78 – Does Authorial Intent Matter?

The Mythcreant Podcast

Is the author dead or have reports of their demise been greatly exaggerated? This week, join Chris, Oren, and special-bonus host Dash as they discuss how much an author’s intent actually matters. Is your favorite ship still legitimate after the author nay-says it? Should you consider a story’s original context when judging its impact today? Why is Oren talking about some general from World War I? Listen to find out!

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Have a question or comment for our hosts? Send it to [email protected]

Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Watsonian Versus Doylist

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: What You Leave Behind (episode)

Teen Wolf (TV Series 2011)

Archive of Our Own

War of the Oaks by Emma Bull

Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony Friendship is Magic

Justifying The Failure At Verdun? – The Falkenhayn Controversy

TOS Mini Skirts

Star Trek: Voyager: Retrospect (episode)

Korrasami pairing in Avatar: The Legend of Korra

Queer Baiting

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)


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  1. 3Comrades

    I feel like most of you agreed a lot with the idea that authors have less weight and wanted to make a few arguments to the contrary that I think are missed by not being made.

    First of all, Fandom and Cannon are two different things. Many people can enjoy cannon and not enjoy the fandom or sometimes vice versa. That means neither the author of the cannon nor the fans of a fandom are beheld to each other. Fandoms already ignore cannon, often making unique worlds of their own that may only have the characters or a few elements of the original story. Fans are inspired, but how they are inspired doesn’t mean the original author in beholden at all to their views either.

    Second, fans sometimes are united, but rarely agree completely. The truth is there is no sure fact in fandom because each fan has their own vision. It seems unreasonable to ask an author to be more held to multiple often conflicting ideas. In fact, many works gets critiqued and feel they drop quality when they follow what their fans want instead of following their own ideas, because it often loses internal consistency or feels cheap if not originally intended. On the other hand, authorial intent is the truth behind cannon. While it does not matter to fans of a fandom, it can matter very much to sole fans of a cannon, as has been shown for many years. There is a legitimate group of fans in any fandom who do care about Authorial Intent and their enjoyment is just as valid.

    While you guys mentioned about authors being bigoted and fans taking different views, there is also the reverse. Are authors not allowed to come out and say they don’t approve how the public interpreted their work? Oftentimes, people will reinterpret a work to be prejudiced against a particular group or promote negative ideals. Nevermind many authors get attacked for promoting something that they did not. Authors can often at least make these groups lose their legitimacy, causing a bit of good. For example, the people who complained about a black Stormtrooper or a large group of fans who interpreted Rue’s dark skin as having a sun tan and were outraged by her casting.

    In fact, I consider it a little insulting you guys called Korrasami is not cannon and Queer baiting. The authors came out to say it was true. Can you guys ignore it? yes. But it is a fact that doesn’t belong in the same realm as say Watson/Sherlock whose authors laughed at the idea. It wouldn’t be as meaningful if it was.

    I do realize some fans are bothered when an author gives a different interpretation, but Fandoms already diverge so much from cannon on a regular basis on purpose, I feel they just have to accept that perhaps cannon doesn’t always match up with their vision. Like how they deal with other fans theories they don’t like, they can ignore it to better have fun, but that doesn’t mean they should de-legitimize someone else while they do it. People who tell them they are wrong are being rude and out of line, but I feel fans saying an author “doesn’t count” is doing the same thing.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      You make some good points, thanks for the input. To make sure everyone’s on the same page, we’re not against Korrasami. We want Korrasami to be real with a firey passion. What bothered us is that the ending is unclear and vague enough that not everyone could tell it was a romance, so the writers had to say “yes, it was a romance.” If Korra and Asami had kissed, there would have been no confusion. The authors saying they meant it to be a romance is better than nothing, but what about people watching it years from now who don’t know that’s what the writers said? It still feels like the show was trying to have it’s lesbian cake without pissing off anyone who’d get mad at lesbians being on the show.

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        Although, does my commentary after the podcast even matter? Such meta!

      • 3Comrades

        Oh I realize you guys were all in favor of it, but as you mentioned earlier, it would fall under “queering the narrative” and saying that Korrasami was unofficial sort of displaced the real effect it had on LGBT viewers. Tons of times we have shipped characters together but have no legitimacy. By saying it had no effect, you relegated it to having no importance. I would argue it’s very existence was groundbreaking and allowed us to have lesbians on Steven Universe since it worked.

        If it didn’t matter, the craze that surrounding it would have to be considered much ado about nothing. How is it any different from any other “straight” characters who were shipped together by LGBT viewers/readers. I say this is different because of the acceptance and legitimacy of the cannon while also having romantic overtones which makes it feel like less of an afterthought.

        I should also add I’m not annoyed or angry offended, just feel perhaps you didn’t consider how often LGBT shippers have been actively discouraged or laughed at. The legitimacy means everything. I do agree the writers shouldn’t get tons of pats on the back or congratulated, since it Was as little as possible.

        I don’t know how to explain other than to say that from many of our standpoints, we are saying “Finally an official romantic couple” and you are going “well that’s a fine opinion, but no it’s not. It’s like all the other things that never recognized you, it’s all in your head”. Completely unintentional, I realize, but it comes off as invalidating the sincere joy and elation the community had for admittedly a small step.

        I’m so sorry I can never seem to write short paragraphs XD

        • A Perspiring Writer

          About the paragraph length; it’s perfectly okay. I prefer long paragraphs that explain as much as possible in comments, that way there isn’t much room for confusion.

          It’s my preferred writing style, as well.

  2. Jason Duncan

    Regarding the Star Wars Rey/Kylo assumptions, how do you even know either of those characters are hetero? It seems like there’s an assumption that they’re beings smushed together because they’re the only same race hetero characters in the conversation, but by Watsonian thinking, is there any reason to even think either of them are hetero?

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      I haven’t yet seen anyone argue that the story is creating a Rey/Kylo relation because they’re the only white hetero couple around, though that could be in the minds of the writers, who knows? We can tell the movies are hinting at a romance because they keep putting them in situations that generate romantic tension, where they have to gaze soulfully into each other’s eyes and so forth. This was especially obvious in Last Jedi, with the Kylo shirtless scene and Rey getting all flustered by it. That doesn’t mean they’ll actually have a romance at the end, but it’s clearly foreshadowing the possibility.

      As to them being straight, while it’s true that anyone can technically be any orientation until they tell you, Star Wars has only ever shown us straight characters before. The closest we’ve ever had to queer Star Wars characters is some mild coding around characters like Holdo. If Star Wars doesn’t want people assuming the characters are straight, which it clearly does, it’ll need to actually give us some openly queer characters first.

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