Jessie's at work, and my semiotics book only held my interest for an hour, so I said "hey, I need to respond to the gwslashcomm." And here it is (=
Only one question though, I got a bit carried away in answering it and now I'm feeling drained. So I shall respond to the others later.
How do you think fan works and communities fit into a cultural context? (cultural context in this sense = social relations, political, religious, etc) Do they reflect, comment on, etc?
So, I sort of came up with this question on a whim. a spur of the moment thought of “hmm, how do people get the ideas they do for the fics they write, the art they create, their interpretations, their essays?” And my thoughts fell to Sweet Hell (a WK fic, not GW) and how it portrayed the chaos, the pain, the turmoil of the Vietnam War. How it broached the topic of gay relationships in the military, of draft-dodging, of depression and drugs… of the America of the 1960s.
Well, we actually still have those problems, save draft-dodging.
But then my mind jumped over to Broken Warriors, a GW fic that deals with post-traumatic stress disorder. How our “heroes” can become our enemies the moment we cease to be fearful. How we obsess over such heroes, seeing them not as people but rather as symbols of our own hope, our own lost innocence. We imbue them with the characteristics we most lack, most desire, and they rise above their human status. We do not see them as they are but as we wish them to be. And for others, we obsess over their break with these perfect ideals. We relish in their partying, their wildness, their own search for redemption, for life, in the mind-numbing drugs and chaos. For when they live in the moment, the past and future fade away, and we relish this freedom. But Broken Warriors also deals with the boys as boys, not as the public sees them. It shows their pain, their depression and helplessness, their desire for the families they lost or never had. Their quest for normalcy, and their utter failures in achieving it. Their attempt to create normalcy, only to have it shatter. Their path towards healing, their epiphany that they are still broken. It, too, deals with gay relationships, the rejection and savoring of them by society, the internal battle that people must go through in order to realize who they are, in spite of who they were raised to be. And their battle as they learn to accept themselves, be themselves, love themselves.
And perhaps it’s just how I interpret the fics, or what I focus on, but it seems most works are like these. They deal with issues that are happening today, or we have had to deal with in the past. By removing them from our “real lives” and capturing them in fiction, writers are able to better portray the events, better able to work towards understanding or coping with them. By removing them from the immediacy of the real life “now,” we are not so caught up in it. We see things a bit better because it is happening to characters, not to us. It is no longer “normal” when we see it from afar.
The fics deal with controversial topics such as abuse, PTSD, depression, religion, our roles in society, and society’s views of us. How society reacts to people when they differ from the “norm.” The stigmas on mental disorders, on gay relationships, on soldiers and saviors. They deal with how we live.
I’ve seen many fics dealing with religious elements. Quatre or Heero as angels. Duo coming to terms with what he believes, who he is, coping with his childhood with a priest and nuns, and the seeming rejection of that religion by adopting a role as the God of Death. Yet never fully releasing it, always living within the past with his demeanor, his clothes. I read one fic where Duo was attempting to terms with his past and present religion. He’d reject his past by being turned on by bastardizations of various Catholic prayers, and by day he’d be the God of Death, a savior in Goth. Yet he clung to others as he would his saviors, becoming not a god but a disciple. It was very interesting.
Anyway, this answer is getting long (= In short, the fics, the works, are situated within our society. Dealing with the issues we deal with – drugs, homophobia, PTSD, abuse, etc. These are aspects of Western society, though. Reflective of their Western authors. In other cultures PTSD, depression, homophobia does not exist. Thus, it seems to me that often fanfic writers take the characters and have them hash out the problems we deal with, by either falling victims to such problems, or learning to overcome them. They deal with our problems at an arm’s length, because if you hold them up close, we cannot see, we cannot cope or deal, and it becomes too real. Too painful, and we must turn away.
Of course, there are other cultural context aspects... this answer could go on forever. For one, the characters use English jokes, insults, etc. They often celebrate American Christian holidays. Their politics echo our own. Their schools echo our own. It's like GW-boys meet America. But yeah, those are all answers in and of themselves.
Yeah, that’s just my idea. Feel free to disagree (=