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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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because it is very early and I'm very awake
dangerous sheppard
The horrible danger of insomnia combined with friendsfriends--God. It's *crack*. I am totally understanding the draw. Currently working on avoiding ep reviews nad spoilers, since I haen't watched The Return yet.

Anyway, while cruising along, I came across an entry--oh, just an entry of SGA squee, pre-episode, mentioning this and that and then, randomly at the end, a sudden diatribe against Joe Flanigan's acting skills. There was generalized horror and repugnance and the usual--weirdly usual, almost rote--discussion of the level of suckitude, so normal I don't even *notice* with any more than a blink.

Huh, I said, and as usual, skimmed and wandered off.

But it being five in the morning, I thought, well. It's fandom, and this is what we do. We sit around dissecting shows, characters, and actors. So I have to ask, because I can--um, what the hell?

I don't pretend to be anything close to an expert on acting, other than hoping Keanu Reeves is given few lines at any given time and a lot of really good shots of him being hot. That's as far as I get on appreciating this nebulous realm of 'good' versus 'bad'. But the fairly constant discussion of Joe Flanigan's lack of talent, lack of emoting, lack of this, lack of that--often paired up, oddly enough, with essays on David Hewlett's brilliance at whatever the poster has watched/did watch/is watching--it really makes me wonder. Otherwise squeeful individuals break into really *sudden* critiques of things like how Joe performed a ten second facial expression during a scene, or lapse into--and this is what's jarring, I'm reading along on meta and halfway through the paragraph just--boom. This sudden really *odd* invective. And at first it was annoying, then I progressed to the shrug/personal taste, then I started to doubt myself and wonder if there was something wrong with *me* that I wasn't climbing on the Joe Sucks At His Job Bandwagon, and progressed to think, wait. Am I sitting here thinking I need to *look* for reasons to critique an actor because half my fandom spends quality time--and a serious number of entries--telling me that he sucks? Was my John bias showing?

Wait, I thought. I like the character of John. The character is played by Joe, who plays the character of John in a way I like. Ergo, I think I like how Joe does his job. I remembered the stuff thepouncer sent me and thought, huh. I liked that, too. That was kind of a relief.

I think at this point, it's just the build-up of seeing it so often--wow, so damned often, Jesus--and seeing it, not always, but a good chunk of the time, in direct contrast to a meta on DH's fantastical talent. Long, long entries on fantastical talent. Long, long entries on fantastical talent and etcetera. And you know, the coolness is there to love the actor. What I can't quite work out is how slamming Joe comes into a essay about how great DH is. Is that--supporting evidence or something? That kind of loses me in wondering what on earth the point is. I'm not sure how repeating in various formats how *much* Joe sucks is somehow going to make the DH adulation more convincing. I mean, I was sort of convinced without it? Then I just got irritated.

So I had this thought. It's a stupid thought, but then, everyone has stupid thoughts and they post them anyway. I was wondering, is there a direct correlation between how dramatic/flamboyant a character is--think McKay, Lex Luthor, Lionel Luthor, Justin Taylor--and the higher incident of actor popularity? I'm thinking of how TW in SV also picked up a lot of flack for being a sucky actor, with the exception of the times he was very flamboyant--Red comes to mind, and the beginning of season three that I can never remember the name of. Or Brian, for that matter in QaF.

Hmm. I feel this weird need to ponder this, but I also feel a real need to clean my bathroom, and neither are getting done at this second, because my greater need is to blankly stare at my flist in hopes I'll get sleepy. I'm just--weirded out by it, I think.

It's part of the whole insecure 'I have to beef up my favourite's talent/angst/woobiness by doing down his nearest rival on the show' thing. It's as if they can't quite believe the superlativeness of Hewlett if they can't prove it by trashing everything about Flanigan.

There are whole stories out there doing Rodney-angst that can only rack up Rodney's pain by making John so OOC/horrible/vindictive that he's downright unrecognisable. A certain long Vicisstiudes of St Rodney epic is being posted right now, with Rodney's post-Trinity pain augmented by John and Elizabeth being so mean that you can almost read it to a soundtrack of "He was despised" from the Messiah.

Flanigan may never win an Oscar, but he's a created a John Sheppard that I like loads. Hewlett may be the better actor - he's certainly more versatile - but I don't think he needs this sort of pathetic support from his fangurls to prove it. I don't feel the need to denigrate Hewlett in order to bolster my love of Joe - why can't they be grown up enough to return the compliment?

GOd yes. You said it better than I tried too. I hate those stories. I pretty much HATE FANON Rodney period. There are some fabulous writers who do Rodney and McShep and Shep so perfectly in character. BUt those others just write this John that doesn't exist to make Rodney a Rodney Sue. It's horrifying.

And for the most part I've learned not to say anything against Hewlett. I'm not a big fan of his, but I do feel and I've seen it all over, that Flanigan fans don't tend to dis Hewlett/Rodney to praise Flanigan/Shep. It's nice.

What I can't quite work out is how slamming Joe comes into a essay about how great DH is. Is that--supporting evidence or something? That kind of loses me in wondering what on earth the point is. I'm not sure how repeating in various formats how *much* Joe sucks is somehow going to make the DH adulation more convincing. I mean, I was sort of convinced without it? Then I just got irritated.

This kind of thing happens in fandom all the time, in all different kinds of areas.

As an example - some people can't just like a particular pairing. They have to like their pairing and COMPLETELY TEAR ANOTHER PAIRING TO PIECES. They can't just be happy with who they ship - they have to rant and rave about another pairing. Usually the pairing they tear apart involves one half of the pairing they love with someone else.

Like...oh, let's go with SG-1 fandom, as an example ;D Sam/Jack and Jack/Daniel fans. Not all, of course, but the batshit ones. It's calmed down some, but a few years ago the 'hate' between the different pairing-lovers was crazy. And there are still people who can't talk about their pairing without bitching about the other.

I'm not sure if I understand the mentality or not. 'If I bitch about the thing I hate it'll make my thing look so much better!'

Uh, no. It makes you look close-minded. And what the heck does it matter if it makes your thing look better? You already love your thing, and that's what matters.

That never, ever stops amusing me. I have pairings that give me the ubersquick? But they don't actually *affect* my pairing of choice. So not so much with the caring about them.

Here from friendsfriends (am currently crusing around looking at episode reviews as I've watched The Return and am filled with love. *g*).

I know what you mean. It pisses me off, so much so that when a fannish friend came round the other evening, and even though she's not into SGA at all, I insisted on showing her Common Ground to prove that Joe can act, because in the aftermath of the life-sucking torture all he's got to emote with is his eyes, and, God, they showed everything - all his pain and horror.

I'm pleased to report it was a total success and she agreed that, yes, that was good acting - and she's not the type who agrees just for the sake of it.

I love Rodney and think DH is a fine, fine actor, with a huge range. JF's is narrower, I think, from watching things both of them have been in, but it doesn't mean JF hasn't done some decent work. Objectively, I think DH is the better actor, but that doesn't mean that JF is actively bad. He's certainly good enough to make me love the character of John Sheppard with an unholy passion, and there are moments when I think his acting is excellent, as in Common Ground and the whole personality shift to lighter tones in Phantoms.

Actually, I can take the criticism of JF's acting much more from people who I know to be Sheppard fans, because they do it with love, although even then I don't necessarily agree with them.

As for the dissing someone else to make your beloved look better thing, like you I've seen that all the time, in every fandom I've been in. It always backfires though, IMO, because it just makes the person doing the dissing look like an idiot who's lost all their critical faculties in unthinking adoration of their beloved.

Actually, I can take the criticism of JF's acting much more from people who I know to be Sheppard fans, because they do it with love, although even then I don't necessarily agree with them.

Yeah. *g* I feel the same thing about Sheppard criticism as well. It's just--if they go in already having teh character/actor at a disadvantage in their head? I'm just not interested in the opinion, because there is no way to work with that in discussion.

Plus, it just pisses me off.

(For the purpose of this comment, I will leave out that I think Keanu Reeves has exactly two expressions, 'blank' and 'righteous anger', and only pulls out the second for special occasions. Ahem.)

I am continually baffled by the mocking of JF, too. Certainly he's made some... slightly odd acting choices sometimes, but he's made John Sheppard into a great, complex, intriguing character, at once charmingly goofy and borderline sociopathic - and has proved that he can act his pert little tushy off when he wants to (see Phantoms for a recent example).

I think the reason that flamboyant characters get so much attention is... well, there are two reasons. For one thing, they're flamboyant: if they're not getting your attention in some way, the actor's not doing his job. For another thing, it takes a hell of an actor to take a character who is so constantly 'on', who is meant to be in-your-face and slightly over the top. There is so much potential for a character like that to set the viewers' teeth on edge every time he comes onscreen, so you have to cast someone very good to make that character three-dimensional, to take a big queen and make them exciting and vulnerable and sexy.

The combined effect is a really great actor shouting "LOOK AT ME!" every he's on screen, and that tends to draw viewers' attention.

*cough* Anyway, that is my theory what is mine. Carry on. :D

*agrees almost 100% even about Keanu Reeves*

It's easy to think that DH is amazing for a few reasons.
1) He is amazing. He's an incredibly versatile actor with a lot of experience, and it shows.
2) As Rodney McKay, he is flamboyant to an extent that I think there should be another word for it. Every time DH is onscreen on SGA, there is no way for him to sit quietly in the background; when Rodney is in a scene, there is always some peripheral part of the scene that is focused on him.
3) As Rodney McKay, he gets to save the day. A lot. In lots of cool ways.
4) Because he's not traditionally hot. In general, the perception of not-so-traditionally-hot people is that they must have some sort of mad ninja skills or something to go along with and augment whatever else they're doing (in DH's case, acting).

This does not, however, mean that JF is a bad actor.
As Sheppard, JF is playing a character who is much more subtle, complicated, and much more private. Sheppard, before crash-landing O'Neill, had never heard of gates, or the Stargate Program, or anything else--whereas Rodney had made it his life's work. He wasn't meant to be in command of the expedition, and sometimes he doesn't do a great job (see Hot Zone for example) because he doesn't have the command experience and general know-how that a more experienced officer would.
The thing is, JF is playing a character who is flawed. John--God knows I love him--is not perfect. He's not always the best, but he does his damnedest. And JF acts him that way, which in my opinion, makes him a great actor.
It takes a lot of skill to be an actor who is constantly ON in a role (DH as Rodney). It takes a lot of skill (albeit a different sort) to play a character who is as subtle as Sheppard. JF has that skill, and I like it.

And to DH fans who bash JF... DH is awesome enough without you bashing his coworkers. Saying that Joe Flanigan (or Torri Higginson, or Paul McGillion, or Rachel Luttrell, or Jason Momoa, or whoever) is a bad actor does not make DH more awesome. It just makes you look like an asshat idiot.

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So very tired, so really short for now:

I think it's a case of people seeing what's loudest. JF has the pretty and DH has the flaily arms and wobbily voice.

What do I mean? I mean that JF is really pretty (and you'll find far more people thinking he's universally hot than say, DH). He's visually stunning without having to do much more than lean against a wall in jeans and a black t-shirt.

The first thing you notice about DH in a show is that he's loud and there. He moves a lot and speaks a lot, all skills having more to do with acting than looking pretty.

And somehow that translates to one person acting (the person with all the speaking and the moving) and one person NOT (just standing there looking pretty). Which I do NOT agree with. I HAVE Taken acting classes and done a LOT of theater and watched a LOT of actors being directed. JF came from a much more structured background yes and I can see that in his acting, but he's not doing any less than DH. I think some people pick up on his contempt for some things that are vaguely related to the show and acting. He is frustrated with the genre sometimes (and in perfectly reasonable ways) but other times he's a 12 year old boy who gets to blow shit up.

But down to it, he's not the big excited puppy as MUCH as DH is and people can pick up on that. As for putting them together on screen, I've often said that DH's pressence is LARGER than JFs in that often he can steal the screen with his antics which can add to the idea that JF isn't as much of an actor. Personally I've seen him learn and grow and pick up things obviously from those around him. That? Is the sign of a tremendous skill and proffessionalism.

There isn't a finite amount of 'acting skill' and you dont' have to mete it out like once you decide someone is the most versatile the next person isn't nearly as stellar. It doesn't occur/proccess through to people that it's not like sucking up all the air in the room. But rather like someone snoring and the other person has sleep apnea. But disturb sleep, but one does it more quietly than the other.

Tangent for others to go on without me with: JF makes against the grain choices for the typical action hero. It throws people off entirely. Discuss.

JF makes against the grain choices for the typical action hero. It throws people off entirely. Discuss.

For me, that's it; that's it exactly. I kid around with the perceived fandom opinion that JF can't act, but that said, I'm aware that often is noted in comparison to DH, which as you said, 'louder', and so, not a very fair comparison.

The disconnect between his role type and how he's actually playing it is what makes the character Sheppard interesting to me. Someone (was it cesperanza?) described JF as a comedic actor trapped in a leading man body, and that's a description that both makes me giggle and something I agree with.

I don't particularly get it either. I think they're very *different* actors, but that's fine! JF has this subtle, twitchy wary performance going on as Sheppard that doesn't look like what a lot of people think of as acting, but that's *good*. It comes off as very realistic and adds a lot of texture to a character who might otherwise be dull in the hands of a lesser actor.

People are only bringing up JF's acting abilities because there aren't any genuinely *bad* regular or recurring actors on SGA - if there were, we'd hear about it!

I think the "Can JF act?" thing came up when a certain fan with some theatrical experience was posting about how she couldn't tell if he was exhibiting common Nervous Actor twitches or was turning in a really unusual and cool performance. She actually *liked* his performance, even as the question amused her. Unfortunately, as these things tend to happen "Is he nervous or is it on purpose" translated in some minds into "He's not as good an actor, let's talk about him not being that good an actor".

Oh, people who have not seen all the shows and movies I have, you have no idea how bad bad acting can get. SGA actors are practically the Royal Shakespeare Company compared to many casts.

Oh, people who have not seen all the shows and movies I have, you have no idea how bad bad acting can get. SGA actors are practically the Royal Shakespeare Company compared to many casts.


JF may not be a great actor, but he certainly isn't a bad one, either. What he is is a fascinating actor. Sheppard could so easily have been the typical dull, generic hero type, and so much of why he isn't just that clearly comes from JF. In terms of reactions, I never know which way Sheppard's going to jump, in relation to just about anything, and I love that uncertainty.

A lot of this "JF can't act" stuff, which frankly just boggles me, seems to come from the same place as criticisms of fanfic I see sometimes, where some element of a story doesn't work for a reader for some reason. The reader decides that this must be because the author "doesn't know any better", because of course writing the story that way couldn't have been a conscious choice...

Recently, I tied a friend to a chair and made her watch my half dozen favourite Sheppard episodes introduced a friend to SGA. Beforehand, I told her that Sheppard was my favourite character, but didn't try to influence her much more than that in how she should view any of the characters. Her reaction? She felt that JS's interpretation of Sheppard is what makes the show. One thing that really struck her is the way that JF's slow delivery forces all the other characters/actors to wait for him in every scene. It was a really interesting initial reaction, given how many times I've seen people fixate on McKay and Hewlett's rapidfire, attention-grabbing style. (I was very proud of her, and sent her away with many more episodes to watch. *g*)

I want to do a little dance of yes yes yes, but Sheppard is attractive to me *for* that reason--I watch his face, his reactions, the way he moves in a scene, even where he focuses his attention to get an idea of what's going on in his head, and I love doing that. McKay, while fun to watch, requires nothing of me at all in investment--it's all on the surface. And that makes the two a really awesome contrast.

(Deleted comment)
May you continue to not see them. I've lost tooth enamel one memorable day grinding down to keep from snapping when it felt like *everyone* was on an anti-Sheppard and extension, Anti-Flanigan kick.

My reaction when I post in response is to point out I don't find DH to be an acting God. I don't think he's brilliant. He seriously can't compare when it comes to facial expressions and he talks so fast I don't hear anything but BLAH BLAH or SQUEEAL. And I like DH, but an acting god, he's not. And I shake my head at this point at the NEED to dis Joe to point out how brilliant DH, supposedly is. There's been extreme Joe dissing to the point where Rodney is now acting the fool in a scene because JF hates the McShep. JF is against anything just because. JF isn't gay. JF blah blah. And what kills me most is when you see a Canon scene of Rodney being an ass or doing something wrong but SOMEHOW it becomes Sheppard's fault. I kid you not.

The kicker being that if the same thing happened in reverse it would STILL be Sheppard's fault. It actually made me lose alot of LIKE for McKay in season 2. ALOT. To where I started liking the show less because of the DH/MCkay FANS and had to stop reading LJ's that even mentioned him.

DH is playing a flamboyant character and Joe is so incredibly subtle in comparison. Which is a fabulous combination for them.

It's kinda weird. THe other show I watch, pretty much the only other show I watch is House. House is fambloyant in a more laid back/subtle way than McKay.

There was an ep when one character Foreman, got to get his acting chops on and he did alot of scenery chewing. For which most of us were not impressed. So his fambloyance had the opposite effect of Rodney's on most people. On the other hand, my fave character, Chase **the guy in my icon**...he's very subtle but the actor is brilliant at it. He's subtle in the way that Hugh Laurie/House is. And CHase/Jesse gets alot of credit for how he can make Chase be the focus of a scene even when Chase is background. Joe does that for me. I notice him over everyone in a scene because he's always IN the scene.

My point? I'm just wondering if maybe because what Jesse does as Chase is similiar to Hugh Laurie's acting as House. And that's also been brought up and Hugh's talent is mostly undisputed.

But Sheppard is different so Rodney fans dont' GET Subtle? Aren't lookig for it? Consider it a weakness?

I've seen Joe in pretty much everything else he's done. He's a diverse actor. If he wasn't talented, I wouldn't love him so much. I love the PRETTEH but the pretteh without talent doesn't hold my interest for long. Hence why I stopped watching Tom Welling/Smallville a long time ago.

Bottomline for me is that DH/Rodney fans tend to feel threatened. And Joe/Sheppard is the biggest threat to them. Joe/Shep is very popular. He's the better looking character. I dunno. It just really boggles.

I can I just point out that SciFi wouldn't have let a director/casting director/producer pick a lead who couldn't act? Especially for one of their main draw shows.

THAT said, All actors have different styles. You really can not compare what David does to what Joe does. They have different backgrounds, different experiences. IF they had happened to both come from the same school, the same previous type of work experience, then, MAYBE you could compare. But you would still have two men doing their jobs. The characters are not the same, they cannot be played the same way. So really, that alone makes it impossible to compare the way David plays Rodney to the way Joe plays John.

*smites stupid people*
Don't fuck with the theatre majors of the world. We're smarter and we get jobs doing what you only wish you could. /ranty mcrantypants

That thing that puts people off about JF I call his Continental (European) Quotient. He'd do great in a certain kind of French movie where much of the acting occurs through -- at times minute -- body language, captured mostly in close ups. I have no idea where he studied acting, if at all, as I know nothing about the guy. But I may not have looked at Sheppard twice, if not for those choices. I find room left for me to interpret Sheppard, and that's what draws me in.

In contrast, I do not have to interpret McKay; he is right there: clear cut expressions, plain body language, open book. It can be amusing to read McKay fic, and count the number of times the author conveys state of mind by describing the tilt of McKay's mouth: the character translates from screen to text literally. This kind of acting can grate, because my volume setting is lower. It's like listening to a rock concert through a stethoscope. Like going from lit fic to crack fic. I'm still getting used to it.

What JF lacks -- and he's much like Ben Browder in this way -- is voice control. So Sheppard sounds to me a little less confident, a little less leader-like than he is meant to be. That's accidental, but I'm not complaining. The same's true of Momoa: his character sounds young, a little unfinished. Again, not by design, but not a problem.

Re: voice control -- neat. That matches well with what I think of when I think of Sheppard. Perhaps this is why everything Sheppard says sounds sarcastic!

I have to say that I don't really care about the fact if an actor has any talent or not because mostly it differs from role to role.
I loved Eric Bana in Black Hawk Down but boy was he bad in Hulk usw.
The only thing thats importend for me is 'do I like the character or not'if not I just don't watch it or just blend it out when ever it is on screen.

I was wondering, is there a direct correlation between how dramatic/flamboyant a character is and the higher incident of actor popularity?

I think it's because those characters are written a little bit more 'interesting'. With Sheppard it's mostly straight forward. He's the hero the funny guy who gets the girls. He has depth but it's rarely shown, while McKay has to do a lot more on screen. But thats just the way it was written.
But back to your question. I think I have to say yes. (And I think it's entirely wrong but who cares...)

Wait, I thought. I like the character of John. The character is played by Joe, who plays the character of John in a way I like. Ergo, I think I like how Joe does his job.

Yes. I especially love that the argument seems to go, "I like Sheppard-as-played-by-Flanigan, but all that I like about it is entirely accidental and in no way a reflection of JF's acting!" *snort*

*grins* It seemed simple to me in my logic processes.

Honestly, I can rarely tell whether or not someone is bad at acting. I can see when someone's really good, and I can catch the really really inept, but everything else? Can't tell. And I watch 7th Heaven *and* General Hospital *and* shows aimed at teens on the N! :)

And I come down where you were talking about most of the time: is the character working for me? Am I enjoying it? Then I'm good.

I'm so with you on this one. I can tell really really bad, and really really good, and everything else? Who knows. And I don't really care, either, as long as it works for me.

My first *real* live action fandom was The X-Files. That experience, at times grueling, solidified for me the difference between acting subtly and having ten expressions. As Ratboy is my witness, Joe Flanigan is not David Duchovny.

I think a lot of people forget that David Hewlett had been doing McKay for a couple of years before Atlantis, and is completely at home with genre work. Joe, I think, has chosen to put a lot of himself into John, but that doesn't negate the read that now that he's comfortable in those boots, the quirks are forming a recognizable pattern. People are *missing* the small moments, and that bugs me. And just because David likes to be obvious and show us how the trick is being done doesn't mean Joe has to do the same thing.

The other thing is, Sheppard is not who we expect him to be. Even if that's a creative accident, there's still artistic meaning in that, and a sense of consistency, which is more than we can say of a lot of other characters on television.

And Sheppard being that much off the classic hero role is pretty much what attracted me to him--the main hero usually *doesn't* do it for me. So--um. Yes to everything you said.