I spent my 2017 academic year picking a fight with Joseph Campbell and his blithe assumption that The Hero can only ever be a dude. Well, as my focus shifts from Heroes to Tricksters, the same issues crop up. The most famous mythological Tricksters discussed in the field and in popular culture tend to come from the following list: Norse Loki, Greek Hermes, West African Anansi, Polynesian Maui, and various versions of the archetype that appear in Native American mythology in the form of the Coyote, Raven, and Hare characters. These are all Trickster gods rather than goddesses. Lewis Hyde—whose book Trickster Makes This World I’ve quoted a few times in this series—quite confidently declared that “All the standard tricksters are male”. And, in a broad sense, he’s correct. But does this need to be the case? There are plenty of folks—including one particular writer I’ll be looking at today—who say “c’mon, my guy” and disagree. Continue reading
What is this feeling, so sudden and new?
I felt the moment I laid eyes on you?
My pulse is rushing… my head is reeling…
My face is flushing–what is this feeling?
Fervent as a flame
Does it have a name?
Many would say, from both a point of view of literary interest and from one of “ooh, that’s fun”, that the only thing more exciting than hero-villain parallels is hero-villain sexual tension. It’s certainly all over the place, both beamed there by the minds of the audience and planted deliberately by writers and company. Now, as the mantra has become on my little corner of the internet, sometimes this is an interesting thing to play with and sometimes it leads us all into iffy territory. What could possibly be wrong about the idea that two characters who hate or oppose each other secretly (or not so secretly) wanting to make out? Continue reading
Sometimes adaptations of a work or cameos of previously established characters are less faithful than they could be for artistic reasons—adding scenes to expand the perspective of the story, altering the design of something for more practical or aesthetic purposes… changing the gender of a character? Yeah, okay. Why not? This is a hip, liberal age we’re living in. It’s been done all over the shop, from Sherlock Holmes to Hannibal to the Arthurian legends. It’s an interesting thing to do, but like many Interesting Things, it carries a lot of potential problems with its potential awesomeness.
As an example: Saber, undisputed queen (or rather king) of the Fate franchise, is King Arthur of the British legends. So, surprise! She was a girl all along! Arthur has been genderbent before, in reincarnations like Avalon High, but Fate’s case is that Arthur was a pseudonym for Arturia because a male ruler was more accepted, and so the fabricated truth is what went down in history and legend. It’s pretty awesome, nay, empowering, to suggest that one of the best known fictional figures in history was in fact a tiny girl.
However, given the treatment of her character and the original context of the Fate/Stay Night game (it’s got sexy bits because otherwise nobody would buy it… nowadays, there exists a censor patch so you don’t have to sit through them, because well-studied, jaded and eye-bleached sources tell me they’re so bad they’re an experience) I have to wonder if female empowerment was exactly what they had in mind when they wrote Saber as the Saber we know.
There’s definitely an element of girl power there—the most iconic scene in the entire franchise, possibly, is when Saber is summoned in Stay Night, standing radiant and strong in the moonlight in an armoured dress while the protagonist looks up in awe from where he’s fallen on his ass. But they spend the rest of the story periodically taking that image of power apart, which is not a bad thing in itself as character exploration, but the way it’s done comes off reeking of awkward sexism. Generally, when you’re genderbending a character, your first move should not be to smack them upisde the head with the gender roles you’re supposedly playing with. Continue reading
Innnnn this corner we have the BBC’s latest phenomenon Sherlock, an adaptation/homage to the world’s most famous fictional consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, transplanted into modern day London. Innnnn the other corner we have CBS’ Elementary, which is… the same thing, but in modern day New York. The two face each other off grinding their heels into the ground. Now taking bets! This is a no-holds-barred smackdown match event! This opening would have been a lot punchier if I had a better grasp of fighting sport lingo.
If you follow this website in which I blog into the void, you will know that I very much enjoy Sherlock (as well as admitting its critical flaws). Naturally, as one of many who went about this, I was quick to side-eye CBS’ announcement of their Elementary project. Yes, I’ll admit it, I was brutally sceptical. Which, in my defence, was warranted given how many organ-failure-inducingly awful American remakes or knock-offs have been made of British television shows. It simply wasn’t enough for the American market to enjoy Sherlock, they had to go and make their own. It grated upon me. But not so much anymore, I am joyful and actually pretty surprised to admit.
Is one better than the other? Does it all come down to another little rivalry between the UK and the US? Let’s step back and look at this objectively. Having recently finished season one of Elementary and waiting (c’mon, Win network) for Sherlock season three, here is my personal notes of critique, comparison and congratulations (It’s even relatively spoiler free!) Continue reading