Because of the fic I’m currently writing, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about women in slash fics, more specifically, wives in slash fics. As in, a female character who is married to one half of the author’s desired slash pairing. Characters in this position traditionally do not come off too well. This is doubly true if the character in question is an OC, or a canon character who’s been drafted into the wife role just for the fic.
The end goal is usually to get the desired slash pairing to get together, therefore the Slash Wife is, by definition, an obstacle. Too often she is little else. She has no agency of her own. She has no backstory, no personal history, and no function aside from her role as the wife/obstacle/whatever. We may learn nothing about her that isn’t directly relevant to her relationship to her husband.
Typically, the Slash Wife comes in one of two flavors.
1. The Slash Enabler
This is the doormat slash wife. The one who, upon learning that her husband has feelings for Other Male Slash Partner, immediately turns into a slasher herself. She’ll say things like “Oh, you ought to be with HIM, you really love him, not me!” She’ll stand aside and sacrifice her own life/family/marriage/whatever on the altar of the slash pairing. In extreme cases, she may even play matchmaker or conspire to get her husband together with his slash soulmate. Her own happiness or emotional life is of no consequence. She exists only to provide a token point of conflict, and later to enable the husband’s transition to his big gay love with his slashed soulmate.
2. The Slash Shrew
This is the screaming-harpy slash wife. She is presumably aware on some level of her husband’s feelings for the Other Male Slash Partner, so she HATES the OMSP and does everything in her power to keep her husband away from him. She nags, shouts, threatens, and sabotages their friendship, generally behaving like a shrewish fishwife. This is not only simplistic but it casts doubt on the character of her husband, for marrying such a raging bitch in the first place.
Now, either of these tropes could be executed well. The key element here is that a badly done slash wife has no independent motivations. If she is a Slash Enabler, why? What in her past or in her emotional makeup leads her to this behavior? If she is a shrew, was she always this way? What in her backstory causes this, and how is it dealt with?
When things go wrong is when the Slash Wife is nothing but a set of cliches designed to either enable the slash pairing or create an obstacle for it to overcome, thus demonstrating its OTPness. A Slash Wife can be a good character. But for that, she needs to BE a character. A real one, not a flat cardboard-cutout.
My current WIP involves a Slash Wife. I’ve worked very hard to make her a character in her own right that has a function in the story beyond her role in the slash pairing. I hope it’s working out, because it’s hard.
Too often a Slash Wife is a walking plot device. A female character in a slash fiction doesn’t have to be a saint, or a perfect person, or some idealized representation of a woman that we’d all want to be. All she has to be is a person with her own stories to be told, not just a tool with a function to serve.
“Slash Wife Syndrome” ©madlori, originally posted on July 4, 2011