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The Difficulty with Mentors (and Power Balances) in Slash
by Annie!

Actually, I was writing in response to Alias Sio's column, "Why does Obi-Wan get all the pain in TPM h/c fic?"  (12/14/99).  I decided that since I was writing this much for a letter, I might as well 'go the whole hog' and publish a (rather short) column of my own.

I would think that the main reason Obi-Wan gets hurt is the simple fact that it agrees with the established relationship.  Regardless of the amount of angst and character growth that could be caused by making our dear padawan the strong, protective one, it just doesn't seem _right_.

Unfortunately, you tend to get stuck with the basic mentor/student relationship.  Qui-Gon protects, teaches, helps, provides, and basically rules Obi-Wan's life.  It's a basic fact of TPM, and it's pretty hard to convincing turn the tables on the pair.  It's like trying to write a hurt/comfort story with Obi-Wan being comforted by Luke!  It just doesn't work convincingly.

Admittedly, this problem does crop up in other fandoms.  Take any fandom with an obviously biased relationships, where the lack of status and power of one partner is accepted, and you're stuck.  It remains extremely difficult to change the power balance between the two characters, without making the fic as unbelievable as any Mary Sue incarnation.

As delightful as Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are to watch and think about, very few authors can successfully have Qui-Gon hurt and vulnerable.  It's not a case of fans liking one Jedi over the other, but it is hard to like Qui-Gon regardless of his power/status.  A lot of TPM characterisation relies on the fact that we accept the power balance and interpret their actions in the light of it.

By accepting the power balance, you see Obi-Wan as strong willed but obedient, instead of a 'smart-alec', a loud mouthed brat who actually does very little.  Without the difference in status and power, Qui-Gon  simply appears to be a well mannered but very domineering man, not the kind, considerate, 'wall of strength' that most fans accept him as.  The power balance gives fans an easy way to identify with each character, and allows them to be better defined.

It turns into a basic 'Catch 22', without the power balance both characters would be much less than who they are, but the power balance itself causes its own fanfic problems.  The power balance giveth, and the power balance taketh away.  As much as Qui-Gon fans may hunger for a good h/c fic to see Qui-Gon's "mighty frame racked with chills, that tanned, noble brow turned to alabaster, those powerful hands trembling with weakness"  (Alias Sio 12/14/99), I doubt any of them are truly willing to give up the advantages of the power balance.  I know I'm not.

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