The Slash Edge: Why Queer as Folk isn't Slashy

Debra Fran Baker

Last December, I joined a slew of other slash fans and changed my cable subscription from HBO to Showtime. This gave me access to Stargate:SG1, which was a major plus, but I did it for another reason. I wanted the US version of the British series "Queer as Folk." After all, it had everything a slash fan could want in a series - romantic situations, beautiful boys and lots and lots of gay sex. Obviously, it would be slash heaven. Except that it's not. It's a fun series to watch, certainly. The boys are beautiful, and the sex scenes are hot and the plots involving their lives are engrossing enough to have hooked my husband for reasons other than the Lesbians. I love watching it. However, it is not what I would call "slashy."

The problem is that it lacks what I call the slash "edge" - a feeling that is not unique to slash fiction but is one of the things that defines it to me. The edge occurs when the story or series or movie contains one or more of three main elements: Transgression, overcoming hurdles in an irrevocable manner and/or a radical change in one's self-image, also irrevocable.

In most of the world, the social norm is to be heterosexual, or at least to act that way in public. This is as true in the varied universes of the series we watch and slash as it is in real life. It is so much true that for the most part, the characters we choose to pair are always, in the series, paired with a member of the opposite sex. This means that when we put them with a member of the same sex, they have transgressed the norms of both our world and theirs and they have also transgressed their normal behavior. They do so because their love for the other person is so strong that they do not care, at least at that moment, for society's norms and expectations. For some readers, the simple act of deciding to transgress, or of realizing what it means to be in love with this person, is enough.

On screen, it's when they transgress the norms of male behavior in a particular culture. Examples would be the way Jim and Blair can't keep their hands off each other or repeatedly invade each other's personal space. Another is Skinner crying when Mulder is abducted in front of his eyes. Starsky and Hutch sobbing in each other's arms, Vinnie and Sonny letting the music speak of their feelings for each other in that movie theater, Bayliss cupping Pembleton's face on the roof - these are all examples of "slashy" moments created when the characters transgress societal norms.

Even when they don't have society going against them, there are often other hurdles to overcome, usually with irrevocable results. If a superior falls for a subordinate, both risk careers and possibly even trials. If a police officer falls for his partner, they risk being separated on the job, provided they get to keep the job at all. The same happens if a teacher falls for a student - or a human falls for a vampire. There may be a very material or spiritual sacrifice involved in deciding to enter this relationship. And if the relationship is transgressive in other ways, such as being same sex here and now, the problems are multiplied and must be considered, because once such a decision is made and acted upon, it can't be unmade.

Let's go further. A man falls for another man. He thinks about him all the