My mother died the same day Ianto Jones did. She died the day Torchwood: Children of Earth: Day Four
On July 6th, the night of the first episode, I wrote this LJ entry:Dear Russell T Davies and the BBC,
Thank you for broadcasting a fantastically diverting, well written, produced, and acted show tonight. As well as the other four episodes you'll be airing this week.
You have no idea how bloody badly I needed it.
Love for days,
Day One aired the day my mother went into hospice.
I don't recall if I watched Day Two the next night, but I missed the rest of the episodes because my mother's condition was deteriorating and I wasn't really watching television at the time.
Several weeks later, I went to a Doctor Who New York meet up. Even though I had been spoiled for the character death, I let people know that I hadn't seen it and though I knew who died, I didn't know the why or how, and just to let me know if they were going to discuss it so I could move to another conversation. The immediate response was something akin to "OMG HOW HAVE YOU NOT SEEN IT YET?"
I would then say simply, "Erm, my mother died that week."
The person would then inevitably reply, "OMG DON'T WATCH IT."
I think I finally watched it sometime around Thanksgiving, but by then, the immediacy and impact were gone.
Ianto Jones died, and I didn't care.
In fact, I watched it all with a sense of detachment, and did so just to have the full narrative.
It was difficult this weekend at Gallifrey One when people would wail, gnash teeth, and rend garments over "Ianto's story not being complete." You know what? My mom never got to dance at the weddings of either of her children. But she's dead, so her story is
complete. Hell, the "my mom" part of my story is complete, even though it doesn't feel that way."You get what anybody gets. You get a lifetime."-Death, Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes
Before anyone thinks I'm heartless and unsympathetic to the "Save Ianto" point of view, allow me to tell another story.
In 2007, halfway through reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
, I dyed my hair pink. Why? Because from the moment she walked onto the page in the fifth book, I felt a strong affinity to Nymphadora Tonks. I was endeavoring to experience the final Harry Potter story with a physical connection to her in addition to my emotional one. (Oh, and I wanted to have pink hair for Comic Con.) So you can imagine how utterly destroyed I was when, the next morning, I read she died. And not only did she die, she died "off screen," after her character had been reduced to the gender essentialism of motherhood*.
As upset I was by the narrative and the text, it was the narrative and text that we got. No more, no less. If I want to read about her being alive, it has to be fics set prior to book seven, or AU fics.
Did I mourn Tonks and Lupin? I absolutely did. I mourned them to the degree that it felt like looking at a ghost in the mirror when I cosplayed her for the first time.
It was creepy, and at the time, it felt--while in no way on the same level--similar to how it feels when I experience a new wave of grief about my mother. It was an unexpected wave of sadness over something I'd felt I'd processed and packed away**.
Furthermore, upset as I was, it never occurred to me to write to JK Rowling or demand amends be made for Tonks and Lupin's deaths. It was one thing to engage in discourse, write essays, etc, but taking it to the author's door is inappropriate. Given the chance, I'd absolutely want to pick her brain about certain things, but it would be well after thanking her for creating stories that made me feel so many emotions in the first place! And I'd be respectful! (Though I definitely recognize that I can do that now, but at the time, not so much.)
Writers owe us a story, nothing more. The argument has been made
***--and I certainly see its validity--that "we were TOLD by the writers, directors and actors that we were going to get something. All the lead up interviews spoke about J/I as a love story, they all indicated that we were going to get a story of triumph in the midst of tragedy," which, obviously, isn't quite what we got. The point is though, Children of Earth is the story we got.
There's also the argument that there's no unified experience of what a love story or a relationship can be, so who are the detractors to criticize?
Lastly, I find myself concerned for the people who can't let Ianto's, or any other character's death go. And I say this as someone who still gets incensed over Tonks's death! There was what I wanted, and what I got, and they were very different, but I mourned and moved on. What are these characters representing or replacing for people that it's something they can't get past? That's not really anyone's business, but since writers now get death threats and verbal abuse over the internet and in person, I think it sometimes has to be.
It can also be said that I didn't care about Ianto dying because I was busy mourning my mother. That's a valid point. I'd also like to think that if I was as angry over my mother's death now as people are still angry at Russell T Davies, that my friends would be steering me towards a therapist.
People have been coping with character loss since stories have been told. I just wonder when the shift happened from "character death as catharsis" to "a character died and they must be mourned."*I am happy to re-engage in the debate of my annoyance with her character arc, but maybe not in this post. I am merely using my opinion of that plot element to highlight my experience with character death.
**This is in no way to imply that I have fully processed and packed away my grief for my mother less than a year after her death.
***During the Character Death panel at Gally, the argument was also made that we were told we were going to see a more romantic, domestic, and normalized-on-the-level-of-Gwen-and-Rhys relationship between Jack and Ianto. Children of Earth definitely showed us a relationship between them, but it was hardly comparable to Gwen and Rhys's.