[This is part of my ongoing mission to clear my “drafts” box, which currently has 20+ blog post drafts in various degrees of completion. Half of this was composed in November, and the rest was finished in March.]
As a post on the blog Villainness observed about The Fall, “Never before has a show had so many feminist-meme moments.” Truth. To review, here are my (and the probably the world’s?)…
DSI Stella Gibson’s Top 10 Quotes
In chronological order, because heaven forbid I have to rank them in some other way.
1. Feminine Dichotomy [Episode 1.3]
[DSI Gibson:] Let’s not refer to them as innocent.
[Jim Burns:] They were innocent.
[DSI Gibson:] What if he kills a prostitute next? Or a woman walking home drunk, late at night, in a short skirt? Will they be in some way less innocent, therefore less deserving, culpable? The media loves to divide women into virgins and vamps, angels or whores. Let’s not encourage them.
2. Grammar Lessons [Episode 1.3]
[DCI Eastwood:] When did you first meet Sergeant Olson?[DSI Gibson:] That’s what really bothers you, isn’t it? The one night stand. Man fucks woman. Subject: man. Verb: fucks. Object: woman. That’s ok. Woman fucks man. Woman: subject. Man: object. That’s not so comfortable for you, is it?
“Objectivity is the methodological stance of which objectification is the social process. Sexual objectification is the primary process of the subjection of women. It unites act with word, construction with expression, perception with enforcement, myth with reality. Man fucks woman; subject verb object.”*
*MacKinnon, “Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State: An Agenda for Theory,” Signs 7:3 (Spring 1982), pp. 515-544. Quote from page 541.
3. It’s just misogyny [Episode 1.5]
This exchange between Gibson and Spector happens over the phone in the penultimate episode of Season 1. It’s delightful. He’s trying to engage in some sort of Hannibal-Clarice type dialogue with Gibson, and finally she’s just like, sorry, dude, TL;DR, let’s cut to the chase! The conversation goes like this, with the kickass line at the end.
[Spector:] “We’re very alike, you and me.”[Gibson:] “Oh, I don’t think so.”[Spector:] “Both driven by will to power, a desire to control everything and everyone. Obsessive, ruthless, living and breathing moral relativism. It’s just you’re bound by conventional notions of what’s right and wrong. And I’m free.”[Gibson:] “How are you free? You’re a slave to your desires. You have no control at all. You’re weak. Impotent. You think you’re some kind of artist, but you’re not.”[Spector:] “Art is a lie. Art gives the chaos of the world an order that doesn’t exist.”[Gibson:] “Is that really why you called me? To expound some half-baked philosophy? I’m disappointed.”…[Gibson:] “You think I’d let you walk away? You try to dignify what you do, but it’s just misogyny. Age-old male violence against women. For Fiona Gallagher, Alive Monroe, Sarah Kay, Annie Brawley, I won’t let you. You fucked up. You moved against Annie too soon. You didn’t prepare properly, you didn’t do the groundwork, and you didn’t kill her. You fucked up and we’re on to you.”
4. The Maleness Defect [Episode 2.3]
Here’s Stella at her most extreme or sarcastic or both?
[Jim Burns:] “Why are women spiritually and emotionally so much stronger than men?”
[Stella Gibson:] “Because the basic human form is female. Maleness is a kind of birth defect.”
Anderson reflected on that scene, as well, in an interview with Alyssa Rosenberg for a Washington Post article in 2015:
“That particular scene, where she talks about it as a birth defect, there were various takes, some that had a little more humor in it than others,” Anderson told me. “But it is interesting that the take that they chose did not, and she appears to pretty much have that opinion, that it is a birth defect, which is quite a strong statement.”
5. Of Monsters and Men [Episode 2.6]
Here’s the moment when Stella points out to the always-clueless Jim Burns that men fall on a spectrum. Jim is trying to say that Spector is evil, but Stella isn’t having any of it. She drives her point home by reminding Jim about his recent actions.
[Stella Gibson:] Men like Spector are all too human, too understandable. He’s not a monster. He’s just a man.
[Jim Burns:] I’m a man… I hope to God, I’m nothing like him.
[Stella Gibson:] No, you’re not. But you still came to my hotel room, uninvited, and mounted some kind of drunken attack on me.
[Jim Burns:] It wasn’t an attack. That’s unfair, I was– I just wanted–
[Stella Gibson:] What did you want?
[Jim Burns:] I don’t know.
[Stella Gibson:] To fuck me? Nail me, bang me, screw me?
[Jim Burns:] I wouldn’t use those words about you.
[Stella Gibson:] I was saying no, Jim, quite clearly. You ignored me and carried on.
[Jim Burns:] It’s not the same.
[Stella Gibson:] No, it’s not the same. But you still crossed the line.
6. What Men Fear [Episode 2.6]
This was such a great Season 2 moment. It comes from a lecture Margaret Atwood gave in 1982. The lecture was published, and her anecdote goes like this:
‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘I mean,’ I said, ‘men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.’
‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’
Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’
‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.*
*Margaret Atwood, “Chapter 50: Writing the Male Character (University of Waterloo, Hagey Lectures, 1982)” in Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982 (Toronto, ON: House of Anansi Press Limited, 1982), page 413. [Selected pages available for preview via Google Books.]
As an additional nod to Atwood’s general badassness, I could totally imagine this other Atwood quote (from a 1990 interview with The Paris Review) being incorporated into The Fall or said by DSI Stella Gibson; Atwood said, “Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.” Can’t you just see Gibson mentoring another young female professional, or perhaps chiding a male colleague by softly stating in her Anderson-cum-Gibson delivery, “Men often think women are paranoid. [Long The Fall style pause.] It’s not paranoia. [Another long pause.] It’s recognition of their situation.” Anyways. That’s not in the show (yet), but it so could be.
7a. Fight, Flight, or Freeze [Episode 3.1]
This is a two-parter because it was pretty great and worthy of two separate items on the list. It’s a Season 3 quote in which Stella spoke with a survivor’s husband and discussed responses to threats, survival, and consent.
[Tom:] Why didn’t she cry out? Or scream? Why didn’t she fight him? Why did she go with him?[DSI Stella Gibson:] Tom–[Tom:] Do you know that Nancy saw them crossing the street arm in arm?[DSI Stella Gibson:] Tom, I need you to listen to me right now… Men always think in terms of fight or flight. In fact, the most common instinct in the face of this kind of threat is to freeze. If she didn’t fight, if she didn’t scream, if she was silent and numb, it’s because she was petrified. If she went with him quietly, it’s because she was afraid for her life. And not just her life—yours and Nancy’s and the baby’s.
7b. Submission and Consent [Episode 3.1]
[DSI Stella Gibson:] In that state of fear she might well have been compliant. She might well have submitted. But that does not mean she consented.
8. We’re all in this together [Episode 3.2]
Here’s another classic Gibson girl moment with a younger colleague.
[DSI Gibson:] “We’ve chosen to work in a masculine, paramilitary, patriarchal culture. Let’s not let it beat us.”
Plus, that smirk she has at the end, which feels like a hug or a secret handshake, but in the workplace. It’s like, smirk, girl power!
9. What Women Do [Episode 3.4]
In this episode, Spector’s wife has just tried to kill herself and her children in the wake of the pressure being put on her regarding her husband’s actions. Stella is obviously distraught and blaming herself and all of her fellow colleagues for not recognizing that they were pushing her to extremes. She then makes an observation about women and their anger.
[Burns:] How were we to know she was that desperate?
[Stella:] It’s what women do with their anger, Jim. They harm themselves or extensions of themselves like their children. I mean, what frame of mind must she have been in to think that they were all better off dead? Instead of caring for her and supporting her, all we could do was drag her through the courts, and threaten her with prison.
10. Grow up [Episode 3.6]
Finally—and even though she gets the shit kicked out of her afterward in a truly gruesome bit of television—her taunts, and the evident disdain that her mere body language projects so wonderfully, break Spector.
[Stella Gibson:] I thought death would be too easy for you. Too easy an escape. And I didn’t want you to cheat the system. And I still don’t. I want you to be punished for the crimes that you’ve committed. Rose Stagg was so right about you. She saw right through you… your infantile desire to have a captive and captivated audience. You just want to be noticed. Just want to be the center of attention… to have special treatment… to make your mark. But it’s all just a performance. All of it. You perform for me… for your solicitor… your doctors, your nurse, your psychiatrist, even your family. It’s all just… one big performance… as protection against the dreaded black hole of your heart. Well, guess what, Paul. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to take responsibility for what you’ve done. Let’s stop this pathetic charade.
And this works. It provokes the hell out of him. The whole scene is so tense, with minutes of increasing tension leading up to it, and you can feel him about to snap.
Now, if you ever need to bask in some Stella Gibson, you can return here for a solid, though not comprehensive, list of Stella’s best feminist moments.
Now go—in peace, with regret, or in fiery righteousness—but either way, go have yourself some goddamned wine and ruminate on how being male is basically a birth defect. Stella said so.