Boldly Reading’s Blog Prompt #10 asks about character sexuality in Star Trek Fanfiction. And character sexuality can be a bit of a minefield. Here’s what it asks –
Your Questions, Should You Choose to Accept Them
- There has been a dearth of even minor characters with, shall we say, less mainstream sexual preferences and relationships. Often, a character would behave in this fashion if in the Mirror universe, or under some sort of duress. How would you change that?
- What would happen to canon characters if their preferences or their relationships were changed? Beyond the obvious choice of bed partners, how would known characters change?
- Are there circumstances under which characters would behave differently but still within the fullest context of canon?
- Have you created any original characters who follow less mainstream preference/relationship models? How do you get across their inner workings without continually announcing in every other paragraph something like, I’m gay! Now, let’s get a pizza. ?
- Television programs and films naturally cater to worldwide audiences and have investors for which they need to show profits. That can hamper all forms of creativity, including the creation of less mainstream characters of any sort, and not just in the sexual arena (e. g. minorities, obese persons, persons with disabilities, etc.). Throw away the budget! How would you rewrite a canon episode or film to showcase a character (main or not) with a less-mainstream preference?
- Have you read others’ non-mainstream characters? Which are your favorites? And which relationships are the most believable? Which scenarios, outside of relationships, are most believable for these characters?
- Again, throwing away the budget, what would you do if you could make your own new Star Trek series from scratch, where at least one or two characters would be out of the mainstream? How would you handle showing the differences for HBO, or PBS, or ABC Family, if any of those networks deigned to carry your show?
- Do you read slash (male-male relationships) or femme slash (female-female relationships), either on Ad Astra or elsewhere? Aside from PWP, how did the authors bring home ideas about their characters’ sexuality? Was it clichéd? Did it succeed? Was it hit or miss?
Bringing True IDIC to Canon
What happens when we alter canon characters?
Is it as simple as having, say, Nurse Chapel from The Original Series mooning over Uhura or another female crew member, rather than Spock?
Does the character lose anything? Does the storyline?
Do we, as the members of the audience (or the readers, as the case may be) lose sympathy for her if her object of affection is of the same sex as she?
And this scene, from Plato’s Stepchildren, would have a far different subtext.
Or flip it again. What if, in that episode, Parmen had the two kissing couples (Kirk and Uhura are the others, in what was one of the first interracial kisses broadcast on American television) switch partners in a few different ways?
When Chapel and Uhura are forced to kiss, or Kirk and Spock, how do we react as an audience? Do we cheer? Or does it repulse us? Do we shrug as if we’ve seen it all before? Do we react cynically, figuring this type of character sexuality is just a ploy to bring in more ratings?
I hope this sort of change would not elicit revulsion. And I certainly hope it would intelligently amp up the drama. Truthfully, if the episode were being aired today, it would likely be far more than kissing. Or at least such that would be the implication. It would be Platonian porn. And that porn would not have to be male-female.
IDIC Original Characters – Character Sexuality Matters
I’ve enjoyed adding different character sexuality.
And then there’s Frank Todd.
Frank started off as a protest against various homophobic slurs I was seeing on Trek United several years ago. I wanted a tough but kind character, and so I wrote him into There’s Something About Hoshi and gave him a prominent role. He is so friendly to Hoshi, and so protective of her, that the Arisians even think they are a couple.
Boy, are they ever wrong.
Truth be told, Frank and Dave’s relationship in that story was far more stable and assured than Hoshi and Ted’s. Ted Stone comes across as kind of wimpy, and certainly shy and anything but an Alpha Male, worshiping Hoshi, more or less from afar.
Frank and Dave, in contrast, have an easygoing affection. Understated, yes, but they look at each other lovingly and there is a great deal of feeling behind Frank saying, “I’ll see you later.” The subtext should be – I can’t wait to see you later.
It was particularly satisfying to add more depth to them, in the E2 stories and also in Detached Curiosity and Idle Speculation and its sequel, The Way to a Man’s Heart. The latter is in the context of a celebration of Turing/Stonewall Week, meant to be a week in June devoted to gay rights and accomplishments.
I love this character so much that I am hunting around for more places to feature him. After all, Frank does more than date.
Favorite IDIC Characters from Others’ Works
Give it up for Andy in SLWalker’s One Minute!
What I like about Andy is that he’s a fully realized character. He has body parts that aren’t genitalia. He has a storyline that isn’t wholly about sex.
For Andy, who wants to reach the shadow, it only starts off as being about sex. It very quickly becomes more about human contact. Why is the shadow shunning it? What could possibly hurt that much? Is there any way for the shadow to be healed?
Throwing out the Budget: A New Show with IDIC
If I had full control over a Star Trek series, I would love to be able to add at least one or two IDIC characters, and not necessarily in the context of being a couple. Surely there is room for a character like Jake Sisko, or Chakotay or Chapel, who has a same-sex preference?
Or let’s go for broke.
Maybe that person is the captain.
For a channel which showed naked men before and more frequently than most others, this possible series can show a lot more flesh. I think the trick would be to keep it from being almost a bodice-ripper.
Excuse me, codpiece-ripper.
It might even be a struggle with the network suits to show exploration, and get the characters out of their bedrooms. I can see it working as almost a modern-day version of Hill Street Blues, a show that had rather gritty police realism but then, at the end, it was often an image of Furillo and Davenport in bed together. It was network television and it was the 1980s and so they were talking with a kiss or two and not much else. But they were still there.
I can see the time period for this series as possibly being in the deep future, much like Times of the HG Wells.
The extreme future could also allow for showing more interspecies relationships, including bedroom scenes and all sorts of character sexuality.
With this more factually-based network, I can see storylines becoming more documentary-like in look and feel. Because I love the earlier years of Trek, I can see it in a pre-ENT time period.
For a grittier time, maybe even pre-First Contact (e. g. before April of 2063), the Earth would be a post-nuclear horror. Bedroom time would be more urgent and a lot tougher to come by. People would be scratching out their survival. Hence a shaky camera-type realistic story line could work. And what could be more real than a team or a family or a crew or a group or a movement that wasn’t a monolith?
There is also no reason why some of the people involved in building the first warp ship couldn’t be gay, lesbian or intergender. Or trans.
With a far more restrictive network, it used to be that intimations of less-mainstream sexuality had to be a lot more metaphoric. And the same was more or less true of heterosexuality. While a kiss between a man and a woman could be perfectly acceptable, having them wake up in bed together in anything other than pajamas after a good night’s sleep was just plain not going to fly. For a gay or lesbian couple, even a kiss could have been going too far. Would so much as hand-holding be a problem?
Setting the Pace
During the 2010 – 2011 season, GLAAD cited ABC Family as being one of the more inclusive networks, with the lesbian character, Emily, in Pretty Little Liars. Their praise for ABC Family continued into the 2012 season, in GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index report. Even for a network with the word ‘family’ in its very name, times have changed. Hence all sorts of character sexuality are embraced and welcomed, and aren’t just cast as victims, self-loathing suicides or criminals.
For ABC Family, I feel that a Starfleet Academy scenario could work the best. This would provide storylines surrounding coming of age, and that can mean discovering and communicating to others about character sexuality.
This might work best in a post-Nemesis time period, where the technology could be bigger and brighter but not wholly unfamiliar and, if not set too deeply into the future, guest characters could believably interact with the new series’s characters.
Perhaps the hardest sell for a lot of people is slash, and the problem is that it is often misunderstood as to what slash truly is. In its original form, it was TOS-based, and it showed a sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock, essentially pulling their friendship to the extreme.
Slash takes tons of forms, e. g. m/m (two men), f/f (two women), chanslash (underage children), original slash (both characters are original ones), etc. It also does not, necessarily, contain overt sexual situations or behaviors (reverse slash). Then there’s also PWP (porn without plot; or plot, what plot?), which is pretty overt porn with little to recommend it beyond basic titillation.
While I have read slash, and I enjoy excitement as much as the next person, I’ve found straightforward PWP to get unintentionally amusing after a while. Hence I personally tend to stay away from it, but that’s for all forms of character sexuality that it may showcase. I kinda like plot with my sexy stories. But hey, that might just be me.
Plot and Ponn Farr
Contamination by Odon is a femmeslash story about Hoshi and T’Pol that brings together Pon Farr and bi-curiosity in a way that is safe for teens (the story is, to my mind properly, rated T) but gets across the characters’ sexuality immediately. Could this even work on a more conservative network?
I don’t see any reason why not. Hell, it’s actually a bit less sexy than what the UPN network was really showing when ENT was in first-run.
Character sexuality is as much a part of a person as their eye color or their height, and it’s just as mutable, particularly after maturation. To create a ship or a series with absolutely no one with an alternative view is downright unrealistic. The percentage of out-and-out 100% homosexual persons is rather small, but the percentage of people who are bi, bi-curious and/or sympathetic to gay rights is considerably higher.
There is a lot of room under the umbrella called Star Trek, and fan fiction proves that anyway, by bringing poetry, different pairings, horror stories, alternative timelines, expanded universes, original characters, and extremely long story arcs which can work side by side with what happened on screen and in the officially sanctioned books.
To keep non-mainstream sexuality out of Star Trek is a misplaced notion.
IDIC for the win!