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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...

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 19th, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC)
Don't get me started on Into the Wild.
What? What? :0

I read it first as a short story in "The New Yorker," and even saved it because I found it so inexplicable and haunting.

The actual book was very compelling to me. The short story pissed my husband off (he was angry at the person it was about), but in the longer story there are some real hints that the person might have been Manic, and that's what drove him to make impulsive and dangerous decisions again and again. There's a certain tragedy in that-- he probably had no idea.
she said mysteriouslyresounding_echo on May 19th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
I'll admit--I've only read the short story and that was awhile ago so I barely remember it. But it bothers me because this kid gave a bad reading of Thoreau and tried to emulate it literally. So really it's less this person in particular and more that he is representitive of poor interpretation in general. Wow, I know that makes me sound like an asshole but it makes me sad more than anything. I don't like the idea of romanticizing this particular experience to the point where people might be inspired by it or take it too literally. I remember my professor mentioning in an American literature course a couple semesters ago that people have taken to building cabins on Walden pond trying to be as exact to Thoreau's description as possible. This makes me sad because I feel like they miss the point--we can take lessons from Walden and be inspired by it but to literally follow its example seems wrong to me. And that's what this Into the Wild person did, and his story was romanticized. I'm not saying his fate inspires too many people to follow in his steps (although, it did my sister (from whom I learned about the story)) but still the whole thing concerns me.

I hadn't known about the manic thing. An interesting layer, to say the least.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 20th, 2007 07:16 pm (UTC)
But it bothers me because this kid gave a bad reading of Thoreau and tried to emulate it literally. So really it's less this person in particular and more that he is representitive of poor interpretation in general.

Wow. Interesting that a more heavily literary background, such as you have, notices that point more than I do. For me, that's not the part of the story I remember at all.

What I took more from it was that he went off on an idealized "journey," but as you read the longer book you can see that he had moments like this before. He had a summer canoe trip around the Mexico coast that was really ill-advised, to say the least. He survived it, but... not very well-planned.

And in the years before his "ultimate Alaska adventure," he had periodically run into people where he'd gotten them all hyped-up on something and they'd run with it-- and maybe shouldn't have. An old man that he convinced to sell everything and just travel around the country, for instance. That, and the raging enthusiasm about things that often does not include fulling thinking out the idea or the consequences-- never fully planning-- is such typical behavior for a Manic.

They feel they are invincible (this contributes to the poor planning), they become incredibly hyped-up over something far beyond where most people would, and they sell their enthusiasms to the point where other people buy into them (perhaps ill-advisedly).

I see his story more as a tragedy-- what he did was beyond stupid, and yet in reading it you can clearly tell that he had no idea he was being so stupid.