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17 June 2012 @ 09:01 pm
Why I'm Personally Not Wild About "OTP"  
Last week, I answered a survey about fanfiction trope classifications when couples are designated. I commented briefly that I often find such classifications puzzling. In a flash of nostalgia for days when the conventions were different and I ~wry~ innocently believed that I understood them — "gen" was everything that was not "erotica" in my '90s world (yes, including slash, though I understand that an older convention was that "gen" was everything that was not "slash;" no, no one I knew used the term "het" yet, and we still had "couples" instead of "pairings") — I added the passing observation that the acronym "OTP" (One True Pairing) has become a pet peeve, and also that I preferred its predecessor, "OTL" (One True Love).

Peeves are tiny crochets, niggling annoyances, recurring itches. They're what Andy Roony grumped about at the end of 60 Minutes. Not big deals. I'm not trying to stop people from using "OTP"! You use it, I'll roll my eyes, and everyone's happy, right? Well, no. Some found my peeve troubling. My preference could cause 'ship wars, one said. I was a bit taken aback.

Unfortunately, I just could not find the time then to respond seriously regarding something I had meant offhandedly. I've managed to carve out the time today; I hope it serves. In my defense, here are the layers of my personal, crotchety preference for OTL over OTP:
  1. Utility: "OTP" used to stand for "Off-Topic Post." In the days of email lists, it was ubiquitous. I used it frequently. My brain still supplies the older meaning before the new one, causing a hitch every time I see it, and of course I must now spell out "off-topic post" whenever I want to use it. Thus, a peeve was born.


  2. Wordcraft: "Pairing" seems to have supplanted both "couple" and "love" in some fannish discourse. I lament the diminishment of what I consider the stronger, richer nouns, offering more scope and resonance, and also the distinctions supplied by the more precise terms. (I ♥ precise terms! I sometimes struggle with gender-neutral language over the ecstasy of supplying more information in a single, if sex-specific, word.) I personally find "pairing" a weak, distant concept where I prefer strong, intimate concepts to support strong, intimate feelings. So that stream feeds the peeve.


  3. Focus: "One True Pairing" is about what the fan prefers. "One True Love" is about what the character thinks and feels. While both are legitimate, meaningful objects of inquiry, I am, myself, frankly, much more interested in what the character thinks and feels — as revealed by close canon analysis — than in what individual fans prefer. Analysis is where I find my fannish fun! It's my delight. It's what I'm here for; please don't take it away and consign me to a shadowy netherworld of relativism. (OTL is open to canonical discussion; OTP is sealed shut.)


I was challenged on the legitimacy of the "One True Love" concept. Can there be such a thing? Should there be? In some literary genres, yes, there is and must be; that's their paradigm, their shape, their mechanism. Dante/Beatrice, please! Whether the concept applies in a specific story (television series) of course depends on that story's structure and tradition, among other factors. Whether it applies to a specific character then depends on that character's psychology and scope. (Naturally, many find the One True Love concept inherently problematic for a number of reasons — myself among them — but we must all grant its enduring place in our literature. Like it or not, our culture stamps out stories in that shape on an assembly line at great speed. The fun comes in analyzing its presence, reach and impact, perhaps deconstructing it, but always identifying it.)

For example, fandom seems widely agreed that that both Connor and Duncan MacLeod of HL are serial monogamists mainly because, in canon, they keep outliving their great beloveds; that is, only death parts them. I would submit that their natures are amenable to the "One True Love" paradigm but their circumstances are not, and that this is a brilliant part of the grand and glorious tragedy of HL. Duncan does not think Tessa (or Little Deer, or etc.) is his One True Love; he knows better... but while she lives, and while he mourns, he fervently wishes she could be, I interpret.

FK's Nick Knight, on the other hand, with a brain shaped by chivalry and presently living out an overt quest structure, repeatedly witnessed to have put his beloveds on a pedestal, may perhaps manifest the courtly love trope. Does he perceive each beloved as his One True Love at the time of that love, even though he knows better intellectually? Can he stop himself from repeating this pattern? Is it his story superstructure even if it is not his motivation?

For another FK example, Lacroix in "Be My Valentine" and "Fallen Idol" behaves, both past and present, as if he believes Fleur is his One True Love. Does he fully believe that, and, if so, what does that mean for his psychology? Or is some level a ruse against Nick, and if so, what is Lacroix's goal for that ruse? (It's all part of the fun of unknotting that knotty episode! Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we Mary Sue on screen...)

May I share a glance backward through rose-colored spectacles, at the happy glow of a moment grown golden in the rear-view mirror? Here's where I remember "One True Love" applied in discussion, usefully and gleefully. Once upon a time, before "Last Knight," some of us used to speculatively analyze FK's overall story structure. Many of us were English majors, and a few of us had tremendous fun nattering about whether FK's overall story was shaped more like a late medieval courtly love paradigm, or a nineteenth-century marriage plot, or a roman-a-clef, or an escape structure harnessed to episodic structure, or quests or transformations or... [personal profile] batdina very memorably laid out the Miltonic aspects of FK! At the time — again, before LK — I personally inclined in an N&Nerly direction, and subscribed to the "Beauty & the Beast" (close kin to courtly love) structure, in which Natalie was — consciously, unconsciously, or symbolically! open to happy debate — Nick's lady, the idealized woman whom he would honor and obey (without sex, mind) and thereby achieve and receive a higher place... in Nick's case, mortality/salvation in place of the troubadour's knightly character's battle honors and advancing rank in his lady's husband's court. Cousin Lisa P. and I chewed this over a few times, as well as others whose names I don't all remember. (Then — after LK — Ravens Batdina and Leela mustered adequate canon examples to persuade me out of my N&Nerism altogether, and I moved on to other favorite structures.)

For the record, as I trust my friends already know, I do not enjoy or respect the reductivist idea that a character (never mind a real person) may love only once in his or her life, or that a subsequent love invalidates an earlier love. That's repugnant. If you live to love again after a loss, you are greatly blessed. (That's significant in my life as well as in my fanfiction preferences.) I do not believe that the phrase One True Love enables that mistake, nor that the phrase One True Pairing defeats it.

Again, I am not asking anyone to abandon "OTP" or embrace "OTL." I just like what I like, and I was moved by nostalgia for happy hours in the computer lab after classes emailing fkspoilr via Pine, or scribbling FK notes in the margins of my class notes... I carried a dedicated FK notebook in the spring semester of my senior year of undergrad. ~grin~ I hadn't thought of that in ages, but I'm packing to move — yes, in addition to the commute and the job; I remember sleep fondly... — and happened to come upon it in a box of old papers yesterday. It contains at least two never-finished stories, but I'm not subjecting anyone to the leftovers of my '96 brain! Eeep. :-)

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greerwatsongreerwatson on June 18th, 2012 10:17 am (UTC)
"I carried a dedicated FK notebook in the spring semester of my senior year of undergrad. [...] — and happened to come upon it in a box of old papers yesterday."

Well, don't throw it out—or you'll regret the loss forevermore.

You know, it's when people like you reminisce about discussions past that I most regret not having been part of FK fandom back then—or, at any rate, regret that we don't have extant list archives from the period, which would be almost as good. I've looked at the earliest digests on Knightwind's Nook (which do go back to early 1996, and hence are pre-"Last Knight"), and they're fascinating reading.
Amy R.: Historybrightknightie on June 19th, 2012 03:44 am (UTC)
I should say that while my memories are my reality, I don't doubt that others may remember it differently! :-)

Also, many conversations happened in personal email and loops, off list, but if early '96 fkspoilr digest are archived, I believe that you should be able to find at least some of Batdina's musings on FK and Milton by searching for "Milton." She may have originally posted right after "Sons of Belial" first aired, but it was not entirely a dead topic when I discovered the lists in response to "The Human Factor."
greerwatsongreerwatson on June 21st, 2012 03:45 am (UTC)
Sadly, the few archived fkspoilr digests come from May and June of 1996 and start with comments on "Jane Doe".

Only a little browsing on the main list for that period did, however, demonstrate that there were people at that time who claimed membership in the Thong Throng in their sigs. As this is one of those little odd Cousin subfactions I was asking about on list, it means that I've demonstrated to my satisfaction that it did once exist sufficiently to be considered "real" for my purposes—albeit, no doubt, "real" only in tongue-in-cheek fashion. It was LaCroix's Knightstick Brigade, I guess. So to speak.

So this thread has not been without its uses. All I need to do now is composit Uncle and a thong. Not to my personal taste, of course, but chacun à son goût.
greerwatsongreerwatson on June 18th, 2012 10:45 am (UTC)
Of course, as soon as you started to discuss the One True Love concept, my mind immediately flew to Nick. If there were ever a man enthralled by the idea, it's our not-so-parfait knight.

It seems to me that part of Nick's tragedy is his certainty that his One True Love must be human, with the inevitable consequence that he must outlive each woman in turn (as you point out re HL), even were he not to wind up himself killing them, over and over. To this, though, one should add Nick's belief that his One True Love is also an Eternal Love. Yet, unless he finds the elusive "cure" and returns to the mortal state, no human can ever be his eternal love. As a mortal wed to a mortal, he would have the hope of eternal union in the next world. A mixed marriage, though, must have a period.

This, of course, is why Immortal Beloveds feel that Nick's One True Love must be Janette.

At which point, one can drag in the old notion of the Dark Love and the Fair Love (most familiar, perhaps, from the works of Scott, but hardly unknown elsewhere). The Dark Love is the exotic, the erotic, the glamorous choice, and ultimately the wrong one. The Fair Love is the more blandly virtuous—it's notorious that readers prefer Rebecca to Rowena, and wish Ivanhoe had married her instead—but is recognized as the One True Love in the end.

This, of course, is a point of view put forward by a minority of FK fans who still think that Nick's chance of mortality is so low that he should find himself a nice vampire girl.

Of course, the UF have their own interpretation of canon; and it's not entirely without merit. You say—
For another FK example, Lacroix in "Be My Valentine" and "Fallen Idol" behaves, both past and present, as if he believes Fleur is his One True Love. Does he fully believe that, and, if so, what does that mean for his psychology? Or is some level a ruse against Nick, and if so, what is Lacroix's goal for that ruse?
—which omits the possibility that the ruse is actually played by LaCroix's unconscious against himself. Not that that's a new idea, either! (As you say, it's a knotty episode, and fun to twiddle with.)

Forever Knight is quite delightfully full of patterns to be read.
Amy R.: Nickbrightknightie on June 20th, 2012 04:39 am (UTC)
I want to come back to your comments here. I'm sorry that I'm not finding the time yet. Perhaps on the weekend!
Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: O_Owiliqueen on June 21st, 2012 12:34 am (UTC)
I love watching your mind work. I don't say that often enough.

Also, I am thoroughly baffled by the proposition that you could cause a 'ship wars by disliking the term OTP. It seems to me that, at most, it might be pressed into service as a bit of tinder that might, if given sufficient attention and skill, provide just enough of a flame to ignite a campfire carefully constructed ahead of time.

But then, you know I share the dislike, so perhaps I'm biased. The whole phenomenon of 'ship wars, being willing to "fight" for one's preferred 'ship, etc. will always seem tiresome and pointless to me, but I acknowledge that some people do seem to actually enjoy it. *shrug*

Edit: And this was meant to be a top-level comment, but I seem to have clicked in the wrong place. Which is okay, because Greer, I love watching your mind work too! :-)

Edited at 2012-06-21 12:36 am (UTC)
Foxy11814foxy11814 on June 18th, 2012 08:15 pm (UTC)
To tell you the truth, every time I saw "OTP" in the not so long ago past, I had to look it up to remember what it meant. It's only recently that I've gotten it straight. I prefer the days when we simply said, "I ship ___ and ___." Like with X-Files, initially "shipper" meant a person who preferred a romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully. Of course, then the fandom ran across people who wanted them with other people, so it progressed into things like "Scully/Skinner shipper." I tend to still think that way with other fandoms, too. For example, even though I know in FK people who want Nick and Nat together are Nick and Nat Packers, I will still say I "ship" them and would have no problem with someone saying they were a Nick/Nat shipper. My point is that I think you can use whatever terminology or abbreviations you want. I don't think preferring "OTL" over "OTP" is the end of the world. I'm sorry someone took you to task about your preference and tried to prove the terminology inadequate.
Amy R.: Historybrightknightie on June 19th, 2012 04:11 am (UTC)
>"It's only recently that I've gotten it straight."

Congratulations on mastering the newspeak! ;-)

>"I'm sorry someone took you to task about your preference and tried to prove the terminology inadequate."

Thank you. I should not have spoken so offhandedly in mixed-fandom company. I get in enough trouble when I do it at home in FK and HL! ~wry~ I will try to post with more context, and be more sensitive, all around.

Over on Dreamwidth, Sholio has explicated what the individual meant, which, appropriately, is indeed the heart of my peevishness. "OTL" is open, ultimately, to the possibility of being right or wrong (not all interpretations of a text are equal). To me, that's fun! To some, that's threatening. My personal fond reminisce of being debated out of my then-N&Nerism on canonical grounds would be the very worst nightmare of some fans.
Foxy11814foxy11814 on June 19th, 2012 03:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I went over and read Sholio's comment and I agree with her. Today we live in a world where everyone interprets canon in their own way and that there is no right or wrong as long as you can back it up. Literature classes are very much taught that way. I always refuse to tell my students my interpretations of a text until they have told me theirs. I don't even let them look at others until they do. Of course, my objective is to give them the opportunity to think on their own. After all, we all have different backgrounds and life experiences, so some things in a text might speak to someone and cause them to interpret a text in a way others might not have even thought of and would not have unless someone pointed it out. I think that's the right approach and that's not saying every interpretation is right. As I tell my students, "If you say there is a pink elephant in the story, you better show me a pink elephant."

As for someone talking you out of N&N, yeah, I wouldn't mind hearing that interpretation but I doubt highly that I would cease to ship them because of it. (I am of the interpretation that Nat is selfish and doesn't understand Nick completely and that Nick puts her on too high of a pedestal, but I still believe they love one another.) There is plenty of evidence for that ship, not to mention a real life interview with Geraint Wyn Davies and James D. Parriott where they state Nat is the love of Nick's long life. GWD even said he believed they were still out there together somewhere, lol. (I guess that is going back to the OTL debate. I still think it's okay for a person to state that a character has a one true love TO THEM! I think it's crazy to get offended and have wars because of it. But I suppose I see why they are weary. I'm not in the camp of there being only one interpretation and all the others are wrong. After all, look at all the literary perspectives we have out there. Using a specific perspective will definitely change your understanding of the same story.)

Anyway, as for getting a handle on the terms, it's forever changing. For example, "LOL" used to mean "lots of laughs" and now they say it's "laugh out loud." I mean that change isn't as big as OTP's altered meaning, but it does show why some of us from earlier fandoms get confused sometimes and have to look things up, lol. I usually have a pretty good grasp on it, though or can understand what they mean through context. =)
Amy R.: Nick Solemnbrightknightie on June 20th, 2012 05:13 am (UTC)
At my workplace, "OTP" means "one-time password." So... yep. :-)

>"and that there is no right or wrong as long as you can back it up."

And that's the rub, isn't it? I expressed a preference for an approach that differentiates between supported and unsupported interpretations; I find mustering support fun. The prevailing fannish sentiment, however, finds such differentiation impolite; it finds the mustering of support threatening.

>"but I still believe they love one another."

Of course they do. I must have expressed myself very poorly; I apologize. No one ever suggested that Nick and Natalie do not have romantic feelings toward one another. When I said that I was debated out of my inclination toward N&Nerism in the summer following LK, I was speaking of being persuaded through canonical examples to improve my understanding of the shape that Nick and Natalie's respective feelings give to the overall FK story. Once that understanding changed, I no longer enjoyed the romantic elements between Nick and Natalie in the way that I previously had. My no-longer-enjoying those elements does not excise them from canon, obviously! I still see them; I just see them differently.

>""LOL" used to mean "lots of laughs""

I'd never heard that before; "LOL" has meant "laugh out loud" to me since I first encountered it way back when. Curious!
Foxy11814foxy11814 on June 20th, 2012 08:21 pm (UTC)
I expressed a preference for an approach that differentiates between supported and unsupported interpretations.

Yeah, I definitely get your point there. Since we're both English majors, we understand the importance of factual supporting details when we come up with a thesis or an interpretation. When authors of fanfiction take the time to do research and follow canon as closely as they can (yes, I realize people interpret canon differently, too), that makes a story stand out from others. We immediately appreciate it for the effort and thought that's gone into the piece. *shrugs* I, myself, don't like fiction that goes too far in left field.

I find mustering support fun. The prevailing fannish sentiment, however, finds such differentiation impolite; it finds the mustering of support threatening.

I guess "fun" is one of the issues here. I think a large majority of the fanfiction community feels that their stories are an escape from reality; therefore, they have the right to be as creative as they want, even with characters from television. That's fun to them. I think they feel threatened that someone is going to take away their "fun" when someone points out that their interpretation of the show or characters isn't accurate when they already know that. Some people do not write with the intent on being 100% accurate or anywhere near it, and maybe they want to be judged on how they have written the story. The stories might even be an expression of their desires for the show: they wish the show went in this direction so they make it a reality in their fiction. I suppose the community is trying to keep everything PC, because when someone is writing a fic, their intents are different and people don't want to step on anyone else's toes. That's the society we live in, and yes, sometimes that is to our detriment.

I was speaking of being persuaded through canonical examples to improve my understanding of the shape that Nick and Natalie's respective feelings give to the overall FK story.

I see what you're saying. I'd definitely like to hear those examples and thoughts one day if you're ever up to posting them. But really in the end, I find that their relationship, in terms of romance, isn't even really what the show is about at all. I think that's part of what you're saying and I agree. That's only a part of a bigger picture. I definitely get that. I watch some shows for a particular ship and that's the only reason I watch it, but with FK, there are more interests and bigger issues. I suppose that's one reason why FK is one of only a few shows where I don't have a definite person the protagonist can only be with and I refuse to have it any other way, LOL.

I'd never heard that before; "LOL" has meant "laugh out loud" to me since I first encountered it way back when. Curious!

Ah, well, that might go back to our locations. You're definitely from a different part of the U.S., so it's possible things get changed going from region to region. Look at things you find in the grocery store everyday: shopping carts. We don't call them "shopping carts" here. We call them "buggies." It might be one of those incidents. Who knows! LMBO!
PJ1228pj1228 on June 18th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
I admit, when I read OTP in your headline, I immediately associated it with "Off Topic Post". Never heard of "One True Pairing" at all. LOL That's probably because I enjoy the diversity, depending on my current mood: UF, IB, Val, NN...

Like Greer, I always enjoy reading about other people reminiscing on those early days which sparked so many discussions. I joined the online fandom far too late.
Amy R.: Historybrightknightie on June 19th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
>"Never heard of "One True Pairing" at all. LOL"

You're not missing anything. ;-)

>"I always enjoy reading about other people reminiscing on those early days"

To be fair, I was not online in the early days! I didn't flail my way into using the Internet until "The Human Factor" aired and I had to have someone with whom to discuss it. But I am acutely aware of the difference before and after LK aired, as other people will reminisce about the difference before and after third season began, or before and after second season began... FK comes in epochs, I think.
PJ1228pj1228 on June 19th, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC)
At least you joined while FK still aired. I found my way to the lists not before 2002. But I had my friend at home to discuss FK with. Funnily at that time, I was all for Nick and she was all for Lacroix. LOL. Now I'm all for Lacroix and she, unfortunately, moved on to drool over other shows.
Amy R.: Historybrightknightie on June 20th, 2012 04:43 am (UTC)
>"and she, unfortunately, moved on to drool over other shows"

There have been shows that I have very much enjoyed in the years since FK, many that I watched with great attention and glee, some that I analyzed and deconstructed, even, but with the possible exceptions of Young Blades and Rurouni Kenshin, none has come close to having that special, difficult-to-define element that winds FK through my imagination...

I wonder at how other fans move from show to show. Differently shaped imaginations, I speculate.