Liss and Ana Talk About Elementary

image of Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu standing and chatting while Miller holds out a piece of paper for her observation in an episode of Elementary

[Content Note: Fat bias; sexual violence. Show spoilers are also lurking herein.]

Ana: So, okay, can we first talk about Dead Man's Switch [the episode two Thursdays ago]? I didn't really like it. Which was a frustrating and conflicting place to be in, because I liked the core story well enough (blackmailer, race against time, etc.) and I liked the character story well enough (anniversary, sobriety chip, etc.) and I liked the feminist details well enough (the dehumanizing and removal of agency involved in rape can happen afterwards too, as seen with the rape tapes being potentially released online). But there were a lot of Fail details that really bothered me.

Liss: Yes. There was a lot of promise in this episode, but I had issues with its execution.

Ana: For one, we have to talk about "Henry 8". If the first thing you think of when you think of "Henry the Eighth" is deathfatz (like Sherlock claims) then jeebus jones, you maybe want to rethink that because (a) fat phobia, and (b) the six wives thing is way more interesting, imho. But I digress. My bigger issue was with the show presenting fat lawsuits as nothing more than get-rich-quick nuisance suits. Whether or not that has ever happened once, it's NOT a common thing and ALSO I think it's grimly ironic that the "payoffs" being sent to Henry 8 just further entrench fat marginalization. In order for his whole scheme to work, he has to live in a world that would RATHER pay off a few vocal critics than make changes to accommodate people. NO acknowledgement was made of that, and in a show that delights in having Sherlock point out social injustice with extreme irony, that was a glaring omission.

Liss: Absolutely. And the entire lawsuit premise was reliant on the conceit that it's absurd for fat people to want sufficient accommodations for their bodies, which itself is predicated on the belief that all fat people could be not-fat if only we tried harder. Particularly given the sensitivity with which the show addresses drug addiction, it was jarringly discordant to see such insensitivity toward fat people, among who are people with disordered eating.

Ana: For two, I was really uncomfortable with the implied storyline that a WHOLE BUNCH of rape victims' families were being successfully blackmailed. I was okay when it was just this one Really Nice Dad (who is also friends with Alfredo, so he must be okay in my book!) but then the plot expanded and there were ALL these videos and, by implication, all these Dads being blackmailed and NOT ONE OF THEM cared so "little" about his daughter's rape to refuse to pay and/or call the police? And I put "little" in scare quotes because there are a lot of legitimate reasons to refuse to pay or be unable to pay blackmailers and/or call the police on them, BUT it is also true that we live in a rape culture where I can guarantee that at least one Dad in that group genuinely wouldn't care because victim-blaming.

Liss: Right. And all fathers; no mothers. Because fathers are tasked with protecting and defending their daughter's sexuality. IIRC, at least one of the dads said he didn't even tell his daughter about the payments, because he didn't want to worry her, which is not compassion but instead denying her agency over how to proceed regarding her own potential exploitation. I feel like we were meant to view that as a supportive gesture, but it felt more like a further victimization to me. Which I acknowledge is a realistic portrayal—there's a lot of secondary trauma that happens in families under the guise of "trying to help"—but the commentary, about how decision-making for victimized daughters without their consent is shitty, wasn't there.

The other thing that bothered me was that the non-supportive father turned out to be the survivors' step-father, the implication being that bio dads are automatically supportive of their survivor daughters. Whooooooooooops nope!

Ana: I told Husband, if they'd just introduced him as a step-father, we'd have known he was guilty. Ugh. It also strikes me that these first two big Fail details are kind of intertwined: The first hinges on the idea that fat people are taken SO seriously that they can marginalize others with nuisance suits at will; the second suggests that rape victims are taken SO seriously that their bio families are all universally protective and supportive. It felt like the writers realized that fat people and rape victims are marginalized and then...failed to understand the nature or extent of marginalization. That was frustrating.

Liss: Yes, exactly. And the narrative that bio parents are always supportive also elides the reality that many people have survived sexual abuse at the hands of biological family members.

Ana: Also, I had feelings about Alfredo pressuring Sherlock regarding his anniversary. I totally agree that the world does not revolve around Sherlock! And that he needs to hear that! On the other hand, though—and I don't know if Alfredo KNOWS this—Sherlock's anniversary coincides pretty closely with the death of Irene, no? So I can imagine that he may legitimately feel like this anniversary isn't something to be celebrated, but mourned. And I can imagine he might be feeling a lot of survivor guilt about moving on and making new friends (Joan and Alfredo). So I wished they'd explored that a little more instead of just calling him out on something that is a little more complicated than Selfish Sherlock. I LOVED all the Joan-conversations about the anniversary though!

Liss: I wasn't keen on the idea, which Alfredo seemed to be positing, that people who have gotten sober have an obligation to inspire and support other people. I think it's AMAZING when sober people do that, but I don't think everyone should feel like they have that responsibility. Self-care should always be the priority in recovery and survival—and, for a lot of people, taking on the mantle of role model is so anxiety-producing that it's a conflict with self-care.

Anyway! Let's move on to last week's episode! It was so good!

Ana: Landmark Story! I loved it! Woohoo! I loved the story itself, so that was awesome. But I also loved all the interactions SO much. I loved that Joan knew he was lying and spoke to him about it privately. I loved that he was going to tell her anyway, and he just underestimated her insight.

Liss: "I was going to tell you!" I love how it seemed really important for him to convey that to her.

Ana: The AUTOPSY! I loved Joan being all "right, because THAT would be crazy!" (if someone broke in and performed an illegal autopsy). I loved her being all UR DOIN IT RONG. I loved when he complimented her and she was all "NO, I am performing an illegal autopsy, I do not have room in my brain for your shit right now so we are not having a 'moment'." (Paraphrase.) That whole scene was AWESOME.

Liss: SO GREAT. It was amazing to see her doing something at which she has a real competency, and see Sherlock watching and studying her. Perfection.

Other things I loved: Vinnie Jones! The quip about how Sherlock is always scowling! F. Murray Abraham! The conversation about how something has changed because he cares about Joan now! All the blubs! I can't even say how much I love the way this show is exploring a platonic, collegiate relationship between a woman and a man. THE BEST.

Ana: The bag was full of legos! The bag was full of legos! THE BAG WAS FULL OF LEGOS.



Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus