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Hey, remember that time when I was doing a meme about female characters and then had a crazy weekend that turned into a crazy week-and-change and couldn't string together a sentence if my life depended on it and dropped off the planet? No? Huh. Me neither.

So, to recap: my brains hurtsed. Then, other stuff. Happened. Also people. Quite a lot. *falls over some moar*

Also, I've loved these ladies for a long time, but I never thought I'd end up actually talking about them, because why, and I don't quite know how much my sentencing capacity has returned, so ... let's see how this goes.



Day Twenty-Five: Favorite mother/daughter aunt/niece and/or sister relationship

Lady Sylvia McCordle; Louisa, Lady Stockbridge; Lady Lavinia Meredith and their Aunt Constance, Countess of Trentham of Gosford Park.


Lavinia, Sylvia, Constance, Louisa, Sylvia's daughter Isobel

Let's get the obvious out of the way: these are absolutely the least sympathetic characters of all my answers. Special mention for being stand-out-awful are Sylvia and Constance, who are (naturally) my favourites of the lot. I am fully aware of this. I'ma talk about how much I sincerely like them anyhoodles.

Also out of the way: Gosford Park is one of those rich, subtle things where all the characters are distinct and complex; everyone's intersecting on their own desires and fears and obstacles. Everyone's full and real and serving their own agendas, from the least sympathetic to the most, and most of them go through some measure of personal or relational transformation as a result of the events of the movie. Not that with this director and this cast (*_*) it should be surprising, but still. I loves it, and by extension the characters too. (Also, this answer was not at all picked just so that I could add Maggie Smith to Judi Dench and Helen Mirren on my list. It is just a very very happy bonus.)

Now, as to these ladies. Or, well, Ladies. And some explanation for why I adore them, even apart from Constance's consumate putdowns, which make a compelling argument all on their own.

Above stairs, Sylvia is arrogant and aloof, disdainful of her husband and even her daughter. Constance is viciously snotty. Louisa is flagrantly carrying on an affair with her brother-in-law, based mostly on some combination of ego, dissatisfaction, and likely spite. Lavinia is spoiled, whiny and dependent. Not only that, but against the backdrop of the hard-worked servants, there's little sympathy for women who just basically sit around uselessly all day. This post isn't intended to be privilege- or snob-apologist or anything, but I think the movie does a pretty good job itself showing that – for all the characters' endless manoeuvreing in their various spheres – their relative status ends up making little appreciable difference in their happiness, and even freedom and security. These ladies may be near the top of the pile, at least in this collection of people, but that merely changes the nature of the pressures and obstacles to negotiate, not the fact of them.

What attracts me to this little web of relationships is how, in this movie where every relationship, and nearly every single line, is cloaked in reserve, angling, or just plain subterfuge, these women speak freely and plainly with one another. The scene where they're getting ready to go out to join the men's shooting party for lunch is the best example, but their interactions throughout the movie show that, in their own way, there is mutual understanding, love and warmth for one another. Below whatever petty momentary thing is going on on the surface is a foundation of solidarity: to the extent of their ability, they look after one another's true interests and ease the way for one another where they can. (It's also interesting that, just as the sisters' attitudes suggest they received little true affection from their parents but had Constance as a trusted confidant, so Isobel's two aunts subtly show gestures of connection and support to her where her mother does not.)

It's Sylvia who is the lynchpin of the solidarity, inasmuch as they have one. She presents very much as the oldest of the sisters, and did her duty to her father and her family by marrying an odious man to restore their fortunes; however cool and calculating she appears, her actions suggest she would not hesitate to go to quite some lengths to protect her family and preserve the benefits her marriage was to have secured for them. We're told that she and Louisa cut cards for who would marry Sir William, but I would not be at all surprised if she rigged the draw, in order to allow her sister the freedom to make a more palatable match. She specifically warns Constance about Sir William's filthy mood and, knowing he's spoiling for a fight (and being fed up with him herself anyway) quite openly takes it upon herself to provoke him, meaning his temper breaks on her who is the least vulnerable to the consequences. She would make a formidable enemy, and her expression when, earlier in the movie, Sir William cheerfully tells her he's about to essentially bankrupt her brother-in-law and cut off her aunt makes me wonder, if all else failed, he wouldn't have had another murderer just as soon as she could work out how to do it without incriminiating herself.

And, like basically everyone else present, she is left in a better, freer place by Sir William's death. She no longer has to manage her prick of a husband to ensure those who depend on her are supported. And who knows, now that her gilded cage has been thrown open, she might be able to decompress a little, become less of a bitch (hopefully especially to Isobel), and stop anaesthetizing through dalliances. She might even fall in love, although it seems unlikely. Meanwhile, her sisters seem set to enjoy and appreciate their respective marriages more than they did before, and her aunt can enjoy and appreciate an increase in her allowance. Mmm, I do like a murder with an asshole victim and a happy ending.

Comments

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fannishliss
Mar. 25th, 2013 03:36 pm (UTC)
I have been watching your meme but I don't know most of the ladies. If it's not SPN, I'm lost. :P


I did see Gosford Park about a million years ago, but I don't follow Downton Abbey at all....
themonkeytwin
Mar. 27th, 2013 09:40 am (UTC)
No worries. I did go for variety over SPN, really! I'm really pretty sure that I could go down the list and rattle off a SPN answer for almost every one without trying very hard at all. Maybe that's what my last day can be; I haven't really thought of anything yet. Hopefully it's been entertaining enough anyway :) And if you do get around to doing the meme yourself, I'm excited to see what your answers are!

I don't follow Downton at all either. It sounds terribly soapy. The movie was a perfect, intricate moment knotted around a pivotal event, but to try to sustain the drama over a tv series seems ... overly optimistic. Period costume porn is great and all, but it's not enough to keep me going on its own.
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