Star Trek: The Original Series
"Wolf in the Fold"
Air date: 12/22/1967
Written by Robert Bloch
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
In a Trek murder mystery of galactic proportions, a series of killings on the hedonistic world Argelius II puts Scotty in the middle when he becomes the prime suspect. Worse yet, he can't even remember if he was responsible for the killings or not—he suffers from blackouts and memory loss at the instant of two of the three killings. As for the third murder ... he's certain it wasn't him—and had noticed a strange presence in the room after, as they say, the lights went out. The search for the truth eventually heads back to the Enterprise, where effective use of lie-detector equipment and extensive computer databases eventually leads to the uncovering of another suspect: the Argelian administrator Hengist (John Fledler).
This episode makes for a solid, interesting murder investigation with a few neat twists—including the revelation that the murderer is an alien entity that has jumped from body to body and planet to planet for centuries in its quest to feed upon other people's terror. At one point, the story explains, this presence even manifested itself as Earth's Jack the Ripper.
Although the plot is a little on the fantastic side, and Scotty's blackouts are never explained, the story pulls itself together nicely as Kirk and Spock find the vital clues in the database. I must admit, however, that the light-and-chummy ending seems a little out of place in an episode where confronting "ultimate evil" is a major theme.
Previous episode: Obsession
Next episode: The Trouble With Tribbles
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58 comments on this post
Sat, Jul 9, 2011, 9:59pm (UTC -5)
I think it is a very weak episode and contains many weaknesses.
The main problem with the story is the way women are portrayed. The role of women in Star Trek was always a little weak, but in Wolf in the Wolf it is out and out chauvinism.
I always had a problem with Star Trek stories that tried to say Scotty was a womanizer, which I feel was stupid. I just never beleived that Scotty would have behaved like that.
And for Captain Kirk to say that the best way to "heal" a man under his command was to set him up with the nearest woman was beyond belief. And for Dr. McCoy to go along with the plan only compounded the problem.
And then to make matters worse Mr. Spock jumped on the male chauvinist band wagon when he explained about the entity that was killing women, "And I suspect it preys on women because women are more easily and more deeply terrified, generating more sheer horror than the male of the species." This was the most rankest form of male chauvinism and something I do not beleive Mr. Spock would have ever said. It isn't logical.
Near the end of the story instead of taking control of Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock, which would have been the logically thing to do, the entity choose the weakest people to inhabit. Nothing about this story made sesne.
Wolf in the Fold was actually a sheep in wolf's clothing.
Tue, Nov 29, 2011, 6:14pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 2, 2012, 6:33am (UTC -5)
Piglet was Jack the Ripper? It's always the one you least suspect, isn't it?
Thu, Feb 7, 2013, 11:57pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 5:26pm (UTC -5)
One thing I do like about the murder mystery side of things, is that early on they put in a subtle hint, which they never come back to and thus leave it up to the viewer to pick up on it or not. Either that, or it was an unintentional slip up by the writer(s). After the second murder when Hengist tries to put the blame on Scotty he says that Scotty was found with both the victims when they were found. But how would he know that Scotty was with the second victim? No one told him that yet at that point, I think? Subtle clue or inconsistent writing?
Sun, Dec 1, 2013, 10:02am (UTC -5)
I keep hearing that TOS was so far ahead of its time, well maybe it was, in some ways, but the writers certainly lacked imagination when it came to womens' roles.
Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 7:25am (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 10, 2014, 9:49am (UTC -5)
Given that Redjac seems to have the ability to possess individuals, and eventually threatens to possess various characters, particularly male, I think one can read the episode's metaphor as being about the *potential* for evil within all people, a common theme within TOS (see, for instance, "The Enemy Within," suggesting Kirk has a big and even important dark side, or "Mirror, Mirror," which suggests that different circumstances could bring out incredible cruelty in our beloved cast). In that sense, the sexism of the Enterprise crew is not necessarily a function of 1960's attitudes, but is making a point: in strong emotions, and resentment, "Redjac," or, the drive toward evil in general and hatred of women in particular, can take hold. This is why, the Argelians point out, jealousy is so heavily frowned upon in their culture, because it can develop and erupt into violence. And I think this is why the first thing we learn about Scotty is that McCoy and Kirk think, or at least jokingly think, that as a result of a recent injury from an explosion apparently caused by a woman, Scotty could develop a "resentment toward women." In some ways I wonder if the episode would be stronger if Scotty, or, at least, that jealous Argelian man, were "possessed" by Redjac, to strengthen the idea that this rage can take hold -- rather than just introducing the possession abilities only at the episode's end once it becomes convenient to have it possess the computer.
In this read, Redjac is the exaggerated form of the objectification which Kirk, McCoy and Scotty happily engage in, and the crew's defeat of it represents their triumph of that side of themselves. It makes sense that at the very end of the episode, the crew stay on the ship rather than go down to where "the women are so...so..." etc. This still doesn't explain Spock's statement about the female being the more easily terrified of the species.
There is something delightfully mid-to-late-60's about the way to defeat hatred and misogyny being, basically, drugs. TOS rules out the hippie lifestyle as a long-term sustainable project in "The Way to Eden," but for this particular episode all you need is loooove.
The episode doesn't actually tell us anything about Scotty, unfortunately, which is...fine, I guess, because there's no reason the episode *has* to, though it's a bit disappointing considering how underdeveloped the main cast is save the Big Three, with Scotty as the most important of the second tier of cast members.
I hadn't really thought this episode held together when I started writing this, but I think I've talked myself up to a marginal 3 stars.
Thu, Nov 27, 2014, 6:26pm (UTC -5)
- As Mike noted above, Wolf in the Fold is hilariously chauvinistic: women are terrified "more easily and more deeply"? Really? Where does this little gem of wisdom come from?
- Therapeutic qualities that scantily clad womenfolk have on head injuries are indeed something I'd like to test myself. If I bang my head against the wall right now, is there a curved and padded female specimen reading this that is willing to advance the cause of medicine with me?
- So tranquilisers, huh? The word must have changed meaning in the future.
- Wolf in the Fold contains one of the most brilliant examples of level-headed reasoning I've ever encountered. I hope that all homo sapiens in the 23rd century attain such mastery of unsurpassed, and indeed unsurpassable, logic. The thing goes like this, literally: Scotty, suffering from partial amnesia, is the prime suspect in the murder of three women, but the polygraph indicates he's telling the truth when he says he either didn't commit those murders or that he doesn't remember committing them. A psychic helping with the investigation manages to say "Jack the Ripper" before she too dies. Kirk's immediate conclusion? Why, it must have been Jack the Ripper, of course! However, as those London murders happened hundreds of years ago, the only reasonable explanation is that both Jack the Ripper case and the "Scotty case" were committed by the same centuries-old non-corporeal entity that can manipulate memories and assume physical form at will! Duh! Great, innit?
- After successfully solving the grisly triple murder case, Kirk's first order of business? Let's go to the nearest nightclub and continue the sex party that was so inconveniently cut short by that bothersome and inconsiderate spectral murderer. Good times!
Mon, Sep 12, 2016, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 21, 2017, 4:53pm (UTC -5)
Hey, it's better than the ridiculous excuse they had in the actual episode...
As for the story itself, it... didn't really work. I mean, the mystery aspect should have been a success, and as long as you didn't think too much worked well enough to be entertained. But it just didn't help that everyone kept carrying the idiot ball around. The fact that the two follow up murders occurred showed a distinct lack of foresight on the part of Kirk and company, who despite seeing women stabbed left and right never thought to maybe, I don't know, stop leaving the knife lying around in broad daylight... Seriously, as soon as the hearing on the Enterprise convened with all the cast members and guest stars and front and center is a nameless female redshirt, I was convinced she was doomed (congrats for surviving the episode!) Also, the revelation that the knife came from the same planet as Piglett came way too late, after we already knew it was him. Why wasn't that fact disclosed earlier? Still, it was a semi-acceptable murder-mystery story...
...That then turned into a weird problem-solving episode at the end. A mystery's climax is supposed to be the revelation of the murderer, but here we have the last quarter of the episode switch genres and be about trying to defeat a ghost that feeds on fear and is possessing the ship. Fine, the resolution to that - hopping everyone up on happy pills (guess Psychiatrist McCoy didn't have enough booze and strippers on hand to prescribe that to everyone...) - was somewhat interesting to see, but the mood swings in the last 10 minutes kind of ruined whatever good will you might have had from the mystery part. At least, it all seemed messed up to me, and not really a satisfying payoff to the story.
Wed, Mar 22, 2017, 9:44pm (UTC -5)
Yes,Star Trek TOS did hold onto some traditional male/female values but hey it was the 60's and audiences had to relate.
Having said that I think they did a fine job of trying to achieve equality across the board with gender and race for the time period.
As for the episode it was an interesting way of explaining Jack the Ripper (before they knew a local butcher was to blame.)
Fri, May 19, 2017, 4:33pm (UTC -5)
Plenty of comments here about sexism - I didn't get the sense of being bombarded with that given the nature of Jack the Ripper's murders and staying true to that story.
I thought the ending was a bit of a letdown when the entity gets into the computer and then goes back into Hengist who was declared dead. The entity possesses the head Argelian but it doesn't do the blackout thing to try and kill somebody and generate terror. It seems to act differently from how it did on the planet.
The murder investigation on the ship was interesting - thought it was acceptable how it led to the entity.
Other than that - pretty much in agreement with Jammer's review here. Could have been a deeper examination of evil. Good episode that I remember from my childhood - not a classic by any means but certainly not one of TOS's duds. "Wolf in the Fold" just gets up to 3 stars our of 4 IMHO.
Sun, May 21, 2017, 10:46am (UTC -5)
I must say that the Internet must have spoiled me, because I found the dancer in the beginning to be rather dull instead of provocative and the close ups on her lower front awkward. especially the creepy smile that Scotty sports the whole time.
Sun, Aug 27, 2017, 6:08pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 7:05am (UTC -5)
I don't usually care much for star treks sexist out-dated humour/styles of writing but it was more of how unbelievable the characters were behaving thought the episode, especially Spock. Cringy, the only star trek episode I haven't rewatched!
Tue, Sep 12, 2017, 4:01pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Sep 24, 2017, 9:05pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 27, 2017, 5:43pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 30, 2017, 5:39pm (UTC -5)
As for the "sexism' accusations, I would just point out that the episode combines the slasher film genre (of which Robert Bloch is a master, coming from his work on "Psycho") and the sailors-on-leave setting in a sci-fi cocktail, and both of those genres depend on gender stereotypes. Anyone who watches a slasher film, even in recent years, knows their dependence on "women in terror" tropes. Not that I'm a huge fan myself, but that's the genre. And I don't understand why so many readers are shocked that the Enterprise officers taking shore leave on a pleasure planet act like, well, sailors on shore leave. That's because they ARE essentially sailors on shore leave, 23rd century space setting aside, and their behavior differs little from that of the TNG/DS9/etc. crews on Risa in the later shows. Personally, I find the "sexism" claims toward TOS to be self-righteous and anachronistic.
Having said that, the murder mystery here remains compelling and intriguing, including the spiritualist aspects of the story and the culminating reveal. John Fiedler is a strong guest star and the plotting unfolds with good pacing beats. But it's not a terribly rewatchable episode once you've seen it; the story depends on the viewer not knowing where it's going. As such, like many slasher stories/murder mysteries, it weakens on further scrutiny and re-watches. It's a good show, and good to see Scotty featured in a story as James Doohan does a nice job of conveying befuddled anguish, but it's not one on my top ten list. I like Robert Bloch's work on Trek, but I tend to like his other episodes a little better than "Wolf in the Fold."
Mon, Nov 20, 2017, 6:33am (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 16, 2018, 6:47am (UTC -5)
Otherwise, yes, the episode is clunky. I think its gender politics actually try to be ahead of the times, though. Remember, TOS characters are often treated as absolutely bastards to make a point, Kirk and company removed of their heroism, morality and righteousness depending on the political whims of the writer.
Here, as LT.BLT points out, we have an alien who is a metaphor for misogyny and sexual conquest. The Enterprise crew - in a parody of contemporary sailors on shore leave - are themselves horney guys subjecting women of other cultures (and coworkers) to cruelties, subjugation, humiliations and violence. The tension of the episode is whether man's (the episode ends with the crew destroying a sex fiend and then going to a strip club to enjoy and objectify women) behavior itself constitutes a kind of "wolf in the fold" than can be tamed or need be banished.
Sat, May 11, 2019, 5:16am (UTC -5)
A good concept, but the realization is lacking. It was pretty obvious who Redjac was going to be, and the Scotty set up was weak.
Interesting theory from other commentors that the Kirk and company, seeking out a strip club at the end, is meant to be an indictment of this sort of humiliating, subjugating behavior - hard to believe given how frequently the show indulged in it. But Bloch may have snuck it in there.
Sat, Sep 28, 2019, 7:55pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 28, 2019, 8:02pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 30, 2019, 4:20am (UTC -5)
Love this take on Jack the Ripper. My husband and I agreed this is one of the best episodes we've seen on tos for a while. Good job!
Mon, Feb 3, 2020, 4:03pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Apr 19, 2020, 11:26am (UTC -5)
What's worse, I think that story is supposed to serve as a potential motive for Scotty, to let the viewer think for a second that maybe he did do it?
But trying to look past that, I still like this episode and I agree with everything in the review. It's still genuinely creepy after all these years - the psychic screaming seemingly meaningless words, the creature showing itself and possessing different characters... and as much as I hate all things courtroom in TV shows - The Deadly Years being a particular offender - even that works in this case.
If anything, the way this is packed with classic horror cliches, I would have guessed it was another Halloween episode. But apparently it aired around christmas, so interesting choice ;)
Sun, May 24, 2020, 9:17am (UTC -5)
John Fledler is great as the wormy wolf in the fold (he played a similar role in 12 Angry Men, another legal episode) and effectively plays up the naysaying administrator. Kelley was also brilliant in this one; I love the way he already knows about the nightclubs Kirk brings up. You have to wonder what kind of life Bones led before his career on the Enterprise.
I'll go with 3 as well.
Fri, Jun 26, 2020, 10:11pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 19, 2020, 5:32am (UTC -5)
But seriously, if I wanted to watch a bunch of guys in a room asking Siri who murdered a bar dancer, I’d watch, er - the point is, I don’t want to watch that!
I give the sucker 2 1/2 stars (I threw in half more for the nice dance at the top of the hour), and let’s all head to this great place I know where the women are just so… you’ll see!
Sat, Dec 19, 2020, 10:12am (UTC -5)
Yeah, I don't think you can be too hard on this episode. It's the original Among Us.
Tue, Apr 13, 2021, 2:40am (UTC -5)
Ludicrous on so many levels... yet fun to watch. I wouldn’t give 3 stars, maybe 2.5?
Points of question:
1. All the people are human not aliens- yet hundreds if not thousands of years have passed on Orgelius. Yet it’s only the 23rd Century.
2. A sedative that acts as a narcotic? LOL
3. Crew members of a starship are employed mainly to walk the corridors? (Continuity error: they’re seen walking with aimless happy grins BEFORE the sedative is given)
4. Scott is sent to a basement room with an attractive lieutenant after being accused of misogynistic murder?
5. Hengist was an obvious choice of villain early on.
Oh well. Trek benefits from non-Trek episodes now and again. And the belly dance was good to watch.
Sun, Jun 6, 2021, 1:08am (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 16, 2021, 9:39pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Nov 6, 2021, 12:22am (UTC -5)
Even considering the time it's always an over the top parody of itself.
People who say it doesn't age well...I wonder what the limits are to a person's sense of humor if they can't appreciate irony or unintentional sarcasm on the unique levels Star Trek delivers it.
So bad it's good is an understatement. Every time Uhura's eyes do a subtle twitch in genuine disgust with some of the awful stuff they say directly to her (unabashedly) or two female cast members quickly look at each other in disillusioned solidarity. Those are the gems of the series. Where you see them embarassed for each-other, the script was so bad.
"Hahaha, silly women trying to do man stuff with all that weakness and nurturing." You can't make gold like this up, it takes a team of writers that smoke a pack a day in a beige room and use typewriters. I think I heard "male and female are universal constants," in three different episodes this season. Not that I subscribe to modern definitions but it's a big universe and we have examples on our own planet.
TNG is much worse. They pretend to be so much more enlightened because of advancements in makeup and spandex technology. Riker's worse than Kirk. Bold male libido didn't age well, pardon the double entendre.
This episode is ST at it's "best" if you can stomach all the fast assumptions and poor reasoning they try to just usher past the audience so Kirk can hurry and murder Piglet with one punch.
This episode can bring me to tears for so many reasons. I mean, obviously it's Jack the Ripper and he's somewhere in this room.
"Fascinating, captain. It was your plan all along."
And Scotty was totally gonna kill those girls anyway.
Sun, Apr 24, 2022, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
This episode theorizes that "true evil" is an entity that feeds off of fear. If we leave the technobabble aside, the episode may be theorizing the existence of such persons, persons who psychologically (not physiologically) draw sustenance from fear, terror. If such persons exist, it would be a possible explanation of the phenomenon of serial murders, which the episode directly links to.
Sometimes, we forget to recognize that the core theory the episode is propounding may have been way ahead of its time when the episode was first aired.
Sun, Jul 10, 2022, 6:48pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 4, 2022, 11:22pm (UTC -5)
Kara's dance was impressive. Too bad it was the same music as in The Cage.
The prefect actor was very good until he failed to react to the murder of his wife.
Sat, Dec 24, 2022, 6:05pm (UTC -5)
2-- Am I the only one bothered by sci-fi lke Star Trek frequently attributing evil to supernaturalish energy-demons rather than genetics, social conditions, or individual character. (cf.The Day of the Dove demon.)?
3---All the folks prattling on about sexism n the episode (justfied, conceded), it's getting like criticising an Agatha Christie mystery because of the classism and imperialism in the background.
Sun, Jan 1, 2023, 6:49pm (UTC -5)
This episode has a foundation with quite the pedigree. As @Trek fan pointed out, Robert Bloch (who’s penned a few other episodes before this one) is the writer of Psycho, so it makes sense that he’s written, essentially, a Star Trek slasher flick. He was also part of H.P. Lovecraft’s inner circle (and you can clearly see a lot of Lovecraftian atmosphere pop up here in there in “Wolf in the Fold”), so esoteric horror is clearly his thing. He conceived of a time travel story involving Jack the Ripper and the Marquis de Sade (yikes). In 1984 he penned the Victorian novel Night of the Ripper, which detailed a fictionalized attempt to nail--Jack the Ripper. Clearly, “Wolf in the Fold,” in which none other than Jack the Ripper is perceived as an evil near-immortal alien entity, might just be a kowtow to Bloch's Ripper fetish.
The thing is, I firmly believe that science fiction and horror are natural bedfellows. They mesh well together, as both have fantasy roots and sensibilities. One of my guilty pleasures is the Paul Anderson movie Event Horizon. If we ever do make it to deep space, I tend to think that what we’ll find there will have more in common with that film, The X-Files, the Alien franchise, the Predator franchise, Independence Day, Signs and Arrival than Star Trek or The Orville.
So it’s high time Star Trek tried something darker like “Wolf in the Fold.” What I like best about this episode is that it does its best to resemble a straightforward and typical whodunit detective story, but uses a totally otherworldly, alien unsub to turn that trope completely on its head. Here we have Administrator Barney Fife approaching this case with all the logic one can muster. Scotty was caught red-handed with the murder weapon in front of the dead woman’s corpse. Cut and dry. Yet, we know Scotty’s not a murderer (he’s a main character in a 1960's show) and so Kirk, standing in for us, is therefore willing to entertain any other possible explanation even if it strains credulity (A line so bad it’s good: “Captain, you’re behaving very much like a man who is desperately trying anything to save his friend.”). I love the conceit here--it's not that Scotty is lying to cover his guilt when he says he blacked out, it's that an alien influence is truly causing him to do so! Fife, it turns out, is the alien killer that has been framing Scotty. (Why doesn’t he throw Scotty in jail right after the first kill? It’s deliciously simple--he would then have to frame *someone else,* meaning everyone would suspect that something really screwy is going on. Keeping Scotty free makes his framing job consistent, and that much more believable).
Fife insists on appealing to ironclad logic throughout the investigation, and continuously does so, to keep the deflection up. It’s scary to think about -- in our world, in 2022, if an alien like this really existed and was framing people for its murders, the framing ruse would work perfectly. But because Kirk has seen everything, including psychopathic gas clouds and salt vampires, he’s perfectly willing to *see logic as the enemy,* treating Fife like a schmendrick the whole time. His utter resolve to prove that everyone’s eyes are lying to them is Star Trek just being a science fiction show, getting us to open our minds to things that exist beyond what we can program, categorize and easily reference.
Unfortunately, “Wolf In the Fold” does have a ridiculous kooky side that’s all too pervasive. For one thing, the idiotic smiles are back, @Peter G! (Of all the Star Trek tropes, I’m starting to think that this one is my favorite.) This time, McCoy’s laughing gas is able to literally repel fear. Also, the Magic Lie Detector from “Mudd’s Women” makes its ignominious return, and now they also introduce the vaunted Psycho Tricorder. While this lazy MacGuffin works for this plot, I can’t wait for a future episode where I can take the opportunity to say in my write-up, “Wait, why didn’t they use the psycho tricorder on that guy?” Or, “Gee, this problem would never have been possible if they only used the psycho tricorder.” I’m willing to bet that this is the one and only case that Star Trek will play this card, because even for science fiction, it’s patently absurd. My guess is, the writers hoped everyone would forget about psycho tricorders after this episode. “Psycho tricorder.” Fuck me! Even the name is goofy.
When Jack the Ripper’s jig is finally up, it leaves Fife’s body and invades the computer, taunting the crew by listing a whole bunch of its ideas on how it can use the ship to kill them, instead of just killing them. [Oh right, it needs to create terror in people first before it murders. My bad.] It’s now a race against the clock to get the damn thing out of the Enterprise’s system, with scenes that have Spock ordering the computer to compute pi, the crew cheesily succumbing to McCoy’s laughing gas trick, and Jack the Ripper spewing full-on cray-cray murderous nonsense (“You’ll die, die, die! Everybody will die!”) as Kirk carries it to the transporter and beams it into space. “Wolf in the Fold” basically degenerates into a parody of itself here. [My son, who loves to make fun of TV and movie scenes that he finds silly and absurd, promptly got up from the couch at the end of the episode and grabbed his brother, wailing, “Die! Die! Everybody die!” To which his brother, adept in wrestling techniques, promptly got him up over his shoulder (just like Kirk did) and carried him out to the kitchen as he continued on with, “Die! Die!! Kill you all!” And I’m hollering after them, “Uh-oh, your brother’s about to beam you into oblivion.” I have a silly family.]
There's one last thing I need to address, as it’s something many commenters above have mentioned. Yes, the sexism. The sexism. The smexism. The schmuckism. Yawn.
1.) @Matthew H, @William B, @Trek fan and @Rahul all have it exactly right. A show like “Wolf in the Fold,” most pulp mystery novels, or any given episode of Criminal Minds, have a certain trope of victimized women buried right into their DNA. Particularly for Robert Bloch, who wrote Psycho for God’s sake, the idea here is more about illuminating the psychology of the misogynistic cretinous villains than it is about catering to 1960’s demographics.
2.) On that point, is it really worth complaining about how women were depicted or objectified in the media almost sixty years ago? It’s 2022 now, folks. Does it really offend you that much? I doubt it. Those that are so quick to insist that this bothers them are probably lying to us, if not to themselves. They don’t care about sexism, really. What they care about is advertising their willingness to jump onto the virtue-signaling bandwagon for karma points.
“Wolf in the Fold” may have some truly out-there sensibilities and ideas, but I at least respect it for putting a science fiction twist on the forensic procedural drama. If you’re looking for a realistic, logically accurate, typical murder mystery based in cold hard reality, there’s always Criminal Minds.
Scotty (watching the belly dancer) -- “Captain, I think I’m going to like Argelius.”
My Grade: C+
Sun, Jan 1, 2023, 8:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: sexism, I think one difficult thing is that 'sexism' is an abstraction, and as such means that any talk about it is analysis rather than observation. And once we're into analysis things get tricky because we enter the post-modern black hole of context-within-context-containing subtext-etc that can go on forever. You can posit a theory, add one factor, and then it reverses the theory like a dipole moment. And what postmodern theory should teach us by now is that you can always add another factor. Let me give an example.
You have an episode like this, showing women subject to the power of men, in this case being both idolized and then killed. They are idolized on a physical basis, but in the case of Sybo for example also for their special gifts. And it is perhaps these traits that also attract the desire to kill them in the mind of the killer; maybe it's more than just the fact that Jack T.R. thinks they will get more scared than men will. Anyhow, the women are killed one by one. On its face this is just a tired trope. But let's do analysis and assume there's more to say about it than that. Level 1 analysis: since women being killed is a trope, this is an example of sexism, since once again women are portrayed as scared and weak. Level 2 analysis: maybe the show knows that it's a trope, and it's trying to show the trope for what it is. Therefore - not sexism, since it's making a comment on sexist portrayals in media. Level 3 analysis: But since it is employing sexist tropes in talking about sexism, it is once again sexist. And the charge flipping could go on from here. Level 4 could include the fact that the Ripper isn't human, therefore cannot be sexist as we know it (human male vs human female), and this is just as story about an alien. And so on. The same problems of analysis I've just illustrated are also present in modern analysis of actual society, but I won't go into that here. We can look at Robert Bloch, or even Alfred Hitchcock for that matter, and ask whether they were sexist for having a penchant for killing off attractive women. To me that's a rabbit hole. I'm not even sure if either was particularly interested in actual human psychology. It's more like demonology or something, like a look at distortions so hideous yet having a beauty to them. Do we not find the criminals in Strangers on a Train and Dial M for Murder fascinating and engaging? Or Tom Ripley in Highsmith's books? I am not sure it's the human qualities they posses that make them interesting, but perhaps the inhuman qualities, the things that do not resemble us as we know it.
Just a small mention about Criminal Minds, I did watch a season of it, and I hesitate to make a final pronouncement but I verge toward Patinkin's view that there is a difference between an examination of evil and wallowing in it. The reason he quit may be the same reason I stopped watching.
Sun, Jan 1, 2023, 8:05pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 1, 2023, 10:06pm (UTC -5)
Great, great points, and well stated. I tend to accept genre staples as a given, so when I'm presented with 1960's-70's Hitchcock, or Lovecraft, or in this case, Robert Bloch, I expect certain "victims," if you will, to simply be a part of the landscape. I admire your attempts to analyze the specific intentions of the writer here, and it indeed leads to some thoughtful questions while also pointing out the rabbit hole you so aptly describe. My guess is, Bloch was trying to say something about how most mysteries and horror stories have a perpetrator with a significantly imbalanced, skewed outlook on women as part of their psychopathy (McCoy remarks in an early scene that he suspects Scotty's concussion may be causing him to have a resentment towards women because it was a woman that caused the accident that inured him). It's out of proportion and wrong. For that, you simply need to put "the sexism" on display to make the point work. But I'm not sure. It does seem to me that Star Trek highlighted our faults to make us think critically about them more than it wallowed in them, so I tend to stick up for it a bit.
You know, I could see Mandy Patinkin's point and I respected him for it. It's clear, especially in the second season of Criminal Minds, that he was shading his performance of Gideon to reflect his own displeasure and horror about the stories crossing his desk every day. Most actors would simply internalize it, shut up and keep collecting the paycheck, but he didn't. The writers appeared to be bitter and unkind to his legacy over the next couple of years, having the other characters referring to Gideon as a basket case who ultimately succumbed to his weaknesses, blaming everybody around him (though I have to give them credit--Gideon finally got a decent resolution to his story in a much later episode called "Nelson's Sparrow," which was one of those rare Criminal Minds episodes that was so moving it made me cry). In the show's defense, I think Patinkin was slightly oversimplifying things, as there were plenty of male victims and various other types of stories even during his tenure. And while Criminal Minds is designed to be horrifying (lots of escapist entertainment is), I think that the reason it's endured for over fifteen years is that, beyond its incredible cast that created a bunch of characters you'd actually want to hang out with every week, it always finds ways to hold the viewers' hands through the misery. The classic "Mosley Lane" (Season 5), for example, is sickening and ruthless, but it was one of the most adult meditations about "hope" that I've ever witnessed and was deeply moving at the end. The show is worth a second look if you're interested.
Sun, Jan 1, 2023, 10:09pm (UTC -5)
"Btw I forgot to mention this, but I found your post interesting. I should have written that first."
And likewise, I forgot to thank you for this offering in my own reply.
I always enjoy your fascinating insights.
Sun, Jan 1, 2023, 11:30pm (UTC -5)
Have you watched Hannibal (the series)? That is an example of a show too depraved for me to entertain re-watching it, to the extent that its actual positive qualities are irrelevant. I can't say I remember Criminal Minds being as horrific as Hannibal was, but perhaps you can offer a comparison. If it's anything as 'ruthless' as that then I really couldn't possibly watch it. Those days for me are over. I used to think that facing down evil things could be important and educational, but I have changed my mind.
Mon, Jan 2, 2023, 12:21am (UTC -5)
I've not seen the Hannibal series yet, but I've always been meaning to get to it. I for one would be fascinated to see what Mads Mikkelsen does with that role. I'll keep you apprised.
I can say this though -- Criminal Minds is often tame compared to a lot of these true crime docuseries and newer horror offerings coming out lately. It's a product of the times I suppose, but the strategy of most execs and check-signers now seems to be, "If it doesn't shock them, they won't watch." I, at least, hope for a well-told story with my shock value.
Mon, Jan 2, 2023, 3:44am (UTC -5)
Always nice to hear this argument from our right wing citizens. You see, if people have a problem with a media product then they are not serious, no. They are virtue signalling.
A guy like right wing star Andrew Tate just got arrested for sex trafficking dozens of women. He had a following of 4 million on twitter and gave courses on how to groom young women. That was a guy who through punishment and coercion wanted to control women. Then there is the abortion ban where now millions of women's bodies are controlled by the state also thanks to the right.
So why is it so often that it's beautiful women who are murdered. These women are not just beautiful, they made an effort to look good. That's connected to the old question after a rape/murder. Did she deserve it somehow? Was she a slut?
What is murder? The ultimate form of control. So yeah all these things like Tate or abortion or good looking women murder being a trope are about the desire of heterosexual men to control women.
In other words sexism is all around us still. That is why people are offended by certain cultural tropes. Is a black American virtue signalling if he/she sees a racist movie from 80 years ago and is offended by that? The problem is still exists like sexism and people like PCP are helping by saying that people who are offended by sexism are insincere or in other words lying.
So yeah PCP sign yourself a sexism free pass if you must but keep in mind that all the right wing people constantly screaming virtue signalling, virtue signalling, virtue signalling sound brainwashed. Well, I'm looking forward to the next right wing moral panic.
Mon, Jan 2, 2023, 11:59am (UTC -5)
Your equation of murder with a sex trafficking cult and with the abortion topic is logically unworkable. I'm not sure it should be necessary to connect all bad things and to call them all sexisms; that sort of reductionism makes it hard to discuss the sexism that actually does exist. It's like trying to have a discussion about social nuance and then having WHAT ABOUT JACK THE RIPPER thrown in. These types of hyperbole just explode the capacity for clear thinking.
Mon, Jan 2, 2023, 1:52pm (UTC -5)
"to connect all bad things and to call them all sexisms; that sort of reductionism makes it hard to discuss the sexism that actually does exist."
Actually does exist?!
Sex trafficking, murder by serial killers of women (almost all serial killers are men and most victims are women) and the abortion ban are all about sexism.
Mon, Jan 2, 2023, 5:23pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 3, 2023, 7:17am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 4, 2023, 6:03am (UTC -5)
The cognitive dissonance of right wing guys is glaring. Constantly vilifying and complaining about women or minorities who point out actual discrimination on one hand. What they call VIRTUE SIGNALLING. But when somebody points out some general facts about heterosexual men then they immediately jump to antisemitic conspiracy theories about white genocide. Here are some facts. Heterosexual men commit the most murders, the most crime in general, they do the least amount of voluntary work and are the most intolerant. But instead of thinking about making some changes, these right wing guys rather focus on vilifying LGBT people and watch two man in underpants fight in a metal cage who give each other brain damage in the process. I saw a segment on Tucker Carlson (he also had Andrew Tate on his show) in which a guest called all LGBT people evil and that they want to groom kids. Carlson agreed. It is really no wonder that violence towards LGBT people is at an all time high in the US.
One would wish that these right wing guys reflect on it but I rarely see it happen. It actually seems to get worse. On a positive note, the rest aka the majority of heterosexual men seems to finally make some changes that will benefit them immensely when it comes to emotional bonds with their kids and general emotional well-being to name a few areas.
Wed, Jan 4, 2023, 7:23am (UTC -5)
Happy New Year!
Wed, Jan 4, 2023, 8:04am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 5, 2023, 6:30pm (UTC -5)
Ok, maybe there are some good ones. ;)
What do you mean? Just the truth without the sugar coating. When people like Matt, Rahul or PCP vilify LGBTQ people based on paranoia or blabber on about virtue signalling then I find it useful to mention that heterosexual men are worst in any metric I can think of. Just a little reality check.
Wed, Jan 18, 2023, 9:39am (UTC -5)
Joking aside, this is one of the very few episodes I’ve decided not to watch again. Firstly because it is, as others have described, the TOS version of a slasher movie, and that genre is really not my idea of entertainment… so that’s a personal thing. But secondly, the episode’s starting point is really, really dumb. So Scotty got injured in an accident caused by a woman, and that’s why he suddenly resents the female half of humanity? I totally understand why viewers might find this offensive, but beyond that, it’s mind-numbingly stupid. Just replace “woman” by any other random category, and you’ll see why… what if Scotty’s injury was caused by someone with blue eyes? Or someone who likes football? Would anyone think it was remotely reasonable to blame all people with blue eyes or football fans all over the world? I know that Scotty isn’t supposed to be reasonable, due to the blow to his head, but even McCoy and Kirk are talking about his condition as if it were a medical fact, a well-known and consequential symptom – Kirk even calls their pub-crawling a “therapeutic shore leave” IN HIS CAPTAIN’S LOG! I guess I could live with this if it were played for fun… if at some moment it became obvious that Kirk and McCoy invented their “treatment” of getting Scotty involved with a girl in order to have an excuse for going down to the Pleasure Planet themselves… but everyone seemed to be completely serious about it. And that’s why for me, the episode didn’t work at all… being deadly serious about something so utterly silly.
Wed, Mar 15, 2023, 11:02pm (UTC -5)
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