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Final Fantasy VIII :: Eye of the Beholder

Final Fantasy VIII :: Eye of the Beholder
Guest Review by: Glitter Animal


CHARACTERIZATION: 1/5 (Kiros shows up too briefly to be OOC.)
PLOT: 1/5 (It's a self-admitted PWP.)

WARNING: If you are one of the two people in the world who (1)have internet access, (2) do not know who Laguna is, and (3) actually care, hit your back button now. This review contains spoilers.

Okay. Are the rest of you ready?

Hi, I'm Glitter Animal, and I have a confession to make. Incest doesn't squick me. Wait! Don't run away. Let me explain. Most incest fics disturb me, but incest in-and-of itself does not.

People abusing positions of authority just to get some? Squicky.

Oedipus unknowingly shagging his mother? No problem.

Eroticization of the familial relationship (e.g., "Oh, give it to me, Daddy, spank your naughty boy!")? Massively squicky.

Naked siblings rolling around like energetic puppies? Let me show you my brother-smut collection.

Now, before you go off thinking that I'm a freak who gets her thrills from telling strangers about her kinks, there's a reason why I mention this. (Well, two reasons--I had to use that "Oh, Daddy" line somewhere.) Most of this fic's reviewers can't see the fic for the incest.

When I first read this fic--on back before the NC-17 purge--it had three pages of reviews. A good eighty-five percent of those were "Incest is BAD! You disgusting person, you." Another ten percent were "Wow! Laguna and Squall are sooo HOT together!" Only a couple of people commented on the fic's characterization. Really, this is a shame. Laguna/Squall smut isn't as rare as those sheltered reviewers think it is. It's the characterization that makes this fic memorable.

By the time I saw the fic, the author's notes had been revised to end with
For everybody screaming about OOCness, I'm maintaining my stance that Laguna can be in just as bad a mood as anyone else! -_-
(For the author's sake, I hope that there were more OOC complaints than the two or three I saw. If not, she's a sensitive soul, and I almost feel bad for writing this.)

Having read that note, it's up to us, the discerning readers, to decide if that explanation satisfactorily accounts for any--and all--perceived OOCness in the fic.

Okay? Let's begin.

The fic opens with Squall leaning against the door frame of Laguna's office. His cheek briefly rests against the closed door, and it's entirely my fault that it takes several minutes before I realize we're talking about one of the cheeks near his ears--not one of the cheeks near his belts. I can't quite visualize Squall's pose, but that's a small

He pauses at the door because Kiros has told him that Laguna is "in a mood." Squall expects that this moodiness will be accompanied by swearing and the sounds of objects breaking. Hmm, okay, I don't automatically associate moodiness with people breaking things--sounds more like a temper tantrum to me--but it's plausible that Squall does.

Squall doesn't hear anything from the other side of the door, so he uses the intercom, and a voice barks at him. Laguna barks at him. I'm a little surprised by this, but willing to write it off. Laguna's in a mood, so he's being a bit abrupt. It could happen.

Squall walks in, looks at Laguna, and thinks that Laguna looks "like a man who was sulking."

Ah, sulkiness. That's a mood I know well. My twin was quite sullen throughout his teens. Traits of sullenness and sulkiness are aloofness, withdrawl, and silent anger/resentment/protest. Sullenness is long-term--it's a disposition. Sulkiness is a fit, a temporary mood. And let's face it, if anyone could instantly recognize sulkiness, Squall could.

Squall--broody "... Whatever" boy that he is--is the poster child for sullenness throughout the early discs of FF8. Because of this, I trust
his assessment of Laguna's mood. I trust it enough that I don't even flinch when Laguna says "Shut that damned door." (That's a lot of trust because I can't imagine Laguna swearing under normal circumstances.) If Laguna's being sulky, he's not going to talk a lot, but he might say something like this to alert Squall to his mood and discourage further conversation.

Squall is not discouraged; he walks farther into the room. Laguna is growling to himself. Squall asks him if he's had a fight with Kiros. Laguna starts snarling and snapping. I start feeling uneasy. Is this really a sulk? It's beginning to look more
like werewolfism.

Laguna complains that the room is too dark for reading. Squall turns
on some lamps. Laguna glares, snorts and swears through a bit more of the scene. Then, after a thunderous glare--how does a glare make a sound?--and some more loud swearing, the crux of the matter is revealed when Laguna puts on his reading glasses.
"Those are new," [Squall] commented mildly. Laguna shot him a look that might have been deadly under other circumstances and thumped the papers back down on the desk, scribbling a note on them so hard that his pen tip tore a hole in the page. Squall wisely said nothing after that and the older man went through several more documents, furiously glaring at them all, lips pressed angrily tight.

Finally Laguna flung his pen down, turning the glare back on Squall. "Well?" he demanded. "Don't just sit there. Go ahead and fucking say it."
Oh, my goodness.

Laguna said the F-word.

Charmingly-inept Laguna, who holds maps upside down, has holes in his pockets big enough for keys to fall through, and is an all-around goof-up who still manages to come through when his friends need him, is swearing. Endearingly-awkward-around-women Laguna, who is still such a
good, decent man that Selphie calls him "Sir Laguna," just said the F-word. I don't have words for how this disturbs me, so let me show you a little more.
"Say what?" Squall asked.

"What you're thinking," Laguna snarled. He slipped the glasses off, looking as
though he'd like to throw them across the room. "You might as well. Kiros already did. 'You look serious,'" he mimiced viciously, then swore. "Like I have to look like someone's damn grandfather to look serious!"

"You think they make you look old?" Squall asked, surprised. Laguna, however, was having none of it.

"There, you see?" he demanded, as though the word on Squall's lips was all the proof he needed. He slammed the glasses down on a stack of printouts.
"God *damn* it. I don't fucking need these. I was down at the shooting range just the other day - my eyes are *fine*!"

He said it again.

(Actually, he says it three times in this scene and then he gets laid. It's kind of magical, isn't it? Say Beetlejuice three times, and you get Beetlejuice straight up from the Neitherworld. Say f*** three times, and something else comes up.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm not prissy. I use the word often enough, but we're talking about Laguna, not me. Hearing Laguna say this--well, it's not as shocking as hearing the Pope say it, I guess, but it's got to be up there with an archbishop or somebody saying it.

The problem here is not that Laguna is upset. Sure, Laguna can
be in just as bad a mood as anyone else. The problem is that people are still themselves whatever mood they are in. If they get upset, they get upset in character. If you put ten people in a room
and cause them to feel the same emotion, you're going to see ten different reactions.

Take anger, for example. As my sullen brother gets angry, he gets increasingly quiet and withdrawn. He's like a bomb that shrinks right before exploding. He gets very still and quiet, and then suddenly jumps up, yells something extremely nasty, and leaves the room. My highly-emotional college roommate would burst into tears when she was mad. It's how she got everyone to focus on her and do what she wanted them to do. When I get really mad, I hurt myself. I used to slam my
fist into things until I broke my hand. Now, I hit my thigh until I leave bruises. I'm so introverted, even my anger has to be turned inwards.

So, people get angry in unique ways. They often become a caricature of themselves with one trait blown way out of proportion. If you've
never seen someone get upset, it's hard to guess how they'll act. Afterwards, though, you can usually make a connection between their fit of anger and their overall personality. I cannot make that connection with Laguna in this fic.

I would have believed a sulky Laguna.


Because sometimes when people are in a bad mood, they want to nurture that mood--they want to wallow in it. The last thing they want to do is spoil the mood.

Now, Laguna likes to talk. You can tell that he enjoys chatting with Ward and Kiros. We know that he can ramble for hours and lose track of time. (Consider the scene with Julia.) We know that he likes telling people about his travels--he's a journalist. It's easy to imagine him cutting himself off from something he enjoys in order to maintain a bad mood, so it's easy to imagine him sulking. But what he's doing here is too overstated and too noisy to be sulking.

So, if Laguna is believably in-character in this fic, we have to believe that he's seriously upset, pushed to the point of acting out-of-character--if that makes sense. It could happen, I suppose. I don't see it happening for anything less than his friends being tortured or something equally heinous. And if he really was pushed to that point, I don't see him cheering up any time soon.

Ah, but he does. Squall literally screws him out of his bad mood. Sex up against a desk, isn't it swell?

This is why I've decided that Laguna is suffering from PMS. Emotions are usually expressed in ways that are in keeping with one's personality. Hormones don't give a damn.

Hormones don't respect established character traits; they just let loose. "Whee! Wild mood swings! Let's go!"

Now, if only Laguna had ovaries...

That takes care of Laguna. We'd be finished if it weren't for the matter of Squall.

Basically, Squall calms Laguna's emotional upheaval over aging by reassuring him of his sexiness. This would work for a lot of couples. ("Hey, babe, you're still sexy. Let me prove it." Smut ensues. Everyone is happy. The End.) But would it work with Squall? He's not exactly Mr. Sensitive.

I'll give Squall credit. By the end of the game, he is orders of magnitude less of a jerk than he was in the beginning. (FF8 is the RPG that made me stop naming the main character after myself. After the scene in the training center when Squall is a jerk to Quistis, I reset the game and started again from the beginning. I knew that I wouldn't be able to stand seeing my name used by such an insensitive ass.)

Squall's better by this point, but it's not like he hasn't been quite busy for most of the game. He hasn't had a chance to go to a lot of sensitivity-training seminars. I'd still expect him to be sullen around most people, so it's a little surprising that he'd care how Laguna felt--let alone have sex with him.

While the author's note says that this is a "PWP that assumes they're already in a relationship," there's no indication in the fic that this is actually the case. What we see is someone, who we have every reason to expect to be standoffish, suddenly--and inexplicably--turning sultry and coming on to... his biological father. (More on that in a minute.) For this to work--to convince us that Squall hasn't been taken over by pod people--we need to see some indication of a prior sexual relationship
between these two before Squall turns sultry.

(One of the things that ruins my innocent enjoyment of this incest fic is that Squall acknowledges--however obliquely--their biological
In the occasional times he was willing to admit he bore more than a passing resembalance to the other man, even Squall was inclined to say they looked more like older and younger brother than anything else.
I would feel a lot less like a pervy freak if Squall did not acknowledge the relationship.)

So, we need something in the fic to help us make the transition from sullen Squall to sexy Squall. Then, there is how Squall tries to be sexy...
Leaning back on his arms, [Squall] shrugged slightly, the motion sending one side of his leather jacket slipping down his shoulder. He made certain he had Laguna's full attention before uttering the next word in a lower voice, the barest ghost of a smile playing on his lips. "Desireable."
(The fic's author is a talented artist. You can see the picture of this scene that was with the fic when it was posted on on this page.)

I don't see Squall doing this. As soon as that jacket starts slipping, he morphs into Molly Ringwald. You see, I'm quite familiar with the shoulder maneuver, but--maybe I've lead a sheltered life--I've never seen a guy do that. I've seen lots of junior-high girls do it, though. I went to junior high in the 80's, so almost every girl had a jean jacket. The shoulder maneuver was a very common way for girls to draw attention to their breasts.

Guys don't usually bother drawing attention to their chests. If they have a great chest, they already know that they've got women--and men--lined up to swoon over the width of their shoulders, so they go straight to poses that emphasize their package. If they have less impressive chests, the same thing happens.

(It's a small point, really, but sometimes a world of characterizationgoes into a small point.

Imagine a story that shows a man going about his day being quite nice and polite to his coworkers and strangers on the subway. After a while of this, we think we know what this character is like, right? Then the author has him come home and kick a puppy. It's only one small action in a day full of them, but our understanding of the man is permanently altered.

In the same way, an author could spend paragraphs describing an elegantly-dressed woman at an ambassador's ball. All it takes is one sentence to completely change our impression of her. She glanced around and then began to pick her nose.)

So, Squall's manliness begins to slip a little for me once the sex scene
starts. It continues:
That won [Squall] the response he wanted. Laguna turned around fully, facing him. He was still frowning, but he was having to work to maintain the expression, his usual grin struggling to resurface with a pleased look to it. "Say that again," he ordered.

Squall smiled indulgently, the unusual gesture brightening his face. "Desireable," he repeated firmly, watching the older man's eyes light up. "Sexy," he added deliberatly, pronouncing the word with slow relish, giving each syllable its own exhale with a tiny pause between.
Game Show Host: Congratulations, Squall, you've just sprouted boobs! How do they feel?
Squall: Sexxx ... xxxy.

In all honesty, that last sentence is the one that utterly ruined the fic for me. It's weird--it's really no more than Squall having an asthma attack while trying to be sexy, but it effects me strongly. Two equally disturbing images of Squall are now locked in an eternal game of tug-of-war in my brain. Neither image will gain supremacy. Neither image will go away.

The first image is lisping, mincing, Nancy-boy Squall, the living embodiment of every nasty, small-minded thing that I ever heard said about fags and queers when I was growing up--this mythical beast that finally disappeared when I figured out what people were talking about ("So they have sex with other men? I don't get it. What's the big deal?").

The second image is Squall as Marilyn Monroe standing before JFK and singing in the breathless, I-don't-have-a-brain-in-my-little-ol'-head, baby voice that she adopted to be perceived as sexy, " Birth... day... Mister... Pre... si... dent..."

It's not the author's fault that I have such a violent reaction to this, but I think she should be aware that she's turned sullen, broody Squall-boy into a sultry--and silly--woman. That's a pity, since Squall's sexiness is really based in his aloofness, in the lure of the unattainable.

Overall, the fic's not so bad for a PWP. It just needs some fine-tuning:
  • Laguna and Squall's prior sexual relationship needs to be established in the fic.
  • Laguna's moodiness needs to be taken down a couple notches towards a more proper sulk.
  • Squall's
    attempt at seduction should be rethought.
  • While the writing is pretty good, there's still seven misspelled words in a relatively short fic.
  • The author might want to hook up with a very careful beta-reader who can help her with the problem areas of hyphens and commas. (Still, it's rather refreshing to read something by someone who's got all the elementary grammar down.)
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to cram a Squall-plushie into a skin-tight, white 1950's evening gown and make him croon to Laguna-plushie.

Out-o'-character in every way
And forever more, that's how you'll stay
That's why, darling, it's incredible
That someone so out-o'-character
Thinks that I am out-o'-character too

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