My pleasures are not guilty, and "fangirling" doesn't have to be stupid. But, if it is?
I'm totally ok with that, too.
I am new to editing, as I’ve said before. I spent many years pounding keys and hoping that a well-shaped story would spontaneously emerge. Then more recently I discovered how to separate out all the different creative processes that go into writing, I learned more about story structure, and I’ve begun to be more deliberate with my ideas through brainstorming, planning, and outlining. Now, for the first time, I’m learning to edit a large piece of writing.
I have learned a single thing, so of course I have to document that thing. #exhibitionist
Saving for later. I love this post!
Yeah, I’ve been thinking about ‘feminine’ or new kinds of narratives somewhat (thanks to my professor) ‘cause I’m so into the Hero’s Journey-type narratives and most of the archetypes are pretty masculine. However! If you look into the work of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, there’s actually quite a bit you can do with fairy-tales in particular (using Jungian methods) that exposes the story-logic of fundamentally feminine narratives. A lot of these stories are like ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, ’Donkeyskin’, ‘The Red Shoes’ or ‘The Handless Maiden’— essentially, a woman isn’t heroic, except in the sense that she suffers, she has to struggle to survive and she does. She transforms through suffering into someone resilient, someone stronger and with firmer agency. Often the woman does this through ‘woman’s work’ such as weaving, dancing, cooking, etc.
Yes, I’ve read her. You’re right — that is a good source. And I agree — a lot of it seems to be about endurance.
It is (unfortunately) true that traditional hero stories aren’t really changed by the genderswapping people like to do; like, making the sword-waving hero rationalist female does little good. Not that it’s not ‘badass’, but…. Essentially, this is why I love thinking about Femlock, but essentially Sherlock Holmes is male. So is Watson. You can work around it, you can challenge it, but essentially you’re only going to mess up the dynamic and make them non-adaptations but new inventions if you change the values/contexts they bring with them (the value-systems at the structural level: the damsels, the deductions, the judgment-oriented systems, the vigilanteism, all of it).
Like I’d said earlier about fanon!Sherlock and John: we inevitably make the male heroes ‘feminine’ by making them articulate about their feelings, and that’s kind of the point of fandom in some ways, but the emotional journey at the center of women’s stories is just *different* at its core than the traditional Hero’s Journey. Not that emotional stories don’t get placed in those narratives; of course they do. But I feel like this is part of the misunderstanding of where Sherlock’s arc might reasonably go in the future. It’s not going to become a romance. Masculine romances are just… built differently than adventures. Actually, they’re generally still adventures: the guy wins and ‘gets’ the girl. Or he suffers and grows as a person and becomes cool and famous— heroic— through his angst. That’d be something like ‘Catcher in the Rye’.
I agree so much that fanon challenges and interrogates these male characters and in a very real way, feminizes them by internalising their stories. I really do think, too, that it’s possible for man-centric stories to interrogate themselves — I think Sherlock does that, as does Elementary, and that’s a big reason why I like both of them. But yes — that’s what I’m saying: in the end, they are classic adventures with a whole narrative grammar that I think is fundamentally masculine, and changing the genders doesn’t change that.
But yes, it’s just different. I was thinking particularly of the discussion of ‘In The Cut’:
I’m going to work backwards on your questions. I think you must be referring to this one I made earlier.
OMG, it’s a long one, and it’s basically unedited stream of consciousness, so do forgive the inevitable typos.
Because agency doesn’t mean heroism — that is a man story — agency means the freedom to fuck up. Structurally, the story is just… off. It’s not about the detective, it’s not about the mystery. It’s about HER, and how she finds out that a certain kind of romantic notion is a real, goddamned problem.
I guess in some ways, it’s just hard to make these adventures, because they’re much more internally-focused narratives. Still, though, a lot of YA lit does make them adventures, especially focusing on the theme of finding yourself, traveling to another world, finding strength to deal with inner demons, etc. Being strong enough to make really tough choices. I think the ‘Hunger Games’ books do this sort of arc successfully. I mean, she’s still a hero, but a whole ‘nother type altogether.
Yes — I agree! ‘In the Cut’ wasn’t so well-reviewed, nor did it make much money, but I thought it was incredibly moving, and that it had a good half-life — years later, it’s a story I still think about. I love that it really doesn’t resolve in the normal way… and in a way, it doesn’t resolve in any way we are used to. In fact, in all of Jane Campion’s work, I love the way she doesn’t allow men to be cast as normal, woman-crushing feminist villains — I feel that she lets her women have dangerous agency, and she lets the men be simultaneously patriarchal and human — caught in the same web the women are. I love her stories.
The Hunger Games is a nice example, too — I really struggled, when I first read it, with Katniss’s emotional catatonia, but the more I thought about it, the truer it rings, in light of what she is coping with.
Thank you so much for this thoughtful response! :-)
Some commentary I saw twigged something in me and I have to rant. I don’t think it’s great that Joan is mistreated and underestimated over and over again and isn’t allowed to lose her temper. This is boring and one note and really shallow feminism. She’s a human being, presumably, but she doesn’t have bad days, off days, where something hits her wrong and she just explodes. We don’t get to see her save her strong emotions until her off hours, either. She’s pretty much only allowed to be properly angry as a direct result of some misbehavior of Sherlock’s, and even then her temper almost never continues past a single instance of her raising her voice.
Sherlock explodes all the time, often for internal reasons that have nothing to do with the person on the receiving end. And in those cases, he’s given a chance to make up for his mistake. Developmentttt. Joan, on the other hand, is actively shit on, and apparently it’s AWESOME that she stays professional and frosty no matter what. Here’s a secret: If Joan were to have an extreme reaction to anything, they’d have to spend more than two minutes of screen-time dealing with the fallout, and that’s something they’ve proven themselves unwilling to do.
You know what? Joan SHOULD be a “bitch” sometimes. I want her to make mistakes, to come up from behind, to learn and grow and change her mindset. And when she’s wronged, I don’t want her to always stay professional and immediately get on with her life. Get out of here with Saint Joan the flawless role model. Moriarty murdered children and she has a population of adoring fans. Joan once used a gendered insult and there was pearl clutching up and down the internet; never mind that woman she used it against had kidnapped her and implicitly threatened her family. The fact that the perfect one is a woman of color and the flawed one with morally gray complexities is white is highly problematic. The fact that the mostly white male writers are being celebrated for keeping a woman of color within the confines of “acceptable” behavior in the face of continued mistreatment is a little unsettling.
The problem is that the story is NOT ABOUT JOAN, it’s about Sherlock. It’s about how Sherlock comes to be a better man. Joan is part of that process, but the show is not about her, so her process is subsumed by his. Exactly my earlier point.
And, that’s not to say that there isn’t loads to love about Joan Watson and the way Lucy Liu plays her, or even to say that I don’t enjoy Elementary, or the story of Sherlock Holmes—I love it all—it’s just that on a fundamental, structural level, she is not the focus of the narrative. Swapping John’s gender does not change the essential raison d’etre of the story.