Orphan Black: The undisputed champion of sexual identity

I was so late to the game on this one, y’all. SO. LATE.

Only this past month did I marathon Seasons 1 and 2 of Orphan Black, and discover the ridiculous powerhouse that is Tatiana Don’t-Need-an-Emmy-to-be-a-BOSS Maslany. There is so much going on here that when I first thought of writing about it, I couldn’t come up with anything concrete other than fangirl glee.

Great characters (FELIX! Donnie! But mostly Felix!), great production (clone dance party whaaaaaat), great storytelling (Siobhan’s crazy birdwatching extravaganza), great effects (did I mention the clone dance party?!), and general badassery (Sarah’s Clash shirts!) abound. As you can see, there’s still lots of fangirl glee happening here. But I’m settling in and do, in fact, have a thing to talk about. Despite the revelations that came in the second season in reference to the clones reproductive abilities (or because of them? more on that later) every single character on this show is in control of their own body. Every single character has sexual agency, and an identity that includes but is not even remotely limited to that sexuality. It’s incredibly refreshing, and one of these days we won’t need to celebrate its victories because the rest of TV will catch on to the frankly groundbreaking handling of sexuality that Orphan Black boasts, but today is not that day.

(And for the second time in a row here, I’m chatting away with not a care in the world for spoilers. You’ve been warned.)

Something very specific keeps happening in Orphan Black: the LGBTQ cast of characters don’t have “coming out” moments in the narrative of the story. Their sexuality isn’t lauded as their most important character trait, and none of them are even remotely stereotypical. Cosima’s lesbianism is never used as a plot device or a lazy identifier, and she’s steadfast in declaring that it’s not the only thing that makes her an individual in the Clone Club. Her relationship with Delphine is sweet and honest and just as complicated as their closest straight counterparts, Sarah and Paul. And can we talk about Tony?!? Tony, the brilliant transgender clone who happily hits on Felix and takes T on screen. His pronoun of choice is honored with basically no questions and he isn’t put in a position where he needs to defend a damn thing about his identity. Felix shoots Art down when he mixes up Tony’s pronouns, but zero people get villainized. Art goes with it, Felix doesn’t shame him, and no one needs to say anything else about it. This, seriously, is modern TV at its best.

While we’re on the subject of Felix – this man won my heart when he asked Alison’s kids if they wanted to crossdress. Really, I just love him, and as rough as it has been to watch him and Sarah have their disagreements in the second season, it’s more than worth it to see Jordan Gavaris tackle fantastic scene after fantastic scene. His acting is top notch, his character complicated and thoughtful and fun, and I cannot get enough.

Back to those reproductive questions, though. In the second season, we learned the clones aren’t able to become pregnant. Which, makes scientific sense and explains the fascination with Kira, but is also clearly heartbreaking. (Side note: even more props to the writers for never, ever suggesting that Alison’s kids are less than because they were adopted.) Rachel is fixated on her own childhood and successfully kidnaps Kira, which somehow doesn’t read as the oh-so-tiresome example of a nasty female character stealing away someone else’s baby, even though it kind of is. Helena is a trope too – she’s essentially Frankenstein, but she’s not trapped in it. She’s a victim, a monster, a sexual being, killer, a child, and we love her even when we’re terrified by her capabilities.

So how are neither of these tropes problematic? Because every single person on Orphan Black is a complete character. They all grow and change and fight and cry and are in charge of their own damn bodies. This is a show about women whose bodies were not intended to be their own, and who refuse to let that be a reality. Three cheers, Orphan Black. Bring on the next season!


In Defense of Mary Morstan

All of this #221Back hubbub reminded me of something. Or, should I say, some people discussing what they hope happens post-haste in Season 4 reminded me of something. I LOVE Mary Morstan. I’m surely not alone, but somehow she’s turned into a polarizing character in fandom and she certainly has her detractors. And this leaves me all types of confuzzled.

(Obvious Note Time!  I’ll be discussing Season 3 of Sherlock in full. Spoilers, if for some unknown reason you haven’t caught up yet.)

Full Disclosure: I’m not generally a fan of Moffat-written women. I don’t hate him by any means – I will defend Moffat when I think he deserves it and loudly complain when he deserves that too. But, I do tend to find his portrayal of women troubling and simplistic. I’ll save a deep-dive into my schizophrenic views of Moffat for another day and another post, but this all goes to say that when The Empty Hearse premiered on New Years Day, I was beside myself with giggly adoration, not just for Sherlock’s grand return or Watson’s perfect headbutt, but for the character whom I quickly declared the first Moffat woman that I hands-down-from-word-go loved.

Mary is awesome, guys. She just IS. She’s clever and alert and hilarious and not even remotely afraid to have a difference of opinion from the men who surround her. (Which shouldn’t count as something to be lauded, but hey, #lowbar.) I give you: the moment I knew I loved Mary.

My greatest fear about how the writers would handle Mary was that they’d, for lack of a better phrase, Yoko Ono her. How many times have we seen this go down in the public sphere?  Women used to pit the men against each other, used as a tool to be fought over, or fought with, or vilified in whatever fandom they’ve had the misfortune to anger. It’s heinous and annoying and I hate it. I especially hate it when we lady geeks buy into the arguments against these women, which is what seems to happen in some more puzzling sectors of the internets when you bring up Mary Morstan.

So here’s why I’m so confused. Mary doesn’t ever want to break up our very favorite Consulting Detective Team. She brings out the best in Watson and in Sherlock alike. She plays them both with her wedding plans, letting them both think they’re in charge, she folds to Sherlock calling Watson out on the mustache-to-end-all-mustaches, she’s charming and lovely and – oh yeah – she’s a totally badass assassin. She isn’t used as a wedge in their relationship – if anything she lets Watson see how thoughtful Sherlock can be, and lets them be closer emotionally than they imagined with that spectacular Best Man speech. Would that have happened if Mary wasn’t great in Sherlock’s eyes as well as John’s? No. Not it would not.

Yes, she’s a sign of change, which I know can be hard for us nerdy folk to take. And, er, she shoots Sherlock. Yup. She does. She had no choice in the matter, as Sherlock explained and as John came to agree with. Her decision to hide her badass assassins past hurt John. Very true. Find me an honest representation of a marriage where someone doesn’t get hurt. When Sherlock confronts her on her assassin-ie lies, with John hiding in the backround, it’s brutal and all three of them are in remarkable amounts of pain. That said, she doesn’t force John into accepting her again, or manipulate him into deciding to stay. John Watson is a big boy and he made his own decision based on all the love and care that the two of them had in their relationship up to that point. I could go on, but really, here’s the headline:

John loves her. Sherlock loves her. She’s a quality female character with a fascinating past and a ton to add to the dynamic of the show. What’s not to love? I’m the first to fight against a Moffat-woman-failure, and this ain’t one.

I don’t get it. I don’t want to believe it’s because people want Johnlock to happen *that badly* but I don’t know what else it could be. Please, leave a comment and help a girl out if you think you can explain this to me. I don’t think I’ll agree with you, but at least help me understand!