Elementary

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If you know me, you know I’m kind of a snob about Sherlock Holmes. I’m a snob about pretty much any work of literature that’s adapted to film or television (except for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Yes, I know that’s the weirdest of all possible exceptions). And I love Sherlock, but–except for Jeremy Brett–I tend to get irritated by his on-screen versions. When I heard that Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law were starring in a Sherlock movie, my first reaction was that it had been cast backwards. Why wasn’t Jude Law playing Sherlock? Surely that made more sense? The movie allayed my suspicions somewhat (and, in all honesty, my one criticism of Brett’s Holmes is that he’s too much of a staid, inactive British gentleman, so I was happy to see Sherlock finally kicking some ass, as he does in the books), and Sherlock Holmes is enormous fun to watch, but I don’t see much of Arthur Conan Doyle’s world in Guy Ritchie’s interpretation. If the old Granada series, with Jeremy Brett, skewed Sherlock too much toward the brainiac, Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock skewed too much toward the action hero. There’s a couple of Holmes pastiches that I like, but for the most part, I don’t think they’re worthy of the character name Sherlock.

When I heard about the Moffat/Gatiss BBC adaptation, I was curious, and ready to be dismissive. Sherlock with a cell phone? With a DNA lab? Is this just going to be CSI in the London fog? So much of Sherlock’s ability to infer and deduce is dependent–at least in part–on the staid, predictable, class-defined society that was Victorian England. What would Sherlock do in a chaotic, modern metropolis? What would Moriarty do? Collude with Tony Soprano? But Sherlock redeemed itself, mostly on the strength of its incredible casting and acting. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman get the friendship of Holmes and Watson closest to right–by which I mean closest to what’s in my head.

But Hollywood isn’t done over saturating us with Holmes. It’s like it’s trying to make up for the previous twenty years of leaving us alone with Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. Now CBS is making its own series. Sherlock will fit right in with the rest of CBS’s stable of off-kilter geniuses who solve crime with various brands of genius and varying degrees of social hostility (Numb3rs, The Mentalist, Gil Grissom on CSI, etc). But it’s not so much Sherlock I’m suspicious of. Sherlock’s character, abrasive yet courteous, is relatively easy to grab onto and focus on the one or two aspects of his personality that a writer wants to focus on. Sometimes Sherlock–literary Sherlock–is oblivious to social norms and cues, and sometimes he isn’t. Sometimes he cares about offending people, sometimes he doesn’t. He’s impatient and efficient and doesn’t want to waste time with small talk or explanations (until it suits him). He likes to put people off their guard by making alarmingly personal observations about them prior to interviewing them about the problem he’ll be investigating. And that’s the sort of character that’s fun to play with and relatively easy to write, once you crawl into his head. But a character lurks in the background of the foreground, one much maligned and mistreated in previous adaptations, reduced to either comedic relief or source of expository dialogue. Much subtler, much slipperier, and much more beloved than Sherlock Holmes–at least as far as I’m concerned–is John Watson. Who, in CBS’s version, is now a woman.

For obvious reasons, adaptors of Conan Doyle’s work have trouble with the female characters. First of all, there aren’t any. Mrs. Hudson answers the door at 221B Bakes Street and Mrs. Watson shows up just often enough to tell her husband to ditch work and go hang out with Sherlock, and other than that, all the female characters are clients of Sherlock’s. So many adaptations have taken it upon themselves to inflate this client or that client’s importance and give them larger roles, usually Irene Adler, The Woman, the one who actually foiled Holmes, but whose role in the books is nowhere near as primary as it is in so many adaptations (both Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and the BBC’s Sherlock have her colluding with Moriarty, which is just flat wrong, especially when you consider that she isn’t even a criminal in her story, “A Scandal in Bohemia”). I wish I knew why nobody has thought to do anything with Helen Stoner from “TheAdventure of the Speckled Band” or Violet Hunter, the brave governess from “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.” Nobody’s interested in getting to know Watson’s wife (wives?) better, no, we want to watch Holmes bounce around and be obnoxious, but our late 20th century niceties won’t let us leave Mrs. Hudson all alone to represent her gender. So, turn Watson into a woman. Okay. Maybe it’ll be interesting, and maybe it’ll work narratively. It certainly gives the new series territory to explore. On the other hand, I wonder if CBS is using is progressiveness and creativity in one direction (yay strong female characters!) to cover up its conservatism in another, and avoiding the implication, or even the discussion, that Holmes and Watson might be gay.

Full disclosure: I don’t believe that Holmes and Watson are gay. Arthur Conan Doyle–bluff, straightforward, blunt and upright British chap that he was–would never write such a thing. It wouldn’t even occur to him. But in the network television world, in the internet world, in the world of fanfic, it’s really hard to have a show centered around two characters and not have those two characters get it on eventually (the only exception I can think of is Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson from Law & Order: SVU). It’s easier to avoid sexual tension between two particular characters in an ensemble show (mostly because you can take up all your time using other combinations of people for sexual tension), but Holmes and Watson aren’t, and never can be, part of an ensemble. A female Watson allows the show to play with sexual tension in a way that’s socially acceptable. So we’ll see how this goes.

Watching the Elementary pilot, I kept waiting for that moment of recognition that I sometimes get watching a good adaptation. That moment when the character that you’re watching collides for a moment with the character in your head, and you think, “Ahh! There you are! I’ve missed you!” But it never really happened. There’s too much that’s different, and CBS doesn’t let us spend any time getting to know the characters in a way that isn’t combative (and, okay, Sherlock can be a pretty combative and manipulative conversationalist, but you couldn’t give us at least one scene where Sherlock and Joan weren’t trying to one-up each other?)

First of all, I am already annoyed by the premise of this relationship (Lucy has been hired by Sherlock’s father to be his constant companion to keep Sherlock sober, since he’s just out of rehab). I don’t know much about being sober–someone who is in recovery please help me out here–but a “sober companion,” seems like a really bad strategy for keeping somebody sober. People struggling with addiction don’t need babysitters. A definitive and slightly alarming character like Sherlock Holmes needs one even less. There is no possible way that, if he gets it into his head to have a relapse, Lucy Liu can stop Sherlock from going out and scoring. And at this point in their relationship, it’s clear that Holmes is not going to rely on her emotionally the way a sponsor would. He’s not going to call her if he feels tempted.

And Sherlock starts right out seemingly trying to alarm and brush off and confuse Lucy Liu. Oh, and I just realized, that woman, leaving the brownstone as Lucy came up the stoop? Probably a prostitute. If that’s true, we already have two things that Arthur Conan Doyle never envisioned: a deliberately rude Sherlock, and a sexual one (not an asexual one. A sexual one). Sherlock confirms this a few minutes later by explaining to Lucy (unnecessarily and unasked) that he actually finds sex distasteful, but “his brain and his body require it to function at optimal levels, so I feed them as needed.” Way to take statements that the literary Holmes makes about food and sleep and apply them to a subject that literary Holmes never even broached, CBS. Combined with the fact that he’s not wearing a shirt when he meets her and he’s trying to deliberately make her uncomfortable, I have to say that this series is going to have to watch itself before it treads unconsciously into misogyny. Making another man feel uncertain of his footing has a distinctly different undertone than doing the same thing to a woman, CBS, please tell me you understand this.

And Sherlock is putting on dirty laundry. Something else the real Sherlock would never do. And Sherlock apparently has an overprotective, overbearing father. I get that Sherlock Holmes is a fast-paced character (especially if you’re going to mimic Benedict Cumberbatch), but the show itself needs to slow down and set shit up better. Set up Watson. I watched an hour f this show, and I feel like I don’t know much of anything about either Watson or Holmes. I know their biographies, but I don’t know what matters to them, I don’t know if they’re happy, I don’t know what motivates either of them. So far we seem more enamored with setting up how Holmes is weird and Watson is troubled and less with figuring out whether we like them or care about them. This Sherlock seems to have more in common with Gregory House than he does Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes.

Ahhh, Sherlock keeps bees. Point to the producers of this series. I don’t think that any other adaptation has included the bees (mostly because in the canon, that’s what Sherlock does after retiring), but still, I’m happy to meet Holmes as an apiarist.

There are other little niggling things here and there. Sherlock asks, for the first time in any adaptation, a question that I feel is a stupid question. Why would a pretty person get plastic surgery? wonders Sherlock. I don’t know, Sherlock. Why are successful people depressed? Why do rich people commit suicide? Maybe she had body dysmorphia disorder. Maybe she didn’t know she was pretty. Only ugly people get plastic surgery? Really? That’s the basis you’re starting your logical deductions from?

So Sherlock talks really really fast, but is not on drugs. He says alarmingly personal things to Lucy Liu (who is still Lucy Liu to me, and not Joan Watson), and she doesn’t get pissed off, she doesn’t get alarmed. She doesn’t even escape the situation. She turns the subject back to him (seriously?) before leaving the room. Is she trying to hit him back? Is she trying to retaliate in kind? What the hell? There’s something gross to me, that I can’t quite pinpoint, about watching Watson engage with Holmes in this combative way. Holmes and Watson are supposed to balance each other (as Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes and Martin Freeman’s Watson do, in which Watson either doesn’t engage in Holmes’ combative banter, or he reacts emotionally, not intellectually). The problem is, having a Watson that’s troubled and unhappy the way Lucy Liu’s Watson is, she’s surviving by trying to cut herself off from her emotions. You can’t have a Watson/Holmes pairing that’s entirely intellectual. Holmes is the head of the pair. Watson is the heart. A Watson who is trying to cut himself off from grief and guilt–who’s trying to not feel things–can’t bring anything to the relationship that Holmes himself doesn’t bring.

And then there’s the moment when Sherlock hangs up on the NYPD forensics guy, and there’s a dial tone. I don’t know that iPhones could do that.

The final thing that annoys me about the latest Holmes adaptation hasn’t even happened yet, but I have no doubt that it will (it happens in BBC’s version, in Guy Ritchie’s versions, everything except the Granada series, which faithfully adapted pretty much every story). It’s a part of the Sherlock stories that almost always overlooked–the fact that Holmes doesn’t always investigate murder. In fact, murders and deaths make up less than half the stories in the canon. A few times, Holmes investigates mysteries of “national importance” (lost treaties, lost naval plans, spies on British soil). He get clients who have received strange correspondance (either nonsensical or written in code, and on one memorable occasion, body parts), clients whose loved ones have disappeared, landlords who have strange or threatening tenants, professionals who have been asked to do strange and inexplicable things in the course of their employment (wear a bright blue dress, cut their hair, copy out the encyclopedia). He helps either prevent or solve jewel heists and bank robberies. Sometimes, he investigates problems only to find that nothing illegal has happened, and sometimes something illegal happens and he solves it outside of the boundaries of the law. Holmes investigates problems that are interesting–but interesting isn’t always synonymous with severe. But I feel pretty certain that, in Elementary, every single week we’re going to watch Holmes solve another impossible murder. Because that’s all network crime show writers think to write about.

The sad thing is, even given all of the above complaints, I’ll probably still end up watching Elementary. Because it’s Holmes. And because I’m weak.

The Problem(s) With Clue

clueposter.jpgOne of my favorite movies of all time is Clue. I think it’s hilarious and clever and I’ve seen it Idontknowhowmany times. I first saw it as a kid, too young to get most of the jokes, but my brother (who’s four years older) watched it at home one day and I happened to see most of it. I quote it a lot. Often around people who haven’t seen it themselves. I’m sure this makes conversation with me interesting.

That said, as I’ve gotten older, and more stuff about it makes sense, there’s still some things that don’t work for me. That I can’t resolve. So, here I am. I’m currently watching the movie, waiting for the incongruous stuff to happen.

Do I really have to clarify a spoiler alert for a movie that was released twenty years ago?

Clue is based on the premise of six strangers getting together for a dinner party. They have been invited to dinner and assembled together for reasons of which they know nothing. There’s also the butler, the maid, the cook, the 7th guest Mr. Boddy, and various and sundry random people who show up throughout the movie, but since most of them die pretty quickly, you don’t need to know any more about them.

So first of all, Small Tim Curry, you are so cute and British in your tuxedo. Also, I gotta say, when I was 8, the running gag with the dog poo amused me a lot. On the other hand, the total perviness of Christopher Lloyd’s character went right over my head.

Professor Plum (not yet outed as a total perv) picks up Miss Scarlet on his way to dinner, her car having broken down. They are following their written directions when Professor Plum catches sight of the house for the first time and stops the car.

=D
THUNDERCLAP!

Back at the house, the guests all arrive, Wadsworth brings them all into the dining room to get to know each other, and it turns out there’s one extra chair.

Random aside: I didn’t realize until like last year that Col. Mustard and Leon, Roseanne’s boss in the old sitcom Roseanne, are the same person.

Col. Mustard: Is this place for you?
Wadsworth: Not me, sir, I am merely a humble butler.
Col. Mustard: What exactly do you do?
Wadsworth: I buttle, sir.

That might be my favorite line of the whole movie.

Okay, so, all the guests have arrived, are brought to the dining room, start to get to know each other.

This guy has nothing to hide. Clearly.
Totally not hiding anything!
I’ve admitted nothing. Just avoiding a scandal.

Dinner is interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Boddy, who you can tell is sinister because of the music that accompanies his entrance.

And here we have my first niggling issue. As is ultimately revealed, Mr. Boddy and his butler have switched places—that is, Wadsworth is the mastermind, and Mr. Boddy is the patsy. How did Wadsworth (who is actually Mr. Boddy) convince Mr. Boddy (actually the butler) to take on the identity of someone who would, upon being revealed, be an almost immediate target for violence (if not murder)? Surely the butler knew he was looking at a fight, and possibly bodily harm, masquerading as a blackmailer? Whose idea were the weapons, the butler’s or Wadsworth’s? Did the butler actually think that the distribution of weapons would keep him safe? Who wrote on the envelope that Wadsworth opens? Was it Wadsworth, writing to himself to throw off the trail? What was the actual plan here?

After dinner (which takes like four minutes), Wadsworth brings them all to the study and tells them why he’s brought them here: They are all being blackmailed. What follows is a systematic and comical outing of each of the dinner guests and their dirty secret. Halfway through the scene, Wadsworth admits that he’s tape recording the conversation (thus rather freaking everyone out, since avoiding a scandal and/or jailtime is why they’re paying blackmail in the first place).

Wadsworth: Professor Plum, you were once a professor of psychiatry specializing in helping paranoid and homicidal lunatics suffering from delusions of grandeur.
Prof. Plum: Yes, but now I work for the United Nations.
Wadsworth: So your work has not changed.

Yes. I am merely transcribing jokes that I find funny. Deal with it.

Point of order: Mr. Green says that “tape recordings are not admissible evidence.” Maybe they weren’t in 1985 (when the movie was made), or in the 1950s (when the movie is set), but tape recordings certainly are admissible evidence now, provided that all the voices present on the recording can be identified with certainty.

Mr. Boddy now introduces a twist of his own, and Wadsworth’s plan starts to go off the rails, though I honestly don’t know by how much. He gives each guest a weapon, wrapped in purple ribbon. I wonder if he knows which weapons are going to which guests? Or is he just handing the weapons out randomly? This is probably another thing I’m not supposed to be thinking about.

Okay, so. Each guest has a weapon. Mr. Boddy suggests that somebody use their weapon to kill Wadsworth, turning off the lights for murdering privacy (like it can be done anonymously when each guest has a different weapon? I guess the guests with bludgeoning instruments have plausible deniability, but it’s not like Mrs. White can strangle Mr. Boddy and then claim somebody else did it). Wadsworth, incredibly, did not see this coming. Lights go off. Thunk, chunk, groan, gunfire, shattering, screaming noise, lights come back on.

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Screaming noise.

Several of the people in this room are thinking remarkably quickly. Mr. Boddy is on the floor, playing dead (as we find out later). Professor Plum bends over to check on him, and though Mr. Boddy is clearly alive, Plum thinks fast and doesn’t give away the sham (why? So he can have a clear shot at him later?). Mr. Boddy and Professor Plum aren’t coordinating their actions, so it’s pretty remarkable to me that they engage in precisely the same course of action to achieve (I’m assuming) very different ends.  I guess Professor Plum doesn’t see the point in outing Mr. Boddy as still alive, since at that point Mr. Boddy will say, “Yeah, and you’re the one who tried to shoot me.  Ass.”

Screaming noise.

Immediately after this (and after pulling a screaming Yvette from the billiard room), the guests find that the cook has been murdered, carry her body back to the study, and realize that Mr. Boddy’s body has disappeared while they were in the kitchen. Scarlet uncovers the negatives that incriminate Col. Mustard, and it occurs to me here that Scarlet and Yvette know each other, but unlike Yvette and Mrs. White, this mutual acquaintanceship isn’t acknowledged at by either person. Just another instance of people behaving in a way that is either prearranged, baffling, or thinking really fast and trusting the other person to play along.

And now, as Mrs. Peacock enters the bathroom, Mr. Boddy staggers out. At this point, from a narrative perspective, it’s random and threatening (because we don’t know that Mr. Boddy was playing dead in the study). Mr. Boddy’s dead, but he definitely didn’t just fall out of the toilet he’d been stuffed in; he’s stalking towards Mrs. Peacock. From a later perspective, why did Wadsworth and/or Yvette and/or Professor Plum (because those were the people missing in the kitchen when they found the cook) stuff him in the toilet? How’d they get him in there? Did they really think that nobody would need to use the bathroom all night? How did they know Mr. Boddy needed to be bashed over the head again? Did they see him get up?

Mr. Green has blood on his hands? This is never explained. And how did the candlestick get over the door?

And here we have the line which is not my favorite, but is probably the one I quote most:

I’M SHOUTING, I’M SHOUTING, I’M SHOUT–

Okay, so.  We bring Mr. Boddy back to the study again.  We bring the cook to the study.

Wait, what?

The group starts trying to figure out how might have killed Mr. Boddy, and Wadsworth suggests locking up all the weapons so that the homicidal maniac that’s somewhere in the group can’t kill anybody (people don’t kill people! Lead pipes kill people!). He goes to put the key to the cupboard in his pocket, which freaks out the rest of the guests, so he suggests throwing the key out the front door so nobody can get to it. Brilliant! That’ll do it!  But there’s somebody at the door.

The motorist! Who has been invited by Wadsworth, and has presumably been given a story about his car breaking down and needing to use the phone (what did Wadsworth tell the guy the real game was?). No idea on whether the Motorist has been told that his old boss will be there, but either way, neither of them give even a flicker of recognition. Also, the Motorist’s cover story is thorough enough to attract a cop to his abandoned vehicle (but not to Scarlet’s abandoned vehicle?). This is pretty much repeated for each visitor: visitor arrives and knows enough to not admit that they know anybody at the party. The guest who knows the random arrival also never admits they know the arrival (so that they might have the chance to kill them). Presumably, the two murders that have taken place up to this point have derailed whatever Wadsworth’s original plan was. But he was hoping for his accomplices to get murdered, right? So is he genuinely unnerved at their arrival (since they can further derail things if they discover the bodies, instead of getting murdered as planned), or is he just locking them into separate rooms to isolate them so that they’re vulnerable to attack?  I should just stop thinking about this, because I am confused.

They split up into pairs to search the house, and at this point, pretty much everybody starts slipping away from their partner to murder somebody. The first to go is the motorist, who is got to by way of a secret passage into the lounge (how does Col. Mustard know about the secret passage, again?). Mustard and Scarlet find the secret passage and “find” the body, and Scarlet genuinely freaks out, while Mustard, presumably, fakes it. They’re yelling and pounding on the door, everyone comes running, Yvette shoots the door and the chandelier, and the World War II veteran pleads with the rest of the guests that he “can’t take any more scares.” I guess he might have PTSD, but still. Come on dude. You were in a war. Get it together.

And the doorbell rings again! It is a police officer. And Mr. Green, who moments ago “had nothing to hide,” suddenly has things to hide and slams the door in the cop’s face.  He inexplicably remains in this “must not tell the cop about the bodies even though the cop is the MOST APPROPRIATE PERSON TO TELL” for the rest of this sequence. The cop presumably recognizes Scarlet, but neither of them say anything (again with people recognizing people, or knowing that something fishy is going on, and yet not announcing it to the group).

The house phone rings, and the cop answers it. It’s J. Edgar Hoover. This is strange. One of the guests is undercover (either Wadsworth or Mr. Green, depending on the ending). This surveillance operation is important enough to get J. Edgar Hoover involved, but for some reason Mr. Hoover thinks it’s appropriate to totally blow his employee’s cover by straight up calling the house and introducing himself. What? J. Edgar Hoover, I am disappoint. You should know more about paranoia and surveillance than this. And most undercover operations fall apart once something like a murder happens, because a cop can’t commit crimes or let certain kinds of crime be committed if they are in the vicinity. So there’s an undercover operative that just lets murder after murder happen? What?

And now Mr. Green shows the cop around, still not taking advantage of the opportunity to get the fucking cops involved, and we find ourselves in one of the funniest and yet totally squeakiest sequences of the movie: making out with corpses. That’s right folks. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE.

WHAT.

I just want to emphasize that with most movies, I would be annoyed by the plot holes by now, but in Clue, I’m not. I’m loving the hell out of this. Better than most movies (I think it’s the pace, either of the movie itself or of the dialogue, which is rapid), Clue sets up falling dominos of ridiculousness that compound into….well, six dead bodies for one thing, but until I start actually looking for plot holes, at no time do I start yelling at the characters to simply take the sensible way out like I do with most slapstick comedies. The characters are so completely not in control of events that I actually kind of buy them letting the situation get out of hand. You have to wonder how long it would have gone on for had the cops not shown up when they did, because none of the characters show the slightest success towards actually altering the course of the evening. They spend all their time exhibiting coping mechanisms and directing courses of action that make no difference (like searching the house for someone who isn’t there). Oh, and killing each other.

Cop: You’re too late, I’ve seen it all.
Wadsworth: You have? …I can explain everything!
Cop: You don’t have to.
Wadsworth: I don’t?
Cop: Don’t worry, there’s nothing illegal about any of this!
Wadsworth: Are you sure?
Cop: Of course! This is America!
Wadsworth: I see.
Cop: It’s a free country, don’t you know that?
Wadsworth: I didn’t know it was that free.
Mr. Green: *maniacally nervous smile*

Also, sometimes Wadsworth is really good at coming up with lies off the cuff (“Yes sir, it was the chandelier. Fell down, almost killed us. Would you like to step this way?”) and sometimes he’s totally shitty at it. (“Yes, you could use the phone in the—noo. You could use the one in the st—no. Would you please wait in the, um, the, um, the lounge?” NO THAT DOESN’T SOUND SUSPICIOUS AT ALL, WADSWORTH.  YOU ARE TOTALLY NOT HIDING ANYTHING.)

Not hiding anything.

Search of house resumes, someone throws the switch to turn off the house’s electricity, and now we’re at the movie’s biggest WTF moment for me. Yvette sneaks downstairs, into a darkened room, and is murdered. What?

Murderer (whispering): Shut the door. Did anyone recognize you?
Yvette: They must have. And not just my face. They know every inch of my body. And they’re not the only ones.
Murderer: *throws a noose around Yvette’s neck*
Yvette: IT’S YOU! *dies*

WHAT THE HELL. Okay, first of all, how did Yvette set up a clandestine meeting with anyone in the house? If she set up a meeting, how the a third party find out about it and get to the meeting instead (Yvette was surprised when she saw who she was talking to, after all). Okay, so maybe Yvette slipped downstairs hoping simply to meet somebody that she needed to have a private word with, but hadn’t actually set up a time and place to meet anyone. That’s more likely. (And it’s likely that she was looking for her employer, Miss Scarlet, since she went to the ground floor, where Scarlet was searching with Mustard.) But then she creeps into a dark room and is TOTALLY UNSURPRISED to hear a voice talking to her. But then why does it sound like Yvette and the murderer are resuming a conversation that they’ve previously started? “They must have, and not just my face.”? Seriously? What does that even mean? Also, Yvette, what happened to your French accent? Apparently you were faking it, but why? If people recognized you (and it seems clear that at least three guests knew Yvette prior to this evening), why did they not call you out on your ridiculous new accent when they first walked in the door? WHY IS EVERYONE PRETENDING TO NOT KNOW EACH OTHER.

Also, three murders happen in like the space of a minute, and nobody sees anyone else in the hallway. The cop dies even though him getting hit over the head is never actually shown, just the menacing lead pipe.

AND WHERE DID THE GLOVES COME FROM. EVERYONE’S WEARING GLOVES WHEN THEY KILL PEOPLE. WHERE DID THEY FIND THEM.

“Dada da da da da! I, am, your singing telegram!” *gunshot* *door slam*. That sequence CRACKED ME UP when I was a pre-teen. I may or may not have been a slightly demented child.

singingtelegram

 

Oh, Wadsworth in the shower. Heeheehee. I enjoy that little sequence too.

So, Wadsworth runs downstairs and turns on the lights, and the characters all reassemble in the hall. We can take a moment to tell where they’re coming from: Wadsworth is standing in the cellar door, where the circuit box is. Mrs. White and Mr. Green are coming downstairs (Mr. Green coming from the attic, Mrs. White apparently having booked it back upstairs after killing Yvette.) Miss Scarlet is at the far end of the hall where the bathroom and the kitchen are. Col. Mustard comes out of the door at the foot of the stairs, which I think is the dining room. Professor Plum and Mrs. Peacock both emerge from the cellar. They find the bodies of the cop and Yvette.

Mr. Green: Two murders.
Prof. Plum: Neither of them shot. I thought I heard a gun.
Everyone: So did I.
Scarlet: I thought I heard the front door slam.
Mustard: Oh God. The murderer must have run out.

KNFKLJNSDFKLJANSFKJLANFKLJAN YOU GUYS LEFT THE FRONT DOOR UNLOCKED?!

So they open the front door, and find the singing telegram girl.

Wadsworth: Three murders.
Mr. Green: Six, altogether.
Wadsworth: This is getting serious.

Aaaaand they just close the front door, leaving the dead girl on the porch. Hilarious.

Wadsworth: Very well, I know who did it.
Everyone: YOU DO?!
Wadsworth: And furthermore, I will tell you how it was all done.

And now we’re to the best part of the movie. THE BEST PART. I seriously love Tim Curry so fucking much because most of the remaining half hour is Tim Curry monologuing/reenacting the entire preceding hour at top speed. Which I won’t try to summarize or quote because it wouldn’t translate. And the three endings. “That’s how it could have happened. But how about this?” Lulz.

Aaaaaaand then there’s this:

 

He explains that none of the random arrivals at the door were random, that all the murder victims were accomplices in Mr. Boddy’s blackmail. “It wasn’t luck [that the Motorist arrived]. I invited him!” “You did?!” YOU DID?!? WHY DID YOU PRETEND TO BE SURPRISED? WHY DID HE PRETEND TO BE STRANDED? WHAT WAS THE PLAN THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN?!?!

Also I do not notice Professor Plum taking off his bow tie. When did that happen?

Wadsworth’s friends own this house? This is one class-transcending butler. Except he’s not actually the butler, I keep forgetting. But he was willing to stack the bodies in the cellar? How is that a good method of body disposal?

“Why should the police come? Nobody’s called them.” Wait, what? You lied about that? Why? Why did you tell everyone the cops were coming when they aren’t? What were you hoping would happen? Did you really hope that everyone would just kill each other if you got them all in the same house and set them on a time limit? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT LYING ABOUT THE POLICE. I feel like the whole movie is a plot of Wadsworth’s that got derailed, and part of that plan was lying about the police, but I don’t understand what lying about the police (but yet gathering evidence for them, as the tape recording of the conversation shows) was supposed to get him. And why would people start killing other people if they think the cops are on the way?

In the “Wadsworth is the evil genius” ending, everything goes exactly according to his plan, I think. Somehow the ideas of “everything going according to plan” and “everything in the master plan going horribly awry” peacefully co-exist in this movie.

Luckily, the actual, third ending makes the most sense.  Mr. Green turning out to be an FBI agent is genuinely surprising and satisfying, except for the whole “That phone call from J. Edgar Hoover was for me” line. Seriously? Again, J. Edgar Hoover, why are you TRYING to blow your operative’s cover? “I’m going to go home and sleep with my wife!” Wink wink.

By all standards, Clue should not work as a movie. There’s plot holes galore. It’s based on a board game. It’s silly and ridiculous. It’s a comedy about murder, and it’s not even a dark comedy. But…it works. All the actors play their parts with such earnestness–and the comedic timing is down to a fine art–that you never stop to think to yourself, “What is this shittery?” Which is the mark of a good story, really.  The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

big bang theory theory

hubble2.jpgOne of the only sitcoms that I make an effort to watch is The Big Bang Theory. It’s also one of the only sitcoms, outside of The Simpsons, that makes me laugh out loud. When I first started watching, I enjoyed that there were socially maladjusted nerds on tv who weren’t just the butt of jokes–yes, their social maladjustment is sometimes the target of humor, but they have well-rounded characters and full lives and, by and large, give as good as they get in the insult department. I like Sheldon and the line he walks between total discomfort with himself and exasperation with the world because it’s not as good as he is. I especially like Amy Farrah-Fowler, one of the newer additions to the show–she’s got Sheldon’s abrasiveness, but her abrasiveness is a front for vulnerability that Sheldon simply doesn’t have. She so badly wants to be friends with Bernadette and Penny, she goes about it all wrong, and I see a lot of myself in her (though I’m not as smart as she is). Her impressions of social gatherings and friendships seem to be gleaned from movies and Young Adult books, and it’s charming.

Amy: Penny, Bernadette tells me you and she are planning a girls’ night.
Penny: Yeah…
Amy: …I’m a girl. (She says this in a voice that is so desperately trying to sound casual, I feel legit bad for her.)

Also, I love that Wil Wheaton makes guest appearances and is portrayed as a TOTAL ASSHOLE. Heehee.

I have read some of the bloggery criticism about the show, about how it upholds certain gender and racial stereotypes (it’s interesting to me that gender stereotypes, or the discussions of gender stereotypes, are so entrenched in our culture that even a show centered around four very atypically gender-presenting males [with the exception of walking hormone Howard] finds itself the target of accusations of gender stereotyping). And I don’t mean to dismiss any of them, and they’re valuable discussions to have, but let’s just say that others’ problems with the show aren’t my problems with the show.

People criticize Penny for being a “stereotypical dumb blonde.” I don’t know what show these folks are watching, but I don’t think it’s The Big Bang Theory. Penny’s not dumb. She clearly has a normal-to-high IQ and she has social skills that the guys don’t have and (to varying degrees) don’t want. If anything, she’s too smart for the situation she’s in, working at the Cheesecake Factory and trying to be an actress (how did the show’s producers get permission to use that restaurant in the show? It’s not portrayed very flatteringly). She’s not dumb–she’s bored. And lonely. Typically, the guys don’t talk about things that she cares about, but she hangs out with them anyway. She’s not doing very well in the acting world. Not only does she not have many acting jobs, but she doesn’t seem connected to the acting community. She doesn’t have any mutually-struggling actor friends. In one of the early seasons (I think it must have been the second or third, because it was during the Penny-dating-Leonard storyline) (another thing I appreciate: though Leonard has an ongoing crush on Penny, it doesn’t completely take over the show, in the way that the Ross-and-Rachel bullshit took over and ruined a perfectly good show), she has a group of friends over to watch a football game, but other than that, the glimpses that we have of Penny’s social life outside of the guys tends to be discussions of ex-boyfriends. This is either really unfair to Penny’s character, or it’s an honest assessment–in which case it’s just sad.

It does seem like Penny’s unhappy, and whether she copes with that isn’t a path that a sitcom is likely to take–instead they just make it the object of jokes, which I find sad. I recently watched the four episodes of the show that are available on Hulu (they seem to rotate them every week or so?), and a lot of the Penny jokes centered around how much she drinks. She readily admits to drinking as a coping mechanism, which none of the other characters think is a problem–or, indeed, anything out of the ordinary, which I find sad and disturbing. I guess the writers of The Big Bang Theory subscribes more to the frat-boy-drinking-is-a-fun-way-of-life-party-school philosophy, not sober-consumption-of-a-few-drinks-after-work philosophy, to say nothing of the alcoholism-isn’t-funny philosophy.

On a lighter note, I find Sheldon’s character hilarious and endearing and (in a weird way), just as incomprehensible as Penny when you think about him in context of the wider world. Sheldon is abrasive, completely tied to his routine, and literal-minded (many folks have posited that he has Asperger’s; the show’s producers simply describe him as “Sheldonian,” which I appreciate, because it shows they think about him as a character, not a walking diagnosis). He’s also smarter than anyone he hangs out with, and is the show’s resident evil genius, impatient with those who have a lower intellectual capacity than him.

On the other hand, Sheldon doesn’t seem to spend a lot of time attending conferences, teaching, submitting papers, giving interviews, or any of the other things I see world-renowned physicists doing. He doesn’t get along with his university’s administrators, even though you would think that a brilliant scientist that advanced his university’s reputation would get on great with the administrators, no matter how abrasive his personality (what do you want to bet that Jerry Sandusky got on fantastically with UPenn’s higher-ups?). And he doesn’t seem to be anywhere near getting a Nobel or any other award. Clearly, Sheldon’s Sheldon-ness, or his Asperger’s, or whatever it is, gets in the way of his career. It’s distracting people from how smart he is, or his neuroses are legitimately interfering with his work…or Sheldon isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, and simply doesn’t recognize it because he’s never been part of a community that challenges him. Either Sheldon is shockingly under-employed, or he overestimates his own intelligence (considerable though it obviously is). The show portrays Sheldon as neurotic, but not delusional, but the more I watch it, the more delusional-Sheldon intrigues me.

And Amy Farrah-Fowler. There should be so much more of Amy Farrah-Fowler.

“I don’t object to the concept of a deity, but I’m baffled by the notion of one that takes attendance.” –Amy Farrah-Fowler

facebook-dislike-button.pngI deactivated my Facebook account, and I haven’t been posting on Twitter. Or I’ll post, and then delete it. Recent events have rendered me uncommunicative. And Facebook makes me uncomfortable.

Do I want my mom (FB friend) to know how depressed I am? Do I want Marilyn to know? Do I want random people I only know from shows, classmates, aunts and uncles?

What is this supposed benefit, this advantage, to being “out” and “complete” on the internet? To not withholding pieces of myself? What do I get, besides exposure and violation of my own personal privacy? Not any guarantee that others will accept me or treat me compassionately, that’s for damn sure. Mark Zuckerburg’s argument that we should post our entire lives online, under our own names, presupposes a just and compassionate universe that I just don’t think I see.

I’m writing more now that I’m not reading Facebook.

Facebook is predicated on this idea that our whole lives, attached to our real names, should be open books. How profound can Facebook really get, in that situation? How far are we willing to risk our true selves on a website?

Open and honest Facebooking is predicated on the assumption of an open and honest (and compassionate) society. Why should teachers be honest, when they could be fired for admitting they drink beer? Why should public officials? Why should husbands, knowing their wives will read what they post? Children, in the view of their parents, and parents in view of their children? How much are our relationships really built on honesty, and how much are they built on discretion? Does Facebook make society more tolerant, or less?

Is this why so many people do nothing but post pictures of lolcats and articles from cracked.com? What would they say, if they knew people were really listening? (Or maybe they know people are really listening, and that’s why they keep quiet about everything except the new Twilight movie.)

I am so much more open here, where nobody reads what I write.

In order to be honest with others, I have to first be honest with myself. And really, this fall, I’m just not there.

Lebensunwertes Leben

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Trigger warning: This post contains references to sexual assault, degrading comments about people with disabilities, and my own personal desire to hit certain people with blunt objects. (Disclaimer to the authorities: I will not actually hit people with blunt objects, but just write about it in a cathartic way.)

I’m sitting in a coffee shop on 75th and Broadway in New York, watching the foot traffic outside on the street.  I’m sipping my coffee.  I am supposed to be doing homework.  Instead, I am imagining setting the whole street on fire.  All of them.  The little old lady with her groceries in a trolley, the man tying his pit bull mix to a railing so he can come in the shop and get coffee, the nannies and their little kids, the cabbies, the FedEx delivery man.  All of them.  Because for the first time in my sheltered, sheltered life, I could see the straight line of connection between people who don’t give a thought one way or the other to people with disabilities, people who mock people with disabilities, and people who purposefully harm people with disabilities.  Somebody hurt my sister.  Somebody hurt my sister, and I blame the whole world, everybody, for not recognizing how evil people are on the one hand and how vulnerable she is on the other.  People who think that now that we have integrated public schools, everything’s fine.

Everything’s not fine.  I’m not fine.  My sister’s not fine.  My parents aren’t fine.  And if I had my way, none of the people strolling up and down Broadway would be fine, either.  I know that setting a city on fire is not productive, but I don’t know where to go.  When I Google “special needs and sexual assault,” most of what I get in return is news articles citing instances in which disabled adults were assaulted, a few discussion forums mocking said assaults (choice quote: “Sexual contact is a beautiful thing, and this will be her first and last encounter, since she’s a downer.”).  If 85% of women with cognitive disabilities are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, why can I find NO RESOURCES specifically geared towards people who occupy the middle of the Venn diagram made of “Sexual Assault Victims” and “Cognitively Disabled”?  Do people who specialize in counseling sexual assault victims know how to talk to somebody with Down’s?  Do people who know how to talk to people with Down’s know how to talk to sexual assault victims?

Does the rest of the world know, or care, that my sister was hurt in this way?

It’s hard for me to not be polemical.  It’s hard to not be extreme.  It’s hard, because I can’t destroy the man who did this to my sister, to not want to destroy everyone else too, everyone who contributes to this society in which my sister doesn’t matter.

When the Allies liberated the death camps in 1944, hundreds of thousands of Jews and Gypsies and political prisoners were freed.  Thousands of imprisoned men who had been imprisoned as homosexuals remained in the camps, because being gay was illegal to the Allies, just as it was to the Nazis.  Jews weren’t criminals (so they were freed), but fags were (so they weren’t).

Nobody freed the physically and/or mentally disabled from the camps.  Why not?  They were already all dead.  The Nazis had killed them, 200,000+ between 1939-1945.  They had photographed them and imprisoned them and experimented on them and sterilized them, and then they euthenized them.  Hitler practiced his Final Solution on the retards before he did it to anybody else.  They called it a “mercy death.”

Does 200,000 deaths compare to 6,000,000?  No.  I’m not saying it does.  It’s less than the number of people who died in the Battle of the Somme in World War II.  But there’s a general silence on the brutality with which people with developmental disabilities have long been treated by Western civilization, and it probably started in 5000 BC when babies with Down syndrome being left exposed on hillsides in ancient Greece.  If people don’t know how people with Down’s were treated in the 1940s (and not just in Germany, but all over Europe and America), why should they care how they’re treated now?  How do we get to see that when we talk about caring for people with special needs, we need to include adults in that discussion, and not just children?  The amount of structure and socialization in my sister’s life has decreased dramatically since she graduated high school, but her need for such services hasn’t, and as a result, she’s more vulnerable–in all kinds of ways–than she was ten years ago.  Who suffers the most when the economy takes a downturn?  We could argue about it all day, but my money’s on the people who already can’t defend themselves, who have few  resources, who are vulnerable–people already below the poverty line, people with debilitating mental illness, people with cognitive disabilities who rely on SSI and social nets to maintain their quality of life.

Tell me why I shouldn’t be enraged.  Really, tell me why.

This whole string of events has gotten me to swear off the word retarded just as much as anything else, to be honest.  Indifference leads to harm.  It led to harm.  My sister was at work when this happened, at a place that is experienced at employing people with cognitive disabilities.  If they couldn’t keep her safe, who can?

The most important things, says Stephen King, are the hardest things to say.  I still don’t know how to talk about this.  I don’t even know what I want, really.  I don’t know if I’m violating my sister’s privacy in writing this.  I don’t have any answers for anybody.  I don’t have any resources.

But 85% is far too large of a percentage for any society who calls itself ethical to tolerate.