Category: TV- Series


Inspired by Missmagicgirl´s monthly wrap up post, where she lists her favorite events and memories from a previous month, it is my ambition to (starting from this month) to feature a similar monthly wrap up here at Ruby Soup. The wrap up will cover books, comics, movies, activism and all sorts of fun news from the previous month. With no further ado, let´s get started.

1.Favorite Activist Moment: Protesting Torture in Mexico with Amnesty International.

A former fellow activist (who I had worked with previously in a University based Amnesty group) posted on social media that she was going to attend a protest about the torture of civilians by the military in Mexico. After asking if I could participate, and despite living in Stockholm, I jumped on a train and went up to Uppsala (it´s about 30-60 minutes away from Stockholm). The event was a mash up of protest walking, with activists (including me) brandishing signs stating ”Stop torture” and ”Stop torture in Mexico”, while others dressed up as military folks or their (through fake rope, chains and make up) tortured victims. We marched for about an hour and 15 minutes. Some of the activists asked onlookers to sign Amnesty´s petitions that would be sent to Mexico´s authorities. The activist group was friendly, and the protest was very fruitful.  We got five pages of signatures.

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2. Favorite Graphic Novel: ”All My Darling Daughters” by Fumi Yoshinaga.

This one-shot manga is written in a series of short story form. All of the stories follow a woman and the friends and family around her. The manga is melancholy, at times bittersweet, at times gloomy, exploring the ways that life can go wrong. “All my darling daughters” begins with a woman who, convinced that her mother’s new husband (who is young enough to be our heroines younger brother) is conning her mother, decides to leave the family home. Other stories follow the woman´s sister, who is struggling to find a husband to avoid the stigma of being ”too old to marry” (it is hinted that she may be asexual); the protagonist´s male friend who accidentally gets involved with a student who suffers from severe low self-esteem and a former class mate who is heartbroken to see his female friend become more and more disillusioned, loosing her ambition for independence. ”All my darling daughters” shows life at its most uncomfortable, most unresolved and most frightening. The subject of abuse (emotional, physical and even sexual) is intertwined with the themes of power, relationships and family. The manga gives us candid depictions of the limited working options given to women and unequal division of labor. In fact, many of the female characters express frustration regarding the sexist double standards women face in the work place, like being dismissed as unqualified solely due to gender, as well as the injustice of the wage gap. The occasional humor is pitch black and the human interactions captivating. Along with the question of gender, the manga also explores mother-daughter relationships with a complex look at human psychology. Despite the stories often leaning towards a depressing angle, the reader will most likely have quite the difficulty putting this manga down.

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3. Favorite Film:”Spotlight”, directed Thomas McCarthy.

This Oscar nominated film, based on a true story, follows the whistle-blowing of the systematic cover-up in the Catholic Church regarding the sexual abuse of adolescent and pre-adolescent boys and girls suffered at the hands of priests. While perhaps not the best of movies dealing with this subject, the film still gives a fascinating look at how journalism works (real life journalist have praised this films accurate depiction), features several accounts of survivors telling their stories and gives some chilling insights regarding child abuse. As one quote from the film states: ”If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one too”. The acting is great, but the pacing is at times a little slow. Still worth a watch.

4.Favorite TV Moment(s): John Oliver tackles the economic meltdown of Puerto Rico and the journalistic simplification of science, while the wonderful Holly Walker at ”The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” nobly rages at sexual assault in the military.

Right now we have golden era for political comedy shows. ”Full frontal with Samantha Bee” is fiercely feminist and funny. ”Nightly show with Larry Wilmore” discusses politics and race in a honest dialogue while having a diverse cast of correspondents, with four kick ass women being part of that cast. ”Last week with John Oliver” is hilarious, while giving American TV a much needed international lens. I myself try to watch as many episodes of all these series. The ”Last week” episodes mentioned, that tackled the economic meltdown of Puerto Rico, saw many hospitals and schools having to be shutdown. Oliver went thoughtfully through the issue, and ended the subject with a actual live performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda who has written and directed ”Hamilton”, who himself has Puerto Rican parents. Oliver also discussed how science, through click-bait culture, has been made misrepresented and belittled into more of a headline than the complex field that it is. With a fun parody of Ted-talks to top it off.

Holly Walker, one of the most energetic correspondents on “The nightly show”, took the viewer through a sketch on how infuriating the lack of action around sexual assault in US armies is. It was short, but fun. Holly Walker, just by her sheer presence, is smashing the erasure of middle aged women of color in mainstream media.

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5.Favorite Novel: ”Florian Knol” by Guus Kuijer.

This children´s novel tells the story of  10-year old ginger Florian, who one day has a bird suddenly land on his head. The next day he meets Katja, an big and tall girl who goes to the same school, who confesses her love to him. The duo later bumps into an old woman who can´t find her key (which she calls a ”fork”) and has only one shoe on despite being out in the streets. The pair decide to help the woman  in secret, but things get out of hand when Florian has to juggle his indecision with dating a bigger, taller girl, his parents constant fights and keeping the old woman’s increasingly severe Alzheimers disease unknown to the adults who they fear would send her to an alienating retirement home. A tragicomic novel that addresses aging and anxieties of oneself in a clear, hopeful way that also has a colorful cast of characters. Recommended.

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There´s my month. How was your month, dear readers?

This post is an outcome from getting inspiration from a post by Missmagic girl, who listed her favorite couples from literature. It was a fun blog post, so thought that I could write my own version for this blog. Unfortunately I couldn´t quite make a top ten list from literature alone (I very rarely enjoy the romantic plotlines in novels), so had to resort to films for help. But without further ado, let´s get started.

1. Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games”-trilogy by Suzanne Collins: This relationship works partly for two reasons. One is that it is slowly built up during the course of all three novels. The second is that while Peeta is profoundly kind and nice, the two younglings still are portrayed in a realistic fashion of occasional resentment and confusion, balancing these emotions with altruism and understanding. Both characters are also quite likeable, and the love story is also enjoyable for deconstructing our society’s ideas on masculinity. It´s just pleasant to have a relationship built on mutual trust and honesty, and Peeta´s overall kindness was just a refreshing form of romantic lead when I read it nearly four years ago. (I had gone through high school being frustrated at the so-called broody bad boys that was offered in young adult media back then, so the contrast for me personally was wonderful).

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2. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from the “Harry Potter”-series by J. K. Rowling: Total honesty, during the whole course of my adolescence I was rooting for these two to get together. It was a big celebration when, in 2008, I finally finished “The Deathly Hollows” where they were shown getting together. Their bickering is fun, as well as their tender moments being very believable. Most fictional relationships are often quite filled with angst, or are sappy and are unrealistically tension free; Ron and Hermione, like Peeta and Katniss, however are able to both argue with each other, while simultaneously having enormous trust and faith towards each other. Finally, as a plotline, it was quite clever of Rowling to have Hermione to end up with Ron, a deuteragonist, since the cliché is often that the most prominent female character would end up with the stories hero. The relationship is subversive in structure and honest in depiction, and as a bonus quite cute.

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3. Ronja and Birk from “Ronja the Robbers Daughter” by Astrid Lingren: While technically only remaining very close friends in the novel, the romantic subtext is quite heavy. The narration implies that due to both Birk and Ronja being roughly 12 year old, they naturally don´t quite understand romantic love yet, but as they get older they might end up getting a relationship upgrade. Yet even if the romance is just subtext, Ronja and Birk have a quite dramatic and powerful relationship. First they resent each other due to their parent’s disagreements, then they become such close friends that they find the courage to stand up for each other even if it results in their parents disowning them. While being forced to live alone together in the dangerous wild, it is proved that the duo make quite the team. Ronja´s and Birk´s friendship, and possible future romance, is embodied in fierce loyalty, and regardless of how the reader sees the implications of the relationship, is hugely touching.

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4. Petite/Åsa and Torfinn from the “Vikinga”-trilogy by Maj Bylock: In these historical children´s books, we follow a young French girl who is abducted by Vikings and made a slave in Viking era Sweden. She escapes, is adopted by a kind couple, and grows up to become willingly engaged to a young man who himself wants to become a Viking. As a child I found myself surprisingly invested in this romance, since it raised questions of how one views themselves if they marry a person of questionable ambition, and how much one should change for their significant other. There will be no spoilers in case anyone wants to read these books (it is recommended), but let´s just say that the conclusion that the couple comes to at the end is quite heartwarming, making a sacrifice on both ends. Compromise is something that relationships truly need, but few fictional couples portray that, which I guess is why this couple actually did capture my interest as a kid.

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Cover of the second book in series

5. Jelkele and Ulangalu from the fairy tale “Ulangalu”: This is a Monglian-Chinese story about a resourceful young mortal man, named Jelkele, who falls in love with a Snake spirit princess, Ulangalu. She´s essentially a snake that quite often takes human form. While the two hit it off instantly, Ulangalu´s father, the snake King, disapproves and decides to keep Ulangalu imprisoned in his home (which is essentially just a fancy cave). Jelkele decides to aid Ulangalu in her escape, and together they kill her abusive parent. While this couple´s story is noticeably more brutal then most couples´, the theme of loyalty is still quite strong in this tale. And while most (western) fairy tales would end up with the guy single handedly saving the princess, this tale ends with them charging the villain-father together. Like Ronja and Birk, they make a great team, and work off each other to make the best of the situation. Ulangalu, when not given the right to choose, gives herself agency. Just an overall nice, if a tag violent, story.

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Image from a similar chinese folklore, “Madame Whitesnake”

6. Kien and Phuong from “The Sorrow of War” by Bao Ninh: Just as a heads up, this novel is really intense but really, really heartbreaking. Kien is a former soldier for the North Vietnamese side from the American/Vietnam War who suffers from severe Post-traumatic stress syndrome, while Phuong is his former high school sweetheart. The novel goes back and forth in the narrative, showing the horrific times of the war and the propaganda for the war both before and in its aftermath. The romance is shown in a similar fashion. Kien is idealistic and shy, Phuong is energetic and daring. Later on, Kien is disillusioned with life in the aftermath of the war, while Phuong attempts to help Kien and resolve his emotional and intellectual dilemmas. While Kien´s problems prevent the couple from remaining together, their interactions are quite romantic. Phuong is quite straight forward in her opinions, but Kien doesn´t mind; in fact he always considers what she says. Phuong empathizes with Kien, and is much more sexual than him. But most of all as a reader you really feel that they love each other, but after how things have gone about in the world it is sadly not possible for them to work it out. While many War novels depict these kinds of scenarios, it is few that are this devastating to read about.

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7. Toni and Maria from “West Side Story” (1961): A New York, musical version of Romeo and Juliet does not only have great songs, but a surprisingly good chemistry between Natalie Wood (who plays Maria) and Richard Beymer (who plays Toni). Beside the chemistry, the couple, despite suffering from Insta-love, is well written ground for interplay of an amorous pair. They are playful, overly sappy in dialogue, impatient and forgiving. My favorite scene with them is when they imagine getting permission from their parents to get married and make up silly dialogue towards mannequins that represent the parents. It´s silly, but sweet. It is a perfect instant of showing and not telling; the filmmakers show the couple as getting along and enjoying each other’s company, instead of constant flowery speeches of eternal love.

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8. Jack Skellington and Sally from “Nightmare before Christmas”: Once more, what makes this couple great are the characters and how they interact. Sally is wise and brave, Jack is passionate, ambitious and energetic. They complement each other nicely. While for the most of the movie Sally believes her feelings for Jack are unrequited, the ending of the film features by far one of the most romantic getting-together scenes ever made, period.

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9. Balto and Jenna from “Balto”: One of the reasons this couple is so intriguing is that unlike a lot of children´s films, the protagonist Balto´s love interest Jenna is interested in him and knows he´s a decent guy from almost the beginning of the film. The reason for them getting together later is because of a tuberculoses outbreak, which is endangering the town’s child population including Jenna´s owner. This works in the films advance, since the film is more about Balto, who´s half dog and half wolf, coming to terms with his own identity by using both of his dog and wolf traits to bring the needed medicine into the town (through his sled pulling skills). Balto and Jenna, like a lot of couples on this list, come to each other’s aid when needed and Jenna believes in Balto when none of the other dogs do. The film keeps their story simple, which works perfectly. It´s just a story of two generous, kind dogs who find each other, nothing more grandiose needed.

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10. Homer and Marge Simpsons from “The Simpsons” (pre-season 18): Truth be told my original pick was another relationship based on subtext, so I decided to go for a couple that´s explicitly in love but is a relationship which is both complex and enduring. Homer, despite his stupidity, does truly love his wife and kids, and Marge loves Homer irrespective of his many and overt vices. In several episodes Homer works strenuously for his love of the family. And even when Homers flaws overwhelm the family, prompting Marge to get angry and temporarily leave him, he respectfully lets her and considers why she is angry with him. Marge always defends Homer to her sisters, and is shown to be a good listener towards Homer. While Homer drinks too much and does mistakes, they as a couple find ways to make things work. Even if they are perhaps a bit of the typical screw ball family, the Simpsons are a family that sticks with each other, and despite their problems love each other dearly. This bonding and devotion, in its self, makes them deserving of being one of the most iconic couples, as well as family.

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Honorable mentions:
R2D2 and C3PO from the “Star Wars” franchise: …What? Don´t look at me like that, they are totally meant to be a couple! On top of that, their bickering is legendary and their bond is unquestionable. One of the best written lines in “A New Hope” is when C3PO says, before R2D2 has to go off on the mission to blow up the Death Star with Luke is: “Promise me you´ll come back, won´t you R2? Because if you don´t my life will be boring. You don’t want my life to be boring, do you?”. That line right there is a better declaration of love than Han´s “I know” and everything that was written between Anakin and Padme, let´s be honest.

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Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt from “Parks and Recreation”: Not much to say here but that Ben is a very sweet person, Leslie is also very kind, together they are just adorable.

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Gabriel and Batsheeba from “Far from the Madding Crowd” (2015 film adaption): A slow burn romance, but, therefore, all the better. Both Gabriel and Batsheeba are power focuses of activity, while leaving Batsheeba to her stubbornness, and Gabriel his honest kindness. Just watching them grow closer and remaining friends until the end where they decide to become a couple is a moving journey. Plus, Gabriel is not brooding at all, a huge plus in my opinion.

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So those are my picks in this category. I´m going to do another second list along these lines, but with focus on Interspecies couples. So if anyone has some suggestions, feel free to comment, or just comment if you have any other favorite literary or otherwise fictional couples!

Hello readers, I´m in New York right now! And just finished one major course at the university, with another course coming to an end (meaning lots and lots of time consumed by studying for the exam). So since I have quite little time, I would like to just briefly recommend some films, Tv series and Graphic novels. During this month I can say that a post on the Adult swim television series “Rick and Morty” will be posted soon enough, and a discussion about a “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” episode is due this month as well. So stay tuned, and check out some of the stuff mentioned below.

The film “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is an excellent character study as well as a psychological thriller. It tells the story of a young girl who struggles with reuniting with her sister after escaping a cult. It´s directed by Sean Durkin and stars Elizabeth Olson, who does an excellent job depicting the complexities of being brainwashed, as well as how painful it can be in the battle of freeing oneself from the oppressions of authoritarian control. John Hawkes (known mostly by his roles in “Deadwood” and “Winter´s Bone”) is shockingly creepy as the cults charismatic leader. “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is also a riveting depiction of systematic sexual abuse and oppression of women. The cult has extremely old fashioned views on gender, and therefore rape is used as a form of getting the newly recruited women to submit. Martha, the films protagonist, not only undergoes such abuse herself but is also shown drugging another girl during such rituals. It´s disturbing, but unfortunately feels like an honest account of how different forms of groups and societies control women. The film easily passes the Bechdel test, and has a heart-breaking depiction of Martha´s relationship to her sister. Martha´s sister tries to understand and support her, but it´s a difficult situation. Few films have such an honest depiction of family: showing events of the interpersonal which even the most loving family members are not able to control nor come to grips with. It´s an unsettling, moving and tragic watch, and it´s a guarantee that once you´ve seen the film you´ll never forget it.

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“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a 2011 French film that has nearly nothing to do with Ernest Hemingway. Despite the name being a little misleading, this film is a thought-provoking, political piece that is neither simplistic nor preachy. Directed by Robert Guédiguian, the film spins the tale of an elderly couple who are life-long Marxists and who, once they find themselves the victims of a robbery, are forced to question not only their ideologies but also themselves. The film unravels the robber’s story, the thief’s mother, the aforementioned couple and the couple’s children – with all of the characters attempting to come to terms with their feelings, thoughts, and views on the situation. The director cleverly gives each character reasonable arguments. The thief points out that despite the couples avowed Marxism, they still exist in the sphere of the privileged due to their class and that what they may consider fair is not always fair for someone else. The robber’s mother (who has abandoned all of her three children, forcing the thief to become the sole provider for his two underage brothers) points out that it was her boyfriends (the robber and his brothers have two different fathers) who pressured her into having children and then promptly abandoned her after the children were born. The film also attempts to convey how little acts of kindness can at times solve huge problems. A smart film well worth watching!

Original french poster

Original french poster

“Daddy´s Girl” by Debbie Drechler is a very nauseating, but powerful graphic memoir. When Ms. Drechler was a child, she was reputably molested by her father. This would later reflect in her relationships in college, where she undergoes a rape and isolation from her peers. The comic is short, but honest in its brutality and melancholy. Dreschler shows the many layers and forms of abuse, and how they intertwine with each other. It is filled with gut wrenching scenes such as when Debbie wonders if she is a horrible person, since god allows her father to molest her and if her mother is so distant to her due to her father’s abuse. Even more unsettlingly, the comics end is left open, making the reading experience even more a disturbing endeavor. It´s fairly harsh, but definitely worth the read.

Scene from "Daddy´s girl"

Scene from “Daddy´s girl”

This recommendation is no doubt cliché, and therefore I´ll keep this extra short. I was first not sure whether I should or shouldn’t watch “Breaking Bad”, but finally caved in and have loved every minute of watching the first four seasons (fifth season still unseen). It follows a chemistry teacher named Walter White, who in order to pay for his cancer treatments takes up with his former student Jesse to cook Crystal Meth. The writing is tight, the acting superb and the comedic moments (bloody) hilarious. One of the best acting performances was done by Giancarlo Esposito, who plays the drug kingpin and Walters temporary boss Gustavo “Gus” Fring. Gus´ calm and collected demeanor is eerie yet fascinating, and as he switches between playing nice to ruthlessly violence one is reminded of such works as “American Psycho”. Gus has also an interesting back-story and motivations, which the show did an excellent job building up. “Breaking Bad” has also done one of the funniest bottle episodes, where Walt obsesses over killing a fly. Great series!

Walter and Jesse

Walter and Jesse

That’s about it for now. Happy Watching and reading!

Irony, as any form of comedy, is an art hard to master. It has been said that it’s much harder then drama which, though debatable, is in all likelihood accurate. In 2004, a gem of perfect crystal irony titled “Desperate Housewives” aired. The show centered on the lives of four women: the perfectionist Bree (Marcia Cross), the clumsy Susan (Teri Hatcher), the materialistic Gabriel (Eva Longoria) and the smart Lynnette (Felicity Huffman) and their series of purposefully melodramatic adventures. “Desperate Housewives” was an instant hit to no surprise. The writing was a sharp and loving parody of Soap operas and the show was just a pure joy to watch. However, the final season did tone down the ironic narrative as well as making some fairly problematic storylines. In this post I will lay-out three of the major problems which the show stumbled upon and will explain how exactly the regrettable elements played out in the narrative.

From left to right: Gabriel, Lynnette, Bree and Susan

For those who haven’t seen the final season yet, it is important for you to note that this whole post will be loaded with spoilers.

1. Katherine’s insensitive comment about French culture -This would seem to be a fairly minor, and almost not worth mentioning, flaw which occurred (almost off hand) in the final season of the show. However it was a more than borderline prejudicial comment about a foreign country and planted itself squarely in the realm of the sexist. The scene occurred in the episode “Finishing the Hat”, where Katherine (Dana Delany) returns from her time spent in France to tell her old friends about her successful new job as well as offering one to Lynnette. While chit-chatting with her friends, Katherine states that in France none of the women shave and the men all use handbags, so it’s hard to tell who has is who in the sexual realm. The comment clearly expresses disgust with other cultures harmless norms as well as shames women and men for not following gender roles prescribed as normal (within the shows culture).

Katherine (Dana Delany)

What prescription is ordinary for women and body hair? Various cultures have different ways of relating to Body hair and this should be respected. And claiming men using handbags caused gender confusion seems more than highly unlikely. I realize both of these statements were meant as a joke and they were. A really, really cheap and unfunny one.

2. The shows representation of Bree’s Promiscuity – Approximately midpoint in season eight, Bree returns to her alcoholism, a subject dealt with in previous seasons (in fairly sophisticated and tender ways, too). Bree also begins a tendency of picking up men from bars to have one-night stands. The show could have depicted Bree’s new habit as a side effect due to fear of closeness mixed in with her shame for her addiction. Unfortunately, instead promiscuity in itself was portrayed as an intuitively horrible act. As Brees friends bear witness to a large train of men leaving her house early in the morning, they automatically assume they should intercede to insure she is OK. The Problem is that this is not because they wonder if she has started drinking again, but because she seems to be having too many one night stands. The implication is that an adult woman can’t nor should be allowed make decisions about her sexuality by herself, nor have a sexual life which is to “full”.

Bree is the focus of lingering and disapproving gazes from the whole neighborhood, which is portrayed as reasonable instead of judgmental behavior. In the final episode, “Finishing the hat”, Bree states that she can’t believe her lawyer wants to marry her since she has been an alcoholic, involved in a crime, and been promiscuous. The man proposing to her answers her with a simple “I love you because your imperfect”- statement. All fine and good, except that the show, through the written dialogue, places a promiscuous phase into the same category as alcoholism and crime. Lovely. If the man proposing to Bree would have asked: “Well, you were safe and therefore didn’t catch an STD, weren’t you?” Brees protest would have made more sense. Instead, the fact that Bree as a woman had many sexual partners is seen as a major personality flaw. You would think that in this day and age, people would start to be more accepting of people’s different forms of expressing their sexuality, instead of reducing to outright slut-shaming.

3. Julie’s pregnancy – Susan’s daughter, Julie, arrives back home in this episode “Is this what you call love?” to tell her mother she’s pregnant. She also arrives to tell her mother she wants to give up the child for adoption which Susan does not take well. Despite Julie showing concern about not being ready for motherhood Susan argues constantly that Julie does not understand how difficult it will be for her to give up her child. Julie points out that the decision was hard for her to make and needs Susan’s support. Julie is asking for acceptance yet Susan, as confidant and mother, continually ignores this and purposefully sabotages Julie’s attempts at finding an adoption agency. Despite this atrocious immoral behavior, the viewer is expected to sympathize with Susan since she does it out of “love”. Additionally, Julie’s decision is, later on during the season, persistently shown as wrong. A major refrain for this “bad decision” of putting the child up for adoption is that she will, as all women according to the series, have “motherly feelings” for the baby and live a life regret in the “abandonment”. Needless to say that this implies that all women making this decision are in the wrong.

Julie

But here’s the thing: its Julie’s body and therefore her decision to make. And it comes down to whether or not you think women are capable of making decisions over their own bodies and their lives (as well as making possibly good decisions for the baby’s life). Later in the episode “With so little to be sure of” Julie states that she wanted to give the baby away “just because it was inconvenient” and decides to keep it. This is not only a cope-out and showed that the writers were being lazy, but also sends the unfortunate message that adoption is not really a good decision and a real mother keeps her child*.
As a cherry on top of this dreadful cake we get the implication that the father of Julie’s baby will get very little if any contact with the child, despite him making the decision to work intensely to support the child and expressing how he already loves the child. Susan makes the decision for the father, making it unintentionally a tragic tale of a young woman guilt-tripped into keeping her child and a young man straight out denied a possibility to raise his child despite hard sacrifice.

The flaws were nearly fatal in the final season of “Desperate Housewives”. However, even in this season, the characters kept their familiar quirkiness and hilarious oddball personas. The show held and elaborated characters that emerged as strong and determined and all of the major protagonists went through impressive developments and growth (with special mention to the characters of Gabriel and her Husband Carlos, played by Ricardo Antonio Chavira).

Carlos (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) and Gabriel (Eva Longoria)

Not the best season by a long shot, but perhaps a sign that it ended right in time. Still, all and all, the series was wildly funny and we will certainly miss it.

* And here is where I wanted to send flowers the all the people involved with the film “Juno”, because despite my intense hatred of that movie due to the film’s nasty attitude towards abortion on so many levels, at least they showed that a young woman’s decision to give her baby up for adoption is not a selfish act as well as a decision to respect.

This post is my second and last part of the series “Sci-fi Speaks Of Us”. View the first part here.

The rough “Black Mirror” is a three part television drama series which aired in December 2011, which was created by the British journalist and passionate satirist Charlie Brooker. He was the writer for the first episode, “The National Anthem”, which was a political thriller. In “The National Anthem”, a prime minister is more or less pressured into having sex with a pig on live television. Peer pressure is also a heavy theme in the second episode of “Black Mirror”, co-written by Charlie Brooker and his wife, Konnie Huq. The final episode, “The Entire History Of You”, was however handled by comedic writer Jesse Armstrong.

All of the episodes took place in different realities and settings, but as Mr. Brooker himself said: “They’re (the episodes) are all about way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy”. When explaining the title of the series, “Black Mirror”, Mr. Brooker stated: “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The “Black Mirror” of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.”

“15 Million Merits” stars Daniel Kaluuya as Bing, who lives in a depraved dystopia where everyone is forced into harsh physical toil, the only escape being to earn enough money to enter a TV talent show called “Hot Shots”. Overweight people are stigmatized by obligatory yellow clothing, being the lowest class in this fictional society. Commercials are constantly forced upon people in their homes, where the walls are all screens – you can skip them only if you pay. In the overly commercial society, Bing lives a lonely life until he meets Abi, a sweet natured young woman who has a beautiful singing voice. Enchanted by her voice, Bing convinces Abi to appear on “Hot Shots”. Abi does, she sings and moves the audience to tears, but unfortunately the jury is not pleased. Abi is then pressured into a rotten deal and Bing is left heartbroken. Eventually, Bings broken heart eggs him on to find a way to speak out against the unjust system…

The “Black Mirror” episode “15 million Merits” offers social commentary in its finest form. Through a tragic love story, Mr. Brooker and Ms. Huq tackle issues as sizeism, commerciality, the cost of privatization, the dysfunctional dream of celebrity and peer pressure. The world created in “15 Million Merits” is due to the people’s obsession with fitness and materials, neglecting any depth. Both Abi and Bing try to bring some form of feeling into the viable world they live in only to conform into the system by the end. “15 Million Merits” is honest in its depiction of humans: some people do want to rebel against systems that are cruel. Simultaneously no one’s completely immune to peer pressure and thus lose their rebellious or unique nature.

The extreme prejudice towards overweight people imagined in this Dystopia is pretty chilling to watch. A newly morphed and highly exaggerated form of prejudice found in this future of the media image is one which we can readily recognize, the prejudice against people of a larger girth and bigger bodies. Our common stereotype that overweight people are food obsessed and total slobs is inflated in by the politics of distraction in this dystopian moment and the population of this time are served video games and television shows where this stereotype is used as the misguided focus where citizens are encouraged to humiliate and underscore their misconceptions of the large sized among them. “15 Million Merits” addresses the danger points of marginalizing people for their body types in our society (or any type of prejudice) and shows us how viewing the “other” in our midst is used by an oppressive society to distract the populace from the actual horrors being carried out upon them and us. The subtle and constructed loathing that which leads to plus-sized people being viewed as less worthy citizens and persons is used by the weighty hand of the dominating social system to defer the majority from seeing, and recognizing, the tangible arrangement of subjugation forced upon them.

Along with this indictment of the politics of prejudice this wonderful episode also delivers a scathing and exact depiction of reality television. Mr. Brookner seems to nestle with the beliefs of satirist Bill Maher who once said: “reality television is nothing but cruelty and people enjoying cruelty”. Imagining if cruelty were used by the system to make of a person’s life only this as the founding principle of existence, Mr. Brookner and company explore the politics of distain and how this forms the core of existential emptiness.

The Jury of “Hot Shots”

It is this deployment of prejudice and emptiness by a system, far removed from the living experience, which fuels and is critiqued in the horrifying future Mr. Brooker and Ms. Huq illustrate here. And, sadly, one which is most readily seen in the trajectories and moments of our lives lived now and the political and corporate systems which hope to contain us.

While the story line in “15 Million Merits” is great, the acting is also superb. Daniel Kalyyla and Jessica Brown Findlay are perfect in their roles as lonely outsiders, trying to find a connection in an isolating and media deadening world. (Spoiler alert!) I truly felt for the Bing and Abi as an unlucky couple, which made the ending all the sadder.

“15 Million Merits” is a must see for Science Fiction lovers.

Konnie Huq and Charlie Brooker

What can you say about Detective stories and novels? That they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle not invented his iconic character Sherlock Holmes, that’s for sure. The first detective story of the modern genre type was written by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, in 1841.* And even if the detective and its archetypical form of narrative detective structure as formulated in Poe’s short story was an inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his character Holmes is by far the one that set in motion the beloved rules which became the detective story: a strong, outstanding personality, the importance of details, the use of deductive reasoning applied to the material of the world, the righting of social (and personal) injustice, and a loyal (and documenting) sidekick.

Edgar Allen Poe

Sherlock Holmes is the most recognizable detective in Literature. He is well-known and loved for his wit, ability to notice minor details that crack cases wide open and his love for lingering around in his morning robe, as well as smoking a pipe. Sir Conan Doyle’s detective stories also featured Holmes’ loyal friend Dr. Watson, who provided the narration for all but a few of the stories, and who has become one of the most famous of sidekicks. Among the famous and infamous characters which line the hall of fame of personalities which inhabit the Holmesian canon are the characters Irene Adler, an actress who is the only one to outsmart Holmes, and Holmes’ archenemy Professor James Moriarty. These two particular characters find glad residence at the heart of Sherlock Holmes Fandom and discussion, and have been portrayed in various films by various actors. In fact, they too have found themselves being re-invented countless number of times along with the principles of the case Holmes and Watson.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The two most recent and popular re-inventions of the Sherlockian Genre are Guy Ritchie’s two “Sherlock Holmes” action packed films starring Robert Downey Jr. and, now, BBC’s modernization “Sherlock”, a Television series created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Both of these adaptions are pretty well done as well as being interesting interpretations of Sir Conan Doyle’s creation. Ritchie’s films move more towards the comedic while BBC’s series land a bit more in the realm of the dramatic. In this post I will analyze how both these Adaptations’ portray their re-invented characters, as well as their tone in the story telling.

Portrait for Strand Magazine, by Sidney Paget (where the famous “detective hat” first appears!)

Let’s start with the chief anti-hero himself: Sherlock Holmes. In “Sherlock”, he’s portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, who represents Holmes as a very cold personage who is often beyond the merely cruelly blunt. He openly shows great delight in murder cases, especially very elaborate ones, like serial killings. Holmes in “Sherlock” seems to not care for many people, except for very few friends. And even towards his friends he can be, what can only be labeled, a jerk. The interpretation of Holmes in “Sherlock” is a quite brutal one; He is often mean, but always is largely talented. Downey Jr.’s Holmes is portrayed less as mean spirited, but lacking and devoid of social skills. He is largely obsessive, but more affectionate towards Watson in this version. His erratic behavior is more bizarre than cruel, and Ritchie uses the peculiar personality for laughs. However, even Downey Jr’s version of Holmes can come off as rude at times, but it does feel less malicious than Cumberbatch’s version. Both Holmes are shown to be experts at detection though attention to details and extraordinary fighters.

The Holmes which gets more character development is Cumberbatch’s. During the first season of “Sherlock”, Cumberbatch depicts Holmes as not caring about anyone besides Watson and seemingly doesn’t care about the murder victims whose cases he is attempting to solve. However, in the last episode of season one, he is briefly shown panicking when a child is endangered by Moriarty and his detection solution (which he has counted on to save the child) is shown to be lacking a key point. In the second season, Holmes apologizes to people he says vicious things to and shows more concern for his friends. Even committing himself to heroic sacrifice to protect those close to him.

Moffat’s Sherlock Holmes

Downey Jr’s character doesn’t develop much in either film, be it “Sherlock Holmes” from 2009 or “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” from 2011. The only change we see is his growing acceptance of Mary, Watson’s fiancée/wife. So, in terms of a character, Cumberbatch’s Holmes is more interesting as well as probably how Holmes is suppose to come across in Sir Conan Doyle’s stories. But Downey Jr. depiction in Guy Ritchie’s films is hilarious and often lightly and springingly entertaining. Both Downey Jr. and Cumberbatch bring their obvious talents to the character of Holmes and believe in the passion of their roles and its spirit. So my conclusion is that Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the detective is more serious and complicated, therefore more superior to Downey Jr’s. But both make excellent Homes.

Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes

The two versions of Watson also differ greatly from one another. In the Guy Ritchie’s version, Watson (Jude Law) is a soon to be married man who grows impatient with Holmes and the wild situations Holmes sucks him into. In the BBC version, John (as he mostly goes by, played by Martin Freeman) is fiercely loyal and quite enjoys the “adventures” Holmes gets him into. The BBC version of Watson as character additionally functions as a conscience for Sherlock, calling him out when he is rude or insensitive. John, in both versions of the characterization also dislikes Holmes butting in on his dates and mating habits, for example where Freeman objects to Holmes showing up on a date he has with a fellow doctor (“Watson: Actually I’ve got a date. Holmes: What? Watson: It’s where two people who like each other go out and have fun.”) in “the Blind Banker” or Law’s Watson who shows a marked distain of Holmes intervening on his honeymoon trip in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”. While Freemans Watson is more serious, Law’s portrayal of Watson is quite snarky, often throwing sarcastic comments here and there, for the purpose of creating comedy. Law’s line deliveries are quite good and I specifically enjoyed the scene in Ritchie’s first “Sherlock Holmes” film, where after getting thrown in prison Watson says: “I’ve been analyzing why I do all the things you ask me too. And my conclusion is: I’m psychologically disturbed”. This remark while being funny on its face also becomes a meta-comment on the Sherlockian writings which have questioned Watson’s strange unstoppable loyalty in the original stories, making a pretty funny reference to a second tier of literature about the writings of Doyle in the Sherlockian stories (Both series use the “Sherlockian Writings” from the Sherlock Groups to make in jokes to this faction of the Holmes Fandom).

Guy Ritchie’s Watson

Freeman’s version of Watson is, like with Cumberbatch’s version of Holmes, more dramatic and played more seriously. It is also made more clear in “Sherlock” why John and Holmes are such close friends: he is shown to be one of the rare people who truly thinks Sherlock’s gift in crime solving are amazing, vocalizing it pretty honestly, which flatters Sherlock. He’s also a fan of adventure, like Holmes, which makes it easy for them to bond. This makes the friendship between the two men seem more understandable and deep. The friendship is depicted more through bickering in Guy Ritchie’s films, with a few very tender moments. All and all, I find John from the BBC’s “Sherlock” to be a more interesting Watson, since he functions as both a faithful sidekick as well as a voice of reason, while Law’s more of a conflicted friend who becomes a devoted helper in solving crimes when needed.

BBC’s Watson

I will be blatantly honest and say that I’m not fond of either Guy Ritchie’s re-interpretation of Irene Adler, nor Steven Moffat’s. In Guy Ritchie’s films, Irene Adler is a spy for Moriarty who does do some impressive manipulation, but is just suddenly (spoiler!) killed by Moriarty in “A Game Of Shadows”. I wouldn’t have minded Ritchie killing Adler off if she would have died while putting up a fight. Instead, she’s declared too weak by Moriarty since she’s in love with Holmes, and dies by getting “poisoned” by an extreme form of tuberculosis.

Guy Ritchie’s Irene Adler

In “Sherlock”, Adler is introduced in the second seasons premiere episode “A Scandal in Belgravia”, where she’s over sexualized and is ultimately de-powered by needing Sherlock to save her. As Jane Clare Jones wrote at the Guardian: “Not-so-subtly channeling the spirit of the predatory femme fatal, Adler’s power became, in Moffat’s hands, less a matter of brains, and more a matter of knowing ´what men like´ and how to give it to them”. Jones’ whole article really spells out perfectly what was wrong about this characterization of Adler, so do read the essay on it here.

Strangely, both versions of Irene Adler are weakened by their attraction to Holmes, making it seem like all powerful women can be weakened through (superficial) emotion. Also, both Adler’s are somehow working with or helping out Moriarty, which is peculiar since the two characters never even met in the original stories. But none the less, it was nice that the BBC version hired a woman, Lara Pulver, around her forties (“Older”, as known in cinema and TV) to play Adler. And Rachel McAdams was pretty energetic in the 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes”.

BBC’s Irene Adler

Professor James Moriarty is perhaps one of the earliest archenemies to appear in fiction. Andrew Scott, who portrayed Moriarty in the BBC adaption, and Jared Harris, who plays Moriarty in Guy Ritchie’s films, had a difficult task: to live up to all the expectations from viewers. Now, Harris did an excellent job on portraying a sophisticated, intellectual villain who does pretty gritty stuff. He is convincing. However, he doesn’t come off as memorable as the deadly and controlling Moriarty. Scott’s first performance as Moriarty in the episode BBC “The Great Game”, the final episode in season one, was far too flamboyant and giggling to be truly frightening (and a bit of overacting further diminished the feeling). But, come “The Reichenbach Fall”, the finale of season two, Scott changes his performance tremendously. He depicted Moriarty as being wildly intelligent and Machiavellian, but bratty, arrogant and childish as well. His combination of the different character traits blended well. Not to mention making him quite unsettling, as well as probably what a person like Moriarty would be like. A criminal mastermind, but immature – which are a pretty scary combination. Harris, as the deadly and devious Moriarty, had the misfortune of starring in the second film in Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” franchise, which previous film had already featured a memorable and great villain, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who had a noxious charisma.

Guy Ritchie’s Moriarty

Considering how Moriarty, the archenemy of Sherlock Holmes, ends up in the shadow of another villain in Ritchie’s franchise, one can say Harris ends up a little weaker in comparison to Scotts. Scott was a wonderful surprise in “The Reichenbach Falls”, being the perfect deadly brat.

Moffat’s Moriarty

And lastly, on both franchises on a whole. Guy Ritchie’s both films are highly entertaining and a lot of fun to watch. BBC’s “Sherlock” is also entertaining, but a lot grittier and darker in tone (though “A Game Of Shadows” did have nasty bits as well). As the BBC is practically the Shakespeare of Television, it’s pretty obvious why, with its archetype-characters and the historical nature of the literature Holmes springs from, this adaption becomes firmly the better of the two.

In the Moffat-BBC version of this canon the characters are more fleshed out and complex, the writings more interesting and perhaps more alike the original stories. But all is not lost for Ritchie. The 2009’s film “Sherlock Holmes” did follow the tradition from the original stories in that Holmes gets to prove that the “supernatural phenomena” happening in the film aren’t really supernatural in the least and can be explained through reason and a insistence in the actuality of the lived world. This was a common theme in the original stories, for example in “The Hound of The Baskerville” and “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”. Ritchie’s films also had some nice scenes where Holmes figures out how to win fights through wit and thought. The Ritchie movies would have done well, and served the humanistic traits of the character and stories better, to highlight the scientific methods Holmes is known for using to solve cases. Oddly enough (as well) during “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” Ritchie seem to be implying that the world his Sherlock Holmes was living in was (some form of) the perfect world; Watson and Holmes, for instance, dance a waltz together in a major Ballroom scene among politicians and diplomats. The year is supposedly 1891, But not a comment is made about this behavior (remember Oscar Wilde had been convicted and sent to prison in 1895 for the “Love that dare not speak its name”). So when Moriarty makes a speech about humans natural desire for conflict and fights, I felt like saying: “No, Moriarty, you’re the only one who’s mean in this universe. Everybody else is perfectly fine”. The point being that films, while taking place in the 19th century, are neither terribly nor historically accurate in this regard and the dance would have meet, at the least, with revulsion by the crowded participants of the dance. Yet this may be a mote point and the film doesn’t have to meet this historical standard since Ritchie’s take on both Sherlock films is in the sphere of the action comedy. Within this Genre who can argue with the Ritchie take? Both films are satisfying in this regard and are funny with good fight scenes and become, in this way, more than decent Sherlock Holmes adaptations.

The BBC/Moffat series “Sherlock”, in distinction to the Ritchie interpretation, is a lot more similar to the original stories, with Sherlock’s wits and talents, his interest in science and logic, his humanity and glaring faults, being a driving force in the series. The murders are a lot nastier and gruesome in the BBC outing and cleave more to Doyle’s sense of the uncanny which permeates the crimes that inspire Holmes’s interest. The Series characters, as well, have a sense of identity to the ones peopling Sir Conan Doyle’s works, even if the character of Sherlock is made a bit crueler and lacking in humanitarian compassion in this adaption than is found in Doyle’s writings. So in my humble opinion, this adaption of Sherlock Holmes is the better of the two.

Re-inventing Sherlock Holmes seems to be hip right now, which should be meet with no surprise. Holmes is a historically significant character for not only literature, but other Medias as well. His and Watson’s friendship is an interesting portrayal of team work and loyalty, Holmes’ skeptical attitude towards supernatural things is still one which should be grappled with in a world which forgoes reason for hate, and accurate subject for our consideration is given us in the Bravery of Watson and the Contemplation of Holmes. What better means to explore ourselves than through a Holmes as a character one can interpret in different ways and so make us wonder what might make us worthwhile.

Ritchie’s and BBC’s interpretations are both interesting takes on the character and now that the doorway has been newly opened to reconsider the dual character of Watson and Holmes it only remains to see what other adaptations will emerge next?

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*Poe was to write three stories informing the structure of the Detective Story and following the adventures of the “deductive” detective, C. Auguste Dupin. The most famous of these three tales is Poe’s, “The Purloined Letter”, a story which shares some slight similarities of tropes and narrative structure with “A Scandal in Bohemia” in which Irene Adler makes her famous appearance.

I’m a little late in posting my article on the newest Sherlock Holmes adaptions, sorry. Will be coming up soon enough! Until then, here’s a link to an interview with Louise Brealey. She plays Molly Hooper, a pathologist with a crush on Sherlock Holmes, on BBC’s “Sherlock”.

My two favorite parts in the interview where she explains why her character has suddenly become so popular:

“Molly works because, while Watson is “the audience”, Molly is every woman of a certain age sitting at home on the settee fantasizing about running their hands through Benedict Cumberbatch’s hair. Which is basically what I’d have been doing if I wasn’t in the show… Also, I think most people have experienced the agony and the ignominy of unrequited love.”

And when she talked about Feminism!:

“Seriously, though, I’d like every man who doesn’t call himself a feminist to explain to the women in his life why he doesn’t believe in equality for women. I think Page 3, Nuts and Zoo are bullshit. I don’t wax my pubic hair off. I don’t think working in a titty bar getting fivers shoved up your bum is empowering. And I’m bored of pictures of women in their smalls on buses with fuck-me mouths”

Right on, Ms. Brealey!

The whole interview is interesting. Worth checking out!

From Left To Right: Constable Crabtree, Dr. Ogden, Murdoch and Inspector Brackenreid

“Murdoch Mysteries” is a Canadian Television show, based on the Detective Murdoch series of novels by Maureen Jennings. Ms. Jennings is also the creator of the TV-series adaption, which centers on William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), an eccentric, enlightenment inclined detective, who solves murders in the late 19th Century Toronto. This mystery series features detailed portrayals of the ideologies, scientific developments as well as harsh injustices of the time area. The characters are colorful, strongly three-dimensional people in addition of being very likeable. Murdoch himself is a man of science and logic yet still a devoted catholic, with a big heart and passion for justice despite his sometimes rigid opinions. Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris) is a faithful, eager helper with a fondness for flights of fancy (which often predict inventions and the nomenclature of our times) and, at times, supernatural explanations. He also tends towards the rambling, sliding from silly to brilliant ideas. Inspector Brackenreid, Murdoch’s superior, is a Yorkshire man who’s a bit rough around the edges while simultaneously being a lover of high culture. Beginning with a bit of skepticism to Murdoch’s methods at first Brackenreid slowly comes to subtly recognize Murdoch’s gift in crime solving. And then there’s Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy), the one responsible for post mortem examination of the dead (coroner and forensic examiner combined) as well as being the shows voice of reason. Dr. Ogden’s character is one of the most extraordinary female characters featured a long time on Television. She’s not only strong, tolerant and smart, but also is one of the few characters who address the subject of Abortion on Television in a remarkable fresh and frank way.

The first episode where Dr. Ogden shows her strong belief in tolerance is in the episode “Till Death Do US Part”, season one of the series. In this episode a murdered man who was about to get married is reveled to be homosexual. Murdoch reacts to this fact in disgust and starts on how immoral and wrong such a personal trait is. Dr. Ogden is quick to scold Murdoch for this un-thought through prejudice and through solid arguments gets Murdoch to reconsider his judgment. Dr. Ogden’s self-sufficiency is made most clear in season two in the episode “Snakes and Ladders” where Dr. Ogden saves herself from a serial killer, showing she doesn’t need a man to rescue her. She is also later in the episode shown to be a little shaken by the incident, giving a great realistic twist to her strong persona: She’s strong, but still human. Being attacked by a murderer does shake her up a little and haunts her thoughts making the heroic also the human. “Murdoch Mysteries” builds Dr. Ogden as a fighter, but not stereotypically the tough, breaking the trope that strong women are emotionless and cold. The subtlety of Dr.Ogden´s shock from the meant-to-be-fatal attack also averts the additional stereotype of a woman who can’t control her emotions properly.

In the episode “Hangman” from season three, Dr. Ogden expresses difficulty to accept the Death Penalty as something good, stating to Murdoch that she finds it difficult to understand why it is a necessary punishment. All of these personality traits in Dr. Ogden are interesting. However the most fascinating aspect of Dr. Ogden’s character is her past, and how she relates to it.

The below discussion (related to the issue of abortion) will follow the episode “Shades Of Grey” from season two, and will contain major spoilers for this episode.

“Shades Of Grey” begins with Murdoch investigating a possible murder prompted by the discovery of young nude woman’s body in a ditch. The Case accumulates in Murdoch discovering that the young victim is a working girl by the name of Lily Dunn, who had been impregnated by her sexually predatory boss and fired for it. Desperate to get rid of her child, she had ingested a poison in hopes it would make her abort. The process instead leads to her death. It is made clear in the episode that Lily died mostly because she couldn’t have a legal abortion. (Abortions were outlawed in Canada in 1869 and would remain completely illegal there until mild legalization in 1973. Fully legalized Abortion did not become law in Canada until the late 80’s.) It is then later revealed that Julia Ogden herself, when younger, had an illegal abortion. She explains to Murdoch, who dislikes the idea of abortion, that she did it in order to continue her studies towards becoming a doctor. Having the baby would have made it difficult, if not impossible, to do so. Murdoch is shocked, and since he has recently started a relationship with Dr. Ogden, he is torn in whether he should stay committed to her or not. He asks then if she regrets her actions. Her answer is a calm “No”.

It is unusual for a fictional television series to feature a female character that has had an abortion and not regret her decision. Even in films the topic is quite taboo, especially in non-European films. That Dr. Ogden states clearly she doesn’t regret her decision, the episode portrays an honest truth about choosing to not keep a child: it is sometimes the right thing for the person making the decision to do. In Dr. Ogden’s case, she knows she couldn’t handle a child right then, nor would the society surrounding her allow this in the context of her medical schooling (to say the least!). So she chooses not to continue the pregnancy, which obviously turns to her favor, since she was then able complete her studies and become a highly competent doctor.

The episode also highlights the dangers of making abortions illegal. Dr. Ogden, who had to make an illegal and therefore an unsafe abortion, nearly died in the process. This was a major problem for the out of wedlock (and especially those who were not part of the upper class) women who found themselves pregnant during the 19th and 20th century in Canada and continued as a horror until the changes within the law occurred.

It is also a problem in today’s world. In 2009, a study done by The Guttmacher Institute calculated that 70, 000 women a year die from illegal abortions. Women who take illegal abortions also face the danger of becoming maimed or sterilized. This is also mentioned in “Murdoch Mysteries”; Dr. Ogden survives her illegal abortion, but becomes sterile from it. The show clearly states that giving women the right to choose is important, and illegalizing abortion is a problem for everyone. This episode of Murdoch Mysteries makes no bones about being on the side of women in this catastrophe.

While watching “Shades of Grey”, I couldn’t help but think of the Pro-life movement in the US (and other countries too). At the moment there seems to be resurgence in a vocal part of the communities of the world for reinstating the illegality of abortion (and maybe even conception!)- entirely and without qualm. In counties such as Nicaragua, this is already the case, putting many women’s lives at risk, from such diverse complications as obstructed labor to cancer. A study done by Amnesty International in 2010 even showed that this complete ban abortion has a harsh and dangerous impact on young girls. “Shades Of Grey” made makes us think of the actual cost that the anti-abortion movements call for – to send us back to days where women die or are put in high risk for their lives? In reality this is merely to control the “species of human” called women and to circumvent them moving freely in society (as Ogden is able to do in becoming a Doctor).

Dr. Julia Ogden as a character is a moral conscience of the show “Murdoch Mysteries”. She is a modern woman, whose ideals make her a good role model for both women and men. But her message of being proud of her decision over her body and standing up for women’s reproductive rights is the most outstanding part of her character. Her character has an important message that one should take seriously.

Maureen Jennings, creator of “Murdoch Mysteries”

For an article on how Abortion is depicted in Hollywood, read Katherine Butler’s excellent column from “ecosalon”.

For a recommendation on a film depicting an illegal abortion, I highly recommend Cristian Mungiu’s superb “4 moths three weeks and 2 days”.

For a few causes of women who died do to illegal and unsafe abortions, go here.

Note: “Murdoch Mysteries” is one of the few Canadian shows with a major international following, with fifth season in production. Alas, the fifth season has been announced to be the last one, which has disappointed many fans.
Update to the note: There has also been a promise of a sixth season, yay! Read about it here and on Maureen Jennings homepage here.