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Of Arthurs and Lancelots: Mythic Origins of the Irritating Polygon

In banquet halls of old, as bards and poets pranced around regaling everyone with the latest daring legends, I wonder if there was ever any guest leaning on the table sighing “Not another bleeding love triangle.” Because, as previously discussed, they are everywhere… and have been for thousands of years.

Why is this? Well, the bottom line is, people love a bit of drama, and romance tends to generate an awful lot of that, especially when it can be tweaked and stakes-raised by the magic of storytelling—this has been true as long as fiction has existed. In past eras arranged marriages were also much more common, leading to more potential for conflict of affections and love that Society Just Doesn’t Understand.

Another reason there are so darn many of the love polygons peppering our legendary literature is because they were part of a strong oral tradition, and thus a million different versions are floating around in the fictional ether. People were always on the lookout for new stories and a lot of them were mashed together, borrowed from and mutated over time and over mass handling, seeing as half the fun was in the telling—pre-established myths were often adjusted by the individual storyteller, often to make the setting more relatable to the locale of their audience, to change the appearance of the goddess-like beauty of the heroine to match and thus flatter the hostess, or just for funsies.

In any case, the key elements of these grand legends of love remain the same and are, interestingly enough, still the mould that modern love triangle dilemmas are based on.

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Filed under Archetypes and Genre

The Disservice of Fan Service

Scene from Sherlock episode A Scandal in Belgravia: Irene Adler's nude back, and Sherlock Holmes looking very unimpressed

Sherlock Holmes is not impressed by this display of male gazery

Do you ever watch something and just think: “That was written just for the fans”?

Scenes that seem as though they were designed to be awesome more than anything else. Dialogue that seems made to be quoted. Moments of tension or comedy that are manufactured to titillate the audience. Sometimes fans of a show or book pick up on these things on their own and take them into their hearts, but sometimes it distinctly feels as though the creators put things in there just to appeal to their audience.

The most obvious of this is the root of the words “fan service”, defined as a random and mostly irrelevant action that plays directly to the audience’s (and chiefly the straight male audience’s) interests: a sudden gust of wind blows a skirt up! An event happens within the show that calls the female cast to dress in scanty or adorably provocative outfits! A sudden rainstorm thunders into existence just above the main characters’ location and everyone happens to be wearing white shirts!

Not to say that this exists solely for the male gaze; depending on the target audience, these instances will occur to males and females both. An important conversation just happens to take place while a toned male lead is working out! There is a bathhouse scene for little reason other than comedy and implicated nakedness! Characters wear second-skin spandex battle suits that may not be historically accurate!

Or, because writers do acknowledge that flashes of attractive people is not the only thing that humans get excited by, they could throw in some really cool mechas and fight scenes and explosions.

Gurren Lagann promo art

Or, if you’re Gurren Lagann, all of the above

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Filed under Things We Need to Stop Doing

In Defence of Fandom Punching Bags

There’s always that one character that gets a barrel of fan hatred dumped on them. Always, without question. It’s one of those rule of the universe things (others include: if you drop toast it will always land spread side down and get covered in carpet fluff and cat hair, if your infallible washing machine that has worked for 20 years ever breaks down it will be when you desperately need it, and if it’s possible for a cat to do, there are at least ten videos of it on YouTube).

Upon inspection, however, I’ve begun to wonder what exactly it is that magnetises so much bitterness towards these fictional people, especially from the loudest demographic of most fandoms: the young adult female bloggers.

Let’s begin with the example of Sansa Stark of A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones. I have yet to delve into the intricacies of this series and its fandom but from the periphery (tumblr is a wonderful thing) I can see that there’s not a lot of love for her. In fact, she’s one of the least popular people in the series, and the subject of a lot of whinery, mostly centring around the fact that she is “whiny” “shallow” “useless” and “annoying”.

Sansa Stark

It’s because she’s ginger, isn’t it?

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Filed under Pop Culture Ponderings