Whoosh! Issue 46 - July 2000


The Martini and the Fedora: The Works of Vivian Darkbloom




You Only Like Me 'Cos I'm Bad: The White Trash Series

"When I wrote this, I was reading a lot of Ubers where the characters all had these fabulously glam occupations: cops, druglords, lawyers, photojournalists, secret agents, detectives, archaeologists, doctors, and so on; they all seemed to be comfortably bourgeois, and in some cases very wealthy. So I wanted to do something that was the antithesis of that, where the life and death decision of the day was whether or not to order a pizza or go to Taco Bell."
   --Vivian Darkbloom on "Love And Death In The Trailer Park", (from her website)

Discord is like your local convenience store -- it never closes either

Speaking of trash...


[44] I want to admit from the outset that it is a mistake to overanalyze Viv Darkbloom's White Trash series. It would be an injustice to assign some kind of deep psychological meaning to why Zina and Gabrielle enjoy making love while Zina wears her fire helmet, or why dildos being used in the presence of one's parents is hilariously funny. Fan fiction itself, the concept of it, and why it exists may deserve some deeper study, but this is not the time nor the place for academic headshaking. However, I would like to analyze the themes and methods of the piece to see what it is doing and why it works. We have gathered here, dear friends, to figure out why the h*ll we laugh so much at something that, if we met it in real life, would make us cringe in our Doc Martens.

[45] Ewok:
Or cry into our martinis.

[46] Nancy:
Exactly.

[47] What Viv describes here, quite succinctly I might add, is the anti-hero, and her use of it to create parody.

"You, of course, stud muffin." Gabrielle paused. "Although you're smarter than Dudley Do-Right...and not quite as goody- two-shoes. You're more a classic anti- hero."

"A...what?" Zina scrunched up her angular face. "I dunno if I like the sound of that."

"It's a good thing, baby. Trust me. I learned it in school."

   -- "Ways to be Wicked"

[48] A classic anti-hero. That sums up the white trash series better than anything else could. You see, what makes a piece of writing good, is not whether or not Shakespeare would have approved. What matters is if the writer has captured the appropriate mood and the style for the work. Zina, or even Xena for that matter, may not meet everyone's standards of high culture. To be honest, the writing in this series is not at all ...ummm... poetic. Sometimes it is downright crummy. But it works! In other parts of Viv's work, most notably in "The Secret Histories", we have more of a chance to examine her writing craftmanship. In this series the thing that matters most, as far as I can see, is the relationship we, as readers, build with the characters, and whether or not we get the point of the whole thing.

[49] As Viv herself said, these "heroes" were created to be a direct antithesis to the over-achieving, amazing, rich, and powerful elite the Uber stables are populated with. These characters are not just lower class, they're the bottom dwellers of the lower class: too farcical to offend and too amusing to be disgusting. The language she uses to convey this feeling is filled with the iconicism of lowest denominator popular culture, dripping with the kind of familial abuse, sex, and beer swilling that would make the producers of Jerry Springer roll over in orgasmic joy.

[50] Ewok:
Pwaise Jerry!

[51] Nancy:
Intriguingly enough, even though you could simply read these stories and enjoy them on their cringe factor alone, that would be missing the whole point. Truth is, you need to have some kind of awareness, a level of understanding of the workings of popular culture, and that includes, my friends, the workings of our own favorite show, in order to truly appreciate what is going on here. What makes us brand The Jerry Springer Show (TV, 1991-present), and trailer park culture as a whole, as trash, and the workings of Vivian Darkbloom as wit?

[52] It is the nature of what cultural theorists like to call "self-reflexiveness", or as I like to call it, the need to be aware of and have a sense of humor about the effects of our culture and our world upon ourselves. Xena the television show is full of this, both in the dramatic episodes and in the comedies, though in this case Viv Darkbloom's humor seems to reflect all that is best about the ickiest of Xena comedic episodes. As Lucy Lawless used to always say in interviews, anyone who takes Xena too seriously is asking for trouble, because the character by design is such a composite of cultural icons, cliches, and social influences. A send-up of itself, in other words.

[53] Viv Darkbloom's themes echo very much those themes that we see in Xena: Warrior Princess. The anti-heroes, in this case, are Zina and Gabrielle, the people who revel in their own nature, yet somehow manage to achieve results. They're a product of Taco Bell ads and beer commercials; they criticize the world they live in while wallowing in it. In amongst all that, buried so deep that you have dig past your own belly busting laughter to get to it, is a simple message: that you don't have to be a perfect person to be perfectly happy. Oh, that, and sex with toys is fun, pizza is the highest form of life, and religious fanatics suck.

[54] Anti-heroes show us what's wrong about our world by reflecting it and overcoming the odds to defeat it. The inherent paradox in it is that in order to defeat evil they have to defeat themselves while accepting themselves as who they are. Can anyone say DREAMWORKER (03/103)? It seems to me that this is a theme running through White Trash, Xena the TV show, and to some extent most Uber fiction I have ever read.

[55] It's not just real world pop-culture that gets the treatment though. The Xena story itself cops it too, and that's the way it should be. If we're attacking popular culture using Xena-like themes and methods, we need to, according to all the rules of self-reflexivity, also critique the source of the critique.

[56] Ewok:
Confused yet?

[57] Nancy:
Viv does not for one second try to hide her thematic parallels with the show, often with hilarious results, especially in the development of Callie, the series' Uber Callisto. Most of the time when you see an Uber-Callisto pop up, she's an evil mastermind, a criminal, a master foil in the heroes' plans. In this series she's closer to the mark: she's a raving loony being led about the nose by her own anger. The further out and more bizarre Viv takes her characters, the more they seem to reflect the character arcs from the show! That sounds weird I know, but it is nonetheless true. Also, in my own case, it makes me enjoy the humor in the real show a lot more than if I hadn't read the parodies. After all, the best parody is something that just says what we're all thinking anyway but weren't able to articulate.

[58] So, Callie is a raving loony freak who pops up every now and then to harass the heroes and pique Zina's conscience about her past. Lao Ma trots in to utter some almost incomprehensible platitudes and write bizarre, suggestive messages on fortune cookies. Eli--

[59] Ewok:
Here cleverly disguised as the Sarcastic Hippie Video Store Guy...

[60] Nancy:
--tries to convince Gabrielle that there is a better way by getting her to rent a better class of video (after all, isn't film like a religion, Viv?). The Amazons are a tribe in that great, mystical world we know as Rockabilly music, doing it their way, women against a male dominated industry.

[61] For want of a better way of putting it, it's all just so d*mn*d clever. There are so many layers, so many things working here, that I pick up something new each time I read it. With a lot of Uber out there you're lucky if you pick up something new the first time you read it. When we think about it, Uber is itself a homage and parody of the TV show. It is also a way of recognizing the universality of the themes we see in Xena: Warrior Princess. Of course, the anachronistic and "sampling" nature of the TV show is meant to emphasize that some themes are universal and can be used anywhere, even by butt-kicking women in Ancient Greece.

[62] Viv Darkbloom just takes these concepts to the extreme, and amuses the h*ll out of us in the process. Thematic re-incarnation perhaps?


The Dialogue Must Be Both Witty And Believable! Don't Use The Phrase 'Raven-Haired': Collaborations with LN James

[63] Nancy:
The good, the bad, and the purely insane.

[64] Ewok:
Putting it mildly. The Janice and Mel stories might be bittersweet as h*ll, but even so they still possess a wry sense of humor. T he White Trash series is a parody of two cultures, trailer park and classic Xenaverse, which leaves us rolling in the aisles--

[65] Nancy:
I think that was the martinis. There's no such thing as Method Reviewing, Ewok.

[66] Ewok:
But this...Oh lord. Oh my. Oh Chr*st almighty. How far can you stretch something and still call it Uber?

She paused and fixed me with her Paul Newman baby blues. The preternatural lightness of the eyes highlighted her insanity somehow. "It all started ten years ago. In winter."

"So you could say it was ten winters ago." The words shot out of my mouth faster than Dean Martin at an AA meeting. I felt a strange sense of deja vu creeping all over me, as if I peed myself.

"Why would you say that? That's stupid."

   -- "From Hair To Eternity"

[67] How much tawdry pop culture can you really wallow in? How many references to Linda Tripp, Chia Pets, and Providence, "that lame-*ssed TV show with the dead talking mother", can one story hold? Is Tom Robbins turning in his grave?

[68] Nancy:
Probably not, since he's still alive and kicking. But that's another story.

[69] You raised a good question though, Ewok. How far can we push the boundaries of Uber before they disappear entirely? This story is a parody of a parody of a parody. Sure, it's still funny, but the elements are missing. We just don't get the same feeling from it as from the White Trash series, even though it is meant to be similar in nature. I think what we have here is an example of how one set of baby blues and some high level innuendo does not a successful Uber make.


Why Don't You Get Out Of That Wet Coat And Into A Dry Martini?*: What Passes For A Conclusion (*Robert Benchley)

[70] Ewok:
So, what have we concluded, oh Nancy?

[71] Nancy:
Keeping it short and sweet because we've already rambled too much, we've shown that Viv is a good example of what works in Uber and what doesn't, and also that we can get a good idea of what Uber really is and isn't from looking at her work.

[72] I think.

[73] Ewok:
Amazing. And here was me thinking all we'd concluded was that Janice is the Ubercritter, there are lots of anti- heroes running around, and we're self-reflexive.

[74] Nancy:
That may be so, but how many bards have work of sufficient depth and scope as to lend themselves to such varied and multifarious conclusions?

[75] Ewok:
You have a point there.


The Web Sites

Hot contenders for "Catchiest Name For A Website" Award, 2000:

Nancy & Ewok's Alternative Uber Fanfiction Reviews

The Time-Waster: Vivian Darkbloom's Site

The Stories:

"All The Colors Of The World" v1.0

"All The Colors Of The World" v2.0

"Garbage" v2.0

"The Secret Histories"

"Coup de Grace" (presently unfinished)

"Venezia"

"The Stars Fell Down"

"Love And Death In The Trailer Park"

"Ways To Be Wicked"

"Mayonnaise And Its Discontents" (formerly "Mayonnaise Wishes, Impala Dreams")

"I've Been To Pocatello But I've Never Been To Me"

"Requiem For A Bitch"

"From Hair To Eternity" (with L.N. James)

see also: http://viviandarkbloom.tripod.com/storynotes.htm



Biography

Nancy Amazon Nancy Amazon
Born in a frenzy of e-mail nonsense, Nancy Amazon has been doing reviews for fanfic since she accepted that her own writing attempts were too bawdy and Callisto-obsessed for the general public.

In the past few years she has been working as a Hudson Leick impersonator, a psychotherapist (where she met her deranged sidekick, Ewok), and a trapeze artist in the Hungarian National Circus. She enjoys being handcuffed, carries a purple painted laptop with her everywhere, and answers to the name of "Nancy Girl".

Favorite episode: DESTINY (36/212), THE QUEST (37/213), A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Fine. Your flying parchment's stuck in a tree." A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
First episode seen: THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210) -I know, weird place to start! But it explains a lot.
Least favorite episode: KEY TO THE KINGDOM (78/410), IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404), and anything else that tried to be funny in Fourth Season.


Ewok Ewok
Since leaving the Russian Steppes, Ewok has interviewed for-- and been rejected from--a multitude of exciting occupations, including stunt double to Tinky Winky in the upcoming Teletubbies movie.

She currently sleeps beside Radha Mitchell, and is undergoing psychotherapy three times a week. She has a blue toothbrush and no pets.

Favorite episode: FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318); THE DEBT (52-53/306-307)
Favorite line: Meg (as Leah) "It's me you want. I am the Holy Woman!" WARRIOR...PRIESTESS...TRAMP (55/309)
First episode seen: WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206)
Least favorite episode: Most of Fourth Season after ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402)


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