The 'Why Omegaverse' Question
I’m a very self-indulgent person, and so I like analyzing why I like the self-indulgent things I like to read almost as much as reading them. And well, currently I’m reading a Johnlock Omegaverse fic and it made me wonder why I almost always enjoy it so much.
Usually when the subject comes up, I’ve seen things like people enjoy the world-building, the gender dynamics exploration or the porn (usually that bit’s implied). To be honest, I’ve never actually seen people talk about it much. Not that people in fandom are all that shy about our porn, but wank happens just with the top/bottom discussions, forget Alpha/Omega discourse (not that I’ve actually ever seen that). It doesn’t completely translate. Like, I think people usually write Omega!John and bottom!John differently, although there’s more overlap in Omega!Sherlock and bottomlock. The storyline about how both Omega John and Sherlock resist their secondary gender’s stereotypes to be BAMFy fits both of them in different ways, just as the whole Alpha strut and self-confidence can be spun to fit them both. I think in my case, I find both options more pleasant in Omegaverse ‘cause often there’s more explicit characterization work to justify the differences in the fic’s John or Sherlock. Like, I’m a very picky reader that’s super sensitized to OOCness, and I think Omegaverse helps me 'cause the characterization divergence is there but is more consciously constructed as an AU. So I’m like, okay this is a bottomlock universe or a toplock universe, and I can go with it 'cause it’s never presented as the 'natural order of things’, so to speak. Of course, this is ironic 'cause the mainstream concept of the gender dynamic in-universe is usually all about the 'natural order of things’ being Alpha/Omega pairings. It’s just that you’re still dealing with these implicit or symbolic issues (feminization, projection, etc) a lot in regular fics, but I feel like it’s defanged if it’s directly acknowledged by the narrative.
This might be why it’s awkward to talk about enjoying Omegaverse porn, in a way. At least speaking for myself, there’s an underlying sense of discomfort in 'un-queering’ the pairing, even if you keep the characters’ equipment. At least if you’re not reading Alpha/Alpha or Omega/Omega fics (which are rare and I myself usually don’t read). I think for me, there’s an appeal in the absolute normalization of it, sort of the same way I enjoy 18-19th century novel Sherlock fusion fics with no homophobia. Like, you could say it’s erasing the queerness of the characters by making them play essentially heteronormative roles in the society (especially when one of the characters was literally male and one female in the original novel). Or you could say it’s simply that the fic’s erasing the other people’s problem, which is external to the actual relationship dynamics between the characters. In the case of Omegaverse, you’re still usually problematizing the gendered aspects of the relationship (ie, it’s not usually portrayed as absolute smooth sailing, ala a fluffy het romance), but you’re not coming at it from the same angle so it’s still refreshing. Is that what *I* like about it, though?
It’s a bonus, certainly. In the end, I do like the thinky world-building and the gender exploration stuff, but it’s not enough by itself. What makes Omegaverse a true guilty pleasure is usually the trope aspect: the chance to enjoy a classic iteration of the fuck-or-die trope combined with a soulmate trope. If you look at the usual fuck-or-die fics these days, they’re not generally romantic. They tend to be more straightforwardly dealing with issues of consent and trauma if they’re not pure rapefic PWP, whereas a lot of Omegaverse fic still allows you to have consent in-universe along with a focus on characterization and romance; PWPs are relatively rare. My point is, the trope’s original conceit was that both people secretly want it, and may be wary but interested and compatible (and at least initially/partly capable of consent, though you could have angst about the subject in many fics). It’s obviously problematic rather than romantic in a more realistic context, but this is why I enjoy the sci-fi premise of the Omegaverse. It’s quite possible to create these results using a different sci-fi/fantasy scenario (certain magical artifacts, alien spores, sometimes Sentinel/Guide, etc), but Omegaverse provides a ready template, whereas everything else requires constructing a complex plot from scratch. Of course, this is partly why I enjoyed them back in the day, but most fics I’ve seen lately just go with drugs and/or a villain as the immediate cause. Both of these are traumatic, being sort of the antithesis of a happy ending scenario. So… me no likey.
With the seemingly romantic soulmate trope taken alone in fics, most of what I see is also less than romantic, with the usual point being to problematize the soulmate bond scenario somehow. Otherwise it’s considered 'boring’. I just like my bond fics being about a happy, even joyous union, with the drama coming from the difficulty getting together or some other external source. Omegaverse fics generally use this type of approach. Call me old-fashioned. I know I am.
I think rather than the porn (which is really hit-or-miss in terms of how well even a good writer does with it), I’m into the soul-bonding and pheromonal attraction aspect of the trope. This might also be another reason why I don’t really care much who’s the Alpha or Omega: usually the desperation (another favorite trope!) goes both ways emotionally. The whole nature of the Omegaverse is about breaking down personal boundaries and forming a more perfect union, both physically and emotionally. I mean, usually this is a theme in most romantic pairings, but here it’s being made both emotionally explicit and natural (in-universe), whereas I tend to view super-fluffy fics (especially involving long-term commitment themes) with suspicion. This probably has something to do with me being a 'cold-prickly type’ reader. Normally, reading about marriage (essentially) would seem OOC or over-the-top to me somehow, whereas if you’re soul-bonded as an Alpha/Omega couple, well, you can’t really avoid it. There’s usually no (easy) divorce and/or polyamory option, etc. You’re just kinda stuck being in fluffy love forever, haha. I know a lot of people would find that stifling or even less romantic, but it suits me just fine. Though I could do without the babies, generally, in the end I even make the baby exception for Omega Sherlock (poor boy, haha). ¯\_(ツ)_/¯