While Troy was made without the homoerotic undertones that existed in The Iliad. Slash fans have re-imagined the film to suit their needs and desires. A homoerotic subtext can be read into this film and it is this subtext that is re-appropriated by slash fans. Sometimes the opposite can happen and a film will be made where the subtext is far more noticeable and the filmmakers even recognize slash fans and make sure there is enough in the movie for the slash audience. This is the case with the 2004 re-make of the Starsky and Hutch TV series. The series was a police drama set in “Bay City” which focused on partners Starsky and Hutch and the cases they investigated. The movie tells the story of how these two men were thrown together, how they became partners and how they solved their first case together .
The original TV series from the 1970’s had a large slash fan following so when the series was adapted into a movie in 2004 the filmmakers decided to honor these fans. The film has a number of scenes that a slash fan can revel in where the homoerotic subtext that was read into the TV series becomes text in the movie. In the audio commentary by the director Todd Philips he clearly states that it was his intention to take subtext and turn it into text for his film. He wanted to use this element for comedic purposes but in doing so it lends a lot of material to the slash community. So, while there is no overtly homoerotic moments between the two men- they are never portrayed as gay, there is however enough material to make this a very Slashable movie. The opening credits set the relationship between the two characters with the soundtrack of a love song that the director says is Starsky and Hutches theme and this homoerotic subtext can be seen throughout the movie until the end where, thinking they may face death, Starsky and Hutch tell each other how good it has been to work together and be partners. The use of music to explain their character development is used regularly throughout the film with other songs about love and togetherness that play over emotional scenes between Starsky and Hutch. This theme over the opening credits already sets up a more romantic idea between the two men implying something more to their relationship that is not openly being shown. Starsky and Hutch is the perfect movie to appeal to slash fans as its focus is the relationship between the men. They have a close friendship and come to rely and respect each other. This kind of close personal bond between two men is the basis for slash as their friendship can been re-interpreted by the slash community.
Slash fiction follows the model of taking an existing friendship between two male characters and writing a story that details how it grows from a friendship into something romantic and, in many, sexual. It is important to slash writers to develop their stories; slash is not just pornography and the romance is as important as the sexual encounter. A film such as Starsky and Hutch that sets up an important male friendship can be taken further by slash fans. They can write fiction that takes this partnership to the next level where it becomes romantic and then sexual. Slash fiction is the amalgamation of romance and pornography. Explicit sex scenes are written after much character development and storytelling that leads up to the sex. If women supposedly get emotional satisfaction from romance novels and men supposedly get sexual satisfaction from pornography, then slash writers offer a curious mixture of the two in a “romantic pornography”.
“sexually explicit sequences often constitute only a small section of lengthy and complex narratives, slash is not so much a genre about sex as it is a genre about the limitations of traditional masculinity and about reconfiguring male identity, most slash fans concede that erotic pleasure is central to their interest in the genre” (Jenkins, Textual Poachers 190-1).
The film itself gives the audience a hint at something more romantic developing between the two leads and offers a starting point for slash fans. In particular the scene in which Starsky and Hutch take out two cheerleaders and in a ploy to impress them Hutch begins to play his guitar and sing to them. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Hutch, Starsky has been using what he thought was sugar to sweeten his coffee but it is in fact cocaine. Starsky begins to act a little strangely and hallucinates a blue bird on Hutch’s shoulder. What makes this scene such an obvious moment for the two men is while Hutch sings his Ballard of “don’t give up on me, baby” he is not looking at the women but in fact singing to Starsky who is sitting there awe struck looking at Hutch. They seem to be in their own world where, just for this moment, there is no one but them. The women are forgotten and to a slash fan this is the moment when Starsky falls in love with Hutch. The camera moves from both men showing their expressions and emotions. They look at each other with love written all over their faces both moved by Hutches song and both caught up in the moment. We never once see how the women react to the song or to the fact they have been forgotten by the men, the female characters simple no longer exist in this moment as it’s a moment only shared by Starsky and Hutch that we as an audience have been allowed to witness.
By this point in the film the friendship and partnership between the two is cementing and when Starsky finally snaps because of the cocaine Hutch is there to look out for him and even carries Starsky to bed in his arms putting him to bed and saying to him, “go to sleep tiny dancer”. Hutch gives Starsky his own name a term of endearment meant only for Starsky.
Of course these gay undertones are more easily picked up by slash fans and shortly after this scene, while Starsky is asleep, Hutch ends up in a threesome with the two cheerleaders defusing the homoerotic nature of the previous scene so that a non-slash audience would not complain or be offended by the implied homoerotism.
The film also has a sequence known as “the break up montage”, where our two main leads have had a falling out. Starsky and Hutch are no longer working together and have gone their separate ways with both of them suffering because of it. Both characters are shown as sad and lost through this montage as Starsky begins to reminisce about the good times they shared. The sequence is played for laughs but also it helps to emphasize the homoerotic undertones. With another romantic Ballard playing over it and scenes such as the two characters running along the beach together wearing matching Starsky and Hutch t-shirts laughing and playing about. It’s almost like they are frolicking in the sun and sand, not an image normally associated with two males.
Also it leads to a later scene when they make up and decide to get back together and work as partners again. Starsky cries as he tries to apologize to Hutch, Hutch forgives him and hugs him kisses him on the cheek. This can been seen as an obvious moment of there being something more to their relationship as you would not expect a kiss between two men even something a touching as a kiss on the check to show Hutch has forgiven Starsky for their fight. It is these tender moments that can be re-told in fan fiction as they are good scenes to elaborate on. This scene already has a romantic under current and therefore can be re-appropriated by the female fans having it play out according to their desires.
It is worth saying that during the writing of this essay Brokeback Mountain came to UK cinemas. The importance of this is that Brokeback Mountain is the first film to be made by a Hollywood studio and Director, Ang Lee, which deals with the relationship of two men who fall in love. The fact that it tackles the subject matter of men in a same sex relationship makes it not only the first to do so but a very important film in today’s society. It breaks new ground by showing something that Hollywood and mainstream cinema do not like to show, two men falling in love. It is important to say this film is not a gay film but it is a romance. The two male leads were straight and just happen to fall in love with each other forcing them to deal with a relationship new to both of them and not accepted by the society they are part of. This is the kind of film slash fans have been waiting to see as it pulls together many of the things they enjoy about slash. The film is about two men that form a close bond and a friendship. They are thrown together by circumstances and out of these they realize there is something more developing between them. They decided to take that next step to take the bond that has grown between them and cross the line from friendship into romance. They enter a romantic relationship and a sexual one but unfortunately due to the world they come from it is a relationship that can never fully be fulfilled.
This film will hopefully open the way for more films that are not afraid to include an openly homosexual relationships. Other directors may also see that having a same sex romance in their film will not automatically make it part of the independent and art house cinema but can have cross over appeal with mainstream cinema. This is a hope for many slash fans who want mainstream culture to realize that same sex romance or a more homoerotic feeling in your film does have a wider appeal. Brokeback Mountain proves that the subject matter can have mainstream appeal. As well as the very fact that this film is hugely popular with women, so there is a large fan base out there for it. Sight and Sound and Empire magazine both very different magazines state that the film has female appeal due to the tender and emotional treatment of the relationship between the two young cowboys. The fact that this film has been highly accepted by female cinema attendees proves that women not just slash fans are attracted to the idea of same sex love. From talking to various people that have seen the film there is defiantly a higher number of women in the audience and this group has a full spread of age ranges and interests. You don’t have to be a slash fan to enjoy this film it also proves that women who may not have heard of slash find same sex relationships emotional and romantic. It proves that society is changing and a film like Brokeback Mountain is far more accepted than it would have been a couple of years ago and therefore that today’s society is ready to accept more films like it.
Just because society is ready for more films like this does not mean that slash fans will stop slashing the rest of mainstream cinema. Slash fans will still take existing characters and films and re-appropriate them according to their desire. Slash is still about erotic pleasure as much as women being able to take something and re-invent for it themselves. Slash offers women a kind of power within their fandom’s to take the material and use it for themselves, to own a very unique part of their viewing culture that non slash fans cannot. Slash provides its fans a way of deriving an extra pleasure from the narrative as well as offering them a chance to re-create that narrative according to their wishes. Slash is also non commercial as it is made by fans for themselves as well as for other fans. It is not made for any commercial or profit making needs as it is about the freedom to express your ideas, opinions and desires without the boundaries a commercial enterprise would impose on it.
“I think part of what makes slash so alluring is not so much that it’s taboo, although that does give it an extra edge, but that we create it, our community, unhindered by all the rules of creative writing professors, of publishers and of marketers. We create the fiction we want to read and, more importantly, we allow ourselves to react to it. If a story moves or amuses us, we share it; if it bothers us, we write a sequel; if it disturbs us, we may even re-write it! We also continually recreate the characters to fit our images of them or to explore a new idea. We have the power and that’s a very strong siren. If we want to explore an issue or see a particular scenario, all we have to do is sit down and write it. It gets read and instantly reacted upon in a continuing dialogue among fans. You can’t do that very often in the ‘real’ world. For me, that’s one of the strongest callings of slash in particular and fandom in general.”
– Kim Bannister, “Desert Blooms,” SBF 2, August 1993
Slash is its own culture and while it is wonderful that Hollywood is opening up to the idea if showing us same sex relationships slash fan will still re-appropriate and re-create other films and narratives to add to this culture. A slash fan can not help to see the homoerotic nature of a film such as Troy or the homoerotic subtext that lies through a film such as Starsky and Hutch. Slash culture is about the power and freedom fans can have over their fandom as well as the erotic pleasure this allows them.
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