Friday, September 22, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 229: ...But the Kitchen Sink

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

I do try to arrange my Fandom Classics posts so that there aren't any major runs or ruts in them; I don't want to do five changeling fics in a row, say, or have several novel-length stories back-to-back.  But when I was adding to my short list of fics to review, I happened to see this fic and "Princest is Wincest" sitting next to each other in my folder, and--despite them both being short, silly-sounding stories--I found I didn't have it in my heart to break them up.  Ah well, something long and serious next for sure.  But now, head down below the break to read my review of Dubs Rewatcher's ...But the Kitchen Sink.

Impressions before reading:  I read this one around the time it came out, but truth be told, I don't remember a thing about it other than the premise.  For you young'ns, a bit of history: in the fandom's early days, Rainbow Dash was the go-to member of the main six for shipfics, for reasons that I don't entirely understand (there were charts and everything!).  I get the impression that this isn't the case anymore, though I admit I'm not super in touch with the shipping centers of the fanfic community.  Regardless, "Rainbow Dash x Literally anypony" was a thing, and that's what this story is a reaction to.  Does it hold up outside of that context?  Let's find out!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  The Cakes get a new sink.  Rainbow Dash gets a wingboner... and so much more.

A few thoughts:  You can read the following as praise or an indictment, as you see fit... but the best parts of this story are all the jokes that aren't "Rainbow Dash is in love with a literal kitchen sink."  Take this beauty, for example:
     ‘I can’t get married! Nopony can pin me down! I still have so much I want to do with my life! Like, join the Wonderbolts...’
     With a pang of depression, she realized that joining the Wonderbolts was her only aspiration in life.
Bam!  In two short paragraphs, Dubs beautifully skewers Dash's mono-focus on the Wonderbolts, undercuts the ridiculousness with a certain level of sadness that nevertheless doesn't turn the joke sour, and cleverly moves the shipping goalposts from "does this objection to it make sense" to "does it not not make sense."  That last one is something a lot of serious shipfics could learn from, honestly; rephrasing the terms of justification/explanation can do wonders to sell a skeptical audience, or at least to achieve a minimal level of buy-in.  Granted, audience buy-in isn't quite so critical in a fic like this, but the execution is still solid.

The central ridiculousness of the story--that Dash is falling for a kitchen sink--is alternately played for laughs, and treated seriously as a piece of absurdity.  That is to say, it can be both a joke, and a patently nonsensical thing which everypony just accepts, depending on the needs of the fic at that moment.  I didn't have a huge problem with this approach, but it did make some of the latter moments feel a bit flat--there are times when you wait for a punchline, only to realize that none is immediately forthcoming.  This, coupled with a larger-scale shift from "Dash is aware that she is in love with an inanimate object" to "Dash does not seem to realize that Sink is an inanimate object," rob the story of an essential consistency that I think would have really helped.

The story plays heavily on fandom tropes, from "Rarity loves cheesy romance novels" to "Pinkie breaks the fourth wall" and beyond.  Smartly, it keeps these broad-strokes, and as a result is very readable today, rather than feeling entirely like a product of a different era in the fandom.  This is a story that doesn't need a serious grounding in fandom or genre conventions to be enjoyed, to its credit.  It also lands a relatively solid last scene, which is important for this kind of story--albeit, one that I think could have used a little expansion, give us a true punchline to the running "can a pony and sink have babies?" thread.  Either answer could be done well, honestly; I'd have just a liked a little closure/a last joke on that front.  Nevertheless, it certainly wraps up enough to be satisfying.

I think what ultimately makes this story work, though, isn't any particular joke or setpiece, but rather that the author recognized that "Dash lusts after sink" is not, in itself, a story.  Oh, make no mistake: ...But the Kitchen Sink is entirely about Dash lusting after a sink.  I'm just saying that it manages to be a story about that, rather than presenting the fact with a little goofy dialogue and calling it a day.  This approach isn't perfectly realized, in both technical terms (there are some common early-fandom writing pitfalls, e.g. a moderate case of LUS) and broader construction (Dash's dream sequence is exactly the kind of predictable "reads like a parody of a romance... but with a sink!" approach that I was hoping not to see), but it nevertheless is accomplished to a sufficient degree to satisfy my desire to... well, to read a story.

Star rating:

More nostalgia facts!  Dubs got his name back in the 4chan days, when he would ask the mlpg what episode he should watch--post ending in doubles picked the ep.  Hence, "Dubs Rewatcher."

Recommendation:  If you find romantic parodies funny, you'll probably enjoy this.  It's also a good bet for readers intrigued by the idea, but wary of one-note, one-joke material.  It's not likely to appeal much to those looking for great tonal consistency, however.

Next time:  Twilight Sparkle of the Royal Guard,  by King of Beggars


  1. I suspect that the reason Rainbow shipped with everything was tied in to her being a tomboy athlete. On one hand, she conforms to lesbian tropes, on the other, her interests and goals are relatively male coded and would put her in contact with stallions more than most of the others. (Also, between the Wonderbolt goal and weather stuff, she might have been shown to do more stuff with guys, at least background guys who also aren't related to her, than any of the others in S1.)

    Oh yeah, and there was the Gilda thing which led to very early breaking of the species barrier in terms of shipping her. So there's that too.

    1. I maintain it's because you can find all her friends' colors in her mane. With the exception of Pinkie Pie, confirming the Color Complement Theory of Shipping. :V

    2. I always thought Rainbow was the most often shipped because people wanted to see her comforted. Her entire persona is built around an image that she sticks to because she otherwise feels inadequate and is petrified of showing vulnerability, even around her friends. She's scared. And you could say the same of Fluttershy, except that Fluttershy spends most of her time in an environment where she feels fine, and only struggles with fear when she needs to go beyond that (which once included interacting with any pony ever). Still, Fluttershy spends most of her time unafraid and feeling like herself; Rainbow Dash doesn't. And I figured a lot of shippers just wanted to see Rainbow break that barrier and be accepted for it, at least by one other pony.

    3. Ah, but PP, what about Rainbow's *eyes*? ;-)

  2. Chris, I'm disappointed. The Hobbit just turned 80, and you instead waste your blurb on how you space out reviews. What kind of Tolkien fan are you?

    1. What kind, indeed? It's also Bilbo and Frodos' birthdays today; I wouldn't want to hazard a guess at their combined total of years, as we sit here, somewhere in (perhaps?) the Seventh Age, but I think it's safe to say they've passed one gross by a fair margin.

  3. Those lines about Dash's only focus being to join the Wonderbolts were great, but I don't think her intense focus on that one goal or the lack of others are really that damning. Lets look through the main six:

    Keep the farm going. (Probably) have a family at some point.

    ...just keep doing what she's doing, maybe?

    Expand her fashion empire, but without looking the personal craftsmanship of her work. Become wealthy. Become known in classy society, and make stunning impressions on anypony who matters. Marry a dashing stallion who will treat her with the courtesy and romance. And go on to live a glamorous life among the elite of society.

    Don't disappoint Celestia. Save the world if it's in danger.

    Pinkie Pie:
    There's a day after tomorrow?

    Dash is actually one of the more ambitious and self-deterministic of the main six. And to be fair, I know plenty of real people who don't have any more direction in their lives than that.

    Personally, I could buy Dash thinking “maybe I need more to my life than this one goal.” But I couldn't buy her suddenly not wanting her one goal, at least without some great epiphany about why she wanted it or why it's suddenly not that important to her.

    1. Agreed there, but there's still some gradient with, I think, Rarity on one extreme and AJ on the other. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie needed to make a break from their childhoods to get where they are now, so in a sense their broad goals existed but are in the rear-view mirrors; Fluttershy of course also always had the dealing with shyness and asserting herself angles for development. Twilight was implicitly moving towards some greater role, even if that was more directed by Celestia than herself (and that was something fans felt by the time I joined up in the S1/S2 break).

      Applejack did leave, yeah, but only to realize she already had everything she really wanted (except maybe having a family someday, and I guess winning at a rodeo?--but how important has that ever been outside the one episode).

  4. Haha! I've been waiting three years for this review!

    Thanks for taking a look at it. I wrote this story when I was 15, and although there are still a good number of things I like in it—the last scene in particular, which made Pav Feira spit up soda on his computer when he first read it, is a favorite of mine—but I hope that I've improved at least a little in the five-or-so years since. I find it interesting that you complimented its... non-one-noteness. Back when it first came out, kits of all people HATED the fic with a passion, even trash-talking it in completely unrelated comment sections, because they had the exact opposite reaction of you.

    In any case, thanks for remembering it. I hope it wasn't a total waste of time.

    1. This comment gives me a heaping helping of nostalgia. ._. Ahhh.

  5. Ah, the Love That Dares Not Drip Its Name.