Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: A Real Character

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  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Heather Gaye,

    It’s a general issue I have with Ryan Murphy – the utterly incoherent and scattershot characterization and storytelling, not only from episode to episode but sometimes from ad break to ad break. Given the success of Glee and AHS obviously a lot of folks don’t care, but it drives me nuts. And while I like me some completely gonzo no-top-to-go-over ultra-camp, AHS is trying so damn hard to be “weird” and “shocking” it perversely ends up being more square than the first season of Twin Peaks.

    And, yes, I have more specific problems with Murphy’s treatment of women. I have no issues with Vivien and Constance being “unlikable” – hell, BSG didn’t do easily sympathetic characters of any gender or species and that’s one of my favourite shows of all time – but I wish he wasn’t so fond of one-note shrew-bitches. (Julia on Nip/Tuck, arguably the most coherent Murphy joint, ended up drifting from one more or less random act of heinous bitchery to the next.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    If there's a graph of Hollywood femininty, with 0% being the damsel in distress, and 100% being the lad-ette, then it seems to have gone from a downward parabola in the Silent Age to an upward parabola about now.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4403 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Lilith __,

    Surely River is at least bi-racial.

    Maybe I'm being harsh, but I don't really call slapping a Chinese name on characters played by solidly white actors who very occasionally swear in Mandarin "bi-racial". As with many Whedon things, good in concept, poor in follow-through.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    As I said to someone recently, the definitive movie on becoming a mother, and about the only one that suggests you can do so and not give birth to a demon or have your personality annihilated by becoming a parent, is Aliens.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 905 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Right… I think I understand what you’re getting at, & it’s a fair call. I found AHS immediately engaging, on a visceral level, so yeah… he obviously found the right button, for me at least. I’d ignored the torture-porn aspect, from a philosophical standpoint. FWIW despite all the characters being generally abhorrent, I still like the women. Except Hayden.

    I watch Glee as an interesting nostalgia trip into my 14-year-old psyche, I can’t stand Nip/Tuck, and haven’t seen any of his other stuff.

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm totally conflicted about Bones. I can see that they're trying to make her a strong character, but the main dynamic of the show is her relationship with Booth, her immediate seduction of him, and his gradual seduction of her. I've slowly given up on it - she was much more interesting in the first season as a person of logic with the strangely powerful and penetrating insights into human nature that sometimes come from the adult autistic. The selling of why Booth would fall in love with her was well done, she was essentially a beautiful human. But the counter sell frustrates me - that Booth is humanizing her (as a plot device) really annoys me, because he is an arch-conservative. He really doesn't have an open mind about anything, and practically every episode is about schooling Bones about how to be feminized towards what Booth wants. She's becoming a weaker and weaker character, and the acting is getting worse and worse.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    bi racial ...

    As with many Whedon things, good in concept, poor in follow-through.

    It's meant to be science fiction set in a time where the language and the people are so mixed that to describe anything a racial is deceptive. They fly in a spaceship and we accept that as part of the story even though all we actually see is graphics.

    The characters are meant to be a blend of all races that we have now - unfortunately modern day actors don't come in that flavour - it's the point at which you are meant to be able to suspend disbelief.

    I don't think it's entirely successful but they tried to extrapolate the idea that space travelers of our future will be more than just country AND western.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3444 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Maybe I’m being harsh, but I don’t really call slapping a Chinese name on characters played by solidly white actors who very occasionally swear in Mandarin “bi-racial”.

    I one had a rather interesting (read: fraking bizarre) conversation about the supposedly “white-washed” BSG. Yeah, apart from the male lead being Edward James Olmos. Apparently Kandyse McClure, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett, Allesandro Juiliani and Rekha Sharma didn’t really count either. Which is in no way kinda-sorta-really racist.

    Then again it was a show that, intentionally or not, really brought geek misogyny all the way out of the closet. Educational but unpleasant.

    They fly in a spaceship and we accept that as part of the story even though all we actually see is graphics.

    Hell, we're also expected to accept that The Firefly/Serenity 'verse is one impossibly jam-packed solar system. What the hell, I've been suspending my disbelief over Doctor Who for over three quarters of my life so it's too damn late to demanding strict plausibility from my SF. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Russell Brown,

    You reminded me of this article I read a while ago. I don't know anything about any of these TV shows mentioned, even less about the Autistic spectrum, but I found the article quite interesting in how it pulls apart TV protrayals of autism.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2169 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’ve slowly given up on it – she was much more interesting in the first season as a person of logic with the strangely powerful and penetrating insights into human nature that sometimes come from the adult autistic.

    Yup, me too. Plus the whole cannibal arc - blech (Not helped by the writer's strike in the middle of the season)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2202 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Charlie Jane Anders is a high quality geek – but I think she makes a good point and it’s not that far from the point made up-thread about Homeland skirting a hell of a lot of dodgy tropes around “magical mental illness”. (It's a damn good show, but fair point.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    And makes some excellent points about 'compensatory' powers for non-normals, and how they arnt actually wanted or needed by a lot of non-normals (I'm using this term rather than other ones , because I am non-normal in several respects - but entirely natural, thank you!)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to nzlemming,

    Yup, me too. Plus the whole cannibal arc - blech (Not helped by the writer's strike in the middle of the season)

    For me my first serious waver was Angela's Disappearing Bisexuality. But man, giving every female character a child is a sign a show is going really, really well, right?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    My own feeling was that the portrayal was a little bit hindering to my own little special needs boy, when I had only very sketchy knowledge of the condition, and received the on-the-spectrum diagnosis. I think it caused me to push him to develop superpowers, when I saw him behind on other things. Thankfully, therapists patiently kept bringing me back to the things that he needs which are most fundamental, and just take hard work to make happen, which he will probably always be un-exceptional at. But basic stuff for a functional life. While I appreciate that this is what Booth is meant to be doing with Bones, I simply disagree that he actually is. What he's doing is killing her spirit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to nzlemming,

    Yup, me too. Plus the whole cannibal arc – blech

    I'm not the only person who had a lot of "what the fuck, no really... what the fuck?" angst about that. More often than you might think, you see shows doing arcs that don't work (for all kinds of reasons) but they're stuck with them - you've got to play it out and come up with as graceful a resolution as quickly as you can manage. But that whole Gormagon thing was a pretty extreme example - from the start it was tonally wrong for the show, and the pay-off involved randomly throwing a core cast member under the bus.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Emma Hart,

    For me my first serious waver was Angela’s Disappearing Bisexuality. But man, giving every female character a child is a sign a show is going really, really well, right?

    Ah, the Year of The Has-bian. At Seattle Grace, Erica Hahn changed from a career-obsessed ball-breaking bitch to a career-obsessed ball-breaking dyke (yay!) who hooked up with Pathetic George’s wife and promptly got disappeared to a Prisoner-style village for exes of only-slightly-bisexual TV women. Over at Princeton-Plainboro notionally bisexual ‘Thirteen’ provided new frontiers for Gregory House’s sociopathic douchebaggery. Obligatory ex-girlfriend in peril episode, and back to the cock!

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Another really weird show on the “strong female character” front was Lost – was it just me or was Kate, the well-telegraphed ‘bad-ass chick’ in the pilot, wasted on a soul-suckingly annoying triangle I just didn’t care about. That show had an awful lot of women with Louis Vuitton-quality Boyfriend/Husband Baggage. (Though, to make things a little more complicated, nearly all of them get their moment of Ripley-level Bad-Assery Too.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Srsly? Is this our image of a feminist heroine? To be strong she has to be infallible, and standing up to her ankles in intestines?

    To be a hero the protagonist has make the heroic sacrifice. In an action flick the first and most easily performed sacrifice is to lose most of their humanity.

    Your character doesn't count as a strong female character because they're "not really a woman".

    Not really a man* though either, something more akin to an avenging angel - inhuman.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite,

    In the case of the new BSG, Starbuck may not have been a male with breasts (she was far too well developed as the series went on), of course the embarrassing prototype did indeed have her has a man, and the change really brought out the misogyny in the fans of the “classic” series, not to mention the original actor, Dirk Benedict.

    I rather liked the fact that a character who would have been in real life, a walking cliche who was in fact a sociopathic douchebag, was forced to face the consequences of her actions as a much more well-rounded individual… kinda karma, in a way.

    Anyway, the less said of that the better.

    For your amusement, I offer rule sixty-three

    Regarding autism and its depiction, I really recommend the inestimable Peter Watts’ novel Blindsight(and don’t forget it’s exhaustive appendix), or his hilarious “Vampire Domestication” clip. His thesis is that we are undergoing a cognitive diversification comparable to the Cambrian Explosion, which will probably be, if anything, accelerated by posthuman technologies.

    Personally I’m cool with non-neurotypical characters being presented as “aliens in human form” – it’s just the cliches that rankle. I like the provocation, as I did H.G. Wells’ suggestion throughout his scientific romances, particularly The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon that the Martians and Selenites might actually be right.

    (And fuck you, C.S. Lewis)

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 980 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    That’s why slamming Padme for being a terrible female character is so pointless, none of Lucas’ characters have any depth so what make Padma any shallower.

    Bart, Emma, let me refer you to an expert, Harry S. Plinkett

    Specifically, in his review of The Phantom Menace, he tries an experiment, challenging friends to describe characters without referring to their appearance or role in the … what can loosely, for the sake of convenience or desperation, “plot.”

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 980 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite,

    …actually, it’d be interesting to reconsider Joanna Russ’ The Female Man and the argument she makes there simultaneously in the context of the time it was written (late 60s) and today…

    (Extra points for bringing Gwyneth Jones’ Aleutian cycle into the discussion… pop quiz on Friday)

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 980 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Kracklite,

    Ooo can I try? Guess the following:

    1. Effeminate and klutzy, he is...
    2. Angry at times, saccharine cute, he is...
    3. Seems wise and kind, but isn't, he is...
    4. She is....
    5. Loyal, useful, but mute, it is...
    6. Bold, abrasive, but kind, he is...
    7. Idealistic, brave but cautious, he is...
    8. Angry and violent, he is...
    9. Pathetically stupid and weak, they are...
    10. Cowardly and devious, he is...
    11. Wise and sad, she is...
    12. Too wise for their own good, they are...
    13. Speaks backwards, he does, ... he is

    I could go on, but I'm getting the point. Did I need more than 3 descriptive terms for any of them? Could I produce more? Not without putting more thought into it than I ever have for that movie.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Kracklite,

    Rule 63...

    hmm where does that leave the
    intertwined Jerry Cornelius/Miss Brunner
    I always liked Rose Von Bek from Moorcock's multiverse, steampunkish trilogy of Blood: a southern Fantasy, Fabulous Harbours and The War Amongst the Angels

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite,

    3 descriptive terms for any of them?

    That is what George Lucas thinks constitutes characterisation. I can imagine the ghost of Joseph Campbell visiting him every night and intoning, howling or whatever it is that ghosts do, “That’s not what I meant!”

    At least I hope so.

    It is rather interesting that people generally refer to television and film media for their sf tropes, not literature.

    I’m not trying to be snide, just observing the dynamics of popular/shared culture. There’s lot of really interesting feminist sf, and not explicitly feminist sf today that features female characters who are strong but not uncomplicated and who aren’t simply there as ornaments or jerkoff fantasies for insecure adolescent boys.

    However, what Hollywood determines to be acceptable to a mass market is telling.

    I wonder what the upcoming John Carter will be like in its treatment of Dejah Thoris? Edgar Rice Burroughs was pretty progressive in his attitudes towards race and gender for 1912, but how is that going to be worked out in 2012?

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 980 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Don't get me started... I've just put the BSG pilot in my DVD player and I don't want to have to get out the Moorcock as well. Ooh, Una Persson... and then there's the whole cast of The Dancers at the End of Time...

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 980 posts Report Reply

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