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I've been thinking that one of the great challenges of 'making sense of canon' in plumbing the relationships among the women - Adrian/Madeline, Adrian/Nikita, Madeline/Nikita....and to a lesser degree all the making sense of their fights.

That the very male nature of the script writers -- who, credit given where credit is due -- were really trying I think to write an interesting mix of male *and* female characters, and came so close to getting it right, led them to fall back on their inner thirteen year olds when it came to scripting dialogue for women arguing with *each other.*

The insults they have their otherwise intelligent, mature, capable women fling at each other in moments of high rage - which, cool - they got *real anger* - were so juvenile, and so stupidly inane and off topic and, well, just plain inaccurate, that they present real problems with how to incorporate them into canon as a fully integrated part of the women who mouthed them.

I mean - these women are cold blooded killers, schemers who have both disrupted and saved the world-as-we-know-it multiple times, held the lives of others in their hands, tortured, maimed, loved and healed as they could and would - and when they are really angry with each other the nastiest thing they can think of is a wordy version of 'slut' (Adrian) and 'bimbo' (Madeline) and some-kind-of-impossible-to-summarize weak tea 'on this one day you did something odd' (Nikita)?

What in the ever loving hell is that?

There has been a lot of meta of late on female characters and the writing of the same.... and so I started thinking about how, among many other things, there are no good models for how to write women fighting *not over a man* which is what these women were doing, and the show runners *had no freaking clue* what words to put in their mouths.

Because, I suspect, we have no larger cultural scripts for how women do that, fight/argue about something that really matters that is not - and has no relationship too - who they, or someone else, is fucking.

And so TPTB put really stupid words in as place holders. And it nearly undoes all the cool work of Adrian's Garden, and does, I think, so unbalance FLYF that it severely weakens the rest of the episode.

So - what words should they have used?

Date: 2010-05-17 06:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes! This post articulates most of my frustrations with FLYF.

I will admit to a gleeful smirk when Madeline railed against Nikita/Jones but that was mostly due to the fact that it was nice to see her do something. I have always thought that 'bimbo' was not a Madeline word; and in that situation, 'bimbo' doesn't even make contextual sense. 'Bimbo,' to me means, a synonym for tramp, ho, or any other term for promiscuity. I think that Madeline should have used a word to diminish Nikita's significance and reduced her to an idealistic child who has no comprehension of the world around her.

And I can understand why Nikita/Jones wanted TR out of power in FLYF and I understand that legitimate reasons have rarely mattered inside the power structure of Section (Hello, Sex Police Arc); but Jones/Nikita's reasoning was more than a little hollow. In Nikita's place, I would use examples from TR's less than stellar S4 record.

A little off topic, I think I read a parody of FLYF once, where after the line where Nikita complains that Paul was gone for 26 on Madeline's recommendation, Madeline snarks that it took longer than 26 minutes, and I nearly died from the laughter.

About Adrian's Garden, I have to defend Adrian's 'wordy version of slut.' Yes, it was catty and a cheap shot; but it was also very personal and one of the few times that Madeline was challenged by someone who was a superior. Yes, I know that technically Madeline was equal to Adrian at the time of 'Adrian's Garden;' but even if I get higher degree than one of my former teachers, I will still be deferential to them.

Back to Adrian's 'wordy version of slut,' Adrian clearly has power over Madeline, using Madeline's reluctance to deal with Adrian at the end of the episode as evidence, and their relationship is both mother/daughter and mother/daughter-in-law. So when she calls Madeline a 'wordy version of slut,' (by the way I adore this phrase for some strange reason) Adrian is attacking on multiple levels: You are my daughter and you have failed me; You will never be good enough for my Paul.

Hopefully I can articulate this, but in Psychic Pilgrim, had Madeline's mother made some gesture to acknowledge that Madeline had indeed created 'a hell of her own making' then it would have destroyed Madeline because essentially she could have had a different life. And with that in mind, if Madeline has transferred any of her mommy issues to Adrian, then Adrian had the power to shape and cut like no one else in Madeline's life except for Paul.

Date: 2010-05-18 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, no question Sian Phillips is awesome and she sold the shit out of that scene! LOL!

But - why (do the writers) go down the "women are sexual creatures oh noes!!!111!!!" path at all? And why would (the writers think) a line like that -- necessarily -- hurts either Madeline or Paul? They've been together, more or less, let's call it 15 years, at that point. It only huts them if either of them buy into victorian morality in the first place -- and I don't see the slightest evidence that they do.

I just think there *has* to be stuff that Madeline, of all people, cares about more than what Adrian thinks about who she fucks. And surely, her mentor/mother figure would know what those things are?

Certainly - my own mother would go for a much more central jugular than my sex life if her goal was to hurt me!

Date: 2010-05-18 01:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
See, I don't think that it was being called a whore that would hurt Madeline. I think it was the implication that Adrian was making when she called her a 'wordy version of slut.' Risking gender fail!, in a way, I think Adrian sees Madeline's extra curricular activities as a weakness, as a way to avoid "that when you wake up tomorrow morning you will still be ... what you are." And I think that Adrian knows that Madeline abhors weakness so by throwing out a 'wordy version of slut' Adrian is hinting at a weakness that she believes Madeline has.

I don't know if that paragraph makes any sense or not.

Re sexual fidelity within TR: Paul does seem to be a bit possessive of Madeline during the S2 episode, 'Not Was.'

Date: 2010-05-17 08:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I do agree with you generally about this, but not with all of your specific examples. Adrian's put-down of Madeline, for example. I think that was aimed at *Paul*, not Madeline, and so Adrian said what she thought might hurt Paul. Her later line to Madeline (about how when she woke up the next morning "you'll still be...what you are") was the real insult directed to Madeline, and I think you can interpret that in a wide range of ways that aren't necessarily female-catfight-stereotyped. I personally read it as saying that Madeline is an amoral monster.

As for "ad hoc internal affairs bimbo," I suppose bimbo wasn't the best choice, but the meaning I got out of that line was that she was criticizing Nikita's *competency*. The context of the entire phrase (not just bimbo on its own) emphasizes the aspect of "bimbo" that means "stupid" (clueless, airhead, etc.). So...that line read to me as "You don't have the intelligence or the qualifications to judge me, you idiot." Which, I don't know, strikes me as the kind of insult one might make in that context. Yes, using "bimbo" instead of "idiot" "genderizes" it, but for me not overly so.

Finally, I didn't think the "you were gone for a while that one day" was actually Nikita's attempt at an insult. The real insult from Nikiat to Madeline came in an earlier episode (the one before? I can't remember) where Nikita was in that computer data room erasing information and Madeline catches her, and Nikita utters some line about never having being afraid of her, or never having cared what she thought, or whatever it was (the specifics of the line escape me, but you might remember better), and then she decks Madeline and knocks her out cold! Now *that* was an insult.

Date: 2010-05-18 01:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh - this time, this one time, I'm outside looking in. LOL!

Yes - I think there are all kinds of reasons why Sian Phillips made those lines sing. And she did. I also actually like the last line a great deal, and read it the same way you do, as in, not cat-fightish at all, which is why the earlier slagging on Madeline's sex life reads -- from outside - as so juvenile.

And if Adrian wanted to slag off on Paul, surely there are more straightforward, and more deeply cutting ways than telling him that his pursuit object sleeps around, cause, yeah, Paul already knows that. It's just too "sexual women wanting sex are icky, right, Paul?" blechch.

Bimbo strikes me as just such an utterly weak and paltry word, from someone like Madeline who usually uses words so well - if what she means is 'you're too stupid to judge me' - why not say it? If she wants to call her an acting out teenager? Why not say that?

But - most cutting of all, if blood was what she wanted, she could have said "you're just like me now, and you always were weren't you?" That would have cut like hell. Or, "I was right. You never really loved Michael Samuelle, did you?"

I think the bimbo isn't "Madeline" speaking - it's scriptwriters who couldn't forget that this was 'women' facing off, as opposed to two characters fighting.

Also - yeah - Nikita's line in that scene wasn't insult so much as judgement, but, man -- could it have *been* any stupider? (to channel Chandler Bing?)

I forget exactly what Nikita said to Madeline before cold-cocking her (great moment!) but I was all like, see! see! they're working together, otherwise Madeline would be dead now!!!111!!! so I wasn't really paying attention to the quality of the zingers! LOL!

Date: 2010-05-18 12:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I agree. The twice (at least) use of words relating to a woman's sexual promiscuity was problematic--as if these women couldn't think of anything else! And also curiously out of character, especially for Madeline.

I think that Madeline's remark is the worst. It makes no sense, and although I found the phrase "ad hoc internal affairs bimbo" hilarious at the time, it doesn't change the fact that it's OOC. Setting aside the fact that Madeline would probably not use that word, it also obviously has no basis in fact. Over the course of the series, I *never* got the impression that Madeline thought Nikita was either slutty or dumb. If Madeline were going to insult Nikita, she could no doubt think of something that was more accurate. Which is why the "bimbo" comment to me reads like a (male) writer putting words in her mouth and deciding that "hur dur women can't think of any insults other than slut!"

As for Adrian, as funny as it sounds I found it redeeming that she most likely *actually* thought Madeline was a bit of a whore. Because it seemed completely IC for Adrian to say, it didn't read to me like "male writer writes fight between women, reaches for slut synonyms." It also seemed to have some basis in truth, as we had canonically been introduced to one of Madeline's dalliances. As opposed to the "bimbo" comment, which had no basis in canon and just sounded "off" coming from Madeline.

Date: 2010-05-18 01:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah - Bimbo is the weakest of the two scenes, no question, but - you know - pattern seeking and all that. *g*

And it isn't like we get all that many great face offs between women. (I think Nikita/Quinn have one in S5, but I haven't re-watched in ages, so I can't say....)


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