Crimson Peak and Female Authorship

crimsonpeak.png

FULL-ON SPOILER WARNING: I am going to discuss EVERYTHING that happens in this movie, right up until the last reveals. I’m writing under the assumption that you’ve seen this movie. You’ve been warned!

“Crimson Peak” is a true gothic, and the gothic is a women’s genre. The protagonists are women, the most famous writers (Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Daphne du Maurier) are women. They are about old drafty houses (the traditional realm of women), marriage, and love.

index.jpg

Yet, gothics are about men. The men are the actors, the choosers, the authors of fate. After reading Wuthering Heights, the memory of Heathcliff lasts for years. Jane Eyre’s life is destroyed by Rochester’s first marriage. When she leaves the house, she is making an active out of a passive act–departing rather than merely refusing Rochester. But it is a change in Rochester which is ultimately necessary, not a change in Jane. And Max deWinter rules his nameless new wife.

“Crimson Peak” is NOT about men. It engages with the male-centric tropes of the gothic while re-casting the women as the actors and, ultimately, authors.

alan the idiot.png

The best demonstration of this is poor Alan Cummings. He arrives more than halfway through the film, thinking he’s a rescuing hero. When he insists that he’s taking Edith away, takes out the newspaper article on the old Lady Sharpe, he’s playing out a story in his head, in which he’s the masculine savior and Thomas is the dark villain, Edith the damsel in distress. He doesn’t even pay attention to Lucille Sharpe, thinking that the only source of danger is Thomas.

ends badly.png

He just didn’t get it: he’s walked into Lucille’s story, and this failure to understand almost kills him, and in fact turns him into a damsel whom Edith must rescue.

index.jpg

Thomas is the one who should be at the center of this story, but he is an extraordinarily passive character. Edith’s father identifies this right away when he tells Thomas “you have the softest hands I’ve ever seen.” Thomas insists that “my will is just as strong as yours,” but this is a complete lie. Thomas is a creature of reaction, not of action. He reacts to the empty clay mines by trying to build something better; he reacts to the lack of money by playing the part his sister wrote for him.

Thomas is not the author. He is a character in some else’s story, and he knows it. When he meets Edith in that first scene, he barely notices her, his attention instantly drawn to her novel on the table before him. His resistance to his sister began there, when he followed his attraction to Edith rather than the match his sister had already primed. When Edith later says that “characters change, they make choices,” he is struck, as if he had never considered that choice could change the story. He slowly builds up steam until he even burns the papers Edith had signed and “orders” his sister not to touch Edith again. But just because he has a bit of will at last doesn’t mean he has power, and he doesn’t even try to stop Lucille from murdering him. Even his ghost is transparent, insubstantial, blowing away on the wind.

luc and ed.png

Crimson Peak is, at its heart, about the conflict between two authors: Lucille Sharpe and Edith Cushing. Lucille’s story is old, and she has been writing it for years in her generations-old house. Edith’s is young, just seeking publication, undergoing flux and constant revision. Lucille’s has given birth to ghosts, has swept up and destroyed lives. She can rewrite it, re-cast Edith and pretend the story won’t change. But those who threaten her story, like Edith’s father, she murders. Brutally.

000199078-crimson-peak-1371-1372-07-02.jpg

Edith senses almost immediately that she is in someone else’s story. When women marry and move into their husband’s home, take his last name instead of their own, they become a part of his family, his story. But Edith isn’t content to merely accept this. When she sees a ghost, she follows it. She wanders through private areas of the house, steals keys, looks for the answers and never tries to pretend they aren’t true. Early on, she tells Thomas that she “I don’t want to close my eyes. I want to keep them open.” Where others would flinch, she keeps going. And she never asks Thomas to save her, questions him only once after seeing her first ghosts, to which he answered evasively and with clear discomfort. Yet, Edith remains determined to know the whole of the story she has entered–because only then can she become one of its authors.

CrimsonPeakChastain.jpg

Lucille is the source of power in the Sharpe house. She murdered her mother (and perhaps her father too). With only one exception, she brews the tea meant to kill Edith. The ghosts of the Sharpe home may have been Thomas’s wives, but they are her victims. She belongs in the house, she is it’s madwoman in the attic. She is an incarnation of the depraved horror to which the ancient family has sunk: she has become both her mother, the source of the familial violence, and her father, the leg-breaker (she tells Edith that her father broke her mother’s leg only hours before she herself breaks Edith’s leg).

But Lucille’s story has a fatal flaw: she underestimates Edith. When she and Edith are in her room, Lucille insisting Edith sign the papers transferring her fortune to the Sharpes, Lucille thinks she’s won. But Thomas has already betrayed her, has already saved Alan rather than killing him–because Thomas is in love with Edith.

luc.png

Lucille carelessly tosses Edith’s novel into the fire, mockingly saying “you thought you were a writer.” But Edith has already re-written Lucille’s story. When she attacks Lucille, she does it with her pen. She escapes entirely on her own steam, and even had Thomas not already turned on Lucille, he would never have mustered enough strength to actually stop Edith. And her reaction to seeing Thomas is not to weep or beg for help, but to attack him and confront him with the truth he’s hidden from.

When Thomas tries to convince Lucille that “we can be free,” can leave the house and its “rotting walls” behind, he is throwing in his lot with Edith’s story. It was Edith who first suggested they leave the house behind. And, because Thomas did ultimately love his sister, he tries to persuade her to see this new story through his eyes.

luc2.png

But when Lucille understands that Thomas has fallen in love with Edith, her story falls apart. At its center, Lucille’s story was of her and Thomas (while Edith’s was of herself). When he proves to have not only veered off script, but to in fact have betrayed the story, her reaction is to excise him, to destroy what Edith had created.

In the final scene, Lucille tells Edith “either you kill me, or I kill you.” Both of the stories cannot exist together. And so Edith ends the Sharpe story, ends Lucille with one blow. She emerges from the darkness of the house into the light of the snowstorm, the only survivor of Lucille Sharpe.

 

Advertisements

Tauriel: Almost a Great Notion

Tauriel-alone-at-end

How could you do this to my character?

Note: Yeah, I know the movie is more than a year old. This has been sitting on my laptop for a year, so I’m finally publishing it.

A summary of Tauriel’s plot in “Battle of the Five Armies” is as follows: protect Kili by leaving Lake Town, join Legolas in a northward excursion, fight with Thranduil over Kili and love, go looking for Kili, watch Kili die, lose consciousness, mourn over Kili. This sucks.

In the last movie, Tauriel was a great warrior, a means through which to explore Elven racism, a woman motivated by curiosity about the world and desire to protect it. In this movie, she’s motivated by love of Kili. That’s it. That’s her whole motivation, the crux of her character. Love. “Was it real?”

Kili-gives-Tauriel-stone-31

Look, it’s a good movie, easily the best dramatic piece of the three prequels. But they dropped the ball with Tauriel. In one interview, Evangeline Lily claims that the essence of her character is that of the warrior—but Tauriel only has two (very brief and non-flashy) orc kills in this movie, and her big fight scene involves being brutally beaten and saved by her two love interests.

bilbobar-640

In truth, as befits a hobbit, the story being told in this movie is a simple one. It boils down to revenge, greed, and love—urges which motivate each character. Love is the strongest of these motivations, and it drives most of the characters: love of comrades (the dwarves), love of a long dead wife (Thranduil), love of friends (Bilbo), and finally romantic love (Tauriel, Legolas).

 

I try to criticize the movie that was made, not the movie that wasn’t, but I can’t help myself this time. The argument could be made that in Tauriel’s plot, this subtext of love merely becomes text. But in all honesty, the subtext could have remained subtext. I don’t have a problem with the existence of a romantic subplot, and I don’t care about the love triangle thing that bothers so many people; what I do care about is the fact that the movie’s only major female character is motivated almost exclusively by romantic love; not only does the audience know that, even the other characters reduce her to “love” rather than taking anything she says seriously. Thranduil only talks about who she’s in love with, Legolas is apparently in love with her, and Kili is in love with her. Those are all the characters she talks to in these films.

index

These movies are ultimately about the power of friendship, friendships which bridge all divides and give men the strength to fight. I say men deliberately, because with this movie women are essentially excluded from the friendships of ALL of the Rings movies. Tauriel has no important friendships, only romantic entanglements. There was originally not supposed to be a romantic plot between her and Legolas, but the transformation of that relationship from friendship to romance excluded the only major female character in these movies from their central theme.

battle-dwarves

Off to slaughter elves.

Finally, although Kili and Tauriel are the only example of romantic love in the Hobbit films, only Tauriel’s actions are actually ruled by that love. Until the very end, when he attacks Bolg, Kili’s actions never change based on Tauriel. He shows no hesitation in attacking the elves with the other dwarves, and Tauriel never comes up when he speaks to the other members of the Company. Yet, he asks Tauriel to come with him to the Mountain and give up all her bonds to the Woodland Realm. Meanwhile, hoping to help him, Tauriel goes alone into a horde of orcs, then practically commits suicide trying to avenge him.

leggy.png

Why won’t anyone give her a real plot?

Weirdly, in spite of how dick-ish he was in the last film, here Legolas’s actions come off best of the three: he’s willing to defy his father for Tauriel, he volunteers to go with her to rescue Kili, and he has big heroics fighting Bolg to save Tauriel. Yet, he ends up in self-imposed exile. In fairness, this goes a long way to redeeming him from the jerk he was in the last movie, but he still needs an attitude adjustment.

BotFATrailer65

I will admit that I found the love story between Tauriel and Kili interesting (if not well done). I liked its inclusion because it brought issues of racial politics into the LOTR movie world. But this movie pulled away from the racial issues, instead going on about whether it’s “real” love. In the end, Tauriel and Kili’s relationship isn’t about race: it’s about death.

Tauriel and Kili were not in love with each other. They were in love with the idea of each other. To Tauriel, Kili was someone removed from the confined and prejudiced world she had spent her life in. He could speak of wonders she had never seen, and he represented escape from a dying culture. To Kili, Tauriel was beauty “walking in starlight,” a representation of an ancient culture he was forever excluded from. These people had two short conversations. They did not walk through fire together, or fight side by side. They just didn’t know each other.

Only in death could this love become something “real.” By dying for Tauriel, by breaking her heart, the love was elevated. Tauriel and Kili could never have gotten married and had little mixed-race babies. Both were too embedded in their cultures to give everything up for the other (as evidenced by the lakeside conversation). Yet, when Kili died for her, he forever preserved himself in her mind. The individual was no longer important, only the representation and the final act of love.

in death.png

If Tauriel had killed Bolg in vengeance, it would have taken Legolas’s hero moment away—but I still wish the writers had made that decision instead. And I don’t think the inclusion of the love story is in itself a problem: it’s the way it took over Tauriel’s plot. Legolas and Kili both had more plot; Tauriel had nothing but romance, a plot streamlined to exclude racial politics and warrior natures. She’s a warrior who almost never fights, in the middle of a war film! In The Desolation of Smaug, she was cooler than Legolas. But in The Battle of the Five Armies, she’s not cooler than anybody.

tauri.png

No one whose character climax involves crying hysterically and then jumping off a cliff can be “cool.”

True Blood: And They All Lived Heteronormatively Ever After

Sookie-season-3-sookie-stackhouse-15170232-1680-776

Sookie Stackhouse has been officially dethroned as the lead in her own show. That’s been clear to anyone watching for quite a while, but last night we saw that, forever after, this was the story of Bill Compton’s return to humanity. But not just any humanity–a specific type of heteronormative, nuclear-family oriented masculinity.

c52ef1647daf4af7cab88884acd4c886

When this show kicked off, it was about a gay couple in the Deep South. That was it: everything was linked to that metaphor, from catchphrases like “God hates fangs” to the way people reacted around Bill and Sookie. It was thus about a subversion of the norm, of a young woman who broke out of her cultural blinders and chose a man with whom she would never able to have a “normal” life.

This entailed rejecting the idea of “normal.” It meant she had to face a world full of crazy. It actually put her life in danger, but she stood by her decision. As she dug deeper and deeper into the world of vampires, she was changed until she herself could never be considered “normal.”

True-Blood-001

But at the beginning of season 3, this stopped being Sookie Stackhouse’s story. It became Bill’s. For the entire year, all Sookie did was react to Bill, to his dumb ass decisions, his actions, his lies and his love. And from the next year onward, Sookie was only tangentially related to the plot, more likely to get in the way of it than to steer it–the main actor, the one to whom everyone reacted, was Bill.

Bill-TrueBlood-finale

But in this past year, as True Blood has become more (frankly) self-indulgently soapy, it looked like Sookie might have regained her position as lead. Bill was barely in the first few episodes, and he spent his time reacting to Sookie, rather than forcing her to react to him. But Sookie’s story ended when she was accepted by the town at the Stackhouse House Party–everyone embracing her in spite of being a “freak.” So, on an individual level, the abnormal had been accepted. But the show wasn’t really about telepaths–it was about freaking vampires.

Once that vein bloomed on Bill, he became the lead again. Sure, Sookie gave it to him, and she jumped his bones, but Bill refused the antidote in spite of her.

bill dies

So it’s Bill Compton’s story. Who is Bill, really? He’s a heteronormative white male patriarch. He never figured out how to grow and change, never learned how to put his family and the life he didn’t get to lead to rest. He never believed he could be anything but Death, because he embraced basic divisions like man-woman, life-death, good-evil.

In this vision, there are two paths: the normal, “right” path, and the subversive “wrong” one. To engage as closely as possible in a basic heteronormative vision of family is “right.” That’s what Jessica did, marrying Hoyt so that Bill could give her away. It’s what Jason did, giving up his randy ways to have a passel of children (whom he probably can barely support with his salary, incidentally, but that’s another thing).

Bill believed he could not, must not be with Sookie because then he would be denying her the “best parts” of a life. By that, he meant she would not be able to follow the script, to adhere to a centuries old patriarchal notion of what is “normal.” He could not open his eyes to the world, to the reality of the thousand different breeds of normal that exist now. He could not change, could not even understand what change meant, and so he died rather than continue trying to deal with a world he’d never understood.

Anna-P-True-Blood

And, as I said, “they all lived heteronormatively ever after.” The final scene sees most of our characters neatly paired off, some with kids, others apparently happy without. Sure, there are some vampires at the table–but they’re not subversive any more. They’ve been assimilated, just as Lafayette and James have been. They are as close to “normal” as possible, and they are present at a feast that is the definition of American “normality.”

Sookie’s happy ending is some random brunette guy with sideburns, and her baby. She sits not at the head of the table, but at her husband’s left hand–just as women have done for all time. This isn’t something she chose, not really: Bill forced her choice, literally forced her hand. What he gave her, what he died for, was so that she could have this idealistic, “normal” life.

And this is bullshit.

Also bullshit: I did not have any damn lines!

Also bullshit: I did not have any damn lines!

 

The story of Bill Compton is of a man whose tragedy was that the only way back to his humanity was not love–it was death for that love. But to accept that, to make that the ending of True Blood, undermines the years of subversive storytelling. Yeah, sure, True Blood was always a show about hot vampires having sex and blowing up in fountains of blood. But it was also about people who, by choice or by necessity, were different, and how they functioned in that difference.

It’s pretty common for supernatural/sci-fi shows like this to place family as the central value, to place love and reproduction as the most important things in life. But because they are so wacky, include so many ways of being human, they usually send a progressive message about family. People build family out of the strangest situations, pull together different forms of “normal” that are good, and true, and happy–but bear little or no resemblance to what Bill had in mind, or what we saw in that final image.

bill-compton-profile

Because the story was ultimately Bill’s journey to death, it sent a regressive message. He should absolutely not have killed himself: he should have manned-up, promised both himself and Sookie that he would do better this time, and set about creating a life. It may have taken a more unusual form than the life he returned to by being buried with his family, but that wouldn’t have made it any less true.

sooki preg

That story, there, was what True Blood promised us at the beginning. Creating, by will and by love, a life that was not obligated to an ancient cultural script for its foundation. Instead, Bill so took over the show, he had so much trouble looking past the idea of himself and the world as static (in sharp contrast to Eric, always changing with the times in his quest to pursue “life”), that the show ended up being a backwards step, a story about accepting change only in palatable doses, accepting people only when they agree to pretend as much as they can that they are exactly like you–and that all anyone wants is to be exactly like you.

On The Lannister Twins and Rape in Game of Thrones

2Power corrupts. So why is everyone so surprised that it leads to rape?

“Game of Thrones” has, from the very beginning, been an examination of power. Who has it, how you lose it. Different kinds of power, different routes to power, different conceptions of power.

Tonight it’s different. Tonight, Jamie Lannister raped his sister, Cersei. And because the show has always been about power, there has been A LOT of rape in it. It’s easy to forget that one of the most powerful characters on the show, Danaerys, was raped in the first episode. That’s sort of been swept under the rug by the show, to the point where she reminisced about it in the Season 1 finale.

A lot of our characters have been threatened with rape. There have been dodgy moments for Catelyn, Ygritte, and plenty of others, and downright “almosts” for Sansa, Brienne, and Arya. But only Ros had nonconsensual sex. And we haven’t really questioned whether the various prostitutes are actually having consensual sex, whether men and women in arranged marriages–especially women–are having consensual sex.

So, basically, rape has been present in this world all along. It’s embedded in the fabric of a world where so much depends on strength. In the real world, people have worked for years to break the silence around rape, but in Game of Thrones, there’s no silence, no stigma, nothing.3

But this scene wasn’t like all those scenes, where people got raped in backgrounds, where no one cared, and plenty of people barely noticed. Now, we’re all about to start talking about rape. And why? Other important women characters have faced this. It’s been happening on our screens for years. Why does the wrongness, the absolute horror, strike us so intensely about this scene (other than the plain old gross themes of incest and death)?1

Jaime. Here’s the ugly truth, laid bare: we’re not freaking out because Cersei was raped. We’re freaking out because Jaime raped her. Because a person we’ve known for years, who we’ve watched grow, laughed at, enjoyed–a person we like–has done something horrific.

We’re talking about non-consensual sex between two people who have been together for decades, who have had three children together, whose relationship has lately been under a lot of strain. And when the woman started making signals and frustrated the man, he raped her.

We’re talking about marital rape.

The reason the scene feels so different from all the previous rape scenes isn’t the rape itself: it’s the man who raped. Jaime isn’t a monster, beyond our ability to empathize with or like. He’s a human being, in a relationship that, twisted as it is, makes sense to us. And rape is part of the darker side of human nature.5

No one likes to talk about that basic truism: that men who rape are as horribly human as the rest of us. That they have motivations that may not be excusable, but are certainly understandable.

This is territory “Game of Thrones” hasn’t covered before, not in this way. It’s a damn gutsy thing for them to do, a painful thing–but they’ve covered infanticide, homosexuality in the medieval world, forced marriage, incest, rape, prostitution…the list goes on. Nothing is off-limits in this show, for better or worse.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug: Why Tauriel is Cooler Than Legolas

hobbit3

Only one woman has a direct role in the narrative of The Lord of the Rings (two, if you count Galadriel), and there are literally no women AT ALL in The Hobbit. So really, you can’t blame them for adding a girl. And not just a token female; a serious and badass character with a direct influence on the plot.

And damn, what a woman they added. Look, I could talk about how interesting this movie is, how it comments on greed and rulership and how these change depending on which societal lens one uses. I could go on about the sheer brilliance of  the metaphor of ethereal elves living in a cave they’ve carved to look like a forest, worshiping stars they never see, ruled by a king filled with fear whose perfect face is a lie. But this is a gender blog, so we’re going to talk about Tauriel–and how impressive it is that the writers managed to make the first Tolkien film to pass the Bechdel Test.

Why Tauriel is Cool

First off, look at her:

Tauriel_portrait_-_EmpireMagThis lady came in swinging. She took out five terrifying spiders in about a minute. She charged headfirst into two packs of Orcs. She battled four Orcs at once–all of which were twice her size. She’s the only character in the whole movie whose life never got saved by ANYONE else, and who in fact saved at least two boy’s lives.

I know, Legolas has some unspeakably cool moments (for those of you who’ve seen the movie, OH MY GOD THE ORC IN THE BOAT). But she’s both cool and doesn’t make you want to smack her. She’s cool while not treating people’s heads as a hopscotch board.

I've never seen a guy get the ass shot and a girl get to look badass.

I’ve never seen a guy get the ass shot and a girl get to look badass. The switch gives me hope for media.

Now, aside from the sheer I-want-to-be-you-please coolness, Tauriel also has a very conscious role as the film’s only girl. And this is a GOOD THING. Women and men are obviously equal, but equal does not mean identical. Tauriel brings the film some beauty, old-school feminine healing energy and assorted lovey-dovey stuff, and some compassion and tenderness that no other character offers. She makes the film seem more about people, instead of about men.

Why it’s important that Tauriel is Girly1381233197_desolation-of-smaug-trailer

Early on, Beorn says that he hates dwarves because they easily ignore the value of all life they deem less worthy than their’s. All through the film, we see characters doing this. Thorin judges more and more lives unworthy. Thranduil clearly judges only his own elves to have lives of value, and even then it is a variable value–Tauriel has less worth than Legolas, for instance. Smaug and the Orcs view all life as valueless.

Tauriel doesn’t think like this. When Legolas tells her to leave Kili to his fate, she doesn’t do it. She judges his life to be valuable enough to save. She judges the lives of strangers in other lands valuable enough to protect. She tells Legolas that they are part of the world, and that they have a responsibility to protect it.  She’s not willing to just hide behind her borders, in safety–she wants to walk among the stars.

Power in this film appease most clearly when people make a value judgement of another’s life against their own.  Tauriel values other’s lives as worth risking her own, no matter what race they happen to be. Legolas doesn’t, which is what makes him an ass. Same goes for the Master, for Thranduil–who is basically preying off Lake Town, bankrolling a tyrant–and for Thorin, who has to be persuaded to help his friends.

Tauriel has power, and she uses it for good. She tempers her elven holier-than-thou attitude with kindness, with caring. She’s willing not only to kill, but to save.

Why Tauriel is the Film’s Surprise Heroinethe-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-banner-2

One of the main complaints leveled against LOTR is the lack of moral ambiguity. Evil is evil, good is basically incorruptible, and no one ever has to challenge these basic ideas. Boromir–and, to a lesser extent, Faramir–is cited as the main exception to this rule.

In “Smaug,” EVERYONE is Boromir. Everyone is sorely tempted, not by the ring but by riches. No matter their race: Thorin, the Master of Lake Town, and Thranduil all long after the treasures of the Lonely Mountain. The rest of the characters are driven more by desires than by noble ideals, more by their hearts than by their honor.

The only two exceptions to this rule are Tauriel and Gandalf. Gandalf is working on a grand scale of “the Enemy” and those who oppose him, but even so he is plagued by self-doubt, painfully aware of how easy it is to make mistakes. e4e327a6-5e62-11e3-_486623b

Like Gandalf, Tauriel is a straight good guy, and it suffuses her character. We are always on her side. Unlike Gandalf, she’s working on a far more complex scale. We meet her at a critical time, when her loyalties to her King and to our old friend Legolas are in conflict. She may be the loneliest character we meet in the film, because all her relationships are laden with the racial politics that LOTR skidded over. She’s the person caught in the cultural machine, and she doesn’t really know what to do.

Above and beyond that, Tauriel has a calling like Gandalf’s: to fight evil, wherever it hides itself. She believes in things bigger than herself, bigger than her little love triangle.

Yet, even though Gandalf and Tauriel are the least morally ambiguous characters, they are still faced with conflicts far more complex than anything anyone had to deal with in LOTR. They find themselves forced to make hard choices, which challenge their ideas of right and wrong, of loyalty and love. Their choices have no easy answers, and only time will tell if they were right.

Yes, she’s cool even with the love triangleThe-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug-2

Yeah, it’s a bit annoying that the only lady in the 3 movies is in the middle of a damn love triangle. But whenever I start to get irritated, I think about this: Kili literally has a personality only because of the lady. She straight-up defines his character. And Legolas’s motivations come entirely down to Tauriel. As in that’s literally why he’s still in the movie after a while. Also, he only becomes remotely tolerable when Tauriel’s in the room (seriously, what an asshole). So love triangle it may be, but the boys are in way more over their heads than the girl.

And the writers go out of their way to make sure Tauriel’s motivations–unlike the boys’–aren’t solely down to a love interest. She does this whole speech thing to Legolas, and it makes it clear that this is bigger than a dwarf with a crush, bigger than one land and its borders. This triangle does not define her.

Race in Middle Earth

desolation-of-smaug-poster04

Race was a really uncomplicated concept in LOTR. Legolas and Gimli were embodiments of their respective races, and had no other individual traits. The hobbits all shared basic characteristics stemming from being hobbits.

Tauriel makes race complicated. Tauriel is the wrong kind of elf (did you know there were wrong kinds of elves?) She’s an individual, one we can empathize with, and she’s caught in the middle of a racially supercharged love triangle. No matter what she does, she’s violating taboos. Her very existence is devalued by her King solely because of her race. Everything she does is loaded with racial judgements. And no matter what sort of choices she makes, the racial politics of Middle Earth are such that she is bound to unhappiness.

This is crap, and these people are kind of crap for buying into it all. Tauriel’s voice breaks when she calls herself “A lowly Silvan elf,” and you know she doesn’t really want to believe that. Kili thinks she walks among the stars, but enchanting as that is Tauriel knows how tightly bound she is to the earth.

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-tauriel-poster

I’ll just leave this prediction here:

Tauriel has a 100% chance of dying next movie. Bet you anything.

Partly this is because they have to kill people this time. I mean, for god’s sake, not killing people in this movie was so ridiculous they lampshaded it with that barrel thing. All these damn characters and one has been hurt at all. Unless you count Legolas’s nosebleed, but seriously, I’ve rarely laughed harder, so don’t.

For a big battle to matter, someone’s gotta die. All three LOTR movies had a battle where someone died a big death, even if they had to take liberties with the books. Tolkien describes overwhelming death among all the races in the big Hobbit battle.

Sure, you don’t want to distract from the big death–which I won’t spoil, even though the book is older than my parents. But for that reason, you don’t want to kill members-of-a-certain-race. So you’ve gotta kill (I”m sorry, but SPOILERS) men or elves, and it’s gotta matter so we can feel it.the_hobbit_the_desolation_of_smaug_photo_tauriel_1

So, since we’ve got 3 elf characters and 2 are off-limits, Tauriel it is.

Also, they have to do something about Legolas. I mean, seriously, he is such an overwhelming ass. Who the hell freaks about a nosebleed? And hilarious as it is for him to mutter about dwarves being ugly, jealously is very unbecoming.

Then there’s the fact that Legolas went with the Fellowship. I mean, at the time it just seemed like a thing. But now, we know he’s from an isolationist kingdom and that he’s been taught to a) avoid big evil battles and b) not invest trust in other races. So what the hell is he doing tramping across the world, protecting a short person? (Next time you need cheering up, try to imagine what happened when the Mirkwood delegation broke the news to Thranduil).the_hobbit_desolation_of_smaug_tauriel_t

Something’s gotta give for this character to make sense, and it’s gonna be Tauriel. We now know why he hated dwarves so much, but there’s more than that. There’s nothing like losing someone you love to make you re-evaluate your life, and I bet anything that’s what’ll happen in the next movie.

And seriously, if someone doesn’t slap Legolas or Thranduil in the next movie, I will be so pissed. Maybe Gandalf can practice his staff thing on one of them.

 

Sexism: The Terrible Secret of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who?

steven-mofatt

Something’s gone terribly wrong with the Doctor.

I used to love Doctor Who. It used to be wonderful. But something’s been bothering me for a while, and I honestly think I might be about at the breaking point with this formerly delightful show.

It’s Moffat. I’ve slowly become convinced, by careful analysis, that he’s a terrible sexist. Looking back through Moffat’s tenure, I have no choice but to accept the truth: that Steven Moffat hates men.

Oh sure, there’s the Doctor. But he’s not exactly a paragon of manly heroics, is he? For proof of this, just look at how often he lies around helplessly, waiting for a woman to come and save him. In series seven alone, he does it in 6 episodes.

helpless 2

Pathetic.

helpless

Ridiculously pathetic.

Pathetic.

Yet more pathetic.

day-of-the-doctor-tv-trailer-26-clara

Buy The Day of the Doctor–It’s Worth Every Penny

That’s nearly a third of the season. That’s one hell of a pattern. And if you add the episodes where he’s left unable to save the day until some woman waltzes in, you’re up to more than half the year. Even in this last episode, he only saved the day when Clara got all touch-feely with him. Then Moffat wrote this charming line: “I hope someday to be half the man you are, Clara Oswald.” Seriously, the Doctor just dissed himself in favor of his companion.

This sexism constitutes a clear deviation from Classic Who, where the Doctor was always the one saving the day. This silly “triumph of human emotion” trope—which Moffat is definitely overusing as a plot device—was never as important as the Doctor’s wild intellect and last-minute heroics. Back then we had proper Doctors, whose companions were willing to follow directions instead of stealing the Doctor’s thunder.

Romana, perhaps the Doctor's most brilliant companion (another Time Lord), seen here being saved from a door.

Romana, perhaps the Doctor’s most brilliant companion (another Time Lord), seen here being saved from a door.

And honestly, Moffat seems to have a really simplistic view of the male psyche. Yeah, the Doctor shows a lot of depth, has a lot of inner life, but he’s the example who proves the rule. All the other men in “The Day of the Doctor” were in bit parts, with one basic job. The women were the ones running around, manipulating timelines and negotiating with aliens for the future of the Earth. There isn’t one other major male character with any hint of multiple dimensions.

Rory is the ultimate proof of this.

deaths_of_rory_williams_gif_by_sharingan1115-d3lkhah

Doctor Who Series 5

I think Rory’s story, more than any other character’s, reveals the sexism embedded in Moffat’s plots. I mean, the man’s a nurse (a traditionally girl job) and is repeatedly referred to as Mr. Pond, and his daughter is called Melody Pond? I can’t believe Moffat can get away with something so blatantly anti-male on television. Let’s just throw centuries of patriarchal progress out the window, shall we! Not only that, but every time it looks like Rory’s story is going to be about his role, his agency, and his manliness, Moffat throws something in the way. Rory never gets to be the hero, and always plays second fiddle to Amy. He doesn’t seem to mind that his wife’s best friend is a man, even though any husband would have the right to get very territorial. And his plots are endlessly characterized by two things: a complete lack of agency and an overwhelming obsession with a woman. Unlike Amy, Rory never seems in any sort of control over the Tardis’s destination. His investment in plots like Amy’s pregnancy and sterility—female oriented plots which take up a ton of screen time—is portrayed as overriding, severely limiting the dimensions of his character.

"Rory the Roman" was even a diminutive.

“Rory the Roman” was even a diminutive.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it were only one male character. But it’s every male character. They are all constantly sidelined, their plots ending either in death or a happy family life. And that’s if the plots get attention at all: most of the last two years of Doctor Who have positively vilified male plots like war and politics, in favor of examining boring woman stuff like having children, settling down, and building relationships. Moffat clearly thinks that all men’s lives should lead to one, emasculated, endgame. And don’t tell me that the Doctor doesn’t fit into this type—he always insists to his companions on the importance of growing up and having a family, and seems lonely when he can’t have those things.

Let's talk about the symbolism in this bad boy.

Let’s talk about the symbolism in this bad boy.

Then there’s “The Name of the Doctor,” which I think reveals Moffat’s fear of men more than any other episode. Think about it: the only non-Doctor male characters are Strax and the Great Intelligence (although does he count as a man?). The Doctor is repeatedly rendered helpless in the episode, and never has any plan or any idea what to do. He can’t escape the whispermen without help from River and Clara, he can’t save his friends without River, he can’t even save himself without Clara! The Great Intelligence–in the form of an old, patriarchal man–steps into the Doctor’s life and ruins the universe, leaving the Doctor totally incapacitated, hysterically shrieking. It’s not difficult to perceive in the Great Intelligence Moffat’s fear of men’s power and agency.

name of the doctor damsel

A Fitting End To A Steven Moffat Season

Maybe if the show was acknowledging this lack of male agency, this wouldn’t be such a problem. Which brings me to Moffat’s slow destruction and “feminization” of the Doctor.

normal_Doctor_Who_6x11_The_God_Complex_543

Series 6

Firstly, why don’t the Doctor’s companions let him be awesome anymore? Here he is, whisking them around the galaxy, but none of them ever defer to him. Take “The God Complex,” which is very much an episode that could only appear under Moffat. Rather than fulfilling Amy’s faith in his power, the Doctor actively undermines it. He insists to her that he isn’t a hero, that he is often very selfish, and that she needs to see him as he really is. Seriously, what is so bad about being a masculine hero?Screen shot 2011-06-05 at 9.33.12 PM Then there’s “A Good Man Goes to War,” which is a sexist plot of ever I saw one. The drama is firmly rooted in straight-feminine baby-having, and the villain who defeats the Doctor is even a woman. At the end of the episode, the Doctor is subject to a scolding by his bitchy wife, who insists that she knows better and that he must not act the masculine hero role he embraced in the episode.the-doctor-the-widow-and-the-wardrobe

An extension of this rejection of the Doctor’s heroism is the way Moffat has also systematically rejected and even vilified male virtues. Instead of having a proper masculine hero, a “man as an island” fellow with very low investment, this Doctor is constantly portrayed as being full of emotions. He’s crying all the time, his hearts break and he goes and sulks until some woman comes along and rescues him. He even gets married and establishes a family unit with the Ponds! Even when he’s supposed to be traveling alone, like in “Closing Time,” he’s drawn to family life.

16

Series 6

Under Moffat, the show is structured so that companions have to save him about as much as he saves them. In fact, every finale under Moffat has been all about some woman trying to save the Doctor. In none of the last three years could the Doctor have pulled off his plan without his lady friends. It completely undermines his agency. What kind of amazing Doctor can’t even save his own skin?

Moffat has also subtly inserted many ways to undermine and emasculate the Doctor. The women on the show are always using diminutives, degrading him: “Sweetie,” “Clever boy,” “raggedy man.” It’s a very, very clear undermining of the Doctor’s manly awesomeness. And they even comment on his personal appearance, bitching about his chin or hair or clothing choices. I mean, we spend twice as much time playing around with the Doctor’s clothes as with River’s or Amy’s—how ridiculous is that? As if men care about clothing.

clothes

Once again, a re-statement of the premise makes fun of the Doctor.

Finally, not only do the Doctor’s friends constantly degrade, undermine, nastily tease, and insist on rescuing him; they also can’t take a joke. Take this kiss in Crimson Horror:

swept off feet

Buy and Witness all the Horrors within

Obviously, Jenny shouldn’t mind that the Doctor did this. She’s married, sure, but it was just a bit of harmless fun. So how dare she immediately rearrange his face!

reaction

Seriously, what is her problem? And I’m aware that this episode wasn’t written by Moffat, but his fingerprints are all over it.

in her hands

Buy it on DVD

There are two episodes that have sealed the deal, for me: Journey to the Center of the Tardis and The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe. In “Journey,” the writers twist themselves in knots to make sure that the Doctor’s life is in the companion’s hands again. I think they may even be self-aware of their overuse of this trope, because the key to the Doctor’s survival is literally in Clara’s hand.

There were a million ways to write around this, but no, they had to write it so that the Doctor, with a useless screwdriver and without even his nice masculine coat, depends completely on his companion.

the-doctor-the-widow-and-the-wardrobe-doctor-who-171211-

Then there’s “The Widow.” Seriously, I cannot believe in this day and age a piece as sexist as this can appear on television without mass outcry. Even though the show is called Doctor Who, YET AGAIN the hero of the episode isn’t the Doctor: it’s a woman who acts as his companion. Rather than being debilitated by her feminine qualities, like motherhood and empathy, she actually draws strength from them! The Doctor really spends the entire episode bumbling around. He can’t even drive the spaceship towards the end: he has to wait for a woman to come along and do it for him.

Above: Thinly veiled metaphor for being a bad driver.

Above: Thinly veiled metaphor for being a bad driver.

The key to the sexism in this episode is, yet again, in Moffat’s language. Two aliens translate the word “woman” as “strong.” As if that weren’t bad enough, they also translate “man” as “weak!” I still cringe remembering this.

Steven Moffat has a pathological fear of men. He should probably seek professional help, and we should save the Doctor from his sexism.