melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2009-04-14 09:51 am


So I just watched Leverage. (It was an accident! It's only half a season, it's totally possible to accidentally watch half a season. And we'll leave off the vast amount of frustration involved in figuring out how to get the TNT streaming video to work. And in finding the list of episodes in original intended order. It was completely and totally an accident1.)

And the most interesting thing about this experience is: when I saw the first shot of the team, I was *completely* wrong about which character was which - I thought Nate was Eliot, Eliot was Alec, Alec was Nate, Sophie was Parker and Parker was Sophie.

This is interesting because I had just read through most of [profile] brown_betty's Leverage recs list, so you'd think I'd know which of the characters was black and which had long hair and which was freaky-pale blond and which was a brunette. But no. I had it not only wrong, but pretty much backward. (For the record, best as I can reconstruct: I thought Hardison looked vaguely like Justin Long, Eliot was the stocky, buttoned-up type, Parker looked like a grown-up River, and Sophie vaguely like Cordelia, only shorter, grown-up and more authentically blonde. Nate was just this shadowy, Tracer Bullet-like figure off in a corner somewhere. Yeah, I was a BIT WRONG. Oh, and Sterling was young and lanky.)

This could be just me. I am also the person who managed to get through two entire Harry Potter books thinking Malfoy had dark hair and remained convinced that Director Skinner was black even after watching several episodes of the X-Files with him in them, including the one where he's wearing nothing but Y-fronts. And I know that in my own writing, fan and otherwise, there tends to be almost no physical description of characters at all, unless I make a special effort to put it in. But I went back and re-read some of the same fic, and no, there really wasn't anything I was missing.

I was thinking about this especially in light of [personal profile] zvi's recent post about skin color in fic, which interestingly managed to be inspired by a Leverage fic and *still* not spoil me for the skin color of the characters. Obviously, what I was noticing isn't just race, but is there a tendency for fic writers of a certain style and feel to simply leave out all the character description, or to leave out certain kinds? Is it something I manage to self-select for when I'm just starting a fandom? (I went back to that recs list and pulled out a couple more stories, and a couple of them would have made it very clear who was who.)

Anyway, Leverage is amazing and fun. It's about improbably beautiful and competent people pulling off improbable capers in order to right wrongs, and also it's about Team, and there's absolutely nothing unecessary in it to distract from the Team and their improbable competence, and narrative causality works just right - the show seems to be committed to making each story pay off satisfyingly, above all.

To go back to character appearance: I spent most of the first several episodes trying to figure out why Eliot reminded me of Daniel Jackson, circa season 2 of SG1. I think it came down to the hair, the glasses, the arm porn, the feeling of being - *too* comfortable in his own skin, and the general air of I-know-something-you-don't-know. Mind you, by several more episodes in, I'd stopped seeing the resemblance, and I just wanted the AU where Daniel never meets Catherine, and *becomes* Eliot. Then I finally recognized Lindsey, and by the last episode I just wanted the story where Eliot runs into Daniel on a job. :D Also, I'm kind of in love with Eliot.

I'm also totally in love with Nate Ford, but this is completely in character for me, as he is scruffy and middle-aged and a master tactician and loves his team. I was also impressed with how they dealt with his addiction, compared to, say, House.

I feel like Hardison and Parker are the least rounded characters so far. I adore them, too, but they've stayed pretty much defined by their jobs compared to the others. Parker is a lot less openly crazy, and a lot scarier, on the show than she is in fic. And I adore watching Hardison work a con; he needs to get out of the command center more often. Also, Hardison and Parker are both former foster kids who have no known family. (And nobody knows Sophie's real backstory.) This has got to be the easiest fandom I have ever seen for writing Highlander crossovers in. :D I like them both, though, and I'm glad they seem to be getting a good share of fic.

Sophie - one of the things I knew going in is that a lot of people are dubious about Sophie. I agree; I disliked her for no obvious reason I can think of. And then I started to like her, but only sometimes, and I realized what it was: in any scene in which Sophie is passing the Bechdel Test, I adore her. It just doesn't happen very often, though it started happening more toward the end of the season. She's just so relentlessly heteronormative so much of the time, and I am just so not interested in that. (Though I would be totally interested in fanfic about Sophie, and *why* a professional female grifter has to fail Bechdel most of the time, and how she's changing as Team is letting her be someone who's not working a con at least some of the time.) Also, I'm tempted to re-watch and do the race and gender character counts. But I do have some more important things to do.

...also, Leverage didn't hit the embarassment squick once, even though it seemed like the sort of show that would. I think it's because they're all so completely in control so much of the time, and I trust the characters and the narrative to take care of it, whatever it is.

1 Why it was Leverage I accidentally watched when I have Merlin, Torchwood, a bunch of Doctor Who and Stargate and Bones and House, and Highlander and Due South and Naruto all queued up to watch? When I was little, turning the TV on was a privilege you only got when everything else was taken care of. So now I'm a grown-up, it seems to work the same way: I can only watch shows two ways, either as a major treat to get when I've accomplished a lot, or by accident. All those other shows have been built up into something major. So I watched Leverage by accident instead.
isis: (Default)

[personal profile] isis 2009-04-15 12:27 am (UTC)(link)
I think that fic writers tend to leave out physical description, because they assume the readers know that Shacklebolt is black or that Fraser is Canadian. It only comes in through context, when characters smooth back their spiky blond hair or fix green eyes upon an adversary.
zvi: self-portrait: short, fat, black dyke in bunny slippers (Default)

[personal profile] zvi 2009-04-15 01:42 am (UTC)(link)
I agree w/ this comment.

Also, I personally don't do much with visuals, I'm more likely to try to work something cultural in, where I can figure something cultural out about a character.
zvi: self-portrait: short, fat, black dyke in bunny slippers (Default)

[personal profile] zvi 2009-04-15 05:13 am (UTC)(link)
For me, as a writer, yes, I'm pretty sure it does, because for me, as a writer, I don't know what my original characters look like until I write it down, so I do bother to write it down. With fanfic characters, I know exactly what they look like, and, I can reasonably assume my audience knows exactly what they look like, so I don't have to specify.

One thing I have noticed is that, as a reader, I'm much less patient with public fiction which goes on and on and on describing visuals, whether it's character appearance or locations or what have you. Even though I haven't actually seen the footage, I still want the writer to gloss that stuff.
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (Default)

[personal profile] lady_ganesh 2009-04-17 12:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Here from [community profile] metafandom.

I know I do this-- I go through so many books with only a vague idea of what people look like. So I don't spend much time on description in fic, either. In my original writing, I have to kick myself to go, hey, what does this person look like? The reader probably wants to know that!


[identity profile] 2009-04-17 01:01 am (UTC)(link)
I tend to agree with this as well. Just to check, I tested my own Leverage fic, Bad Habits and Dumb Luck (, and while there are a few physical descriptions in context (Parker's blond ponytail, Hardison's large dark hand, Eliot flipping hair out of his eyes - which doesn't necessarily imply his hair is long) ... I tend to assume I don't have to provide as much description because people know the characters. It's an interesting phenomenon, and I do think it's particularly prevalent in tv or movie fan fiction because we've got the actors to base our visuals on.
xtricks: color snail picture w/ xtricks (Default)

[personal profile] xtricks 2009-04-17 01:09 am (UTC)(link)
I think also, when writing POC, there can be questions about how to describe someone without sounding lame, steryotypical 'the brainy Asian' or racist.

*Do* you describe a light-skinned black woman as having cafe-au-lait skin? I know that's an overused descriptor and OTOH, I find using an ethnic descriptor (African-American or Black, Japanese, Irish) as the sole 'description' unsatisfying - espeicially if white characters get more description tailored to their particular looks.

damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)

[personal profile] damned_colonial 2009-04-17 01:10 am (UTC)(link)
YES. I had exactly that Daniel!!! reaction to Eliot while watching the first few eps of Leverage last night. And I want that AU, too. I think in a way, Daniel does kinda become that person over the course of many seasons (you see it with Rodney too in SGA ... civilians don't stay civilian long, yknow?) but I would certainly read what you describe.
giglet: (Default)

[personal profile] giglet 2009-04-17 02:34 am (UTC)(link)
This has got to be the easiest fandom I have ever seen for writing Highlander crossovers in. :D

Like this?

The Avengi Diamond Job
giglet: (Default)

[personal profile] giglet 2009-04-17 09:05 pm (UTC)(link)
Alas, not right now. Although you've got me thinking that Eliot as an Immortal (who doesn't know that he's immortal) could be interesting...

On a side note: I admire Sophie, because she is aggressively working the heteronormative thing, but she's aware of it as a con. She's performing femininity. I find that very empowered (and sexy).

On the other hand, I identify with Parker, a lot. And with Hardison, oh yeah.
eleanorjane: Alec Hardison looking smug. (aw yeah)

[personal profile] eleanorjane 2009-04-17 07:54 am (UTC)(link)
I just came across this via metafandom, and I totally agree with pretty much everything you said. I can't identify why Sophie bugs me; in principle I like the character, and she has awesome moments, but -- maybe it's just the "I'm so mainstream" vibe she gives off.

I think it's also partly the fact that Sophie's contributions to the team are the most predictable and least interesting? She goes in first to soften up the mark, adopts a new nationality, accent and personality, and wraps some hapless male around her little finger with her Powers of Seduction. There's not much there to get invested in, really.

Compare that to Parker, who's like a strange Robot Thief most of the time, until The Stork Job when it's all suddenly horrifyingly personal for her. How can Parker fail to be more interesting, when you look at it this way? She's given all the meat to work with. :) (Oh, and if you're wondering about the Parker characterisation, I think a lot of it comes from The Juror #6 Job, too - if that's in the half you haven't seen, I can see where the disconnect comes from.)

Anyway, yeah. Thankyou for such an insightful bit of meta. (Your ideas intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter!) ;-)
copracat: Klinger in a yellow frock, gauzy sun hat, carrying a pink and white parasol (boyinnafrock-bailunrui)

[personal profile] copracat 2009-04-17 11:42 am (UTC)(link)
This has got to be the easiest fandom I have ever seen for writing Highlander crossovers in.

I like fannish priorities. I really do.
copracat: xena (xena)

[personal profile] copracat 2009-04-18 12:10 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh yes. That works! Do you have a robots fandom?