Hey I was just reminded of talalay's tweet and I know she might not know of a special or the writers' intentions but her words annoyed me... it makes me feel like they dislike us, but if she thinks so i don't understand some of her directing in tst (like sherlock being revealed in the chair and mary=thatcher smashed). How do you interpret this whole thing, if you don't mind me asking? P.s. I loved your the ring meta!
Thanks so much for the compliment about my meta! <3 Glad you enjoyed it.
I only just learned about Rachel Talalay’s comment. I’m guessing you’re referring to this?
I would say it’s worth disregarding, as is anything any creator has to say about work they’ve released into the world.
Before I explain further, I just want to say that this in no way reflects any feelings or thoughts I have about Talalay’s skill as a director. I’m rewatching tst right now, and I think it’s very beautiful in many ways, despite the reservations I have about its reality status / the script / that wife / how we’re supposed to understand the episode. There’s nothing, I think, in the way it’s directed that gets in the way of the story that’s being told, and it has its own gorgeous qualities (that shark transition at the beginning is just…wow, really lovely.)
As for her comment, ugh. It was offered, it seems, spontaneously, in the context of answering a much more straightforward question about how a particular scene was filmed in Doctor Who, so it was unnecessary, to say the least. Now, I don’t know, I have no idea what has been said to her. I don’t know how much she’s had to deal with people coming at her for things over which she has no control, like the overall direction of the show. I don’t much care, tbh. Because I think that if you’re going to engage in social media interactions with people, you need to be cool about it. You should try to be gracious. Understand that people are excited about what you’ve made, which is, like, the point of making it? Isn’t it?
The main thing for me is, I’ve been on both sides of the creator / critic spectrum, professionally as a writer (on a really small scale), and academically as a literary scholar (at the highest level one can go). So I’ve thought about literary interpretation a lot, and thought a lot about its role, relative to literature itself. Here’s what I know:
When people make a thing, a creative thing, they pull on all kinds of stuff of which they may or may not be aware. It’s an art. There’s planning, and there’s purpose, and there’s the story they know they want to tell, and then there’s serendipity, and the intuitive ways in which symbolism builds, and there’s the mass of art and literature that came before yours, there’s the direct source material (acd canon) and there’s indirect source material (the tons and tons of Holmesian pastiche); there’s tradition (like the Gothic); there are brands (Hammer horror, Bond, and, weirdly, the Muppets). It all goes into the mix, and out comes a thing that works, or doesn’t.
This is why authorial intention is garbage as a concept: because literary texts are made from a combination of conscious and unconscious content.
And this is why all creator commentary about what they meant to do, or didn’t, is rubbishy bullshit at best. Ideally, I think, a creator should ask, “What did you think of it?” Rather than, proclaiming, “Oh, that’s not what I meant.”
(I know, I know. We want there to be a plan. We want johnlock to be part of the consciously crafted content of the show. I obviously do. I want mofftiss to be good. I want them to be clever. I want the clearly inferior quality of s4 to be part of a meta-level Reichenbach arg. I hope it is. But even if it isn’t, even if they meant tfp to be a totally straightforward end to s4 and possibly the series as a whole, there is still much we can do in terms of reading it, interpreting it, enjoying it. This is not reaching. The subtext is practically hanging off the text like ripe fruit, begging to be picked.)
It is up to the critic, the literary analyst, the audience, to decide what the thing they’re consuming means to them. The symbols, tropes, character arcs, plots, etc., etc., which the creator has put together–all of this interacts with you, your personal experience, the other texts you’ve enjoyed, the symbols, tropes, plots, etc., that are part of your cultural experience, and there, in you, is where they make meaning.
You can emerge from the experience of a text and say, this is what it means, and interpret it in light of what you know, and what you’ve felt, and back it up using the textual evidence that made you think what you did, and no one–that is to say NO ONE–can tell you you’re wrong. They can tell you they think there’s a better reading. They can tell you they think yours has holes in it. You can, if you wish, engage in discussion about it. But you don’t have to. Above all, you should do what makes you happy. This is supposed to be fun–which, it seems, is something that Talalay, with her snarky comment about “rationality,” seems to have forgotten.
Nonetheless, for those of us who do choose to craft arguments out of our favourite readings of this, or any literary text:
There are good interpretations–ones that really hold water when you interrogate them and subject them to argumentation. There are less valid interpretations–ones that fall apart if you so much as breathe on them.
Johnlock is a valid interpretation. It is as solid as granite. It has a metric fuckton of evidence backing it up. The only thing it doesn’t have, right now, is an explicit confirmation from the text that satisfies much of the audience who supports that interpretation. (Right now, there’s sort of a johnlock light reading we can glean from the most superficial level of the text. In my opinion, there’s a much more intense johnlock reading possible via the subtext.)
There are, of course, other readings. Of course there are! But let me tell you, having had a run-in or two with the dude who made that anti-tjlc blog, WELL, he is far from rational. He transforms into a squalling infant if you so much as push on one of his ideas. And then tells you you’re bullying him. Methinks he enjoys being fighty.
THE BOTTOM LINE IS: Once a creator has released something into the world, their role is done. It’s then up to the audience to take the thing and run with it. I am so glad–SO GLAD–to be part of a fandom that voraciously consumes, analyzes, critiques, and otherwise shakes the thing we love until all the best bits and pieces fall out. That’s the fun of it! For a creator to turn around and say, NO! You’re loving the thing I made in the wrong way–well, that is really small.
So: thanks for this ask, sorry to go on for so long but I have LOTS of feelings about this, clearly.