Female characters exist to promote male leads for network profits

This article began as a quick note on something we discussed about Robin Hood a while ago, but turned into an in-depth explanation for why the Mo Movie Measure test is so rarely passed by TV and film. It contains Robin Hood spoilers through S2’s “Get Carter.”

Dominic Minghella said it again. Oy.

In an “extra” during the commercial break for last week’s (US) episode of Robin Hood on BBCA, he said “Of course Marian is stirred by Guy; who wouldn’t be?” Followed by a giggle.

In the article linked, I discussed how he said this in a Series 1 DVD commentary (during the scene that starts about one minute into this clip) and got shot down in no uncertain terms by some of the actors, in particular Gordon Kennedy. I later discovered that Richard Armitage has publicly stated his own take on his scenes with Marian (“I’m really hoping that when people sit and watch this, that, you know, when Gisborne is trying to woo Marian, they absolutely squirm in their seats and their skin is crawling. That was my main aim with this character, was to make people absolutely despise him.”), which makes it hard to imagine Minghella thinks they’ve clearly put across that, deep down, even a sensible smart girl like Marian just really wants a good-looking psycho to bend her over the table. And if that’s what he meant to put across, why didn’t he make sure the actors were on the same page?

Why try to convince us now, after the fact? I think I know the answer.

It’s the “Who wouldn’t be?” (stirred by Gisborne) part of his statement – and the giggle – that clued me in. It reminded me of a DVD extra on House in which the creator mentions several times in front of the whole cast, awkwardly, with giggles, how “gorgeous” Hugh Laurie is. Are we to think the creator of House really sits around lusting after his star, or is it more likely Fox advised him it would be smart to remind the audience what a super-sexy stud muffin their lead actor is?

By “audience” I don’t mean those women and men who are attracted to men and can tell for themselves whether Laurie’s their cup of tea. I mean, of course, the target audience of white, straight, insecure boys. No one wants us women watching, and if they ever get around to noticing that men who like men are watching, I’m sure they won’t want them either. It’s white straight boys who must be convinced the male lead is a babe magnet.

This is an old rule I learned in screenwriting around the time I was taught your lead character must be a white, straight man (like the target audience): if you have a woman right there in front of your leading man and she’s not stirred by him, the insecure young men film and TV target will wonder what’s “wrong” with him. Is he gay? Is she? The real reason, I was informed, to put women in a script was to reveal things about the men. Any other purpose I assigned to the women was secondary at best, but I could do what I wanted there as long as the women’s purposes never threatened to distract the audience from the purposes of the men. Once I realized that merely passing the Mo Movie Measure test was enough to “distract” the audience from the men, I quit screenwriting and have never regretted it.

The reasons for this are supposedly purely economic, but they’re also sexist. See, the studios and networks have tied their profits to their male stars. They say this is because the audience pays more to see men in lead roles, but of course they do: the industry has set women up to fail by giving them mostly crap shows and films to lead on those rare occasions they get lead roles, and then rationalizing successful examples of women leads into failures of epic proportions (and let’s not forget how the Golden Age of Hollywood demonstrated how profitable “leading ladies” could be). To continue with the Robin Hood example, what’s important here is not the message being sent, nor the integrity of the show, nor the integrity of Marian (yes, I did just say I don’t think the intent here is to send a bad message about women – I actually think it’s much worse than that).

What’s important here – if my theory is right – is to show insecure young white straight boys that the character played by the actor (who’s just been given the lead role on Spooks, putting future Robin Hood seasons on hold for at least a year) is a babe-magnet. Toward this end, it would not do to have a heterosexual female around him who’s not, at least on some level, wildly attracted to him, and so we need scenes like this one and, for good measure, a producer willing to blither on about “who wouldn’t be” stirred by this character.

I could be mistaken in this case. It could just be that Minghella is sexist, and passionate about it. But studios and networks have set up a system based exclusively on promoting male leads (again, supposedly for profit even though Business Week and the Wall Street Journal have reported consistently for a decade that women are a far more profitable audience) and one of the main reasons why 99% of female characters – and female actresses – are sacrificed is to prop up the men.

Comments

  1. Death Worm says

    This would be a good explanation why producers seem to think every TV show or movie MUST HAVE a (heterosexual) romantic subplot, even if the story would work fine (or even better) without romance or sexual tension. I mean, the usual explanation is that “oh, we need a romance to draw in female viewers!”, but I think yours is closer to their actual thought process.

  2. Royal says

    This is a very interesting post. I have to say, though, that I think you are wrong about the target audience of Robin Hood.

    What’s important here – if my theory is right – is to show insecure young white straight boys that the character played by the actor (who’s just been given the lead role on Spooks, putting future Robin Hood seasons on hold for at least a year) is a babe-magnet. Toward this end, it would not do to have a heterosexual female around him who’s not, at least on some level, wildly attracted to him, and so we need scenes like this one and, for good measure, a producer willing to blither on about “who wouldn’t be” stirred by this character.

    The first problem with this observation is that Guy of Gisborne is not the lead character on RH. Technically, that would be Robin Hood. Now, in the case of Robin, it does seem that every woman is attracted to him (I am over-generalizing there, but it is mostly accurate) the agrument might hold there. As for Guy, I honestly think he is designed to entice the female audience. Minghella mentioned in a set diary that he was aware of RA’s considerable female fanbase (mostly garnered from the period drama hit North and South) Gisborne seems, to me anyway, to be some sort of Byronic-esque hero. His dialogue with Marian is highly romantic and he definitely, as RA put it, “needs saving”. The redemption storyline paired with the romantic dialogue (and his obvious good looks) makes me think Guy is supposed to interest female viewers.

    In fact, I watch the show with my bros and they often react negtaively to him. If Marian’s attraction to Guy was designed to make the male target audience feel more secure, then I think it will probably fail. I just don’t think that many men identify with Guy. The female reaction to him, however, has been fairly positive.

    That still leaves us to explain why Minghella believes Marian needs to be stirred by Guy, I actually think that is the result of two things (on my reading) 1) the love triangle would not have dramatic power if Marian showed no interest in Robin’s rival. 2) If she showed no interest in Guy, was firghetned by him, or utterly disgusted, the scenes would not be romantic enough to entertain their desired female demographic.

    I am not saying this is what they are up to, but it seems more likely to me that they want to get more female viewers with the Guy/Marian relationship rather than make their male target feel more secure.

    Btw, I don’t think RH filming has been delayed for RA’s schedule. Several reports have come out saying that other actors are already in Budapest filming. RA will join them later this month I believe.

    Great topic,
    Royal

  3. says

    The first problem with this observation is that Guy of Gisborne is not the lead character on RH.

    I was afraid I should have explained this in more detail. What I’m talking about is not done only for actors playing leading males, it’s also done for secondary actors – especially if they look likely to become leads in the near future (as is the case here).

    His purpose on RH may indeed be strictly to bring in female viewers, but he’ll need to bring in straight male viewers on Spooks. To you and me, those are two separate projects, but if the BBC thinks remotely like American networks, they think in terms of building and positioning star power, and the shows are just a vehicle for that.

    If Marian’s attraction to Guy was designed to make the male target audience feel more secure, then I think it will probably fail. I just don’t think that many men identify with Guy.

    But is that why networks think male characters have to be babe magnets to attract male viewers? I’ve heard that theory, and it certainly makes sense. But what I was more often told was that young male viewers would assume Something Gay Was Going On if you had an attractive man and woman in the same space for long without a shred of latent mutual attraction. *I* am not saying the audience is that homophobic; that’s what I was told the industry believed.

    That still leaves us to explain why Minghella believes Marian needs to be stirred by Guy, I actually think that is the result of two things (on my reading) 1) the love triangle would not have dramatic power if Marian showed no interest in Robin’s rival. 2) If she showed no interest in Guy, was firghetned by him, or utterly disgusted, the scenes would not be romantic enough to entertain their desired female demographic.

    (1) The dramatic impact is not in the “love triangle”, it’s in the danger of this situation Marian is stuck in, and her admirable desire to make use of it to do some good. (2) I’m part of the desired female demographic, and I don’t WANT to see it as romantic. I rarely like romance ever. Yes, there are a lot of women online writing romantic stories about Marian and Guy as a couple, but there are also a lot of us who really dig the “ick” factor of this creepy relationship and would be very disappointed if the show pressured us to find “romantic” a situation that’s clearly unhealthy. And there is nothing romantic about the way it comes across on screen. People are reading romance in because they want to (and I’m all for the audience interpreting things anyway that entertains them), but I see a *lot* of indication they’re going for the ick factor, not the romance angle.

    Btw, I don’t think RH filming has been delayed for RA’s schedule. Several reports have come out saying that other actors are already in Budapest filming. RA will join them later this month I believe.

    Thanks for the news. I hadn’t heard that. I would I could say it doesn’t fill me with dread, considering the end of Series 2, which they have to either process with the appropriate amount of gravity, or lightly skip over and move on to their next adventure. I’m reminded of how Robin of Sherwood handled a similar situation… hell, even how Stargate did it… and as sad as it is to say, I’m not sure these writers are even up to Stargate quality. So I’m braced for a kick in the teeth there.

    This is a show I mostly watch for the cast, of which I love almost every member to pieces. The scripts/stories have never been great, IMO.

  4. Royal says

    Thanks for the clarifications. First, yay for the Stargate reference! I love that show.

    But what I was more often told was that young male viewers would assume Something Gay Was Going On if you had an attractive man and woman in the same space for long without a shred of latent mutual attraction. *I* am not saying the audience is that homophobic; that’s what I was told the industry believed.

    I do agree with the “something gay is going on” observation. I honestly do think thathappens. to some extent, among viewers. I don’t think they are that homophobioc either, but I do think it happens.

    1) The dramatic impact is not in the “love triangle”, it’s in the danger of this situation Marian is stuck in, and her admirable desire to make use of it to do some good. (2) I’m part of the desired female demographic, and I don’t WANT to see it as romantic. I rarely like romance ever.

    I should have explained that a little better. I don’t think that romance necessarily entertains the female demographic, in fact I often loathe it, but I believe wirters and producers (especially male ones) believe that it does. I am amused bby the Guy/Marian relationship because it is very tense and Marian really isn’t even interested in Guy. It gives their scenes a very dynamic feel. I do think, however, the triangle has even more interest if there is a small chance Marian might say yes for other than purely economic reasons.

    I see a *lot* of indication they’re going for the ick factor, not the romance angle.

    I would certainly agree for S1. However, in S2, they have made Guy far more “romantic”. He is still a loathsome villain, but, for the last few episodes anyway, he hasn’t really done anything all that bad and is fairly gentle with Marian. However, the scene after Edward’s death a couple weeks ago, was extremely creepy.

    Did Minghella really say “women like em rough”?! If he did, and if he is operating on that assumption, he is clearly not understanding the relationship on screen. If Marian is attracted to Guy (which I think she is on a basely physical level as evidenced by her reaction to the almost ridiculous armor fitting scene) it is not because he is rough. She mgiht, at the most, be attracted to his pragmatic, Machiavellian nature which I think she shares in a very small does.

    Finally, I am disturbed by the assertion that women like dangerous, or violent men. I’ve heard this from a number of producers (probably in jest) on different shows, but it is really a very objectionable idea.

    Royal

  5. says

    Beta Candy, not getting TV I’m only able to follow ongoing series via discussion boards and recaps until I can borrow the DVDs or find them on sale, so I can’t speak intelligently as to how the Robin Hood cast and writers are playing this.

    However, this discussion and the quotes you’ve posted, plus your insider take on screenwriting, reminded me of something I’d almost forgotten:

    Many, many years ago now, there was a new production of Tosca at the Met which was broadcast on PBS, which was supposed to be very special because they’d gone to great lengths to recreate the actual interiors of the settings in Rome. I recall it being okay, not unforgettably great (not like the version of Carmen set during the Spanish Civil War, frex) but there was something really squicky (tho’ we didn’t use that word when I was in high school, that was how it left me) in the intermission discussion with the director.

    He claimed that the key to Tosca’s performance (and how he was having this cast play things) was that she was secretly attracted to Baron Scarpia, because he was just such a sexy, sexy guy, and so there was her moral conflict! Not – how can I save my lover from the police state, without betraying his or my ideals? but that she really wanted to give in to the blackmailing creep!

    Now, for non-opera-junkies, Tosca briefly, and avoiding major spoilers, was a hit musical based off a hit stage play which was VERY controversial when it came out because it was set in relatively recent times (at the time) instead of Long Ago And Far Away, and instead of being about kings and princesses and so on, it was unromantically set in the mundane world of an oppressive government regime, with political prisoners and secret police and the main couple are 1) a wildly popular singer, 2) her artist boyfriend, who’s a dissident, but so far has managed not to get himself arrested, with the other main character being their nemesis, 3) the sadistic head of the secret police in the city, who has been drooling after Ms. Tosca and now has the chance to get what he wants. (Angelotti is a MacGuffin.)

    There’s also stuff about the cozy relationship between Church & State, about revolution and disappointment and patriotism and what it all really means, which made it such a red-hot potato back in 18whatever, nothing like nowadays of course, but that’s all background to the Romance with Capital-R and Tragedy of the woman in love, the idiot if idealist boyfriend (if he’d only trusted her–!), and the villain who isn’t just content to get her in his bed, but wants to destroy them both psychologically as well as physically.

    See, Scarpia boasts about this, in his blasphemous solo (religious hypocrisy also features big in Tosca) when he rants about how he isn’t a Nice Guy, he just wants the conquest:

    She will come for love of her Mario!
    And for love of Mario she will yield
    To my pleasure. Such is the profound misery
    Of profound love … For myself the violent conquest
    Has stronger relish than the soft surrender.
    I take no delight in sighs or vows
    Exchanged at misty lunar dawn.
    I know not how to draw
    Harmony from guitars, or horoscopes
    From flowers, nor am I apt at dalliance,
    Or cooing like the turtle dove. I crave.
    I pursue the craved thing, sate myself and cast it by,
    And seek new bait. God made diverse beauties
    As he made diverse wines, and of these
    God-like works I mean to taste my full.

    Then he gloats to her about exactly how he’s having Mario tortured to give up his contacts in the resistance, and how it’s all her fault because he traced her when she went after idiot-idealist-artist boyfriend because his lying to her about his after-work plans convinced her he was cheating on her, and then he tells her that he’ll get Mario off from being executed for treason, iff she has sex with Scarpia. And she has to decide what to do, and which moral principle to violate, for the sake of the other.

    It’s grand opera, so nobody gets a happy ending, BUT–

    She’s the person the play is named after, she’s the one who in the grip of superior force nevertheless calls the shots (I can’t say more without major spoilers of the climax, and yes, sexual double-entendre intended) in so far as an individual caught by the state can, and she gets the last word in the end. And nowhere in the lyrics can you find a single hint that she’s the least bit “stirred” in any way than fear, disgust, and hatred by the Baron.

    So for this director to claim that the “real” dramatic tension in the scene wasn’t 1) OMG he’s torturing my boyfriend !?! 2) And he wants me to let him screw me!?! or else he’ll kill him!?! 3) How on earth can I get us out of this?!? which seems like more than enough dramatic tension for any show, but rather 1) OMG he’s torturing my boyfriend and he wants me to screw him or else, and I SHOULD be upset about that BUT 2) OMG he’s So Hawt!!! just seemed to me at the time to be doing Tosca’s character a gross disservice.

    But at the time I hadn’t read any feminist or countercultural critique, so I couldn’t say exactly why this was so wrong a “reinterpretation.” (I’ve since encountered several similar attempts to claim that despite the title of the play and who gets most of the good lines and the determining actions, Antigone isn’t really the protagonist of Sophocles’ Antigone…needless to say, always by male scholars!)

  6. says

    This gives me a lot to think about.

    When I was able to watch Robin Hood, I was pretty convinced they were aiming the show straight at women. Most of the fan service type shots seem to be half-naked or sexy men, it is so very very easy to read homoerotic tension between most of the characters (Guy may want Robin, but Much will kill him if he tries anything), Ninja!Marian, etc. (This, of course, says a lot about the folks I was hanging out with. Oh, do I miss Robin Hood Drinking Nights.)

    I’d have to rewatch again to see if I still think that – my notions of How Things Are Done have changed quite a bit over the last 18 months or so.

    I read Minghella’s comments as his own bloody issues, but then, I don’t know as much about the industry as you do.

    The stuff you mention here about the Industry is disturbing – the Mo Movie Measure makes a movie about the women and thus bad? *weeps* No wonder the only movies I can think of that pass it are “women friendship” movies. *sigh*

    Lots of think about.

    [Although having been unable to watch Season 2, it was somehow gratifying to watch one of the clips and immediately break out into “WHAT IS SHE WEARING?” It was like old times! Oh, Robin Hood – how you made me drink.]

  7. says

    Royal,

    I loved SG too, and I’m in the minority that thinks they handled their “similar situation” about as well as they could, given limitations. But overall, the writing on that show was weak with occasional inspired bits. *sigh*

    I should have explained that a little better. I don’t think that romance necessarily entertains the female demographic, in fact I often loathe it, but I believe wirters and producers (especially male ones) believe that it does.

    Yes, certainly. BUT… is that what they’ve been writing? Guy backhanding her father is somehow romantic by someone’s standards? Guy leaving his own baby to die – and she knows

    this – is a turn-on? I really think in this case they were going for something different than the usual TV crap. And I think that worried the studio.

    However, the scene after Edward’s death a couple weeks ago, was extremely creepy.

    I’m totally not seeing that he’s been more “romantic” this series. They’ve had him doing the whole Big Bad Wolf “let me in” at the door, trying to score a quickie out of her father’s death, etc. There’s been something vile in almost every episode. At least last season he took her to that silver arrow competition without seeming especially loathsome.

    Did Minghella really say “women like em rough”?! If he did, and if he is operating on that assumption, he is clearly not understanding the relationship on screen.

    He as well as said it. He started fumbling for the words on the DVD commentary, and then Jonas Armstrong finished the sentence for him, “Women like ‘em rough?” and he agreed. At which point the actors strongly disagreed.

    You can read MY strong feelings about the myth that women crave dangerous men at http://thehathorlegacy.com/the-misogynist-who-gets-the-girls-is-a-male-fantasy/. It is NOT something producers are saying in jest – most people really believe this because “there have been STUDIES on it” – by soft scientists who utterly fail to account for the problem of separating culture from genetic influence on behavior. I mean, let’s take a woman who DOES seem to like dangerous men. How can you possibly separate her upbringing from her biology and prove it’s her nature causing her to like them rather than her nurture? It cannot be done, and yet these constant studies come out, and people who desperately cling to the belief that women and men are vastly different parade them as fact. I mean, for heaven’s sake, there was a recent study which “proved” women like pink for evolutionary reasons. Upon further analysis, it was a bullshit interpretation of a tiny, poorly constructed sample pool, but it still hit the TV news as Further Proof That Women And Men Really Are Different So If Women Want To Do Men Things, It’s Okay To Shun Them.

    Makes my blood pressure go up thinking about it.

  8. says

    Bellatrys, that IS squicky.

    And, I think, even misogynistic. I think… I’ll try to be brief, because this is a long theory. I think men have a LOT of what I would call rape fantasies. I look at how they write men – slaves to their hormones, unable to resist sexual opportunities no matter how they try – and it functions very much like the female rape fantasy of being whisked off by someone you aren’t supposed to want to be with but really do want to be with. (To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with rape fantasies.)

    The difference is: men with rape fantasies are imagining submissions. Women with rape fantasies are living submission* and fantasizing about a way to get what they want despite it. *(In the sense that ALL women are considered submissive, and the luckiest of us can’t avoid being reminded of this from time to time.)

    For a man to transplant wholesale his “slave to my hormones!” fantasies onto a female character WITHOUT taking into account how much more she is expected to overcome her hormones, how much real physical danger she could be in from failing to do so, etc., is just as bad as deliberately writing her in a degrading style. It’s a failure to recognize that women live on a different planet from men. (This, incidentally, is why writers like Joss Whedon get points from feminists despite all their mistakes: by simply demonstrating that he’s noticed women and men don’t live in the same world, he’s eons ahead of 99% of his counterparts. Sad but true.)

  9. says

    Anna,

    It’s pretty damn rare that a TV show aims for women viewers. Stargate sort of did during its years with Showtime because pay channels have more female viewers and don’t rely on ads and the ratings system like other networks. Canada is just now realizing they should aim for female viewers (because of the information in my links to BW and WSJ), but this is being presented as revolutionary. So I’m assuming RH was going for the usual target audience, and I feel pretty safe in that assumption… but you could be right.

    A third possibility about Minghella’s comments is that they’re both his issues AND the studio’s. There’s always plenty of sexism to go around. (And Minghella does have another show I was utterly unable to watch (Doc Martin) – in 4 episodes, I lost count of all the nasty, overreacting women browbeating poor hapless men after assuming the worst of them when they were really quite harmless, and cheating wives and idiot receptionists the poor men were forced to put up with because it would be Wrong not to give the little gals a pass on their bad behavior, after all they’re just women).

    And yes, the Mo Movie Measure was too much for my screenwriting professors. It was like the women had, like, lives that had nothing to do with the men and WHAT ABOUT THE MEN, WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE MEN because you know the audience doesn’t want to hear two broads gabbing about nail polish colors oh i know they were actually talking about the nuclear arms race but that’s not what the audience will hear.

    It was mind-boggling. Fortunately, having grown up around fundamentalist Christians, I knew how to recognize and incurably insane zealot culture, and I knew there would be no opening those minds. Well, without an axe.

  10. Nialla says

    This would be a good explanation why producers seem to think every TV show or movie MUST HAVE a (heterosexual) romantic subplot, even if the story would work fine (or even better) without romance or sexual tension. I mean, the usual explanation is that “oh, we need a romance to draw in female viewers!”, but I think yours is closer to their actual thought process.

    There are many shows that have started out without a romantic subplot, or at least not hitting the audience over the head with it, and I, a female viewer, just loved it. It’s often not needed and distracts from what was originally the real plot of the show, but almost invariably, if the show goes on long enough, in comes the “romantic” subplots, which often make the characters go totally out of character in order to get the twu luv aspect.

    I’ve lost of how many shows I’ve watched and really liked at the beginning, and quickly lost interest when what drew me to the show was shoved aside for so-called romance. I’m not anti-romance by any means, but it annoys me to no end when TPTB have to create ship between existing characters at the expense of the characters themselves.

    The salt in the wound is when TPTB keep hinting at a possible ship, but don’t ever do anything with it for some reason, such as they’re co-workers or whatever. It gives shippers false hope and the rest of us a reason to bail, but apparently Resolved Sexual Tension isn’t as fun to write as Unresolved Sexual Tension.

    The lemon juice in the papercut is when they do go ahead with one of these relationships, when in the real world it would get one or both fired or transferred, yet little if anything happens if it’s discovered. Men and woman can just be friends and co-workers, though not according to my TV, but just once I’d like to see an affair be the reason for a character’s exit. Longterm consequences are dramatic, but TPTB don’t seem to agree.

  11. says

    It’s really hard for me to judge effectively because I choose to limit my fandom experiences to women-dominated spaces and was surprised to find out there were men who watched Dr Who, for example.

    I’m really really appalled the more I hear about the industry that makes films. I get told “Well, women should just WORK HARDER to get more power!” and I wonder how that would help in an industry that seems to think that women aren’t a worthwhile demographic to begin with.

  12. Royal says

    I loved SG too, and I’m in the minority that thinks they handled their “similar situation” about as well as they could, given limitations. But overall, the writing on that show was weak with occasional inspired bits. *sigh*

    Agreed. There are some very inspired episodes, but, mostly, the wirting is just really snappy and loaded with witty quips, but not always substantial. Some episodes, though, really dig into the meat of moral issues such as “Abyss”. Netflix actually recommended RH to me on the basis of my SG-1 and Richard Armitage DVD habits respectively lol.

    Yes, certainly. BUT… is that what they’ve been writing? Guy backhanding her father is somehow romantic by someone’s standards? Guy leaving his own baby to die – and she knows

    this – is a turn-on? I really think in this case they were going for something different than the usual TV crap. And I think that worried the studio.

    Very interesting comment and I think you are right there. Guy was not being painted as a potential love interest really at all. The illegitimate son epiusode, for example, made him utterably digusting to me, although they conveniently swept that under the rug. In fact, I think they reset button that one. It is probably more of a miscommunication between writers,director, actors and producers. Minghella has always said he wanted Guy to seem like a viable option for Marian. Additionally, I just heard (from a clip of a S2 DVD special feauture) that Minghella and Allan wanted Guy to be the failed Robin of sorts. If that was their intent, I think they could have gone about it better.

    In this clip (I’m not sure if BBCA aired this or not) RA talks about how each writer wrote something for the Guy/Marian relationship each episode. Perhaps this method of wirting the show resulted in inconsistencies:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=_j6lcb_PBnQ

    They’ve had him doing the whole Big Bad Wolf “let me in” at the door, trying to score a quickie out of her father’s death, etc.

    The “create new life” line has got to be the worst pick-up ever. However, I think he only meant they should start a family, home and married life together (at least that seems to have been his intention so far).

    As for the Big Bad Wolf, I think it should be noted that Marian uses Guy as well. They have a very dysfuncitonal relationship. He uses brute force and coercion, she manipulates subtly. I also found it interesting how the “kiss” scene from last week’s ep played. If one didn’t know better, you would think that Marian was the one entirely in control.

    Moving back to Minghella’s comments, I think it is just plain silly, in addition to being offensive, that Marian would be attracted to Guy solely because he’s rouhg and or good looking. The strongest attraction for Marian, I believe, is the practicality of such a match. Guy has money, can give her protection, and seems to treat her decently enough. Those sorts of things would play more into any attraction she had for him than his villainy.

    However, one might be able to make an argument that Marian herself (she is pragmatic) might be attracted to the directness of Guy’s methods. She wouldn’t want to use them for evil, but I think she thinks about resorting to such techniques. The episode last week, in which she started to torture Carter actually really surprised me. She has more in common with Guy than Robin does, I think.

    It’s pretty damn rare that a TV show aims for women viewers. Stargate sort of did during its years with Showtime because pay channels have more female viewers and don’t rely on ads and the ratings system like other networks.

    I actually asked (on a blog) Joe Mollozzi, showrunner for Stargate:Atlantis and a wirter for SG-1, what the demos for the ‘Gates looked like. He said SG-1 had more women than men watching (maybe 60-40 or 55-45). Atlantis is closer to 50/50. That is a pretty high female audience for a Sci-fi show. He said they weren’t dong anything in the show to directly target women, but they do put in fanservice, and, given the ratio of female viewers, results in some things that seem female targeted. RH struck me as having a similar breakdown, but I have no idea what the numbers are. There is a lot of female type fanservice in the show as Anna noted. The gratuitous shirt changing scenes, (it has happend so much with Guy that my brothers have labelled it Gis-porn lol) wet scenes, and that’s just Guy! Allan seems to be getting alot as well (especially that gratuitous shirtless torture scene–well mostly gratuitous).

    Something I haven’t seen alot of, though, and I’m glad, is the strange phenomenon of “whump” it is not just a belief of producers that women like to see the hero of the show wounded and vulnerable, I have seen many female fans enjoy and or request more of such stuff. I haven’t seen all of S2 yet, and who knows what’s in store for S3. I think it’s safe to say there is some female fanservice in RH, but I think your target assesment is correct. I heard Minghella say that he designed it partly with his son in mind–he was trying to make it hipper and smoother like a video game/anime. RA commented,though, that they had a wide family target in mind, so maybe they tried to hit everyone. Perhaps S2 is more aimed at women?

    Royal

  13. says

    Anna,

    I get told “Well, women should just WORK HARDER to get more power!” and I wonder how that would help in an industry that seems to think that women aren’t a worthwhile demographic to begin with.

    I got told that, too. “Just write what sells for now, and become a producer – THAT’S where the real power is, and then you can make films with women and stuff.” Only… hardly anyone has done this. And it’s not that no one wants to – after all, I was not the only one sitting there making these arguments. There were other young women and men pointing out successful movies and shows featuring women and people of color who defied what we were being told about “what the audience wants.”

    The professor even agreed. LOTS of film professionals I’ve talked to agree that there’s more than one way to interpret demographics and ratings (we were even shown a documentary about how wildly inaccurate the Nielson’s are, and the title was something about the Emperor and new clothes).

    Once I realized a sizable minority of people knew the truth, and yet nothing had changed in all these years, I no longer believed the system could be changed from within, so to speak.

    Royal,

    They have a very dysfuncitonal relationship.

    From the start, I’ve seen Marian as someone’s idea of what young women must have gone through in those years, before anyone remotely began to think women had a right to live unmarried and do what they wanted. She makes snide comments about men, talks about both her father and Robin failing to be there for her, etc. From the start, there’s a sort of glumness in LG’s portrayal that makes me feel this is a woman who knows she won’t be allowed to live as she sees fit for very long, because some man or men will interfere, because they always do.

    What comes across on screen is, of course, a mishmash because of the inconsistent writing.

    But what I inferred – and what could have been so brilliant if they’d made it more clear, especially given later events, ahem – is that ALL the men (Edward, Robin and Guy) in Marian’s life have disappointed her because they want to protect her rather than encourage her to live as she sees fit. Robin is reckless and arrogant; Guy is crazy; Edward is weak. None of them can give her what she most wants, which is simply freedom. Everything the three of them offer comes with strings attached. THAT is what makes Guy a remotely viable option – the shortcomings of Robin and Edward, not any trait of Guy’s.

    Marian didn’t choose to have a relationship with Guy. As soon as he showed interest, she was in for it – to turn down the Sheriff’s right hand man would arouse suspicions about her loyalties. And as we’ve seen, Guy doesn’t take no for an answer, even when he seems all shy and awkward and almost endearing in his entreaties and his “You’re ashamed of your hair – I thought of that – I have a gift” (except it always ends up creepy). So, having been dragged into a relationship with him, she does her best to make it work for her on some level. I’m not sure if that’s dysfunctional, or hyperfunctional. They’re both using each other, but I do believe he was the only one who really had options in the scenario.

    Until this point in S2 that we’re now at. She’s reached a point where she’s on equal, if slippery, footing with him. But again… it was his choices that brought her into his life, not the other way around.

    Nialla,

    I’m pretty much convinced the reason S4 of SG-1 suddenly introduced the “why of course Sam and Jack have always had the hots for each other” plotline that pretty much no one saw coming was an attempt to revamp the show for the young male demographic. My theory is that they thought the solution was to amp up Jack’s studliness – which required downplaying Daniel’s attractiveness and making it clear that Sam’s just wild about him despite the 100 things wrong with that scenario.

    I wish they’d settled for having guest stars swoon over Jack, but again, you can’t have an available female NOT lusting after him, especially one who knows him better than the guest stars, because that would arouse suspicion. /eye roll

  14. Royal says

    Back again, must say, I love this discussion very different POVs here. Plus, lots of SG-1 references! I’ve been thinking of starting a thread for this RH incarnaiton over in the “other” section a Gateworld–it’s a great forum and has fun posters. That, and SG-1 is one of the few serials that I actually watch/watched. Have to admit, Danny and Jack are some of my fave TV characters.

    Until this point in S2 that we’re now at. She’s reached a point where she’s on equal, if slippery, footing with him. But again… it was his choices that brought her into his life, not the other way around.

    Ok, I can agree to that premise. It is certainly Guy’s (and the Sheriff’s) deeds that brought her into the position she’s in. In fact, this rmeinds me of something that Edmund Burke said about Ireland (he was form the country himself). He noted that British opression had forced many Irish to become deceptive because it was the only way they could practice their faith, be educated or even, in many cases, get a livelihood. That analysis of Irish-British affairs can be debated, but it applies to the RH situation. I think Guy has done the same to Marian. His opressive attentions and actions have forced her to become a manipulator. I don’t think she would have gone out of her way to use him had he not kept following her, as she said, “like a spaniel”.

    I also agree with your observation about Guy being unlike Edward and Robin. He is especially unlike Edward. He is not weak. I atcually saw a slightly disturbing comment on a youtube video once (it was in jest, I hope), but the commentor noted “Guy would probably stab someone for you”. Perhaps that might be attractive to Marian. Guy would stab anyone Marian wanted him to as long as the Sheriff didn’t countermand he rorders. Actually, in S1 Ep9, where Guy refused to follow through with Marian’s plan and the blackpowder inventor was killed, I think Marian was truly disappointed in Guy for not listening to her. I don’t think it was simply because he did not do what was right. The scene at the close of the ep where the two are staring at each other, they don’t say a thing, but you can see how crushed Marian is, I actually thought she looked like she had lost someone, namely, Gisborne. Not to death, but the dark side for good. Granted, she could have been thinking of the murdered prisoner, but, perhaps, she thought Guy might be saved up until that point.

    I atcually think this youtube vid to Alanis Morisette’s “Uninvited” advances an interesting take on their relaitonship: WARNING MAJOR S2 SPOILAGE:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=ei4BmZweubU

    I wish they’d settled for having guest stars swoon over Jack, but again, you can’t have an available female NOT lusting after him, especially one who knows him better than the guest stars, because that would arouse suspicion. /eye roll

    Interesting take on that, it did seem to come out of nowhere (I actually enjoy Sam/Jack ship so I wasn’t totally off-put, but it was very abrupt). However, there were warning signs. I watched the series in a relativly short period of time (about a year on DVD). I noticed a little bit of stuff in S1 and especially in S3. There was always flirtation between the two. I don’t see why it would be necessary to go beyond that to keep the audience less suspicious. I thought S/J occurred, at least in part, due to the fans wanting it.

    S4 also had Freya/Annise played by Vanessa Angel. They were having the host and the Goa’uld (ewww!) lust after Jack and Daniel respectively. I could totally buy that character being brought on board to fufill the ufnction you’re talking about. There was such a negative fan backlash, though, (at least I’ve read) that she had to be taken out of the season. Some of the writers/producers indicated coporate had pressured them to add the character due to the popularity of 7 of 9 on Voyager.

    I think you are right about Marian and freedom, though. She said as much when she told Robni she wanted to go out as the Nightwatchman one last time before she had to be Guy’s wife, and take up all of those duties.

    Royal

  15. says

    He is not weak. I atcually saw a slightly disturbing comment on a youtube video once (it was in jest, I hope), but the commentor noted “Guy would probably stab someone for you”. Perhaps that might be attractive to Marian.

    I couldn’t disagree more. First, Guy IS weak. All bullies are weak. They can be freakin’ tough adversaries, which some people confuse with strength, but they are at base weak, and I’ve taken more than a few of them apart just by laughing in their faces and calling their bluffs (note: children, don’t try this at home).

    Marian couldn’t tolerate the idea of Robin killing Allan to protect her secrets – I can’t see her liking the idea of anyone killing for her. If anyone’s going to kill for Marian, it’ll be Marian.

    There’s actually a lot of SG-1 chatter in the archives here (use the “Search by show/movie” link and find the SG-1 tag. Anise was definitely meant to bring in little boy viewers, and so was the Sam/Jack thing. The flirtation you refer to in earlier seasons was of a very different tenor than the S4+ stuff. Before that, they were simply adults who weren’t blind to each other’s attractions, but who respected each other as officers and teammates too much to even think of taking it further. Then RCC and Brad Wright misinterpreted that as “awkwardness” (from a DVD commentary) which was like, “Did you watch the same show we watched?” and started writing something more like Sam as a lovelorn teen and Jack as… well, I’m sure they intended reciprocation, but as fans pointed out, RDA didn’t go along with it and looked more constipated than wistful.

  16. MaggieCat says

    But what I was more often told was that young male viewers would assume Something Gay Was Going On if you had an attractive man and woman in the same space for long without a shred of latent mutual attraction. *I* am not saying the audience is that homophobic; that’s what I was told the industry believed.

    I do agree with the “something gay is going on” observation. I honestly do think that happens. to some extent, among viewers. I don’t think they are that homophobioc either, but I do think it happens.

    I can’t help but think they created this problem for themselves, what with their constant repetition that UST is the only kind of tension that matters. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if after being trained for so long to think that any unattached (and sometimes not) man and woman were probably going to end up involved at some point it even swept the cast and led to a certain amount of male/male pairings that fans see in shows. (Not all, just some.)

    Their own agenda has bit everybody in the ass and now even if some shows don’t two want characters together, they can’t rule it out completely without risking alienating fans who’ve simply picked up on the pattern recognition they’ve been taught since the beginning of time (also known as the beginning of television). Or worse, finding out a character who’s been set up as evil/off limits has a following, and retconning them to be more acceptable as a love interest.

    It’s really hard for me to judge effectively because I choose to limit my fandom experiences to women-dominated spaces and was surprised to find out there were men who watched Dr Who, for example.

    Heh, there’s an interview from way back where RTD said that after the first series aired, he was amazed at the number of women who approached him saying they were fans of the show. Which given my love of Jackie and Blon/Margaret (I know not everyone loves “Boom Town”, I adamantly disagree) and fondness for (1st series) Rose means he’s writing good female characters even when he doesn’t realize how many of us are watching. Damn, I’m going to miss him when he leaves DW.

  17. Royal says

    I couldn’t disagree more. First, Guy IS weak. All bullies are weak. They can be freakin’ tough adversaries, which some people confuse with strength, but they are at base weak, and I’ve taken more than a few of them apart just by laughing in their faces and calling their bluffs (note: children, don’t try this at home).

    Bullies are weak, and Guy is morally weak, but I think it is quite clear that he is not only physically strong, but willing to go through with the dirty work. Perhaps a better word would be ruthless. As you pointed out above, Sir Guy is a bit loony. He doesn’t back down easily and is not afraid to use extreme force. I think if anyone tried to call his bluff, so to speak, it could end badly.

    That being said, he is very weak in several regards. He is clearly terrified of the Sheriff. The reaosns for this have not been made entirely clear. Additionally, he usually lacks the moral fortitude to do what is right. He managed to do some semblance of the decent thing when he didn’t allow those children to be killed in S2 Ep3. But Edward is weak in many ways, and it was tragic that he died when he tried to be stronger. Marian pushed him, in a way that was quite similar to the way she pushes Guy. Guy is weak in some respects, and even ineffectual in combat (when the writers put in silly action sequences in which he misses close, defenseless targets!), but he is not what I would describe as weak.

    Marian couldn’t tolerate the idea of Robin killing Allan to protect her secrets – I can’t see her liking the idea of anyone killing for her. If anyone’s going to kill for Marian, it’ll be Marian.

    Is it possible she only felt that way because it was Robin doiing the killing? She didn’t mind Guy running Winchester through for her sake. I can see her balking, perhaps, at Robin doing the same. I can see her having Guy kill people for her (if she couldn’t herself)–bad ones of course, but I can see her allowing it. Or, at the very least, having him assist her in said action. She is a tough woman, but also a bit of a pragmatist. If she could use Guy to wipe out Prince John, she might do it.

    About SG-1, yeah I heard that too. Apparently it was teh scene in the S2-3 two parter right? Where O;Neill has Sam pulled close with his hand ove rher mouth? It was strange how not much came from RDA’s side later on in the ship. It was as though, after that little talk after the zatarc detection, Jack turned off any feelings for her. That is not entirely true, though, because he seemed a little “wistful”, as you say, during Window of Opportunity. I wish they had written it better. Itroduce some more drama. As it stood, they pretty much hit the reset button, unless they wanted to specifically highlight it.

    Royal

  18. says

    Maggie, I totally agree it’s their programming that taught us all to expect any unattached males and females to be paired off by the end of the story. And now it’s limiting their creativity – and the entertainment available to those of us who are open to stories where about people who aren’t attractive to everyone they encounter.

    Royal, Guy is just a robot with buttons. The sheriff pushes those buttons as much as Marian, and Guy marches in a straight line until someone pushes a different button. Strong or weak, it’s barely human. It’s clear to me – though I don’t know if the writers realize they’ve implied it, since they seem to cut and paste from other shows without realizing what context does to meaning – the Sheriff has been a sort of adoptive father to Guy since childhood, and he’s spent that time trying to mold Guy into as big a sociopath as Vasey is, to extend his ego. Which would explain both Guy’s dysfunctions and Vasey’s hold over him.

    I didn’t take Marian as not minding Guy killing Winchester. I thought it just happened before she could stop it and she automatically didn’t make a fuss because she’s always pretending to be someone she’s not around Guy and the Sheriff.

  19. says

    Royal, I think you need to read about the classical distinction between Morally Strong and Morally Weak characters, ably laid out in modern terms with plenty of examples by C.J. Cherryh, who does an admirable job of embodying this (imo) in her own fic.

    The word “faulos” [φαυλος] which in modern Greek means “villain” according to the dictionary, in ancient Gk had the connotations of “petty, low, mean, thoughtless” – that is to say, the unthinking brute who just acts for his own gain and out of impulse, no matter how physically strong and/or politically powerful he might be. The classic fannish example is your standard Evil Overlord who doesn’t take precautions and kills his minions in fits of rage at the results of his own mistakes.

    Contrasted with this is the “spoudaios” character, someone who lives out the ideals of generosity and duty to others because this is what they believe in – it combines the qualities of Autonomy and Altruism in equal amounts, which pretty much means it’s the de facto baseline for your stock superhero or superheroine.

    Wonder Woman is about as spoudaios as you can get, frex. But it doesn’t really entail having worldly power: the possession of physical or political power is largely irrelevant to whether or not someone is Morally Strong, spoudiaos, at least when we are dealling with a fully-formed mature character (obviously if you’re raised in an abusive and imprisoning situation, your capacity for autonomy and altruism are going to be severely compromised.) Prometheus in chains and being tortured daily for his “crime” of helping Uplift humanity is still heroic, and Zeus comes off as the petty, selfish, contemptible one for all his thunderbolts.

    (It’s funny to see how modern male scholars try to recreate Kreon as the real hero of the Antigone, so desperate are they to make it All About The Menz, that they can’t even see that the ancient Athenians could sometimes rise above their own cultural programming and write a “lawful evil” character, being rightfully confronted by a spoudaios heroine, and losing everything because of his selfishness.)

    A very Shorter Difference Between Strong & Weak (with classical references) would be this:

    A child rides a horse over fences, gaining the competition trophy. Which is the stronger creature?

  20. Royal says

    Guy is just a robot with buttons. The sheriff pushes those buttons as much as Marian, and Guy marches in a straight line until someone pushes a different button. Strong or weak, it’s barely human.

    I agree with that to some extent and I know RA was playing Guy that way in, at least, the first half of S1. Also, he made that comment about humanity being weakness in Ep6 which sounded Vulcan lol. I think he is cold, but not completely robotic because he is moved by various passions such as anger, jealousy and love/lust.

    The episode last night (Lardner’s Ring) he showed some real emotion when it came to Marian. I think, by S2, Guy really does love her and is not so much interested in manipulating her as he is in just being with her, or protecting her. After all, until the Sheriff re-asserted mind control, he let Marian go with no strings attached. There;’s a brief clip on youtube from the S2 DVD special feautures in which Lucy Griffiths and Richard Armitage dicuss the nature of their character’s motivations in a little more detail:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=D8tb-uvwAc0&feature=related

    More on the robotic aspects:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2C6MJZfNFk&NR=1

    That clip includes more from Minghella himself lol.

    I think you’re right aboutthe Sheriff and Guy, but I won’t go too far into that because that;s fairly off topic (I’m terrible about diverting dicussions like that). I think there might be a little Stockholm Syndrome gong on.

    Finally, abotu Marian and Winchester, it is possible it just happend too fast, but I realy don’t think she minded. In fact, I think she planned to kill him herself.

    Royal

  21. says

    Do have a look at Bellatrys’ links, Royal.

    I watched your clips, and… first, the producers have SO not put across what they think they put across. There’s a huge essential difference between Robin and Guy, and it is that Guy demonstrates the sort of damage that happens to a personality when someone’s abused as a child and never gets the chance to recover properly. Bits of the person shut down. He functions, but he doesn’t live. For example, Marian’s lack of interest in marrying him wasn’t a problem; he didn’t say “She’ll come to love me.” It simply didn’t compute or didn’t matter, because he has no idea what real “wanting” or “loving” is. He doesn’t know other people experience those things because they’re missing from his experience.

    I have the benefit of having seen all of S2, which makes this considerably more clear. At this point you’re SUPPOSED to think maybe he really loves her. You’re not supposed to have noticed that his only apparent acts of compassion are completely self-centered: he rescues boys, because he identifies with them. He rescues Marian because he wants her.

    RA’s take on Gisborne is coming from what the character would believe of himself. Everyone believes they’re doing the right thing. Hitler did. Vasey – like any sociopath – thinks he’s only doing what everyone wants to do, but lacks the nerve.

    But the writers, I’m more convinced than ever, are just stupid. They don’t get people or motivations at all. They just cut and paste bits from other shows with no understanding what they’re putting across.

  22. says

    BC, that’s totally how the Sheriff reads to me. And, sadly, I like the Sheriff. He’s entertaining. Much like a lot of villains.

    It’s interesting to me how many people are fascinated by villains – from Tom Riddle to Vassey to Garrik in DS9. They have the best lines, after all. They have “hidden depths” – from Vassey’s love for his sister, Tom Riddle’s abusive childhood, Garrik’s having been a spy, etc. They have depths in movies because those of us who aren’t sociopaths want to understand, I think.

    And yet, I’ve dated a sociopath. It strangely wasn’t like that. He didn’t have hidden depths, I just kept wanting there to be some.

  23. SunlessNick says

    There are many shows that have started out without a romantic subplot, or at least not hitting the audience over the head with it, and I, a female viewer, just loved it. It’s often not needed and distracts from what was originally the real plot of the show, but almost invariably, if the show goes on long enough, in comes the “romantic” subplots, which often make the characters go totally out of character in order to get the twu luv aspect. - Nialla

    Lost comes with another foetid example in the Jack/Kate/Sawyer “love triangle,” which fails on many counts, not least the fact that I can’t see what any of them would see in each other, at least for a relationship rather than a one-off. We’re told that Jack and Sawyer represent ideal men for two different sides of Kate, but what that really means in practice is that Kate’s characterisation is spewed all over the map when it comes to Jack and Sawyer; she’s jammed into two niches irrespective of whether she fits. She’s also sidelined by both of them when it comes to adventuring, more so than they do each other; which essentially reduces her to a nuance in the relationship between the two of them.

    [Off topic a little, but I’d also suggest that everything that love triangle is supposed to offer is done better by other relationships. Kate’s with Sayid I find infinitely more touching, because they [i]do[/i] adventure together, and respect each other; and the “two sides of her” element is served by the fact that Sayid is living through the same dichotomy. If Jack is supposed to “bring the best out of a bad girl,” he has a much more suitable bad girl in Juliet. If Sawyer is the “bad boy with the hidden heart of gold,” I find evidence of that more compelling when it’s shown to characters he doesn’t want to fuck, such as his eventual protectiveness towards Hurley]

  24. Royal says

    bellatrys,

    Thanks much for the links. That was an interesting and enlightening read. When I used the phrase “morally weak” to refer to Guy, I meant 2 things:

    1) He does not have the fortutude of chracter act in a moral way. “Moral” of course, is defined in many different ways by differnet philosophers, but, most agree, it is not a simple thing to do. It requires sacrifice on some level. It necessariy has to because it requires us to stifle base inclination.

    2) I was also thinking of the Aristotelian “akrasia” or weakness of will. Aristotle used this to explain how one could know what was right and yet do wrong. Socrates/Plato argued that if one knew what was truly good, one would always act in a good way (intellectualism).

    It is abundantly clear that Guy understands what he is doing is wrong (the whole “wash away my sins” speech), but he fails to do “right”. He is seeking land and title and is willing to do anything to achieve that, but, obviously some things are even repulsive to him (such as allowing Marian to die). It is obvious that he is sadistic, but that is just another form of akrasia.

    He is akratic, but effective (unless he is up against the outlaws in which case he consistently fails). It’s not that he is faraid to do what is right, like Edward was, he has a weak will. This could certainly connect to the things Beta was saying about an abusive upbringing.

    As for Kreon being the hero of Anitgone, that is just silly. It would be interesting to re-write the story where that is the case, but it clearly is not. He has all the features of a tyrant that was one of the greatest fears of many ancient Greeks. Even Plato, who argued against democracy, warned about tyrants. It was Kreon’s tyrannical obsitnancy that led him to destory himself and his son. Hardly the hero in that story!

    He functions, but he doesn’t live.

    This, I agree with. I think Guy is so enamored of Marian because she makes him feel alive.

    Royal

  25. says

    Anna,

    You know, that may be why I don’t enjoy sociopaths on film. My father is a diagnosed NPD and I suspect several other family members are as well. (NPD is one of the diagnoses we’re really talking about when we say “sociopath.”) Out of self-defense, I developed tremendous insight into that personality type and later had the great, rare fortune of getting it all confirmed by a psychiatrist.When I see it, I just want to run the other way.

    Now, I adore Garak, but don’t see him as a sociopath. I see him as someone who, like me, had a very challenging upbringing that demanded he – like a sociopath – sacrifice some emotional development in favor of extreme functionality. But I think by the end of the series, it’s clear he’s capable of real compassion, and that’s the dividing line between sociopaths (who are beyond help) and damaged people who can be good to others.

    Vasey, I would label an APD or even NPD – definitely a sociopath. The only reason I enjoy him is that Keith Allen is hilarious.

    Guy… I don’t think he’s an APD or NPD, but I think he’s beyond your standard abusive male partner who worships a woman until she makes him mad, lashes out and then apologizes. To explain how stupidly he falls for Marian’s excuses, he would have to also have a powerful delusion, a projected imaginary woman he sees when he looks at her. It’s the delusion he “loves” and when Marian doesn’t behave like his delusion, it’s not that he gets mad at her as a person, it’s that he’s lashing out to protect the delusion. Which is indicative of some kind of personality disorder, which means he’s more crazy and beyond redemption than most abusive partners. Especially given the rest of the series, that’s the only way I can make sense of him.

    Admittedly, the stuff that seems “obvious” to me is not even on most people’s radar, and there’s no reason it should be. Except when you’re writing about abusive personalities and their relationships with sensible, sane women, I think you owe it to the rest of us to study some psychology and know WTF you’re implying if you write this or that. It’s like what we’ve talked about with rape: for fuck’s sake, don’t use rape as a plot device without considering what your story events in effect say about the victim (which on TV is usually that she’s NOT a victim and is in fact the bad person making up lies or that she deserved it). By the same token that you should research government nuclear facilities before writing a story that takes place inside one if you want to be credible, you should research the personality types or abuse profiles you intend to write about.

  26. says

    Anna, BC, I also come from a tremendously disfunctional and (mostly verbal, but always backed up with threats of violence) abusive family, and one of the hardest things has been working out the unreason which is disguised by words and “logical” arguments from the authority figures (both father and mother, in different ways.)

    I’ve come to realize that in a very real way, all of us kids – and everyone else – were just “extras” to them as the main characters, and we didn’t really exist to them, and are/were constantly getting rewritten in their heads to match their fictional narrative needs – and then getting in trouble when we failed to play out parts as the supporting cast. (This has ramifications in that my family is a semi-public one in a certain sphere, and so I ‘ve had the jarring experience of following a blog link and hitting some total stranger talking about how “uplifting” and “wonderful” my personal past was, at least as described by somebody else in writings in which I was an extra! I have a lot of things I have been wanting to say about ‘appropriation’ for many years now, but I keep getting tripped up by the flashbacks.) There’s a sadistic narcissist manipulator in one of Dave Weber’s novels who’s described by one of his colleagues, who is thinking about what a schmuck he is, as thinking that he’s surrounded by cardboard cutouts of people, that nobody’s really real to him, and that description has stuck hard.

    Not to go on about myself, so much, as to say that this seems to be a common pathology given that we have all experienced it (the keeping on looking for the hidden depths bit rings bells, too!) but it’s also very telling that “heroes” are typically written as psychopaths, too – my personal trigger has long been the guy who kills and loses friends and lovers and just blows it off and goes on to new adventures – yes, too much emo manpain and wangst is bad, but it’s miles above the oh well, “nothing and nobody means anything to me” robot-zombie passed off as the Manly Hero. Way back when there were arguments on Usenet about fantasy series where you could only tell the Good Guys from the Bad Guys because the author labeled them, and the Good Guys (TM) had a slightly lower body count/tortured victim count, at the end.

    And it strikes me, as I get my coffee now, that what you’ve describd in this article, from the title on down, is EXACTLY why we have so many fridgings and/or depowerings. I mean, we’ve all identified the pattern – female characters exist solely to provide motivation for the males, not as characters in their own right with their own arcs – but that’s been as naturalists observing it in the wild and classifying the behavior. You’ve got the goods: that’s what they TOLD you from the top down in class!!!

    In fact, if I may make another respectful topic suggestion, you might want to take your insider experience and use it to blow that wide open – it still won’t end the justifying speculation from the desperately-wanna-believe-sexism’s-OVAR crowd, but for everyone else, it will be rather a bit of a smoking gun for tackling genre. (No, Virginia, it really isn’t all random coincidence that so many kickass heroines get reduced to ciphers and body bags, all for the sake of the sweet, sweet manpain!)

  27. says

    Royal, that’s a bit of a definition problem – “moral” being used interchangeably to mean both “internal character” and also the more usual “ethical behavior” – but I don’t think that’s an insurmountable dialectical obstacle.

    The problem is that there are also concepts of “Active” and “Passive” tied up with all this, which is partly where you’ve been getting stuck – and where most people do, IRL as well as in fic, which is why you get people arguing that Magnificent Bastards should be allowed to get away with shit that normal humans shouldn’t (not just poor old Raskolnikov, as I see from way too many forum discussions) and also mistaking acting out for being “active” in the sense of autonomous.

    It’s easy to see the loud, pushy character who creates chaos in their wake as “active” and thus to admire them (being primates, this seems a common monkey-brain temptation, from my readings on our simian cousins’ societal woes) and the quiet, careful person who tends not to interfere as “passive”, and thus weak and contemptible. But as BetaCandy points out, it’s terribly easy to push the buttons of the blusterer, and thus those characters, like Sir Guy and many a Chief Hencher or Evil Overlord’s Lieutanant or minion, are actually passive in the strict sense – they are the ones who get wound up and pushed out to wreak havoc like human bulldozers with no steering gear, and lacking any internal ethical facility makes this much, much easier IRL, at least. If “makes me feel good” is their moral compass, then all you have to do is give them some cathartic violence; if there’s loyalty involved, then you get your typical Authoritarian Personality Type, who needs both someone to bully and someone to tell them what to do, so they’re not faced with the unbearable agony of having to figure things out and make choices on their own.

    Whereas the apparently “passive” soul who doesn’t go around starting trouble, may well be the Zen Master type, who doesn’t “rush in where angels fear to tread,” because s/he is aware of their limitations, or the complexities of the situation – who doesn’t have to go and fight and avenge every slight to their “honor,” every insult, because their self-worth isn’t determined by outside factors – which is the very essence of being active, ie an actor instead of a prop or a weapon for another.

    Of course this is all limited by outside circumstances – if you’re in the Evil Overlord’s dungeon, your autonomy and ability to act is going to be severely limited! But the passive, easily-button-pushed sort is going to have a very different outcome than the autonomous sort, who may well end up controlling their captors (it happens IRL, it’s how captured spies and criminals have gotten away, by being able to act instead of just responding.)

    And thus it says nothing at all about whose causes are good, or bad, or who is good or bad in the service of a bad or good cause. Mooks for the Good side can be just as passive, ethically incapable, and destructive as E.O.’s minions – and we all know about the dangers posed by Lawful Good Paladin-Templar types!

    But socially and as beings of Story we are programmed to see the jumping-around guy as more admirable than the non-jumping around characters, even if our rational overmind thinks that Violence Is A Bad Thing and Tyranny A Bad Thing and yet that all shuts down for a while at least when we get our Spoudaios Protagonist – or even a flimsy facsimile thereof, like Guy of Guisborne – onstage!

    (BTW, while I agree that it’s absurd that Kreon in the play is meant to be anything but an archetypal Tyrant, in thrall to his passions and justifying it by specious appeals to the Law and the Common Good, the defenders I’ve read – two or three, to date – have tried to claim that he was meant to be seen as the Lawful Good victim of the Fates, without even a Tragic Flaw apparently, and all the people who disagree with him (Antigone, Haemon, the Chorus) as being upstart Chaotic rebels who the Athenian audiences would have booed. This requires ignoring the fact that the Gods themselves tell Kreon he’s out of line, via Teiresias, but hey, when has canon ever stopped fanon?)

  28. says

    Bellatrys,

    First off, insert solidarity gesture here. My father was a very important figure in a small town, so I grew up surrounded by people who thought I was spoiled rotten lucky, and took it upon themselves to bring me “down a peg.” The way I’ve described my father’s narcissism is similar to yours, except I think people weren’t even extras to him – they were props. When I, the coffee table, stood up and said something he didn’t want to hear, he always seemed stunned for a moment before he got angry. Like there was no way the coffee table had just spoken.

    I was already thinking I should write another article called “Why UCLA teaches you NOT to pass the Mo Movie Measure test” or something like that, linking to this article and distilling from it that specific part. It might be somewhat redundant of this one, but I think it would serve as a great reference article to point to in later discussions. And… to be honest, I’d never quite put it all together until I was writing that, and now that I have it strikes me as increasingly important the more I reflect on it. Thanks for the suggestion! :)

  29. says

    so I grew up surrounded by people who thought I was spoiled rotten lucky, and took it upon themselves to bring me “down a peg.”

    Yeesh – I (and my sibs) used to get “gee, you’re so lucky, I wish I had *your* family” from my father’s students, and my mother’s friends, but at least not that!

    . And… to be honest, I’d never quite put it all together until I was writing that, and now that I have it strikes me as increasingly important the more I reflect on it. Thanks for the suggestion

    You’re very welcome – it’s great to have it all confirmed from someone who actually has the direct experience, instead of piecing it together (your remark about the impossibility of changing the system from within strikes a chord w/r/t a lot of things I’ve thought about, basically, you can’t ever beat the House, b/c the House makes the rules & changes them, *and* if you stay in long enough to become an insider, you’ve been Borged and no longer want to change them.)

    And of course it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy/excuse that “we just follow the market “- if you only make 90% of your movies about guys, and you don’t take the other 10% seriosly enough to do them right, then of course you’re going to make money off the ones that fit the mold…but who knows how much more you could make if you made ones that were, you know, actually *good* and didn’t just regurgitate stereotypes that insulted over half the human race? But hey, we’d rather blame declining cnema revenues on “vast outside forces” aka video games, VCRs, “cultural trends” etc…just like Detroit!

  30. Royal says

    But as BetaCandy points out, it’s terribly easy to push the buttons of the blusterer, and thus those characters, like Sir Guy and many a Chief Hencher or Evil Overlord’s Lieutanant or minion, are actually passive in the strict sense – they are the ones who get wound up and pushed out to wreak havoc like human bulldozers with no steering gear, and lacking any internal ethical facility makes this much, much easier IRL, at least.

    Bellatrys, thanks for those explanations. I was definitely not making enough distinctions when I discussed my point about Guy’s “weankness”. I agree that Guy can be passive, that he can have his “buttons” pushed by both the Sheriff and Marian, but I think that ignores a fundamental feature of his character–he is driven by the desire to have pretsige,land and title. I think this core, driving force explais much of his behavior and why he submits to the Sheriff’s absuive, intrusive treatment.

    He does what he’s told, he is loyal and is certainly manipulated, but he has a goal in mind. I think that goal and mtovating force does make him more active than a henchman like, say, the Guy of Gisborne seen in the fairly awful Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

    I think Guy does lack autonomy and, perhaps, has some innate inability or fear to make many of his own decisions, but he certainly has some autonomous goals set for himself.

    This discussion is quite interesting. I wish I could add more, but I’m in a hurry at the moment.

    Ttyl,
    Royal

  31. says

    I think that goal and mtovating force does make him more active than a henchman like, say, the Guy of Gisborne seen in the fairly awful Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

    It really is interesting, isn’t it, how even a minor character, an Evil Minion at that, can become so much better dramatically, and the whole production improved, just by making the character a little bit more rounded, giving some motivation and a little nuance, just a tiny bit of gray creates a whole lot of shading on a flat picture after all.

    But the Lowest Common Denominator philosophy – and timid, timid writers – means that mostly either we get baddies (and heroes!) who are pure 100% Cardboard , sprayed with matte-finish paint in Bad or Good from the bottle hues – or else to the other extreme, we get blurry-gray angsty tortured endlessly-justified villains-who-are-just-too-cool with their manpain, and dark, angsty, tortured, torturing asshole “heroes” who are also supposed to be just-too-cool with their manpain, instead of anything approaching variety and balance.

  32. says

    bellatrys, I was thinking about your last paragraph a bit in terms of female characters.

    Villain, hero, a lot of them will have the same backstory (rape! childhood abuse! “I couldn’t save her!”) and be cardboard cutouts, too – and then exist seemingly for the manpain.

    *sigh* boring.

  33. Patrick says

    “Manpain” is one of my new favorite words, with phrases like “behold my manpain” and “my manpain demands it” springing to mind.

  34. Royal says

    or else to the other extreme, we get blurry-gray angsty tortured endlessly-justified villains-who-are-just-too-cool with their manpain, and dark, angsty, tortured, torturing asshole “heroes” who are also supposed to be just-too-cool with their manpain, instead of anything approaching variety and balance.

    So very true, and I must say I love the “manpain” phrase as well lol. Yeah manpain/angst is very big in some anime and many video games. Given the popularity of those two venues, it’s not surprising that it is spreading to other genres as well.

    That, and the concept of it is very appealing, I think, for writers. Cliche manpain/angst is fairly easy to write.

    Royal

  35. says

    Anna, it’s funny ’cause CJC talked about the Spunky!!!Grrrl!! charas who have rape as a cliche motivator in their backgrounds in that essay, which is like ten years old now, and yet we still are tripping over them today…well, I guess it isn’t *funny* at all…8-\

    Patrick, royal, I first encountered the term “manpain” in lesbiassparrow’s indescribably hilarious Jason Bourne: Wuxia Hero, which is one of the funniest and most relevant bits of East-Meets-West comparative culture writing I’ve ever read (Scholarship – now with screencaps! But it really does help seeing it broken down into patterns…)

  36. says

    Excellent post. I just found your blog and I really love it so far.

    The real reason, I was informed, to put women in a script was to reveal things about the men. Any other purpose I assigned to the women was secondary at best, but I could do what I wanted there as long as the women’s purposes never threatened to distract the audience from the purposes of the men.

    this also applies to the gay sidekick syndrome.

  37. Guinivere says

    I have seen both season one and two, and feel that season one is much better than season 2. I hate to say this but the acting between Marian (Lucy Griffiths) and
    Guy (Richard Armitage) is awful. There is no chemistry between the actors and they seem as if they are truly struggling to get thru their lines. I crinch when they come on. I do like Richard Armitage as an actor, but do not feel this was the right role for him. Guy to me seems more like a love sick school boy than a villan trying to take over someone else’s domain. I have to say what disturbed somewhat was the commentary’s on the videos that clearly shows a certain attraction between the two actors (Richard) and (Lucy) off screen and Lucy’s imaturity were she constantly giggles and mentions this is a episode for the Armitage Army. I feel that an actor is a lot more than just his looks. I have to say that Jonas Armstrong and the rest of the cast were excellant, and I think that killing off Marian was the right thing to do because the so called love triangle made the two men look like idiots. I would rather watch them fighting over the holly lands and the people of knottingham.

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