John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Another pair of complaints

A couple little things that bugged me as I tried to entertain myself these last few days:

1) I’m continuing to work my way through the first season of Grimm, and on Monday night I reached the episode "Three Coins in a Fuchsbau." Without going into too much detail, the episode concerned these three ancient coins that inspire megalomaniacal tendencies in those who possess them and gives them the ability to influence others. It came up early in the episode that they had been in Germany during World War II. At the very end of the episode, [Spoiler (click to open)]Nick is watching an old film, in which we see Adolph Hitler wearing two of the coins in the lapels of his uniform, and his face is shown morphing into that of a Schakale, a jackel-like creature.

That bugged me. Setting aside for the moment the issue of Hitler being some sort of supernatural creature – as with demons in the Buffyverse, Wesen are not necessarily evil, though they do have instincts and habits that are more in line with wild beasts than with humans – it bothered me that they were suggesting that his actions and, by extension, those of the German people during his time in power were influenced by the coins. I remember a regular on the TWoP Buffy boards, a woman of Russian descent – I think it may have been georgevna – who complained bitterly about an offhand remark by Anya in some episode that she had helped instigate the Russian Revolution of 1905. She felt it trivialized the event to ascribe it to supernatural causes. At the time, I didn’t think much of her argument, but I think I see her point now.

The thing that makes Nazi-era Germany so fascinating is that it forces you to consider what you and those around you might do in similar circumstances. I don’t want to believe that I would succumb to the temptations of absolute power like Hitler did, or that I would follow a charismatic leader who was demanding I go along with his mad schemes as so many Germans did, but if they couldn’t resist it, could I? It’s a troubling question. But if Hitler was literally inhuman, and possessed of supernatural charisma, well, that sort makes the whole question moot.

On the other hand, Hitler being portrayed as a Schakale on a TV show doesn’t make him a Schakale in real life, so does it matter how he was depicted in a silly TV show? Maybe not, but it left a bad taste in my mouth nevertheless.

2) Here are the first two lines of the first chapter of Suspect, the new Robert Crais novel I started reading earlier this week: "They were on that particular street at that specific T-intersection at that crazy hour because Scott James was hungry. Stephanie shut off their patrol car to please him."

Why is the first reference to the male character by his full name but the first mention of the female character is of her first name only? This was true on the dust jacket as well: "LAPD cop Scott James is not doing so well. Eight months ago, a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed his partner Stephanie, nearly killed him, and left him enraged, ashamed, and ready to explode." In that case, I withheld judgment until I started reading; it is, after all, a novel about a K-9 officer; Stephanie could have been the name of his dog. But no.

Stephanie does get a last name on the following page, putting her one up on Penny on The Big Bang Theory, but if you’re going to mention Scott’s last name right off, why not do the same for Stephanie? I don’t know who first drew my attention to the not-uncommon practice in fiction of referring to male characters by their last name and female characters by their first, but now I can’t help seeing and feeling irritated by it. (In contemporary novels, anyway. I'll give a pass to Pride and Prejudice and the like. But even there, I couldn't help noticing that nowhere in The Mysteries of Udolpho was Valancourt – the lead male character! – given a first name.) And of course it’s not just fiction where this happens; similar things happen in science, history, literary criticism, and when discussing politics on Twitter.

Having said all that, I'll point out that later in Suspect a significant female character is introduced, and she's almost exclusively called by her last name – her first name only ever comes up in dialogue – and the main character. Scott, is almost exclusively called by his first name, so on the whole I have little to complain about on this score. But that just makes all the more weird and glaring that he did it with Officer Anders.
Tags: author: robert crais, reading: books, tv: grimm

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