azn_jack_fiend: (Fragments)
[personal profile] azn_jack_fiend
I got a lot of interesting responses to my last post, and one I had to respond to in longer form, from [ profile] xtricks:

I also think, however, that your implication about Jack’s motivations is also fanon – we really have no idea what he’s thinking the majority of the time about Ianto in CoE. Only at the end, in his very difficulty in saying he loved Ianto is there a strong (to me) suggesting that, in fact he did. The idea that he has some hugely different idea of social mores is fairly fanon, not canon. He’s been married, his reaction to Gwen was pretty typical UST, he shows signs of jealousy in regards to Rhys.

Point taken about CoE. I don't think my particular interpretation of Jack and Ianto's relationship in CoE is definitive, inarguable, or the last word. I just think it's more supportable than some other ones that happen to be more popular.

However, the idea that Jack has a different idea of social mores... oh man, that's the hill I'll plant my flag and die on! I'm not angry at all; in fact, I really appreciate the chance to argue this. It's one of the things that attracted me to the character so much: the outsider perspective to social mores. It's my fanon, sure, but I think it's pretty well-supported and emotionally coherent.

Looking at Jack's developmental timeline, he spent his formative years in the 51st century, then had a period where he traveled all over, and he also learned how to imitate early 20th century UK/US culture enough to pass on the surface; then he got stranded in the 19th century. He's an immigrant, and more than that, a refugee, albeit a super-privileged one. Like a lot of people who emigrate to foreign countries as adults, he learns the culture, sometimes well enough to pass, but he refuses to learn anything that would jeopardize his sense of self as someone who is fundamentally different, someone who was formed in the 51st century. That's a pretty common psychological phenomenon. People who immigrate as very young children or babies, people who immigrate as older children or adolescents, and people who immigrate as full adults have very, very different identity formation processes, although there's enough of a range that I can't say "it's always 100% this way."

Anyway, he knows the culture well enough on the surface. He knows what marriage means, and sexual jealousy, and how men and women and straight and gay people are so supposed to act in certain culturally-sanctioned ways, and so on.  But sometimes he blocks himself from learning more and sometimes he refuses to learn more.  There's a certain conservatism at issue, although Jack's "conservatism" would be the polar opposite of what people think of as social conservatism. But he's holding on to the old (future) and conserving it. Drawing a line and refusing to change himself past that line. He can't show outside signs of that conservatism -- he can't, say, put a bumper sticker on his SUV that says "51st Century and Proud!" -- but he shows it in other ways, dropping things like "you people and your labels" and also adopting a weird conservatism in dress (the WWII-era wardrobe).

And I think his jealousy of Rhys is more about mortality than anything else. Jack probably goes through stages of wanting a normal human according to some sort of cultural standard. Rhys can have that with Gwen. Jack can't. And John Hart is capable of getting jealous, too... he was jealous of Jack's relationship with his team. 

As someone who loves reading and writing Jackstory, and is obsessed with looking at through an anthropological and psychological lens as much as an emotional/poetic one, I will hang on with every ounce of strength to the idea that he has a totally different idea of social mores. That's the one thing that would probably kill my love of the character, if he lost that!

Anyway, I love laying out arguments for this stuff.

Date: 2011-07-06 06:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, I think he has different social mores too, and I agree that he's an outsider (many leader types in sci-fi genere are), but I think that idea of huge social difference comes from fanon and is not terribly supported in canon. (also: I love Jack for being an outsider too, but I think that conclusion is drawn as much from fandom interpretation as canon).

He's omnisexual, from an era where that seems acceptable but the flashes of his family life in Adam are fairly stereotypical looking (two parents, two children, maternal grief and guilt at the loss of a parent/spouse). There's nothing in those scenes to suggest he had three parents or five or many of the other combinations that fanon suggest. And, frankly, when the dominant cultural assumption about family is the two-parent nuclear one, if you want to imply there is something else you have to show it.

He kisses both the Doctor and Rose at the end (another of those awful 'declare your love and die' tropes) which is another suggestion of alternative sexuality but we see little of that in Torchwood.

One of the canon problems with Torchwood and Jack/Ianto is that his visible emotional responses are all around Gwen, in almost all cases. And his emotional responses to Gwen look to me very much like traditional romantic tropes; conflict over UST, over the 'other man', his weird reaction to Gwen's engagement (and her equally weird revealing of it), these are all well within the norms of 'our' culture.

It's not that I'm saying this or that interpretation cannot be made but I think there's a wide difference between what canon gives us and what we make of it -- which is, really, why fandom exists. We're given some fragments of something spectacualr but have to build it ourselves.

Date: 2011-07-06 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'll agree with the building part!

But not with the "declare your love and die" trope. That always gets me. There's a reason it's all over Western (and Eastern) literature for the past few thousand years. It wooooooorks. Oh man does it work. It killed me in PoTW just as much as CoE Day 4. Sigh.

I think like any other trope it can be done well, or done badly, and for me, it was done very, very very well.

Date: 2011-07-06 07:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I know it's common in culture because it's a cultural norm but I hate it. I believe it's used (among other things) as an excuse to allow men to express emotions (only at the extremes of their lives), and I also believe it's a tool used to romanticize death and grief in a way that is manipulated to do things like get boys to join the military and die 'romantically'.

I've been way to close to that in RL and it's the very last thing from romantic when it happens.

Date: 2011-07-06 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm really sorry it strikes a bad chord with you... I know pitfalls like these are everywhere.

And I honestly never thought of it that way, because I can think of a lot of examples of women doing it in literature, too... in which case it's often used as "woman has last dying chance to escape social strictures that prevented her from declaring love", and not usually militarized.

Date: 2011-07-06 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, it's a tool used with both men and women. I just feel it's a ... dishonest use of human beings compassion (and desire to have and express love) since it's frequently used as a 'tearjerker' meant to provide nothing more than vicarious release of grief and I ... don't like or need that.

Date: 2011-07-06 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think the reactions Jack shows are very human reactions: we get jealous, we want things, we need things, we love things, and he shows a range of that so even if he is from the future he'll still show those feelings - they are things that don't just disappear.

Buuut like you say he's an immigrant and a refugee. He'll have brought a whole host of stuff from his formative years that will have shaped his core beliefs and view points. You can't remove those either and it's the curse of a migrated person to never quite fit in anywhere ever again. In your new home people will always see you as the immigrant, and in your old home they'll see you as the person who left.

In your new home, you won't quite understand everything or spot all the little nuances of daily life, and in your old home you'll miss out the latest developments because society is always changing. Humans don't change much, but society as a whole does.

So yeah, he'll be from a place where we think things are more open and relationships aren't the same or are more open (not just in the "swinging" sense of the word) and varying in constellations, but he'll also have these very human emotions and reactions, as well as the feeling of never quite fitting in ever again.

Date: 2011-07-06 07:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, that's really true... and another thing I thought of while I was typing this up is that immigrants can sometimes have an odd tendency to be more conservative than their home countries. Their home country moves on; they're too busy preserving their home country in the new land to change along with it.

Date: 2011-07-06 08:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It seems like that is a bit of a defense mechanism from the change you're undergoing though. If you find yourself in a new place and you no longer fit into the old one you're gonna try to keep this image or icon of what your old country/home used to be like.

Most people do adapt because humans are good at that, but others can't and they go to extremes (nationalist transplants imo).

I think Jack's latched on to something familiar in his dress-code: He might have spent a lot of time in the 1940's, maybe that was where he first ended up, but at the very least it was when he met the Doctor and Rose. Since he's unable to fully integrate himself he might as well latch on to a time he has (relatively) good memories of, since the 51st century doesn't seem to be one of those times.

Date: 2011-07-06 08:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I emigrated at 19... and the adjusting / adapting part resonates a lot with me after 19 years here

I've joked that the most German thing about me is my passport - I've not changed nationality, just country - and I've had the advantage of marrying into a family in my new country: I was therefore taught their social norms and how things work - I queue with the best of them: even for numbered seats at a JB concert

Right now I know that speaking English flows much easier than German for example and I'm sure I'm not up on the social norms in Germany any more... I hang on to what I remember and I guess Jack would too

Addition: Jack was an adult when he arrived in 1869 - settled in his persona of Captain Jack Harkness, even if it was an adopted persona
I was a teenager and would say being here has molded me into the adult I am now... hope that makes sense
Edited Date: 2011-07-06 08:45 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-07-06 11:16 pm (UTC)
ext_348818: Jack Harkness. (Default)
From: [identity profile]
It's one of the things that attracted me to the character so much: the outsider perspective to social mores.

Amen, sister.


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