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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: SN Lovershalfshellvenus on May 19th, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC)
Mostly about how I haven't seen any smarm fics in years, since I dropped out of the Sentinel fandom.
It's funny, someone else on my f-list mentioned wanting smarm after the SPN season-ender, and I thought, "How does a concept I've never even heard of before start randomly cropping up everywhere?"

Sentinel seems to be a smarm-fest (god, I'm reading it even though I've never watched the show!), and I definitely see its appeal. It's when it gets excessive or goes beyond into light Slash that I mostly just wonder what the heck the authors are thinking. :0

Smarm was my best alternative. It was like slash, but without the graphic sex.
Yes-- that totally worked for me in those teenage years. All the emotional satisfaction without TMI. BUT... I did still think of it as Slash (as much slash as I wanted then). Because guys falling all over each other and cuddling and kissing (!) is a little extreme to still be thinking of as Gen. I definitely like it, just don't think it's Gen. :)
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Shardamethystshard on May 19th, 2007 08:13 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's exactly what I was thinking. I would love to see more fics where we see the brothers bonding and connecting emotionally (sam/dean, peter/nathan, don/charlie, etc.) without it necessarily crossing into incest.
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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on May 20th, 2007 05:51 am (UTC)
Re: we think on the same wavelength!
Even with pairings I ship I find that sometimes it's nice to forego the sex and let them simply be *close*.

I do like this as well. The problem with men in particular, I think, is that often they will not let those walls down far enough except with a lover. So light Slash might work better for the characterization than Smarm.

But perhaps I'm thinking more of the "emo-Porn" smarm, with the big crying and stuff, as opposed to the lower-intensity stuff that is closer to being realistic.
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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 20th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
Re: we think on the same wavelength!
Yes-- I'm not sure that the emo-Porn really comes off as remotely believable for guys without the build. In part, because pretty soon it all seems like collapsed crying and flailing if it's rushed, and then I feel like I'm reading about two teenaged girls and not men. Which sometimes happens anyway.

The lower-intensity doesn't take as much build, partly because it's not as far a stretch from reality, I think.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on May 20th, 2007 05:49 am (UTC)
but with SPN and the whole brothercest, smarm sounds like a good alternative. You get the intimacy without the incest. (This works for me because smarm hits my buttons-- though I think TONGUE IN MOUTH walks into slashland-- and because Wincest squicks me.)

Interesting thought regarding brothercest. I love the Wincest myself (as well as the Gen), but I can definitely understand people not being on board with it. So "smarm" would fit some of that same need without crossing over lines that some people aren't comfortable with.

though I think TONGUE IN MOUTH walks into slashland
I do too. I think that even if you manage to, through wild machinations, make it somehow medicinal or healing (in a Star Trek alien sort of way), it's still going to come off as Slash.

Because readers won't self-deny over it the way an author might. ;)
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Shardamethystshard on May 19th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
It's been almost ten years since I read any Sentinel fic, so I can't really comment on what authors are doing with smarm today. I'd agree, though, that smarm is more slash than gen. I like your definition, "emo-porn". I think that's very on the nose. I couldn't stand reading Sentinel fic after awhile, because the majority of the authors didn't know how to write for men. Guys simply don't cuddle and cry every two seconds.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on May 20th, 2007 06:02 am (UTC)
I like your definition, "emo-porn". I think that's very on the nose.
When it gets very extreme (the anguish, the crying, the holding/touching/never-letting-go), it really starts to feel like emo-Porn to me. It's like an emotional masturbation sort of thing, as opposed to simply angst or drama.

I couldn't stand reading Sentinel fic after awhile, because the majority of the authors didn't know how to write for men. Guys simply don't cuddle and cry every two seconds.
Exactly. They so rarely touch when they should-- when someone needs it-- that degenerating into sobfests alone just doesn't seem realistic.

One of my frustrations with "Supernatural" is the anti-hugging thing the show has. I've watched more and more moments that scream out for exactly that kind of comforting touch-- which as a viewer I definitely want-- and instead we're left with (usually) Sam watching Dean go to pieces and doing nothing, or god forbid awkward speeches about emotions.

There have been more moments in that show where I think, "Stop talking about your feelings and making things even more awkward, and just hug already."

There was one in particular that stuck out, where the emo-music started up in the background and John was saddled with some very awkward "you boys know how important you are to me" dialogue or some such thing, where it would have been so much less excruciating a scene if he'd just hugged them. *eye roll*

And given "talking about emotions" vs. hugging, most guys will hug without thinking about it. It's an instinctive, human response to someone else's pain, and it doesn't require choosing your words carefully and picking through the landmine of emo-discussion, which most guys will avoid like the plague. :0