butterflykiki: (Sleeeeepyprincess)
[personal profile] butterflykiki

Mostly this is about "Scandal in Belgravia", because I was just complaining over on Havoc's journal the other day about the way Irene Adler got dismissed in the recent Sherlock movie series. I couldn't even care that they killed her off, because she was so... not-there. No offense to Rachel McAdams, who I usually like; they just didn't give her a lot to work with. Very pretty, but working for the bad guys, not really pushing any limits, not showing any particular genius of her own... Unless she hired the henchmen in the movie, she did nothing but show up, deliver a package, fail to die, then get killed. Not impressive.

The Irene Adler in "Scandal in Belgravia" is impressive. They've updated her from an 'adventuress', opera singer, and mistress to royalty, to a dominatrix (to royalty, to ministers of defense, to everyone she meets, really). My feelings on her see-sawed a great deal during the course of the episode; half the time I liked her. Half the time, she was hitting my embarrassment squick on behalf of other people, and thus making me want to slap her. She makes an excellent point about how women who 'misbehave' go looking for different kinds of protection; but then she turns that around, and does become the blackmailer she denied being in the beginning. The inequities of how a woman in her profession are treated or perceived aren't balanced out by the damage she did in setting free that information.

Should she have to be a heroine, though? In the original story, she wasn't so much the 'villain' as The Woman Who Beat Holmes and lived happily ever after with a completely different guy. That Holmes remembered her-- fondly might be too strong a word, but with admiration and respect. In Victorian times, her status as a fallen woman was easily established just by having been a Prince's mistress, taken photos he wanted back, and an actress. Sherlock BBC picked something with similar resonance for many people in the 21st Century -- being a dominatrix -- but then decided to make her pas de deux with Sherlock more overt, but still non-sexual.

Sort of. It's intellectual, but it's sexual; it's on an emotional games-playing board, not the simple get-the-MacGuffin of the first story. Moriarty's part in this gives it all a more sinister air. Sherlock holds his own by being amazingly perceptive on an intellectual and physical level, but he really didn't see some of those emotional punches coming. Thankfully, he still manages to figure out the puzzle even as she's using every wile in the book on him.

So why did she hit my embarrassment squick so hard, sometimes? It wasn't that she exposed herself, I think. I think it was that she was stripping other people bare without mercy, or warning. It's not something I deal well with myself, feeling my vulnerabilities are on display, or my insecurities are being mocked; Irene does it as a calculated ploy to get people to react the way she wants them to. And because yes, it's fun for her to be smarter, and in control (she's not in that profession by chance). She exposed her own liking for Sherlock in order to keep John off-balance, uncomfortable, embarrassed, after they'd had a conversation in which she claimed that John was in love with Sherlock (in spite of not being gay) and that she also was (in spite of being gay). And to keep Sherlock off-balance too. She was verbally cruel to Sherlock after exposing that she'd used his need to impress her to get him to break the codes, and yes, that was partly to keep him from figuring things out at the last second(which thankfully didn't work). But I think Sherlock's right, she just can't stop herself either. She has to show off.

I fear people like this, in real life. Because they hold up normal human feelings and reactions to scorn; they lie so easily in order to get things they could just ask for, then mock people for believing them; they don't admit they have weaknesses except as a way to manipulate other people.

So they've created a great character, but not someone I can admire, here. I can admire her brains, and her style. But she's just as emotionally messed up as Sherlock is, in some ways. I figured out within two seconds where that scene at Christmas was going, and had to mute it. I couldn't stand watching Sherlock strip Molly bare, either. Especially since he didn't realize he was doing it. Apparently he apologized, but I couldn't watch that part either. Irene kept doing the same thing to him, while she had a crush on him the whole time. Seriously, who does that? Blackmailing control freaks.

And yet, I don't *hate* her. Were we supposed to? Were we supposed to be siding with John in "who gets Sherlock"? Because I don't think it's that simple, jeez. They're best friends. Sherlock, by all reports here, has zero interest in sex at this time (and that was a squick too, how easily people mocked that). John has a strong interest in women, just happens to love his best friend more. Irene is a warped mirror of Sherlock, and he may sometimes be a narcissist but he's not *that* far gone.

Finally, Sherlock rescues her at the end. I don't know how I feel about that. I didn't want her to die, I'm glad she survived. And yet... Sherlock wins again. When in the original story, she won and beat him and didn't owe him anything, and was not a terrible person.

I have mixed feelings about this Irene. Still sorting through them.

Date: 2012-01-12 02:25 pm (UTC)
bktheirregular: (Wash)
From: [personal profile] bktheirregular
I actually wasn't quite sure whether that last scene with Irene and Sherlock and the sword actually happened, or was a fantasy flashing through her head at the last.

It's odd; I just re-read the original story, and couldn't quite figure out what Irene was attempting to accomplish, originally. What was the objective? Make the King suffer in retribution for his having used her on a fling? Expose him as a womanizer? And was it an actual cold, calculating plan on her part, or a hot-blooded desire for vengeance that was threatening to get away from her?

And in the original story, she wasn't a true counterpart to Holmes; rather, she was level-headed enough and quick-witted enough to out-maneuver him, but fundamentally decent enough afterwards to basically offer a draw when she had Holmes checkmated, in the form of a solution that pretty much let everyone live happily ever after (the King gets married in peace; Irene goes off with her new husband to live in peace; and Holmes, despite personally counting the case as a defeat, gets paid off for what the King considers a monumental success).

Maybe it's the "settle for a draw" vibe that's missing from the BBC contest. Or maybe it's the issue of who's dealing from the position of strength - Doyle gave Irene the power to continue the conflict or declare a truce, with Holmes and the King at her mercy, while Moffat and Gatiss inverted it, giving the Holmes brothers the power. In a sense, Irene at the end of the the teleplay is facing the same disastrous situation that the King faced in the beginning of the original story, with a pitiless adversary wielding information that will destroy her, and unwilling to negotiate.

Maybe Moffat and Gatiss were trying to get people to look at Sherlock in a different, less flattering light, by presenting Irene as a mirror of him?

I think that part of the problem may be that the BBC's committments to Sherlock (the series) are so short - three 90-minute teleplays at a time, rather than a whole string of them, so that a defeat on the part of Sherlock (the detective) would wipe out a larger fraction of the stories (okay, Scandal in Bohemia was only the third Holmes story to be written, but there were lots more coming for Holmes to improve his winning percentage). If the Sherlock series were in a more conventional, longer-series format, then yeah, they might have let Adler have the win over Sherlock.

...or I could be talking out of my hat thanks to sleep deprivation, of course.

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