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11 October 2010 @ 10:33 am
chosen families and boy bands, or how btr is somehow a crazy and awesome example of queer theory.  
So let me tell you all a little story.

In my one of my graduate English lit theory classes, we read a queer theory essay called "The Sphere of the Intimate and the Values of Everyday Life," by Jeffrey Weeks. The essay mostly talks about what we consider to be the "public" and "private" spheres in society, but it uses some discussion of alternative sexuality communities (both based on sexual orientation and preferred sexual activities) to make a lot of its points. And the one major point that stuck with me was the idea of what Ann Ferguson calls "chosen families" – basically, the idea is that people within the LGBT community, for a number of societal and personal reasons, are more likely to develop friendships that are closer and take on more family-type roles than most traditional friendships in heterosexual communities, between both opposite-sex and same-sex friends. Sometimes it's because the biological families of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and people who identify with other non-traditional sexual orientation labels aren't as understanding or supportive of them as a result of their sexual orientation, and therefore people in the LGBT community are more likely to seek out tight groups of pseudo-family friendships to fill those roles and positions in each other's lives that are traditionally thought of as a family thing; sometimes it's simply because people going through the same sort of experiences and living the same sort of lifestyle are better able to understand what they're going through and better able to relate to each other than they would with members of their biological family or friends from outside the community. But basically, it's extremely common for people in the LGBT community to form friendship bonds that are closer than – and different from in a number of ways in general – what we normally think of as the traditional boundaries of friendship in heteronormative society.

And that idea, moreso than anything from my lit theory class, stuck with me, because my brain immediately went, "…hey, you know, that kind of sounds like the BTR boys." Because, sparkles aside, even, their friendships are much closer than the average male-male friendships between high school boys – the boys have, in so many ways, formed their own little insular pseudo-family, something that's continually reaffirmed by canon backing up their "we're all in this together"/"the four of us are better together" mentality. And so I've had this idea in my head for a long time now that there was some sort of plausible, if kind of crazy, link between BTR and queer theory.

And, as I do, because I'm crazy, I started getting way too in-depth in thinking about all of it, to the point of reading up on more queer theory – and the result?

The Jeffrey Weeks essay that I was talking about before takes a lot of its ideas about chosen families from another, earlier essay: Peter Nardi's "That's What Friends Are For: Friends As Family in the Gay and Lesbian Community." Nardi's essay discusses the political, sexual, and familial dimensions in gay and lesbian friendships, and can basically be summarized with a couple of broad statements. One, friends are a form of family for a lot of people in the LGBT community. Two, these pseudo-families in the community are also often a political statement – both a reaction to society's rules and stereotypes and ideas about homosexuality and heterosexuality and a protective, "you don't understand us, but we do," creating-a-safe-space sort of thing. And three, friendships in these pseudo-families can also sometimes have a more sexual element to them than friendships in heterosexual society are ever allowed to by definition, something that calls into question the meanings of both sexuality and friendship in the way that we define them as a society.

Making any connections to the BTR boys and BTR fandom yet? Don't worry, because we're just getting started.

(So here's the part where I start getting into queer theory, which is – if you've ever read or studied queer theory, or any kind of literary or other general social criticism theory before, then you know what I mean when I say it's, well, ridiculous. And not in the good way. It's dense and hard to understand and sometimes it likes to pretend it's written in words you can understand until you start reading those words and realize they don't string together to mean anything actually comprehensible by the human brain until you read them about forty times in a row, at which point you realize that they still don't really mean anything actually comprehensible beyond the general idea of a couple of points that, in actuality, you probably don't understand at all and couldn't explain if you were forced to at gunpoint. This is an extremely straightforward essay in comparison to a lot of lit/social theory, but if the italicized quoted stuff doesn't make sense, skim past it, because I'll do my best to clearly explain how it all ties into our boys and their friendships? ♥)

So, to start off, Nardi quotes Gayle Rubin, another theorist, in saying this about friendship in general:

It is friends who provide a reference outside the family against which to measure and judge ourselves; who help us during passages that require our separation and individuation; who support us as we adapt to new roles and new rules; who heal the hurts and make good the deficits of other relationships in our lives; who offer the place and encouragement for the development of parts of self that, for whatever reason, are inaccessible in the family context. It's with friends that we test our sense of self-in-the-world, that our often inchoate, intuitive, unarticulated vision of the possibilities of a self-yet-to-become finds expression.

In other words, friends fill a role in our lives that family doesn't and/or can't. Our friends are the people who help us figure out what it means to be ourselves, as individuals, in ways that our families don't, because families teach us what to think and believe and feel based on passing down what they think and believe and feel, whereas friends give us the space to realize and test out and understand what it is that we as individuals think and believe and feel. Friends help us through difficult times and transitional times; friends are often the ones who heal us from how messed up and hard to deal with our families have been or our bosses and coworkers and classmates are or our romantic relationships sometimes can be.

Nardi goes on to say this about friendship in society, then:

Friendship is typically seen as a voluntary, egalitarian relationship, involving personal choice and providing individuals with a variety of psychological, social, and material support. Yet, patterned variations in how friendships are formed and maintained point to important social structural components. The opportunities to meet others and initiate friendships, the content of the relationships, and the frequency of interactions are all a function of the social limitations and freedom imposed by the nature and number of social roles people must enact.

In other words, unlike with our families, we pick our friends, a choice that's based on how well they support us emotionally and psychologically as much as the common interests we might have with them, etc. But despite this, that doesn't always mean that friendships aren't subject to being defined in the way society says they should be. Sometimes society says that friends can or can't act that way with each other – a point that's most noticeable when gender and sexuality get thrown into the mix. We all know the stereotypes and social rules when it comes to this. Heteronormative society says that guys and girls can't "just be friends," and in particular, heteronormative society says that guys who are friends can't show the same kind of emotion or closeness that girls who are friends can. We know all of this, even if we don't think about it, and it forms a lot of the basis for fandom, especially when it comes to shipping, and, in particular, slash pairings – maybe we're more likely to pick up on, or shows are more likely to play up, shipping undertones between het couples because it's built into all of our minds, because of the way that society is, that guy/girl friendships can't be merely platonic, or maybe we're more likely to notice extremely and unusually close friendship between two guys, especially teenage boys here in tweendom, because society hammers it into our heads that girls can be touchy-feely and share secrets and have a closer dynamic in their relationship and it can still be platonic, but when we see that kind of behavior in guys, there must be a less-than-straight romantic component in the relationship, because "guys just don't act that way."

(Anyone who knows me and my views on fandom and shipping and on sexual orientation and friendship and love in general knows I have issues with this, or rather that I don't think it's that simple. I think that sexual orientation and sexuality are a lot more fluid than people give it credit for, and when it comes to talking about a lot of the things I ship, I think in general there are a lot more people who have feelings for their same-gender – or opposite-gender, you could make the argument, if they identify as gay or lesbian, or whatever – best friends than they would ever let themselves admit or ever be able to understand because of how society says you can and can't feel about people of certain genders or people who you have certain established relationships with. So for me it's not about "guys just don't act that way" so therefore Logan jumping into Kendall's arms must mean that he's in love with him, even if he isn't – it's about the fact that there's so much to Kendall and Logan's relationship that makes sense to me as a best friendship that could grow into so much more, and shows the signs of already having started doing that, and if there weren't this thing called sexual orientation that our society had decided was how we had to define ourselves and push ourselves into neat little boxes, Kendall and Logan wouldn't be afraid to explore that and look at that more. And it's not about how the more-than-platonic elements of Jo and Camille's friendship, or the elements of Jo and Camille's friendship that read to me, based on my perspective and experiences, as more than platonic, can be written off as "that's just how girls who are friends act with each other," but when Logan jumps into Kendall's arms it's "guys just don't act that way." It's all the same to me, and it all goes back to the same rant I get into with a handful of people all the time about how I don't see how shipping a pairing somehow means you're devaluing a friendship and/or not understanding the importance of platonic love, because for me platonic love is a hugely important, and permanent, foundation in any successful romantic relationship. It all goes back to how I don't see why it's wrong that I'd rather fall in love with my best friend than someone I have nothing in common with, and how the idea of being in a relationship that's based on close friendship and always maintains that foundation of friends first is really important to me.

Nardi agrees with this, too, when he quotes speculation by others studying both queer theory and friendship at large in saying that "there is probably an erotic component in most close friendships . . . but this appears to be disturbing to many people and is denied or repressed." In other words, people fall for their best friends all the time, guys or girls, most people just don't deal with it.

Which is one of the things that's appealing to me about fandom, because here we don't have to live in the world of the confines of what society forces us to want to deal or not deal with – we can look at the possibilities instead of the simply what is. And when we're talking about friends falling in love, that's a huge thing.

But that's another essay for another day, and this essay isn't about how I look at things so much as it's about how society in general looks at things, so for the sake of this essay, let's just go along with the generally accepted ideas of "guys don't act that way" or "girls and guys can't just be friends" and how that shows up and works itself out in fandom?)


I digress.

So Nardi says that friendship, even though we pick our friends and friendship in general is a different kind of bond than family or romantic or other kinds of relationships, is something that society still says "you can do this" but "you can't do that" in regard to what's expected from same-sex and opposite-sex friendships.

But when we're talking about gay and lesbian friendships, the rules get twisted around and changed a little bit, because of how we're going outside of the box of mainstream heteronormative society in the first place, and how that changes the ways we define what friendship means.

For many gay people, friends are frequently viewed as family . . . . Friendships provide "alternate ways for doing things when the formal structure of society is clearly inadequate . . . when the normative rules of society have come to appear especially artificial and fragile." This is particularly so when the social institutions exclude certain kinds of interpersonal relationships."

So basically, you're more likely to be closer to your friends if there are things about youyou’re your identity that are outside the mainstream idea of This Is How We Do Things, and in that closeness, because your friends understand things about you that other people in your life might not (whether because your family might not accept these things or simply because those friends are going through the same experiences you are and also have things about themselves or their relationships that are outside the mainstream idea of This Is How We Do Things and therefore you just get each other more than your family gets you), your friends are more likely to serve the kinds of roles in your life that family would if you did fit into the mainstream idea of This Is How We Do Things. If society doesn't get you, and your family doesn't get you, you're more likely to make your own "family" out of friends who do get you because they're like you, which is something that happens a lot in the gay community in particular. So therefore:

In the context of these social constraints and the need to sustain a sense of self, friendship takes on the roles typically provided by heterosexual families. As Altman wrote, "what many gay lives miss in terms of permanent relationships is more than compensated for by friendship networks, which often become de facto families" . . . . Rubin similarly notes that "when people wanted to impress upon me the importance of their friendships and the quality of closeness, they invoked the metaphor of the family." However, for gay people, it is more than a metaphor. The "friends as family" model, in which friends actually provide the kinds of emotional, social, and psychological support families often do, makes sense in light of Allan's argument that the more extensive and personal the help required, the greater tendency there is to use primary kin for assistance. For gay people, friends often provide the role of maintaining physical and emotional well-being.

So then, how this all ties into BTR.

There are two things that we in fandom know about the BTR boys, collectively, as an entity, sticking with overall canon themes and not getting into individual character studies: one, the BTR boys are pretty damn sparkly – whether they have feelings for each other at all or not, whether they realize it at all or not – and two, the BTR boys are extremely close, unusually so for sixteen-year-old Minnesota public school boys who play hockey. They all love Mama Knight and consider her to be a second mom, and they all have varying degrees of support from their biological families (something we'll get back to later), but they're pretty much a pseudo-family all in themselves, a point that the show drives home time and time again. Terror is a great example of this, in that the overall message of the episode is we're better together, the four of us, KendallandLoganandJamesandCarlos, but it's a point that canon hammers home time and time again, and if you were to ultimately sum up the entire series in a sentence, is at the heart of everything that BTR is about. Right away, we're starting to see some surface parallels: the BTR boys are very sparkly; queer theory tells us that sparkly people tend to make their own pseudo-families from their friendships; therefore, could the BTR boys' pseudo-family have something to do on some level with their sparkles? Add to that the fact that the BTR boys may or may not be aware of their sparkles yet or of the fact that they're even doing this, and the fact that they already have such a tight and insular pseudo-family formed within themselves by the time they're sixteen (hell, by the time they're eleven or twelve, presumably, since the pact they made to always stick together back in Pee Wee hockey that Kendall points out in Concert seems to be the canon-fact-based origin point, whatever your head canon is about when and in what order the BTR boys met and became friends, for when the BTR boys went from "we're friends who play hockey together and have other mutual friends at school" to "we're a family and no one is ever going to come between us because at the end of the day we're better together, the four of us, KendallandLoganandJamesandCarlos"), and, well. It all adds up to what could be viewed as a pretty remarkable demonstration of some general ideas of queer theory, packaged with wacky sound effects and catchy pop songs in the form of a ridiculous tween sitcom about a boy band.

But it's not just a correlation of ideas that seems to point to some sort of possible shooting-from-the-hip causation. There are a lot of specific ideas that, as I was reading Nardi's essay, seemed to jump out like neon flashing lights and direct me right back to everything we think and perceive about the BTR boys.

The search for social support from friends rather than from family is also given some credence when looking at the ways men in particular socially construct their friendships. Typically, men (when categorically compared to women) are less intimate with same-sex friends, less satisfied with their friendships, and perceive less social support from their friends. In part, this is related to men's position in the social structure which encourages "the formation of sociable relationships with others but, at the same time . . . restrict(s) the extent to which the self is revealed within them." It is also related in part to the patterns of socialization which tend to encourage a limit on self-expression and emotional intimacy between men. As a result, men often turn to women friends for emotional well-being and social support . . . . For most heterosexual men, that woman is often a wife or a romantic partner. The traditional family – or, at least, the ideology of the family – is the major source of emotional support for most heterosexual men, not same-sex friendships . . . . However, how gender influences friendship depends on the interaction with other factors that shape people's sociability . . . . gay men and lesbians equally seek emotional support from same-sex friendships.

In other words, society generally says that guys can't have the same kind of emotionally intimate friendships that girls can have, because somewhere along the way society decided that That's Just Not What Guys Do, so they turn to their female friends for that, most often their girlfriends and wives. But in the LGBT community, things don't quite work that way. And the BTR boys' relationships seem to be more of the latter than the former.

This expression of intimacy and emotional support between men appears to be more typical of gay men than heterosexual men . . . . For gay men, expressive and instrumental support, as well as self-disclosing feelings and emotions, come from their friendships with other men, unlike what traditional male norms about friendships suggest.

This isn't to say that the BTR boys couldn't just be unusually close straight boys who have somehow managed to say, "screw the social norm, we're going to be more physically and emotionally intimate with each other than society thinks sixteen-year-old boys should be," in which case BTR would still be pretty damn awesome and stereotype-defying. But when you combine all of that about how you're more likely to find the kinds of friendships that the boys have in gay communities rather than straight ones with what canon says subtextually about each of the boys and their sparkles regardless of their relationships with each other, it seems to add up to less of an unusually-close-stereotype-defying-straight-boys thing and more of a friendships-between-not-so-straight-boys scenario.

All of that about the boys' characters and sparkles and pseudo-family is even more interesting when you look at it from the perspective of who these boys are in society. Even though they're out in Hollywood making their boy band dreams come true, canon makes a point of telling us that the BTR boys are small-town Minnesota boys through and through no matter what. Even more than that, jannika and I have a lot of thoughts we've discussed that are sort of living in that "someday we're going to write an essay about this" space in other words, we sit around and spend hours talking about it all like crazy people and someday we're actually going to find the motivation to write it all up in a way that makes sense to other, slightly more sane people about BTR and socioeconomics – these aren't just small-town Minnesota boys we're talking about, but presumably lower-middle-class small-town Minnesota boys, existing pre-canon in a public school setting, no less. This isn't a pseudo-family of out Broadway boys who live on the same floor of the same apartment building in the Village while they wait tables waiting for their musical theater dreams to come through. This is a pseudo-family of boys who come from lower-middle-class homes, with working-class parents (Mama Knight was a waitress, Papi Garcia is a police officer), sometimes in single-parent homes (see: the Knights, at the very least), in families that seem to have strong family values (see: the Knights and the Garcias, at the very least). In environments like that, The Only Option Anyone Considers for sixteen-year-old boys, often, is to be the All-American Teenage Boy and everything that goes along with it, from the being the endearing and plucky and determined hockey player team players right up to the marrying your high school sweetheart and starting another lower-middle-class family values family yourself – and if you don't fit into that mold – if, perhaps we could say, "the social institutions" of your environment "exclude certain kinds of interpersonal relationships" (read: The Kind That Have To Do With Your Sparkles) – you might seek out "alternate ways for doing things when the formal structure of society is clearly inadequate" to how you think and believe and feel and identify as a person, and you might form pseudo-families of people who get it in the way the rest of the people around you don't.

Let's not forget, after all, that these are boys who were in high school hockey and freshman choir. And not in it as a result of canon giving us some ridiculous silly-yet-heartwarming story about Jenny Tinkler begging the boys to join the school's struggling lacking-in-boys choir after hearing them sing the Turd Song in the hallway or in science class or after a game. In freshman choir, which, unless canon tells us differently at some point, assumes that the boys were there with bells on to sign up for choir as an elective as soon as they got to high school. And let's not forget that this pseudo-family of boys includes the following characters: Kendall, whose hand gestures and eyebrows take on a sparkly life of their own and whose relationship with Jo has seemingly progressed to a one-on-one physical intimacy level of negative eighty billion after in upwards of six months of dating; Logan, whose distinguishing canon traits include painfully terrified of girls and could pretty much universally be referred to as The Gay One as much as The Smart One; Carlos, who dressed himself up as one of the Jennifers, in silk scarves and all, in a case of "Hollywood Fever" that may or may not have been so involuntary after all; and, well, have we seen what James was wearing in that clip of freshman choir? Or for that matter, have we paid attention to anything James has done in canon in any given moment within any of the past two dozen episodes?

In that context, then? The BTR boys' creation of their pseudo-family doesn't just correlate with ideas of queer theory – if the BTR boys indeed are as sparkly as canon has subtextually insinuated that they are, they have every reason, based on the environment they've spent nearly their entire lives in, to have formed such a pseudo-family.

That brings us to the reason for the formation of such pseudo-families. Nardi says this about the "political" element, so to speak, of friendships in the LGBT community:

Mordenn's notion of "friends is survival" has a political dimension that becomes all the more salient in contemporary society where the political, legal, religious, economic, and health concerns of gay people are routinely threatened by the social order. In part, gay friendship can be seen as a political statement, since at the core of the concept of friendship is "being oneself in a cultural context that may not approve of that self." The friendships formed by a shared marginal identity thus take on powerful political dimensions as they organize around a stigmatized status to confront the dominant culture in solidarity.

In other words, if you don't fit into the social norm, you make yourself a safe space with friends who don't either, and you both insulate yourself from that social norm that doesn't understand you and thumb your noses at it, taking a symbolic stand of "you may not understand us, but we don't need you to, because we can stick together and understand us," which is inherently threatening to that social norm.

Sometimes this stand is taken when the social norm, and in turn, what's traditionally thought of as the family unit, doesn't understand all of this in the dramatic news-headline-worthy types of ways – homophobia, being disowned by your family for being gay, having parents and family members who don't agree with your lifestyle and relationships. But this isn't always the case – sometimes it's because the social norm and the family unit make every attempt to understand but don't really because they're within that social norm, so you seek out pseudo-familial friendships of people who do understand, inherently, without having to attempt to understand, because they're outside of that social norm in the same way that you are in the first place. This doesn't necessarily have to be anything at all in relation to the LGBT community – it's the same reason that theater people tend to bond with theater people, or athletes tend to bond with athletes, or, hell, people in fandom tend to bond with other people in fandom – if you share a common experience and bond, you're more likely to bond more closely, something that's especially true of people whose common experiences and bonds aren't accepted by society at large.

So it's in no way insinuating that Mama Knight or Papi Garcia or James' dad (or whoever it was that came to the door in Concert) or Logan's family doesn't understand or accept their sons' sparkles, or are even aware of them at all to make the decision to understand or accept them or not, or that the BTR boys were bullied at school for being sparkly, or that they formed their pseudo-family to make up for the support they weren't getting at home, or anything like that at all, necessarily. But just like theater people tend to bond with theater people or people in fandom tend to bond with other people in fandom, sparkly boys tend to bond with sparkly boys (a statement that's, of course, a broad and gross generalization, and you all know I hate those things with a passion, but for the purposes of this we're talking not about it must always be this way every time ever but it has a good likelihood of being this way, and combined with everything else it's at the very least a hell of a lot of circumstantial evidence), because sparkly boys get what it's like to be sparkly and also a teenage boy, and sparkly boys get what it's like for the social norm not to understand that. So the likelihood of them turning to other sparkly boys and forming pseudo-familial bonds to make up for what their biological families don't necessarily fully understand or know how to deal with, however well-intentioned they might be (and whether that "dealing with" means accepting their son's choice or not in a broad sense or simply understanding first-hand what it's like to be a sparkly teenage boy in a society where Being a Sparkly Teenage Boy is Not the Social Norm) – well.

Needless to say, that likelihood is pretty high.

A particularly interesting thing to consider in all of this is what we do know about the BTR boys' family situations, especially in relation to what canon has insinuated about the boys' own awareness of their sparkles. Whatever you think about the intricacies of the BTR boys' characters, it's probably a pretty safe bet to say that if you had to pick the boys who were even a tiny bit more self-aware of their sparkles, it'd probably be Logan and James over Kendall and Carlos. In my meta-influenced head canon, that's got to do with Kendall's Everything to Everyone complex and the underlying insecurities and everything that goes along with Carlos in terms of the Jennifarlos Theory, but again – it's pretty much a fandom-accepted thing to think of Logan as The Gay One just as much as The Smart One, and, seriously, James is James, and also is the only one of the boys who, despite his outward insistence of oh my god, I'm interested in girls, I swear, no, really, I am, has not had any sort of serious individual love interest. (jannika has a brilliant theory that Logan and James are not only more aware of their own sparkles but are also at least somewhat subconsciously aware of each other's sparkles, which explains everything from their canon-referenced double dates back in Minnesota to their intriguing and evolving dynamic throughout the later half of the first season, and is particularly interesting to think about here.) Take that into account with the fact that, in terms of the family of theirs that we have seen in canon (read: Kendall's Daddy Issues aside), Kendall and Carlos do have very explicitly shown affectionate support systems – whoever Papa Knight is and whatever he did to the family, Mama Knight is an awesome parent and the Knights are a tight and supportive family unit, and whatever Carlos' greater family situation is, his one-on-one relationship with Papi Garcia is equally awesome. On the other hand, Logan and James' families haven't really been developed or present at all in canon (with the exception of James' dad coming to the door in Concert, but again, we don't even have any concrete canon proof that it's James' dad and not a stepdad or, hell, mom's boyfriend who she's been dating for all of a week), and their conspicuous absence is made all the more important for the fact that canon doesn't talk about it, ever. There have been no passing mentions of James or Logan's families checking up on the boys out in LA in any way, and therefore, the only thing canon allows us to read into that is that they're not particularly concerned about their boys being thousands of miles away for an indefinite amount of time. Beyond that, there's the whole particularly noticeable closeness between Logan and Mama Knight, which, when combined with the absence of Logan's family in canon, suggests that Logan has basically turned to the Knights in a surrogate family sort of way – and to the BTR boys in a surrogate family sort of way as well. All of this put together with Nardi's ideas about pseudo-families in the LGBT community suggests some pretty interesting correlations with the BTR boys' pseudo-family, even if it's, again, all only at work on a completely subconscious level.

That covers the political and familial elements of the LGBT community pseudo-family structure – but then there's the sexual element.

It is important to establish first that the majority (82%) of gay men have a gay or bisexual male best friend and the majority (76%) of lesbians have a lesbian or bisexual female best friend. Of those who have a best friend who is of the same gender and sexual orientation, 79% of the men and 77% of the women had been at some point in the past at least minimally sexually attracted to their best friend. Currently, 52% of the men and 31% of the women say they are still sexually attracted to their best friend. In the past, 59% of the men and 59% of the women had sex at least once with their best friend. Currently, 20% of the men and 19% of the women are sexually involved with their best friend. In the past, 57% of the men and 54% of the women were in love with their best friend. Currently, 48% of the gay men and 28% of the lesbians say they are at least somewhat in love with their best friend. Remember that best friend excludes current lover. Clearly, the data indicates that sexual attraction has played a role in the friendships of gay men and lesbians.

Again, there are things that I have some personal quibbles with in all of this (mainly the "promiscuous" view of the LGBT community this promotes within the social norm when I'm generally an "it's totally okay and more common than anyone would like to admit to fall in love with your same-or-opposite-gender-best-friend and that's not something that destroys the idea of friendship" kind of girl), but the statistics shown here clearly indicate that at the very least, the LGBT community doesn't quite put the same rigid confines dividing off the idea of friendship from the idea of physical intimacy. Unlike in the social norm's conventions of and rules about what we think of as "platonic" friendship (as opposed to the social norm of heterosexual monogamous romantic love), friends within these pseudo-families can be attracted to each other. Friends within these pseudo-families can become physically intimate with each other. Friends within these pseudo-families can fall in love with each other, and sometimes they might even turn that statistic from "at least somewhat in love with their best friend" to that "excluded" statistic of current romantic lover. If we're looking at the BTR boys' relationships under the lens of these queer theory ideas, assuming the boys' subtextually-implied sparkles have any sort of validity, even subconsciously in a way they don't understand, and we're picking up on sexual tension or romantic vibes between Kendall and Logan or Kendall and James or whatever combination of the boys, that's not necessarily wishful thinking on our parts because we want to ship Kendall/Logan or Kendall/James or whatever combination of the boys.

And I think we can all see where we're going with the OT4, in boyfriend formation or in whatever pairings you so choose to look at, from here.

Now, Nardi goes on to discuss the idea that sometimes, especially in male-male pseudo-familial friendships within the LGBT community, that sexual and/or romantic tension can fizzle and pave the way for a more platonic-but-emotionally-intimate friendship (which is something that's particularly interesting for those who ship Kendall/Logan and James/Carlos but pick up on the Kendall/James sexual tension, especially as a sort of widely-accepted precursor to their respective boyfriend pairings, as I do and I know a lot of others do). But that's not always the case. Sometimes, however occasionally, that sexual and/or romantic tension within pseudo-families doesn't always fizzle, even when the involved parties are in what the social norm would consider to be "monogamous" relationships with their current partners. So it's not absolutely insane, or absolutely implausible, to paint a fandom-accepted picture where the boys are paired up Kendall/Logan and James/Carlos, or whatever pairing combinations, in an OTP sense, but are perfectly cool with and in support of the idea of boyfriend sharing and OT4 fun from time to time, especially when the boys all have demonstrated a level of physical and emotional attraction to each other that makes any pairing of the boys perfectly plausible and acceptable by general fandom standards.

Nardi says that while this all points to "the powerful role sexual attraction and sex itself have in the structuring of friendships" within LGBT pseudo-families as opposed to the social norms of heterosexual friendship, "once friendship is established, the sexual no longer remains the main organizing activity among best friends" – but I don't think anyone would doubt that, whether you think the boys are meant to stay in boyfriend formation forever or only have a vague passing attraction to each other they'll never come to terms with or ultimately have no choice but to end up as the most adorable OT4 ever, that the boys' unique and unusual and special friendship is first and foremost in their relationships, and that any physical or romantic extension of that is just that – a physical and romantic extension of that underlying friendship we all love, whether it be among any two of the boys or between all four of them.

In the end, whether you ship Kendall/Logan or Kendall/James or buy into the idea at all that there's queer theory being demonstrated in BTR in the least, there's one quote in particular of Rubin's that Nardi quotes within the essay that can't help but make me think of the BTR boys every time I read it:

More than others, best friends are drawn together in much the same way as lovers – by something ineffable, something to which, most people say, it is almost impossible to give words . . . . People often talk as if something happened to them in the same way they "happened" to fall in love and marry.

Compare that quote to these, and I think my point goes without saying?

"Wait! We beat Duluth East because we were all back on the ice together, as a team." –Kendall in Terror, explaining what will become the overall moral of the episode and by extension the entire series

"We've always promised since we were Pee Wee hockey players that we would stick together." –Kendall in Concert, to James after the breakup of the band

"And he and me, and we, would rather go back to Minnesota than spend one more minute pretending to be your boyfriend." –Kendall in Demos, during The Throwdown To End All Throwdowns

"We are hockey players. Brothers of the ice - and we do not quit. Now, are we gonna dump the puck and scramble back to the bench, or are we gonna grab that puck, pull the goalie, and rush the net big time? I've realized three things since we got here. One, I love singing. Two, I love singing with you guys, and opportunities like this come once in a lifetime. [And three, i]t's minus eight in Minnesota right now, and I'm in love with this pool. So, what's the play? Dump the puck, or big time rush?" –Kendall in Audition, during The Speech That Started It All

"So we take what comes and we keep on going, leaning on each other's shoulders, then we turn around and see we've come so far somehow."

"I don't know how I would ever go all alone walking on my own – like angels, you were floating to me –

– and that's how it should be."
gingerberrycat: Auburn Wondersgingerberrycat on October 12th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC)
Have i told you lately i love you? Cuz i totally do.
This all explains so much of their friendship.
And it made me ponder on Logan and his role in the group. Whats been established about his intelligence.
On a sidenote, did you read Kevin Schmidts facebook conversation on bullying? And then Jordan Gavaris's tweets on bullying? Because they seem to have a sincere difference of opinions on that and you're the only person i know who' find that as interesting as me.
gingerberrycat: Auburn Wondersgingerberrycat on October 12th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC)