sholio: Text: "Age shall not weary her, nor custom stale her infinite squee" (Infinite Squee)
Sholio ([personal profile] sholio) wrote2017-07-26 07:44 am

What makes me fall in love with things

I was inviting people to ask me questions on Tumblr last night, and one of the things I ended up talking about is what makes me fall for things (books, movies, TV shows) in a fandom kind of way. I decided to post that here as well, because it took me a long time to figure it out but I did eventually figure it out, and I thought it was interesting. There are always a few outliers that don't quite fit this, or fit it in unusual ways, but for the most part, this is what makes the difference for me between something I merely like, and something I write fanfic for and can't stop talking about to anyone who'll hold still long enough.

First of all, it's almost always a character relationship that does it. I very rarely fall in fannish-type love with something on the basis of one character alone, and equally rarely for an ensemble without a pivotal-for-me relationship in the middle of it.

There’s a particular formula – while not EVERY character relationship that really grabs me fannishly has this, most of them do.

It’s basically two (or more) characters who care about each other and are almost on the same page but not quite.

It’s an essentially unresolvable tension – “I really like you, and you like me” but at the same time, being divided by some basically-impossible-to-overcome issue: being literally on different sides with no desire to switch sides, having incompatible ideologies or personalities, having really hurt each other in the past and not quite being able to get past that for totally legit reasons, devoting their lives to something which forbids them from getting close to the other person because it’s not allowed, literally failing to realize that they like each other and genuinely believing they hate each other except it’s obvious to the audience that they’re only fooling themselves, etc. But then, every once in a while, they DO manage to (temporarily) overcome that barrier because they just like each other enough to make it worth it (especially when one of them is in danger, hurt/scared, etc) and then, BAM, total endorphin overload. :D

It took me a really long time to figure it out, because so many of the character relationships I really liked seemed so different. Sometimes they started out genuinely hating each other and became friends later. Sometimes they always liked each other and actually ARE friends but they simply irritate each other and/or disagree a lot. Sometimes it’s an antagonistic mentor-student relationship, sometimes they’re actually enemies (except not quite), sometimes they’re forced to work together and hate it but then figure out that it’s not that bad after all, sometimes they’re being forced to work against each other and don’t really want to, sometimes they’re co-workers who just don’t quite get along except for when they do …

But what most of them have in common is that push-pull tension: “I really like you BUT …”

They're constantly teetering on the brink of disaster but never quite fall into a complete breakup because they like each other enough to keep overcoming it (whatever "it" is -- the thing that's keeping them from just being uncomplicated friends), but they probably never will be able to overcome it permanently because it's intrinsic to who they are.

(I think this is why "found family" tends to be such a good metaphor for the kinds of relationships I typically like, because of that element to being a family where you often annoy the hell out of each other and sometimes actually hate each other but -- ideally, anyway -- still love each other and are there for each other when it really counts.)

It usually works best for me if they're not each other's sole or even main source of emotional support, because due to whatever is creating conflict between them, they're usually pretty bad at actually being a reliable source of support for each other, even if they really care about each other. So if all they have is each other, it's just kind of sad. They need other people in their lives who can give them a more uncomplicated sort of emotional support. I tend not to fall for those uncomplicated relationships in the same way, but I really want them to be there, because my babies should be happy and they're usually not that great at actually making each other happy in a consistent kind of way.

This is why the version of this that typically makes me fall the hardest is when at least one relationship like this occurs in a larger ensemble.

There's also frequently an unexpected element to it, for both the characters and the reader/viewer - where they never in a million years thought they'd end up liking that person that much, and may have dismissed the other person out of hand when they first met them (and the viewer/reader probably did too, if it's in one character's tight POV, or at least never thought they'd end up being close to them eventually). The Doyleist-level unexpectedness is not required, but I've noticed that the character relationships that slam into me like a freight train often have it -- I'm as surprised as the characters are when they suddenly do a left turn into "oh shit, I actually like you a lot BUT YOU'RE STILL NOT MY KIND OF PERSON, WHAT DO".

If this sounds like a pretty traditional romance setup ... it is! Except for the "unresolvable conflict" thing (and possibly the unexpected-by-the-viewer element, since most romances are signposted a mile away). I rarely fall for romantic relationships in this particular way because they are, by definition, usually designed to be resolvable -- which means either the drama is something that merely irritates me because it's an easily fixable issue that nobody ever fixes because that'd remove the sole obstacle to having them be together, or they end up ~overcoming their differences~ and thus take away whatever made them most interesting to me in the first place. (This is not to say that I don't ever ship romantic relationships -- I do! e.g. I'm pretty gone for Peter/Gamora in GotG right now, and still thoroughly adore Peggy/Daniel on AC. It's just that they don't usually have the features that make them an endorphin-supplying id drug for me. The instances where a romance does hit that particular combination of buttons tend to be ones like Duncan/Amanda on Highlander, where they have an unresolvable personality conflict that prevents them from getting a traditional happy ever after -- they really can't be together for very long without terminally irritating each other, and often have other lovers -- but they really love each other anyway.)

So yeah, that's my basic formula for things that give me fandom feelings. And like I said, there are a few outliers that don't quite fit ... but most things do.
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[personal profile] recessional 2017-07-26 05:26 pm (UTC)(link)
That's really neat, honestly. :D

I have a weird split relationship with fandom, so that I end up with three possible versions - fannishly productive, fannishly consuming, or "everyone else go away this is mine hisssssss".

Consuming - which sort of for me includes flippant things like "happy to toss around various headcanons" - tends to be stuff I'm more or less satisfied with what canon is doing but what canon is doing isn't PERFECT OMG so I am also happy to see variations tossed around. This doesn't, mind, mean that canon is GOOD or that I'm . . . Happy? With everything canon does? Which may seem a little contradictory. But like, Star Wars is like this, for me. I am basically satisfied with it, even when I don't necessarily like it. It is a Mars Bar. When I want a Mars Bar, I have one. It's not perfect chocolate, and many other times I want something with much higher quality chocolate/etc, but on the other hand they have not done Mars Bar wrong. XD If that makes any sense.

This is also what MCU was for me BEFORE CA:TWS. When it was much less stressful, believe you me. :|

Producing in general is "something in this spoke to me enough that I now have a Definitive Version in my head" and tends to also be exclusive of consuming. A:TLA and the Sherlock Holmes movies were like that - I stop being able to read the vast majority of fanfic or interact with other fanworks that actually conflict with the Definitive Version in my head. A:TLA was a little less than usual because I - actually pretty unusually for me in this space - went for a very firm AU because of how hard Aang/Katara hit my DNW buttons*, so I could still do stuff like White Lotus exchanges etc. Same with The Losers - because I knew my version was so AU, I could dabble in other versions. When my tastes are more canonical I actually am LESS able to do so. XD

In these cases the issue tends to be "is there something in this verse I can DO" - like are there stories that meaningfully increase my enjoyment of the canon that I can tell, while the canon also contains dynamics that I enjoy as is. The less there is, the less I'd tend to be fannish even if I really love it - like, I LOVE Vampire Academy movieverse, but as it had a pretty stably happy ending the only thing I could do to keep going is actually dump my darling girls into more misery and stress. XP Which since it doesn't NEED that from me I had no impulse to do.

The third kind is where a canon hits One Of The Big Buttons, and NORMALLY for it to hit one of the big buttons it's also going to be Good Enough on its own that I don't need to write anything else. :P Which is good because I will be IRRATIONAL on an emotional level and that is uncomfortable.

I think that, tbh, CA:TWS is the last one to have hit THIS one in yeeeeears - the last time one of the Big Buttons got so comprehensively smacked but at the same time I was still NOT OKAY WITH WHERE IT ENDED.

(Rogue One broke SW's general mode by doing this, recently, and Fury Road did this, but in both cases they ended Exactly Correct so I don't need to fix anything and I can just suddenly spout detailed FEELINGS META and reblog gifsets nd otherwise ignore anything that's Wrong. XD)

. . . This, overall, is why I am terrible at fandom.

*very bad personal experiences in adolescence left me hardcore averse to older girl/younger boy wherein it seems obvious to me that the girl has spent a lot of time filling the "mama" or "big sister" or otherwise caregiver spot in the boy's head and there hasn't been an absolutely compelling Personality Based Reason for her to be attracted to him specifically, tripled when he has pursued and even pushed boundaries ("I said I was confused!"), and quadrupled when they're THAT young but you're telling me they'll be Together Forever.
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[personal profile] recessional 2017-07-26 08:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeeeeah I mean at this point I have had to determine for myself that we are just Broken Up, the MCU and Me - I MIGHT have a fling with GotG2? Ironically of all things being spoiled for what happens with Yondu actually has made me think mayyybe I could watch it, which I couldn't when the first indicators came out. (I can explain this, but I am super aware that the movie is also your current happy zone, or was last time I noticed, so I DO NOT want to elaborate further if it will ruin that, and given the state of fandom these days wish to frontload with a bunch of stuff about "dude it is so beyond fine that you hearts it even despite or even BECAUSE OF these things that were making me wary of it" etc etc - it was just a case of me totally curating things on "Am I going to be happier or LESS happy when I walk out of this movie?")

But unfortunately they so effectively nailed me in the gut with that one that everything is so horribly disproportionate and out of whack. XD Which is super annoying and makes me feel SO EXPOSED AND SILLY, but. *facehands* FICTION. WHY DOES IT DO THIS.

Oh hey Discworld is actually a good example of an anomaly for me - it's unusual in that it's a mostly Consuming headspace, but I have Big Button Feelings for. There are very few of those, tbh. Most things either it's Big Button and it's all about me making a thing, or it's Big Button and I am non-fannish verging on anti-fannish (like with Tolkien stuff I 90% actively avoid anything to do with the fandom, ESPECIALLY in a post-Hobbit-movie world oh gods).

I also often wonder how different it would be if I were not perpetually in a Managing Depression state - if I were to actually go into REMISSION for once, and thus have the sort of basic equilibrium where I didn't have to curate my HEADSPACE so carefully, y'know? Because I remember being sixteen and actually being involved in (ghasp) OPEN CANON and a slightly more normal fannish involvement, and I know why I've curtailed and adjusted that over the years - when you have a hard limit on the mental stress you can take, even things that should be small and unimportant that push you over are a No Go, you know? So now I have rules about when I can consume media (like I might actually take a peek at Sense8 now that it's been cancelled, which is like the WORST THING but like . . . I can't really do open canon that's THAT LIKELY to hit my Big Buttons anymore).

Also hah - for me I find tumblr vs DW sort of six of one half a dozen of the other? they end up hitting the Totally Wrong in different ways, but I can't seem to make tumblr NOT do that to me on a fannish level, whereas MOSTLY with DW people on my reading lists at least use cuts enough that it's up to my own discipline whether or not I go in comments and upset myself, at least now that I've weaned myself off neg-stimming via my network page.

(My Network link on my layouts is literally titled "DO NOT CLICK THIS". *facehands*)
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[personal profile] recessional 2017-07-27 12:44 am (UTC)(link)
Legit! Totally why I was like " ...wait, let us not accidentally smush the squee". (I spent a short amount of time in Who fandom with the Doctor and Amy Pond being my darlings, I ENTIRELY UNDERSTAND).

The thing is, knowing Specific Ending Spoiler makes me thiiiiink that I might actually be able to Appreciate Things As Imperfect People Are Imperfect etc etc because of purely weird Doylistic things. So I'm contemplating finding it, when I can has the brain! (Right at the moment something appears to think that spending all my excess cognitive energy on fiction writing is A Great Plan, and since I . . . like . . . writing? . . .I'm not exactly fighting it. >.>)

Also good gods Supergirl fandom, Supergirl fandom seems to be trying for SherlockBBC levels of angry weasels and it's like, jesus christ, WHY.

Also also ahaha DESPAIRING LOL re calm before the wank: I am sad to say you are probably right. ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS? And I mean that in the literal sense of "squeeze every possible amount of enjoyment out of it in the face of inevitable entropic decay", not the ominous warning sense.

You do a good job of curating your fandom experience to avoid things that you know set you off, from what I can tell. I'm ... not so great at it. :P

Hah, ask me how I was seven + years ago. >.> I mean to be fair it was slightly different context (original slash and general SF fandom, rather than transformative media fandom), but oh god trust me every bit of skill I've managed to acquire was done so after like basically breaking myself by not having it.

There's a reason I knew to change the Network link to "FEATHER DON'T CLICK THIS". Cuz gods know otherwise I used to spend HOURS on friendsfriends on LJ basically looking to find the stuff that was going to upset me so I would know where it was. Etc.

And ironically I think if I hadn't actually also hit some of the mental health Lows I did, I still wouldn't know how to do a lot of the curating, because I would never have hit that point of "okay look you are going to end yourself in the hospital if you do not find some way to curtail Upsetting Stimulus, self"? >.> So!

Upshot being: do not feel bad, I am the definition of the person who knows how to avoid the pot-holes because she has probably already fallen in every single one multiple times, so uh. XD

And the slightly sadder downside is that I do think I miss a lot of shiny things as well, in how strictly I have to curate. So it's all a balance really. I just sometimes wonder where I'd be if I didn't have to make that judgement - not even in a "it would be better way", as such! Just . . .curious.

sheron: (03 red cardinal)

[personal profile] sheron 2017-07-26 07:48 pm (UTC)(link)
*reads all of this*

... So this is pretty much why I now ship Steve/Tony like burning?

*literally lol*
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[personal profile] sheron 2017-07-27 04:19 am (UTC)(link)
Ha, I totally get that though, since I kind of wasn't even seeing it until recently. Then something about timing and particular dynamics just hit me in all the feels. XD

As for IW, you jest but.......
If they get more than 20 seconds of screen-time and also stay alive :P
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[personal profile] ambyr 2017-07-26 09:36 pm (UTC)(link)
This is something I really like in books, too! Thank you for articulating it.
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[personal profile] ranalore 2017-07-27 12:27 am (UTC)(link)
This was so interesting to read (man, I miss the golden days of LJ meta)! I kind of wondered if this was the main dynamic that attracted you. This is one of the dynamics that attracts me too--I think Charles/Erik is a textbook example of this--but the one that really gets me is "us against the world." And while I approach fandom in a One True Character way, I do need character relationships to hook me into a source. I just tend to gravitate to one character as the center of most of my fannishness.

I have sources where I'm satisfied enough with them as-is not to get fannishly engaged. Then there are others where I consume fanworks but don't produce. In the ones where I write, my approach ranges from being pretty open to multiple takes on what's missing from the canon to being pretty locked into a very specific range of canon extrapolation (though so many of my fandoms have been small that I am often the one opening the fandom up to new possibilities, even if I don't consider myself to be terribly flexible in my interpretations). When I have been involved in bigger fandoms, it has always been my experience that they are balkanized, but each time it seems like many of those involved in the fandom get distressed by the balkanizations, and it always saddens me to see friends feel torn apart by it. What I've found hardest in the most recent big fandoms has been trying to remember not to comment with anything upsetting to my various friends who are in somewhat different segments of the fandoms than I am. My brain, she is old and chronically ill, so she don't remember so good all the time what everybody's preferences are.
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[personal profile] xparrot 2017-07-27 12:57 am (UTC)(link)
Wow, this is an intriguing analysis - and I'd say obviously some of it applies to my own fanning/what I like, considering our massive overlap on that end! Especially because we like the same types of relationships a lot -- one specific relationship in the context of an ensemble, oh yeah, so much.

For me I don't think it's so much a fundamentally unresolvable difference -- because I am such a happy-ending person, I don't want it to be completely unresolvable! But I do enjoy the challenge of it, of seeing characters have to struggle to reach a resolution. And the catharsis of the (often h/c-induced) breakthrough, oh yes.

I think for me, a lot of what draws me to a relationship is a complementary aspect -- I like characters who are fundamentally different on some level, but that's not necessarily a source of conflict or an obstacle to the relationship; rather it's the key to everything, the reason the characters work so well together. The attraction of opposites -- introvert/extrovert, rational/emotional, laid-back/high-strung.

(There is some related thing here that I really like relationships that are...productive? Like, I think that's the reason I'm into work partners/team so much -- I love a relationship that accomplishes something, more than either individual could do separately. And triple points if their complementary natures are what makes them so effective together -- the shoot-first-ask-questions-later sort does better with someone to rein them in, but their by-the-book partner needs someone to prod them into action...)
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[personal profile] sheron 2017-07-27 04:17 am (UTC)(link)
There is some related thing here that I really like relationships that are...productive?

Oh yes, so much this! It kind of plays into my general competency kink at that point. "They become...more competent together!"

And there's also an element of "they're better off together than apart, as characters" at play here. This is what got me so hard in ST:TOS days, the whole "this is your first, best destiny" train of thought.