I didn't watch the earliest episodes, but I know that by the point I started watching, the Swearengen character came off as much more than a simple sociopath. The gradual revelation of further facets to the various players is part of the charm for me.
Also, the killer cast and the amazing quality of the dialoge help.
Huh, the dialogue seems unremarkable to me.
All the characters grow, including 'Swidgen.'
People talk like EB Farnum in your household?
I tuned out this series fast. And as for the attempt to demonstrate clear-eyed lack of romanticism about the past by making everything appear very dirty at all times: tiresome. Bully for you, college boy.
I'm having increasing trouble understanding why you liked "The Wire." The people who work for Swerengen do so for the same reason people work for Avon: he's the smartest and most ruthless guy out there. Also, I just rented Disc 1 on V. Mars. Given your past reviewing performance, I should probably just assume it sucks and return it, but I'm going to watch it anyway.
I had the same feeling after the first few episodes of Deadwood, but it does get markedly better. In fact, Season 3 has been quite spectacular, I think.
3: Please excuse me while I choke on my tongue.
The people who work for Swerengen do so for the same reason people work for Avon: he's the smartest and most ruthless guy out there.
As one of our commenters would say, this is wrong. I took the explanation out of the post, but the gist is this: Barksdale is the head of an organization: if someone were to kill Avon, for whatever reason, the organization would survive and exact revenge. The organization might then fall into chaos and dissolve, but it would survive long enough for revenge. There's nothing at all in Deadwood, so far, to make us think that killing Swearengen would have any consequences.
it does get markedly better
At this point, I'm willing to watch the first season. But if I have to hang in until season three for the payoff, I'm not going to make it.
3: Please excuse me while I choke on my tongue.
I'd heard so much about the great dialogue that I was really looking forward to it, but after three episodes, there's nothing that sticks in my head. I'll watch the next episode with maximum generosity.
but the gist is this: Barksdale is the head of an organization: if someone were to kill Avon, for whatever reason, the organization would survive and exact revenge.
1. Can you serially use colons like that? (Yeah, yeah: w-lfs-n link, Mineshaft.)
2. That's not a sufficient explanation. Swerengen's organization is much smaller, and so is his world. Dan seems wildly loyal to Swerengen, and I have a hard time believing he wouldn't seek revenge. Moreover, it isn't clear if you're denying that my explanation--smart and roo'tless--is sufficient silently, or somenhow responding to it. Al has the loyalty of most of killing types, it seems, so it's not clear who is left who would want to kill Al and be willing to kill Al.
We learn in later episodes why the gang needs Al. When he is out of commission they are useless.
Al has a strategic vision they completely lack. The rest of the gang relies on him in ways beyond murder.
spaceships and laser guns bore me
I'm guessing this has been discussed before, but how did someone with so little nerd cred become the leader of this here Internet club? Are you also bored by comic books? Were you popular in high school or something?
Were you popular in high school or something?
I can just imagine Ogged meeting with his guidance counselor in high school: "Yes, it's always good to have extracurriculars on your transcript, but why start a club where people abuse you?"
No laser guns in Battlestar Galactica. A rather notable element of its aesthetic (e.g., regular guns, nuclear weapons, ham radios).
Lots of spaceships though.
so little nerd cred
It's strange, isn't it?
Comic books. (The post itself seems to be one of Fontana's disappeared ones.)
It must be the antagonism that makes it work.
Ok, the dialogue can be interesting. But here's a for instance. Henley quotes this line from Deadwood.
I’ll tell you what. I may have fucked my life up flatter than hammered shit, but I stand here before you today beholden to no human cocksucker.
And here's a line from The Wire.
Don't it just make your dick bust concrete to be in the same room with two noble public servants?
The second line I find just brilliant. The first is nearly great, but "human cocksucker" is just over the top; trying a bit too hard ("no cocksucker." would have been great). Maybe that's what seems to be the difference? Maybe Deadwood's dialogue is just more stylized and I should be nicer to it? Anyway, I'll keep watching and maybe I'll come around.
Well that explains it. Generally speaking I find the amount a person enjoyed high school has an inverse relationship to the amount of time they spent daydreaming about space travel and losing themselves in complex story structures set in alternate realities.
So what kinds of settings are more interesting to you?
Stylized is just the right word, but stylized can be really tiresome and pretentious, too. (Would Mr. Mamet please come to the white courtesy phone.) What impresses me about Deadwood is that it manages to avoid this trap. It's the rhythms of speech and interplay more so than any particularly quotable lines that tends to grab me.
It takes some time to get past all the "fucks" and "cocksuckers," which initially put me off. I changed my mind once I realized it's a better approach to capturing the general profanity of the age than using more period-authentic "tarnations" and "hell and damns," which just sound quaint to the modern ear.
But if it's quotability you're looking for, you'll be missing out if you bail before Hearst hits the scene (I think that's the second season). For my money, he's one of the best-written characters not just on the show, but in television generally. A for-instance from a recent episode: I oughtn't to work in these places. I was not born to crush my own kind.
Calamity Jane is pretty awesome, too, IMO.
So what kinds of settings are more interesting to you?
You're trying to get me to say something about a snake and a body of water, aren't you?
I daydream a lot, but always within the constraints of reality. Like, if I want to fantasize about a cute woman, but I'm in a relationship, I won't fantasize about just sleeping with her, because I'd be cheating in the daydream, so I have to find some other scenario that might work. Usually, I just get a nice hug after a dinner party or something. (Yes, I'm still talking about my daydream.) So, you know, spaceships are right fucking out.
You would totally hug Rachel Wacholder on a spaceship.
I oughtn't to work in these places. I was not born to crush my own kind.
That is indeed a great line. And I really like the point this Slate piece makes.
Given the show's treacherous context, the formality of much of the dialogue offers all kinds of room for strategic insincerity and corrosive irony. When a Deadwood character talks he's almost never saying just one thing. Indeed, one of the pleasures of Deadwood is observing what characters are doing when they speak, where they're heading, whom they're trying to fool and what secret messages they're transmitting.
That's dead on, and I'm enjoying that. I think I'm about ready to take back what I said about the dialogue.
You would totally hug Rachel Wacholder on a spaceship.
Maybe. Everyone has his price.
a nice hug after a dinner party
This is either incredibly sad or a giant pile of crap. I'll let others who know you better tell me which.
but always within the constraints of reality.
spaceships are right fucking out.
If manned space flight became a reality someday, would your preferences adapt?
Can I afford the ticket? I might have to fantasize about winning the lottery first.
Yeah, I hear they're building horseless carriages nowadays.
Actually, I have a lot of reality-based fantasies about the potential of space tourism. $20 million doesn't seem like too much to pay for a sexual experience in zero gravity.
$20 million doesn't seem like too much to pay for a sexual experience in zero gravity.
Too bad Labs isn't around, because I think he could use the money.
1 conor: the unit of imaginative resistance.
Linked to by SB! I can now die happy.
20 makes me so happy, even though it's surely a lie, because it's even more pathetic than my problem with having to come up with plausible scenarios in which I would (a) meet this person and (b) actually end up having sex with them. It's pathetic how often I end up falling back on some stupid doomsday scenario.
I’ll tell you what. I may have fucked my life up flatter than hammered shit, but I stand here before you today beholden to no human cocksucker.
Isn't this one obvious? It's not that "human cocksucker" is over the top, it's the anachronistic, Miltonian "beholden" which makes the whole line work.
And I say this as someone who hates Milton. The thing about the language of Deadwood is that it's too high to represent the miners' argot but way, way too low to be Shakespeare or Milton. So the Shakespearean or Miltonian reaches are exactly that, an attempt to uplift, rhetorically, the sordid deeds they do. The show lays bear, breaks down the violence that Shakespearean diction masks by virtue of being, well, Shakespearean.
I admit, however, that it isn't until the second half of season one that this starts clicking. The actors don't know how to deliver early, but eventually, they catch on. What makes it interesting early, and what sustains the interest--after all, dialogue alone don't a swell show make--is the thematic stuff. You have a territory coming into law. Ogged, your confusion about what grants Al his authority is precisely the point they confront; what is the basis of this loyalty; what deals unite parties otherwise disinclined to association, &c.
For what it's worth, it's the same thing I find so fascinating about BG. Here we have two shows, airing during a failed attempt at nation-building, which dramatize the factional logic that threatens to undermine it. Both shows shake their finger at the vision of consensus championed by Lincoln (Deadwood obviously does this directly). In this sense, they're both utopian up to this point; by which I mean, we know how Deadwood ends--despite those cocksuckers cancelling the fourth season--but not BG yet. It could still venture down another path...but we know Deadwood ends with the imposition of law through violence, the quashing of sectarian interests, &c.
Not that I like either of them, mind you....
So, uh, yeah, the short version:
Scott digs allegory.
This thread is not convincing me to watch the show, but that's not important.
capturing the general profanity of the age than using more period-authentic "tarnations" and "hell and damns," which just sound quaint to the modern ear
It would be interesting to know what actual conversations did sound like during that era. My guess is someone's done work on this, but since there isn't a lot of written profanity (as far as I know), and not everyone could write anyway, it's probably nearly impossible to reconstruct.
Actually, there's a fairly substantial collection of glossaries of miner's argot. It's not what we'd consider "acceptable," but in it certainly didn't adhere to the standards of the time, since they were produced for wealthy socialites who needed to know what the hell people were actually saying to them. (Like Chomsky's argument about the Wall Street Journal being the best place for business information.) I can't remember which I have around here which reviews all the various collections, but if you're interested, I can dig it up.
Also, it's engrossing history in the same way that most informed literary histories are engrossing; not because they depict with absolute accuracy, but because they nail something essential about a particular historical moment, something that might even be missed by traditional, historical scholarship. (Not to say the literary's better, only that it complements and is, well, better at dramatizing it; but doesn't that go without saying?)
Finally, E.B., of everyone who should watch the show, you're the only one who's on it.
fairly substantial collection of glossaries of miner's argot
But it's not just the miners who are talking on the show, right?
something essential about a particular historical moment
I'm not sure such a thing exists, but I get what you mean.
Usually, I just get a nice hug after a dinner party or something. (Yes, I'm still talking about my daydream.)
It goes a little something like this.
1. I think 'human cocksucker' works precisely here because of the extra syllables, following the Miltonian 'beholden.'
2. On capturing the historical moment, I wonder if there's a relationship between the actors getting the way the show works, and the shooting of Wild Bill. The latter is the only historical episode we all know about -- hell, we all know what cards he had when he was shot. When this is gotten out of the way, the story is freed, and maybe the actors too. I think it's too meta an explanation, and probably it's just a coincidence . . .
3. Watch the women. Trixie, Alma, Jane, Joanie, and even Martha. It's the same world as that inhabited by Al, EB, and Bullock, but they have somewhat different constraints.
4. (I'm only through Season 2, and have to wait til June when Season 3 comes out on DVD.)
The dialogue doesn't really come into its own until a little later in the series---whether that's the actors or the writing, I don't know, but it does become properly Shakespearean at some point. And as SEK says, it serves the same purposes as Shakespearean dialogue---the language becomes a species of action.
The overarching plot doesn't really start to come clear until after the fourth episode of the first series; the death of a major character kicks it off. But it is, as SEK points out, a story about how lawlessness gels into law.
As for 20:
If you governed your daydreams by such morals, wouldn't your dreams betray you by night?
Both shows shake their finger at the vision of consensus championed by Lincoln (Deadwood obviously does this directly).
Anyone want to take a shot at explaining that sentence? It sounds really interesting, but I don't know what consensus is being referenced, and I can't identify Deadwood's direct rebuke.
I think SEK is referring to the late c19 Republican ideal of a society in which conflict derives only from failure of imagination, that with the right spectacles we would all see that we share common interests. Opponents to this idea emphasized the legitimacy and inevitability of conflict, and I think SEK is saying that Deadwood lies on the opponents' side of the line.
As far as that goes I guess he's right but I never saw it as a governing conceit of the show.
the late c19 Republican ideal of a society in which conflict derives only from failure of imagination
Interesting. So Robert Wright is a c19 Republican; who knew? I'm not sure I believe Deadwood is sufficiently aware of this notion to be thought of as responding to it.
I thought Robert Wright was an evo psycho guy. Or am I confused?
Deadwood is written by a Yale-educated Americanist who, iirc, studied with the Western historian Howard Lamar so I think there's a fair chance it is preoccupied with such themes.
I thought Robert Wright was an evo psycho guy. Or am I confused?
No, you're right. I listen to him sometimes on bloggingheads.tv, and he has a tendency to see enlightened self-interest as resolving all potential conflicts between groups.
Oh, yeah. Well, this is a common progressive idea, which I confess I myself find seductive. Ultimately, though, I guess my inner cynic/Hemingway asserts himself and says "well, it would be pretty to think so." But some games---the tax code, let's say---are awfully like zero-sum, and no amount of enlightened self-interest can help me see that a tax cut for you is good for me.
Finish the first season, you limber-dicked cocksucker.
I watched the first two seasons of Deadwood in about five days (instead of writing a paper which now looms over my head), and I thought it was really good! OTOH I haven't watched much/any TV in a long time—did I mention that I don't even own one? Yes, I'm proud to have weaned myself from the glass teat, that cyclopean abyss of mindlessness! But where was I … oh yes. Yeah, the dialogue's good. Swearengen is not just a sociopath. Watch the season if you've already got it.
w-lfs-n, you're right about the quality of Deadwood, but you don't seriously consider the possibility that the rest of TV could have gotten so good as to provide justification for Ogged's jaded taste? No, there must be another explanation. Perhaps something to do with his alien culture, and his inability to understand Western subtilities. But I would like to second your statement that Sweregen is not a sociopath. One of the things that makes him intriguing is that it's easy to see how in different settings he could be a pretty good guy. As to why someone does not off him - they, firstly, need him to run things, as will become quite clear. And, secondly, I can't imagine how you would do that and live, and no one hates him enough to die killing him.
"and his inability to understand Western subtilities"
you misspelled "titties."
52:Swearingen and Bullock were real people, and many of the events in the story are historical events. Here is a page of contempory Deadwood newspaper headlines. I have been curious as to how much the HBO series would deviate from history. Swearingen died of natural causes some twenty years after the events in the show. Of course re Season 3, George Hearst leaves Deadwood to become a copper mogul in Butte. I am never sure if it would be more fun to be roughly accurate or if killing a historical George Hearst before he fathers William Randolph would be fun. (Actually I think WF Kane has already been born)
Well, this is a common progressive idea, which I confess I myself find seductive.
I find it seductive myself. But it’s pretty promiscously applied thorughout the Dem world, and I think that has been harmful. For one thing, it’s often applied in a “You don’t know what you really want” way that is the stereotype of Dems come to life. For another, its use allows people to get away with not ordering their desired political outcomes. We end up offerring a utopian option, and that’s all. If you don’t find the utopian option credible, all you’re left with is the Republican plan, because we haven’t done the work of defending the interest we’d protect as more important than the one Republicans would. (I tend to think of arguments about torture not working here.)
33: Smart stuff!
35: I think I ran across an article pointing to research on that very topic a while back. I'll see if I can find it.
slolernr nails what I meant by the Lincoln comment. It may be my bias--I'm a late C19th Americanist--causing me to read too much into the Lincoln thing, but all those nods to the portrait of Lincoln in Swearengen's (you know, the one right next to the moose) always seem to happen right before Swearegen brings with ruthless glee the very thing the idealistic Lincoln tried to avoid: terrible violence. Swearengen, perhaps because this happens n the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, sees the violent as the only viable solution to factionalism. (Initially, at least. I'm trying not to talk too much in advance of the first couple of episodes, since, as ben notes, the Swearengen quickly evolves into something else entirely.)
That said, while I differ with him on some of the finer points, I'm pretty much in agreement with Sean McCann on this one.
Also, if you watch the DVD extras, you'll have no problem believing that Milch is possesses sufficient awareness to pull this off.
Bullock befriended Teddy Roosevelt, was a Rough Rider, and convinced Teddy to start the National Parks Service, if I'm remembering correctly. (His actual stache, however, isn't quite as menacing as Oliphant's.*)
*There may be spoilers in there, so just look at the pretty picture, not all those mean words.
Since I don't know from Deadwood, I hadn't known you'd made this Lincoln reference, so consonant with the one I made on the Cosmopolitan thread this morning, SEK. Must be in the air.
"isn't quite as menacing as" s/b "was much more menacing than".
Speaking of non-menacing 'staches, Opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, in the just seen by me Brokeback Mountain, looks ridiculous.
McCann's description makes Deadwood sound a bit like something out of Lim/er/ck's Legacy of Conquest. I think Lim/er/ck studied with Lamar, so that makes sense. Maybe I'll check it out.
all those nods to the portrait of Lincoln
I think it depends on what you make of Lincoln. There's also the blood-and-iron Lincoln, the Lincoln of Patriotic Gore.
McCann's description makes Deadwood sound a bit like something out of Lim/er/ck's Legacy of Conquest
I think there's (naming no names) a general flavor of New Western History, Yale American Studies Division, about it.
33: The show lays bear...
I'm fairly sure I missed that scene...
That's when they nod at the portrait of George Washington.
I'm fairly sure I missed that scene...
I guess the "Rough Riders" was too obvious.
Watch the women. Trixie, Alma, Jane, Joanie, and even Martha. It's the same world as that inhabited by Al, EB, and Bullock, but they have somewhat different constraints.
The treatment of women is the one thing about Deadwood that bothers me. Or, rather, the consistent treatment of women as sexual furniture in Deadwood, The Wire, and The Sopranos bothers me, not because of the way in which women are treated in each show (in each case, it fits), but because the commonality among three successful HBO shows makes me suspect that such treatment is a factor in the success of each show. Each show is about a hyper-masculine society, so perhaps it makes some sense. But it was jarring for me to realize it.
I think'sexual furniture' is a serious understatement of the roles these women play. They have sexuality, but they -- even prostitutes Trixie and Joanie -- have a whole lot more going on than that.
I should learn not to jump into other people's disagreements. But could it be that what SCMT means is that the three shows depict societies in which women are treated as secondary citizens, as sexual furniture? And it's to each of the shows' credits that the female characters come off as complex, real people--with all the rich qualities actual women in those societies would have demonstrated--but still, perhaps it says something bad that there is such an audience for shows about those societies, and not, say, places where women are treated as full citizens, like Berkeley.
Thanks, text. In my mind, there's a whole lot of country between 'Berkeley' and 'the place where the only thing a woman can be is sexual furniture.' But I join SCMT in lamenting that any place is today, or has even been, other than 'Berkeley.'
I've never even been to Berkeley, and if the closing remark wasn't very clever, well, that should be evident on its face, and not require scare quotes.
All I want is comity, peace, and fatted sheep.
Come on CC, variety is the spice of life. Where would be be without Oakland?
I just watched a slideshow of my sister's trip last week to Deadwood. One of the pics was of her and her husband leaning against Bullock's gravestone. The grave itself is separate from the rest of deadwood cemetary, higher on the hill and facing Mt. Roosevelt, where he asked to be placed because of his friendship with the President.
67 & 68: Without going into details (spoilers of a sort) I'd say Dolly is the closest Deadwood comes to "sexual furniture"...
If by 'Berkeley' we mean that utopia where women are treated as full human beings, and by 'Oakland' we mean that place where women can only be sexual furniture, I'm thinking a little less spice would make the meal palatable. If, on the other hand, by 'Berkeley' we mean the place where Washington comes regularly to screw the Bears, I'm not sure I'm prepared to be as enthusiastic about it.
67-69: Humorless girl says, but of course. Most successful and interesting tv shows and movies are about men as the primary characters. Feminism means that the prostitutes and girlfriends are now more than just window dressing, but they're still essentially defined through their relationships with the men, i.e., they're secondary characters. Hell, a big chunk of the tv shows/movies that focus on women still focus on women in relation to men: Sex in the City's about dating, your standard Oxygen channel fare is about divorce or widowhood or stepmomhood or domestic violence or whatever, blah blah blah.
Why do you think we're all so bitter?
76:I am like really enjoying "Weeds" starting up again, because Mary Louise Parker is just such sweet-looking psycho kick-ass sociopath rebel. I have always loved Parker, simply because of her Fuckyouall moue and giggle.
If you like Westerns, but somehow end up watching Buffy and BSG, watch Firefly. Netflix it or something. And be sure to watch the Firefly series before the movie, Serenity.
The show only ran 14 eps, and gathered a small but rabid following that wouldn't let it die, hence the movie. It's really good. Trust me.
76: Yep. Sure, you can do a deep, interesting, examination of women's roles in a society in which their choices are drastically circumscribed, and there's nothing wrong with that sort of thing. But when entertainment options are disproportionately focused on worlds where women are inherently secondary, you have to start guessing that that's a feature making those worlds more attractive to watchers than 'Berkeley' is.
(I haven't seen any of the shows referenced -- I'm reacting to what SCMT says about them.)
Well, let's be fair: both watchers and producers. Supposedly the folks who okay tv/movies are pretty conservative w/r/t what audiences want. And it's widely believed that women will watch shows about men (or read books about men) but men won't watch shows about women. So the safe route is to make the primary characters men, because both women and men will watch, rather than women, which labels it as a "chick movie." Besides, men are the primary viewing audience (which of course doesn't have anything to do with the fact that most entertainment is kind of boy-centric). Only if the specific content is *about* gender/sex do we start realizing we have to write characters who are women.
Wait wait. Battlestar Galactica is cut straight from the submarine genre. Who doesn't like the submarine genre?
70: I think text was roughly right about what I was trying to say, but let me try again. I have a male friend whose company I enjoy in part because he's pretty retrograde about women. Many of the guys I know have a friend like that. I wonder a bit whether these shows function the same way--that men like these shows, in part, because there are scenes in which the women are treated like sexual furniture. (Worth noting that "pretty retrograde" is not in the same realm as "treat women like sexual furniture.") This occurred to me when I saw some scene in which Swerengen was holding someone's head to his crotch, casually, as if he were taking his morning coffee, and I realized I'd seen a very similar shot of Tony in The Sorpranos.
I don't think that the shows are somehow wrong in their use or portrayal of women. As I said above, it works and seems internally credible. I don't think one can reasonably ask for much more from the producers. I'm really wondering a bit about the fans (including me).
Besides, men are the primary viewing audience (which of course doesn't have anything to do with the fact that most entertainment is kind of boy-centric).
Which is probably why this man can't watch it. I've started watching House in reruns. Sherlock Holmes stories, really, and kind of predictable. The way the powerful women in his life deal with him is one of my favorite features of the show.
Well, the parts of the show that tend to grab me usually involve the various characters maneuvering around one another or (usually with the men, but not only them) beating up, stabbing and shooting each other. Little of that really has to do with the woman being "treated as sexual furniture," though that's certainly a feature of the setting.
I'll also note that (hoping this isn't too much of a spoiler) Deadwood features one of the sweetest lesbian romance subplots I've seen since Buffy. I general I think there's plenty enough other stuff going on that you probably don't need to psychoanalyze the fanbase's predilection for the humiliation of prostitutes.
Can't speak to the Sopranos, though, since I've never watched it much.
I'd love to see a gender breakdown of the popularity of Deadwood, The Wire, and The Sorpranos vs. Six Feet Under (which I've never seen).
If, on the other hand, by 'Berkeley' we mean the place where Washington comes regularly to screw the Bears, I'm not sure I'm prepared to be as enthusiastic about it.
Oh, come on. The episode of Welcome Back, Kotter where Washington screwed the bears was awesome.
I think it is pretty weird to think that the maltreatment of women in Deadwood is in there to attract a sick male chauvinist audience. The show oozes proto-feminist themes and subplots. Al isn't perfect in his treatment of women, but he is a hell of a lot better than some of his counterparts in power relationships. And it isn't as if Al is consistently gentle with his male employees.
But I think Deadwood has more consistent feminist themes and attitudes than the Sopranos. Don't watch the Wire.
I think it is pretty weird to think that the maltreatment of women in Deadwood is in there to attract a sick male chauvinist audience. The show oozes proto-feminist themes and subplots.
The deal is, if you've got a show with a sensitive and complex, and proto-feminist, treatment of whores getting beaten up, because it deals with a millieu in which that sort of thing really happened. that can be a fine show that's completely unobjectionable. When you notice that a whole lot of your entertainment options are about whores getting beaten up, you start to wonder if, sensitve and protofeminist as all of the individual treatments are, maybe the whore-beating is part of the attraction.
I dunno. I haven't seen the show *at all*, okay, but why does it have to be a "sick male chauvinist audience" to suppose that there's something relaxing and enjoyable about a slightly retro feel to the presentation of gender roles? The whole issue of gender is so fraught now, and even male chauvnists are completely *aware* that it's fraught, and change is inherently somewhat anxiety-producing. So it stands to reason that a space where gender roles are "advanced" enough that the women characters are interesting and somewhat feminist, but "retro" enough that it imagines a world where we can have interesting feminist women without all that ugly fighting and squawking and feeling guilty, or the uncomfortable loss of some amount of power or privilege, would be really quite comforting. To men and women both, actually.
Why do all these whores keep getting beaten up on my television?
I think it is pretty weird to think that the maltreatment of women in Deadwood is in there to attract a sick male chauvinist audience.
Gawddammit. How hard is this to understand? I'm not saying it's in there to attract sick male chauvinists. I'm saying that the people (inc. me) attracted to the show are, in part, attracted to that aspect of it--that the show(s) would be less attractive to us in the absense of that part, and that all of this may not operate on a conscious level. I was going to say something about an article on Gor that I read, but looking at the Wiki entry for it reminded me of the archtype of this sort of thing: comic books. It seems to me (a) that an awful lot of very smart people, usually men, like comics, (b) that there is often a lot there to like--intricate plots, interesting subject matter, clever use of color, etc., and (c) that there has never been a woman in a comic whose cup size is smaller than a DD. That doesn't mean that the reason men read comics is to look at DD superheroines; but it is striking how constant they seem to be.
92: Tim, you've come such a long way!
I'm saying that the people (inc. me) attracted to the show are, in part, attracted to that aspect of it
Hey, don't impute your twisted fantasy life to me, buddy. One of the things that makes Deadwood partly a chore to watch is Swearengen's treatment of the prostitutes. I really don't see why it couldn't have been a much smaller part of the show.
Right, exactly, you betcha, SCMT has his finger on something very important. All sorts of decent generally feminist people are attracted to sexist gender roles. That doesn't make them bad people, but it does mean that you can't look at a situation and say "Hmm, that looks sexist. Nah, it can't be -- there aren't any of those icky sexists around." Decent feminist men and women are perpetuating this kind of sexism. (Not exclusively, there are some full-scale sexists out there too, but a lot of it's coming from, you know, us.)
Hey Timbot, you know they sweet talk you when your balls fall off, right?
Don't listen to him, Tim. Want a backrub?
And promise you shit you're never going to get....
"slightly retro feel to the presentation of gender roles?"
Uhh, tho ho's are slapped around. On every show. Verbally and physically.
The more I think on it, the more somebody telling me I watch Deadwood because I like to watch ho's getting slapped becomes really fucking offensive. Like I watched "Boys Don't Cry" to watch a dike get killed. I'm a guy, huh?
I actually more or less agree with dickless, objecting only to the implicit claim that everyone who likes these shows must like every part of them.
Oh for god's sake. There's no implicit claim that "everyone who likes those shows must like every part of them," or that you, Bob, like watching whores get slapped around.
The claim is:
Most popular shows are kinda sexist, if you pay attention.
Is there a realtionship between kinda sexist and popular?
Maybe kinda sexist (but not too sexist) is kinda comforting.
100 and 101 are grossly distorting a perfectly vali argument by insisting that what it's really saying is something entirely different. Don't be so touchy, boys, or we'll have to slap you around.
Don't sweat it. The whore-beating offends you, and that's cool -- no one's saying that all men want to watch whores getting beaten up. The point is that it shows up an awfully lot, so it seems like a fairly large number of people do want to watch the whore-beating, and odds favor that it's a attraction for at least some people who wouldn't explicitly think of it as such (because really, who would?).
Or I could just wait for B. to get in ahead of me and say the same thing better.
Well, plus that one of the attractions of whore-beating is so that the viewer can say "oh, that's awful, I don't like that," thereby congratulating her/himself on not being sexist, even though the show is really mostly about men.
The more I think on it, the more somebody telling me I watch Deadwood because I like to watch ho's getting slapped becomes really fucking offensive.
mcmanus, you Mavs-killer, I think we can all probably agree that--based on your political opinions--you are sufficiently outside the norm that no universal statement should ever be understood to apply to you. Shouldn't you be call[ing] Seeger and Guthrie "happy smiling Commies"?
Well, no, 103 is right, but B's 102 is wrong, because "Maybe kinda sexist (but not too sexist) is kinda comforting" doesn't address the point at issue here: for some people. Without the proviso, there really is an implicit claim that one likes every part of a show.
The whore-beating offends you, and that's cool
This sounds like something out of a deeply disturbing job interview. How many piano tuners are there in Chicago? How would you feel if we beat these whores?
SCMT, that's not an attractive feature for me. And the rawness you're talking about isn't just -- or in my memory even predominantly -- directed against women. I'm sure that some women have 'gone to Wu's' -- a experience very much unlike going to 'Berkeley' -- but many more men have done so.
It's a mining camp. No one has come there to build a civilization; all are there only to make a lot of money and then get out. As individuals, mostly, in fairly pure competition with each other. Life is cheap. (Nasty, brutish & short as well). As it turns out, though, they find themselves moving towards community and away from lawlessness.
I brought up the women because I think the writers have created some interesting characters, who adopt different strategies for surviving in that milieu. I'd say that one of the things that I enjoy about the show is how resourceful these women are. You can find yourself siding with them and rooting for them. Women in 'sexual furniture' roles aren't important enough to care about.
I don't think the comic book analogy works w/r/t Deadwood. There's nothing about most comic-book characters or stories that requires that women be totally stacked. You can't escape the violence against women, though, if your goal is to make a television show about the Wild West with some fidelity. I don't think the whore-beating is included to attract a sick male chauvinist any more than the murders are included to attract murderers.
There are definitely cases in which this applies—fashion photography and advertisements in particular fetishize violence against women.
Could a similar point be made about race relations? That the presence of retrograde race relations in Deadwood addresses some sublimated desire in the audience for the "good old days" when everybody hated each other but at least knew (sort of) where they stood? (And do we see similarly retrograde race relations in The Sopranos or The Wire?)
I think such an argument could be mounted, but one of the reasons I'm not fond of these kinds of psychoanalytic exercises is because it's hard to see any way to test assumptions about which parts of the show people are or aren't deriving pleasure from, or the ways in which they're deriving it.
Maybe some viewers really do yearn at some level for the kinds of race and gender relations on display. Maybe others derive pleasure from a feeling of imagined superiority to those conditions ("thank God we're not like that!"). Maybe others grit their teeth and endure those elements of the show because there's some authenticity to them and other parts of the show make up for the unpleasant bits. Maybe there's some mixture of these reactions, and more besides.
But I think most importantly... maybe it's just possible that absent anything in the way of data to talk about, speculating vaguely about what pathologies might be at the root of such-and-such shows' success is needless inflammatory and unlikely to lead anywhere very useful.
107: Nonsense. I'm not at all saying one likes every part of *a* show, and neither is Tim: the point is the pattern across *most* shows.
I would, however, argue--noting that this is a *separate issue*--that it's a rare bird indeed who doesn't find "kinda, but not too, sexist" comforting. Not always, since everyone is going to be comfortable with different manifestations of kinda-sexism (I'm okay with high heels, you're okay with male-dominated narratives, say). But generally speaking, yeah: a sense that change is happening, but not too fast, is comforting.
absent anything in the way of data to talk about
Well, Tim's 67 is data:
Or, rather, the consistent treatment of women as sexual furniture in Deadwood, The Wire, and The Sopranos bothers me, not because of the way in which women are treated in each show (in each case, it fits), but because the commonality among three successful HBO shows makes me suspect that such treatment is a factor in the success of each show. Each show is about a hyper-masculine society, so perhaps it makes some sense.
If a disproportionate number of successful shows are set in millieus where this sort of treatment of women can't be avoided for realism's sake, it seems worth questioning whether that's part of the attraction, rather than turning away from the question for fear of offending the shows' fans. (Now, again, I'm not a big TV watcher -- I can't defend 67 as accurate or otherwise based on my own knowledge. But it's a fact claim that can be defended or attacked as such.)
You can't escape the violence against women, though, if your goal is to make a television show about the Wild West with some fidelity.
Nonsense. This is just the standard excuse, and it just shifts the goalposts to the question of gee, why do we like shows set in the Wild West so much? Or frontier shows? Or exploration narratives? Why are the primary characters in most futuristic sci-fi *still* men? What about fantasy as a genre?
I'm absolutely sure I could come up with a wild west narrative in which violence against women weren't a prominent feature and still have it be "realistic," simply by deciding what to focus the story on. But now I am late for dinner.
Which, btw, my man is paying for. I find that comforting.
The whore beating in Deadwood serves the exact same purpose as the rape, beating, and killing in "Boy's Don't Cry." The exact same purpose. In addition, there are tons of other issues and plotlines brought up in Deadwood the serve to show the plight of women in the 19th century and by implication illuminate the plight of women today.
I would seriously say, albeit in a very rough manner, and rarely if ever exploitative, that at least half the minutes are devoted to the female characters and feminist themes.
See, I think hitting whores -- or any violence against any women -- in popular culture isn't so much meant to titillate as to signal depravity. The equivalent of giving a character a swastika armband. Unforgiven is really the best example of this. Everyone who hears about the mission wants it to succeed, and as a member of the audience, you're hoping it'll work out. Not because you want Clint to get some of that whore's gold, but because a man who abused the weakest of the weak must be made to pay.
113: I meant data about audience response, without which speculation about the significance of this or that element across shows (assuming what's being identified as a "common element" actually is common) would seem pretty tenuous.
(Of course, how much can you trust whatever "data" you gather about audience response?)
114: I'm absolutely sure I could come up with a wild west narrative in which violence against women weren't a prominent feature and still have it be "realistic"
But then, there would be nothing identifiably feminist about such a decision, since eliding the unpleasant aspects of women's lives (or at minimum the lives of lower-class women) could be seen as pretty offensive in itself. Like making a film about slavery in which we're never shown violence against the slaves. (But of course, if one includes such violence, there's the possibility that the mostly-white audience is subtly getting off on it.)
115: Here's a question. Why is it that when someone says "I have a hypothesis about the apparent popularity of this seemingly sexist thing" that people who actively object to sexism feel compelled to infer personal accusations? Tim didn't say everyone who likes the show is sexist. Nor did he say everyone who likes it likes to see women get beaten up. In what way is saying "well, I don't like seeing women get beaten up! I hate it!" at all relevant to the hypothesis that most of the women characters in the shows under discussion seem to be secondary characters, and sexualized to boot?
It doesn't have to titillate, though, so much as establish a comforting norm. "Tragic though it is, we know that this is a world in which women are beaten. Bad men beat women, good men oppose the beating -- that's how you take the measure of a man, how he feels about the inevitability of women's being beaten. But that's the way life is."
Comforting is a weird word for it -- confirming beliefs about the world?
117: But you still want Clint, the man, to save the prostitutes, the women (the weakest of the weak). It's still basically a plot where women exist to buttress men's sense of self.
118: No, I'm not talking about something that deliberately whitewashes the old west. I'm saying that there were certainly many stories to be told about the old west, not all of which had violence against women at their centers or even terribly much on the peripheries--not any more than we do today. Anyway, my claim wasn't that such a story would be intrinsically feminist--my claim is that such a story demonstrates that graphic depictions of violence against women aren't just inevitable features of X kind of story, and therefore not worth thinking about.
119: The hypothesis was not that the women characters tend to be secondary and sexualized players -- it was that this apparent status ties specifically to a significant form of audience response that enjoys seeing them in such a role. I think it's a little faux-naif to wonder why some people, particularly those who object to sexism, might get a little touchy about being psychoanalyzed in such a way and on such apparently flimsy grounds.
119:You haven't watched the show. Besides the two leads of Bullock and Al, there may be 25 names in the credits, and I really would not be willing to say that the female actresses have smaller or lesser plotlines than the males.
There are people that think
"McCabe & Mrs Miller" is a decent movie. Talk about the romanticization of exploitation...
120 -- Men who beat women are bad. Good men should oppose the beating of women. In fact, good men should work to create a world in which women are not beaten.
You don't have to believe these things if you don't want to.
120:The presentation is critical. What is the appropriate presentation of disturbing themes is often controversial and disputed.
I would say that Altman did it very wrong.
I've written poorly, and confused to separate ideas.
1. Sort of what B is talking about, with ogged's caveats. Is there something that is secretly appealing about this situation?
2. Sort of what 'Smasher says, followed by LB in #113. All of these shows are (what I've called) hyper-masculine universes. Women as sexually dominated objects isn't a big theme in any of these shows. But to make these shows without ringing false, you have to have women in them. And if you have women in them, and you don't want the show to ring false, women as a general rule, are going to be treated like sexually dominated objects. I said "sexual furniture" because, often enough, (a) the sex doesn't feel illicit, in the way killing does, and (b) the sex doesn't really feel very sexual--it's closer to something to do. This doesn't mean that if you're a fan of the show, you have to like that part of it. Rather, you would be less of a fan of the show if it didn't include that part of it because the shows would ring false.
Here's a question. Why is it that when someone says "I have a hypothesis about the apparent popularity of this seemingly sexist thing" that people who actively object to sexism feel compelled to infer personal accusations?
I'm saying that the people (inc. me) attracted to the show are, in part, attracted to that aspect of it--that the show(s) would be less attractive to us in the absense of that part
127: All of these shows are (what I've called) hyper-masculine universes.
I don't understand. About Deadwood at least, calling it "hyper-masculine" sort of begs the question. As someone has already pointed out, the show features women in prominent and influential enough roles -- and dwells on enough plots outside the "hyper-masculine" world of Swearengen -- that calling it a "hyper-masculine universe" just seems wrong to me. (It is of course a hyper-violent and hyper-lawless universe, but that isn't the same thing.)
121 -- That's what I said -- beaten whores are a more dramatic way of putting on a swastika armband. Many of the whores, and nearly all the male miners, have either no lines, or only a very few. Drama has people in secondary roles.
If all you had to the show was beaten whores and the men who beat or protect them, it wouldn't be very compelling as drama. And I wouldn't have suggested to Ogged, who's bothered by the violent nature of one of the leading men, that he take some time to follow the leading women, as their stories arc.
Thinking of secondary roles has given me an idea: I'm going to go home now and watch Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. No whore-beating in that one, although I'm sure that there's plenty to object to in the presentation of Ophelia.
and dwells on enough plots outside the "hyper-masculine" world of Swearengen
Fair enough. Restrict my question to Swerengen and his world; he's many people's favorite character--he is mine.
They didn't waste any time to get to the prostitute beating in deadwood:
Their landlord is Al Swearengen, proprietor of the Gem Saloon. Swearengen runs the whisky, women and faro games in Deadwood, and his cold efficiency is demonstrated when he beats Trixie, one of his whores, after she kills a trick in self-defense. ... As the violence outside comes to a conclusion, Swearengen goes to bed with a bruised Trixie - unsettled by what he's seen in the streets.
SCMT: Don't look at me. I'm there for the nation-building. On a serious note:
I'm saying that the people (inc. me) attracted to the show are, in part, attracted to that aspect of it--that the show(s) would be less attractive to us in the absense of that part, and that all of this may not operate on a conscious level. I was going to say something about an article on Gor that I read, but looking at the Wiki entry for it reminded me of the archtype of this sort of thing: comic books. It seems to me (a) that an awful lot of very smart people, usually men, like comics, (b) that there is often a lot there to like--intricate plots, interesting subject matter, clever use of color, etc., and (c) that there has never been a woman in a comic whose cup size is smaller than a DD.
I wrote a long, long post about the rape-fetish in comic books--in particular, one so powerful they found a way to rape Rogue. (It got picked up by someone else who's compiling a list of all such instances, but I can't find it and she didn't trackback.) So I'm sensitive to this argument. That said, I don't think you can equate dynamics of a genre aimed at adolescent males to one which shuns the simplicities of such genres. (And I'd include the standard Western in there, too.)
Nonsense. This is just the standard excuse, and it just shifts the goalposts to the question of gee, why do we like shows set in the Wild West so much? Or frontier shows? Or exploration narratives? Why are the primary characters in most futuristic sci-fi *still* men?
I don't think you're indicting me, personally, as a sexist. I think what people who defend something like Deadwood, BG or even Babylon 5 (production values be damned!) is that the work of demythologizing they do shows an awareness of the exploitation inherent in the genre they work in. So, to return to a specific example from Deadwood, Al's brilliant, beautiful monologue about the people who want to control his every action, censor his every thought, even force him to move if he wants to make a living...delivered while forcing one of his whores to give him head, punctuated with advice on how to blow him better and about 10 minutes long.
The discomfort created in that scene isn't the kind of "comforting norm" LB mentions above; if anything, the irony it positively reeks of creates a very uncomfortable moment, one made even more so as our understanding of Swearengen as a complete beast deepens. I could mention other examples, but what I want to point to is that the (historically accurate) titillation is neither comforting nor confirming, but haunting. Haunting in the same way Beloved is. (I touched on this in my response to Adam Robert's Salt last month. His comment on it is germane, too.)
All of which is only to say that it's hard to tell a human story without depicting the exploitation of women. Outside of Wonder Woman, any female character will have lived her formative years in a world hostile to her interests. The question is, how is that depicted? Or, in this case, it's not why Westerns are popular, but why this demythologizing of the genre is that's significant.
Also, we haven't talked about what they've done with Calamity Jane. (Here's what happened to the real one.) In her, they've created one of the most compelling characters on television, and it doesn't seem like they had that much to work with. (But don't tell me what happens to her in Season 3 yet, as I haven't watched any of it.)
But like I said before, it's not like I like the show or anything.
130 & 132: One of the things I found incredibly compelling about that first episode is yes, Al beats Trixie to a pulp -- she bears the bruises for most of the season IIRC -- but there are myriad other layers playing there and to regard the relationship as a simple, brutal Master And Slave one misses the subtlety and subtext portrayed by the Milch and the actors. It's a cruel and abusive relationship, absolutely, but it's also a fascinating one -- and one in which I think the particular gender combination is more-or-less irrelevant to my interest in it.
Plus, both Ian McShane and Paula Malcomson absolutely rock my socks, and anyone who says that Trixie is merely the abused whore, or is merely a secondary character servile to men's self-esteem, is asking for a world of hurt. Or at least, a loan of the S1 DVDs.
Kim Dickens (Joanie) was the lead in one of the best movies about rape ever made Things Behind the Sun. I also respect Molly Parker. They are not bimbos.
I don't know if you understand ensemble television, but if Milch and the producers don't provide an adequate subtext and message, the actresses can shut the show down. At minimum, make the backlot very uncomfortable. It would show respect to give those ladies the benefit of a doubt.
Al Swearingen was and is scum. The show is about Bullock, who is only dishonorable to the degree he is letting Al take the fall and do the dirty work. But Al is scum, after all. That is a theme, Bullock is the bourgious establishment who will survive and prosper.
132 - No, they didn't. But unlike whatever lackey wrote that copy, the writers of the show didn't treat it as a simple "beating of a prostitute." Swearengen's anger was irrational. More to the point, the camera was focused tightly on their faces, you see their eyes meet, you see that what is, for Trixie, a power struggle commingles, in Swearengen, with unchecked sexual lust. The connection between violence and sex isn't treated lightly, then or later. It's dramatized, powerfully, repeatedly, and disgustingly.
SCMT: It seems strange to restrict the show to Swearengen, since it's his interaction with all the other factions in the camp which drives it. How can you ignore Alma Garret, whose development is so central to the first and second seasons? Sure, she begins as eye-candy on the arm of a clueless prospector, but if you're going to explode myths, well, you have to set them up. (Which is, as mentioned, one of the reasons why the first three or four episodes aren't that satisfying.)
135 - As I said upthread, I don't think the show's about Bullock. I haven't started Season Three, but the movements to Bullock seem like a classic morality bait, designed to get us to see the interaction between him, Al, Wu, Alma, Joanie, Jane, &c. as they manufacture a community. It's not dystopian, really, so much as anti-utopian. Every time Seth struts down the street in slow-motion, however, we're drawn into the idea, mentioned above in a different context, but applicable here: namely, that comforting norm of bourgeois respectability. You watch the show, you learn whose back's that norm's built on.
The episode summaries on HBO's site for The Wire are pretty poorly done, to the point of having grammatical errors and I think even spelling errors that should have been caught by a spell-checker. (They generally have the events corrrect, if not the significance thereof.) Maybe Deadwood's summaries were written up in the same way.
SEK is quite right in his comments about Calamity Jane in 133, BTW.
Here is the depressing list of female rape victims in comics that scott mentioned.
Oh sweet Jeebus. I'm not accusing anyone here of being a closet misogynist. Or at least not anyone other than myself. I was jarred to realize that there is a similar treatment of women in three HBO shows I really like/d (not crazy about The Sopranos anymore), and I wondered why that would be. I offered a couple of hypotheses--hyper-masculine world and secret sexism. It's entirely possible that everyone else's experience of the shows is different than mine, per ogged. It's entirely possible that I am the commenter who watches the show who is most morally suspect, on the relevant axis; I'm still not troubled by whether or not I'm a bad person or a misogynist. So, as I'm the worst of the worst here, I'm not really troubled by whether or not other male commenters here who enjoy the show are, on that basis, bad people or misogynists. I am, however, concerned that mcmanus needs to up his medication, as I cannot see the relevance to anything of the first two paragraphs in #135.
141: Is all of that meant to be a response to Bob? It's hard to tell.
Meds all around!
142: A general clarification to everyone who believe I'm accusing them of watching the show to see the beatings.
140 - Thanks for the link. I was thinking "rangno," which I now know means "spider" in Italian.
SCMT, I hope it didn't sound like I invoking the tired "I'm not a closet misogynist" excuse. I wanted to demonstrate that the way in which the show implicates you in the misogyny it peddles; in short, it forces one to interrogate the limits of their own "enlightenment." It's ambiguity is productive of thought, not the unthinking consequence of people who haven't considered these issues seriously.
In other words--and here I agree with you 100 percent--I don't think you're morally suspect, but that the show is of such quality that it'd make anyone feel morally suspect. (Like Fish on Satan, er, Stanley Fish on Paradise Lost.)
All the prose I've vomited here today was simply to nuance the conversation, differentiate between its complexity and that of, say, your typical John Wayne Western.
143 - Does anyone actually think you're accusing them of that?
C'mon, crypto-accusees, stand up and be counted.
Fish on Satan
I tend to prefer my salmon over a stoned wheat cracker.
I tend to prefer my salmon over a stoned wheat cracker.
Red Oval Farms Stoned Wheat Thins. Best. Cracker. Ever.
I'll add my voice to those who say that Timbot's lost his marbles.
"I am, however, concerned that mcmanus needs to up his medication"
Gulp. Consider it done. I always listen to such advice, especially when self-medicating.
Umm, whatever. Since I consider the Sopranos a pretty sexist show, while having quality actresses, even if NY based actresses, perhaps my point about the talent keeping the writing in line is not a good one.
"Things Behind the Sun" is an excellent movie, with Eric Stoltz as an unrepentant rapist. Molly Parker also played a necrophiliac in another neat movie.
I wanted to demonstrate that the way in which the show implicates you in the misogyny it peddles; in short, it forces one to interrogate the limits of their own "enlightenment." and In other words--and here I agree with you 100 percent--I don't think you're morally suspect, but that the show is of such quality that it'd make anyone feel morally suspect.
That's fantastic, and largely credible to me. I think, however, you may be a more sophisticated consumer than I am, and so saw these issues in starker relief than I did, and therefore saw a purpose to them that I did not. Comity!
147 has it exactly right.
Also, I do not enjoy watching women get beaten.
Wait, wait, I thought we all enjoyed women being beaten. Aren't we just denying that that's sexist?
Love me some girl-on-girl violence.
150 - I just appear sophisticated by the sheer volume of my prose. I call it "The Holbo."
I mostly don't like watching women get beaten in movies/TV because it is such an obvious melodramatic hot-button topic. It could always have been implied a lot more subtly without rubbing our nose in some guy's evilness and cheaply wringing emotions from the viewer. Very rarely is it necessary. Ordinarily it's a sign that the filmmakers don't have enough confidence/skill to be subtle.
This is why women being beaten is less enjoyable to watch than men being beaten. It sends me a bad message about the quality of the TV show/movie.
I don't like watching virtually any extremely emotional experience in movies or TV, actually. I always feel like it should be private. Unless I completely identify with one of the characters, which is rare. And I always avert my eyes at kissing.
155 - Ordinarily it's a sign that the filmmakers don't have enough confidence/skill to be subtle.
Yes, ordinarily, it is. Did you not see my mad Holbo up there?
128: I think you have to stretch a bit to take Tim's statement *personally*. But even if I'm mistaken, I still don't understand why the argument has to be, "I'm not a sexist," and that's *all*. Why not, for instance, "well, I don't find X sexist issue in the thing appealing on any level, but it is true that the women are supporting characters rather than leads (say), which [does/does not] bother me..." Or whatever.
In other words, if you insist on taking it personally, then fine; I'm willing to concede that Tim, or I, or whoever is making the argument ought to take pains to make it clear that it isn't a personal attack (for practical reasons, if nothing else). But even if we don't, why is it that the personal defensiveness *trumps* the ability to see *any* kind of point at all in the larger argument being proposed? Because you don't personally enjoy the beating-the-prostitute scenes (which honestly I doubt anyone does), does that mean that Tim's larger point about the representation of women as being *slightly less* fully human than men, and that being on some level comforting, is completely invalid?
B, you argumentative harpy, I already said that I more or less agree with SCMT.
Wait, I'm confused now. Was Tim the one taking Tim's statement personally (as per 128)?
Don't smack her, ogged, lest you entertain against my most express will.
Tim is large; Tim contains multitudes.
I know, you castrating bastard, but being argumentative your own self, you agreed *but* insisted on quibbling over whether he was accusing you, personally, of enjoying watching women beaten, which is silly of you.
Senator, have you stopped enjoying watching women beaten?
"does that mean that Tim's larger point about the representation of women as being *slightly less* fully human than men, and that being on some level comforting, is completely invalid?"
I guess I would have trouble with the metrics on this. I'll try a ten pt scale, and keep a lot of notes.
I don't think the people on reality shows are fully human, not even to speak of the evening talk shows.
157: why is it that the personal defensiveness *trumps* the ability to see *any* kind of point at all in the larger argument being proposed?
One could turn this around, with some validity, and ask why it is that the need to see the whole thing in the light of "personal defensiveness" trumps the ability to see any aspect of the larger counterarguments being proposed. You'll notice that there's been slightly more said on the thread than just "I am so not sexist!"
Bob, darling, you're evading the question.
Also, now I need to update my CV's "areas of research expertise" as follows:
Shoes and Bras
128 - There are people that think "McCabe & Mrs Miller" is a decent movie.
Maybe not, but it's a damn fine excuse for a Leonard Cohen song.
167 - Just because you are a harpy doesn't mean you're an expert in harpiness. Resist identitarianism.
You could be next.
"does that mean that Tim's larger point about the representation of women as being *slightly less* fully human than men, and that being on some level comforting, is completely invalid?"
I think that the women on Deadwood, on average, could be seen as "slightly less fully human than men", because the major major major characters are all men (because the show is organized around the different stages of the town's development, and the people who had the power to affect that development are all men).
But aside from the four or so major characters, who are men, I don't think the male minor characters get more sympathy or attention than the female minor characters.
166:Ok, I believe there are elements of general, uhh, trangressive identification with the Sopranos (fun to be a gangster) and the Wire. I don't like the Sopranos at all, but I am in a minority.
Deadwood is a repellant show with repellant male characters;OTOH, there is as far as I can remember, not a single unsympathetic female. And after the five episode arc of watching Al Swearingen pass his kidney stones. I lost interest in identifying with him.
I don't think too much about the appeal of these shows;it could be simply a more sophisticated variant on the usual. But it also could be as sophisticated as making liberals feel guilty about their offensive fantasies, i.e., The gangster life might be fun, but these are really ugly gangsters, so I can righteously enjoy despising them once a week.
169: Good point, but c'mon. Harpies are getting all the jobs nowadays.
172 - Figures. One more reason I'm fucked.
171 - And after the five episode arc of watching Al Swearingen pass his kidney stones. I lost interest in identifying with him.
So when he was a raping, murdering, thieving louse, you identified with him...but when he was little better than an animal in pain—a stray dog in pain on the side of road—you turned on him?
You are hardcore, man.
I don't know where this fits in, but I remember thinking when NYPD Blue hit its stride* that the writers knew, really to their bones knew, how to write in male voices in a way they just didn't for women. The rhythms of Sipowicz's speech just rang true in a way that I never got with the female detectives (and frankly didn't even with Lt. Fancy, but that's another can of worms).
*Second or third year, I think. After David whatshisname left.
Having seen the first 10 or so episodes of Deadwood, I came away with a similar sentiment. That in addition to everything else (historical accuracy, Hollywood assumptions about what men will sit still for, sheer screen power of various actors, sexism, etc.), part of what's going on is that the writers feel more comfortable, more authentic, whatever, writing in men's voices. Even though a good number of the writers are women.
I thought we all enjoyed women being beaten
I enjoy watching women box because they usually have marginal defensive skills, so it's just a dual berserker attack.
Witt, the textualist in me wants more evidence to back that claim. After Swearengen, Jane's speech rings—not true, as that's not what they aim at, but more fraught than anyone else's on the show. Sure, they save the "lofty sentiment" for the male characters, but that's because they're the ones putting on a show. Precisely because they're women, people like Trixie have no reason to mask the deeds expected of them in the lofty rhetoric of someone like Swearengen.
I don't think it's a matter of writerly comfort so much as context. Alma's demur, stuttered speech is a direct result of the position she's in; if she spoke like Swearengen at that moment, the show would be a farce, no?
I didn't read this whole thread, but I like shows where whores get beaten, assuming the whores' responses and interior lives are interestingly depicted, because I identify with the whores, and find analogies between their lives and mine. Heck, I like Madame Butterfly. I eat female suffering stories right up. I also like stories about people who do really shitty things coming by some self knowledge or compassion. That scene SEK was talking about was extremely moving, I thought. Briefly, Swearengen really saw a whore (even one he wasn't close to, as opposed to Trixie) as a human being, and grasped in a really empathetic way how he was perpetuating the cruelties that had been visited upon him
(I actually sort of doubt the appeal SCMT is talking about is there in Deadwood because the sex with prostitutes is always so unerotic and the men nearly always look weak when they're doing it. The Sopranos might be a different story; there's erotic furniture sex there, and especially when it's Tony doing the fucking, you can sometimes see and relate to his satisfaction.)
My point, I guess, was that all else being equal, I'd probably like a show with a lot of suffering and exploitation of women better than one that didn't have it; there are a lot of reasons to like watching whores get beaten, so maybe it's a big tent.
175:I find Trixie the most interesting voice. I am always doing doubletakes when interpreting her raging frustration with everyone's stupidity and cowardice. Everyone on the show has a unique voice.
Trixie is the perfect example, in that what appears in her lines to be ornate and incoherent is actually perfectly expressive and precise. As is most of the writing on Deadwood. I think Deadwood makes a comment on our current anti-intellectual affected limited vocabularies and "straight simple talk" that really conceals more than reveals.
Most of the lines on Deadwood are delivered in obvious tones of rage or fear. We hide that stuff too.
the writers knew, really to their bones knew, how to write in male voices in a way they just didn't for women
Yes! It seems very rare to me that I see a movie or tv show where the women character(s) really sound *true* the way that men do in shows like NYPD Blue or Homicide or the Sopranos (though I've only seen a couple episodes, to be fair) or any film by Michael Mann or where Mamet wrote the script. Off the top of my head, the only movie I can think of that fits the bill is Lovely and Amazing. And I think that Buffy seemed real to me in that way, as well; the interpersonal dramas and story arcs felt right for young women that age. But it's pretty rare.
Oh, Girl Fight was pretty good along those lines as well, actually.
Damn power outage...
See, NYPD Blue has been in the back of my mind while I've been watching Deadwood, specifically, the feeling I have now, watching NYPDB reruns, that I can't believe I fell for that affected macho shit at the time.
182: I'm not sure you've picked especially good examples of the sort of baseline shows / movies where men sound either "true" or any "truer" than women tend to sound. Though obviously a great deal depends on the listener.
Agree with ogged in #183, and also think Michael Mann makes pretty movies, but is can only right Mier Sue men (w-lfs-n!), and Mamet--well, his movies suck.
Yes! It seems very rare to me that I see a movie or tv show where the women character(s) really sound *true* the way that men do in shows like NYPD Blue or Homicide or the Sopranos (though I've only seen a couple episodes, to be fair) or any film by Michael Mann or where Mamet wrote the script.
I don't think those men sound true at all. The dialogue in all those shows is sort of hyper-exciting, not realistic.
It's very rare in general to see characters whose dialogue sounds "true". A talented female writer can make female characters sound true, and a talented male writer can make male character sound true, but it's almost impossible to cross the gender barrier and actually sound plausibly lifelike.
I found Friends With Money to be an unusually odd experience, in that Holofcener (also the writer/director of Lovely And Amazing) seemed to be almost completely unable to make any of the male characters plausible, despite the frequent references to her great ability to create plausible women. (of course, I have no idea whether the female characters in Friends With Money were plausible...they all seemed to have pretty baffling motives to me).
It led me to think, is that what women experience all the time? The feeling that everything is being written by men, and as a result women are depicted less realistically?
I decided that probably women experience that feeling more than men at the movies...but in TV shows, nobody is depicted realistically, so it's less of an issue.
There are some good artistic movies that are clearly from a male point of view, and seem to be seen through the eyes of numerous male characters, while the female characters are only SEEN. For example, The Squid And The Whale.
But in more commercial productions, you don't see any characters in more than a superficial way.
Sorry, the first paragraph of that should be in italics or blockquotics or something. Time for bed.
They do suck (Mamet) because they're so misogynist. But the dialogue is fabulous.
I'll resist saying that guys sound pretty "true" in The Wire. Oops!
Hey look, it's Veronica Mars in Deadwood!
Oh, and while I find the female characters on Deadwood plenty convincing, Big Love deals mostly with domestic concerns, devotes like 85% of it's narrative energy to the female characters, and lacks no feeling for how women act or think.
Now I'm thinking that part of what makes both NYPD Blue and Deadwood work is that at heart the characters are performing for each other, or at least performing in a pattern that everybody can recognize.
Upthread folks were saying that it can be reassuring to see these kinds of gender roles, and I think that's true. There's something seductive about watching, much less participating in, any beautifully functioning system. Think about the adrenaline rush that kitchen workers can get on the line, or that ER staff can get when big stuff starts happening.
To be totally immersed in the flow, to be able to see the whole next X minutes unreel in front of you in what looks like an inevitable way, is pretty amazing. It's a high in real life, and maybe (for me) that's why it's tantalizing in a TV show too. I didn't stop watching the Sopranos until the episode when Dr. Melfi gets raped. Something kept me mesmerized for a long time before that, and it wasn't that I like watching people get murdered.
(Scott, I have to apologize: I watched the episodes months ago and I don't really have dialogue fresh in my mind. The best I can say is that while I find CJ to be uneven, among the female characters I think her lines are the most intrinsically authentic -- I don't think "I could say that" when I'm watching her, but I think "Yeah, she would say that.")
a movie or tv show where the women character(s) really sound *true*
No, in Russ Meyer films the women only look like the average women. They sound completely different.
Actually, the Russ Meyer reference reminds me that Nights of Cabiria qualifies as an incredibly moving and, I think, realistic portrayal of a woman.
There's something seductive about watching, much less participating in, any beautifully functioning system.… To be totally immersed in the flow, to be able to see the whole next X minutes unreel in front of you in what looks like an inevitable way, is pretty amazing.
So with the comments here at their peak. The mob-art of TiVo-period Unfogged.
I ban myself!
much less s/b let alone
I'm going to bed.
I haven't seen "Lovely and Amazing", but I have watched the older Walking and Talking several times.
A Catherine Keener and indie fan, mostly. I could call W & T a "hard-core chickflick" but this
is almost a duplicate, made for and by guys. Or maybe not, It would be interesting to closely compare the two.
147 has excellent taste in crackers.
Ophelia (movie version) is the longest advertisement for an answering machine I've ever seen.
Huh. It didn't go so well for Veronica Mars in Deadwood.
"Huh. It didn't go so well for Veronica Mars in Deadwood."
I think I remember this. She has a little brother?
Never seen Veronica Mars, but I remember she was pretty good in Deadwood, if I am remembering correctly.
Yeah, she's all sweet and innocent, then all cold and bloodthirsty.
RE: Veronica Mars in Deadwood. That's exactly what I'm talking about. I rank that up there with the most disturbing things I've ever seen. But why was it disturbing? What's the context?
Exactly. That's my point. (Assuming you agree with it.)
Also, from 204's "Did you enjoy it" to 205's "yes, a little brother" is priceless. Would that all cross-communication said so much.
ogged, c'mon now, tell it like it is. We don't want Dr. B. thinking you fall for the superficial shit.
191 - Witt, I don't expect everyone to be as into the show as I've been. It's just that I started watching it while reading Will in the World and realized, after 2 years as an English major and 6 as an English graduate student, that I may not actually hate Shakespeare and Milton.
So I'm a little more intense about it than the average bear.
I confess, SEK, that I have no idea what you're saying in 208 or 209.
Three in a row, eh? With this, I earn the golden sombrero.
Whew, avoided by GS by your intervention. Thanks.
208 - All I meant was that the episode with Bell concludes with a scene whose violence is, well, beyond the pale, totally unlike what we're accustomed to seeing on television...only not in a way we can easily categorize. (I'd be more specific, but spoilers, you know.)
(Ignore the last sentence of 208, which just refers to the amusing contiguity of 204 and 205. I'm just not deft with the numbering around here yet.)
209 - Should've referenced 207. By which I mean, I don't believe for a second you bought the sweet and innocent act...and that I think its transparency is the point.
I krona, you krona, we all krona, for...nevermind. Yes, it is. But for me, the SK alternative is sharing a name with...unsavory sorts. (Including, last time I checked, a porn actor. Which is all well and good, you know, until I try to get a job.)
I watched Disc One, Season One of V. Mars last night. I've watched through the third episode, and, while I'm not distressed, neither am I impressed. Better than the OC. Maybe better than 9-0. Significantly worse than Buffy. Mars's interaction with Troy (or whatever) is infinitely more cloying than anything I remember from Buffy.
That is all.
I don't think those men sound true at all. The dialogue in all those shows is sort of hyper-exciting, not realistic.
I agree with this, and with the doubts other have expressed about Mamet-style dialogue. I've gotten into fights about how realistic and sounds-like-men it is. It's a highly artificial pose, and unlike some, doesn't use its artiface to suggest reality as I know it. I've known some very rough, competitive and abusive characters, I think I know enough to call bullshit on this. I guess Mamet's dialogue imbodies "realiness," a companion concept to Colbert's "truthiness." It always seems fake to me.