Tag Archives: Mary Shannon

Can men and women be just friends?

Can men and women be just friends?

Watson and Holmes

I was watching the latest episode of Elementary, the newest Sherlock Homes incarnation, and the “ship” didn’t just graze me, but hit me square on. The boat t-boned me, listed to the side and grounded like a Italian cruise liner in the Med, or the Gulf (anyone else afraid to take a cruise lately?). Let me refresh your  memory or explain for those who haven’t watched this episode. Oh and BTW, it took place on Valentine’s Day so read into that however your little shipper heart desires. Watson has been lying to Sherlock and pretending she is still under the employ of Sherlock’s father as his sober-companion. Well, Sherlock found out. Was she foolish enough to think the master investigator wasn’t going to? Dumbass. But what she doesn’t get is that the truth is: he doesn’t want her to go. So he’s challenged her with staying on as his partner, his companion, as his protégé of sorts. It was a scene full of subtle, raw emotion excellently played by both Lucy Liu and Johnny Lee Miller. Fantastic and it got my heart a twitter. Who knows if it was intentional, it probably is, because as we all know there can never be a purely platonic friendship between a man and a woman on a television show. And not like I’m really going out on a limb here, but there can never be a purely platonic friendship between a man and a woman in real life either. Unless one is gay or ugly. Can I get an Amen?

Shipper Royalty: Scully and Mulder

Shipper Royalty: Scully and Mulder

This is a theme that has fascinated me forever. Friendship between men and women. And more specifically love that grows from a deep friendship and understanding between men and women. I’ve loved it in numerous television shows over the last twenty years and it’s what I explore in my own writing. It’s the foundation of the ‘ship’ for me, more so than the unresolved sexual tension. Carter and O’Neill–Stargate, Mac and Harm–Jag, Picard and Dr. Crusher, Star Trek: TNG, and let us not forget the king of them all, Scully and Mulder–The X-files. Even more recent: Mary and Marshall, In Plain Sight. They however  didn’t fall prey to the trope. But there’s been a trend of late––the ‘Hey, let’s fight the Moonlighting curse and actually get them together’: Brennan and Boothe–Bones, Olivia and Peter–Fringe, Annie and Auggie–Covert Affairs (I don’t agree with that one. I ship for Eyal, so I’m really pissed that she left him in Amsterdam to go home and kiss Auggie because she’s a big fat chicken and needs a security blanket, but I digress.) There are tons more that I’m forgetting and you get the idea. One of the things that drove many episodes and story arcs of those great shows revolved around the sexual tension between the Male and Female leads. It is an epidemic.

Why?

Because it’s interesting and titillating and we can’t help but feel the same way or wish that it was happening to us. Fiction needs to reflect life for it to be relevant  I would venture to say that most people have at some point or another been friends with a member of the opposite sex and had some kind of tingle in the heart and/or nether regions for them. It’s nature, an unwritten law of the universe, there is no way around it. Because it comes down to psychology (emotions) and science (pheromones). Friendships are based on common ground, a sense of camaraderie  and above all trust. Good love relationships are also based on those same principles with the complication of sex thrown in. When we have trust, we feel close to that person and when we feel close to that person we share things that are intimate and private, whether it’s secrets, feelings, truths or sex.

Now, I am no pyschologist, just an observer and explorer of the human condition. But I extrapolate a lot from my own life experience  I have had no less than 5 best friends who are male through the course of my adult life, not including the two men that I married. I have had sex with none of them, but I loved 3 of them, one of which was gay so that statement above of one being ugly or gay doesn’t always apply. (That’s a whole other psychology). One of them, no, not the gay one, I completely misread the signals and had my heart broken. Though I still would bet even odds that he was full of shit and just freaked out that the situation actually presented itself and just couldn’t handle it. He made me unable to read any kind of signal from a man. Radar is broken.

O'Neill and Carter

O’Neill and Carter

So why then does this intrigue me? I’ve tried to look at the answers over the course of my life and the mistakes that I’ve made. And boy I’ve made a few. But, through analyzing my past friendships, I think it comes down to one thing. I think women just want men to talk with them as equals and understand them. We feel empowered when a man understands us––like we’ve been privy to the key to a really secret club. We should hope that this comes from our spouse or significant other. But sometimes it doesn’t. Me, I’ve been very lucky. This time around the marriage arena, I’ve struck gold and he understands me perfectly clear. However, doesn’t mean that I still don’t relish in the understanding I get from my significant male friends.

The Dear Husband jokes that I have a stable of men. And maybe I do, some infinitely more important than others. Would any of them lead to an affair? Hah, in a perfect world with no consequences… where jealousy and territorial boundaries didn’t exist… then it wouldn’t be an affair, more a simple understanding that fundamentally human beings don’t mate for life. Yes, I wholeheartedly believe this.

Humans do not mate for life.

The idea of soul mates is fantastic and romantic. And yes we can meet our perfect other half. However, what is never discussed is that as we grow and change through our life, we often take a different shape and need a different perfect other half. Why? Because we don’t mate for life. Why else do you think that Ménage à trois books and the alternative lifestyle of swinging is coming to the forefront? It’s not just about sex with someone else. It’s about loving more than one person, sometimes at the same time.

Their heads make a heart. Seriously? Stop mocking us.

We are not swans, gibbons, wolves, bald eagles, turtle doves or albatrosses. What is it with birds and the pledge of undying love, huh? Do they understand something that we don’t? Not really. They are animals that aren’t driven by emotional connections. We try to be dedicated to our one and only. But, in my whole life, I have only ever met one couple who were in complete and everlasting love until one of them died after nearly forty years together. And I’ll give you a hint––they never had children. It was just them. (Again, a whole other psychology to explain that one). More than fifteen years after her death, he was still deeply in love with her. Like George Burns and Gracie Allen. It was sweet. And completely unnatural.

George and Gracie

George and Gracie

Now that doesn’t make me a cynic, just a realist. I am a dyed in the wool romantic. I love the idea of deep, soul crushing love. It’s why I write romances. But I do believe that we can find that love multiple times in our life, if we’re lucky and connect with the right people. Different people come into our life at times for different reasons. If we think of life as a predestined path, we meet people along that path who are there for certain reasons, many of which are unknown to us at the time. They are there to help us, guide us, teach us, and share parts of ourselves that others don’t have the wherewithal, means or connection to do so.

How does this relate to the concept that men and women cannot be platonic friends? Well, if there is truth to the fact that we don’t mate for life, we seek out or discover connections to others to fill something in ourselves. Sometimes is starts as a friendship and then it morphs into something deeper. Sometimes it starts as an attraction and then morphs into a friendship.  Depends on the pheromones and the boundaries or emotional state/needs of those involved. The pure fact that we can’t have a television show where the male and female lead aren’t flirting gratuitously, the sexual tension crackling on the screen is testament to that. We are excited by emotional connection. We love the build up and the evolution of a relationship, that ebb and flow of tension and release, the dreaded ‘C’ word–– Conflict. Relationships in books and television/movies without conflict, that fundamental something that keeps them apart, lack sizzle and the taboo of the ‘want’ and the ‘need’. We strive for the ease of connection in our own lives because living in a state of continuous conflict is tiring and stressful. But we crave it in our entertainment because it’s exciting and we flirt with it in our daily lives to make ourselves feel alive.

Mary and Marshall, BFFs for life

Mary and Marshall, BFFs for life

Do I want Sherlock and Watson to get naked and bump uglies? The jury is still out on that for me. He’s a tough character to fall in love with. Yeah, I fell head of heals in love with House because of his complexities and vulnerabilities that he denied,  no doubt. He had infinite depth. Sherlock, the template for House, even in this modern incarnation, is fundamentally the same. Is he capable of loving someone who doesn’t fill some sort of purpose for him? Is Watson his other half? She certainly balances him and like all good functional/dysfunctional relationships, they feed off of each other’s needs. I’d love it if they explored it. But I’d also be thrilled if they took the trope and spun it on its head like they did in In Plain Sight with Mary and Marshall. Have the balls to do it differently. But then again, my little shipper heart wanted Marshall to pledge his undying love for her too and for her to accept it. He ultimately did, but not in the romantic way. It was quite beautiful.  It’s still early for Sherlock and Watson. Elementary is sowing the seeds, that fabulous awkward confession was perfect fertilizer. The rest remains to be seen. 

In the meantime, I will continue to explore this concept with my own characters. The Overwatch series is steeped in the idea of a man and a woman as best friends who fall in love. Their issues keeping them apart stem from the concept of ‘duty over self’. In my upcoming sci-fi romance series, I will examine the concept again between a man and a woman who’ve fought a war together for years when suddenly they realize the other person is and has been their significant other the entire time, that their strength comes from within themselves, but is compounded by the support and love from the other. And in the continuation of the Overwatch series, I’m going to flip the concept inside out and take a look at what happens when you can’t be with the one you love most. How do you reconcile that your other half has found their other half and it isn’t you?

So may ideas, so many men, so little time…
Story of my life.
Namaste,
~Indigo

**All images are not mine and belong to others.

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Goodbye Mary Shannon

Goodbye: US Marshal, Mary Shannon

********SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn’t seen the final episode of In Plain Sight********
It is a bittersweet ending for me and my connection to this amazing show. There is something to be said about going out on top. You haven’t fallen back on your overused mechanisms. You haven’t become trite or boring. You haven’t gone three hundred and sixty degrees over the top like a lot of shows that break ground with interesting characters. When you go out at the top of your game, you’ve hit your stride and are coasting along in your glory. You’ve established a fan base, people who get your show and its intentions and you’ve been able to develop characters to the most interesting. That’s exactly where In Plain Sight has decided to takes its bow.
As I’ve discuss before in my post Queen Badass: US Marshal Mary Shannon.  Check it out here: 
Mary Shannon is a woman with many foibles that give her layers of interest that female characters have lacked in previous generations. She is no Mary Sue: a perfect heroine with skills to tackle anything that comes her way. Her weaknesses make her strong. Her vulnerabilities give her conviction, even though misguided at times. Those vulnerabilities become exposed and breathe true, vital air in the last three episodes of the series. We see James Shannon return thirty years after leaving his daughter on the front lawn with her baby sister in the playpen and her mother sleeping off a hangover in the house. We see Mary holding true to her promise that if she ever set eyes on him again, she would arrest him. Her father shows up at her door and she slaps the cuffs on him – her inner little girl shocked at seeing her daddy there again, her inner woman enraged that he had the balls to come back now after all this time and her inner protector – her marshal side – winning over and doing what needs to be done.
What unfolds is an appropriate handling of the situation. Dad was a criminal, for years on the run, as we find out to protect his family from the criminals he associated with. He’s working one last angle to make sure that no harm will ever come to them. He has cancer – he’s dying and like every good addict/criminal/ or ne’er do well, he’s come to make amends. Mary’s angry, frustrated and bitter. She has every right. But she doesn’t let it consume her. She doesn’t go on a rampage, well she does rage in her endearing Mary way, but that’s not what I meant. She works within the confines of the law she upholds. Of course there is a scene where she eludes the FBI tail that is placed on her house because the dipshit agent in charge, who had been a thorn in her side in the first season, believes that she is aiding her father in his plot. The truth is that she knows this agent is incompetent and that they’ll never find James Shannon. So she goes after him for herself. That is, after all, what marshal’s do – the hunt down fugitives. Through out the course of this, and with some honest talk from Marshall – the best friend a girl could ever have, apparently – she comes to some kind of tacit understanding of who her father really was. While the ancient wound is opened and seeping, she is able to come to terms with the Why. Not that it will ever make it right and she will magically transform to a loving trusting human being, but it provides a closure for her on a story that felt like would never be resolved. Even Jinx her mother, got to say her peace to him, and he her for leaving them at their weakest. The ghosts have been purged. And when James is shot and dies in the hospital, it’s a shock to Mary because I think she wanted just a little more time.
The final episodes ties up the lose ends of whether or not the Albuquerque WITSEC office will close, what happens to Brandi and Jinx, and what exactly is this relationship between Mary and Marshall. Brandi shows up pregnant and sober, matured and ready to tackle motherhood because she admires Mary’s fearlessness to do the same thing. It makes Mary see her sister as an equal now, not someone who needs to be lifted up and taken care of. Jinx stands up to Mary and tells her to get over it – to stop wearing her ‘Daddy left me mantle’ like a twenty-foot brick wall. She is shocked that her mother had such conviction, but reflects back to when Marshall told her that life was messy and that messy might be what she needs. Jinx has grown too and is able to stand on her own two feet now as well, having embraced her sobriety and feeling strong with in it. Stan, the ever-present rock of the office, has found love in his tango instructor played adorably by a well-aged and beautiful Tia Carrere. He is moving on to be the Deputy Director in DC. Kudos to you Stan. And our dear Marshall Mann is promoted to chief.
But what about Marshall? He’s loved with Mary since day one. We’ve seen how much he cares for her, how he truly understands her and how the thought of losing her tears at his heart. He recognizes that she is the other half of him – his best friend, his partner and the woman who takes precedence above all others. But he also understands that he isn’t in love with Mary because it can’t ever be like that for them. He is her rock and her tether in the storm. She has learned from him that not all men leave. I believe that Mary loves Marshall equally as much. Theirs is a symbiosis, where one can’t really function without the other. In the end, Marshall begs for her to set him free. He wants to be happy, to be able to love Abigail, the cute, perky genuine police detective who is willing to let him go figure out what Mary really means to him. Marshall only ever want to protect Mary. He wants to know that Mary will be strong enough on her own so he can move forward. Mary, who has been through so much over the past few weeks, doesn’t freak out, doesn’t fight, doesn’t try to hold on with her sarcasm and snarky attitude. What she does is gracefully take a step aside because she only wants him to be happy. She admits that she likes Abigail, that she is good for him. And she knows that Marshall will still always be there if she needs him. He is her soulmate in the purest sense of the term. And while I’ve hoped and wished that these two would end up together, I am pleased with how it worked out. It places value on the true friendship between a man and a woman and it honors each individual’s personality and needs. They didn’t go for the expected or the cliché. And that’s what good writing does.
So yes, I am sad to see such a character driven adventure end. But I am so glad that it ended in such a classy way. I cherish everything that this series has taught me as a writer. I go back to what is important to me in character development and relationships. I look to this amazing show and Mary Shannon as the mold. She is what I want to write. She is the strength and courage and the way I want to portray women. Thank you Mary, and thank you In Plain Sight for giving me a pinnacle to emulate.
Namaste. 
~Indigo Grace

Queen Badass: US Marshal, Mary Shannon

US Marshal, Mary Shannon, In Plain Sight
Baddest Badass in the whole damn town… yup, just stole a little bit of Jim Croce there.
When I think of a strong female character with layers and depth, I immediately go to Mary Shannon, portrayed by the amazing Mary McCormack. Tall, thick, as in curvy like a real woman, blonde and gorgeous. Mary is a US Marshal assigned to the WITSEC program in Albuquerque, New Mexico. WITSEC is what we more commonly refer to as ‘witness protection’.  She deals with criminals, but more often than not, innocent witnesses to crimes. The challenge for both the witnesses and the WITSEC officers lies in the adjustment period of having to give up everything and everyone they know to do the right thing. For families, this is extremely hard. In almost all cases there is turmoil, which Mary takes in stride. What is so great about her, and consequently makes her so good at her job, is that she doesn’t put up with the bullshit. Mary takes no prisoners. She’s sensitive to their concerns however, she is more concerned with keeping them safe and not dead.
Mary’s badass trademark is her snark. She is the poster child for sarcasm, dry wit and abrasive demeanor. She is not a warm fuzzy woman. If anything, she eschews feminine wiles and carries herself as one of the boys. She frequently mocks witnesses and everyone within a twenty-foot radius, most notably her best friend and partner, Marshall Mann. (Yes, I thought it was interestingly odd that his first name is Marshall, as it so happens to be his occupation. I’ll discuss him later on in the post.) Anyway, people who know her are pretty much used to her cantankerous ways. Newer, less confident people tend to give her a wide berth. Some of what she says can be down right offensive. However, she calls a spade a spade. And a good amount of the time she’s right. When it comes to witnesses, she’s always right.
The irony of Mary lies in her family and personal life. It’s a hot steaming mess. Her mother, Jinx, and her sister, Brandi, are alcoholics, in or out of recovery depending on which season. Her father left when she was seven to live life on the run because he robbed a bank only to start another family some years later with another woman. Mary got the surprise of her life when her half-sister showed up at the door to inform her of this. There is a little brother too, who Brandi befriends and subsequently goes to live with and fall off the wagon after she flees from her wedding. Needless to say, Mary did not take the news of a new family well, already having feelings of abandonment this was the icing on the cake. She also had a wonderful, sweet boyfriend, a local hot Hispanic baseball player named Raf. They were engaged for a period of time and she eventually had to tell him what the nature of her job was. He became worried, protective and hovering… none of which sat right with her. Poor Raf came to realization that Mary would never be capable of totally committing to him and had to set her free. Raf was such a loving guy that you couldn’t help but feel for him. But Mary, in her dysfunction reminds me of a wild horse. She is skittish around sentiment and rears up in fear. She abhors change. God forbid, her desk is moved or there’s a new person in the office. I liken all of her quirks and control freakishness to the fact that she is an alcoholic’s daughter. It’s textbook compensation. She is the older sibling, the one who maintains order. She is a fixer. Brandi, is the weaker one, the one who follows Jinx and needs to be taken care of. She is constantly in chaos. See the link to Adult children of alcoholics on Livestrong.com. 
 One of the most dramatic changes in Mary has been throughout Season 4. She becomes pregnant by her ex-husband who she was married to for a minute back in the day. He comes for a random visit and they bump uglies for a night. Oops, smart Mary – remember that wild horse that can’t handle a saddle analogy – is now pregnant. The show had to do it. Mary McCormack was pregnant with her third daughter. It would have been ridiculous to film around her girth and it provided a great juxtaposition and character development for the woman who could not be tamed. All throughout the season and during her pregnancy, Mary intended to give up the baby to people who wanted one and who could take care of her properly. She never want a child nor to have one grow up in the chaos that was her life. And all the while, she fought the system and continued to work while she was pregnant. Even up until the end when she was caught in the cross fire during a take down in an ambush to kill a witness. At this point, she gets the award for being colossally stupid, but she is still badass to the bone when she comes out of nowhere to shoot a bad guy down. It also marks the significance of where Mary fits in Marshall’s life as he choses to cover her with his own body instead of his girlfriend.

Now let’s address Mr. Marshall Mann…. Marshall is the sanity in Mary’s life. He is her stability and the port in her storm. He frequently calls her on her bullshit – the only one she allows to do so – and doesn’t let her get away without seeing the truth she so fastidiously avoids. She is always annoyed with his Cliff Clavin-esque tendencies toward trivial knowledge and useless information. He is extremely intelligent, sensitive and very protective of her. His devastation when she was shot at the end of season 2 was heart wrenching. His utter speechlessness and shock when she told him she was engaged, days later because she didn’t know how to tell him, was soul crushing. She let him see the ring and for some reason he put it on his pinky. And then couldn’t take it off. The symbolism in that was both hysterical and traumatically sad to watch for the remainder of the episode. It is clear that he is in love with her but understands her as that ‘wild horse who will never be tamed’. He has since tried to move on with the police detective, Abigail – who Mary has a chilly, almost begrudging acceptance. Will they ever wind up together? That remains to be seen.
As I write this, there are only a few episodes left of this fantastic show. Who knows how it will end for Mary and Marshall. Personally, I’d love to see them together. I’ve shipped them from the very beginning. I completely love their nuances and their loyalty to each other. Tonight’s episode finally touches on the missing father arc. Stephen Lang of Avatar and the late Terra Nova (another show I really liked but was cancelled) plays her father. This was something that needed to be addressed and should give great insight into Mary’s character. It will be interesting to see it play out.
So, what should we take away from Mary as an example of a great female character? At face value, she’s strong, independent and doesn’t take shit from anyone. But she has layers to her personality, insecurities and fallibilities that make her imperfect. She’s not the plucky heroine; she’s not the sexy femme fatale. She is a real woman with real desires and real problems, despite the extraordinary job she does. She tries and fails. And she grows, kicking and screaming, but it happens. If I could take one thing away from her to apply to my personal life, it would be her courage of self in the face of those around her. She is true to herself and her passions and go to hell if you don’t agree. I’m getting there…
Check out this blog I found a while ago and it got me thinking. It chronicles a woman’s journey, following in Mary’s footsteps toward becoming a Real Life Badass Woman. http://becomingbadass.blogspot.com/
Namaste.
~Indigo

Defining Badass

If I’m going to examine female characters for their worthiness to be included in my “Badass Female Character Compendium”, I think I need to set forth some parameters. What qualifies them as badass? Let us define, shall we. (This is of course my own definition and should be used with caution out there in the real world… just a little disclaimer.)
To be a female badass she must have:

  • Tons of attitude: She can be snarky, bitchily sarcastic or genuinely humorous. She exudes confidence most likely in her job or occupation/calling. She may even be a little cocky, but not arrogantly so. Above all, she is steeped in independence. She may need or rely on the people around her, but when it comes down to brass tax, she is totally capable of doing it all by herself. She is no shrinking wallflower to be taken care of by anyone.
Maj. Sam Carter, Stargate: SG1
  • Tote a gun: Yep, she knows about firearms, can shoot ‘em, disassemble ’em, and maybe even modify ’em. This classification can reach to a variety of weapons depending on genre. She knows how to wield one and isn’t afraid to use it.
    Agent Sarah Walker, Chuck
  • Physicality: She is unafraid to get physical with anyone and I’m not talking about sex… I’m talking about fists and head butting. She is skilled in combat, and if not, she has a natural instinct for self-preservation. Bad guys can come at her and she will fight to the death to break free or save a life.
  • An honor code: She will always fight for what is right. Whether it is saving her planet from invaders and extinction, or railing against corruption and crime, she stands by her morals and her code of justice. She may do bad things, but it is always with the intentions to do Good. She will fight and sacrifice for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Agent Dana Scully, The X-Files
  • Aptitude: She will have copious amounts of brains. She is intelligent, knowledgeable, and educated. Her skill set is a benefit to her cause. Her logic, strategies and wisdom are valuable tools in her arsenal and utilized frequently.
  • Imperfections: She will have flaws and vulnerabilities. No woman is perfect. There will be parts of her she may try to hide, ignore or fight against.  They may be a weakness and a possible burden, but she doesn’t allow it to ruin or rule her life. She struggles, but she perseveres. Her vulnerabilities make her stronger and more human.
Lara Croft, Tomb Raider
  • Sex appeal: Yes. I know. Cliché and misogynistic. I should turn in my own badass card, but then again the point of being a badass is that I don’t give a shit. This is what I believe. A woman doesn’t have to beautiful to be a badass but of course, let’s be real – it doesn’t hurt. Beautiful women have proliferated the action industry, mostly because of the 18-40 male demographic. But I have to admit, if I could sport a pair of leather pants and thigh high boots or kick some ass in a pair of 6 inch Manolo Blanhiks, (that is if I could stand in them for more than ten minutes), I so would! If my ass was tight and I could haul a RPG on my back, or run around in a metal bustier and a pair of angel wings, I’d be all over that in a heartbeat. Whether it’s in a combat uniform or a tight little outfit… I’m not gonna lie. It’s hot. Does it always have to come in that package? No. But who doesn’t want to feel hot and sexy and capable at the same time? It’s part of fantasy and fiction is fantasy.
    Mary and Marshall, In Plain Sight
  • Counterpart: Last but not least, she needs a partner. This partner could be romantic or a best friend. Someone to fight the good fight with, someone who has her back – even if it’s not at first, and someone who supports her to the bitter end. He or she becomes the yin to her yang, the peas to her carrots and the anchor or buoy to her soul. They will ground her, guide her and hold a mirror to her when she needs it most whether she likes it or not. They will be her equal in intelligence and inner strength and fight along the same fundamental principles of her goal. They may be in opposition with her in ideology at times but when their relationship is strong, they will come together on common ground. He, or she, will be her soul mate. A badass character without this integral counterpart may be in a constant search for meaning and will be out of balance until she finds that person.

This is the lens that I look through when defining a badass woman.  Its scope can be broad or it can focus down to the minutest details of what makes a powerful woman tick.  I like this definition and it suits the fictitious women I’ve admired for a lifetime. It may not describe or even fit all female characters, that is for certain, but it works within the confines of my examination. I’m celebrating those women in fiction who kick ass and take names. 
She is the badass action heroine.
Namaste!
~Indigo