Thursday, January 14, 2016

Liberate Detective Jack Robinson

"Still you lead me and I follow, anything you ask you know I'll do
Wrap my eyes in bandages, confessions I see through
I get everything I want when I get part of you"

NIN - Ringfinger

Freakin' Aussies takin' over the movie industry man, I tell ya...

Anyway. I dislike half-measures. In art I can admire dedication, completeness, the fulfillment of a theme. Cheese can be delicious. Among the few TV shows I can still stomach I'd have to count the flamboyantly jazzy Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, rather a treat from the unabashedly ludicrous pearl-handled revolver to the old-timey jalopies to the often seemingly random means of murder running the gamut from spears to radioactive paint. Knocking people over the head is so passe, you know?

The show's got style. Unfortunately it's also got a feminist agenda, not terribly rabid but still decidedly feminist and not progressive or egalitarian. See, the titular Miss Phryne Fisher's main love interest is the stalwart Detective Jack Robinson, an unflinching professional who knows quality when he sees it and is wiling to work with a flapper to solve his cases. Banking on a pretty standard "will-they-won't-they" routine, the overarching plot never actually has them bang, keeping the audience enthralled by the sexual tension season after season.

Not that there isn't sex on the show. Phryne herself is a liberated woman whose several flirtations, past lovers or one-night-stands parade through various episodes, sometimes flaunted right in front of Jack's face. Unfortunately, the line on freedom is drawn there. The theme is deliberately left quasi-modoed. Jack doesn't get to play. He doesn't get to finish off an episode victoriously clapping his hand on the buttocks of some hot-bodied movie star in bed next to him like Phryne. Jack's role remains at the end of Phryne's leash.

See, the problem with feminism isn't that it ignores men. That's a self-serving canard, a smokescreen, a fall-back position trotted out whenever feminists like to pretend to compromise. Detective Jack, crucial to every plot, can hardly be left out of the equation. He's right there in every episode, protecting Phryne, providing her with leads, evidence and official cover, awaiting her favor with monastic humility as she lives it up. To follow the pattern to its conclusion, Jack's role is that of the beta-male husband protecting and providing for a mate who breeds with alpha males. "And a baker for bread and a prince for whatever." Jack is Phryne's plan B. A decade or two later when the millionaires and princes and movie extras no longer find her attractive, she will expect him to still be there for her to latch onto, to raise her eventual purebred children as his own. Whether following her around like a puppy-dog or circling like a guard-dog, Jack is a good man and good men heel.

There you have feminist progress and equality: a liberated female and a slavish male.

P.S.: Let's not even get into the topic of villains - the few times any female character does something wrong, as in most any fiction these days, it always seems to conveniently resolve to a corrupting male influence. The Patriarchy made her do it.

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