Jan. 13th, 2013

underthewillows: (Default)
Here's a little home-cooked quiz-type question, just for our own amusement.

A particular popular culture short stories series remains part of popular culture in our own day, to the point where recently there have been two separate re-makes or re-imaginings of the serial. After you've read the following, I want you all to have a guess which version was written when - Today or 121 years ago?

Question 1: Female antagonist is
(a) femme fatale and/or defined in terms of her sexuality which spills over into her line of work
(b) professional artist

Question 2: Female character is
(a) Love interest of/for the male protagonist (she may or may not return his romantic interest if he is the one interested in her)
(b) intellectual equal of the male protagonist just as if she were a male character

Question 3: Female character gets
(a) Stuffed into the Fridge as a motivation for the male protagonist
(b) to live her own life as happy, independent woman

Question 4: Female antagonist gets
(a) what's coming to her - rightful punishment for her crimes (if she is a criminal); if she's only the plot device she gets killed)
(b) away with it all, beats all the guys, and lives happily ever after


Well, okay - we all know those repressed, puritanical Victorians had a bee in their bonnet about women's rightful place and Fallen Women, right? The only redemption is through punishment or death? So obviously Option A is the original and Option B is the modern spin on the old tale, updated and corrected for the world where women are treated as individuals and equals and capable of earning their own livings and, just as importantly, where the rich, powerful and connected males are not automatically in the right - correct?

Not so fast, Grasshopper. Not if we're talking about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia, recently re-made in two versions for the British Sherlock and the American Elementary.

Now, I've only seen the first series of "Sherlock" and I haven't seen anything of "Elementary". There's been a lot of heated comment back and forth, between those who think the BBC series is superior and how dare those Yanks mess around with it, and those who think "Elementary" is just as good and just as valid, and hey, we finally get a female Watson!

I'm not going to comment on that. What I am going to comment on is the argument I have seen put forward by female genre fans that "Elementary" is superior in its portrayal of strong female characters (see: Joan Watson). Well, how does it treat the original Strong Female Character, Irene Adler?

Oh, dear. As I said, I haven't seen the episode in question, but however dubious Steven Moffat's handling of female characters in general and Irene in particular (a dominatrix who's supposedly also a lesbian who immediately falls romantically for Sherlock?), at least we got to see her in the part. "Elementary"'s Irene apparently doesn't even last long enough for a cough-and-a-spit scene.

Here is where I get all shouty, so mind your eyes:

IRENE ADLER WINS!!!!

That's right; Irene Adler beats the King of Bohemia, beats Sherlock Holmes, marries the guy she loves and gets away with everything including a happy ending. She's an opera singer, not a sex worker defined only in terms of how 'kinky' the services she provides, her personal preferences and orientation, and her notoriety as a public pest for the rich and powerful and not a motivating rag doll who ends up dead to send the hero on his Roaring Rampage of Revenge. There's no indication she cares tuppence about Holmes as a romantic interest, sex object, soul mate, One Twu Wuv or as anything other than the latest bloodhound the King has set on her trail.

And she most emphatically does NOT end up dead or needing to be rescued from the pickle she got herself into by the hero. Irene saves herself.

Yes, a conventional, conservative, ex-Catholic Scotsman of Irish extraction writing during the Late Victorian era could produce a more rounded female character than the supposedly more evolved culture of the 21st century seems capable of doing.

Imma leave the last word to ACD and Irene:

MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES:
You really did it very well. You took me in completely. Until after the alarm of fire, I had not a suspicion. But then, when I found how I had betrayed myself, I began to think. I had been warned against you months ago. I had been told that if the King employed an agent it would certainly be you. And your address had been given me. Yet, with all this, you made me reveal what you wanted to know. Even after I became suspicious, I found it hard to think evil of such a dear, kind old clergyman. But, you know, I have been trained as an actress myself. Male costume is nothing new to me. I often take advantage of the freedom which it gives. I sent John, the coachman, to watch you, ran upstairs, got into my walking-clothes, as I call them, and came down just as you departed.

Well, I followed you to your door, and so made sure that I was really an object of interest to the celebrated Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Then I, rather imprudently, wished you good-night, and started for the Temple to see my husband.

We both thought the best resource was flight, when pursued by so formidable an antagonist; so you will find the nest empty when you call to-morrow. As to the photograph, your client may rest in peace. I love and am loved by a better man than he. The King may do what he will without hindrance from one whom he has cruelly wronged. I keep it only to safeguard myself, and to preserve a weapon which will always secure me from any steps which he might take in the future. I leave a photograph which he might care to possess; and I remain, dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,

Very truly yours,
IRENE NORTON, née ADLER.
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