metafictionality

Breaking the 4th Wall

Reading through Ariane DeVere’s transcript of TFP:

MYCROFT: She knew things she should never have known …
(Nearby, an overweight boy stands on one of a row of stepping stones across a stream. Wearing yellow boots, jeans and an olive-coloured jumper, he tosses a pebble into the water, perhaps attempting and failing to skim it. He looks across towards adult Mycroft, who turns away from him. Beyond him, little Eurus has her back to him and is watching as seven year old Sherlock, wearing red trousers, wellington boots and a dark yellow patterned jumper and with a pirate hat on his head, slashes at the water with his plastic sword. Adult Mycroft bends down and picks up a large pebble from the water’s edge.)
MYCROFT (in 211B): … as if she was somehow aware of truths beyond the normal scope.
(He opens his hand in front of him. His fingers are wet and a large pebble lies in his palm.  In his mind, young Eurus turns around on the beach and looks directly at him. Mycroft looks startled.)
EURUS: You look funny grown up.
(In 221B, Mycroft straightens up in his chair a little, staring towards the fireplace.)

So, um.  Eurus (who is either a story come to life or a living person turned into a story) interrupts the story being told within the story to address the storyteller.

That’s awfully metafictional.

dissonanttortoise  asked:

Hello, fellow associate! First of all, your blog is amazing - the world is quite here. My question is: do remember any passages from the series or the autobiography in which Lemony himself or any other character mentions that Snicket is dead? I'm wondering how the author metafictionally plays with Barthes' concept of "the death of the author". Thanks!

Hi, associate @dissonanttortoise! Thank you for all your support, it’s a pleasure.

Off the top of my head, I remember a few indications that Snicket may be dead in the books:

  • Kit Snicket believed she had lost her two brothers in “The End”.
  • Beatrice was planning to name her firstborn “Lemony” while she was on the Island. Children of the Baudelaire family are named after people who passed away.
  • The author’s presentations at the end of the books also play with this idea.
  • Sally Sebald thought Lemony was dead before he contacted her.
  • In the first chapter of “The Erstaz Elevator”, Lemony mentions that his execution may or may not have been cancelled.
  • The authorities announce that Lemony is dead in the un-Authorized Autobiography, with an empty funeral to boot. He attends his own funeral and notes that the coffin is suspicious. His reaction to his own obituary is evidently a reference to Mark Twain’s famous line (“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”) when newspapers reported his “death”.

There may be more, I can’t remember them all at the moment.

That being said, Daniel Handler is definitely aware of Roland Barthes’ works.

KR: I can’t help but notice what seems to be an at least mildly Francophile bent in your ouevre and interviews—your naming the Series orphans the Baudelaires, your high opinion of Madame Bovary, your mention of a desire to start a Dive Bar Proust Club, and so on—do you speak/read French? Do you consider any French authors or movements to be particularly interesting or influential?

DH: If an admiration for Madame Bovary and Charles Baudelaire makes one a Francophile I am happy to come clean, but despite additional weaknesses for French Structuralist Thinkers—I just read Roland Barthes’ The Fashion System, which is my idea of a good time—and serving a cheese course when hosting dinner parties, I don’t consider myself to be overly Francophilic. I don’t get rosy at mentions of Provence, for instance.
[Redivider, Interview with Daniel Handler, 4th of Jylu 2008 (Link)]

When I was in college, for example, Roland Barthes’s classic structuralist volume The Pleasure of the Text was read by us pretentious lit folk like it was pornography, with similar masturbatory results. Try going up to an author, without an ounce of flirtation, and telling him his book brought you pleasure. You’ll smirk. You won’t be able to help it. 
[Daniel Handler, “What the Swedes read” for The Believer, November/December 2013 (Link)]

As to the concept of the “death of the author”, Handler did write an entire book called “The composer is dead”… I’d say he’s definitely aware of the idea, at the very least, if he’s not straigth-up parodying it.

When is a gay joke not a joke? When it’s metafictional commentary.

This is one of the most layered and hardest to parse moments in The Abominable Bride - which is really saying something, given that the episode’s a drug-fueled metafictional masterpiece.  To understand this scene, I think it’s important to place this particular line in context.  I’d like to draw your attention to three observations:

First: this is the first time that any Moriarty - living or mind palace - clearly sexualizes or romanticizes John and Sherlock’s relationship.  Sure, Moriarty recognizes their bond and shapes many of his attacks around it, but he tends to desexualize and denigrate it, for instance calling John Sherlock’s “pet”. Given how frequently other characters directly or indirectly call them queer, it’s noteworthy that Moriarty waits until now.

Second: there’s another first here - this is the first time that Sherlock has replied directly to an insinuation that he is queer, or that he and John are or ought to be together. Again, given how frequently other characters make these remarks, it’s noteworthy that Sherlock doesn’t respond until now.

Third observation: the number of these remarks decreases drastically in Series 3/TAB.  We get several of them an episode in Series 1 and 2. The beginning of Series 3 continues this pattern, with comments from Mrs. Hudson before Sherlock’s return and from Mary before Sherlock and John’s reconciliation, but after about halfway through TEH, it’s hard to come up with any more examples - especially ones as clear as “If you’ll be needing two” or “You jealous?” or “You and John Watson, just platonic?”

What does it mean, that the writers are tapering down?  In-universe, one can say that John’s marriage makes people less likely to assume he and Sherlock are queer.  But I think there’s a metafictional reason.

I’ve heard TJLCers use the phrase ‘gay or trash’ to summarize the view that the queer content in BBC Sherlock’s first ten episodes is queerbaiting if the show never becomes explicitly gay.  Nowhere is this sentiment more applicable than when it comes to the gay jokes.  I call them ‘jokes’ because Gatiss does: “The idea of them possibly being a couple is inspired by the joke in the Billy Wilder film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, our favorite version. And we thought that was a good idea to run with that.“

Yet it’s not really a joke in TPLoSH - it’s a plot point, sure, but it’s a “fantastically melancholy” one.  There’s nothing funny about TPLoSH’s Sherlock’s secret, unrequited heartbreak.  Nor are they really jokes in BBC Sherlock - they are reflections of Sherlock and John’s actual queerness and feelings for each other. They just appear as jokes to heteronormative viewers. 

But Moriarty’s comment is clearly meant to be read a joke.  It’s cliched in its phrasing, and delivered in Moriarty’s typical over-the-top manner.  And after three-ish episodes without an obvious gay joke, it stands out as one.

And what does Sherlock respond with?  He calls it ‘offensive’.

The writers have taken us on a long journey over the course of six years and ten episodes.  The queer content has become more obvious, the heteronormative reading less tenable, with each season.  These ‘gay jokes’ no longer have a place on the show, not as jokes.  To make those kinds of references again, to have someone make an assumption of queerness and to have Sherlock ignore them, or to have John say “I’m not gay”? 

That would be offensive.

A Crisis of Faith, or, The Why of EMP

Watching The Lying Detective again, it becomes clearer and clearer that we’re in some variation of a dream, a trip, an alibi, Sherlock’s mind palace - some sort of false reality.  There’s plenty of good meta on this: see the EMP masterlist (someone lmk if there’s a more recent list to link to). There was a compelling case for it before TST & TLD, but I resisted, because I didn’t get why they would do this. 

(I’m a bit like John Watson when he gets angry at Sherlock - not interested in the how, but the why.  Plenty of amazing meta writers worked out the how of TJLC, but I had to write a 13k word meta before I could accept the why.)

Anyway, I can deny it no longer, EMP is happening.  But… why?

Here’s my best guess (and, not coincidentally, my greatest hope): EMP is happening because they want to get even more metafictional.

I haven’t watched all of Moffat’s Doctor Who episodes. In fact, they used to annoy me – Moffat uses the sci-fi setting to set up really fantastical plot twists. In Sherlock, Moffat’s plots are bounded by reality, plausibility, science. Or, well, they were.

To be fair to Mofftiss, BBC Sherlock is still bounded by plausibility.  They’ve gone to the trouble to present multiple in-universe mechanisms for us to be watching a false reality.  Interestingly, these are all introduced in the second series.  We get drug-induced dream sequences in ASiB.  We get drug-induced hallucinations and memory-altering substances and the mind palace in THoB.  We also, in Series 2, get the first truly metafictional storylines: Irene Adler and the destructiveness of love; Henry Knight haunted by his own story, a distorted truth; and of course, Moriarty, telling Sherlock’s story all wrong.

Prior to Series 4, I thought this was more or less the limits of their metafictionality. Sure, they’ll throw in a lot of imagery and symbolism, but they wouldn’t go further than that, would they?

Of course they would.  They ended Series 2 with a character called The Storyteller writing Sherlock to death.  That was half a show ago.  They had go somewhere after that.

But where exactly are they going?

Keep reading

I’m not saying I trust/believe these theories

but I don’t think the points made here, here and here about Charlie maybe still being alive are without merit, not to mention marghe’s note on blackbird imagery over here, so jusy fyi - I am mulling this all over fairly seriously

I’m not talking about Charlie coming BACK FROM DEATH, like a ghost or in Heaven or something - that wouldn’t help me, that would mean she still DIED in that dumb way, separated from Cas in that unpleasantly contrived manner and killed by an already physically disadvantaged one of the same guys she took on and escaped from two of only a few episodes previously

no, Charlie coming back from being dead would not fix this for me

but Charlie not being dead at all - that would have me clapping my hands and tipping my hat ‘bravo’ to the show for playing us all so convincingly

because I think it would be like the show almost metafictionally pointing to its own narrative problem, pointing out how it’s story has historically often led to female characters dying as a part of, a consequence of, the male led story of Sam and Dean, and how that is horrible and wrong 

they could give us a week or two to let the wrongness of it sink it, to show how the loss of Charlie has a negative influence not only in-show on Sam and Dean emotionally but also a metafictional negative effect on the spn narrative, by having it seemingly push Sam and Dean’s STORY into a familiar cycle with Dean leaving Sam in anger maybe implying the beginning of another round of their typical ‘blow out, split, eventual return to each other, blow out, split… ad infinatum’ …before then revealing that Charlie wasn’t dead at all, thus showing that they are committed to CHANGING spn from that story, because the SCARE of Charlie being dead could perhaps then be written as pushing Sam and Dean into finally recognising that the way they behave in regards to each other is bad for both themselves and others and must change, which will simultaneously be like the NARRATIVE recognising that killing more female characters is bad both for both itself and its fans and must change, all  WITHOUT having actually REFRIDGERATED Charlie to prompt this change 

(in fact, it could become a criticism of refrigerating women in general - Charlie’s placement in the bathtub, which many have already commented on being not dissimilar to placing her in a fridge, could become, in the event of her not being dead, something that is intended to be looked at critically as a fridging and condemned as such, could become a comment on how fridging women in stories is bad)  

so yeah - if Charlie is not actually dead, I think it has the potential to be kinda amazing

but well

these theories remind me a lot of the same kind that went round about Kevin after Holy Terror or the ones that went round about Cain after Executioner’s Song

 so I’m not holding my breath