The Outsider: Dark Uncle   Show Only 
January 20, 2020 11:45 AM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Despite being on mandatory leave, Ralph continues to scrutinize the circumstances surrounding the night of the murder; Jack has a hair-raising experience at a remote barn where key evidence and a mysterious substance have been found. Unorthodox PI Holly Gibney is brought into the investigation.
posted by oh yeah! (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I found it very hard to see what was going on in the darker scenes like when Jack was in the barn, or the prison sequences (it wasn't until I read the Vulture recap that I understood who the prison guy was at all). I still don't feel particularly interested in/sympathetic towards Ralph, so I'm glad for the introduction of Gibney, she seems like she's going to be more of a draw for me.
posted by oh yeah! at 11:51 AM on January 20, 2020

I find Gibney's character offensive as a disabled person. It actually drives me farther away from the show. Hopefully everyone including the mods will be ok with that since it's coming from "inside the building."
posted by miss-lapin at 2:37 AM on January 21, 2020

Can I get some clarification on why miss-lapin's first comment was deleted? I didn't see anything in there that warranted deletion, but I could totally be reading the situation wrong and I want to make sure I don't also make the same mistake at some point.
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:43 AM on January 21, 2020

Apparently it was flagged for the tv trope I named within. Be careful lest your comment get flagged too for derailing.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:50 AM on January 21, 2020

I'd like clarification from the mods too - criticism of a show being ableist or racist shouldn't be treated as a derail. I liked Erivo's performance, but if she's a walking offensive trope that I was too clueless to recognize, ignorance is not blissful, I'd prefer a link to the tv trope so I can educate myself.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:11 AM on January 21, 2020

Mod note: Using the phrase "magical negro" to signify a real problem in cinematic depictions of PoC characters is the sort of brief shorthand that can work okay coming from "inside the house" (from a Black perspective), but can easily cause offense coming from a white person, especially in an offhand quick-take kind of way. If you, as a white person want to use the phrase to explain why a Black character is non-interesting, it would probably be better to contextualize that pretty carefully, including probably keeping in mind that this term originated in the Black community, and use of the archaic / offensive "negro" was deliberate as something recognized as having a specific meaning used in this way within that community. As with white people borrowing hip-hop lyrics, etc., some care should be taken, but further discussion can happen in Metatalk, if people would like to discuss that more.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:26 AM on January 21, 2020

I have made a books included post for this episode.
posted by jazon at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2020

So King has a long history of using a problematic racist trope in his work (here are a few essays on the subject by people of color al specifically naming the trope I referenced 1 2 3). As such I'm concerned Gibney is going to fall into the same pattern as many other of King's characters of color. (There was also King's recent tweet defending Oscar picks, which have been called out for their lack of diversity AGAIN.) So my concern isn't the character isn't interesting. I would have said that. My concern is actually rooted in something very different, thank you VERY much. Mainly that a specific deeply problematic trope that has been prevalent in his work could be surfacing here AGAIN.

The disability issue being potentially supernatural makes this even worse.

Again King and ableism aren't strangers. Here we have a character of color who is ALSO being portrayed as neuroatypical, but also possibly supernaturally "gifted." (She is the first person to mention a doppleganger.) This is yet another deeply problematic trope. Mainly because I'm willing to bet the main pay off of her "abilities" aren't going to be for her, but are going to help other characters.

So yeah her character is deeply concerning to me.
posted by miss-lapin at 9:34 PM on January 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

Also oh yeah!, here is the tv tropes entry on this particular trope.

There's also this essay by a sociologist that offers more detailed insight.

One thing I forgot to mention is that Spike Lee, who identified the trope in a lecture at Yale University in 2001, identified the Green Mile as an example of the trope in that same lecture. So it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that this is a long standing concern with King's work including this one.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:22 AM on January 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

The character in the book is neither black nor has magical powers. She's just really smart. I don't know if that makes the show's depiction of Holly better for you or not.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 8:08 AM on January 22, 2020

Here is a funny sketch about The Trope by all-black comedy troupe Astronomy Club that points out the character in question doesn't need to have magical powers, they just need to exist in order to help the white protagonist fulfill their own narrative. This is indeed a well that Stephen King has returned to many times. Whether that's the case for this show is yet to be determined, but I enjoy watching Holly so far.

I started out confused by the scenes of the guy in prison, and sort of annoyed honestly, but when his big move was to slit his own throat, I applauded the show for zigging where I thought they were going to zag.
posted by ejs at 8:50 PM on January 22, 2020

This is a show only thread. I'm not familiar with book so I'm sorry for that mistake. But also the show may diverge from the book so even if she wasn't mystical in the books, that doesn't mean she will remain so. (Although from what I've seen this show is playing close to the source material so far.)

As for "just really smart" she's neuroatypical not just intelligent. I'm not the only one who has that read of her character ( 1 2 3). Those are just a few reviews that identify her that way, but there are more. the disability superpower trope, which does not mean the disability is linked to actual mystical powers (though it can be) is about a disabled person who "makes up for what they are missing and goes beyond" with some ability. So even if her disability isn't connected to mystical abilities, her character is still potentially in this trope especially since it's her most identifying feature so far. Hopefully, HOPEFULLY that will change. But it's possible it won't.

In terms of her character, I'll have to wait and see. If her presence is merely to help the main protagonists, then...yeah I'm not going to be thrilled no matter how nuanced the performance of the actor.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:12 AM on January 23, 2020

I also had some concerns with the Holly Gibney character, but I'm willing to wait and see. She's obsessed with cars, but they have her driving a Ford Pinto, is that a joke? Why is she afraid to fly, is that a Rain Man allusion or is there a reason to write that in?

For what it's worth, here's showrunner Richard Price saying that this Holly Gibney characterization is his, not Steven King's:
"I had to create this character and didn’t want to be beholden to anything outside," Price said at the HBO panel for the series at the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour. "With King’s blessing, I made the character [of Holly Gibney, played by Cynthia Erivo] mine. I wanted to do my thing. Mr. Mercedes [the book or series] did not exist in the world of The Outsider. It’s just, 'Forget everything you knew about Holly.' I asked King to change her name to make more of a separation. The only directive he gave me was 'Just keep the name.'"
He had originally written Gibney as a white Lithuanian from a coal mining town but Jason Bateman insisted on casting Cynthia Erivo, so the character's backstory was tweaked. So King's baggage on this issue may not be so relevant.
posted by peeedro at 10:40 AM on January 26, 2020

Holly Gibney is also played by another actress (white, since that's the topic we're on) in the show Mr. Mercedes, but I haven't seen that. In a detective story, aren't the roles of most people to help or hinder the protagonist? They're on a quest. You say that like it's a bad thing which kind of puzzles me because "helping" a character doesn't seem inherently cheapening them.

Not every story can be about everything. I have read The Outsider, so it's not surprising me, but I am enjoying the tension and laser focus demonstrated by the show-runners.

(Hating on Holly in King's world is too bad as I find her to be an incredibly well written and empowered character. I think you've written her off far too soon in the show as well, but I think you would enjoy her in the Mr. Mercedes (and The Outsider) trilogy. I'm not exaggerating to say I think she's one of the best hero journey herself I've read in quite awhile. That she was in The Outsider and had her own agency... well, guess you'd have to read the other stuff. I was so happy for her.)
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:32 PM on January 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I do not at all hate her.I'm about to watch the next episode to see how it develops, but I do not hate her. But I would really appreciate it if you didn't mischaracterize my response to her. I'm going to watch the next episode to see how this plays out, but I'm allowed to have misgivings or concerns about a character without hating them or even disliking them. I'm still giving the show and the character a chance, thanks.

Also this is a show only thread. And it's great that her character gets a hero's journey in the trilogy. I don't know anything about that because I'm just watching the show.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:06 AM on January 27, 2020

I'm also not hating on the Holly Gibney. This is my first introduction to the her character, from what I gather she's a fan favorite (I gave up reading King two decades ago but I find his work converted to screen can be worth watching sometimes). If the show is writing her as a neurodivergent person, that's great but that come with high hopes and high expectations. So far, they're not being met.

So I'm sorry to be critical of how this character has been written so far but It should be okay to point out that it's lazy and problematic for the show to introduce a neurodivergent character by making a series of not-subtle allusions to Rain Man. Holly's first scene demonstrates her encyclopedic knowledge of cars which is exactly how Raymond is introduced in Rain Man, and just like Raymond she's afraid to fly and a master of baseball statistics. Unless any of these traits become relevant to the story, it feels like cheap and harmful Hollywood Autism coding instead of developing her as a fully realized living character. I hope it gets better.
posted by peeedro at 5:25 PM on January 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

In the scene where they all talk to Jason Bateman's daughter on the stairs, did anyone notice the clasped hands in the upper right, in the darkness up the stairs? This show often has the camera aiming off center like there's going to be something in the background, so crepy.
posted by fleacircus at 7:49 AM on February 18, 2020

She's obsessed with cars, but they have her driving a Ford Pinto, is that a joke?

I'm pretty sure it's a Honda Civic.
posted by fleacircus at 9:03 PM on February 18, 2020

Yeah, I think I was wrong, I think it was a late 70's Accord Hatchback (the red one).
posted by peeedro at 11:13 PM on February 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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