest of his life is perfectly A-OK.)

I have one more to add to that gripe-list, too - SS/HG fics that turn Ron and Harry into boorish, ill-mannered pigs so that Hermione seeks companionship in the oh-so-refined-and-mature!Snape. Yeah. Right. *eyeroll*
arclevel From: arclevel Date: August 16th, 2005 04:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm. I agree in general theory, but disagree in practice. I don't like character-bashing on the whole, but a great many of the traits that show up in that sort of fics -- apparently out of nowhere and for no reason than to get the character out of the way or just vindictiveness -- can also be done extremely well and believeably in other fics, given extra background or circumstances. I don't know the first thing about the Star Wars fandom (okay, I know who Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Padme are -- sort of -- but that's it), but I've seen fics where the Ron/Hermione relationship self-destructs in spectacular fashion, with one or both of them doing quite nasty things, without either of them suddenly being evil. As for your BtVS examples, I could see two of the three without actually stretching canon, and I think the third (Tara) could be done. But then, that's an incredibly gray canon, pretty thoroughly lacking in "good" guys and with highly fluid characters.

This also points out that people change, as do their romantic preferences (especially among the kids). Much of the fic I read is set several years in the future. Ten years from now, it's not hard to see Harry chuckling at the thought that he was really that into Ginny Weasley of all people. And then walking off into the sunset with Draco/Hermione/Madam Pince (or all three, which would be quite the fic). It puts Harry with people who are very unlike Ginny and takes his feelings for her to be basically irrelevant to his current relationships, but doesn't denigrate their ship. You could do the same thing just as easily with Ginny chuckling that it really took her *that* long to get over Harry Potter, again without diminishing what they have now. This doesn't even have to be far in the future; the closest thing I have to an OTP in any fandom is Spike/Buffy, and my preferred Willow pairing is with Tara, yet one of my current favorite fics is Spike/Willow set in Season 6. As with most fanfic cliches or "problems", the real issue is whether the author can do it in a way to make it work, not the cliche itself.

Then there's the argument that I really don't like my fanfic to be that close to canon a lot of the time -- it's why I read fanfic! (This would be a good place to point out that I all but ran screaming from SugarQuill, yes? ;-) That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the canon, and not just as something to provide characters for fanfic. I really love the HP books, but there are things I don't like about them (for example, the idea that HBP-Ginny is some sort of "ideal") and things that I'm not that interested in (the entire Ron/Hermione saga). I simply find other pairings more interesting. I don't think the authors should *completely* ignore those other pairings in post-HBP fics, but I don't mind them doing it if the fic isn't meant to be HBP-compliant. I also don't mind a quick comment that it had been fine while it lasted, but eventually disagreements over ___ got in the way, or even less detailed than that. I think it's a matter of opinion, really. A combination of simple preferences in both shipping and fanfic styles, differences in why and how we read fanfic, and to what extent we find "to whom one is attracted" to be a vital part of someone's characterization. I'm picky about characterization in general, but I really don't include romantic preferences in that.

In any case, I get your general point about respecting canon and not gratuitously character-bashing, but I tend to think of the ships themselves as relatively disposable when it comes to setting up fanfic.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 16th, 2005 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I think my problem with that is that we don't know how these ships are ultimately going to function thematically. Since we're only going to see their teen years, then the only ships that can be developed in canon are the teen ships, and no other ship will have resonance with readership, because there's been no careful construction of it. Ships don't exist in writing for their own sakes, they exist as support to the general thesis of the whole work. What is the significance of Harry/Ginny or Ron/Hermione? How is the Remus/Tonks plot, with its theme of unnecessary sacrifice, going to relate to the sacrificial love themes elsewhere in the series? Until we have book seven, we don't know what the ships do, so it's very difficult to say what would change in the characters without them.

Ultimately, the truth is that I won't read any fanfic, including AU, that fails to comply with canon characterization. I see no point in it--fanfic exists to amplify and explore canon. If it's not canon compliant, then why not just write original fiction? G-d knows, it's more profitable to do that. If the stories I tell could be told without the HP canon backing them up, then believe me, I'd be telling them that way and selling them for the highest price I could get.
threnody From: threnody Date: August 16th, 2005 05:23 am (UTC) (Link)
When I see stories like that it's an automatic turn-off. I mean, if they're not smart enough to come up with a logical way to make it work without just pulling it out their arse, well. Story can't be that good, can it?

Sadly, this stance severely cuts down on the availability of readable fic. I've been (most shamefully) sucked into Obi-Wan/Padmé, and I just won't read something where there aren't major hurdles for each of them to overcome. Anakin is a massive presence in both their lives- you can't just ignore that they both love him dearly (in different ways, of course). Otherwise, you're writing a nice original fic with familiar names slapped on it.
dalf From: dalf Date: August 16th, 2005 08:43 am (UTC) (Link)
While I am not a big fan of AU fics I can totally see the case for doing a number of these things you are talking about in an AU. The whole point of AU (real AU fics not ones that become AU by way of new cannon, or AU universes that became AU and keep getting built on), is that you change a few details and see what happens. That can include romantic prefrences or even sexuality.

I do see your point with "throwing down a gauntlet", if you want to write R/S then why even involve the cannon details with Tonks? I also don't really get all the people who insist that Remus must be bi-sexual, as I tend to agree that R/T likley started before OotP ended. Well .... I have no problem with Bi-sexual!Remus as long as anything that was R/S happened Pre-azkaban.

But, yet I think picking a ship for a fic and not abusing the others is probbly a good thing.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 16th, 2005 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
The whole point of AU (real AU fics not ones that become AU by way of new cannon, or AU universes that became AU and keep getting built on), is that you change a few details and see what happens.

But the sort of person that you'd fall in love with isn't a little detail; it's part of a character make-up, and characters don't change in AUs, they just respond to different situations. Remus/Sirius vs. Remus/Tonks at least makes some sense, as Tonks and Sirius have slightly similar personalities... except that in the case of those stupid "Tonks pretends to be Sirius" fics, Remus is not acting like Remus. AUs are even stricter about following canon characterization than non-AUs, because the characterization is all you have left. Once you break character, you no longer have an AU, you just have badfic.

I do see your point with "throwing down a gauntlet", if you want to write R/S then why even involve the cannon details with Tonks?

Um... because they're canon. Canon is how we know who these people are; it's the only source there is. We have one single detail in our possession about Remus's love life, and that's the relationship with Tonks. It can't be ignored any more than his poverty, his lycanthropy, or his intelligence. That he's the sort of person who would love Tonks is part of his inherent character make-up; otherwise it wouldn't be in the books. Rowling put it in there for some reason. We don't know what it is yet, but as the books aren't romances, the romances in the books exist to define characterization, not vice versa.
(Deleted comment)
sophonax From: sophonax Date: August 16th, 2005 11:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Totally agree, and also I love the word "skeazy."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 16th, 2005 11:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I haven't used "skeazy" for ages. It was good to use again. :)
10littlebullets From: 10littlebullets Date: August 17th, 2005 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Word, and thank you. If you want to get around a canon ship that much, it only requires a little extra effort to do so without making a point of hammering it to pieces and bashing on the Canon Love Interest. (Note to Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables fandoms: Yes, it's true. Raoul and Cosette don't have to die violent deaths, nor become an abusive lout or a nagging shrew, nor transform overnight into cheating whores.) How hard can it be to have Ron and Hermione decide that a bit of chemistry doesn't make a long-term, healthy relationship, especially given their track record of arguments? Or to have Anakin rationalizing away loving two people at once, just as he rationalized breaking the Jedi Code to marry Padme in the first place? Or for Remus to decide that he can move on now, even if he loved Sirius? There are plenty of niggling relationship faults in canon for you to exploit to break up a pairing; no need to have characters going 'round the bend and becoming completely OOC just so your OTP has a clear shot.

P.S. Tearing apart a boringly perfect fairy-tale couple by making one of them into horrible person, just so the other can fall in love with a creepy stalker whose name begins with E, is doubleplusungood. Not that I'm naming names or anything. And of course I'm not bitter at all about musicals taking perfectly good canon stalkers and romanticizing them until they get hordes of fangirls.
58 comments or Leave a comment