Or why B5 may or may not fit a much larger, more insidious pattern. (And why I’m even discussing it.)
Spoilers all the way through everything I talk about, pretty much, except for Season 5 of B5, because I haven’t seen it yet. [ed. Reposted March 2012, because I feel like it’s still important.]
Several points regarding Susan Ivanova and her long, lonely stint in the black:
1) The trouble with asking someone who disagrees to look at the bigger picture regarding women like Ivanova is that the bigger picture isn’t necessarily coherent.
1a) Guess who’s skewing it? Yeah, the ones who will raise a hue and cry every time a woman suffers on TV/in a book/in the lyrics of a rap song/whatever.
1b) Guess where that puts me? Yeah, back at square one trying to explain what got my goat.
2) I can and will change my opinion as I see more of a particular canon.
2a) Donna Noble: still not enthused that she couldn’t at least remember. Much happier knowing it wasn’t just a one-off plot point, that the Doctor cared enough to say goodbye in his own way, and that she got what she would now consider a happy ending. If she can’t have space, it is kinder that she doesn’t know what she’s lost.
2b) Ziva David: like I said, at least she’s found some kind of redemption, and fuck, the boys and Abby at least provide her with close friendship.
2c) Still not happy about Kara or Dee from BSG, though. One has been dead all along and the other eats her weapon. The fuck?
3) Female creators are just as guilty.
3a) Shonda Rhimes, I am staring you dead in the eyes on this one. Cristina Yang specifically got left behind because she wanted a career and Burke was threatened by that, which plays into point 4.
3b) J.K. Rowling should not have written her epilogue before, um, the rest of the series. The characters changed over the years in ways that didn’t suit the epilogue; Ginny was never as much of a nurturer as her mother, for example, yet she’s well on her way to being Molly all over again. Hermione becomes a tool of the very Ministry that nearly ended her life; I would have expected her to learn that sometimes, you have to stay out of the government in order to achieve reform.
4) Part of what influences my reaction to Ivanova having to choose career over personal life by default was that women haven’t been able to enjoy both like men have, by and large. (See also the concept of the mommy track, companies taking a dim view of maternity leave, pressure from peers either to adhere completely to tradition or to break completely. No gender deserves this treatment. Why, then, is it still more acceptable to dish it out to women?)
ETA: vikingwriter @ LJ points out that perhaps men have been having issues in the other direction.
5) Some shows get it very, very right. Turn on USA on a weeknight, for example. ABC’s Castle also handles its girl-whumping with finesse, and for the most part, Doctor Who plays nice. (Long canon, long view.) Even though I am unhappy that Ivanova’s personal life never picked up again (per the short story fixit) and convinced she would’ve been happier dying there and then (suffering has to end eventually), everybody visits hir personal hell at some point.
6) Would I have done things differently if I were behind the wheel? Only some, and not out of some desire to make science fiction into another bastion of radical feminism. I’d have done so because it’s fiction. It doesn’t have to be totally realistic. It is, as Sunshine pointed out to me, an escape. Also, it’s set two hundred years from now; you’d think we’d have gotten over point 4, nu? So if I wanted to drive home the point that some people do have terrible lives, I’d have given that to Lyta, for whom that ending is (irony of ironies) far more realistic. She’s a telepath in a world that’s leery of them at best. She’s also not as atypical in her femininity; you get the sense that she’d be a little more comfortable in a dress, for example, and if she’s the other queer character in the ‘verse, that’s under lock and key. No, I don’t know whether redistributing the misfortunes heaped on one character dilutes the message that they are, in fact, misfortunes.
We are presented with multiple outcomes of the heroic cycle (Joseph Campbell). I like that part. Some elements of the presentation have left me uneasy; some have left me cold. I still want to find out what happens next. My dissatisfaction with part of the whole does not mean the whole must be discarded. I am no less a fan because I question one specific piece of an enormous canon. If that were the case, Doctor Who would no longer have a fandom, would it? Rather, I am dealing with my disappointment by analyzing it half to death. My disappointment. My reaction. You ask me about it, you run the risk of hearing things you don’t agree with. Don’t ask if the answer isn’t the one you wanted to hear.
As always, I not only tolerate discussion of any point I’ve made, I welcome it here: in this post, via words on a screen, with room for hyperlinks and citations and all that crap. Left, right, and center, I am open to seeing what you think. Just don’t be offended if I tell you I have to agree to disagree with you, or if I have to leave a point of yours alone for that reason.