Things Come Together: “High Noon”

“Even shadows must remain true to their shade.–The Weird Sisters

Written by: Brynne Chandler Reaves  (Teleplay)
Original Air Date: September 25, 1995
Introduces: N/A
Timeline placement:  November 13 – November 14, 1995
TMNT episode I could make a forced comparison to: N/A

The beats:

  • Inside the virtual world created and inhabited by the three gargoyles whose souls form Coldstone, Othello and Desdemona enjoy themselves and the measure of peace granted by their circumstances, even with the limitations (no smell) and obstacles (Iago) it imposes.
  • As dawn approaches, the gargoyles enjoy some leisure time: Lexington is working on Coldstone as Goliath supervises, while the others read newspapers.  Elisa enters the clock tower with comments on the story Broadway and Hudson are reading and books on computer viruses for Lexington.
  • Coldstone, according to Lexington, has had its programming wiped clean, and while nothing appears damaged or broken, he cannot manage to access any of its personalities or get it working again.
  • As Elisa prepares to leave the police station for her apartment, she notices a police officer she’s never seen before carrying a perp handcuffed with his hands on front.  She re-enters the building to explain why this is a bad idea, and follows the cop right up to the gargoyles’ lair, where the two ambush her and knock her unconscious, but not before Elisa identifies the “perp” as Macbeth.
  • Macbeth and the policewoman–whom Macbeth identifies as Demona–exit the clock tower with their cargo–Coldstone and take it to Macbeth’s castle.  Once the sun goes down, they reactivate the gargoyle; while any of the three personalities could potentially take control of the cyborg, Othello just wants to make out inside the dream world, so it’s Iago who makes it to the “real” world.
  • Elisa and the gargoyles awaken and note the abscence of Coldstone.    They decide that while Elisa goes on her shift, they will investigate Macbeth’s place for clues.
  • As dawn approaches, an exhausted Elisa waits for her friends to return home.  The only gargoyle to show up, however, is Demona, who shows off her spiffy “turns-human-during-the-day” power challenges Elisa to try and save the gargoyles, who have been defeated and will be at Belvedere Castle at high noon.
  • After a pep-talk from Morgan (and presumably, some rest) Elisa shows up at Belvedere Castle, where she and Demona proceed fight hand-to-hand.
  • Inside the Coldstone Dreamscape, Othello is approached by a trio of gargoyles identical to Desdemona save for their different-colored hair, who convince him that even if they are no longer gargoyles, not stopping Iago would go against their nature.  It is enough to convince Othello to regain control of Coldstone.
  • With Coldstone now against him and Demona and the ropes, Macbeth orders a retreat.
  • Coldstone frees the gargoyles from their chains and then leaves, saying that until some solution is found to the problem of his warring personalities, it is better if he remains away from his brothers.
  • Back at Macbeth’s, he and Demona discuss the success and details of their plan before realizing that they have no idea why they did any of it in the first place, or why they’re even working together.  Just as they are about to turn on one another, they are frozen in place by the Weird Sisters, who then transport themselves, their two “children”, and their real prizes–the Eye of Odin, Phoenix Gate, and Grimorum Arcanorum, stolen along with Coldstone but not missed–to parts unknown, where they will prepare for the “coming battle”.

Continuity Notes:

  • The gargoyles took the Grimorum Arcanorum from Xanatos when they moved from Castle Wyvern to the clock tower in “Enter Macbeth”.
  • Similarly, Goliath took the Eye of Odin from Xanatos after its role in turning Fox into a beastie in “Eye of the Beholder”.
  • Finally, Goliath kept the Phoenix Gate after the events of “Vows”.
  • Coldstone last appeared, and became inert, in “Legion”.
  • Demona and Macbeth were last seen in “City of Stone”, Part Four, where they had been rendered unconscious and taken by the Weird Sisters.

This episode begins one of my favorite parts of season 2: the episodes between “City of Stone” and “Avalon” are, to me, are the most consistent in the series’ history, with  a string of awesome episodes and new characters.  It also marks growing confidence in the writing staff, as they begin to interweave the various plot strands they´ve been introducing, and no more so than here.  While previous episodes have hinted at schemes larger than those we see on screen, this one practically shouts: yes, we do plan to tell a larger story.  And, so the episode brings together a bunch of disparate elements.  The Phoenix Gate.  The Grimorum Arcanorum, last seen in “Enter Macbeth”.  Coldstone.  It’s enough to make a person shake with impatience.

Ironically, though, it wasn’t until recently that I had much love for this episode, mostly because I was never satisfied with Elisa’s fight with Demona.  Not only does it play to the series’ weaknesses–the staging for their one-on-one fights has never been impressive, in contrast to their melees–I always felt that even handicapped, Demona should have put a better fight than she did, making Elisa’s victory feel unearned.  Since then, though, its numerous good bits, from its sweet animation to the fact that it includes one of the all too few instances where we just get to see gargoyles chill out, have led me to think better of it.

If there is theme to this episode–and of course there is–it’s the importance of staying true to one’s nature.  Elisa cannot just leave the Gargoyles alone, no matter how much she sometimes wants a normal life.  Othello and Desdemona cannot ignore their gargoyle nature, even as shadows.  Demona and Macbeth cannot work together for long, even when magically compelled to do so.

In the realm identity politics, essentialism is the idea that a particular trait or quality in a group exists innately, rather than as a result of social conditioning.  Or, to put it more simply, the belief that “all X are inherently Y”.  As one can imagine, it plays big in -ist and -phobic narratives; if one believes humans are inherently, naturally straight, for example, then it becomes logical to conclude that it is unnatural for people not be straight, and that people who aren’t don’t need to be considered human.   For unrelated reasons, it is also a popular concept when creating fictional species and peoples–cowboy worlds don’t make much sense otherwise.

In the Gargoylesverse, it is more or less taken as gospel that gargoyles share an inherent set of qualities.  Gargoyles protect, we’re told multiple times–it’s as natural as breathing the air.  Gargoyles are also agressively social; when one is alone, it’s because they has been cast out, or it’s seen as major deviation.  The narrative has yet to contradict this.  And that makes the whole thing really fascinating.

Now, we’ve never been told where exactly these beliefs come from, althought the fact that gargoyles all over the world share them despite a near total lack of cultural exchange would seem to suggest that it is more or less instinctive.  We have not been told if this belief has ever been questioned or seriously tested.

Which leads me to wonder: has there ever been a gargoyle prefers solitude and/or doesn’t feel compelled to protect, who isn’t also conveniently considered a “bad guy”?  If so, how have gargoyles responded to them?  Would they be considered deviants?  Would they be let go?  Would they be accepted no matter what?  Unfortunately, the closest we’ve gotten is Othello, whose usefulness as a test subject is limited– his expressed apathy regarding the protection of humans tends to be overshadowed in the surviving clan’s mind by the fact that he’s a survivor of the massacre, so we’ve yet to see much interaction relating to him as an individual.

Making this more interesting still is the suggestion that while gargoyles generally appear to believe that they all share some core aspects, they do not believe the same about humans.  This is Goliath’s main argument against Demona: not all humanity is bad, therefore, humanity does not deserve to be exterminated.  Why would they think this is the case, though?  Is it mere empiricism?   Is this something they’ve been told and never thought to question?  Is there, again, a gargoyle equivalent to Socrates (mentioned because I’ve forgotten everything I’ve ever learned about phylosophy [>_<]) to canonize the distinction?  Has somebody used humans to argue that these allegedly essential qualities of gargoyles aren’t essential at all?  And to bring things closer to home: could part of the reason Demona hates humans so be that she sees them in the same wayshe sees gargoyles–as possessing essential inherent qualities, including evil?

And what does all this mean for the future of human/gargoyle interactions?  If equality is the goal, what does it mean that gargoyles are, to a degree, less “free” than humans?  Obviously, people like the Quarrymen would argue that this sort of monolithic behavior suggests subsequent ways in which they’re all alike (and therefore argue that they’re more like animals than humans) but would it go any further?

Throughout its run, Gargoyles has hinted at various point that this particular generation of gargoyles represents a break of sorts from tradition.  In addition to their (social or instinctive) compulsion to protect they have begun pursuing other things–Lexington, for example, will try his hand at business.  Will this evolution eventually lead gargoyles to question the things the most hold dear?  Guess I’ll have to make “answering all these questions” reason number 563 why Gargoyles needs to come back.

Random Thoughts:

  • Is it just me, or does human Demona in this episode seems way nakeder than gargoyle Demona?  The pin-uppy posing almost definitively has something to do with it, but I get the impression that I’d still feel that way if that weren’t a factor.
  • I’ve often found the decision to have Demona, Macbeth, and the Weird Sisters all reappear in the very next episode after their last appearance rather peculiar.  It makes sense, I guess–there’s no reason for the Weird Sisters to wait to implement their plan–but all my instincts as a plotter tell me that they should have given viewers an opportunity to miss them.
  • On a similar note, the official gargoyles timeline states that the events of this episode take place the night after those of “City of Stone”.  While I’m not wild about having significant events all take place that close together, this at least helps Elisa’s sudden bout with sleepyexhaustiontime less convenient-feeling.
  • I mentioned this earlier, but I really liked the scene of all the gargoyles chilling out at the Clock Tower, and wish we had more of them.  As disciplined as the series can be in making every moment count, I often feel that it is at times too much so, and it made the characters feel less real than I would sometimes like.  Moments like these let the characters breathe, which is just as necessary as the more transparent character development moments.
  • Finally, two screenies of the display on Lexington’s laptop when he was working on Coldstone.  Click to enlarge.

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14 Responses to Things Come Together: “High Noon”

  1. GregXB says:

    “Is it just me, or does human Demona in this episode seems way nakeder than gargoyle Demona? The pin-uppy posing almost definitively has something to do with it, but I get the impression that I’d still feel that way if that weren’t a factor.”

    I think it’s because she’s become a lot more “familiar.” Let’s face it, very few women in animation show that much skin.

  2. I agree that these episodes, up to Avalon are some of my favorites as a whole. As I may have mentioned in other posts, “The Mirror,” is my favorite stand-alone and “The Silver Falcon” is my second favorite, in sort of a guilty-pleasure way. But I like these episodes the most as a cohesive batch, for many of the same reasons you seem to. The setups are all in place, we’ve established the world and it’s characters, now we get down to business and see it all play out. Awesome.

    High Noon was actually always one that I liked a lot because it didn’t drop the ball right after the epic mutli-parter that came right before it. It didn’t fall into that trap that seems to happen with sequels, how they often pale in comparison to the first, initial film/book/whatever, with the few exceptions (Empire Strikes Back, The Two Towers, etc). High Noon delivers, I think, when it could have been a real flop. You mention the reappearance of the Weird Sisters, but that never bothered me. It surprised me, sure, but it was nice that we didn’t have to, you know, w a i t for such a long time before we got some more key information from them, which was what I expected. Considering that we don’t see them again for some time after this (as per usual) I thought it was a nice change of pace to see them once more before they vanished.

    As I recall, this is the first time we’ve gotten to really see Demona in human form for such an extended period of time, yes? That was one of the things I liked about this episode; this major thing happened awhile back, Puck’s spell that turned her human during the day, was thrown in at the end, then never really brought up again in – pardon the pun – broad daylight. Here, we get to see her sort of dealing with it and how it hasn’t affected her personality at all.

    Elisa’s fight with Demona. The thing that bothered me the most about it was it almost seemed like fan-service in kind of an odd way. “We want to see Elisa fight Demona!” I certainly never thought that, but I can see how others might have. I guess, to me, the whole thing came off as gimmicky, and Coldstone’s comment, “this is…diverting,” just seems like a blatant observation of, “girl on girl…nice.” That doesn’t exactly bother me, it just seemed like a cheap shot. Lazy, you might say, and unnecessary. As far as their fighting skills go, I don’t find it hard to believe that they’d be even. I agree that Demona would probably win, but I never saw the outcome as Elisa winning; they seemed sort of matched, and then Demona ran off with Macbeth in the middle. It takes me back to Goliath’s comment in “The Mirror,” actually, when he says that bit about relying on brute force; I think Demona, while still possessing knowledgeable prowess for combat, would still be taken down a few pegs without her gargoyle physique and strength. If nothing else, I could see how the different form might be slightly disorienting, which would throw her off her game, even if only slightly. But, ultimately, I still agree – it was a lame setup and comes off feeling a little cheesy.

    “Is it just me, or does human Demona in this episode seems way nakeder than gargoyle Demona?”

    It’s not just you. But I think the “pin-uppy poses” as you call them draws that much more attention to it, and, on that note, the animation seemed distinctly different in this episode. Not as much as it is in others, but it seemed like they were trying a new technique. For the most part, I liked it; the fluidity of their movements seemed more enhanced. The later episodes (MUCH later) where they tried to do that even more and it didn’t work as well. So I enjoyed it here.

    A friend of mine once pointed out that it seemed to her like Demona was deliberately “showing off” to Elisa, not just in the lead-up to the fight in the park, but at the Clock Tower.
    I would think that she thoroughly enjoys the shock value in the moment where Elisa realizes that she’s turned human with the sunrise; the smug smile alone, plus that little flair of her hand away from her face is great. They could have left it at that, to convey that sentiment of “ha ha, gotcha,” but then they went slightly overkill.

    “I really liked the scene of all the gargoyles chilling out at the Clock Tower, and wish we had more of them. Moments like these let the characters breathe…”

    They do, indeed. I found that I actually grew very attached to the Clock Tower. Little moments like that, and even the brief in-and-out scenes we get at the top of many other episodes somehow created a really cozy feeling. I think Weisman has a gift for that; I notice that The Cave in Young Justice has a very similar feeling; it’s not as strong as the Clock Tower, but it’s still there and feels very similar. I would wager that Weisman has a thing about defining where the rag-tag team of characters live, and I’m glad of that.

    My random thoughts:

    I really like the subgroups in this episode. Goliath and Lexington create a really interesting visual when side by side. Plus, you don’t see them as a stand-alone team very often. I believe the last time they paired off was back in “The Thrill of the Hunt.” Plus, the dialogue in the control room was really nice: “You’re right…it’s too easy,” and “Just remember: one of them hates your guts…”

    Personally? I love the blocking of that final scene when the spell wears off, as Demona and Macbeth realize what’s happening. Her growl, the Sisters arriving just in time, freezing the moment…just nicely edited, I thought. The fact that Macbeth grabs the chair is, I think, hilarious. Of course, that didn’t last long, since I remember shrieking, “WHAT battle!?!?!?” at the end of this episode when I first watched it.

    And it must be noted that the infamous jogger shows up in this episode. I love that guy.

  3. Pterobat says:

    I was also surprised by how easily Demona was taken out in human form, but Greg’s belief that she wasn’t used to fighting as a human holds enough water.

    As for the nature of the gargoyle race, my interpretation is that it all goes back to the gargoyle breeding cycle. If you have to protect such a small population of eggs, and protect over ten years each time a clutch is laid, it’s in your best interests to have as many gargoyles as possible wiling to protect the eggs and the area where they are housed. Thus, you end up with perhaps an innately collectivist, social culture that adopts “protectorates” to ensure the maximum protection of the clutch. Humankind can afford to be more flexible.

    (This is just an amateur zoologist/anthropologist talking, so feel free to take that salt)

    It’s also not occurred to me until recently, but the fact is, that you can afford to give a human cast more flexible morality/psychology, because viewers already know what humans are like. When you have to introduce an entirely new race/species, many writers start out simple because they can’t capture the complexity of our own species when starting from scratch. So I cut fantasy writers a bit of slack. Sometimes. 😉

  4. Ian says:

    Oh my…I’ve never had to respond to two people at the same time in a blog of mine. I feel blessed. Welcome, Pterobat. Hi again, RobinChristine.

    RobinChristine:

    The setups are all in place, we’ve established the world and it’s characters, now we get down to business and see it all play out. Awesome.

    Yes, this is it exactly. Thank you for putting it so eloquently into words.

    RobinChristine:

    As I recall, this is the first time we’ve gotten to really see Demona in human form for such an extended period of time, yes? That was one of the things I liked about this episode; this major thing happened awhile back, Puck’s spell that turned her human during the day, was thrown in at the end, then never really brought up again in – pardon the pun – broad daylight. Here, we get to see her sort of dealing with it and how it hasn’t affected her personality at all.

    Yup, this is for all intents and purposes our introduction to this new aspect of her character. Initial shock nonwithstanding, I’m not sure if its ever been clear whether she considers Puck’s “gift” to be lemons or not, but she sure doesn’t waste any time in turning it into lemonades. It doesn’t hurt that she’s relatively acclimated to human culture, despite herself–I feel any other gargoyle would have a considerably harder time “passing”.

    RobinChristine:

    Elisa’s fight with Demona. The thing that bothered me the most about it was it almost seemed like fan-service in kind of an odd way. “We want to see Elisa fight Demona!” I certainly never thought that, but I can see how others might have. I guess, to me, the whole thing came off as gimmicky, and Coldstone’s comment, “this is…diverting,” just seems like a blatant observation of, “girl on girl…nice.” That doesn’t exactly bother me, it just seemed like a cheap shot. Lazy, you might say, and unnecessary. As far as their fighting skills go, I don’t find it hard to believe that they’d be even. I agree that Demona would probably win, but I never saw the outcome as Elisa winning; they seemed sort of matched, and then Demona ran off with Macbeth in the middle. It takes me back to Goliath’s comment in “The Mirror,” actually, when he says that bit about relying on brute force; I think Demona, while still possessing knowledgeable prowess for combat, would still be taken down a few pegs without her gargoyle physique and strength. If nothing else, I could see how the different form might be slightly disorienting, which would throw her off her game, even if only slightly. But, ultimately, I still agree – it was a lame setup and comes off feeling a little cheesy.

    Pterobat: I was also surprised by how easily Demona was taken out in human form, but Greg’s belief that she wasn’t used to fighting as a human holds enough water.

    Yeah, I was eventually convinced that Demona’s unfamiliarity with her new form would be a factor in her defeat, which is why I’m not as critical of the fight now as I once was. I imagine not being able to use wings to defect blows or play keep away, or lacking a tail to sweep with, would take some getting used to. That said, thinking about it, I’m starting to believe that my remaining dissatisfaction has something to do with unfulfilled expectations. For some reason, I imagine an Elisa / Demona (Human) fight being much more close quarters, and basically, more violent–attempted eye-gougings, broken limbs, etc., and Demona taking advantage of the fact that her immortality grants her a healing factor. Granted, there was little to no chance of us getting that, for a number of reasons, but I still wish we’d gotten something other than what we got.

    RobinChristine:

    It’s not just you. But I think the “pin-uppy poses” as you call them draws that much more attention to it, and, on that note, the animation seemed distinctly different in this episode. Not as much as it is in others, but it seemed like they were trying a new technique. For the most part, I liked it; the fluidity of their movements seemed more enhanced. The later episodes (MUCH later) where they tried to do that even more and it didn’t work as well. So I enjoyed it here.

    I’ll have to look out for this when I next watch this episode, as I have noticed the fluidity you’ve mentioned in future Tokyo animated episodes (“The Price”, “Future Tense”) but not this one, in particular. I’ve always rather liked it, even if it does feel off to some degree. And of course, this episode is gorgeous, regardless.

    RobinChristine: They do, indeed. I found that I actually grew very attached to the Clock Tower. Little moments like that, and even the brief in-and-out scenes we get at the top of many other episodes somehow created a really cozy feeling. I think Weisman has a gift for that; I notice that The Cave in Young Justice has a very similar feeling; it’s not as strong as the Clock Tower, but it’s still there and feels very similar. I would wager that Weisman has a thing about defining where the rag-tag team of characters live, and I’m glad of that.

    I agree: it’s a bit ironic that the home they were forced into choosing feels better than the one they wanted, at least for the viewers. Part of it is design, part of it is that it feels theirs in a way the castle never does, and part of it is that it’s where we see them for most of the series…which makes me wonder if the characters themselves feel that way.

    I really like the subgroups in this episode. Goliath and Lexington create a really interesting visual when side by side. Plus, you don’t see them as a stand-alone team very often. I believe the last time they paired off was back in “The Thrill of the Hunt.” Plus, the dialogue in the control room was really nice: “You’re right…it’s too easy,” and “Just remember: one of them hates your guts…”

    Huh. I was originally going to say how the various subgroups within the clan generally don’t leave me with any impressions aside from the obvious ones like The Trio (of whom I’ll have a lot to say about when we get to “Upgrade”) and Elisa / Broadway; but rethinking about the various combinations has gotten me thinking that that may not be the case, or at least that the list of subgroups that do leave an impression is larger than I’d initially thought.

    RobinChristine: And it must be noted that the infamous jogger shows up in this episode. I love that guy.

    He’s going to turn out to be the man behind the Space-Spawn, just you wait. 😛

    Pterobat:
    As for the nature of the gargoyle race, my interpretation is that it all goes back to the gargoyle breeding cycle. If you have to protect such a small population of eggs, and protect over ten years each time a clutch is laid, it’s in your best interests to have as many gargoyles as possible wiling to protect the eggs and the area where they are housed. Thus, you end up with perhaps an innately collectivist, social culture that adopts “protectorates” to ensure the maximum protection of the clutch. Humankind can afford to be more flexible. (This is just an amateur zoologist/anthropologist talking, so feel free to take that salt)

    Sounds eminently logical. That said, those incentives also historically existed for humans (although humans, at least, had the benefit of a much quicker reproductive cycle that allowed for more children more often, which allowed them to, eventually, expand past clandoms) which it makes me think that the reason one species went one way and the other didn’t is that gargates really never managed to have anything resembling a sustainable population or to get past the point where survival wasn’t foremost on their mind. At the very least, it seems as if their circumstances are such that they were always a bad generation away from going extinct.

    The more I think about it, the more I want to see a story dealing with gargoyles and reproductive freedom. How do they deal with a culture where giving birth has been turned into a choice? How does a culture of beings whose women (as far as we’ve been led to believe) periodically go “BABIES WANT”, with the only alternative being painful-sounding enforced isolation, which is birth control but not actual freedom–and whose collectivist culture and low population numbers means that the entire clan has a stake on whether a particular female gargoyle gives birth or not deal with such a drastically different paradigm, that helps define what is meant by “freedom”? What happens if a gargoyle decides “welp, the world sucks and I don’t want to bring new people into it, no matter how painful”? And how does that translate when it comes to their attitudes towards their protectorates? Who would think less of people who decide not to have children, and who would be all “meh, not my biz”?

    Pterobat:
    It’s also not occurred to me until recently, but the fact is, that you can afford to give a human cast more flexible morality/psychology, because viewers already know what humans are like. When you have to introduce an entirely new race/species, many writers start out simple because they can’t capture the complexity of our own species when starting from scratch. So I cut fantasy writers a bit of slack. Sometimes.

    I think I might have a mental block when it comes to this sort of thing. If a species that isn’t human has sentience, I tend to think of them as humans with a different culture rather than a different species, and feel they should be treated that way. Sentience and monolithic thinking don’t go together, in my head.

  5. Pterobat says:

    The ability of humans to reproduce more quickly than gargoyles is pretty much why humans can afford to have a wide range of cultures and personal arrangements, a range that was probably visible even in the earliest days of the human race, while gargoyles have pretty much the same arrangements globally and universally, with a few regional variations, like the Ishimura clan facing inwards when they Sleep. So our incentives for reproduction aren’t comparable.

    I think gargoyles would act the same way around the childfree that they would around homosexual gargoyles: they would be, in Wiesman’s words, “tolerated, but not accepted”. I think they would still be expected to take care of the clan’s hatchlings, though.

    “I think I might have a mental block when it comes to this sort of thing. If a species that isn’t human has sentience, I tend to think of them as humans with a different culture rather than a different species, and feel they should be treated that way. Sentience and monolithic thinking don’t go together, in my head.”

    Sentience and monolithic thinking doesn’t, and every writer should try to make their non-human characters multifaceted. But what I mean to say is that a single story can’t capture a cultural and philosophical complexity that’s equivalent to the centuries of human existence, so I can see why some writers default to a single culture for a sentient species, even when humans don’t have one culture. The trick of it is to populate this culture with actual characters, and not just members who all think and act the same.

    That being said, it can be difficult to define what is meant by “human”. Some might say that writing a character with a personality means they are “human”, while others believe that you can’t write a character as a “human in a suit” if they are not physically human, and should try to distinguish the mindset of a human from a non-human character when both are sapient. I’m on the fence about this, since I’m not sure how to develop a sentient personality without having a character “thinking like a human”, since we don’t know what “thinking like a human” means, and being human is our one role model for sentience.

    To bring this back to Gargoyles fandom, Gargoyles itself doesn’t delve strongly into the collectivist nature of gargoyle society, but it introduces several ways that they could think differently from the modern-day, western humans, especially in their view of parenting. I would have liked to see that explored in depth.

    …and then fandom likes to destroy that by making gargoyles learn to accept biological parenthood as paramount, and also to dress like humans, causing many fans, like me, to bemoan the transforming of a unique species into “humans with wings”. This all might offer a clue as to how to distinguish human sentience from non-human sentience when it comes to fantasy characters, when gargoyles would originally have a fundamentally different view of important issues like parenting.

    There was also a person I saw complain about Greg’s view that gargoyles don’t have a defined creation myth or god to worship, saying that was incompatible with what we knew of sentient nature, but I thought this idea created an interesting contrast.

  6. Ian says:

    First, sorry for the late response: I´m not a particularly quick writer, so I wanted to finish some of the stuff I had in the pipeline before beginning work on anything new.

    The ability of humans to reproduce more quickly than gargoyles is pretty much why humans can afford to have a wide range of cultures and personal arrangements, a range that was probably visible even in the earliest days of the human race, while gargoyles have pretty much the same arrangements globally and universally, with a few regional variations, like the Ishimura clan facing inwards when they Sleep. So our incentives for reproduction aren’t comparable.

    Yup. Of course, now I’m actually wondering if the Manhattan Clan’s tendency towards paradigm shifting might not have something to do with its initial status as a reproductive dead end. After all, if human culture only comes about once a segment of the population stops having to worry about basic survival needs 24/7, then its not implausible to believe that a clan that no longer needs to worry about it will be more able to focus on other things.

    I think gargoyles would act the same way around the childfree that they would around homosexual gargoyles: they would be, in Wiesman’s words, “tolerated, but not accepted”. I think they would still be expected to take care of the clan’s hatchlings, though.

    Interesting…I’m not sure I’d read that bit about not-straight gargoyles. I like it: it’s a bit of cultural fail that makes sense, is understandable (if not exactly excusable), and can lead to interesting, complex, and ultimately positive, stories.

    Sentience and monolithic thinking doesn’t, and every writer should try to make their non-human characters multifaceted. But what I mean to say is that a single story can’t capture a cultural and philosophical complexity that’s equivalent to the centuries of human existence, so I can see why some writers default to a single culture for a sentient species, even when humans don’t have one culture. The trick of it is to populate this culture with actual characters, and not just members who all think and act the same.

    That being said, it can be difficult to define what is meant by “human”. Some might say that writing a character with a personality means they are “human”, while others believe that you can’t write a character as a “human in a suit” if they are not physically human, and should try to distinguish the mindset of a human from a non-human character when both are sapient. I’m on the fence about this, since I’m not sure how to develop a sentient personality without having a character “thinking like a human”, since we don’t know what “thinking like a human” means, and being human is our one role model for sentience.

    There’s not much I can think to add here, but…”I agree”.

    …and then fandom likes to destroy that by making gargoyles learn to accept biological parenthood as paramount, and also to dress like humans, causing many fans, like me, to bemoan the transforming of a unique species into “humans with wings”. This all might offer a clue as to how to distinguish human sentience from non-human sentience when it comes to fantasy characters, when gargoyles would originally have a fundamentally different view of important issues like parenting.

    This is within the realm of fanfiction, I assume? Yeah, that sort of normalization tends to bug me–even as I acknowledge that the have a right to do whatever they’d like, I still can’t help but wonder what the reasons for that would be. I similar thing that bugs me is the assertion that the turtles should act like “real” (read: stereotypical) teenagers. I mean, yes, they’re teens, but the word doesn’t mean anything except “person is between fifteen and nineteen years old”: why, given their exceptional upbringing, would being fifteen make them stereotypical?

    There was also a person I saw complain about Greg’s view that gargoyles don’t have a defined creation myth or god to worship, saying that was incompatible with what we knew of sentient nature, but I thought this idea created an interesting contrast.

    This is interesting. I don’t think it’s particularly true–I understand individual people, at least, are born without a conception of God, so I don’t see how it’s out of the question for cultures to evolve without one. I do wonder what it means when it comes to their interactions with humans, particularly when it comes to ones with a long and storied history in making other people adopt their religions.

  7. Pterobat says:

    Actually, how is the Manhattan Clan “paradigm shifting”? I haven’t read all of your blog, so I am not clear yet–do you mean they are protecting an entire large area (New York) rather than a narrower “rookery” territory? Or that they are developing interests and hobbies to define themselves beyond just being “gargoyles”?

    Personally, I think that humankind has never been just about “survival”, that even in the harshest of times, they would have found some way to express themselves and to play. Even Coldstone, allegedly from a harder era for Gargoyles, asked Demona if “survival” was the only thing left for them. Demona believes it that is enough, but she is corrupt, and not to mention focused on little but her goals. Her path is obviously meant as the wrong one, meaning that to blindly think just of living for the next day is no way to exist.

    By the same token, I think gargoyles would not directly try to pressure any reluctant members towards reproduction. Maybe they would frown on them for not doing so, but the clan wouldn’t be a fascist state where gargoyles would be forced to breed, so any conflict would involve social shaming more than anything.

    Why? Because they would recognize how much internal unrest could be caused by trying to force reproduction above social harmony. I think that would happen in a lot of similar cases, where even in dire circumstances, survival wouldn’t be all that people think about. That’s where the drama comes from in apocalyptic scenarios, after all, instead of people settling down like good machines to survive, they carry the same human flaws.

    And yes, it’s fanfiction that tries to turn gargoyles into “Humans with wings”, as some like to put it. I’ve stopped reading fanfiction, but I write it occasionally, and I think the reason Gargoyles fans do this is that it’s hard to get into an alien mindset, so they make it more familiar to them. Some might be genuinely spooked by the idea of a society with collective parenting, and try to “fix” it. Or they misread “Mark of the Panther”.

    Other fans might simply like to imagine themselves as gargoyles, without giving up the comforts of human life.

    Actually, when I thought about it, I realized how eerie it was to assume the series was trying to tell us that collective parenting was “wrong” when it had been the norm of a loving and intelligent species for millennium. I don’t think Gargoyles rolls that way.

    As for the Turtles, I just got so used to them as they were that I never bothered to notice that various incarnations don’t act like “teenagers”, outside of the NIck Turtles. I don’t think there’s anything deliberate behind the very un-teenage way they usually act–it just kind of happens that way. Or maybe it’s like anime, where a fifteen-year-old looks and acts twenty-five, for some reason.

  8. Ian says:

    Paradigm shifting: What you said, plus some of the stuff we’ll be told will happen, such as Lexington starting a company or the greater communication that will exist between the various gargoyle clans and the differences that will inevitably make in the way gargoyles see themselves, which couldn’t have happened without Goliath’s (accidental) world tour. Plus, there’s stuff like establishing that the clan isn’t necessarily limited to gargoyles, which I’m guessing would not have been a popular position even in the best of times.

    I agree that there wouldn’t be pressure, at least not in the Manhattan or London clans–London cause they’re enforcing the precise opposite (although in that case, at least, it’s done as a cultural, uniformly enforced norm, which makes things different) and Manhattan because when the leader is in a relationship with a human, there’s little room to stand on when it comes to unconventional life choices. The other clans? Not a clue.

    All this talk has me wondering what Demona’s immortality does to her biological clock when it comes to reproduction: can she potentially have more than the standard three eggs, or does being stuck at the same age mean the opposite, that her biological clock will never get to a stage where she can have a viable second egg?

    I forget…what did “Mark of the Panther” have to say about parenting? Is that the episode where Angela takes Goliath to task for not accomodating her desire to think of herself as the scion of Goliath and Demona instead of one of the clan’s children?

    While I would tend to agree that approaching of the turtles as so-called teenagers in name only tends to be unconscious, it’s tended to feel more appropriate than the alternative, particularly in their original “raised-from-birth-to-kill-a-man” incarnation. If we can say that there is a prototypical teenage stage of being, it would be largely due to the fact that they tend to share similar experiences, such as school and puberty and everything those brings. Even with the insights gleaned from stuff like television and the internet, the fact that the turtles have no first hand experience with anything outside the sewer by the time each incarnation begins makes it, I think, very unlikely that all four turtles’ conceptions of themselves and their behavior would match those of a so-called typical teenager. Heck, given what is known of her, Karai wouldn’t feel right written as a typical teenager, and she has the benefit of at least having those shared experiences.

    (Am I making any sense?)

    And since we’re comparing the two, it is just now that I’ve realized that both Gargoyles and TMNT (2003) focus on untraditional families is yet another thing both shows share. .

  9. Pterobat says:

    Okay, I understand what you meant by “Paradigm Shift” now, although I’m a little fuzzy on to what extent having interests and hobbies guide and define you is different from the gargoyle norm. My impression from Greg W’s notes was that gargoyles have personal interests, but they never become “jobs” or identifiers the way it does for humans. At the same time, I don’t see the modern Manhattan Clan as subverting that yet, but if Lex going into business becomes canon, that could change.

    I still don’t believe other clans would force undesired breeding, because that would be a sign of barbarism, not pragmatism. Certain corrupt individuals might *try*, but….

    I guess Demona’s reproductive abilities are one of those things that writers don’t feel the urge to define because it’s not relevant to the plot. Or at least Greg doesn’t seem to have any plans to have Demona reproduce more.

    “Mark of the Panther” is pretty much that, yeah. It seems like a lot of fans believed Goliath and Angela’s conflict would lead to gargoyles realizing that collective parenting was damaging, and adopt human norms instead. In hindsight, I realize that Greg and the other writers might not have communicated their actual intentions clearly enough to an audience used to being told that nuclear families were the right option.

    However, it also wouldn’t have killed older viewers to think outside that particular box, and realize that it also makes no sense that the writers would try to expose a (mostly) noble species’ parenting methods as heartless. No, it was all about Goliath wanting to keep Angela from Demona.

    You’re making sense: the Turtles act largely “adult” because they have none of the traditional touchstones of modern, westernized adolescence. I’m just uncertain if this was intentional when Laird and Eastman created them, or that “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” just had the best ring to it and they were simply written as warriors.

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