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Yuri on Ice, Hallmark Movies, Tropes, Copyright, Etc.

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The “news” that Google chooses to highlight for me is a hilarious and sadly accurate snapshot of my life. Like, today it was like “Tom Hardy Reads CBeebies” and “Yuri on Ice Fans Are Angry at the Hallmark Channel.” Apparently the Hallmark Channel is making a movie about a figure skater who falls in love with her coach. Also apparently, the movie was already in production by the time YoI premiered, so it seems basically impossible that it has anything to do with YoI and is just a coincidence. This isn’t surprising: Creativity seems to run in cycles, and similar ideas seem frequently to crop up at the same time. But I am fascinated by this for two reasons:

(1) I know Hallmark movies. I have watched many a Hallmark movie in my day. I know these tropes. I *write* these tropes. More than even fic, probably the genre I write is “Hallmark movie,” let’s be honest. So, considering I just wrote a whole 2,000 words about how I didn’t get YoI because I didn’t understand the tropes, I am fascinated at having this ability to so directly compare and contrast. I think I can predict that the Hallmark movie will have a more traditionally happy ending and not an ending that I have to read thousands of words of meta on to try to convince myself not to be disappointed over. I don’t actually know what the Hallmark movie will be striving for, but whatever it is, I feel the girl will get it. (Will it be more Olympics-centric? I can’t tell. I literally have read nothing about it other than that article I linked. That seems like a big story for a Hallmark movie to tackle but at the same time, I think American are Olympic-centric when it comes to skating, mostly? Like, when I was telling a friend about YoI, she was like, “Wait, this wasn’t about the Olympics?” I guess if I had to guess I’d assume it would probably be about Nationals.)

I also feel like I can predict that its secondary characters will not be nearly as well or vividly drawn as in YoI. The Hallmark movie will be focused on its two leads, to the detriment of all the other storylines that YoI developed. I’m not sure there will be an equivalent Yurio character, but if there is one, I feel like he (actually, probably she) will be written in a very, very different way. I feel fairly sure there will be a J.J.-ish character who will have a very J.J. storyline (J.J. was actually one of my favorites, because I thought he was hilarious parody that hit every note correctly).

I also think there will be much less emphasis on actual skating in the Hallmark movie. YoI was so careful with the skating routines, and the practicing to get ready for skating, and when you think about it, basically the entire show takes place on ice--either practicing or competing. Aside from Episode 10 and a few scattered conversations here and there, the show takes place at competitions. The Hallmark movie will definitely have a lot more off-ice time, because it’s going to have a very different focus than YoI did. (I think. I would have said YoI’s focus was on the skating and not the relationship but then again there was that ending.)

(2) Because I feel like I can easily predict that these are going to be two very different tellings of a figure skating love story, I also feel like there’s no way it’s copyright infringement, timeline notwithstanding, because nobody owns an idea. You can only own your particular expression of an idea. Fans understand this instinctively. The extraordinary person who wrote the first coffee shop AU doesn’t come after all subsequent coffee shop AUs. Omegaverse is not a thing that belongs to only the fandom who came up with it. Now partly this is because fans just don’t usually think that way. We’re borrowing ourselves, and so we’re generally okay with other people borrowing from us. Creativity is collaborative, and fandom recognizes and celebrates that, and I’ve always loved that about fandom. If I were to write a YoI-Inception crossover, I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t get an outcry about this from YoI fans that I’d copied their show. But the YoI fans *were* upset over the Hallmark Channel thing. So now I want to know, and I have theories, but I’d love to hear from you:

Why? What makes the Hallmark Channel thing so upsetting, whereas my using YoI to write a new Sherlock fic wouldn’t be?

One of my theories is the fact that the Hallmark Channel thing is for-profit. I can re-write YoI to be about dreamsharers--or vice versa, I suppose--but I’m not making any money off of it, so that’s okay. Except that the rise of Patreon has made me less clear where the fandom line on profitability is these days. (I don’t Patreon much, but I’d love to hear thoughts on that, too.) So do we still have a profit line, and what is that line?

One of my other theories is that the line isn’t profitability but “one of us”-ness. Which is something that I think, on first glance, makes me vaguely uncomfortable? I would be writing a YoI crossover as a fan myself, within the context of fannishness, so that’s okay. But the Hallmark Channel isn’t engaging in the cultural conversation, they’re co-opting, so that’s wrong. (To be clear, I don’t think the Hallmark Channel is doing anything wrong, because “love story in figure skating world” is just an idea that no one can own; I’m just theorizing why it got such a reaction from YoI fans.)

The reason the “one of us” thing becomes uncomfortable for me is because I don’t like line-drawing that’s based on a feeling that someone is “like us” or “not like us.” I’d rather have a definition of that (which was why for-profit seemed so convenient to me, not only because it’s a slightly more objective definition but also because it’s one of the copyright factors so it was rooted in a legal view).

There is also the fact that the Hallmark Channel seems to be about a straight relationship, which erases the queer representation of YoI, which is ongoing-ly problematic about Hallmark Channel movies. Which makes me curious: If the Hallmark Channel were making this movie about a same-sex figure skating couple, does that make it *more* problematic for YoI fans? Or less?

Almost all stories are similar on some level of abstraction. The challenge in a copyright infringement case is figuring out how much needs to be similar before it becomes a legal violation. So that’s my question to you. Do you think “love story about figure skating” is similarity enough? Is it “love story about figure skating where central figure skater falls in love with his/her coach”? Is it “love story about struggling figure skater who falls in love with his/her coach”? Or would it have to be “love story about struggling figure skater who falls in love with his/her coach who is also his/her competitor”? Or “love story about struggling figure skater who wants to quit but decides not to when his/her idol shows up to be his/her coach”? Or “love story about bored figure skater who decides to coach for a year for that fascinating figure skater he danced with at that banquet that one time”? What element has to be present--or missing--to make things “different”?
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On January 4th, 2017 03:20 pm (UTC), brunettepet commented:
I had wondered what this Yuri on Ice thing even was as it's popped up on my feed like wildfire over the past few months. Thanks for clearing that up and making it pretty clear it's not for me but still intrigues me enough to want to see a few episodes and then even, possibly, maybe watch a Hallmark movie! Also, I need to see what Tom Harding reading CBeebies even is! I am obviously hilariously easily manipulated.

Edited at 2017-01-04 09:14 pm (UTC)
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On January 4th, 2017 11:10 pm (UTC), earlgreytea68 replied:
I give you: Tom Hardy reading CBeebies! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McluOEkjop4
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On January 6th, 2017 06:35 am (UTC), brunettepet replied:
I had immediately posted this and jumped to see Tom reading it. What a wonderfully illustrated, funny story and I love Tom even more. How is that even possible?
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On January 4th, 2017 07:42 pm (UTC), rereader commented:
This is so interesting! TBH, while I have not seen any of YoI, I have seen at least three ice-skating movies that I remember very clearly (including one in which the hero dies--it was a fab weepie!) and I know I've seen several others that I don't remember as well. Really the YoI plot did not sound particularly innovative, except for the coach being the love interest and that the characters are gay. And what I want to know is: Why isn't anyone all outraged that the romance is between a coach and a coachee?

Because if this were between a grad student and a prof of the exact same ages as the characters in YoI, of any sexual orientation, my mind would go immediately to "fire that prof," and I think this is a problem for me for the bare bones plot summaries I have seen--this is a power-imbalance relationship and is not at all okay.

(Sorry for veering off into another topic altogether, but seriously, why aren't people upset about it? Is it okay if the characters aren't being played by human actors, or what?)
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On January 4th, 2017 11:12 pm (UTC), earlgreytea68 replied:
That is so interesting! I honestly never thought about a power imbalance between them, but that could be because he's not actually a coach? Like, it's weird, but he's really a fellow skater who kind of decides to coach the character out of the blue? Idk, it's a weird coaching relationship, the characters themselves even say that he's not an actual coach? But I don't really know what skating coaches are supposed to do so I'm not sure how what he does is different from what other coaches do.

BUT anyway, it doesn't feel like a huge power imbalance, I think because of how weird the situation is. But it's interesting that you bring it up, because I hadn't thought about that at all!
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On January 5th, 2017 01:04 am (UTC), rereader replied:
Huh. Well, I don't know about YoI, but normally a coach is a bit of an odd relationship--the athlete pays the coach, and now and then an athlete will "part ways" (read: fire) one coach and go to another, but so far as I can tell, so long as a coach is working with an athlete the coach is in control, and athletes defer to their coaches a great deal.

But of course, I only know about YoI what I've picked up from the power of social media!
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On January 10th, 2017 11:53 pm (UTC), postynotedreams commented:
I know nothing about YoI but "love story about figure skating" is practically a trope in itself. Ice Castles, The Cutting Edge and more vintage films than you can imagine. Google "ice skating movies". It will amaze you.
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