Posts Tagged: narrative

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tzikeh:

weirdsociology:

tzikeh:

weirdsociology:

A follow-up to this post.

In an interesting twist, Lucy Liu has been tapped to play Watson in the American version of Sherlock Holmes, “Elementary”.

I don’t know how I feel about this (I think maybe I don’t care?), but the fact that someone, somewhere, decided, “Let’s change a character in a male-dominated story to female!”… and they decided not to gender-swap the Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie main character? Shocker.  Oh look, another ‘head’ main character remains a male! 

THIS IS NOT MY SURPRISED FACE, GUYS. 

Okay, look.

Not only did they cast a woman as Watson, they cast a woman of color. Not on cable, but on network tv. And not just on network tv, but on CBfuckingS. You’re saying that, while you don’t care so much, you’re pissed off that it wasn’t Holmes that they did this with instead of Watson?

Casting a WOC in a lead role on a network show—in a traditionally male role at that—is Huge Liek Woah. But, you’re still dissatisfied. Should she also be a dyslexic lesbian with one arm? What, exactly, do you want from them?

I don’t mean to single you out; all the complaining has been bugging me, and your post was kind of the last straw. It’s not just you, I promise.

Hi Tzikeh!  I’m not sure you understood the context for my post— I’m actually not complaining about the recasting of Watson in the context of feminizing the character overall; I really don’t have a problem with that.  I’m complaining about the LACK of Jerkass Woobie/Guile Hero women in general, and I think my post only really makes sense in the context of this massively overwrought thing that I wrote a while back.

 And I can understand that, seriously. But using an example of a network show that has done something pretty awesome in order to highlight your (quite valid) complaint minimizes the cool thing that the network has done here. It’s akin to saying “Sure, this band has a female lead singer and a female bass player, but WHERE ARE THE FEMALE DRUMMERS? HUH? HUH? of course they don’t have a female drummer. Typical.”

In that way, the post felt very dismissive of the network’s choice. if I’ve misread, then I apologize for not understanding.

I’m not bitching about their choice to feminize (I.. don’t know if that’s the right word, maybe gender-swap is better?)

Yeah, I’d go with gender-swap, or simply “cast a woman in a man’s role.” “Feminize” has a negative connotation (sadly.)

Watson or make her a person of color.  In fact, I think maybe that’s pretty cool?  I don’t know, I haven’t read the opposing arguments yet.

Fair enough.

I’m not mad about this, specific, choice to gender-swap Watson, I’m disappointed in an overall trend that ‘head’ characters in serious dramas are almost universally male and was using this as a supporting piece of evidence for a previous argument….I didn’t intend to minimize anyone’s appreciation of the progressiveness of making Watson a WOC; I don’t think that the fact she isn’t Holmes makes it necessarily less progressive,  

I totally get that. But progress toward gender equality in media is slow, and using a strong step in the right direction to point out a continuing negative needled me. That this isn’t what you’re looking for in a TV show is… I get it? But… hm. I’m not sure how to phrase this. It’s like complaining about a slow song because it isn’t fast, a fast song, and you want a fast song. Well, then this isn’t the song you’re looking for.

I’d be interested in your take on it.

Here it is! :D

Yeah, and I can totally see how perhaps my post came off as minimizing (particularly) the POC aspect, which, to make it clear, I think is probably (always a qualifier since I still haven’t done my research!) pretty effin’ great!  I had hoped that the linking to the previous rant would make it very clear I was speaking to solely the lack of ‘head’ characters who are women and not the race aspect at all.

Still, I think it’s possible to acknowledge that things can be both an improvement and still sort of a token gesture that hints at a larger system of inequality.  To take the band metaphor further, I would argue it’s more like a super-commercial made-for-radio band wherein most of the members are male, but there’s a female lead singer.  Sure, that’s definitely better than no women in the band, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean that the female lead singer wasn’t recruited for her particular role at least partially because we as a society find it the most consumable and comfortable to see women in certain roles.  And, to change metaphors completely and switch back to fictional narratives, one of those roles is the ‘heart’ character, of which Watson is a perfect example.  I don’t think my criticism can be compressed into exclusively a “I don’t like Elementary because it’s not the show I want it to be [or a slow song when I want a fast one],” because it is, I think, at least in part “not the show I want it to be” because of reasons of structural inequality and the way women are portrayed in the media and popular narrative.  

At the same time, I can recognize that NBC certainly did a brave and I think probably a good thing by gender-swapping and diversifying the character.   So excellent!  I really am pleased about that.  It’s just not quite as far down the road as I would like to see us (and I freely admit that I have a stake in this because I idolize ‘head’ characters and about a year ago I realized that all of my fictional heroes were men and so, yeah, for me it’s 100% personal.)  I think it’s reasonable to be both generally happy about a small step* and simultaneously disappointed that this step didn’t go in the direction/as far as I might have hoped.

So I don’t think it has to be totally one way or the other.   I think perhaps we could agree that, if given the chance, we’d slap NBC on the back and say, “Excellent call!  Let this be the beginning of an era of equal representation?

(And then I can go and find a writer and refuse to stop jumping up and down on them until they can conceptualize the idea of writing a nearly-godly hyper-intelligent social-engineering emotionally-unavailable grade A badass of a woman and then I can run away with that script and never stop kissing it.  I may starve to death but it’d probably be worth it.)

But seriously, thank you very much for taking the time to respond and do so in such a thoughtful way.  You really have made me re-evaluate how I expressed myself, and the implications (some of which were highly unintentional but definitely still present!) of such.

*I think maybe part of the problem was I said, in a fit of poor wording, (“I don’t care”) about the recasting?   A much, much better choice would have been, “I don’t have an opinion yet because I haven’t looked into the implications apart from this one thought,” which is really what I was trying to convey, and my phrasing was exceptionally poor at saying that.  You know how it is— it makes sense when you’re writing it!  And then you read it later…

Source: weirdsociology
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A follow-up to this post.

In an interesting twist, Lucy Liu has been tapped to play Watson in the American version of Sherlock Holmes, “Elementary”.

I don’t know how I feel about this (I think maybe I don’t care?), but the fact that someone, somewhere, decided, “Let’s change a character in a male-dominated story to female!”… and they decided not to gender-swap the Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie main character? Shocker.  Oh look, another ‘head’ main character remains a male! 

THIS IS NOT MY SURPRISED FACE, GUYS. 

[edit] I think perhaps this post is getting a bit misconstrued as me not appreciating the gender-swapping of Watson.  Please see above for a more complete explanation.

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In which I yell, at impressive length, about how much I love antiheroes, and also pose the question: where are the goddamn women in the type of fiction I like?  (And for some reason the page break’s not working so I apologize profusely for spamming your dash with all of this.)

Before I commence my fannish screaming about sexism and narratives, it’d probably be helpful to have some idea of what texts I’m talking about.  So, in no particular order:

Sherlock, BBC, Season 1 & 2, Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat

The Lymond Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnett

Doctor Who, BBC, Seasons 5 & 6, Steven Moffat & a frillion other people but mostly Steven Moffat

Along with passing mentions of Bones.

Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with all of them, I’ll do my best to explain what I’m talking about— and also to keep it all (fairly) major spoiler-free for the books on the list.  The one major spoiler I’ll be giving away is the identify of Lymond’s love interest, who is throughout the series but isn’t clarified as such until Book 5, but— and trust me on this one— you don’t mind.  You really don’t [1].

Most of this will probably be Sherlock-focused, because that’s my most recent fandom and the one that sparked all this intense thinking.  I’m fairly confident, however, that the central tenant of the argument carries across to all narratives of this same type.  So, onward!

If you’re a certain type of person, you’re probably drawn to a particular type of narrative and character in your fiction, right?  And I know, because the Internet is a wonderful place, full of wonderful people who are startlingly open about their fictional attachments, that I’m not the only person who really, really loves a Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie.  You know what I’m talking about: those freakish characters of such intense intellect that they’re always three steps ahead of not only their enemies, but all their friends and loved ones as well.  These attractively crazy bastards are the heroic incarnation of the Chessmaster, the Trickster and the (usually within semi-heroic limits) Manipulative Bastard, and are just so damn good at it that you can’t help but love them.  It’s a pleasure to see them on the page or on-screen, weaving such elaborate plots that they frequently only narrowly escape accidentally entangling themselves in the strands.  Combine that with the Universe constantly fucking them over so hard that you’re sitting there swearing it can’t possibly get any worse (the Woobie), and the social grace of your average scorpion (the Jerkass), and you have a list of my favorite characters of all time.

That’s not to say there is no diversity within the Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie type, because there’s lots!  You have the ones who are polite until someone flips their jerk switch, at which point they may drive you to near-suicide (the Doctor), the ones that stomp all over social niceties in hobnailed boots until they need them to achieve a semi-tangible goal (Sherlock), and the ones who are, alternatively, the suavest of social engineers and the most devastatingly belittling dickwads (Lymond).  But all of them share certain traits:

  • Terrible things happen to them.  A lot.
  • They are frequently, inexcusably nasty to people who don’t quite deserve it.
  • They are all semi-godly in ability, be it intellectual, athletic, or aesthetic— or, most frequently, all three— and arrogant about it.
  • They are always put in situations where there is no totally acceptable solution, at which time they will calmly undertake the action that does the least amount of damage.

We can say, in shorthand, that these characters are “head” characters— they live in their minds, and they often say or do things that bring their belief in rationality over emotion to prominence.  They may do a very good job of pretending to be warm and fuzzy, but when the shit hits the fan, they are able to turn it off and calculate exactly what needs to be done, even if it means a great deal of loss for them personally.

And now that you’re all looking at me funny going, “How is this at all related to feminism?”, I’m going to plead that you hang with me for just a bit longer and you’ll see.  But first, we gotta talk about Irene Adler and River Song and Philippa Somerville.

There’s been a lot of text on the webernets recently devoted to debating whether or not these women fall into sexist stereotypes (the linked article is only one of many— a quick Google should provide you with hours more reading both for and against, if you so desire.)  And a lot of good points have been made on both sides, far more than I could ever recap here without breaking Tumblr due to the sheer wall of the text.  And I think that the fans who are crying, “Sexism!”, have a legit complaint; but I also think they’re not digging deep enough.   In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it outright: when we hate on Irene Adler as a sexist stereotype, we’re not hating on Irene Adler at all.  We’re hating on Sherlock himself.  I know that sounds weird.  Stay with me?  Because I want to lay aside the sexism aspect for right now and discuss, instead, some reasons why these love-interest characters have to be how they are, for narrative structure.

Irene Adler’s a really good example of this: if you are a writer handed a character like Sherlock who has literally never been outwitted before, and who is, in the original text, uninterested in anything to do with sexual activity, and you want to play up the dramatic tension, it makes perfect sense to bring on a character who is as unabashedly sexual as possible, because that’s basically the only thing that’s guaranteed to fuddle your leading man.

It goes in the other direction, too.  Lymond, the smooth-talking seducer who has the entire French court, male and female, literally playing dice over who gets to bed him first by the second book, is later (hilariously) saddled with a virginal child-bride who is trained to be a courtesan by the best teachers in Europe (the keepers of the Ottoman Sultan’s harem) and whom he cannot touch.  It’s Sherlock all over again: Lymond has no idea how to handle this woman who is so far outside the realms of his experience she might as well be from another planet. Like Irene but in reverse, you can argue that Philippa’s de-sexualization in this context is sexist, but the fact remains that it’s the only way to provide the necessary drama in the plot, particularly when they (of course) fall in love significantly later in the relationship.  These things may come off as anti-feminist, but they make a lot of narrative sense.

So if the manipulation of the female love interest’s sexual presentations isn’t the problem, what is?  Well, I’ve read some concerns about River and Irene and how they are being portrayed as “irrational women”, incapable of divorcing themselves from their emotions and suffering for it.  (See: “I AM [SHER]LOCKED”, etc.)  The same accusation could absolutely be leveled at Philippa.  And really, what it boils down to in one sentence is this: if Sherlock, Lymond and the Doctor are the ‘head’ characters, then Irene, River, and Philippa, no matter how intelligent and capable, have to be the ‘heart’ characters.  Fictional romances work off of opposition and drama and unresolved tension, and having two characters who are both capable of making totally rational decisions against their own emotional interests ends a romance awfully quickly.  Someone has to be the one who stays there even after it’s no longer a good idea, and since we’ve already set up the main characters as the super-rational ones, it’s going to have to be their love interests.  Without Irene’s slip-up, her actual feelings for Sherlock would have gone totally unrevealed to either him or the audience, and the tension would have died right there [2].

The same idea applies to scenarios larger than just the romance, as well.  When River tells the Doctor that she’ll suffer more than every other living thing in the universe if she kills him, she’s speaking from her heart— and it works because we’d never, ever hear the Doctor say something like that. 

I sound like I’m writing some kind of horrible apologia for the women in these stories, don’t I?  I want to make it clear: I’m not.  I think there’s a deep seed of sexism buried at the root of these narratives, but we’re looking for it in the wrong place.  Irene, River, and Philippa are not sexist in and of themselves; their portrayal is justified because that’s how the narrative has to operate.  And I’m okay with that.  I love them!  I think ‘heart’ characters are strong and wonderful and amazing in their own ways, and I particularly like Irene, River and Philippa because they manage to balance their incredible I-can-keep-up-with-the-big-boys intelligence with their passionate hearts and (for River and Philippa) their stubborn loyalty.  I idolize these ladies, I really do.

You know what is sexist though?  If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that every Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie I’ve listed is a dude.  Where the fuck are our female Sherlocks, Doctors, Lymonds?   Why are our much-loved ‘head’ characters only men?  That’s what’s sexist about these stories, right there.  Irene and River and Philippa are not the problem; Sherlock and the Doctor and Lymond are!  If ‘heart’ characters are needed to play opposite ‘head’ characters, why are all the ‘head’ characters men?  It’s sort of like a chicken-egg question of sexism: do we blame writers for making all the ‘heart’ characters women, or do we blame them for making all the ‘head’ characters men?   Personally I’m more inclined to go with the latter. 

And here’s the thing that really gets me: even in those rare instances when female Guile Heroes/Jerkass Woobies are present, their stories are not told in the same way.  Like Bones.  Look at that list of things that happens to Guile Heroes/Jerkass Woobies again.  Don’t almost all of those apply to her?  Yep, they sure do!  But the show’s writers are a far damn cry from treating her with the respect Moffat & Gatiss afford to Sherlock; instead, Brennan’s social ineptness and intellectual ability are played with a strongly tongue-in-cheek flavor, and, instead of her romantic counterpart playing second fiddle to the Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie plotlines, the entire show revolves around her relationship with the male ‘heart’ character, Booth. Jesus Christ.  If that’s not thinly-veiled sexism, I don’t know what is.

And sure, it’s possible to argue that the choice to make Sherlock, the Doctor, and Lymond men is entirely understandable, due to the writers being handed pre-existing characters (in the first two cases), or writing about a time-period where women didn’t do much swashbuckling (Dunnett.)  But I’m not talking about just these stories any more, I’m talking about a whole genre, dammit.   So next time you hate Irene, or River, or Philippa, or one of their counterparts, ask yourselves: are you hating them?  Or are you hating the fact that the preternaturally intelligent, distant and weirdly attractive main hero is almost certainly male?

So this is what I want.  I want my Guile Heroes, my Jerkass Woobies, to break out of this ridiculous sexism, this automatic masculinization.  In the next five years, I expect— no, as a consumer of media, I demand— serious storytelling about absurdly intelligent, emotionally inaccessible, sarcastic and wounded women, and their loyal, clever and emotionally volatile love interestsAnd if I don’t get it, well, I’ll write it myself.  And yes, that’s a threat.  And a promise.

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[1] I’ve given that series to probably 20 people to read and only 2 of them have made it through so statistically the chances of you ever slogging your way through Dunnett’s ridiculous historical accuracy and untranslated quotations is only 1:10.  And I say that with great respect for you, and great admiration for Dunnett.  They’re just… not for anyone who doesn’t want to come out the other side with the practical equivalent of three history degrees, a linguistics minor and a need for several years of therapy.  Highly recommended, of course.

[2] I know there’s some debate on whether or not the fact that Irene ‘loses’ their game to Sherlock reinforces the idea that women must ultimately lose to men; but Moffat has explicitly come right out and said Irene ultimately took the prize and that’s good enough for me.

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spoilersandhandcuffs:

Beautiful People In No Particular Order »
Sherlock Holmes & Irene Adler

Hey, speaking of intelligent people I’d like to stomp on (or be stomped on by), fandom- and narrative- and privilege-related thoughts are a-brewin’ and there’s a big long post somewhere in the back of my head about female love interests in Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie narratives, tentatively titled: What We Hate When We Hate Irene Adler, Subtitled: Those Damn White Males Are At It Again!

But until then, here’s some Holmes/Adler porn, because in case I haven’t declared it enough, I’ll fucking sink with this ‘ship if I have to.

Source: spoilersandhandcuffs
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sgyreju:

shurikenship:

Okay so. I really need to do this post, because it’s been nagging me for a long time.

It shouldn’t be a problem to people that someone like Anderson. And this is what I’m all about.

In the tag “Anderson”, the posts are of halfnekkid women, blaine or mostly anderhate. And you don’t know how much that annoys me.

Most of you talk about how you shouldn’t tag hate with a name, like if someone hated Watson. “You’re just begging for hatemail,” someone might say. But when it comes to Anderson, it’s oh-so-different.

“I actually like Anderson. Now please don’t hate me for this.” This is what I come up with. And to me, it is a sad thing, since shouldn’t loving a character be a right? Or liking one?

But when it comes to Anderson (or Sally Donovan, for that matter), you’re not really allowed to like them, are you? If you do, you will be taken apart from the fandom because how could you? Because they always treat Sherlock like he wasn’t that special.

“Freak” says Donovan, and you mostly go “fuck you Donovan”. “An old friend of mine,” says Sherlock and later “I don’t have friends. I only have one”. And you don’t give a shit that really, there is something behind it. Something that has made Sally think of Sherlock as a freak.

And you just rejoice with Sherlock when he says: “You’re lowering the IQ of the street” and you don’t care that, perhaps, it all started with something Sherlock said and nothing Anderson said. Even if Anderson was to blame, it would be really hard for him to change his opinion, because, you know, Sherlock takes a distaste on him. So you do, too. You don’t think. You go with Sherlock, like John does, bu John lives with Sherlock, you could use your brain.

Now I want to ask you: Would you all really go all Watson with Sherlock? “Amazing! Brilliant!” and you would just think it was all so natural, forever.

Or might there be a row, in which Sherlock would say something, ”your boyfriend is cheating on you”, “you really should stop thinking about things like that”, “I don’t really like you”, and you would think of him as the freak? Because he tells you the truth, nothing more, and makes you feel uncomfortable, thinking “that is true but I want to hurt him as much as he’s ever hurt me” even if you knew were pretty sure it was how he survived from the bullies in the later part of his life.

TL;DR

I don’t really like you people who can only see Anderson and Sally Donovan through Sherlock Holmes’ eyes, because isn’t that a bit one-sided? You never really give a fuck about their feelings, do you, only think that Sherlock Holmes Must. Be. Right. Well, I’ve got news for you. Everyone has the right to love anyone they want to. And everyone can have their own headcanon about characters.

And I don’t really care if you will hate me for this. I know I unfollowed two of the people I followed in the last 24 hours because Sally and Anderson bashing.

And if you have good reasonings to hate the hell out of Sally and/or Anderson, be my guest. But know that if you do, I will quite likely not be thinking that well of you.

I think most of the fans (myself included) don’t realise that if they met someone like Sherlock Holmes in real life, they would almost certainly find him irritating and if they had to be insulted by him frequently enough, they would almost certainly end up saying the same things about him that Anderson and Donovan say.

Anderson and Donovan are not my favourite characters, but I don’t dislike them. I don’t see why I should - seems to me that Sherlock is always very unpleasant to them, why should they like him? Their not liking him doesn’t mean that they’re not good at their job; their having an affair even though Anderson is married doesn’t mean they’re not decent people (after all, maybe Anderson’s wife cheats on him when she’s “away” - and what if Sherlock got that part wrong and Sally did, in fact, scrub the floor that night?). In fact, the way Sherlock always puts Anderson down (“you lower the IQ of the whole street” and all that) makes me really uncomfortable. 

I think a lot of this has to do with escapism v. realism and the function of narrative in general (“function of narrative” is apparently my favorite phrase as of the beginning of 2012.)  We don’t tell, or follow, stories that are exactly like our lives.  Like, ever, basically.  Because we don’t want to know about ourselves in our own contexts— we already know.   What we want is to be exposed to fictional people, or places, or social structures, or technologies, or whatever, that either alter our projected hypothetical realities so much that we can imagine a totally different world (far-future sci-fi, for instance), or that put us into the shoes of individuals that are completely different from ourselves— none of us, obviously, are Sherlock, or Locke, or Lymond, or Sam Vimes, or any of the other characters rooted deeply in my multifandom heart, but we identify with them through a long process of subconscious what ifs and most of the what ifs are, I think, pleasant ones— what if we were smarter?  Or stronger?  Or more determined?  Or, in Locke’s case, way too good at getting into trouble?  What would be the advantages?  What would be the disadvantages?  Sally Donovan and Anderson, in the given example, represent a threat to our imaginings, because they are huge reminders about how we’d react in the real world to someone as annoying and smug and superior as Sherlock.  They’re a threat to our narrative experience, because they start to pull us out of our differing perspectives and impose reality.   And maybe that’s why we all have an enormous hate-on for Sally and Anderson.

tl;dr version— I have two lists of fictional men in my head.  There’s a list of Fictional Men I Am Madly in Love With, and Fictional Men I Would Actually Consider Dating in Real Life.  Guess which one’s longer.

(via claire-sgyreju-deactivated20130)

Source: shurikenship
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Frequently, thank God, and with great aplomb.

(via merthurrus)

Source: monsterlogic
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Jerry Leath Mills: Southern Literature Can Be Defined by the Inclusion of a Dead Mule

No, really.  The litmus test of southernness in narrative— does it have a dead mule?

To counter these feelings of nervousness and disorientation (I don’t think people used the word “alienation” as loosely then as they do now), I took the more or less obvious solution of reading about what I’d left behind me, for a while, in the South. Not in any systematic or disciplined way—I never took a course in the subject—but in whatever spare time I could find, I read the fiction of southern authors I’d always known about but had never really looked into much during the years I was growing up and going to college in North Carolina. Did I find comfort, warmth, solace, and the confidence of knowing that I was part of something very richly textured? Some of each, of course; but mostly what I found was dead mules, an image that recurred with noticeable frequency in the novels and short stories I was reading.

Sounds about right to me!  One of the most quintessentially southern experiences I can remember having was in Falcon, MO, as we drove through a long uninhabited stretch of the Ozarks… and down the hill, on the other side of the road, as pleased as punch, came a clearly lost and very smug mule.

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roxanneritchi:

I still think the funniest thing about Han Solo becoming this archetypal figure in speculative fiction, oft mimicked in science fiction and fantasy, is that so many of the imitating characters are Stone Cold Badasses respected by even those who hate them, but … Han Solo is not a Stone Cold Badass. Like, yes, that is the image he carefully cultivates, and he totally shot Greedo first, and I will not deny that he is very cool and very witty and very dashing, but he is also hilariously inept at his job, really bad at fighting and strategizing, and wholly dependent on sheer luck and the bravado and skill of others to pull his ass out of the fire. People don’t respectfully hate him; the haters think he’s annoying.

(Which is why I’ve never had a prob with Han Solo playing the comedic right hand to Leia in the third film and why I’ve always been weirded out by people who do have a problem with that. HAN SOLO IS A GOOF. HIS IDEA OF A GREAT PLAN IS TO GO RUNNING DOWN A CORRIDOR SCREAMING, GUN AT THE READY, INTO A MASS OF STORMTROOPERS. HE DISTRACTS GUARDS BY TAPPING THEM ON THE SHOULDER AND RUNNING AS FAST AS HE CAN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. HIS SHIP IS A CRAPHEAP HELD TOGETHER BY PRAYERS AND DUCT TAPE.)

This is exactly why, I think, we all love Han Solo, and so many authors and other narrative-creators have followed in his staggering, improbably lucky footsteps.  Stone Cold Badasses are great, but sort-of-accidentally I-think-I-might-die badasses are even better.  Seat-of-the-pants guile heroes are irresistible to every story lover.

(via theopensea)

Source: formerlyroxy