I Am Woman

I decided to start the conversation about S7 with a post about women because two new women were introduced in E1. Both of them will play central roles in this new series, and there are several others who will join the cast in this series too, e.g. Caroline Quentin as animal rescuer Angela, Sigourney Weaver as American tourist, and others. I hate to make generalizations, but when I think back on the past six series, I can only come up with a few men who have been depicted as capable as well as stable, while there are many strong women who populate the show.

Among the men who are admirable that come to mind are: Martin Ellingham (despite his many psychological problems), Roger Fenn, John Slater (even though he seems to be a womanizer), Danny (even though his religiosity is excessive), Robert Dashwood, Michael (even though he has a major problem with OCD), and perhaps the Colonel. All the rest are doofuses (or gits, if you want a British term), or have major deficits. They are most often incompetent, incapable, or incredibly prone to doing ridiculous things.

The women, on the other hand, are mostly hardworking, insightful, and helpful. They take charge of their households, are excited to learn new skills and put them to use, and are often the top wage earners in their families. They frequently are forthright and self sufficient. It’s an interesting contrast. (If some reviewers have trouble with Cornish people being portrayed as dumb and foolish in this show, they should also have a problem with how the male characters are represented.)

In S7E1, we learn that Ruth has recommended a young, female therapist for Martin to see. She tells him Dr. Rachel Timoney, who does not suffer fools gladly, should be a good choice for him. When Martin arrives for his appointment, he first thinks the woman standing outside the front door is a receptionist, or something along those lines, and asks her to get Dr. Timoney. This mistake is a little strange because Ruth told him the therapist she is recommending is female and writing a book during her stay in Cornwall. Maybe we should chalk up his immediate response to his being discombobulated by the lifeboat accident, etc., or maybe he is typical of most men and still thinks of most doctors as male. His immediate reaction is to tell her she’s so young. He has had misgivings about young doctors previously, e.g. the vascular surgeon, and he wouldn’t be the first doctor to think experience counts for a lot; however, we also know that he is not thrilled to be seeing a therapist and could be looking for some reason she won’t be a good choice. (He has also told Ruth that he has been hunting for a therapist but hasn’t found anyone suitable.)

By the time he has had a few minutes with Dr. Timoney though, she has impressed him sufficiently for him to decide to come back. As Ruth noted, Dr. Timoney is demanding and quickly tells him that he has to set his phone aside while talking to her. Uncharacteristically, he hands over the phone right away. She expects punctuality and a commitment, and has set rules during her therapy sessions. She begins the first session, as seen in the E2 preview, by asking a direct question: “What are you afraid of?”

As usual the choice of that wording is important. She doesn’t ask him why he’s there or what she can help him with; she asks him what his fears are. She seems very perceptive from the outset in that she immediately notices he may have a high anxiety level.

Thus, we begin S7 with a continuation of strong women being essential to the plot. We will watch to see how Louisa gets along with this female doctor. She wasn’t happy with Edith, and these two strong women will undoubtedly come to loggerheads at times. Dr. Timoney may, and I imagine will, be the catalyst that brings them together again but not necessarily due to her therapeutic prowess. (That remains to be seen.)

The other significant female addition is Janice, Morwenna’s vain friend who becomes the new nanny. After Michael, it’s not at all surprising that this new nanny is the exact opposite. She cares more about herself than about James Henry and is anything but OCD, from the looks of the house. Nevertheless, we know that she will spend a lot of time on screen and be a critical new character.

I am fascinated by the number of strong female characters in this show. I would venture to guess that many of the viewers are female, and having strong women in the show appeals to that audience, maybe subconsciously. Also, there seem to be more shows with strong women in lead roles these days. It works for me!


Originally posted 2015-09-12 11:52:32.

16 thoughts on “I Am Woman

  1. Abby

    Interesting post. I just have a couple of points: I didn’t have the impression that Martin was confused because he didn’t realize she was female or that he expected a doctor to be male, but because of her age. I think he was expecting someone older and probably equates age with having more experience. Also, I re-watched the E2 trailer, and before she asks him what he is afraid of, it sounds like she asks him some more preliminary questions. It would be be very odd for a therapist to ask as a first question what the client is afraid of.

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Abby, you’re right about my jumping to the conclusion that he might have expected her to be male. Maybe I’m revealing my own predispositions. You may also be right about her asking him preliminary questions, but I might still be impressed with the question of what he is afraid of. Wouldn’t his body language be something of a giveaway?

    One thing I had meant to put in my post is the fact that therapists are much more likely to be female these days, both in U.S. and in UK. I found some interesting articles about this that I could give you links to if you’re interested. Apparently some men find it disturbing that they have trouble finding male therapists.

  3. Laura H

    I was a bit relieved at the encounter of the young but strong Dr. Rachel, as I’m feeling that she will not be a comedic figure that could have the audience asking why on earth Ruth would recommend such a therapist. As you pointed out, she will likely be added to the strong woman category:) And since a very prominent and repetitive theme that runs through S7E1 is ME’s and Louisa’s lack of or constantly missed communication, I’m rooting for Dr. Rachel to get them to focus on that and hopefully how to improve it. I’m a little puzzled by Aunt Ruth’s point in showing ME a picture of himself wearing a tie on the beach. Is she trying to say you had no childhood, you were a man at an early age and need to learn how to lighten up? Wouldn’t she be aware that ME had to be an adult at a very young age and fend for himself as no one else was doing it and maybe he has created a wall around himself in defense of not having a feeling of trust and security? Both ME and Louisa seem to have that in common and possibly it is difficult in seeing that in the other when not able to see it in themselves.
    S7E1 felt in some ways an extension of Series 6. Martin is in emotional pain without Louisa. I keep wanting to compare it to S4E1 when Louisa is absent…maybe a hopeful difference is that he takes steps to set up the therapy and goes into contortions in trying to communicate with Louisa…all the while suffering comments from others as to whether Louisa will return or not. Maybe the writers purposefully gave the show many dufus men to contrast with ME’s competence to make him upstanding in the audience’s eyes and our pulling for him to somehow discover that lost childhood and how looking at it might free him to trust and be vulnerable.

  4. Abby

    In real life, a therapist will frequently initially ask a client what they can help them with and then take a history, of the presenting problem and on the background of the client. I, personally, take a pretty detailed history, but some therapists don’t. I’m thinking she may have asked him that question after he tells her about why he’s there and a bit about his marriage. I’m sure it’s obvious to her how anxious he is, so she will want to find out about where that is coming from. A certain amount of nervousness is common when people first start therapy, but his level of anxiety is off the charts.

    Regarding their being more female therapists than male, that’s certainly true for marriage and family therapists and probably licensed clinical social workers. I’m not sure about psychologists though, but I’m pretty sure that men dominate psychiatry. Since it is Dr. Timoney, she is most likely a psychologist. I am really looking forward to watching the therapy sessions. Since they said they consulted with real therapists and had them study the characters, I’m hoping to see some good stuff, within the constraints of time, of course.

  5. Linda D.

    I was fascinated about the change in Martin from the end of S6 and the beginning of S7. Clearly, he misses his wife and son immensely and fears that they may not return. “This evidence of “softening” and other emotions regarding the future of his family is something which we have rarely seen from Martin. Before, he just seemed stuck and paralyzed. That he has sought to find a therapist on his own and is concerned that he has to have one in hand before Louisa returns speaks to his resolve.
    I like that Dr. Timoney is a strong woman figure AND that he seems to be willing to hear her out. One might have expected him to be annoyed and storm out. He has rarely been seen to accept orders or advice from a woman.

    Louisa figures in hugely and we are left to wonder in what state of mind she returns and what she has decided. Of course, we expect her to hold her own but also hope she is willing to try again. She is in for a surprise, as we have heard, when she meets Dr. Timoney. She will find out that it is not just Martin who has baggage. The interaction between this unlikely trio is going to be VERY interesting!

    Morwenna has grown and matured and is showing herself to be more capable. Her comments to The Doc reveal that she has care and concern for his well being and that she understands his angst.

    Janice is quite comical and no doubt, this character was added to lighten things up. She is so ditzy that she is fun to watch.

    There was only one mention about Jennifer. Hmm. It puzzles me why this character was introduced and then dropped, in as far as we know!

    Ruth continues to be indomitable, doesn’t she? She really IS very funny too! She cares for Martin very much but we have to wonder if she supports his efforts to reunite his family. I also wondered why she mocked him about the picture. What was the purpose of that? I simply love her relationships with those she cares about. I think she is very compassionate and kind.

  6. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    His anxiety level is quite obvious and her take-charge attitude may actually help him to be more at ease because he can let her guide him. If it’s true that he gains some confidence from the sessions and from hearing that he’s not the only one in the marriage who needs to do some personal work, then she will have brought him to a much better place in terms of his ability to function in life. I’ll be interested in the therapy sessions as well as in what happens to his blood phobia. My initial assumption when he first reveals the haemophobia in S1 was that it was meant to be funny. A vascular surgeon who is nauseated by the sight of blood is a comedic condition, but last series they turned it into something much more serious and debilitating to him. Now what are their plans?

  7. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    My take on why Ruth shows him the picture of when he was young and wearing a tie on the beach was that it sets up the scene in E5 when he and Louisa go to the beach in their street clothes. Of course that’s a strange thing to do, although he may be taking a break from work to do it. It’s not strange for ME though, both because he has done it since he was a child and because he never takes his suit off except to sleep. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, the suit stays on, and that is his hallmark (and an absurdity) as well as an indication that he is walled off. For Louisa the dress is more out of character except that she is now taking his lead and trying to dress in as restrained a way as he does. In some ways being with him has led to her being more closed off too in her fashion choices while also demonstrating further that they are compatible. They are the best dressed people in Portwenn by a mile!

    I, too, think that one reason there are so many ineffective men is it contrasts with Martin’s erudition and perfectionism. It’s also funny to a great extent, although the men are getting the short end of the stick for the most part. In addition, there are so few men with whom Martin could ever socialize, even if he wanted to. He isn’t interested in having a pint with anyone and that makes Louisa more important. She’s his only source of friendship outside of Ruth, and that is of consequence regardless of how much he tries to stand apart throughout most of the show.

    The nosiness of the community has always been a thorn in his side, and he has been influenced by some of the comments before, e.g. when they talk about the pitfalls of marriage in S3. He’s a private man, and always has been, but falling in love with the village headmistress has forced him to interact more with the community. It’s still both irritating to him and funny to us that they never give up trying to extract information from him as well as trying to comfort him. That’s another regular event in the show.

  8. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Some of what I wrote to Laura relates to what you say too Linda. I have to guess that Ruth continues to have reservations about their marriage. She tried to warn him before the wedding, but then seemed to be happy for them. Now she seems to have fallen back into a skeptical position. Marriage may be her hangup since she never did it herself. At least she sees that Martin is anxious to fix his relationship with Louisa and wants to help.

    I definitely agree with you about Morwenna, and Janice is going to be a wild ride both in terms of the care she gives to JH and in Penhale’s fascination with her. She will be another source of humor, as you say!

    I guess the events of S6 upended his life and jolted him into recognizing how much he wants Louisa and JH in his life, as well as how much he needs to change his ways to make that happen. It is a nice twist to bring in Louisa’s faults now. She has certainly been through a tough childhood too. This series is turning into a psychological investigation of their personalities and how they interact. I’m definitely looking forward to watching what they do with it.

  9. Santa Traugott

    When you think about it, they almost have to bring Louisa’s faults into it. Because how else would there be something different about the situation to move the plot along? Louisa knows from more or less bitter experience Martin’s flaws and failures at marriage; she has heard him promise to do better without permanent effect, she knows she’s been unhappy with him and will not return to him, I think, without lots of evidence of solid change from him, which isn’t going to happen in the short term. Particularly if she’s blind to evidence of change, as she seems to be to much about him, so invested is she in blaming him for their marriage troubles. Having her look at how her own issues contribute to their problems, reframes the situation so that she could consider the possibility that her view of him is too negative, and that their negative interactions could be altered. “Reframing” is a powerful tool.

    I agree with the general observation that most of the women, especially the main female cast characters are portrayed as strong and competent, especially compared to the male cast of characters, except DM. Even Al is kind of a lost soul. Compare Mrs. Tishell to Clive.
    She may not be all there, in her delusional fantasies about DM, but otherwise, she’s tough and competent while Clive is somewhat childish and “dim.”

    I don’t know if you read the Caroline Catz interview (cited on the CC fan page) but she noted that her wardrobe in S7 was chosen to emphasize that Louisa was both strong and female. I think it looks to be somewhat softer in tone than that of S6, where she had a harder edge than will prove to be the guess in S7, I’m guessing.

    Finally, note the way in which the male characters, though far less competent in their professions, and perhaps equally incompetent in their personal lives, do have certain positive traits that DM sorely lacks — a community-mindedness, loyalty and matter-of-fact kindness (here I’m thinking of Bert, Al and Mark Mylow — I don’t know just what Penhale is about, maybe an outright recognition of his loneliness and a seeking after friendship).

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I am more convinced than ever that CC has a lot to do with her wardrobe in DM. She has now revealed that she enjoys fashion and did a fashion shoot with nautical theme. She definitely chose the wedding dress she wore in S6E1.

    This series she appears to be wearing many more bright colors. Just as the show last series went darker in terms of lighting, she went darker in terms of clothing. This series she’s wearing bright oranges, blues, reds, etc. and that would definitely contribute to the return of more humor and generally a more upbeat approach. Her clothes are still fit close to her body and sometimes somewhat severe, but she seems much more comfortable with the skirts that include pockets and better shoes. I agree that she is going for a strong yet feminine look, and clothes contribute significantly to each character.

    There are certainly men in the show who have good qualities, including concern for others. But it is interesting how those traits are almost always offset by their bumbling and general lack of ambition. They are definitely more likely to be unable to manage than the women. They may, as a result, also be more likely to get the laughs though. E1 turned that around a bit when Ruth gets all the good lines, although she has been written as sardonic most of the time, and I find that amusing.

    BTW, the end of E1 brings everyone, except Martin and Louisa, back into harmony again when they all offer to help Al fix up the B&B. Even Martin seems in a much better place when the episode comes to a close. We might want to think about that as a sign of healing ahead.

  11. Cindy

    I just returned from vacation – no TV, actually quite refreshing! – and see that you have already begun watching Series 7. How are you all already watching here in the U.S.?

  12. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’m guilty of watching by way of others who have access to it in UK. There have also been several trailers and iTV puts out descriptions of coming episodes about two weeks before each episode will be shown in UK. Much of what we think we know is based on the trailers and on the pictures taken by the many fans who went to Port Isaac during the filming period. Until we see each episode, we’re really just guessing. It’s sort of a game as well as wishful thinking. Soon we’ll know if we guessed right!

  13. Kathy

    I’m coming to your blog a little late, but I have also noticed all the strong women in this show. it is one of the many things I like about DM. Even those women we don’t like … Margaret Ellingham, Carrie Wilson, and probably others that don’t come readily to mind … are strong in their own way. I hadn’t relly thought about the men being ineffective. There are others than the ones you mentioned, but they don’t figure large in the story – such as the members of the Board of Governors (except Dennis from S6, E2). Even Eddie Ricks was competent despite his fetish. I also like that the women are not all young and beautiful … but I’m sure you’ve covered that in another blog … there are good roles for older actresses in this show – perhaps the doing of Phillip B.

  14. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Welcome Kathy! You’re never too late to join the conversation.

    I did write a post on older actresses and called it “Aging and Acting” and published it in Jan. 2015. I appreciate the fact that this show provides many good roles for women and has addressed quite a few women’s issues as well. It’s so true that even Margaret and Carrie should be considered.

    As for the men, you’re right that there are some competent men, including Chris Parsons, who I neglected to mention. Eddie Rix is an interesting example. He’s in the show so briefly and has such a limited role. For me his sexual habits are used purely for the humor and surprise. No one can ever know what’s going on behind the curtains of people in a small town, huh?! Of course, the doc is such a prude too. But for the most part the men are pretty lame, don’t you think?

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