I wish I were better at writing about media. I usually end up getting distracted, or just rewatching what I want to write about, instead of finishing my blog posts-slash-essays.
I just read "Watson, I Need You: Thoughts on Elementary's First Season" by Abigail Nussbaum
, whose thoughts about media I always enjoy even when I don't agree.
is the only show I watched this past season. Well, I also watched Best Ink
, but mostly I fast-forwarded through to the parts with Pete Wentz's face, so I'm not sure that counts as watching.
Anyway, Abigail says something in that piece that I've seen in a couple of places -- that even though Elementary
does a lot of stuff really well...
...the fact remains that she enters Holmes's life as his caretaker, and that despite becoming his partner in detection she still plays a caretaking role in his life, worrying about his sobriety and even assuring Gregson that she will manage him when his pursuit of Moriarty threatens to fly out of control. While this is not an uncommon role for Watson to play in Holmes's life (again, see House), it takes on a very different meaning when Watson is a woman.
(Do not get me wrong -- this is not the thrust of the article, it's just what I zeroed in on.)
So the thing is, to me, that while I do
agree with this, and, in fact, it was a huge problem for me on House
, that Cuddy was this kind of killjoy "Mommy" figure, it's actually not a problem for me with Elementary
. Here's why: Joan has her own problems and issues.
There is clearly some stuff going on with Joan. We see her being not very interested in sex or romantic partnership. Her outfits are never meant to be read, in the Watsonian sense (as opposed to Doylist, see here for an explanation of these terms if you've never heard this before
), as traditionally "sexy". Even though her boots have high heels on them, they're clearly actually meant for practical things -- comfort and height. She wears them almost literally every single day, and when she wears snow boots in the episode with the blizzard, those snow boots are the same style as her daily boots, with the same heel. (That's very New York-y, a heeled snow boot.) She has feelings
about the people who are murdered, even when they're bad people.
I actually have a lot of thoughts about this show based on costuming -- you'll note that when Joan feels confident in what she's doing and/or pleased with herself, she wears bright colors. In the beginning, you could think that she's wearing greys and blacks to be professional, but it becomes clear that she wears greys and blacks because she's sad and unsatisfied. When she's solving cases herself, she wears flowered skirts, or brightly colored pants.
(In the last episode of the season, her sweater kind of matches Holmes's sweater -- she's wearing a solid bright color, and he has patches of the bright color on his sweater.)
(I told you I get distracted.)
Okay, focus: I think Joan has her own issues, and a couple of those issues are control and caretaking issues. Let us not forget her addict ex-boyfriend and her dead patient! As opposed to seeing Joan as something of a Cuddy/House figure, as the stereotypical (in our society's media) woman-taking-care-of-a-brilliant-man, I see Joan as a flawed person who may not realize she's working out (or taking out) her own issues by being Holmes's caretaker in a lot of ways.
I also think that a lot of credit needs to be given to things like, for example, when Watson calls out Holmes's misogyny, he stops what he was doing
. He apologizes to her. He is very focused on consent. He knows he's flawed and doesn't understand feelings, and relies on Watson's people skills and knows it, appreciates it. Thanks her multiple times.
(Also, it appears he kind of wants to be her service submissive. BRB, writing 200,000 words of fanfic.)
I love Elementary
, in case that's not clear. I've watched the whole season all the way through several times at this point. I'm thrilled with it. (Dade Murphy and O-Ren Ishii solve crime!) Even though I have my issues with it, I genuinely believe it's the best show on tv in years.
Also, I find it very comforting that I can always
solve the crime/puzzle quickly. Get that out of the way, then enjoy the rest of the story.
(That is also what I like about Lehane books!)
I can't wait for season 2.
In other media news, a few days ago I watched Born in Flames
, which is a documentary-style (but not in an annoying way) movie. It's feminist science fiction that is basically a lot of different types of women talking about how
to have a revolution. Like, pretty much it's a movie about intersectionality. But it's from 1983, which is before that word even existed! I loved it so much. I thought it was really wonderful. If you like feminist science fiction, feminism, intersectionality, or terrigreat movies from the '80s, you might like this. After it was over I felt exhausted
and had to watch, like, episodes of Castle
to deal with my "feels hangover" (what I called how I felt on Twitter). If you do decide to go for it, trigger warnings for violence against women, sexual assault, pictures of dead women, and bombs in the Twin Towers. I thought it was a really incredible film, especially when it dealt with and discussed the different ways race and class (and sexual identity) impact the way women feel they can participate in revolutions.