I’m not actually wading into the wank, which I missed. But I do want to answer a question for myself that I’ve seen floating around lately a lot: why does hating a fictional female character make me a misogynist? (@the-navel-treatment, I saw your question, but I’ve seen it before, too.) My short answer: it doesn’t. But it’s more complicated than that.
(First: everyone should read saathi1013’s metas. They are nuanced and learned and brilliant. They aren’t at all simplistic. They are completely, 100% worth reading.)
Academics like to talk about “discourse” a lot—meaning the language that people use when they talk about things. Because rather than saying: “person X is a misogynist” or “person Y is a racist,” it might make more sense to say: “person X is currently using misogynistic language” or “participating in misogynistic discourse.” I like phrasing it that way, because it allows for so much more fluidity. I don’t consider myself a misogynist, for example—I’ve always been a feminist. But if I’m IMing with friends during the Oscars Red Carpet and say “eww wtf is that woman wearing she looks scary!” I’m actually participating in misogynisitc discourse. We all do it, so it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person. It just means you might want to think about it when you’re doing it—what exactly you’re doing, how it might be hurtful, whether you want to change it in the future.
So here’s the thing: I don’t know if Steven Moffat is a misogynist, but his writing partakes of a lot of misogynistic tropes—and therefore I really think his writing is, on the whole, misogynistic. The biggest clue for me, besides the obvious things like the “sexy psychopath” is that I literally never find myself liking or sympathizing with any of his female characters for the most part. And then I ask myself: why don’t I particularly like or love Molly or Janine? They’re inoffensive, and I do love lots of other female characters on other shows? And then I read a fic (like @plaidadder’s Law Like Love) and it clicks like a lightbulb over my head. We never see these women’s inner lives; and/or it’s all focused on the hero. They don’t work independently as characters unless we work really, really hard as viewers. (See the-navel-treatment's great post here).
So for me, it’s all about context. I hate talking about hating Mary, because I feel like I’m sharing Moffat’s world in which women—all women—are disposable. It feels different, e.g., talking about The Good Wife, and saying how much I can’t stand Jackie because of her constant emotional manipulation. (a) Because that ‘hate’ doesn’t stem from an overall misogynistic fictional world and (b) because Jackie is actually written as a 3-dimensional character who makes choices that are very hurtful to people, particularly to Alicia. When it comes to Sherlock, I feel dirtier, if that makes sense. Because it feels like my hatred of Mary the character is validating the world-view of Moffat’s misogynistic writing.
Here’s the thing: judging the characters on Sherlock with clarity of vision, I need to say this: I hate Mary for what she did/does to John and Sherlock. I hate Sherlock for what he did/does to John and to others (non-consensual drugging). I hate John for using his fists instead of his words, and for being a bit of a dick (though I hate him least, I guess). And so on. But I recognize in myself that in my headcanon, I try to expunge the abuse that John and Sherlock inflict, and preserve a version of them I like better. Whereas I don’t do that for Mary. Why? I’m invested in John and Sherlock as characters, and I ship them.* And even though Moffat has actually ruined them for me, I can and do love and appreciate fandom versions of them.
But I feel a lot less invested in Mary as a character. Because there was very little to get me invested in her. And because Moffat did a terrible job of making her a character we can get invested in.
And here we see the results of being steeped in Moffat’s misogynistic fictional worlds.I am invested in S & J; not so much in these other characters. That doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it happens because the writers lead us there. But here’s the thing: we don’t have to take the bait. I can’t do Mary love—I just can’t do it. It’s not there. But I can make sure that when I talk about her, I’m not using misogynistic discourse (not talking the way misogynists talk). It’s not fool proof, and I’m certainly not trying to dictate to others what they ought to do; but it’s the middle ground that I feel most comfortable with. And I’m writing this because I’ve seen people wondering, so I’m answering the question for anyone who cares to read my answer. * I’ll just add here that I really hate the “it’s just ruining your *precious* ship” discourse too. Yeah, ships are precious in fandom. That’s why we’re here. How can we belittle fannishness in fandom spaces? I DON’T want my ship broken apart, like, A LOT, and here is where I get to come to emote about that. At the same time, I’m going to do my best to refrain from offensive and hurtful language while I’m doing it.
I agree with most of this, but I’d like to say that maybe Moffat (and Gatiss) didn’t want the audience to be invested in her. Mary killed the title character and would do it again without esitation. She lied to and abused the other main character. And she never apologized for any of it. Why would they want the audience to grow fond of her?
I think you may have sussed out what’s behind the incredibly misguided pseudo-feminist righteous indignation fueling so much of the Mary lovers. This is, at the core, why some viewers have a hard time parsing the difference between fiction and reality.
I’ve never understood that need to insert themselves into a fiction to appreciate it. I love the hell out of Game of Thrones, but I certainly don’t have anyone on that show that reminds me of myself. I don’t understand that phenomenon.
Maybe that’s why I’m able to enjoy so many things that rarely involve women as main characters, like Sherlock. I don’t need to be in the story to enjoy the story.
It’s also possible to relate to a character who shares characteristics with you other than your gender. Shocking, I know! There are women who relate to Sherlock and women who relate to John. This idea that a character must be female in order for female fans to relate to her or identify with her is just the other side of the coin of the bogus argument that people confronted J.K. Rowling with when they suggested that she couldn’t write good stories about a young boy because she had never been one.
Yup, exactly. The character I relate to the most on Sherlock is John. Not any of the women. John. It can be done.
Personally, the character I relate to and identify with the most is Sherlock. I like Molly and Mrs. Hudson and Irene Adler (and I technically like Mary, too, if she’s a villain, because I love a good baddie), but none of them resonate with me in the way that Sherlock does.
To my original comment, I just want to add that the ability of women to relate to male characters doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be more well-written female characters on TV for women to have the option of relating to, but the existence of several well-rounded female characters in a work of fiction doesn’t require a female member of the audience to automatically identify with one, some, or all of them. If she identifies with none of the female characters in that work of fiction and instead identifies with a male character, or if she doesn’t identify with any characters at all (like the example you gave of Game of Thrones), it’s okay. Interesting characters have personalities and traits; they are not defined solely by their genders.
I suspect that a lot of people who are so quick to defend Mary from even the suggestion that she could be a villain are possibly people who do relate quickly and easily to female characters, and who just aren’t understanding that not all women identify with Mary and her situation in the same way that they do. But it’s simply not misogynistic for me (or for any woman who feels the same way I do) to say that, other than our genders, I have very little in common with pre-HLV Mary, nothing in common with post-HLV Mary, and absolutely no belief whatsoever that I should “like” her or defend her actions when she shot and critically wounded the character who I do feel that I have things in common with.
I can appreciate the complexity that she brings to the story and the potential awesomeness of Mary as a villain, but I cannot and will not be expected to regard her as a kindred spirit just because she and I happen to fall into the same 50% of the human population.
i don’t even understand why anyone should have to justify why they don’t like a character with 30k metas especially when said character shot the main character of the show in the chest
not to mention that she said “I’ll kill you” right out loud and then did exactly that like seriously why is there even a debate here
This is just a small fic partly based on the spoilers we have and what I hope happens. I hope you enjoy.
This couldn’t be happening. Realistically, he had anticipated he would have more time. First, as if punching his heart, Lisbon had told him of her planned move to Washington, D.C. It had been a private reveal; just those two left at the FBI.
"And you’re sure this is what you want?" he asked, not moving so much as a toe. “This is what you feel you should do?”
He felt sick asking her. He could feel the pulsating of his blood pumping through his body, humming in his ears like war drums. He didn’t want her to be sure! He didn’t want to let her go. Yet, here she was standing in the office, telling him Pike offered her the chance to go with him.
He looked at her as she trapped her bottom lip between her teeth. She hesitated. The hesitation was worse than just telling him right away. It gave his mind time to complete worse-case scenarios. After a moment, he heard her sigh, take her chair from her desk and place it in front of him, sitting in it and sighing once more.
"It’s a chance for something new," she told him. "Marcus has a really good job opportunity there, and he would like me to go. I want to support him."
He hesitated a moment. Telling her the truth now would only serve the purpose of making her feel like her decision was wrong. That she should stay for him because he loves her. No. As much as it would hurt him, he would let her go…let her better herself with a good man.
And Marcus, for what he knew of him and detected of him, was a good man. Perhaps the way Marcus was able to project what he wanted and go for it was what attracted Lisbon to him. Perhaps it was how Lisbon never had to guess what Pike was thinking at any given point, because he would tell her. Perhaps it was the honesty that Marcus gave Lisbon so completely. Jane knew he had lied so many times to Lisbon. It was redundant and foolish to say he hadn’t. He was sorry, but it was a little too late.
"I sense you’re not telling me all of it, Lisbon."
Her wavering voice gave it away. There was more. And something inside Jane knew it was worse than it has already become.
"He, uh…" she stammered, embarrassment and a hint of something he couldn’t detect flashing across her face. "He asked me to marry him, Jane."
BOOM. His collective world tumbled. He was drifting through the darkness and all he could feel was pain and abandonment. It was like someone had turned out all the lights in his mind and he was floating along haphazardly. His fingers curled around the cushion of the couch and he leaned backward to steady himself.
"Jane?" he could hear her ask in concern.
Jane licked his lips and looked at her, his gaze narrowing into tunnels. He had 2 choices: he could tell her how he feels about her or he could let her go and be happy with Marcus… miles and miles away from him.
"I don’t want you to do it," he told her truthfully, "but if it makes you happy…"
Lisbon stood abruptly and paced in front of him, her hands wringing in nervousness. Jane sensed some uneasiness coming from her, and he hated himself for feeling hopeful.
"But, see," she started softly. “I don’t really… it’s… it’s too soon! I don’t think I am ready for this! I mean, Washington wasn’t very high on my list of things, and now this?”
Jane stood and reached out to stop her from pacing. His heart quickened, and he could almost feel the shaking in his legs. His hands on her shoulders, he took his hand and placed it under her chin. Gazing at her, he could see her eyes were heavy and wet.
"I don’t want you to do it for my own selfish reasons," he told her, wiping off a stray tear. "I should feel bad because Marcus is a great guy and treats you well, but I don’t feel bad. I can’t."
Confusion clouded Lisbon’s face and she shook her head in incomprehension.
"You know why," he told her, alluding to the confusion on her face. "Because I had to sit through Mashburn and I had to hear about Greg, and I had to pretend that everything was okay with Marcus. I had to spend my nights wishing I was him."
"Hear me out. I didn’t think what runs in my veins was deserving of you. I hated myself and you deserved better than what I am, what I was. I tried to move on and let you be, but I can’t do it anymore. Moving to DC is the worst mistake you could make, Lisbon. I want you to be happy, but I can’t say I want that for you with Pike."
"What are you talking about?" Lisbon whispered.
"I love you, Lisbon," he blurted out. "I don’t know when or where or how, but somewhere along this road you became more to me than I knew. And I am asking you to please not go to DC with Marcus. Don’t marry him. If you have any doubts or any feelings for me, please don’t. That is selfish of me, but I am a man of many flaws."
Lisbon, presumably rendered speechless, looked down at the ring Marcus had placed on her finger. She hadn’t given him an answer, but he had insisted she think it over and wear the ring. With trembling fingers, she reached and slowly removed the ring, placing it on the desk behind her.
"This is all I was waiting for," she told Jane, stepping closer. "Something that made me believe you. You don’t know how long I have been waiting to hear these words from you."
He smiled a small smile and shrugged.
"Sorry it took so long," he replied.
"What are you going to tell Pike?" Jane asked, his eyes darting to the abandoned ring. “About D.C., too?
"I don’t know yet," she answered, moving closer to Jane so she was melted into his shadow. "Any suggestions?"
"No," he laughed. "But good luck, Teresa. Love you."
And he bent down to kiss her as the two shadows melted into one on the floor of the FBI, even blocking out the glow of the diamond ring left alone on the desk.
This is so sweet and it’s how I’d like it to happen, except that I hope they won’t have Lisbon seriously considering marrying Pike. That would be beyond ridiculous, it makes zero sense for our Lisbon!
In light of recent events, I’ve decided to write a post compiling my thoughts on Mary Morstan as well as trying to understand what makes Mary the Sherlock fandom’s Apple of Discord. Put your seatbelt on baby, we’re going for a bumpy ride.
A lot of the hubub over “Mary-Hate” by Pro-Mary people has been under the guise of feminism,— as if the only reason one might not like her character is because they are inherently misogynist. Or, we’re rabid Johnlockers, who are also self-hating anti-feminist women who can’t stand somebody in the way of our ship.
Actually, this, right here— is my reason.
SHERLOCK: Yours. (A little angrily) Why didn’t you come to me in the first place?
MARY: Because John can’t ever know that I lied to him. It would break him and I would lose him forever – and, Sherlock, I will never let that happen.
(He turns as if to walk away. She takes a step towards him.)
MARY: Please …
(He turns back to her.)
MARY: … understand. There is nothing in this world that I would not do to stop that happening.
SHERLOCK (turning away): Sorry.
(He walks to the fuse box and puts his hand onto one of the switches before looking back towards her.)
SHERLOCK: Not that obvious a trick.
This is why she shot Sherlock.
And this tells me that she is a horrible example of what is acceptable to do to someone in the name of love. She’s an example of an extremely cynical view of women in relationships— how we all lose our minds when we are in love, and when that love is threatened, we can become..well, homicidal.
She’s an example of, “all that’s needed to make a bad woman good, is a good man”.
She’s an example of women betraying friends over a man.
There’s a generation of young girls watching this show, and watching her, and thinking maybe— that’s it’s okay to hurt someone badly, if it’s to protect your relationship.
It’s the lying, the betrayal, the bullying—- the never taking the consequences for one’s own actions— never being held accountable—
How is this a role model for women? How is she representative of feminism?
You want a great female role model? Try Lagertha, from the Vikings. Wife, mother, bad-ass— with integrity.
This. I don’t understand why people have to insist she’s a good person - she’s not. And she doesn’t have to be. Nor does she have to be a good role model. It’s okay to like flawed characters and villains, it’s not okay to excuse abusive and manipulative behaviour and claim that’s what makes a character a ‘strong woman’.
tv show like: *man leers at woman, licks his lips, smiles* do you have a boyfriend?
audience like: ah yeah, he wants to hit it
tv show like: *man leers at man, licks his lips, smiles* do you have a boyfriend?
audience like: what a lovely friendship