Persona Ex Nihilo

A couple of days ago I perused Servetus’ last(?) post in the Ugly American series. Lots to digest there. The list of “binaries” is interesting. It pretty much describes most people, which I assume was part of her intent as well as highlighting the contradiction of several. Stereotyping is so wearying. Not that I don’t think we should talk about it. It might be very productive to talk about it.

For most of my life, I’ve been on the receiving end of some very pronounced stereotyping. It has to do with where I’m from and how I speak. A significant number of people just can’t get past it. Thankfully, I don’t hold it against people when they shove me in a slot, but I did when I was a kid. In fact, it frustrated me terribly when people could only hear my accent and didn’t really listen to what I was saying. I was determined to work through this frustration and not respond in kind to others but will admit that I sometimes have to fight the impulse not to think someone is dull who immediately makes fun of my accent upon hearing me speak for the first time. For the most part, I have worked through any angst I had as a kid, and now it’s pretty much a non-issue for me.

Several things helped me work through it. I’ve stereotyped others and probably will again. This is not a defense of slotting people but rather an admission that it’s very easy to do, and this knowledge helps me be on guard not to do it and to be forgiving of others who do. Traveling quite a bit since I was a kid has been wonderful for giving me a broader point of reference when considering others and has also helped me to not stereotype as much. No matter where I go people are people. No matter which culture they are steeped in they have the same basic needs. But most important, I love people, and I want to hear what they are saying. This helps me move beyond someone’s cultural layers to the human being beneath.

And therein lies the problem with Sarah Caulfield. There was no human being there. What was it that Lucas fell for? I would love to hear the answer to that from the writers — or anyone. With almost no character development, Lucas met Sarah on the street and sort of grabbed her and kissed her. Maybe I’m too jaded, but there just wasn’t enough to make the bigger than both of us plot device work. The female would need to be drop dead gorgeous and oozing with femme fatale or a sexual game player for it to have worked. No offense to the actress who played Sarah, but she doesn’t fit that description, and in fairness to her, she had very little to work with. Some writing would have helped, but where was that? Not in this show. It’s a shame that there wasn’t more of a sexual dance between her and Lucas. There was only her Americanism, which is not enough to make someone sexual dynamite. But perhaps those in the UK see it differently. Perhaps just being an American woman is perceived as sexual dynamite? I doubt that, but then I’m not sure how American women are perceived by the British. However she was perceived, thankfully, she was put out of our misery by a bullet to the brain.

Despite feeling like my head was messed with in the last series, I’m still enjoying the PR machine for Spooks 9. At least the one that puts out yummy pictures of our guy. Surely many of you have seen this picture, but it’s too good not to repost:

It’s his eyes, and his mouth, and that he’s tall, and perhaps that he looks like a kid playing a grown up — more about this later, or this will turn into to two posts in one.

Candid shot courtesy of Digital Spy by way of RichardArmitageNet.com

10 Comments

  1. Well, Frenz,

    Lots of food for thought for me here, my dear. I am, as you may know, from LA (Lower Alabama). I was born here, grew up here, left for a number of years, and then returned. I have a southern accent, albeit one that ebbs and flows depending on whom I am around (I unconsciously pick up whatever the locals are speaking, so that when we lived in South Dakota, I started sounding very Midwestern).

    I’ve never been teased about my accent, which , granted, is on the softer side; people from other regions/countries seem to like it when they hear me speak.

    But I have had some funny looks over the years when I have told people I am from Alabama. The fact I can speak in complete sentences, wear shoes, and am not married to my double first cousin Bubba seems to surprise some people, So I know all about being stereotyped . . . and yet I know I sometimes do it, too, in spite of my best efforts otherwise. And yes, travel is so broadening to one’s perspective, I have found. I find that having lived away, I have a different attitude about my home town. I think I appreciate the good things about more than I ever would if I had never lived in/traveled to other places. And yes, people, no matter their skin color, creed, class, religious beliefs or natiionality, are people with hopes and dreams, fears and needs.

    I have always thought there would be fewer wars if people could just sit down and put aside some of their prejudices and open lines of communication with each other. That’s maybe simplistic, but it surely couldn’t hurt.

    Right there with you re Sarah Caulfield. Not a well-written character and one that was badly cast. Why did they not choose an actress who could at least do a credible American accent? An actress who had some sort of chemistry with RA (I think he had more chemistry with that stone wall he had his big, handsome hand pressed against waiting for Oleg than he did with her)?

    The whole Lucas/Sarah relationship felt so rushed, awkward and stilted. The writers were definitely not bringing their “A” game to the table for most of Spooks 8–a shame, with so many talented people on board and what could have been an intense, exciting, romantic, but ultimately tragic, love affair to play out before our eyes. I confess I cheered when Sarah took that bullet. I was praying for someone to kill her and put me out of my misery. As the guy at Unpopcult said, that character sucked the life out of every scene she appeared in.

    Being an optimist, I have high hopes the writers, casting directors and series director are all on the same page and bringing us the Spooks 9 we and RA deserves.

  2. It´s the “anything you can grab” scenario for Lucas after 8 years in prison? Maybe in Spooks 9 there will be a “proper romance” between all shooting and spooking.

    The superficial Americanism of Sarah doesn´t bother me as much as it does to you. As English is my second language and I´m not that appalled by the so called bad American English of the actress, I somehow even feel that´s it´s not my place to judge. I´ve heard worse prononciation made by Dutch actors playing Americans.

    I´m Dutch and in Holland we learn the British English pronunciation which sounds posh to us and we Dutch prefer the American way of speaking, because we see far more American series and movies and yes, they are mostly, very superficial.

    I tend to look at the story and like the interactions between Lucas and Saray in a theatrical view. I take the cold look for granted and assume that´s why she was casted.

    And are the Brits that much better? They don´t pay attention to the Dutch at all in pubs and such. No flirting! Now why? We have very pretty women!

  3. Penultimate. :) But I am interested to hear what’s being said here, too.

  4. @Servetus,

    Aah.

    @Violet,

    “Grab anything” (or something like that) LOL! I guess that was it. LOL!

    As for Sarah’s Americanism, it has never bothered me enough to detract from the character since there wasn’t much of a character.

    Interesting about the English reaction to Dutch women, and yeah, I certainly believe you have some pretty women. Wasn’t Audrey Hepburn Dutch?

    @angie,

    I thought LA was the Florida Panhandle. LOL!

  5. @Violet I bet those Brit boys r secretly desiring those gorgeous women with strong opinions.
    @Frenz Aubrey was half Belgian and if my memory serves me by her mother.
    Love the “Grab anything” theory, except you’d think after fish&chips in S7, a shower, …
    Guess that’s what fic is for. I have less issue with Sarah Caulfield’s coldness or accent but more with Lucas’ North openness towards her. He is a spy, she is a spy, there is only room for conflicted emotion, if any. And I’ve been wondering if RA overplayed LN emotions with SC.

  6. The Lucas-Sarah relationship was instigated by Ros: “Use all means necessary. I would try charm first.” So from then the scale went from charm, sex to relation/affair. The characteristics of this affair are that it´s mainly business, a trade of information, who gets the most information must likely play double crossing. While I as viewer think Lucas might see it strictly business, he tends to think Sarah doesn´t and view it as personal. What follows is that Lucas tends to see it as personal and Sarah sees it as business, and even had her string of men for information.

    For that kind of relation/affair one can´t be head of heels in love, therefore the cold heartedness. To some extend one can be romantic, but every word will be used against you. If you are in it too deep, you might be surprised your flat is getting bugged. Especially if you HAVEN´T told your partner/liasonee that you will meet your former interrogator in your own flat.

    The fact that Sarah is American should be a non-threat to the English. Yet I as viewer see her talking to fellow American “can´t wait to see your ass back in Texas” or similar words as well as to Ros “I decide what´s good for us” so I conclude she is very bossy and has her own agenda. Yet she tells she can´t do everyting on her own at some time or did her superior say that to her who was trhown over the balcony later on by her loving hands.

    So “the actress had not much to work with” as you said, I have to disagree in all friendship as a reader of your blog. Your view that there was “no chemistry with RA” was very likely your perceptive view as RA-fan. IMO it would be wrong if this relation/affair needed chemistry. I also don´t think “overplaying by RA” as Lucas was the case. IMO it was intentional for the writers that the actions speak for themselves and the oultine of the characters is sketched by their choice of words.

  7. @violet

    Didn’t RA announce that the relationship was going to be sexy, steamy? Well, if that’s so it didn’t deliver on any level. I just cringed. Or what does that say about the actors’ ability to play the scenes as promised then? Still scratching my head over that one.

    As I’ve said before, to me they were a major clang together.

    With Sarah Caulfield, there was no “there” there. The word that best describes her for me is “vacant”. It’s as if it were all on the surface, the appalling and distracting accent, the toughness, the manipulativeness. It seemed like there was a disconnection between the actor and the character to the point that only the externals were left. She was not convincing because it seemed to me she was all over the place with her characterisation; there was nothing to grasp, no sense of motivation, just someone hollow and abysmal, sucking all the air out of the scenes. I mean, bad guys do have a personality, and Sarah had none. She didn’t even leave a sign behind saying “for rent”.

    I don’t know what the fact that she’s American has to do with anything. She was just a poorly conceived and presented character.

    I can understand that the character might have been meant to be this cold-hearted stone, but she was neither seductive nor….well…er…not brilliant…well…er… she was nothing. What did Lucas see in her? If the audience can’t see it then it’s a failure. I can well understand Lucas being taken in, seduced, playing a game and then falling for her or getting attached to her because he wanted some sort of emotional life or even just liking a warm body beside him or so transfigured by his experiences (hmmm, fits with the Blake pix) that he’s unconciously pulled towards the familiarly twisted and grotesque, but not by the character as written/played. I can even see his dance with her. Unfortunately, the character/the actress had two left feet. Actually, no feet at all.

    I wonder what if was like for RA to play opposite her, this lifeless cipher. At least in Robin Hood he had the entire world of lively characters in which to rise to the challenge of making Guy something special. But what can you do when you’re essentially acting alone and it’s not supposed to be a soliloquy????

    I can barely watch their scenes together. When Sarah finally got hers, for the first time in my life I stood up, raised my fists and screamed, “Yesssssss!”. LOL I was just so glad to see the character gone, sadly way more than seeing the bad guy get hers. I would have gladly shot her or myself to put me out of my misery.

    @Frenz

    So, are you from Appalachia? :)

    My BFF is from Long Island and she made an effort to lose the accent. I have her revive it for me once in a while because I love it, I find it soooo exotic! I’m tickled pink when she does it. She just looks bemuses.

    Maybe it’s also posh sounding accents that turn people off as well. And yet you don’t see people trying to lose those.

    MOST importantly, in rereading your post (cause I often skim people’s posts because there are so many), I SO agree with you about Sarah when you say, “There is no human being there”. That’s it in a nutshell. I just used a thousand words to say the same thing. ROFL!

    I suppose if one wanted to make a big deal about it one could call her “The Vacant/Vacuous American” and stand back and watch the fur fly. :) Tempest in a teapot, if you ask me.

  8. @pi, Richard did say this was supposed to be steamy, sexy and passionate . . . and boy, did it not deliver. I am right there with you on the total failure of Sarah Caulfield.

    I will say again as I said at Servetus’ Blog, it was very easy for me to write a parody with Sarah as an extra-terrestrial who has worked an intergalactic mojo on Lucas because that seemed as plausible explanation as any for Lucas to become so apparently besotted with such the Freezer Queen. Totally agree, you see: “no human being there.” She was an ALIEN, people, and I don’t mean of the American kind. LOL

    Richard is such a gentleman, we will no doubt never know just how he felt at the end of the day after shooting yet another scene with GOR, where he gave his best and she was “meh.” I imagine him pounding his pillow in frustration much as he did in Spooks 7, bless his heart. And you’re right, @Pi, the fact she was supposed to be American is less important than the fact she was an ill-conceived, badly-written and woefully miscast character. With no–character.

  9. @Violet,

    Ros’ lines may have been crafted to lay the impetus for Lucas, but I can’t get around it falling flat. I hope for better this year, and I even purchased the Series 8 DVDs, so certainly, it was not a total loss to me. I just didn’t care for the SC character, and I’m not sure who is responsible for that. Maybe me. LOL!

    I’m sorry I thought Audrey Hepburn was from the Netherlands, but I was close. :D Surely she has some roots in the Netherlands.

    @pi,

    You nailed it, and “cringe” is the perfect word. I must be completely sadistic because I laughed at the camera shot of her in the hospital bed with a hole in her head. In my defense, the character being non-existent made it difficult to feel something other than relief. As for the American thing, I could care less about it except the poorly done caricature was almost like insult on top of the injury of a vacant character. I mean she wasn’t even a good caricature! LOL!

    @angie,

    I agree that RA is never going to pan the performance. That it’s just not his style because he is a class act. Plus, it would not bode well for his working life to pan his fellow actors. But you and I and all the other viewers are obviously not in the same position and have much more freedom to tell it like it is. LOL! i’m sure what we’re saying is going to offend someone, but they need to receive it in the spirit it’s given. Analysis of a fictional character and nothing more.

    But I have to read about the extra-terrestrial. That sounds like a scream!

  10. @Frenz we’re both right. Thanks to IMDb: Aubrey was born in Belgium by a Dutch baroness mother (blue blood too) and raised in the Netherlands.
    Well I must side with Violet on SC. If only so we can agree I hope the sparks this season will be met with approval!!
    @Angie must read that fic! Your imagination is boundless. LOL


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