Meanwhile, I've had some BSG meta rattling around my skull for the last several days, and I think it's time to blab and ramble about that a bit.
This is mainly prompted by a reread a few days ago of elzed's lovely Decline and Fall and what I consider to be the companion piece by elly427, Circumstance (The Remus Remix). Wonderful, wonderful stories, and well worth a read if you ship Kara/Lee and haven't yet had the pleasure of discovering these (they're well worth a reread, too, if you have!). As I was reading, my thoughts turned unexpectedly to the finale, and I remembered that one of my major issues with it was - and still kind of is, to a certain extent - the table almost-frak between Kara and Lee with Zak sleeping on the couch. I love Decline and Fall, and think that it should almost be canon, yet I hate a very similar (and less explicitly wrong, to be honest) canon scene. Why is that?
I try to examine closely and think over such hypocritical attitudes whenever I find them in myself. I did so while comparing two of my fandom OTPs, Obi-Wan/Padmé and Kara/Lee, and I came to the conclusion that at least one part of my bitterness towards the finale was entirely unfounded and baseless. That in turn enabled me to better move on. Now I have to wonder why actions that I deem to be acceptable and okay in one circumstance (and I realize I'm stretching it a bit with the words "acceptable" and "okay", but bear with me) are not acceptable and not okay in a similar canonical circumstance. What was it about the scenario presented in Decline and Fall that made me love and enjoy that fic and believe it to be worth reading over and over - beyond such factors as good writing and excellent characterization? While when it comes to the table scene, I hate it. Hate, hate, HATE. What motivates me to contradict myself like that?
I wondered at first if it was because with Decline and Fall, I knew to start out with that the events portrayed therein are AU. They didn't happen, technically, so if I find that they conflict too much with my own personal thoughts and ideals of the characters, I can simply disregard them. This might make it very easy to, in a sense, "turn my brain off" while I am reading the fic, and switch it back on when I'm done. Whereas with canon, those events are what the creator is presenting to me. I can choose to disregard them too, but in that case I cannot ignore the fact of the creator's original intent when presenting those events to me. Kara and Lee wound up on that table because Ronald D. Moore wanted to portray them in a certain way. And whether or not I happen to agree with that way, it's what he wanted me and other BSG fans to take from the show. One phrase I saw bandied about in the wake of the finale was "authorial intent", which is basically the same idea. What does the creator want you to see, feel, think, hear, and interpret from what he shows to you? Many fans, understandably, had difficulty reconciling authorial intent with what they personally believed of the characters.
I think about authorial intent a lot at least partially because of my own fanfiction. I want to write a story that not only makes sense inside my own head, but also makes sense to those folks who are getting it piecemeal, without the grand outline in front of them. I have to take into account as well the fact that, fundamentally, I am imposing situations and thoughts and feelings on these characters different from what their creator intended. I try to stay true to original authorial intent as much as possible, and where my interpretation differs from RDM's, a great deal of effort and time is spent to build up to that gradually and to show how the characters' opinions and actions have changed as a result of alternate universe events. Part of the reason that the Season 2 arc of Insanity Underrated is so long (it wound up even longer than I thought it would be, or had planned on) is because of all the work I had to do in order to reconcile the characters' reactions and actions to different events with what we know of them from canon. Kara and Lee do not automatically come together and decide to get married just because she gets pregnant. It is a long, arduous process and there are many stops and false starts and much backtracking along the way. And, because most relationships do not stay static and instead evolve in response to additional events, you can expect this to continue as the fic progresses.
I have pages and pages and pages of backstory and character analysis for IU. Most of this, readers do not and will not ever see, because it doesn't get included in the chapters proper. It is there because I need to know it in order to bring you the versions of Kara and Lee (and Sam, and Adama, and Dee, and even Will) that you read about. Some of it may get cobbled together for extra scenes and deleted scenes after the fic is complete. Much of it will not. But thinking about it and writing all of it helps me not only to get to know the characters - especially Will, whom I need to know better than anyone because he's my creation - but to more accurately portray my authorial intent to those people reading the fic.
But somehow, I don't think authorial intent entirely explains my issues with the table scenes as opposed to the similar occurrences in Decline and Fall. With the latter, after all, authorial intent differed substantially from my personal views of the characters and it didn't seem to bother me all that much. After thinking on this topic for a couple weeks - I told you this meta has been on my mind for a while! - I've come to the tentative conclusion that my issues with the table scene stem mainly from the message I took away from the scene, the message I felt RDM was trying to ram down my throat.
Message, I believe, is different from authorial intent. Authorial intent is what the creator of the work wants us to see, feel, and experience as we absorb the work. Message, meanwhile, is what the creator wants us to believe, long after we have closed the covers of the book or turned off the television or walked out of the movie theatre. The expression "take-home message" exists for a reason. Messages can be humourous, they can be serious, they can be moralistic, they can be some combination of all of these, or they can say something else entirely.
One of the reasons that I think so many people were upset and/or disappointed with the BSG finale is because its endpoint message wound up somewhere almost entirely different from where the show started. Starting right in the Miniseries, we were told: "You cannot run away from or ignore your mistakes. Eventually they will return to haunt you." This was then backed up with the Cylons appearing for the first time in forty years and completely annihilating the Twelve Colonies. I see that message as well, to a smaller degree, in the relationship between Lee and his father, but then, I have an intense fascination with their relationship anyway, so ... ;) Come the finale, though, this message seems to have been turned entirely on its head: "All you need to do is send your technology into the sun and put your trust in an all-knowing God, and every single one of your mistakes will be magically fixed." That 180-degree turnaround leaves me as a mature viewer rather without the progression that needed to occur in order to make said turnaround believable. If the original message had been built up and then over a suitable period of time proven to be a fallacy, and if they had found a way to make that transition believable, the finale would have been far more powerful and compelling. However, as it was, I found myself saying almost immediately, "This is not Battlestar Galactica. It says it is, but I cannot see any relation to the show that I first fell in love with." Thus, I had issues with the message that I felt the creator was trying to give me.
This is exactly my problem with the table scene. I have issues with being told that Kara and Lee were so obsessed with each other that they would betray the trust of another person whom both claimed to love so much. I have issues with being informed that their so-called "problem" was that they "couldn't get off the table for seven years" (or however long it was; I can't quite remember right now). I have issues with the notion that Kara was nothing but a slut who liked to sleep around and couldn't control herself. But most of all, I have issues with the way that RDM rammed this down my throat, beat me over the head with it again and again and again, and tried to make it seem like there was absolutely no other correct interpretation but his.
Of course, this is just my opinion, and all opinion-related disclaimers ought to apply. ;) But that's why I can read Decline and Fall: because it is subtle. The obsession is there, the implication that they would betray Zak for each other is there, but there is room for other interpretations to exist. There is room for me to think on Zak's motivations, on Kara's, even on Lee's. And it's not shown as an instant progression. From RDM's version, we are expected to believe that there was such instant chemistry between Kara and Lee that they would wind up on the table ready to have sex that very same night. Again, this could have been done well - had it been done subtly. But it was not. Instead, the hammer-over-the-head method was applied. Decline and Fall is an example of how to do subtlety well. RDM simply did not achieve that, in my view.
And that, leaving aside the issues of infidelity and trust and all the rest of it (which I think are fit only for another post!), is why I can read Decline and Fall and Circumstance with a relatively clear conscience, while still detesting the table scene.
There. I feel better having gotten that out. :)