The Discourse of Barbarism ⎜Conservatism and You

Yesterday, it was announced that the Conservative Party (of Canada) intends to set up an RCMP tip line so you, yes you, can report the barbaric practices your neighbours commit. Of course, the definition of barbaric is fast and loose, so it can never be pinned down. It allows the Conservatives to say that if you, as a CIS-gendered, able-bodied, white person (read: man) feel uncomfortable, you can report your neighbour for disobeying heteronormative culture. An already incredibly privileged group is getting another service; a service which allows them to confess their deepest, most racist secrets.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t a too-long set up to a joke. It is real. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry because the vagueness of this message means that marginalised persons are going to be more marginalised. The government is going to have their eyes in our bedrooms, and, this time, it’s not through our laptops but from the lips of our neighbours.

Let’s examine these sentiments a little more closely. A cursory search for the word barbarism yields this Google result:

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Barbarism thus defined suggests that what we should be reporting are the uncultured, the cruel, or both. But that doesn’t really give us much information. I think a lot of my neighbours are uncultured; they stay shackled to insular belief systems. Should I be reporting them? Should I be reporting anyone who doesn’t listen to classical music, trip-hop, indie, or all of the sounds in between? Should I be reporting anyone who doesn’t read books? In this case, I should be reporting the Conservative government because it encourages the absence of culture in Canada. Funding has been slashed from humanities and sciences alike at Canadian Universities. The long-held divide between arts and sciences is funnelling into the underfunded and silenced crowd of academics and students.

The Conservative use of the word barbarism is clever and cruel. It leaves the definition of what one might consider barbaric open to interpretation. This discursive trick gains antagonistic value, like a cartoon snowball hurling down a hill collecting more snow and speed along its course. In its first usage, barbarism was used by the Athenians to describe the Spartans. The Spartans were characterized as a warring race that was uncultured and uncivilized. (A bonus for Mr. Jean-Jacques Rousseau). I learnt this fact in the Ancient Civilizations course I took in grade 10. So, already, we have a discourse embedded in a language of war and a less-than status. Subsequent periods in history have reconsidered the Spartans; consider the film 300, based on the graphic novel series by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. King Leonidas, with muscles that only Raphael could have sculpted, leads 300 Spartans into war with the Persian king, Xerxes. The film is a two-hour ode to Spartan bodies, bravery, sex, and urns. Both Plato and Socrates in Plato’s dialogue Protagoras interrogated the presumption that Spartans are dull because of their ability to deliver, unexpectedly, witty comments, now known as laconic phrases. Additionally, when the Spartans invaded southern Greece, they received a rather terse message from Phillip II of Macedon: “If I invade Laconia you will be destroyed, never to rise again.” The Spartans, cleverly, responded with one word: “If.” A zinger if ever there was one. A Bye Felicia of olde.

Barbarism has also been used to define primitive cultures. Remember, when European countries decided that they wanted to inhabit the world. That is the origin story of the US and Canada. The official languages of Canada are not indigenous languages, but French and English. Barbarism was a term employed when the Spanish sent missionaries to their colonies because they feared that the final judgement and salvation could not come if there were so many unconverted peoples. Barbarism was an excuse to enslave people who looked different. Barbarism was used to describe the likely fantastical accounts of the ‘savage’ and the ‘cannibal’ in the New World.

In the late-sixteenth century, Michel de Montaigne wrote an essay called ‘Of Cannibals’. The essay considers the accounts of cannibalism, reported by Europeans, of the Tupinambá peoples of Brazil. Montaigne does not seek to discredit the idea that cannibals exist, he creates context and, in so doing, reminds Europeans of their own practices that seem cannibalistic and barbaric to those who are outside of the European context. He also throws shade at European reasoning in this situation by asking them to use some. In the first paragraph of his essay, Montaigne explores the way in which the word barbarian has been used to describe the other; oftentimes, peoples returning cry at the first sound of “You’re a barbarian!” Like that scene in The Grinch where Jim Carrey ends up, to our amusement, calling himself an idiot. (Take note, dear Conservatives, you’re making us all foolish and at a dear cost). Montaigne said, “[i]t appears how cautious men ought to be of taking things upon trust from vulgar opinion, and that we are to judge by the eye of reason, and not from common report.” Montaigne’s essay says to the reader, ‘be careful what and how you believe.’ Cannibalism, Montaigne wrote, is an extreme act of warfare. It cannot be understood in isolation. European history, from the Romans, to his contemporary day, contains examples of so-called acts barbarity that are consistently excused.  Montaigne’s essay may be called ‘Of Cannibals’ but to whom is he referring? Who is it that eats up and spits out other peoples and cultures?

Again, according the European explorers through the ages, it is always the culture they encounter that was born of barbarism and an unyielding chaos. When a ship of white sailors travels the world; it’s brave and adventurous. In this mythic schema, no one else can have the role of hero. Anxiety over the myth of racial purity and whiteness gave birth to a veritable empire of literature that professed Britishness as demure, docile, worthy to rule, able-bodied, true feminine, true masculine. Boxes and boundaries were built up to define the insiders from the outsiders. The ‘not-one-of-us’ to the recognizably one of us. Scholars from Edward Said to Homi Bhabha examine, note, and reconstruct the discourse of the other, the non-white body. As Said notes, there was the artistic, literary fantasy of the East that conjured itself in the imaginary spaces of europeans. Then, there was the administrative, colonial, and imperial bureaucratization and institutionalization that created nepotistic posts for distant relatives to micro-manage colonized spaces. The creation of other spaces and other bodies also created a space where other bodies acted out the fantasies of the western reader or viewer. Whilst pointing one’s finger at an odalisque and decrying the sex-crazed ‘Eastern despots’, the western mind could climax from the fantasy of a secret, sexual pleasure dome for their own pleasure.

Bhabha, on the other hand, sees the danger in a dialectic creation of an east always overpowered by the west. Similarly, in feminist discourse, if women have always been oppressed by men, can they ever claim power and agency? There has to be space to account for, for want of a better word, other narratives. More often than not, it is not that women or non-white bodies cannot or did not have mobility and intelligence, their histories have been whitewashed through the lens and recorded experiences of white men. This is not to point the finger at all white men or white people, but we have to recognize that the things we hear and learn, primarily, do not come from the persons about whom we are talking.

So, what this shows us is that barbarism, barbarity, and barbaric are lazy words that stand in to denote an “other.” It dismisses cultures. It is an erasure of a culture outside of our own, which, in itself is a kind of ironic barbarism. Montaigne shows us that popular discourses describing another culture as barbaric often works to whitewash our own sins in favour of sensationalizing people about whom we do not know. Said explains that the West created an imaginary East to project its fantasies.

In this election, the Conservative Party, without directly saying it, taps its proverbial nose as its says “Uncle Steve wants YOU! To report your (non-white, Muslim) neighbours!” Hinting that they can protect us because we need protecting. No other party, Tory discourse cries, will tell you the truth about your non-white friends. We will, they pander to the scared, we will protect you. The cost is much more than civil liberties, dear friends. Barbarism becomes a way to de-note and other Canadians. Immediately, there is a sense of “they are not one of us.” Now, we look for cheap and easy ways to distinguish ourselves from the “them”. White bodies become Canadian. Non-white bodies become un-Canadian, dangerous, and volatile. We lose our trust in our neighbour; we lose our trust to unite with them to create a better nation; we lose ourselves. Barbarism = Harperism. I think that’s the idea that should stick.

Whilst we’re here, may I use the tip line to report the hostile ways Canada has treated and continues to treat First Nations peoples? Can everyone call in to remind our Conservatives about the many missing First Nation’s women? Can everyone call in to remind the Conservatives that women’s bodies are not your political playground? Why do you suggest that women and children are only victimized by non-white bodies? Have you looked at the statistics? Why is it, in the context of victimizing marginalized peoples, that you claim you want to help the victimized?

This ploy is just a way to distract us from the larger issues at hand in this election. It’s a way to breed fear, racism, and xenophobia. It makes Harper’s decision to limit the number of refugees appear to be the right one. It is a trick. It’s not yet Halloween, friends, and if Harper’s in office this Halloween, we’ll definitely not get a treat.


The Litigation Mermaid: Ideas of Consent and Contracts

Disney / GIPHY

Ariel signs a contract. Ursula acquires Ariel’s voice. Ariel has three days to kiss Eric, and, if she fails to do so, her soul becomes Ursula’s. Poor Unfortunate Souls, indeed. Although, Ursula is cast off as a villain in The Little Mermaid as an othered body—a powerful female, who is not a merman, and compared to Ariel’s slim waistline, fat. Her otherness is meant to vilify her in the context of Ariel’s so-called innocent quest for love and a different kind of othered body. It is arguable that The Little Mermaid is as much about the legal truths of contracts as it is a doe-eyed love story. In fact, I also argue that this film is not so doe-eyed, but a tale of sexual awakening and includes ideas of consent, if not outright comments on the subject.

First, let’s discuss the terms and conditions of Ariel’s agreement to Ursula. Ariel is not naively signing her soul and voice away; Ursula tells her the results of not paying a debt. Ursula shows a mermaid and man who wanted to become more attractive to impress one another, a vanity which costs them their souls. Arguably, their souls were in peril before Ursula got to them. Indeed, Ursula’s own size and curves emphasize the hubris of the choices of the mermaid/man to slim down her waisteline and to bulk his pecks, instead of just accepting themselves and each other for who they are [naive, right?]. Ariel and other Disney Princesses have unrealistic body types, Ursula’s parable about weight undeniably shows how unrealistic and disastrous coveting these body types are. Indeed, as we see in Ursula’s later transformation to woo Eric, she may chose to look however she wants. Ultimately, Ursula’s entire song “Pour Unfortunate Souls” shows the dangers of covetousness and hubris.

Disney / GIPHY

For example, underwater, Ariel is used to doing as she pleases. She is out-spoken, fearless, and adventurous. But to get above water, Ariel must give her voice to Ursula. The agreement is not all that unfair. In true trinity fashion, Ursula exchanges three days as a human with Ariel for her voice and Ariel needs to acquire “true love’s kiss.” Ariel agrees, and signs her name to the contract. 

Disney / GIPHY

Now, we all know that Ursula wants to use Ariel’s wish to be human to acquire King Triton’s throne and triton to rule the waters. She will manipulate the contract in order to acquire the goods from Prince Eric, so Ariel’s soul will become hers. Yet, the film focuses on Ursula’s contract with Ariel and her final contract with Triton. The presence of the legally binding contract is more authoritative than Triton’s sovereignty, his foul temper. Indeed, let us examine Triton’s court and his behaviour. Like the French Kings, a luxurious court life is meant to symbolize divine right and kingship. We see that his other daughters behave frivolously and sing little ditties to keep the court amused. Entertainment is the opiate of the masses—bread and circuses. But this style of kingship sacrifices the populace for the grandeur and splendour of court life.

Moreover, Ariel is, from the start, shown to be irresponsible to court life because she is not at the concert. Instead, she searches shipwrecks for signs of human and their wares. Ariel seeks the other–the humans that mermaids/men, and underwater life fear. Indeed, humans are seen as a chaotic and harmful force to the water’s ecosystem. Their waste is worrisome to Triton, and that his youngest and dearest daughter collects the detritus completely unnerves him. Instead of explaining himself to us or Ariel, he finds his daughter worshipping the idol of Prince Eric and destroys it all. HUMANS?! BADDIES! (Thanks Triton) But Ursula is willing to transgress the boundaries between land and water, human and not-human. Ursula sends Ariel into the human world after she sacrificed her voice in exchange for the legs. Ariel is, thus, still tied to the underwater world because her voice is trapped under water in a legally binding contract with Ursula. Moreover, Ursula’s contracts do pull Ariel back into the water and even has the power to unravel Triton’s power. So, instead of simply seeing the patriarchal forces of the film play out, we must note that Ursula’s contracts are more powerful than Triton. This is why she is scary. She can overpower Triton. It is when she starts to use Triton’s triton (phallus?) that she is undone and defeated by Eric. Triumphing not only over Ursula, at her death, but also over Triton’s waters. Ariel and Eric do, indeed, get married on a boat and Triton has to concede to Ariel and Eric’s love. Ursula’s disruption to Triton’s authority forever changes the relationship between land and water.

Before I discuss the presence of consent in the film, I discuss the othering of Ursula’s body. We’ve already touched on the divisive quality of man and nature in the film—this divisiveness is a type of othering. The human world is othered because it is different from the underwater world over which Triton reigns. It is seen as a negative place because it is not known, and it is inhabited by difference. See the song “Under The Sea” to drive this point home. Now, the othering of Ursula body is similar in idea. Ursula is immediately identified as a villain in the film. Is it the darkness with which she is associated? She does not look like the white, pristine mermaids/men. Is it that she is not white? Is is that her sexuality is overt, where the barely clad mermaids are somehow innocent and chaste? She is also a woman with, seemingly, unnatural powers. But, where Triton uses his triton to ‘magic’ events, Ursula actually relies on contracts for power. She relies on an enlightenment-based principle of contract and law to make agreements and settle debts. The results of unpaid debts are, indeed, ghastly. Who really wants to look like a slug or a piece of old sea kelp? The questions raised show that Ursula’s legal actions are blurred and convoluted by the fact that she is a non-white, not skinny, woman. Ursula’s marginalization should keep her oppressed, but she has power.

I remember, as a child, watching Ursula and knowing right away that she was meant to be recognized as the baddie. Ariel’s innocence was so starkly contrasted in Ursula’s knowledge of being sexy and what men want. Not mermen…real men. For example: 

Disney // Giphy

Yes, Ursula has curves. Yes, Ursula is sexy. She knows the importance of body language. Look at that butt. DAYAMM. Also, those red lips. You can see that she is aware she is sexy. But there is also this discomfort present. Why should she feel sexy? She doesn’t look like Ariel. She is not skinny. She is not doe-eyed. She is not the daughter of the King. She is not… But her sexuality and knowledge of sexuality is unmistakeable. Her own self-awareness is lost on children as a negative inference, but Ursula’s character should be seen as an empowered female character. A character who has to fight and play dirty for what she wants. Is it only dirty because she is a woman? Negative adjectives are attached to women’s actions, whereas a male character would be considered a hero–trying to claim power from Triton, a king who creates margins and alienation. Ursula has made her own spaces to assert her power. Ursula certainly does not hold her tongue. She even wields Ariel’s voice in the film.

Disney / GIPHY

Ursula’s assertion of power is captured in her claim: “It’s she who holds her tongue who gets her man.” Whose tongue? Ariels! Ursula has her voice and Ariel’s voice. With it, she is able to manipulate Eric into falling in love with her. Note that when Ariel regains her voice after the sea-creature shenanigans at the wedding, Eric immediately races to Ariel. It is not female submissiveness, but the assertion of power and authority that negotiates power relations in the water and out–the voice.

Disney / GIPHY

Ursula’s character is sexy. That is undeniable. Eight (ten) arms are better than two? Anyway, Ariel’s character is understood as an unaware, innocent, young girl seeking her true love. Prince Eric. *swoons* But Ariel’s character should not be understood as an non-sexual being. Ariel is experiencing a sexual awakening in the film. Ariel is crushing on Eric like no other crush before. Haha. Lies. We’ve all been there. But Ariel is awakened, and she wants to be part of Eric’s world. Although Ariel’s character is chastised as a child and she is very childlike, it is undeniable that she is older than these characteristics. She is portrayed as naive and chaste, but she makes the contract with Ursula. She knows she wants to leave the water to find Eric.

Disney / GIPHY

Disney / GIPHY

Although, Ariel’s character appeals to children, the film, even unknowingly, expresses the sexual awakening of a young woman. Perhaps, that she metamorphoses into a human with legs—literally, becoming a woman, her sexual awakening is complete.

Now, speaking of sexual awakenings and our massive crush on Prince Eric. So dreamy. *giggles* It is all so sudden. Oh yes, where was I? Let us move to our final discussion, that of consent. Ursula told Ariel that she had three days to make her humanness permanent by having true love’s kiss—can it be true love if both parties cannot communicate openly with one another? No! So, perhaps Ursula’s contract was always filled with clauses and impossible loopholes in her favour. But, I digress. The song “Kiss the Girl” has often been read as a moment where the kiss is meant to happen to the girl, but, arguably, Ariel’s friends are her voice in this scene. She WANTS to kiss Eric and for Eric to want to kiss her. Alas, the boat is upturned at the end of the scene, and maybe we can consider Ursula to be a bastion of consent, rather than trying to stop all possible kissing moments [cock block]. [Of course, Ursula’s attempt to marry Eric is an example of consent gone to pooh]. But even if Eric does kiss Ariel, consent is not present. Eric does not know who Ariel is, and Ariel is using him to become human.

Disney / GIPHY

Ariel and Eric cannot kiss until both parties can communicate. The kiss is not consensual until communication is present. And while Ursula has Ariel’s voice, communication is impossible and so, too, is consent. Writing or sign language are not necessarily options because of the premise of the contract; indeed, there is a scene where Ariel attempts to communicate by signing, but Eric cannot understand her signs. Finally, it is when Ariel speaks, Eric recognizes her and they both go to kiss. But they are stopped as Ariel changes back into a mermaid. The contract to kiss him was not known by both parties; communication has failed. When the contracts binding Ariel to Ursula are resolved, Triton signs a contract to release her, Eric fights to save Ariel. This happens in very quick succession, but the events that unravel show the necessity of consent.

In conclusion: 

Disney / GIPHY

Yes, The Little Mermaid has its issues that many feminists have discussed more eloquently than I, but I think that there are also instances where women are shown to have power, sexual awareness, and consent. Indeed, Ursula’s knowledge of contracts is an area that could, perhaps, be explored. Octopi Law School; Under the Sea Academy of Law; The Eight Balancing Arms of Justice….I could go on.


Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

source: brooklynbookgirl via tumblr

In the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment hit like the plague. Rationality, human rights, and queries into sovereignty were the symptoms that festered. Of course, one does not wholeheartedly begrudge the Enlightenment, but it is of course nice to throw shade at it once in a while. In any case,  Dr. Mah argues, the French spread their own strain of civility and cultural values that made German intellectuals and society quite uncomfortable. Toujours français! Alas, German particularity was born. But, as Dr. Mah further suggests, these notions of national identity, which sought to create difference and superiority through divisiveness, were, in fact, “phantasies.” Or, that is to say, not really there. The fight over who had the right to dictate culture and cultural meaning led, Mah says, to Karl Marx’s ultimate repudiation of cultural identity, located in the proletariat–those without culture. 

Mah’s book considers leading intellectual and cultural figures throughout the German and French Enlightenment, who presented contrary behaviours. How could this be? In an immediate way, as a historian and reader, this book taught me that when I am reading (and living), I shouldn’t look for the ways a person conforms to what I already expect to be true about that person or their history. It also taught me that often times people, and those who become interested in those people, are incredibly caught up in their own contradictory behaviours—sometimes seething in a locked tower in an attempt to surmise just who they are. Just as I write this, the amazingly sunny weather has turned into a drastic-hurricane-like torrent. To go on a brief tangent, the rain is not tears, no, the rain is a moment of cleansing harmony. Perhaps, that is just what we all need–to be cleansed from our desire to seek out and create damning memoirs of our own contradictory behaviours.

The problem of contrariness stems from the need to put everything into narrow boxes of identification. This, of course, *rings bell of Enlightenment* stems from the Enlightenment. By attempting to classify, clarify, and justify the world according to their experience, Enlightenment thinkers paved the way for western institutions, Michel Foucualt argues. From a world in which power was displayed by inscribing power onto bodies through praise and punishment, to a panopticon-world in which man recorded and modified his own behaviour. Which is better? I don’t really imagine that is the right question to ask. Now that we are aware of how systems are manufactured, sold (by objectifying race and women), and digested (passive acceptance and aggression towards minorities) we should do our best to confound that system. If we all adhere to this world, wherein we identify as one thing and spend the rest of our lives finding our own contrariness, we deny the full spectrum of life. Inherently, any such binary will be fabricated in our own imagination. How we imagine we are perceived, rather than how we actually are. At any one time, we cannot be entirely sure of our identity. How does one adequately mark out their identity? Do we create lists, do we share stories, do we smile to someone’s face and cry when they leave?

I don’t think so. For if we start to create a list, by the time we’ve gotten to the bottom, there is no way for us to know if we are still aligned with the top. If we just are, rather than modifying to conform to the patriarchal world we live in, then we might just experience something new and worthwhile. Not to delegitimize anyone’s lived experience–no one’s life should ever be seen as less. It feels like always walking the plank—at what point am I stable in just being and when does the plank begin to shift under the weight of thinking. Ultimately, the goal is to no longer fear the water or the sharks we see below. Ultimately, the goal is to plunge into the unknown and live fearlessly. Ultimately, the goal is to realize the real.

J.B Fletcher, My Feminist Icon

a0646896cee7524821d46e52ec98ccb0Source: Pinterest

  Growing up on the esteemed Dame Angela Landsbury’s performance as J.B Fletcher provided me with a role model, outside of my immediate circle of amazing women (that’s you mom!), to whom I could aspire to be.  From steering Amos Tupper, Cabot Cove’s cheerful, but slightly sleepy Sheriff in the right direction, to standing in for the murdered Governor of Maine and telling his male media assistant not to treat her like an addled aunt from east nowhere, JB Fletcher told the world: “I am an older woman who can, and who will tell you when you’re letting your patriarchal impressions of me get to be downright boring.”  <<Insert delightfully sassy smile>>  Not only did JB Fletcher show young girls, like me, that women could stand up for themselves, she also showed us that women could be fearless.  Fearlessness is not simply walking down a dark alley and solving murders, it is going for a run every morning, it is riding your bike into town, it is drinking more coffee as you tackle the last chapter of your book, it is offering a warm meal to someone who needs it, and it is standing up to someone you know did wrong.  J.B Fletcher taught me, as I flicked to A&E at 6am to watch her solve another case, that I could have a meaningful career in one life and swan onto another if I wanted.  That’s one thing JB taught me, always keep learning.  Sure, she didn’t know what poisons could do to you, as a high school English teacher, so she picked up a book and continued to learn.   I can be teacher; I can be writer; I can be detective; I can be artist; I am “woman.”  (And woman can be defined in whatever terms you feel is right for you because, as Judith Butler says, gender is performed).


It surprises me to think that Murder, She Wrote was competing with Friends. Yet, what should astound and humour us, is that an episode aired that mocked Friends and its coffee-shop culture (Buds was the name of the show in that episode) in favour of a more ‘high-brow’, Agatha Christie-style television show with an American Miss Marple at the helm.  Murder escapes no one, not even friends, and perhaps murder isn’t always the literal act of killing someone, it is also the symbolic act.


Recent shows, such as Castle, try to mimic and re-vitalize JB Fletcher as the Canadian heartthrob Nathan Fillion in the role of Richard Castle, who is more of a teddy-bear version of a clumsy James Bond than an articulate and educated JB Fletcher.  Castle’s success is predicated upon the many years of Angela Landsbury’s hard work.  Not only did she star in the show, she was one of the executive producers from 1992 to 1996.   But I digress, Castle uses the same formula that provided success for Murder, She Wrote.  Of course, ironically, by adding some day-time Soap Opera love affairs, Castle appeals to the more contemporary audience, 18 years to 49 years right?!  This is also likely because the amateur mystery writer is a man–the American Hard-Boiled Detective, archaically drenched in machismo.  I do not want to sidestep Detective Kate Beckett in the show because she is truly badass, but the show isn’t called Beckett, it’s called Castle. It wasn’t until Season 5, Episode 4, that the show finally paid homage to Murder, She Wrote with an episode, aptly called, “Murder, He Wrote.”  To be honest, while I was waiting for it to happen, that was the last episode I ever watched.  For years I watched the citation of Murder, She Wrote play before my eyes.  I even yelled, “FINALLY!” when I saw the title of the episode, but that was also the moment I got angry.  It had taken them THAT long to own up to it?  FIVE SEASONS AND FOUR EPISODES.  So, I shook it off and walked away before the episode finished.  Castle was not teaching me how to be a strong woman–I know you can argue that his mother and daughter occupy those roles–but JB Fletcher was a single character who could and did do it all.  Castle was numbing my brain and keeping me locked up in its imaginary, insular world of privilege, slut-shaming, and the objectification of women.  And, after all, He has been doing all the writing throughout history; I prefer Murder, SHE wrote.


The most amazing thing about Murder, She Wrote was that the show gives you all the clues you need to solve the case yourself.  A character will say too much, or you can start to plot timelines as the show runs to the last 7 minutes….whodunit?!  In more recent years, shows such as CSI or Criminal Minds focus on the professionalization of the detective, entrenched in a world of science, tweezers, DNA, and BAU training.  Of course, that’s what we all want from the world, justice served up to us through the illusion of rationality.  I say illusion because science and rationality are taken to be truths because of the Enlightenment…. so put that in your pipe and smoke it.  These more recent shows give the viewer a spectacle; it reminds you, you cannot commit the perfect crime–science will be there to find you.  <<Science>> our new God complex.


Indeed, many of Murder, She Wrote’s plot lines were questionable and spectacular themselves (for instance the orientalist episode with the Indian jewel–Wilkie Collins, much?), but they always engaged the viewer.  They asked you to try and collect clues and build your own powers of observation.  The show placed JB Fletcher in an honoured seat of intelligence, and if you could, through observation and creativity (perhaps some of you will shake your fist and say but, surely, that is scientific too…. nah, cool your beans) solve the case, then you, too, were aligned with JB Fletcher.


Whenever the show starts to play, I always sing along to the opening melody.  It is a simple piano tune without words or any outrageous promise of spectacle, and I am okay with being sold that reality by my television.   I know I am being sold something.  But that something is aspirational, educated, and wise.  Additionally, it sold Maine as a place to go on holiday.  Anyone want to go to Bar Harbour with me?  I’ve been dying to go since I was a child.

(P.S this post does not cover themes of race and privilege.  
I promise in the future to comb through the episodes more meaningfully 
to bring about some ideas on this.  Of course, her New York episodes deal 
more with race and privilege.)