Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fandom Classics Part 194: It's Not Like I'm Deaf

 To read the story, click the image or follow this link.

I hope you all enjoyed the holiday weekend.  Well, the first one, anyway; I suppose New Year's is also a "holiday weekend" this year.  Enjoy it, too!  But first, enjoy my review of Arreis of Avalon's It's Not Like I'm Deaf, below the break.

Impressions before reading:  Apparently, "Vinyl is deaf" is/was a minor thing at one point in this fandom.  How did I miss that?  It seems like the sort of thing I should've at least been aware of (plus, it would explain her terrible taste in music HEY-O).  Anyway, that explains the title.  As for the fic itself, the description and tags don't give me much to go off of, in terms of good/bad signs; everything about this so far looks okay, but not exceptional.  That's fine as far as it goes (and, in fact, is much better than being awful!), but if the story decides to be exceptional, that'd be fine with me.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After Cranky and Matilda's wedding, Vinyl walks home--but during that walk, she is repeatedly reminded of her accursed muteness.

A few thoughts:  Let's start with the portrayal of Vinyl's disability, because it's central to the story (incidentally, I waffled over whether it was supposed to be a "reveal" or not, and thus something I should be circumspect about; between the title and the first few lines of the story, I decided that it's not exactly a spoiler to say that she's mute, and no surprise or buildup is attached to the first explicit statement to that effect in the fic in any case).  Here, Vinyl is portrayed as being almost entirely defined by her muteness, permitting it to color her every social interaction, reacting with stifled aggrievement to any reminder of her condition, no matter how benign, and emotionally unable to move past the fact of her inability to speak.

I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing; plenty of people in real life do allow a handicap or hardship to consume all of their thoughts and emotional capital, after all.  But it does seem an odd reaction to something that's clearly not new to Vinyl, and the potential realism of the portrayal doesn't really make it more enjoyable to read.  Vinyl's defense mechanisms (defense of character flaws as virtues, martyr complex) can be unpleasant without being unbelievable, after all, and that's exactly what I found them to be.  While I may be able to sympathize with her plight, that doesn't make her a character I particularly wanted to spend time with.

Plenty of readers could find that more engaging than me, of course, but that brings me to the other flaw here: nothing happens in this story.  Not just in terms of life-changing events or the like; there's no character development or expansion, the fic's 2500-odd words instead being dedicated almost entirely to showing us the main character's disability and emotional state (well, and to showing us a bit of background pony shipping at the start, I suppose).  In other words, this is a character sketch of a self-pitying, largely un-self-aware character.  It sketches that competently enough, but it doesn't have any larger purpose or function which would make it more than a piece of ephemeralia, a quickly-read, quickly forgotten piece of writing which explicates its premise and nothing more.

Oh, also, it's a "ponies have cell phones" fic, if that's the sort of thing that bothers you.  It's a single line with no relevance to the rest of the story, but if you're one of those people who gets bent out of shape about ponies texting, here's your [trigger warning].

Star rating:

Star rating and generally-negative review tone notwithstanding, I don't intend to represent this as a terrible fic by any stretch.  It's simply a story which does only one, not terribly memorable thing, and does it in a way that I personally find unappealing.  A story which only appeals to a certain subset of readers, and which is competent but unexceptional even within its confines, is a good example of a one-star fic--not necessarily a bad fic, but one which doesn't stand head-and-shoulders above the general fandom writing.

Recommendation:  If a sad, somewhat self-absorbed look at the idea that Vinyl can't talk sounds interesting to you, this is a perfectly fine glimpse of the same.  Don't come in to the story expecting more than that, however.

Next time:  Whip and Wing, by Fernin


  1. Don't think I've ever heard of this one, but I have read quite a few stories where Vinyl was deaf, and sometimes mute as well. I've always liked that headcanon; quite a few stories approach it well, and now that canon suggests she's mute, well, at least part of it is true. :)

    1. "now that canon suggests she's mute"

      Ignoring the two EqG movies where she's seen talking in the background, I suppose...

    2. What are you talking about? The EqG movies — much like the Star Wars prequels and Matrix sequels — never happened

  2. Before they got a voice actress for Octavia there was a period of time where the fandom thought she was mute too.

  3. I recall that idea being especially popular after Slice of Life

    I've had the misfortune of dealing with people like Vinyl in real life. I have no interest in reading about someone like that unless they learn to get over themselves. Not a fan of cell phones, either, so I'll pass on this one

  4. I figured this fic was another message story: every character besides Vinyl and Octavia was supposed to be an object lesson in how NOT to approach someone with a disability.