Wednesday, February 10, 2016

KP EbE - I find your suffering vexing (Monkey Fist Strikes post 1)

Given the pace I move at, I'm thinking of just doing two posts per episode from here on out.  Mind you I only decided that after much of this post was written so... yeah, we'll see how that goes.

-

We've only barely met the show, but we can already see a pattern forming.  Just take a look at the day saving score for the first two episodes Kim 0, Ron 2, Rufus 1, Male not on the team: 1.  Given this, I know what everyone is thinking.

Well, first off everyone is noticing that saving the day is often a team effort which is why in two episodes we've accumulated a save the day score of four.  I'm not sure what the most people saving the day in a given episode is, but we'll get to three people in a real hurry.

But beyond that, looking at this score must inevitably lead one to the following thought process:
Look, I know that the show is called "Kim Possible" and I know that Kim is the one who can do anything, but isn't it about time Ron has a chance to shine?  He's on the team too, after all.
Well, never fear.  This is the episode that responds to your concerns.  Ron is right; Kim is wrong.  Ron saves the day; Kim does not.  Ron's arch-foe is introduced.  This is all about Ron.

- - -

For the non-sarcastic among us, we're definitely seeing a pattern where the female lead is constantly being shown up by a male character (here the goofy sidekick) with none of her skills or qualifications.  This is a common pattern in a hell of a lot of things, but usually those things are not named after the female lead they unfairly push out of center stage.

The show was created by two men who wanted a role model for their daughters.  I don't think they set out to give their daughters a message of "You should be the best at everything but still not be allowed to win and instead have to rely on a male to to do the winning for you," but that's sort of the message that gets sent.

Kim will get to have unambiguous wins, and we'll discuss them when we get to them, but the foundation being laid here is one where Kim is only successful in her own right off camera (see the reasons she gets her rides) and on camera she is, at best, in a supporting position.  She's the muscle, Wade's the offsite tech guru, Rufus handles onsite tech and stealthy things, and Ron saves the day.

Ok, with that all said, let's start.

* * *

We don't open with all about Ron, of course.  We don't even open with respect for Ron.  In fact, think of the above as giving whole-episode context as opposed to being about the first half covered here.  (It was written when I was going to try to do the whole episode in one go.)

We open with Kim and Ron climbing a cliff face.  Do not, under any circumstances, try to make sense of their relative positions.  They're shown only in separate shots, ropes appear and disappear as needed, and even the most basic details of what is where are confused and impossible.

*Beep Beep Beep*
Kim: Signal strong ... and annoying.


Ron: Don't look down Rufus.
*Rufus was apparently asleep, wakes up, looks down and panics*
Ron: You looked down! You looked down!

Kim reaches the target:


This little bird with the tracking anklet is way up on a cliff in a cave only accessible by free climbing the overhang under said cave in spite of having an injured wing.  How did it get there?  No idea.  But when it's later stated that Kim saved a life by bringing the little one to a park ranger I have my doubts.  This one is resourceful.  I'm not going to be betting against this particular bird.

Anyway, remember what I said about ropes appearing and disappearing as needed.  Well Ron, previously free climbing just like Kim, now has rope to work with and has decided to try to use the rope to haul himself up, a feat made possible by the way he was interacting with the rope changing from "why would you use that setup when there's no one below you?" to something that ... yeah, ok, the point it is this: where before both ends of the rope went below him, now only one does and the other is tied directly into his harness in the back because what is this I don't even

Thus Ron tries to pull himself up:


This is so very much not how you climb.  Rope climbing is slow, annoying as hell, and sometimes necessary.  Now in order to even shoot this shot the position of the rope has been moved much farther away from the rock wall than it had previously been.  (This after it had appeared out of nowhere in the previous Ron shot.)  Being further from the wall is not a bad thing, though it does make one wonder what it's secured to.

The reason it's not a bad thing is that before if Ron had fallen he'd likely have had an unpleasant encounter with the rocks on the way down.  With the rope positioned farther out a fall causes one to swing away from the wall into the empty air, which is a lot safer.

It also makes Ron's idea of climbing the rope rather than the wall make sense.  He's not on the wall.  Maybe he can't get back to the wall, so the rope is what he's got.

The thing is, the rope attaches to the harness at the front and it does so for good reason.  I won't get into that but what I will say is that when you're climbing a rope your feet are heavily involved and it's essentially a process of getting a grip with your feet, standing up, stabilizing yourself there somehow, pulling your legs up, getting a grip with your feet again, and repeating.

I'd prefer to do it the slow safe way that involves a small secondary rope you secure around the primary rope to use as a movable foothold, but Ron clearly has the upper body strength to do it with hands and feet alone.

That he's not suggests two things.

On a Watsonian level it suggests that before Kim led him on this incredibly risky climb where he could very easily die she didn't share basic climbing techniques with him thus increasing the odds of his unfortunate demise.

The first impulse may be to look down on Ron for doing something so horribly wrong, but the fact is that he's following a clearly experienced climber who has, apparently, not given him any of the necessary information for doing it right.

On a Doyalist level it suggests that the creators wanted an excuse for the following shot no matter how little sense the excuse made:


Why was the rope hooked into the back even though the front would be correct?  Because this is impossible if it's hooked into the front.  The rope itself would prevent the flip that leads to this.

Why was Ron climbing the completely wrong way?  Because this couldn't happen if it were even vaguely right.

Why was Ron's upper body below his butt in spite of physics of the situation suggesting that they should either the other way around or completely level?  Because if Ron weren't angled front down this couldn't happen.

In later episodes we'll get to times that Ron loses his pants in physically impossible ways, but right now the creators opted for something that doesn't defy all laws of physics, and to get there they had to put in the "Ron climbs in all the wrong ways" bit.

Of course that scene is still physically impossible.  You can't tell because all I'm showing are stills, but Ron stays in that position for a long damn time.  No.  Just: no.

For him to be neither rising nor falling it must be the case that force his hands are exerting on the rope is identical to the force his feet (via his pants) are exerting on the rope.  If all else were equal then nothing would move, yes, but all else is not equal.  Ron is heavier than the rope.  That means that the foot side is heavier than the hand side meaning that his hands will be pulled up (dropping his feet down) until such time as the two are level.

His altitude won't change, but his orientation will.

Of course that change in orientation, especially if there were overshoot involved instead of a slow settling into place, might very well pull Ron's pants back up, and we can't have that.

Remember how I said back when discussing the title sequence that Kim Possible builds Kim up by knocking Ron down?  That's what we're seeing here.  This episode is the third in a row where Ron, not Kim, is the hero, and rather than balance that out with Kim getting to be the hero, the show's creators balance it by having Ron be an awkward person for audiences to laugh at.

Anyway, Kim tells the bird it's safe now, makes use of her own magically appearing rope, but it wasn't anchored properly and she ends up falling.

* * *


* * *

Kim does not fall to her gruesome death because this is a kids' show.  Also she's wearing a parachute.

I'd give her points for saving the bird, but it plays about as much of a role in the episode as Kim getting a ride because she saved a village from an avalanche.  The episode is not about the bird.

In fact, the whole thing with the bird was just to set up this:

Ranger: You saved a life, Kim Possible. 
Kim: It's what I do. You know, the help thing. 
*Ron lowers himself into scene*
Ron: I'm the sidekick. 
*Kimmunicator beeps*
Kim: What up, Wa-- Dad?!
Mr. Dr. Possible: Kimmy, do you know what night it is?
Kim: Um ... it's still day here 
Mr. Dr. Possible: Well, it's family game night in Middleton, and we're missing a gamer. 
Kim: My bad. It was an emergency. 
Mr. Dr. Possible: Your cousin Larry will be so disappointed. 
Kim: I saved a baby eagle. 
*Ranger grabs Kimmunicator*
Ranger: You should be very proud of your daughter here, sir. 
Mr. Dr. Possible: Oh, she's a pip all right. Well, I'll break the bad news to Larry. 
Kim: Tell him I feel terrible, Dad. 
Mr. Dr. Possible: I know you do, hon. Bye now.
*call ends*
*Kim's posture completely changes*
Kim: Yes! Close one cuz! But not this time!
Ranger: Cousin a loser?
Kim: He's totally creepy.


In spite of Kim complaining about Larry "since, ya know, forever" Ron doesn't actually know what Kim's problem with Larry is.

Kim takes too long to explain for one image to do it justice.  Have four:


Walking into sunset:
Kim: It all started when we were three.  Aunt June brought cousin Larry over for a play date...

On a plane:
Kim: Flash forward to family game night...

Over the phone while both are in bed:
Kim: Once a month Larry comes over and I am stuck in Freakville


At school:
Kim: And now Larry drones on about these creepy conventions he goes to IN COSTUME!  And the video games?  Last month I learned--

Random person: Heads up!
*Ron is hit in the head with a book*
Ron: Ow.
Kim: --everything you never wanted to know about that stupid "Fortress" game.
*Ron becomes the most alive we've seen him since Kim started talking yesterday*
Ron: Fortress!?  The other night I spent six hours battling the hilltop fortress with nothing but a joystick and a will that could not be denied.
Kim: And to think, that's time that you might have otherwise wasted.

Things to take from this:
1 Kim thinks that conventions are creepy and cosplayers moreso.  They're not merely different or simply not her thing or something like that, they're the creepy people from freaksville.
2 Ron just got hit in the head with a thrown book and Kim didn't even notice.  Ron made a sound of pain and Kim didn't wonder why.

The first is just another bit of Kim judging people without even trying to get to know them.  Yes, Larry she knows, sort of, but has she ever met anyone else at one of these conventions?  Not so much.  The video game Fortress is likewise judge in absentia.  It is stupid.  How does she know?  The person who told her about it is someone she finds repulsive.

That she is friends with Ron, who shares many of the same interests, does nothing to temper her disdain, it just has her being sarcastic at Ron.  Which brings us to point two.

The first episode had Kim going to detention, and judging everyone who'd ever been there merely on the fact that they'd been there, a judgement she exempted herself from.  Yes, Ron has been there.  No, Kim didn't think that reason to reevaluate her blanket judgement of detention kids.  That may seem like it's more of point one, but an important thing came out of Kim and Ron talking about it.  No one messes with the regular detention kids (they've got street cred) and Ron desperately wants that status (unfortunately he can't connect with the regulars, which Kim does without even wanting to.)

Kim didn't even pause to wonder why it would be that Ron is concerned with whether or not one is messed with.  She certainly didn't consider why Ron would want to be in the "not messed with" category.

Ron just suffered a book to the head.  It's not entirely clear whether it was an unlucky shot or if it was intentional bullying.  My own experience is that "Heads up" followed by projectile --which should never have been projected in the first place-- to the head tends to be bullying.  The "Heads up" allows for blaming the victim ("I said, 'Heads up;' why didn't you move?") and deniability ("If I'da been trying to hit him why would I have warned him by saying, 'Heads up'?")  That, however, is not important at the moment.

Ron took a book to the head; Kim didn't even notice.  Her back was turned so you might think that excuses it except that this projectile smashing into Ron's head caused Ron pain, which in turn caused him to make pained noise.  Kim didn't even notice.

Ron is being messed with right here right now with Kim standing next to him while Kim is talking to him, and Kim doesn't notice.

The fact of the matter is that there's a bullying problem at Middleton High School and Ron is firmly in the category of "bullied" at the moment.  Kim can't even be bothered to notice it.  Even though Ron is her best friend and has been since pre-k.

* * *

Anyway, Kim finished her  cousin Larry rant, one that would actually make for a decent filibuster attempt, and discovered that Ron likes a game she just insulted.  She tosses a sarcastic comment his way, and then in walks Wade.

This is... Wade never walks in.  In season two when Ron is excited about meeting Wade in person Kim says, "Don't hold your breath; every time I'm finally supposed to see him, he bails at the last minute."

Wade walking in at this point is frankly disconcerting to Kim and Ron.


It turns out to be a hologram.  (The lack of solidity makes Ron initially assume ghost, but Kim figures out hologram.)

Wade: The technology is incredible!

I second this.  It may or may not meet the literal definition of a hologram, and not knowing means that we're limited in what we can say about the incredibleness of the technology but at least this much is true: the technology on display here can make empty space appear to have a solid person in it (regardless of viewing angle) without any on-site equipment.

Wade: You can literally be in two places at once.
*holo-wade starts to flicker*
Wade: Eh! There are still a few bugs to work out.

Random high level technology introduced for no readily apparent reason.  This must be foreshadowing.  It's worth noting that after this episode ends this incredible piece of tech will never be used again and will only ever be remembered when, in the third to last episode produced in the original run, they finally meet Wade for real and Ron thinks it's a hologram.

Anyway, because of the bugs Wade switches to the computer screen in Kim's locker.  We've seen it before, but this is our best look so far, so have an image:


Wade: Anyway, we got a hit on the site from a Lord Monty Fiske. 
Kim: The archaeologist? 
Wade: How did you know?
Kim: I saw a documentary about him on the Knowing Channel. 
Wade: He's discovered the location of a rare artifact. But he needs your help to get it.
*map prints out*
Kim: Cool! So, who do we know who can give us a lift? 
Ron: To Cambodia?

Cut to them on a military aircraft.

Kim: Thanks so much for the lift, Colonel. 
Colonel: Well after the way you tipped us off to that assault, Miss Possible, it's an honor and a privilege. 

Monkey Temple:

Ron ends up a quivering mess.  You see, he had a bad experience with monkeys ... well, one non-human primate.  Kim responds to Ron's PTSD-esque response by being annoyed.  It's hard to diagnose a cartoon character, so I'm not going to say that Ron's time at camp Wannaweep actually left him with PTSD but what we can do is describe some of his symptoms:
  • Flashbacks
  • Avoidance (of anything that might bring up a mental association with Wannaweep)
  • Fight or flight turned up to 11 (hyperarousal) when faced with associated things
  • Anxiety
  • Ruminations
  • Impaired attention
  • psychomotor agitation (that quivering mess state in which he has no control over his body)
Kim's seen Ron go through this for years.  It's unclear how many years because it's hard to pin down their ages at any point in any way, but it's definitely several years.  Her response?  She's annoyed by it.  I won't go quite so far as to sarcastically bemoan what a great burden it is on Kim that her best friend/sidekick has been traumatized, but it is the case that her response is annoyance rather than compassion.


Fiske: Kim Possible, I presume. I'm Lord Monty Fiske. This is my valet, Bates. 
Kim: This is my friend, Ron. 
Bates: Your friend seems rather troubled...
Fiske: Quite. 
Kim: Um. Yeah.....Well, see it all goes back to Ron's first summer at Camp Wannaweep. He had to bunk with the camp mascot, Bobo the Chimp. 


I had a hard time picking an image.  It's a lot scarier if you can see him showing his teeth, and that pillow is about to be ripped in half with the debris raining down on little Ron, so this is a pretty action-less shot all things considered, but it does get both of them in the same shot.  Also the chimp towering above little frightened Ron gives a decent idea of the dynamic.

Anyway, Kim taking the time to explain the origin of Ron's state instead of just being, "Don't mind him," and dismissing it is why I'm not blasting Kim's response entirely.  She understands why Ron acts the way he does and tries to explain it to other people instead of leaving them with no understanding of, or sympathy for, Ron.  That earns her some compassion points.  Not a lot, but some.

It will later be retconned that it was Ron's only summer there instead of his first.  It was a summer in which he was beset by the chimp mascot, insect infestations, poison oak, bullies, wild animals of various types, and a toxic lake.

He didn't exactly come away from it unscathed.

While all of this discussion is going on, Ron is outwardly reduced to a quivering mass and internally he's reliving some highlights of the Bobo experience.

Apparently snapping fingers right in front of him can bring him out of his flashbacks, and Kim does just that for just that purpose, which raises the question, "Why the fuck didn't Kim do that before?"

Ron: Whoa! That was one crazy monkey! 
Fiske: You do know of course chimpanzees are actually part of the ape family? They're not monkeys at all.
Ron: Monkeys! Apes! They all hold stuff with their feet, man! We're talking freaks of nature! 
*Fisk and Bates walk away into the temple*

While Ron's trauma is real and severe and should be treated with the respect owed such a thing, it's still the case that he's being completely irrational and jerkish.  Don't want to give the impression he's getting a free pass, because he's not.  He totally shouldn't have said that.

Resuming:

Kim: Ugh!  Ron! Could you get a grip?
Ron: Mark my words, Kim! His lordship is 500 miles of bad road. 
Kim: Ron! Lord Monty Fiske is a world-famous explorer and highly respected scholar.
Ron: Bad road!


Ron: Oh! Ah, Monty, old chap...
Fiske: I believe I shall direct all further communication to Miss Possible, directly.

Kim is supposed to retrieve a jade idol, Fiske intentionally triggers Ron by saying (truthfully) that it is of a monkey.  When Ron is reduced to his quivering state again, Fiske smiles.  Kim has a different question though:

Kim: What's that?


Fiske: The locals believe that placing this icon in precise alignment with three others would generate a mystical monkey power. Utter nonsense, of course. 

Right.  Utter nonsense.  Why would the Cambodian locals around the Cambodian temple know what the thing the Cambodians built the temple to protect actually does?  We have an English lord who can tell us that it's nonsense.

Also, while we hear their beliefs and have them dismissed as nonsense, not one of the locals actually appears in this episode.

For the record, though, the temple in Cambodia doesn't look like a Cambodian temple (to my untrained eyes) anyway so maybe the locals wouldn't know.  Even so, nice to have the native people's non-white mystical knowledge(TM) delivered by an English lord who is openly dismissive of their beliefs.

Always a fun move there.

While we're on the subject of ignored/derided locals, how exactly do they feel about Kim Possible removing a sacred artifact from a temple in their country?  Before you answer that, let me give you a mild spoiler: Kim Possible's style of archaeology resembles that of Indiana Jones but lacks his trademark fineness and respect for maintaining the integrity of the site.

Given that it's a monkey temple, Ron's afraid to go in, leading Kim to say the famous last words "there's nothing to be afraid of" and immediately fall through a trap door, down a giant shaft, into a room with no exit, where she finds that giant stone monkey heads on the walls are opening and closing their mouths.


Kim: Ok, at least the walls aren't--
*walls start to move in*
Kim: --moving. 

First she climbs on the monkey heads, then, when the walls are close enough, chimney climbs out of the closing walls death room.  Note that the walls of the death room closing destroyed the four stone monkey heads on the walls of the death room, thus destroying a valuable archaeological site.

Then it's time for the fire spitting monkey heads:


Kim is able to make it through using flips, vaults and so forth.

Kim: Once again, cheerleading saved my life.

I was going to leave that to stand on its own, but on second thought, no.

Kim hasn't saved the day yet, and she's not going to start now, but she does do useful, impressive, and downright cool looking things.  I described Kim above as the muscle of the team, and that she is, but this episode introduces another aspect of what she does.  If in the first two episodes she was Jayne to the Firefly crew, here we see her being The Amazing Yen (the greaseman) to the Ocean's 11 crew.

Her acrobatic skills, which in civilian life she uses for cheerleading, let her do some awesome things.  Things that will lay the foundation for other parts of the episode, and the episode wouldn't have worked without her, but ... this episode isn't about extracting an artifact while destroying the surrounding temple, and when we finally get to the payoff and see what the episode is about, she's not going to be a player in that game.

There's nothing wrong with playing a supporting role, but Jayne didn't come from a show called Jayne Cobb, and Yen didn't come from a movie called The Amazing Yen.  This show is called Kim Possible and while she might get to have the disastrous extraction of a monkey idol at the beginning (technically early middle) as if she were Indiana Jones, she's not going to get a chance to do the Marion saving, Nazi fighting, Ark finding, and climax having that allows Indy to put his name on the movie.

Kim, like Yen, gets to do flashy incredible athletic stuff.  Kim, like Jayne, gets to be in impressively choreographed fights.  She gets to do these things because of her athleticism which is tied up with her cheerleading.  But that's just putting her to work where her skills can be of the most use.  It's not making her the hero of the show.  So far she's being outheroed by the sidekick so much we can't even create a proportion to describe it.  He's at 100%, that's clear enough and simple enough, but since she's at zero, and since you can't divide by zero...

But that's not even where I was originally planning to go when I decided to talk about Kim and cheerleading.

You know what?  Massive Footnote about fathers creating characters for their daughters.

Short version: Fathers created for their daughters a role model action hero, and then stuck her into the most traditional-values feminine-coded role they could find for an involved athletic girl: cheerleader.  That doesn't feel right to me.  Nothing against cheerleaders, but I don't think the sport was chosen at random, and what went into that choice, conscious or otherwise, probably wasn't good.

Back to the now.  After the flaming monkeys we get a hall with monkey sounds that hurt the ears.  Then:


Kim: Spikes. Gee, where are the snakes?


Kim: I was just being sarcastic!

Some people think that just because I'm pretty much always ready to tear something apart and I'm seldom lacking in criticism it means that I'm impossible to please.  I disagree though.  As evidence I offer this: I like that gag.

Kim yelling out to the empty temple that she was just being sarcastic after the snakes actually show up is something I like even though it's hardly original, unusual, or difficult.

It's probably one of the easiest beats that this show hits and yet, in spite of all that, I like it.

See: easy to please.

Anyway, Kim jumps to avoid the snakes and saves herself from a kersplat via the ingenious use of the hair tie that she's been using.  She generally doesn't wear her hair bound into a ponytail, but on this mission and the bird mission she does, hence hair tie here.

Hair tie capable of supporting her entire weight.


It kind of leads to questions about the order of episodes.  Both here and in the previous mission (the baby eagle) there were times when her hair dryer grappling hook launcher would have been useful, but she doesn't use it.  We know that the first two episodes were in production at the same time, could this one have been too?  There's nothing that specifically dates it to being after Bueno Nacho, and if the creators were thinking of possibly putting it before Bueno Nacho then that could explain why she needs to save herself with a hair tie instead of the grappling hook.

Anyway, Kim is forced to abandon the hair tie but gets a jade monkey idol for her efforts.

Fiske: Kim Possible, I shall see to it that the National Museum celebrates your heroic efforts.
Kim: It was no big.

* * *


Ron: I'm telling you, Kim, he's bad road. I feel it.
Kim: He has a royal title.
Ron: Which you can buy on the internet!
Kim: Go to sleep.

Um... what?  He has a royal title?  That automatically makes someone trustworthy?  Since when?

How does this... I don't even ... what!?

I'm doing my last pass before posting, which means that I know I'll be quoting some Ana Mardoll deconstruction down post, but it has occurred to me that here's a good place to make mention too.  Kim believes in the credibility of a respected scholar and a royal title, Ron believes in feelings.  Shouldn't be too hard to guess which will be proven right.  In fact, when I originally planned to do all of the episode in one shot the title for that one episode-encompassing post was going to include the word "vindicated".

On the other hand Kim doesn't really suffer from the curse of the Smart Girl, which is when Ana brought up the dichotomy.  Kim will eventually be allowed to save things, and not just Ron.

Anyway a black figure starts to jump from tree to tree, Ron notices

Ron: (whispering)There's a monkey in camp. A live one.
Kim: You're obsessed! Sleep!
Ron: Getting closer...
*Ron's teeth start to chatter in fear*
*The figure enters a tent*
Ron:The monkey!!


Ron: (relieved) Ah, it's just a hooded ninja.
*Kim is immediately awake*
Kim: He's got the statue!

Ron gets somewhat afraid after Kim says that, presumably finally registering that this thing-which-is-not-a-monkey is still a threat, but he's nowhere near as bad off as he had been when he thought it was a monkey.

The ninja is better than Kim, though at first he doesn't seem to be overly much so.  Kim is able to get the jade idol and throw it to Ron who, still in his sleeping bag, is knocked over by the force of the impact.

The ninja beats Kim by dropping part of a tent on her but things don't really start to go wrong until Ron, trying to reassure her, says, "Don't worry Kim, I got the monkey," referring to the idol.  When he hears his own words he's back in panic mode.

The ninja picks up Ron --in his sleeping bag still holding the idol-- and fights Kim while holding Ron aloft even using Ron as a shield to hide behind.


Things end when the ninja throws Ron at Kim while taking the idol for himself, in one smooth motion, and then deploys a smoke bomb.

Kim: Oh, no. He's gone, and the statue's gone with him!


*Fiske and Bates come out of their tent*
Fiske: What's all this, then?
Kim: Someone stole the jade monkey.
Fiske: How shockingly awful!
Bates: Yes, awfully shocking, milord.
Fiske: Word of our discovery must have gotten out! Oh, rot! If only your bravery was not wasted.

WERE! "If only your bravery were not wasted."

I probably can't do the full rant every time.

Oh, also, outside of sarcasm the English generally do not use "milord" and even when it is used it generally isn't used for actual lords, so Bates is either being a bad valet or doing a good job of giving the stupid Americans what they expect to hear.

So, like I said before, Kim gets to do the disastrous idol retrieval at the beginning of the movie.  Survive traps that do irreparable damage to the site?  Check.  Remove a sacred object without even thinking about the locals' opinions?  Check.  Loose the sacred object before it can be brought to a museum?  Check.

It's the rest of the movie that she's going to fail on.  Hell, she doesn't even get a frying pan so even Marion is out Indying Kim's Indy rendition even though Marion needs to be saved by Indy.

-

Anyway, back to the Possible house.


There's not a lot to say here but I would like to point out that while Kim's mom is in this scene, and indeed the only one in the scene to be doing something productive, her voice is not.  She doesn't speak a word.  She just makes the food and lets other people do the talking.

So who does do the talking?  The main character, can't very well have Kim silent the whole time, and the three male characters of the house.  Starting with Kim's dad, James.

James: Morning, honey. How'd Cambodia go?
Kim: Mixed. The good part, I rescued a priceless icon from a ferociously snaky spiky pit. Less good, a ninja stole it.
James: Oh, isn't that just like those darn ninjas? Well, this ought to flip that frown upside down. Cousin Larry felt so bad about missing you for game night, Aunt June invited us all over for dinner Saturday! 

Involantarily converting her orange drink of unknown properties into a gravity defying projectile that will soon resemble a fire hose is as close as Kim ever comes to honestly telling her dad how she feels.
Kim: Oh, I... I wouldn't want to impose.
James: Not at all! June says Larry never has friends over.
*Jim and Tim, the twins, enter*
Jim: Maybe because he's the dweebiest guy on the planet?
James: Jim... don't mock family.
Tim: Maybe he's not even of this world! Maybe he comes from some far-off planet of dweebs.
*Jim and Tim high five*
*James frowns*

James: Take a lesson from your sister, boys. Larry might not look like the coolest kid around, but Kim knows that you can't judge a book by its cover.


Kim is so busy enjoying the twins' insulting of Larry that she doesn't realize there's going to be a quiz
James: Right, honey?
Kim: Huh?

I don't even know how to describe the sound Kim makes next.  I think that it's meant to be something that could be assumed to be whatever response her dad was looking for.

When we get to the second half and actually meet Larry, Larry will flat out ask Kim if she's not enjoying the conversation they're in.  It's not said as an accusation, just an honest question to know if he should stop talking about the subject he was on.  She lies.  She lies in a counterproductive way that leads to the very things she wished to avoid.

That sounds familiar, so, speaking of Twilight, this line from Ana Mardoll's discussion of the lies in it stands out to me:
the only apparent route that she can see towards this goal is to work constantly to “avoid” and/or “fix” the situation without ever once so much as hinting at the truth
Now in Twilight the truth is that Bella wants her various suitors to go away and leave her alone, while in Kim Possible the current truth (there will be many) is that Kim doesn't want to spend time with Larry.  She is never going to say that.

Well, she's never going to say that to anyone to whom saying it matters.

In fact, beyond the lust Kim feels toward Josh and later Eric, and the desire for the jacket she spent last episode pursuing, Kim doesn't really say what she wants ever.  I mean, there are 87 episodes so surely she talks about what she wants somewhere, but it's not coming to mind.

She likes winning.  Give her a competition and it doesn't even really matter what it's about or what the stakes are, she wants to win.  But apart from that it's hard to put one's finger on anything that Kim actually wants for herself.

Kim is so bottled up in the conflicting efforts of meeting an impossible stereotype of what it means to be a high school girl in some weird idealized world and helping other people with what they want no matter how difficult, that "green leather jacket" and "cute boys" are basically the the only things we can say she wants (and you know that if she ever got the chance she'd be after the cute boys in an extremely chaste way.)

Still taking from Ana Mardoll's post on Twilight, consider the paragraph following the one I excerpted above:
When we see Bella’s lies in this light – as painful and burdensome lies that she feels compelled to tell to near-strangers rather than be honest about her own wants and needs – then all her other lies start to sharply refocus into something disturbing. Maybe Bella doesn’t lie to her parents because she’s a normal girl who doesn’t want them to worry, or because she’s a manipulative girl interested in getting her own way – maybe her lies and silence (as well as her parents’ curious disinterest in talking to her) are indicative of a family environment where “good daughters” don’t express wants beyond what has been planned for them. Maybe Bella doesn’t lie to her paranormal suitors because she fears hurting them or because she’s trying to avoid rejection – maybe she feels shamed into denying that she even has desires and plans. Suddenly, these deceptions aren’t healthy, judicious choices that Bella makes in service to an end-goal – they’re an unhealthy, forced behavior that attempts to somehow reconcile a contradiction between Bella’s internal desires and her “appropriate” external behavior.
Kim's parents do talk to her, but Kim's mom does it over the phone during brain surgery and her dad always has his nose buried in a newspaper and responses like: "Oh, isn't that just like those darn ninjas?" followed by a segue into his own agenda are pretty commonplace.

Kim's mom, Anne, is a pretty good character when she's allowed to be, but that isn't terribly often.  In this episode she's seen and not heard, in a lot of episodes she isn't even seen.

If Kim has mildly better family support than Bella, though, we have to contrast that with the fact that we at least know what Bella fucking wants.  She wants a specific hot guy to boink, the wants to be a vampire, she wants to be left the fuck alone, and she wants to be free of restraints of humanity.

Kim wants ... um ... I've seriously got nothing.

Ron likes fruit flavored lipstick, he likes nail polish, he likes Christmas so much that he, a practicing (and proud) Jew, has found another family to take him into their Christmas traditions and is even more enthusiastic than they are about some of them, he likes video games and eating and rides at the fair.  He likes pretty girls.  He likes having a friend he can count on and being a friend that can be counted on.  He has ambitions of journalism but he lacks the investigative motivation necessary.  He takes joy in food preparation.  He has fond memories of his first Halloween with Kim in which he happily dressed up as a ballerina (yes, I meant to choose the female gendered version of the word.)

Ron has so many desires that it's hard to fucking keep track.  He's bubbling over with motivation.

Kim is impossible to pin down.  In the abstract she wants to be the best and she wants to win, but in the abstract those things are meaningless.  It's only when they're constrained in some way that they take on meaning.  "I want to be the best candle maker." "I want to win the world series."

Kim tries to be everything to everyone and as a result we have no idea who the fuck she is.  Here we at least get some negative information.  She doesn't want to hang out with Larry.

She refuses to say it to the people who might allow that desire to be realized (her dad, June, Larry) and pretends that she does want to hang out with Larry.  We know the truth because we can see the look on her face when they're not looking, and hear what she says when they're not listening, but we don't always have that window.

What are the things she says when no one is listening?  Given that in episode 2 she found out that Wade had been reading her diary, she might never let those things out of her head.

- - -

I've lost my way and I don't know how I want to wrap this up.

We started this post with Kim thinking she got out of seeing Larry by saving a baby eagle.  We end by her finding out that she'll still have to see Larry.  In the interim she's willing to tell a random park ranger and Ron all about why she doesn't like hanging out with Larry, but she won't utter so much as a single syllable to that effect when it matters.  Ron and the park ranger don't expect her to like Larry, so she doesn't have any compulsion to not tell them what she really thinks.  Her dad does expect her to like Larry, as does Larry's mom, June, and (apparently) Larry himself.  She will never indicate to them that she doesn't want to hang out with Larry.  She will never indicate to them that, in her heart, she doesn't meet their expectations.

There is a reason that one of the most compelling takes on Kim Possible (show and character both) I have ever read starts with the assumption that the reason Kim is everything to everyone during the show is that she's keeping her real self bottled up inside for fear it won't meet their expectations.

When the Kim in that story changes her name, runs away, and starts somewhere new where she can just cut loose without the fear of letting anyone down it's incredibly liberating to read but, more to the present point, it happens to be extremely believable.

It's believable because Kim in the show is a cipher.  Without context she is nothing.  Without someone's expectations to conform to, she simply doesn't have any real driving force.  (Of course, sometimes the expectations are those of society itself.)  That's exactly what you'd expect from someone who is completely repressing their actual thoughts and desires and instead only showing what she thinks people want to see.

And I guess that's where I'll close.  Kim isn't going to get a chance to save the day, she couldn't even get the idol from the temple to the museum, but at least we got a rare peek into how she really feels.  She doesn't like Larry, she doesn't like computer games, she doesn't like geeky stuff, she doesn't like conventions, and she doesn't like cosplayers.

It's all negative information, but it's a slight improvement on before when all that we knew was that she didn't like detention, it's inhabitants, or last season's fashions.

Maybe at some point we'll get to something she does like.  If all else fails, when we meet Josh she's going to have pants feels and that's something, at least.

-


[Back to main text]

Kim Possible and The Princess Who Saved Herself (song, not book) have something in common.  They were created by fathers who wanted better role models for their daughters.  There are problems with this (it is literally paternalistic) but I think they can be overcome.

Coulton wrote The Princess Who Saved Herself when he was asked to write a song for charity after a natural disaster.  He could have written anything, but he chose to write a song for his daughter.  His daughter liked princesses but the princess stories out there in pop culture tend to tell of princesses that need someone else to come in and save them or, at least, sweep them off their feet.  As the title of the song indicates, Coulton decided to write about a different kind of princess.

He also tried to write a song that captured the strength and (figurative) beauty in children.

I think Coulton did a good job and nothing in the song jumps out at me as Coulton the father saying, "This is how you should be, daughter of mine."  Even knowing that he wrote it with his daughter in mind the most I feel is that he might be saying, "I know you like princesses, I made you a new one."

Kim Possible, though, well lets look at the girl who is supposed to be a role model for Schooley and McCorkle's daughters.

She's popular and she cares about that popularity but not too much.  She's athletic, but in a traditionally feminine way as shown by choosing to be a cheerleader over any other sport.  We know that she's into baseball and basketball, but we never see her play.  The closest we come is showing her challenging someone to a basketball game as part of an Aesop about treating other people as people even if they don't have the same abilities as you.

She's extremely nonthreatening to traditional gender roles.  She's a good daughter, in an extremely rigid and confining sense of that ideal, in that the only time she's dishonest with her parents is when she's suffering in silence rather than telling them things they don't want to hear and even then she always obeys her parents.  Why has she been stuck with cousin Larry visits since she was a three year old?  Because she knows her dad doesn't want to hear her say she doesn't like hanging out with Larry and as a result she has the monthly ordeal of family game night.

Kim Possible is a world traveler and celebrity and world saver (occasionally, when someone else doesn't do it) but she never steps outside of a traditionally feminine box, she never infringes upon traditionally male things, and she doesn't mix with the wrong kinds of people which you'd think, given her job, might mean criminals but in fact comes across as meaning nerds, overly masculine boys, overly feminine girls, underly masculine boys (except Ron), underly feminine girls, or anyone else who might meet with a paterfamilias' disapproval.

And it all comes back around to: why did cheerleading save her life?  Because heaven fucking help us if she'd picked up useful skills on the track team.  That's got boys and girls both.  Much safer to be on the all girls all feminine Middleton cheer squad.  Mind you her skill set would be best suited to a gymnastics team, but not all schools have one and we again run into the "boys do it too" problem.

Where the princess who saved herself is a character in her own right who does things that a kid might want to do given the freedom to do it, Kim is a role model put forward who is feminine but not shallow, athletic, but not in a way boys might find threatening, independent, but not disobedient, and basically crammed into a thousand constricting restrictive categories of the form "Be this, but not in the ways we disapprove of."

Instead of expressing herself (getting a pet snake, as opposed to a pet raccoon; getting a red guitar instead of an orange harmonica) Kim is left conforming to some strange abstract ideal of what a girl should be that's contradictory and impossible.

4 comments:

  1. You did it! You posted it! Go you!!!

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  2. I think the "Art for daughters" thing at the end should be its own post here on Stealing Commas, linked to the index. Either that, or make it a Slacktiverse post. That one's better. Yay content!

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  3. Huh. Kim Possible makes the impossible possible, but apparently that means Kim manages to conform to the standard of femininity in all its contradictory requirements.

    This episode, so far, has been all about Ron. And, I suspect, will continue to be all about Ron, despite it being Kim's show, nominally.

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  4. I'm feeling like Ron is part of that tradition that gave us Xander Harris and Ross Gellar: the Watsonian notion that a male character should "earn" what he gets not through his own good actions, but rather as karmic repayment for the universe conspiring to treat him like shit. Ron gets to save the world because the world owes him for that pantsing in the first scene. Ross Gellar gets to date a succession of beautiful women because the world owes him one for how badly his ex-wife treats him. Xander Harris gets to be the moral authority because the world owes him for making him the butt of three out of every four jokes and also poking out his eye.

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