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20 November 2009 @ 08:38 pm
this has really got to stop.  
Apparently meta Mondays are now extending to Fridays as well. Oh dear, as Fraser would say.

In the first meta, the one I didn’t post, I found myself thinking about Fraser as a study in contrasts between openness and restraint. He's so trusting (he lends complete strangers money for their children, and offers belief even to pathological liars: he always believes in people's better natures), and he genuinely cares about people, but in an almost impersonal way, if that makes any sense. Ray says--I forget which episode--that it's Fraser's feelings that get him into trouble, but by and large, that isn't true, because those feelings are almost...detached. By that I mean that they don't seem to impinge on his self in any way--and maybe that's because his principles protect him: he acts for, is motivated by, justice and fairness and the law, not for himself or even for those personal feelings that he has. Which is why his caring seems so limitless, maybe: it's driven by an almost external energy; it's truly selfless in the sense that his self isn't involved.

And another part of that open/restrained dichotomy is the physical aspect. Benton Fraser is an intensely physical person, in that he's so active, knows his body so well, trusts it as he's flinging himself out of windows and through glass: he moves so wonderfully, precise and instinctive and integrated. But he's (often, if not always) practically unaware of his body as either a desired or a desiring object: he completely fails to notice that body's effects on women, doesn't see sex at all. In the same way that his emotions don't quite seem to reside in him, he doesn't quite seem to reside in his own body, which is why both "The Deal" (in which he gets beaten up, and then treated for his wounds) and the events of "Victoria's Secret" and "Letting Go" are so startling. In "The Deal," Benton himself seems startled--not at being wounded, since he's been there countless times (what with all the flinging himself out of windows and tracking down criminals in the frozen North), but at being asked to talk about his body--to register his pain, to remember his scars. He is literally vulnerable, I suppose--but more so because he's emotionally vulnerable. And in "Letting Go," when he's in the hospital recuperating from the events of "Victoria's Secret," he's genuinely detached--trying not to be a part of the world, looking out at it with blank, heavy-lidded eyes (instead of that intense, noticing focus he usually has); trying to ignore the fact that he has a body, because bodies hurt and betray you. Trying not to connect to people, not to care, not to want to help--taking a leave of absence, as he says. And it's physical therapy--being forced back into that body he wants to ignore--that has to help him.

I started thinking about Fraser and his uniform thanks to the odd combination of “We Are the Eggmen” (in which he removes his red tunic onscreen) and “Some Like It Red” (in which he dresses up like a woman, with absolutely no fuss whatsoever). And I’ve been wondering, in S2 so far, about how much Fraser is being the Mountie, at any given moment, and how much he’s playing the Mountie. Which is to say: how aware is he of himself and how he comes across, and does he use that for his own advantage? (There are certain moments when he clearly does: “Juliet is Bleeding,” for example, where he plays the literal-minded Mountie for all he’s worth, refusing to react to Frank Zuko’s jibes about his scars. And we see self-awareness, if you think about it, back in “Hawk and a Handsaw”: when he gets himself committed to the asylum, he does so merely by telling the absolute truth [and engaging in a little meta-television regarding the pilot and how he wound up in Chicago: “It’s a long story, it takes exactly two hours to tell”], which means that he has to be aware of how he appears to the outside world. “Much madness is divinest sense,” as Miss Emily would say: Fraser’s madness here is only in the eye of the beholder who isn’t acquainted with his life. And he knows that, which is why he’s confident he’ll be able to use that story to get admitted.)

Anyway, what grabbed my attention this time was Fraser’s willingness to submit to an order, which even becomes erotic--or reveals its usually latent erotic dimensions?--in “Eggmen,” when Inspector Thatcher orders him to remove his red tunic without explanation. His face and his manner there are a study in opposing impulses: there’s something about his too-crisp gestures, in undoing buttons and belt, that almost seems an attempt to displace the actions he’s making--to hyper-focus on the performance of those actions rather than to what those actions tend. It’s as though he’s carefully keeping himself from wondering or asking what she wants him to do.

Also, it’s funny how the white shirt, for the formal uniform, and the khaki shirt, for the brown one, come to stand in for Fraser’s body--the white shirt more than the khaki, I think, though the khaki is still often a mark of informality, and you probably could make an index of when he rolls up his sleeves or doesn’t. But the white shirt is far more of a stand-in because we see it so seldom--when he’s playing basketball in “The Deal,” when he’s changing out of his dress in the back of Ray’s car, in the egg storage unit with Inspector Thatcher. It’s like the commonplace about Victorian novels, or at least costume drama: because the rules of behavior and dress are so rigid, seemingly small gestures and touches, as deviations from those rules, take on an intense emotional/erotic weight. (I know this horse is dead, but it’s another problem with P&P3; there are no rules, so nothing means anything. I get that the filmmakers were attempting to portray emotional openness or vulnerability, with “Darcy” wandering around on the moors or whatever it is he’s doing, in just a shirt and trousers, but because they hadn’t established any sartorial or behavioral rules in the earlier parts of the film--what with Bingley just springing in on Jane in her nightclothes and nobody batting an eye--it actually fails to have much of an impact beyond bedragglement.) Seeing the white shirt seems quite a vulnerable, bodily thing (possibly more so than seeing Fraser’s actual body, because that happens mostly in necessary contexts, like getting his wounds treated, or during physical therapy), even more so than the red pajamas--which are private, but not always (or even often?) vulnerable: in “One Good Man,” perhaps, where he’s being threatened in the hallway, but not usually. The embarrassment we might expect Fraser to feel at being caught in his pajamas, in “Mask,” is actually nicely deflected: he admits to embarrassment, as he heads into his phone booth, I mean closet, to change quickly into his uniform, but it turns out to be embarrassment at being “caught out” as a poor host to the people invading his apartment. Anyway, the white shirt is startling all out of proportion to the amount of skin it actually reveals--which is none, unless he happens to push up the sleeves. It still feels revealing.)

Another revealing element, another way in which S2 deconstructs the Mountie, is that Fraser makes jokes. The idea that Fraser has a sense of humor and tells jokes also seems to be one of the things that seems to point to a certain self-awareness, because sometimes the jokes have to play off of the perception of him as stoic and literal-minded--though I sometimes find it hard to be 100% certain about whether he’s being literal, so it’s hard to say. When he offers to jump out of Ray’s car when Ray says he won’t drive him in “One Good Man,” for example--I find it hard to be certain that, if Ray hadn’t protested and told him to shut the door, Fraser wouldn’t have rolled out of that moving vehicle. He’s done stranger things.

But literal or not, we get more evidence in “Eggmen” that Fraser’s sense of humor is just not like that of other mortals. We see (well, mostly hear--he’s half behind a barn or something) him chortling about some remembered chicken mishap, when his grandfather tried to introduce to incompatible breeds, and he presents it as the kind of fond memory one just has access to: “Well, you can imagine.” And probably the poultry farmer can imagine these avian hijinks (so Fraser is using this story to put the man at ease: ‘I’m one of you,’ it says)--but we can’t, despite Fraser’s blithe presentation of it as something self-evident, something that doesn’t have to be described because it’s common knowledge.

The other joke in “Eggmen” is when he mimes electrocution while trying to get the electric lock mechanism to release, scaring Inspector Thatcher, and then explains, “Joke.” It’s such an oddly boyish thing to do, and an apparently uncontrollable urge if movies and TV are to be believed (doesn’t Tim do that in Jurassic Park?), and Thatcher is left staring at him in consternation, like she’s thinking “I didn’t know he could do that.”) Perhaps the most indicative joke so far, though, is in “The Promise,” when Ray asks Fraser if he knows what the word “sap” means, and Fraser says, of course he does, it’s from the Latin sapire. That joke, I think, has to play off of the perception of Fraser--which, again, means that he has to recognize the perception in order to make the joke--as the guy who always knows definitions and completely ludicrous facts, so that Ray almost believes him--especially because it actually is like Fraser, to take a rhetorical or figurative question (do you know what the word “sap” means?) and answer it totally literally.

But we also get that lovely, tender little moment with Melissa (“You want me to file my teeth?” “It’s a thought”--and the way he discounts it quickly with that little half-smile). Probably I could write a separate entry on Fraser’s gestures and movements, when he’s playing a woman, but suffice it to say that what’s notable about “Some Like It Red” is how little Fraser changes his behavior--perhaps because he’s always such a fish out of water, wherever he is, that adding a dress can do little to make him more strange. He’s a little...softer, in voice and gesture, but that’s about it that’s marked as specifically “womanly.” What I find interesting is that connection he manages with Melissa, because he probably wouldn’t have been able to manage it without being a “woman”--we might compare “Chicago Holiday” in this regard--but it’s built on Fraser’s essential self. Just before this, there’s that story he tells of his/her childhood: “I used to watch the girls in the village--I mean, the other girls...” It’s a slight but telling verbal detail, because it flags the moment as something that’s an authentic memory for Fraser, a story he launches into and then has to add a word to make it fit his current persona, not something he makes up to establish a rapport. (And in the memory he’s watching, apart, not talking to the girls himself--trying to analyze them, figure them out, which seems very Fraser, and not just with girls.) As Fraser says later, everything he told her as “Miss Fraser” was true. He’s possibly being a bit willfully obtuse there, in responding to Melissa’s “You lied to me” with a slightly puzzled “About what?” (“About being a woman!”--although I suppose it’s also fully possible that he’s just not thinking about that; you can never tell which details Fraser will think are the salient ones). But at the same time, it really doesn’t matter; gender isn’t essential. When Ray says that his “type” is a woman who is actually a woman, and Fraser admonishes him, “That’s picky, Ray,” it sounds like a typical, slightly loopy Fraser-ism--ignoring reality, the way the world “really” is, because usually gender is presented as the first box that needs ticking, not something that marks Ray as too “nice” (in Henry Tilney’s definition) in his distinctions--but it makes sense, from the episode’s perspective and from Fraser’s: gender is almost accidental.

There are aspects of Fraser that read as very “male,” very heroic--and he’s depicted as very desirable to women. But at the same time, putting him in a dress doesn’t, as one might expect, point up the ways in which he’s super-masculine, by means of the contrast. Aside from a little pantyhose humor (which is more observational, and even Ray takes it in stride), the episode doesn’t spend a lot of time pointing to the supposed ridiculousness of our manly hero in drag. (I keep wanting to compare the episode to What Women Want, except that I have tried to block most of that movie out of my memory. Still, I think we’re meant to see Mel Gibson’s character as ridiculous in the pantyhose, because he’s such a scotch-drinking, cigarette-smoking, Sinatra-listening man’s man--and the filmmakers bring in his daughter and her boyfriend just to give him an audience to be humiliated in front of. “Some Like It Red” is doing something else.) Likewise, his earlier concern over whether teal is “his color” isn’t played, as one might expect, as his getting dangerously caught up in the fiction of cross-dressing (and I think WWW does just that, as Nick freaks out about suddenly being all girly and crying and stuff), but simply his being Fraser; when Ray asks, “who cares,” Fraser says, “Well, I do,” because he always cares about the details, because if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. The episode gets a fair amount of comedy mileage out of Fraser in a dress, because he looks awkward in it, but not because there’s something inherently funny about his being in a dress, it seems to me. There’s a refreshing lack of compensatory posturing.
clean all the things!!!: damian lewisthepresidentrix on November 21st, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC)
Dang! I still haven't watched beyond the pilot of Due South (and if I myself wouldn't tell you I shouldn't be taking on yet another tv obsession right now, my dissertation director and his co-taskmasters no doubt would, given the chance), but this is just so compelling.

I envy your ability to write about entertainment so thoughtfully and with (this may come out wrong!) a respectable and proper measure of intellectual detachment. I hesitate not only to write about such things in depth but even to permit myself to explore them to the full extent of my interest. Something about my fascination with certain (especially male) characters makes me feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, exposed. I even have this terrible tendency to think that anything I like that much must be unimportant and trivial in some way... Hrrr.

Anyway, this was really good reading, and I'd respond more directly if I only knew about the episodes you reference at first hand. But I sure want to see them now. (Spoilers rarely dampen my interest in or enjoyment of stories - in fact, they more often increase my interest and enjoyment, I suspect - so I didn't see any reason to avoid this post just because I wouldn't fully understand it).
tempestsarekind: due southtempestsarekind on November 21st, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC)
I certainly didn't think I was taking on another TV obsession when I started watching Due South! It just sort of...happened. :)

For the fact that you read this at all, thank you; and for your lovely comment, more thanks! Seriously, it means a lot: I'm always so frustrated by my feeling that I can't get my impressions of things down in writing--particularly, I think, because that's what I'm supposed to be able to do, right, as a proto-academic? So I'm glad and grateful that you found something to enjoy in this post.

I know what you mean, I think, both about feeling embarrassed about enjoyment of or fascination with characters, and about thinking that what you like must be unimportant. I feel that way quite often; when people disagree with me about things I've loved, I always seem to tremble on the edge of thinking I must have gotten it wrong somehow, that I don't have a real sense of what's good. And it sometimes takes a while to shake that off.

And there is a part of me that looks back on all the writing I've done--on Due South, costume dramas, Doctor Who--and wonders *why* I feel the need to do that, whether I shouldn't stop myself from doing it, because it's obsessive and weird. But I've been like this for quite some time--and why should it be any weirder to write about a TV show than to write about a Shakespeare production? I'm not writing about Shakespeare because it's "acceptable"; I'm writing about it (or used to write, let's say) because I love it and want to know why. But you'll notice that I have my pep talk all worked out, because I've needed it. Fandom has helped, though: I may not have these sorts of detailed conversations with my acquaintances around here (I've gotten enough odd looks when I've been a little too incautious about Doctor Who!), but I know I'm not the only person who obsesses over media, not by a long shot. And if I love that other people do that...well, it sort of follows that I have to cut myself some slack as well.

Anyway, thanks again--and I do recommend Due South, as you can probably tell! I just hope I haven't given away too many surprises, if you do get a chance to watch.
clean all the things!!!: mulder wants to believethepresidentrix on November 22nd, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
Also the icon becomes strangely inappropriate. One can't really imagine Mulder having these thoughts
So I've been watching a few episodes, heh. I've taken them somewhat out of order - in certain instances because I was intrigued by something you said, in others because a title or something just caught my eye. It's how I roll, I guess.

And from what I've seen, I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment that Fraser doesn't usually see himself as a desirable or desiring being. At least, he almost never expresses himself as desiring... anything. Perhaps Fraser's duty is so important to him that he never has any reason to ask himself whether he'd rather have another position (with less standing around outside) or another way of life, but when you try to imagine what Fraser's ideal life would be - or maybe, more accurately (because we know he misses the Yukon and, perhaps, feels like the truest expression of himself there), try to imagine his present life with a handful of modifications that make it more pleasing to him, it's really hard to figure what those modifications ought to be. (What would you get the guy for Christmas? Whatever you got, he'd like it, but if you wanted the gift to be 'just what he always wanted' what would that *be* exactly?) And it's not because Fraser's deliriously happy, and only partly because he contents himself with whatever he has. Rather, he doesn't seem to make hoping for more or for better than he has a part of his way of being.

Fraser clearly understands (even contemplates) properties that make women desirable, but he seems to think his respect for the actual women he encounters precludes expressing preference for them (or returning their expressions of preference, as is so often the case, LOL). It might be because he's somewhat oblivious to their desires (as when he asks what a 'come on' is - assuming he's not joking), but it seems more likely that he ignores women's advances as a kind of charitable gesture toward their dignity. Especially when the advances in question are of a blatantly improper kind. Fraser doesn't let himself acknowledge what the car salesman's wife has in mind until her hand is... well, where she had in mind for it to be. This fact seems to be explained partly by the dissociative impulse he displays, just as you describe, in the 'Eggmen' episode, and also partly by his principled refusal to assign evil motives to anyone until he has no other alternative.

In fact, one wonders if Fraser's unwillingness to express (perhaps even feel) desire is the central point around which many of your other astute observations revolve. Fraser lets his universally high (and yet strangely and simultaneously forgiving) expectations for others stand in for actually wanting anything from them. Like, if Fraser allowed himself to actually want (not just anticipate) the same principled conduct from others that he displays himself, you'd think he would be so angry at all the corruption and unfairness he encounters. But (so far) I haven't really seen that anger. Fraser just treats corruption as an obstacle to be politely side-stepped on his quest to right whatever wrong it is that he's promised to fix this time.

Nor do we see him openly wanting relational reciprocation of his gestures of friendship (or neighborliness, which is probably the better word). Fraser's interactions with others (with the possible exception of Ray - and his dad - and Victoria, who seems to be the exception to every rule) don't impinge on his self, because he cares for other people without letting himself ask whether they care in return. He assumes anyone would do just as he does in the same circumstances, which means he doesn't have to wonder about how love and particularity govern most people's priorities.

tempestsarekind: due southtempestsarekind on November 23rd, 2009 05:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Also the icon becomes strangely inappropriate. One can't really imagine Mulder having these thou
I want to respond to your wonderful comments intelligently, *and* I simultaneously want merely to go *grabby hands* "YES!" all over the place. What is a girl to do? :)

I bet you're right about Fraser's relationships or encounters with women; I don't know if you've seen "Heaven and Earth" yet, but the way he deals with Francesca there is exactly the kind of "charitable gesture toward her dignity" that you describe--except that it moves that tendency out of the background and actually articulates it. And the relationship--or whatever it is--with Inspector Thatcher is similarly opaque, because he seems to refuse to notice that she's attracted to him. (Ray needles Fraser, at the end of "Eggmen," about whether *he's* attracted to her, and he merely comments that it would be inappropriate for him to notice her attractiveness, which is so Fraser. Oh, Benton. Way to compartmentalize, my dear.)

Fraser lets his universally high (and yet strangely and simultaneously forgiving) expectations for others stand in for actually wanting anything from them. Like, if Fraser allowed himself to actually want (not just anticipate) the same principled conduct from others that he displays himself, you'd think he would be so angry at all the corruption and unfairness he encounters.

And that, I think, is spot-on (especially the bit about his high expectations being simultaneously forgiving--it's such an odd contradiction, but it's true). It's the flip side of that Mountie Zen he seems to possess; in order to keep it, he has to not *want* anything in a personal way, not even the outcomes he works for or the behavior he attempts to get others to live up to.
clean all the things!!!: *rollerdead*thepresidentrix on November 22nd, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
We had an ongoing debate in one of my classes over whether love can be selfless and still want love in return. And the typical answer is 'no,' but I think I've been talked into the idea that real love not only gives unselfishly but also wants to bring about the good of relationship, which requires an exchange of love, both giving and receiving. If Fraser hasn't given himself permission to hope for love in return for his neighborly actions, does that signal an underlying fear of rejection or feeling of non-desert? Perhaps he imposes the conviction that people basically want to treat one another well over any doubt about whether people want to treat him well out of particular affection for him.

Maybe that says something about the contrast between Fraser's interactions with his father and with everyone else. When Fraser is in the hospital, kind of mad at Ray, he can't seem to deal with that anger. He doesn't want to express it or acknowledge it (to express anger is, in a certain sense, to say 'I wanted - even deserved - better'), but it's powerful enough that it keeps leaching out. And the anger isn't diffused until Ray winds up in almost exactly the same position Fraser is in (minus the broken heart). Even Steven, as it were. Perhaps Fraser can tolerate Ray's affection and loyalty because the friendship takes such a cooperative form; it is a real friendship, but it is also an exchange. It doesn't get uncomfortable for either man, because it tends to even out in the end.

But Fraser's not only vulnerable with his father, almost exclusively; he's also only angry with his father, almost exclusively. He levels accusations at his dad; he questions his dad's judgment and priorities. Maybe it has a lot to do with the fact that Fraser Sr. is dead, and it can be far easier to deal with the dead than the living. But also maybe that relationship just goes back so far, so deep, that it sneaks in before Fraser got old enough, contained enough, to stop openly wanting anything from anyone. Fraser can't help but have wanted things from his dad, so even now he can admit to his father when he wants peace or rest or to give up or to be acknowledged in a way that he can't admit to anyone else?

Even Fraser's protectiveness of his body - the source of your original inspiration - might have something to do with his protectiveness of his desiring part, right? Not just because the body is the seat of some of our desires - quite possibly the ones that Fraser sees as the more trivial ones (sexual desire and appetite for food). But maybe... if Fraser's uniform stands in for his body symbolically, is it because Fraser has attempted to relocate his core self, such that he's not a man in a body but a man in a uniform? (He'll take a bullet or a six inch knife in the leg, but don't cut his boots off and don't shoot his hat...) If a man's core self could be transplanted from his body to his uniform, then he could truly be a creature of duty, a creature without any repressed desires for his own fulfillment. But Fraser can't really be that hypothetical man. So he protects his body, as the locus of his ordinary human desires, not from physical harm which can't really impinge on his repressed hopes, but from discovery or from any sort of interaction that might reawaken those desires without his express say-so.

As trains of thought go, this one is a trainwreck, but it was the product of brain!squee, so you take what you get, right? LOL

tempestsarekind: due southtempestsarekind on November 23rd, 2009 06:04 pm (UTC)
Perhaps he imposes the conviction that people basically want to treat one another well over any doubt about whether people want to treat him well out of particular affection for him.

This makes me unspeakably sad, because I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but I bet you're right.

(Urgh, I have to go to class now, but I'm definitely coming back to this. What I'll say is that the relationship between Fraser and his father (and Ray and his father) is dear to my heart; I wrote a whole thing on them and Hamlet that I didn't post--but I might, if I get around to adding to it now that I've seen "Bird in the Hand"--and I did write a bit about it in the previous posted meta.)

Also, it seems like there's a real connection between your comment re: how hard it is for Fraser to say he deserves something, and how gut-wrenching it is for him to say that he needs, in "Victoria's Secret": it's as if he's drowning, in that scene.
tempestsarekind: due southtempestsarekind on November 23rd, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
back again!
So yes, Fraser's father. What I think is particularly interesting about that relationship is the way that the pilot gives almost no hint of Fraser's apparently repressed frustration and anger and bitterness toward his father. There's a sense of sadness, sure, and a sense of this almost unbridgeable distance between the two of them (Fraser takes up the quest to find his father's murderer because it's the only time his father has ever needed anything from him...and we're back to needs again, aren't we?). But his relationship to his father's journals appears fairly unproblematic, as he turns to them for wisdom and advice, and even learns a thing or two (at least in the pilot) about his father's respect and love for him.

And then he actually shows up--and we see all of this anger and frustration in Fraser. (And yeah, when he's angry at Ray, he can't talk about it, except in accidental phrases with double meanings, like "You've done more than enough," until it's past tense, until Ray says, "I knew it! You were mad at me!" And even then he doesn't say, 'Yes, I was angry'; he sort of deflects (telling word, I think, when he uses it with Thatcher in "Eggmen") with, "Well, you did shoot me in the back!" or whatever.)

that relationship just goes back so far, so deep, that it sneaks in before Fraser got old enough, contained enough, to stop openly wanting anything from anyone

One of the bits of this show that breaks my heart is that story Fraser tells in "Hawk and a Handsaw," about what happens to his father after his mother dies... Okay, I've just gone ahead and posted what I wrote before, because otherwise I will write a second post in this comment:

But the short version is that I get the sense from this story that, even at six years old, Benton was learning not to need or want anything, even from his father. And when his father turns up, that training, all that hesitance between them, falters. Possibly because Bob Fraser *is* dead.

As for your last paragraph, I really just want to quote the whole thing here, and possibly snuggle it too, but I won't do either, since one of them is redundant (since you know what you wrote), and the other one is weird and possibly creepy. :D I LOVE that take on Fraser's attachment to his uniform--which is the one thing of his own that he fights for, in "Vault." And he explicitly figures it as a representation of duty--of the standards of "honor and integrity" that link him to everyone else who's worn that uniform. In part, it externalizes the principles that he lives by--but I think your take is so perceptive: it also protects him, keeps him from having to be, or recognize, anything more than those principles.

Edited at 2009-11-23 08:05 pm (UTC)
clean all the things!!!: batman never criesthepresidentrix on November 24th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC)
Further random babblage.
I hadn't seen 'North' when I wrote all the above, but boy does that episode have some interesting things to say about Fraser's father and his body. His friendship with Ray, too. It'll never be a favorite episode of mine, even though I made a point of watching it out of sequence (in-sequence, Fraser just talked Mark Ruffalo out of selling his baby - weird), thinking it might be one I'd especially enjoy. And the reason it will never be a favorite, despite the highly-interesting developments (especially the rampant daddy issues), is that Fraser is just so *annoying.*

Maybe this is partly because it's the first episode of a new season, and the show needs a 'reset' after Fraser wound up so demoralized at the end of the previous year. It is played rather broadly; Ray and Benton are like caricatures of themselves, as if to remind you what they're supposed to be like, in case you forgot while they were away. But there's also something about Fraser's obtuse determination despite his injuries that I find indicative (in an almost bizarre way) of the way he relates his body to his duty.

'Cause you'd think being blinded and temporarily hobbled would really worry Fraser. I mean, like, worry him to the point that he becomes openly depressed or makes his anxieties obvious. If Fraser's life derives its meaning from doing his duty and he were to receive an injury that compromised his ability to do that duty, what would he have left? So why doesn't he seem openly scared?

Well, he probably is scared, and it's probably the reason that he's so over-confident and uncharacteristically selfish in the episode. But apparently, as we learn from Fraser Sr., being a blind Mountie who can't walk is no big deal! (And the little guy carrying you is just slowing you down!) Mounties don't need their bodies intact to be able to get their man, because there's something about being the person who deserves to be called a Mountie in the first place that makes you immune to such considerations. It's almost as if Fraser, Sr., is saying, 'If your uniform is intact, then what does it matter if your body - or your spirit - is in pieces?'

Benton is smart enough - especially when confronted directly with his father's expectations - to see that they are impossible. But just between himself and Ray, he still seems to feel obliged to, as you say, 'perform the Mountie,' and leave any anxieties unaddressed.

As to the idea of performance, I was thinking about 'Victoria's Secret' after my comment yesterday, and it made me wonder whether it's so immensely painful for Benton to reoccupy his body in physical therapy, not just because it hurts and is physically intimate in a way he rarely permits, but because he feels so vulnerable without a uniform - with nothing but a body. I mean, presumably they will not allow him to wear the hat in bed, even if he would prefer it, LOL. But, more than that, I expect he feels he's betrayed the uniform.

tempestsarekind: due southtempestsarekind on November 24th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Further random babblage.
I mean, presumably they will not allow him to wear the hat in bed, even if he would prefer it, LOL.

This made me giggle. Especially because that hat is his one privilege in the asylum, in "Hawk and a Handsaw"--it's the one thing they have to threaten him with taking away. But the hat is enough; he knows who he is. So yeah, without the uniform, in "Letting Go": there's nothing for him to rely on or hide behind. And maybe he does feel like he's betrayed the uniform, at that point--because he's sacrificed it, in some ways, for Victoria (you get at that in your next comment, I think).

I know what you mean about Fraser being annoying in "North"! I watched the whole episode the first time through with my "what the heck?" face firmly in place. It was only the second go-round, when I started thinking of reasons for him to act that way, that I started to be able to put it in some kind of context. I think it's Fraser at his most dissociative: he really has to try keeping up the fiction that his body doesn't matter, because otherwise he has to face the reality that it's giving out on him and he's vulnerable. He doesn't push past the fear and worry so much as he just goes slightly nuts and acts like it doesn't exist. ("I've still got four senses left intact." And--incidentally--that's the episode in which I actually remember, in a sensory way, that Paul Gross also plays Geoffrey Tennant, a character who flirts with madness so often, because it's the first episode in which Fraser is just so close to the edge.) The only fear we see in the episode (besides Ray's, which is more than justified) is that of six-year-old Benton, trying to make a fire all alone in the woods.

And I love that conversation between Fraser and his father about what it actually means to be a Mountie--what the motto actually is--and I think it's telling that it's Fraser who knows the actual motto. For Bob Fraser, it does seem to be all about getting one's man: practically all the stories he tells are about that; in his journal he's forever tracking some other criminal. But Fraser recognizes that "Maintain the right" is actually a lot more complicated, I think--even if he is also compelled to try to live up to his father's narrower, laser-focused vision of things.
clean all the things!!!: motherboythepresidentrix on November 24th, 2009 01:39 am (UTC)
Still not as long as my last comment!
He tells Victoria, 'I should have let you go.' Why??? Does he think if he had let her go, she would never have become a killer (and a manipulator)? One gets the sense that the first time around, given Benton's limited experience of Victoria, he could imagine her as a good soul who somehow got caught up in a crime for which she may have deserved to be arrested, but which did not reflect her truest person.

By the end of 'Victoria's Secret,' she's shot his dog and tried to ruin Ray's life. (Fraser's own life notwithstanding). She's murdered a man in cold blood with Fraser's stolen gun. One can forgive Fraser for loving her despite everything, loving her singular place in his life, if nothing else, but why on earth should he continue to feel a conviction, knowing everything that she's done (and without remorse), that he was wrong to do his duty and put her in jail?

He shouldn't, and I'm sure he knows it. And I think I'd feel more surprised if I thought he didn't feel stripped of his uniform and his way of life while in the hospital, and probably completely and helplessly at fault for it. It makes me wonder, supposing Fraser does increasingly 'perform the Mountie' during Season 2, if it's not just a strategic product of his self-awareness and awareness of the way others perceive him, but of a feeling that he no longer is The Mountie. Perhaps Victoria made him decidedly and painfully aware that there is an undeniable distinction between his uniform and his self?

Finally, from a personal standpoint (and at the risk of being too personal), I find the part where Benton's feelings toward his dead father change from the pilot to his later face-to-face encounters with his father's ghost very true to life. Well, I mean, I've never run into my own father's ghost. And our relationship wasn't like Fraser, Sr.'s, neglect of Benton. But it was a fraught relationship, and at the time my father died, I was only just getting enough distance and enough maturity to have a slightly more nuanced view of the way he treated us, his family.

There was definitely a sense in which my father didn't see us. By which I mean, I don't think it mattered that much who we actually were, as individuals, he was going to treat us the way he treated us, because that was what he was carrying around inside of him, and with his family was the context where he could let it out. In some ways, it's a big disappointment - a perpetual-motion sadness - to know that your father didn't try to get to know you or want to spend time with you if it wasn't going to be on his (very controlling) terms. In other ways, it's a big relief. Because it doesn't have to be about how you, your tiny self, deserved to be treated when it was never really about you at all.

Anyway, when my dad died, I did feel mostly sadness and regret. It was a sad way to die, and I suppose I had always hoped for some kind of forgiveness between us, and mostly it occurred to me that despite how unfair my dad's behavior may have been to his wife and children, he lived a sad life and I, ultimately, didn't. His death was such a shock and I was so crowded with regret that it was a long time before I could entertain any anger at him. I still have trouble examining my anger.

But if he did show up as a ghost? Yeah, I'd probably have some things to say to him, LOL.
tempestsarekind: due southtempestsarekind on November 24th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Still not as long as my last comment!
He tells Victoria, 'I should have let you go.' Why???

Oh, seriously. That is my question too--and it breaks my heart that he still thinks that, somehow. That he thinks that he was wrong to do his duty. What strikes me is that Benton becomes pretty clear-eyed about who and what Victoria is, by the end--and yet he's still running toward her. I almost wonder if it isn't because of that promise he makes, not to leave her, to do everything he can for her. If that includes self-sacrifice (and for Fraser to involve himself in a criminal act is self-sacrifice, more or less), then so be it.

Perhaps Victoria made him decidedly and painfully aware that there is an undeniable distinction between his uniform and his self?

Hmm, perhaps. I'll have to keep an eye on this! I might expect an even further retreat into the uniform at the expense of self--but I don't think that's what I'm seeing, not quite. It may be just what you suggest--that now he sees it for a performance in a way that he didn't before, because it's no longer what he is in the same way.

I want to say thank you for the rest of your comment (which is definitely not too personal!). I think you've worded that feeling brilliantly (a perpetual-motion sadness), for what it's worth. And I think that makes a lot of sense: you figure out how to close the door on all of that jumbled emotion, in whatever way works for you, because you have to. It's harder to be angry without an outlet for that anger. Things would be very different, perhaps, if the door were suddenly to fly back open!