jamethiel: A common kingfisher sits on a branch with a background of green foliage. (RatJamGreen)
[personal profile] jamethiel posting in [community profile] rat_jam
Panel author: [livejournal.com profile] bluealbertaskys

I was looking at the panels for Muskrat Jamboree (and lamenting because I wasn't able to go to it due to prior commitments) and something struck me to do with a few of the fandoms which are being discussed.

Pretty much half of the fandoms being represented have their main protagonist having betrayal and abandonment issues as their main focus. I'm wanting to focus on the three I know most about but I'm sure the rest of you could probably come up with others which use this template.

Due South

In Due South, the main protagonist Constable Benton Fraser is abandoned by his father after his mother's death and left to be raised by his grandparents. We get the impression that, although they probably meant well, their techniques whilst raising Benton are rather on the old fashioned side and attempt to raise Ben in the same way as they raised their son, Ben's father. I believe that they obviously hold Bob Fraser and his job in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in high regard which is more than likely why Benton chooses to follow in his father's footsteps despite knowing what kind of effect it may have if he were to choose to have a family at a later date. Having only that kind of role model to follow Benton does as expected and joins the RCMP but here he not only finds that he is abandoned when things go wrong, but he is also betrayed in such a way that he is then ostracised from the only secure thing in life he's really ever known up to that point. He would have known that at some point he'd have to leave the security of his grandparents place as he grew up but I believe he thought that by following in Bob's footsteps he'd have a job for life as it were as they had provided for his father up until his death, little realising that one of them (Gerard who, as well as being a colleague of Bob Fraser, was also probably regarded as a friend of the family) was responsible for his father's death. He is also kind of (albeit unintentionally this time) abandoned by Ray Vecchio when Ray goes undercover with the Mob. He is also betrayed by people either he or his family trusted when it most matters. Muldoon was a friend of Bob and Caroline Fraser.

Harry Potter

In Harry Potter the first and foremost (and by far the largest) issue is about how he was effectively abandoned by his parents and the circumstances of that abandonment. It's not just the fact that they died that Harry has to deal with as Fraser does above. No in this case his parents died protecting him and because of this he will always be constantly reminded of it; not just because of the physical impression it has left (the unusual scar) but also because everybody in the wizarding world knows about the circumstances and the sacrifice his parents made in order for him to survive. Fraser at least has more control if not complete control over who knows and how they find out, if they ever do at all, but with Harry it was common knowledge (and possibly common gossip) long before Harry even knew himself what and how it happened. He knew they had died of course but he never found out the truth about how until he was dragged into the Wizarding World. Later in the series Harry finds out he has a godfather, who he seems to become quite attached to fairly quickly as Harry sees him as one of the last links to his parents that he has left, in the form of Sirius Black, who again doesn't last long before being killed. Betrayal in this instance comes in the form of the Dursleys, Harry's aunt and uncle and their own son Dudley, Harry's cousin, who were supposed to look after him when he was entrusted in their care after Harry's parents were killed, but who instead treated him almost worse than anyone else. Both a sense of betrayal and also a sense of abandonment could also apply to the circumstances surrounding Albus Dumbledore's death quite late in the series as I think he was someone who Harry fully expected to be around for a long time to come and who he could rely on and believe in, if not to show him where to go, what to do and why he should do it (as I fully believe Harry to be capable of being able to look after himself and trust in himself and his own judgements for the most part) but to at least be there as a sounding board or to give advice should Harry really get himself stuck.


The first issue that springs to mind as far as Torchwood is concerned is when Captain Jack has been abandoned by the Doctor and Rose after The TARDIS - via - Rose made him to all intents and purposes immortal. You could argue that they didn't know that Jack had been revived but I gather from the bits and pieces I've heard about on the subject that it is not unreasonable to assume that Jack stayed on the space station long enough for the Doctor to have come back for him had he wanted to before Jack accepted that no one was missing him and found his own way off the station. And there is a list that stretches miles as far as betrayal issues go for our Captain starting with the Time Agency who wiped some of his memories, leading Jack to wonder in vain as to what he had done which would have justified that course of action and also to a certain extent by members of his own team at Torchwood as mentioned in my other essay. What intrigues me with Jack is that he tries to even the score by doing the same thing back to other people, through his conman tricks mainly, but in the end somehow always seems to come out of it all even more of a victim than before.

This seems to be a very common running theme throughout some of our favourite fandoms. Why is this do you think?

Date: 2007-04-01 01:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] executrix.livejournal.com
My first fandom was Blakes7 (see icon) and one of the key lines in the climactic episode is "Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed ME?" spoken by someone whose girlfriend turned out to be the contemporary equivalent of a KGB agent.

In my current fandom, Firefly, Mal reacts very badly to an attempt to turn in a crewmember for a very large reward, on the grounds that turning against anyone under his protection is the same as turning on him.

In Farscape, there's an episode where it's shown that Aeryn turned in her lover for political subversion, although not much is made of it.

I'm not sure why it's such a huge theme in fannish media properties, except perhaps that we perceive a ship as a relation of absolute trust between two people which is always at risk of disruption by betrayal.

Date: 2007-04-07 09:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bluealbertaskys.livejournal.com
I'm not sure why it's such a huge theme in fannish media properties, except perhaps that we perceive a ship as a relation of absolute trust between two people which is always at risk of disruption by betrayal

Good point (I was tempted to go off on a tangent and talk about adversaries sometimes having some sort of chemistry between them and how that would fit in with you're theory. And then I realised I would be going into the realms of fandom rather than canon *facepalm*)

Sorry it took so long to reply. RL kicked my ass this week.

Date: 2007-04-01 06:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] revbiscuit.livejournal.com
Call me cynical, but I think this is because it is a very simple way to set up the main character as a solitary and vaguely tragic figure. Especially in the case of a man as the protagonist (which is mostly the case, since women as main characters are reasonably few and far between) this then becomes quite a useful situation to get him/her to emote and respond to the various incidental characters that will, no doubt, appear on the way. As well as the fact that they also have no family/spouse/mate to lean on at trying times, which makes it more believable for them to turn to the screen buddy/colleagues etc. for help and support.

You very rarely see the main protagonist with a normal and supportive family unit behind him/her. Even when canon provides that, the link is sometimes removed.

Look at Daniel in SG-1, where the first that happens in the TV series is the removal of his wife. After that, our hero can be more or less written as a free agent and any support system provided by a selection of other important characters around him.

I know this is a very simplistic analysis but simple works for me.

Date: 2007-04-07 09:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bluealbertaskys.livejournal.com
Sorry to be so late replying to you. RL got in the way I'm afraid.

That definitely rings true. It is a convenient way to make said character available to whatever the writers want to set the character up for next.

So okay. How about we turn that situation on it's head a bit and say that if that's the ideal situation then what if the main character (i.e. the protaganist) is the one doing the betraying? Although it is not a plot device often used it still happens sometimes.

And yet a lot of times when it does happen we are still meant to sympathise with said character because why else would they be portrayed in every other way as a protaganist rather than defecting to the antagonists side?

Date: 2007-04-07 12:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] executrix.livejournal.com
bluealbertaskys: hope RL has improved or at least slowed down a bit.

revbiscuit: I have to disagree--another theme that has been meta'd a lot lately is the Chosen Family. I'd say that although we often write about a character who has become the "head of the family," still and all many of our fandoms are specifically team shows, with the OTP as parents perhaps, but with a complement of other "family members."

Date: 2007-04-07 11:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] revbiscuit.livejournal.com
Hi. Don't mean to be totally dense (but I do so well, *g*), I just have no idea of what you are talking about. I don't understand this thing about the 'Chosen Family'.

I mean, it sounds intriguing, but I can't make the connection with what I was saying. I'd love to see more about it though - even just to be able to talk to you more sensibly than this - where was it discussed?

Date: 2007-04-07 11:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] executrix.livejournal.com
revbiscuit: I apologize for sucking at having links, but I think there were several threads on metafandom a couple-three weeks ago about the construction of partially or non-biological families. One polar case is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Family" which is about exactly who Tara's real family is, and it isn't the guys she's related to.

Certainly, fandom couldn't be having its big-league Incest kink if there weren't plenty of biological families within which to commit incest! But even apart from that, Heroes is about, among many other things, the creation of a Family of Mutants, but along the way, we have the Petrelli clan and the Bennets and Nikki-Jessica, DL, and Micah.

One of the things that Farscape is about is a man who keeps trying to send letters to his dad (and who, much later, marries and has a child), although along the way he does form a not-terribly-terrestrial family.

Friday Night Lights is about good and bad parenting as well as about the brotherhood of Panther football.

So, I'd say that a very large number of shows are about the creation of families--sometimes even by marriage and rearing children of the marriage.

Date: 2007-04-08 12:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] revbiscuit.livejournal.com
Oh right, I get you now. As I said, I am not familiar with a great many fandoms, so I should really have said I was speaking for the two or three I even vaguely know of. You can see I am a bit of a novice at this meta discussion lark.

Perhaps I didn't express myself clearly enough. I appreciate that there *are* family units in these shows, it's just that in my opinion - in the shows I know - they seem to take very much of a back seat. It's as if the protagonists make their own, alternative if you like, family out of the other main characters. By removing the conventional family of spouse/children/parents etc. from the inner circle, you allow the character to emote about the loneliness & the various incidental characters. And that to me looks like the easy way out, because achieving this in a normal domestic setting would be very difficult. That's what I meant.

If you take Farscape, for example, yes, the connection with the father is there, but they are physically separated, and all the "adventures" happen with the people on the ship, without the bloke's family getting in the way of the action(sorry his name escapes me at the moment, but I know who you mean). On top of that, there's all the angst about him being away from home and all that.

That's what I was trying to say. It is a lot harder, in my opinion, to create convincing drama within a well-established and stable family unit. And you'll forgive me, but the families in Heroes look hardly well-adjusted, so there's plenty of scope for drama there. *g*

If the other shows you mention do that then that's good. BTW I am really enjoying this discussion, but I have to be up and at the airport in - oh dear - 4 hours, so if I don't reply to anything for a couple of days it won't be out of rudeness.

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Date: 2007-04-08 12:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] executrix.livejournal.com
hope it's a good trip.

As you say, conflict is pretty important for interesting TV, although it could be located inside a family unit, or the family unit could be a bulwark against it as well. But I think that it's a common pattern for the Loner hero to construct a family, and it's far from uncommon for the family to be in existence at the beginning of the show.

Date: 2007-04-07 03:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] revbiscuit.livejournal.com
Hi. No worries about replying, I didn't even think I was supposed to get one!

That is an interesting thought, actually. I am not familiar with many fandoms, and I cannot think readily of many examples of this, but yes it does happen and it's amazing how much latitude the audience gives the protagonist when they do something they shouldn't. Or appear to.

The only instance I can sort of think of is Fraser running off with Victoria in dS. OK, during the episode itself you can never really tell if he's really going to go through with it or not - and of course he very conveniently gets shot so he can't - but then he tells Ray that he *was* going, abandoning his two best friends in the process and, to all intents and purposes, bankrupting Ray and his family. And yet everyone is all "Poor tragic Fraser", so yes, I suppose a pretty face can go a long way. What about poor RayV? He nearly loses his house and then his friend. Yet this part of the story is often used in fic to stoke up the perceived inimity between RayV & RayK. If I'd been Vecchio, I'd have beaten Fraser with a stick as soon as he got better, never mind be so patient and understanding, LOL.

I suppose in that example it's all meant to look OOC - which, as a one-off, makes for fairly good drama I think - but I would be curious to know of any examples where anyone actually managed to go through with the "wrong decision" so to speak, and how fans reacted to that.

Your icon just got me thinking (always a dangerous thing): I am very, very fuzzy on Torchwood, I've not even seen all of the episodes, let alone had a good think about them, but aren't there a couple of examples of this going on there as well? Or am I getting mixed up again?

Date: 2007-04-07 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bluealbertaskys.livejournal.com
Or am I getting mixed up again?

Nope you're perfectly correct and that was actually the example I was thinking of but didn't want to mention specifics in case you didn't know the series at all.

Most fans hate the character - Gwen - for this and yet there are a few of us who, whilst not condoning her actions, really hope she'll be able to redeem herself next season because she has the potential to do a lot of good.

Whilst she continues to act as she has though I just can't like her. I felt rather sorry for her to begin with but then she did something further to make me really dislike her (not going to say what in case you don't want to be spoiled if you decide to catch up with the series).

And yet this is a main character on the "good guy's" side and this flaw is supposed to make her more human and more like us so we're supposed to be able to relate to her dilemma and sympathise with her.

On the other hand, as you mentioned, Fraser also attempts to do something to betray others and yet we all love him as much after we heard about that as we did before. I can't decide if this is because he wasn't able to go through with it, albeit not of his own choice, or because his character had been absolutely flawless before that point so we could be easily prepared to forgive him one misdemeanor(sp?).

Date: 2007-04-07 11:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] revbiscuit.livejournal.com
I just went and had a look at the Torchwood site, and it looks like I *have* seen all of the episodes. Or maybe I've missed one or two in the middle. I cannot be too sure. I have to say the whole thing had me completely baffled from about halfway through, and I sort of lost interest.

I think the writers have tried to write the characters into too many uncomfortable situations. It's like they wanted to shock you every 10 minutes. I just found it all very confusing and convoluted. For example, I lost track of all the times they tried to get their leg over either with each other or the odd passer-by. Plus the whole team sort of disintegrated with every other episode - every other week someone seemed to do something that would put the project into jeopardy - which again, very human, but kind of relentless, you know?

I am not entirely sure of which particular thing Gwen is hated for - if it's all the carry on with the bf I guess it's because as a society we are still less ready to accept this type of behaviour in a woman than in a man. When Fraser cocks up, all we worry about is that he's suffering for his art or something, because we fancy him. When a woman does, society at large, and fandom with it, is a lot less forgiving. Then again, I may have got hold of the completely wrong end of the stick here. I am an ageing feminist *g* and I am obsessed with this sort of societal conditioning, what can I tell you.

Funnily enough, when I made that comment I was thinking more of Ianto and his er, 'modified' girlfriend, and the entire shebang at the end, when everybody sort of pitches in to cause chaos. And I am also wary of being too precise, in case anyone reads this who doesn't want to be spoiled.


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