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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

45 Comments

  1. Alex Antonijevic
    August 13, 2014 @ 2:20 am

    I find it interesting that there's a lot of fathers this series, even though Rory doesn't get as much focus as Amy in the River Song episodes. But we've got Captain Avery, the guy from that Ganger episode with the awkwardly dancing kid, Alex from Night Terrors and now Craig. Each one of them had some issue with being a father that the Doctor helped them with.

    Reply

  2. ferret
    August 13, 2014 @ 3:22 am

    It's a scripting issue, but I find the opening aggravating – Craig has decided to spend an evening alone with his son to "prove" he is capable of doing so. As soon as Sophie leaves, he freaks out that he can't do it.

    So, he's not thinking about the welfare of his son at all then. If he genuinely believes he is incapable of caring for his son for an evening, why the hell has he created this situation? Because he is selfish: his desire to "prove" himself outweighs his concern for sons welfare. On the other hand, if he does not genuinely believe himself to be incapable of caring for his son, why all the fuss and histrionics?

    So: incredibly selfish or incredibly annoying – no wonder I can't stand this character, let alone find it funny.

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  3. David Anderson
    August 13, 2014 @ 3:51 am

    The intellectual knowledge that lots of people manage and therefore you will manage too is not always a match for the emotional anxiety that it's just you if something goes wrong and you're exhausted anyway.
    No matter how often it's been alright before, it is impossible for anyone (male or female) to be sole person in charge of a child overnight without at least one episode of panic that they can't cope.

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  4. David Anderson
    August 13, 2014 @ 4:04 am

    I wouldn't have said Rory's main motive for travelling was to take care of Amy because it's dangerous. (That would I think be not so far from the same kind of men taking care of women ideology that you otherwise object to.) I'd have said it's more that he wants to spend time with Amy, and this is how Amy would like to spend time with him.

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  5. Seeing_I
    August 13, 2014 @ 4:11 am

    I am glad you found value in this but for me it is one of the most pointless and un-memorable episodes of the new series. Sorry Gareth, we love you! But sheesh. Lampshading "blowing them up with love" didn't make it any better, and the whole Stormageddon / I speak baby palaver was just excruciatingly twee. I'm sorry if that's just too reductive and I do appreciate the themes you pick out in it – but for me, as you said in your intro, the only reason this episode exists is to save a bit of cash and reiterate a popular story from the previous year.

    I did, however, rush right out to buy the "Damaged Cybermen" action figures, because they look the business.

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  6. jane
    August 13, 2014 @ 4:13 am

    And by the time we get to The Power of Three, I think it's clear (if it wasn't already in Vampires of Venice) that Rory enjoys the adventuring on its merits, too.

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  7. ferret
    August 13, 2014 @ 4:21 am

    Impossible? Can't say as I've ever panicked at looking after my kids, but I guess it's a big wide world and mileage varies.

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  8. ferret
    August 13, 2014 @ 4:32 am

    Making this ep even more pointless: the trailer for Series 6b even showed all the Cybermen's heads blowing up, robbing the episode of it's big finish moment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9L65Qe7FBkQ

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  9. Anton B
    August 13, 2014 @ 4:43 am

    Amazing. Yet again you've produced a redemptive reading of an episode that, while I don't actively dislike, is not one I'd choose to rewatch very often. In fact your close reading of that River Song coda and the metaphoric function of the Silence as '…unstory… a rotting absence and abscess, a textual wound' has made me want to do just that.

    It's perhaps a sad irony that, in this week which brought the death of both Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, we are examining this story. Williams, in Mork and Mindy was about as 'Doctory' as an American actor could get in a 1970's sitcom. Somewhere, in that parallel universe where Doctor Who was a US network show, surely Robin Williams was the fourth Doctor. Bacall of course was the prototype strong female in film noir, putting Bogart's quirky masculinity down with a series of one liners and often in some mysterious way knowing more about the labyrinthine plot than the men. She was arguably the inspiration for River Song, underlined by that character's depiction as film noir femme fatale in The Angels Take Manhattan.

    Back to Closing Time as I said I don't really care for the episode but, oddly perhaps, I love the Stormaggedon gag (I hope no-one ever decides to pay it off though by introducing the grown up Alfie as a monster). I don't even mind the 'power of love' defeat of the Cybermen. Let's face it you can defeat the Cybermen with pretty much anything these days.
    Perhaps for personal reasons I'm just not a big fan of 'father issues' stories. A trope Hollywood seems obsessed by and that other commenters have pointed out seems to be oversubscribed in this series.

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  10. Leslie Lozada
    August 13, 2014 @ 5:06 am

    I love this sequel, just one thing, part of the comedy for this episode was about the misrepresentation of the Doctor and Craig as a gay couple with a baby.

    Even when they find out in the end, there's still the fact that Craig seems to be, bi.

    When the Doctor was trying to distract Craig from looking around to see that they are on a cyberman ship, and tries to kiss him, Craig says he can't because he's in a relationship, not 'not gay'.

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  11. Spacewarp
    August 13, 2014 @ 5:19 am

    Oh heavens yes. I've been where Craig was, loads of times. Especially when my son was new-born. The wife's shouldered most of the burdon of the new baby, and now she wants to go out with her mates for the evening. "Are you sure you don't mind?" she asks. "I'll be fine!" you say. "You go an enjoy yourself." And as soon as she walks out the door you realise that although you think you're fine with nappies and milk and all things Dad, you've just lost your backup. If anything goes wrong, she won't be there.

    Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt…then shrunk the t-shirt in the wash.

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  12. Heath
    August 13, 2014 @ 5:26 am

    Oh yes, I quite forgot that running gag. I think it gets lost in the remembering due to the 'Stormaggedon' stuff.

    But it is interesting that when Eleven gets kissed by women he is awkward and uncomfortable (Amy, River's first kiss, Clara) but is quite willing to lay one on Rory (in Dinosaurs) and Craig here. The only woman i recall him initiating a snog with was Jenny in Crimson Horror (and there is all kinds of speculation that there is more to that Jenny character).

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  13. Spacewarp
    August 13, 2014 @ 5:26 am

    No, that's part of Craig's character. His brain goes off at 90 degrees at the last second. It's like you're a vegetarian, someone offers you a burger, and for some mad reason you say "no thanks, I've just eaten."

    Plus "I can't because I'm not gay." would be the flattest unfunniest line ever.

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  14. Ombund
    August 13, 2014 @ 5:32 am

    I love this episode. Of course it was always going to be an impossible task to recreate the impact and sublime brilliance of The Lodger, but at the same time I could happily watch an entire series of Eleven and Craig larking about – you wouldn't even need to call it Doctor Who. I was hoping we'd get to see a final part in the Craig trilogy, perhaps with a greater role for Sophie/Daisy Haggard, before Matt left but alas it was not to be. Maybe there's some mileage in a future meeting with Twelve though? After all he's already thrown at him, I could imagine Craig taking a regenerated Doctor in his stride.

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  15. ferret
    August 13, 2014 @ 5:48 am

    I can strongly recommend Lauren Bacall in the radio plays "Bold Venture", starring alongside her husband Humphrey Bogart. Her character is quite interesting especially for the time (1951) – she's oozes confidence and is in fact quite bullet proof, often seeming to be quite aware she is a lead character in a radio play and therefore untouchable. The other characters (Bogart included) do not seem to share this level of awareness and the "bad guys" usually underestimate her to such a great extent that their assumption of her helplessness actually gives her the opportunity to get the upper hand in otherwise dire and desperate situations.

    You can listen to all the episodes (all known episodes anyway) here: https://archive.org/details/BoldVenture57Episodes

    Reply

  16. Doctor Memory
    August 13, 2014 @ 5:48 am

    Bluntly, some people cope better with chronic low-level sleep deprivation than others.

    I have joked, ha-ha-only-serious, that 15 years spent as a professional systems administrator having to do overnight on-call shifts was the best possible preparation for parenthood. How people who were not already well familiar with being woken up at 3am by an implacable emergency learned to cope on the fly, I have no idea.

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  17. TheSmilingStallionInn
    August 13, 2014 @ 6:03 am

    Depends on James Corden's availability, I suspect. He's going to be hosting Craig Ferguson's old talk show from now on.

    Reply

  18. welleatyouupweloveyouso.com
    August 13, 2014 @ 6:04 am

    There have been many a middle of the night episodes where our baby just wouldn't stop crying no matter what and I had no idea what to do and felt panicked as hell. I had one of them the other night and he's 14 months old. And for me, I think it's even worse because moms are supposed to be the ones who know what to do. Mother's intuition my ass. I get over it soon enough, of course, but being panicked even if you are completely competent is a very reasonable reaction to dealing with a baby.

    All that being said, super props to my husband, who is a stay-at-home dad. We're at Disney right now and I had the baby by myself all afternoon while my husband was at the grocery store and kept thinking, "Dang, this is really hard." It's so easy to forget how challenging going anywhere with a baby by yourself is when you don't do it often.

    For the longest time, I don't know if I didn't notice his name or what, but I thought Stormageddon was a girl. Which I think would have been even better.

    Reply

  19. Katherine Sas
    August 13, 2014 @ 6:45 am

    I think my favorite bit of the episode is the Doctor's little monologue about existential despair: "Stop crying. You've got a lot to look forward to, you know. A normal human life on Earth. Mortgage repayments, the nine to five, a persistent nagging sense of spiritual emptiness. Save the tears for later, boy-o." It fits in with your analysis of the episode as representing the nadir of the qlippothic strand in Doctor Who.

    Reply

  20. Theonlyspiral
    August 13, 2014 @ 6:51 am

    With the possible exception of "The Tenth Planet" this is the finest televised Cyberman story in the history of Doctor Who. The only one in all of the spin off stuff that is better is Spare Parts. Coming in third is pretty good.

    What is interesting to me is that the Cybermen need something more than themselves to regain the mythic power they had when they killed The Doctor on the moon. Here it is only the emanations from another empty, spiritually hollow set of beings. They cannot stand up to the Doctor, instead having to get at Craig. They are reduced to their basics here, tin-plated robots skulking in the shadows, eating the crumbs that fall from the table of a real narrative. It's appropriate that the common heroism of a father defeats the Cybermen. They've been punching above their weight class since the Moonbase and failing.

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  21. David Anderson
    August 13, 2014 @ 7:52 am

    I'd sat The Invasion was pretty good, although one could argue that the cybermen are the weakest part of that.

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  22. Matthew Celestis
    August 13, 2014 @ 8:10 am

    The Doctor's idea of a 'normal human life' sounds very middle-class.

    Reply

  23. jane
    August 13, 2014 @ 8:53 am

    Stormaggedon is middle-class.

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  24. jane
    August 13, 2014 @ 9:02 am

    So I find it very interesting that the Cybermen's operation is happening through a department store. The tunnel to their underground lair is behind a mirror, of course, with all the alchemical/identity stuff that applies, and it's even more interesting that the mirror is in a changing room. Notice how Craig's conversion is depicted as clothing him in a Cybersuit.

    Cybermen wear armor — that's what makes them Cybermen, I guess — but they acquire people like people acquire outfits.

    Anyways, there's definitely a consumerist/capitalist commentary to be made here, and I think the story is aware of it. Look how Craig tries to shake hands with Kelly in ladies' wear — he sticks out his hand like an Auton (and another shout-out to Rory, I guess). The mannequins are all silver, adding another allusion to Cyberlife. Oh, and then there's Amy showing up as an advertisement.

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  25. BerserkRL
    August 13, 2014 @ 9:33 am

    For anyone who missed it: the second leaked episode finally seeded.

    Reply

  26. Triturus
    August 13, 2014 @ 9:51 am

    I agree; while it's obvious that Rory does want to and will protect her when the situation demands it (the Centurion), I don't think that is his primary reason for travelling, particularly once the 'Amy fancies the Dr' mini-diversion has been resolved. If travelling with the Doctor was completely safe, he'd still go, because as you say he just wants to be with Amy.

    Of course, he might just enjoy periodic resurrections, but he doesn't strike me as the kinky type..

    Anyway, another article I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It's fitting that the Moffat era that Dr Sandifer is so keen on is inspiring an equally enjoyable run of Eruditorum posts.

    Reply

  27. Matthew Blanchette
    August 13, 2014 @ 10:03 am

    It certainly does some things differently than how they were described in the script…

    Reply

  28. xen trilus
    August 13, 2014 @ 10:19 am

    The Silver Turk (same author as Parts) was pretty tops as well I thought.

    Reply

  29. BerserkRL
    August 13, 2014 @ 11:11 am

    I was surprised to see camels replacing zebras in the orgy scene.

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  30. encyclops
    August 13, 2014 @ 11:41 am

    I'm not surprised that you've commented on very little in the actual episode (see also "Enlightenment") — I guess in the end there's not THAT much to say about it. I know others don't and can understand their reasons, but I personally find it an utter pleasure. I've said before that I see more chemistry between the Doctor and Craig than any other companion of the modern era (not that kind of chemistry, though a man can dream) and I too would watch a whole series of this. The "are you gonna kiss me?" sequence seemed just a little too wish-fulfillment-y — is that what they call fanservice? — but I'm not complaining. Outside of that we just had scads of what I call entertainment.

    I do think that, even if one isn't charmed by Craig or by this story, there's still something to be had from that sequence where the Doctor is trying to talk himself out of staying to help when he sees the lights flickering. We get so used to him rushing toward danger that it stands out when he's trying not to notice it. I didn't get much out of the "premonition of death" arc this season, but here's the one place I think it works very well; the contrast between the death we "know" is coming and the little domestic crises Craig is dealing with, between the epic climax and the day-to-day, it's very potent. Smith gives some excellent acting here, particularly in the toy store when he's putting on one face for the kids and Craig and another for the danger he's sniffing out. And speaking of the domestic, surely here's an episode that can't help feeling a little Davies, yes? To say nothing of the upcoming "Bells of St. John." It's not just contemporary Earth, because to me "The Power of Three" feels nothing like Davies-era.

    Then there's that line where the Doctor frets about putting his companions in danger (the tired "everyone around you dies" trope that pretty much every protagonist in a long-running dramatic series is by nature eligible for) and Craig says, look, the Earth would be a scorched rock a hundred times over if not for you.

    Anyway, I adore "Closing Time." For me this concludes the best run of three stories since Season 4.

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  31. Galadriel
    August 13, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

    Even the first time I watched this, the helplessness of River struck me. Just the way she sinks back into the chair, makes no attempt to fight–this is really her lowest point. Not as a child, when she ran off. Not in WoRS, where she made a point of defying history. But in a library with a monster from her past.

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  32. 5tephe
    August 13, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

    Glad you've finally talked about Rory, who I have always felt wad one of the more interesting characterson the show, for all the reasons you mentioned. I do think it's made explicitly clear at various points though that Amy doesn't need him to take care of her, and that he's not foolish enough to think that's his primary job.

    He's more like a husband who wants to live with his wife despite the fact that she has an important job that takes her to eat zones.

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  33. T. Hartwell
    August 13, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

    There's a line of criticism I really can't stand where the critiques against a piece basically amount to "I wish this was something else". It's a frustrating attack because it's based more on the desires of the person making the attack rather than anything to do with the story itself.

    So on principle I try to avoid this tack whenever I can, but "Closing Time" is alas one of the few moments where it breaks through for me, because I so dearly would've loved to see the Cybermen story that's breaking through the seams here, instead of being relegated to the Lodger sequel that's front and center.

    I dunno, maybe it's because I've always been fascinated by broken-but-potential concepts, and the Cybermen are the ultimate in that regard in Doctor Who for me- rarely have they ever been used well, but man, when we get a hint of their true thematic power (see: Tenth Planet, Spare Parts) they're glorious. And the story going on here- ancient Cybermen ship that crashes and integrates itself beneath a shopping mall? Perfect. I would love to see a story that properly deals with all the implications and absurdities that allows.

    And, well, "Closing Time" just doesn't do that. And fair enough, it's not meant to do that, and I'm sure for what it is it's perfectly fine. But I've never been able to enjoy it as much for want of what could have been.

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  34. Adam Riggio
    August 13, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

    "Moffat is very focused on changing and improving the stories we tell about women. He is an ideologically feminist writer, a point that can trivially be demonstrated by trawling interview quotes. . . . Anyone who attempts to argue that Moffat is not consciously attempting to write feminist television is simply and factually incorrect."

    I love it when you ask for trouble, Phil. When you started the Moffat era's analysis, I knew you'd have to contend with the STFUMoffat contingent. That Tumblr had dominated much of the online conversation about Doctor Who, and remains a well-known part of the general public opinion. Even as Moffat's Doctor Who has literally conquered the world (I have no idea how the BBC plans to top the Doctor Who World Tour for future season and era launches), this very aggressive critique has haunted it.

    And I love that, by now, you are clearly sick of it. I became sick of it long ago, but I was never able to mount the detailed interpretive defence of Moffat, his ideas, and his approaches to narrative, as you have. What's more, you've also shown just how complex a writer Moffat is. The angry critique that Moffat is a misogynist lies in oversimplified readings of his characters and arcs. Because Amy in some way cares about her husband and the Doctor, they take her as having no motivations other than her relationship with a man. Because River is mysterious and sexy, and deeply integrates her life with the Doctor, she's nothing but an MPDG. Never mind the fact that the insult, "nothing but an MPDG" is now more often thrown around as a way to denigrate any charismatic female in a fictional medium.

    So I'm quite glad to see that your episode-by-episode account has, by now, left the STFUMoffat crowd without a leg to stand on. The only reason they'd continue, after this, is the sheer inertia of internet culture where no one takes seriously any point of view they already disagree with, or question their beliefs in any respectful way.

    However, I do see one issue with your analysis, which is the conceptual complexity of your analysis itself. It's very easy to identify such simple dramatic tropes as a woman who cares about her man/men and an MPDG. But the subversion of the rape-revenge plot in A Good Man Goes to War and Let's Kill Hitler's narrative association of post-traumatic healing and radical ethical transformation from a cruel to redemptive framework with female-coded spaces are just too complicated to be obvious to a viewer who doesn't have a PhD in media studies. The fact that Let's Kill Hitler suffered so badly from the production clusterfucks of Season Six in Fall 2011 didn't help. For most people, until we can read what you've written and think on it, it is what it obviously is, even though its obvious appearance obscures what's really going on and the true intentions of its creators.

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  35. Matthew Blanchette
    August 13, 2014 @ 5:23 pm

    rolls eyes

    The bit Capaldi improvised with the "Dalek claw", seemingly just to get Jenna Coleman to laugh, was nice, though.

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  36. Matthew Blanchette
    August 13, 2014 @ 5:26 pm

    And, of course, it happens again, from her point of view. Except the next time, the monster is the man she loves, made unrecognizable and unknowing.

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  37. TheSmilingStallionInn
    August 13, 2014 @ 6:26 pm

    @Triturus Well, there was that thing with the Centurion and Amy the constable on that spaceship in A Christmas Carol…

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  38. TheSmilingStallionInn
    August 13, 2014 @ 6:29 pm

    …with a Welsh opera singer and a giant sky shark!

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  39. TheSmilingStallionInn
    August 13, 2014 @ 6:32 pm

    Although that classic image of the Cybermen in The Invasion is excellent. And if you know anything about the production footage this series…probably not as classic, but interesting.

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  40. dirkmalcolm.com
    August 14, 2014 @ 12:29 am

    "I'm not gay" would only work in a kind of Alan Partridge/Ricky Gervais comedy of embarrassment sense, which would be totally wrong for Cordon's character.

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  41. Daru
    August 14, 2014 @ 10:05 pm

    Love this story and the image of the rusting, rotting Cybermen hinting at the possible myriad hidden horrors that lurk beneath the veneer of our culture.

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  42. Jesse
    August 15, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

    Whereas I was kind of aggravated that the Cybermen were intruding on this great story about the Doctor and Craig.

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  43. jonathan inge
    August 16, 2014 @ 10:52 am

    I dislike "Closing Time" as much as "The Lodger." Not to say I hate it. A poor penultimate episode of Series 6. And if you look at it a timey-wimey way a poor preamble to Series 6. It's filler and can be easily skipped going from "God Complex" to "Wedding of River Song." One can take River's coda and tack it at the end of the former or beginning of the latter.

    However, "Closing Time" much like "The Lodger" works as a pause between symphonic movements. For those paying casual attention, it is a bit of the familiar, which makes it the perfect misdirection for a narrative substitution.

    Ah, Rory. To me, he is a mix of Steven and Jamie. However, Rory is not the Doctor's foil; he is Amy's companion. This is somewhat of a new concept in DW. Of course, Rory is a knowledgeable, skilled person and as in line with how the show treats such people therefore he has no real use. I think there is only one episode where his ability as a nurse is briefly shown.

    As for Amy, misogyny, and Moffat… sigh. The Doctor said it quite clearly in "God Complex." Amy is a prop. She serves his purposes. She serves the narrative; never subverts it herself. What is worse she never makes the big decisions for herself. Except the one in her ending. Her outcome is slightly better than Donna's, at least Amy can remember and perhaps have some offscreen character growth. (Yes, I'm also saying RTD's take on female main characters be viewed as misogynistic as well.)

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  44. Aylwin
    August 18, 2014 @ 2:36 am

    There is something ruefully pessimistic about the portrayal of Rory in relation to heroism, given his tendency to get killed, or at least "killed". If Rory represents a male type, the storytelling seems to say that if that sort of man gets out into the rough unprotected world he is going to get badly hurt. It takes repeated reality-rearranging authorial intervention to resuscitate him and keep him going. Given the absence of this in the real world, this is hardly an upbeat portrayal of the prospects for heroic behaviour on the part of ordinary decent men who do not by inclination go looking for trouble.

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  45. Jarl
    August 23, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

    I just wanted to stop in and add that Children of the Revolution is a really cute movie, and I enjoy it a lot. Haven't seen it since I was a kid, I should check it out again.

    Reply

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