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Tamsin: The Maltese Valkyrie — Episode 20

October 1, 2013 by Drinks at The Dal


Tamsin in Subterrfaenean
The newest addition to the Lost Girl gang, Tamsin is brash, callous, and ambiguous in her loyalties much like the hardboiled detectives of noir crime dramas. Writer/director and noir enthusiast Melanie Killingsworth joins us to talk about how Tamsin compares to noir detectives like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, including how Tamsin acts as a foil to other characters and her burgeoning redemption story arc. Melanie writes about television, including Lost Girl, at mehlsbells and at TVquila, and you can follow her on Twitter @mehlsbells.

Drink Special: Kamikaze

½ oz Lime juice
½ oz Triple sec
½ oz Vodka

Shake with ice and strain into shot glass.

Tamsin as a Noir Detective

Women in noir are traditionally either the femme fatale or an innocent, often dumb, character. Tamsin is a stereotypical noir detective, except that she is a woman.

Main Comparisons

  • Moral ambiguity
    • Dark Fae
    • Doesn’t always do the right thing — sometimes doesn’t even try
  • Redemption
    • Tamsin’s storyline suggests a redemption arc might be in store for her in season four. Noir detectives also tend to have redemption storylines, though they don’t necessarily want or try to be redeemed.
    • Introduced as an extremely abrasive character
    • Unlikeable — of course people like Tamsin, but she’s prickly and often says and does things which make her hard to like.
  • Very sexist/misogynistic
    • Tamsin has some of these attitudes and turns some of them on herself. At the same time, she’s aware of and angry about the double standard.
    • Noir detectives often refer to women by physical attributes (“a pair of getaway sticks”), which we also see Tamsin do (“guy rockin’ an eight pack”).
  • Dark foil to existing characters
    • Noir detectives are often a softer counterpart to the bad guys they chase — they might stab a guy in the back, but they didn’t start the fight.
    • Tamsin is a darker foil to the existing characters. Like Kenzi, she is snarky, but Kenzi uses her wit to build relationships where Tamsin uses hers to tear people down. Both she and Dyson are “tough” characters, but Dyson is much more noble where Tamsin is nonchalant.
  • Oft-­referenced but unclear past ­
  • Transient, no roots ­
  • Highly functional alcoholic
  • No family
    • Though in a pre-­season three interview with The Gate, the interviewer said Linda Hamilton was playing Tamsin’s mother and no one corrected him.
    • Since Linda Hamilton will be appearing in season four, maybe we’ll learn that she is Tamsin’s mother? Or did that plot element get lost on the cutting room floor?
  • Perfectly capable of physical violence, and she uses it to emasculate and disparage as much as in self­ defense ­
  • Her power is doubt, which is pretty much the noir detective’s greatest weapon

Minor Comparisons

  • ­Paired with a partner she is friendly with on a superficial level, works together, has mutual respect/animosity
    • Though her eventual (seeming) romantic attachment to Dyson may seem to nullify this, it also fits under “how Tamsin as a female noir detective plays with the noir trope”
  • Letting a prisoner loose on a hunch
    ­
  • Standing on a personal principle until it gets someone you love killed or harmed
  • No concept of others’ personal space (specifically with moving into Lauren’s apartment) ­
  • Thinly veiled defiance of the controlling mob boss, as when she refused to play the Morrigan’s game ­
  • Obsession with comprehending the morality of others, though not always emulating it

Tamsin and Bo

  • We were surprised that her and Bo’s relationship ended up being Tamsin’s main relationship on the show. In the beginning, it seemed like she might be a romantic interest for Dyson.
  • Rather than seeing Tamsin and Bo as a potential romantic pairing, we tend to see Tamsin’s feelings toward Bo as longing and jealousy in the sense that she wants to be Bo and have what Bo has, meaning friends and relative autonomy.

Tamsin in Delinquents

Why is Tamsin so mean to Lauren in “Delinquents”?

  • Annie thinks she might be trying to figure things out or to get a reaction.
  • Kris thinks she’s acting out as a part of her own self-loathing. “I’m going to make you as mad at me as I am at myself.”
  • Melanie thinks it’s a “male” thing to do, part of some greater scheme, and/or she might be trying to subvert the rune glass plot.
  • Stephanie also thinks it might have to do with trying to get the rune glass to not work.

Resources about Noir

  • The Maltese Falcon
    Both the Dashiell Hammett book and the Humphrey Bogart film are classic, iconic noir, which typify most of the original noir style and tropes.
  • The Simple Art of Murder – by Raymond Chandler
    Talks about the art of the detective story (Chandler can typify the noir/hardboiled genre) and gives eight short stories which are a great “sampler pack.”
  • In A Lonely Street: Film Noir, Genre, Masculinity – by Frank Krunik
    Examines main tropes of the hardboiled PI, their psychological roots, and their manifestations in film.
  • More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts – by James Naremore
    Talks about how noir style was incorporated into cinema. Includes introduction to neo-noir.

Calling Hale Lovers

We are still looking for contributors to our series of episodes focusing on each of the main characters. Specifically, we’re looking for someone who loves Hale. If you are interested in being a contributor, tell us what you find interesting about Hale and why by:

Don’t forget to include your Twitter name, email address, or some other way to contact you. Some things you can discuss in your message include what you find interesting about Hale, what storylines you have really appreciated, and how you would like to see Hale develop in future seasons.

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9 comments »

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  1. N. says:

    That was again quite interesting, thanks a lot.

    When reading about noir detectives one of the things that stand out for me is that redemption for those characters comes from their own personal code of loyalty. With Tamsin I’m lost, I don’t see such a personal code… Is it because the show needs more time to establish it or simply because I don’t get it – lol? In other words how would you describe Tamsin’s personal code? Thank you.

    • Melanie says:

      Noir detectives’ loyalty is to themselves first, their ethical code second, and all other loyalty is negotiable.

      Usually they will be loyal to their (investigative, not sexual) partner unless/until he turns out to be a dirty PI, or merely stupid; thus Tamsin’s current loyalty to Dyson as a cop – picking him up after he hunted down Isaac rings true, but if he were to get in trouble for doing something stupid like, say, taking a body to the partner of the main suspect, she’ll voice her objections (which she did) and wash her hands if that gets Dyson into trouble.

      Tamsin’s personal code so far seems to be to herself, and somewhat to Acacia. She’s struggling with whether she wants loyalty to Bo and perhaps a deeper loyalty to Dyson, and the idea that if she wants to build her own surrogate family, there IS a strong necessity of loyalty inherent in that.

      I hope the show delves into all that in Season 4. If she ends by sacrificing herself for who she deems a family, or having a strong bond of loyalty to Bo, it’ll be an interesting twist on the noir type.*

      With any of these deviations, one should ask: it because she’s a woman, is it a neo-noir sort of evolution, is it because TV is a longer form of medium than classical noirs and so eventually if you don’t have a really bitter jaded character they’re going to form stronger loyalties ? For example, Veronica Mars definitely had loyalties, though she had few series-long strings: she became disillusioned with her mother; she had a very noir-esque relationship where she used/was used by, and was friendly with Weevil but never fully trusted him; she even had a crises of faith with Wallace and Duncan at times.

      Does that answer your question, or did I just dance rabbit trails around it?

      *My speculation is, she will at least get halfway there. I she’s going to fully fulfill the noir type she can’t actually have what she most desires, so obtaining it will mean ultimate sacrifice. Whether it’ll be for Bo, for Dyson, [SPOILER ALERT: BUFFY] for the whole of the Scooby gang a la Spike at the close of buffy, whom she mirrors in other ways, is harder to tell.

      • N. says:

        I liked this character at the beginning but it drove me mad to see her becoming another Bo worshiper. I think I get your explanation, I’ll have to think about it lol! – but anyway thank you!

  2. […] at the Dal podcast, where I spent about 45 minutes [rather, two hours, yay editing!] talking about how Tamsin operates as a modern noir detective, and how in doing so she follows many tropes of the genre while subverting a few others. Check it […]

  3. I wouldn’t know a polemic if it bit me on the butt (and by looking up this word, it seems like that might be exactly what it would do), but I did have a flash of recognition when Stephanie talked about women in traditionally male-dominated roles or careers exhibiting chauvinism toward other women. I think I was like this back in my youth when coming to terms with my sexual orientation (lesbian, that is, which at the time I think I subconsciously viewed as a male-dominated space (not being a lesbian, but dating women) and probably behaved in ways that were more objectifying than a gal should, and it was primarily motivated by fear). Thanks for letting me overshare.

    Oops, not done yet! In fact, I had a creative writing teacher in college who told me that my stories that I wrote for her class seemed to border on misogynistic. That was the first wake-up call. These days I occasionally like to subvert things, whether they are songs, phrases, words, or what have you, in an effort to reclaim them, though that can be a dangerous path to tread because it’s easy to be misunderstood.

    Like Tamsin is often misunderstood. I appreciated this discussion very much because seeing Tamsin through this lens makes it crystal clear that the show is subverting the noir detective role. And that is delicious! It’s about time someone did. I mean, I think Angela Lansbury was the first to blaze this trail in “Murder, She Wrote.” (Just kidding, sort of. I didn’t watch the show so I’m not sure if her character was a drinker.)

    I so totally agree that Tamsin was perhaps trying to make it so the rune glass wouldn’t work, although I don’t think she was doing that 100% deliberately. I think that like many high-functioning alcoholics, sometimes her motivations might be a mystery even to herself, and she might behave in certain ways that she would be at a loss to explain later on.

    • Melanie says:

      To delve into the sociology of male-dominated spaces as perpetuating not only male chauvinism and misogyny but female self-loathing, and the way heavily male-dominated professions like cops and the military structure themselves intentionally to drive out anything associated with the feminine (to the detriment of these organizations and the trampelling of womens’ rights within them and the pushing of the men within them towards authoritarian abuses) is beyond the pervue of this podcast, but shit it’s so *interesting* as well as frustrating. To see it examined, even in a tiny way, on network TV is fantastic. Like you say, subversion and reclamation is often a tricky line to walk, and even if you walk it it can be misinterpreted.

      I always saw Lansbury’s character as a female Poirot [and no, I don’t see Miss Marple as a female Poiroit, and also I would call Poirot a male Jessica Fletcher had she come first], but I must ashamedly admit I’m not incredibly familiar with the series, just a few here or there. If someone were to seriously posit her as subverting noir detective, as opposed to portraying mostly opposite traits, I’d have to see quite a few more.

      Thanks for the sharing and all the other thoughts!

      • Naw, I was just kidding about Jessica Fletcher being noir. While I’ve been aware of the noir genre because how can you not be, I don’t think I have ever watched any TV shows or movies that featured a bona fide noir detective. The closest is when I’ve listened to Guy Noir on A Prairie Home Companion, which is a parody.

        That’s why listening to this podcast was such an a-ha moment. I always have liked the character of Tamsin (LOVE her sneering snarkiness and sarcasm, love the attitude and aversion to stereotypically feminine things, love the actress’ delivery of it all), but never identified it as either a type or a subversion of a type.

      • Melanie says:

        I meant it’d be so absurd I’d have to see what the heck it was about. She’s fantastic but certainly not hardboiled, bless her heart. While genres do often influence or birth totally different styles, MSW seems to be much more conventional style reflecting mostly Christie (and then of course Doyle and Poe), though adding both a woman and an older character as the central character is going to give you some interesting tropes to play with and boundaries to push.

        I do know Guy Noir; though I’ve never been a big fan of PHC, it’s probably my favorite bit on there.

        Since noir is a definite favorite topic of mine, I’m excited to bring it out in relation to more things like Lost Girl, and talk about it in modern contexts. Glad you enjoy another angle on Tamsin!

  4. […] speculation has gone around that the rune glass bottle worked, and it allowed The Wanderer to materialize in the real/Fae […]

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