Patrick, Perks and Section 377

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L-R: Patrick (Ezra Miller), Sam (Emma Watson) and Charlie (Logan Lerman)

I’ve been reading Stephen Chbosky’s beautiful coming-of-age book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In this case, I don’t think watching the movie beforehand was a bad decision. It was a great movie, and the characters were visualized so perfectly. I don’t think I could have done it any better on my own.

Hence, when I’m reading and seeing the movie play out in my head, I don’t resent it at all.

Usually, I wait until I finish the book before I begin writing the review (except when it came to the last book of The Wheel of Time series, but that was a special case). But today, two things came together, and that’s sort of spurred me to write.

Warning: there are spoilers for Perks ahead, so if you don’t want to know any more about the book besides the fact that it’s bloody brilliant, you should probably stop reading.

This morning, I got in late to work. There’s a reason for this, namely, that I had reached a very difficult point in Perks. Patrick, the effervescent, quirky boy played so wonderfully by Ezra Miller, has been wrenched from his secret boyfriend, the quarterback Brad. Brad’s father catches them together and proceeds to belt his son, who screams at Patrick to get out of the house. Patrick does.

And after that everything sort of goes to hell for Patrick. Brad ignores him in school, and when Patrick finally does get the gumption to go up and talk to him during lunch in the cafeteria, he gets called a ‘faggot’ by his erstwhile boyfriend, in a ‘nasty’ way.

So there I am, reading this section of the book, and then I come into work, switch on to my Twitter feed to find out what’s happening in the wider world, and find that the Supreme Court of India has overruled an earlier (2009) judgment of the Delhi High Court, which had decriminalized homosexual relationships. In other words, if you’re engaging in consensual sexual relations with a person from your own sex, you’re a criminal.

It’s a huge step back for a burgeoning movement, and of course, I can’t expect to convey the sort of outrage that’s gripped a segment of the population. For me, it seems like a strange, twisted joke. For something to be decriminalized and then reinstated to its former ‘hallowed by the Constitution’ position seems exceedingly stupid. It’s taking the ‘we make laws and hence we can unmake them’ to a whole new level. Of stupidity.

I guess I’m lucky in that I was brought up without being told that loving certain people was ‘wrong’. My parents have always been among the most accepting people in my world, so I never understood what the big deal was about loving someone of your own gender. I never got the feeling that they would be supremely hurt or angry if I, say, brought home a girl. Surprised, maybe, but they would deal with it.

As, I believe, the rest of the world should learn to do.

I think, today, Patrick gave a face to all those people who have really, really been hurt by this decree. Of being open to great hurt and humiliation for loving who they choose to love, of being emotionally scarred in more traumatic ways than those traditionally associated with the scary high school experience. Of standing alone outside in the yard and crying, ‘really crying hard’, and knowing that you can’t even talk about what’s hurting you.

I don’t think I will ever understand the fear that this decree speaks of, what it says about the mindsets of the people issuing it. I don’t think I want to.

But I do want them to know that they have not had the last word.

After all, Oscar Wilde is remembered. The man who testified against him? Not so much.

Slashing the Text

I finished a long, wonderfully well written Harry/Draco fic last night, and caught myself wondering why, in the mad bad world of HP fanfiction, with its multitude of pairings, I read mostly slash.

And not just any slash. My favourite, as mentioned before, is Remus/Sirius slash. I have read the hell out of this pairing, and despaired for a time, thinking that I had read it ALL, but luckily the internet reminded me that it is a bottomless pit of time-wasting-but-super-entertaining literature, and threw a couple of gems my way. These have been bookmarked and categorized for a later time.

Apart from Sirius/Remus, I read Harry/Draco. I suppose this is because a) there is so much out there for this pairing, and again, you are unlikely to ever feel the crunch and lack of fics; b) one of my favourite fan fic SERIES, the Sacrifices Arc, revolves around this pairing and c) because it can be done so beautifully, requiring barely a flex of imaginative muscle for you to buy the premise, the mid-bits and indeed, the (usually) heart warming and knee-weakening conclusion.

When I read about Sirius’ confusion over his unanticipated feelings for Remus, about Draco’s nervous tingles when Harry’s fingers brush his arm, the lack of coordination and comprehension that haunts the characters as they fumble their way through the story, I’m not so much titillated as I am reminded of what it felt like to be a teenager and in love for the first time. I can recall the heady feelings that accompanied the eternal questions: ‘does he like me?’ ‘how will I know?’ ‘do I tell him?’ ‘am I too obvious?’. Yes, the non-slash romance fics also ask these questions, but given the social situation of most slash fics, the trepidation and anxiety is much more pressing.

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While the world around us ensures that coming out as homosexual is a much more fraught and (apparently) political act than to declare heterosexual desire, I cannot, with a clean conscience, stand up and say that yes, I understand the anxiety of these boys in fan-written literature, that I know what it is they feel and struggle with when they admit to desire for their male friends. I do not know, I cannot and possibly never will be in that situation, but I can sympathize as best I might. I am of the firm opinion that first ‘love’, or crush or whatever you want to call it is the same, or should be the same, no matter who the object of that desire is. In an ideal world, that would be the case.

Slash fics, often enough, create that ideal world. In the ‘Sacrifices Arc’ for instance, there are a multitude of gay pairings (both male and female), homosexuality being an accepted and institutionalized aspect of wizarding society. From what I’ve read (admittedly limited, given the ocean out there), Harry/Draco fics seem to have a more permissive feel to them than the Remus/Sirius ones, often because, I would assume, Harry and Draco have so much more than social homophobia to deal with. Adding this to the  mix would just be cruel, don’t you think?

Aw. Bookworm Harry is so endearing.

Aw. Bookworm Harry is so endearing.

 

But in Sirius/Remus fics, I see a lot more of the ‘real world’. Given that the two are already friends  (if the writers are following canon, however loosely), how does one introduce drama and tension into their (new) relationship? It often comes in the form of disapproval, of disowning (for Sirius), of a new layer of insecurity and self-hatred (for Remus). This delays the utterance of feelings, leading to more mind-games, more doubt and finally, more emotion for a truly spectacular catharsis at the close. Trust me, it can be done spectacularly. Reference the Shoebox Project if you have any doubts on that score.

I read slash fiction because it is eternally new, celebrating aspects of relationship and romance that transcend sexual orientation and pooh-poohing all those who call homosexuality ‘unnatural’. I read it because it is, quite simply, hot.  I read it because there are amazing writers out there who have seen fit to celebrate friendships that, in the book, formed naught more than a background to a larger battle. There is a definite statement in the creation of this fiction, yes, reminding authors that the commercial profits of their creations are theirs alone, but the world they created is the fans’ to rove in and plunder. Given the current fraught condition of that word–‘homosexuality’–the reading of it into a mass-market children’s series is certainly a political act. It’s a reminder that there’s nothing unwholesome about these relationships, that they can exist (we insist sometimes, quite vociferously that they exist) in a magical, ‘child-friendly’ world.