curuchamion: Snoopy dressed as Sherlock Holmes (Snoopy Holmes)
[personal profile] curuchamion
Okay, so over on [community profile] ds9_rewatch we've been discussing "The Forsaken" aka The One Where Odo And Lwaxana Get Stuck In A Turbolift. I've been promising all and sundry a massive rant!post about that ep ever since I first saw it. This is that post.

Xposted verbatim from ds9_rewatch, with their discussion questions, because otherwise I'd spend all this evening rewriting this instead of working on my [profile] manowrimo wordcount!

1. At this point in the show, do you think that Odo has a sexuality?

At this point - no. I think the "humanoid need to couple" scene in A Man Alone, plus the basic biological facts about Being Goop which [personal profile] chesari pointed out, are pretty darn clear on that, and there's been nothing so far to contradict it. (Frankly, I salute René Auberjonois for his incredible work in portraying early!Odo as television's first romantic asexual character, even against the scripts - as here. I haven't yet gotten to the point in my first-time-watch where (spoilers) I'll need to decide whether or not Odo developed a sexuality after being human/humanoid for a while (/spoilers), but over the first three seasons I've been really impressed by how... consistently not!faily his acting has been. Speaking as a romantic asexual myself.)

2a. Does Sisko have a double standard about male-on-female sexual harassment versus female-on-male?

It certainly comes across that way. I think (I'll address this more under questions 2b and 5 below) the problem may be more in the writer's obvious double standard than in Sisko's attitude. MAY.

I'm going to go into my big rant!post here: it strikes me that there are three major ways in which this episode is faily. The first is the basic concept: "let's have Lwaxana be sexually harassing Odo! she can corner him in a turbolift! and it will be Funny and not Scary because she is a woman and he is a man-shaped person!"

It does eventually come out sweet and not scary, but only because René Auberjonois and Majel Barrett are both MADE OF AWESOME. The writing doesn't help at all.

Essentially, the plot of this episode [warning: recap might be triggery to rape victims?] is "Federation uppity-up is sexually 'interested' in a non-Federation character who works for the Federation as a... subcontractor? [whatever] Uppity-up approaches NFC [non-Fed char], who worries about giving offence, thus doesn't reject zir advances directly. NFC asks Federation boss to tell Uppity-up to back off. Boss refuses, tells NFC to give in and 'have some fun'. [Scriptwriter agrees w/ this viewpoint.] Uppity-up corners NFC in elevator during blackout. Due to alien physiology, NFC is required to get naked and lie in Uppity-up's lap. Everybody winds up happy." Sounds to me like a pretty obvious pitch for a workplace rape-isn't-rape story. Anyone?

On a tangential note: we're so used to seeing Odo shapeshifting onscreen that we don't think anything of it, but it seems to me that he acts like his non-CGI forms are a sort of "clothing" and, except in special circumstances, changes only when nobody in-show is looking. Spoilers: And we'll later see evidence that touching somebody while goop is pretty much the shapeshifter equivalent of sex. (I'm not even going to speculate on what that means Curzon!Odo was doing in his quarters during "Facets"... o_O) /spoilers

Extending this interpretation, that would imply that by his own standards he essentially winds up sleeping naked in Lwaxana's lap toward the end of this episode. (His scientist having seen him as goo in the lab would be more like getting your diaper changed when you were a baby - embarrassing if your parent/babysitter mentions it in public, but unavoidable and definitely not sexual.)

(personal opinion: At this point I interject a massive sigh of "thank GOD for low budgets!", as I can only imagine that that was the saving factor in keeping the writer from inserting a shot where Lwaxana fondles goo!Odo in her skirt. Guck. /personal opinion*)

René and Majel, by virtue of their combined CAPSLOCK-REQUIRING AWESOMENESS, manage to pull out a halfway decent ep wherein Lwaxana is sensitive about consent issues and Odo is not by any definition raped/sexually assaulted, but it's a near thing.

2b. What do you think about his decisions as Odo's commanding officer in this episode?

The second and third major ways in which this ep is faily have to do with Federation employer/employee relations and Federation attitudes toward sexuality. (I don't find myself able to discuss these completely separately, since the pivotal scene is the same.)

I don't deny that Sisko was acting perfectly in character as a Fed officer, and I don't - exactly - think he has a double standard. I agree with [profile] abbysiuta that he'd have said the same thing to a female character (and probably then have pulled the same roundabout stunt trying to get her un-harassed so she could make a free choice).

Abbysiuta said Sisko 'just wants to see Odo have some fun'. From Sisko's and the writer's POV, I agree with this. My issue is with the Federation definition of "fun".

Ever since the days of James T. Kirk, the Federation has presented itself as sexually liberated. Captains and first officers kiss the pretty priestesses; Curzon Dax concealed his affair with another man's wife (in "Dax") not because he feared court-martial for behavior unbecoming but because he was a gentleman; we'll see more examples as this show progresses. However, a lot of times, it seems like the Federation is perfectly okay with any attitude toward sex as long as you're having it. If you're not, you are ONOES REPRESSED!!!1! and must have Captain Kirk (or in this case Lwaxana Troi) bring you to your senses.

That means we get an entire episode based on the assumption that Sex > No Sex. I get a very clear impression that neither Sisko nor the writer even considered the probability that Odo is physically uninterested in sex; the script, especially, reads like writer's!headcanon!Odo is simply a very uptight, work-obsessed man who needs to be made to let his hair down (figuratively speaking! *messy-hair Odo freaks me out*) and have some fun. Fun equalling sex, of course. Odo's non-humanoid status only comes into play as a handy plot device for getting him TV!naked with a beautiful woman, and it's fairly obvious that the writer assumes "the inevitable ensued". :P

(To René's and Majel's everlasting credit, neither of them played it that way, as I noted above. What a pair of great actors.)

It also means we get a scene where someone's boss, who controls his living quarters, is urging said employee to have sex with a higher-up in boss's organization. The alternative is left unspecified, but we and Odo both know that Sisko plays hardball (see Emissary, "I didn't think I was going to like him"); Odo could very well get kicked off the station with nothing but his bucket if he refuses.

This is not proper workplace ethics. *consults uni harassment policy* "Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other written, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: 1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term of condition of an individual's employment"... etc. (Emphasis mine.)

I was involved in a conversation about Doctor Who a few weeks ago where someone wondered if the (even more sexually liberated, in that canon) 51st century would have any place for asexuals; it's been implied in Who canon that humanity has evolved into a totally pansexual species by that time, as a means of survival. It just kind of strikes me that the Federation here is portrayed as well started on the road to that sort of a future.

3. How does Lwaxana's behavior toward Odo change over the course of the episode? What do those changes show about her character?

Disclaimer: I don't know Lwaxana on TNG, so I was meeting her first in this ep.

When we first meet Lwaxana, she's... well, a fascinating person. I would have Quite Liked her if I hadn't been spoiled for The Plot. She can handle Bashir, Quark, and Odo all at the same time with different tones and not come across at all Voice of Saruman (i.e. flip-flopping awkwardly between sweet!manipulative and bossy!manipulative.)

When she's hitting on Odo in his office, she bothers the hell out of me - not least because I very much fear I'd be exactly the same way (adjusted for sexual preferences, but not very much). At this point, she seems to me to be written as one of those Strong Modern Women who puzzle me greatly by dressing and acting exactly like the Deplored Slut character type, except pushier. I suppose it's a case of taking back the stereotype? *butch!ace is confused*

And then, of course, she corners Odo in the turbolift. I honestly was very worried on Odo's behalf at that point, especially knowing The Plot. But then once they get trapped together, she handles things beautifully - showing some vulnerability, opening up to him (although she does simultaneously embarrass him and bore him stiff as well, which just goes to show what an epic person Lwaxana Troi is), and encouraging him to open up as well, but without the unbalanced power dynamic we had before.

And when the writer hauls the uneven power dynamic back into the ep by making Odo need to regenerate, she just boots it right out. The hair thing was STUPID and completely missed the point, but Majel and Lwaxana between them made it work. I like them both. (Yes, I talk about characters as having volition separate from their actors. I'm a writer, okay? A writer whose brain has currently been taken over by assertive OCs, even.)

4. What do you think about Miles' approach to troubleshooting?

I don't think it makes any sense whatsoever for the anthropomorphization stuff to have helped solve the problem - although, given how fond Trek is of technological entities (Nomad, V'ger, etc), I wouldn't say it's implausible. I do think it's a perfectly natural thing to do, especially in a world where computers argue with you and get put on trial, and I couldn't really expect a man of Miles's personality not to anthropomorphize things he works with all the time. He's such a teddy bear.

5a. Was Sisko hinting that Bashir should be dealing with Lwaxana rather than Odo having to deal with her?

I think so. The parallelism is pretty exact: Sisko has an ambassador hitting on an unwilling underling, and a young man complaining about ambassador duty. He reacts by telling the young man how he got off of ambassador duty - by stopping an ambassador from hitting on an unwilling underling. (He then forbids the young man to use Sisko's own methodology in the matter, but I doubt Julian would punch a woman anyway unless it was absolutely necessary.) It doesn't excuse anything he actually said to Odo, but at least he's showing a bit of goodwill?

(On another tangent: Sisko had a line in that scene with Odo that I think was THE MOST INSENSITIVE THING EVER, and I cannot believe Avery Brooks didn't have Sisko realize that and backpedal a bit after René's magnificent double-take reacting to it. The line in question is "It [romance] does tend to help with the procreation of one's species", which... well, considering that Odo has thus far been written as Probably The Last Of His Kind and very definitely angsty about it? Pretty darn bad!)

(Although, putting that together with Odo's very strange line "So far" replying to Lwaxana's "I'm told you're the only one of your kind", possibly the screenwriter had some odd idea that Odo could theoretically reproduce with a humanoid woman? Wow. I mean, WOW. That would sure have added some interesting spin to future events! And even in theory... I mean, can you imagine the plight of the kids, being half shapeshifter? It's very Iolanthe: "I'm only a fairy down to the waist." lol)

How do you think the episode would have played out if Lwaxana had latched onto Bashir rather than Odo?

...not nearly as interesting. First, there'd be no real conflict of anybody's interests, and second, I frankly don't think Siddig was a strong enough actor yet to carry an episode opposite Majel. She would have taken over the entire show, like Q.

BONUS DISCUSSION QUESTION OF SILLINESS: Lwaxana Troi plus emus - win, or *EPIC* win?

*EPIC* win. Definitely. Majel is just as awesome an actor as René and Armin, who are the best of the regulars (IMO); thus a scene with Lwaxana Troi plus emus should be just as epic as Odo plus emus. (I'm not sure how well Armin would do opposite an emu, but that's purely a question of height...)

And, in all seriousness (okay, maybe not ALL), should emus be the mascot of this community?

I vote for this! In all seriousness, even. Emus improve (almost)* everything. EMUS.

*The Ep That Must Not Be Named probably couldn't be improved even with the addition of emus. The power of its badness is that bad.



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