Reading Between the Lines

In my current workshop, one of my fellow classmates finds the innuendo in just about anything. You know the type, the person who says the innocent scene had either a creep factor or major sexual tension. It makes the majority of the rest of you go *blink blink*. But then, there’s always one other person. That second person always so desperate to opinionate (yes, it’s a word; I just made it up), will—for no logical reason—agree with person number one. Then the rest of you are left with the big question: did the author mean to have that there? Or are they reading into it?

I blame this disease on fandom, in particular the girls. Two guys who have an interesting relationship cannot just be friends. It’s a bromance. It is rare that you’ll become a part of a fandom without growing some attachment to a pairing. I’m guilty! Ron and Hermione, Lois and Clark, Castle and Beckett. I’ve even dabbled with the non-canon matches like Gwen and Merlin.

But there’s a desire to project something onto a fandom that isn’t there. I’ll use the Smallville fandom as an example. It’s Superman. Who is Clark Kent going to end up with? There is no mystery here; unless you’ve been living under a rock, that was under a rock, that was buried under a ship, you know the love of his life is Lois Lane. This is not hard. However, there are still groups out there that ship Clark/Lana and Clark/Chloe. These ships have sailed, clearly their followers know that, but does that stop them from hoping and writing fan fiction to their heart’s content? No.

Were I to wager a guess as to the reason for the popularity of non-canon ships, I would say it is a method of being involved with a piece. If you project Harry/Hermione as a pair, you can hunt for clues in the text to suggest that your ship is the true ship (or you can use the movies to even better success). You’ll find the evidence if you want to. Just like the Ron/Hermione people will wave Rose and Hugo at you, and the Draco/Hermione people will wave…something really kinky at you. It’s an interaction, a desire to create a “What if…?” and use it as a means of growing even closer to the fandom you love.

But how often is it there, and how often are we hunting for it? Does every mother/son interaction include an Oedipal Complex? Do every pair of same gender/orientation BFFs carry sexual tension? My gut tells me no, but then why is it so common?

When talking about a writer’s unfinished work, is there a way to know whether or not the author intended you to read between the lines (without asking them directly)? Where’s the line? How do we know when the author is begging for us to read between the lines, or if we’re supposed to take it at face value?

Blog Comments

I know we’ve had these conversations before and such but really, the entire point of literary criticism is to find things in books and texts that aren’t there. Seriously. Look at women’s lit or queer theory. It’s a bunch of academics sitting around and looking for symbolism and meaning and definition in things that probably were never intended.

Of course, with writers like TS Eliot or James Joyce, those sort of things were there. But the majority of writers, I’d imagine, don’t do anything symbolic or special to their work.

As for someone like JKR and Harry Potter — look at Dumbledore! Who seriously ever picked up on those hints and yet she admitted it was in there!

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