lordyellowtail: (Secret (Young Justice))
So, the last couple weeks, I rediscovered how much I love ER as a show (though I have continuously dabbled in Kerry/Kim shipping on and off the last several years, when I remember they exist and can find AU stories for them that don't depress the hell out of me).

Key to getting back into ER fandom has been admitting that as much as I enjoy some of the latter stuff, I'm one of those people who just prefers to stop at the end of Season 8, and aside from a handful of miscellaneous bits, just ignore Seasons 9-15. They could be great, but the tone and cast turnover just made it a completely different show, and there were too many storyline decisions I couldn't stomach. (That, and I'm not a huge fan of Abby Lockhart and her Queen of Gloom sex symbol status, however the hell that is supposed to actually work.)

So I'm gonna re-watch the first 8 seasons when I get a chance.

At the same time, Xena has been popping up in conversation on the internets since she and Gabrielle are getting a reboot, and since the particulars of the Xena series finale have relevance to the current awareness campaign and intense fandom discussions about the decades long ubiquity of the Kill Your Gays trope in television, especially as applied to lesbians, that was set off by Commander Lexa's murder on The 100. I didn't even know about how the series ended and how Xena got fridged until the Lexa event, as I had stopped watching mid-series because my real life went crazy and I pretty much abandoned most TV and fandom while trying to finish high school and start college.

As [personal profile] ilyena_sylph can attest from being witness to my angry, heartbroken rantings on the subject (and more to the point, putting up with said ranting (thanks!)), finding out how Xena ended really upset me. I was angry-weepy for a day or two whenever I thought about it, because I get tired of things I loved in my childhood getting stabbed/shot/burned or otherwise murdered to death when I'm not looking--or twisted beyond recognition. Given how adorkable and happy together Xena and Gabrielle were when they weren't stabbing and bludgeoning Evil and generally being epic, I was pretty broken up about this, even if I'm 20 years late finding out. 

So, yeah, Xena is also on Netflix, and I've resolved to watch the first three seasons again, and ignore everything after that when the Train of Suck and Misery starts picking up steam, because this whole thing has reminded me how much I miss these characters and how much fun they were.

The Point (There is One!):

So, the problem with fandom binging two fandoms at once is that your brain sometimes plays tricks on you. I was looking at ER stuff and Xena stuff at the same time and by Evening Four had convinced myself that I once read a really funny, enjoyable crossover fic wherein Kerry Weaver and Kim Legaspi used the power of (or had used on them the power of) Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Whimey to meet Xena and Gabrielle and they had adorkable, heartwarming shenanigans, possibly including Kerry Weaver beaning Kevin Smith's Ares with her crutch, all while Kerry dealt with her fear of coming out of the closet at work by comparing her situation to Xena's. (Because Kerry and Xena are so totally alike, amirite? < /not-completely-joking-why-brain-why >)

So many details of this existed in my head and I had such good memories of having read it, so I searched for it.

Except: it doesn't exist. Nowhere. Anywhere. I looked. A lot.

My brain, on a nostalgia overload, invented a bizarro crossover plot bunny and tried to cover how embarrassingly weird and off the wall it is by convincing my conscious mind someone else had written it.

That has to be a new level of dorktastic.

At least I'm totally not thinking about writing it myself. At all.
Maybe a one-shot someday.
Dammit.

lordyellowtail: (Captain Picard Squee)
Continuing with the theme from SVS 006 of ordinary people's relationships being a wonderful treat in an otherwise unordinary setting, let us travel back to the halcyon days of 1990s family television programming that we both love forever and are now almost uniformly too embarrassed by to admit we like in public.

ABC's TGIF Friday night family sitcom lineup spent over a decade codifying the family-friendly, (usually healthy) aesop-heavy, generally-harmless, sometimes groan-inducing style of programming that defined 1990s domestic comedy.

There were a lot of them, and with a few exceptions that explicitly embraced the supernatural (hello, Sabrina and Teen Angel), they all purported to be aggressively rooted in the real world. (Admittedly, Family Matters got overtaken by Steve Urkel's descent into zany super-science, but if you cut that out the show was really about the relationships between Steve and various members of the Winslow family.)

The problem emerged within the first few episodes of all these shows, though--if not the pilot episode itself. Watching aggressively normal people do aggressively normal stuff is aggressively boring. And these shows needed to be funny and entertaining enough to keep people coming back for enough years to wrack up sufficient episodes for lucrative first-run syndication deals. So invariably you took your aggressively normal people, wrapped them in Plot Armor and Made of Iron tropes usually reserved for shonen and shojo anime protagonists, and subjected them to the sort of bizarre, reality-is-unrealistic comedies of errors and random, I-can't-believe-that-didn't-kill-you coincidences and accidents that might happen to one of us in the real world maybe once in our entire lives.

And you did that weekly, and we loved to watch it.

Looking at the situation from a meta perspective years later, one can only conclude the people in all these shows were subject to living on an earth that, while appearing to be Pleasantville, was actually the playground of some mad god who was treating them like his own personal game of The Sims and trying to see how far he could push them before they broke. That some of them (like Eric Matthews on Boy Meets World) descended into a functional sort of actual insanity indicates that they figured out what was going on and went a bit mad from the revelation.

Then there was the actually horrifying stuff, like one of Frank Lambert's sons actually disappearing from Step by Step and no-one mentioning him or acknowledging he existed ever again, or the habit of babies to age up to approximately age six in less than a single calendar year. Likely because the mad Sims-playing god adjusted the age slider because infants make somewhat useless toys.

But I seriously digress.

The point being, for all their supposed normality, these shows were deeply and fundamentally bizarre. Re-watching them post-puberty, with an awareness of how romance is supposed to work, leads me to think that, just like in Xena, there is value in celebrating the normality of healthy, loving relationships in these sorts of universes. It's telling that on a lot of the TGIF shows, the most interesting romantic relationships belonged to the stable, happily married parent-couples that stood a few degrees removed from the zany hellscape that so infected their children's romantic entanglements. While JT Lambert idiotically tried to use his baby sister to pretend to be a single father to pick up chicks in a mall (a number of boys tried this on various shows), Frank and Carol Lambert sat at home and held hands and hugged while looking at their finances and realizing they can actually barely afford their newest kid, Lily. Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence take a break from their neurotic college romance, and Eric Matthews shook off his crazy, when they are pulled back into the orbit of Cory and Eric's parents Alan and Amy, whose new baby is premature and ill and may not make it out of the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital.

So, watching the kids' romantic arcs, the most interesting thing to me is seeing them grow and mature and gradually move out of the zaniness and towards the normality and stability of their parents' relationships. Some of them are better at this than others, and some never quite get there. even by the time of their series finale, and viewers are left holding the bag and cringing and thinking, "well, they're better off than when they started."

And some of them don't just get there but cross the finish line on a jetpack, and when these are the ones you wrote off as gag couples, that's even sweeter.

Dana Foster and Rich Halke are probably at the top of the stack in terms of TGIF teen-couples. It starts off fairly cliched: Dana is a highly motivated, intelligent, career- and goal-driven nerd (though she would never be called that because she was also beautiful and it would be another 15 to 20 years before TV really started to admit that beautiful nerds were a thing that existed) who was socially conscious and politically active and had no patience for those she viewed as beneath her (this was in fact her biggest character flaw at the start: it made her hard to watch because she came off as genuinely hurtful more than once). Watching her grow out of that last thing while still maintaining everything that made her great was a real joy. (Now that I think about it, Dana's character arc is not that dissimilar from Daria Morgendorffer's.)

Rich started out as one of JT's friends, which meant he was very much like JT: a shallow, girl-crazy, insensitive jock who came across as a complete idiot, but good-hearted and loyal and even brave when it actually counted. Though while JT got no justification for his constant academic failure and lack of common sense until the show runners tried a saving throw and diagnosed him with dyslexia (which was sadly played for laughs and never really explored beyond a few lines of dialogue), Rich was quite clearly shown to be lazy. His idea of tutoring is to hire someone to write a paper for him while he played basketball, and he was even self-aware enough to request that the papers not be too good so as not to draw attention.

And he's apparently been getting away with this for so long that he doesn't think a thing about it when he accidentally hires Dana to be his tutor, and tries to order a paper from her. Needless to say, that lasts about 30 seconds (which is 25 seconds longer than I thought it would) before she makes him do the work himself (or tries to), and one thing leads to another and in one moment of what she quite accurately and hilariously calls "demented passion," they're making out in the kitchen.

And on most shows that would be the end of it. Maybe you'd get one disastrous joke date (with a 50 percent chance of ending in a food-fight), but that would be the end of the gag and neither character would really change, but instead go on comfortable and secure in the knowledge that they are correct and "demented passion" or not, the other character is wrong and lame and Status Quo is God and no one is allowed to grow up.

That didn't happen, this time. Dana tried; she had terrible luck with dating up till that point because most guys were intimidated by/jealous of her intelligence and independence and so she was primed to assume the worst about everyone interested in her--which is disturbingly realistic for young women in Dana's position. But Rich wasn't willing to let it go and we got to see a new side of him: he was still an academic slacker and not the sharpest tool in the shed, but when he decided to be honest with her it turned out there was a whole actual person underneath all the 1990s dudebro cliches he was wrapped in, and he managed to get her to keep going out with him in a respectful, yet hilarious way. She was never a nerd he was taking pity on or something he won or brought down to his level. She was Dana and he was thrilled and honored that she wanted to share herself with him; it's implied that one of the reasons he was initially dismissive and combative of her was that he was convinced she was the sort of person who was completely beyond him, so he got defensive from the beginning. And Dana grew at the same time: Rich was the kind of person she started the series thinking was much beneath her boot soles, and a good part of her early courtship is admitting to herself that she has been overly-judgmental and that there is actually someone underneath the moron jock facade that she is deeply attracted to.

It's a horrible thing in real life and writing when a person tries to remake themselves and sacrifice their core values to appease a romantic partner, and most sitcom gag couples end when they try to do this, with the obvious aesop. The Step by Step writers acknowledge and deliberately avert this. Both Rich and Dana have characteristics and habits the one one doesn't care for, but the solution is not to excise those bits out, but to engage in realistic self-improvement that's not about changing your identity, but about how you engage with the people you care about. Dana, in essence, has to learn that real people are complicated, and in a relationship you have to take all of them. You can't just cherry-pick the parts you like. Rich has to learn how to stop using his slacker persona as a shield from forming the sort of deep and genuine bonds real romantic relationships require (because that shield is keeping Dana out), without sacrificing the fun-loving, joyful part of his personality. In other words, he has to learn balance if he wants this relationship to work.

And they both acknowledge these things, and work on them together, and in the middle of the laugh tracks and everything-but-Godzilla-showing-up insanity, they succeed. In fact, aside from Frank and Carol, by series' end they have the most developed, stable, healthy and realistic relationship of all the "child" characters, and have personally undergone some of the most comprehensive growth arcs.

This was most striking as a viewer upon seeing the thing that almost broke them up. It wasn't some zany mistaken-for-cheating plot (though they went through one of those, but it was resolved in 5 minutes), or a harrowing set of circumstances like one of their parents moving several states away and physically separating them, or any of the normal Pleasantville-Hellscape cliches generally reserved for a show's "kid couples." They were college age at that point, or nearly so, and Dana became so overwhelmed by the idea of planning for the future in the midst of their presently dim financial prospects and career uncertainties and other such things that, well, are quite familiar concerns to almost every real world adult couple everywhere.

And Rich, instead of freaking out and doing something that blows it like he would've before they first started dating and he was consumed with flippant laziness and shallow inability to commit, fully understands where she's coming from and why she's afraid (because he's not exactly not worrying about this stuff either). But he'll never be a genius like Dana and knows he doesn't have the words in him to get his message through to her.

So he thinks hard about it, takes out his heart and tacks it on his sleeve, and risks humiliating himself in a way he never would have dared upon his introduction. He invokes TGIF's most adorkable, heartwarming music number ever (according to me, tenured Professor of Dorkdom at I Can't Believe You're Writing So Many Words About This University), and proceeds to get her back with a hand held karaoke machine and the power of Sonny and Cher, who had the right words decades ago. In public, with dozens if not hundreds of witnesses.

And it works, because what he's really saying is "yes, there are uncertainties, and yes, they are frightening, but it doesn't matter because I would be facing them with you, and you would be facing them with me, and we'd figure it out and make it work because that's what love gives you the strength to do."

It's presented with the usual goofy, nearly-impossible-to-believe-that-worked circumstances common to most TGIF kids' romantic scenes, but when you stop and think about it you realize it only works and they only stay together because of how much both of them have grown and are able to think and function in a relationship like young adults, not kids. Rich and Dana look and function most like Frank and Carol in this moment.

I think one of the things I like best about it is all the initially annoyed/confused adult couples in the room getting into it and starting to dance as he sings. It's tacit approval.

And it's still cheesy and goofy and still kind of beautiful just for that.

The actual song is about 2 minutes long. Stick around for the after credits scene where they cosplay as Sonny and Cher. It's hilarious and adorable, but doesn't have the magic of the in-character performance.




lordyellowtail: (X and Alia (By Your Side))
Warning: There are seriously huge spoilers for the finale of Xena: Warrior Princess in this post.

I realize I usually use this space for a mini shipping manifesto and fan music video, but I'm going to do something a bit different for this one. I'd like to get a bit meta about how I got back into this ship, as it's been consuming my fannish thoughts a lot this week.

So, reading about the upcoming Xena reboot made me realize (with a great wave of fannish guilt, I assure you) just how much I love and adore and miss this series. I've taken a deep dive back into the fandom over the last 10 days or so and fallen in love all over again. (Oddly enough, at the same time I've also been getting back into ER fandom, which is a very strange combination that has led to a number of odd crossover ideas.)

That said, due to medical issues (and the complications of trying to graduate high school while going through extensive, years-long physical rehab), I fell out of the fandom after the first few seasons.

I only found out about the gut-punchingly cruel way Xena died (and the way the show made sure to use it as a means to torture Gabrielle) a few days ago, and I've been pretty upset about it most of this week. It's just so egregiously traumatizing for the characters and the fanbase and, in light of mainstream TV's history of killing off LGBT characters (and the recent fandom outcry and protest that happened when they did it to Lexa on The 100, which has been loud and coordinated enough to make mainstream news), pretty damn offensive.

So how did I find out that she died (and the means of her death)? Looking for shipping videos for this post. I feel like their relationship is best served by 1990s and early 2000s power love ballads, and the top hits on YouTube for those Xena/Gabrielle videos are set around the series finale. DEATH EVERYWHERE.

So, yeah. There's gonna be a delay while I find something I like that's not set at the series finale and doesn't depress the hell out of me.

In the meantime, I will say this about why I ship them. I didn't at first, mostly because I hadn't really hit puberty when the series started and I started watching it (because I loved Kevin Sorbo's Hercules), so I didn't really have the awareness or emotional intelligence to detect the subtext. But I was old enough within just a couple of years, and it was immediately obvious why the LGBT community loved Xena, because they were absolutely perfect for each other, and it wasn't a matter of will they/won't they. They did, almost from the first day.

And once I was old enough, I couldn't believe people could watch the show and not see they were a couple in all the emotional ways that actually matter.

The showrunners now say they were constrained by the executives, but even with those constraints, the subtext between Xena and Gabrielle was basically text. They weren't allowed to come right out and state in universe that they were a gay couple, but they pushed that boundary to the breaking point, and more importantly, they didn't really need to make it explicit. I'd even go so far as to argue the writers had to explore the depth of their emotional connection even more thoroughly and artfully because they couldn't fall back on the stock physical cliches of heteronormative storytelling, and the relationship was better written for it.

Love is love. Sexual orientation doesn't matter; when you love someone you love them, and if you know how to recognize love in other people, it's impossible to miss. The writers on XWP realized they couldn't regularly give us explicit dates, regular physical intimacy, etc.--all the hallmarks of a standard TV dating plot. They couldn't even imply it or have the characters talk about it as though it happened off screen.

So they tore out all the window dressing and garnish, and gave us two people who were partners and best friends and loved and lived first and foremost for each other. They were each other's world, floating through a universe of other people who came and went but were never more important than each other. They fought gods and demons and armies of men, and did extraordinary feats reserved for demigods and warriors of legend, but their relationship with each other was the most down to earth and human thing about them. The legendary Warrior Princess and her Bard-Who-Would-Be-Amazon-Queen were identities they grew to wear like masks, like Clark Kent in the Superman suit.

When they stopped to eat or trade for supplies or mend their clothes or talk and bicker about anything not having to do with their wandering adventures, or at night curled up together by the fire, they were really no different from Rob and Laura Petrie or Jill and Tim Taylor or Andy and Connie on NYPD Blue and so many others. They led extraordinary lives, but when all that fell away they were just two ordinary people.

Without ever saying the words we associate with courtship, we saw them meet and date and utterly devote themselves to each other for eternity over the course of the series, and it was beautiful until the end.

And I think that's what makes them so wonderful and adorable and enduring for fans. They fought gods and monsters and despots, but when they were alone, they were a happy, content, utterly devoted married couple who shared the same emotions, thoughts, and relationship struggles we all do here in the post-magical real world. Their relationship was pure and wonderful and stuck out like a beacon thanks to its normality and reliability in an otherwise high-fantasy, sometimes narm-tastic setting.

There are some characters that you think could never survive outside their own canon because they're so specialized and adapted to their own world they can't really exist anywhere else. (e.g.: What would Josh Lyman and Donna Moss, two 20th century US political operatives, do with themselves if you dropped them into Star Trek's universe and a post-scarcity, near-utopian political system unlike anything they know? They are defined not just by themselves or their relationship, but what they do.)

Just as in the ideal marriage, Xena and Gabrielle have their own likes and dislikes and hopes and dreams, but as for defining who they are? They can't do that without first inextricably tying themselves to each other. They share their strengths and weaknesses and are each stronger for it. Each of them admits several times in the series they are only what they are because the other one is in their life, for better or worse. They would have no trouble anywhere or anywhen because what they are--before anything else--is each other's, always and forever. Their relationship is immutable and independent of the setting, which is what real true love is suppose to be.

That wouldn't change even if they were the weirdly affectionate "roommates" who moved into the house next door to Rob and Laura Petrie in the 1950s and lived completely peaceful lives and only showed up as drop-in characters on The Dick Van Dyke Show when Rob and Laura needed a babysitter. It wouldn't change if Xena spent her days fixing hot rods with Tim Taylor while Gabrielle wrote best-selling novels and griped affectionately with Jill about their partners' lack of appreciation for things like opera and high art while Xena and Tim tried to make sense of Wilson's life advice. It wouldn't change if they were an experienced and rookie detective pair just partnered together by Lt. Fancy, ready to patrol the mean streets of New York City.

They don't need extraordinary lives to justify or energize their relationship, because what makes their lives extraordinary is each other.

So, I kind of went off on a mini-ship manifesto anyway, I guess. As to the video that I decided to use for this, there's a compilation of canon clips from an episode that chronicles what they do when they're not being legends. That they operate as demigod heroes in a high-fantasy setting and the most important part of their personalities and relationship with each other is utterly rooted in something so completely normal and pure as mundane human companionship fills me with squee. It's the only thing about their lives that isn't rooted in the supernatural and myth and legend and the eternal battle between good and evil.

And most of the time that normality translated into them being utterly adorable goofballs that we all identified with and loved to watch.

In conclusion, the series finale never happened. Because I'm not ever going to accept that something this adorable and lovely and pure could end like that.

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lordyellowtail: (Default)
Lord Yellowtail

July 2016

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