This post is a metatextual exorcism: me trying to get the stupid out, as my directing teacher used to say, in re: my research project about the rhetorical tactics of the Overlord. It’s also an excuse for lots of pictures of Misha, so. If that turns you off, you know, I’d suggest you check for a pulse.
Ok, so. Here’s why it’s been hard for me to wax academic about Misha Collins:
It was easier for me to [gleefully] objectify the dude than it was to take him seriously.
Like, bro: I could write some smoking hot RPS about you without breaking a sweat, but put on a Random Acts video and I went all Crayola.
Fangirling over his body? Fine. Fangirling over what he actually did with that body in real life?
Oh hell no.
As I mentioned before, although I’ve been working on this project forever, it took me a long ass time to watch those Random Act vids and read about GISHWHES and shit, even though it was, you know, pretty central to my project to do so. And when I finally did–when I started collecting useful data, even–I was inordinately proud of myself. I felt like I’d cleared the last [tres odd] obstacle in getting the paper done.
But then something even weirder happened: I kinda dug what I found. More than that: I found myself interested in this Misha person even when he wasn’t being a sex god.
Aaaand my work on the project came to a screeching fucking halt. Again.
So about a week before the PCA/ACA conference–where I was scheduled to give a presentation on this beautiful bastard–I tried explaining the issue to my co-worker. She studies human sexuality and is generally unflappable when it comes to, uh, fapping, and, as usual, her diagnosis was brutal and swift: it was, she said, a problem of pleasure.
“Ah,” she said sage. “You like him.”
“What? No!” I spluttered, because no, my blood didn’t go glitter pen when I think about the [constructed, performative personas] of the guy, damn it. No.
She knew me well enough to just stare, to shake her head certain and go: “Yeah, you do. You like him. What he’s trying to do. Why does that bother you so much?”
I flailed a little and tried to hide behind my laptop. “I don’t–really, it’s not that. I mean, he’s beautiful, ok, but I don’t–” I started grinning like an idiot and that’s when I knew she’d pinned me true, and I thought:
Because as an academic, that makes my job a lot harder, I think: liking this dude for more than his [admittedly impressive] pretty.
I mean, I started studying him legit because of the parallel I saw between the rhetoric he uses as the Overlord and that of my beloved sophistic master, Gorgias. If I liked this Misha guy for anything other than his gorgeous–
–well, everything–it was for being a dick. A productive and performative dick, ok, but a dick nonetheless, as I argue here.
And then to find out, in the course of A Very Serious Investigation that I dig what the dude is doing, his approach to activism as performance art, maybe even admire his ability to inspire weirdness in everyday life and his fuck-all attitude towards gender, it was–disconcerting.
Pinning him down in the [my] female gaze? Reinscribing his body in the world of my fic? Fine. But taking him seriously as a person, an artist, an instigator, and generating some pleasure in the process? Was profoundly strange.
Still is. But I’m getting better at it.
As a nascent academic, writing about pop culture, about fandom, is always already odd: PhD students are supposed to take our Scholarship seriously, to wield as much theory as we can [to show we’ve done the readings, ok?], and, above all, to keep a straight face.
Gotta be honest: I’ve never had one of those.
In addition, I often analyze fan practices in which I also engage–ahem participant observer ahem–which adds an extra level of meta to a lot of the shit that I write. So throw in this writing-about-some-dude-whose-attitude-you-dig crap and it makes it real hard for me not to break what I see as the unspoken law of academia:
Research isn’t supposed to be fun.
If you’re enjoying it, then you’re not doing it right. You’re not taking it seriously enough. You’re not tossing in enough theory. You’re not repeating Foucault’s name ad infinitum. You’re not a scholar, sweetheart, if your research ain’t producing blood.
This is my sense of it, anyway, listening to my peers and colleagues talk about their work, about the conferences they attend, the panels they sleep through. The work of academia isn’t usually fun. It’s rhetorical coal mining, sometimes.
Not to say that I’m always doing cartwheels when I study this stuff; most of the time it’s a pain in the ass. Over the past year, for example, “The Misha Paper” became a favorite pejorative phrase, a swear just short of fuck me with a chainsaw.
I spend a lot of time whining about my research, true.
But part of this, I think, is that I don’t know what to do with the pleasure it produces, pleasure that moves beyond the [incredibly hot] visuals and into, I don’t know, philosophy? An attitude towards living? An ability to say fuck you all, I’m gonna live however weird I like? Maybe.
Writing slash about Misha Collins is supposed to be entertaining; the man’s nothing if not a engine of discursive pleasure.
But ok, for me, analyzing Misha Collins and his real-world work is kind of awesome, too. I’m not sure what it says about me, exactly, that I’ve been more comfortable objectifying this particular male body–
–than in examining the work of the person inside it.
Personally, I don’t think that objectification is always bad–for me, there’s nothing inherently wrong in taking pleasure in someone else’s beauty–but I am puzzled by how that particular gaze interfered so completely with other ways of seeing MIsha that, in this case, were more productive.
No choice, I fear, than to keep looking.