The Overuse of H/C
I am a La Femme Nikita fanfic writer. If you haven't seen the show,
get in line. Lots of people haven't. So, in order to address my topic, I
need to give the uninitiated a brief synopsis of the show.
Nikita (Peta Wilson) is a homeless girl, age unknown, who accidentally (or not, depending on the episode) stumbles onto the murder of a police officer. Discovered standing over the body with the knife in her hand, she is convicted of murder and sent to prison. She wakes up in the White Room of an ultra-secret global anti-terrorism unit called Section One. She is then trained to be a covert agent under the guidance of another operative named Michael. Heavy UST (unsatisfied sexual tension) between Michael and Nikita, which is eventually consummated at the beginning of Season 2 and the relationship is on-again-off-again after that. Get the gist? Innocent girl forced to become an assassin and lusting (and being lusted after) by her trainer/mentor. Add in edgy indie music and couture clothing and you have one of the most unique shows currently on TV (in my not-so-humble opinion).
Ok, so on to my topic…
The character of Michael (played by Quebecois actor Roy Dupuis) is an enigma. He is by turns secretive, manipulative, sexy, violent, loving and distant. Obviously most of the female audience lusts after him like chocolate. And the fanfic authors (who are, to the best of my knowledge, 99.9% female) LOVE to revolve their stories around him. And I include myself in their numbers; Michael is a fascinating character to write. We have, unfortunately, like many other fandoms, had a recent spell with a plagiarist. Our particular plagiarist has posted several stories, all of them cobbled together from other authors. She (I am assuming the author is a 'she') seems to be completely enthralled by the idea of torturing – not hurting, torturing - Michael: really graphic, nasty stuff. I don’t know if she is attempting an h/c plot, since she's always been caught using other people's work and been called on it, thus having her stories removed from the storyboards before they are completed. The fandom in general has been concerned enough to contact LFN Productions.
My purpose here is not to discuss our plagiarism problem. But her predilection for using violence on Michael has made me reconsider the violence in many LFN fanfics. Many, many LFN authors like to hurt Michael. Not just injure him; I admit to injuring him in my stories. (One of those minor annoyances in being a professional assassin, getting hurt.) But there is a definite trend to really hurting him, making him comatose, drugging him senseless, driving him to suicide. I can see from reading the articles in the Symposium that this is not a trend limited to my particular fandom. So what drives writers to damage their characters in this fashion?
In LFN fanfic, the justification I have heard is 'what would it take to break Michael?' Michael, you see, is the top-op, superspy boy. Always in control, his emotions submerged behind a blank mask. And I understand that hurt/comfort is a common thread in many fandoms. It is the gratuitousness of the violence that bothers me. It’s as if some authors enjoy hurting Michael; please excuse the vulgarity, some actually get off on the idea of destroying this proud, difficult man/character.
I’m certain this conundrum exists in all fanfics. I’ve heard the phrase "La Femme Blairika" (imagine the giggles I got from that, considering my fandom) about the treatment Blair receives from some TS writers. And I'm not objecting to the use of pain/injury as a means to open a character or to draw characters together. It's the amount of vicious damage inflicted in some stories that bothers me.
I certainly don't think that h/c stories should be banned or any silly thing like that. I completely understand that different writers (and readers) want different 'takes' on the characters. And I certainly can stop reading a story that goes overboard on the h/c component. What I don’t understand is why is an author driven to try to destroy the character that draws them to the show to begin with? Sometimes (and only sometimes) I believe it is simple laziness; since so many fanfic authors are female, it's easier to write a story where the strong capable male character falls apart (like a woman?) rather than try to deal with the realities of the male mind. And perhaps I am taking fanfic writing too seriously (I've been told that before). I simply don't think it's too much to ask of the fanfic writer to maintain the credibility of the character as he/she is portrayed in the source material. If you want to write a character that behaves differently, do so by all means! Just don’t call them the character from your source material. You've not written Michael (or Blair, or Ray, or whomever), you’ve created an entirely different character.