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Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “The Star Beast”

Oh, right, this is a thing we used to do.

The Big Ones

  • Why The Long Face: “Why did this face come back?” Such a specific way to phrase it that surely the answer must be very, very specific, too. In this episode, all we really get as answers go is, “destiny,” “to save Donna.” Everyone assumes it’s a ploy by the Toymaker, but that was never really his style — putting faces on people was more a Land of Fiction thing. (Obviously the face came back because everyone had fun livetweeting during the pandemic, but how would that translate to the screen?)
    I don’t think it’s the Toymaker, I don’t think it’s the Land of Fiction or any master thereof. You want the payoff to this to play emotionally — it shouldn’t just be “well the celebrity guest star did it.”
  • The Boss Is Not Rhetorical: “Wait until I tell the Boss!” The subtitles capitalise it and everything. But who’s the Meep’s the Boss? The obvious place we all immediately went to is, again, the Toymaker, but does the Toymaker have… flunkies now? He has toys he plays with, so if the Meep is in the pocket of Big Toy, “Boss” doesn’t seem like the relationship here.
    Plus, on the In-Vision Commentary, Tennant asks Collinson whether they know what that means yet, implying they didn’t while Tennant was actively involved in production. Perhaps the answer is in scenes that were shot much later.
    Really, all we have is the word “Boss” and set reports and casting announcements, so, a wild mass guess to the answer: Whoever Jinkx Monsoon is playing?1The rumour is the Terrible Zodin, but I dunno, is that where this is going? It doesn’t feel like that’s where this is going. Much of early days Arc Watch is gut-based.

The Small Ones

Who We Are
  • Still Figuring It Out: “Do I say things like that now?” Dr Who is still exploring their new personality. Clearly a big thing is that the vanity and egocentrism of the last time they had this face has cleared like bad acne, and their anguished cry of “Why did it have to be this?” when forced into a scenario not unlike the one that killed the last version of this face suggests that that well of emotion this face never would’ve been capable of before may be quite deep.
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Much has been made of the ease with which Donna and Rose simply let go of the metacrisis energy. Is it that easy? Is that story over? Or is this just the start of its final chapter?
The World Around Us
  • UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce: Seriously, how is UNIT just fully back in business already again? I’m gonna assume this is just, let’s get this piece back on the board like usual and not worry about it too much, but there’s been quite a lot of shifting that kind of thing around a little too fast recently, and I wouldn’t mind if this one went somewhere.
  • Gonkage: Is Rose’s one customer in Abu Dhabi just one of those RTD background details, or something we should be keeping an eye on? Who would have reason to send money to Donna’s family? Or maybe, who would recognise what her toys were?
  • 1
    The rumour is the Terrible Zodin, but I dunno, is that where this is going? It doesn’t feel like that’s where this is going. Much of early days Arc Watch is gut-based.

“Then allow me to show you the future.” (Doctor Who: “Destination: Skaro”)

After a gruelling year-long hour trapped in the chaotic pages of Doctor Who Magazine‘s Liberation of the Daleks, Dr Who returns to the small screen by crashing into not just a lab on an obscure little backwater planet known to its inhabitants as Skaro — birthplace of the Daleks — but into his past, present, and future.

We have, of course, been here before. The crash itself is reminiscent of the Titanic slamming into the side of the TARDIS at the end of Last of the Time Lords, the gags remind of the banter from Time Crash mixed with the inspiring-the-famous-author gags from episodes like The Shakespeare Code. The way in which it fills in something we’ve never seen filled in on TV before even though non-televised Doctor Who has probably thoroughly covered the area, reminiscent of the way Sarah rattles off various companions’ fates in Death of the Doctor.

Speaking of contradictions…

Past

Davros is depicted in Destination: Skaro as an able-bodied man at a point in his history where, historically, he’s been depicted as a wheelchair user with a severely disfigured face and body. This is a change made not for budget or time reasons1Though I’m sure Julian Bleach doesn’t mind not having to have the whole face put on. but because, and this isn’t speculation because Russell T Davies says as much in the Unleashed behind the scenes featurette, it’s the Year of Luigi 2023 and the harmful, hurtful cliché of using disability and disfigurement as a shorthand for evil has, in short, got to go. This, Russell says, referring to how Davros is depicted here, is how we see Davros now.

There is some ambiguity in what he says and how — clearly he’s saying, as far as he and the current team are concerned, Davros will not again be portrayed like he was in the past. But does that mean a total reimagining of Davros even in the part of his history we’ve seen before, or just that we won’t see that part of his history again? It may be some time before we find out — another Dalek story is an inevitability, but another Davros story might not be coming along for a while.

Either way, the message is clear: What makes Davros scary is the fascist fanaticism that drives him to create the Daleks — and not his face or his wheelchair. And that implies… other things.

Present

Inevitably some of the kvetching online has included, why now and not in 2008? I can’t claim to know what was in Terry Nation’s heart when he created the character nearly half a century ago, or the hearts of anyone who’s contributed to the character since then. But I have a feeling I know Russell T Davies well enough to know that he just… wasn’t thinking about these things in 2008. Because, well, nobody involved who could’ve made this call was thinking about it in 2008. Nobody involved who could’ve made this call was thinking about it in 2012, 1975, or 2003, either. I’m really happy they’re having these conversations at Bad Wolf now.

When a silent film from 1924 employs, say, cannibal clichés to communicate that the island the characters have landed on is an easily recognisable dangerous situation, no matter how racist the effect of those clichés might then be in the Year of Luigi 2023, the intent at the time probably wasn’t to do a bunch of racism. They’re just using the toys that are in the toy box at the time. And those toys change as we wear them down, as we figure out they’re not equally fun for everyone.

Because the way we think about this stuff evolves constantly. It’s never too late to learn, to catch on, to say, the fun I’m having hurts you and it shouldn’t.

It’s never too late to fix your heart.2Or die.

Future

Obviously this 5-minute comedy scene is just a drop in a thousand buckets. It “counts,” if such a thing matters to you, but its primary purpose is to have some light fun with silly Dalek jokes during a charity fundraising broadcast. My mom liked it, thought it was funny. She’s not thinking about these things at all.

But I think it’s a terrific shot from the second RTD era’s starter pistol: Here we go. This is what matters to us. Nothing is sacred. Let’s go have fun — together.

  • 1
    Though I’m sure Julian Bleach doesn’t mind not having to have the whole face put on.
  • 2
    Or die.

Some deleted drafts

A running thread you’ll notice in this selection of post I’ve deleted from my drafts tab in ClassicPress, thereby officially abandoning all pretence that I’ll do anything with them, is that these are all fandom or fandom-related essay ideas, really? Do I do that here? I did it once, I guess, though I feel like I kinda crapped out on the conclusion. There’s also a layer of a specific type of frustration to some of these that I generally don’t think lends itself to good writing.

Anyway.

From oldest to newest.

Who’s behind the mask? On identity concealment in “Star Wars.”

This one was just a title — I was annoyed Star Wars fandom took one look at a Stormtrooper with a cool gold mask and immediately decided they must be somebody1The emphasis was mostly on the idea that it was Ezra Bridger, but I saw several other names come up. hiding their face, and so I decided to write a rebuttal, because Star Wars doesn’t really… do that?

The Clones’ faces are never a secret, kindly old Palpatine being the monkey-faced hologram fella from the original films is only a twist if you’re watching for the first time in episode order, and Vader taking his helmet off is a serious health condition reveal, not an identity reveal at all. Phasma in the sequels never turns out to Be Somebody, The Mandalorian is about helmets and never, to the best of my recollection, pulls that type of twist at all.

In fact, it never really seems to happen that much in long-running sci-fi franchises at all — Doctor Who lets the Master do it sometimes, as a treat, but that’s a throwback to the 70s, Star Trek doesn’t really do it, it was very obvious on WandaVision it was gonna be Agatha all along, not fucking Mephisto, who would’ve come out of nowhere— *takes a deep breath*

But “Alex is annoyed with a fandom they’re not really in” makes for lousy writing, and also, I didn’t feel like doing the research, which I’d really have to do properly if I’m gonna pick a fight with nerds, so here we go — I didn’t write the post, and now I’m just doing the complaining, anyway, that’s that particular craving answered.

Interview with the person whose house the weary travellers stop at to recharge and eat a good meal

Inspired by a Mastodon post, this seemed like one I might get some mileage out of, but really, much like how I’m not really in Star Wars fandom enough to pick a fight, I’m just not in either fantasy or, like, longform profile pieces enough to really do this one justice. The joke would’ve been that the weary travellers stop at the interview subject’s house while the interview is happening, I think?

Doctor Who: 14 reasonable expectations for the RTD2 era

It was August, I saw a lot of people projecting their every hope and dream on the RTD2 era, and I thought I’d be a more reasonable voice in the discourse — but a week out from the first of the 60th anniversary special airing the vibe has changed a lot, and I no longer feel any need to try to throw a reasonable wrench into anyone’s spokes. I also remembered I simply do not wish to be part of The Discourse.

And anyway, I got to one (1) reasonable expectation and looking at it now I’d probably cut it if I was gonna try to finish it.

Notes on a Multiverse: “Iron Man” (2008)

For a while there I found it really frustrating to talk about the MCU on the internet2See amongst many other things the Mephisto thing. Exhausting., to the point that my Letterboxd reviews were just “Enjoyed it.” with a 5-star rating. I’m mostly over that frustration now3Leaving a certain web forum behind, and quite a lot of my exposure to clickbait and “look at this stupid opinion”-type posts with it, seems to have helped., and I can feel a substantial rewatch approaching at velocity. I wondered out loud on Mastodon if that rewatch might involve some kind of writing project, using the phrase “a Psychochronography in Spandex” to specifically evoke El Sandifer’s TARDIS Eruditorum as a model I was thinking of.

But, let’s be honest with myself here, that’s massively overestimating my current ability to commit to a long-term writing project of what would at the bare minimum be hundreds of posts.4How do you get to hundreds of posts from 35 movies? Agents of SHIELD ran for 136 episodes. The Netflix shows put out 161 episodes. Even doing some condensing this would be a massive undertaking. I’m very interested in finding an angle on the MCU from which to talk about it in a way that doesn’t drive me fucking insane.

I’m gonna do the rewatch at some point, and I’d like to do some kind of project around it? I like the title Notes on a Multiverse. But whatever shape that takes, it’s obviously not gonna be hundreds of essays, so the project I saved the draft for will not exist, and so — into the trash it goes.

  • 1
    The emphasis was mostly on the idea that it was Ezra Bridger, but I saw several other names come up.
  • 2
    See amongst many other things the Mephisto thing. Exhausting.
  • 3
    Leaving a certain web forum behind, and quite a lot of my exposure to clickbait and “look at this stupid opinion”-type posts with it, seems to have helped.
  • 4
    How do you get to hundreds of posts from 35 movies? Agents of SHIELD ran for 136 episodes. The Netflix shows put out 161 episodes. Even doing some condensing this would be a massive undertaking.

So You Want To Watch The “Ju-On” Movies (Part One, 1998-2003)

I watch a lot of movies. And I’m here to use that tactical advantage to your advantage — and tell you about some more movies.

If you’re aware of movies at all, you’ll have heard of these by their American title, The Grudge — in the same way that the Ring films are about a young woman’s pain being projected into the world so hard they end up airing on TV, these are about the same thing happening with a house; a pain felt by the cosmos so hard that the place where it happened holds a, well, grudge. These original films are incredibly low-budget — but they pull off some great scares very effectively.

In this first part I’ll cover the following films:

  • The short films 4444444444 and Katasumi
  • The Japanese V-Cinema (straight to video) films Ju-On: The Curse and Ju-On: The Curse 2.
  • The Japanese theatrical films Ju-On: The Grudge and Ju-On: The Grudge 2.

Continue reading “So You Want To Watch The “Ju-On” Movies (Part One, 1998-2003)”

On barnacles

David asked about the Stef Coburn situation — the son of writer Anthony Coburn is claiming his dad had enough of an ownership over the first Doctor Who serial that he, as controller of his estate, now seems to be able to block its re-release1Here’s Gizmodo on the issue. I would recommend strongly against clicking through to Coburn’s Twitter. — and I basically blogged about it in reply.

This is my lightly edited2Coburn doesn’t seem to be particularly litigious towards people writing about this, but for legal reasons I feel slightly less comfortable being very rude here. earnest understanding and assessment of the situation, as I rattled it off at 9:30am this morning after sleeping for twelve hours. I am not a lawyer, and I am not qualified to write about this in any way except that I’m a Doctor Who fan.

Most people writing about this are idiots. I’m probably one of them.

One

Stef Coburn is a misogynist, a conspiracy nutter, a vaccine truther, a racist, a transphobe, an all-round bigot, a typical modern conservative3These are all claims I feel I can back up just by pointing at his Twitter, but rest assured I edited out several things I felt like I couldn’t., who, though I’m sure he hates that Dr Who is played by a Black actor now just by default,4David had linked to a social media post suggesting Coburn was specifically doing this because he was mad Dr Who was Black now. seems to have experienced the show’s very existence as a miserable intrusion upon his awful life, so I think it’s less “Stef is doing this because Ncuti” and more “Stef is doing this because he chooses to,” with a layer of “Stef is doing this now because he knows it’s a time when he’ll get the attention and outrage he seems to crave” — he also tried to claim ownership of the TARDIS using basically the same tricks during the 50th anniversary period.

Personally, I think this kind of thing works best when you get the fandom to rally behind you — I’m generally happy to say, yeah, somebody who made a major contribution early on to something that’s a billion dollar brand now should be recognised beyond what they were paid at the time — but Stef seems to have gone the “I know how to make a stink and I’m gonna make the smell everyone’s problem” route.

Two

The contract situation on old Doctor Who is messy. The rule, generally, is, if something was invented by somebody on BBC payroll, it belongs to the show, and if it was invented by a freelancer, they have some amount of legal ownership over the concept. Terry Nation fully owned the Daleks, now his estate does, and for much of the 60s and 70s he tried to make a standalone Dalek show — typically a 60s-style sci-fi space police thing — happen.5A pilot script was adapted for audio by Big Finish in 2010 as The Destroyers. Bob Baker and Dave Martin owned K9,6See: The relationship between K9 mostly being absent in The Sarah Jane Adventures and the existence of Disney XD’s K9 series. And the perpetually definitely-happening K9: TimeQuake. the Brig has his own long-running military sci-fi novel series fully licensed from the Haisman and Lincoln estates that the BBC has no involvement in7From Candy Jar Books. I like these, but they only did audiobooks for the first few seasons., etcetera.

Some version of this is still happening, even — we know legally RTD invented Captain Jack even though Steven Moffat wrote his first appearance, meaning RTD essentially owns Torchwood, and Moffat seems to have retained some amount of control over the Paternoster Gang concept in the years between Big Finish getting the modern license and them getting to do Paternoster Gang stories of their own. Note also who and what get “created by” credits when in the modern show.

(This is even more of a thing in the various book ranges, where a lot of the ownership of the text has fully reverted back to the authors, and you’ll sometimes see whole books reprinted as self-published versions with the Doctor Who bits stripped out.)

Three

Stef’s TARDIS case a decade ago never went anywhere because when Anthony Coburn contributed the idea of the police box shape for the TARDIS’ interior he was on BBC payroll, a staff writer.8The general concept of the TARDIS was invented by, well, probably Verity Lambert or Sydney Newman or somebody else, look it up yourself. Either way, the BBC has pretty cleanly owned the police box shape since 2002. Coburn was also on payroll when he first conceived of the caveman story he would go on to write, and when he was first commissioned to write it, but then the BBC’s general Script Department was dissolved, and he was re-commissioned to write it as a freelancer. That, ultimately, is where the issue seems to lie.

But: Loads of Doctor Who scripts were written by freelancers, and even when they own their concepts or even everything that happens in the story — the Haisman and Lincoln estates are able to license out the events of Web of Fear to such an extent that the Brigadier in those books is allowed to acknowledge everything that happened except that the people involved were called “the Doctor,” “Jamie McCrimmon,” or “Victoria Waterfield”9They become “the Cosmic Hobo,” “the Scottish lad,” and “the girl with the queen’s name.” — that doesn’t seem to mean the BBC doesn’t own enough of the rights to keep rereleasing them on DVD, Blu-Ray, audiobooks of novelisations, etcetera.

So the big part I’m personally unclear about is — is this situation different in some way I can’t see? Or is this just the first real instance of an estate being controlled by somebody who’s not just happy to cooperate, who’s not just happy to take the occasional licensing paycheck, but is choosing to play nasty? Could they all have been playing nasty this whole time?  Either way, the BBC seem to believe there’s something here. I thought they were just playing it safe when they offered to pay him off — £20k, according to Stef, which he seems to have turned down because he’s being normal about Gary Lineker, I think? — but then yesterday a BBC rep explicitly said they don’t own all the relevant rights10From the Radio Times: “A spokesperson for the BBC said: “This massive iPlayer back catalogue will be home to over 800 hours of Doctor Who content, making it the biggest ever collection of Doctor Who programming in one place but will not include the first four episodes as we do not have all the rights to those.””, which surprised me.

So that’s where this situation is right now. I don’t know how it’s gonna evolve, but I suppose it either ends in the BBC being willing to match Stef’s (undoubtedly very high) asking price, or it going to court. Would court go how Stef wants? I’d imagine he’d rather avoid finding out.

  • 1
    Here’s Gizmodo on the issue. I would recommend strongly against clicking through to Coburn’s Twitter.
  • 2
    Coburn doesn’t seem to be particularly litigious towards people writing about this, but for legal reasons I feel slightly less comfortable being very rude here.
  • 3
    These are all claims I feel I can back up just by pointing at his Twitter, but rest assured I edited out several things I felt like I couldn’t.
  • 4
    David had linked to a social media post suggesting Coburn was specifically doing this because he was mad Dr Who was Black now.
  • 5
    A pilot script was adapted for audio by Big Finish in 2010 as The Destroyers.
  • 6
    See: The relationship between K9 mostly being absent in The Sarah Jane Adventures and the existence of Disney XD’s K9 series. And the perpetually definitely-happening K9: TimeQuake.
  • 7
    From Candy Jar Books. I like these, but they only did audiobooks for the first few seasons.
  • 8
    The general concept of the TARDIS was invented by, well, probably Verity Lambert or Sydney Newman or somebody else, look it up yourself. Either way, the BBC has pretty cleanly owned the police box shape since 2002.
  • 9
    They become “the Cosmic Hobo,” “the Scottish lad,” and “the girl with the queen’s name.”
  • 10
    From the Radio Times: “A spokesperson for the BBC said: “This massive iPlayer back catalogue will be home to over 800 hours of Doctor Who content, making it the biggest ever collection of Doctor Who programming in one place but will not include the first four episodes as we do not have all the rights to those.””

So You Want To Watch The “Ring” Movies (Part One, 1995-2000)

I watch a lot of movies. On average, about 400 a year. That makes it very easy to just say, okay, I’ll watch all 20 movies in this franchise. I am, of course, aware of two things. One, most people are simply not like this. And two, I have a tactical advantage over those people which they can benefit from.

Whether you go in chronological or release order — maybe you do Machete Order, you do you — everyone knows about the various ways in which to watch Star Wars. We all understand that if you really wanna keep up with the MCU you should probably just watch it all, but if you just wanna watch what you need for the next movie, you’re probably good with three movies and three Disney+ shows, all of which have their own prerequisites and– Okay, yeah, cripes, that’s a mess. But most movie franchises are not that complicated.

Which brings me to the Ring movies. At 26 movies — including Ju-On, which I don’t even get into here yet, and the various international versions, but not even counting the short films or the weird Chinese crossovers, unofficial sequels, Bunshinsaba… — I can imagine “most people” who might want to watch these will want to know what chaff to cut.

This is part one, covering the six Ring films released in the 1995-2000 period. Ju-On also starts in 2000, but I think this is a clean enough block to write up on its own. Part two, when I get there.

Here are the six films I’ll be covering below the fold:

  • The 1995 Ring TV movie, also known by its home video title Ring: Kanzenban (or, Ring: The Complete Edition.)
  • The 1998 Ring film, its original sequel Spiral (or, Rasen,) its replacement sequel Ring 2, and the prequel film Ring 0: Birthday.
  • The 1999 South Korean film The Ring Virus.

Continue reading “So You Want To Watch The “Ring” Movies (Part One, 1995-2000)”

Analysis: “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012)

Also posted as a review on Letterboxd, derived from a thread on Mastodon.

Never got around to the sequel, thought I’d go for a refresher on this one first.

Their respective games’ fellow characters are bigoted towards Ralph and Vanellope in essentially the same ways — total social exclusion through rigid enforcement of arbitrary rules designed to exclude them — but for different reasons.

Where Ralph’s exclusion is because he’s “the bad guy” who wants to be let into “good guy” spaces, approaching almost a faux “trans predator” thing, this idea that no matter what, in the ideas of Gene and the others he’s always gonna be pretending,

Vanellope is excluded because she has a disability, her “glitch,” when confronted she calls it “pixlexia,” the other racers’ mockery resembles common mockery of physical and learning disabilities, her peers make no effort to try to understand.

Felix, in this read, is the well-meaning cis liberal, the guy who on paper is totally fine with Ralph, but can’t bring himself to prioritise Ralph’s well-being over his own status because doing so would endanger his “hero privilege,” a limitation he only overcomes by figuring out a way to make himself the lead character of part of the story.

Unfortunately in the end Ralph and Vanellope’s conflicts are overcome not because Gene and the other penthousers learn to accept and love Ralph for who he is instead of who he was written to be, but because he “earns his medal” by saving the day, literally just trans exceptionalism, and not because reasonable accommodations are made to help Vanellope thrive but because her glitch is essentially brought under control, her disability “medicated,” the thing that made her unique transformed into something nobody finds too uncomfortable.

I realise 2012 is a different country, but there is simply no goddamn way anybody like me — trans, autistic — was involved in the production of this fucking movie.

We will never be able to look to Disney and truly see ourselves, it’s just never gonna happen.

Anyway, fun video game movie. Cute aesthetic, the fictional games fit right in with the real-world ones. Kinda proves these things can work as a movie in a way nobody has quite managed to do since. I say, actively not looking at the Mario movie.

On second chances

This is a necropost. A version of the following was originally posted as a Reddit comment on 7 August, 2023.

For context: This was in reply to speculation that an upcoming Big Finish announcement might involve the return of actor John Barrowman to the company’s Torchwood range after he was dropped, and a big anniversary story went unreleased, by the company in light of a pattern of repeated, open, and enthusiastic sexual misconduct. Wikipedia at this time calls them “allegations,” but Barrowman and his co-stars were openly talking about this behaviour in public on stage at conventions. It wasn’t a secret then, and it’s not a secret now.

If you’re a Doctor Who fan in the places where I’m a Doctor Who fan, you may have seen calls from other fans to bring him back in some way despite all this, because some people prioritise their fondness for a character over the safety and wellbeing of the cast and crew around the actor portraying that character.

This was my response to one such call, asking for Barrowman to be given a second chance.

I’m preserving it here mostly because I’ve got a feeling this will keep coming up, and I’ll want to be able to pull it back out to repost or reference.

John Barrowman has had his second chance. He behaved the way he did throughout the 00s until he was forced to apologise for it in 2008, both behind the scenes for how he was on set and publicly for doing it on Radio 1, and then… openly kept doing it, consistently, at least as late as his time on Arrow, where he was walking around his co-stars’ trailers naked and sending them pictures of, again, him naked, that he made a crew member take.

He claims in his 2021 apology that his behaviour has changed since 2008, but that’s clearly a lie, then, isn’t it. Perhaps it didn’t include crew members who might not have felt comfortable speaking up or saying no back in 2008 and that’s what’s changed? There’s “another chance,” and then there’s, why would you ever employ this walking liability again?

So, when I say, “RTD knows better,” what I mean is, RTD is a PR-savvy showrunner whose previous run on Doctor Who was mired in controversy that he has somehow managed to escape significant public scrutiny over. Even in the best possible scenario, after a thorough redemption tour for Barrowman — which could happen, but won’t start at Doctor Who — bringing him back, even just at Big Finish, would at the very least attach controversy to the show’s brand that, surely, RTD is sensibly trying to avoid. Why do that to yourself? Why do that to the show?

19 December 2023: Here’s a paragraph I think I might add in the future.

In general, I’m against the idea of permanent banishment as punishment for behaviour in different times, right, but there does come a point where I’m fine saying, actually, yeah, this person probably shouldn’t work in this industry ever again, and John Barrowman is on the wrong side of that line. Every opportunity given to him should instead be given to an up-and-coming queer person who’s not gonna commit sexual violence the second they get a chance.

What “Rashomon” is about

Lightly edited from Letterboxd.

My understanding of 1950’s Rashomon had always been that it’s about four witnesses of the same event sharing their contradictory good-faith accounts of it to a court. “That’s not how I remember it,” as one Homer J Simpson once famously put it. A tale of how human memory is subjective, and can not be objective.

But that’s not what 1950’s Rashomon is about at all: It’s about four witnesses of the same event choosing, one way or another, to actively lie about what they saw.

Tajōmaru the bandit lies to big himself up, regardless of whether he did it or not. He wants to be Tajōmaru the bandit, who killed a samurai in honourable combat. But it’s only in his own testimony that he’s ever presented as a person who’s even remotely capable of that.

The samurai’s wife lies because the most plausible account (the woodcutter’s) is, frankly, fucking pathetic. She comes off very poorly in it, and her husband dies a pathetic, pitiful death. A samurai’s honour is a thing that matters, dangit, is the thinking here — perhaps she feels she herself is to blame for what, and this is her way of reconciling those facts. (If the woodcutter’s account isn’t true, she may still simply be finding her own way to deal with the event.)

The medium lies because she’s a medium. It’s what they do. (Alternatively, the spirit of the samurai lies to preserve his own honour and let off his wife.)

Finally, even the woodcutter employs some creative editing to not get in trouble for stealing the valuable dagger — but his account, in which the wife spurs the samurai and the bandit on to fight each other and the samurai dies a pathetic, pitiful death, is by far the most plausible, and his motive to lie is only for not testifying. He has six kids to get back to — seven, now — and in the grand picture of things, that matters more than who stole the dagger.

Though there is some overlap, the accounts contradict so significantly that they can’t be reconciled. They simply can not be good-faith flawed accounts of the same event — the priest at the end isn’t losing his faith over the events described, but because each account is designed primarily to benefit the person recounting it, because this is a movie about what could make people who should objectively know the truth choose to lie about it.

Or at least, that’s how I’ll remember it.

Terrific picture. I regret to inform you all I’m going to be correcting people about it for the rest of my life.

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