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Discussion of Remorse by michelel72 [Sep. 4th, 2009|08:33 pm]
Discussions of Stargate Atlantis fanfic

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[lyrstzha]
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Our gen discussion this month is of Remorse by michelel72. The story is a SG-1/SGA crossover, centers around Rodney McKay and Sam Carter, is rated PG, and is ~18,500 words. Happy discussing!
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[User Picture]From: lyrstzha
2009-09-05 02:04 am (UTC)
There are a number of things that impress me about this story, but I'm going to start off the list by mentioning that I love the originality of the premise. I've never read a story that explores this possibility before. The chnage between early SG-1!Rodney and SGA!Rodney is interesting and notable, in my opinion, but none of the time-travel or AU stories I've read have ever gone back to that watershed era. Possibly I have just missed those fics, but this one certainly seems like a novel idea to me.

Speaking of the difference between SG-1!Rodney and SGA!Rodney, I also really enjoy the way Michelel deals with those differences. We get to see early Rodney's actions through the eyes of later Rodney, and both versions through Sam and Daniel's eyes. Now, I first met Rodney on SG-1, right along with Sam. And, seeing him from her perspective---as I of course did, because she was the heroine, and he the interloping stranger at the time---I didn't like him any more than she did. I was righteously pleased to see him get shipped off to Siberia, in fact, and totally surprised to come to love him later on SGA. It never really crossed my mind to think about what it would really be like to be wrenched away from my life and everything/everyone I loved and be mewed up in a frozen wasteland without warning. Reading this Rodney's recollection of that in this story is exgtremely effective; it actually makes me ashamed of my failure of empathy. I think the part that gets me the hardest is Rodney's grief and worry over his cat, Max. His memory of desperately calling everyone he could think of while his cat slowly starved in his apartment, and then having to have someone else take Max...that chokes me up and gets me angry. I will never again be able to watch "48 Hours" and take Rodney's being spirited away to Siberia lightly, no matter how obnoxiously he talked to Sam at the time.

But it isn't just the differences between SG-1!Rodney and SGA!Rodney that Michelel explores here. We also get Rodney's thoughts on Rod, and how that effects what he chooses to do with regards to Jeannie this time around. I like the delicate touch on the way their relationship is rendered here; it is sympathetic to both of them, and I can see how there must have been faults and points on both sides.

While I'm on the subject, I just generally love the details and thought that go into the characterizations here. They all have a sense of real humanity that's utterly believable and effective, and that creates truly powerful emotional dynamics. For example, I love Rodney's conversation with Jeannie, and how hard Johnny Cash songs hit him in the gut. I love Sam's actions, which almost seem harsh until I consider her motivations and the powerful love and loyalty that fuel her anger; I would do the same in her place, because how could Rodney not be made to understand? That could easily have tipped over into a unflattering portrayal of Sam, but Michelel gives enough attention to Sam's feelings and her complex inner voice to keep Sam human and sympathetic.
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[User Picture]From: michelel72
2009-09-05 09:49 pm (UTC)
(Author shuffles in, hoping not to derail anything.)

I'm really glad you mentioned both having your reaction to the episode "48 Hours" changed and that you found Sam sympathetic, because the former bit me in the ass regarding the latter.

I truly cannot say enough in praise of my beta, particularly in this respect. I approached her specifically because she's an SG-1 fan far more than an SGA one, with a real liking for Sam, so I set her approval as my goal.

My original version was actually very close to what happens in "48 Hours" — an action is taken without a lot of (apparent) analysis, before or after. I meant Sam to decide to try something different with him, see it go askew, and think it strange but largely inconsequential. That would then contrast with the much more devastating effect from Rodney's point of view. The problem with that is exactly what you find with "48 Hours": in retrospect, the actions seem much more callous, and I didn't have the excuse of an (at-the-time) unsympathetic victim or the muting effect of time. I thought Sam came off a little too uncaring in my first version, but to an unprepared SG-1 fan she came across as evil, which of course wasn't my intent at all. I think she can and does make mistakes, but I like Sam, a lot.

I found it hard to have a character take a hurtful action against a sympathetic second character, casually but not maliciously, and yet keep the first character from being hateful to the reader. Part of that was that I didn't think the story worked if Sam really believed she had hurt Rodney, but since we know him and that he truly means everything he says, for her not to believe she's hurt him just makes it harder to avoid painting her as wicked (implicitly, from the story's structure). I really have to wonder, too, if part of that was that she's female. I don't know if it's the case, but I found myself wondering if I would have had to work so hard to keep her, her actions, and her reactions from appearing cruel if I was instead writing, say, Daniel or Jack in the same position. Does unconscious misogyny make it harder for female characters to be flawed yet still "good"?

I still don't know if I redeemed her enough for all readers, though I hope. I had to rewrite Sam several times; my beta still had concerns about a few elements, but I had other reasons for some of them and was fighting not to overwrite her at that point. I think the story is far stronger when she's sympathetic, and I'm much happier with this version, but I'm curious whether anyone thinks I still didn't go far enough (or went too far, for that matter). I do really appreciate your dual reaction, finding her actions almost harsh yet justified; that's a complexity I hoped to reach but wasn't sure I attained.
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[User Picture]From: lyrstzha
2009-09-06 01:43 am (UTC)
While I was reading this, I remembered you mentioning that you were worried about one of your characters seeming too evil and doing revisions accordingly, and then I knew you must have meant Sam.

I really think you make her actions work here; they're more a reflection of her love for her team than they are actively malicious. I often say that if I could have one wish, it would be to give everyone a bit of empathy, because I think that would make so many atrocities impossible. Surely Sam is thinking the same thing here, and why not? Perhaps Rodney is not as odious as he seems at the time, and certainly it isn't his fault that Teal'c was stuck in the Stargate---but his opinion and expertise are used to argue Sam down, and would have meant Teal'c deletion. Even if one cannot hold Rodney himself entirely to fault for that, as Sam says, it isn't safe to have someone with those opinions at her back, because his advice could surely be used against her and those she cares for again. I can entirely accept that she feels it imperative to make Rodney understand, to make him see through her eyes. Besides which, she has no expectation that Rodney would experience anything through the device but loyalty, love, and the worry and mutual dependence that come along with them.

And failing the device's existence, as in canon? I do understand why Sam wants Rodney safely away in Siberia. I can no longer agree with that, and it is a more ruthless move than I realized at the time, but I still get that it is a protective act on her part. And that? I cannot say I would not do myself...although I would send Max, too.

About the unconscious misogyny thing, though. I don't think it would have played differently for me if you'd used Daniel or Jack, actually. Perhaps it's just because my personal favorite virtue is loyalty, and I fully sympathize with being prepared to be a bit ruthless in that cause. I feel like that adds to the humanity of the characterization, rather than detracting from it. I like my characters, make and female, to be a little flawed in ways that reassure me that their hearts are actually in the right places---characters who love not wisely, but too well, I suppose you could say.
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2009-09-09 02:04 am (UTC)
I really like that Sam does not engage in vigilante justice. I like very much that she asks permission and goes through the proper channels before subjecting Rodney to the device.

When Sam is imprinting how she feels about her team onto the device, I was struck by the parallels between SG-1 and SGA team members and I very much like that team to her is also Siler and Walter and Janet and Hammond and every support staff member at the SGC.

I really like watching Rodney try to figure out where he is and how he got back there. I love the little clues that he actually has lived those seven years and I love the time that Daniel spends trying to make a connection with him.

And oh the kicker, the ending, that lovely and ambiguous thing. Has it all been a dream? Can he ever get home? *sobs*

This is such a sad story. McKay really has learned his lesson; the device has taught him what he needs to know, what losing a teammate is like. I don't think Sam is demonized for wanting him to know that. I think we all wanted him to know that when we watched this episode. Her use of the device isn't predicated by something as base and ugly and revenge either, though I think that certainly plays a part. Instead, she truly wants him to understand so that he can make better decisions as part of the SGC.
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[User Picture]From: lyrstzha
2009-09-09 05:55 am (UTC)
I don't think Sam is demonized for wanting him to know that. I think we all wanted him to know that when we watched this episode. Her use of the device isn't predicated by something as base and ugly and revenge either, though I think that certainly plays a part. Instead, she truly wants him to understand so that he can make better decisions as part of the SGC.

Yes, exactly! I felt precisely the same way. I mean, she wasn't to know that the device would do something totally unexpected and awful this one time; if it had done what she planned, it probably would actually have been a good thing for Rodney.
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From: below_et_almost
2017-01-28 02:35 am (UTC)

revenge

For me, Sam's primary motive was revenge. My first indicator was the summary: "The truest punishment Sam knows is guilt … and she knows McKay doesn't feel that. Yet." Sam wants Rodney punished. The fic begins by describing her anger towards his smug dismissal of her opinion and Teal'c's life. Then her irritation that she cannot act on her violent impulses. "She still ached to do something to him," the narrative continues. Sam thinks about how Rodney's punishment is ineffective, and how she can't personally punish him because he's out of her jurisdiction. Finally, she's upset because he can't feel the worst punishment she knows, the "torment" and "torture" of guilt. Only at this point does she segue into why Rodney's ignorance of his trespass is also dangerous for the community. Several times, she gets distracted on a side-rant about how Rodney's dismissal of her opinion is part of a her broader experience of sexism, tapping into a deep frustration that she cannot act on towards anybody else involved. However, she redirects herself into the logic that McKay needs to be taught a lesson for the community's sake.

What I see is a woman whose buttons have all been pushed, and who has finally reached the limit. She, as a woman, has been dismissed before, as have her friends' lives, by a vast and uncaring institution. Now, the brass have decided to forfeit the life of one of her family, based on information they got from shipping in some male scientist instead of listening to her, their resident expert, and this guy doesn't care that his words are being used to damn Teal'c, doesn't listen to her because she's emotional, then hits on her and expects her enthusiasm as his due (sexism 101).
This fresh incident has tapped into a pressure cooker of anger and indignance stoppered by her inability to fight back-- and this time, her frustration has a specific, human target. However, Sam has a moral compass. She cannot just get unsanctioned revenge; she first must convince herself that her actions are for the good of the community, that she is acting as a protector and not a vigilante.
Her enactment of the punishment further convinces me that this is a matter of revenge. She believes: "Guilt was a torment, a torture", and she absolutely savors meting this torture out. "It was perfectly natural to unfold the layers of cloth, revealing the device gradually, letting the cloth drape down around the supporting hand." Instead of giving McKay the chance to choose between the Valentine and Russia, she becomes enraged at his smug glee upon seeing the object, his immediate belief that she brought it to him for his expertise-- his smug dismissal. So, telling herself that "he was too arrogant to give her the chance" and that "She had intended to explain, she honestly had," she throws the device and "forc[es]" Rodney to catch it unawares. My take: she takes her time unwrapping because revenge and having power over Rodney feels great. She then blames him for rushing her, so it's not her fault that she quick forced him to catch the device, robbing him of all choice in his reeducation, now a mind rape. And Sam knows this is mind rape, earlier ruminating about the process that "the thought of exposing herself to him like that still made her skin crawl." Ergo: this is not a benign 'reeducation', but a punishment meant to inflict emotional trauma for Sam's anger, frustration, and hurt. This is revenge.
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2017-01-28 03:24 am (UTC)

Re: revenge

Hi!

I'm always so happy when people comment on this comm even though we haven't been active for a long time.

I haven't read this story in years, so I can't comment directly to your analysis, but I'm glad your thoughts are part of the record of our discussion of this story now.
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[User Picture]From: ariadne83
2009-09-12 11:35 pm (UTC)
I really like that Sam does not engage in vigilante justice. I like very much that she asks permission and goes through the proper channels before subjecting Rodney to the device.

That was one of the things that made it worse for me. The fact that they had time to sit back and consider this, and the full implications of it, and still went ahead. I can handwave a lot of the amoral behavior in the franchise because they just don't have the time to do anything else, but the scenario in this fic horrified me.
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[User Picture]From: michelel72
2009-10-03 09:09 pm (UTC)
I really like that Sam does not engage in vigilante justice. I like very much that she asks permission and goes through the proper channels before subjecting Rodney to the device.
This is very much credit to my beta. The original version was very much a vigilante approach (specifically, a literal drabble ... ::laughs hysterically::), but my beta objected that that was very much out of character for Sam and for Hammond.

When Sam is imprinting how she feels about her team onto the device, I was struck by the parallels between SG-1 and SGA team members and I very much like that team to her is also Siler and Walter and Janet and Hammond and every support staff member at the SGC.
\o/ You saw that! I mean, maybe everybody did, but I'm still pleased, because that was the one thing I fought my beta on. I had to revise it several times (and in doing so accidentally introduced a couple of gender-specific pronouns, oops), because my beta thought the specificity made Sam seem too ... "moustache-twirling", perhaps. I really wanted this, though, for the specific parallels -- both to point up how easily Atlantis could be a construction and as a bit of meta.
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2009-10-05 01:36 am (UTC)
Yes! And I thought that was a lovely bit of meta concerning the writing of the shows (the Gateverse does tend to give us types in terms of characters) and also a lovely and damning clue that Rodney has simply imagined his time on Atlantis.

I'm curious--did you ever resolve for yourself as author whether Atlantis is real or not or if Rodney truly dreamed it all?
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[User Picture]From: michelel72
2009-10-05 02:03 am (UTC)
I did, yes. As a reader, I hate when writers say they don't know about some key driver of the story; to me, knowing changes how the story is written. So I had actually worked out what happened to Rodney and whether Atlantis is real before I posted, though I've been deliberately cagey in my reply comments because I first thought the story ended there, I also didn't want to spoil any potential sequel, and I didn't want to make anything in the story depend on extratextual content. (Well, that isn't referenced by allusion or link within the story, at any rate.)

And since my notes for a "potential sequel" have crossed 30k words, developed a structure in which they are parts two and three of a series, and given me a thematic name for that series ... I do think I will eventually be revealing what happened in story form, one of these days. It's going to be vast, though. (I so wasn't kidding that this all started as a drabble, by the way. My brain is a strange thing.) The problem is in conveying the details of exactly what happened within the narrative, but I may have figured out a way to handle that. Either way, the reality-or-not of Atlantis will eventually be revealed.
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2009-10-05 02:46 am (UTC)
Oh man.

I am so excited.

:)

I was so impressed with this story; I have never seen another fic with a plot line even similar for SGA, and I'm super stoked that you intend to go forward with it. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come back here and drop us a line and let us know when you post the sequel. I for one want to read it for sure.
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[User Picture]From: that_which
2013-09-22 12:29 pm (UTC)
I followed this back from a storyfinder reference.

I'm not sure how this reads as not being vigilante justice, and I don't really understand how Hammond in this situation goes from approving when Carter plans what's essentially mind rape (and seriously in no way acceptable under the Geneva Convention) to offering to put her up on charges because it turned out badly. If what he approved had turned out exactly the way Carter described it, it would have been both illegal and a huge violation, and if she went up on charges, so would he.

It's a good story, but what I saw in it was the SGC treating their fellows with the same fairly casual disregard for basic human rights as the SGC in canon showed towards offworlders when they became inconvenient, and Daniel, the only one who actually sees that, deciding to let it go because, well, it's Sam. That's not my head-Carter or my head-Hammond, or really my head-Daniel, but I can accept them within the context of the story as AU versions. I'm just really not seeing the no-harm no-foul here.
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[User Picture]From: lyrstzha
2013-09-23 06:13 am (UTC)
Not to speak for Lunabee or anything, but I do think it reads as a collective vigilante justice - which, of course, begs a slightly different name, since vigilante carries the connotation of no decision-making body reviewing the justice. But in this case I agree that it really does play out that way, since Hammond essentially approves Sam's plan without really getting anyone else who might have been able to offer expert mechanical or psychological advice involved in looking over the plan. I think he comes down on Sam when things do not go as expected out of a certain sense of betrayal of that trust in her judgement; she told him what would happen and what the results would be, and he's used to her being right about such things. But, of course, she was wrong this time.

There is a distinct violation of Rodney's human rights; I agree with that completely. What gets me about that is that I am sympathetic with Sam's choices anyway. I think the choices she makes here spring from fear for her team and grief over nearly losing Teal'c, and that strikes me as a natural outgrowth of Sam's loyalty and dedication. She does a terrible thing with the best of intentions, I think. That's interesting to me.
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2013-09-23 12:52 pm (UTC)
I have to admit that it's been four years since I read this story, and I don't have time to re-read it right now. :)

It's possible that my feelings about and understanding of the story have changed over the years; if I were to re-read it again, I might feel differently. That's happened to me before.

If I understand the comments I made to this post correctly, I think that what Sam does in this story is clearly wrong but that she isn't doing it to torture Rodney but to make him understand the callousness of his position. When I wrote vigilante justice, I think I was envisioning the term encompassing punishment or revenge. You hurt me so I'll hurt you back. There may be an element of that going on here (I don't remember, alas!), but I think it's more about teaching Rodney something.

Again, re-reading my comments, I don't think I ever condoned Sam's actions, but I do think I understand where she's coming from in this story. If that makes sense.
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[User Picture]From: ariadne83
2009-09-12 11:32 pm (UTC)
This is a brilliant story but I struggled to get past the beginning because frankly, the idea of the device made me feel ill even before it went so wrong. The idea of people in positions of power - like Sam and Hammond - manipulating someone who has to trust them and work with them, and trying to force him to think the "correct" way just made my skin crawl, because it's a very slippery slope.
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2009-09-13 09:16 pm (UTC)
I had a different reaction than you did but I think yours is a completely valid one. It is a slippery slope. It is a poor and unethical decision on Sam's part and even more on Hammond's part because ultimately he is in command and has the power to say no. And we see the very real and horrifying consequences of using the device on Rodney.

I think for me, though, that I can understand Sam's actions in this story even if I don't condone them and I think the story is written in such a way that I can buy this Sam as IC. My personal version of Sam is a little different, but I can buy this one here.

If this had been a story about a Sam who sneaked around behind everyone's backs, I don't think I could have read it. Or if had been a story about Sam the bitch who's out to get Rodney.

Also, I think in some ways this story is *about* that slippery slope that you're talking about. These are people who are surrounded by the extraordinary every day--sarcophagi and hand devices that can heal the sick and literally bring people back from the dead, devices that can change people's memories, powerful weapons, genetic manipulation that allows you operate tech. Where do you draw the line? When are you playing God?
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[User Picture]From: ariadne83
2009-09-13 10:31 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, I think the moral hinkiness is an integral part of the story, and it was very well-written. I just reacted so strongly against it I think I'd have to call it a squick.
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2009-09-13 10:37 pm (UTC)
You know, I don't have too many squicks in terms of the written word but I have lots of things that squick me when I watch them on TV. Often the same scene in a story would be OK but in a visual medium really bother me. Isn't that weird? Like I have moderate embarrassment squick for TV and movies but it doesn't bother me at all in fic.
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[User Picture]From: ariadne83
2009-09-13 10:49 pm (UTC)
I didn't think I had any really strong squicks WRT written stories, either, but this one proved me wrong. It managed to trip my Issues with the particular form of emotional abuse I went through D:
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2009-09-14 01:28 am (UTC)
*nods*

I'm sorry, sweetie. *hugs*
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[User Picture]From: ariadne83
2009-09-14 01:54 am (UTC)
Thanks *hugs*

I had a huge rant typed up, when I first read the fic, but I lost it when Firefox crashed. And now I'm kinda glad, because it had my Issues plastered all over it :-/
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2009-09-14 11:44 am (UTC)
*nods*

Some of the best advice I ever got was to write down what I was feeling when I was angry or upset and then sit on it for a day or so and if I still felt like sharing what I had written was the best course of action then I should go ahead. I have such a hot temper but it burns out really really quickly. I usually end up regretting things I say in the heat of irritation.
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[User Picture]From: michelel72
2009-10-03 08:59 pm (UTC)
I am very late in saying this, but I am sorry to have caused that for you. I had vague thoughts that something about the scenario might be warning-worthy, but I wasn't able to formulate anything concrete; I got more hung up on the specific moment in which Sam (impulsively) doesn't warn him or get his permission first and so lost sight of the angle you note. I've updated the warnings on the story in the hopes that I can at least avoid the same reaction for any new readers. ::offers virtual hugs and/or virtual chocolate::
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[User Picture]From: ariadne83
2009-10-04 10:08 am (UTC)
*hugs* You are awesome.
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[User Picture]From: kathana_grey
2010-07-27 08:17 am (UTC)
48-hours was the point where my vage duslike for Sam developed into an actual dislike, without ever seeing the SGA version of Rodney. This might not be what you intended at all, but your interpretation of Sam Carter rings very true to my own: she sees herself as judge, jury and executioner/trainer and her superiors encourage that behaviour. She is not telepathic, what the hell gave her the right to lay moral judgement on another human being? Your Daniel thinks that she does not see how she could be wrong but he does not say anything.

Rodney in 48 was arrogant, abrassive and ego-centric, but he was at least honest. There was no malice involved against Tealc. Like you said, he gave his honest opinion, based on the data he had about how long the data would stay viable in the gate, he wasn't the one who stuck him in the buffer. It wasn't his decision to 'erase'. He was an honest ass. Sam was the driving force behind punishing him for Tealc's situation and in the hope that he woud learn something in Siberia.

In your story, Sam decides, and not out of compassion, but irritation (she could care less about Mckay) that another human being acts wrong and she in all her wisdom can correct this behaviour without his consent. So, her own feelings for teammates are used as standad, the ideal. Wow, Madam, you think highly of yourself, don't you?

Unfortunatlely thats teh vibe I get from her in canon too -.- one reason why I don't like the way her character is written in the show.
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[User Picture]From: lyrstzha
2010-07-27 08:48 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I actually like Sam most of the time, but this characterization works for me, too. I like that she's far from perfect here; whether one can forgive her that or not, it certainly feels human and real, and I think that's a sign of well-nuanced characterization and good writing.
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[User Picture]From: kathana_grey
2010-07-28 04:44 am (UTC)
It's just a tv-series but I think in the end it comes down to personal quirks and taste. I love it when characters seem real, have strenghts and faults. Rodney on SGA is an complete bastard but he is also brave, he cares and he is honest. His friends know his weak points, acknowledge them and like him despite his rude nature and abbrassive behaviour.

Sam is canonically very sure of her own rightness and high moral ground most of the time, like in 48-hours, even when there is doubt, and her friends don't call her on it. If they did she would be much better liked by me. She should/could have tried to 'punish' the brass, call them on their BS, who really didn't give a damn about Tealc but she desided to lash out at Rodney as the weakest point, not consciously probably, because he offended her personally and professionally. She likes being liked, likes being the Golden Girl by her superiors. I don't say that she wouldn't and didn't go against orders if they are against what she thinks is right, but her biggest blind point is that she cannot see wrongness in her own perceptions about persons or their motivations. Like I said, I see her as someone who thinks a lot of her own moral standards. And this Golden Girl, can do no wrong nimbus she has is what makes me not like her.
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2010-07-29 12:04 am (UTC)
This is very interesting.

I think our interpretation of Sam's character is fundamentally different. I see her much more positively than you do. But I am so glad that people are still reading these old discussions and finding fic through the comm. :)
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-07-01 02:59 pm (UTC)

Sam

I absolutely agree with the posts that point out that Sam had no right to inflict a lesson in her views on morality on another adult human being without his consent or knowledge. If she felt he had done something criminal, there are legal remedies. If she felt he had done something dangerous or counterproductive to the program, he could have been fired or suspended from working there. This? This is beyond acceptable and frankly makes her far worse than Rodney. And the fact that she faces no penalties for what actually is a crime is appalling to me.

I think this is a fabulous story, but it frustrates me no end.

Jayed
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[User Picture]From: lunabee34
2011-07-06 01:43 am (UTC)

Re: Sam

I'm so pleased that people are still reading these discussions and finding them interesting. :)
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[User Picture]From: pingback_bot
2011-06-28 10:29 pm (UTC)

Remorse by michelel72 (PG)

User slytherin_gypsy referenced to your post from Remorse by michelel72 (PG) saying: [...] ation of the moral choices made by some of the key actors (there's an excellent meta discussion [...]
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