gogollescent: (crossovers)
[personal profile] gogollescent
Let's see if I can remember how to do the DW bit, haha. Um, things I've finished recently: the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime, the Hilary Tamar books, and season one of Elementary. My plan is to talk about all of them at once and then be quiet for another three months.

Spoilers ahead, especially for the Elementary finale.

I started watching Utena more than a year ago; it took me a long time to burn through because I was relying on access to a friend's DVDs--I mean, uh, because we'd agreed to watch it together, and I would never have considered racing ahead on my own. Yes. Anyway, because of that it was never the sole iron propped hazardously in my fire, and looking back I'm glad of it. Otherwise I might have been really sad when I stumbled out of the finale and found about two really satisfying fix-it fics. HAHAHAHAHA. Not that I'm at all resentful of AO3's failure to sate me on this one. What a great show, though. It's funny because I spend like three hours yesterday complaining to [personal profile] prodigy about some authors' reliance on fairy tale allusions as a shorthand for beauty and meaning; but Utena, I think, performs this weird sleight-of-hand wherein the froth of the language and archetypes are almost a distraction from the show's dark gooey middle. I decided to make that sound as much like a chocolate as possible. It's not that the trimmings are irrelevant or gratuitous, but they sort of disguise the deeper bitterness of the narrative, and its correspondent hope, for as long as those need to be masked.

Whereas--in so many postmodern fairy tales every reference to the original is an occasion for the author to tell me what the story's about, whether that happens to be the idea that women are powerful monsters, or that children are alien monsters, or that love is beautiful and monstrous. The fun thing about Utena is that it depicts immaturity without turning every kid into a whimsical, callous Peter Pan. I was thinking about how it differs from Homestuck, which also has a cast of teenagers who struggle against terrible odds and confusing worldbuilding, but which makes those teenagers sound like witty twenty-somethings. The characters in Utena are as individual and petty as Homestuck's heroes, and they have a carefully-varied range of motives for their magical swordfights, but they lack the eloquence and light irony of people who have had decades to put their needs into words. Going back to the fairy tale thing; the vocabulary of princes, miracles and innocence makes sense in their mouths not because it's the most accurate and, idk, universal way to talk about their shitty lives, but because that's what they've been given to work with by condescending adults, in lieu of more effective tools.

I guess what I'm stabbing at here is that there's nothing exciting to me about taking Grimm and adding long sequences of softcore porn, or reversing the order of edibility between wolf and grandmother, as though changing the direction in which savagery flows makes it empowering. I don't get why it's subversive to be explicit about your debt. But Utena doesn't set up its painstaking symbolic scaffold just to flip one key piece around: in Utena the tropes fail because they are basically inadequate. It's not that fairy tales aren't good for anything, but they aren't a subtle or edgy way to frame reality, and that's a welcome enough message that I don't mind Ikuhara hammering it in.

Okay, reading this over… I promise I care about Utena more than I hate grimdark fairy tales. I just get derailed easily by my grudges. My grudges against people reworking stories they love because they enjoy it! No. I wish imagery involving apples and forests and snow and wolves and blood weren't the sole requirement for reductive fluff to be called evocative, that's all. You know, it looks like the more I try to downplay my sourness the more it gets all over the carpet, so I'm going to stop and simply observe that Utena herself is, like, my favorite heroine of anything I have watched in a long time, the dumb jock. There were things I didn't appreciate about the show--I am pretty literal-minded, and I like my fiction to lean towards the concrete, but that's less criticism than an acknowledgment that I am not its ideal audience. Yes, I'd like to nail its timeline to a wall; but it's ambitious, frequently successful, and it gives great made-up adolescent. Far be it from me, under those circumstances, to wonder about the actual significance of the demon monkey.

Moving on.

Bookwise, I've been wallowing in old favorites more than I have been seeking out new titles, but I did binge on the Hilary Tamar series last weekend. It's a quartet of mysteries starring four quippy young lawyers and their even quippier mentor, the eponymous Hilary Tamar--a historian of medieval law who specializes in getting former students to pay for lunch. Hilary is perhaps the most charming narrator to ever get completely pigeonholed by one authorial ~gimmick: their gender is never specified in the text, and as a consequence half the reviews either dismiss the character as a personalityless vehicle for authorial voice or else spend the whole review trying to make a pronoun stick. Which is a shame, because I really love Hilary, and when I get attached to characters I want other people to enthusiastically agree with me. I also spent half my reading time guiltily wondering whether anyone had written shipping fic for Selena and Julia, who are… well… very heterosexual, but also best friends and repeatedly mistaken for gay, and at one point they accidentally wander into an orgy while investigating a case? An orgy which Selena partakes of by silently reading Pride and Prejudice on the couch while Julia monologues about tax law. But no! No, fortunately for me, the only ship in the non-existent fandom is a boring threesome between Julia and her two male colleagues. A narrow escape.

Julia generally was the other highlight of my Sarah Caudwell experience; she belongs to a category of beloved characters I began to develop only recently, that is, the super woolly-headed ones, with the other most-cherished member being Stephen Maturin. Note to self: request fandom for Yuletide, suggest Julia falling off Selena's boat? I am doomed always to dream.

This post was in danger of ending on a positive note, but then I remembered that I had Elementary to talk about. …which makes me sound like a Sherlock fan in the Elementary tag, but, er, I'm still invested in and enthused about the show! I didn't enjoy the finale much, though. I have sulked elsewhere about the way adaptations inevitably add romance to Holmes' relationship with Irene Adler, and while I'd rather have her as Moriarty than fridged, I wonder why the hell it had to be a courting connection that made them both stupid about each other, and stayed Moriarty's hand. I mean, I am being more than a little hypocritical: I'd like Watson and Holmes to have sex in the NYPD's supply closet, it's not like I can claim to regret the nixing of his asexuality. On the other hand, I don't want Watson and Holmes to kiss in, you know, canon, and as great as it is to see unromantic friendship between a man and a woman, I think it'd be just as cool to see a man and a woman experience the kind of enmity that so often arises from failed male friendships.

There are shades of that dynamic in the finale. Moriarty's offer to take Holmes away with her after he feigns an overdose is at least nominally motivated by a possessive but unloving inclination to salvage his mind, and I won't pretend I didn't enjoy her disinterested, clinical grip on his injured shoulder during their conversation at the beginning of "Heroine." Actually it would be easy to read all the wrangling in "Heroine" as platonic--except the preceding episode's sappy montage make it unavoidably clear that all their confusion is the result of a relationship that looks remarkably like Five Hundred Days of Summery London Sewers. Considering that it's supposed to have been the most compelling interpersonal bond of their superintelligent lives, I can't help wishing that they could have done something besides sight-see, or talked about subjects other than stars. I've seen it posited that it makes sense that Irene Adler, as a construct, was always a little shallow, but if that's the case then the whole premise of Holmes' downward spiral falls apart--and Elementary needs that premise to be solid, not to justify his addiction, but because he freaking tortured a dude in the throes of his grief!

The other thing that makes me crave Moriarty and Holmes, Total Ex-Pals, is Watson's final intuitive leap. It's the linchpin of the episode, and for the most part unexplained by anything the characters say or do; Watson has a five minute conversation with Moriarty, and yet, besides Holmes, she's the only person who could have predicted Moriarty's choice? I mean, it's not that I don't believe she could have foreseen it, but… uh… so could any passer-by, if you sat them down and talked to them about arch-rivals for five minutes. But if Moriarty and Holmes were friends in the way that Watson and Holmes are friends--preferably with Moriarty mentoring Holmes--then Watson's ability to read her becomes more plausibly specific: Watson might, for example, know how Moriarty felt about Holmes because she knows how Holmes regards her. The "criminal mastermind forgets to check for bugs in the hospital room with her nemesis" scene would still be lolarious, but at least the thematic parallels would survive intact.

I guess better writing could also have solved these problems without any alteration of the content; I probably twitched more at the ham factor than at the actual history. But I do feel they took an unimaginative route with Irene: one not quite redeemed by her elevation to villainy.


I hope they have lots of scenes with Holmes or Watson talking to her while she's in jail though. That will go a long ways towards reconciling me to the ludicrous trap they set for her. I mean, is there anything better than characters awkwardly chatting up their cynical and constrained series antagonists? I THINK NOT. That's, like, top of my list of stuff learned from Wizard's Holiday.

Date: 2013-06-01 11:49 pm (UTC)
scarfmouse: (Default)
From: [personal profile] scarfmouse
TEENAGERS WHO STRUGGLE AGAINST TERRIBLE ODDS AND CONFUSING WORLDBUILDING. i love you. hello. wow. i love you hi. i read this whole post.

Re: <3

Date: 2013-06-01 11:56 pm (UTC)
scarfmouse: (i will do science to it!!)
From: [personal profile] scarfmouse

i dont suppose i can lure you onto skype some time tonight :3 ? ? ?

Re: <3

Date: 2013-06-02 12:01 am (UTC)
scarfmouse: (Default)
From: [personal profile] scarfmouse
ahh lovely. please enjoy your dines. 8)

Re: <3

Date: 2013-06-02 02:48 am (UTC)
panicum: (taking pictures)
From: [personal profile] panicum
you guys don't know how much i ship this.

Re: <3

Date: 2013-06-02 02:50 am (UTC)
scarfmouse: (thinking thinky thoughts!)
From: [personal profile] scarfmouse
alex stop lurking in the bushes with your binoculars its v ery unflattering

Re: <3

Date: 2013-06-02 11:08 pm (UTC)
panicum: (laughing)
From: [personal profile] panicum
do these binoculars make my voyuerism look big?

Date: 2013-06-02 12:08 am (UTC)
ravenmaw: (trade26)
From: [personal profile] ravenmaw
i'm torn on the moriarty is irene thing, because while i found it a great twist and it preserved what i got out of acd canon (the heavy implication of past romantic involvement between holmes and moriarty), i would like just one single goddamn holmes adaptation where he's explicitly gay or ace or some combination of both.

on the other hand, moriarty is a fantastic villain and i love the amount of unsexualised, dangerous and competent female villains in elementary. women don't often get to be just bad guys.

also: i learned that i am much less allergic to fridging than most of my friends, since i did not so much as twitch an eyebrow at irene's initial role in the story. i feel rather bad about that.
Edited Date: 2013-06-02 12:08 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-06-02 12:34 am (UTC)
ravenmaw: (hang09)
From: [personal profile] ravenmaw
i'd never seen that aspect acknowledged in adaptations, so it was welcome. or maybe i had seen it but it had gone way the fuck over my head, because i was a kid.

Date: 2013-06-02 01:12 am (UTC)
nextian: Yankumi from Gokusen is happy and in color. (yankumsquee)
From: [personal profile] nextian
That's a good point about fairytale retelling, gosh. The reversal-of-power-while-maintaining-power is so importantly bad and evident in the aesthetic, and I hadn't really remarked it at all.

Gogol can we still be friends if I admit that I still love Julia/Cantrip/Ragwort... I think the threesome was Franzi's idea in #yuletide so it was very pervasive. Did you see [personal profile] lionpyh requested it for Yuletide years back? but honestly my emotions on it are just like "well they've all clearly had or going to have sex so why don't they continue all having sex in whatever permutation you feel like portraying". All of them. Hilary mostly as absolutely unrepentantly, hugely dishonestly narrating their own voyeurism. Selena/Julia really is an untapped well though, I don't understand how that's possible considering the amount of time Julia spends being heterosexually undressed by maids and politely agreeing to pay court to American mystics and the amount Selena sighs over those sections of the letters.

I think my favorite Julia moment, of all of the Julia moments, was when she vanished in... I think the second book? and reappeared like, a day later, "irrevocably" late for the conference, secure in her shining belief that a message to the temporary typist would in any way work as a third-hand wakeup call. I just. Julia. Come to my arms.

Date: 2013-06-02 02:48 am (UTC)
panicum: fashion (fafafafafafashion)
From: [personal profile] panicum

Seriously though I love the emphasis that Utena had tropes but tropes were inadequate and it wasn't like patting itself on the back.

Did you see the movie?

Date: 2013-06-02 11:07 pm (UTC)
panicum: (disgust)
From: [personal profile] panicum
i hate you


gogollescent: (Default)
you know you like the mannequin dick

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