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16 December 2009 @ 04:54 pm
random Fraser-love post  
Re: "Mountie Sings the Blues": I find it completely adorable that Fraser will apparently sing at the drop of his pressed-brim hat if it's as a distraction, or under orders, or even just as part of that super-polite, mustn't-refuse-anything-to-anyone protective coloration he adopts. But ask him to sing as himself, as Benton Fraser, and he stutters and goes all shy and self-conscious.

Also, the man dances like a metronome. *hearts*

And one of the (many) things that I love about Constable Benton Fraser, RCMP, is that he is truly and genuinely good, and that seems so rare as the focus of a show. So many heroes tend to be conflicted, to have dark pasts they have to overcome, to have fallen and to be struggling towards the light. I have nothing against that. I love a good guy with a tragic past. But there does seem to be an assumption that goodness, on its own, isn't interesting enough to carry the weight of a narrative or the audience's identification/sympathy. (I'm reminded--shock!--of the barrage of complaints against Fanny Price, particularly Lionel Trilling's assertion that "we" are only interested in characters who manage to be good despite their strong desires toward sin.) But Benton Fraser is Good. And he is interesting. I love that due South puts that goodness at the center, unapologetically, and makes it as complex and compelling as any fallen hero. Fallen heroes are great--but Benton is a man who can't even steal Milk Duds, and I love him to bits and pieces for that.

And I love the way that Fraser's self-awareness adds another level of complexity to his goodness: the Mountie is not an act, but he can use it for his own ends (as he does in S3's "Asylum," playing the oh-so-Canadian, so-sorry-but-I-must-follow-the-rules Constable Fraser to help Ray Kowalski. He gets called "quaint," disparagingly, in that episode--but Fraser knows how to use that quaintness, even if it is a characteristic that's also intrinsic. Everybody expects "Big Red" to be humorless and guileless, which gives him considerable latitude to get away with a fair amount). And then there are all those layers of denial and deflection, which have become instinctive for him, and which drive (my) Ray, Ray Vecchio, nuts at times. "Are you human, Fraser?" he prods, wanting to get Fraser to admit to emotions. Fraser feels, of course, even if the other detectives--and occasionally even Ray V., early on--are quick to assume that he doesn't ('Of course you don't know anything about women; you're a Mountie'). But what's lovely about the presentation of Fraser is that, though we know he feels rage and grief and fear, and all those lawless impulses, we don't get the sense (as we might, with some other character) that his devotion to the law is merely the thing that keeps him in check, keeps him from being savage and immoral--because "the law" is entirely too ingrained in him for that. Upholding the law isn't the cloak behind which he hides his "real" self; upholding the law is a major part of what makes Benton Fraser who he is. I love that.

And one of the things I absolutely adore about Fraser's self-sufficiency is that it never makes him judgmental. This is what I wanted to get at, when I wrote "how Fraser interacts with kids and 'oddballs'" in a previous post. Given how devoted he is to rules and discipline in his own life, one might expect him to be lousy with children--but in fact he's very good with them, and lets them be what they are. (Ray K.: "Those children are immature." Fraser: "Well, they're children, Ray.") He just lets them bounce off of his immense reserves of patience, that Mountie Zen that he has. More than that, though, he’s willing to enter into their worlds, rather than trying to shape them to his. I love the way he asks, after sitting on the little girl’s frog toy in "Bounty Hunter," "Did I hurt him?"--but not in a patronizing way; he means it, because he understands that to the little girl, that frog toy could be real. And that understanding is instinctive, automatic. (Of course, it turns out that the little girl doesn't think of her toy that way, but that doesn't invalidate Fraser's willingness to see the world from a child's point of view. Also, I love that when Janet's son calls him a bozo, his reply is "He has a point." Self-deprecating Fraser for the win.)

We see that willingness to enter into another's world quite literally in "Hawk and a Handsaw," as well as his patience. Given how brave and self-reliant he is, one might expect him to have no sympathy for those who are less able to be that way, but he's actually more sympathetic than either of the Rays on that front. In "Hawk and a Handsaw," he listens carefully to what others dismiss as mere delusion, and he follows the other patients around without any sense of irritation, as they're looking for the "blue room"--letting them tell him whatever they need to. We see it in "I Coulda Been a Defendant," too: that willingness to wait, to gain trust, to understand another. And I love the way he taps into those memories of loneliness and fear, or wanting, from his childhood, in order to understand how others might feel--and his total lack of self-consciousness when trying to put those who are weaker or less "there" than he is at ease. (Incidentally: so many stories of Fraser's wanting anything, from a guppy to a bolo, are from his childhood--back when he let himself want things, perhaps.) He holds himself to the highest standards--but (except when it comes to doing what's right) he never imposes those standards on others.

In conclusion: oh, Fraser. ♥

also: some stuff about resentment, Ray Kowalski, and "Mountie on the Bounty"

It's that very openness, though, that willingness to accept others' rules, that makes me question Bob's assessment of Fraser's relationship with Ray K., in the submarine scenes of "Mountie on the Bounty, Part 2": "You can't force your standards on other people." That comment pinged as wrong to me, somehow: yes, Fraser wants RayK to acknowledge that he can't solve all of his problems by punching people in the face, but I don't think Fraser is actually trying to force his standards onto RayK. What's actually happening in that submarine is not that Fraser is trying to make RayK more Fraser-like; it's that Fraser is being very Fraser, and RayK is objecting to that.

Just before the previous comment, Bob says to Benton, "You're too logical and dispassionate. It's too hard on him." And my brain completely sputtered in indignation, because--well, see everything I blithered on about regarding "The Duel" and "Red, White, or Blue." I see Fraser's logical side very much as something to be prized--and something that's doubtless helped to keep him alive, as he can keep his head in a crisis. Besides which, who the heck is Bob, anyway, to talk about someone else being too dispassionate--the man who was appalled by Benton's displays of emotion in "Bird in the Hand"? Are you kidding me? So yeah, the hackles go up when people want Benton to be less logical. And I feel like that was what was at stake for me there, and perhaps one of the problems I was having with Ray Kowalski: I felt as though RayK kept trying to change Fraser, to want him to act differently. That's a separate issue from the very salient point he makes later on: "Every single time, I gotta trust you. Just this once, you trust me." It's connected to Fraser's logicality, because RayK is asking him to trust in a hunch (and, aw, that tense look of panic on Fraser's face at being asked to do so, at the idea of letting go: "But what if--" He's already trying to plot out the possibilities, see as many steps ahead as possible. And RayK, Mr. "hunches are all I ever have," doesn't do that--small wonder he gets beaten at chess in "Spy vs. Spy"). But it turns out that logic isn't the real issue; the scene is actually about trust, and the realization (for me, anyway) that maybe Fraser doesn't trust RayK as easily and openly as he makes a show of doing. "You're my partner and my friend," Fraser keeps saying, as though saying makes it true, but RayK keeps saying about Fraser's actions, "That's not partners." (That's interesting in comparison with Fraser's behavior with Ray in S1: he frequently behaves as though he and Ray are partners, on the same wavelength, before they've actually gotten to that point. Which is still Fraser playing by his own bizarre rule book, perhaps, but he assumes that he and Ray Vecchio are working in a tandem--and they will, later--they haven't yet learned.)

I guess what I'm trying, but failing, to say is that I felt--disgruntled, I suppose--by S3, but only started to be able to put a name to that, and to get around it, because of "Mountie on the Bounty." It bothered me that Fraser seemed to accept RayK with so little fuss. And now, I'm not entirely sure that that's what I was even seeing, that whole time. As I said in a comment to thepresidentrix, on a previous post, it's perfectly possible that I'm reading my own slight resentment into Fraser's S3 actions, seeing a certain amount of resentment in him. But there's that peculiar exchange at the end of "Mountie and Soul" (I had to look up the title of this episode; my brain refuses to call it anything other than "the one with the boxing"), when Ray says, essentially, "What do you do when you see your partner and your friend being beaten up?" and Fraser says, "Help, of course." But Fraser doesn't help. And while I don't think Fraser is being untruthful in his response, that Ray needs to fight this particular fight alone--making it into a quest--the exchange nevertheless seems to reveal a fault line in the Fraser-RayK relationship. I think Fraser has a very sincere desire to help RayK in S3, to extend to him that same instantaneous belief and trust that he extends to most people, but I still wonder if there isn't some disguised resentment toward Ray Kowalski, for not being Ray Vecchio. I see it in that snippiness, that sarcasm, that he has toward RayK, much more of it than he ever had with Ray Vecchio. Ray V. tends to get worked up at Fraser, and Fraser deflects and plays literal and says "That's just silly, Ray." But with RayK, he seems not to be able to resist getting those little digs in: about his being a bad shot and blind in "Eclipse"; that sort of I-told-you-so conversation after RayK's "sparring" match, about how his physical condition is "truly appalling." And maybe (as I also said to thepresidentrix) that's just the new writers and the new executive producer--but it reads a little like resentment, to me. (Especially now that I've seen the first six or seven episodes of what is technically S4--it's tricky to tell, on the US DVDs--and he no longer seems to be doing that.)

I keep thinking of Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art": "The art of losing isn't hard to master." And Fraser is a master of losing: his mother, his father, his homeland, his Chicago apartment, his friends. It seems very Fraser to me that he wouldn't allow himself to dwell on this latest loss, the loss of Ray Vecchio--despite the determined energy with which he sets out to prove that this new Ray isn't who he says he is. And he can't dwell on that loss, in a way: Ray's safety depends on everyone's, including Fraser's, accepting Ray Kowalski as Ray Vecchio. The only thing Fraser can do for Ray right now is to accept RayK. But just because he can't dwell on the loss doesn't mean he doesn't feel it. Ray V. seems to be the only friend Fraser has made as an adult; everyone else he has warm feelings for (that we've seen, anyway) is connected to Fraser's past and knew him as a child. So that relationship is--a touchstone, a compass point for Fraser in Chicago, and then it's gone. I love Fraser for trying to do his duty toward RayK with a willing heart, and for going beyond that, to try to be his friend--but at the same time, the way Fraser talks to RayK in S3 reminds me of the way he talks to his father, all those simmering, displaced feelings underneath.

So "Mountie on the Bounty" takes the cover off of all that, for me--and actually allows me to accept Ray Kowalski, because Fraser is no longer pretending that everything is fine. I feel as though they've actually established a relationship, instead of just having one thrown on them and trying to pretend that that's the same thing as building one.
litlover12 on December 16th, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC)
I've been pining for a TV hero who's truly, genuinely Good for the longest time. You may have just talked me into watching this series!
tempestsarekind: due southtempestsarekind on December 16th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
Yay! This comment totally makes my day!

I have been a bit obsessed with due South of late, as is evident from my recent entries--and a lot of that is due to Fraser.
clean all the things!!!: buttonsthepresidentrix on January 6th, 2010 05:34 am (UTC)
Ah Due South... I didn't want to give up on it before the end of the series - because, for one, I wanted to have context for your entries on the subject - but the beginning of Season 3 quickly tired me out. Ray K was bothering me and something about the whole tone of the show was bothering me, and I got away from it for a little while.

And now I feel like I would have to start over from the beginning in order to have it all clear in my mind, leading up to S3, but if I did I fear that I would just get attached to the real Ray all over again and have the same reaction to Ray K a second time!

I do resonate deeply with your comment about being most interested in characters who exhibit real goodness. That's my inclination, as well. I'm always much more interested in committed good-guys than in the supposedly more complex tortured bad guys and antiheroes who tend to get such attention. (And I don't just mean more attracted to the good guys, though that, too; I really mean they hold my interest better. I'm more invested in seeing how they're going to react to difficult situations).
tempestsarekind: due south: one of those daystempestsarekind on January 6th, 2010 03:56 pm (UTC)
(This is my only icon with Ray Vecchio in it.)

I know what you mean: I'm looking forward to watching the series again at some point, especially to see Ray again, and I do worry a bit that I'll just get too attached again, and then do the mental equivalent of throwing my arms around his knees, all "Why do you have to leave?"

The helpful thing about due South, though, is that its grip on continuity is somewhat relaxed, in some ways: most of the episodes don't build on each other, plot-wise, so you can jump around or not recall details, and still watch. Or I think so, anyway. Whether one wants to is a different issue entirely.

And I don't just mean more attracted to the good guys, though that, too; I really mean they hold my interest better. I'm more invested in seeing how they're going to react to difficult situations

Yes! It takes a lot of effort to react to difficult situations and come out with one's principles intact, and that dynamic is so interesting to me. I think people take for granted, a lot of the time, that the "good" characters are always good, and they think that's easy or simple--that those characters are only not-bad, or not-fallen, or whatever, because they're never tempted to be so. And I think that sells those characters short.

It's certainly why, in terms of Shakespearean tragic heroes, I infinitely prefer Hamlet to Macbeth: watching Macbeth sink more deeply into evil is not nearly as interesting to me as watching Hamlet try to figure out where "good" even exists, anymore, and whether it's possible for him to reach it.

(I feel like I keep making everything about Slings & Arrows lately, but I did just get it for Christmas, so: in S2, one of the characters says about Macbeth, in response to Geoffrey's defense that the play teaches us about evil, "No--it shows us evil." And I like that, even independently of whether I agree with it: they're not the same thing.)