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Themes and Things in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Here's a few more thoughts on KKBB:

1)The theme of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang revolves around coming home but does not address homecoming in a straightforward manner.  Jack is back "home" at Torchwood Cardiff.  But what does "home" mean?

"Home is where you hang your hat."  Jack's hat is on his hatstand in his office.

"Home is where they have to welcome you back, no matter how upset they are with you."  That's pretty much what happened.  The Team was angry at Jack, but there was never a moment's doubt they would rather have him there to yell at than not have him, as Ianto pointed out so eloquently in the taxi scene.

But most of all "Home" is an extension of the individual.  You can't know where "home' is for sure until you know who "you" are for sure.  Who is Jack Harkness?  He's been a Time Agent, "Rear of the Year 5094", con man, Companion of the Doctor, Torchwood branch head, lover, soldier, torturer, poster boy, mechanic, alien expert, and who knows what else.  But how do these pieces fit together?  Not easily at the moment, as Jack is clearly not at ease with the man he was before he met the Doctor.   Until that issue is resolved, I fear "Home" in the "place of the heart's ease" sense is not truly possible for Jack.


1a)settling down

An extension to "home" is what you do when you get there.  Two of the most popular hero-types in TV are the Wandering Knight and the Sheriff.  The Doctor follows the Wandering Knight model and Jack has chosen the Sheriff model, as I mentioned in my fic here.  I applaud Jack's choice, it's psychologically healthier and introduces more variety into the Whoniverse.  (Don't get me started on Time Lord neuroses.  Just don't.)  But the Sheriff is a settled hero.  Is Jack going to settle down?  Are any of the main characters?

They're all certainly going to try.  Owen tells Tosh he's tired of one-night stands and looking for "a proper woman" who understands the demands of their work.  Tosh is as "proper" as one can get, a co-worker, and has a crush on Owen.  It's lovely how he's not-quite asking her out and she's not-quite picking up on it.  He's hurt her badly before, and she's not going to be a pushover.

Meanwhile Gwen is settling down and marrying Rhys, although judging from the cow-eyes she made at Jack while saying "no one else would have me" she would drp Rhys in a second for Jack if Jack put a move on her.  Jack refuses to put a move on her.

Then there's Jack and Ianto.  Jack wants Ianto back, but Ianto makes it clear that's only going to happen in the context of a more settled, formal relationship, boyfriends instead of "part-time shags".  But how much will Jack be able to settle down?  Given the demands of their work, how much will any of them?  Time will tell.

And then there's John, who doesn't understand the urge to settle down and completely mishandles his scenes with Jack as a result.

2) Love interest styles - gothic vs. "jane austen"

I first titled this Heroine Styles, but Davies wouldn't approve of me being gender-specific, would he? *g*

The Anglo-American romance genre has to dominant styles of heroines -- er, love interests.  There's the "Traditional" or "Jane Austen" type:  proper, reserved, intellectual, not going to be ruled by her (or his) emotions.  That's Ianto.  Then there's the "Romantic" or "Gothic" type:  outgoing, impulsive, and ruled by her (or his) passions.  That's Gwen.  While she's more likely to be found wandering the moors with a pistol rather than a white nightdress, she is in every other way the spiritual descendant of Bronte's protagonists.

(The types also show up in gay romance novels, as I found out in high school when I worked in a used paperback book store in small-town Mississippi.  I had a Devil of a time figuring out where to shelve them.)

While these characters have many novels by themselves, something interesting happens when they appear together.  A formula used in millions of popular women's romance novels is for both characters to fall in love with Reformed Bad Boy.  The RBB then has to pick between them, and has to prove his worth to the audience by discerning that the "Jane Austen" type is the better match than the "Gothic" type.  That's one of the reasons so many women ship Jack/Ianto so fiercely.  It's a formula we cut our teeth on, and if the writing team starts messing with that formula there's going to be thousands of unhappy romance readers to deal with.  It's also echoed in the Tosh/Owen relationship.

Of course, they could slowly wean the audience away from that model on to some other pattern.  That's not what they were doing in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang though.

Davies knows more about literature than most entire English departments, but I honestly can't say if this is intentional, entirely coincidental, or simply a matter of writers falling into old habits.  However, I would be less suspicious if he hadn't used the same plot formula in the original Queer as Folk.


3)Staging Ianto -- Someting very interesting happens in the opening scene, when Ianto is trying to get a clear (possibly nonlethal?) shot at the Blowfish and Jack blows Hootie away.  Throughout the latter half of S1 we have several instances where Ianto has Jack's back, but this is the first time where Jack has Ianto's back.  Is their relationship heading for a more equal footing?

There's a lot of points I could make about how Ianto was staged in this episode, but </a></font></b></a>duikermeisie already made them in the comments of my Relationships post, so with her permission the lioness will defer to the antelope:

Re: Ianto/Jack

Hello, control issues! The one thing that struck me about the office scene is just how much Ianto was in control of the whole situation. Jack got inappropriate, Ianto shot him down. Jack asked him a weird question, Ianto brushed him off. Jack asks him on a date, Ianto makes boundaries. Ianto tells him to hit the roof, and Jack *obeys without hesitation*. Contrast that to Gwen in the boardroom, where they had a power struggle. Here, he deferred to Ianto without even blinking his eyes.

Jack, who is always in everybody's personal space, respects Ianto's personal space during the entire scene. He only approaches Ianto when Ianto gives him a cue that it's okay (standing up, facing Jack, hands on hips BUT with relaxed posture and his entire torso is open). Otherwise, he stays behind office furniture. Ianto is dictating the encounter, and Jack is listening.

Now the really important bit of that: when Ianto asked him why they were helping John, Jack told him the truth. I'll say that again: Jack told him the truth. When you compare how he dodges Owen's and Tosh's questions and gives Gwen a careful non-answer, that sticks out like a sore thumb. He tells Ianto the truth through the entire episode...about the Doctor (would you go back to him?) and about John. The only other person in the episode who gets that same level of openness is, ironically, John! Gwen, supposedly the confidante, doesn't even come close. 

---

In your (very good, very memorable) fic, Jack decided in the beginning that Ianto would make a "superb castellan." You nailed that...good call. There is a lot of evidence here that supports that:

*Blowfish chase scene, Ianto is the one who asks if the team needs special weapons;
*Help Me Obi Wan, Ianto runs off and calls for a taxi while the rest of the team stands around and argues;
*Teatray of Doom scene, Ianto is standing behind Jack's right hand and acts as physical and emotional support for Jack;
*Hunting for Gwen scene, Ianto is the one who tries her cell phone while Tosh and Owen are about to try every single container;
*Autopsy bay scene, Gwen and Ianto both lower their weapons to let Jack pass. Gwen looks at Jack as he passes, Ianto never breaks eye contact with John. Huge implication that Ianto is the one who has Jack's back;
*Open the Diamond scene, Ianto is again standing behind Jack's right shoulder and providing physical and emotional backup. Gwen, supposedly the confidante, is in the background.

We saw hints of this working relationship as early as Countrycide (who found the SUV?) and it became more visible in Combat. Here, it is completely out in the open. Ianto is Jack's loyal soldier, and Jack appears to take strength from that support.

It's also a very nice counterpoint to the date scene. Although professionally Ianto is Jack's right-hand man (literally in some cases), it is clear that personally Ianto doesn't trust Jack any further than he could throw him.

4) Reviews -- After reading both British and American reviews of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang I can only conclude that bitching is a more popular past-time in the UK than in the US, especially when a UK magazine reviews ends with "I know I gave Torchwood a hard time last year, but I'm glad to see it back." 

Part 1:  Review

Part 2:  Relationships 

Tags:

Comments

( 58 comments — Leave a comment )
kerryblaze
Jan. 21st, 2008 11:09 pm (UTC)
Hero of the Year 5094"

Did you mean "Rear of the Year 5094?" That was the line that John said.

And duikermeisie's summary was spot on. I think that's my favorite moment within the Office Scene. Especially when Jack gives that little nod that says, 'that's all,' after telling Ianto the truth.

crabby_lioness
Jan. 21st, 2008 11:17 pm (UTC)
I heard "Hero". Of course I couldn't make it out at all the first couple of times, so I may be wrong.
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finksgirl
Jan. 21st, 2008 11:32 pm (UTC)
wow...what was said about this was to the t, perfect.
It really makes me feel a lot more confident that Jack and Ianto's relationship really will blossom into more than just office shags.


crabby_lioness
Jan. 22nd, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
It's going to be fun to watch them both grow. They were so constricted last series, Ianto by grief and Jack by depression.
prongsy
Jan. 22nd, 2008 12:02 am (UTC)
Brilliantly thought out and worded. I agree fully!

Do you have a degree in Lit? You should... this is what we do day in and day out (analyze everything) and you’d be terribly good at it.

It’s funny, though, that I better understand my own feelings on Austen and the Brontes from this (I love Wuthering Heights but not so much for the romance… while Austen I just love. Period.). And Austen herself used these types in her heroine and “villain” schemas (though more often a man played chief villain… but the dichotomy works well there, too. Darcy vs. Wickham is just as poignant as Fanny vs. Mary; the former is the more reserved, proper, gentle one while the latter is more boisterous, more outwardly passionate and free spirited. In Austen, the latter always proves to be a dubious match, no matter how tempting they were at first, for our hero/heroine).

The best representation of Austen’s views on the “gothic” (and I mean the actual gothic movement in Literature, which is rather different from the Brontes) is in Northanger Abbey. She takes great pleasure in poking fun at the sensationalism and idealism of heroines in novels by the likes of Radcliffe, by creating a counter point in Catherine. She shows how if real people where like that, it’d be a big mess of silliness and vanity and not worth the effort of wooing. She likes the sensible ones even if her Mariannes, Elizabeths, and Emmas get their mouthy say, all 3 learn that their sensible sides are far more practical than their sensibilities and thus find suitable, sensible matches. That is to say, the only get their “happily ever after” with the Darcys and Knightleys of the world and not the dashing, scoundrel Wickhams.
prongsy
Jan. 22nd, 2008 12:02 am (UTC)
That said (and I have no idea why I’m saying it, as it’s only furthering/agreeing with your own point, lol), I find it funny that a large majority of our romantic comedies come from the Austen school of romance. We always want the guy/girl to wake up and see the perfect person is right there beside them, giving them quiet strength and not the popular person, whose wildness or individualism tempts them so. The only time they get the popular one is when the popular learns humility and genuineness or if the popular one becomes a lesson in appreciating what you already have. No one settles down with the wild, free spirit (unless that spirit is tempered). Look at Heathcliffe and Cathy...
(no subject) - crabby_lioness - Jan. 22nd, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
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duikermeisie
Jan. 22nd, 2008 01:32 am (UTC)
On love interests
I agree with you characterization of Ianto as a Jane Austen-type up to a point. He is reserved, intellectual, and proper, yes. He is also, however, an extraordinarily passionate man. Whenever he is placed into a situation where he must deal with something that strikes him deep, he reacts with very strong emotions BUT not necessarily in a strongly emotional manner. He is complex and nuanced and subtle, and trying to fit him into Austen's mould just doesn't quite work. If he resembles any Austen character it is Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, but even that doesn't really cover the breadth or depth of emotion that he shows on a fairly regular basis. I see him much more readily as Leonore from Beethoven's opera Fidelio (wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidelio). Leonore goes into hiding, works a wretched job, fends off the boss's daughter, and willingly volunteering to sacrifice herself to save her husband. Sound familiar? It's that whole con-man thing again.

The difference, IMO, between Ianto's character and Gwen's is that in Ianto, the passion is channeled and controlled, sometimes ruthlessly. He harnesses the power of those emotions and uses them to achieve his goals, whether it is saving Lisa from Canary Wharf, rescuing the rest of the team from the shipping containers, head-butting a cannibal to buy Tosh time...those actions are intensely weighted by his emotions, yet he retains enough self-possession to weigh the options and make a command decision. His ability to do extraordinary things in spite of (or perhaps because of) being in the throes of feeling makes it all the more shocking for us (the viewers) when he does behave in a completely emotional way. This kind of love interest is underrepresented in Anglo-american literature...you have to go for continental european literature (Suzanna, bride of Figaro), biblical (Esther), and classical mythology (Antigone--not for the love interest, but the fierce passion).

By comparison, Gwen is, well, simple. She is the stereotypical Brontean heroine with her heart on her sleeve. Gwen rarely (if ever) channels her emotional reaction, whereas Ianto does so frequently. She also doesn't usually stop to think about what she is doing before she does something, and at least once an episode it gets her in trouble. When she does channel the power of her emotions after Rhys' death in EOD, it is just as shocking and powerful as when Ianto acts completely irrationally.
crabby_lioness
Jan. 22nd, 2008 01:36 am (UTC)
Re: On love interests
Oh, I would never, ever call Ianto dispassionate! His feelings run strong and deep, but he doesn't let them control him, except when worn out by fatigue and care.
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vipersweb
Jan. 22nd, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
Love your analysis here and it's provided a lot of food of thought for me.

Regarding your last comment about the US v. UK reaction, I think there are some major factors that explain those differences and has nothing to do with bitching. Unlike Dr. Who, which is shown on both BBC America and Scifi, Torchwood is only shown on BBC America. Whereas Skiffy is available to any who subscribe to satellite or cable tv, BBC America is usually extra and part of a different package. I know, for instance, that I get it with DishTV but my boyfr. who has digital cable + HBO doesn't. This means the available audience is much more limited. Too, it's difficult to get the papers interested in science fiction shows, even as they grow more popular. Shows that are on cable channels get less press than those not. It's hard enough to get any press for a show like BSG, never mind a sci fi show that is foreign to the US.
crabby_lioness
Jan. 22nd, 2008 03:17 am (UTC)
It's hard enough to get any press for a show like BSG, never mind a sci fi show that is foreign to the US.

Not exactly. In the past three days, Torchwood has had raving writeups in the LA Times http://www.calendarlive.com/tv/cl-ca-tvbigthing20jan20,0,5919917.story?coll=cl-tv-features and the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/20/arts/20weekahead.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin I've been keeping track of the US press reviews on OG http://www.doctorwhoforum.com/showthread.php?t=147343 I haven't updated the tally since New Years Eve, but at that time it was:

Positive reviews - 70
Negative reviews - 2
Top 10 Best New Shows of Year Lists - 6

There's been several more positive reviews come in since then.

And then there's the US blog review thread http://www.doctorwhoforum.com/showthread.php?t=148090 where the positive/negative review ratio is about the same.
(no subject) - frakkingrackles - Jan. 22nd, 2008 10:51 am (UTC) - Expand
meilin_miranda
Jan. 22nd, 2008 04:15 am (UTC)
I just have to say that this is one of the most awesome Torchwood metas ever. As both a Bronte-ist and an Austen-ite, I say well done.
crabby_lioness
Jan. 22nd, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
love_jackianto
Jan. 22nd, 2008 06:40 am (UTC)
I just have to say, I now when I watch the show I really look for how Ianto is staged (see what you've turned me into...hahaha).

'Meanwhile Gwen is settling down and marrying Rhys, although judging from the cow-eyes she made at Jack while saying "no one else would have me" she would drop Rhys in a second for Jack if Jack put a move on her.' Does not bode well for their marriage; especially considering that she has already cheated on him once, lied to him numerous times and even retconned him(after confessing her affair).

'Is there relationship heading for a more equal footing?' I hope so, and considering that Ianto was the one who was in control in the date scene there may be a good chance of that.

Loved the wandering knight/Doctor Sheriff/Jack parallel</i>(Don't get me started on Time Lord neuroses. Just don't.)</i> The Doctor, neurotic... you don't say.

Another wonderful thought provoking post. Can't wait to see what's next :D

crabby_lioness
Jan. 22nd, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
I just have to say, I now when I watch the show I really look for how Ianto is staged (see what you've turned me into...hahaha).

Any excuse to watch Ianto is a good excues! :D
(no subject) - love_jackianto - Jan. 22nd, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
ffarff
Jan. 22nd, 2008 07:00 am (UTC)
I noticed in S1 they always stood ianto next to Jack in fights / when guns are used. and he very quickly sneaks glances at him to check Jack's actions and how to follow.
It says a lot.

crabby_lioness
Jan. 22nd, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC)
It's a fascinating dynamic, and from what they've said about letting those actors direct themselves, much of it is coming from Gareth and John.
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fatchickengirl
Jan. 22nd, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
I agree!

Gwen I believe had been relegated to 'faghag' and as Jack has decided to move on a gear with his relationship with ianto she no longer has his confidence at least first.

Ianto is his right hand 'rock' now and while Gwen will remain his conscience 9and fo the rest of team) and even leader she has been replaced in a personal sense and that is how I read the @'o one lese would have me' seen one last try but it's pretty clear Jack moved on.
crabby_lioness
Jan. 22nd, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC)
It's too early in the opera to rule Gwen out for good. We're still in the First Act.
karaokegal
Jan. 22nd, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
As you know, we are miles apart on the Jack/Ianto issue but this:
Jack blows Hootie away makes me want to tackle you in a flying snog.
crabby_lioness
Jan. 22nd, 2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
Aw shucks. *scuffs toe and grins*
hazelayes
Jan. 23rd, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
Many thanks for setting off the interesting discussions lately, they have been very good value *g* food for much thought.
crabby_lioness
Jan. 23rd, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
dragenphly
Jan. 23rd, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
Fascinating. Although half of me agrees with your Gothic vs Austen theme, I have some issues, with, for example, Pride and Prejudice, where Lizzie is very much ruled by her emotions, and her passion. That's what causes the whole thing to start with. Also ( must say I haven't read the other books as deeply) I find that most of the heroines are just on the edge of 'proper and reserved'. I understand what you mean though, especially in light of that every Austen character gets their happily after and, well, Cathy and Heathcliff just don't make it that far.

*suspicious* Are you an English Lit student?! *grins* Your commentaries are a delight to read, as are your stories. May your livejournal be blessed and flourish with lots of discussion!
crabby_lioness
Jan. 25th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
Fascinating. Although half of me agrees with your Gothic vs Austen theme, I have some issues,

I used them as generalizations only. TBH, they're not even my generalizations. I think I originally picked them up from someone else's crit a long time ago. I can't remember.

*suspicious* Are you an English Lit student?! *grins*

Once upon a time, about 20 years ago. *grins*

Your commentaries are a delight to read, as are your stories. May your livejournal be blessed and flourish with lots of discussion!

Thank you!
(Anonymous)
Feb. 22nd, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
Hello all I'm new here !
Just wanted to say Hello to everyone.
Much to read and learn here, I'm sure I will enjoy !
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