“You Are Not Alone” DVD Commentary Pt. 1

(Crossposted from my LiveJournal)

I can’t believe it’s been five years since I began this odyssey of a fan fiction. I was so young. I was still in high school, I was a junior, and I was playing Paulette Bonafonte in our production of Legally Blonde: The Musical​ at the time. But “You Are Not Alone” has been the project nearest and dearest to my heart, and I’m glad I decided to write it, and I’m glad so many others have enjoyed it too.

Sam Tyler became a concept after I watched the first episode of Life On Mars, the UK version, starring John Simm. His name, as a lot of people pointed out, was a possible anagram for “masterly”, and since Rose Tyler was the first companion on Doctor Who, a seed of an idea was planted in my mind: what if the Master appeared earlier on? What if instead of running for Prime Minister, he was a shop clerk? What if instead of being found as a little old man at the end of the universe, he was found as a charming young man just perfect for the Doctor to adopt and fall in love with?

And “You Are Not Alone” was born.

I knew I wanted Sam to start out just like Rose: uncomplicated, unassuming, but immediately heroic and likable. Eventually, he would grow more and more similar to his true identity, revealing deeper layers of brilliance as the story went on and Sam was exposed to more of the Doctor’s life. But in this first story, Sam is nearly identical to Rose Tyler. A lot of people complained about this, but most were patient, and rewarded with Sam’s character arc.

So YANA is not a crossover with Life On Mars, I would like to say off the bat, but I did borrow characters and names from the show when starting the story. Sam Tyler, obviously, and his girlfriend, Annie Cartwright. Plus the name of the shop Rose worked in was changed from “Heinrik’s” to “Hunt’s”, for Gene Hunt, Sam’s boss.

The beginning of “Rose” is so memorable. Mannequins, especially the faceless ones like the ones in that department store, are so creepy. Russell T. Davies is the king of writing one-offs, if you ask me.

So we begin with Sam getting locked inside the basement. The Autons are stalking after him. And then-!

“Run!”

Enter the Doctor, the dashing hero!

I love the Ninth Doctor so much. I weep that there was only one season of Christopher Eccleston, but I do respect his stance on the treatment of crew members and I applaud him for standing up. I can’t help but wish that he would return for a multi-Doctor episode. Can’t you just see how f**king amazing his Doctor would have fit in with Ten and Eleven in “The Day of the Doctor” special?!

So the Doctor rescues Sam and they make their escape. Nine is so damn handsome, to be honest. Everyone always drools over David Tennant and Matt Smith, but everyone looks over Christopher Eccleston. It’s really not fair.

The Doctor tells Sam to get out, and he does, and the shop blows up. Sam goes home and goes to bed. I added in a sidenote about Sam being “allergic” to aspirin because aspirin is toxic to Time Lords–foreshadowing, heh heh! Then Sam falls asleep and has a romantic dream about the Doctor and the Master’s young selves, Theta Sigma and Koschei.

A lot of people commented at this, asking if I somehow knew the Doctor’s real name. I and a few other seasoned Whovians kindly explained to them that Theta Sigma had been the Doctor’s nickname at the Time Lord Academy.

I also got several comments saying this was the best Doctor/Master fan fic they’d ever read…apart from this other one. Guys, don’t ever tell a writer something like that, it’s a big hit to the ego to hear that you’re the second best. Just say the story is good and leave it at that.

The next chapter we’re introduced to Mickey, I mean Annie. I actually really love Annie and I wish I could’ve given her a bigger role in the story. But, since this is about the Doctor and the Master, her part is small. If anyone hates Annie, I think it’s undeserved. It’s not her fault I underwrote her. She does become somewhat of a hero in the end. Anyway, Annie has been worrying about Sam all night, since Sam is a dingus who forgot about their date. Her worry isn’t unfounded. She cares about Sam, after all.

The Doctor then appears, and here we have one of the funniest scenes in DW, with the Doctor rifling through items in Sam’s living room, reading a book at high speed, commenting on a celebrity couple in a magazine (that the man is gay and the woman’s an alien), scattering playing cards all over the room, and commenting on his satellite dish ears in the mirror. Then there’s some sexy falling on top of each other when one of the Auton’s arms attacks them both, and Sam has another flashback. This will become common as he spends more time with the Doctor. Sam really is thick for not figuring out that he’s really the Master. But then again, he doesn’t learn of fob watches until later, so maybe it’s not so absurd after all.

I have to comment on the Drums™ here. I really hated this plot point when I watched DW the first time, especially when I got into Classic Who. There’s no evidence of the Drums™ haranguing previous Masters, so why is this suddenly an issue now? The Classic Masters did evil shit because they enjoyed it. This whole “poor Master, he was just tortured his whole life” concept is woobie-ifying and undignified for an antagonist of the Master’s caliber. Sure, Anthony Ainley and Eric Roberts’ Masters were pretty insane, but that was more a product of being trapped in non-Time Lord bodies, their life forces being strained beyond their limit. Roger Delgado’s Master certainly wasn’t a victim of the Drums™.  This retcon is really annoying. I had to work out early on how I would justify this dumb McGuffin in my version of the story.

Oh yes. I planned much of the story out when I first began writing it. After I realized people really were interested and I was garnering a lot of readers, I knew I would have to give them a well thought-out epic, with plenty of foreshadowing and connections throughtout. I didn’t expect a lot of people would like my story because at the time, I believed I was an oddity for seeing erotic subtext between the Doctor and the Master. Turns out, there were plenty of people like me out there.

The Doctor leaves again, Sam decides to investigate him in depth, Annie is abducted and copied as a rubber girl, attacks Sam and the Doctor, and Sam comes inside the TARDIS for the first time. It’s a magical moment. Sam gets upset about the supposed death of his girlfriend and the Doctor’s callous reaction to it. Again, even though Sam really does fling her aside for a life of traveling with the Doctor, he honestly does care for her. He’s just preoccupied. They’re much better as friends than as partners.

The Doctor and Sam trace the Autons back to an underground boiler room, where the Nestene Consciousness is camped out. I thought it was incredibly poignant that the first villains the Doctor and Sam face together are the Autons, since the Master used the Autons to invade England in his introductory story. How poetic that the Master would unwittingly help the Doctor defeat them in their first adventure together as traveling companions rather than friendly foes. Sam discovers he can hear the Nestene Consciousness on a psychic level, giving us more hints that he is not all that he seems. The audience already knows who Sam really is, but the real attraction is watching Sam’s slow discovery. Another flashback shows us the Master and the Doctor in their first (televised) battle of wits, again, showing us the irony of the Doctor and the Master now facing the Autons together.

The Doctor gets in trouble and is incapacitated by the Autons, but Sam officially takes up his role as the Doctor’s right hand man, rather than just some guy along for the ride, and leaps in action, saving the Doctor. The Nestene Consciousness is accidentally dissolved and the Autons fall back into inanimation. The day is saved.

Sam and the Doctor make their goodbyes, but then, the Doctor has second thoughts and returns, offering to take Sam on as his companion. Sam eagerly agrees and runs into the TARDIS, ready for adventure. One last flashback shows us that Koschei was seemingly abandoned by Theta in their youth, which spawned the beginnings of the Master’s hatred for the Doctor. His anger stemmed from heartbreak, and his grief spiraled into mania over the hundred years that Theta was missing. But more of that later on.

And that’s the first adventure. The Master is in the TARDIS, and the seeds of a romance are planted.

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The Man In The Backseat: Why The Urban Legend Still Gives Us The Jitters

Halloween is my favorite holiday because I love candy and costumes, but weirdly enough, I don’t like being scared. The only horror movie I’ve ever liked is Get Out, but since I’m a white person, that movie wasn’t meant to scare me. Among its many valid interpretations, Get Out is a parable about cultural appropriation (analogized as the white people literally taking over the identities of black people). In most movies, I, a young white woman, would be the victim. In Get Out, I am the villain.

Movie monsters are an interesting study because they’re usually a commentary on society’s fears and prejudices at that time. For example, in 1954, Japan created a movie about a terrifying, giant radioactive beast stomping through the streets of Tokyo. Godzilla came out just nine years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on two major Japanese cities. And nearly two decades before that, RKO Pictures produced a film about an uncontrollable animal from Africa falling in love with a white woman and trying to steal her away. King Kong represents Anglo-Saxon fears of black men “despoiling” helpless, innocent white women, and really betrays how black men were thought of at the time–uncivilized, animalistic, and destructive. Movies like The Thing From Another World or Invasion Of The Body Snatchers are metaphors for the American people’s fear in the 1950s of Communists hiding among them, et cetera, et cetera.

But nobody is afraid of King Kong or Godzilla anymore. In these more tolerant times, we’ve come to empathize with the monster and see its human qualities–in some cases, such as vampires, we’ve even come to romanticize the monster. Which brings us to the other type of horror story–the urban legend.

One of the very first urban legends was a real, flesh-and-blood man: Jack The Ripper. Even though he only killed five women (that we know of), he is history’s most remembered serial killer for his mystique and brutality. Over the years, Jack The Ripper has become a cautionary symbol to women everywhere: be chaste and virtuous, and don’t go out at night alone.

Every serial killer-based urban legend owes something to Jack. Nearly every one starts the same: a special bulletin on the radio or TV warns locals of a dangerous man who’s just broken out of prison or an insane asylum and is rumored to be in the area. The next thing you know, he’s hiding under your bed or outside your car parked on Lover’s Leap, his hook gleaming in the moonlight.

And when you really break down these legends, they usually stand for something. Take the famous “Man In The Backseat” story. A woman is driving home at night on the highway. There’s an 18-wheeler tailgating her, flashing his high beams. The woman gets annoyed or panicked, but finally makes it home, only to discover the trucker behind her was trying to warn her of the danger behind her. Or she stops at a gas station, gives the attendant her credit card, only for the creepy looking attendant to tell her that her card didn’t work and that she’ll have to come in the store. Once she’s out of the car, the attendant informs her that there’s a man with a knife hiding in her backseat.

This is a tale that is meant to get people to not judge a book by its cover. In most horror stories, the creepy guy–like the trucker or the gas station attendant–would be the killer preying on the helpless woman. In this tale, however, the creepy guy is the one who tries to help the damsel. We don’t even see the killer until the very end. From a young age, we’re taught not to trust strangers, but we’re generally more likely to trust them if we find them attractive, or if they have an “honest” face. In a way, it’s a story shaming society for judging others unjustly based on their appearance or mien. The woman dies because she was unwilling to heed the words of someone trying to help her–she dies due to her own fallibility as a human. And fallibility is inescapable for humans.

Urban legends are so deviously ingenious in their creation, because while everyone logically knows that they aren’t true, they’re just plausible enough that they could happen. We share them with each other, giving them validity by saying they happened to a friend, or a friend of a friend. We know there’s not an axe-wielding murderer hiding in our backseat…but what if? ~TRL

How Blazing Saddles Satirizes Gender

So since my lovely girlfriend Ali and I are adora-gays, we enjoy looking at media with a queer filter. I recently got her to watch Mel Brooks’ 1974 masterpiece Blazing Saddles, a satirical take on not only the Western genre, but also racism. If you know anything about Mel Brooks, it’s that he loves pushing the envelope on political correctness and utilizing satire to battle social prejudice, particularly in Blazing Saddles and The Producers.

But enough has been written about how Mel Brooks portrays racism and anti-Semitism. I ain’t here to talk about that. Today I wanna talk about Blazing Saddles‘s portrayal of gender…and maybe sexuality too.

About halfway through the movie, Ali turned to me and said, “I ship them.”–“them” being Bart and Jim, Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder’s characters, respectively. As I knew she would. And it’s not an unfounded interpretation. Bart and Jim’s friendship is really sweet. Jim legitimately worries for Bart’s well being, he’s always willing to jump to his defense, and he seems to be the only person in Rock Ridge who isn’t a racist dick. Plus Bart sort of tries to life coach Jim out of his alcoholism and wants him to take better care of himself. It’s not the kind of male/male friendship you see all the time in movies or television. It’s really nice.

And it got me to thinking about how this movie is actually pretty subversive when it comes to portrayals of gender. Yes, there is only really one female character in the movie, who’s really just there to be a sex object–even her last name basically means “of fuck”. But I think there’s more than meets the eye even to the seemingly one dimensional Lily Von Shtupp. But I’ll get to her.

Let’s first look at the film’s hero, Bart. It’s clear that Blazing Saddles is mainly inspired by old, classic spaghetti westerns. The most archetypal star of these films is John Wayne. Wayne used conventional hypermasculinity–violence, mainly–to portray his characters as the big strapping hero in his movies. But Bart is not John Wayne. He solves conflict using his brain and his sense of humor. The one time he uses violence to solve a problem is when he loses his temper at Taggart in the beginning of the movie and wallomps him on the head with a shovel–a mistake that nearly gets him hanged. He uses his wits to get out of the townsfolk of Rock Ridge nearly lynching him by holding himself hostage, he defeats Mongo in a Bugs Bunny-esque trick with a bomb in a candy box, and he defeats Hedley Lamarr’s hoard of criminals by building a fake town and a fake tollbooth. He rarely uses a gun, except when shooting Lamarr right in the very symbol of masculinity–his dong. Race aside, he is not a conventional Western hero.

Now let’s look at Jim, aka “The Waco Kid”. (By the by, I used to actually live in Waco, Texas.) He is the “washed up gunslinger” stereotype. A lot of Westerns have them, but the most significant example I can think of is “Mr. Denton on Doomsday”, a season 1 episode of The Twilight Zone (the original). Jim is soft spoken, as Gene Wilder characters tend to be, he enjoys the gentlemanly sport of chess, and he’s not overtly violent either. Also…he’s coded a bit gay. He takes on a Southern Belle accent when he calls out to the KKK members, and a Minnie Mouse like voice when he takes a puff from Bart’s…was it weed? I feel like it was weed. Plus he and Bart have a date together at the movies and literally ride off into the sunset together–first on horseback, then in a car. He even pats Bart on the cheek apologetically after accidentally punching him during the big fight scene. It’s…it’s just the cutest thing.

Ironically, the part of Jim was initially offered to none other than John Wayne himself. Thank god Wayne turned the part down and Mel Brooks had the good sense to hire Gene Wilder. That right there is the stars of heaven aligning perfectly.

The bottom line is, Bart and Jim’s friendship is one of supportiveness and understanding. As I said before, it’s very healthy, and sweet. In fact, most of the male friendships in the movie–like the one between Bart and his friend from the railroad work crew, Charlie–are healthy and supportive. Even Mongo, who is set up to be a hulking brute, turns out to be a sweetie pie who loves Bart like a puppy. It’s adorable.

Really, the only toxically masculine figures in the movie are the villains: Hedley Lamarr, Taggart, Lyle, and the governor. They are mean-spirited, violent, misogynistic, and openly selfish. Fittingly, Lamarr and Taggart’s dynamic is not one of friendship. In fact it’s identical to that of Pinky and the Brain. And in a piece about gender, it’s also worthy to note that Hedley Lamarr’s name is similar to that of actress Hedy Lamarr, which is a running joke in the movie.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the Busby Berkeley number that gives one of Supernatural‘s most famous episodes its name: “The French Mistake”, which is full of effeminate men in tuxes being directed by an incredibly flamboyant Dom Deluise. Not only do the “pansies” eagerly jump into the fourth wall breaking (okay, actually third wall) brawl, one of them seems to actually hook up with one of the grungy cowboys, and another cries in the arms of a surprisingly sympathetic and gentle desperado.

…also the song “The French Mistake” is all about butt sex. As if Supernatural couldn’t get any gayer.

And then…there was Lily. Lily, Lily, Lily, legs, Lily. Lily von Shtupp was originally based on Marlene Dietrich. You know…that famously feminine and heterosexual actress. It’s fitting then that we see Lily dressed in a snappy pinstripe suit toward the end of the film. She is the archetypal false ingenue. She’s bawdy, she’s worldly wise, and she is anything but innocent. In fact, Lily’s song in the saloon is about how she’s fed up with sex and romance. Nevertheless, when she seduces Bart, she ends up falling for him. We get the sense that it’s not just because he’s good in the sack (in an outtake, after Lily asks whether or not the stereotype that black men have larger penises is true and then excitedly screams that is, Bart tells her politely that she is actually sucking on his arm), but because he is kind, considerate, and worldly wise himself. Bart knows German almost as well as she does, and he brings her a flower she actually likes. We later see Lily in the big brawl, subduing the Nazi recruits with a song in German. Lily never actually loses any of her femininity–I would argue that she becomes more feminine over the course of the movie after meeting Bart. It’s telling that upon meeting him, she changes from black lingerie to pink. And through this transformation, she actually becomes a stronger character, rather than a passive, disillusioned sex object. Now that she’s on Bart’s side, she has a cause to believe in.

So what does this all have to say about gender and sexuality? I don’t know that Mel Brooks had it in his mind to say anything about it, per se. It could just be me reading a little too deeply into a satirical Western comedy. But I think it’s fitting that John Wayne turned down the chance to be in this film–there’s no room for a symbol for old world toxic masculinity like him in a movie like Blazing Saddles. The fact is, you don’t have to be a certain kind of man or woman. There are different valid ways to define your masculinity or femininity, as long as you’re defining them by your own rules, and not the ones made up by society. And as we all know, challenging societal norms is what Mel Brooks does best. ~TRL

The Middle Of The World: How Barry Jenkins Makes A Movie

Moonlight was the winner of the 2016 Academy Award winner for Best Motion Picture (we all remember the memes). I always remember it as a simple yet masterfully executed example of direction on Barry Jenkins’s part. Let me show you what I mean.

Toward the beginning, in the first third of the film, there is a scene where Juan (Mahershala Ali) teaches young Chiron to swim, or rather, how to float on his back in the water. Juan describes the feeling of floating in the water as “being in the middle of the world”. Which is why I find this particular shot so poignant.

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Juan is in the exact center of the frame, and the depth of field around him is incredibly shallow. He and the tree in the foreground are really the only things in focus; the trees and picnic tables in the background are blurred. Even Chiron is slightly out of focus. It’s impossible for the viewer’s eye to be drawn to anything but Ali.

This is more or less Baby’s First Lesson On Cinematic Framing–have the most important element in your shot be the main point of interest by focusing on it. That’s kind of a no brainer. But it raises the question: why isn’t the main character–Chiron–also in focus?

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We switch from a stationary shot on the beach to a handheld camera in the water, making the scene feel much more personal (as if the viewer is in the water with Juan and Chiron) and illustrating the intimacy of the scene. It was difficult for me to get a screengrab that was in focus because of the movement of the camera, but when you watch the scene, Juan is the only thing that is stable in the take, a stanch contrast to the waves dipping in and out of the frame, all while cradling Chiron and keeping him from sinking. This is very obviously a metaphor for Juan being the only stable support in Chiron’s life. It’s also reminiscent of a baptism, pushing the motif of Juan being Chiron’s savior. Juan’s name is even a Spanish variant of the name John–as in, John The Baptist.

For those of you who haven’t seen Moonlight, it’s a key development in Chiron’s character that he idolizes Juan. Juan is not his father or any relation, but he’s more of a parent to him than Chiron’s own mother is. More than that, he is Chiron’s mentor, his role model–and (like I said) in a way, his savior. The only other character who arguably is as important in Chiron’s life is Kevin, his best friend and later love interest. But for the younger years of Chiron’s life–the years that shape him as a man–Juan is the middle of the world.

Irene Adler: Lost In Translation

To modern filmmakers, she is always the love interest. I have seldom seen them adapt her in any other way. In their eyes she is an archetypal femme fatale who is smart, and usually nefarious, but mostly sexy, and always powerless to Sherlock Holmes’s superior brain and also because she’s feemail, and as we all know, feemails are weak and can’t help but fall in love with the hero.

And yet there is but one woman to them, and that woman is the eternal Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable, but always sexy, memory.

“A Scandal In Bohemia” was the very first Sherlock Holmes story I ever read. She’s immediately introduced as the woman (The Woman) who utterly defeats Sherlock Holmes, the only one he respects and sees as an equal. As a burgeoning young feminist (and lesbian), I was so excited about this powerful woman who managed to gain the respect of Sherlock Holmes of all people.

I was subsequently disappointed with her many adaptations…

The Story

Irene Adler was an opera singer who has an affair with the King of Bohemia. They apparently had a compromising photo taken together, because all these years later, when the King is getting married to some other lady of nobility, Adler informs him that she has the photo of them, and that she will absolutely send it to his future in-laws. It’s not really clear why she wants to ruin the King’s reputation. It’s clearly not out of jealousy because she doesn’t care about the King. She doesn’t want money. She just wants the truth about the King to be known for what he really is.

This leads the King to hire Sherlock Holmes to steal the photo from her, since all his other attempts to get the photo have failed. Holmes manages to trick Adler into revealing where the photograph is hidden, but when he goes back for it, she and the photograph are gone, because she’s outsmarted Holmes. She’s no longer interested in ruining the King because she’s in love and she and her new husband have run off to America together. The end.

Historical Context

Arthur Conan Doyle was pretty liberal for a white, middle class man of the Victorian Age. He was friendly with Oscar Wilde and didn’t believe that homosexuality was deviance, but rather like a mental illness (and that was actually a progressive point of view for that time); he wrote a story about an interracial relationship (that produced a biracial child) in one of his stories–and it was actually sympathetic to the white woman who loved a black man; and for the most part he seemed to respect women as people. Doyle is like Star Trek: The Original Series–definitely suffers from the social prejudices and attitudes of the time, but still forward thinking in historical context.

It’s important to note that this is a story about the sexism of the Victorian age. The only two reoccurring women in the Holmes serial is Holmes’s landlady and Watson’s wife (or possibly wives because Doyle was shit at continuity). Women in Victorian literature didn’t have much agency. Even in Jane Austen novels, the female protagonists’ arcs often revolved around finding a husband. This is why Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play A Doll’s House was such a scandalous piece of literature. The main character, Nora, forges her father’s name in order to borrow money (because women weren’t allowed to own property or take out loans), and ends up leaving her shitty husband at the end. In most places, the play was banned from being performed at the time. Compare characterless homebodies like Mrs. Watson or Mrs. Hudson/Turner to a strong female character like Irene Adler, who has her own career, has affairs out of wedlock, and never once loses her power to a man. She outsmarts the smartest man in London, and leaves behind a letter that essentially says, “Suck it, Your Majesty, I do what I want.”

But why is this a feminist narrative? Well, I’ll explain, but first I have to explain the concept of…

The Unreliable Narrator

What’s important to remember as that this story is framed as a personal account from Watson, who doesn’t know what really happened between Adler and the King apart from the King’s own telling of it. We’ve already established Watson as an unreliable narrator (he can’t even remember if he’s married half the time), and so what we’re really getting is a tenuous third-hand account of the story of Irene Adler and her affair with the King. We never hear Adler’s side of it, so we have only the King’s point of view to go on–and of course that view is going to be biased toward the King. “Boo hoo, I’m just trying to get married for political gains and that mean old slut Irene Adler is trying to ruin it for me.”

When you really get down to examining the narrative beyond Watson and the King’s opinion of it, Irene Adler is the antagonist of SCAN–but not the villain. This is one of the rare instances where Holmes finds himself on the side of wrong. The King is trying to cover up a past affair before he marries somebody else so he doesn’t look bad, and Adler is trying to expose a powerful man as the jerkass he really is before he becomes even more powerful by marrying someone we get the sense he really doesn’t care about or love.

Why It’s About Sexism

At the beginning, Watson explains that Holmes calls Adler The Woman because she’s apparently the only female opponent that’s ever bested him. Before Adler, Holmes was actually pretty chauvinistic toward the intellect of women, and it isn’t until Adler knocks him down a sexist peg that Holmes realizes the error of both the King’s and his own ways. Holmes is humbled by the experience and realizes that she’s the real hero, and he admires her for her cleverness. He keeps her photo as a means of reminding him not be such a sexist dick.

For some reason, this always gets mistranslated two ways: 1) a smart, sexually liberated woman is inherently villainous, thus we get adaptions like Guy Ritchie’s movies and BBC Sherlock where Adler ends up working for bad guys (and it’s almost always Moriarty). Notice that she is almost never the one in charge; she’s always Moriarty’s stooge. Because God forbid a woman just be clever and do things on her own. And 2), a man can’t POSSIBLY admire a woman without wanting to have sex with her. Irene Adler spoke to Sherlock Holmes maybe twice in canon, and once was to ask him to be a witness to her wedding—to someone else! They were never interested in each other, and yet, in nearly every adaptation, she’s Holmes’s paramour.

Also, you’ll notice that Adler is always portrayed as very, very smart, but NEVER smarter than Holmes. She’s usually a damsel Holmes has to save. Because again, nothing is more threatening to a man than a woman who doesn’t need him. It drives me absolutely insane that modern adaptations of Sherlock Holmes take one of the few proto-feminist characters of Victorian literature and diminish her into a sexy bad girl. I guess they just didn’t get the point of the story. Either that or modern filmmakers are scared of the gay subtext in Holmes and Watson’s friendship and decided to disparage that way of thinking by giving Holmes a girlfriend and Adler was the obvious choice she’s feemail and on Holmes’s level. Of course, we can’t have her be smarter than him! That would be like saying that men aren’t the best! Because women always have to be less good than men and fall in love with them and hey wouldn’t it be great if she were a dominatrix who prances around naked and also punches people but needs to be rescued by Sherlock Holmes because he’s just soooooooo irresistable even though you said you were a fucking lesbian FUCK YOU STEVEN MOFFAT-

What was I talking about? Oh, yeah.

And when they speak of Irene Adler, it is always under the dishonorable title…of Sherlock Holmes’s girlfriend. ~TRL

Three’s Company Too

Today I want to talk about polyships! Polyships deal with polyamory, where more than two people are dating each other at the same time. This is a little different than polygamy, where one person is married to multiple people (usually one man with several wives, like in the Mormon religion) or open relationships (which usually imply two people who are in a committed relationship, but permit each other to see other people outside of the relationship). Polyamory connotates three or more people seeing each other.* If you want to learn more about about polyamory, I suggest watching the movie Professor Marston and the Wonder Women–it’s about the man who created Wonder Woman, his wife, and their life partner.

(*Note, my definitions of these terms may not agree with other people’s, as everyone defines their relationships differently.)

So I want to talk about a few OT3s of mine, and I have to first bring up Sense8, that wonderful Netflix show that is a freaking love letter to the LGBTQ+ community. (Spoilers ahead.) There are two throuples (couples involving three people instead of two) in the show. Lito and Hernando were a gay couple (Lito identifies as homosexual, but Hernando’s sexuality is never specified, so he could be gay, bi, or pansexual), but they end up bringing a woman into their relationship, Lito’s coworker Daniela. She at first just wants protection from her abusive ex-boyfriend, but she eventually becomes a special part of Lito and Hernando’s relationship, and they form a family.

The other polyship was a bit of a surprise. Kala’s storyline was set up as a classic love triangle story. Even though she is in an marriage to Rajan, she is clearly in love with Wolfgang. Her arc is set up to lead the viewer to believe that she will ultimately leave Rajan for Wolfgang. But in the series finale, Kala is torn between Wolfgang and Rajan, whom she also ends up loving. And even though you would think Rajan and Wolfgang would be rivals and hate each other, they get along quite well. In the end, they decide to just Kala have both of them, and Wolfgang and Rajan actually end up loving each other as well. It was one of my favorite parts of Sense8.

So my first ever polyship was Steve Rogers (Captain America), Bucky Barnes, and Peggy Carter, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I headcanon all three characters as bisexual, and I think both Peggy and Bucky are great for Steve. And I think that over time, Peggy and Bucky could love each other too. They would all bring something to the table if they were in a relationship: Peggy, her strength; Steve, his loyalty; and Bucky, his sensitivity.

…and the sex would be amazing.

My most recent polyship, however, is from Wynonna Earp–that is, the titular Wynonna, Agent Xavier Dolls, and Doc Holliday (yes, THAT Doc Holliday). They’re another trio of bisexuals, according to me. It’s clear from the beginning that both Dolls and Doc absolutely adore Wynonna. And even though they hate each other at first, Doc and Dolls grow close and form a special bond. Even though all three of them are rough and tumble demon hunters, there is a special tenderness in the way they interact with each other. (MAJOR SPOILER) And when Dolls dies, Doc is just as broken up as Wynonna–which just proves he loved Dolls as much as she did. (Plus their ship name is the Ghost River Triangle, how perfect is that?)

So that’s my little tribute to polyamory and the awesome ships they produce. Let’s give them three cheers! (Pun intended.) -TRL

Where Is My Monster Girlfriend?

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I’ve been thinking about this ever since Lindsay Ellis put out this video (which is awesome, I highly recommend it) on the history of monster romances. Beauty and the Beast narratives are a long and time-honored tradition of story telling, and was most recently repeated by Guillermo del Toro with the Oscar winning The Shape Of Water. In stories like this, the dynamic is nearly always the same: unconventionally unhandsome monster man and conventionally pretty human woman fall in love. But it got me wondering: where are the monster girlfriends?

Let’s take a look at Greek mythology, at one of the first monster ladies: Medusa. According to the account by the Greek poet Ovid, Medusa was once a beautiful woman who caught the attention of the god of the sea, Poseidon. Poseidon took Medusa in Athena’s temple, and as punishment, Athena turned Medusa into a hideous monster whose ugliness would freeze mortals on sight. (Which is kind of BS, considering Medusa was the victim of rape and clearly Poseidon was the asshole here, but…that’s another discussion.) Medusa does not get a happy ending; she is beheaded by the Greek hero Perseus.

In more modern days, the female monsters you encounter are usually found in horror. They are not the Romantic, sympathetic heroes; they are the horrifying killers that crawl out of your TV set or attack campers in the woods or they burn down the prom. And even then, characters like Samara and Carrie White are still humanoid. They’re not really beasts per se. Mermaids and sirens are creatures, but they’re usually portrayed as beautiful and magnetic as they lure men to their deaths.

Usually, when the B&B narrative is reversed, the woman isn’t a monster at all. The reason she’s unloved is because of some shallow aspect of society. Usually it’s because she’s fat. Or she’s a nerd. Or she’s a tomboy.

I’ve noticed a huge difference in how male monsters are portrayed vs female monsters, and how their stories resolve. The male monsters are nearly always flawed yet lovable, and female monsters are always vengeful and evil…and most are still attractive. See, there’s this drive to appeal to the male gaze that looms over all of cinema. The women must be beautiful whenever possible. Which is why stories about truly ugly yet sympathetic (maybe even lovable) female monsters have yet to be produced. Ugliness in men can always be forgiven; in women, it cannot.

Disney is the most egregious campaigner for this way of thinking. They have a real problem with ugly women being heroic and beautiful women being villains. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the evil Queen (who is fairly pretty) takes on the persona of an ugly hag to commit murder. When Disney adapted the fairy tale of the Snow Queen, they changed the story drastically. In the original story, the Snow Queen was the villain, and a beautiful woman to boot. In Frozen, the Snow Queen is a troubled, pretty anti-villain, and her sister is the true hero of the story. In Moana, Te Fiti has to turn into a scary lava monster before antagonizing Moana and Maui.

But of course, the best example is Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Disney made absolutely sure this woman couldn’t be considered attractive by making her fat and masculine.

(And this is not to say that fat women or masculine women can’t be attractive. I’m not saying that personally. I’m saying that this is how mainstream (male) filmmakers think. They make these decisions based on what convention deems to be beautiful: that is young, thin, and feminine. There’s a reason we haven’t had a fat Disney princess yet.)

So what I’m saying is, we see stories about women loving male beasts all the time, because society seems to view women as less shallow and more open-minded. But what about stories where men love female monsters? Well…I can only think of one off the top of my head: Cyberwoman.

“Cyberwoman” was an early episode of Torchwood, a spinoff of Doctor Who (it’s kind of like X-Files). The members of Torchwood find out one of them has been harboring a half converted Cyberwoman because she was his girlfriend before she got turned into a cyborg. And it’s the dumbest, most female-objectifying episode of anything I’ve ever seen. The Cyberwoman is basically a regular looking beautiful woman except that she’s in a metal bikini and wearing Cyberman headphones. She’s even got high-heeled silver platform boots. It’s…it’s so dumb.

Anyway, she ends up losing her mind and going on a murder rampage. She has to be killed twice before the episode is over.

And that how it always ends, doesn’t it? Where male monsters are always treated with sympathy and are redeemed, female monsters get axed. A prince turned furry beast gets the chance to earn the love of a beautiful woman and is saved in the end, while a poor girl who never asked to get raped and transformed into a gorgon has her head chopped off. There are no monster girlfriends. In fiction–in society–if a woman doesn’t have sex appeal, what’s the point of saving her? ~TRL