Silent but Deadly

Being an outsider within Neptune High’s social hierarchy gives Veronica Mars a perspective that enables her to be a good detective. Because of her position in the social class and the trauma of her unsolved rape case Veronica is in the perfect position to be a great detective. Her gift of being detached from the social hierarchy of Neptune High allows her to drift between groups of people with whom she makes alliances or manipulates into helping her in some way, and allows her to observe without being noticed.

From the opening lines of the pilot episode in which she declares that she is never going to get married it is clear to the audience that Veronica Mars is a has a bleak outlook on relationships, especially intimate ones. The idea of Veronica’s lack of relationships is further promoted when she is shown sitting alone at the lunch table with everyone zooming past. This scene gives the impression that due to her social isolation Veronica is essentially invisible to most of the school, and that no one really ever pays any attention to her, however this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Since Veronica is not attached to any one social group she is easily able to float between them in order to find the perfect ally for any given situation. First, she rescues Wallace from public humiliation, but in doing so gets herself into trouble with agang of bikers. She then uses Wallace and his technological ingenuity to get the bikers on her side, who she then plays in order to get their protection against the “cool” kids of Neptune High. This type of manipulation would not be possible if Veronica was a part of any particular social group because she would not be permitted to talk to or hang out with those of another group. Veronica Mars does not let her social isolation dishearten her. Instead she uses it to her advantage in order to extract revengeon those who have wronged her such as the sheriff and the “cool” kids. Because she flies under the radar Veronica is able to take advantage of many different people at one time and use their combined resources to essentially get whatever she wants. Veronica Mars truly is silent but deadly.


Sherlock Holmes’ Twin Sister

            “A Scandal in Belgravia,” which is the first episode of the second season of the BBC series, Sherlock, is a modern version of the Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia. In this version, which is in many ways different from the original story, Irene Adler, also known as “The Woman,” is portrayed as the female equivalent of Sherlock Holmes in every way possible. This is first noticed in the scene in which the two are introduced to one another via photographs. In this scene the shot cuts between Sherlock looking at pictures of Irene, and Irene examining pictures of Sherlock. It is important to note that both are looking down at the pictures of the other which implies that Sherlock believes that Irene is his inferior, while Irene does the same indicating that she believes herself able to best Sherlock Holmes. This scene puts the two on the same level in the audience’s mind, and comments that they are very similar in their arrogance.

It is also important to note the way in which both characters are written. Both Sherlock and Irene are dark haired with piercing eyes, sharp cheek bones, and pale skin (as seen in the picture below.) They are both seen essentially naked at some point throughout the show, and most importantly they are both cold and unemotional people. It is clear over the course of the series that Sherlock is a heartless shell of a man who does not care for the feelings of others, and interestingly Irene is scripted as a dominatrix in this version. In order to perform this job one cannot show emotion or care for the feelings of others; emotional connections simply get in the way. Based on the unnaturally similar ways in which Sherlock and Irene think, act, and even look, it is clear that in this remake of Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia Irene Adler is meant to be in every possible way a female version of Sherlock Holmes.

Reaction Paper #2

There are so many dishonest characters in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon that it becomes difficult to distinguish between who is on protagonist Sam Spade’s side and who is not. A good way to keep track of this is to realize that there is not one single person in the work who lives outside of San Francisco and is trustworthy. This fact combined with the repetitive reference by Spade to San Francisco being his town is extremely interesting to many because it suggests that outsiders are evil and unwanted which completely contradicts the basic principals upon which this country was created. When looked at closely it can be seen that nearly every conflict of the work results from the actions of one of three people: Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Joel Cairo, or Mr. Gutman; all three of which happen to be foreigners. From her several aliases to her habit of telling stories, Brigid O’Shaughnessy creates many problems for Spade, and even causes his partner, Mr. Archer, to be killed by yet another foreigner, Floyd Thursby. It is very clear to the reader that Joel Cairo is also an antagonist of the work from the moment he is introduced. The very first description that the audience receives of Cairo is Effie Perine’s statement, “This guy is queer.” It should also be noted that Mr. Gutman is not a San Francisco native and is, at this point in the plot Spade’s greatest threat. Also, the Maltese Falcon itself is a foreign artifact and is the source of all distress in the novel.

The interesting part of the issue of nationality actually is a little bit deeper from than the surface, and must be attained through close reading of the actual language of the text. All of the criminals in the work, with the exception of Thursby who is really just a pawn anyway and not necessarily a “bad guy,” are not described in a masculine way. Most obviously, O’Shaughnessy is a female and has many curves, which is in no way masculine. Joel Cairo is described in a very feminine way and also has zero angles, and Gutman is large and fat, which is also far from the idea of the time of what a man was. All three characters severely lack the angles and masculinity of Spade. Considering that this is a Film Noir era novel, it can be assumed that the absence of masculine qualities makes these characters evil and untrustworthy.

Going back to the idea of nationality, masculinity also plays a role in that. Through close reading it can be seen that everyone from San Francisco, including Spade’s beloved secretary Effie Perine with her “boyish face,” in some way portrays the idea of the man during the Film Noir era. Not coincidently Spade, the hero, trusts and relies on everyone from San Francisco for information and assistance, but cannot count on any foreigner to help him. Essentially every time that Spade tells the villains that they are in his town, and he will not be defeated on his own turf Hammett is commenting not only that, in accordance with the national insecurities of the time, the United States cannot and will not be defeated by outside forces, but also that the “macho man” is the ideal man and will always triumph over those who are not excessively masculine. By looking closely at the actual language of the work it is clear that The Maltese Falcon is about far more than simply murder and a bird; it is a bold commentary on the dominance of the United States over the world as well as that of the “real men” over femininity.

Reaction Paper #1

“Mr. Joel Cairo was a small-boned dark man of medium height. His hair was black and smooth and very glossy. His features were Levantine. A square-cut ruby, its sides paralleled by four baguette diamonds, gleamed against the deep green of his cravat. His black coat, cut tight to his narrow shoulders, flared a little over slightly plump hips. His trousers fitted his round legs more snugly than was the current fashion.” – p. 42

The paragraph in which Joel Cairo is first introduced to the reader is somewhat strange due to the fact that in merely seven short sentences there are two themes that repeat excessively. The first of these is the repetition of the word dark throughout the passage. The very first sentence even describes Cairo as a dark man with black hair. This motif is furthered in the next sentence when he is described as being Levantine. He also is dressed in all black, and is holding a black hat in his hands. The other interesting part of this passage is the strands of words and phrases that give Cairo an almost feminine look. He is depicted as a “small-boned” man of “medium height” who has “narrow shoulders,” “plump hips,” and “round legs.” The only thing angular in the description of Joel Cairo is the ruby that he wears.  When compared to the portrayal of protagonist Sam Spade, who is depicted as completely angular and being rather large, Cairo clearly shares the aura of the other women in the work instead of the men.

Going back to the darkness motif, it is interesting that Hammett sketches Joel Cairo as such a dark person because, knowing that this work is considered part of the Film Noir movement, the reader immediately makes the connection that Cairo is not one of the “good guys” in the novel. Interestingly, the Film Noir movement also began in a time of great political and national insecurity, so when Hammett writes him as a Levantine Cairo assumes an even greater level of evil in the reader’s eyes. At this point in the plot Joel Cairo is the most despicable character in the work, and not only because he is described as being dark and the ever-feared foreigner. In order to truly comprehend the extent of Cairo’s evil nature his darkness must be examined alongside his femininity.  Hammett absolutely intends for the two to be connected.  Not only are the two ideas presented intertwined in the same passage, but also one of the main themes behind the “macho man” detective novels is that the manly men, and only the manliest of men, always win. Because Cairo is depicted as a dark man who is overly feminine, not only is he automatically declared the “bad guy,” but the belief that men are the heroes also becomes apparent. The repetition of darkness, and the strands referring to femininity are great sources of foreshadowing as to who the enemy will be throughout the remainder of the novel, and what force macho man protagonist Sam Spade will really be in conflict with. By doing some detective work of their own and analyzing Hammett’s words it is clear to the reader that the hero’s true conflict in the story is his internal struggle with masculinity.