Noise to Signal

Login disabled.

The Venture Bros.: Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman

Well, it was bound to happen, right? Season three plops out its very first dud with Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman. This episode aired about two hours after my apartment was broken into. I'm not sure which of these things depressed me more.

First of all, I have to say that there's a lot of good in Dr. Quymn, but there's just not enough. There are some excellent lines (the best thing about The Venture Bros. is that even the weakest episodes are endlessly quotable) and a few good chuckles, but compared to the rest of this season (which contained three genuine masterpieces in Shadowman 9, The Invisible Hand of Fate and the imperfect but excellent The Buddy System), Dr. Quymn's flaws are tragically magnified.

In an effort to treat one of my all-time favorite shows with approprite reverence, allow me to itemize, and then discuss, in no particular order, a few of the problems I had with this episode. Bear with me; it's a long ride. (I owe a tremendous debt here to fellow fan Meredith Reid, with whom a post-episode discussion really helped me to articulate my feelings of previously-vague dissatisfaction. I also stole a few of these from her. And there's nothing she can do about it. So nyah.)

1) The squandered potential of an exotic location. Despite the fact that this entire episode takes place in a jungle setting, there's really no reason that it couldn't have taken place anywhere else in the world. Aside from some set-dressing, a few natives, and a fictional fruit (which didn't factor into the episode at all except to "explain" part of an irrelevant and all-but-abandoned backround plot), this episode could just as well have happened on the compound. Why bother getting the Ventures out into the world if you aren't going to have any fun with it whatsoever?

Ice Station -- Impossible!, Ghosts of the Sargasso and Escape to the House of Mummies Part II come immediately to mind as examples of how much fun you can have with a new and unique environment for your characters. In the case of Dr. Quymn, the characters are just there without any real reason or significance. I'm not asking for anything groundbreaking, but as long as you're going to transplant the action of your entire show, why not have some fun along the way?

Strike one.
Strike one.

2) A large step backward for portrayal of females. I've been brainstorming a nice, long essay that I'd like to write for this site regarding powerful women in the Venture universe. After all, just about every one of the female characters in the show is a strong, independent personality, and a very real, rounded character unto herself. With the exception of Sally Impossible, we've never had an important female succumb to weakness of will...and Sally's submissiveness was used perfectly to make a greater point. (Not to mention the fact that she finally did get a stand-up moment in season two.)

So what happened here? Why is our important title character painted so thinly? Is she a character at all, or just a reason for Rusty to get an erection? What sort of message is it that she abandons her research entirely just because a man shows interest in her for once? Why are intelligence and sex a tradeoff for one another? Is she so weak that she can't have both?

What happened to her daughters? Why are Hank and Dean well-rendered, very human (and sympathetic) characters, while Quymn's girls--whom we are painstaking assured are Hank and Dean's female counterparts--just a pair of giggling, horny, hypersexual 15-year-olds? Aren't they human beings as well? This show has never had any trouble creating sympathy for the "villain" of the week. What happened here? Dermott last week was a very sympathetic character and was crafted lovingly and realistically. Why are these girls given nice bodies, cute smiles, and expected to do nothing more than crave Dean's penis? Is it too much to ask for some personality?

And, worst of all, what about Ginnie? We've met powerful women before, and you know what? The Venture Bros. never resorted to tarring them with the "manly" brush. Why is Ginnie all of sudden forced into intentionally-repulsive bull-dyke lesbianism to prove to us that she's "tough?" Wasn't Molotov "tough?" Wasn't Dr. Girlfriend "tough?" Hell, wasn't Myra "tough?" If she's Brock's counterpart, why is Brock allowed to be attractive and Ginnie is not? Why is Ginnie covered in sickly sweat stains but Brock just gets to flex his muscles? Since when is The Venture Bros. an effective, but unironic, illustration of the sexual double-standard?

3) Wots...uh the deal? Midway through the episode we came to our commercial break. And I...scratched my head. Because...well...what was even happening? The entire episode felt limp and plotless, which on its own isn't such a bad thing. (Try summarizing the plot for Hate Floats, for example.) But here it's distracting. The Ventures spend the entire episode in a jungle, for crying out loud. For what reason? Rusty's impotence cure, by the way, doesn't cut it. He's never believed in holistic medicine before...why is he now so sure of it that he flies his entire family across the globe to give it a shot?

It's perfectly fine to be plotless; I would like to reiterate that. All--yes, all--of my favorite novels are plotless. But there has to be something else to keep us interested. Which, this week, there wasn't. There was plenty of time for character development, or creative interaction, but we didn't really get much of either. A few stray chuckles don't justify an empty, meandering half hour. Dr. Quymn's search for the cure for cancer, by the way, was so pointless as to seem almost cheap. The writers needed a reason for her to be in the jungle, so they gave her the most convenient and time-worn of them all, patted her on her noticeably perfect butt, and never referred to it again.

Oh, there was something about a Wereodile tormenting the town. That doesn't count because it was only ever referred to when they needed to space out the sex jokes.

4) Jonas Bad Man. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's certainly something that makes me uneasy as a viewer. This season, Jonas Venture Sr. is really being made out to have been a bad father. We might have had hints to this in the past, but it was never so overt, and it was always artfully vague just what Rusty's daddy-issues really were.

Now it's becoming a lot more clear that Jonas was...well, Jonas was a pretty awful human being. Coupling this week's flashback with the one from The Doctor is Sin leaves no doubt as to where Rusty's sexual frustration and immaturity come from, and in each case it's suggested that Jonas didn't really care much about his son.

This removes a good deal of responsibilty from Rusty's shoulders. Previously it was easy to assume that the only reason Rusty was a failure was because he saw the great shadow that his father had cast and decided that, rather than try to live up to it, he'd spend his days wallowing in self-pity. Now, however, it becomes clear that he was doomed from the beginning. Rusty is no longer the architect of his own misery...he's stepping into the clothes that Bad Parenting laid out before him.

Is this a bad decision on the part of the writers? Well, maybe not. But now that we're being asked to reconsider our view of Jonas Venture Sr. I have to admit that it's a much less satisfying way to approach the problem.

Strike two.
Dean, Nancy and Drew

5) Making the viewer feel like a creep. So we have Nancy and Drew, two young, teenage twins clearly drawn to be...well, attractive. They've got cute faces and some clearly intentional curves. All of which is fine, until the climactic scene in which Dean into their bedroom, strip, and attempt to double-team him.


Watching that scene actually made me physically uncomfortable, and it wasn't entirely due to the ages of the characters involved (although that does factor into on). It was more the lack of respect that the characters were shown. Nancy and Drew (come give them those names and then have nothing else to let them do?) basically exist as personified vaginas. Teenage vaginas. But nothing about the scene contains anything like the appropriate self-awareness that we'd expect from a show like this. It goes from sex-farce to sexploitation in a wink, and because the girls are so clearly desirable from the point of view of the other characters in the show, we're along for the ride. Which, honestly, kind of made me feel creepy for even watching it.

Worse things happen in this show, yes, but we are never asked to align ourselves, as viewers, with that action. Sgt. Hatred, to take a perfect example, is a convicted sex-offender who molested our main teenage characters at least once in their lives. The difference isn't that it happened off-camera, the difference is that we're not asked to align ourselves with Hatred. When, for example, Hatred is attacked by playful children in The Buddy System he refers to them as "sexy minors." Extremely creepy, but Hatred is the creep...not us. At no point are the children actually portrayed as sexy minors. It's all in Hatred's head. He's a creep. He's an awful man. It's all internal. You may find it funny and you may not, but it's at least appropriate for the character, and we are allowed to maintain a healthy distance.

Here the girls are made out to be sexy minors. They giggle and titter and coo and sign their letters with a lipstick kiss. They're curvy and flirty and quick to slip out of their pink panties. We are never, as an audience, given any reason to doubt their "appeal." It makes us feel guilty despite the fact that we aren't even offered an alternative.

A good literary example is Nabokov's Lolita...truly one of the greatest novels in our language. We understand the extent of Humbert's lust for the girl, but we are never asked (outside of Humbert's own unreliable pleas) to feel that way for the girl ourselves. The attraction is in his head--whether we agree or not is irrelevant. When Kubrick adapted the film he understood that dichotomy, and retained it as best he could for the visual medium. A much later filmic adaptation made the obvious mistake of actually making Lolita sexy. We were guilty just by sitting in the audience. Hell, it's Dominique Swain for crying out loud--why would you not be attracted to the girl?

For anyone who has not read Lolita, "Why would you not be attracted to the girl?" is not a question that the story should ever make you ask. Likewise, I don't think this episode should be triggering that question either.

6) Character abuse. A moment of disconcerting cruelty is brought to the fore when Dean Venture takes it upon himself to club Dr. Quymn with a chair in the middle of her epileptic seizure. Now I should mention that undeserved cruelty has always been a distinguishing feature of the Venture universe, but this specific instance doesn't seem to fit. Last week Billy Quizboy got assaulted by a gorilla because Dr. Venture sealed him into the E-Den and wouldn't let him out. Billy emerged bloody, disoriented, and once again handless. Did he deserve that?

Of course he didn't. But the cruelty toward the character made a greater point about Dr. Venture. It was still painful to watch, but it was a functional moment, and important in terms of keeping Venture appropriately defined as the Most Awful Human Being in the Show.

When Hank gave one of Underbheit's henchmen a wedgie after the henchman learns he has testicular cancer...was that deserved? Of course not. But it fit Hank's character; he just wanted a piece of the action, and wasn't above such a cheap move.

But this time it's Dean, who is a better person than Dr. Venture and a smarter boy than Hank. I do believe that perhaps he wouldn't recognize an epileptic fit, but surely he's the better-adjusted of the Venture boys and wouldn't have immediately leapt to the conclusion that she was a monster who needed to be beaten to death with the nearest heavy object.

7) A boxing monkey. (?) (!) (???) A boxing monkey. Okay, I admit, I laughed at this. A lot. And why not? It was funny. But it says a lot about this episode that Venture's "Weekly Bad Idea" was a monkey with boxing gloves, and nothing...oh...scientific or anything. What happened to the Joy Can? The Venture Dome? Even the friggin' shoes with backward soles? Rusty may not be the most successful inventor in the world, but he is an inventor, and I'm really not sure why his next attempt at cash-grabbing is a prize-fighting monkey.

Again: funny. Also again: not quite right for the show.

I had an image for "strike three" but I'm bored of it already so here's a boxing monkey.
I had an image for

8) Uninteresting new characters. If we're going to spend an entire episode with new characters, why can't they at least be interesting? The women are all stereotypes and no real effort is made to identify them beyond that. I don't mind spending time with new characters; it often results in a great new relationship down the line. But by the end of Dr. Quymn, I couldn't help but wish we had spent time with somebody else instead.

Where's Orpheus this season? A medium-sized role and then a teensy-weensy one. Wouldn't you rather have seen more of him instead? Or Jonas Jr. Or Molotov. Or Phantom Limb...what's he up to now, anyway? Some more Sgt. Hatred? Killinger? Hunter? The Impossibles? Pirate Captain? Hell, give me a half-hour with Hector and Swifty. My point is that we already have a whole kaboodle of interesting characters that are still only mildly explored. Do we really need new ones that are less interesting than the ones we already have?

9) "Comic" doubling. As much as we were assured that the Quymn clan was the female answer to Team Venture, there really wasn't much made of it, was there? They both have an identical family structure and they both fly supersonic jets (pinkish and bluish! Hoorah!), but, really, what was the point of hammering home the similarities? All it really accomplished was that the Quymns looked tragically under-developed by comparison.

I guess we could be seeing more of Team Quymn down the line. And a future appearance could definitely make a convert out of me. But I don't know how much I'd be willing to wager to that effect.

10) Just not all that funny. Really, this is the most important point of all. Dean in particular had some excellent material, and I guess Hank's Charlie-Brown-ish swooning at the beginning was pretty good, but when the biggest laughs come from a boxing monkey, it's not The Venture Bros. that you're watching. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. Home is Where the Hate Is might not have been the funniest thing in the world, either, but it served an important role in the overall story of season three. The fact that this episode is stand-alone actually works against it, because it makes the lack of humor that much more difficult to excuse.

Once again, despite everything I've said above that seems to lean toward the contrary, Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman is not a bad half hour of television, but it's pretty weak for a Venture episode. It's worth mentioning that a lot of people seem to have really liked this one.

I am happy for them. I wish them no harm. But I'll take The Invisible Hand of Fate any day.

With the exception of the pilot, I'd say there's never been a truly one-star episode of Venture. But Dr. Quymn joins the ranks of The Incredible Mr. Brisby, Love-Bheits and Fallen Arches with...

2 Stars

About this entry


If I may speak, Phil, I believe this episode was entirely devoted to making Rusty a mor likable character. ever since season one, Dr. Venture has been more of a whining immature idiot than anything else ( excluding his portrayl in the pilot episode, where he seemed mor like a father figure with some bad ideas executed well.) He shirked his responsibilities, hated anyone who was a better person than he is and was basically been considered a loser throughout the series. Here, we get a glimpse at a real human being in Rusty's bulls*%^ infested mind, he's a lonely, sexually frustraded and desperate indvidual trying to step out of mediocrity and into the shoe of the heroic image of his father, not the playboy image. He sees in Tara someone he can connect to and perhaps love. In all fact, both Tara and Rusty have been emotionally stunted by traumatic childhoods. They see in each other the ability to emotionally grow and finally let out their frustrations. It is a story that Rusty begins to let out his inner human being, not just act like an opportunistic man-child. It is because of this, tthat the episod succeds.

Post thoughts:A: If Dean is ever going to truly become intimate with anybody, it's going to be Triana because he loves her and it does not feel like a useless fling. (One man, ONE woman is the only kind of love Dean truly understands.)

B: I agree with you on the whole Ginny thing. That character was totally stereotypical and unneeded.

By Jordan
July 08, 2008 @ 12:13 am

reply / #

"but surely he's the better-adjusted of the Venture boys and wouldn't have immediately leapt to the conclusion that she was a monster who needed to be beaten to death with the nearest heavy object."

but he was confused that his BROTHER was the wereodile because of a noise in the dark? dean is a pussy, and the only way he could figure to stop the transformation was to beat her. not that far fetched for dean, by any means.

"Home is Where the Hate Is might not have been the funniest thing in the world, either, but it served an important role in the overall story of season three."

how can you be so sure that this episode won't be the crucible of the season? we're barely half way through the season and they've already been picked up for a 4th. whose to say that this episode won't prove to be a major plot point for the next 2 seasons?

Also, on the note about Ginny you mentioned Molotov, Myra and Dr. G - and i have to agree that basically all the females we've seen have been "strong" women, but they all are essentially the same. is it so wrong for Doc & Jackson to turn to a stereotypically physically strong woman? going completely contra their other female characters?
Personally I would have been more pissed if they brought in another myra or molotov or dr. g - they don't need another strong woman in the way they are strong. Also, it's not really going backwards for them in terms of feminism - which also seems like an incredibly moot point on your part. also, dr. g is probably the most "butch" female we've seen so far, is 1/3 (or so) really THAT bad?

and a "few" good lines? holy, Team Boobies - The Both Of Youse - Doc falling off the top of the jeep, etc... there was a lot more going on in this episode than you're giving it credit for. I wish I had more time to discuss through comments.
Regardless of not agreeing with your points, I do think you point out some very interesting things and I'd like to talk further with you about Venture (don't have too many friends than can comment on it more than a "haha that was hilarious"). Shoot me an email if you're interested.

By hank
July 08, 2008 @ 1:22 am

reply / #


I've been reading your Venture Brothers reviews this season and am very much enjoying them, even when I don't entirely agree with them.

Let me propose an alternate reading of the Quymm family in this episode.

About Dr. Quymm, you ask:

Why is our important title character painted so thinly?

I think the issue here is that the writers are trying to introduce four fairly important characters all at one time and still develop Rusty Venture in the same episode.

We do learn an awful lot of about Dr. Quymm, considering how little screen time she has. We learn that she grew up in a family situation that was pretty similar to Rusty's. We learn that she also seems to leave the bulk of parenting to her bodyguard. We learn that she is lonely an repressed, much like Rusty is lonely and repressed.

In effect, we learn that she is a female Rusty. By making her such an obvious counterpoint to Rusty, I believe the writers are asking us to fill in some of the blanks about her personality from traits we know about Rusty. The show, as you know, is about failure and there is something about Dr. Quymm that wreaks of failure, too. We learn some of this from Ginnie's rant when she attacks Rusty - that actually fills in a lot of blanks about both Ginnie and Quymm and provides both characters with a lot of depth considering how little time there is to actually develop them.

Is she a character at all, or just a reason for Rusty to get an erection?

I think she is a character that actually does do more than give Rusty an erection. Before his pathetic reaction to her epilepsy, there seems to be the chance for a real human connection between these two. They are both sexually repressed, lonely people. He clearly turns her on, also.

What sort of message is it that she abandons her research entirely just because a man shows interest in her for once?

I'm not sure where you're reading that she abandons her research. Yes, she leaves the forest, but I read that as being in reaction to the natives' desire for them to get out of dodge, not because of Rusty.

That said, if we go back again to the theme of failure, abandoning her research because of pettiness is actually the sort of thing that Rusty would do.

Why are intelligence and sex a tradeoff for one another? Is she so weak that she can't have both?

I don't think she gives up one for the other. At least, when i watch the episode, I see her being more sexually in control than Rusty. She chooses to have sex with him on her terms. Furthermore, I think that his intelligence is what makes him attractive to her. It certainly isn't his body or his athleticism!

Dr. Quymm is a bit less of a failure than Rusty, but she's still a failure. Furthermore, I think there's more than a hint in this episode that she might actually be Dr. Venture's sister. Creepy!

On to the twins...

If Dr. Quymm is meant to de a female doppleganger of Dr. Venture, then it stands to reason that the twins are meant to be the same for Hank and Dean. They are, in essence, a single character. Again, I offer the limited amount of time in this episode as evidence; I also offer the fact that they sort of share a single character's name.

Why are Hank and Dean well-rendered, very human (and sympathetic) characters, while Quymn's girls--whom we are painstaking assured are Hank and Dean's female counterparts--just a pair of giggling, horny, hypersexual 15-year-olds? Aren't they human beings as well?

As with Dr. Quymm, I think we are being asked to fill in some of the blanks regarding the twins. Hank and Dean say they are boy adventurers to anyone who will listen, but we know the truth. When the twins start talking about being girl adventurers, I think we're supposed to fill in the blanks and recognize that they're probably about as effective at what they do as the Venture Brothers.

The initial scene where the girls meet the boys is set up in a way where we're clearly supposed to see that the girls are essentially female Hanks - not female Deans. There isn't a whole lot of time to develop them, but we see that they are, like their mother, sexually confident young women who go after what they want.

They are also used to develop a strong contrast between Hank and Dean. Hank is, after all, "go team boobies" (even when those boobies are merely paper stuffed down a bra). Dean, who is pretty naive about sex still and (at any rate) devoted to Triana, is shown to be able to resist them until he's literally overpowered by them.

Why are these girls given nice bodies, cute smiles, and expected to do nothing more than crave Dean's penis? Is it too much to ask for some personality?

Well, I felt a little bit more of their personality was shown. I suspect that they are just as lonely and socially awkward as Hank and Dean. Indeed, the only way they can get the boy they want is to try and get him drunk and then pin him down. That doesn't suggest that either of them has been particularly successful with boys - though who knows? Maybe they just don't feel they have time to try and get to know somebody? Maybe they are getting the same kind of bad advice about women from Ginnie as the boys sometimes get from dad and Brock?

Finally, Ginny.

I think that Ginny is intended less to be a stereotypical bull dyke than to be the female version of Brock.

Consider, Brock has the female role in the Venture house. He is the homemaker and caregiver. Indeed, subtracting his Spinning Murder Top moments, he's the one who brushes the boys' hair, fluffs up Dr. Venture's pillow, and carries out most of the other "traditionally" female responsibilities at the Venture compound. Ginnie, for her part, fills the male role with the Quymms. She disciplines the girls, fixes the vehicles and is an enraged protector of Dr. Quymm.

Furthermore, her sexuality is in question, as she does seem to be genuinely attracted to Brock in this episode. Brock, for his part, seems to be attracted to her after a fashion - especially during the fight. Indeed, he seems to be overjoyed that she's giving as good as she's getting.

Viewed as Brock's female counterpart, she also has a touch of Brock's crazy, as we see during her insane ranting as she beats up Dr. Venture.

We also see that she is a respected figure - to a degree. When she gives orders for everybody to bunk down, they do. Granted, they all end up out of their bunks in short order. But everyone listens to her to her face - much like how Brock's orders are respected until he's out of the room.

So, again, I don't think the point of Ginnie was "stereotype of dykes" so much as it was "what if Brock were a woman?" To my reading, she is no more a stereotype of dykes than Brock is a stereotype of butch gay men. Yes, they share some physical qualities, but there is more going on.

In regards to the sex scene, well, I think it was less creepy than you do. I found it very revealing of the reality of the twins - especially the moment when the one girl's "twins" fell out and turned out to be paper. The suggestion, I think, is that despite the girls' aggressiveness, they don't succeed at getting what they want anymore than Hank ever succeeds. To whit, the sex scene was not meant to be exploitive, but farcical.

One theme of the episode (and, to some extent, the season) is how much human sexuality can influence our lives and decisions. Part of what screwed up Rusty was Jonas' sexual behavior. Dean, who is so innocent of things sexual that when she takes off her bra he is more concerned about her being a Wereodile than about her nudity, is somehow protected from the horrors that Jonas unintentionally inflicted on Rusty because he has no idea what is going on. I saw that moment less as a titilating sexual moment and more as a "MY PANTS ARE HAUNTED" moment.

Anyhow, I had some good laughs in this episode and firmly believe that this is set up for further hijinks. Remember, Dr. Quymm appeared in The Guild's book of potential arches for the Monarch. We've met the characters, have a basic idea about their motivation and their quirks, and now can see what Doc and Jackson have in mind in a later episode.

Also, we got to hear the line "six foot bottle of blood soda."

By Joey Michaels
July 08, 2008 @ 3:51 am

reply / #

Well, I knew for sure that a negative review would get more participation in the comments section than a positive one, so it's very nice (and I mean this sincerely) to see that the quality of the counter-arguments is actually pretty high. I'm glad to see that, and I'm especially glad to see some real discussion going.

THAT said, I might end up being the soggy wrench on this one...I think I've said enough about how I feel in my above piece, and I'd have very little to add to it before I started repeating myself. I am, however, glad to read over the comments, and any kind of open-minded discourse about the show is refreshing.

So please, by all means, continue to disagree with me (or agree, if you dare) but forgive me if I don't respond directly.

One thing I would like to underscore, though, that I'm afraid might be lost among my criticisms, is that I DON'T think it was a bad just wasn't up to Venture standards. Which are, admittedly, very high. And I did mention in the review that a future appearance by the Quymns could well change my mind about the whole thing. So don't count me out just yet.

It's just that this episode, on its own, really couldn't measure up for me. Still, with the season going this well, I'm more than happy to accept a misfire or two.

By Phil
July 08, 2008 @ 5:34 am

reply / #

Oh! I should stress that I recognize that you enjoyed the episode and by no means meant to imply that you didn't!

Furthermore, I respect your reading of the episode 100%. I think it is a completely valid way to take the episode and understand where you're coming from.

I'm actually glad that there is an episode that can inspire this sort of discussion amongst genuine fans of the show. There's so much fanboy wankery involved in being a fan of any series of this sort. It is awesome that this is a show that can inspire discussion.

By Joey Michaels
July 08, 2008 @ 8:55 am

reply / #

I always go to all my favorite Venture forums and review sites after the newest episode airs. Season 3 has been really solid so far, so I was disappointed in this episode, though I couldn't quite figure out why. It just didn't sit well with me. But as I read various comments from fellow fans, the episode appeared to be very well received. The hell?!

I admit, I laughed out loud quite a few times, but I turned off the TV at midnight feeling unsatisfied and unsettled. Thank you for eloquently voicing what my problems were with the episode. After reading "best episode of the season!" over and over again, coming to your blog was much-needed reassurance that I do have taste.

By Nella
July 08, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

reply / #

I get where the critics are coming from on this one, but I tend to agree more with the defense. In regard to Dr. Quymn, I came away with a good deal of sympathy for her, especially on the second viewing. She's portrayed as smart, well-intentioned, and rather unfairly treated by life (the first time around I missed where she tries to get a hug from Jonas Sr. at the key party, who ignores her and dumps her off on Kano so that he can hit on her mom--it was really pretty heartbreaking). At the same time, she has some of the same flaws as Dr. Venture but in milder forms--she comes off as stronger than he does, at any rate. So she's complicated.

I also liked that she seemed to bring out the best in Dr. Venture, at least for a little while (until he was grossed out by her epilepsy--way to go, Rusty). He actually admitted to her that he was lonely, which was (or at least could have been) a big step for him. If he were more together, maybe they could have a relationship of equals--but of course he blows his opportunity.

Likewise with Nancy and Drew. I think that they come across about like Hank and Dean would in a single episode (isn't one common reaction to first-time viewing of the show to wonder why it's named after those two stupid, useless kids?). They're kind of idiots, but so are the boys, and there are several clear parallels. One of my favorite lines was Dr. Venture's weary reaction to them: they reminded him of his kids, "excited about everything." Ginny seems to take their "prissy adventures" with about the same degree of seriousness that Brock takes Hank and Dean's. Their infatuation with Dean is on the same level as Hank's infatuation with them (or Hank's earlier infatuation with Molotov). And I, too, took the "seduction" scene as more farcical than exploitative. Not only do we find out that they're not really curvy, we're left to wonder just what they were thinking. Padding their bras is one level of silliness on their part, but doing it before intending to seduce Dean takes them about to Hank and Dean's level of tragicomic incompetence. At the same time, they seem to be a little more sophistcated than the boys, just as their mother is a step ahead of Dr. Venture.

Final thought: just as Dr. Venture's interactions with Dr. Quymn reveal something about him, so do we learn something about Dean through his interactions with Nancy and Drew. First, we're reminded how sexually naive he is (not that he's asexual--just ask poor Jefferson Twilight, or watch his reaction to Dr. O's unsettling command to visual Triana naked). Second, we see, by implication, his loyalty to Triana--he's not looking for just anyone. Most interestly, perhaps, we see that he (unlike Hank) isn't interested in a female version of himself. He wants someone who doesn't live the Superscientist lifestyle, and given how bad his home environment is for him (it's constantly, and increasingly, pushing him toward a total meltdown) that may be a healthy sign for him. I'm really interested in where the rest of the season goes for him--is he going to get it together a little more, or is he really going to break from the strain?

July 09, 2008 @ 1:08 am

reply / #

All good points, PRB. Whether or not I like the episode I can't fault you on anything you've said.

In fact, the few sites I've been checking seem to be awash with strong opinions on both sides of the debate, but the arguments (on the whole) are actually being handled very intelligently and respectfully. Has there ever been a Venture episode to divide people so distinctly? Here's hoping that future differences of opinion can be handled so admirably.

One thing you said that I need to draw attention to:
>I'm really interested in where the rest of the season goes for him--is he going to get it together a little more, or is he really going to break from the strain?

I'm asking myself this same question as well. In fact, I actually think it follows on from his hallucination during last season's finale. It would be very brave of Jackson and Doc to "change" Dean's character, but it sure does seem like we'll be getting a lot more exploration of who he is, and a definite testing of his boundaries.

Which I welcome. I was always a bigger fan of Hank because I thought Hank was the much more rounded of the two boys. Now I'd say they're about equally well-developed, and I'm excited to see where each of them are taken next.

By Phil
July 09, 2008 @ 4:04 am

reply / #

I was definitely a bit squicked by some of the sexual politics of this one in retrospect, but I can think of two explanatory if not necessarily mitigating factors.

1. There are fairly obvious parody echoes of the 80's teen sex romp / summer camp genre going on here. Think Porky's or Meatballs or something. I can see how sticking Hank/Dean in the middle of one of those scenarios is tempting and hilarious. Every once in awhile they go a bit too far with the parody stuff and mess with the characters, and this strikes me as a case of that. There's a definite tension going on between the comedy/spoof aspects and the drama/characterization ones this season. The characters have become too good and compelling for the spoofier stuff to work as well anymore, but that also makes it a lot harder to do as much of the overt funny as before.

I liked this one because I had missed the overtly spoofy/funny aspects in the more characterization-heavy episodes that started this season, but it's definitely problematic as part of the larger narrative unless some further development of these new characters happens. However, I don't think Quymn was quite as one-dimensional as you claim, and enough hints were dropped that I think she may well become really significant in the future, so we'll see. Ginnie is more problematic, but we may also get more there too if they address Quymn's backstory later. I could have done without the laid-on-thick stereotyping with her regardless. If the intention was to make a bizarro-Brock, I don't think it worked, for the reasons you give, and most scenes involving her were really cringeworthy.

2. Lots of stuff in this episode smacks of fan service, or maybe more like a mild burlesque thereof. The show is pretty big with cosplayers and con-goers, and some of this sexing-up of the women(see Dr. G's new costume, and in earlier episodes, the contrived costume changes for Triana, Dr. Orpheus, Brock, and others) may be a nod to them. This speaks more to the sexuopolitical issues with fandom and cosplay and stuff than the show itself, but it is kind of weird seeing a show that isn't directly a part of the anime/cosplay universe doing this kind of thing. Kind of part of a larger sociocultural shift as those kinds of fandoms interact and cross-pollinate online, and as the creators of shows themselves interact with that culture too.

By J. Dunn
July 09, 2008 @ 11:43 am

reply / #

I’m a little surprised that nobody’s pointed out that Dr. Quymn’s name is clearly a poorly obscured version of ‘quim’, English slang for vagina.

By rone
August 05, 2008 @ 4:08 am

reply / #

Also, how could you possibly have given Brisby only two stars? Madness.

By rone
August 05, 2008 @ 4:09 am

reply / #

>I’m a little surprised that nobody’s pointed out that Dr. Quymn’s name is clearly a poorly obscured version of ‘quim’, English slang for vagina.

I think that’s mainly because it was…y’know. Kind of obvious enough on its own. (It’d be similarly pointless for somebody to explain “Molotov Cocktease,” but I guess, to be fair, there are probably still some people out there who would need an explanation.)

Phil Reed's picture

By Phil Reed
August 05, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

reply / #

I’ve just got two points of contention, and I’ll try to be brief.

1. Ginnie: Yeah, sure, she’s butch, but guess what? There happen to be many, many butch girls out there and not all of them are lesbians. And while Dr Venture may confuse her for a man, that’s in character for him, he’s not known to be the most observant or sensitive. However, Brock always knew she was a woman and respects her for who she is. And Doc and Jackson have said that when they want fans to think something is cool, they have Brock say it. Sure, he rebuffs her advances, but why shouldn’t he? We all know she’s not his type, and you can’t fault someone for turning down someone they’re just not attracted to.

2. Nancy and Drew: As a woman who was sexually active at 15, I know for a fact that it happens. And I’m sure that there are many more in this day and age than in my time. You might not be comfortable with this fact, but it doesn’t make it any less true. With all the Tila Tequilas and such out there, I wouldn’t be surprised if half the 15 year old girls out there are sexually agressive, much less active. And, like the Quymn girls, they’re probably on the inept side. How does Dean respond to this? With fear, and not just because he’s worried about wereodiles. I believe we’re supposed to identify with Dean in this scene, not be titilated. And besides, it would have been impossible to make the stuffing the bra joke without the girls initiating it. Dean would never feel one of them up, and it would be molestation if Hank did it.

Yeah, that about does it. Except that I got the idea that Quymn is possibly Rusty’s half sister, which probably makes it better that things didn’t work out for them. And, if you’re wondering why I’m here so late in the game, it’s because I just did a search for “sally impossible cosplay” and this popped up. Good review, though, now I’m off to read some more of them.

By Robyn Robotron
January 02, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

reply / #