Lately I’ve had so many ideas for new blog posts that decision anxiety has stopped me committing to any of them!
“What do my readers crave? A review of The Imitation Game, the first movie I’ve been to see in a theater since Iron Man 3? Incoherent babbling about how much I love the current season of Elementary? A pros and cons list of whether I should get an undercut? Photo post of me posing with both issues of Bitch Planet?”
Back in the days of LiveJournal, I could have settled this with a quick poll. But Word Press, and indeed every blogging tool I’ve worked with, is inferior to what LiveJournal was before it turned into a wasteland inhabited only by Russian spambots. So, since I cannot quickly and conveniently determine your desires with the resources available to me, I’ll just have to dump everything on you at once and hope everyone gets what they need out of it.
Reviews with minor spoilers for The Imitation Game, Elementary, Bitch Planet, and my ultimate decision re: cutting my hair below the read more.
1. I saw The Imitation Game! I…you know, I enjoyed it. It did its job as a Hollywood movie that I paid $11 to see, in that it kept me in my seat and held my attention for two hours. I thought the performances were excellent. As a biopic of Alan Turing, I felt it could have accomplished a lot more. The film presented him as a successor to the trope of “white male genius gets away with being socially inept and a borderline asshole because he’s a) really good at his job and b) probably autistic or something”, which was boring. Turing actually an asshole in a lot of ways. He certainly wasn’t the innocent, otherworldly manchild stunted by the death of his first schoolboy love that the movie made him out to be. I really enjoyed the parts of the movie that were about his work on the Turing machine, but there were moments in it where I wanted to roll my eyes quite a lot: like Turing covering for a Russian spy for fear of being discovered to be gay, or where it was implied that Turing and the other codebreakers made the unilateral decision not to disclose all the information they decoded. The audience didn’t need quite that much condescending to.
But ultimately, The Imitation Game is a movie queer folks don’t have complete luxury to criticize yet. We’re too busy being happy movies like it can exist now. Still, it’s funny how progress works. We’ve evolved to the point where a film about a white, upper middle class cisgendered gay man can be successful Oscarbait, but movies about women of color are still lagging at the bottom of the pile. Well, one step at a time.
2. Bitch Planet #1 and #2! (io9 review at the link.) I bought these on Wednesday, shortly after issue #2’s release. They weren’t quite what I was expecting (though in retrospect, I’m not sure what I was expecting.) Exploitation as a genre isn’t something I’m super familiar with, but it didn’t take me long to figure out what was happening and roll with the story.
The basic premise of Bitch Planet–patriarchal dystopia where disobedient, “non-compliant” women are imprisoned offworld–invites obvious comparison to The Handmaid’s Tale, but I have issues with the Atwood novel that don’t carry over to Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing. I wasn’t having to wrestle with the plausibility of every woman on Earth suddenly rolling over and giving up her basic autonomy, because the question of plausibility isn’t left up to the reader to decide.
I really love the art. I love the diversity of female body types in the character design, I love the placement of subtle worldbuilding details in the backgrounds of panels, I love the way it’s stylish without being pretty.
I’ll definitely keep reading. Apparently they’re going to blow up a boat or something? Can’t wait for that.
3. Holy shit, Elementary.
(It doesn’t hurt that Kitty looks and dresses like every girl I had a crush on in high school.)
Sometimes a show isn’t good, but it hits your personal buttons so hard that you don’t care–you love it anyway. A show like that is rare enough. When it’s good AND it hits all your buttons, it can be really hard to communicate its awesomeness without resorting to flaily hands. So just imagine me flailing at you throughout this whole review.
I spent the first half of the 00’s in the Mary Russell fandom, devouring Laurie R. King’s novels about Sherlock Holmes’s much younger female apprentice. I’m not longer as enchanted by intergenerational romances as I was in my early 20s but I remain a huge fan of mentor-apprentice stories, and this third season arc, with Sherlock adopting Kitty Winter as his apprentice, thrilled me to my very soul from episode one.
Elementary has done exactly what I used to hope BBC Sherlock would eventually do. When you read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the first collection of Doyle stories, you’ll notice a pattern: most of the best and most famous stories are about young, independent single women who are in danger from one sort of man or another. The Copper Beeches, The Solitary Cyclist, The Speckled Band, they all follow this model, and A Scandal In Bohemia is remarkable for flipping the convention of the helpless woman on its head. When I first found Sherlock Holmes as an 11 year old girl, those stories were really important to me.
For a late Victorian, Doyle gave young independent women a pretty fair shake in his stories. When they came to Holmes with their problems, they weren’t called hysterical, and they weren’t dismissed as having overactive imaginations. Holmes knew perfectly well that the average woman faced more danger in her lifetime than any man, then or now, wanted to admit. There’s a line on this subject from The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax–bafflingly it’s often quoted as “proof” of Holmes’s misogyny:
“One of the most dangerous classes in the world…is the drifting and friendless woman. She is the most harmless and often the most useful of mortals, but she is the inevitable inciter of crime in others.”
Considering that we continue to live in a world where one in four cisgendered women will be a victim of sexual predation in her lifetime (the number for trans women being much higher than that), it seems only normal to me that attention be paid to women’s cases and women’s issues with crime by any modern adaptation of the Doyle canon. But the most BBC Sherlock done in this direction is knocking Irene Adler off the cherished pedestal that female Holmesians have placed her on for a hundred years.
Elementary, on the other hand, looked through the Doyle stories, found the most terrifying predator of women in the whole canon, and elevated his victim to the status of apprentice and equal with Holmes and Watson. Much more than this, they made Kitty Winter the catalyst for enormous personal growth in Sherlock’s personal life, and they didn’t diminish the beauty of that relationship by making them kiss even once.
I am really sorry to see Ophelia Lovibond go. She was so much fun to watch, so easy to believe as Kitty. I loved watching Sherlock and Joan react to her. I sort of they’d give her a show of her own, as she travels the world looking for serial torture-rapists to set on fire. I’d watch the hell out of it.
4. I did it. I got the haircut.
The lower half of my head is bald! No one tell my grandmother.