jump to navigation

Erin Watches: Good Hair, Bad Who, and Mediocre Mahou Shoujo September 20, 2011

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
Tags: , ,
trackback

I think my favorite part of Good Hair is when a scientist, a charming old white guy who seems to have stepped right out of a caricature, explains the properties of sodium hydroxide complete with a chemistry-class demonstration of what it does to aluminum cans. (After four hours of exposure: eats right through the can.)

Chris Rock: “You know black women put this on their hair, right?”
Nice White-Guy Scientist: *boggles* “Why would anyone do that?”

It’s just such a perfect summation of this whole vast cultural gulf, distilled into two lines of dialogue. A playwright couldn’t have captured it better.

***

(Under the cut: disapproval, and spoilers, for both Doctor Who and Heartcatch Precure.)

***

I didn’t think this was going to be possible, but after the last few episodes, I think I’m burning out on Moffat’s Who faster than I did RTD’s Who.

Moff’s first season was excellent. Some bad spots, but also some bright spots, and the use of timey-wimeyness to build the overall arc was top-notch and sorely needed in the series.

The second season…um. All the episodes from the first half fell kind of flat except The Doctor’s Wife (and even that suffered from the gratuitousness of House’s shift from “tricking people and deceiving them to ensure its own survival” to “a sadist for kicks”, but the human!TARDIS was so well done that it overshadowed all the other iffy bits) and the mid-season cliffhanger (which worked because it didn’t try to be anything beyond ACTION ACTION ACTION Victorian Lesbian Silurians ACTION ACTION sweet baby!Doctor moments ACTION timey-wimey River ACTION!, and did that quite well).

And the second half had a fantastic opener in Let’s Kill Hitler. Okay, the tiny judgmental time-traveling torture squad was a really disturbing concept if you stop to think about it, but again, the good bits overshadowed that. “Rory! Put Hitler in the closet.” That line alone: worth the price of admission.

But then.

But then we got Night Terrors, a fairly generic horror-story-with-creepy-children episode. Kudos for the moral of “your adopted child is still your child.” Massive anti-kudos for Amy and Rory paying no attention to the fact that they just had an infant who still needs to be rescued in the Doctor’s relative future. The presence of Mels in the last episode would have distracted them for the time being, but shouldn’t have left them at ease afterward. Time can be rewritten, remember?

And, okay, word on the street is that that episode was meant to go in the first half, so maybe we can forgive it feeling out-of-place and forgetful. Maybe.

But then we got The Girl Who Waited, which was a straight-up remix of all Moffat’s favorite themes with nothing really new added. Mysterious disease (Empty Child/Doctor Dances) treated by terrifyingly unintelligent programmed-to-kill-you robots (Girl In The Fireplace’s clockwork figures in Marvin the Paranoid Android drag), with one partner waiting for ages while no time at all passes for the other (Amelia waiting for the Doctor, Centurion!Rory waiting for Amy), and no actual other characters, because they would take up time that could clearly be better spent beating us over the head with how epic Amy and Rory’s love is (and look, I love the pairing, but that doesn’t mean I want it burdened with the weight of carrying a new epic speech every other episode).

And then we got The God Complex, which almost felt like self-parody. Like, Moffat’s out of new and fresh ways to scare us, and sick of doing it one at a time anyway, so look! A whole hotel full of ALL THE SCARY THINGS! And somewhere in there is THE THING THAT SCARES YOU MOST, ooooo! All of which somehow comes down to a space whale in Nimon drag (The Beast Below, with, granted, points for referencing The Horns of Nimon), and the day is saved by straight-up stealing the plot from The Curse of Fenric. And this time we get beaten over the head with the analogy between the spacewhale!Nimon and the Doctor. Other characters did exist, but only to die one by one, which was especially blah when the most prominent of them was a Muslim woman of Tamil descent. (Also: all human. Again. Where are my aliens? At least when RTD had a kill-’em-one-by-one episode, e.g. Voyage of the Damned, he mixed it up a little species-wise.)

As if that weren’t bad enough, the tag to The God Complex is all kinds of messed-up. While the analogy exists, and it’s a potentially illuminating one, the Doctor is not Peter Pan. He’s also not the Goblin King, or any other mysterious fantasy figure that’s fun to play with for a while but must be given up in the end. He’s a guy with a box. He’s old, and he knows a lot, but he’s not magic. He’s just a guy. Who happens to know a lot and have a box.

So the idea that “growing up” means “leaving the Doctor and settling down to a nice suburban married life (and finally taking your husband’s last name, because a couple taking the woman’s name is a Doctorish affectation and not something one does in the Real Adult World)” is nonsense. It didn’t mean that for Nyssa, who settled down to a life on a space-station hospital as one of the doctors, or Peri, who settled down with a warrior-king after they fought a mad scientist together, or Jo, who married an environmentalist and traveled all over Earth with him, or Susan, who hooked up with a futuristic freedom fighter, or Sarah Jane, who still battles alien invasions with her alien-computer and robot-dog sidekicks, or River and Jack, whose ongoing adventures speak for themselves. For that matter, it doesn’t mean that for real-life diplomats and peacekeepers and freedom fighters and people who dedicate their adulthoods to trying to do good in extraordinary ways. And it doesn’t mean that for the Doctor himself. Not because the Doctor gets some lonely-god exemption to the rules, but because he’s just a guy, and these same rules apply to everyone else.

So…yeah. My A Lot Of Feelings, let me show you them.

***

Heartcatch Precure was underwhelming in just about all ways.

It had some good ideas, but they weren’t followed through enough and ended up drowned in a sea of genericness and formula-following. (Didn’t help that the mascots were mostly insufferable, and sparkly weapons are a lot less cool when they look like they were (a) designed with the plastic toy version in mind first and foremost and (b) modeled on electric toothbrushes.)

Case in point, from the climactic battle (paraphrased, but only slightly):
Cure Blossom: “Please don’t fight with your anger and hatred!”
Cure Moonlight: “But I…I despise [the Big Bad]!” *tremble* “It’s because of him that my father and sidekick are dead!”
Cure Blossom: “Please! If you fight with hatred, you’ll definitely lose! Would your father and your sidekick want that?”
Cure Moonlight: “But…!” *tears*
Cure Blossom: “Please!” *tears*
Cure Moonlight: *determined* “Okay, you convinced me. We’ll fight with love.”
*cue power-up sequence, followed by action-packed beatdown*

A scene of you-killed-my-father can make for a great emotional impact, and a shot of determination for the hero in question. I wasn’t serious before, but you just made it personal. There’s nothing you can offer that will sway me now. I want my father back, you son of a bitch.

And the struggle not to be ruled by anger can be a compelling emotional arc. You’re supposed to go to trial, but after what you did, who would blame me for killing you right here? Alternatively, the switch from anger to love can involve a winning change of strategy. Dammit, Galaxia, we’re the last two sailor senshi in the universe–why do we have to be enemies? I’m not fighting you. If we don’t end the cycle of violence now, then when?

Here, the two are crammed together in a less-than-a-minute scene. It shouldn’t be enough time for Moonlight to sort out all her feelings, let alone process them and come to a place of forgiveness. But it doesn’t matter, because it makes no difference to the strategy that follows. The Cures win with punches, kicks, energy blasts, various flashy combinations of their powers. The final blow is an explosive punch to the Big Bad’s heart. The fact that they declare it to be a punch of love beforehand doesn’t change what it is.

What makes it worse is that this would have been so easy to replace with something that fit organically with the series. The first episode featured Cure Moonlight fighting a battle on her own and losing, her sidekick dying in the process. Throughout the series, the other Cures worked to draw her out of her shell, convince her to get back in the fight and get comfortable working as a team. But watching the murder of her father could naturally undo all that work and put her right back in that place of pain…

Cure Blossom: “Please don’t challenge him alone!”
Cure Moonlight: “I have to! This is my fight!” *tremble* “It’s because of him that my father and sidekick are dead!”
Cure Blossom: “Please! What have we spent all this time fighting side-by-side for, if not to prepare for this moment? Don’t tell us to us abandon you now, when you need us most!”
Cure Moonlight: “I…I can’t put more people I love at risk…” *tears*
Cure Blossom: “You aren’t. We chose to be here, of our own free will. For the sake of our friendship!”
Cure Moonlight: *teary smile* “Blossom…I’m so glad you’re here.”
*cue power-up sequence, followed by action-packed beatdown*

Resolution of character arc + crowning moment of heartwarming + sensible moral about power of friendship overcoming all obstacles + plenty of yuri subtext. What more could you want?

Instead, we got the pasted-on generic stuff about hate, culminating in when the Big Bad is told, right before his demise by explosive punch (of love), “The one hurt most by your hatred was you.” So…not an hour after someone’s death, the person who suffers most in this scenario is not the person who was killed, or the woman who just watched her father die, but the man who did the killing.

Yyyyyyyyyeah.

BRB, off to watch some Cardcaptor Sakura as a palate-cleanser.

Advertisements

Comments»

1. X - September 20, 2011

I agree with your analysis of Night Terrors. It was the 10th Doctor Olympics episode with none of the scariness. Meh.

One thing I liked about “The Girl Who Waited” was Rory’s line that he was being turned into the Doctor. Rory is the first companion to be mentally older than the Doctor, so Rory becoming like him in outlook is a definite evolutionary path – one that Rory does not want to have happen. I’m hoping that when Amy and Rory return for the next series Moffat will play with that more. We’ve already seen Rory step up in Good Man Goes to War. Having him become a human who is capable of matching the Doctor would be a wonderful thing to see, since, as you said, the Doctor is just a very smart man with a really cool device.

I thought of “God Complex” as “Nimon: The Apology.” I’m glad I started catching up on classic Who so I caught that reference. And it was a Romana II series, which made it okay despite the problems with that one.

I liked God Complex overall. I think the Doctor meant Amy being Amy Williams as a sign that she’s a different person now, with a husband and the ability to have a life without the Big Blue Box. The Doctor is her childhood friend, not someone she should spend her adult life with forever. And Rory clearly indicated, at least subconsciously through the past tense line, that he was growing weary of the travels. The Doctor wanted to end it on a high note when they were all on speaking terms, so that Rory’s blow-up from the last episode would not become a frequent occurrence. Remember the fate of his previous companions in the new series: 9 & 10 did NOT have good things happen to their partners (Rose in another dimension, Martha emotionally damaged, Jack made immortal, Donna’s forced amnesia). So 11 is clearly thinking of them when he sends Amy and Rory off. Doctor and Rory both know that eventually it will not end well.

I think you’re reading too much into the last name thing. Amy and Rory both grew up in a traditional british village, so of course the wife taking the last name is going to be part of their culture. It’s why the idea of “Mr. Pond” was funny. Amy’s no Leela.

I liked 11’s reaction to Rita’s death. She was a fun character and I wish she hadn’t died, but the outburst he gave showed us his building anger, bringing him back to 9 and 10. 9 had his angry wish that the Dalek would just die. 10 had…well, 10 was all about fluidly switching between emotions, smiling and laughing so he wouldn’t burst into tears, trying desperately to regain the confidence he had lost with the war. The PTSD from the Time War had been tamped down a bit with 11 in the first season (there was a little with the Dalek episode, but not much compared to 9 or 10). I like that we’re seeing it build back up slowly every time he fails, whether it be to rescue Amy and Rory’s daughter or saving Rita’s life. It makes the idea of people out to stop the Doctor or wage war on him much more believable because you can see him finally getting to a point where that would be needed. We already know he can cross lines (Water of Mars with 10), so the question is how far he might go if he never stopped. (The Valeyard comes to mind.)

I’m not tired of Moffat yet. His main issue this second season has been pacing. The opening two-parter had too many dangling threads to feel satisfying. Good Man Goes to War was too fast paced with no time to let any of the elements breath and sink in. Let’s Kill Hitler was pitch-perfect. The filler eps have been pretty lackluster. I worry that the more they play up how the Doctor’s death is a “fixed point” and “unavoidable” the worse the twist will be for how he gets out of it. But Moffat’s twists have so far been better than the first season (especially how they handled the woman opening the door), so I’m only a little worried.

Erin Ptah - September 20, 2011

I wouldn’t call Rory mentally older; he just has a particular down-to-earth quality that serves him well. Martha and Donna both had variations on the same.

Of course it’s part of their culture. It’s part of my culture too. Growing up also doesn’t mean cramming yourself into whatever neat little boundaries your culture has proscribed for you, and people who have as many cross-cultural experiences as the Doctor’s companions have extra reason to not take those boundaries for granted.

Much as it makes sense in the given narrative for 11’s PTSD to be slowly amping back up, what I really want to see is a narrative whose moral doesn’t seem to be “there can be no true victories, you can try to save people but they’ll just keep dying, the best you can hope for is to quit while you’re ahead.” The finale of the last season – with everyone alive and safe and happy and the universe back in place – was a breath of fresh air after RTD’s constant repetition of “something bad must sour the victory so the Doctor can angst about it.” No reason they can’t keep that up.

X - September 20, 2011

Rory’s mind/consciousness is 2000 years old. That’s what I meant by mentally older. That’s one reason I find his interaction with the Doctor quite interesting.

The bits of characterization we’ve seen of Amy and Rory say that even though Amy loves a good adventure, in the end they seem to default back to tradition when they aren’t in extraordinary circumstances. Contrast Mel’s antics with Amy being the responsible one who bailed her out. And we saw Rory’s “happy place” in that Doctor’s Id episode – very traditional. Also, Amy was clearly a sucker for the standard wedding arrangement. She’s not setup as a women’s lib figure looking to rewrite the rules so much as a strong female with a sense of adventure who can also enjoy the comfort of the familiar. (This is one reason I like her character – Donna had similar traits.)

Just because they love wild vacations and have seen plenty of really exotic things doesn’t mean a couple wouldn’t still prefer to do things the way they feel is comfortable. Kind of like how just because a gourmet may refine their palate across many types of cuisine, they can still relax with a big bowl of mac & cheese. So this gave the impression it was less about Amy being “crammed into boundaries” and more “a sweet reminder of what else you have to live for other than adventures with a childhood friend.” As I said, I think you’re overthinking it. :)

I think the fact that last season was a happy ending gives Moffat more leeway to explore less-than-happy endings, since he’s established some emotional contrast. Also, doing a string of small failures on the part of the Doctor can – when used properly – make the big victories seem all the more important when you realize how hard they were to come by.

There’s also a strong possibility that the “quit while your ahead moral” could be subverted for the finale when the Doctor realizes he doesn’t have to give up companions to save them. Since we know 11, Amy, and Rory are back for the next series, this seems likely.

(I agree Davies suffered a bit from the “make the Doctor suffer” syndrome. It’s to Tennant’s credit he was able to keep it from getting overwhelming through great acting.)

Erin Ptah - September 21, 2011

Given that Rory acts exactly the same as he did 2000 years earlier, I don’t think it’s that significant. Same deal with Jack.

“Women’s lib”? Are you commenting from the ’70s? And why do you say “rewriting the rules” like it’s a bad thing? In this case, it’s a silly sex-segregated rule with no logic less threadbare than “it’s always been done that way,” and the Doctor’s indifference to it was a small but refreshing detail.

Women who don’t take their husband’s names after marriage aren’t jokes, nor do they necessarily hate all other “traditional” things. The fact that you seem to accept both of these ideas as fact is kind of creepy, seriously.

I don’t think Tennant’s acting saved that writing at all XD But I can hold out hope that Moffat will subvert those morals by the finale.

X - September 27, 2011

You misunderstood my comment. I meant that Amy has not been characterized as someone who would think of it as “a silly sex segregated rule.” There’s no reason she would rebel against it. That’s what I meant. I wasn’t commenting on women who don’t take the names, I was say that there’s no reason to think of Amy as someone who wouldn’t. It’s not OOC, which you seem to be taking it as.

Erin Ptah - September 27, 2011

Of course she’s been characterized as someone who would think it’s a silly rule. (The notion that it’s sex-segregated is just fact.) Her insistence on “Pond” over “Williams” has been a plot point all season. For multiple seasons, if you want to count from the first time we heard River’s name.

2. sleepdeprivation - September 23, 2011

I have had this post bookmarked since I saw it pop up on my flist, because I wanted to come back after I’d finished catching up (still had The Girl Who Waited and The God Complex to watch). I read a little bit of it before then and accidentally spoiled myself (LJ, why do you not cut things from WordPress? I ask you) but that was okay, because it gave me some things to think about while I watched, especially for The God Complex.

I agree pretty wholeheartedly with this overall sense you have of burn out, if not with the specifics. (Though to be fair, I may possibly view, for instance, the first two episodes more favorably than they deserve solely because Canton is probably one of my favorite Doctor Who characters ever despite being in only, you know. TWO EPISODES. That is the power of Mark Sheppard.) For me, a lot of that was packed into The God Complex. Moffat really, really likes to point out how the Doctor is DANGEROUS and that this shit is REAL and while an occasional deconstruction is nice, this is still Doctor Who! I want to have fun, dammit. I want the Doctor to be awesome! I want there to be shenanigans! I don’t want to wrestle with the moral implications every. single. freaking. episode. This is probably shallow, but idk, I just think S5 did a way, way better job of balancing the light and the dark than S6 has done.

So yeah, The God Complex? Super anvilicious. And I extra super agree with your thoughts on “Amy Williams” because, um, no, show, they are the Ponds, and nothing you say about that is going to convince me otherwise, so just stop. Thank you.

That said, I do have a wildly different interpretation of the ending, which I actually found to be rather poignant. I didn’t see it so much as “okay, time to grow up now!” as “okay, time to start a different part of your life now!” You brought up Sarah Jane and Jack and the others–all of them got to live those lives, but not until after the Doctor, as they were lives that were definitely inspired by him. Amy and Rory got their time with him, and now they get a chance to be fantastic on their own. And be semi-well-adjusted while doing so, which is a nice bonus. Because honestly, I actually really like this idea of the Doctor sending his companions home before everyone gets broken. After Ten, it’s a refreshing change of pace. Especially ’cause if I ever have to watch The Waters of Mars: Remix Edition, I’m probably gonna chuck something at the TV. =P

This post and this episode made me think of this Donna fixit fic I read once. It was a unique one, in that it didn’t give her back her memories, but it involved all the people the Doctor had left back on Earth teaming up to help her realize that she could be just as freaking awesome on Earth as she was with him. And I think that’s what I saw in this ending. This chapter of Amy and Rory’s life is over, but there’s another one waiting to begin, and knowing them, I bet it’ll be excellent.

Also, now is the perfect opportunity for Eleven to go pick up Canton and perhaps also his husband and take them on adventures in time and space! Because it is my personal belief that this particular incarnation of the Doctor should only travel with married-or-about-to-be-married couples. =P

Erin Ptah - September 23, 2011

Nah, I don’t think it’s shallow. You can appreciate darkness elsewhere, or when used right, and still want this particular show to have world-saving shenanigans that are just world-saving shenanigans.

The ending could have been fine and poignant if it had been Amy’s and Rory’s choice. Nyssa, Peri, Jo, they decided to move on. Sarah Jane didn’t, but it wasn’t the Doctor’s decision either; he got called up, and she wasn’t allowed to come along. Jack, similarly, got left behind for plot-point reasons, which are presented as The Doctor Having Issues. Here, though, it’s presented as the Doctor choosing what’s going to happen to Amy and Rory, because he’s being a Responsible Adult after making the mistake of offering them a shiny thing that they, like children, couldn’t resist. (Extended monologue about how irresponsible he is to offer people all of time and space FTL. Sorry, Doctor, but you have actually been turned down before. Check your ego.)

I love a lot of Donna fixit fics. Still not thrilled about Donna’s canon ending — possibly the most egregious of the Doctor’s whole “I get to make this decision for you (and angst afterward about how hard it was for me)” streak. Fandom put a lot of work into making something palatable out of that; I’d just as soon we not have to do it again ._.

My vote for Eleven’s next companions: Vastra and Jenny :D

sarcasticsra - September 23, 2011

I don’t mind it being his call. Not because he’s The Responsible Adult, but because he has a much better view of what could go wrong. I’m not saying his companions are all too distracted by the shiny to realize it’s dangerous, but he has lived through, multiple times, losing people in dreadful ways. New companions do not have that perspective.

Yeah, Donna’s ending was awful, which is part of my point–Amy and Rory aren’t going to follow that path now. I have said numerous times that I would have preferred she died while saving the world to how she lived, because the show just ripped away a part of her almost solely to fuel Ten’s breakdown. It was about torturing him through dire fates his companions received, not about them, which is something I so do not miss even a little bit. So yeah, I am okay with him saying when. He does have a better big picture view. And that’s okay. He’s not perfect, and of course he has an ego, but he’s still the Doctor. =P

They are my second choice, although with them I think I would rather they get their own show. That much awesome deserves a spinoff!

3. sarcasticsra - September 23, 2011

P.S. Re: Vastra and Jenny: Tell me there is, somewhere, an avalanche of They Fight Crime! fic starring them? Because I need this in my life.

Erin Ptah - September 23, 2011

lizardladylove.livejournal.com, for all your Victorian lesbian Silurian needs :D

sarcasticsra - September 23, 2011

Omg yay. :D


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: