Sunday, October 17, 2010
Sonichu Episode 2 Critical Review: The OTP Syndrome, Electric Hedgehog Style
Sonichu Episode 2 continues to set up the world of CWCVille, and while it's still relatively benign in its content, it predicts the relationship dynamics that would help make Sonichu an ironic favorite. What's unfortunate is that the " chemistry " between Sonichu and Rosechu is NOT a problem exclusive to Christian Weston Chandler's personal problems.
Like most Sonichu stories, the plot of episode 2 is about as deep as a wet piece of paper. While looking for food for his new, larger body, Sonichu realizes that he's lonely and needs a mate. At that exact moment, Rosechu walks by and Sonichu is immediately smitten. Later, Rosechu is talking with her Pokemon trainer Kel about how she needs a mate; they are conveniently interrupted by Sonichu arriving at the door. Not in the least bit perturbed by Sonichu having followed her home, Rosechu invites Sonichu in for dinner. A few days later, Sonichu and Rosechu look at the night sky together, exchange some truly awkward confessions of love, and kiss.
There is no conflict in Sonichu and Rosechu's relationship, even when they first meet. Their personalities complement each other and their goals are identical. The entire basis for the coupling is because Chandler considers them the One True Pairing. After all, Chandler is as much fan as creator, so if he wants to live vicariously through Sonichu, he'll make sure that the character has what Chandler considers an ideal relationship-- one based on " true love " and not any shared interests or experience.
Almost everything in Sonichu is lifted from other sources, and Rosechu is no different-- she is based on Amy Rose, the pink female hedgehog from the Sonic series. However, while Amy is smitten with Sonic, Sonic has never returned Amy's affections-- in canon, at least. Their dynamic is very much like a gender-flipped Pepe Le Pew cartoon, and Sonic's only kindness towards Amy is being willing to save her life when her stalkerish activities put her in danger. In other words, the canon Sonic/Amy dynamic is a relationship meant for comedy. But Chandler is just one of several fans who see an actual relationship between the two, with Sonic eventually returning the affections. In Chandler's " adaptation ", the variants of Sonic and Amy do not have any dramatic tension interfering with their romance. That they have romance is enough.
Any fandom will have readers who view the stories in context of the relationships, and wether or not they fit the reader's individual tastes a la a bingo game. They need not even have any basis in canon, and often don't; Sonic has the aforementioned Sonic/Amy, Avatar: The Last Airbender has Kitara/Zuko*, and Metal Gear Solid has Snake/Otacon**. The most egregious example may be Harry Potter, where Harry/Hermione 'shippers even threatened to boycott the books if Harry ended up with Ginny. It's worth noting that regardless of the pairings, NONE OF THESE SERIES ARE BASED EXCLUSIVELY ON ROMANCE. The interest in shipping comes from the personal baggage the fans collectively bring to the forums.
This is an odd phenomenon, and unfortunately, it's one that threatens to derail drama and creativity-- instead of reading stories because they're curious where the characters will end up, fans have strong preconceived notions of what they want to see, and won't accept anything else. It doesn't matter for Chandler that nobody cares about Sonichu and Rosechu's true love but him, because this world is his escapist paradise. Unfortunately, the phenomenon isn't restricted to the mass of neuroses and perversions that is Christian Weston Chandler-- just take a glance at the majority of fan fiction.***
One of the most interesting relationships that I've read in a mainstream comic is the X-Men pairing of Scott Summers and Emma Frost. This is because it's an active deconstruction of the nature of the OTP. While Scott and Jean Grey were the official pairing of the X-Men****, Grant Morrison had Scott come to realize that after all the hardship he'd been through in his life, he didn't want a perfect relationship. He found himself more comfortable with tempestuous ex-villainess Emma Frost, whose sins made her more relatable. The relationship began with an affair and was cemented with a kiss over Jean Grey's corpse, but so what? These are mutant pariahs whose profession has a high mortality rate. They aren't part of the culture that sets the terms for what acceptable love is, they aren't necessarily going to be drawn to conventional notions of relationships, and they're going to seize any chance at happiness they can get. Of course, this is antithetical to fandom logic, but it allows for more story options.
* Of course, because Aang/Kitara was an Official Coupling done with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and logic of a fanfic parody, I can understand this.
** And Hideo Kojima has all but made this canon, since MGS4 ends with Snake living out his final days with Otacon and their adopted daughter Sunny. I can't even call Metal Gear a homoerotic series anymore, because between this, Ocelot being a secret hero motivated by his gay love for Big Boss, and the Big Boss/Miller slashfic missions in Peace Walker, Kojima is basically pre-empting the fandom with homosexual pairings.
*** There are many great fan fics, mind you. I want to make clear that just because the medium is used by terrible writers doesn't mean it has exclusively terrible writers. Some are even more inventive than the canon creators.
**** I often think of the main 'ship in my own comic as a reconstruction of the Scott/Jean dynamic, with genuine devotion and love being constantly challenged by the fact that Ruby and Jiro are two outcasts with troubled histories and no other real options.