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Dept. of Peeves

Do You Know What I Hate Pisses Me Off Bothers Me?

After having been in online fandom for (thinks a bit and is suitably croggled) almost eight years, I've had ample opportunity to hear others complain about seeing fan writers fridge some character's significant other because they want to get that character involved with another character. And because they just haaaate that character.

Sometimes it's someone getting rid of the icky girl so that the writer's favorite slash OTP can come true. Sometimes it's defenestrating the icky boy so that the yuri OTP of choice can flower. And of course, just as often, it's someone getting rid of the icky "person who is not part of my OTP," regardless of sex or gender. The commonality is that it is obvious through the writing, or through the author's comments, that the writer truly dislikes whoever the character's significant other is, and, more than that, wants to take out his or her dislike on that character within the boundaries of the story.

The non-ship version of this, of course, also exists. I've heard fans mourn about stories in which a writer will get rid of a character just because they really dislike the character - making it clear in the manner of dispatch how much they despise the character - without the need for OTP-rage-induced plot twists. And I don't much like that either.

Really, whether it's ship or non-ship related, I've always thought that if you were writing in a fandom where you truly disliked a character, you had various options to deal with that; writing in a reality where the disliked character never existed, for instance, or writing a story in which the character doesn't play a part. Or you could focus on other characters.

There are ways to write around the disliked character, in short, without hate-writing and character-bashing.

I understand that fic-writing allows people to write what they want. Fic writing exists for many reasons, not least of which, apparently, is the ability to pen the words "And then the horrible, ugly, mean, lying, tax-return-cheating, puppy-killing skag who I loathe was eaten by a pack of rabid squirrels, and everyone rejoiced, and My Hero stepped over what the squirrels had left and said, 'Wow, you know what? I never really liked her/him, let's go out for gyros,' and they did and then they came home and done sex."

But I always felt lucky that writers I enjoyed didn't do that.

If they didn't like a character, they didn't write about that character. Simple as that. It's not that writers I enjoy loved every character I did. They were often incredibly up front about not liking a character. They just didn't seem to take a great deal of pleasure in damaging that character within the boundaries of their stories. Hell, I've known some writers who, when they became very unhappy with the fandom in which they'd been writing, simply chose to sit it out, or find other fandoms in which to write. I respect that, even if I might not agree with it. That's the classy way to handle it.

So it's been an uncomfortable situation to see a couple of writers whose work I have enjoyed in the past, and who have never shown signs of this before, start slagging on characters. (They're characters I like, but, as I've said, other writers I know may not have liked some of my favorites, but either ignored those characters, or at least got rid of them without indulging in obvious glee)

It's happened a couple of times recently. And it's really both uncomfortable and slightly disappointing. It makes me sad.

This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/293521.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 3rd, 2014 08:36 am (UTC)
Oh dear...someone you read regular? Oh no...

Maybe they've hit a frustration point? I just...

I'm sorry, bb.

Mar. 3rd, 2014 02:14 pm (UTC)
Maybe they've hit a frustration point?

Sadly, in a couple of cases, I've seen writers just take a dislike to a character almost as soon as they've been introduced, and start dealing with them unpleasantly. And in each of the cases, the various writers have more than enough talent to avoid the kind of highly noticeable bashing that happened.

Mind you, in a couple of cases that happened (last year, I think) the writers did warn for their focus. My visceral response was to wonder whether, if even they realized that their dislike had manifested in a way unpleasant enough to warn for, it might not have a good thing to ask themselves why on earth they were writing something so unpleasant.

I guess I'm lucky that I don't deal often with that. Some fans, in some fandoms, probably have to deal with it far more than I do. And perhaps this group of writers will get get it out of their various systems quickly.
Mar. 3rd, 2014 11:43 am (UTC)
That would make me sad too.

One of the things that will make me quit a story if there's character bashing. (Also makes me not bother with the work of a particular writer, though I'll sometimes give them another chance if I liked what parts I did read and/or other people say good things about their work.) As you said, there are so many better ways to deal with it.
Mar. 3rd, 2014 02:24 pm (UTC)
I have come across it a relatively few times; it could be because I've had blind good luck, although I'd love to say it was my preternaturally fine eye for quality writers. (The one possible exception I can think of, off the top of my head, are writers who bad-mouth Jackie Tyler. I'm rather fond of that DW character, but I understand it's easy to write her as spoof or harridan, given that some of the show writers seemed inclined to do so. So maybe that doesn't count.)

I think the rarity is what made it so sad to find it in stories where I wasn't expecting it. Like you, I will give them other chances, although probably not in stories where the affected characters show up at all.

Mar. 7th, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC)
I guess I have occasionally read Harry Potter stories wherein Dumbledore is not just manipulative, but more evil about it. I see that not so much as picking on the character, but as going into an AU I guess. And I also have read some where a Weasley or two were villainous in a way. If I know going into a story that's what I'm in for and it's well written and I'm in the right mood, I guess I can deal with it. Again, seeing it as an AU. Depends really on mood and how desperate I am for a story.

What's jarring is if I'm reading along in an otherwise interesting story and then out of left field there's commentary on how loathsome Ron is. Or Ginny. Or whomever. And they behave completely out of character and/or get fridged and bleah. Anyway. What you said and others have said.

Mar. 9th, 2014 09:09 pm (UTC)
If I know going into a story that's what I'm in for and it's well written and I'm in the right mood, I guess I can deal with it. Again, seeing it as an AU.

Yes, preparation and authorial transparency are important. Having the courtesy to say "if you're fond of Character X, please be aware that I dislike them, and that this will not be a story in which they are viewed positively" is important. As you say, it's really unsettling to be reading along and be ambushed by dislike or hate.

Still, even when the authors do have the professional (or fannish, I suppose) courtesy to warn a reader, it can be disappointing to know that that writer has such a strong dislike for Character A and that they feel the need to bash in a story.
Mar. 10th, 2014 06:01 am (UTC)
Very true. If previously you hadn't really detected any hate directed toward a character and then suddenly there's character bashing in a story, well . . . time to side eye their other stories. Though I'll cut slack if, say, it's a first fic of theirs and they've evolved since then.

I definitely do appreciate warnings to indicate there'll be character bashing in a fic. (I think the most disturbing stories are ones where the author doesn't seem to realize it's character bashing, they just think that's the way the character is or is perceived. Then, well, you know you really aren't viewing the world and its characters the same at all and everything is suspect.)
Mar. 10th, 2014 01:54 pm (UTC)
To all of which I say, Amen, Sister; Testify.
Mar. 3rd, 2014 12:17 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I just ... I don't see what's so hard about ignoring the character or quickly getting rid of them "off-screen" if you don't like them.
Mar. 3rd, 2014 02:38 pm (UTC)
Indeed, or writing a setting a story in a universe in which that character never existed. It's fanfic; you can do that. It's the subtle and not-so-subtle DTF/LTS Syndrome* that bothers me.

*Desire to Fridge/Longing to Slag
Mar. 3rd, 2014 01:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, that is annoying when it's an author you like and don't expect it from. I mean, it's a turn off at the best of times, but I suppose some people want to have wish fulfilment by making their darlings the very best at everything (and all who hate them should be sorry) and others go the opposite way, but usually you can just leave them to their own devices and read better things. It is distressing to find it in good authors, too, though. :-/
Mar. 3rd, 2014 02:55 pm (UTC)
Wish fulfillment is understandable, but as I mentioned to kerravonsen over on Dreamwidth, I can see doing it in a private piece to get the vitriol out of one's system; it's the posting and the repeated doing that gets me.

As I told selenak, again over on Dreamwidth, I should probably take this as an object lesson for myself - be aware that at any time, I might be struck with DTF/LTS* Syndrome, and take the necessary precautions. You know, like stepping away from the keyboard and making myself a nice cuppa, then looking at myself in the mirror and saying, "No. You don't want to be That Writer."

*Desire to Fridge/Longing to Slag
Mar. 3rd, 2014 05:47 pm (UTC)
I tend to think - or hope - most people doing it are fairly young. And when with a group of friends, virtually or otherwise, they don't necessarily see it as much different to writing it in your rough book and sharing it. But, yes, it does mystify me, too, why people do it, and especially repeatedly. We all have characters, ships and all sorts of things we love and hate, and no doubt our biases show if we're not careful, probably inevitably even when we are, but why on earth waste so much time and energy on something you don't like?

So, yes. I suppose this kind of thing is the downside of the freedom of fanfic. :-/

When I make comms, my main rule is usually: be nice, and no character bashing.

PS. Am fairly certain you are never that writer, even if a mild bias ever strays into your fic!! ♥
Mar. 3rd, 2014 06:25 pm (UTC)
PS. Am fairly certain you are never that writer, even if a mild bias ever strays into your fic!! ♥

Heh. Maybe because I do stand in front of the mirror regularly and make the "No DTF/LTS" pledge. But thanks for your confidence!

We all let biases creep into our stories, and to a certain extent it's both understandable and welcome; you do want to get a flavor of the writer when you read. It's the "to an extent" part that sometimes seems to escape the understanding of some authors.
Mar. 3rd, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
Heh. Maybe because I do stand in front of the mirror regularly and make the "No DTF/LTS" pledge. But thanks for your confidence!

I think it's also because you're the kind of writer who wants to serve the story - to make the story itself the best it can be. Therefore you would avoid DTF/LTS because it is simply bad writing.

Alternatively, if you did indulge in DTF/LTS, you would write it well. (grin)
Mar. 4th, 2014 06:53 am (UTC)
Alternatively, if you did indulge in DTF/LTS, you would write it well. (grin)

Does that mean I can't write my "And then a dragon et him/her" opus?
Mar. 3rd, 2014 06:16 pm (UTC)
I still remember the first time I read a story like that. I'd not come across the phenomenon before, and the writer was very good, but it ended with the two characters she clearly despised as near-raving lunatics, and the heroes walking away disgusted. It was well done, but everything was just tweaked that bit too much, y'know? It made me very wary.

Am being deliberately vague, just in case someone might recognise who it is, as she's calmed down a lot. I think [some] people use it as catharsis? If they see their favourite character treated badly by the show writers, and other [in their eyes] lesser characters treated favourably, they want to right the wrongs.

But it's still unpleasant.
Mar. 3rd, 2014 06:31 pm (UTC)
Am being deliberately vague, just in case someone might recognise who it is,

Yup. Names, numbers, genders have been changed, and all identifying codes filed off, to protect people who are otherwise pretty nice folks.

I understand wanting to right wrongs; it's the reason we write stories with our faves being OMG Awesome!!1!, *coughjackietylercough* but it doesn't need to be done by virtue of crapping on other characters. If I were going to write Torchwood stuff, I might go light on Ianto, because he doesn't interest me as much as other members of the team; I'm not going to write a story in which all the other characters confess how much they think he's awful or boring or, I don't know, smells like burned potatoes.
Mar. 3rd, 2014 09:47 pm (UTC)
but it doesn't need to be done by virtue of crapping on other characters

Yes. This. Throwing mud at other characters does NOT increase the awesomeness of the favoured character; it just makes everything ugly.

It's just so STUPID.
Mar. 4th, 2014 06:52 am (UTC)
Oh, aye.
Mar. 4th, 2014 08:44 pm (UTC)
It can be more complicated though - firstly, it may not be possible to simply 'not write about the character'. The depths of my loathing for Sam Carter in Stargate are fairly staggering, but given the team setup it's a tad difficult to send her off to but alien kitty litter in the midst of a crisis (it gets even harder when the characters are on a ship in the middle of space). I solve it for myself but trying to write her at last partly filtered through the other characters' eyes, since they love her...

The other point is that - for some of us including me - it's quite fun to loathe, despise and abominate fictional creations (witness a comic dialogue I wrote between Carter and Sevalan, one of the most fun to write I've ever done :). And fanfiction is a self-indulgent hobby after all - I personally think bashing is poor writing and self-defeating when posted publically, but I admit I have a virtual sock drawer with some deeply satisfying trashing of Characters I Do Not Love.

My position is that - if a writer wants to be taken at all seriously - it shouldn't be posted (unless it's for comic effect, maybe). After all, I may loathe Carter but the characters I adore - Jack, Daniel, Teal'c, McKay - love her to bits. If I make her out to be a revolting harpy, it makes THEM look like porridge-brained idiots for doing so...

Edited at 2014-03-04 08:44 pm (UTC)
Mar. 4th, 2014 09:00 pm (UTC)
Ah, but you see, you have proven, by the way you have explained how you handle your loathing that you do what those other writers haven't been able to understand or be willing to understand: that a) the fun and self-indulgent - and therapeutic, I freely acknowledge that - "and then she was et by a Gou'auld" fic gets kept in a sock drawer, to be brought out and enjoyed in the privacy of your own computer; and b) you are taking the time to write the character in a way that makes sense, in-universe, when you write for public consumption. You don't deal in character bashing.

There's room for having a disliked character do something stupid, for example, as long as, within-universe, that character is dealt with by other characters as he or she would be, by those characters - and you've taken the intelligent writer's attitude towards that.

I actully think we're pretty much on the same page. Heh.
Mar. 7th, 2014 08:54 am (UTC)

But I always felt lucky that writers I enjoyed didn't do that.

Sometimes I wonder how related these things are. I mean, I know I like some writers who don't like characters I do, but those I like just found a way to write around the character instead of bashing them. And I think that's part of why I like them - they are capable of doing that. They are capable of writing within canon enough to say, 'I might not like the character, but they're important to canon, so I will find a way not to have to deal with them' but without bashing.
Mar. 9th, 2014 08:53 pm (UTC)
I think that's what bothered me in the cases that prompted me to write this; the writers in question had always done pretty well what you described here. The changes I've seen in recent works really shocked me because of that.
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