1.05 - To Catch a Rat

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Total votes: 17

Lhbizness

Post by Lhbizness »

Frankymole wrote:Id it sexist when both men and women are sexually liberated though? In the very first episode Gambit is propositioned by the German embassy lady; it was the 70s, the post-Pill age of free love and no incurable STDs (they thought), and so the writers are clearly showing that both men and women can be forward in their attitudes to sex.
Answer: yes. It is still sexist. But in this case it's really the more juvenile approach: a woman being treated as a pair of legs (as in the scene I take issue with) and her being discussed freely because she cannot speak the language. Some of Gambit's other dialogue in this episode bears the same stamp, which Purdey happily breaks down. Gambit being propositioned is similar, but he still has physical and verbal autonomy - the camera and the dialogue places him in control. Steed is similarly to blame in this episode - however, the majority of the show places him in a more respectful verbal position vis a vis women than Gambit, who at times gives the impression of being a rather shallow lothario. While Steed is obviously promiscuous, he does not make it a philosophy.

The whole tenor of the show, at times, relegates secondary female characters (besides Purdey, although she gets pigeon-holed too) to the equivalent of eye candy. It's a false equivalency to say that because Gambit gets propositioned, therefore the show is sexually open and no one is being objectified. Men are still here in a position of dominance - note the number of times that Purdey is directly or indirectly threatened with sexual assault. Gambit and Steed are not treated with the same level of objectification, either by the third eye view of the camera or by the women within the show.

Both The Avengers and The New Avengers had a similar problem, but the sexual divisions within The New Avengers is a bit more reactionary and, to borrow a phrase, more cardboard, in my view.
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Post by Frankymole »

"Sexist" means unfair discrimination on the grounds of sex, doesn't it?

If both sexes do it, it ain't sexist.
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Post by Lhbizness »

Frankymole wrote:"Sexist" means unfair discrimination on the grounds of sex, doesn't it?

If both sexes do it, it ain't sexist.
I'm saying that the SHOW demonstrates sexism. Which it does - Gambit is not being codified and compartmentalized in the same way that Steed's girlfriend is. He is not being put on display in the same way she is, and his body/sexual attributes are not being discussed in the same way (both without his knowledge and without his input). So it fits even that rather narrow definition of sexism: both sexes are NOT doing it in the same way, and the show itself does not approach the physical bodies of Steed or Gambit, a general discussion of their gender, or the "philosophy of free love" in the same way that it approaches that of the female characters. There is not an exchange going on here, and it is not being freely participated in by both genders.

I'm not saying this attitude is there across the board in every episode, but yes: TNA demonstrates at times a casual sexism, particularly in relation to its secondary female characters.

Anyways, it was just a scene that bothered me - mostly because it was an easy joke and pretty juvenile, as indeed were many of the scenes between Gambit and Purdey in this one.
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Post by Timeless A-Peel »

I'm not entirely convinced Olga doesn't speak the language and is completely oblivious about what's going on. When Steed asks her if she speaks English, she responds with "Not one word," and does it with a bit of a smile. The impression I get is that she and Steed have a bit of a running joke going on about it, despite the fact that they both know perfectly well that Olga knows what's going on, and they've just let Gambit in on it. There's also no sense that she finds the attention of either of them unwelcome--if she did, that'd be another kettle of fish entirely. There's a sense that Olga's in on it and isn't as oblivious as she pretends to be.

I agree that there are more threats of sexual violence in TNA, which certainly aren't pleasant/easy to watch. They are more in keeping with the series' grittier tone (and also more realistic, sadly), so I understand why they're there, even if they're tough to watch.

As for the fact that anyone could have played Gunner, well, yes, that's completely correct--the role wasn't written for Hendry. Brian Clemens had finished the script long before they knew they were going to wind up casting Ian. By the time that they knew Ian was in the picture, there was no time to substantially tailor the script to accommodate the fact that it was him, just to tweak it here and there to make subtle references to his history with the show, most notably Steed's "welcome back" comment right at the end. Clemens did say that it was a shame they didn't know about Ian's casting earlier, as he would have written him a story or character more befitting of his legacy on the show. I would have liked more of Patrick and Ian together as well, and I'm perpetually disappointed that they missed the opportunity to have three of the Avengers men share the frame--they have Purdey there when Steed gives his line, as opposed to Gambit. To have the three men together would have drawn a nice line from 1961 to 1976, and shown that the series had gone full circle by casting two male leads.
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Post by Lhbizness »

Timeless A-Peel wrote:I'm not entirely convinced Olga doesn't speak the language and is completely oblivious about what's going on. When Steed asks her if she speaks English, she responds with "Not one word," and does it with a bit of a smile. The impression I get is that she and Steed have a bit of a running joke going on about it, despite the fact that they both know perfectly well that Olga knows what's going on, and they've just let Gambit in on it. There's also no sense that she finds the attention of either of them unwelcome--if she did, that'd be another kettle of fish entirely. There's a sense that Olga's in on it and isn't as oblivious as she pretends to be.

I agree that there are more threats of sexual violence in TNA, which certainly aren't pleasant/easy to watch. They are more in keeping with the series' grittier tone (and also more realistic, sadly), so I understand why they're there, even if they're tough to watch.

As for the fact that anyone could have played Gunner, well, yes, that's completely correct--the role wasn't written for Hendry. Brian Clemens had finished the script long before they knew they were going to wind up casting Ian. By the time that they knew Ian was in the picture, there was no time to substantially tailor the script to accommodate the fact that it was him, just to tweak it here and there to make subtle references to his history with the show, most notably Steed's "welcome back" comment right at the end. Clemens did say that it was a shame they didn't know about Ian's casting earlier, as he would have written him a story or character more befitting of his legacy on the show. I would have liked more of Patrick and Ian together as well, and I'm perpetually disappointed that they missed the opportunity to have three of the Avengers men share the frame--they have Purdey there when Steed gives his line, as opposed to Gambit. To have the three men together would have drawn a nice line from 1961 to 1976, and shown that the series had gone full circle by casting two male leads.
I think that's a wee bit of a stretch to assume that Olga speaks English, at least on first viewing, or that Gambit is in on the joke if she does - this is the first time that Gambit has seen her, obviously. She's presented initially not as a full person but as a pair of legs which Gambit drops into a crouch to view, compartmentalizing her and treating her as something there to be looked at and spoken about as though she's not even present - which is what Gambit proceeds to do. So this is what I mean by the show demonstrating casual sexism at times - a choice was made to film the scene this way, and it did not need to be quite so objectifying or, in my view, juvenile. Nor does she have even as big a role as some of Steed's girlfriends; she never appears again, so we never get a payoff scene in which, perhaps, she proves that she can speak English. But I'll just chock it up to something else I find off-putting about Gambit and leave it at that. TNA has a problem with casual sexism that extends into its male characters attitudes towards "throwaway" females that are not Purdey.

In general, though, shows often take the tack of threatening female characters with sexual violence, as though that is the only kind of violence that can be perpetrated against women. It has an undercurrent of titillation that is very disturbing. When you couple that with casually sexist scenes, as in this episode, it becomes a persistent problem. Even in this episode, Cromwell's creepy way of touching Purdey in several scenes is inappropriate, yet the script has her respond with a vague flirtation, as though his aggressiveness is acceptable to her, or at least something she can put up with.

I can't quite bring myself to excuse it because TNA is more gritty than The Avengers - TNA is often also a bit shallower and more ridiculous in its approach to female characters. (Though The Avengers does have villains that threaten sexual violence once or twice, it is not an ongoing feature).

None of this, by the way, is to say that it's wrong for viewers to appreciate the physical attributes of the actresses, or for the characters to flirt with or be attracted to each other. It's the effect of voyeurism and casual possession of women's bodies as nothing more than bodies that bothers me.

Yeah, I wish that Hendry and Macnee had actually been given a proper scene together. I don't see why they couldn't have cast him in another role - perhaps as one of Steed's superiors in a later episode - rather than palming us off with a scene in which the two original Avengers barely speak to each other. It's just lazy.

In general, though, I like the episode and I like seeing Hendry there. Just wish more had been made out of it.
Last edited by Lhbizness on Fri May 02, 2014 4:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by shaunodan »

Agree 100% with Timeless re Olga :) Love Olga's 'not a vord ' :lol: What's wrong with Gambit looking at a pair of magnificient legs :?: Hope it was o.k. for us the viewers to get a peek at Purdey's 'pins' straight after Olga's :wink: Possibly Gambit was a LEGS man :)
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Post by Frankymole »

Lhbizness wrote:
Frankymole wrote:"Sexist" means unfair discrimination on the grounds of sex, doesn't it?

If both sexes do it, it ain't sexist.
I'm saying that the SHOW demonstrates sexism. Which it does - Gambit is not being codified and compartmentalized in the same way that Steed's girlfriend is. He is not being put on display in the same way she is, and his body/sexual attributes are not being discussed in the same way (both without his knowledge and without his input). So it fits even that rather narrow definition of sexism: both sexes are NOT doing it in the same way, and the show itself does not approach the physical bodies of Steed or Gambit, a general discussion of their gender, or the "philosophy of free love" in the same way that it approaches that of the female characters. There is not an exchange going on here, and it is not being freely participated in by both genders.

I'm not saying this attitude is there across the board in every episode, but yes: TNA demonstrates at times a casual sexism, particularly in relation to its secondary female characters.

Anyways, it was just a scene that bothered me - mostly because it was an easy joke and pretty juvenile, as indeed were many of the scenes between Gambit and Purdey in this one.
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).
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Post by Lhbizness »

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.
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Post by Timeless A-Peel »

Lhbizness wrote:I think that's a wee bit of a stretch to assume that Olga speaks English, at least on first viewing, or that Gambit is in on the joke if she does - this is the first time that Gambit has seen her, obviously. She's presented initially not as a full person but as a pair of legs which Gambit drops into a crouch to view, compartmentalizing her and treating her as something there to be looked at and spoken about as though she's not even present - which is what Gambit proceeds to do. So this is what I mean by the show demonstrating casual sexism at times - a choice was made to film the scene this way, and it did not need to be quite so objectifying or, in my view, juvenile. Nor does she have even as big a role as some of Steed's girlfriends; she never appears again, so we never get a payoff scene in which, perhaps, she proves that she can speak English. But I'll just chock it up to something else I find off-putting about Gambit and leave it at that. TNA has a problem with casual sexism that extends into its male characters attitudes towards "throwaway" females that are not Purdey.

In general, though, shows often take the tack of threatening female characters with sexual violence, as though that is the only kind of violence that can be perpetrated against women. It has an undercurrent of titillation that is very disturbing. When you couple that with casually sexist scenes, as in this episode, it becomes a persistent problem. Even in this episode, Cromwell's creepy way of touching Purdey in several scenes is inappropriate, yet the script has her respond with a vague flirtation, as though his aggressiveness is acceptable to her, or at least something she can put up with.

I can't quite bring myself to excuse it because TNA is more gritty than The Avengers - TNA is often also a bit shallower and more ridiculous in its approach to female characters. (Though The Avengers does have villains that threaten sexual violence once or twice, it is not an ongoing feature).

None of this, by the way, is to say that it's wrong for viewers to appreciate the physical attributes of the actresses, or for the characters to flirt with or be attracted to each other. It's the effect of voyeurism and casual possession of women's bodies as nothing more than bodies that bothers me.

Yeah, I wish that Hendry and Macnee had actually been given a proper scene together. I don't see why they couldn't have cast him in another role - perhaps as one of Steed's superiors in a later episode - rather than palming us off with a scene in which the two original Avengers barely speak to each other. It's just lazy.

In general, though, I like the episode and I like seeing Hendry there. Just wish more had been made out of it.
I don't think it's a stretch at all--it's meant to be a joke. Steed says she doesn't speak a word of English, and she confirms it--in English! Gambit doesn’t take Steed’s protestations that she doesn’t understand seriously anymore than the audience does. The fact that the show has the scene at all is another issue entirely, but neither it nor the original series are blameless when it comes to those sorts of scenes. TNA may have more of it simply because they had the French backers were always putting pressure on them to make things “sexier.”

I’d argue that both Gambit and Steed treat the female characters other than Purdey pretty well, though. Gambit’s relationships with his girlfriends are actually one of my favourite aspects of the characters. There’s a nice reciprocity between them, lots of humour and friendly back and forths, rather than it being one-sided—they’re both there to enjoy themselves. He’s good at respecting boundaries, and is actually spends the majority of the time looking at their faces than anywhere else. And he seems to appreciate clever women. Purdey’s the most obvious example, but there’s also Penny the math teacher, Dr. LeParge the pathologist, and the German archivist.

The show certainly doesn’t condone actions like Cromwell’s, either, or that they’re meant to be seen in anything other than a negative light. He’s not portrayed as a likeable character even before we learn he’s the White Rat. Purdey is always portrayed as in control and capable of dealing with his advances. She keeps things light and finds subtle ways to fend him off, while also casually pointing out that she could break his back in three places if he doesn’t watch himself. The sense is Purdey will decide when she’s had enough and it’s time to put Cromwell in line. They also don’t make out that sexual violence is the only threat faced by Purdey, who also has to hold her own in fights. They have her leaving Larry because he hits her, and Peter Jeffrey’s character in “House of Cards” earns a knock-out punch for hitting her.

Anyway, bottom line is that I’m not saying the show was never sexist or what have you, and there are definitely scenes that I don’t care for (just as there are for loads of other shows from that period and the ‘60s), but as a whole I think it does pretty well, and with Gambit and Steed we got some pretty enlightened male leads.

Recasting Ian would be easier said than done. There’s no guarantee that Ian would have been available to film a different role in another episode, or even if he was, there’d be no guarantee that the episode in production would even have a suitable part for him. There was a similar case with Frederick Jaeger in “Last of the Cybernauts.” They would have been quite happy to have him come back as Benson, but the only gap he had in his schedule was when they were filming “Target!” Even then they only had him for two weeks, and “Target!” was plagued by rain delays that put it behind schedule. Jaeger couldn’t hang around to shoot the whole episode as he had other commitments, so they were forced to give him a small, one-scene role and put someone else in his part. The production schedule was breakneck, so they couldn’t wait around for individual actors any more than an actor could be expected to wait around for them. They made as many tweaks to the script as they could to take advantage of having Ian there without totally throwing off filming. I wouldn’t call it lazy, just a case of unfortunate production circumstances.
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Post by Lhbizness »

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, or even one that they can all participate in and laugh about. 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. His behavior gets him a date with Purdey.

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.
Last edited by Lhbizness on Fri May 02, 2014 5:38 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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