Tag Archives: Tumblr

How to fangirl defend Sherlock season 3

As anyone who cares to have a conversation with me for longer than about 15 minutes knows, I am a tumblr person. Which means that when it comes to things I like, namely films, television and books, I get chatter and news very quickly. It also means that comprehensibly distilled versions of critiques and reviews of said television, films and books find me sooner or later. Recently, I read a few posts on tumblr that has brought this on, other than raging fandom feelings.

One was about how the constant fear about someone who cares about something, anything at all, is that they will start becoming a looped record about it. Every time you talk about it, you are aware of a certain section of people internally groaning – “We KNOW. You’ve talked about this before. In a different context perhaps, and with different conclusions, but why does every discussion have to be about this?”

And speaking as someone who has thought these very things on multiple occasions, and lately been subject to these very thoughts, I have to pint out it’s between a hard place and another phallic, sexual hard thing. Nobody wants people to tire of the things they talk about and consider important. However, perhaps more so with some subjects than another, you can’t rest till you talk about it because the only way to embed a manner of reasoning or thinking into the world around you is if you bring it up as much as you can. And so goes feminism and anything feminism related to film and television.

The problem with talking about feminism is how ingrained the opposite is. Because nobody has ever really ignored the presence of women in human society. In history and sociology and the rest of the liberal arts, perhaps only recently has the contribution and importance of women been studied, but in everyday life, women are always around. They are not ignored in the culture of any society, largely because is “culture” is mostly made by a phallus shaped society interested in where the penis shaped compass of their penis-minds are pointed. Which means that as soon as someone says “but the women…” the immediate response from most people is, “Yes, the women are here. We see them.” The question of how you internalize the personhood of women is often ignored because as soon as you acknowledge their presence, mostly at a phallic level, you stop wondering what other contribution they can have to your life or to your story.

Which brings me, quite fortuitously (not really. I planned this) to the subject of Sherlock. Season three has come and gone, and the results are in – “Amazing as usual, but it is not Sherlock anymore. Sherlock isn’t about how pretty Benedict Cumberbatch’s eyes are, or how much Watson loves his wife. It should be about Sherlock solving crime.” (Apologies to the person to whom this quote can be directly ascribed to. This is not a tirade against you. I have heard too many arguments of the same nature and you were the most articulate)

There is no doubt that this season has been subtly or not so subtly… enhanced for the womenfolk. The opening sequence itself, where all of our vaginas trembled with the knowledge that here, here was the perfect kiss with just the right hand placement and just the right kind of adrenaline rush and the right kind of background lighting, is proof of this. However my question is, is the value of the series itself diminished somehow because it also caters to the red blooded female? I have rarely heard of the value of something like Game of Thrones or Rome or even Spartacus being diminished because it caters to the visual fantasies and priorities of its male viewers. If I have, it comes from a largely female source where the argument is not against such catering, but in its blatant disregard for the female viewer. Take this hilariously significant plea to HBO for instance.

 

In comedy this is an often talked about issue – is women’s comedy different from men’s comedy? This is especially something that is chanted by male comedians for whom a large part of their routine consists of “Men are like…. But women are like….” But for people like Louis C.K. or Patton Oswalt, two older male comedians who have actually engaged with feminist (or rather, just anti-obscene-justifying-rape-joke-ist) critique, there is no such thing as “funny for men” and “funny for women”. Funny is funny. And for Oswalt and Louis, funny is funny because it is not coming at the expense of trivializing actual, real, and horrendous problems, but engages with them in order to cull out hypocrisy and irony and outlandishness of thought that allows for such problems.

This engagement at a less than visceral level is what has always made Sherlock as a show important. A direct adaptation, even one based in the 21st century, of what I remember of the original material would not result in the show as it exists. And it’s a good thing they didn’t go about making that direct adaptation, largely because the world has seen enough interpretations of the “genius solves crime by using his genius and then follows killer into dark alley where they fight and then genius emerges victorious” trope. Any show that wants to break ground while having Sherlock Holmes as its protagonist needs more. You need more than chase sequences and smug omniscience. You need human connection, and very importantly in the digital age, a connection with the consumers.

I don’t know about anyone else, but to me and a lot of people around me, the pivotal point of any Sherlock episode has not been the chase, or the catching of the criminal. It has been about how Sherlock uses his mind to arrive at the solution, to escape, to catch. And more than that, it is about the examination we do of Sherlock’s mind to understand where he stands, and where we stand by comparison. Even Moriarty, who by the way did not have as much a presence in the original works as does the Andrew Scott Moriarty in Sherlock, as much as he is the epitome of the “consigliore of crime” presents such a palpably delicious threat because of how much he wants to sparr with Sherlock. Sherlock the show has always been more interesting because we get to see the socially dysfunctional Sherlock manipulate and work with the real world and with real people and all their “tedious” fights, emotions and conventions.

With Doctor Who, especially in its 10th Doctor heyday, the most adventurous part of the show is never special effects, explosions and chasing aliens, but the manner in which the Doctor with all his resources and intelligence facilitates compromise and diplomacy, more often than not, by creating a team and working positively with other people.

Sherlock, Doctor Who and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer of yore are few of the shows that escape from sticking to the previously adhered to, rather male centric trope of “single savior saves the world” even while there is a titular character. All of them survive because of the team they form around each other, and the team they form around the people who watch the show itself.

This is where fandom has become an unprecedentedly important factor. Sherlock is made by fandom. Even Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are fans of the original work, and are technically writing modern AU fanfiction to use the parlance of the fanfic universe. My question is, does the fact that so many female viewers are enamored by Sherlock’s physicality negate their equally strong enthusiasm for his process? Does the fact that the writers are keeping this female viewership in mind mean that there is nothing for everyone else to enjoy? In fact, isn’t it a good thing that the perspective and imaginations of female viewers are now part of the canon of a show rather than something left to be filled up by female viewers in fanfiction sites?

More importantly one has to consider why female viewers love Sherlock. Despite what a large number of men, including Steven Moffat at times, think it is has as much to do with his personality as his looks, and it is not at a purely romantic level. For many women, Sherlock is not a challenge – someone who appears asexual but who we hope we would be able to change. He is asexual, and for a lot of people including women there is comfort in his asexuality. Sherlock being asexual and as logical as he is means that his lack of manners and general rudeness have nothing to do with the way he thinks about you because you’re a woman. He treats women abhorrently, but he treats men equally abhorrently. He is the man who will not try to leap ahead of you to open the door for you. He will probably let the door smack you on your face. There is safety in him – the guarantee of being treated rottenly on the basis of something that has nothing to do with where he believes your place in life is simply because you are a woman. God knows he seems to have met enough world class criminal women to have no stereotypical understanding of women. In the stand up comedy delivered by Sherlock, if there is any mention at all of the separation of genders or relationships, it will probably go something like “Can you believe you tiny brains have no idea that your significant other is using drugs by the fact that he or she has started polishing their boots?! What a bunch of fucking idiots.”

It may not be the crime procedural that we have been made used to by the rather male dominated western entertainment industry, with the importance it gives to weddings, relationships and so on, but it would be rather punishing to claim that such things should not be part of a show like Sherlock. Further, saying that would imply that men and viewers at large are not interested in such things as marriage or kissing or emotional and psychological basis for human behavior and personalities. You only need to look at who writers of happy fairy tales and romantic comedies have largely been – men.

This is not to say that Steven Moffat couldn’t do with a world of improvement in his portrayals of women – which is more often than not one-dimensional or otherwise problematic, or even of portrayals of relationships. However, Mary Morstan is certainly a step up, not just in the depth of her character and history, but in the relationships she sustains with people – from using them for her own ends (Geniene?) to loving fiercely to inspiring respect and love not just for her ability to love fiercely, but for being a clever and ruthless assassin. In fact, I believe for those interested in such things, it would be thrilling – comparing Sherlock and Mary Morstan; two sociopaths with the ability to love fiercely and unequivocally when it comes to the people they care about.

To imply that Sherlock has always been about solving crimes would be very blind – it has always been about people, especially about Sherlock himself. We are all at some level masturbating intellectually to the thought of this one man’s unprecedented personality and how it interacts with other personalities. And to behave as though the manner in which he and Watson form relationships and friendships is not interesting to you would mean you’re just not interested in stories. The kind of male centered action based television where entertainment is based on one liners and very flimsy grasp of personalities, especially women’s personalities should be on its way out, even if it isn’t actually.

This is not to say that women don’t like action movies with bombs and guns. They would be more interesting if they centered around people more – people being more than just those with dangling genitals. This is of course a problem with Sherlock, and the female viewers deal with it through the mode available to it – fan-fiction and fan art. The amount of material you see on the female characters in Sherlock interacting, their origin stories, their interactions, their survival, their dreams, the realizations or shattering of their hopes, is exponential. Is it really a bad thing if Moffat and Gatiss start paying attention to the many types of viewers who are consuming their show, and allowing for merit in their interests.

This season for instance, we see Molly Hooper having a more assertive personality and overall more presence in the show itself. The fact that this has been inspired by the kind of interest she has generated, even from the corner she was relegated to in the previous seasons is an improvement for more representational and demographically and psychologically realistic television. So is a multi dimensional approach to character.

In conclusion, Benedict Cumberbatch is undeniably a very new and utterly fabulous type of hot, and yes, the show has started banking on that a little more than when it initially came out. It is also a fact that the show has started looking more at other characters as well as the emotional bonds that Sherlock is made of. We can all certainly argue about what kind of Sherlock Holmes we are used to and what we would prefer his personality to be. But assuming that the kind of personality he does have in the show and what dimensions of said personality the show chooses to display somehow makes the show less than its previous seasons is an entirely subjective argument. Even if the intention is to give a certain section of viewers what they want (namely, more Benedict Cumberbatch), that alone should ideally not be the basis of saying that the show has become something else, and certainly not something less than what it was before.

 

–        Billy

 

P.S. – I was going to write more, but something’s gotta give. It is first week back in college and I’m already more busy than I have ever been. So screw writing about fandom and India and all that shit. I’ll do that some other time.

Also, I believe I’m supposed to reveal an embarrassing secret – I once masturbated while there was another person present in the room. That person was not aware of my activities for a number of reasons which I will not be divulging. Ok. Bye.

 

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Pop Culture and Man World

I’m a tumblr person. For those who don’t know what that means, I could surpass this week’s quota for quoting (hehe. Clever.) Louis Armstrong and say “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” Instead, I will try and explain, because that is just how I roll. Yo.

Tumblr primarily consists of nerdy obsession. Let me clarify – by nerdy obsession I mean a singular and unimpeached devotion towards certain subjects, people, things, shows, books, whatever floats your bong. So this includes sites devoted to pictures of people engaged in passionate coitus (though with tumblr these pictures have a tendency to be more graphic, HD, well lit, well shot and unprecedentedly enjoyable) to gifs of one-liners from the Ian McKellan show Vicious to gifs of people having sex to links and diagrams about science and feminism. You can like anything, you can explain your dislike for anything in an articulate manner, and practically anything goes. The only rule is that your face should automatically crumple up and your genitalia should tense up every time Benedict Cumberbatch appears on your dash, no matter what your gender or sexual orientation. And Benedict Cumberbatch will appear on your dash every two to three posts. I’m pretty sure there’s a clause against Benedict Cumberbatch bashing in the tumblr terms of agreement.

And tumblr has sort of helped me diagnose a certain… thing I have. I haven’t considered myself an introvert since I came out as a fully functional person in 10th grade. I’m not shy or rude or dismissive of people I meet. I suspect that despite my very deep and hidden discomfort in social groups I’m not familiar with, I often either leave no impression or leave a good one. However, as people get to know me more, it becomes pretty clear that I’m not entirely… nice.

I can socialize with people well enough, for a few hours. After that, I feel the need to scratch my face, wash it, chew my tongue incessantly and finally make up an excuse to leave. According to tumblr, this is a symptom of being an introvert. This, when combined with my … lack of feelings can be a bit troublesome, not really for other people, but for me.

For instance, I am often confounded and intensely uncomfortable when people seem to behave in irrational and weirdly emotional ways. Especially if they behave like that over people they just met. I don’t understand how people in my new college are able to have secrets and fights and intense discussions. How can they possibly fight over stupid things with people they just met a few month ago? The only people I fight with, or have painful discussions with, or sexually charged intense conversations with, are those I have known for at least a year. So I am confounded. Which is alright – that brings me to about Abed level of confusion.

However, when this confoundedness interacts with the previously mentioned need to be rid of human company after a few solid hours of getting-to-know-you camaraderie, it inevitable results in Evil Abed, and Sherlock.

Evil Abed in Action

Sherlock Holmes was and still remains a huge part of who I have come to accept myself as. I had read every single piece of Sherlock Homes literature before I was 14. To put it in real cheesy terms, it opened up a world to me. See, I had by that time learnt to disregard feelings unless they were productive or at the least not unproductive. If feelings got in the way of anything else in my life, including my peace of mind, I didn’t pay attention to them. This is a not oft spoken of fact about human affection – if you don’t water it, it eventually withers and dies, especially if the feelings are regarding someone who’s not a big part of your life. If they are a big part of your life, the feelings can hang around in the background, maybe even manifest itself at times, but eventually die out as well. Human feelings are beautiful but fickle. They are the opposite of cacti.

When I read Sherlock at thirteen, you can imagine my… exhilaration at knowing that there were others like me. That there are people who are stable and functional and able to have lives and friends and love without going bonkers about every crush, every emotion and every single thing that has no value in practical terms. I’m not saying I have never been a teenage girl, or never over-reacted to anything, even past eighteen. I have. But only when it seemed lie there was a logical reason for doing so.

The first time I perceived proper friendship for unemotional people was with Sherlock and Watson. I remember the Adventure of the Three Garridebs for this. Watson got shot in it and the Sherlock Holmes did this.

‘You’re not hurt, Watson? For god’s sake tell me you’re not hurt!’

It was worth a wound— it was with many wounds— to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation… His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who was sitting up with a dazed face.

‘By the Lord it is well for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive.’

While a lot of people love this sort of stuff on television because it’s amusing and interesting to see a character behave out of character (which is understandable – it is amusing), I find it beautiful because I always think of it as very much in character. I like knowing that there are others like me, who don’t like telling people about our feelings till it matters. That it’s possible to be intimate with someone at times without losing our whole personality. I would hate to be addressed as “sensitive” or “hyper-emotional” or “a changed, more open person” just because I nearly cried once in the metro when an old friend returned my long and rambling letter with his own long and rambling letter. Ok fine, that was today. But the point is, I didn’t suddenly become less myself just because I felt something and admitted it. I refuse to be less badass just because I may in the future, fall completely head over heels in love with someone.

And I love geekdom and tumblr for this – that I can get excited about minute details in stories and movies and it would be accepted and appreciated. However, I have also noticed that geekdom doesn’t seem to be very comfortable with girls, even if we have the same neuroses and social problems and confusions as your favorite characters. And this is where we segues uncomfortably into Deep Space Fandom Feminism (you’ll get the joke or you won’t, shitheads) area.

I have started to get the feeling that guys spend way too much time with each other. I remember a term we used for groups of people who seemed to become their worst selves the more time they spent with each other – toxic groups.

I have nothing against men having sleepovers and talking about sports and touching each others muscles, drinking their ales, plundering tropic isles or whatever they do when they’re alone with each other. I do however have a problem with men who get so used to hanging out with just men that they forget that the world of women is not a separate one. That sometimes, women exist inside the little cocoon world you created for yourself, and not in another dimension which you can travel to via portal every time you need a mother’s hug or a vagina to do things with.

One of my friends had a theory once that men who live together with other men at a young age tend to be misogynistic at some level. And that especially in boy’s hostels, the rhetoric about women, including individual women they are acquainted with, is often restricted to a sexual sphere with very few exceptions. This means that there is automatically a struggle between what you think of as the rest of your life, and your life when it comes to girlfriends, friends who are girls, etc.

Consequently, as per rhetoric, Spock being friends (or more) with Kirk (who by the way is as emotionally expressive and demanding and utterly disregarding of regulations and logic as any stereotypical woman) is beautiful and amazing and a testament to human-vulcan attachment; while Spock being in love with Uhura, a woman (who on the other hand is actually very emotionally reticent, and is openly demonstrative on very few occasions, and only when it’s something that matters), is termed as improbable, unbelievable and entirely out of character. How is it that male friendship is somehow seen as the norm that is beautiful, while a healthy relationship involving a woman is somehow less believable for the current generation of nerds? And don’t even get me started on the slash fiction between the two. I have nothing against a widespread acceptance of homosexuality, but not to the exclusion of women.

One of the reasons I seriously loved A Scandal in Belgravia in Sherlock was for this reason. Yes, I really think they could have developed Adler’s character a lot more. And yes, that whole Sherlocked bit seemed way too cheesy (not because she was a woman, but because she was a person), but at no point is there a diminishing of the dynamics between her and Sherlock just because she is a woman. What I find particularly interesting and beautiful is that while Sherlock remains the eternal asexual in many ways (though there are of course doubts about that), his regard for her, as well as his willingness to go out of his way to help her is in no way diminished because she’s a woman and a possible love interest. He does the same things for her as he would do for John. Arguably, not enough time is given to her personality in order for the dynamic between the two to grow on us the way Sherlock and John’s has, but unfortunately the show is about Sherlock and Watson. Every other character cannot really be given as much time as those two (same goes for Mycroft and Lestrade).

But here’s the problem, for every Sherlock and Sheldon and Spock making their tentative steps into the social world, which for them is not divided into that of men and women; there are a bunch of friends and TV shows and video games and everyday language and rhetoric that excludes women from the presence of men categorically and purposely. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if and when Sherlock and Spock and any number of geeky, smart, iconic characters seem to have an intense romantic connection or even a primary friendship with a female character, it is seen as betrayal, not by the characters, but by the writers – how could the writers “sell out” and have our awesome male character who is happy without any annoying nagging girlfriend suddenly feel attached to a girl? I would in fact further argue that this is largely based on a misplaced, and rather ignorant sense of victimization about the way the world and women treats them.

I’m tempted to say it’s probably also got something to do with anger – Spock or Sherlock or Sheldon or The Doctor was supposed to be my single bro friends. How did he get a girl? Well, honey, he got a girl because he wasn’t a dick to her and he acted like she was a person and not just something to come back to at the end of a day.

There is nothing I hate more than when people (I say people because both men and women do this) try to equate every slight problem that a guy has to go through to the systemic and ingrained prejudice, harassment and violence that women go through. It is inevitably a way to nip any mildly feminist thought at the bud. “Yes, I may be following you around and harassing you online and at work, but you don’t have to be such a bitch to me and friendzone me. You’re probably doing it cause you’re superficial and don’t think I’m handsome and you don’t understand true love.”

This was actually addressed in a movie which I have no particular feelings for – The Social Network.

Social Network 1

Social Network 2

Social Network 3

Social Network 4

Social Network 5

You know what sucks? I have seen so many tumblr posts where they just post the one gif with his face crumpling at the words “because you’re a nerd”, as though the people who are posting don’t want to even consider what the scene was actually saying – you don’t get to act like an arrogant prick, whether you’re a jock or a nerd or a porn star, and get to keep the girl. You can’t blame someone for leaving you when you’ve been a dick, and when you don’t treat the other person with kindness and consideration.

And so, even with all the signs (Ted, Scrubs, Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory, New Girl, Sherlock, any number of other shows and movies) pointing in the right direction – hey, if you can just get up the guts to consider women as an equal part of not just society, but the world you inhabit, whether that’s geek world, pop culture world, corporate world or Disney world, you could have a more productive and romantically and sexually fulfilling life, and you’ll probably be less frustrated – geeky guys will complain about all the girls (read “whores” and “sluts”) in pop culture who distract from the awesomeness of male bonding.

Because the world of women, as mentioned previously is ventured into only for the sake of motherly comfort, emotional diarrhea that one would never admit to one’s male friends, and sex. There seems to be very little room for arguments about the relationship without accusations of “too sensitive” or “hyper-emotional” or “overly attached”, and there is no room for talking about anything that is the sacrosanct area of “man talk” – sports, pop culture (this is where the fake geek girl meme really gets to me), and quite awfully, politics and social situations.

It sucks because the geek guys were the ones I sort of rested my faith in mankind on…. since most other guys were very obviously dicks to begin with.

There are exceptions though – some guys in college, Wil Wheaton, the vlogbrothers, Charlie McDonnell probably….

Oh well.

Oh and embarrassing secret cause I took too long to finish writing this – I sort of really teared up in the metro yesterday because I reconnected with a friend over facebook. I found out in the metro because I have a 21st century phone now, which has email services. But yeah, I was all teary and shit. This is the downside to 21st century communication I guess.

– Billy

P.S. – I wanted to give you guys this, in honor of my finding it on the interwebs

It's Leonard Nimoy!! As a handsome human person who smiles and dances with his mouth near a woman's ear!! Gah!!
It’s Leonard Nimoy!! As a handsome human person who smiles and dances with his mouth near a woman’s ear!! Gah!!