And, a "highly functional sociopath" being thrown off his game by a lesser, slutty sociopath seems beneath him. If he's just discombobulated because of the punanny, well... doesn't that out him as sexually immature, instead of possessing an intellect so beyond normal sexuality that it takes a woman of rare intellect to swerve his game? For a man who can attempt every other manner of mystery, he couldn't hole up for a week with every type of porn, to understand others' sexual motivations?Excellent point. I fear it tells us more about Steven Moffat than we really want to know. It's juvenile in its way and it's funny that I gave that scene the benefit of the doubt and then had to sigh and take it back upon reading interviews. "Yeah, Sherlock's totally flummoxed because THAT WOMAN IS PURE SEX!" Oh, brother.
I believe the intention here was only that Adler initially befuddles Sherlock not because she's naked, but as the accompanying visual gag shows, she has no clues on her person for him to "read" like he does with everyone else. She outsmarts the show's established gimmick.Heh. Interesting take, although given the recent interviews I've read you've searched for something that isn't there. It was all about her nudity, and not about her taking away the visual clues. But I love that idea. I don't mind good sexual tension, not at all. But you say yourself that "dominatrix" isn't exactly a nuanced character description. You can't just go, "Okay, we're updating her to be a dominatrix" and then stop right there. Moffat's women have a bit of an issue with this. They are their descriptions, or their roles, and there's generally no more character work done.
To the creators, "dominatrix" is likely just an edgy-sounding word more than a character-defining, nuanced definition. Sherlock is always pining for a challenge/mystery worthy of his attention, and this time he's found one that's personified in Adler. The attraction has nothing to do with sex. Sherlock and Adler were both uniquely immune to each other's primary weapons, which made them each try even harder to use them. Thus evolved a kind of mutual respect.
I didn't see any real sexual tension in what followed, just faux-sparring to misdirect viewers. What Will calls the "ignorance of sex" was most likely intended as cutesy humor directed at the same segment of fandom that giggles hysterically when a character mistakes Sherlock and Watson for a gay couple fifty times an episode.
So once again, we have Woman As Object and not a character. And when we're talking about Sherlock Holmes, I do expect that if he's going to be taken down, it will be by someone fascinating. And it so sadly was not.
Will Shetterly says:
"There are a lot of men who think that women use their gender and their sexuality as a weapon, which is essentially what Adler does and it supposedly blinds Sherlock to who she is.* ... *That's not how I read it at first because I gave Moffat the benefit of the doubt but based on interviews, that's exactly how it happened, which is rather a great disappointment."Closer scrutiny? Exactly how much scrutiny will you allow me? Does he have to create ten poorly drawn women? Twenty? Fifty? I appreciate being given permission to go there, but based on Amy Pond existing as a walking uterus for two years, and the deconstruction of River Song from a strong woman into a simpering Doctor lover, I think we already had enough evidence before Irene Adler showed up.
Hmm. I think you'd have to consider the other women in the show before drawing that conclusion. Moffatt's update is based on a story about a woman who uses sexuality as a weapon, so I think it's legit to make that choice again for Adler.
That said, since Watson can't keep his girlfriends straight in this ep, I grant that Moffatt's feminist creds deserve closer scrutiny.
And sure it's legit. It's also the easy way out for someone who doesn't want to think about a female who isn't simply an object. That's the problem, you see, when women keep seeing this over and over and men justify it by saying what you just said. The only female character Moffat has created that really worked for me was Jekyll's wife. That woman was awesome. But he seems to have backslid a bit. That's not to say that I didn't like the Adler episode. I liked it a lot. But just because a female character isn't overtly a disaster doesn't mean there aren't issues that could be addressed. Adler as a dominatrix was frankly boring and expected. I'm sure all the guys liked seeing her naked. Good for you. But as a modern-day foil for Sherlock, she didn't work as well as she could have if Moffat had taken her out of that box.
Certainly going from Victorian courtesan to dominatrix makes sense to a guy. Of course it does. Sex to sex. Sure. But. Why does it have to such a straight-across substitution? What was different about Adler as courtesan was that she was seemingly a Victorian woman, but she was obviously aware of the limitations imposed on women by society and was flaunting those limitations by not being that woman. This modern-day Adler, on the other hand, is just a dominatrix, and frankly we saw a Goddam dominatrix in the pilot for DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, so YAWN. Dominatrix as a stereotype is quite different as dominatrix from a character standpoint, and the latter is NOT what we got. It's pretty sad when the MOVIE version of Adler -- which is period -- is much more interesting than the modern-day version.
Why is she a dominatrix? What led her here? Who was she before? What was her life like? What IS her life like? WHO THE HELL IS THIS CHARACTER? She's nothing. She's a shell. An amusing shell, a sexy shell, but just a shell. And as someone else pointed out, she's working for Moriarty, so she's not even doing any of this ON HER OWN. She's working for a man, she's brought down to her female emotions by a man, and she's saved by a man.
How am I supposed to feel about this, do you think?
I wonder how men saw Lisbeth Salander. Not objectified enough for you to be interesting? Not female enough? Too weird? Too obviously a well-rounded character, thereby a threat? God forbid she should be a PERSON. An OBJECT is much easier to keep at arm's length.
A point I've been thinking about: part of what redeems this Adler as an antagonist for me is that she totally loves Sherlock...and she's still totally willing to throw him to the wolves in order to win. She didn't fail because of her love for Sherlock. She failed because he was tricky enough to note the physiological cues that she loved him, which gave him the hint that she might've been too cocky when choosing her password.And funnily enough, part of what destroys her as an antagonist is that she totally loves Sherlock. I can't tell you how Goddam tired I am of strong women being weakened by their love for a man. Maybe this is such a strong male fantasy that it blinds you to the obvious. Love does not have to diminish a character. And when it is used that way, it's virtually always used to diminish a woman. It's women who have to give up their strengths for the man. It's women who have to give up their lives or their careers for a man. That may not seem like a big deal for you but if you constantly saw this negative stereotype of your gender throughout your entire life, you'd get a little sick of it, too.
I think the key here is to understand the underlying point of a Dominatrix. It is not SEX that is the key in a Dominatrix deal - it is POWER.The evidence doesn't bear this out. If it was NOT sexual, then it would not be presented as sexual. But that's how it IS presented.
My point is that rich men (and women) don't hire a Dominatrix to provide sex. It's to upend their power structure. For most who indulge, I would imagine it IS a sexual, fetish experience. But the fact remains that the "customer" gets off NOT from physical stimulation, but from MENTAL (ie, they find the power shift titillating, despite it being objectively non-sexual. Think people into girls holding balloons - not inherently sexual, but still generates a huge amount of "porn" for those who enjoy it).
THAT is the key to Adler in the BBC version. I'll admit that this is somewhat muddied by her unarguably sexual teasing of Sherlock. But think about what she was actually doing; Sherlock is (apparently) a virgin. That means he's never experienced sex. This is a person who HOLDS OVER HIM something that SHERLOCK doesn't know (what sex is like). Because sex generates such a primal response in our lives, Sherlock can easily be made to feel that he's missing out on something - which he tries to cover with bluster.And like others have said, it's not in keeping with Sherlock's character that he wouldn't know everything there was to know about sex. BECAUSE THAT IS WHO HE IS. And so this was rather disappointing. But see, when some people conceive of a female character, that's what they start with -- the female part. Rather than coming up with an interesting character who happens to be female. She is tits and a vagina first and then maybe some clever dialogue, blah blah blah. BORING. Tired of it.
All this to say: I thought the portrayal of Adler as a Dominatrix was - while on the surface somewhat obvious - a fairly brilliant update, given that a Dominatrix challenges power conventions nowadays the same way Adler herself did back then (I admit I don't see quite the same weaponized sexuality in the Conan Doyle stories that you're finding). Yes, they could have played her lurid and graphic, but they chose whip-smart and surprisingly contained. I loved it.I'm sure you did, because you have the luxury of not having to look past your own gender and see what women always see with characters like this.
(This comment is long enough as it is, but I have a great deal of response for your comments about men's interpretation of women weaponizing their sexuality. The basic point is that I think you're again missing the power forest for the sex trees. The empowered (weaponized) sexuality is merely a symptom of a different attitude of gender relations. That's what men find terrifying, not the sexy part. But we confuse it for the sexy part. OF EQUAL IMPORT is that when women are aroused, there is an EXPECTATION of sex from the man in their life (boyfriend, husband, etc)(obviously I'm only talking about heterosexual couples, etc etc). Often, however, I think guys might not be as into it as the media would seem to expect. However, there is no way to back out - you're a MAN, it's GIRLY to "be too tired" or whatever. So then you have to perform - and perform WELL, cause you're a MAN. It's Pavlovian - eventually you start to instinctually recoil from sex - which makes women's natural, regular old sexy advances seem terrifying. Not hugely related, but just figured that might be a bit of insight into the male psyche you had not considered.)
I think this might say more about you than it does about men in general (g). Suffice to say, that is not and has never been MY experience.
And really, there is NOTHING I like more than being told by a man that my reading of misogyny is wrong. Don't misunderstand. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of all the comments, and the attempts by the guys to describe why they loved Adler. I really do appreciate it, because the alternative is for people to be assholes about it, and none of the comments here was from that point of view at all. However, it's a bit ironic that you accuse me of missing the point when you miss the point that it is not a man's place to explain to a woman what is misogynistic, just as it is not a white person's place to tell a minority person what is racist. But for some reason that I think is fairly obvious if you think about it for three seconds, it's generally considered okay for me to tell women how to feel and think.
I've been told, VERY recently, that I am too sensitive to feminist issues. First of all, I'm not. So if the person who said this to me ever actually met a woman who was REALLY sensitive, it would be quite a shock. I don't go as far as a lot of women do. But then any type of militancy is rather exhausting and I don't think it helps the cause to be that way.
So what happens is, women ignore a lot of stuff. Some of it by choice, some of it because of workplace situations. Women still have to pick their battles and when they're working with men who are, frankly, terrified of women (which is what the evidence tells me about Moffat), that job gets harder and more frustrating. This is not to say that the men who ARE afraid of women, or who can't stand women, or who think they're just alien beings that are so different they have to be treated as such, are bad writers. That's not it at all. Steven Moffat has proven himself on many occasions to be a terrific writer. But the dude has blind spots, with story and with female characters.
An aside on this -- if you haven't seen the third episode of Sherlock, it is utterly, mind-bogglingly, earth-shatteringly wonderful. There's SO much for the actors, such wonderfully juicy, emotional scenes. There's a lot of that trademark Moffat misdirection, but the episode really lands on the friendship between Sherlock and John and it does so beautifully. What's distressing about it, to me, is another Moffat Achilles heel. After the episode aired, he teased the audience by telling them that they missed the clues. This is what he does. He sits there all smug and tells people that he littered the thing with clues that they will never find because they are not as awesome as he is (not to mention that if you create something, you are obviously going to know what the clues are and it doesn't mean your audience is stupid). But what he seems to be missing here is that I DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE CLUES. The episode works SO well on a character level and to have him just demean it by bleating about clues is just weird. DUDE. YOU DID AWESOME WORK THERE. ACCEPT IT.
Moving on. Anyway, I do not appreciate being told, by men, that I'm wrong about this. Because you see it from a different point of view, and because you are male, does not mean you're right. In fact, you're just proving my point by being intractable and rather patronizing about it.
There's also the simplistic view that because I say this, I think you're a misogynistic asshole, which is simply NOT true. There are degrees, and most men fall on the mild side of it like you seem to, which is still not completely okay but because I'm not a raging crazy feminist, it's easier to handle. But when you are telling me what misogyny is, then we are gonna have an issue. But sure, it's hard for you to completely understand someone else's experience. Expecting you to grok this totally isn't possible, but the insistence upon telling me what is or isn't misogynistic is plain wrong.
I've already been HERE in the past, but I can think of one male writer who writes the everlong SHIT out of female characters, and his female characters are the best on TeeVee at the moment. That would be Matt Weiner. He's treading a fine line of writing strong women in an age when women were not considered strong. They still had rather Victorian roles thrust upon them, and the interesting thing about the women of MAD MEN is that they clearly do not FIT into these roles. But society won't let them off the hook so they either try to fit into these roles because they don't know how NOT to (Betty and Joan), or they say, "You know what, roles? FUCK YOU." Like Peggy, who is going to be as frustrated as Betty and Joan, but she's going to register that frustration outwardly, which is healthier for her but might wind up being more destructive to her with regards to society. Still, I would choose that over the quiet desperation of Joan and Betty.
MARCH 25TH. MAD MEN. OMFG I CAN'T WAIT.
I wrote about STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET earlier and everytime misogyny rears its awful puss, this seems relevant. The same guys who told me that STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET is misogynistic because of how Kim Novak's unhappy suburbanite is objectified by men thought that Lucky McKee's THE WOMAN was a glorious feminist film.
Sidebar: If you haven't seen this piece of shit (I could have sworn I ranted about it but it doesn't seem like I have), then DO NOT SEE IT. If I ever see this Lucky McKee creature in person, he'd better be able to run pretty Goddam fast. Basically, a feral woman is kidnapped by a family man who, you find out, isn't really that nice a guy, beats his wife, rapes his daughter, etc. Blah. BLAH. Male filmmakers, do us a favor. Don't try to make a feminist film. I'm begging you. You're off the hook for these, okay? Just give us good female characters in movies.
So. STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET - see. THE WOMAN - avoid.
When I first got on the Internet, guys were terribly surprised to find out that I was female, because I didn't talk about knitting or whatever, and because I had strong opinions. This still happens to women online. What does THAT tell you about where we are? Female gamers still get harassed, too, and are being forced to announce their gender in the game, which... you can imagine what happens next. Pretending that because women got the vote and can work outside the home means that gender discrimination is off the table smacks of male privilege and it's just unacceptable.
I just tire of the lectures about what is misogynistic, or snarky comments about my sensitivity when BELIEVE YOU ME I am not nearly as sensitive as I could be. Because I choose not to be. I'm not offended by everything but obviously when something sticks in my craw, I'm going to talk about it.
To recap - thanks very much for the thoughtful comments, even if I don't agree with them! Hopefully something appalling will happen this week so I'll have an actual topic for next week. God willing.