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facetofcathy ([personal profile] facetofcathy) wrote in [community profile] facetsoftext2011-08-08 11:30 am

SPN J2 Big Bang 2011 Part VIII

Warning: this first story reviewed depicts and examines issues of abuse, sexual violence and intimate partner violence. This review discusses that theme in depth.

Flying Weight by [livejournal.com profile] fleshflutter

Flying Weight (48747 words) by faviconflesh

Dean/Sam - Explicit - 48,000 words

On LJ in multiple parts in site scheme or the AO3.

This fic carries a warning for non-con, but I would say a more cogent concern for many readers is the depictions of abuse, manipulation, control and dominance that is not the good kind of consensual, negotiated D/s. This is more in the way of everyday interaction in the story, not in the sexual situations.

I want to say off the top here that fleshflutter is an excellent writer who puts out stories that are well written, have good pacing, good dialogue, some humour, and never seem to descend into melodrama. Her plots hang together and the action is bound to be exciting. I know that almost goes without saying, but it bears mentioning that the potential is always there for a very good read with a writer like this.

The other thing fleshflutter writes is sexual and relationship dynamics that are always of a single flavour but can range from extreme heteronormativity where there is an answer to which one is the girl, to something that people who think bottom is more than a sexual position by natural law and people who really, really don't can both read and enjoy. No one ever has to ask the Top/Bottom question with her stuff. You all know which one of those two kinds of people I am, right? And that I never, ever need to know the answer to that question.

So, this story is set in season six and Sam has woken up with his soul back, the wall up, and no memory at all of what happened since he jumped into hell. No one tells him either--to an annoying degree, frankly. Dean tries to passively make Sam go away to protect both himself and Sam, but that doesn't work. Shockingly.

Dean, meanwhile, has been turned into a Woman. I know the story says Vampire, but it was pretty clear to me that Vampire in this story is substituting not for the way homophobic straight society paints gay people as montrous others, which is its usual function, but for the misogynistic view society has of women as not!men who are defined and limited by their sexuality.

I'm saying this not just because Dean is intensely passive, reacts only, never acts and is certainly the bottom to Sam's patented big strong man top (even thought they never actually get that far), but because everyone else in the story treats him in an objectified, sexualized way that has nothing to do with him being a creature capable of killing with his bare teeth. He is more often shown as physically weakened and incapable of protecting himself physically or sexually than as a creature one should fear. Without big strong Sam, he'd have been raped and murdered.

The one exception to this is a scene where Dean picks up a woman who in menstruating to have sex with. This is the only time he acts on his own behalf in a sexual way or in terms of feeding. The rest of the time he is passive and docile to the point that during sex with a guy who picks them up in a bar taking them for a couple, Dean is used by the guy without ever once doing anything with his own hands. (He might actually once touch a belt buckle, the owner of the hand in the sentence is a little ambiguous.) Which in a kink scene that was about consensually fulfilling desires for passivity would be fucking hot, man, but in this context it is really not. Sam, during this scene (and yes, I get that he's an unreliable narrator) thinks this is all about his compliance with the incest by proxy.

So, Dean the Woman was in a relationship will soulless!Sam and Sam is jealous. That's really the whole plot. Sam is measuring himself against his former incarnation, jealous that Dean seems to have liked him better and--okay the resouling knocked a few IQ points off Sam apparently because he can't seem to grasp the implications of the fact that soulless!Sam was not capable of love and was capable of acts of abuse, manipulation and violence.

This is a view of Sam as so utterly self involved that he isn't actually capable of love or empathy either. I don't buy this view of Sam, even though it is very popular among some authors who want objectified suffering passive Dean balanced with Sam the selfish and callous user. This kind of characterization reads as bending the characters to fic the narrative kink or the trope to me.

This fic makes him so dense that it's hard to even care about his legitimate frustration with the lack of candour from everyone about his own state of mind and body. And he's not just situationally stunned, since right after waking up, sure, I'll buy he's a bit inward focused, but weeks later and he's still the poster child for cranial-rectal inversion, no way.

And Sam has some legitimate grievances. He doesn't have even the reader's level of understanding about Dean's former life or that Dean is a survivor of an abusive relationship. He can only see his own emotions, his own pain. Which isn't canon characterization, unless you want to objectively claim that Sam's a big meanie for...going to college.

Sam trots out the classic abuser trick of threatening to leave to get Dean to relent and ask him to stay. It works, and while Sam is not doing it in a calculated way, he's doing it out of frustration, it so fits the dynamic as to utterly destroy the emotional impact of Sam actually trying to be his own man for five seconds. (Okay, I know that this is a classic trope of IPV and abusive relationships, but do all readers? I'm thinking no, from the reactions.) I can't see this as a sign of the canon co-dependant relationship because Dean is an abuse survivor in the scene and Sam is a controlling selfish asshole who happens to be in the same damn body as the really bad abuser Dean used to be with.

As Sam gradually (very, very gradually) grabs a clue that Dean's former life was not all roses, he decides to admit he wants to be what amounts to the abused Woman's new boyfriend who wants to Keep Her Safe and Make Her Better. Those kind of guys never look quite so obviously controlling and domineering as their predecessors. Which makes them more dangerous, which is something that's not obvious to many folks.

Once Sam gets over his incest is icky feelings, they have sex where Dean is utterly passive and Sam is just so happy to have a hold on Dean he doesn't seem to notice. During the sex scene, Dean yells out that old fandom standard of penetration as dominance, "Take it," which I thought for five microseconds might be an inversion of the phrase since they isn't any penetration, but which turned out to mean Dean exhorting Sam to take all he has. Dude, no worries, you're already a hollow shell of a person. The sex is incidental to that.

People think this story has a happy ending. Which I'm not saying the author does, I can't tell and I don't care, but to me this story is dark, dark stuff. And it's not a bad read read as darkfic, although I doubt I'd get the consciousness-raised Dean I want in what looks like the inevitable sequel. My frustration with it stems from me thinking I was getting Vampire Dean, and he's not. The Vampire stuff is there is brief, and it's canon Vampire stuff rather than Buffy or Rice style, but there's no real depth to how this change has affected Dean and how being a killer of humans (no hiding behind calling them doomed meatsuits anymore) and drinker of blood has changed him or his view of himself, because it hasn't played any discernible part in the changes we see in him. This is the story of Dean the Woman and abuse survivor.

I'd like to read Vampire!Dean. This wasn't it. I like examinations of co-dependency, but not manipulation and abuse--and I'll reiterate that I'm talking about his relationship with Sam here, not the soulless version who is more obviously an evil abuser.

It's clear to me that this story is broadcast on a frequency I can't receive. And I want to emphasize again that this review is about what I read, not what the author wrote. My reaction to this story is more about me than it is about the story.

One final note, one of the anon meme commenters listed all the fanon tropes about soulless!Sam and about Sam/Dean that are subverted in this story and it actually made me like it more seeing it in that light. It is a change from the sexy robo!Sam schtick, I'll grant you that.

The Dog Who Belonged to Himself by [livejournal.com profile] liliaeth

Gen - PG-13- 25,000 words

Only on LJ in multiple parts, not in site scheme.

This is an interesting premise that gets an okay execution right up until the totally incomprehensible and abrupt ending.

The plot is begun in a prequel story where Dean is abducted and made into a Skinwalker as a child and is later found and raised by Bobby.

In this story a teenage Dean goes looking for Bobby and finds John and Sam, and a convoluted plot about Skinwalkers and hunters ensues.

The Dean voice and Bobby voice are good, the John and Sam not so much. The other hunters didn't really add anything other than being stock villains, and seeing their POV wasn't really needed to tell the story. The time it takes John to figure out who Dean is is a bit hard to swallow, I don't think green-eyed kids of a certain age who've come in contact with Skinwalkers would be all that common.

There's ideas here, but not enough of a story to make it worth it. The ending is meant to be a cliffhanger, and it fails on all fronts to be an ending or an enticement to further reading.

Therapeutic Torture by [livejournal.com profile] darklingdawns

Jared/Jensen, Jared/Gen, Jensen/Danneel, Jensen/OMCs - R - can't find the wordcount but I'm guessing barely 20,000 of actual content.

On LJ only in multiple parts, not in site scheme. Text is formated to look like LJ posts, but can be read using Readable with no problem.

Warning: this story contains depictions of suicidal thoughts and actions that some readers my read as a frivolous or melodramatic take on the issue.

This is Jensen's therapy blog. That's the entire text of the story. And it's non-AU. (Of a kind, the relationships are all fanon or totally fictional.) I confess, I started reading this for the lulz, because I thought this might be spn-gossip writes fic, but it turns out there's no wife bashing, so they wouldn't like it. I pretty much continued just to see how you could write any sort of climax to the relationship in this format.

It's not a very sophisticated work, but it is strangely compelling at times. There's some insight into how repression and no chance of relationship fulfillment makes a person behave, and it starts out kind of interesting. The marriage to Danneel was the most realistic part of it. Jensen does not sound at all like a man in his thirties, and I can now say I know just how exhausting and tedious being the sassy straight female friend would be. Seriously, no one has the patience to listen to this much self-involved nattering unless they are getting paid for 50 min. hours to do it. Jensen has no ironic detachment with regard to himself, no sense of humour either. Oh, and his unrequited thing for Jared is his only issue.

Jensen would have had a much easier time if he'd even just once talked to Jared instead of passively doing whatever Jared wanted and passively waiting for Jared to tell him if they were dating and then passively waiting for Jared to apologize and passively waiting for Jared to ask him out. Oddly enough the therapists don't ever suggest he work on that passivity thing in any meaningful way.

The ending? No you don't get a satisfying ending in this format. Now if the author had gone for a surprise and had Jensen turn Jared down and get his own life, that might have worked.

Hewitched by [livejournal.com profile] lizzywinks

Jared/Jensen - 45,000 words - rated R

On LJ only in multiple parts in site scheme.

This story, I don't know what this is.

On the one hand you have a crack plot--Jared is starring in a remake of Bewitched with actual trufax witch Danneel playing Samantha (for no discernible reason is she in this show, as she's not an actress otherwise) and she hooks Jared up with her cousin Warlock Jensen as Jared's assistant. No one knows about the real witches thing. Danneel basically vanishes--in a bad plotting way, not a fun twitch your nose way--for most of the story.

Take that premise, add a boatload of typos, SPAG issues including a repeated sentence in the first part, no real rhyme or reason to the paragraph breaks, and then top that up with some HTML fail.

Then stir in an honest to Pete literal weeping cock. I still haven't recovered from that, I think it's the first time I've read that since 1998. And it's not meant to be ironic, near as I can tell.

Oh and Chad's in it as the comic relief.

But on the other hand, the story is really fun. The dialogue is snappy and realistic sounding, but not annoyingly try hard banter that makes you want to duct tape their mouths.

Jared is just perfectly characterized as this egotistical, but still charming, Hollywood type whose not as famous as he used to be or thinks he is, keeps getting engaged to women he's not really into and has Chad as a manager. He is hilariously obliviously self-centred and completely unaware he's gay and then he's epically intrigued when he realizes Jensen has no idea who he is. He engineers Jensen moving in as subtly as a guy in a clown suit at funeral. Then there's the pizza thing which is top notch slapstick.

Jared also does this thing where he zones out of conversations and gets lost inside his own head tracing movie plots. Which is goofy at first. At first this story is all about how if Jared were a dog, he'd be Goofy.

And then suddenly you find out why Jared's a little zoned out and oblivious, and given the first hand up there, you might be expecting that to be really badly done, but it's not. It's subtle and kind of heart-wrenching and both he and Jensen act like real people talking about this stuff. They don't fix it right away either.

Then they get together in a sex scene that is all about longing and happy lust and joyful discovery on Jared's part and has the unfortunate weeping cock.

The big reveal of the magic is fairly good, and Danneel comes back on scene and changes up the pace a little for the ending. Oh, and I forgot to mention Isis who reminds me of a certain Star Trek TOS episode and is too cool for words.

So what do you do with a fic like this? Where you swing from the eighty-fifth mention of Jensen's green eyes to a sweet or funny moment between people that seems so real and then back again, typos blazing, only to round the next corner into really good comedy. I can't add up the pluses and minuses to come out with a number that matches up to how fun it was to read and how unexpectedly charming it was.

I guess you just read it.

Serendipity by [livejournal.com profile] oschun

Jared/Jensen - NC-17 - 25,000 words

On LJ only, in site scheme.

So this is Cat People done up J2 style. Which means all sex, romance and even just friendly snuggling is incest.

The story has a lot going for it, some evocative sexy scenes with Jared and Jensen early on, a nice atmospheric telling of the transformation into a panther, and some humour to lighten the tone.

But, the plot is relying on not just the serendipity of the title, but on a lot of people doing things because the plot demands it. Jared starts to explain what he is to Jensen, and then just stops so the plot can have conflict. Jensen does not ask the questions you would expect any person to ask so the story can proceed down the track it's on. Jared vanishes for a while near the end so Jensen can go out into the world, learn how dangerous it is and then come back for the HEA. Steve Carlson is there and then gone and forgotten.

The departures from the films (as I hazily recall them) were welcome. Sex in this story is a very positively shown as a thing that will help Jensen discover himself. There's no pearl clutching or ramped up taboo "edginess" over the incest, and the fact that sex with a human is dangerous is not used a metaphor for sex (or female sexuality) being dirty, wrong and dangerous. The background poly sensibility, considering this is also a soul bonding story, was nicely done.

The thing kept from the film that could have been disposed of is the classist, and in this version weirdly out of place, family of devoted, natural-borne servants who live to look after the cat people.

The decorating was good, but the foundation had too many cracks in it. It was fun to read though, and I like looking at fusions in an analytical way, so there was lots there to make it worth my while.