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26 December 2009 @ 12:41 pm
The "holidays" and secret Santa fic exchanges  
I'll admit, I was a little wary of the SGA Secret Santa fic exchange. Folk who know me personally know that I have an aversion to Christmas in general, for a variety of reasons; I don't ask anyone else not to celebrate it, but I do require that they not force me to do so.

(ETA: That doesn't mean I'm at all ungrateful or resentful of folk who've given me small tokens! If part of your celebration includes little tokens of friendship, such as LJ gifts or holiday cards, that's totally cool and I do appreciate it, and I hope I don't come across as a bad friend for not doing the same or not always responding in a timely manner ....)

What's that got to do with fic? Well, one of the more common narrative tropes I've seen is the redeeming of the Grinch/Scrooge figure. That's problematic anyway, because the terms have been appropriated and mutated by the enforced-celebration crowd. In the original text, the Grinch aggressively tried to destroy the celebration of others, not politely decline to participate or ask that the celebrants keep their celebration to themselves; Scrooge lacked charity and empathy in total and took it out on those around him, though granted the tool for that was Christmas.

In too many shows, books, films, and fics, I've seen the one character who doesn't actively participate shunned as a Scrooge or Grinch and then harrassed ceaselessly until he or she caves, dons the Party Rictus, and marches along. One of us. That isn't fun or rewarding; that's fucking annoying, and it makes me resent Christmas (as well as "Oh, no, you don't have to celebrate Christmas precisely, don't be silly, but you still have to embrace and epitomize the spirit of a winter party with specific attributes that might as well be Christmas!") all the more. In SGA fics, I've seen this take form with Rodney McKay, the character who for whatever reason I most prefer, being nagged and harrassed and ceaselessly badgered to confess his Secret Childhood Trauma so that he'll stop being such a meanie to everyone for disrupting or even halting work for a good month or so.

(This post, found via metaquotes, expresses at least a part of this quite well, though the direction is different.)

All this is to say that I've been pleasantly surprised by the exchange this year. I haven't read all the stories, mind, but I don't think I've yet seen a single one that fits this trope. The one exception I can remember had John and Rodney competing to show the most "Christmas spirit" and showed just how horrifying that was for the bystanders.

It's actually quite refreshing. I am relieved and pleasantly surprised.

(One story — not in the exchange, but run across by me at about the same time — even had Rodney sympathetically allowing reasonable displays and standing up to those who mocked him as a Grinch for placing any limits. Most folks in the labs wore bells and snickered to find Rodney's mood and concentration decaying as they jingled, jingled, jingled all day long; rather than shipping them all to the mainland as I would have done after only a day of ceaseless tintinnabulation, he crafted silencers for the bells, telling everyone they could keep their bells but simply had to muffle them in the lab. If I hadn't loved him before that point, I would have loved him for that.)
maribella008: wurld dominayshun setbakmaribella008 on December 26th, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
Um. *bites lip*
(pls to not look at ur uzerpayg)

"the character who for whatever reason I most prefer"
Hmmm ... :-)

Bonus points. (Not that you need them.)
michelel72: SGA-Rodney-NotMorningmichelel72 on December 26th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
Aw, no, not at all — and now I feel like a dork for not thanking you yet! Thank you! It's a sweet gesture, and I totally appreciate that. You have not harangued! :>

And yeah, with Rodney, there's a bit of identification, a bit of awe, a bit of attraction ... I just like the guy. Hee.

And I was all smug that I spelled tintinnabulation right on the first try. For I am a silly person.
Sholiosholio on December 27th, 2009 10:46 am (UTC)
Heh, I loathe that trope; the one Christmas fic I've written is sort of deliberately and obstinately countering it. (As the story points out, if you really have someone's best interests at heart, you'll respect their wishes rather than forcing them to do things your way.)

But I pretty much hate "we know what's best for you better than you do!" as a narrative trope in general. It's why I find matchmaking, AMTDI and a lot of other romance tropes intolerable. The idea that someone's opinions on their own life should not be respected -- that they need to be forced to see the light by outside forces -- is one that I find vile. I get that it's a kink for some people, in various forms, and I certainly wouldn't tell someone not to read or write it if it's what makes them happy, but I just can't get into it; I'm too deeply turned off by the violation of personal autonomy.
michelel72: General-Words-AxialTiltmichelel72 on December 27th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, thank you! I really like the way you let Rodney have his own way there, as well the awkward ways everyone tries to find their own balance with one another at the end. (And I can totally see Heightmeyer championing the whole competitive teambuilding thing ... which seems like a disastrous idea in a combat zone anyway, even if these people weren't among the most competitive Earth has to offer! Heh.)

I hadn't really made the analogy to matchmaking/AMTDI, which I'm ambivalent about at best, but that makes perfect sense. The "we know better" version that makes me seethe is unexpected, unwanted pregnancy or child guardianship turning into "well of course you'll learn to love him/her!" followed by the protagonist, of course, coming to love him/her and parenthood/guardianship. I'm not saying I necessarily want to read abortion fic or see orphans thrown to the wolves, but someone choosing not to be a parent or not especially liking kids doesn't make them defective, and ... gah. Which, yeah, there are kinks and people can write what they want, but variety would be nice and the tropes aren't necessarily right for everyone.
Frith: Echo - not brokenfrith_in_thorns on December 27th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
What I like about Christmas is decorating the tree, and the half-hour it takes to swap presents. After that I want to go and find a corner to read in. I hate that at Christmas there's this general feeling that everyone should spend all their time talking to other people and playing board games etc, and people who really don't want to should be forced/guilt-tripped into it because 'it's not about what you want, it's Christmas'. From this you may summise that I also hate that trope almost as much as I hate the 'everyone should want to be with other people all the time, and people who prefer being on their own are stange and need to be "cured"' one.

Not a fan of conforming to the group mentality just for the sake of it, in short.
michelel72: SGA-Ronon-Glaremichelel72 on December 27th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
Oh, oog, yes, exactly. I see letters to advice columns asking how to deal with stressful holidays or family gatherings, and I always sit there thinking so don't go. (One internet column I've been watching has trended that way lately, which is nice.) I've never understood the theory that families or friendships are strengthened by enforced togetherness while everyone stands around resenting one another the whole time. I'd much rather get together with people I want to see, doing something we all want to do, not check off some list of Required Socialization Events. I'm also one of those loners who is perfectly happy seeing only a few people in person socially, by choice, and otherwise filling my own time. "Alone" does not automatically mean "unhappy and requiring intervention"! Or, in short: Yes. Hee.
korilian: asgardkorilian on January 21st, 2010 12:27 am (UTC)
Ooh I love that story.

I'm baffled by Scrooge!fic. I honestly can't imagine why people seem to like it so much. I remember one in particular where Rodney got an ancient induced Scrooge treatment, and had to learn the true meaning of Christmas by reliving all the Christmas' past where his drunken dad beat the crap out of him. You change you way's doctor Mckay!
michelel72: SGA-Rodney-LaserEyesmichelel72 on January 21st, 2010 04:49 am (UTC)
I kind of get it, sort of; fandom likes to retell existing stories in different frameworks, and the whole redemption, sense-of-family, outsider-fitting-in thing is powerful. The message that Christmas=good is long ingrained, so bringing the "bad boy" into the fold — religious overtones meant there — satisfies a primed narrative itch, possibly along the same lines as the thrill Bond fans get at hearing "Bond. James Bond." yet again.

Or something.

And wow, I don't want to encounter that story. Bleh.
korilian: asgardkorilian on January 21st, 2010 07:04 pm (UTC)
Well yeah, but Scrooge is hella boring (particularly since they've been airing various versions since I was a wee lass).