Penny Dreadful- Episode 2

Seance.

Ethan wakes up (under a pier in the dirt), heads to the nearest bar and gets right to the sauce, he’s well in his cups when Billie Piper- I mean Brona enters. She’s Irish and recently came to London after her position in a factory was eliminated by machines, while she finds London to have the same issues, she says: “There’s always a way to make a living when you’ve got a bit of flesh isn’t there?” Ethan: “I can’t say.” Brona: “I bet you can.” (recurring theme over here, but many occupations involve “selling your body” or “degrading yourself” and sex work is just work) “I’m off to look for work that a machine can’t do. Yet. Anyway.”

Victor Frankenstein, who has taught his creature to eat helps him choose a name. Proteus. Then he goes off to see Sir Malcolm and Vanessa and the mummy. Universal monsters everywhere.

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Brona’s job search leads her to the decadent residence of Dorian Gray -a character created by Oscar Wilde who owns a painting that gets uglier everytime he sins who sold his soul for eternal youth. He asks Brona to undress and she coughs up blood. She expects to be sent out, but Gray approaches her. He undresses as well and they have sex standing up while someone photographs, “I never fucked I dying creature before. Do you feel things more deeply, do you feel pain?” Startled, she asks him, “Do you?” and she tears into her back with fingernails.

Brona suffering from consumption references early vampire mythos.

In Dr. Frank’s basement, Proteus cries for the whale in a book. Frankenstein hypothesizes that Proteus had been a whaler and sets to find out who he is. 

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Gray attends a party that the Egyptologist Niles is hosting where Vanessa is a guest as well. He profiles Vanessa concluding that she thought it would be a wasted frivolous evening, and that she is not a frivolous person. He grabs her hand and acknowledges that she is the only ungloved woman and that she wants to touch while her head wants to appraise. For some reason this is romantic? They almost kiss. It seems out of character for the reserved and BUSY Vanessa (and Dorian is supposed to be gay). They are moved to another room and Madame Kali enters, Vanessa say skeptically “I believe we’re about to convene with a spirit” -really? that blase about it? You have telekinetic powers and hunt vampires. Madame Kali starts the ritual and Vanessa reaches for Gray’s hand. She channels a young child and at times seems mocking, telling of how he went on an adventure with father (Sir Malcolm is impacted by the rant, apparently this was his son) and got dysentery. Sir Malcolm starts crying. Then Vanessa lets her hair down. Cracks the table and says cunt a lot. Basically. Sir Malcolm’s son caught him having sex with Mina in the hallway and Vanessa says “When did you know you wanted to fuck her?” And then bends herself like the Last Exorcism 2.

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Then she has sex with a man in the street. While Malcolm sits at the cracked table, shaken.

The next morning Brona and Ethan are inside the same bar again. She tells him that now she’s a model. “For the calendars and such?” he asks. She replies, “If you keep your calendar in a whorehouse.” He offers to buy her a proper breakfast, when she declines he asks for dinner. She questions his motives “You like things back alley?” and he replies, “I like things to be what they are.” Normally, I’d be annoyed at the stereotype that a sex worker (particularly one as frank as Brona) must see herself as less than, but since the day before she’d been referred to as “a creature” by someone who had the power to dictate whether or not she would have money for food -I’ll allow it. Ethan’s no peach either, he’s an alcoholic and a fugitive. He’s a fuck up with questionable employment.

Niles is mad his party was ruined. His wife was mortified. 

But none the less he translates the hieroglyphs for Sir Malcolm. He references the hidden goddess with a monster within her. And then decides “You must forget you ever saw it.” Perpetual life by feeding on the souls of others. Amunet and Amun-Ra conjoined means the annihilation of man and coming of the Beast. 

Victor takes Proteus outside. He gets overwhelmed at first, but as they journey the fear turns to amazement. They see Brona and Ethan on the street and Proteus is taken with Brona, he offers her a chestnut and they introduce rather awkwardly. Later Victor explains “friends” and Proteus decides he will have many friends WHEN SOMETHING CLIMBS OUT OF HIS BODY HOLY WHAT?! With a “Your first born has returned, father.”

Well that’s baffling.

My favorite parts of this episode had nothing to do with the supernatural happenings. Weird. I like Brona and I like her portrayal. I like her with Ethan. I like them as equals. 

There is a lot going on.

If Sir Malcolm molested his daughter Mina, if it wasn’t the ramblings of a demon… it would be insanely irresponsible to make him a sympathetic character. That’s fucking gross. No wonder she ran off with Dracula. I don’t care how much I love 007 and Timothy Dalton, axe him. Sir Malcolm Murray is not the good guy.

I want to like this show… and I do… but there’s so much happening and getting the ball rolling on all at once is… a little much. I think that’s why I liked Ethan and Brona’s less intense plotline. Her tie in with Dorian was wonderful, while Vanessa’s was a little much. And why a mummy? There are Catholic elements: demonic possession and a deal with the devil. There are vampires. Reanimated corpses. Jack the Ripper. If you think that there’s any reason to have a Egyptian mythos thrown in along with that other than “to hit a Universal Monsters trifecta” I would love to hear it. Why not a fucking swamp monster at that point?

Not that there’s not time for that.

James Bond is a Product of his Environment AKA In Defense of “Skyfall”

This has been stewing in my brain juices for nearly a week now. I marathoned the Blonde Bond films and then thought hard about what it all meant. Especially Skyfall. I had read deconstructions of the tropes long before I saw the film.

Oh and they are there.

The opening scenes have Bond and another agent (later revealed to be Eve Moneypenny) shooting Bond instead of the enemy and getting shelved from field work. Apparently killing the legendary 007 is a career ender. And then she flirts with him in some absolutely baffling shaving scene.

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I have no excuse for THAT. Honestly. And Moneypenny was taken out of the field because it was M. who ordered the shot be taken even though she said it was too risky, and no way was M. going down for that shit, let’s face it. Power structures in play, Moneypenny took the fall.

But in a later scene at a casino Moneypenny backs up Bond, and he trusts her to. He heard M. tell her to “just take the shot” and he rightfully blames M., Moneypenny subsequently saves him from getting his head blown off or falling back into a pit with komodo dragons. I do wish she had played a larger role, but let’s face it; This is a JAMES BOND film, and James Bond is all about wish fulfillment nonsense, so if a female is going to save his punk ass she’ll have to do it with an evening gown on and probably have to nonsensically flirt and stroke his ego. Because that shit’s his bread and butter.

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Speaking of “flirting”; let’s get to former MI-6 agent turned villain Raoul Silva. Now we’ve seen Bond tortured in all sorts of ways over the years. Usually it was the brute-force or dead-girl-covered-in-substance-associated-with-the-villain route. This time we saw Bond threatened with sexual assault at the hands of a presumably gay man. Yes I said ‘presumably’.And YES I think it was intentionally playing up fears of homophobes who see Bond as the alpha-male, writer John Logan said he chose sexual intimidation because it would make the audience uncomfortable (citation) …And why would it make the -general- audience uncomfortable? ..because we never see that shit happen to men on film… we see it happen to women. All the damn time. Hell, in the same film a woman who was sold into the sex trade- and Silva shot her right in the head after Bond raped her in the shower (yes, I said raped, she couldn’t see him before he came up behind her, she didn’t know he was on the boat, she did not consent). We aren’t made to feel bad for her, it’s not played that way. So it’s thought provoking when Bond is touched this way against his will. And it doesn’t actually matter that/if Silva is gay. Because rape and sexual assault isn’t about attraction, it’s about power and control. There’s no two ways around that one. If it was attraction that caused rape it would be the victim’s fault for being so damn sexy. The aggressor is out to prove that they have the upper hand, this happens in staggering numbers during combat, among prisoners and even internally in the military among males. So when Bond says, “What makes you think it’s my first time?” it would likely be true.

What’s really of particular relevance to me is that Silva taunts him equally with the fact that James is completely not suitable for duty. He was told he passed the firearms test, he got 40%. He failed all the physical tests, fuck- he failed all the psychological tests. He’s dependent on booze and pills. It’s the truth. The glaring ugly truth that he is only even there because of the uneven power structures that lead to Silva leaving MI-6 and Moneypenny being shelved.

“So what does that matter?” I can hear you thinking it. “Bond is benefitting from all this privilege. He’s the action hero who always gets the girl. He’s the hero in this story!” Right?

Well… no.

At the beginning of the film, after he’s shot by Moneypenny he tries to enjoy his “death.” On a beach with a girl, having a drinking contest with people cheering. Spring Break! But when he sees the attack on MI-6 he *has to go back* because he’s been told the whole time that he’s the frigging best and has this whole savior complex about M. and England in general. And, just like in the last pages of PrinceLESS #1 where a young boy content to play in the mud is scooped up and taken to a special school to be a Prince Charming -subsequently being charred by a dragon while trying to prove himself to the ideal of chivalry which he’s been taught… society’s institutionalized gender roles are bullshit for everyone. Bond can’t kick back and retire because he’s been told he was optimal his whole life -told that he was meant to be there, that he has no life other than MI-6.

And YES I just went there with “oh the poor straight cis white males.” And yes I understand how much of a struggle it is to be told that you don’t belong there, to have to fight tooth and nail to make 88 cents on the dollar -or worse. And it’s a different issue, but not a separate one. Women face challenges in the corporate world, men face discrimination if they to a majority of the parenting and stats are showing that men face more issues returning to work than women do because it’s not expected so it is not accepted. Men are taught that their professional accomplishments are a major portion of their identity.

So who is Bond if he’s not MI-6?

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A pathetic womanizing drunk who used to be somebody.

Alternate opinions:

James Bond is a Creep Who Makes Me Sad About Our Culture

Skyfall is HOMOPHOBIC

Oh, Bonus Content:

John Travolta wants to be the next Bond villain

And a photo of first trans Bond-girl

who appeared in 1981's 'For Your Eyes Only' starring Roger Moore.

who appeared in 1981’s ‘For Your Eyes Only’ starring Roger Moore.

Fantastic Female Friday- Camille Montes (Quantum of Solace)

I know a ton of blogs do this sort of thing. Jack Flacco has “Women who Wow Wednesday” Kiss My WonderWoman has “Strong Female Character Friday” but I decided I wanted in on the action, a weekly post to celebrate overlooked or out of genre characters that I wouldn’t usually blog about.

For our first episode: Quantum of Solace Bond Girl Camille Montes 

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Her path crosses with that of 007 while he is trying to get revenge on those responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd and she’s on a personal mission to avenge her family. For his part he’s blood thirsty and out of control, he kills someone sent to kill Camille and almost catches a bullet from her gun in return. Camille had been shacking up with Dominic Greene to get closer to her target former head of the Bolivian army, General Medrano. Greene finds her out and serves her up to him. But she’s got a secret weapon. This is unbeknownst to Bond who rides in on his high horse to save her and she gets mad and fights him, he over powers her and “saves” her. He even “saves” her again later (at a party where Dominic threatens to throw her off a balcony after she drunkenly swaggers over to investors and tells them in no uncertain terms that Dominic is a con artist) and Bond earns a big eyeroll as a thank you. She makes it clear he’s a pain in the ass.

Later, after they crash land in the desert, falling into a sinkhole (surviving because she grabbed the parachute, mind you) she spills her guts about why she was on the boat with Medrano. Says she had been waiting 20 years for that shot. He apologizes. She doesn’t accept. But when they get back to the hotel and M has Bond captured for disobeying orders she double backs to extract him. And together, sans resources they go after Dominic Greene, Quantum, et al.

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After take 2 with her target (who was ready to victimize another woman) in which she fights with all she’s got to take him out, biting kicking and clawing her way to victory. Bond does eventually get to be her hero, blasting a hole in the wall and saving her from a burning room.

She asks him if she’ll be different. If she’ll sleep better. He tells her the truth, probably not. She’s sweet to him, knowing he’s afflicted with the same thirst for vengeance. He kisses her… she’s not that into it and he leaves her all dirty and badass back in town. She doesn’t need him to tell her it’ll be alright, Hell, she doesn’t really even need it to be alright. She just moves on.

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No sleeping together, no shower scene, but to keep it 007 they had to throw in Agent Strawberry Fields to get sexed up and fridged because Camille was too damn unstoppable. Camille and Bond save each other and then she leaves to figure out what to do with a life that’s her own, not fueled by rage.

For the role actress Olga Kurylenko did her own stunts in the Bond film to boast the most violent incidents (250) and was pumped not to be playing a love interest.

Now, this is about a character, not the entire movie or the opinions of casting directors, actors or producers. Which would be irresponsible for me not to elaborate: are flat out terrible. The actress who plays Camille is Ukrainian, apparently they had intended to cast a South American actress but we’re blown away by her performance and noted her confidence as a deciding factor- of this point there is no argument she’s disarmingly assured. However her decision to “tan for two days to look more Bolivian” was encouraged by producers, she also worked with a dialect coach who left her sounding like she had a mouth full of marbles. Instead of “brown-facing,” the nationality of the character could have been left vague, or not since there are white people in South America -it was settled by white Europeans who spread the Spanish language.Or they could have found another actress who actually suited their desires instead of encouraging Kurylenko to alter her look and play on stereotypes in a vain attempt and fitting the character’s ethnicity. Historically, this happens A LOT and everyone should know better and stop being so damn naive and ignorant

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