Serious question about fanfic (Carter-related) : LUSENET : ER Discussions : One Thread

I've been working on a project to index fanfiction on the web (for ER Weekly) and having read so many of them now, I have a question. And please don't take it as a nasty question, that's not the spirit it is intended... it's just a curious question. (cause fanfic interests me)

And that question is, why is Carter always being victimized one way or the other in fanfics? Maybe people don't realize it because they don't read it all but... I haven't even scratched the surface of the Carter fic out there and the poor man has already been beaten, shot, stalked, kidnapped, infected by a deadly plague, almost raped, actually raped, killed by Paul Sobricki, killed on his honeymoon, etc... this is just a huge theme with Carter and I'm wondering why him and never, say, Doug or Dave or Carol or whoever.

In fact (I'm just kidding here but) I think about the only form of suffering that Carter hasn't been put through yet is going through childbirth... yet I'm sure that someone will manage to write such a story in the near future. ("Dr. Benton...I'm pregnant"!) :-)

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Or does this not trouble/interest anyone else? Just wondering.

-- Ellen (, July 16, 2000



I'm not a fanfic writer, but I do enjoy reading them. I think one of the main reasons that people are tramatizing Carter is because after what happened in season six, he just seems so much easier to victimise, an d the writers of ER did leave a gap with his drug addiction, that needs to be filled, at least until season 7 starts. Another reason might be is that other people feel sorry for other characters. For example, everyone is always saying how bad they feel for Mark. Being beaten up, divorced, etc, etc. Doug had a "horrible" childhood, and Luka went through a war. Carter has just started to get all the bad stuff.

Now this is a little off topic, but I know what Ellen means by Carter being the only one tramatised. So here is a fanfic challenge, that I will also post up on the ER creativity board. Why doesn't somebody do a angst story about Elizabeth, although not one about an ex coming back to stock her, or her horrible past in England. I've read a few stories about those, and they are good, but that's not what I mean for this challenge. You could probably do some good Elizabeth anst, with her relationship with Mark, and now her close relationship with her mother. Good Luck.


-- Amy (, July 16, 2000.

True but I think there is always something wrong with everybody. I mean look at Doug and Carol fanfic, they've both been raped, shot, stabbed, had cancer scares, abused etc. I'm not sure whether it is because ER is a medical program and a drama that there is a lot of medical related plots and dramatic storylines. What I have noticed however from reading other types of fanfic is that there are an awful lot less dead or injured people, less people are shot and the others seem to be much more content with people having affairs as a dramatic storylines. But then again it's a lot of fun breaking up your favourite character and picking up the pieces afterwards. You can get a much deeper insight into the person. Those sort of angles are often missing from other types of fics. (yeah I know i'm not making sense again, oh well just try and understand as much as you can!)

-- Lara Aine (, July 16, 2000.

Maybe people enjoy putting their favorite characters through hell so that they can then cuddle and nurse their favrite character back to health? I don't know, I'm just postulating.

Exposing a character to a severe trauma like that can show the character's vulnerabilities, weaknesses...their "human" side. I think a lot of folks feel that, on the show, we don't see enough of the docs lives outside the hospital, dealing with non-ER related issues. Giving Carter a terrible experience to go through in a fanfic gives us the opportunity to explore his character, make him "deal with his issues," or what have you. Hmm. I'll have to think about this some more. Yeesh, someone actually wrote a story where he was raped? *shudder* Maybe the pregnant story will come up after the story where he has his sex-change operation and falls in love with Benton...LOL

-- Cecelia (, July 16, 2000.

Cecelia, i actually read two stories concerning carter and rape. The first one takes place during season five...a new chief of emergency medicine is interested in carter and eventually rapes him...the story deals with this and chase, anna, and his relationship with his family and is excellent. it is called "homeless once more" by cathy roberts. the second one has a new chief of staff attempt to rape carter and the story is dealing with the afermath and the staff's reaction. it is also good, called "chosen victim" by julie (sorry, don't know the last name). but i noticed this trend too, and i think it is because carter as a character has so much angst from so many sources. he is not one to ask for help, as shown this season. i think people want to hurt him so other characters will nuture him in recovery and his soul will eventually heal. i'm glad someone else noticed this...i was beginning to see all the torture carter goes through. but since most of these stories are very well written, i have no qualms. lets just hope TPTB don't try to abuse carter on the show like fanfic writers are doing!

-- Erin (, July 16, 2000.

Unfortunately, it wouldn't be "gripping drama" if there were no angst...Heh. Yeah, the suffering that writers (whether fanfic or TPTB) put Carter through really give the other characters a chance to nurture him, and interact with him, which is what makes a story a story.

I'll have to check those stories you mentioned out. On I've been lurking for a while but don't check the posts all that frequently. I do remember Cathy Roberts' name. She was one of the ones who became utterly irate that someone dared to make a general criticism of ER fanfic writing...THAT was a flame- filled thread. (I didn't start it, BTW. I like reading the stuff, but the complainer did have some legitimate complaints.)

-- Cecelia (, July 16, 2000.

There's another one where Cathy Roberts puts Carter through the physical ringer, if not the emotional, and that's "Going Home". Though the story focuses more on Luka and Dave and a developing relationship (NOT sexual) with them, it's because she's got Carter sick & dying through their fault. It's very good writing.

BTW Ellen, where are you finding all this fanfic. I know of only one site.

-- AmyE (, July 16, 2000.

I'm trying to compile a list of links to fanfic which can be searched, so if there are particular characters who you like and particular situations you like, you can find them more easily. So I have been combing through a LOT of fanfic recently...

About Carter - the season 6 stabbing thing is true, but Carter victimization has been going on before Season 6 (in the fanfic, that is). So it isn't just the events of this season that have started it... I think all the characters are put through their share of angst in the fics, but it's interesting how in many stories Carter has to be rescued (not just comforted, but actually RESCUED as if he were a damsel in distress). There's no other male character in the fanfics who gets written about quite like that. Not even the female characters! I really have not seen too many stories where Carol, for instance, is put in so many dangerous situations where she must rely on the other characters for emotional or physical rescue.

So, why Carter in particular? Many writers seem to need to treat him for all practical purposes as a stand-in female character -- if you want to get real stereotypical, a female character needing to be rescued. A lot of what happens to Carter in these stories (ie sexual harassment, stalking, rape) are concerns that women might have for themselves - why do they feel the need to put Carter through the same things, do you think?

I don't have any value judgment on that, I just think it's fascinating.

-- Ellen (, July 16, 2000.

here are the er fanfic sites i know of. i would appreciate it if anyone would post more that they know of...i get bored a lot and love to read er fanfic ok, here are the ones i know of the message board... board the golden kingdom of er has a fanfic archive site... and here is "the lounge" witha fan fic archive...

hope these helped!

-- Erin (, July 16, 2000.

Now that I think of it, even on the show, Carter has been dealt more than a few bad hands. I keep thinking of all the times he's tripped and fallen over a cart, for example. I know, this is hardly an example of a trauamtic experience, but he's had a lot of troubles. I'm wondering if the writers have been trying to emphasize Carter's learning experience by making him got through all these things. He's always been an ambitious student, always wanting to impress the higher-ups and his teacher, but he always gets taken down several pegs when he starts to get cocky. Showing us what a hard road it is, the road of the med student/young doctor. What pitfalls you may all into.

And by extension, fanfic writers are so accustomed to seeing Carter take the fall again and again on the show, and learn something from it, that they keep up the tradition. That's my budding theory, at least so far.

As for the "damsel in distress" thing--that's a great analogy. I wonder...We need an appealing, young, naive character who we can relate to, who makes a mistake or two and has to suffer terrible we can rush in and save them...over and over again...Hmmm. Well, maybe they'd be accused of sexism if they had created a female character like this. Who knows? That sort of thing happens all the time.

-- Cecelia (, July 16, 2000.

I think that in general, ER has been very good at creating characters who are what you would call "psychologically androgynous." (sorry for the technical term there) Meaning simply that they don't just stick to the stereotypical male/female qualities. I think Carter is one, Kerry is another. (I think this is less true, however, of characters like Doug, Carol and Benton.)

Anyway- Carter is sensitive, talk-oriented (with patients and with Benton in the old days), nurturing, etc - these are "female" qualities to go along with the "male" qualities he has. Kerry is ambitious, hard-headed, not conventionally sexy (and her crutch has something to do with that too), so there you have a bit of "male" to go along with the "female" - these are well rounded characters.

I think that fanfic writers might be picking up on this with Carter and just running with it.

On a different subject but now that I think of it... people say that Carter and Benton have great chemistry as characters. I don't think they are talking sexual (ie gay?) chemistry. What they might be perceiving is that Carter's "female" qualities are always being played off Benton's more obvious "male" ones (he's emotionally closed off, of few words, more interested in action than talk). There isn't a gay subtext to the relationship of these two characters IMHO, it actually seems quite the opposite (psychologically, it's more of a male-female thing going on?). Very yin and yang...

-- Ellen (, July 16, 2000.

As for the fanfic and needing to rush and save Carter - on the show, he HAS been young, inexperienced, vulnerable, etc, but on the show, he absorbs his experiences and becomes stronger and more capable. He isn't being rescued on the show. Although he may have some incidental help or comfort from others, he gets by on his own strength. But in the fanfic world, he's almost always being rescued by the other characters, he's a lot more passive.

In fact, I think "May Day" (not counting the end of "Be Still My Heart," obviously) was the first time we ever faded out on Carter where he was NOT getting by on his own strength... he was totally helpless. But in fanfic, this seems to happen all the time.

It's ironic we are having this discussion when tomorrow they are about to show "Exodus" on TNT...

-- Ellen (, July 16, 2000.

As an author who writes Carter angst I will attempt to answer this question. I like to do character exploration, that's my thing. For me I write traumatic things so that the character or Carter experiences different levels of emotions, therefore, exploring his reactions and interactions with other characters.

When a character goes through some serious emotional issues they learn something about him or herself or the other characters learn things about themselves. When I wrote "Broken Thoughts" they were personal entries of Peter Benton and Carter written from their POV after the events of May Day. They were written as true to character as possible and I think delve into issues we did not see on, because it is a TV show and limited. I didn't do anything to Carter and it was well received by others.

On "Burden of Guilt" I wanted Mark and Peter to deal with their own guilt over not noticing that they were too wrapped up in their own lives to notice Carter's problems. To do this, Carter was involved in an accident on the way to Atlanta. In real life when someone is hurt or endanger it is the only few times we examine our emotions regarding them. Look at all the "great things" we talk about people only after they die.

As for why Carter? I really like him and he is a very complex character with a lot of hidden emotional problems if you really watch the show. I love Carter and in the end he is always a better person in my stories. Sorry if this was long.

My stuff as well as other good authors can be found at erfic2000 at Kristen

-- Kristen (, July 16, 2000.

you raised some very interesting points, ellen. its almost as if these complex, "androgynous" characters play off of the other stereotypical characters on the show. when you look at the characers, not all of them have great depth...malucci is the typical hotheaded, cocky young resident, abby is the medical student trying to change the world, deb is the competitive female resident. they don't have much depth and sometimes seem to be around for those characters with emtion, i.e carter, kerry, mark, to play off of. occasionally they have developments but still not a lot of rounding characterisitcs. it's almost as if there is a double standard for characters...some get to have lots of depth and others don't. just a thought

-- Erin (, July 16, 2000.

I hate to do this, but I am going to promote my cousin. She has been writing fanfics lately about Carter and the rest of the cast and a fictional (meaning not on the show) character also joining in. They are very good. (Of course, that's just my opinion, she *is* my cousin. She'd also kill me for doing this.) She writes under the pen- name Sara and her fics are here: (scroll down the page until you see the name Sara.) Oh, and if you want to e-mail her, her new e-mail address is: She doesn't use the one in these fics anymore.

They are not even half done- she has to type the rest of them up, but so far, I think they're great.

Oh, and one of my fave Doug and Carol fics is on Courtney's ER page at she hasn't updated in a *long* time, but they are still really good. In the ones rated PG-13 Carol is raped, if you want the angst to be on someone besides Carter. (These also kind of fit in with the TNT repeats, as they are set right after "Sharp Relief".)

Hope this helps!


-- Taylor (, July 17, 2000.

I've noticed this too, Ellen. For me, I see Carter and I just adore him. I see him as vulnerable and I just want to cuddle and protect him. I love reading the Carter angst fanfics, because he does eventually get his life back together. I love seeing the concern and love his friends have for him. BTW, I noticed that Kristen posted an answer here. Her fanfics are awesome! The ones with the journals from Benton and Carter in their POV are very real I feel. I could truly see them in their personalities the way she portrayed them.

-- kristal (, July 17, 2000.

I just found out about this fan fiction and I think it's very entertaining, although I wish I had time to keep up with all of it. I agree with everyone who has been saying that all of these Carter stories have been coming up because of the 6th season. It opens up a lot of ideas. However, I do agree completely with Ellen that I want to see Carter written as strong and can save himself sometimes. I mean, I love all of these stories, so I'm not insulting them, but there are so many where Benton or Mark or even Kerry has literally physically saved a very passive, frail Carter. Whoever writes fanfiction, I would love to see a story where he shows everyone how strong he is. Maybe HE could save someone. I absolutely love seeing everyone care about him and help him though, and I think that's where all of these "Save Carter" stories are coming from.

As for other characters, I found a site that isn't being updated anymore, it must have stopped around season 5, but it has a TON of stories, in catagories by characters: The ER Fanfiction Archive.

It has pages and pages of Doug/Carol stories, (where both Doug or Carol or their children or all of them are in VERY traumatic experiences) and I even remember one called Storm Front where Doug gets violently raped on his way to a date w/ Carol, but I can't seem to find it again. (it's not on that page) But this archive has Carter stories with Anna, Lucy, Chase. It also has stories on most of the other characters before season 6. But I am also enjoying the new stories, everyone seems to have a lot of ideas right now.

-- Elaine (, July 17, 2000.

I you want relatively angst-free Carter/Anna fic, try the ER Fic2000 index. I decided that Carter needed a break and this is what I did. Read if you want & enjoy!

-- Anna Rousseau (, July 19, 2000.

Well, it had to happen... someone started a web page devoted to CARTER ANGST:

I'm afraid I'm going to have to write a column on this phenomenon for ER WEEKLY.

-- Ellen (, July 23, 2000.

Well, coming originally from another fanfic community, that of X-Files, I can tell you that this is not an Carter-specific phenomenon. MulderAngst and MulderTorture, as they are called, have been prevailent themes since 1995, when the first XF fanfic was posted online. Some of these fanfics are truly grueling: torture, suicide, rape, addiction, disease, poisoning... and that's just brushing the surface. But very few of these fics are merely about the physical violence forced upon the character; instead, they play on the same psychology as many of the current Carter fics do.

The best of them deeply explore the character's essential motivations and emotions, often in a very professional and mature manner. There is the occasional sadistic fic, but those are really anomalies. Many deal with issues that the show constantly eludes, such as Mulder's relationship with his family, why the consortium hasn't killed him, and even what could happen if he ever found his Truth(s). Some of the more interesting CarterAngst has John confront his parents. Others deal with his reactions to the deaths of those close to him, such as his brother Bobby, Dennis Gant, or Lucy; or how his actions affected his cousin Chase. These are issues central to the character that the show does not fully explore for a variety of reasons, leaving room for fans to fill in the blanks and thereby reveal more of Carter's persona.

Other fics are "post-episode" stories: they seek to resolve the threads the show leaves dangling. In The X-Files, this could be Mulder's escape from a monster or a serial killer he profiled; it could be what he was thinking when Krycek abandoned him in Tunguska, Russia; it could be how distressed he is about being shut out of his life's work. All of the "May Day" and "Be Still My Heart" fic follows a similar line: what happened OFF screen? Or where the camera can't go, into Carter's head when we see these horrible things happen to him? Again, it's the need to fill in these holes, to more fully understand the events through the character, that inpsires these writings.

Just as MulderAngst seeks to explore the psychology of our beloved character, CarterAngst gives John a voice through the fanfic author to express what the show does not or cannot. What does Carter think about Anna leaving? Abby Keaton? Gant's death was explored more than average, but again, only enough to fit one episode. His relationships with his family consists of an encyclopedia of unused material, and most recent of all, there is the trauma of February and then his own addiction. With all of these issues to work with, why are we surprise to see them dealt with outside of official channels? It is our own need for resolution, our own desire for closure for the sake of this character that we identify with and care for, that is the impetus for their exploration.

MulderTorture is somewhat more controversial than MulderAngst, and clearly so are their Carter equivalents. But for each version, there is an important factor: precedence. Fox Mulder and John Carter are both characters that suffer from the following "problems": tendency to be physically assaulted, fairly high sensitivity (heart on sleeve), underdog position, high intelligence but too-little respect, lost siblings/loved ones, fair amount of isolation from peers, and deep family issues. Oh, and a sucky love life.

But, you say, those are all features that can be attributed to many characters. What of the much-abused Mark? Doug's abusive father? Luka's war-torn past? Sure, similarities abound. But there is a certain combination that is missing that prevents us from seeing much MarkAngst. Luka comes the closest, but still, there is a distance to his character that prevents enough authors relating to him to achieve the critical mass necessary at this point to create LukaTorture.

You may notice that I didn't include any of ER's women. Jeannie had many of those listed traits, but I'll bet you a hard drive that you won't be able to track down more than, at best, three pieces about her that deal with even more than preliminaries. There is only one I know of that even qualifies, and that fic already has her deceased. Why is that? Because, I'm afraid, we (primarily women writers/readers) are, yes, sexist. I admit it. I once read an essay on slash writings (homoerotic fanfic) that postulated that the women writing slash were projecting themselves through male characters in order to avoid power issues. By working with an all-male cast, writers could portray female characteristics without dealing with the female stereotypes of women not being absolutely strong. It's obviously more complicated than that, but for our purposes it has a good point. There is also the potent hurt-comfort factor. This must, somehow, be part of the traditional female role of healer and mother, and of the strength that comes from that, however I've yet to fully understand just how. All I know is, I love to see a cute, sensitive man in pain! (As a personal aside, I'm bisexual, but the sight of a cute, sensitive woman in pain does nada for me. So, I'll shrug my shoulders and continue.)

Someone mentioned that Carter serves as the all-purpose non-female female. His sensitivity is clearly a large reason for this. Kerry Weaver is one of the few female characters who people *do* torture and angst, but you'll notice that she is one of the most masculine characters on ER! In an almost odd way, she is as "safe to feminize" as Carter is. Just as on the X-Files, there is a reversal of gender roles. But still, CarterTorture is far more prolific. In X-Files fandom, there is a very small amount of ScullyTorture out there, especially in proportion to MulderTorture, revealing this to be a not-unusual trend.

But I digress. So what if Carter is a real woman's man-woman, and sure, he's cute when he's in pain? Well, here enters that womderful term from the Greeks: pathos. From Mirriam-Webster online, defined as 1: an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion; 2: an emotion of sympathetic pity. Starting to sound familiar? Carter is our pathos on ER. The writers created him as a funnel and filter for us to experience this world of traumas and emergencies. His frustration is our frustration. His pity our pity. His compassion, elation, sorrow... all of these are designed to be our own feelings as we watch. On the X-Files, Fox Mulder's POV is our own; Dana Scully is the Other, the challenger. The Anna Del Amicos and Gamma Carters of ER come and go, the Doug Rosses and the Luka Kovacs may be controversial and grab the headlines, but it is John Carter who is there at the end of the day. Carter and Mulder both are the heart of their shows, their similarities are beyond superficial because both serve a similar artistic quality and purpose.

So Carter is who we see as Our Character, he becomes mental property of those who follow his adventures and misadventures. And we see that, as one of an ensemble, issues and emotions are brought up that the Powers That Be simply do not follow up on. So fans sit at their keyboards and *create* that follow-up. And then, as must follow with creative people, they go further. But they are keeping with the show, and how has the show taught by example? With *precedence*, of course. That precedence that gives Carter a difficult love life, that kills off his friends and family, that stabs him in the back, that continually "takes him down a peg" whenever he succeeds in his life and work. Because the top show has to keep things "interesting", it takes that character with which we see ourselves in and the show through and, well, tortures him!

So, what are authors to write when they want to create an original storyline for Carter to exist in? Well, if they want to stay faithful to the canon, they give Carter a relationship... and then have it come crashing down. They have Carter confront the family of a patient he could not save. They have him injured or addicted or just plain miserable. Again, all things we have seen on screen, and again, we cannot leave it at that. So, we see him work his way through the bad relationship to a better one. We see him wounded... then saved by his friends who, instead of accepting his brush-offs, dig deeper and allow him to express his pent-up angst and recover. Maybe, in order to do this in the show's world, the wounds HAVE to be deeper, greater, more grievous. Maybe to deal with Valentine's Day, to *force* the issue, Carter has to be suicidal. Maybe to forge bonds with his friends and co-workers, Carter has to be attacked, to overdose, to break down. To break down in their arms just as he did in Peter Benton's in "May Day." If they could not see the signs of his addiction, of his depression, his pain, if they could not be the kind of friend he has needed all through the show's history, then perhaps the fan-as-author MUST be harsh, just to break through the barriers, to send up a signal flare. To save him we must hurt him, and in a masochistic way it is ourselves we are punishing, we "feel his pain", we empathize with him, our pathos, our element of sympathy. In this way, not just Benton, but also the rest of the cast of ER, will see his/our pain, frustration, emotion, and finally *do* something about it. In this way, we purge ourselves and John Carter of these pent-up feelings, and provide a release from the tension that is created and perhaps necessary to keep us coming back week after week.

-- Pam (, July 30, 2000.

Oh wow, that was too cool. Thanks.

-- Ellen (, July 30, 2000.

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