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In return he saved me...
… or why I think Moffat set up the perfect scenario to save River from the Library in the series finale.
on 'gender equality' and supernatural s8
so back during the summer hiatus, when everyone was acting like s8 was going to be the second coming, ben edlund said at a convention that they were going to try and improve the gender equality of the show this season. at the time i was dubious, but i thought they might at least make an effort.
turns out the joke was on me, because i think this season has been one of the worst (if not the worst) for its appalling treatment of women. which is saying something, given this show’s history.
content warnings for discussion of character death, sexualised violence, sexual abuse and general grossness below the cut.
Why Alana Might Not Be What She Appears
Alana Bloom may seem like a warm, nurturing, caring person and the “moral center” of this otherwise warped show, but I believe there are indicators throughout the episodes that imply otherwise.
It’s a shorter post than you think, just hit the read more.
SUPERNATURAL AND THE LOVE NARRATIVE: A Non-Shipper's Perspective on Destiel
and a look back, and forward, on the canonization thereof
Part 1 of 6 in a collection and analysis of the different parts of the Dean/Cas love narrative.
In this installment: a brief speculation as to why, and a comparison to X-Files.
Hi, my name is Sarah. I’ve followed this show since it was just a few scraps of a pilot script floating on the internet, and I do not ship Dean and Castiel, but I am eager to see where they go.
Because they must, absolutely, at this point go.
The Adler Conundrum: How Elementary Solved The Problem of The Woman
By now, most of the Elementary fandom has probably already seen or been spoiled for the season finale double-whammy that was “The Woman/Heroine”. But just in case someone hasn’t, abandon ship now if you want to remain unspoiled, because this bit of rambling meta is going to lay out just how cleverly Elementary updated and made the one woman who bested Sherlock Holmes their own.
Short version: Warning, here there be spoilers.
So, just a quick refresher: In the original ACD canon, Irene Adler appears in one story, A “Scandal in Bohemia,” and is mentioned in others, as the woman who bested Sherlock Holmes and ran off to her own life and is never seen again. From Dr. Watson’s perspective, Holmes did not love Irene Adler, but that he did feel an immense respect for her.
In many of the adaptations since the original story was published, the role of Irene Adler as The Woman has been expanded, usually to that of criminal, and usually as a love interest for Holmes.
And for a while, it appeared Elementary not only went down the same path, but that she was also dead (which again, a nice nod to the original canon and ACD’s complete inability to remain internally consistent but that’s another point altogether), leading to cries of her being “fridged for Sherlock’s manpain”.
But lo and behold, not only do we find out in the season finale that Irene Adler is still alive, but that she isn’t in fact Irene Adler at all, but Moriarty herself. And this is a twist that, as far as I know, has not been played with in modern Holmes adaptations (though if it has happened in pastiches, someone please tell me).
And why not? It’s brilliant.
On Irene Adler as the Holmsian Love Interest… again.
One of the most problematic and most prevalent themes of the Adler-as-Love-Interest tropes is how despite she being the woman who beat him, that Holmes eventually returns to save her. The idea that Holmes has feelings for Adler because she’s beaten him is, I think, an acceptable read of canon. It’s clear that he has some strong regard for her, and whether it’s taking into account Watson as unreliable narrator or adaptation degeneration, the idea that Holmes felt something for Irene Norton nee Adler does not seem too much of a stretch.
(Why it always has to be love, well that’s another discussion entirely on the changing views of rationalism and love, one I’m nowhere near qualified to really expound on)
But the fact is that the return is always to the trope that Irene Adler, having beaten Sherlock Holmes, requires saving by him. And Elementary sidesteps this beautifully by having Irene Adler succeed in fooling Sherlock Holmes, and going on her merry way.
And this is the part where the idea gets a little complicated. Because by the end of the episode we realize Irene is and always has been Moriarty. So does Adler really beat Holmes? Or is it Moriarty who does. What does that mean for the Adler/Holmes narrative in the scope of A Scandal in Bohemia?
Trying to answer that question is where things get very interesting for me, and really brings to light for me how extremely clever the Elementary writers were. I think it’s very useful to distinguish between Moriarty and Irene Adler despite them being the same person, because the show itself takes such pains to set them apart. And for a good reason.
Things to note about Elementary’s Irene Adler: Much the same as “A Scandal In Bohemia“‘s Adler, she is content to have one encounter with Holmes and be gone on her merry way. Moriarty’s motivations for experimenting with Holmes, for observing him, are related to this fact, but the key is that the core of Irene Adler, the one who encounters Holmes, impresses him with her intellect (and in this case, intellect AND appreciation for art preservation), and then walks away from him with exactly what she wants, remains the same.
It gets a little more complicated, when we remember that Adler is, in fact, a construct of Moriarty’s. And how much could Moriarty be willing to walk away if the entire point of the exercise is to observe Holmes in his natural habitat?
But that too, is made clear in Moriarty’s reveal. Moriarty-as-Adler is still perfectly willing, perfectly capable of walking away from Holmes. Moriarty-as-Adler still wins by successfully fooling Holmes by faking her death.
It is Holmes who falls, who is deeply affected and deeply moved by his meeting with Adler. In the story, that deeply moved leads him to stop underestimating women, to give her the title of The Woman, the one that eclipses and predominates the entirety of her sex; in Elementary, Holmes ends up with a heroin addiction. But in both he is still deeply moved by having met her.
And Moriarty-as-Adler doesn’t need rescuing by Holmes. She isn’t saved, she doesn’t need to be. She walks away from Holmes with her agency and the very core of her being firmly intact.
Which is far truer to the text than would initially meets the eye with the red herrings of Dead Girlfriend and Bohemian Painter and The One that Got Away that had been thrown our way.
Some people might consider it a bit of erasure, for Irene Adler as a character to be revealed as Moriarty in disguise, I actually really like the twist, for a simple reason:
Irene Adler was The Woman to Sherlock Holmes, the one woman who eclipsed and predominated the whole of her sex, the only one to gain the honourific of The Woman from Sherlock Holmes.
And Irene Adler doesn’t exist. Irene Adler as The Woman is a construct, a fantasy, and Elementary very simply puts that out there. That the person Holmes considered The Woman, the single one, the woman who is representative of women. That person doesn’t exist. No perfect woman exists. Not for Sherlock Holmes, not for any one.
When stripped of artifice and the Sherlockian trappings of intelligence and meetings of the mind, the courtship of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, and the revelation of Moriarty-as-Adler, speaks to something incredibly basic:
Boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Girl turns out to be not as perfect as boy thinks. Boy is distraught. Boy (with help of Friend) Gets Over It.
It’s simple and it’s powerful and it is poignant. And it flies in the face of every single romantic comedy in the media. By breaking Irene Adler down into a fabrication, Elementary shows us how hollow the idea of The Woman, The Man, The Perfect Ideal of Your Choice, is.
And, you know what, that’s awesome.
On Irene Adler Being Beaten By Sherlock Holmes… Again
Some people have said that by making Moriarty Irene, that it again takes away Irene’s agency that she is not the woman who beat Sherlock Holmes, but the woman beaten by Sherlock Holmes. And once again, this is the part where putting a distinction between Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes is helpful. Irene Adler is a construct of Moriarty’s, and it was Moriarty who was defeated.
But not by Sherlock.
Moriarty was beaten by Joan Watson.
Let’s repeat that. Sherlock’s overdose was a ruse. Sherlock being in the hospital was bait for Moriarty, and it was Joan Watson who beat Moriarty, who diagnosed Moriarty and beat her.
Joan was right. Moriarty remains (as both herself and in the Irene Adler guise) the woman who beat Sherlock Holmes. And who in turn was beaten by another woman, by Joan Watson.
How is that not absolutely beautiful and a clever way of keeping the core of what made Irene Adler so deserving of respect for Holmes while still remaining true to the Moriarty narrative of Moriarty being beaten. And in this case, even as Moriarty loses (in this case to Joan), Holmes loses too. Instead of losing his life (as the original intent of ACD’s Final Problem), Holmes loses a bit of his own history, a part of himself that was both painful and formative and something that was good that he obviously treasured.
But having addressed “The Final Problem,” let’s circle back to “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Holmes loses to Adler in “Scandal” because he underestimates her because she’s a woman, because he found himself believing the cultural myth of that period, that woman are inherently inferior to men, that they can’t be as clever. And he loses, to his detriment.
On Elementary, it’s not Holmes’ misogyny and buying into the cultural myth that is his downfall. This time it’s Moriarty’s. Moriarty buys into our cultural myth. Moriarty is a woman, Moriarty is the one who should know better than Holmes that women are a force to be reckoned with. And yet Moriarty buys into internalized misogyny and underestimates Joan Watson.
Think about it for a minute. Internalized misogyny is not being perpetuated by the hero who is then rewarded. Internalized misogyny is being practiced and perpetuated by the antagonist and her downfall is directly related to her internalized misogyny. Her dismissal of other women, as seeing them as competition, mascot, as lesser directly relates to her losing.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
In the current media landscape, we are still regularly reinforced by the idea that women should be seen as competition, where we all buy into (to varying degrees) a social expectation that women are lesser desirable, are expected to be less interesting, less well written then men. We all buy into that to varying degrees. But suddenly we have Elementary, we have a show that not only updated a classic canon to the modern age by the inclusion of peoples of colour, but one that proceeds to update the myths and shatter the idea of people as paragons of their gender, that manages to make internalized misogyny a trait that doesn’t just exist but is actively negative.
How cool is that?
Now, if only we can stop with the Microsoft product placements.
can we talk about
Because what I’m hearing here is Dean emphasizing their connection. What I’m hearing is Dean intentionally saying that what they have is deeper, more important - essentially, more profound than Castiel’s bond with anybody else. Even Sam. Even Cas’s brothers, the angels he served with for millennia.
This isn’t the first time Dean has expressed that his bond with Cas is special and distinct from/above other bonds (“You’re going to feed your friends into a meat grinder? Cas, too?”, “We need you” vs. ”I need you”) or that Cas has expressed the same (“Dean and I do share a more profound bond.”). But it is the first time that Dean has brought up the idea that their relationship should entail a higher level of intimacy than they have with anyone else. He’s making it clear that what hurts him is not just the abandonment, but that of all the people Cas could potentially have turned to, he expected to be the first one, the top of the list, the one Cas could trust no matter what. He even puts extra emphasis on the me the second time around to make it clear that Cas was in the wrong because he should have made an exception for Dean.
Basically, this is Dean saying to Cas that they have a special relationship, and that said relationship should make him the most important thing to Castiel. I am really hoping that this is set-up for moving the subtext of these lines - of why he’s most important - to text in the next episode.
Sam Winchester in a Traditionally Female Character Role and Why People Don't Like That
Hello boys and girls, today I want to talk about traditional gender roles in fiction, the modern double standard on gender roles, and how sexism plays into that. Specifically, as you may have predicted, I’ll be focusing on the character archetype that Sam Winchester fits into, and why it makes people uncomfortable.
GRAB MY BOOB
Sam on Dean and Cas
So Sam is always the first one to talk about emotions and other ‘chick flick’ stuff. We can sit around and argue about whether Dean and Cas are being written more romantically, or we can look what the characters are saying. Let’s look back over Season 8 and examine how Sam has been talking about…. Dean and Cas.
Because I’m obsessive, I transcribed the conversations that I found. I started out with a couple of ideas— First, that Sam talks about Cas more often in Season 8 than in previous seasons. Secondly, that the tone of the conversations reflects the increasingly romantic subtext of Dean and Cas.
And guess what? It BLEW ME AWAY. I included either conversations that Sam initiated about their relationship, or conversations where Sam had a significant role in discussing their relationship.
The question keeps coming up, “why don’t queer slash fans care more about canonical queer characters.”
It’s the “Did you stop beating your wife” of fandom questions. It’s leading. It’s reductionist.
There is the obvious answer — Queer fans are people, and people in general care more about main characters most directly influential to the main storyline of any tv show, book, movie, etc. The vast majority of queer characters are minor characters crammed in for politically correct purposes, without any real character development. The few that do get actual development are usually still not central to the plot of the show. I often feel when people ask me this question that they are essentially asking me, “Why aren’t you grateful for table scraps?”
Because I’m not a fucking dog?
The few cases in which queer characters do get to be main characters central to the plot, the story usually revolves entirely around their queerness. And when I say queerness I mean gayness. Because let’s face it, no one in the media takes bisexuality seriously.
With precious few notable exceptions in niche genres, all the bisexuals on television are women. This is because the media doesn’t take female sexuality seriously. This is because the media doesn’t take women seriously. The media is going to keep dismissing bisexuality for as long as bisexuality is coded female only.
People in Teen Wolf ask, “Why aren’t you more invested in Danny? Why aren’t you fighting for him to have more backstory and more plotlines.”
As a media consumer and a pragmatist, the logic of this question is completely backwards. “Why aren’t you invested in a character that lacks flaws, motivation, depth, and for that matter anything else that might make you invested in said character? Isn’t it your moral duty as a queer/woman/POC to base all your character preferences on how similar a character’s minority status is to your own?”
I feel like the people asking these questions are asking me to choose what emotions I feel based on ideals. They’re asking me to choose between being a feminist/poc activist/queer advocate and being human.
I think of High School musical, whose entire fandom following both slash and het ships a multiracial pairing. Not out of moral duty, but because the POC in that movie series are well written and central to the plot.
Often when a show has a lot of race/sex/gender diverse cast you will hear white/cis/het people complain that the show is “trying too hard” to be diverse.
The fact is, oftentimes minority characters do seem awkwardly placed in a storyline, for the sole purpose of being politically correct. And they do feel out of place and unnecessary. And the problem isn’t that the show creators are “trying too hard.”
They’re not trying hard enough. They thought it was enough to slap on a few characters haphazardly, without fully integrating them into the storyline.
I think people need to focus more on how women/poc/queer characters are represented, instead of just focusing on how many.
No one seems to ask why lesbians read/write m/m slash.
I’ve met a lot of lesbians who read/write m/m slash.
People like to assume that slash is purely voyeurism and than compare it to “straight men watching mainstream lesbian porn.” That comparison is pure bullshit. Accusing lesbian/bisexual women of voyeuristically fetishizing gay male porn, for that matter accusing women of fetishizing men in general is like accusing black affirmative action advocates of reverse racism.
Anyone can be a bigot, but racism is bigotry + power. Sexism is bigotry+power. Transmisogyny (prejudice by cisgendered people towards transgendered/genderqueer people) is bigotry+power. Monosexism (prejudice by people attracted to one gender towards people attracted to more than one gender) is bigotry+power.
There’s a whole conversation that needs to be had, about slash as escapism, rather than voyeurism. About allegories. Not in this post. Maybe later. I have a post in the works.
"elementary doesn't feel like sherlock holmes."
I’ve been hearing this claim a lot lately, in various forms, and it’s a little bit unsettling. “Elementary is great, if you just forget that his name is Sherlock.” “He just seems like a clever guy whose name happens to be Sherlock.” “I’m just not feeling Sherlock Holmes from this character.”
There seems to be one “logical” justification that people tend to use, that there is too much changed from the canon to be called Sherlock Holmes (which I will probably address in a later post.)
Instead of the “logical” focus, I thought about the gut reaction portion of it for a bit I think and I figured out why people don’t ~*~feel~*~ Sherlock Holmes in Elementary. And that is that we as audience members of his crime solving adventures, the way he employs his deductions are different from the “Sherlocky” method that is usually employed. The thing is, I don’t think that the “deviation” in deduction style is either substantive or significant.
When Sherlockians think Shelock-style deductions, we usually think wild, rapid-fire conclusions that seem to come out of nowhere that are later explained by joining strenuous networks of circumstances that happen upon something true. What we’ve found over the course of Elementary is that our Sherlock deploys his deductions a bit differently.
Of course, he does have his spurts of “traditionally Sherlockian deductions.” He deduces that Joan is a former surgeon, that a patient died on her table, each of his deductions explained later. He finds Moran seemingly miraculously, and calculates the vehicle where thieves have gone with only set of tire tracks. Among other moments, he sounds and feels more like Holmes is traditionally portrayed.
Why? Because when he initially announces deductions, they stimulate the surprise and admiration in his audience because his conclusions seem impossible to come to. It’s only later when he explains how he comes to these conclusions that we feel quite silly after understanding the clever yet simple logical jumps that Sherlock is able to make. There is wonder from the audience (and Watson, famously, in the canon and other adaptions) in the ways of Sherlock’s enigma and independence of thought. He is mysterious and unreachable in his ability.
The original Sherlock Holmes explains it adeptly in A Study in Scarlet:
“I’m not going to tell you much more of the case, Doctor. You know a conjuror gets no credit when once he has explained his trick, and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual after all.”
But our Sherlock in Elementary is different. The story was never about him. It was never about how he has a superior intellect or can blow everyone away with his deductions. The story was always about leading his spectators through his thinking process. It was always about working with Joan and Bell and Gregson as equally intelligent people to solve the crimes. It was always about relaying his thinking process out loud, so that everyone reaches the finish line of understanding at the same time instead of leaving his colleagues and his audience in the dust.
The story was always about our dear Watson learning by his side, about her working her way through the cases and receiving feedback from Sherlock as she improves as an investigator. We can see the very poignant message of the story in Snow Angels:
SHERLOCK: They came out of EROC with $33 million in small bills. They loaded their haul onto an ambulance American-made in the late nineties. They haven’t been gone more than an hour.
JOAN: The driver had a lazy eye, the other two men had basketball caps, and one has canine lupus. See how it feels?
If that isn’t a hit in the face I don’t know what is. The tradition of Sherlock Holmes expects us to be impressed with Sherlock’s deductions that come seemingly out of nowhere. We are supposed to applaud his talent and expect an explanation later. Not so in Elementary. From the get-go - the very first episode - Watson establishes that this behavior is patronizing, immature, and unacceptable. The showy shimmer of Sherlock’s deductions is soured once we realize that it actually makes more sense to be upset about Sherlock leaving us behind in the dust, rather than struck with wonder. It’s this arrogant, showy behavior that feels like Sherlock Holmes, but also manages to make everyone around Holmes feel inferior.
If that’s what it means for Sherlock to “feel like Sherlock Holmes” then I don’t want it.
I want our Sherlock, who is still incredibly intelligent and can make great logical leaps without pause, who has a vast knowledge of useful topics for crime-solving, who thinks and acts in such a peculiar way that is characteristic of the Sherlock Holmes from so long ago. There’s no question that Elementary’s Sherlock is Sherlock Holmes. The difference is that he is able to prove himself able to grow and develop as a person, willing to accommodate others. Sherlock Holmes from canon was afraid of being an ordinary man. Sherlock Holmes from Elementary has no qualms with helping make extraordinary of “ordinary” people. And that doesn’t subtract from the integrity of Sherlock Holmes at all.