A Special Look at: The Snowmen

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In a previous post, I mentioned Clara being the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope (see Feminist Frequency‘s #1) in The Snowmen, but this post will not be about Clara. The main focus of this post will center on Madame Vastra and her lesbian lover, Jenny Flint.

As seen here during the “one word test” scene featured, Clara Oswin Oswald does show clear signs of this particular trope.

They were first introduced in the Series 6 episode, “A Good Man Goes to War.”  Following this, Steven Moffat decided to have them return in this episode. Prior to it airing, a prequel, titled Vastra Investigates aired on the web on December 17th, 2012. This brief prequel establishes them as the Queer People Are Funny trope. Madame Vastra and Jenny are also, notably Discount Lesbians.

The topic of her disfigurement/skin condition is also addressed in Deep Breath, seen above.

When Mr. Simeon, the stories foe, meets them in an ally, right away they are socially derided by him. He even credits Dr Doyle (suggesting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) is writing about tales of their “exploits” with “a few choice alterations.” he notes that the Grest Detective is actually a “woman,” with her “suspiciously intimate companion.”

Simeon: You realise Doctor Doyle is almost certainly basing his fantastical tales on your own exploits? With a few choice alterations, of course. I doubt the readers of The Strand magazine would accept that the great detective is, in reality a woman.
(Simeon lifts Vastra’s veil to reveal that she is a Silurian.)
Simeon: And her suspiciously intimate companion
Vastra: I resent your implication of impropriety. We are married.
Jenny: More than can be said for you, eh, dear?

Of course, Victorian London had complex views on the issue, but were not largely intolerant, as this HistoryExtra article states:

The Victorian attitudes towards sex in general were, as might be expected, extremely complex. The findings of my sample survey of men prosecuted for having sex with other men – more than 280,000 individual cases brought before the senior criminal courts of Assize and Quarter Session – have produced some starting results. Fewer than 313 such trials have been uncovered for the period from 1850 up to the outbreak of the First World War, which at first glance would appear to suggest a rate of fewer than five such prosecutions per year.

This would, perhaps, suggest a highly tolerant attitude towards such behaviour in the later period – a view strengthened when we observe that the sentences dealt to those convicted of the crime of buggery rapidly become more lenient. For example, the ‘Death’ sentence handed down to Joseph Dean at the February sitting of the Liverpool Assize in 1851, automatically converted to transportation for life by this period, was not uncommon in the mid-19th century. Yet by 1903 the sentence dealt for buggery to coal miner William Bradly from Leigh, Lancashire, at the same court was just 15 months’ imprisonment.

But the fact still remains that men were being sent to prison for significant periods for the crime of having consensual sex with each other. There are records of such sentences leading to suicides, both attempted and realised. Interestingly, it was the alleged suicide of Francis Archibald John Douglas (Viscount Drumlanrig) following a failed affair with Liberal politician Lord Rosebery that led his father, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, to protect his younger son ‘Bosie’ from the alleged ‘corrupting influence’ of Oscar Wilde. That led to Wilde’s trial of the 1890s, perhaps the famous – albeit most atypical – criminal prosecution of sex between males of the period.

Later in the episode, Madame Vastra and Jenny arrive at the Latimer’s mansion.

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Immediately after this, the house maid screams and run away in fear. Clearly, they are not meant to be taken seriously, but rather a joke. And that’s just not good for a gay representation on television. It undermines the view of LGBT people in a very negative way.

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Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint would later appear in The Crimson Horror

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…and The Name of the Doctor.

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12 thoughts on “A Special Look at: The Snowmen

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