1.05 - To Catch a Rat

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Timeless A-Peel
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Post by Timeless A-Peel »

Frankymole wrote:It's a shame all the writers of the series were men. It would have been interesting to have the variety of more viewpoints, particularly some female ones, in the scripts.

I like how Purdey gets her own back on Gambit sometimes - she returns his "tipping out of bed" favour, and when he's in the buff as an artist's model in "The Three-Handed Game" she takes great delight in teasing him. I'm not sure Gambit ever gets much chance to do the same, the closest is in "House of Cards" with him in her flat as she undresses, having despatched the assassin that was waiting for her (and so probably earning a reprieve from being flattened by Purdey, though she does deliberately step on him - probably a bit sexist, that, as he wouldn't be allowed to step on her).
Purdey often has the upper hand where Gambit's concerned--the ball's perpetually in her court after all--but she's at a particular advantage (and he's particularly vulnerable) in the modelling scene. She doesn't even make a pretense of trying to avert her eyes--every time that blanket of his slips, she tries to sneak a peek before he covers up again. :lol:
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Post by Timeless A-Peel »

Lhbizness wrote:It's meant to be a joke, but to me it comes off as objectifying. It's a joke on the woman, not on the men for behaving stupidly. I'll again point to the way the scene is photographed, dividing Olga's legs from her body. If Gambit is in on the joke (and I'm not convinced there is one), he still persists in addressing Steed rather than Olga, and even after being introduced to her, he bends down and continues to stare at her legs like that's all there is to her. It is a joke, but it's a tasteless and semi-offensive one. It's the way a teenage boy looks at girls. The fact that it's a woman who gets one line in the entire episode makes it worse than, say, giving us a shot of Tara's or Purdey's legs. Olga is entirely there for the men to stare at and make jokes about without her participation or consent.

It's the fact that the series dwells on the active creepiness of Cromwell and Purdey's flirtation with him, not whether or not it condones it. That sort of behavior from male characters comes back again and again - it's an example of defining sexual aggressiveness or even violence as something that's standard, even if it is ultimately unacceptable. Cromwell's crime in this is being the white rat, not how aggressively flirtatious he is.

I don't recall Gambit ever actually having girlfriends that we're introduced to, other than the women he sometimes flirts with, and Purdey, of course. He probably does appreciate clever women, especially if he appreciates Purdey, but I don't find that he ever espouses to be even as forward thinking a character in terms of women as Steed was in the original series. In fact, he regularly philosophizes about his conquests and the fickleness of women.
Well, he doesn't actually have much of a chance to talk to Olga after he's been introduced to her--she ducks back down to go back to grooming the horse right after she's acknowledged him, and he has about one line of dialogue after that before it switches to the findings of the assignment, which he has no reason to talk to Olga about. And I'm not convinced that Olga is completely oblivious and has no idea what's being said about her, or takes issue with it. The fact that Gambit's there, and she knows he can see her, doesn't seem to bother her much one way or another.

The way it's filmed is another issue entirely, and has nothing to do with the characters themselves, although it is partly done that way for the surprise factor--we're expecting to see Steed, so when we're confronted with a pair of legs that definitely aren't Steed's it's a "what?" moment.

Cromwell's crime is generally being a nasty individual, and all those characteristics add up to that. It's dwelled on partly for plot purposes--to give us a sense that Cromwell isn't a nice character, to give Purdey a chance to see his scar and unravel the mystery, and also just to give Purdey a chance to hold her own. She knows she can nip it in the bud whenever she wants.

Gambit does have girlfriends in the course of the series, and the ones we see him meet and flirt with he either makes dates with, or we see them pop up for the dates later on. He actually doesn't talk about his conquests very much, and when he does it's because Purdey's brought it up and starts asking him about them. I also don't recall him saying anything about women being fickle. You might be thinking of one of Purdey's lines, where she rehashes an old argument they had about the fickleness of men's minds. Purdey's argument was that men are fickle when it comes to women, whereas Gambit's argument was that men stick with women they really care about.
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Post by Frankymole »

Lhbizness wrote:The show does allow for exchange, particularly among its main characters. Though once more, I'd say that Gambit is usually in a position of power and so it's considered a joke when he's naked in the artist's studio, while when Purdey is naked or in a negligee it's an opportunity for both him and the camera to be voyeuristic. You don't need a female writer to avoid sexist undertones - you just need male writers who recognize that women are people and that not everything is about the visual pleasure of the male characters.
I know you don't need a female writer - but in 180-odd episodes it would've been nice to have one, at least once. Just to see how whether there'd be a different viewpoint presented.

I suspect most of the male writers did realise that not everything is about the visual pleasure of the male characters. It mainly tends to be Clemens who doesn't. After all, the show was famous for emancipating women on television, with Cathy Gale, and her follow-on/knock-off, Emma.
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Post by Frankymole »

Timeless A-Peel wrote: Cromwell's crime is generally being a nasty individual, and all those characteristics add up to that. It's dwelled on partly for plot purposes--to give us a sense that Cromwell isn't a nice character, to give Purdey a chance to see his scar and unravel the mystery, and also just to give Purdey a chance to hold her own. She knows she can nip it in the bud whenever she wants.
It's a bit like the recent/topical criticisms of F Scott Fitzgerald for being anti-Semitic in his writing, because he presents anti-Semitic characters (who are reprehensible, and get their come-uppance). Too easy to personify the makers of the show as sexist and unpleasant, when they include unpleasant sexist characters.
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Post by Lhbizness »

There is indeed a difference between structurally sexist works, and works that contain sexist characters or instances of sexism. And I obviously don't subscribe to proving that a writer, director, etc. etc. is anything based on the content of their works - I'm more interested in the works themselves, and what they show or don't show. It is possible, however, to have your cake and eat it too - to present characters that are simultaneously reprehensible and "get their come-uppance" as a way of expressing sexist (or otherwise) sentiments without coming in for criticism - e.g. "well, he's the bad guy so it doesn't count." My problem with the relationship between Purdey and Cromwell is that his sexual aggressiveness is not what's at issue - it's his treachery. She is written as being attracted to that aggressiveness; she does not reject his advances, she's even impressed by his tenacity in showing up at her flat to ask her out. That is problematic, in my view. The same goes for the bad guys who threaten sexual violence: yes, they are bad men, but there is an implicit titillation being provided in threatening the physically capable women with rape or assault. It can be used to inspire the male characters/viewers protectiveness, and is treated as the so-called "worst fate that can befall a woman." That combination, again, is problematic.

My problem with that particular scene with Olga is 1) the compartmentalization of her into a pair of legs, 2) the fact that Gambit never actually addresses her, despite continuing a discussion of her attributes with Steed, including their physical relationship 3) the implication that she is unaware or partially aware of his ogling her, which further indicates that she is not participating in a flirtation with him or a joke with him, but rather is the butt of the visual joke, 4) his continuing to crouch down in order to view her legs, which again establishes her as the subject of voyeurism that she is not explicitly participating in and that is not reciprocal. This in an episode in which Gambit begins to delineate his conquests (at Purdey's request) together with a rather stupid joke about "going undercover." None of this inspires me to view Gambit with a great deal of favor, or to consider him a particularly enlightened male.


I'm afraid that TNA in general has issues with structural sexism, as I've discussed - don't have much more to say in this context, except to reiterate what I've already said. If it doesn't convince, it doesn't and that's fine - it's simply what I see in the show.
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Post by Timeless A-Peel »

Frankymole wrote:
Timeless A-Peel wrote: Cromwell's crime is generally being a nasty individual, and all those characteristics add up to that. It's dwelled on partly for plot purposes--to give us a sense that Cromwell isn't a nice character, to give Purdey a chance to see his scar and unravel the mystery, and also just to give Purdey a chance to hold her own. She knows she can nip it in the bud whenever she wants.
It's a bit like the recent/topical criticisms of F Scott Fitzgerald for being anti-Semitic in his writing, because he presents anti-Semitic characters (who are reprehensible, and get their come-uppance). Too easy to personify the makers of the show as sexist and unpleasant, when they include unpleasant sexist characters.
Yes, it's necessary to build these characters up as nasties if you're going to justify knocking them down later. And I never feel like Purdey's at a disadvantage or afraid to go against Cromwell in any of her scenes, nor that we're meant to favour his actions over hers. She holds her own, knows exactly what his intentions are, and makes it quite clear that she'll decide when she's had enough of him. Given that he works in another department on the same assignment, she probably doesn't want to alienate him entirely because it'll make the job harder. But she's not averse to putting a stop to his advances if she's had enough.
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Post by Lhbizness »

Timeless A-Peel wrote:Yes, it's necessary to build these characters up as nasties if you're going to justify knocking them down later. And I never feel like Purdey's at a disadvantage or afraid to go against Cromwell in any of her scenes, nor that we're meant to favour his actions over hers. She holds her own, knows exactly what his intentions are, and makes it quite clear that she'll decide when she's had enough of him. Given that he works in another department on the same assignment, she probably doesn't want to alienate him entirely because it'll make the job harder. But she's not averse to putting a stop to his advances if she's had enough.
And you don't see it as problematic that a female character continues to put up with a sexually aggressive male, including having dinner with him, because she doesn't want to alienate him? I'd like to see either Steed or Gambit being put in that kind of a position...
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Post by Frankymole »

It's just an entertaining TV programme, not a treatise on gender politics. The 70s boasted plenty of great "Plays For Today" for the audience that craves that kind of thing. Such intelligent plays/programmes are sadly missed now from TV, of course.
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Post by Lhbizness »

Frankymole wrote:It's just an entertaining TV programme, not a treatise on gender politics. The 70s boasted plenty of great "Plays For Today" for the audience that craves that kind of thing. Such intelligent plays/programmes are sadly missed now from TV, of course.
True. But I'm interested in popular media, what it markets, and the cultural construct it both mirrors and affects. It does say something, both about the culture that produced it and the culture that grew from it. There's no such thing as something that's "just entertaining" and the more interesting a piece of media, the more that can be said about it. Nice thing about The Avengers in general is how layered it is/can be, for those who care to look into it. That's part of the enjoyment. The fact that we can have this argument at all means that the program is more than just a piece of entertainment that can be dropped the moment you turn off the TV. But if you don't care, that's fine too. It can be enjoyed on many levels, and I'm excited to be able to voice what I feel is both laudable and problematic about a given episode. Just please don't tell me that I shouldn't say it.
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Post by Frankymole »

I do care, but there are ways of discussing things without spoiling others' enjoyment of them, so I'll leave it there.
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