Somewhere out there is a fic writer who could put together a really amazing story about how fucking unfair it is that Diana couldn’t be an FBI agent in the 1920s, and that Elizabeth couldn’t be an event planner or really have any profession at all, except perhaps as an artist of some kind, and that Jones couldn’t be employed by the federal government in any capacity except sweeping floors and getting killed in battle. I hope someone writes it. I would really like to read it. But this is not that kind of story.
solar_cat requested a fun 1920s AU with speakeasies and sequins and Elizabeth in a flapper dress – she was also great about acknowledging the many ways in which such a story could turn out problematic (if you’re thinking What do you mean? see this discussion. Actually, even if you aren’t thinking that, you should give it a read), and gave me total free rein to figure those issues out for myself.
I originally had planned a much longer and plottier story involving Neal being a secret thief and Peter hiring him as a consultant to track down said thief, and the two of them also building a case against Kate’s killer. I abandoned that version for a few reasons, one of is that I was uncomfortable with the two options I had: First, to remove all of the secondary characters (like Diana, Jones, and Cruz) from the story, or second, to write a yay-happy-everyone-gets-along version of the 1920s, which seemed like both an unfair cheat, and an extremely dangerous choice with the potential to lead to a very hurtful and offensive story.
Now, it doesn’t always have to turn out that way! I’ve read some historical AUs that I liked a lot and did not find offensive, and some of those were of the “20th century gender and racial norms dressed up in historical trappings” variety – for example, the entire canon of BBC’s Merlin is pretty much exactly this (which is not to say that I’m holding up Merlin as a totally unproblematic text - for more on that, I recommend zahrawithaz’s meta).
But when I would try to fit that onto White Collar, I just didn’t feel that was a good choice, partly because I think the show does an above-average job of presenting a diverse cast and strong, modern female characters who take full advantage of the options and freedoms afforded them by our current society. That makes it very hard to translate to a previous era without either whitewashing the hardships of the time completely, or diminishing the essential awesome of the characters.
So I zoomed in on this particular scene, which I felt could stand alone. Diana appears, in what I hope is a role that allows her to retain her awesomeness while still being minimally realistic in terms of 1920s possibilities for a black lesbian (as making her Peter’s FBI partner would not be). Elizabeth, June, Kate, and Diana’s girlfriend Christie are all mentioned but are “off-screen,” so to speak. The story has a narrow enough lens that there was never really a natural point to incorporate Jones or Cruz… or Mozzie, for that matter – and after careful thought, I decided that made sense.
I could actually go on, but I don’t think anybody wants that! I want to invite you to please criticize or comment on my handling of the issues above – or anything else about this story or any of my other stories – if you feel moved to do so. I know these are really delicate topics, and while I tried my best to write a story that would not be hurtful or upsetting to any reader, I want to know if I failed, so that I can do better in the future! If something in this story hurt you in anyway, I am sincerely sorry and will do whatever I can to make it right. Please feel free to comment here, to comment back on the story post, or to PM me if you have something to say. I really appreciate your taking the time to read this.