Sunday, 8 March 2015

Sisters are Doing it for Themselves?

I've always wanted a sister - I've also always wanted to be tall, to be able to stay awake if people talk about technology and (really) to own a dragon. 
I appreciate that my notion of a sister may be somewhat romanticised and caught-up in my Tina Fey/Amy Poehler obsession (a break from films with Hobbits this Christmas, be still my beating heart) but don't tell me this doesn't look like fun...
Yes, I was force-fed the Ugly Sisters as a child but clearly I'm not going to take Disney's word for anything - if you don't believe me on the disservice Disney has done to story-telling, there's a great lecture on the subject on my website. No, my childhood vision of sisterly bonding had far more to do with Little Women and Ballet Shoes than Cinderella plus I always wanted to be a Bronte (obviously without all the suffering, death and celibacy, although my Catholic upbringing did tend to present those as positives).

As an adult, I've fallen in love with Dora and Nora Chance from Wise Children and cried at Lainie's eulogy to Tara in the breathtaking novel The Night Circus. I've claimed sisterhood in a drunken and, frankly, unasked for speech at my best friend's wedding and even tried aversion therapy (the Kardashians) but still the craving persists.

Sisters, it seems, are the Louboutins of the familial world and then my illusions got shattered...what is My Naughty Little Sister up to on tv? Apparently she's too busy playing mummies and daddies with her brother to care much about shoes...Heaven forbid you'd think me a prude but there's more incest going on in recent tv series than at an Ancient Egyptian court.

I appreciate that having a very creepy Jeremy Irons as a dad might have made The Borgias want to stick together but seriously, Debra Morgan from Dexter
I'll let you into a secret, I love really creative swearing - maybe because I'm an ex-teacher, maybe it comes from living in Glasgow but I view cursing as an artform and if Malcolm Tucker is the King, Debra Morgan is the Queen.
This woman doesn't need a story-line in which she falls for her improbably waxy, socially-weird serial-killing brother - it's lazy writing. Why not explore the limits on a sibling bond without implausible sexual tension? It's not as if the plot wasn't complex enough - which brings me nicely to my recast. If we're going to have incest, let's do it properly, none of your 'it's ok, we're adopted' cop-outs. Game of Thrones, you are in a wonderful class of your own...

The women in Game of Thrones are scene-stealers and the choice is huge but I'm sticking with the theme and recasting characters for whom sisterhood is important although Little Women they ain't.

Actually, strike that - is anyone drippier and more like Beth March than Sansa"she is fond of lemoncakes" Stark? Sansa is the Stark family footnote so the clear recast favourite here has to be Lady Jane GreyLady Jane was the ultimate dynastic pawn - her only value was as a pathway for her highly ambitious Suffolk family to reach the crown. They achieved it, after some very skilful manipilation around the deathbed of Edward VI (dying at 15 of syphilis inherited from his father Henry VIII, oh those romantic Tudors) and 16 year old Jane was made Queen - she managed to wear the Crown for 9 days before she lost the pretty head it sat on. Sansa - take this as a warning and get yourself off to Narnia where you belong.                                                                                         
Her sister Arya, however, is a different story. Her transition from lady to violent guttersnipe was so all-embracing it seemed she was nothing short of delighted by the chaos unleashed by everyone fighting, sorry I haven't a clue either. Females disguised as male soldiers and fighting in  battle is not an unknown phenomenon but the American Civil War in particular has a wealth of them - between 400-750 women are thought to have taken part in some of the worst fighting while in disguise. Their motivations are researched by Bonnie Tsui in her book 'She Went to the Field' and many of their stories - of girls trapped in a stultifying world - would probably resonate with Arya. From the women whose exploits are best known, I'm going to choose Loreta Jane Velazquez - she ran off with a soldier at 14, fought in numerous battles, was wounded more than once, arrested and still kept going back for more. You can't get much more Scrappy-Doo than that.

Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters...dear old Cersei Lannister, sleeps with one of her brothers and tries, repeatedly, to have the other one killed. Never a kind word when 20 cruel ones will do and always unrepentant - I bet she'd borrow your favourite top as well.
There is no direct match for the composite of crazy that is Cersei so I thought I would just go with one of the world's most evil women: Countess Elizabeth Bathory, also known by her pet name 'The Blood Countess. Elizabeth lived in sixteenth century Hungary and was a serial killer with vampiristic tendencies who ended her days bricked up in Cachtice Castle. It's fascinating to see the hold she still has on popular culture from comics to movies  and, bizarrely a song by Slayer - grab a large goblet of red wine & unleash your inner demon...
I opened with dragons, I'll close with the mother of them - Daenerys Targaryen or Dany as her conveniently disposed of brother used to call her. Do you remember the creepy brother with his hands always in his sister's bathwater who ended up with a literal crown of gold - a molten one that set all over his head? I can't find any real people in history with dragons but there are lots with her other passion - freeing slaves. My recast is Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire - Georgiana lived in the 1700s and was a Spencer before she married so you can probably guess who is descended from her. She was a fashionable beauty with a massive gambling habit and lived as part of a menage-a-trois with her husband and his mistress for 25 years as well as being an avid political campaigner, especially over slavery, at a time when women's brains were considered too small to do such things. She was also played by Keira Knightley in a very bad film but we can't hold that against her.

Am I cured of my craving? Sadly no but I am beginning to think that the reality might be more like this (warning - this may ruin Jane Eyre for you for ever)...


  1. Nailed it again, esp the Psychobitches clip!

    1. There are 100s on Youtube, waste a day!

  2. Love the comparisons! Until this moment though I've never even thought about whether I'd want to have a sister or not! I had a college friend once who was one of four girls and trying to get them dressed and out of the house to get to the pub was a nightmare - constant changing/swopping of clothes and general squabbling about nonsense - no thanks! BTW Sansa is about to surprise us all I believe - she has just found out how to play the this space!!

    1. I appreciate it may be a fantasy! Looking forward to next series, 4 weeks and counting - I really hope they do something with her!

  3. With the clips included am a bit disappointed that there's no footage of the unasked for speech at your best friend's wedding!

    My daughters generally get on well with each other, so far touch wood, bar the occasional and obligatory low level bickering. I think it's because they have different personalities and interests so they're just not competitive over the same things.

    Always enjoy your impressive range of historical and fictional characters used in your posts. Since reading this article I can't seem to stop humming Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves.

    1. It was one of my more impassioned if not my finest hours! Yes, that song has drilled into my head to.


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