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18 May 2007 @ 04:37 pm
Discovering "Smarm"  
Not the obsequious kind, either.

Yesterday, wandering through metafandom, I happened on a discussion of "smarm" fic. thelana is probably laughing her butt off right about now...


So, "smarm" is what one really might consider sexless slash. Proponents don't see it that way, and it doesn't always cross that line, but sometimes the manLove is more than brotherly, you know?

What thelana's going to laugh about is that I have unwittingly written "smarm" on occasion. Sometimes I still think of it as Gen (the manLove is typically brief and doesn't go on and on), and other times it's supposed to be Slash but doesn't get as far as I'd intended (in which case, I really consider it "light Slash").

A very thorough definition/argument of what constitutes "smarm" can be found here. The audience for it is readers who want big manLove and affection and often touching and cuddling, but no sex. Slash lovers may wonder what the point of that is, but I clearly remember that my first Slashy desires were around age 13/14, and I would have been perfectly happy to fade out with romantic kissing and snuggling together in bed. Obviously, I've expanded my horizons since then, but you get my point. The thing is, though, that's still Slash to me.

So, case in point there is this Sentinel story, Beach by two very big fans of smarm, and for me that is definitely slash. Check out this chapter here, where there is kissing, tonguing, and I believe also declarations of love.

Looking at the larger story (I wasted some 3 hours at work reading this thing, and hating myself afterwards), if you look past the buckets of crying in the story it is a big hurt/comfort-fest of touching, cuddling, kissing, hair-petting, declared love, romanticizing of the other person, pondering on "joined souls" and "owning each others' hearts". There are also some 11 installments of naked showering, and some 6+ of naked bed-cuddling before it wanders off into a dream sequence (still a WIP).

See, now, that is clearly romantic love to me-- it might be brotherly love if they were actual brothers (though if there's tonguing, I think some misunderstandings are going to arise!), but how is that NOT light Slash? The fact that there's no mention of arousal when they're mooshing their groins up against each other? (Seriously. And as the rest of the story is written, if you're that emotionally thrilled by someone I don't see a physical reaction not happening, especially for men).

So, I read some more in that genre last night (could not help myself-- and I never even watched the Sentinel!). Some of it is just a hug, a touch here and there. But there are loads of what can only be called cuddling, honestly.

I don't know. I can definitely see why there would be an audience for stories that cut off at the pre-sexual point, but most of what I read I'd still say is Slash or Slashy.

And that particular story, 70+ installments and not yet finished... I have to call that emo-Porn, because it totally is. Not a bad thing, but that definitely describes it.

Clarification: I totally forgot about the range of canon behavior. I.e., if we're talking "Starsky and Hutch" even a single kiss on the mouth might just be Gen smarm, depending on how romantically skewed that was. Virtually everthing else was already canon. NOT that I have any complaints about that...

What do all of you think? Probably many of you were already aware of it long before me!

So, thanks to the time wasted on the story in the cut zone above, I never did get out to exercise yesterday. :( Which means that today, I had legs and then some! In other words:

Cycling: 34 miles for speed today! Whoo! Plus a couple more to warm down. I did nearly get hit by a van, making a U-turn right into the bike lane where I was progressing, and she stopped right in front of me. I was pissed. I smacked one of her back windows with my fist and came around to discuss this with her, but she was already stumbling through an apology and was honestly so horrified with herself that I relented, and thanked her for apologizing. Yikes!

No interesting animals today-- not even the pygmy goats were out! Earlier this week, along this same route (the office, not the bike path), I caused a mini cattle-stampede. \o/ On the plus side, the roadkill count is still down.

Got a drabble to post this weekend for bluesister, if I can force it to be 100 words and not keep creeping up. Almost there...



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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on May 19th, 2007 07:05 am (UTC)
I don't think that it's laughworthy at all. I can totally get the desire for smarm*. And I agree with you, I would group it under slash.

Oh, I definitely understand why it appeals and why some people want it to stop short of being sexual. But just as you say-- it's still Slash to me.

Your "shippy fic" definition really worked for me in explaining the difference between Gen and not-Gen.

Regardless of how the 'ship manifests itself (sexual, musings, angst, fluffy thoughts), it's still not Gen at that point. It's a romantic/sexual genre instead.

And that is even a lesser definition of smarm since doesn't even need to be a big emphasis on love and cuddling, just angst and the relationship being the most significant and emotionally relevant.
Yes, I agree. For some readers, brotherslash is really more about the love-- they might prefer it to stay under a certain level of explicitness and just focus on the emotional aspect instead.
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on May 19th, 2007 07:16 am (UTC)
It's kinda hard to draw the line. That fic you describe sounds like it wouldn't be my thing, but that's just because crying emo man always turn me off, whether it's gen or shippy or whatnot.

At the same time, I can get the desire for smarm. Sometimes I wonder if some really whimsical fics, like, I dunno, Michael and Lincoln are in a snow fight or watch movies or do other cute stuff isn't borderline smarm as well. Like it's cute and adorable and so darn whimsical but it might be extremely pointless to somebody who doesn't adore the relationship.

Let's take some of mooyoo's stories, often you can claim that they say something in particular about the characters. Like a Gen story about what book Michael likes says something about his personality. A Gen story that showcases protectiveness from one brother to the other might offer an explanation for later behavior. A humor story almost always showcases the humor first. Yet there might be Gen-y stories where the "Wheeeeee!" over how cute and adorable the relationship is takes over anything else. A certain "chickensoup for the soul" effect, let's read really cute stories about A/B doing cute things because it's so cute and cheers us us.

Now straight up emo-porn (like Hurt/Comfort, protectiveness and such) can also be awesome. Though I have to admit that emo-porn leaves me kinda queasy in a lot of cases. Don't really know why.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 19th, 2007 08:26 am (UTC)
That fic you describe sounds like it wouldn't be my thing, but that's just because crying emo man always turn me off, whether it's gen or shippy or whatnot.
Oh, I totally thought of you as I was reading it, because the crying-- my god, it never stops. I've never seen anyone cry that much that wasn't about 2 years old. :0

A certain "chickensoup for the soul" effect, let's read really cute stories about A/B doing cute things because it's so cute and cheers us us.
There's definitely that effect, though more of the "fluffyFic" variety I think. It's like "comfort fic" in the sense of what comfort foods are. Not always very substantial, nor good as a long-term diet. But very satisfying for the now. :)

Now straight up emo-porn (like Hurt/Comfort, protectiveness and such) can also be awesome. Though I have to admit that emo-porn leaves me kinda queasy in a lot of cases. Don't really know why.
For me, it's often awesome until it just becomes too much, and I feel like the author is deliberately torturing the characters in order to manipulate me. Then it becomes icky. :0