Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tiger Mama, Revisited Yale Law Revue Style

Back when I was at the Yale Law School, we students had a tradition called "The Yale Law Revue" where we wrote parodic lyrics to popular songs and used them to make fun of our (highly) eccentric law school experience.  Any foible was fair game, the more public the better.

I expect Amy Chua and her "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" to be prime targets.

In the spirit of those halcyon days of yore, I offer my own take on Amy Chua and the Tiger Mother.  I offer you "The Battle Hymn of the Best-Seller." 

Sing along--you already know the tune.

Mine eyes have read invective of a thousand Mommy Blogs
They say I am abusive, that I treat my kids like dogs
Of my derelictions they make damning catelogues
And the books fly off the shelves!

Glory glory hallelujah!
All you mommies--how I fooled ya!
My book reached number six
On the Amazon sales list
And the bucks keep rolling in!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Who Doesn't Love Legos?

And Who doesn't think this is adorkable?

Even my cold dead heart feels a little flicker of warmth.

Apparently these are not actually Legos (TM) but "brick building sets" by a company called Character Options, and they should be available around Easter 2011.  (Source)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Mommy Wars, Explained for Daddys

I guess I really have to do this.

Recently, I wrote about a (now all but antique!) article in the New York Times called "Frazzled Moms Push Back Against Volunteering," and I was pushing my take that this was Mean Girls All Grown Up.  The article started with the heartbreaking tale of a mommy who was so busy planning fund raisers and designing t-shirts for the school that she didn't have time to help her own kids with homework. So she bravely took the radical step of cutting back on volunteering and now she has time to play ping-pong and Wii.

And then her kids come home and she plays with them too!  Buh dum BUM!

I was snarky about this article.  It pushed my buttons, and I went to town with my thesis that this was just another round in the "Mommy Wars" in which Stay at Home Mommies and Work Outside the Home Mommies accuse each other of being Worst Mommies and making Bad Choices about their priorities. 

It seems I've missed the point.  A Daddy went out of his way to point out to me that "the article was really about how schools are asking too much of their parents, and volunteer burnout is an issue."

Just like a man.

Because I don't think men get this--this exquisite sensitivity that women have to being judged by other women.  Maybe this goes back to our different formative years on the playground.  Boys went out at recess and played "King of the Mountain," where they literally hit each other over the head and pushed each other off whatever pile of dirt they were claiming, and this did not affect their friendships.  Meanwhile, back in Girl World, the mere comment "nice knee socks" meant social death for the rest of the school year, if not longer.

So was I surprised that a Daddy didn't get the nasty digs and social posturing inherent in the "Frazzled Moms" article?  I was, but I shouldn't have been.  Because a man doesn't vibrate to the same resonances of social status as women do, and a man's identity isn't as tied up in his self-image of "Good Daddy" the way a woman is in her image of a "Good Mommy."  A man can read that article and actually think that the pressure to over-commit to volunteering comes from the school and not from the other over-committed  parent mother volunteers.

Let's take a look at what the article gives us.

First, there is that heartbreaking story of Jamie Lentzner, who once she stopped volunteering went home, played ping-pong and hosted Thanksgiving dinner for twenty-seven relatives and friends.  This is not a woman who was forced by her school to overcommit--this is a woman who can't say no.  Who hosts Thanksgiving dinner for that many people?  Someone who likes to do that sort of thing, and would rather do that sort of thing than help her kids with school projects.  This was not the school's fault.

Next up, a case of heartbreak and woe from the American South:

“Volunteerism is way down at our school this year,” said Gary Parkes, the PTA president at Carmel Elementary School in Woodstock, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. At the school’s recent annual fall festival some games had to be closed down because of a lack of adult volunteer supervisors. 

Did they cancel the "fall festival?"  No.  Did they fail to raise funds?  No.  Was this part of the school curriculum?  No.  Was there even a district employee interviewed?  No. This was a case of a slightly smaller "festival" run by the PTA.  Was this even a case of "frazzled moms" refusing to participate in a school's excessive demands for volunteer time?  Not according to PTA President Parkes--there are fewer volunteers available because the economy sucks and they had to go get jobs to keep their families afloat.

Our next guest at the pity party is a former PTA president from Los Angeles who estimates that she attended over one thousand meetings in ten years as a volunteer.  So that's an average of 100 meetings per school year.  Consider, then, that California has only 180 mandated instructional days, and you realize that this insane woman was at meetings 55% of the days her kids were at school.  That's not a volunteer position, that's a more than part-time job.  And who did she compare herself too--the teachers?  The principal? 

“I know a woman — the work she did for the public schools was so critical — she made me look like a loafer,” Ms. Auerswald said.

So who exactly is setting this women up for self-destructive levels of volunteering?   Is the school really demanding that mothers leave their children at home with babysitters, or is this a Competitive Mommying Olympics? 

The next Martyred Mommy ran a book festival.

Ms. Jones is a mother of two in Keller, Tex., who works part time as a booking manager for professional speakers. This fall she was co-chairwoman of the Scholastic Book Fair, a commitment of five full days on top of the multiple meetings required to organize the event. And the decorating. 

Her kids didn't even attend the school any more--they had moved to a charter school, and rather than find a substitute to take her place, Ms. Jones decided to keep volunteering.  At a professionally sourced book festival that is a fund raiser run by Scholastic Books as a business proposition to sell their inventory and incidentally a way to raise some money for the school.  Take a look at the Scholastic web site and tell me that this is something the school is asking parents to do.

Even when her kids changed schools, Ms. Jones couldn't break her volunteering habits.
“Selfishly, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is my chance for a clean break,’ ” she said. “I thought, ‘I can go somewhere where no one knows me, and I can sit silently under the radar and not volunteer.’ ” But, she explained: “My kids really like me volunteering. Their faces light up when I’m there.”

There are two more sob stories--the woman who was so busy she didn't have time to celebrate her own birthday, and the woman whose email filled up because the other volunteers didn't know the difference between "Reply" and "Reply All."  The latter woman saw a need and developed volunteer coordination software which has become a business opportunity.

You know what is missing from these stories?  Teachers.  Classroom volunteering.  Actual requests from the educators.  It's all parent committees and PTA and extra-curriculars, and people who have no limits, but are unable to take any responsibility to Just Say No.  (So why do we think this will work to keep kids drug free?  Don't get me started.)

With the smallest of exceptions, the article presents a dichotomy of volunteering vs. staying home and raising your children.  It's presented as an all-or-nothing situation: either you volunteer and leave your kids with baby-sitters and feed them frozen pizza, or you stop all volunteer activity and stay home to teach your kids to read.  Because the author of this piece isn't actually investigating anything about how volunteers actually assist in supporting cash-strapped schools, or analyzing return-per-volunteer-hour of fund raising.  Instead, it's a case of Judge-y McJudgerson disapproving of the way certain mothers spend their time, when they should be home with their children--playing ping-pong, and hosting enormous Thanksgiving dinners.

I myself am a "former volunteer."  But I did volunteered doing things I enjoyed doing, and I said "no" to things that would demand more time than I wanted to give.  I worked for years on the school book festival, but I never chaired it.  And after my kids left the school, I stopped volunteering.  Some things stopped entirely, or were radically revised, to reflect the interests and availability of the parents.  Just because something has been done doesn't mean it needs to be perpetuated, and I am fine with change.  I have always been fine with that. 

Some parents (mothers) I know disapprove of the changes that came after they (and their kids) left the school.  "The book festival doesn't raise nearly as much money as it used to when we were in charge" or "I can't believe they don't even bother to hold Teacher Appreciation Day every month!"  They apparently think that some volunteers don't work hard enough.  I have also heard parents (mothers) complain that some events are too lavish and labor intensive.  Maybe they are all right.  But this is the kind of catty innuendo that is the equivalent of "nice knee socks."  It is not the fault of the schools.

Think about it--what is a school supposed to do to save these women from their own excesses?  The PTA says "we'd like to raise money to pay for new library books/art supplies/band uniforms and we'd like to have a book festival/fall fun fair/Doughnuts for Dads program that we will organize and staff with our volunteers."  Who at the school do these people suppose is going to say "No!  Stop!  Don't raise money!  Don't donate!  Don't try to fill a perceived need!  You might make some kid eat frozen pizza for dinner if you do!"

Sure, maybe somewhere in this great country of ours, there are schools that really do specifically ask parents to volunteer in order to make ends meet.  And maybe there actually are educational institutions that over-tax their volunteer base and need to deal with volunteer burn-out.  This article, however, does not make that case in any way, shape or form.  Instead, it uses innuendo and blame to turn The Woman Who Didn't Have Time To Wii into a victim of the American educational system.

I get what the article was pretending to do--it was pretending that this was a real problem with the way schools are run, and that's what the Daddy saw.  What he couldn't see was the insidious smear campaign against women who are So Selfish as to do something outside the home, which invariably leads to the children suffering!  Men leaving their wives!  Broken homes and broken hearts and frozen pizza for the children!  Stop the insanity and go back home, you selfish volunteering mommies!  Your children are crying for you!

And don't tell me that I missed the point.  Because I didn't.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mommy Wars Take No Prisoners: "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior"

Yale Law School Professor Amy Chua has decided to step outside her profession and training, and offer a parenting manual based on the extensive data set and broad longitudinal studies of . . . herself.  We here at Chez Evil are cackling in glee and issuing an invitation to join our club.

We extend this invitation based on the article printed in Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal last Saturday, titled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior."  This is an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir, which is itself titled "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,"  which we here at Chez Evil look forward to reading.  Here are some juicy tidbits from the WSJ article:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.

 As an Evil Fairy, I look forward to reading the thoughts of such a obviously like minded individual.  I do have some concerns, however, and so I offer Professor Chua some advice for some changes that should be in the next edition.

The title must be changed.  Compare the strength and hostile offensiveness of the WSJ title--"Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior"--to the weak and near literary metaphor of the book title.  Sure, maybe tiger mothers are fierce, or something, but who can get immediately insulted and angry about that?  It lacks the open aggressiveness of the article's claim of superiority, coupled with the racial and ethnic stereotyping inherent in limiting that superiority to the mothers of only one nation.  Sure, Chua pretends that there are other, not-strictly-from-China mothers who "qualify," but that's just giving up the high ground.  The book should just go for the jugular and call itself  "Why Your Kids Are Genetically Inferior And You Suck At Parenting."

Correct the nomenclature.  Chua calls Sophia and Louisa her "daughters."  The correct term is "minions."

Drop the euphemisms.  Chua offers this anecdotal definition of "strictness:"

[M]y Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough.
 Can we do away with the pussyfooting around the term "practice their instruments?"  The proper term is "enhanced interrogation," also known as "waterboarding."

Expand the principles outside schooling. Chua has missed the opportunity to apply her principles outside the limited scope of raising children in an environment where education has a positive value.  Take what she says about the value of repetition:

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it's math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

This is precisely the principle I use to run my successful Evil Enterprises. How do they expect to get any better and shoveling coal if they don't keep working at it?  Whiners.

Once this little girl is good at shoveling coal, she will enjoy it and I can make her work harder.

Apply these principles to adult work.  Look, it's obvious--what works for kids should also work for adults. Chua clearly sees how things like "union-mandated work breaks" are just caving in and creating failure.  When her minion daughter had trouble learning a piano piece, Chua knew that the only solution was to bear down.

Lulu couldn't do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off.
"Get back to the piano now," I ordered.
"You can't make me."
"Oh yes, I can."

This is why I just go ahead and chain my minions to their workstations--it cuts down on the backtalk.  Chua continues:

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn't let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom.

Because nothing fosters a successful business like dehydrated and urine-soaked workers.

Chua has simply failed to lift her sights high enough with this book.  Because isn't it obvious?  We are the ones who know what is best for those little people, and we don't need to put up with their complaints.  They owe us because of all we have done for them--the spying, the interrogation, the abusive personal relationships.  We don't do that for our own satisfaction!  Absolutely not!  We do it because it is for their own good, so they can be successful and get into law schools, where they can come out to a paucity of jobs and crippling debt, because that's success, baby!

NYT Re-Ignites the Mommy Wars

Well, it's been a while since I've found myself in the front lines of the Mommy Wars--you know, that never ending battle about what women "should" be doing with their time, once they've reproduced.  Because god knows we can't seem to allow women to make choices or -- the horrors! -- make mistakes and learn from them.

No, women are obviously better served by media outlets focusing on a small collection of unhappy women and then self-righteously smacking them down for daring to live their lives.  The latest is this article "Frazzled Moms Push Back Against Volunteering."

I wish getting seriously pissed off counted as cardio exercise.  Then I could recommend clicking on the link and reading that article.  As it is--not so much.  It's another salvo in the "Stay at Home Mommy" vs. the "Working Mommy" war--a war with no winners and a pointlessly inflated casualty rate.  The twist here is that the "working mommy" isn't actually working at all--she's volunteering!  At her kids' school!  But lest you think that school volunteers are a good thing, the article writer manages to find over committed volunteers doing "unnecessary" things!

So, pared down to its essence, this is an article about women who should be at home tending to their husbands and children, but have the audacity to do something else with their time.  And yes, the article includes the obligatory story of a Man Who Left His Wife Because She Spent Too Much Time Working.  Women!  They just don't know their place.  Good thing the New York Times is here to Explain It All.

You see, these women are doing something outside their own homes.  They are doing volunteering, but their time is spent on activities that the NYT reporter thinks are frivolous.  Class T shirts, for example, or Teacher Appreciation Day, or Doughnuts for Dads Day.  The implication is that these women are wasting their time, neglecting their families, and can't be trusted to make good decisions about how they spend their time.  So their husband will leave them and their kids will be improperly parented and all of us NYT readers will be justified in our self-righteous condemnation of these Stupid Women.

This obviously pushes a bunch of buttons for me, and I just can't let it lie.  Because articles like this are a big part of the problem that makes women's lives untenable right now--because life is uncertain, and we want the security of One Right Way to lead our lives that will guarantee a happy family, healthy and successful kids, a strong and lasting marriage.  It's just not possible, of course, but that doesn't mean it's easy to accept.

 Look, if everybody was exactly the same, this would be easy, right?  If your marriage and my marriage were identical, we would have been able to create The Perfect Marriage under laboratory conditions and there would be no divorce.  If every child needed the exact same education and home life, we wouldn't have parenting books and school would be a matter of making sure each kid had the right number of Learning Calories and life would be predictable.

Boring.  But predictable.

But life isn't like that, and my solution isn't your solution.  Or, as my mother used to say, "That's why Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors of ice cream."

You know what?  Some women are driven and controlling, and they are going to exist in the workplace and as volunteer parents at your kids' school.  If they are making volunteering miserable for you, then--don't volunteer.  Just say no.  Or limit your involvement to what you think is meaningful and valuable.  Consider that the uber-volunteer isn't doing this just to make your life miserable.  She's handling her own life and her own issues the best she can.  Maybe she's wrestling with issues about her own parents, and wants to be involved in her child's life in a way her own parents weren't.  Maybe she can't say no, and so has to take on everything she is asked to do.  Maybe she just has a high metabolism and just runs faster than you do. 

Is she judging you?  Sure, probably.  After all, you are judging her.  Fair's fair.

The problem is that this article is little more than snotty coffeeklatch gossip dressed up in respectable clothing and published in a newspaper as if it is journalism.  Dressed up in the smart couture of a NYT article, it seems like it's something that deserves consideration.  But if you took this article and put it into Betty Draper's mouth, you'd reject its conclusions and despair that these women didn't have anything better to do than complain about such small things.

Remember this article, because next we're going to tackle "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Because Doctors are Cool

What do you get when you cross a quintessentially British Doctor with a quintessentially American Doctor?

Available for purchase from artist Bill Mudron here.

Linky goodness discovered via Pajiba, io9, Bleeding Cool, and Bill Mudron.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Journal of Interesting Things--Old Navy Techno Hoodie

Wandered into Old Navy and found a wall display of "Techno Hoodies" on sale so I bought one.  Because I listen to my iPod while walking the dog, doing housework, falling asleep (but only sometimes).  So I thought I'd try a zippered hoodie with built in earphones.

I love it!  The earbuds are wired through the drawstrings, and are as good as the ones I usually use: hardly Bose quality, but good enough for me.  The connector sits in the front pocket, which is large enough to hold my iPod Touch, and hey presto!  I have audio without a dangling wire to get caught on things and rip the buds out of my ears!

An added feature is that I can plug into my computer as well, without having to untangle wires and sort the plug from the earbud ends.  It's incredibly convenient.  The hoodie is rather light weight, not the warmest sweatshirt that I own, but fine for layering and wearing in the house. 

The only drawback?  I only bought one, and it does have to go into the laundry occasionally.  And they aren't available on the website anymore.

Steven Moffat's "Jekyll"--A Review

Before he took over running "Doctor Who," Steven Moffat brought us "Jekyll."

The English are apparently more comfortable experimenting with format than Americans are; it is almost impossible to imagine American television executives green-lighting a "series" of only six episodes.  What would we call it?  It's not a "made for TV movie;" since it's more than two hours long .  It's not a "mini-series," a format exclusively for filming trashy novels by Judith Krantz.  Even sporting events are shorter than that!  There's simply no American broadcasting model that would accept a six-hour, self-contained television show.

Thank god for the BBC, then, because Jekyll was fascinating.  And while it kind of ran off the rails in the last two hours, it was definitely worth watching.

The Plot In Brief

Contemporary scientist Dr. Tom Jackman has a split personality that behaves badly.  He's given up the rest of his life (wife, kids, job) in order to control the monster and hires a psychiatric nurse to manage him. As the violent personality become stronger, Jackman learns that he is a direct descendant of Dr. Jekyll and he's experiencing the Mr. Hyde--the novel wasn't entirely fiction after all!  And now, mysterious people are after him.  So this is a sort of a contemporary riff on "Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" rather than an adaptation or remake.  What is the connection between Jekyll and Jackman?  Who are the people in the black van? 

Stop reading right now if you haven't seen this series and want to remain unspoiled, because brother am I going to spoil the hell out of it from here on. Just go stream this from Netflix and come back later.  It's definitely a fun ride.  If you do read on--don't say you haven't been warned.

The Plot In Not So Brief

In the brilliant first two to three hours, we are thrust headlong into the chaos that Jackman is trying to manage.   The series opens with the mild mannered Jackman interviewing a psychiatric nurse while simultaneously strapping himself into what looks like an electric chair.  Right away, we are shown the techniques Jackman is using to cope with the fact that half the time his body is running around with all the self control of a toddler but the authority of an adult.  Just take a look at the face of James Nesbitt and you have to agree--he totally nails that "Dangerous Toddler" thing.

Awww! He's even got dimples!

The two halves have come to some sort of arrangement, but they don't get along.  Jackman hides his family, his home, even his name from his other half.  Hyde orders vicious drink combinations in order to leave Jackman with a hangover the next morning, and takes delight in forcing Jackman to "come to" in difficult situations. Middle of a date?  In a room with a prostitute?  In one instance, Jackman hisses "Just once could you tell me where you parked the car?" as he wanders forlornly clicking the key remote until a car responds.  This was so much fun to watch as Jackman had to find new ways to outwit himself.

Jackman is married to Claire, played by Gina Bellman, who might actually be Sofia Coppola.

Gina Bellman

Sofia Coppola
They are estranged, and he won't tell her why he's left her and their boys.  So she (quite sensibly) hired a private detective and is infuriated that there's not even an affair.  For some reason, the detective didn't tell Claire about the Hyde thing, so he goes to find out why.  On his way, he spots an omnipresent black van that has been following him, rather obviously, which he snots at the detective is a bit of a give-away.  She asks him to sit still for a minute, and then drives away for good: because the detective agency doesn't have a black van.  BAM!  Brilliant set up!  We have suspense, we have conflict, we have mystery!  We have Moffat at the helm and we have James Nesbitt having obvious Big Fun! playing Hyde.

Sadly, what we don't have is a coherent plot, and the series runs off the rails as too many ideas are shoe-horned into the script, which will be discussed later.  Let's finish the recap first.

Claire's detectives have been paid to follow him, and then paid even more to stop following him.  Being detectives, they are do a bunch of internet research and inform Jackman that he is the last decendant of Dr. Jekyll, who died in Edinburgh in 1876, and he has his own Mr. Hyde.  The company Jackman works for exists solely for the purpose of re-creating Mr. Hyde and then exploiting the genetic result.  Curing cancer for start.  They're the ones with the black van, and have been following him around trying to catch him as Mr. Hyde.  When that hasn't worked, they take the wife and kids hostage and then there is a bunch of running around and putting people into life support machines and revealing secret basement laboratories with dripping water and plastic sheeting and things that jump out and scare you.

Skipping over the problematic parts of the plot, what seems to happen is that Jackman turns out to be (coincidentally) an exact genetic copy of the original Jekyll.  The corporation tried to clone Jekyll, but wasn't successful--and the mistakes are kept in the secret basement lab and used to create extremely lucrative drugs that cure all kinds of things.  It turns out Jekyll/Robert Louis Stevenson lied about the potion that brought out Hyde:  there was no potion.  Rather, it was the result of his falling in love, so the Evil Corporation cloned Jekyll's love-- Claire. Claire learns to accept Hyde as a part of Jackman, although there are limits.  There is a lot of running from Bad Guys with Guns, a Big Bad female executive with an atrocious "American" accent.  During all this, Jackman and Hyde have somehow integrated their personalities a bit, while separating their bodies, so in the end, Hyde gets shot and killed, but Jackman is uninjured.

In a silly epilogue, Jackman finds his biological mother, who is herself a Jekyll/Hyde and turns into the Big Bad female executive with the atrocious accent.  Dunnn dunn DUNNNNNH!

The Problems With The Plot

God forbid we complain about too many ideas, but there are really just too many things left dangling.  Not just "unresolved" so much as "WTF was that all about?"

A.  What the heck is Hyde?
Traditionally, Hyde is interpreted to be the uncontrolled "dark side" of civilized humans--what Freud would have labelled "the id."  Mama Jackman says that isn't the case here--Hyde is the fury and violence of love.  Her proof is that the first time Claire realized she could kill someone was when she became a mother.

But wait--Hyde isn't just a manifestation of Jackman's violence--he is actually physically different from Jackman.  Several characters point out that he's taller, narrower through the shoulders, has different eye color and a different hair line.   (Did Hyde go get Nesbitt's hair transplantsnerk)  This distinction is even demonstrated a few times as Jackman's wedding ring falls off Hyde's finger. This is later reinforced when they discover that they don't have to share injuries--Jackman notices that Hyde has a cut on his hand that Jackman doesn't have.So the two sort of share a body, but sort of don't, and that paradox continues throughout.

Then, Hyde "gets loose" and starts leaving messages all over the lab to the effect that "I am coming."  It shows up on cell phone messages, computer screens, and bulletin boards.  "He's in our heads!" exposits the head scientist.  So, if he's just a genetic mutation, how does he do that? 

B.  What the Heck is the Deal With Mom?

Throughout the first three hours of the series, we are told that Tom Jackman was a foundling, abandoned at a train station: no parents or family at all.  There is a raggedy old lady who shows up and claims to be "the closest thing you have to a mother."  Then it turns out that she IS his mother.    And she's been dead for fifteen years after an auto accident, but looks exactly the same as she looked 15 years ago.  And she can disapparate from locked security rooms.  AND she's got a Mr. Hyde side too, that has somehow picked up an "American" accent that carries quite a few English vowels, in addition to travelling from the Old South to New Texas and back within a few sentences.

So, why is there so much insistence on Jackman having no family at all if we are going to have Mom showing up?  Why does everybody simultaneously insist that Jackman is actually a descendant of Dr. Jekyll--if all we know about where he came from was that he was left at a train station?  And when Mom turns out to also be the Evil Head of the Evil Corporation--didn't anybody notice that she had a baby?  

This is never explicated--any of it.  But it does start to smack of the "Hyde syndrome" as being some sort of science fiction-y invented thing that simply cannot be explained by "genetic coding."  In which case, why does Jackman have to be an exact duplicate of Jekyll anyway, because there is no way MOM is the a genetic duplicate of Jekyll--so where does Hyde come from?  See also, supra.

C.  How Incompetent Are Mercenaries Anyway?  (Tale of a Red Shirt)

I have to admit I was not excited about the flashback/Apocalypse Now nonsense about the security head in the last episode.  Sorry, but the guy was obviously a red shirt, and nothing about the set up scenes made him anything more than cannon fodder.  Was the point to make this guy somehow seem more dangerous than the previous Heads of Security?  It didn't, just reinforced the cliche of a "bad ass mercenary" who for all his "highly trained strike force" set up actually did the obviously stupid thing and walked up to stand next to Hyde with no weapon, no security plan, no evidence of considering the guy in any way dangerous.  So what happens?  What you expected to have happen.  Let's briefly reconstruct the scene:

Ext. shot, rooftop.  The Jackman wife and kids have just been whisked away by helicopter by the bad guys.  Hyde is left standing in a sliced and bloody shirt on the edge of the roof, head down in an attitude of dejection.
Symes: The word is "now."
Mercenary: (Steps out from behind balaclava clad ninja gunmen.  Mercenary is wearing ordinary fatigues--no body armor, no helmet, holding no weapon.  Approaches Hyde, and claps a hand on Hyde's shoulder.)  I have waited a long time to do this.
Hyde: (Raises his head, bares his predator teeth, roars, grabs Mercenary by the throat and throws him over the roof.)  Is that the best you have?

I call shenanigans!  There is no way some guy--hired solely for the job of taking Hyde alive--acts this stupid.  It's not just that the guy was hired for this job, but that he was hired and given a year to train and plan for the apprehension.  He's given all the money and weaponry he wants, he's got a dojo of muscular guys and over a year to plan for how he's going to do this.  Surely he didn't think that "Kindly Irish Cop Taking Keys From Maudlin Drunk" was the right strategy to capture a psychopath?  Hell, it doesn't even work on maudlin drunks very often either.  It certainly doesn't work on the edge of a roof, when your only back up is a bunch of guys holding automatic weapons they've been ordered not to fire.

I mean, there are so many other ways to actually apprehend somebody!  Incapacitate this dangerous guy before you get to close!  Why do you think cowboys and Wonder Woman use lassos?
It's oddly difficult to find a picture of her actually lassoing somebody!

 If you've got guns, use them to weaken the guy before you get within arms reach--like gangsters who shoot knee caps.  In the Harry Potter books,  Hermione Granger used a Full Body Bind spell.  Even Winnie the Pooh dug a Heffalump trap, and he's a Bear of Very Little Brain!
Pooh, Piglet and the Heffalump Trap
So when the hard ass mercenary guy gets a four minute introduction and background, and then screws up the ONE thing he's supposed to do -- that's when I say "Now you're just jerking us around."

D.  Important Plot Elements Introduced RIGHT Before They Are Necessary

There are a couple of these: Jackman mentions he's claustrophobic mere minutes before he's locked inside the containment box, meaning that Jackman goes mad and dies, leaving Hyde alone in the body.  We couldn't have had that information in an earlier episode, even as character development from back when Jackman first meets Claire?

Similarly, we find out that injuries on Hyde suddenly don't show up on Jackman: a new fact that gets revealed in the last episode, right before we need Hyde to get gunned down and die but Jackman to live.  This is a problem, because if Hyde and Jackman aren't linked, then they might as well be two different people as far as dramatic tension goes.  All that "Hyde drinks to give Jackman a hangover" stuff is erased if "Hyde gets injured but Jackman doesn't"--the rules of the game are changed midway.  Then, if something bad happens to Hyde, it doesn't happen to Jackman, so the physical peril that occupies so much of the last three hours of the series doesn't have a pay-off.  And that's what happens.  Hyde gets shot (multiple times), but Jackman's got a Get Out Of Jail Free card, because they don't share the injuries.

Moffat Trademarks?
There are some narrative tricks that show up in other Moffat works.  Some of them struck me as treading the line between being "trademark" and being "cliche," but I do have to acknowledge that Moffat hasn't yet crossed the line permanently.

A.  The Impossible Conversation
There is a frightening sequence when Jackman first tries to catch a glimpse of himself as Hyde, and sets up a video camera to watch himself sleep.  The next morning, as he watches the tape, he finds himself carrying on a dialogue with himself that is chronologically impossible, since Hyde was taped several hours before:

Hyde: Pick a number!  I bet I can guess it!  Go ahead, pick a number!
Jackman: (whispers) 108.
Hyde: One hundred and eight!  I got it right, didn't I?

Where have we seen that one before?  Oh yes, in the fabulous Blink from Doctor Who, where David Tennant's time traveler is trapped in 1968, and has taped half a conversation that gets played off DVD easter eggs in 2007--and creates a coherent conversation with Carey Mulligan.

B.  Dangerous Man in a Box

Late in Jekyll, Jackman gets put into a life support box of some vague technological purpose, which is tipped to vertical and dramatically opened--much like the later Pandorica.

C Eidetic (photographic) Memory

Hyde emerges from the box independent of the more restrained Jackman, and suddenly gains the ability to DVR his own memories and rewind, pause and zoom them.  This allows him to go back to past events and re-view them to pick up on missed clues: both the Eleventh Doctor (in The Eleventh Hour) and Sherlock Holmes (in Moffat's brilliant Sherlock series) do this as well.


So, I've done a lot of complaining, and it would be reasonable to conclude that I didn't like it--but I did!  James Nesbitt was such fun to watch as he transitioned between the mild mannered Tom Jackman and the dangerous Billy Hyde.  The plot twists were fun as they happened, even if they don't hold up to examination. 

There was some discussion about whether there might be a Jekyll 2, which hasn't happened yet, and frankly I'd just as soon Moffat focusing on Doctor Who.