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02 September 2010 @ 04:47 pm
Remind me which side is the evil one again...  
The way Morgana and Morgause are described as 'evil' in the blurbs for the new series really bugs me. Here's why...

Okay, so the premise of the show is as follows:

Merlin lives in Camelot where it is illegal to do or be capable of magic. King Uther has anyone who can do magic executed because he thinks all magic users are evil. Merlin doesn't agree with this stance but does nothing about it because he is supporting Uther's son, Arthur, who will one day be a great king and all will be well.

Fairly typical fantasy fair, all fine and dandy.

Except it's not.

What if the premise was this?

Merlin lives in Camelot where non-whites are outlawed. King Uther has anyone executed who is black or Asian because he thinks all non-whites evil. Merlin doesn't agree with this stance but does nothing about it because he is supporting Uther's son, Arthur, who will one day be a great king and all will be well.

That is not a nice and fluffy teatime family show. That probably wouldn't even be allowed on TV, certainly not before the watershed. Same if you replaced the persecuted parties with those who are gay or women or virtually any other group.

Now, of course, being able to do magic is not a real world issue that people are persecuted for and therefore it can't be equated in real world terms (unless you want to bring witch trials into this, but let's not muddy the waters). However, there is a disturbing analogy here and that's the reason why having Morgana and Morgause described as 'evil' because they oppose Uther both annoys and frankly worries me.

Let's not sugar coat things here; Uther is a tyrant who is committing genocide. He murders innocent people (men, women and children) simply for what they are. Yes, he has his good points too, he's not a terrible 2D cardboard cut out and he's very well portrayed. But he's not a good man. His persecution of magic is a great story and provides great and interesting conflict in the show but it also provides a lot of problems with the narrative that the writers seem to be trying to force on us.

For a start, are we really convinced that Merlin is on the right side? Why is there no conflict in him beyond some brief moments of frowning at the start of the show? In his position, surely anyone would wonder every now and again whether supporting this guy and letting all these innocent people die is really for the best as it is claimed. I mean, from a purely mercenary point of view, many of Camelot's enemies seem to be after Uther in particular - the place would be much safer without him!

What reason does Merlin have to believe that he's doing the right thing? Gaius? A man who has stood by for twenty years and let person after person go to their death, knowing it was wrong, knowing most of them were harmless.

Or is it the dragon Merlin is trusting? The dragon who has used Merlin for his own means and, as soon as he was free, barbequed Camelot and killed goodness knows how many. Why on earth should Merlin trust anything that the dragon has ever told him? Why isn't he questioning everything? His whole reason for supporting this is that he's been told Arthur will one day be a great king but isn't ready to rule yet. Are so many lives worth one flimsy prophecy that he's given no real reason to trust?

I don't expect a big game changer. I don't expect Merlin to change 'sides' and suddenly start to try and bring Uther down. But I want some conflict in him. The show seems so afraid to make their lead character seem anything but our whiter than white, slightly dorky hero but that's not necessary. Nor is it sensible. Merlin has killed people before, he's hardly a fluffy bunny. To have some conflict in him about whether he's truly doing the right thing by supporting Uther's regime would only show that he has a brain and a heart and isn't trusting naively.

On the other side, we have Morgana. Morgana who has been isolated, terrified, lied to and poisoned. Who was only ever shown unquestioning love and attention by a fellow sorceress. Is it any wonder that her loyalties have shifted? That she thinks Uther's reign needs to be ended?

It's harsh, it's tough and it may not be the 'right' thing to do. But is it evil? How can you be evil if your plan is to stop a tyrant from committing genocide?

The show's reason seems to be very basic; Morgana and Morgause are evil because they're not on the same side as Merlin. And why is Merlin on the right side? Because he's the title character. Ignore the fact that he's supporting a terrible regime, that he himself has killed many to protect it. His name is above the credits and therefore his choice is the right one.

Well screw that.

They need to show me Merlin's conflict, they need to show me him questioning his decisions. I want to see him wondering whether he should be helping Morgana and not just allowing Uther to keep on killing because apparently it's the 'right' thing to do.

If they don't, well, I think I'm Team Evil all the way.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
decieving_eyes: morganabaddecieving_eyes on September 2nd, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
Hi :) I agree with pretty much everything here, especially this part: On the other side, we have Morgana. Morgana who has been isolated, terrified, lied to and poisoned. Who was only ever shown unquestioning love and attention by a fellow sorceress. Is it any wonder that her loyalties have shifted? That she thinks Uther's reign needs to be ended? Hit the nail on the head - very well said.
insideminds | irise | fromtoday: ♔ morgana+morgause [faith]insideminds on September 2nd, 2010 03:59 pm (UTC)
YESYESYES. Thank you for this - exactly my problems with the S3 description (and why I ♥ the Team Evil stuff going around ;P)
(Deleted comment)
doylefan22: Merlin - Morgause/Morgana forestdoylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
The canon response is Arthur isn't ready yet. How does Merlin know this? Because the dragon said so.... A trust worthy source indeed!
She was mean and she had seashells in her hair!: merlin; morgana + morgausedollsome on September 2nd, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
YES, I agree completely! I was hoping for some real nuance in Morgana's shift to the "dark side," because -- well, in a way, it's not the dark side. They're opposing a horrific tyrannical reign. Their methods are extreme, yes, but it seems like it wouldn't be a stretch at all to tweak this story and have Morgana, Morgause, & co. be the good guys, or at least the side we're supposed to root for. They're the side that's fighting this terrible, unjust oppressive force.

So all of the trailers where it's like MWA HA HA, MORGANA IS EEEVIL kind of bum me out (even though she is looking fierce like crazy and I am definitely not gonna hate on that), because it's like ... really, show? Are you sure her viewpoint in this isn't valid even a little bit? Especially after so many of her early storylines were about her being pissed at Uther for being unjust and EXECUTING PEOPLE? So far, the s3 approach to Morgana seems to have a slightly irritating sense of Oh shucks, them betrayed females and their sexy evil! What can you do? about it that seems kinda condescending.
doylefan22: Merlin - Morgause/Morgana forestdoylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)

Katie has said that she's always viewed Morgana as the person who ends up doing the wrong thing for the right reason. Which is good but the show seems to be suggesting that her reasoning is wrong too which is just not the case.
Lisa: gwen merlinmeridian_rose on September 2nd, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC)
If Gaius and Merlin had been helping Morgana to embrace her power rather than lying to her and even drugging her, things might have been different. And I agree re: the dragon. Merlin listened to him about Morgana but then the dragon turned on him anyway.

Is it too much of a stretch to say Merlin and Gaius are men and therefore good and Morgana and Morgause are women and therefore bad? I don't think so. Earlier versions of the myth suggest Morgana may be a goddess, defiled and brought down to the evil witch stereotype by successive male writers who hated the idea of a woman with power. Remmants of this are seen in the fact that Morgana, despite everything, is one of the healers who bear Arthur to Avalon at the close of the myth.

Much modern media has witchcraft representing female power and independence, sexuality - and often lesbianism in particular. Which puts a new spin on the treatment of Morgana and what she represents; a threat to the patriarchy of Camelot.
doylefan22: Merlin - Morgause/Morgana forestdoylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
I have never been more pissed of as when Gaius said that Morgana chose the path of evil in 2x12. I cannot even beginning to describe how many ways that statement is wrong and he has absolutely no moral high ground which to pontificate from.

And yes, the trashing of women in the ancient legends from the original versions is a bug bear of mine. In fact, I could write a whole separate post on the bad treatment of women in this version too.

Although I'm fine with the lesbianism :D
(no subject) - meridian_rose on September 2nd, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - doylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Anna and Kinathkathkin on September 2nd, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
I'm really hoping the whole 'MORGANA IS TEH EVULZ' thing is just the marketing and the show itself is going to be a bit more delicate about it, as it has been so far. Mostly.

But yeah. The writers seem really relucant to accept just how murky the morality of basically every character is, with the exceptions of Gwen and possibly Arthur (though there's even some ambiguity there, tbh).
doylefan22: Merlin - Gwendoylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
Gwen, imo, goes too far the other way. They're so determined to make her good that they don't give her anything juice to work with any more!
(no subject) - tavella on September 3rd, 2010 03:06 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kathkin on September 3rd, 2010 08:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tavella on September 6th, 2010 01:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
made of robust things: [merlin] don't doubt yourselfanjali_organna on September 2nd, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
Pretty much want to draw stars and hearts around everything you've said.
Solyndra: <Merlin> Morgana - Smile (Druid)solyndra on September 2nd, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC)
Yes yes yes! This post makes me so happy, because I agree with everything you said. I've never understood why Merlin doesn't at least feel bad about supporting Uther, even though he knows Uther would see him dead without a second thought. It doesn't make sense and quite frankly, IMO, ruins a bit of the character.

I totally understand Morgana switching sides. I think she's doing the right thing (for her, anyway). At least now she has people who actually care for her, rather than be around Merlin & Gaius who pretended to help her but were too afraid to go all the way. So yeah.. Team Evil all the way!
(Deleted comment)
Whatsername: Merlin: Gwen & Morgana approvednenimefish on September 2nd, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC)
I agree. While Uther may not be handling things that well re: magic, what's the other option? The majority of magical community think that Arthur has the same views as his father so they're not going to place him on the throne. At best you'd have someone like Aglain (from 2x03) but at worse you'd get someone like Alvarr who would likely do what Uther has done, only in reverse.

Morgana is definately more misguided. She's going along with Morgause because Morgause is the only one who has bothered to speak to her about her magic rather than pretending it doesn't exist.
(no subject) - doylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - doylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kyliekay on September 3rd, 2010 05:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
doylefan22: Merlin - Morgause/Morgana forestdoylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah, if they turn around and call her evil I'm going to have to slap them. They should know that Morgana has always been passionate about whatever cause they see as right and, if they find out she's magical, they should be able to understand her pov even if they don't agree with it.
Otemps: Merlin - Sisterloversotempora42 on September 2nd, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
Yes to all of this.

I hope that Merlin takes a more nuanced approach to good and evil in season three, even if it is a kids' show. I mean, even in Doctor Who, the Doctor is called out on his more questionable acts, even if it's made clear that he is mostly "good". There's no reason why Merlin can't play with ambiguity in the same way.
doylefan22: Merlin - Gwendoylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
That's a very good point RE:DW. The ambiguity makes things interesting and it certainly doesn't stop the kids enjoying it.
vexena_sky: swordvexena_sky on September 2nd, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
I disagree in some sorts. Of course they are showing Morgana and Morgause as evil in contrast to Merlin, because it is so much easier to think in black and white. Even though this definetly isn't the case it is not completly wrong to put it that way.
Uther Pendragon was never in the series referred as a good man, instead he is very grey. The people that are referred as good are Merlin, Arthur, Gaius, Gwen and at the beginning Morgana. One can see it already in the first scene where Uther sentences someone to death, this shows the watchers directly that Uther isn't someone good. He is killing people, people with magic that's why Merlin is hiding. In season 2 he is even more portrayed as the evil bad man. On which point you say is he named as a 'good man'? The moments with Arthur are the only ones and they are there to show some humanity and the burden of a king, which is really a heavy one!
So why is Merlin supporting Uther? The thing is he doesn't, at first and above all he is supporting ARthur and not his father. He is supporting Arthur because he knows he will be a great king and much better than his father. That's also a reason why he saves Uther. The reason is actually simple for me, like Gaius says Arthur was and still is not ready to rule the kingdom and Uther is doing an acceptable job with governing. That's why Merlin is saving him. He also wants to avoid that people kill him who might to destroy the kingdom afterwards and would give Arthur no chance.
YOu also say that Merlin is doing nothing against Uther's tyrannic way. Well is he? He saved Mordred from the dungeon, he saved Gwen.. and so on. In this position where he is he can really do the most productive things.

And what you said about the conflict in Merlin, is something I don't quite understand. How could Merlin support someone like Morgause, Nimueh or now Morgana, people who kill innocent people just to get one down, people who hurt his mother who have almost killed his best friend, people who want to destroy Camelot and everything on it? How could he trust someone who tricked Arthur only to make them turn against his father? For me there is no point to show a conflict... To live under Uther is the far better alternative.

And another question, what would Morgause and Morgana do when they have killed Uther and destroyed Camelot? Let Arthur rule happily ever after?
doylefan22: Merlin - Morgause/Morgana forestdoylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
Just because it's easier to think that way, doesn't mean it should be. As someone else pointed out, DW is aimed at a very similar audience and dos morally grey well.

Uther isn't referred to as a good man but he has his moments - like fighting Tristan instead of Arthur doing it. My point is he is indeed a multidimensional character and I can see why people like him (especially considering who he's played by) but he really is a murdering wotsit.

Even by supporting Arthur, Merlin is indirectly supporting Uther's reign. He's helping him keep it going. Whilst I understand his given reasons for that, any normal person would ask themselves some serious questions about whether they're doing the right thing - especially since all his info has come from the dragon and he can hardly be seen as totally honest any more! I'd love to see an episode where he has these doubts and has to try and reconcile himself. That would make him a more rounded character imo.

Morgause and Morgana have not been shown as killing innocent people in the way Uther has. They are at war for their very lives as far as they're concerned. Do we call people fighting against oppression and killing of their loved ones 'evil'? Morgause only killed the guards who tackled her. She didn't touch anyone in Camelot when they were all asleep (when she could have slaughtered them all). She was going straight for Uther. Also, they have never attacked Arthur. I think both would be quite happy to give him his chance - they are interested in getting rid of Uther.

Nimueh is, of course, a different matter. She was highly vindictive. Morgause seems far more warrior like.

And Morgause did not trick Arthur. She showed him the complete and total truth (it has been confirmed that that was Igraine). Merlin was the one who lied to him in the end...That really should come back to bite him in the arse at some point.
(no subject) - alkja on September 3rd, 2010 11:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
a sensitive plant: merlin: sisterslaventadorn on September 2nd, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
I really liked this entry. :)

I particularly vibed with this:

His persecution of magic is a great story and provides great and interesting conflict in the show but it also provides a lot of problems with the narrative that the writers seem to be trying to force on us.

I agree with what you say about the writers forcing a viewpoint on us. I've found it interesting for a long time how the show includes areas of gray that none of the the narration seems to comment upon, as if they can't see it or don't want us to. There's complexity to the events and the characters, but it's like we're supposed to ignore it.

I think the problem is that the show has to maintain a certain status quo, which is to have the sticky situation of Merlin fighting to save the kingdom of a man who would gladly kill him. But I completely agree that the emotional complexity of this is not handled well, if at all; and that it seems unbelievable for Merlin to continue blithely supporting Uther for Arthur's sake and not get (more) angry -- as angry as Morgana -- that Uther is conducting a genocide.

To touch upon your real-world comparison, if someone were a member of a persecuted race, we would not expect that person to be anything other but full of rage toward his or her persecutor or do anything but try to bring them down if the opportunity arose. I want to say the series is trying to show that, while they have the right to be angry, magicians go the wrong way to fix the problem. Granted, killing Uther is really the only way, but they generally don't have a problem going through whoever they need to in order to get to him. So their end is justified, but not their means. I guess? Haha. (*^-^)

I also think it's really appalling that Morgana is supposed to be evil considering that the king who professes to love and care for her would have her killed if he found out she was a witch. !! How the hell are we supposed to be not on her side?? And she and her sister love each other...

ETA: Although Merlin did have some conflict in season one, now that I remember... he did almost let Morgana assassinate Uther in To Kill the King. The only reason he didn't was because Gwen made him see that that would be murder. (But the Fires of Idirsholas sort of blew that all to hell... how is poisoning Morgana NOT murder?? There's no way she's worse than Uther! I hated that episode, I really did. It made me feel all icky. I blame bad writing.)

Edited at 2010-09-02 05:20 pm (UTC)
doylefan22: Merlin - Morgause/Morgana forestdoylefan22 on September 2nd, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)

What's missing from the show is the understanding. Two wrongs don't make a right and all that BUT to call Morgause and Morgana evil is frankly pathetically simple. It takes no account as to why they are fighting.

I can't call someone evil simply because they don't agree with the main character!
(no subject) - thismaz on September 18th, 2010 09:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
Little Miss Gemmakins: [Merlin] Morganagem_pinkeh on September 2nd, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC)
This, right here? This is EPIC POSTAGE OF THE FIRST ORDER *thumbs up*
thisisagift: eva greenthisisagift on September 2nd, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)

The evil thing has bugged me forever. In s1 Morgana opposes Uther about murdering people, she wants justice for the innocent. This is something i think everyone relates too, and we all agreed with her. To have her take the moral highground first, and then say she is totally evil is absurd.
Though her (and Morgause's) methods may be extreme, but we know from watching it that Morgana wants whats best for her people. The writers seem to have forgotten that. All of a sudden she is evil through and through.
This only occurs after she chooses to leave camelot and fight on a different side to merlin, your right. because now she's bad and when she was in camelot Merlin said she was a friend. now shes disagreed with him and he's dumped her.

I think its natural that Morgana would follow Morgause. She saved her, cares for and loves her (and she's very alluring ha ha). For someone who's been alone as Morgana has im sure its wonderful for her to feel like she's part of something. the only friend she apparently had was holier-than-thou gwen and arthur, who, lets face it, wasnt THAT nice to her.

Merlin supports Arthur and wants to guide him till he's ready to take the throne, but it seems like in doing that he's ignoring what else is going on, e.g Uther comitting genocide. He may be waiting for Arthur, but he could try and speak out in the meantime. they said he didnt kill uther because it would make him as bad as the king, yet he'd kill Morgana when she didnt do anything.

so yeah, thats just me agreeing with you 100 percent ;)