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Some of it's made up, and some of it can't be quantified, and there's secrets... - River Tam, "Safe," Firefly
I adore fan fiction. I could write a book on the stuff (though not, you know, a definitive book). Ever wonder if fanfic pushes romance ('ships) because of the mainly female base? I have. Or does the romance maybe come from fiction giving us a more intimate point of view than do works of drama? That's worth exploring.
Or, today: why do Non-Canon Pairings rule?
Oh, I've 'shipped many a canon pairing: Doug/Carol (ER), and Buffy/Angel (BTVS), and Alice/Jasper (Twilight), to name so very few.
But lately, my favorite couples are not "original flavor": Sheldon & Penny from The Big Bang Theory, River & Jayne from Firefly, and Robin & Barney (before they became canon, briefly and badly) from How I Met Your Mother.
Even discounting slash (for the purpose of this piece, not in general) I am so not alone. In fact, as jl in the lane discovered recently, the LiveJournal Leonard/Penny community has 185 members, while the Sheldon/Penny community has 2468. Food for thought, huh?
It's fascinating, because NCP fans fly in the face of the creators' wishes. Chuck Lorre (TBBT) rejects romance for Sheldon. Bays/Thomas (HIMYM) insist that viewers prefer Manwhore!Barney to Relationship!Barney. Heck, Joss Whedon (Firefly) gave us three solid couples on a ship of nine people! But as Jayne says to his captain in the movie Serenity, "Yeah, well, what you plan and what takes place ain't ever exactly been similar."
Because here we multitudes are, 'shipping unofficial or even fantasy matches. We find and feed each other our imaginings at sites like Copper for a Kiss (R/J), and Paradox (S/P), and the self-explanatory Barney/Robin Shippers .
And we apparently confuse the hell out of many other fans. So--how to explain ourselves?
Of course, each pairing carries its own specific, if subjective, logic. River is a human weapon, and Jayne loves weapons. Sheldon and Penny challenge each other, and she's quickly become one of his "closest friends" (his words), despite him being something of a misanthrope. Both Barney and Robin are relationship non-conformists, so if any pair could redefine and modernize the concept of "couple," they could (and it would be "Legen--wait for it--dary!"). But the general draw must go deeper than the individual 'ships. So I've plopped my imaginary thinking hat on (it looks a lot like Jayne's hat on Firefly) and stared intently at my screen (to the imaginary notes of "Eye of the Tiger") and I've hit on a couple of "awesome" possibilities. Care to contribute more?
Non-Canon Pairings Are More Participatory
How much work does it take to recognize a traditional pairing? Zoe says, "Captain was looking for a pilot. I found a husband" (Firefly, "Bushwhacked"). Aaand we're good. We might examine why the relationship works so well (Marshall and Lily on HIMYM). We may protest that it doesn't work well at all (Leonard and Penny on TBBT). We might explore the couples' downtime in very enjoyable fics, videos, or works of art (Wash & Zoe). But that's about as interactive as it gets.
The very nature of the NCP, however, demands constant participation. In each episode, fans read between the lines, trying to differentiate deliberate foreshadowing from throw-away comments (sitcoms are particularly problematic this way, because the "Rule of Funny" often flies in the face of consistency).
We note patterns (you know the guideline: if something happens once, it could be throwaway; twice, look harder; three times, and it's deliberate? Penny and Sheldon have hugged twice). We collect details (Sheldon can shoot a rifle, and Penny can skin a deer). We note commonalities (Jayne and River become the two toughest fighters on Serenity). We question motivations (is Barney's man-whore relapse a cry for help?)
It's an intellectual and artistic exercise, little different from the Literary Analysis I teach in my college classrooms, just focused on a different medium. For example: "Heathcliff may be Mr. Earnshaw's illegitimate son, making his attraction to Cathy incestuous" is a valid (if arguable) literary insight. How is "As a mind reader, River may find a certain peace through intimacy with a a simple-thinking man," though equally arguable, any less valid?
Subtext can be so blatant it's clearly deliberate--Xena and Gabrielle's increasingly Sapphic double-entendres during the run of Xena: Warrior Princess, or Howard and Raj's "ersatz homosexual marriage" in TBBT. Sometimes it's wholly self-created--few within the "Rayne" fandom believe Firefly meant us to go there. Sometimes it taunts us with mixed messages (Sheldon/Penny). And sometimes initial subtext proves out--Fans who saw the Barney/Robin spark as far back as "Zip, Zip, Zip" were rewarded for their insights with the hook-up in "Sandcastles in the Sand" and Barney's case of "feelings" throughout Season 4. But at some point, all of it is hypothetical.
Where's the line? (And does it matter?)
Is it with the story screenplay writers? And if so, which ones? In "The Middle Earth Paradigm" episode of TBBT, pick-up artist Howard explains what body language studies call "synchrony" -- "I'm going to use the mirror technique. She brushes her hair back, I brush my hair back. She shrugs, I shrug. Subconsciously she's thinking we're in sync, we belong together." So the idea cannot be foreign to the show-runners. Are they still accidentally showing countless examples of Penny and Sheldon synchrony? They each try to blow up someone's head, ala Scanners, in "The Cooper-Hofstadter Polarization." Penny echoes much of Sheldon's explanation about his "spot," from the pilot, to Bernadette in "The Gorilla Experiment." They look up and say "Yes?" in unison during "The Work Song Nanocluster." They wheel away from each other at the exact same time in "The Panty Piñata Polarization." She repeats his explanation of Schrödinger's cat to a date in "The Codpiece Topography," etc.
And if the writers/show-runners are doing this accidentally--and yet consistently--can the analysts be blamed for noticing?
Television shows need audiences for ratings, for survival. And of any audience, fans bring the best business. Fans buy DVDs, watch them until they wear out, and buy more DVDs. Fans spread the word about a new show on Facebook, on Twitter, or F2F. This is NOT a negative (if you're one of those "get a life" cretins, see this).
Fans create the all-important "buzz."
But we don't do it from the kindness of our hearts. We do it because of our connection to a series and, more importantly, its characters. Our involvement with those characters, whom we see on a weekly basis. A Non-Canon Pairing, even more than a Canon Couple, brings out the strongest sense of ownership in the fans.
Metaphorically speaking, I mean. Not legally, as all the many fanfic disclaimers should clarify.
But that may not even be the biggest draw.
Non-Canon Pairings Give Us More Control
You'd think the opposite would be true, but consider: When a pairing is canon, the show's creators/writers are in charge. And, frankly? They sometimes screw the pooch. Consider how the Leonard/Penny relationship, in Season 3 of TBBT, has minimized Penny and disaffected Leonard? Look at the travesty that Barney/Robin quickly became once Bays/Thomas took it canon--they became fat and/or ugly, stopped caring about appearance (despite their high-status jobs), and gave up sex? Seriously?
Was that organic unity, or plot manipulation? Or is it just that unresolved sexual tension (UST) is exponentially easier to write than an interesting relationship? Heck, even in the hands of an amazingly skilled writer like Joss Whedon, a relationship can easily break the fans' hearts (see: Serenity).
Check out the UST problem first -- it's bigger than any of my three current examples. Show-runners apparently dread the (mislabeled) Moonlighting Curse. They start this "we cannot let them hook up or we'll lose all tension" mantra, sometimes pushing avoidance even as the show gasps its last breaths anyway. Characters get engaged or married (to a romantic foil, mind you) on a business trip (Friends), over the summer (That 70's Show), or even on a train ride (I'm looking at you, Moonlighting!) Characters dump each other at the altar for seemingly stupid reasons (Bones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cheers... what, Diane, you can't write a novel while married?). Sometimes they turn gay (Ellen, Buffy, Grey's Anatomy), after having a satisfying heterosexual love life. Characters freakin' die! (see again: Buffy, as well as the OC, as well as Beauty and the Beast).
Some shows play the will-they/won't they card for so long that, like an overused rubber band, it loses all tension and viewers stop giving a crap. Ross and Rachel on Friends became an afterthought. I hear Scully/Mulder may have gotten romantic by one of the movies, but I gave them up around Season 3. Even Remington Steel and Laura Holt only hooked up in a badly written, little-watched finale, with the camera focus on a ringing, unanswered phone--one of the most annoying sounds in the modern world to represent what's supposed to be a romantic consummation? Yech!
Or consider how well the Doug/Carol finale(s) on ER played. When Clooney left, the show wanted Margulies' Carol Hathaway to date the new Dr. Kovac (Goran Visnjic). Largely because of the actors (Margulies decided not to re-up her contract, and Clooney returned briefly to TV) we got a happy ending and even a sequel as the series wound down, years later. I've yet to meet a fan who wasn't delighted.
But that was the exception. Not the rule.
As Wash's dinosaur puts it on Firefly, "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!" We fans know disappointment. Shows get cancelled prematurely (Firefly). Actors move on to new gigs (BTVS). Writers create new series, leaving the original show in subpar hands (Wings).
But with Non-Canon Pairings, the fanfiction writers hold all power. In BBT Penny/Sheldon fiction, Leonard sometimes moves on (back to Stephanie, back to Leslie, off to an Original Character). Sometimes Penny and Sheldon break Leonard's heart, and sometimes he cheers them on, all as one's vision dictates. The stories can be humorous, or dark, or sexy, or sweet, or apocalyptic, or revisionary--all of it neatly labeled, so readers can choose or ignore alternate universes as their tastes demand. People, there can be zombies!
All worlds are possible (and in none of them, so far, is Sheldon a clown made out of candy)--until the pairing becomes canonical, which shrinks those limitless ideas to one solid treatment. Oh, it doesn't destroy the alternate universes but it does diminish them.
Follow: As far as fictitious worlds can have a single truth, that truth is their canon. Canon is what we analyze to find the motives, the commonalities, the patterns. Despite stereotypes, fans know how to navigate multiple realities. We recognize instinctively that What Happens On-Screen (Barney gazes at Robin, and we all see it) has more validity than What Characters Say Happened Off-Screen (Barney and Robin became "Fatman and the Old Lady," supposedly over months, but shown in just one episode). That still has more validity than what the actors or writers say will probably happen, which still overpowers what we simply think might happen.
What happens on the series itself has real words, real background music, real sets. It can be double-checked and confirmed to win bets or trivia contests. It stars real actors creating the characters we love. It's closer to our own reality. That makes it most powerful.
And yet fallible.
No series can satisfy anyone, especially viewers who get their hopes up. Some fans will find the actualization of our beloved pairing (should it happen) too slapstick, or too dark. Some will find it too sex-focused, and too innocent.
Some will miss the zombies.
No Lemon Law exists for disappointing television. But we can always find a piece of well-written fan fiction to make us feel better.
In the End...
Barney and Robin on HIMYM may eventually reunite, hopefully with better writing--in fact, I would put odds on it. Why should the show waste all of the Barney-pining subplots from Season 4?
Call a Sheldon/Penny pairing on TBBT a long-shot, but not without hope, because this is television (the Smallville creators swore "No flights, no tights," then kept finding loopholes to let Clark fly, at least a little).
Any River/Jayne pairing will likely exist only in the Rayne communities, and not only because Firefly was canceled and the actors have moved on.
But in the end, with Non-Canon Pairings, that doesn't matter. We can be on the losing side and "still not convinced it was the wrong one" (Firefly, "Bushwhacked") -- and why should we be? Just Google concepts like "participatory culture," "transmedia storytelling," and "Affinity spaces," and you might accept that we only seem "downright unsettlin'" because we're on the cutting edge of a still-newish entertainment paradigm.
I look forward to hearing what everyone else has to say about Non-Canon Pairings. I only ask that you try not to spit on other people's realities... because really, there are enough for everybody. As Sheldon Cooper tells us TBBT's "The Gothowitz Deviation," "I subscribe to the many worlds theory which posits the existence of an infinite number of Sheldons in an infinite number of universes [and] I assure you that in none of them am I dancing."
And yet in episode 3 of the entire series, "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary," Sheldon dances (in a salsa class, with his friends).
There really are no absolutes in the worlds of creativity.
That's why I, for one, like it.
Television Without Pity posted a "10 Worst Romantic Relationships on TV" list, using Leonard and Penny from The Big Bang Theory as their front-page shot.
The accompanying discussion itself turned fairly pitiless, both sides tossing about terms like "are you kidding?" "seek help," "sucks!" and, about Leonard's coolness factor, "in what universe?" (oh, wait--that one was mine. In my marginal defense, it's a TBBT quote). The more I think/read on it, the more I've got to say, but that shouldn't be TWOP's problem, so: I'm takin' it to my blog.
Speaking as just a fan? I HATE THEM TOGETHER.
But there's no reason anyone should find that kind of statement persuasive.
Speaking as a college instructor, romance novelist/scholar, and television enthusiast/essayist?
The Leonard/Penny relationship lacks essential components to satisfy many (by no means all) of its female viewers, and thus can be seen as flawed.
Before we go on, Big Qualifier: For the purpose of this piece, I'm avoiding all "Penny should be with Sheldon" claims. For one thing, I'd rather not degenerate into a rowdy, competitive soccer fan atmosphere, mentally or verbally (today). For another, co-creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre has stated Sheldon's unlikely to ever discover romance, making such an argument hypothetical at best.
Finally and most importantly: The presence or removal of a Sheldon obstacle doesn't affect the heart of Penny and Leonard's relationship. In the end, it's all subjective. But while many viewers clearly enjoy the current pairing (Lenny? Peonard?) a great many do not. So let's look at why....
The Argument That Isn't Mine - Foils Need Something to Reflect
The best argument against Leonard/Penny that I've come across comes from Lord Seth on in the Television Without Pity forums:
"The problem with Leonard/Penny is that they're both by far the most normal of the main characters. Sheldon is Sheldon, Howard is socially awkward, and Raj can't talk to women. So Leonard or Penny usually play the comic foils to those three. The problem is that while a comic foil can have hilarious interactions with a quirky character, two comic foils together just don't work that well for comedy." (original post)
So smart. I do enjoy smart. And it's an argument that the writers of TBBT might find especially compelling since, at its heart, the show is a sitcom. Funny is its raison d'etre. The purpose of a straight man is to respond to/highlight the wackiness around them. Neither Penny nor Leonard are crazy. In order to show contrast, the show must emphasize unpalatable traits: Make Penny seem more stupid and Leonard more judgmental ("The Psychic Vortex"). Or, worse, dwell on how little they fit in each other's worlds. Penny complaining that she was embarrassed to be seen leaving the roller rink with Leonard, in "The Einstein Approximation?" Not romantic, and "funny" only to people who think pointing at someone else and mocking their (perceived) shortcomings is funny.
You've heard the generalized but largely true argument that women are less likely to enjoy The Three Stooges than men are? A majority of us react similarly to mocking humor. This is a lesson TBBT learned with their first, failed pilot for the show. The original neighbor, called Katie, was a "street-hardened, tough-as-nails" woman but, as co-creator/executive producer Bill Prady noted in Variety, "What we didn’t anticipate, though, is how protective the audience would feel about our guys. Early screenings of that version of the pilot led audiences to beg that the 'mean lady' would stay away from the 'sweet guys.'"
Which brings us to....
The Emotional Argument - Leonard's Turning Mean
"I'm a perfectly nice guy," insists Leonard in "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary." He asks "What about me?" after Penny says, "Just once, I would like to go out with someone who is nice, and honest, and who actually cares about me" ("The Tangerine Factor"). But now that he's got his relationship with Penny, Leonard's niceness quotient has taken a nosedive.
He's jealous (see "The Guitarist Amplification" and, for what its worth, all the time before they even dated, starting with "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary"). He aggressively dismisses Penny's beliefs ("The Psychic Vortex"). In "The Large Hadron Collision," when Leonard joins a conversation in progress, he ask the guys to clarify, "Who's miserable and alone?" Raj answers, "Me." Leonard's reply? He grins. "I used to be like that. Then I got a girlfriend."
Consider his dismissal of Sheldon's heartbreak over the guys' faking his initial findings in the 3rd Season opener, "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation." Leonard's deception reduced his roommate to a fetal position, sobs, then to quitting his job in shame. Leonard's consistent reaction--when Penny insists on postponing homecoming sex to make sure their friend was all right--is to moan, "I can't catch a break!"
Ask any woman: If her apartment is broken into, would she go to spend that night with her boyfriend and give no thought to leaving her roommate behind, alone at the scene of the crime? But that's what Leonard does in "The Bozeman Reaction." Even when socially awkward Sheldon comes to them and admits, "It's scary over there," Leonard's reaction is a quip: "It's getting scary here, too."
And when Sheldon then decides to leave the state, Leonard shows no more distress than to call it "A bit of an overreaction," then to joke that Sheldon's coworkers are "really excited" about Sheldon merely telecommuting, and that he'll forward Sheldon's mail to the "Bozeman Loony Bin." Howard tries to talk Sheldon out of leaving. Penny notes that she'll miss him. But nothing from his roommate and onetime best friend, Leonard.
Leonard's hurtful tendencies come and go, thank goodness. He shows real concern for Sheldon in "The Einstein Approximation" and for Raj in "The Pirate Solution." But for every example of Nice!Leonard, we've gotten a Heartless!Leonard. And many in the audience still feel protective about "our guys."
Penny, thank goodness, has stayed the same Penny she was--whoever that was. Which moves us to...
The Feminist Argument - Objectifying Penny
For what it's worth, Penny may also be objectifying Leonard as simply the opposite of her usual dates: "Am I just an idiot who picks giant losers [or do I] pick good guys, but turn them into losers?" ("The Tangerine Factor").
But is his an active or a passive niceness? He hasn't cheated, blogged about their sex lives, or bullied people smaller than him. But what is he doing that defines him as a nice guy in his own right?
I'm not saying he can't be one--but it would certainly help for us to see more of it.
Instead, more often than this viewer finds comfortable, we've seen Leonard objectifying Penny in return. He seems more drawn to her position as a trophy than he is drawn to her as uniquely Penny.
Leonard never bothered with their previous neighbor (Louie/Louise, the cross-dressing cop with a skin condition). But as soon as he lays eyes on Penny, Leonard is smitten. At that point, he knows nothing about her except that she's blond, tanned, has a pretty smile--and, he thinks, better than him. "She's out of my league," he mourns in the pilot, despite Penny having proved herself to be perfectly friendly/ approachable to all four geeks and of no better than average intelligence. In "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary" he momentarily decides to "go after someone my own speed," as in, not her. In "The Dumpling Paradox," when Penny turns down Leonard's offer to enter Halo tournaments with him by saying "Or we could just have a life," Leonard answers, "I guess for you, that's an option." In "The Cornhusker Vortex," he automatically assumes Penny doesn't invite him to watch football because he embarrasses her. "What else could it be?" He consistently sees Penny as better than him and his friends, usually with an edge of resentment, but why?
Because she's cute.
It's worth noting that he has the same initial reaction to another sexy new neighbor--deliberately paralleled from the pilot for its exactness—as he did to Penny, in "The Dead Hooker Juxtaposition." Does he not love Penny's kind heart, her sense of humor, or her folksy charm as well? If so, he's not talking much about it--but he talks about her looks. In the pilot he sums up his opinion of their separate strengths by noting that "Our children will be smart AND beautiful." nce in a relationship, he argues with an imaginary Penny by mewling, as her, "I'm pretty and can do whatever I want."
This season his objectification has progressed. "Then I got a girlfriend," he says--not, "Then I found Penny." In "The Psychic Vortex" he crows: "Look at us! Getting ready for a double date with actual women who publicly acknowledge they're our girlfriends!" In "The Large Hadron Collision," Leonard notes that he's been wanting to spend Valentine's Day with a girl since he was six, which implies that any girl, not necessarily Penny, might have fit the bill.
And then there's....
The Romantic Argument - Sex isn't Love
Yes. Of course a guy in his late twenties wants a love life. But a focus on sex above all else moves us into early-series-Howard creepy.
Leonard focuses largely on sex, with and without Penny.
In the pilot he protests Sheldon's suspicions of such ("not to say that if a carnal relationship were to develop that I wouldn't participate.") But by twenty minutes in, he confesses the truth: "You were right about my motives. I was hoping to establish a relationship with Penny that might have someday led to sex." As if sex, not the relationship, is the end game.
In "The Cornhusker Vortex," Sheldon asks flat out if Leonard is trying to learn football "to ensure your continuing mating privileges with her?" At first Leonard waffles that "I wouldn't put it that way," then admits, "Yeah, okay, like you said" (thank you, t0ra chan, for your reminder in the comments!) More recently, in this season's "Psychic Vortex," Leonard complains to Howard that "In order to keep having a sexual relationship with Penny I have to give up everything I believe in?" A sexual relationship. No worries about her feelings, her respect, or her good will. He could lose the sex.
Wow. How... romantic?
Leonard was happy for sex with Leslie Winkle, too, and with Dr. Stephanie Barnett (despite his protest of going too fast—by her moving in, mind you, not by her sleeping with him within hours of them meeting). How, other than in the endurance of the relationship, is sex with Penny any different to him?
I wonder how many guys think Penny/Leonard are a great combination, and how many women cringe over it (comments welcome!) The show is, after all, created, produced, and written mainly by men, with a general 4-to-1 ratio of male-to-female protagonists. If guys are their main audience, then maybe they are, indeed, just skillfully satisfying a guy fantasy.
That doesn't make it any more romantic to the average female. Real romance is being half of a whole: "You complete me." Real romance is acceptance: "I like you very much. Just as you are." Real romance is that spark: "It was like... magic." Real romance is paradoxical: "But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you." And real romance, at its ideal, is forever: "I came across time for you Sarah. I love you; I always have."
Sure, sex has its place in the enjoyment and expression of romantic love. Sometimes a really wild, deliciously obsessive place. And it works well as a metaphor for feelings, in TV shows. But for sex to be the end game? That's not romance. That's erotica.
This may sounds like I hate The Big Bang Theory now that Leonard and Penny have hooked up. Au contraire! If I hated it, I simply would not watch it. Were it not for the imaginations, hard work, and experience of the show's brilliant creators, writers, and actors (including Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco), I would never have gotten so caught up in the lives of these fictitious characters that I would spend this amount of time and effort (and, I'll admit, ego) arguing about them.
Despite my concerns about the Leonard/Penny pairing, The Big Bang Theory is obviously doing far more right than it is doing wrong. But if those of us who fear it's less than its best don't share our opinions and insights?
That, I think, would be a real pity.
(So if you've stumbled across this, please chime in)
One of my favorite fanfiction communities just announced a new RPF site. I said, "Huh?" Then I did a search. Google gave me a lot of "Renal Plasma Flow," which seemed unlikely. But Wikipedia came through: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_person_fiction.
Apparently RPF = Real Person Fiction, fanfiction about the actors as opposed to the characters.
On the one hand? I am, as ever, amazed by the variety and creativity of the fanfiction world. Creativity = Good! Who's got the right to complain about people who enjoy writing or reading a story about Brad Pitt at a shopping mall or Elijah Wood having a bad day (other than, perhaps, Brad Pitt or Elijah Wood--according to Wikipedia, Wood has praised the creativity of fans involved in these endeavors).
Erotica doesn't bug me (nor even the occasional well-written porn). I might not enjoy Mal/Jayne slash, based on Firefly, but it's not even a blip on my emotional/moral/whatever radar. Others don't like my fave pairing of Jayne and (adult) River, and I don't begrudge them that. To each their own, right?
But we're not talking Mal/Jayne. We're talking Nathan Fillion/Adam Baldwin. Not necessarily having a bad day (wink wink, nudge nudge).
When RPF turns into erotic fiction or even slash, I discover a surprisingly prim old lady residing in me. Said sourpuss wants to lecture about how wrong, WRONG it is to show a real person in a situation about which said real person had no say. This may just be my own personal button. I hate being put into any situation without having agreed to it. I hate surprise parties. I still resent getting braces because "it would be good for me." To me, consent is everything.
Almost everything. (Occasionally, someone actually knows better than me).
Then again, the actor isn't being put into those situations. A fictionalized avatar of the actor is... and here it gets metaphysically complicated.
So what sacred cows of mine may be mooing in distress about this?
1) Characters are not Actors, and Actors are not Characters
I firmly, FIRMLY believe this, which is why I don't care much about getting celebrity autographs. I even avoid most celebrity interviews. I have no problem with gay actors playing straight characters, and vice versa. I smirk in bemusement when fangirls wail about their favorite actor getting engaged or married (as if you had a chance?)
Characters exists in a Fictional World. Fictional World is a rich and wonderful place where I have not only a summer home but a private island, a ski chalet, a small castle, and an understated but elegant temple for relaxation and personal worship. It goes by many names--Neverland, Wonderland, Faerieland, Dreamworld, etc. It permeates our own world, so to say it's "not here" isn't quite correct, but it doesn't physically exist in our dimension, and nor do the characters. I love Doug Ross, not George Clooney. I want to see Sheldon & Penny together, not Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco. Jon Erik Hexum may have tragically died in the 1980s, but my relationship to Phineas Bogg is still going strong.
I've come to realize, over the years, that the actor owns a character almost as much as the writer who created said character. When a TV or movie character springs to life, they do so using the life force--the essence--of the actor. So their pairing is symbiotic, to say the least.
But they are different beings.
We fans know the characters very well, spend time with them weekly, get to know their foibles and relatives and favorite foods. We don't know the actor, only what essence that actor puts into his or her characters.
Is my hesitation because RPF could be seen as confusing the two?
2) Names (and Thought Forms) Have Power
Maybe it's just my years of research into magickal theory--which I think is strongly metaphorical of scientific truthes we just can't explain as simply (or at all). "Psychic Vampires" may sound wild, but we've all been around drama queen crazymakers who thrive off of attention and leave their companions exhausted, so neither are they unrealistic. And the idea of a "Thought Form" as a magical being who must do the magic-user's bidding sounds right out of Faust, but you've got to admit, there's something to be said about the power of joint belief.
I mean--if one person makes up a character named Jimmy and decides the guy is a risk-taker, it's not a blip on the universal radar. On the other hand, if millions of people watch movies and TV and cartoons and read books about a guy named Captain James T. Kirk, then that character takes on a reality beyond his initial writers or actors. Joint belief empowers Santa Claus and Harry Potter, rendering them not just "characters" but "thought forms" with the power to excite, dismay, engage, and soothe countless real life, real-world individuals.
Or look at the magical belief that names have power. Some cultures don't give a child a name until s/he reaches puberty, because of this. Some don't name a child after a relative who still lives, as if sharing a name will weaken the life force. In the Harry Potter universe, there's a reason only the bravest people say Voldemort's name out loud. The idea that you could hurt someone by burning their name may be far fetched, but I wonder if there's any effect--any at all--to creating a fictional representation of them, with their likeness and their name, and bending said representation to your will?
Besides, the people writing RPF rarely if ever wish their subjects any ill will.
So is my problem with RPF merely my superstitions?
My Inconclusive Conclusion:
Again--I'm not saying there's anything wrong with writing or enjoying RPF. I won't protest unless and until someone starts writing RPF about me, which exists in an unlikely universe indeed. May everyone involved get hours of creativity and enjoyment from it.
I'm just trying to figure out....
Why is THIS where I draw the line?