The More You Holmes

From: Elementary 6.21

Character Names: Lord St. Simon, Hattie Doran

Reference: Not only the names of Holmes’ client and his missing American wife are from canon story “The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor,” but the situation of her going missing at their wedding reception, and Holmes’ subsequent deduction that she wasn’t abducted but left voluntarily to be with another man, is also from the original.

(Side note: wasn’t Season 6’s finale just a corker? Love it…)

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Shaky Narrative Upon a New Semester

Remember when we used to wear overalls with one shoulder loose? Yes I said “we”–don’t you dare deny it. At the very least, you wore suspenders dangling down around your knees, I know for a fact you did. If you were a teen or older in the ’80s, you did. Accept it and move on.

I mention this because I’m writing this beginning-semester musing, appropriately enough, from the Tivoli brewery on Auraria campus, and they always not only often play ’80s hits, but the videos of such up on their screens as well. So. The overalls. And the mullets. And short sprayed boy cuts for the women.

I have begun my new semester (and quarter) in earnest, lovely lurkers, and as is the tradition of this blog, I needs must give you an overview.

School wise, I’m headfirst in Regis, DU, and Metro. CCD has just expressed interest too, for next semester, and I’m rolling my eyes and heavenward gazing about how, of all the many jobs I’ve been applying for, it’s the additional adjunct job that actually bit. Ah well. Career transitions are supposed to take years, right? Sigh…

At Regis, I’m advising a student in a course called Editing Nonfiction, and on deck I’ve got a student doing a course I cobbled up from scratch, called Education Technology.

DU is a hybrid course this time, called The Writer’s Workshop. So I shall be guiding ten grad students in the Professional Writing program through several genres of writing and revisions of same.

At Metro, I’m teaching Intro to Theatre to a group of oh so very young things, and that online Staging Cultures class you’ve heard me mention before.

In other professional news:

FIGHTS! I did the fights for StageDoor’s production of Superior Donuts, which went great but I don’t know that I’ll be getting up there to see it. This week, I’m going back to Local Theatre company, to give them some fights and intimacy for Paper Cut. And I was conscripted by RRCC to do their fights for She Kills Monsters, in the beginning of 2019. Oh, and I’m involved in Shakesbeer now too–having done fights for their soused & abbreviated Henry IV, pt 1 I’m now part of their Irregulars. Which is nice.

DANCE! Blue Dime did great at the Fringe Festival, and now we are at the conclusion of three shows at Denver’s Dangerous Theatre (the pic above shows what our curtain looks like there). The SO mentioned that we are getting some high quality acts in our shows, and that we’ve basically leveled up. I agree. Our upcoming show in October back at Full Cycle is nerd themed, oh which reminds me! I’ve been asked by Frequent Flyers to return for their Theatre of the Vampires showcase, to sing Worms Crawl In while dancers swing in a giant coffin. We’ll be previewing this at Blue Dime’s October show, but what I’m really gobsmacked about is returning for this number I originated twenty years ago! Just. Wow.

BUSINESS! I’m still in changing-career mode, and as such I’m offering my body language workshop to a few different places (Twitter and Spellbinders at the immediate moment), and am seeking more expansion for it as well as reaching out to potential mentors. I’ll tell you how that goes.

Well that sounds like a lot, now I write it down. That plus an intense and long term relationship? How do I do it?

Because I’m a difficult person. Difficult people get difficult things done.

What’s on your plate right now?

The More You Holmes

From: 2.1, Elementary 6.19

Title: “The Geek Interpreter”

Reference: in BBC Sherlock, The Geek Interpreter is one of a quick chain of plays on words from canon mysteries that we see breeze by in an illustration of Sherlock’s busy-ness. In this case, it’s a group of young comic book fans that notice the comics are coming true.

In Elementary’s most recent ep of this same title, we watch a brilliant mathematician interpret some data under duress, and her lovelorn PhD advisor hire Holmes & Watson to find her and her kidnappers.

Both shows use this title as a nod to original canon story “The Greek Interpreter,” one of the most chilling and (in my educated and well-read opinion) underrated stories in the canon. Though the ending is pretty anticlimactic–good on the Grenada series for making that right.

Problematic Toxic Masculinity Tropes

If you’ve followed my Problematic Badass Female Tropes series (over at Writers’ HQ, kids), you’ll recall that the central argument to all those discussions was that those tropes restrict and weaken strong (read: badass) female characters. The bait and switch problems of each PBFT was the dangling of the “badass” in front of us to distract us, while assuming that the character’s strength is enough to make us not notice nor care about the inherent misogynistic structures she has been constructed with.

This new series will look at seven Problematic Toxic Masculinity tropes, and its central argument differs somewhat from that of the PBFTs, though of course the two sets of problematic tropes are intricately and innately connected. This series centers around the inherent assumption that males are strong and dominant. Where the PBFTs focus on the bait and switch of the strong female that’s in fact not strong but subservient to males, the PTMTs focus on the false labels of strength in male characters, as well as the narrow, restrictive, and damaging definition of what it means to be a strong man.

Both sets of tropes do similar things; both are examples of problems of gender and power. We will learn as we go through the male counterparts to the PBFTs that both sets of Problematic Tropes affect how media and entertainment express characters of all genders, and that all these problematic trope characters have a negative impact on the real people that consume and admire them.

But first, what does this trendy phrase Toxic Masculinity actually mean? Lately, in the continued wake of the #metoo movement, the phrase Toxic Masculinity is being bandied about by feminists of all stripes, mainly as a way to shut down conversations. I want to start conversations by writing about these tropes, not shut them down, so real quick let me give you, dear intelligent readers, my working definition of what Toxic Masculinity means (at least as far as these discussions go).

In a nutshell: Toxic Masculinity is the harmful view (ingrained in our patriarchal and heteronormative society) that if a man does not dominate, he is not a man. Domination of all things (from one’s own emotions to other people) is the key poison that puts the Toxic in Toxic Masculinity. Also remember: just like the Problematic Badass Female Tropes were, the Problematic Toxic Masculinity Tropes are not examples of what real men in the real world are actually like, but rather are problematic expressions of masculinity in the forms of characters in popular culture, art, and entertainment, and as such are influential to those who consume and attempt to emulate them. I want to point out the problems in these characters so that we can be aware of what the tropes are doing to us even as we continue to enjoy our media.

I will be writing full blog posts discussing these seven tropes, just like I did with the PBFTs, but first (as indeed I did with the PBFTs), here’s the bare basics in a rundown of what you can expect from these new magnificent seven:

1. Go Big or Go Home

As a man, the only choice you have for beauty is to be big and muscular. Thin, short, “feminine” or small men aren’t men, and certainly aren’t desirable. Where women are told by culture to lose more and more weight, diminishing themselves to invisibility, men are told they are nothing unless they take up more and more space, and are physically strong to boot.

2. Grow a Pair (or, Stoicism Ain’t Just For Hellenistics Anymore)

Pop Culture Detective’s excellent video article, “The Case Against the Jedi Order” describes this harmful trope well. Basically, boys are taught at very young ages to man up, grow a pair, boys don’t cry, etc. which means by the time they become men, they are not able to express emotions healthily, or even at all. The Jedi are a prime example of this, as is every Shane that breezes into town, kicks the bad guys’ collective ass, and moves on. The coolest male characters are ones that show no emotion whatsoever, and certainly don’t form deep emotional connections with other humans. Which leads me to:

3. Bond, James Bond

The misogyny and classism of the gentleman’s gentleman will be explored here, with our good friend 007 at the helm of our examples.

4. The Tale Of The Nerd and the Neckbeard

Nerds are sub-males. That’s the gist of this problematic trope. Brain bigger than your biceps? Well you certainly won’t get the girl. And the extreme of this trope is the seed from which incels sprout.

5. Sassy Gay Friend (with his polar opposite companion, the Terrifying Leather Daddy)

This pair of gay male stereotypes are two sides of the same problematic coin. Both sides of this trope speak to the deep seated fear ingrained in men of being seen as feminine, and as we have said in our definition of Toxic Masculinity, a man who does not dominate is not a real man.

6. Violence is Normal

Not only is violence a normal behavior trained in boys since early childhood, it’s encouraged and even necessary in most social situations depicted by culture. Violent domination is the most commonly seen form of domination in our entertainment and arts, in the form of Problematic Masculine characters taking their strength and power by force.

7. Mr. Mom

LOL, men can’t be good parents! The awful trope of the bumbling dad, nothing more than another child for moms to manage, is the trope on this list that angers me personally the most. Look for some heartfelt angry rants in this article, readers.

Well that’s the basic idea! What do you think? Look for this series to start up on Writers’ HQ after the PBFTs are all done. And leave ideas you have in the comments; I may want to include some of them as I get more in depth with these tropes during the writing process.

Your Body Tells Your Story

Is your body telling the story you want it to? Body language and expression are among the most potent tools we have for communication. Used well, they lend power to your message. Used poorly, they can undercut everything you’re trying to convey. Whether in communication with customers, leadership, the investment community or your own teams, the story you tell physically can be one of your greatest advantages, or most serious risks.

Let’s look at a recent example: One of my clients is part of the leadership team for a Denver area software company. Though he’s an experienced public speaker and a good communicator, he has a chronic slouch. Age, injury, and boxing training combined in him to make it nearly impossible for him to sit up straight. When he came to work with me, I immediately saw how his body language often communicated defeat, low status, other things that were the opposite of what his words were saying. He wanted to do something about it, but it was clear that just sitting him upright wasn’t going be easy, and wouldn’t feel authentic anyway. Rather than attempting to force his posture into something painful and unnatural for him, I instead worked with his natural slouch to create a series of powerful posture-gesture combinations that changed his demeanor entirely. Where before, his slumped, seated self projected a feeling of defeat to his audience, now his active, forward-slanted position showed passion, detailed knowledge, and direct communication of his confidence in the product he was selling. His new customized power-posture also helped free up his hands, thereby allowing for precise gestures for emphasis as he spoke.

Very soon after our session, my client was put on the spot to do a high pressure pitch in front of the executive team for one of the biggest retailers in the U.S. My client used his new tools to project a powerful sense of confidence in his offering, something absolutely necessary in front of a Fortune 500 executive audience. The result? His team landed the deal, which was the biggest in his company’s history. As he put it, “Was that success just about me? Of course not – the product and the team had a lot to do with it. But the first thing that the customer’s leadership team knew about us, before I’d even said a word, was that I had total confidence in what I was putting forward. That didn’t close the deal by itself, but you better believe that it opened the door.”

What doors do you have that need opening?

Leveraging my twenty years of experience as a movement and communication educator, I can show you what your body language is saying, and how it’s saying it. Better, I can help you take control of the story that your physical presence tells, and help you transform it into one of your strongest assets as a leader and communicator. Book me for my customized seminar in body language for leaders, and, during the month of August, take advantage of this opportunity at half price.

Email me: jenn zuko (at) gmail (dot) com, or if you know me online, use any messenger app at hand to contact me. Let’s get started!

The More You Holmes

From: ep. 2.1, Elementary 6.11

Line/mention: in Sherlock, when Watson expresses excitement at his blog getting hits, Sherlock scoffs. Watson retorts, “this is your living, Sherlock, not 240 types of tobacco ash.” To which Sherlock replies, “243.”

In Elementary, Irregular member The Nose mentions reading Sherlock’s “monograph on the 140 varieties of ash,” and pointing out that his differences in Trichinopoly and Birdseye ash are wrong.

Reference: we first hear of Holmes’ monograph on the 243 types of tobacco ash in the very first story, novel-length A Study in Scarlet. It is mentioned more throughout the canon, including in The Sign of Four, where he declares,

“To the trained eye there is as much difference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and the white fluff of bird’s-eye as there is between a cabbage and a potato.”