To me canon is both simple and complex.
For me on the simple side, canon is everything that we see on the screen, everything that makes it from the cutting room floor. Canon isn't what the actor might say about the role in an interview, canon isn't bloopers, canon isn't cut scenes. Canon is what we see. Once again, this is just my opinion; others may differ and that's fine.
Now we come to the complex part. There are two sides to canon:
Factual canon is stuff like: Gibbs is building a boat in his basement. Ducky is a Medical Examiner. Illya has blond hair. Napoleon has a dimple in his chin. Bodie was a mercenary. Doyle was a copper. Benny is a Mountie. Ray is a cop. Etc. etc. etc.
These are facts. Hard and fast. We can't argue with them. And most fanfic writers use factual canon for the grounding of their stories. It's the bread of our stories.
Interpretative canon, on the other hand, is really the filling for writers. It's what makes fanfiction, IMO. It's what gives us such a huge variety in fanfiction. It's the point that all of us see the same scene, hear the same exchange and yet we interpret it in different ways. We then bring those different interpretations to our fanfic.
Interpretative canon has a basis, a grounding in factual canon, as it is what we see and hear. But it isn't fact, because it's all down to each individual. And often how we view the characters and their relationship has an affect on how we interpret the scenes. And this can be a conscious or a sub-conscious affect, or more probably both.
And of course the two overlap. You can't have interpretative canon without fact.
I've always been aware of this and have had many discussions with people about it, both in specifics and generalisations, and there is, IMO, no right or wrong when it comes to this kind of canon. However, my friend's post came on top of me reading several reviews of this week's NCIS episode, really brought it home to me.
Specifics are behind the cut because they contain spoilers for this week's NCIS episode and others. Not to mention the fact that the post gets very long.
Today I read several squees from Gibbs/DiNozzo fans describing this week's episode as 'the most slashy', because of one scene. Now I saw the same scene and 'read' it in an entirely different way. However, I take several similar scenes involving Gibbs and Ducky and 'read' them my way.
Let's establish some facts from the various NCIS seasons thus far.
FACT: Gibbs stroked the back of DiNozzo's head.
FACT: Gibbs took DiNozzo pizza when DiNozzo had been arrested.
FACT: Gibbs put his arm around DiNozzo and draped DiNozzo's arm over his shoulder to help him walk when DiNozzo twisted his ankle.
FACT: Gibbs has ruffled McGee's hair on at least two occasions.
FACT: Gibbs has kissed Abby at least three times.
FACT: Gibbs has cupped and patted Ducky's face.
FACT: Gibbs and Ducky have shared two double walking hugs (i.e. they both had their arms around one another).
FACT: Ducky has put his arm around Gibbs on at least one other occasion.
FACT: Gibbs tipped the brim of Ducky's hat back in order to see his eyes.
FACT: Gibbs put his arm around Ducky, hugged him and ruffled his hair after the team had rescued him from certain death.
FACT: Ducky called Gibbs 'my dear Jethro'.
FACT: DiNozzo strokes McGee's face.
And there are more of the same kind of fact for all the above mentioned people and others. But detailing them all would take a heck of a long time.
All these things are canon fact. You can't get away from them. They all happened on-screen; they are canon. I can't imagine that anyone will disagree with them, no matter whether they are Gibbs/Ducky, Gibbs/DiNozzo, Gibbs/McGee, Gibbs/Abby or Gibbs/any one else or a gen fan or even a non-Gibbs slash/het fan.
However, what we will disagree over is what these touches, hugs, kisses mean. And in most cases the person we see Gibbs as being 'with' will influence how we view the scenes. How we interpret them. How we read them. And thus how we declare them to be 'the most slashy or het-based (hetty just doesn't sound right) episode'.
I watched this week's ep, I saw the head stroke and I just saw Gibbs being sarcastic and using it as one more example of throwing DiNozzo off-balance.*
I saw the look on his face when DiNozzo was rubbing McGee's chin, and yes, I saw irritation. But unlike Gibbs/DiNozzo fans, the anger wasn't jealousy, it was just another 'DiNozzo's really annoying me' look, plus, Gibbs could see how the teasing was really getting to McGee. So it was him in 'boss' mode, nothing more, nothing less.
Gibbs taking DiNozzo pizza was just something Gibbs would do. He is passionate about his team, heaven help anyone who, in any way, hurts any member of it. Gibbs taking DiNozzo pizza, one of DiNozzo's favourite things, is just something that a good boss would do.
Gibbs putting his arm around DiNozzo, again, is again something anyone would have done; DiNozzo couldn't walk on his own.
However, I agree fully that if I were a Gibbs/DiNozzo fan, yes, I'd be squeeing and bouncing and full of slashy heavenness.
Now I, and my fellow Gibbs/Ducky fans, on the other hand, take all of the above mentioned Gibbs and Ducky canon facts and interpret them, together with other 'evidence', as being proof of Gibbs/Ducky.
Ducky didn't need helping to walk when Gibbs put his arm around him, yes Ducky was upset, yes, Ducky is Gibbs's oldest and closest friend (and actually a lot of Gibbs/DiNozzo fans I know don't dispute that 'fact'), but he could walk, he didn't need Gibbs's help.
Gibbs wasn't throwing him off balance when he cupped and patted his face; it was a simple, natural gesture.
Ducky does call people 'my dear', but hitherto it has only been women, and then suddenly he calls Jethro 'my dear'. Again, friendship? Yes, I agree. Friendship, but also for me, so much more.
To me Lt. Jane Doe is the slashiest NCIS episode there has been.
Gibbs ruffling McGee's hair, it happened. Why? Well to me, partly because Gibbs does like McGee, thinks he'll make a very good agent, even better than he already is. But also because Gibbs, despite attempts to show us otherwise, is good with people. He knows people, and he knows that different people need to be handled in different ways. McGee needs more praise, needs a slightly gentler approach than DiNozzo, so Gibbs shows that. To me, he's just being a good boss.
However, again, wonderful evidence for Gibbs/McGee fans. After Ducky and Abby, Gibbs treats McGee the best of all. He is slightly softer with him than he is with DiNozzo and Ziva and even Kate.
Gibbs kissing Abby, bringing her Caff-Pow, etc. etc. to me, shows that in many ways Gibbs sees Abby as a surrogate daughter. He cares for her, I'll even use the term 'love', he loves her, he's very paternal towards her.
But again to Gibbs/Abby fans the kisses, the Caff-Pow the softness, the open caring is all food to show that their relationship isn't that of father-daughter, but that of lovers.
DiNozzo/McGee fans will see the above mentioned face stroking scene and see it in an entirely different way from myself and also Gibbs/DiNozzo fans.
I'm sure that DiNozzo/McGee fans were squeeing and bouncing, because they'd see it as evidence of DiNozzo/McGee.
One tiny scene; three (at least) different interpretations.
And every show we watch contains the same kind of 'evidence', the same kind of interpretative canon. With other shows, The Professionals, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Starsky & Hutch, etc. etc. where there really is only one couple,** we don't have the differences in what touch to Character A meant over touch to Character B. We have a different kind of interpretation.
Was Doyle crying in Klansmen? Or was it sweat? To me, it was categorically tears. To others... Not tears, sweat.
When Napoleon says to Illya 'When you grow up...' what does that show? Is it evidence that he is several years older than Illya? Or simple teasing and something that two people of the same age say to one another? To me, it clearly show that Napoleon is several years older than Illya. To others, just the kind of teasing that two people of the same age might indulge in. Two different interpretations of the same scene.
How come we get so many different interpretations?
Well we are all individuals, we all have a culture, an upbringing, a way of life, our own thoughts, feelings, knowledge, personal experiences, we've studied different subjects, have different priorities. We don't watch TV in a vacuum. We can't forget our culture, upbringing, etc. etc. So we bring it to our watching - be it consciously or sub-consciously. We can't help it. We can't switch off.
We can, and I know that a lot of us do, try to be objective, try to look at couples outside of our own and see if we can at least see how other people can see slash/het/non-slash. But no one can be one hundred percent objective; we are all to a degree subjective. And yes, I know that the very nature of the statement I have just made is subjective. It has to be, I said it.
Which is why there is so much diversity in fanfiction. Why it is such a vast array of goodies. Why it can be like going into a sweet shop and seeing so many different sweets, so much to choose from. Your best friend might go in with you, but they might well choose something different from what you choose. And both of you will think that your selection is the 'best' the 'one'.
There is something for everyone in fanfiction; be it romance, angst, BDSM, f***-buddy stuff, kink, love, affection, etc., etc., etc. You name it, it will almost certainly exist. And most writers do use canon to write their stories. They take the factual and the interpret it and thus they write what they personally 'see', 'read', 'hear'; what works for them. Other people might think that their views/vision don't fit with what they see, because they are interpreting things differently.
Thus nothing is 'wrong' and nothing is 'right' when it comes to interpretative canon. It can't be by the nature of the word 'interpretive'. (Understand an action, mood or way of behaving as having a particular meaning or significance'). We see the same scene and we understand the actions, the moods, and the way the characters behave, in the way that suits us, that fits with our vision of the characters.
Isn't fandom a wonderful place?
*FWIW, hubby who was watching this week's ep with me, also saw this take on Gibbs behaviour - in fact he mentioned it even before I did.
**I know there are a handful of stories that pair one half of the partnership with someone else in the show, but the vast majority is about the pairing.