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Cyberwoman as Oedipus Rex, an analysis

(This is one of two studies I plan to do on Ianto.  This one concentrates on Cyberwoman.  The other follows Ianto's character development through the first series.)

Cyberwoman had an intriguing beginning, but my Inner Classics Geek grinned from ear to ear at the two minute mark when I recognized the story they were working from.  Cyberwoman is based on one of the Great Stories that few modern scriptwriters have the nerve to tackle. Cyberwoman is Oedipus Rex.

Thanks to Freud modern audiences tend to think Oedipus Rex is about incest, but that is just a plot device. Oedipus Rex is the dark mirror of the standard fairy tale that Doctor Who and most heroic fantasies write about.  It's about what happens when a Hero falls in love with the wrong woman and is moved to heroic deeds in her name.  A good man expends his considerable talents and virtues on the wrong woman, and tragedy ensues.  It forms the plot not only of one of the world's oldest plays, but also of nearly a third of all country songs (and more than a third of all folk songs.)

If the woman were the right woman, all the Hero's valor and heroism would be rewarded. It wouldn't matter if he threatened to destroy the world in the process, everything would work out in the end because she was the right woman. Blah, blah, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, "I did it for love" as the magic "Get Out of Jail Free" card. This is the plot of almost every hackneyed fantasy movie around, overused to the point where when the kid in the leather headband whines "But I'm doing it for love" I want to shoot him on the spot.

Oedipus Rex is the flip side of that story. Same Hero does the same heroic deeds, but because this woman is the Wrong Woman it destroys or nearly destroys the world instead of saving it. She doesn't have to be an evil woman or a tramp or secretly his mother. She's just the Wrong Woman.  

(Technically, she doesn't even have to be a woman.  She can be the Wrong Cause or the Wrong Side in a war, but let's stick with the Wrong Woman for right now.)


Ianto demonstrated great loyalty, courage, coolness, and organizational skill on saving the life of the woman he loved. He went far "above and beyond the call of duty" in his duty to her, even betraying everything else that means anything to him for her. If this were a children's show that had a happy ending he would have been successful, and his bravery and devotion would have been rewarded by some happy resolution of her fate.

But this isn't a children's show. It's an adult tragedy. All of Ianto's noble efforts not only fail to save her, but result in suffering, destruction, and the death of innocents. The doctor and Alice are innocents who die. Lisa, as the girl she used to be, is an innocent who suffers cruelly from the Cyberconversion and who ends up suffering even more cruelly after an implanted Cyberconciousness uses her memories and mannerisms to try to destroy the man she loves. And Ianto loses forever the innocence of being able to think if he just follows his heart and does what he thinks is right that everything will turn out right in the end.

That's a powerful theme, and not for children.

Here's the play-by-play:

Oedipus Rex is the world's oldest who-done-it.  The city of Thebes has been ruled for a generation by the Hero-king Oedipus.  A generation ago the city was plagued by a terrible Monster.  In proper fairy-tale fashion, a Hero appeared out of nowhere, slew the Monster, saved the city, and married the girl.  Everyone lived happily ever after.  For the past roughly 20 years it's been a fairy tale.  The Hero proved to be a good king who rebuilt the city better than ever, a leader who loves and is loved by his people, a husband passionately in love with his wife (even though she's old enough to be his mother), and a good father to their four devoted teenage children.  Oedipus has done everything a Hero is typically asked to do.  He's done it well, and it's paid off with a fairy-tale ending.

He's completely unprepared for what's about hapen.

In Oedipus Rex], we know that Oedipus has done all these heroic things because the Chorus tells us.  In Cyberwoman we see the evidence of Ianto's heroic deeds in how he has smuggled Lisa and her life-support systems out of London into Cardiff and cared for her secretly all this time.  Only a Hero could possibly pull off a task that monumental, and Ianto has risen to the challenge.

But something has gone wrong in Oedipus' beloved city. A terrible disaster threatens to destroy everything he loves.  Plague stalks the land, the crops wither, the animals die, and the women have gone barren.  It's the End of Days.

In Oedipus Rex this disaster falls on the entire city.  In Cyberwoman it has fallen on Torchwood 1.  The only one Ianto could save was his beloved Lisa, but he has saved her.

The people, who love and are loved by Oedipus, come to him for help.  They make perfunctory offerings at the altars of the gods, then turn away from the Higher Authorities and turn to him. Even the High Priest of Zeus leaves his temple to beg Oedipus for help. They know he's not the equal of a god.  In some ways he's better.  A Higher Authority might tell them that what they want is impossible.  But he's a Hero.  It's a Hero's job to do the impossible, and Oedipus has never let them down.

"You (Ianto) always keeps your promises."

Ianto, er -- Oedipus is not so sanguine.  He doesn't go to the Higher Authorities either, but he does call in a consultant.  He puts his top investigator, his brother-in-law Creon, on the job.   Creon's primary job is to find out how to fix the problem. 

In Cyberwoman Creon's primary role is filled by Tanezaki.  His secondary role (we'll get to that later) is filled by Jack.

Creon's been sent to consult an oracle.  He comes back with the news and asks Oedipus if he could speak to him in private.  Oedipus believes he has nothing to hide from the people, and asks Creon to deliver his report in front of everyone.  Creon reports that the oracle says their troubles are brought about by an unsolved murder.  The previous king had left the city one day walking to place X and was murdered before he arrived.  No one has a clue who did it.

Oedipus demands to know why this murder has been left unsolved all these years.  Creon points out that immediately after that the city came down with a bad case of Monster.  Then there was the cleanup, the rebuilding, all Oedipus' own projects, et al, and nobody found the time to reopen the case.  Oedipus wants it solved pronto.  The damage was done before his time.  But he's a Hero.  He vows to do everything in his power to solve the problem.  He's not going to let down the people who love him.

In Cyberwoman, the damage to Lisa was done before Ianto had a chance to save her.  He found her like that.  But he's a Hero.  He vows to do everything in his power to solve the problem.  He's not going to let down the woman who loves him.

Meanwhile the problem gets worse.  More damage is done, more people die.  What follows next is a murder investigation in Oedipus Rex and a base-under-seige story in Cyberwoman, but that's just a stylistic change to fit the different settings.  

Oedipus curses those who have caused all this harm to his loved ones, just as Ianto curses those who have caused all this harm to Lisa and the others.

As conditions worsen Creon asks Oedipus to consult the seer Tiresias.  Tiresias has always been a favorite of mine.  He is probably literature's first bisexual.  He lived and loved freely in both a man's body and a woman's body.  While a woman he became pregnant and had children.

(Some people say he was a prostitute while he was Lady Tiresias.  Other people figure it was none of their business.)

Because of his unique perspective he is considered the Ancient World's greatest expert on sex.   Even the gods consult him on sexual matters, as well as other issues.  He's a favorite of the gods and knows how dubious the honor is, as he's been struck down and brought back to life multiple times.  Some people think the gods won't allow him to die because they value him too much.  Along with his questionable immortality he's also been cursed by them with a physical affliction, blindness.

In his old age he's been gifted by the gods with knowing the future, but he finds no comfort in it.  These days its his job to speak the hard truths no one wants to hear, and usually his only reward is curses.  It's tough being the spokesperson for the Higher Authorities.

Guess who plays Tiresias in Cyberwoman?

Tiresias is summoned before Oedipus.  He says he knows who did the crime but refuses to tell.  Oedipus accuses him of being the criminal mastermind behind the murder.  Tiresias accuses Oedipus of being the murderer.  "In your ignorance, you conduct the vilest acts with those closest to you.  Vile acts which you know nothing of and which you cannot see."  Oedipus utterly does not want to hear it.  He accuses Tiresias of being a monster and of being blind to the truth.  He wants to know where Tiresias was when the city needed a seer to save them from the Sphinx Monster, and why it had to be him, a mere Hero, who saved the day.

Once you get past the murder investigation, I take it y'all remember Ianto and Jack having those same discussions?

Oedisius goads Tiresias further, questioning his motives, his authority, and the source of his mysterious knowledge.  Tiresias shoots back that the whole problem comes from Oedipus loving the Wrong Woman.

In Oedipus Rex Jocasta is the Wrong Woman because she's really Oedipus' mother.  In Cyberwoman Lisa is the Wrong Woman becasue she's been Cybernised.

Oedipus refuses to listen to Tiresias.  They both stalk off.  The Chorus declares their support for Oedipus based on the heroic deeds he has performed for them in the past.

Tiresias rattled Oedipus.  Oedipus wildly accuses Creon of conspiring with Tiresias to murder the previous king, bring in the Sphinx Monster, and discredit him.  Creon points out the holes in Oedipus' reasoning, but Oedipus isn't listening.  Oedipus wants Creon executed for his crimes and for disloyalty.  Creon wants to know if you can be disloyal to a lunatic request.  Oedipus informs him you can when it comes from the king.

Jocasta enters.  She and the Chorus try to get Oedipus to calm down.  Oedipus can't calm down.   He's begun to believe in his heart that Tiresias is right after all, and that's driving him crazy.  He tells the Chorus, who's trying to get him to be reasonable, "Know this well, old man: that if this is what you really want then you must also want my destruction or my exile from this land."

In Cyberwoman when Ianto goes to Lisa after Owen stabs her, he knows by then that she is truly a monster.  That's why he scrambles away from her when she opens her eyes.  But he can't bring himself to admit it yet, and it drives him crazy.

Oedipus agrees to send Creon into exile instead of executing him.  Creon accuses Oedipus of being Oedipus' own worst enemy.

Jocasta demands an explanation.  Oedipus accuses Creon of using Tiresias to accuse Oedipus of murdering the previous king, Jocasta's first husband.  Jocasta knocks holes in that theory.  The old king was killed by theives at a three-way crossroads.  Anyway he was fated by the gods to die at the hands of his and Jocasta's son whom the old king had ordered killed at birth, and no mere seer can undo the will of the gods.

Oedipus blanches.  Run that bit about the three-way crossroads by him again?  He asks Jocasta for the exact place, the exact day, the old king's height, age, and appearance.  With each answer Jocasta gives him he grows paler.  Oh gods, could Teresias be right?  Is he the cursed murderer after all?  He asks Jocasta one more question: how many men did her husband have with him?

Five, including one herald.  The old king had ridden his carriage.

Oedipus asks who told her this?

The only survivor, an elderly servant of good character.  When Oedipus freed the city from the Sphinx, he resigned on the spot and asked to be sent to live as far from the city as possible.

Could he be brought back ASAP?

Sure, but why?

Oedipus is terrified of the servant's story.  But he's a Hero, he's got to know the truth.  He can't live with a lie.

He tells his wife that he is the son of the king of Corinth.  One day he overheard a servant say that he was really adopted.  His parents denied it.  He went to an oracle to find out the truth, and was told that he would kill his father and marry his mother.  Disbelieving but horrified, he left town.  He came upon a certain carriage at a certain spot, got into an arguement with the occupants, and killed them.  Oh gods, could he really be the murderer of his beloved wife's first husband?  Is he really the one responsible for all the death and devastation that has struck his loved ones?  Is he truly the one he himself has cursed for all the pain they caused?  He can't believe it, but what if it's true?

In Cyberwoman Ianto was a bit quieter when he came to the same realization, but you could see it going down.

But if it is true, what then?  He can't go home again, not with the terrible prophecy waiting him there.  Where will he go, what will he do?  Maybe the old servant's story will clear things up.  If the servant says a group of men fell upon the old king, Oedipus is safe.  But if he says the old king and his men fell to a single man, Oedipus is doomed.  He sends for the servant.

The people turn from Oedipus to pray at the altars of the gods.  Maybe having a Hero is no guarantee of their safety.  Maybe they need to call upon the Higher Authorities after all.

A herald from Corinth brings news of the death of Corinth's king.  Oedipus is invited to return home and be king of Corinth.  But if his father is dead of old age, then Oedipus has escaped the fate the oracles foretold.  Ha!  See?  A Hero can change his fate and save the world by his own actions.  Take that, gods!

But his mother is still alive.  The part about marrying his mother still worries him.

The Corinthian herald asks what's the matter.  Oedipus tells the prophecy.  He explains that while he loves his parents dearly, he has stayed away all this years out of a Hero's desire not to cause them pain and misfortune.

The old herald laughs kindly.  If that's the only problem, Oedipus should have come to him ages ago!  Oedipus is adopted.  The old herald found him as a baby when he was a hired shepherd.  He brought the baby to the king and queen for adoption, and was rewarded with a place in their service.  There was no reason for Oedipus to avoid Corinth all these years.

Oedipus interrogates the herald.  The details of his story match those of Jocasta's story about the abandonment of her infant son.  The herald tells Oedipus that the baby was given to him by another shepherd who worked for the old king of Corinth.

Is the other shepherd still alive?  Yes, he's the same old servant Oedipus sent for earlier.

Abruptly, Jocasta tells her husband to call off the search immediately and pursue the matter no further.  He insists.  She begs.  They argue, and Jocasta leaves in furious tears.  Oedipus puts it down to shame at his own humble birth.  In true Hero fashion, Oedipus declares himself the son of no one but Fate, and hasn't he always done well by none but his own work?  The Chorus declares that he must be the son of a god or goddess.  They eagerly await the shepherd's story to tell them which god has sired their Hero.

The old servant arrives.  The Chorus and the Corinthian herald confirm his identity.  Oedipus interrogates him thoroughly.  The old servant is reluctant to talk, but slowly confirms all the details of Jocasta's and the Corinthian herald's stories.

Oedipus accepts the truth.  He exits in horror and self-loathing.

The Chorus is in a state of shock.  They can't take it all in.  Oedipus screams offstage.  A servant comes to tell them that Jocasta has hung herself in their bedroom.  When Oedipus found her body, he cut it down and gouged out his own eyes.

Like I said before, in Cyberwoman the murder mystery part of the story was replaced by a base-under-seige story.  Doubtless this had to do with time constraints, genre constraints, and the need to work the Cybermen into the story.  Instead of the destruction caused by Hero loving the Wrong Woman being seperate from the Wrong Woman herself, in Cyberwoman the Wrong Woman becomes the Destroyer.  Thematically it works, but I wonder how much more they could have done with a two-parter.  Alas, no two-parters were allowed in the first season of Torchwood.

Creon takes command, Creon being played by Jack instead of the Japanese doctor in most of Cyberwoman.  Oedipus begs Creon for exile, but Creon isn't making a move without consulting the gods first.  Creon calls Oedipus' children on stage to say goodbye to their father, and promises to look after them as if they were his own children.

Sophocles' play ends before the gods' verdict has been announced, but other sources reveal what happened next.   Teresias arrives with the verdict of the gods.  Remember who plays Tiresias in Cyberwoman?  Oedipus is to go into exile, but the gods will not allow any harm to fall on him for two reasons.  First, because his actions were those of a Hero not a criminal, albeit not a very wise Hero, and that's a mitigating circumstance as far as gods are concerned.  Second, because no punishment dreamed up by gods or men could equal the horror of fully understanding the pain, shame, death and destruction his own actions have caused.

Oedipus leaves in the care of his oldest daughter.  No one else will lend a hand to help him.

In Cyberwoman Ianto's exile is internal, but for a long time he is equally shunned by all save for the occassional kindness of women.

Now both Oedipus and Tiresias share the same wound, blindness.  They share the same fate, wandering.  It's strongly hinted that Tiresias takes Oedipus under his wing and teaches him how to survive.  Tiresias becomes Oedipus' role model, and Oedipus tries to become as much like the older man as he can.

Ianto and Jack anyone?

In the sequel, Oedipus at Colonnus Oedipus has become the caretaker of a sacred place outside the jurisdiction of the cities, where only the gods have any say in matters.  He is trying to fill Tiresias' role as a teller of hard-won truths. Problem is while there's an air of mystery and glamor around Tiresias, everyone knows the sordid tale of how Oedipus came to know so much.  No one respects him and no one listens to him, even when they should.

In Captain Jack Harkness Ianto tries to pass this hard won wisdom on to Owen, but of course Owen pays no more attention to Ianto than Ianto paid to Jack in Cyberwoman. After all, people are always telling the Hero the odds are impossible to beat. What Hero ever wants to listen? But because this is a story for grownups, there are consequences for not listening.

Are they going to go any further with the Theban Saga?  We'll find out if Gwen gets buried alive in the second series.  Oedipus' elder daughter Angitone is the voice of decency and morality in the plays.  Is Gwen playing Antigone?  Antigone becomes the caregiver of Oedipus until his bodily assension into Heaven, just as Gwen becomes the caregiver of Jack. Then she goes back home and tries to become the voice of morality for Creon, only Creon won't listen. She does the decent thing for her brother when Creon forbids it, putting her own OTP relationship with her fiance in jeapardy. Creon then buries her alive, only to have his own son, Antigone's fiance, commit suicide at the door of her tomb. Neither Creon nor Antigone can back down, and everyone pays for it.

And that doesn't include what preceeded her return home, where her brothers plunged the city into a civil war in Seven Against Thebes, the world's first version of The Magnificent Seven, before they both died in battle.

We'll see how far they go with it.

LOL  And some people say RTD always steals from Joss Whedon.

ETA:  Teaspoon is deleting their entire essay section in half an hour.  Boo!  I'm moving my reviews here:

Melengro2007.10.04 - 02:15PM1: Cyberwoman as Oedipus Rex, an analysisSigned
Wow, now I feel like an idiot for never thinking of this myself! I definitely found the Jack/Tiresias parallel (and not even in Oedipus Rex, but in Bacchae), but the Ianto/Oedipus parallel never suggested itself to me. I thought that Ianto may have been Cadmus, but I didn't really see how Torchwood fit that part of the Theban Saga. Now I see that it doesn't have to fit that part. Well done.

Author's Response: Good Heavens, my language! Yay! I dearly hope they do more with Jack/Teresias. It fits him so much better than Jack/Jesus. But who would be Dionysis? His former lover, Captain John Hart (James Marsters)? Now that would be cool!

rea_p2007.04.21 - 05:29AM1: Cyberwoman as Oedipus Rex, an analysisSigned
Interesting (in a good way). I'm not certain that the parallels are on Purpose, but as I tend toward Jungian ideas re: archtypes, I enjoyed reading your arguments.

Also, when we studied Oedipus in high school, they completely skipped the full character of Tireseas (sorry, can't spell). So I learned something new! Yay!

Author's Response: I figure those parallels are as on purpose as the Christian parallels in EoD. Heh. Tiresies is cool.

anne3rose2007.04.21 - 01:20AM1: Cyberwoman as Oedipus Rex, an analysisSigned
I have to disagree. There are many dissimilar critical factors in Oedipus that are missing in Cyberwoman. You could as easily say that she's Helen of Troy, or Pandora's Box. It's an oversimplification.

Oedipus kills his own father in an argument, not knowing it's him, but other than that he does all the right things. He could not possibly know his new wife is his mother.

Contrast that with Ianto who knew the Cybermen were evil, knew his girlfriend was a danger, and failed to do the right thing.

One character is acting out of ignorance, the other out of full knowledge of the wrongness of his actions. I'm not seeing the similarity.

Author's Response: Ianto acted out of the honest belief that Lisa could be cured. Remember, Torchwood hadn't encountered Cyberman conversions before. His belief was born of ignorance and an excess of hope, but it was a genuine belief.

ClocketPatch2007.04.21 - 01:16AM1: Cyberwoman as Oedipus Rex, an analysisSigned
That was great, and I really disliked Cyberwoman - couldn't get past the metal bikini, but when you put it like that I can actually see the deeper themes. Now I might give it a re-watch. You also managed a far more understandable explaination of Oedipus than my grade 12 English teacher ever did. Thank you.

Author's Response: You're welcome. Re-watch and enjoy!

rutsky2007.04.21 - 12:34AM1: Cyberwoman as Oedipus Rex, an analysisSigned
I really enjoyed this, and for two reasons. Not only is your proposal *very* convincing, but separately, your presentation is lively. Really admirable!

Author's Response: Thank you!


 

 




 

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( 94 comments — Leave a comment )
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cyber_istari
Jan. 12th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
And some people say RTD always steals from Joss Whedon.

Hee. ;) I'm only just now getting back into classics geekery, because of my kids, but I love this. And it improves the ep, which I already liked. (GDL's scrunchy face doesn't annoy me, unlike some people.)
crabby_lioness
Jan. 12th, 2007 05:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks. This is just the "dump all the rough drafts in one place" version. I'll revise it slightly for better flow soon, then I'll post round the link. I was feeling daunted by the task, but you've encouraged ne. :)
haunter_uk
Jan. 14th, 2007 08:43 am (UTC)
Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff. Lovely humour to the analysis.

However, Cyberwoman isn't 'merely' a Base Under Siege story. Base Under Siege has action sequences and relax sequences, with time often passing off camera in the relax sequences. Cyberwoman, from Lisa's awakening until her death in PizzaGirl's body, takes place almost in real time. I believe Captain Jack (as in, the OG member, not as in the character played by John Barrowman) termed it an 'action plot' because of this?

[Gizensha, from OG]
crabby_lioness
Jan. 14th, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
Hi Gizensha! BUS doesn't always have relax sequences, depending on the responce to the threat. I don't believe modern audiences would believe in a BUS with relax sequences.

It's like an episode of Highlander I saw where the Girlfriend was out somewhere and hadn't called in when she was supposed to. "I'm sure she's alright.", the Extra Male blathered. 30 years ago the Hero would have agreed. Instead the Hero looked sick and burned rubber getting up there to check on her. What worked before with audiences doesn't always work now.
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clarity_lore
Jan. 17th, 2007 11:39 pm (UTC)
Wow, I really do need to read up on my classics. That was ever so interesting and there are great parallels. The idea of them both being afflicted with the same "curse", which manifests as blindness in the originals is interesting. I'm not sure of the direct parrallel (both lost loves? or both shrouded in mystery) but I do like that. It might explain why they fit together so well as characters.

Now then. Hands up all those who'd be interested to see Gwen get buried alive? (Not permanently of course!)
fivealive
Jan. 18th, 2007 03:31 am (UTC)
oh my god. your icon!
is that a picture from his wedding?
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burntcopper
Jan. 17th, 2007 11:59 pm (UTC)
oh, very interesting. Course, my fave is when people go 'OMG, X-files-esque!' This is when I roll my eyes and hit them over the head with the Edgar Rice Burroughs or Jules Verne.

(I tend to scream and hit things when anyone starts going on about Oedipal complexes citing Freud. How the hell is fancying your mother an Oedipal complex when Oedipus very definitely *did not* identify Jocasta as a mother in any way shape or form? I like the medical definition much better. self-inflicted eye-gouging due to depression or similar.)
crabby_lioness
Jan. 18th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC)
I prefer mythology texts for ammo myself, but to each her own. My favorite story is about a woman who went to a con panel on the Hercules show and heard all the fans going, "Wow! Where did they get those story ideas?" "Uh, read the original texts, dude."

Freud dates from an era when nobody knew shit about psychology. That's the only way he got away with it.
lixa_turner
Jan. 18th, 2007 12:03 am (UTC)
Oh my goodness. I'm sorry, this is going to sound terribly rude, but my Inner Classicist just jumped off a cliff. May I ask what your source for this version of Oedipus Rex is? Because this version is rather different from the original Greek.
lixa_turner
Jan. 18th, 2007 12:12 am (UTC)
(I'm not being rude, honest. Maths exam + no revision = snappy me.)
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prettyclever
Jan. 18th, 2007 01:34 am (UTC)
That was fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing that.
celisnebula
Jan. 18th, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I have to agree with lixa_turner. The core, underlying theme of Oedipus Rex is that fate is more powerful than free will. To the Greeks, fate was a power beyond human control, it determined the events in every person's life - what fate prophesied would always be the outcome, because free will could never circumvent it.

Ianto had free will. He chose to save Lisa. He chose to hide her away from the rest of the team, strapped to the cyber until underneath their home base. He chose to invite a doctor in to "heal" her, even knowing everything that a cyberman was capable of.

A better choice would've been MacBeth. MacBeth is fully aware of everything he is doing, all the betrayal he is committing, and for the love of his wife. Similarly Ianto is quite aware of his own actions and how they would be seen by his compatriots, how it would be seen as a betrayal. Whereas Oedipus was not aware.

empireofthewolf
Jan. 18th, 2007 02:34 am (UTC)
I have to agree with the foregoing. I think its blatantly humanistic and anthropocentric - which are post-enlightenment, modern foibles - to draw any comparison between Cyberwoman and Sophocles. Its almost like anthropology trying to colonise the narratives of the foreign in order to make them seem more familiar. What you have is two incompatible worldviews, and the only way to compare them is to mash them together and ignore the proound philosophical problems this creates. Oedipus is no hero in Giorgio Agamben's reading of the encounter with the Sphinx, and after studying the Greek in detail he arrives at the conclusion that Oedipus is vain in trying to use reason to get past the mystery of the gods. There is no room, however, for that kind of theistic power in modernism, or in Cyberwoman, not unless you take a very narrowcast reading of it, in which case you are no longer dealing with what was broadcast, but your own highly idiosyncratic interpretation. Its an admirable effort, and I don't think it's lost on all those that have praised it, but underlying its appeal I'm not sure there is a good literary case for the comparison.
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looking4tarzan
Jan. 18th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC)
hmmm Joss Whedon v. Sophocles well we know what Aristotle would say.

I think the comparison of Captain Jack and Tiresias is brilliant. However I do feel it should not be forgotton that while Oedipus is a Hero, he is a Tragic Hero and thus he is destined for downfall.

How about the comparison of Oedipus and Ianto as tragic heroes, who by a tragic flaw in their character (Oedipus' stubborn insistance for the truth, Ianto's loyalty) lead to a fall. (Ianto does die [or at least is badly wounded] as a result of his mistake)

I always get a bit jumpy when people talk about incest in regards to Oedipus. For me it's a social taboo (or a fatal error) that is undertaken in complete ignorance.
Oedipus does not know Jocasta is his mother and when he does know he is filled with revulsion (as is Jocasta). Ianto does not see/know/acknowledge the desctruction that cyber-people are capable.
Ironically both are blind to the truth, either by choice or ignorance.

Blimey you ain't half got me thinking! (Yeah Classicist here too)
louiex
Jan. 18th, 2007 02:34 am (UTC)
You've tickled the Greek geek in me and I wish I could be as coherent as you were here. That was beyond fascinating and well put together, I'm weak in the knees! I'm going to print this out and save it for later, for now I'll just dance around it like the aforementioned Greek literature geek that I am!
darthhellokitty
Jan. 18th, 2007 02:37 am (UTC)
Very interesting - I really like the parallels you draw.
stranj100
Jan. 18th, 2007 03:55 am (UTC)
It has been said that all the stories have been written., That every story you see is just a retelling of an older one. Your generalities cover about half of greek litature. Jason and Medea could almost fit, as could Helen of Troy. I'm sure there are Cletic myths that would fit even better.
crabby_lioness
Jan. 18th, 2007 04:20 am (UTC)
That may be true, but to my mind this one fits best. If you would like to argue that another story fits better, be my guest.
(no subject) - vervassal - Jan. 18th, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
firiel44
Jan. 18th, 2007 04:01 am (UTC)
Yes! Every fandom needs a good Greek literature throwdown. ;) Great theories, and an awesome discussion. I love Jack as Tiresias.
slestialrazbery
Jan. 18th, 2007 06:23 am (UTC)
Now I have a great urge to find Jean Anouilh's version of Antigone (I read it in French class in high school and absolutely loved it).
cyberamanda
Jan. 18th, 2007 07:26 am (UTC)
Now this is fascinating. I had no idea about this story (and I've always been interested in this mythology).

On another notes, it's good to see you around Crabby lioness. I haven't seen much of you lately. I really want to read the next parts of your fics. How are they coming along?
crabby_lioness
Jan. 18th, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
I got busy over Christmas and had to put them on the back burner. I'll get back to them after I post the other Ianto study.

I'm currently writing one fic in public, instead of in a drafts folder. Click on my lj account and you'll see it. It's from Owen's POV, and the team is trying to answer this question: "Worst-case scenario: an extremely powerful and pissed-off alien just kidnapped the head of the largest functioning branch of Torchwood. Best-case scenario: Jack's larkng about. Now how the fuck do we tell the difference?"


schizojuc
Jan. 18th, 2007 08:32 am (UTC)
Always love some intellectual discussions in my fandoms! =D
nutcake
Jan. 18th, 2007 09:37 am (UTC)
I don't believe for a second that Russell or the writer of Cyberwoman had Oedipus in mind when they wrote that episode. I also don't believe that either Oedipus or Ianto are heroes.
beccaelizabeth
Jan. 18th, 2007 10:08 am (UTC)
? Tiresias = Jack !

. He lived and loved freely in both a man's body and a woman's body. While a woman he became pregnant and had children.

I've been saying since the first ep that comment is more fun if it isn't a joke.



this is all nifty stuff
crowson75
Jan. 18th, 2007 10:45 am (UTC)
This is a great take on the tale, but my main reasons for commenting is that I've read your piece and the responses and...I just love you all! Posts like this make an old(er) sick (flu-y) heart warm!
iamsooty
Jan. 18th, 2007 10:54 am (UTC)
Interesting!
You should post this to DW_Nerds http://community.livejournal.com/dw_nerds/

I like the comparisons, but you shouldn't brush off the differences as 'stylistic', it doesn't help.

I don't think Ianto's learnt his lesson. He's the first one to go help Owen open the rift in End of Days (but he was written really out of character really, at that point of time). I don't think there's any saga going on here! Especially not Gwen as Antigone!

Anyways, you can tell us "I told you so" if it really happens =)
iamsooty
Jan. 18th, 2007 11:02 am (UTC)
Oh, and Jack as Tiresias comes off as a coincidence to me. I see Tiresias as an necessary 'abberation' in Greek Mythology (there's something representing everything in Greek Mythology, isn't there). Everyone's in Torchwood has experienced both sides, while there is plenty of art that suggests male love related to other greek mythologial characaters.

If anything, Tiresias is a transexual (double transexual) mythology, not an omnisexual one.
(no subject) - crabby_lioness - Jan. 18th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Interesting! - crabby_lioness - Jan. 18th, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
szm
Jan. 18th, 2007 11:48 am (UTC)
ooo that was really interesting, thanks. I didn't know this play (other than where it crossed over into my psychology A'Level) so now I'm going have to find a copy I think.
crabby_lioness
Jan. 18th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
I love the Ancient Greek plays. They're the earliest forms of some of the most popular stories around today, and you can really see them stripped bare of most of their bells and whistles. Or at least with different bells and whistles.
demon_faith
Jan. 18th, 2007 03:55 pm (UTC)
I studied Oedipus Rex at A-Level, and yet completed missed the references! Now you've laid it out, it all makes so much sense!

We need more Classics in sci-fi (I miss those Stargate days.)
crabby_lioness
Jan. 18th, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
What Classics did Stargate have? I saw the movie and odd scenes, and found the ethnology so laughable I didn't stay for the rest.
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devohoneybee
Jan. 20th, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
Are you by any chance going to Escapade? ( www.escapadecon.net -- slash discussion con) I'd love to reference this essay in a panel -- I can see applications to Due South (the Victoria eps) and the Gilgamesh epic, and how slash is a (sometimes successful, sometimes not) "solution" to the love of the wrong woman.
crabby_lioness
Jan. 20th, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC)
Now you're making me wish I'd said "Wrong Lover" instead of "Wrong Woman". It's not gender specific. There have been tales where a woman fell for the Wrong Man and there were plenty of homophobic tales in the early 20th Century where a man fell for the Wrong Man.

But as I said before, it's not even human-centric. It can just as easily be a person devoted to the Wrong Cause or the Wrong Side. IIRC the Japanese have a whole subgenre about loyal Samurai who devotedly serve evil masters. It's part of the same genre.

No, I've got a 5yo and a 7yo. I doubt I'll be making it to any cons this year.
(no subject) - devohoneybee - Jan. 22nd, 2007 05:42 am (UTC) - Expand
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_resuscitation
Jan. 22nd, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
Do you know I had forgotten all about the Oedipus Rex story - but you're right - it does fit with the ep! I hadn't really thought of it like that before. Very interesting analysis :)
crabby_lioness
Jan. 22nd, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you! RTD said he wanted to do "adult themes", and you can't get much more "adult" than OR.
terrylj
Mar. 2nd, 2007 03:21 am (UTC)
Parallels make my geeky little heart happy. This is awesome.
crabby_lioness
Jul. 17th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
donutsweeper
Jul. 18th, 2007 03:03 am (UTC)
Okay, this was just brilliant, especially your way of tying Tanezki and Jack together as two halves of the same role.
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