selenak: (Toby and Andy by Amorfati)
Back when I finished marathoning The West Wing, I went on the lookout for stories about the relationship out of all the many interesting relationships the show offered that had intrigued me the most: that between speechwriter Toby Ziegler and President Jed Bartlet. Alas, there was not much. Now the story I wanted most of all to read would have been a post show having-it-all-out conversation or several, preferably trapped by snow in New Hampshire so neither of them could just leave, but I’d equally been happy with anything set earlier that explored said relationship. Sadly, fandom did not oblige. At a guess, one reason for this was that canonically, both Toby and Jed are eloquent master word smiths, and these aren’t easy to write. I know that’s what intimidated me and meant that when I followed the old advice of “if you can’t find it, write it yourself”, I did NOT write the epic lengthy tale I wanted to read but a short non linear vignette collection. Another reason might have been that a lot of fandom (as well as actor Richard Schiff) was unhappy with Toby’s s7 storyline and found it easier to just ignore it. Yours truly actually did not have this problem in that maybe due to marathoning the show as opposed to living with the characters for years, I didn’t regard it as ooc, but I did want a bit more follow up, as well as looks back. Anyway, all of this resulted in my one and only West Wing tale. (Which you can find here.)

The story of a speechwriter and his politician )
selenak: (Three and Jo by Calapine)
First, a definition of terms. „Heroine“ doesn‘ t mean „favourite character“, i.e. I won’t list my favourite female villains here, or those highly ambiguous ladies like Skyler White. However, I don’t just use “heroine” as equivalent of “main protagonist”, either, but as “female character prone to heroic actions” (which allows me to draft the occasional supporting character *g*). And all the characters I list are fictional. So. This being said. In no particular order:

- Jo Grant (Doctor Who): let’s be honest, I could give a Companions only reply post, and then it would be still incredibly hard to choose just five. But I have an incredibly soft spot for Jo, possibly because she was badmouthed to me so much before I got to “meet” her – she was presented as the epitome of the “bad” Companion, “useless screamer”, “brainless bimbo” and what not. Whereas I found her to be brave, with a talent to escape (Jo’s joke about being an escapologist is fact-founded), funny, kind, very loyal and loving but able to make up her own mind if she disagrees with the Doctor on something, and committed to making the world a better place beyond her time with the Doctor; when Russell T. Davies brought her back after decades for the Sarah Jane Adventures two parter “Death of the Doctor”, I was thrilled to learn Jo has spent those last decades travelling the world as a hippie activist and matriarch of a large family of hippie activists. In a word she likes to use, Jo is groovy. And I love her to bits.

- Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): Buffy wasn’t originally my favourite on BTVS, that was Cordelia, but she became my favourite heroine and BTVS character in the later seasons and has remained so in the years since. Quips, penchant for shoes, inferiority and superiority complex all wrapped up into each other, strong capacity for friendship and uneven love life, the entire package.

- C.J. Cregg (The West Wing): because C.J. is who I along with a lot of other people want to be when I grow up, even though I’m nearer to fifty than to forty now. First she made being the press secretary of the White House heroic (nobody managed this one before or since), and then she moved on to saving the world on a daily basis as chief of staff. Also she’s tall and never made an attempt to hide it. And nobody sings The Jackal the way she does.

- Jadzia Dax (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine): because Jadzia is a scientist, a good fighter and knows how to party; because she really enjoys hanging out with other species, and not just the “cool” ones (Dax & Quark friendshipper forever!), and not with that somewhat patronizing air some Federation types have; and because she is arguably ST’s first on screen canonically bisexual regular character. Also? She has a way with words. “Pity. You’d be surprised what I can do in a pair of size 8 boots.”

- Sister Julienne (Call the Midwife): the show made the entire Midwife profession look heroic (long overdue, that), and I love all the characters in various degrees, but Sister Julienne, the head of Nonnatus House, played by Jenny Agutter, is the graceful, quietly strong anchor for everyone else. Not that she’s always serene and invulnerable to loss of confidence; we’ve seen her upset and grieving, and having a crisis, too. But then she rallies, be it alone or with the help of her colleagues whom she has supported through their crisis (this show is great on female solidarity). If I had to pick a fictional medical professional to be at my side when I’m in bad shape, I’d pick Sister Julienne no matter whether this involved a gynological problem or not. I’d have complete faith in her ability to help me through. Now that’s a heroine for you.

The other days
selenak: (Werewolf by khall_stuff)
In cheerier "actors and the social media" news, the West Wing actors just invented the Walk and Tweet. :)

(Incidentally, the first time I tried to watch The West Wing, the Bush years had just started and I couldn't continue because the gap between reality and fiction was just too big. Then years later I marathoned it at the close of the Bush age, back when not just the US had a lot of hope in change. Which turned out to be the ideal time, because I don't think I could stand to watch The West Wing for the first time right now without feeling sick at that gap again, this time without any hope it will ever change.)

As mentioned, the Being Human rewatch made me check whether anything new by way of fanfiction has been written since the immediate aftermath of the show. Luckily for my working schedule, it turned out there wasn't much that was of interest to me (though there was some, which you'll find below the cut, as I loved reading it). Lots of crossovers with a show called The Almighty Johnsons, in which Mitchell is paired with some of the cast, it seems. I assume this has something to do with the actors - is Aidan Turner in it, or has he acted with some of the actors in it elsewhere? Anyway, I don't know the show, my interest in Mitchell pairings is zero, so, not for me. Then there are crossovers involving Loki (Marvel Cinema Universe version) which do not as if they're about confronting Loki with his victims, so, no. Filtering these out and some that also didn't look promising to me from their summaries and tagging, I finally hit the jackpot with a couple of stories by a single author.

Being Human stories by Zoicite below the cut )
selenak: (Claudius by Pixelbee)
Just a sample of the goodness, which, you know, you can find and comment (or kudos) on here.

The Charioteer:

Washing-up, Ward B : Nurse Adrian compares notes with Andrew. Both great as a friendship story and as a direly needed reaction and revelation story.

Greek Mythology:

and wake to start the world again: Wherein Pandora is curious, Prometheus proud, and Athena has a different plan than Zeus. An inventive twist on the myth of Pandora.


Apart Yet Not Afar: In which Rebecca saves Ivanhoe's life (again) some nine years after the novel, he returns the courtesy, and the author actually pulls off Sir Walter Scott's style, which is awesome. Most of the (few) post-Ivanhoe fanfics I've come across were about getting Rebecca and Ivanhoe together; this one decidedly is not.

Star Trek:

Waiting: Saavik during the months between The Search For Spock and The Voyage Home, with flashbacks to her life pre Wrath of Khan. I'm always delighted to come across fanfiction featuring Saavik, and this one does a wonderful job with her, and with the various other characters she deals with, including but not limited to Spock, Kirk, Amanda, T'Pol (from Enterprise), and, best of all, Number One. (The original female first officer from the unaired ST pilot.)

West Wing:

Cast me gently into morning: When Ellie catches Zoey's interview on TV, she is prompted to go up to New Hampshire to see how her sister is really doing. Hooray for sibling interactions, and a great take on Ellie helping Zoey deal with the aftermath of the s4 cliffhanger.
selenak: (Toby and Andy by Amorfati)
5 canon pairings that could really benefit from couples therapy.

Unfortunately, the first example which came to mind actually got couple therapy, and benefited from it - Keith and David from Six Foot Under. I take it the question refers to couples who canonically would or could not follow suit. Let's see:

1.) Jack Bristow and Irina Derevko, Alias. Of course there's the problem that neither of them is likely to tell each other or the therapist the truth, but hey. They would benefit. Somehow. Um. At least it's better than plotting murder?

2.) Buffy Summers and Angel/Riley Finn/Spike, BTVS. Any of Buffy's three main love interests in the course of the show would do in this category. A shame that the sole fully qualified therapist (went to high school with Buffy, is a vampire) doesn't show up until season 7.

3.) The Doctor and River Song, Doctor Who. Each would keep a therapist busy for millennia. Together... Well, at least a therapist might arrange for a more even couple time? And work out how much of River's emotions are conditioned or rebellion against condition, and how much hails from actual aquaintance?

4.) Toby Ziegler and Andrea Wyatt, The West Wing. I mean, I loved their scenes together, all of them. But presumably couple therapy would have convinced Toby sooner that when Andi said "I won't marry you again", she meant "I won't marry you again"?

5.) Dream of the Endless (Morpheus) and anyone he was ever romantically involved with, The Sandman. Seriously. The poor therapist would probably conclude that making Dream celibate would benefit all creation for the rest of time. Considering.
selenak: (Skyisthelimit by Craterdweller)
Now I know hundreds of movieverse Avengers stories have already been written before even the trailer of the film started, but my problem here is that they were based on guesswork, so the characterisation of people and their relationships doesn't really match, and in order to read something based on this new canon (specifically: something movieverse Natasha centric, like, you know, the epic spy tale of Clint and Natasha and Coulson as their handler), I'll have to wait. *is spoiled by internet, pouts* So, in the meantime, the weekly meme, which asks:

Five characters who could give a great speech

Alas a historical figure is not a character, otherwise I would name Elizabeth I here immediately (one of the all time best big political propaganda speech makers). On to fictional folk.

1.) Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation). Or, as Q puts it: "Jean-Luc, Jean-Luc, sometimes I think the only reason I come here is to listen to those wonderful speeches of yours." Well, if you've got Patrick Stewart as an actor...

2.) Jed Bartlet (The West Wing). He's the President, so it's his profession, and also, he has Toby Ziegler as a scriptwriter. (Or metronom, as I'll always think of him due to [personal profile] chaila's vid.) But he's good at improvising speeches, too. In Latin.

3.) Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica). Another President. Actually, her political style is more soft spoken delivery of cutting put-downs or, depending on the situation, wise encouragements, and Adama does most of the speechifying on this show, but if Laura has to? She can deliver the scary monologue like no one's business. (See her "I will end you!" threat in s4 to Tom Zarek.)

4.) G'Kar (Babylon 5). Is good at speeches whether he's stirring up trouble as a morally ambiguous s1 character or s2 noble resistance fighter or s5 religious icon against his will. (At which point Sheridan, having twigged G'Kar is the most moving speech writer in his 'verse, has drafted him for declarations and speeches as well.) Also Andreas Katsulas can carry off the JMSian rethoric as nobody else but Peter Jurasik can (and Londo's more a master if the witty comeback and the aphorism), making it sound meaningful and wise instead of pompous. (For what happens when an actor can't do this, see: Byron.)

5.) Rom (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). Got to bring a union man in. Okay, so he does it only once, but I'll never not love that a Ferengi gets to write the Communist Manifesto in the STverse (and that the writers got away with this - "Workers of the world, unite! All you have to lose are your chains!" isn't exactly an unknown line in this part of the world, I don't know about the US), and a splendid speech it is, too. Also, given the job Rom ends up with when the show wraps up, his ability to make speeches when in a dire situation should come in handy, to put it as unspoilery as possible.

...and now I'm trying to figure out when I have the time to watch The Avengers again. Also I'm wondering whether you could say that movieverse Clint & Natasha = AU Spyrents from Alias where Jack persuaded Irina to genuinenly change sides?
selenak: (Baltar by Nyuszi)
I define "conflict" as something that comes from within the characters for the purpose of this meme, not as something external (i.e. interference by third party, higher circumstances etc.).

1.) Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto. (X-Men in various incarnations.) Now these two exist in dozens of somewhat differing continuities, in comicverse, canon AUs like Neil Gaiman's 1602, in cartoons, and now, depending on whether or not you count First Class as a prequel or as a reboot, also in the movieverse, but for me for any incarnation of Xavier and Magneto to emotionally hook me, three core elements have to be maintained: a) the relationship starts as friendship, b) the fallout is for ideological reasons, not because of sudden loathing,, disrespect etc., and c) said ideological reasons are passionately held by both parties and thus while the basic affection remains, they really can not be surrendered. I like a reconciliation and fix it story as much as the next fangirl (and when the occasional canon continuity does it, as when Excalibur had Xavier and Magneto living together in Genosha, I feel mushy), but to me the conflict is part of the attraction the characters hold for me. I need both of them to have right and wrong elements in their reasoning, not just one side to be right, and I don't want a happily ever after where one of them basically says "okay, I realize now you were right all the time, let's have sex lunch".

2.) Laura Roslin and Gaius Baltar (Battlestar Galactica). As much as I agree with a lot of the complaints re: the later BSG seasons, I will always maintain the Laura-Gaius dynamic was pure genius and one of the best things about the show. Why? Because it's never as simple as "noble president and worthless selfish traitor", though yes, Roslin is noble, and Baltar is selfish (and occasionally a traitor). The clash between looking-out-for-number-one Gaius and living-for-her-people Laura wouldn't have gripped me half as much if it wasn't also between Laura's ruthlessness and Gaius' surprising lack-of-hate-for-any-side humanity now and then; if the "how do I treat Gaius Baltar, knowing what he did?" didn't become a core ethical challenge for Laura Roslin, and Gaius Baltar hadn't these "why-don't-you-like-me-Laura-dammit-I-just-saved-your-life-AGAIN" blinkers. Also the actors are golden in any scenes they share.

3.) Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons (Damages). Starts out as your basic pragmatic user-mentor/idealistic protegée dynamic and becomes something vastly more complicated. (Attempted murder early on will do that for you.) As will projected family issues, potential successor power play and jockeying for who-needs-whom-more positions. I wasn't completely happy with the writing of Ellen in the fourth season, but the third season was fantastic in this regard, and my s4 nitpicks notwithstanding, the Patty & Ellen dynamic, whether as allies or antagonists or both (especially both), whether they're screwing each other over or helping each other beat the system or both, is pretty much unique for female characters on current tv. A difficult conflict? You bet. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

4.) Toby Ziegler and Jed Bartlet (The West Wing). I still regard it as a personal failing that I'm unable to write the big epic post show story about these two I want to, but I did try to capture what fascinates me about this very, VERY conflicted relationship in this short vignette. What do I see as their core conflict? There's the big ethical dimension, to be sure (Toby appointing himself as conscience of not just the administration in general but Jed Bartlett in particular, the president not always living up to the man Toby wants him to be), but another aspect I see is that this is in its way a twisty take on the writer and muse story. And I love this about it.

5.) Londo Mollari and G'Kar (Babylon 5). In a way the reverse of the Magneto and Xavier dynamic in that they start out as enemies and end up as, well, that's incredibly difficult to summ up in brief, given entire manifestos get written about it. I was torn whether or not to include them because the original Narn and Centauri conflict that forms their background and to some degree them wasn't started by them. But their own decisions of how to deal with this and the other situations they find themselves in are so crucial that I decided they qualify anyway. Just as Londo would not have responded to any other Narn the way he did to G'Kar, the same is true for G'Kar and any other Centauri, both in their enmity and their later alliance-of-necessity-turned-friendship-turned-whatever-you-want-to-call-it. To give but one of many examples: take G'Kar's immediate reaction in a core s2 scene from The Coming of Shadows upon learning a certain spoilery plot point has just happened. Is it "those damned Centauri are at it again" or "I never should have trusted any Centauri!"? Nope. It's "he betrayed me!" The personal is political and the political is personal, indeed. And is the conflict between them a difficult one? Given that it forms the core arc of the arc show to end all arc shows, you might say so, yes. :)
selenak: (bodyguard - Sabine)
Name five characters whose religious beliefs are important to them.

If one is a DS9 and BSG fan, this is almost too easy. I'll try to save the obvious for the last.

1) Jed Bartlet from The West Wing. Famously argues with God in Latin, but wouldn't dream of leaving the church. Actually, the Jed & faith scene that most sticks in my mind, other than the big outburst from Two Cathedrals, isn't the one from the pilot where he disses the homophobes or the s1 death penalty episode one of his confession, but the s7 conversation over ice cream he has with the Republican candidate (who, in an irony alas missing in real life but true for WW, is more of a securalist and thinks it would be hypocritical to fake it) on the subject.

2) G'Kar from Babylon 5. All the way back in very early s1, when G'Kar looked like he was destined to be the comic relief villain, JMS was careful to establish already that his faith is central to him and that he takes it very seriously indeed. Thus it continued to be through G'Kar's Heroic Resistance Righter phase, culminating in the irony of the way he becomes a messiah figure making it impossible for him to actually live with his people.

3) Rita from the Doctor Who episode The God Complex. Go, Toby Whitehouse, for including a Muslima among your sympathetic characters, and one who showcases that intelligence, questioning curiosity and courage can go hand in hand with valuing one's faith.

4) Kara "Starbuck" Thrace from Battlestar Galactica. Of course, with BSG you can name much over the cast over four seasons, but to me the end scene from Flesh & Bone in s1 which shows Kara praying to her gods remains one of the most original twists, because it would have been so much more obvious to make the the daredevil hedonist pilot a sceptic. Mind you, there was an obvious precedent for the writing team. To wit:

5) Kira Nerys from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Much as I myself have issues with the Prophets as presented on DS9, I always appreciated the choice to make Kira, the second lead of the show, a woman of faith, and the way the show treated her religion as central to her characterisation for seven seasons. It was then something very new in Star Trek, traditionally an agnostic collection of shows (and I wouldn't have it otherwise). And Kira would not have been Kira without this.
selenak: (Toby and Andy by Amorfati)
30 – Do you have a favorite fic you've written? What makes it your favorite? And don't forget to give us a link!

Considering I have currently 156 stories listed at the AO3 archive, which don't include the occasional drabble, you'll forgive me if I can't narrow it down to one. However, after a lot of ponderings and narrowing it down etc., here's the short list I came up with:

The Burying Kind: this is a crossover between Angel and Six Feet Under. Well, technically I should say "between Angel, Buffy and Six Feet Under" since some BTVS characters show up as well and the BTVS backstory is important, but it does take place after BTVS has ended, during AtS' fifth season and the fourth one of SFU. It was born out of a remark [personal profile] kangeiko made, that given both shows are set in Los Angeles, it would only make sense if Angel hired Fisher & Sons (who were Fisher & Diaz at that point) to do something spoilery for the fifth season ). This sounded like a fantastic idea to me, and the result was one quite ambitious ensemble story in which I could tackle grief, friendship, sibling relationships, post traumatic stress syndrome and the like, and take full advantage of the quirks of either show, such as SFU's use of "ghosts" (which is why David Fisher doesn't blink when he sees an AtS one, not realising this is the genuine article) and gleefully draw conclusions. (Come on, you just know Olivier would be a client of Wolfram & Hart's artist division, with all the lawsuits he's bound to get!) The greatest challenge for any crossover is to write it in a way that makes it enjoyable to read for people familiar with both canons but also for people who only know one of the canons in question, i.e. you have to give some background information but find ways of doing so that don't feel annoying to people who already know. Also, the character interaction should make sense and be about more than "wouldn't it be cute if X met Y?". And of all the many crossovers I wrote, this one to me feels where I achieved all these goals best.

Runaways: one of the two Heroes stories I'm proudest of and love best, with an actual plot (borrowed from Brian K. Vaughan) and again, what I consider an achieved goal of ensemble use and interaction in a way that works emotionally, providing both humour and angst. Plus I'm still smug about having come up with John Williams tunes as a method of communication. :)

Five in One: sometimes I write stories that are also meant as meta (sometimes on a character or several, sometimes on fandom; sometimes on a source, here it was all of the above). This BtVS one is a case in point, written not sine, but cum irae et studio; it dealt with several issues I had, was a great way to exorcise them (for the time being) and still works imo as a story. Or five. About five of Spike's victims, from their point of view.

City Girls: this, on the other hand, is a labour of love, for both Buffy Summers and the city of Rome. (Some Dawn love also contributed.) Inspired by the AtS episode Damage casually mentioning Buffy and Dawn were living in Rome. Having spent three months near the place myself in the mid-90s, something clicked in me. I still consider this my definite Buffy character portrait.

Quark's Day: inspired originally by [personal profile] altariel's reply to a "describe a story I never wrote" challenge, this is my DS9 ensemble story par excellence, set directly after the Second Occupation arc of season 6 has ended, and of all the many DS9 stories I wrote the one that best declares my love for the entire show, not just one aspect or character. (I also think it's my best Quark character portrait, but then, I would. :)

In Vino Veritas: it's rare that one gets to pioneer a slash pairing. This is by no means one of my best stories (though it has some good dialogue), and definitely not my best Babylon 5 story, but it was the very first Londo/G'Kar slash story, and allow me to bask in my pioneer pride and love it for this.

Death and the Maiden: one of the rare stories where you feel you have taken your writing to another level. Not just limited to fanfiction. I had never written anything as dark before, not in a way that still, many years later, makes me feel I did justice to the subject(s) instead of not quite coming through. It's a Highlander story dealing with Cassandra's backstory (and thus also with Methos, rape, brainwashing and the reinvention/discovery of self). Aside from authorial satisfaction, this was the story that made [personal profile] honorh write feedback the second time and thus brought me my second oldest internet friend, so I have an additional reason to treasure it.

[personal profile] aadler suggested two additional questions for this meme a while ago, to wit:

31 – Which fanfic authors and/or stories have had the most influence on your writing?

Back in ye olde Highlander days, when I was just cutting my teeth writing in another language (i.e. English), Mary Galasso a) was one of the few gen writers (HL was somewhat like Merlin today in that it was overwhelmingly a slash fandom, with some het thrown in, and not much gen), b) told me about this new show she was watching called Buffy the Vampire Slayer and c) kind enough to beta my early efforts, so definitely her. (Conversely, MacGeorge wrote fabulous and very hot D/M stories, but they influenced me as a reader in my early stage of slash discovery, not as a writer (seeing as I never wrote D/M).) [personal profile] katallison wrote this absolutely fantastic HL story called Last Set Closing in which Duncan visits an aged Joe partly ravaged by dementia which stll is one of the best things I've read in any fandom and showed me you can tackle such subjects in fanfiction in a non-superficial, non-patronizing way. Without facile solutions, and without feeling like a gratitious angst pile, either. (As I imagine many people do, I had an elderly relation suffering from dementia at the time, so it really hit home.)

32 – Are there any stories you want to write that you’re afraid to tackle? If so, what and why?

One comes immediately to mind. Basically the first idea I had after finishing my West Wing marathon was that I wanted to read, or, since a satisfying version didn't exist, write a story about Toby, incensed that the President dared to pardon him and with a whole lot of other issues besides, drives out to New Hamsphire and gets conveniently snowed in chez Bartlet so that he and Jed can have it out. I still want to read or write that story, and it still scares the hell out of me, because you probably need to be a first rate playwright to do it justice, not least because these are two of the most verbally adroit and intelligent characters in a show full of great talkers, but also because there are so many things they wouldn't say without going ooc. In the end, I backed away, but I did use some muddled ideas about that relationship (which was the most fascinating one on the show to me) for my brief character study Words and the Men.

The rest of the questions )
selenak: (Claudius by Pixelbee)
This year's Remix ficathon is online, which makes me very happy indeed. Like every year, there are a lot of great stories, plus on a personal level I'm gratified my remixee liked mine, because it was one of my fanfictions that also serve as meta and those can be risky if one has different character interpretations. I myself received Convent Mouse, which was sparked by one of my earliest efforts in fanfiction altogether (and only the second story I ever wrote in English), a Highlander story called Waiting which was an Alexa Bond point of view during the events of Something Wicked/Deliverance.

I'm very real life busy, but at a quick glance, here are the stories by other people that captured me immediately:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Not Really Here: one of Dawn's fictional memories, from the time she was 11 years old and Drusilla's imaginary friend. Uses the canonical fact mad people can see Dawn for what she is and the inserted memories concept brilliantly, and Dru is superbly written.

Doctor Who:

Ecce Medico Donnaque!: I will never tire of geeking out about Latin-written Doctor Who fanfic. Eheu, mihi placet.

A bad habit: the Master and the Doctor for each other, naturally. A multi-Doctor tale, capturing each regeneration very well through the prism of the Master.

Every day a journey: Barbara and Ian Chesterton through the years, occasionally running into later regenerations of the Doctor and some of his companions and living their lives wonderfully well.

Le Donne Che Piangono (The Weeping Women) : in which a hinted bit of backstory from End of Time - just how did Rassilon silence the opposition and who were those women? - gets explored, as we find out what became of Romana, the Rani and Susan's grandmother.

Falling down to midnight: the Doctor during the Year That Wasn't. Uses the Archangel Network, and what the Doctor did during that year with it, in a way I haven't quite seen in any of the other (many, many) takes on Ten during that year.

Sartorial Differences: how Six lost his multi-coloured coat and re-aquired it. It's the Master's fault (achievement?), naturally. With bonus Evelyn!

Doctor Who/The West Wing

They've all gone to look for America: in which the (Eleventh) Doctor takes the staff members of the Bartlet administration out for an occasional vacation. Let's face it, these people need it now and then! Their destinations are all very aptly chosen.


Tell Me: an exploration of Bizarro!Chiana from the canonical AU we get to see in two season 4 episodes. Great Chiana voice (which includes the way she's different due to being also partly Aeryn); the relationship with Crichton is written so well, and gutwrenching, considering what happens in the episode Prayer.

Star Trel: DS9

F is for Ferengi: in which Jadzia goes to Ferenginar in search of adventure and a story to tell. It has Dax playing tongo, explores the Ferengi (specifically the female ones) and contains a great Ishka. You bet I liked this one!


These are the stories: the ones Jack tells himself after Children of Earth, specifically, but the incidents covered, where Jack imagines other outcomes, are from all Torchwood canon. Still, the life he imagines for Alice, Steven and himself hit me hardest.
selenak: (Ellen by Nyuszi)
Name your 5 favorite fictional marriages.

A meme after my own heart. Fiction that dares to tackle marriages (well, in ways other than killing one partner of in the first ten minutes to start the drama) is sadly still in the minority.

1.) Jed and Abbey Bartlett, The West Wing. It's not that they don't occasionally argue (from anything going from the interpretation of Bible quotes to whether he's being a jackass about having broken a promise); they do. But you're never left in doubt they're crazy about each other. She has his number and he has hers. The only thing I regret about the Jed/Abbey marriage as depicted on WW throughout seven seasons is that Abbey didn't show up more often than she already did.

2.) Zoe and Wash, Firefly. He was the cheerful babbler to her stoic warrior; they adored each other, and he even put up with her annoying Captain. (Well, there was the ship to fly as a bonus as well...) Seriously, I just loved Zoe and Wash together.

3.) Arvin and Emily Sloane, Alias. All the way back in season 1 when Sloane was the unquestioned blackhat antagonist, the first thing the show did to indicate his life wasn't all about plotting evilly was to show him worried about his cancer-ridden wife. Who later turned out to be Emily, played by Amy Irving, and a great example that being a kind female character doesn't equal being a doormat. I've cared about other couples on this show, though mostly I'm into the characters rather than the 'ships, but I can say none of them moved me as much as Arvin and Emily did in the s2 episode Truth Takes Time, at a point where Emily knows the truth about him, they've both betrayed each other in different ways, and yet what they feel for each other overcomes that. The scene between them in the kitchen makes me cry each time I watch it. And in the s4 episode In Dreams when we go into Sloane's mind and see Emily again, I cry as well. There there was an Alias 'ship who struck a stronger chord/ for me than that of Emily and our evil overlord. (Well, not a het one anyway.)

4.) Saul and Ellen Tigh, Battlestar Galactica. I always call them my Edward Albee couple because the resemblance is undeniable, but it's worth observing that their marriage gains in functional dimension and loses in -dys dimension whenever Bill Adama isn't around. (Proof: New Caprica and Adama-less flashbacks, show finale.) Leaving observations based on my Bill grudge aside: Ellen and Saul are the type of couple who can bring out the worst but also the best in each other. They can't do without each other, and I still get a kick out of the fact that finale spoiler ).

5.) Gwen Cooper and Rhys Williams, Torchwood. If there is one thing that drives me more crazy than others about Gwen-related arguments, it's that many people behave as if her relationship with Rhys begins and ends in the season 1 episode Combat. Which is like drawing your Londo Mollari characterisation exclusively from When the rocks fall, no hiding place in s3 of Babylon 5, or your Buffy and Faith characterisation exclusively from the AtS episode Sanctuary (hang on, actually a lot of people do that...). Because the Gwen and Rhys relationship as it's played out throughout three seasons is so much more. Their arguments and reconciliations always strike me as immensely real. Neither of them is perfect (no, Rhys isn't, either, watch Adrift if you think he always is). But guess what, Gwen is a character who learns from her mistakes. (I'll see your Combat and raise you a Meat and Something Borrowed.) By the time we arrive at Children of Earth, she and Rhys give a great illustration of why I like them as a couple so much; they make each other laugh and have each other's back even when arguing. They adore ach other just as they are; Gwen and Rhys are quite aware of each other's faults, they don't put the other on pedestals. And they are the cutest stowaways on trucks ever. Gwen/Rhys OTP!
selenak: (Romans by Kathyh)
Okay, confession time: one reason why I haven't watched The Eagle yet is that I gathered via fannish osmosis that there is no Cottia in it. And damn it, I like Cottia. The Eagle of the Ninth isn't a sacred text to me, and yes, of course the main event is the Marcus and Esca relationship, but does that prevent me from liking other aspects about it, including Marcus' wife-to-be? It doesn't. My favourite Eagle of the Ninth fanfic at Yuletide was Aedificare, in which all three - Marcus, Esca and Cottia, that is - build a life together. So the news that there was no Cottia saddened me and kept me away from the film, as did reactions from people who'd seen the film first, then read the book and promptly objected to Cottia's presence in it as interfering with the slash. And I'm a sad puppy all over again, wailing "Why can't I like Alice/Charles as much as Bob/Charles, or maybe Alice/Bob if they have a relationship of their own, and best of all Alice/Bob/Charles?"

Granted, this does not work in every constellation. If Alice and Bob loathe each other canonically - bearing in mind that contrary to fanfic and Hollywood, not every hostility is a cover for sexual tension - then yes, it's not very likely the three of them will all live together peacefully any time soon. (But even then, I reserve my right to like Alice as much as either Bob or Charles.) Also, it's entirely possible Alice, Bob and Charles all like each other very much indeed but are not cool with polygamous relationships. This is not a crime, nor does it make them small-minded. (BTW, this is why West Wing's Jed/Leo works for me emotionally but not in terms of an actual sexual relationship during show canon time. Jed wouldn't cheat on Abbey. Leo, especially bearing in mind the way he needs Jed to be the best president ever, would not go there, either. Abbey likes and respects Leo, but I just don't buy Abbey taking the "whatever makes you happy, dear" road; I think she defines marriage as a monogamous union, too.) So no, I'm not prescribing sexual threesomes as the solution to being into slash couple Bob/Charles while there is canonical Alice around involved with Bob or Charles. I'm aware there are characters for whom this simply wouldn't work. And actually I prefer it in fanfic if Alice is written out (in a respectful manner that doesn't have Bob or Charles suddenly realise they never loved her at all) - than to see her badly characterized or bashed as a presence in a Bob/Charles story.

And yet it bothers me that the film version of The Eagle did just this. I tell myself: but this way, she won't be mischaracterized on screen and getting horrible treatment in fanfic afterwards. Doesn't help. Perhaps because a film adaption is different from fanfic; it's a canon of its own, which just declared this (female) character I like is not worth keeping. And immediately connects in my mind with the fandom treatment for female love interests of one half of popular slash couples in many a fandom, only, again, this isn't fanfic.

Now I'm seen some female fannish responses in various fandoms (not The Eagle, but then I haven't looked there, what with still not having seen the film) going to the opposite extreme of declaring Alice the only worth while character in her canon and loathing Bob and Charles instead, and that makes me feel sitting between the chairs all over again, because again, quite often I like not only Alice & Bob & Charles but also Bob/Charles in addition to Alice/Charles or Alice/Bob. I don't want to read Bob and Charles condemned as boring idiots not fit to wipe Alice's feet anymore than I want to read Alice Who? stories. And I'm so happy if canon, however flawed it may be in other regards, gives me, as for example Merlin did with Gwen, Arthur and Merlin, a constellation where the relationships Alice has with both Bob and Charles are developed, she's important to them both and we have a three way interplay that's crucial to the film/book/show in question. Never mind whether or not there is potential for a threesome in the sexual sense, if there are emotional ties to more than one person, this to me is something to be celebrated, not abhorred.

Perhaps it's a question of age. The older I get, the more off-putting I find it if a pairing - het or slash, this doesn't matter - is presented in a way that all other relationships of the people involved have to be sacrificed, disregarded or ignored (doesn't matter whether these relationships are platonic or romantic in nature), and the more I value stories that allow me to root for more than one relationship in them. Doesn't mean I'm always rooting for all relationships with the same strength, but - I'm just happy if they're there, you know?

In conclusion: cases of the vanishing other characters and relationships make [personal profile] selenak a sad panda.
selenak: (Alicia and Diane - Winterfish)
One of the episodes which make you go "I love my show!". Because it was great, and I do.

I love my show! )

In other news: [community profile] halfamoon offers a great post about C.J. Cregg of West Wing fame !
selenak: (Carl Denham by Grayrace)
As the multifandom vid-a-thon festivids went online, this multifandom person is rejoicing.

My personal selection of favourites so far:

Blade Runner:

November Rain : captures the gorgeous visuals (Ridley Scott at his best) and the intense messed-up ness of that favourite sci fi film of mine beautifully. I think the most striking and unexpected transition for me was spoilery for Blade Runner ).

The Hours:

Eyes Wide Open: The story of Laura, and of Richard, to put it as unspoilery as possible for those who don't know either Michael Cunningham's novel (which in turn is a clever fictional meditation on Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and V.W. herself) or the film based on it.

Das Leben der Anderen/The Lives of Others

Slow Burn: David Bowie is perfect for this vid based on another favourite film of mine, and the three main characters therein. Wow. Great vid.


A Well-Respected Man: a Jim Profit character portrait, doing his manipulative screwed-upness justice. Why did this show not even get a full season?

The Sarah Jane Adventures:

After All: warm and beautiful Sarah Jane portrait, capturing her various relationships - Luke, Maria, Clyde, Rani, Jo, the Brig, and the Doctor (in all the regenerations she knew), too.

Star Trek: DS9:

Who Needs Enemies: Julian Bashir, the harmless obsession with fictional spy-playing and the anything but harmless real spies, Garak and Sloan, and their games. Excellent.

Star Trek: TNG:

Sound of Silence: a First Contact basid vid dealing with Picard, Data and the Borg, matching the Simon & Garfunkel song eerily well with the footage to great emotional intensity.

Want you bad: this, on the other hand, is just joyfully hilarious, giving us Q's frustrated (or is it...?) pursuit of Picard through the years. As the vidder says, when you're omnipotent, it's hard to get someone else to top. Also, Patrick Stewart does the best facepalm ever as Picard.

West Wing:

High School Never Ends: speaking of joyfully hilarious, the West Wing staff are such dorks, and we love them for it. Just the way to round of your vid-watching day with a wide grin.
selenak: (Obsession by Eirena)
Time Magazine made Mark Zuckerberg their person of the year, and I only now got around to reading the article in question. Which left me mostly wondering just how much he paid for this, because as image restoration goes, this is so much over the top that it really says just the opposite of what he presumably wants it to.

Now granted, the only thing I know about real life Zuckerberg versus the film version is that, as [personal profile] ide_cyan pointed out to me, real life Zuckerberg had and has a girlfriend through all the Facebook years and before, Priscilla Chan, whose existence was ignored by The Social Network because it would counteract in essential film plot point. So far so good. However, the "person of the year" article in TIME isn't just content to state that Zuckerberg so has a girlfriend and can keep a girlfriend (repeatedly), no, he gives relationship advice to his employees and is empathy itself: There are other people who can write code as well as Zuckerberg - not many, but some - but none of them get the human psyche the way he does. "He has great EQ," says Naomi Gleit, Facebook's product manager for growth and internatialization. "I'll often ask him for advice about, like, a girl issue that I'm dealing with." He doesn't simply have friends, he's beloved by everyone he meets: Zuckerberg is a warm presence, not a cold one. He has a quick smile and doesn't shy away from eye contact. (...) People really like him.(...) The reality is that Zuckerberg isn't alienated, and he isn't a loner. He's the opposite. He's spent his whole life in tight, supportive, intensely connected social environments, first in the bosom of the Zuckerberg family, then in the dorms at Harvard and now at Facebook, where his best friends are his staff, there are no offices and work is awesome. Zuckerberg loves being around people. He didn't build Facebook so he could have a social life like hte rest of us. He built it because he wanted the rest of us to have his.

Before reading said article, I was utterly ready to believe Sorkin's depiction of Zuckerberg says more about Sorkin (and what interests him in fiction) than Zuckerberg. That's still the case as far as Sorkin is concerned, but this article definitely swung me around to "that much denial clearly indicates the portrait was more accurate than not". Which might be unfair, but is the effect all this relentless praise had. Which set me thinking. If the TIME portrait had included some quotes from enemies (the Winkelvoss brothers, say, who according to the New York Times last week still are sueing) as well as the praise from friends/employees, I would have been far more inclined to believe the later. Much as relentless bashing is off-putting and often makes you (well, me) more inclined to question the basher than to share the loathing, relentless praise in what is supposed to be an objective assessment by a medium makes me cynical and distrustful. Nobody in a top position is universally beloved, and we all have times where we just aren't that great towards other people.

On a related note: re: fictionalisation of real people, alive or dead, and how we feel about the fairness or unfairness or justification of the fiction. I honestly don't think there is such a thing as an objective stance, and it doesn't really depend on the distance of time, though often that plays into it. I can get upset about Schiller's take on Elizabeth I in his Mary Stuart because I have feelings about Elizabeth Tudor, or annoyed at the saintly cypher like depiction of Yoko Ono in Lennon Naked because I think it's a waste of a good actress and a very interesting real life character, but either way my response isn't dependent on the fact that Schiller's drama is high art or the Lennon Naked film just not that well scripted (though boasting of a towering performance by Christopher Eccleston). My response depends on my previous knowledge of events and people and my own subjective take on them, which, all things said and done, isn't any more valid than that of the men who wrote drama and script respectively. Conversely, I don't know more about Tony Blair, the Clintons, Gordon Brown or Elizabeth II than the avarage newspaper reader. Peter Morgan's depictions of all of them in the various films he scripted may have been too kind or too harsh for other people (let alone the people concerned themselves), but because there was no prior personal investment on my part I could watch those films as stories without inwardly argueing via my own perceptions of events and people.

There is a certain safety in complete fiction, of course. Like Janet Morgan says in her perceptive book about the Plath biographies and the Plath/Hughes marriage, The Silent Woman, if we read a novel in which character X does such and such, we don't have to doubt whether or not character X really did this. The author tells us he/she did, for this and that reason, and thus it is. But when we read a story based on actual events, there is always a potential question mark - ah, but did it REALLY happen this way, or was that grossly distorted by historian Y or, more contemporary, by biased/bribed eyewitness Z? Is the motivation of X which the biographer/novelist/film maker reports truly X' motivation or did X act from other reasons altogether? What's the agenda the biographer/film maker has with telling the story this way? And so forth.

But no sooner have I written "safety in complete fiction" that I remember just about every fandom ever based on fiction. Take Harry Potter. Doesn't matter whether we're talking Snape-focused fans, Remus/Sirius'shippers, Harry/Hermione shippers, Draco fans, none or any of the above, the arguments online and offline of how JKR got it wrong with *insert favourite character and/or pairing* and fanfiction (meaning their own particular brand, not the fanfiction which uses another characterisation) got it right are galore. "The author is dead" is common wisdom, even more so in fandoms where there isn't just one author but several, as in tv or comics. There isn't such a thing as generally accepted truth in fiction, either, or we wouldln't have all those debates. And again, I think personal investment in a character colours all our povs. During the original broadcast, I was upset by certain events in the fifth season of Alias, or by the Waltz and onwards characterisation of Dukat on DS9 in a way I just wasn't by anything Morgana-related in the third season of Merlin, and what it comes down to isn't that the later is better written than the former (I think fifth season of Alias/Merlin are about even there, and DS9 is better) but that while being interested in her I never loved Morgana (and, err, never saw her the way a lot of fandom did). Whereas Arvin Sloane is one of my favourite characters of all time, I cared a lot about Irina Derevko, and liked Dukat (without seeing him as a misunderstood woobie, I hasten to add).

I wonder whether there is a difference between living and dead authors in as much as fandom's acceptance of fictional reality is concerned, though. While there has been a lot of to and thro regarding Lord of the Rings based fanfiction post-movies, and how much characterisation was influenced by the films, I don't think - correct me if I'm wrong - there is a strong faction seriously arguing that "Tolkien got it wrong" about pairing X or character Y. Compare the attitude towards al lthings Sherlock Holmes when Arthur Conan Doyle was still alive - the famous pestering him for years into resurrecting Holmes post-Reichenback Falls - to current, where the criteria for modern adaptions like Sherlock or the Guy Ritchie film Sherlock Holmes certainy include whether or not these depictions of Holmes and Watson are reconcilable with Doyle's versions, not whether Doyle "got it wrong".

There is safety in one thing, though. I may dislike bashings of either Gwen - the one from Torchwood and the one from Merlin - but neither woman exists; finding posts wishing them unpleasant fates may make me roll my eyes and/or even disturb me, but there is no Gwen who could come across all the kerfuffle. Whereas when Robin Morgan accused Ted Hughes of "murdering" Sylvia Plath in the 1970s and wished a gory fate on him, he most certainly read it. And of course, films like "The Deal", "The Queen", "The Special Relationship" or "The Social Network" describe events only a few years back so just about everyone involved is bound to be confronted with their fictional alter egos and have an emotional response to this - how can they not? To return to the beginning, the most telling sentence in the entire TIME article about Zuckerberg is: Sorkin did a much better job of representing Facebook when he wrote The West Wing. Because it makes it impossible to conclude that what Zuckerberg minds isn't so much being fictionalized at all, let alone being fictionalized by Aaron Sorkin specifically. But he wants to choose the type of fiction. (I don't blame him. I'd rather live in the West Wing verse myself. Who wouldn't?) The West Wing, with a very few exceptions (Zoey's French boyfriend comes to mind, and he's only around for a few s4 episodes), doesn't have one dimensional villains, and it's a fictional universe where flaws are balanced by virtues, where even your enemies respect you and most people really want to change the world for the better. (And where everyone speaks in brilliant dialogue, but they do that in The Social Network, too.) But you know what? Fandom is still debating as to whether action X or storyline Y was in character for such and such, and what really happened regarding a certain late s6 early s7 plot point. Safety in fiction? There is no such thing. Even if you think you can control your author, or your world.
selenak: (Rocking the vote by Noodlebidsnest)
West Wing:

Back after I had marathoned through The West Wing, I was somewhat frustrated at the lack of later season fanfiction, unless it was shippy Josh/Donna which I wasn't interested in, especially fanfic that featured characters like Kate who only are in the later seasons and thus not to be found in earlier fanfic. So I was really glad to wake up this morning and discover these two stories:

Connection: Kate pov, a general portrait with a focus on her relationship with CJ.

Til I break into pieces without a trace: Donna during early s6, dealing with the aftermath of Gaza and making her decision. The show itself was mostly in Josh's pov during the relevant time frame, so it was awesome seeing Donna's explored. (And Donna in general in a non-romantic context.) Wells had a differnet take from Sorkin on the characters, and in the case of Donna I must say I prefered it, because I doubt Aaron S. would ever have let Donna do what she does in s6. *tries to put it as unspoilery as possible for new watchers*

Poetry and history:

Heretic is a magnificent lyrical portrait of Akhenaten by [personal profile] rozk. Great if you know your Egyptian history and also if you simply love good poetry.
selenak: (Toby and Andy by Amorfati)
You know what I find typical about the general responses to the recent wikileaks? That the media - well, ours, anyway - focuses on bruised egos, despite the fact the various descriptions from the diplomatic mailbag are hardly surprising. (If anything, disappointingly mild. You can't find anything worse to say on Berlusconi than that he's a show-off party goer? The guy who keeps making a mockery out of the justice system since he got to power the first time? Get your priorities straight, diplomats.) Whereas I had to read thoroughly before stumbling over a little aside in the Guardian to the effect the American goverment pressured the German one not to press charges against the CIA agents who kidnapped and tortured a German citizen who happened to have the same name as a terrorist. Because that's clearly not nearly as important than the diplomats reporting Merkel as averse to risk-taking and Westerwelle as "exuberant" yet not good at foreign politics. Only a German curse will do: Himmelherrgottnochmal!

On to more joyful, i.e. fannish things. Have some recs:

The West Wing:

Pages Left Unturned: lovely Andrea Wyatt portrait. I don't really 'ship in West Wing, but Andy/Toby comes close, and is, imo, one of the most successful attempts at showing a "can't live with each other, can't live without each other" relationship without demonizing one of the partners or showing him/her as delusional.


What Matters More: a great tag to 3.12 which will be AU'd next Saturday but until then showcases Gwen and Uther beautifully and has terrific tense character interaction.
selenak: (Dork)
Keith Richards' memoirs aren't the only ones published during the last ten days. So, it seems, were Mark Twain's, the first volume of three anyway, after a hundred year wait as decreed by the author. I have just one question: who will read the audio version?

Speaking of recitations, last year I made a post of favourite Edgar Allan Poe readings for Halloween. This year, I'll answer a meme.

Five of your favorite characters are going to a Halloween party. What costumes are they wearing?

1.) Arvin Sloane (Alias). Well, there was a childhood incident; his parents wouldn't let him go trick or treating as Harry Lime from The Third Man, saying that this was not a proper Halloween disguise and he needed to pick an exciting monster instead, thereby utterly missing the point and causing young Arvin to sulk and rewrite the ending of The Third Man yet again in his head so that Harry gets away with it and convinces Holly to get away with him as well, because clearly friendship should trump moral scruples and what kind of an ending was getting shot by your best friend underground anyway? As an adult, he wore of course a number of disguises in the line of duty but left the dressing up for Halloween to Emily, who loved handing out candy to the visiting children. There was one exception, the time after Laura/Irina's supposed death when Jack was held in custody and Sydney was staying with the Sloanes. Emily wanted to take her trick or treating but broke her leg the week before. So Arvin swallowed his dignity, donned a Long John Silver disguise and took Sydney trick-or-treating. Emily didn't ask him why he picked a pirate. Sydney did, and he smiled and told her she'd make an excellent Jim Hawkins.

2.) Abigail Brand (Astonishing X-Men and Marvelverse at large). Hank said it would build team spirit, which made her wonder whether he wasn't aware she'd read the files, and thus knew how Halloween celebrations with the X-Men usually turned out. But after the utter mess Gyrich had made, S.W.O.R.D. definitely needed... something. Maybe something silly. So she agreed to a Halloween party. She didn't intend to wear a costume at all, prepared for the jokes on how her usual appearance was enough to put fear into anyone's heart who worked for her, not least because she regarded that as a tribute to her efficiency, but then Hisako, who seemed to regard the fact they had each other's mobile phone numbers as an excuse to text her constantly, informed her that "Professor McCoy had looked very depressed" the last time he visited. So, purely in the interest of building team spirit, and certainly not because she wanted to cheer her boyfriend up, Abigail Brand exchanged a few more SMS with Hisako. When Hank arrived to pick her up for the Halloween party, she told him he was not under any circumstances to take pictures. And then she stepped outside of her quarters, in the costume based on the photos Hisako had sent. She had asked about the exact length of the scarf and whether or not the hat was optional, but it was that or the costume with all the question marks and the rainbow colours, so really, there was no choice. In any case, the grin on Hank's face was worth it, not least because the prospect of those teeth on her skin always turned her on.
Maybe she would wear the "Doctor" costume more than once, after all.

3.) C.J. Cregg (The West Wing) denies the incident with the Morticia Addams costume ever happened. Even if Toby has photos. And anyway, everyone experiments in college, don't they?

4.) Andrew Wells (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) will never forget that special, special Sunnydale Halloween where he wore a Jedi costume, newly aquired from a British guy named Rayne who blew in and out of town pretty quickly. The Force was with Andrew that night, he'll have you know. Even the fact that his older brother Tucker had picked the Darth Vader costume and nearly strangled him that night couldn't spoil it. Andrew will never wear another costume on Halloween again, just in case the incident ever repeats itself.

5.) Amanda (Highlander: The Series) sometimes sees Halloween as a very lucrative opportunity (almost too easy for some b&e) and sometimes gets hit by melancholy and unwanted flashbacks to her time with Kenneth when watching the children. Either way, dressing up and partying is a good idea for a distraction, no matter whom she wants to distract. Her favourite Halloween came in the year after The Rocky Horror Show took the stage. Fitz, who had a good voice and fancied himself a rock star at times, got a part in it and promptly got into trouble with one of the leads, from which Duncan had to bail him out. To cut a long story short, it ended with Amanda wanting to raid the costumes because one of them had a real jewel on its shapely leather, but she didn't want to tell Duncan that, so instead she suggested that he, Fitz and herself should just wear them for one Halloween night, for the hell of it. (Three guesses whom she cast as Rocky. She herself wasn't Janet, of course. She was Frank'n Furter. It was a fun, fun night, and she did end up with the jewel.
selenak: (Toby and Andy by Amorfati)
[personal profile] veritykindle pointed out to me yesterday how often intelligence in current media is either vilified or as a default option presented as tied to a cold/broken/rude/next-to-sociopathic/any-or-all-of-the-above personality. Which, if you think about it, is depressingly true. "Very smart" seems to come coupled with "clueless about emotions" almost automatically by now. The exception that came at once to mind for me when I thought about it was The West Wing, where most of the cast, both male and female, is presented as very intelligent and conscious of it, and, while having character flaws and entirely capable of behaving like jerks on occasion, but as an exception, not as a rule. Toby Ziegler, one of the smartest as well as one of the most argumentative characters, is also written and played as passionate, both about issues and people. And of course gets the scene with Jed Bartlet where Aaron Sorkin verbalizes his frustation that intelligence and education seem to have become dirty words in politics and politicians assume they have to play both down if they want to win elections. (This reminded me of an American journalist telling me once, back in the early Bush years, that Clinton got elected twice not because but inspite of the fact he had a Fulbright scholarship and went to Oxford, that he only got away with this because he could play up the Southern good old boy thing as well as the poor background and thus could avoid being perceived as elitist.) Of course, The West Wing ended years ago. Thinking of more recent shows, Damages and The Good Wife came to mind, also shows where intelligence does not automatically come with emotional cluelessness or even disengagement and is not something the leads have to play down or disingenously pretend not to have. Which was a relief. Self, thought I, you drew premature conclusions.

But then again, thinking about Damages and The Good Wife reminded me of something else, something [profile] abigail_n brought up in her overview of The Good Wife in regards to the main character, Alicia: It's become a pernicious commonplace, not only of fiction about politics but of politics in the real world, that ambition is always a hallmark of evil, and that the only people who deserve power are the ones who truly don't want it. It's an attitude that gives us leaders who are either accomplished liars or easily-led fools. That Alicia feels such disdain for the games of influence and power that surround her (even as she occasionally plays them herself) suggests that the writers don't believe it's ever possible to be both ambitious and moral. I'm not sure this is true of The Good Wife, and it's definitely not true of Damages - Patty Hewes is ambitious and morally grey for many reasons, but not for lack of an ethical code (her anger at Frobisher's self glorification and Hollywoodesque claim to a "redemption story" in the third season, for example, is genuine), and our other leading character, Ellen, by the third season is definitely long past naivete yet still both ambitious and moral - but the lure of what I'd call the Cincinnatus ideal - that you can only be good and powerful if you don't want power, end up with it by accident and withdraw from it as soon as you can, whereas if you're ambitious you're automatically suspect - is certainly strong in many other stories.

And perhaps in some odd way, this ties to the need of combine intelligence with inability to handle emotions and/or indeed feel them (not the same thing). From a Doylist pov, there is probably the fear of presenting a character as "too perfect". Witness the quickness with which the term "Mary Sueeeeeee!" is hurled at any female character both smart and in tune with her emotions. But to a lesser degree, it's true for male characters as well. Conversely: the assumption that a "good" person must be a primarily emotional one, not an intellectual, and without ambition because having ambition is not a positive emotion. And yet, see above, you can tell a story with flawed characters for whom this is not true.

Moving away from shows about lawyers and politicians, and looking at real life reactions to actors and musicians: maybe I'm exaggerating, but it seems to me that again, there is an assumption that ambition, especially when combined with smarts, is something a true artist should not have but should, if he/she wants to stay sympathetic, look at their success like a bewildered child, helpless in the hands of evil-yet-smart managers. Almost as soon as the Henry V applause was over, the media response to the openly ambitious Kenneth Branagh was distinctly hostile, with an ongoing undertone of "who the hell does he think he is?" and lots of Schadenfreude when after a string of success at the box office he flopped and his personal life derailed; only in the last five or six years, after various character roles instead of leading roles, did the media hostility turn to approval again. And the other day I watched a German Beatles documentary film with that old chestnut, the "Paul was a soulless business person from the start, rather than a true artist, even as a teenager, because he made the band practice (shock horror) and read the contracts they were given instead of just signing (the cad)". See what I mean? It's easy to love Vincent Van Gogh, who sold only two pictures during his lifetime. Less easy to love Michelangelo (as a person, I mean, not his creations) who in addition to being a genius artist was also a savvy businessman completely up to negotiating with popes and cardinals about his fees (and also dying in his old age and in bed, not young).

This insistence: if you're good at something - intellectually, or artistically, - there has to a comparable drawback; if you're successful, it has to be either be punished by a fall, or it has to come to you by accident and through other forces, not because you worked for it and wanted it.

I find it bewildering, and occasionally downright depressing.


selenak: (Default)

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