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FFFF: Lady Cops November 5, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Pop Culture.
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Modern Lady Erin Gibson points out the traits it seems are necessary to be a lady cop character in primetime crime drama. Happy Friday!


The Oatmeal’s Hits and Misses November 1, 2010

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Even if you don’t check it regularly, you’ve probably seen one of the comics from Seattle-resident Matthew Inman’s The Oatmeal. Covering a variety of odd topics like “The Crap We Put Up With Getting On and Off an Airplane” and “10 Reasons it Would Rule to Date a Unicorn”, The Oatmeal is occasionally hilarious, always wacky, and usually pretty smart. But going through the archives, I found a few examples of really sexist/homophobic comics, which surprised me because they didn’t seem to fit with the other clever and creative things Inman’s written. So without further ado, here is the best and worst of The Oatmeal.

Hit: “What it Means When You Say ‘Literally'”

In the vein of the now inactive blog, Literally, A Web Log, Inman takes on people who use the word “literally” when they mean “figuratively”. Nerdy humour? Check. Making fun of the ridiculousness of Jerry Falwell? Check.

Miss: “5 Super Neat Ways to Use a Hooker”

Ok, this comic strip might be totally over-the-top ridiculous but it doesn’t make it much less insulting. Suggestions for what you can do with a hooker instead of having sex with them include using them as bird feeders and jousting, with the prostitutes as the horses. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

Hit: “17 Things Worth Knowing About Your Cat”

While all The Oatmeal’s cat comics are pretty awesome, this one is my favourite for the interesting cat factoids (did you know cats purr at the same frequency as an idling diesel engine?) and the interesting layout.

Miss: “4 Reasons to Carry a Shovel at All Times”

This is a really big miss, with yet more sex worker-bashing, this time suggesting a funny use for a shovel is digging a grave for a dead prostitute. I get that the other 3 reasons for using a shovel are really ridiculous and it’s clear he’s not actually suggesting going out and killing people, but given the rates of violence against sex workers, that example hits way too close to home.  

Hit: “8 Ways to Tell if Your Loved Ones Plan to Eat You”

This one’s silly, imaginative, and harmless. Just so you know, watch out if your family is sneaking vegetables into the bathtub, watch out!

Miss: “Women with Mustaches”

Inman gets called out on this comic and includes the complaint in his also offensive “Retarded Emails” section, seemingly shocked that anyone could find calling women with slight facial hair “what nightmares are made of” sexist. I think this is the worst of the bunch because it attacks pictures of real people instead of using cartoon representations, and because it manages to be sexist, homophobic, and transphobic by attacking women with masculine features and by criticizing Orlando Bloom for being effeminate. It’s also kind of racist, using racial modifiers in the captions, like “Dueling Asian Mustaches”. Overall, I don’t think publicly shaming real people who aren’t conforming to an ideal of femininity is that hilarious.

So come on, The Oatmeal. Look at all the clever, quirky, satirical, and even educational stuff you’ve come up with. You don’t need to use violence against sex workers as a joke. You don’t need to humiliate real women for looking natural. You’re better than that.





Fall 2010 Reads October 31, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Politics, Pop Culture.
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1. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin. I would’ve liked to see more race analysis but Grandin does a good job telling the story of Henry Ford’s failed attempt to create a model midwestern city in the Amazon. Ford wasn’t a big fan of experts, so ended up making a lot of mistakes like building houses unsuited to the jungle climate, planting rubber with no idea of its environmental needs, and hiring staff that used company money on drunken escapades. The anecdotes are entertaining and it gives insight into the history of Ford and the rubber industry internationally.

2. Myths of Gender by Anne Fausto-Sterling. Fausto-Sterling wrote this book in 1985, although I read the second edition released in 1992. Even though it’s dated it provides a scientific basis to critique research on sex differences. Fausto-Sterling is a biologist who believes there are some innate biological differences between the sexes, but believes most of the scientific research on the subject to be flawed. In particular, she criticizes the belief that men are naturally smarter and better at math, the belief that men are naturally more aggressive due to hormones, and that menstruation and menopause are “diseases” that effect all women similarly. While researchers in many other disciplines have also tackled these issues it’s interesting to see someone fight science with science.

3. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up this book from a discount rack at Powell’s. Sarah Vowell’s history of the Puritan settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony manages to be quirky, moving, funny, and thorough. She critiques a view of colonization that ignores the violence done to Aboriginal peoples and uses historical writings and modern politics to give us a thoughtful exploration of what it means to see America as a Puritan nation.

4. Manhood in America: A Cultural History by Michael Kimmel. Some feminist scholars argue we don’t need any more men’s history since mainstream historical research has always revolved around men. While Sociologist Michael Kimmel somewhat agrees with that statement, he sees that what’s been lacking is a history of masculinity. I highly recommend Manhood in America, in which Kimmel posits there have been different types of ideal masculinity struggling for prescience in the US since the American Revolution. Using histories of literature, psychoanalysis, politics, and health, he argues the type of the “self-made man”, who brings himself up from nothing to accumulate wealth and prestige, is the type to which modern men are expected to aspire. In the end he argues for a more “democratic masculinity” that does not base its identity on exclusion via homophobia or sexism. If you’re going to read any book on this list, make it this one.

5. Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel. I was so excited to find another book by Kimmel after Manhood in America, but I was kind of let down by Guyland, which explores the lives of men aged 16 to 26 in America. Kimmel calls the territory these men inhabit “Guyland”: a social arena in which guys are forced to constantly prove themselves as men while being suspended between childish buddy culture and adult responsibilities. While I appreciated Kimmel’s arguments about the amount of gender policing, I’m not convinced that it’s unique to the age group he looked at. Further, a lot of the social pressures he discussed, such as guys feeling stuck and unable to forge a good career for themselves, I don’t believe are that gender-specific.

6. The Pyramid: The First Wallander Cases by Henning Mankell. On to fiction. The Pyramid is the last book in the Wallander series by Henning Mankell, but takes the reader back to Wallander’s life before the first novels. I’ve now read the entire series and while I enjoyed The Pyramid, the fact that it was broken into short stories made it more obviously formulaic. It made me realize I’m not sure if there’s a Wallander story where the finding of the body isn’t followed by a comment on the weather, along the lines of: “Wallander got into his car. The fog rolled off the embankment. It was four-oh-two in the morning on September 16.” (not an actual quote).

7. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. My step-sisters got me into Gary Shteyngart when they gave me his first novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, for Christmas a few years ago. Super Sad True Love Story has the same sense of wacky satire, this time looking at a world in which a technology-obsessed America is on the verge of economic collapse.  In the midst of the crisis is set the love story of anachronistic Lenny Abramov (he still reads paper books!) and the secretly vulnerable yet outwardly cruel Eunice Park. What I found interesting was how Shteyngart, consciously or not, visualized a hyper-objectification of (particularly) women as part of the increasing use of technology and obsession with youth and immortality.

That’s what I’ve been reading over the past few months. Next up is Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese. What are you reading?



FFFF: French & Saunders do Baywatch October 22, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, FFFF, Pop Culture.
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Happy Friday!

Halloween Costumes for Feminists October 21, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Pop Culture, racism.
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I was so close to not writing another Halloween costume post this year because the problems I talked about last year with racist and sexist costumes haven’t changed a bit.  Saw this “Cheyenne Wig” at Value Village the other week and yesterday I noticed a “Chinese Lady” wig, which looked an awful lot like generic “Geisha” wigs, at London Drugs.  It’s gross. In addition to the fact that I’m assuming most actual Cheyenne wouldn’t appreciate being told they all have hair like Morticia Addams, appropriating the identities of racial minorities and perpetuating stereotyping isn’t cool at Halloween or any other time.

And we’re still seeing women’s costumes hypersexualized. Yes,  dressing up in a sexy costume can be fun, but it’s not a pre-requisite for a good time. And the trend seems to be pushing the envelope to apply to younger and younger girls. For  one costume with both sexist and racist yuck factors, check out this “Harem Girl” costume for kids profiled at the Ms. Blog.

The new weird thing I noticed this year was quite a few people being directed to my blog by Googling how to dress “homeless” for Halloween. Here’s someone’s actual question on Yahoo Questions:

Im going to be a homeless person for Halloween. Any Suggestions on my Poster? Okay, So i have decided to be a homeless person for Halloween. I’m going to get a shopping cart and funny props for it, including a cardboard sign. (you know how hobos stand on the side of the road asking for money with a cardboard sign?) …And im trying to think of sayings to put on it. I would like something common that homeless people say, but also a funny one.

Dressing “homeless” is in really poor taste (as one responder points out before she quickly gets over it and suggests a “Will Work for Treats” sign as a prop). Homelessness isn’t a joke and trivializing the issue and trying to make it funny does absolutely nothing to help stigma against people living in extreme poverty.

Luckily one thing that has changed this year is I’m hearing a lot more good costume ideas for feminists and other people who don’t think that wearing a costume has to reinforce social inequalities. Here are some of the best suggestions I’ve seen this year. Leave yours in the comments below!

1. Member of the Rockford Peaches

Honour the history of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League by dressing up as one of the members of the 1943 Rockford Peaches, as profiled in the movie A League of Their Own.

2. Group idea: Beekeepers and Bees

Yesterday at the weekly Twitter She Party (Wednesdays from 3-6 Eastern, hosted by the Women’s Media Center) someone mentioned she and her spouse were going as beekeepers and their kids were dressing up like bees. I thought the idea was really cute and you can find instructions for DIY beekeeper costumes here.

3. “Sexy Nurse”

I read a comment on another blog by a woman who’s an actual nurse planning to go out in scrubs and sneakers with a large name tag reading “Sexy Nurse”.

4. Ellen Ripley from the Alien Movies

From the list of suggestions at Bitch.

My Sculpey tooth necklace

5. Tooth Fairy/Evil Tooth Fairy

This is going to be my costume this year. I made teeth out of polymer clay to make a necklace and headband and will match those with a white shirt, tutu and tights, white store-bought wings and a black wig. To make it an evil tooth fairy costume, make the tooth jewelry more disgusting and slap on some gory makeup. It also might be cool to carry around a pair of large pliers.

6. Add “zombie” in front of any of the following:

Suggestions: Zombie Sarah Palin, Zombie Suffragette, Zombie Margaret Atwood, Zombie Jane Austen character, Zombie Pundit of your Choice.

7. Your Google Alter-Ego

Use Google or Facebook to find someone with the same name as you and dress as them. I borrowed this idea from feminist blogger Shelby Knox, who suggested she might go as Shelby Knox the cheerleader.  This works best if you look completely different from the person your imitating. The best would be if you could get them to dress as you too.

8. Safe-Sex Pusher

This is from NOW’s list of feminist costume ideas. Wear sunglasses and a trenchcoat lined with condoms and birth control packets.

9. Carmen Sandiego

Because she’s a woman of mystery.

10. Women’s firefighter costume that includes pants and flat shoes.

I’m talking firefighter hat, jacket and pants with reflective strips. Because, let’s face it, it’s really, really dumb to run into a burning building in fishnet stockings, a miniskirt, and stilettos.

Just a quick follow-up on yesterday’s post about the Canadian Blog Awards. The CBAs have belatedly decided to add the category of Best Feminist Blog just for the final round of voting and we’re nominated with some other fantastic Canadian feminist blogs. You can vote in the Best Feminist Blog category here and remember you can still vote for us in the Culture and Literature category. You can vote once every 24 hours until Tuesday, October 26. Then I will at least temporarily stop annoying you all.


Best Breakup Music October 19, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, Pop Culture.
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After a breakup it can be really tempting to listen to sad love songs, and while that’s probably a stage you’ll have to go through, eventually you get to the point where you want to remind yourself of how important it is to look out for yourself. Haven’t been through a breakup like this in a couple years, but the songs are good for all times. What are your favourite songs for putting things in perspective? Add in the comments below!

Old School

1. I Will Survive – Aretha Franklin

No explanation necessary.

2. These Boots are Made for Walking – Nancy Sinatra

…although I can’t quite get over the awful lyric “You keep lyin’ when you oughta be truthin'”, this song is a classic.

3. Hit the Road Jack – Ray Charles

I guess this song could be interpreted as an anti-breakup song but I always choose to side with the women telling him to hit the road.


1. Movin’ On – Po’ Girl

“I think we’ve reached that old movin’ on.”

2. Fuzzy Slippers – Carolyn Mark

The repetition of the line “Somedays it pays to get out of bed” gives it a spot on the list.

3.The Cheapest Key – Kathleen Edwards

“But don’t get me wrong, here comes my softer side…and there it goes/’cause I’ve been on the road too long to sympathize with what you think you’re owed.” FYI the “explicit” in the video title refers to the fact that the word “bullshit” is in the lyrics.

4. All Your Fault – Broken Falls Community Hall Band

Ok, this is shameless self-promotion for my old band. I wrote All Your Fault to commemorate a relationship that had not one, but three breakups.

5. Willow – Sarah Slean

Gotta put yourself in the mindset of a tree for this one.

Country and Alt-Country

1. Everything is Free – Gillian Welch (or Chris Pureka)

 “I just stay home. And sing a little love song, my love, to myself. If there’s something you want to hear you can sing it yourself.”

2. The Long Way Around – Dixie Chicks

Journey not destination, etc.

3. Brand New Starts – Erica Wheeler

Erica Wheeler isn’t very well known but she has some lovely alt-country/folk songs, including this really pretty one about coming back from tough times.

Feminist Staples

1. Superhero – Ani DiFranco

I also really like her song “Shroud”, which is about questioning the things you think you need.

2. Closer to Fine – Indigo Girls

3. As Cool as I Am – Dar Williams

“I will not be afraid of women.”

Musical Theatre

1. Shine Like the Sun – from 9 to 5

“I will prove my own worth, heal the damage and hurt that’s been done. When the cryin’s all done, well I’m going to shine like the sun.”

2. Without You – from My Fair Lady (not the one from Rent)

“You, dear friend who talks so well. You can go to Hartford, Hereford, or Hampshire!”

3. It Sucks to be Me – from Avenue Q

“Why are you all so happy?”

“Because our lives suck!”


1. I’m Not Crying – Flight of the Conchords

Sometimes there’s nothing to do but laugh at the situation.

2. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Monty Python

It could be worse.


1. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon

You probably think this blog post is about you. Don’t you?

2. Ciao! – Lush

“I never thought that I could feel as great as I do today. ‘Cause you were nothing but a big mistake.”

3. Hate on Me – Jill Scott (or Glee cast)


Adventures in Badfic October 16, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Pop Culture, Random.
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I’ve been reading, writing, and editing fanfiction since I was 15, and I thought it was time to share some of the worst fanfic quotes I’ve been collecting from stories I’ve read over the years. I’m not including names of stories or links to them because many fanfic authors are just teenagers trying to express themselves and I don’t want to shame them, but some of their writing is really funny. These are largely taken from the M*A*S*H, Law and Order: Trial by Jury, and West Wing fandoms.

Too Much Information

  • Tracey’s left arm was wrapped around the top of the toilet, and her head was resting on top of her elbow. Sweat covered a good portion of Tracey’s forehead.
  • “She’s projectile vomiting,” Kelly said truthfully. “Do you still want her to come in?”
  • Toby, glanced over at the President and said, “I’m afraid the reeking is due to my upset stomach. I’ve got a touch of airsickness. Sir, have you ever heard of projectile vomiting?”

Unintentionally Dirty

  • Hawkeye signed for a few to be transferred, and briefed BJ on his patients for the week that could be a bit of trouble. He talked to a few of the patients, which Margaret loved to see. He was so good with the young men.

But I Digress

  • “You know, if symptoms persist, you really should see a doctor,” Kelly responded seriously. She walked over to the fridge. She was not in much of a mood to cook something for dinner. Instead, she scanned the contents of the refrigerator for something to heat up in the microwave. Their microwave had not stopped working.
  • People are not supposed to die until they were old and senile. Tracey was neither of those things.
  • James’s dad left when he was only 3. Well, really when he was 1.
  • Hawkeye didn’t know of him until he got back, but that wasn’t the point.
  • She paved the way for five more children, who he loved for the same but different reasons.

Anatomy Lessons

  • Sabrina and Katelyn we’re on his back and he was holding Baylee with his arms.
  • The pair cried on each other’s shoulder as both their hearts twisted with pain and grief.
  • Because Toby was sitting on the floor and the lunging President was standing, CJ’s maneuver ended up as more of a tackle than a block.

Masters of the Run-On Sentence

  • When I got back with my ex fiancé, we weren’t engaged because I chickened out, but we were so in love in collage, anyway, She was married by then and cheating on her husband with me.
  • After a few hours of putting up with Hawkeye’s constant lame pick up lines that at this point just made her laugh which was what he was looking for anyway, BJ and Kellye showed up to relieve them.

Fun with Hyperbole!

  • Margaret woke up feeling happy for the first time in Korea.
  • Margaret couldn’t be in a better mood for someone living in Korea in the middle of a war.
  • And he took her home and never left.

Unfortunate Word Switches

  • You are the love of my life. I promise that I will take care of you forever, and love you even longer. You are the ‘something’ that is missing in my life. I may not be Prince Charming, but I love all of you. Including your faults, and the fact that you’re thirty two,” he assed with a smile.“Will you marry me?”
  • She had scratched herself to the point she was bleeding. Hawkeye immediately picked her up and placed her on the counter to whip the blood away.

Classy Dates

  • “Thanks. You wanna go get a burger in town? The just built a McDonalds near by.”

Pushing the Romance Envelope

  • Kelly glanced at the tape outline of the body on the carpet, and then at a woman in the bedroom who looked like she’d been crying, who was now wearing handcuffs, dangling like trendy S&M bracelets around her wrists, while talking to the homicide detective’s partner.
  • Each of her limbs—creamy, sensitive skin left exposed by the tangled sheets at the foot of bed and striped by the light-shadow-light staccato of the sunbeams—seemed to move of its own volition so that her usually graceful body was rendered somewhat ungainly by the discordant shifting of its parts.
  • She knew next to nothing about him except the basics, like his name and such.

One last reminder. Make sure you vote for Gender Focus in the first voting round for the 2010 Canadian Blog Awards. We’re nominated in the category of “Best Culture and Literature Blog 2010” and you can cast your vote here until noon on Sunday, October 17. Thanks for your support!


FFFF: Vag Magazine October 15, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, FFFF, Pop Culture.
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Two vids this weekend for your Funny Feminist Friday Film:

Catch the series starting next week! Vag Magazine goes live Monday, October 18th at http://www.vagmagazine.tv/

And just a reminder that you have 3 days left in the first round of voting for the 2010 Canadian Blog Awards. Gender Focus is nominated in the Culture and Literature section and you can cast your vote here!

The Round-Up: Oct. 12, 2010 October 12, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, LGBT, Politics, Pop Culture.
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  • It’s Homelessness Action Week in Metro Vancouver and other communities in BC and the Yukon. Poverty is a feminist issue. Find events in your area here.
  • A couple great responses to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign to raise awareness of homophobic bullying in the wake of a shocking number of suicides of LGBT youth: Kaitlin at EqualityKitten points out it’s not just homophobia, it’s also ageism. Garconniere at the Shameless Blog raises more concerns, although I’d hope that now that over 600 videos have been posted, that it would mean more diverse perspectives are represented. Overall I think the project comes with the right intent, and I don’t think it was intended to just tell youth to suck it up and not stand up to bullying. But encouraging LGBT youth by telling them it’ll maybe get better some day is only going to do so much. It would be nice if there was more onus placed on bullies to change their behaviour, and LGBT adults and allies of all ages have to work together to make sure it does get better and to challenge the societal views and institutions that allow homophobic bullying to proliferate. Some Universities and cities are already taking up the challenge but there’s a lot more work to be done.
  • Lisa at Questioning Transphobia points out that during this discussion on bullying we haven’t addressed the specificities of trans bullying, nor the continued discrimination of trans people later in life. Check out her article for some sobering stats (thanks for the link, Kaitlin!).
  • I love this article at the Ms. Blog: “Is Single-Sex Education the New Separate but Equal?”. I have a lot of concerns about sex segregated classrooms, mainly that they imply innate differences between boys and girls, which could reinforce gender stereotypes and make it even more difficult for children who are questioning their sexuality or gender identity to.
  • Check out the Female Character Flowchart at Overthinking It, which charts the main female archetypes in pop culture, from “The Wise Crone” (i.e. Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation) to “The Ugly One” (Meg from Family Guy) to “Psycho Pixie Dream Girl” (Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State.
  • Who says feminism can’t be funny? I’m loving the teasers for the new web series Vag Magazine, which follows a bunch of women who have just taken over a former fashion magazine and are converting it into a feminist publication.

What have you been reading this week?


Wallander: Challenging Detective Novel Masculinity October 11, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Pop Culture.
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Kenneth Branagh as Kurt Wallander

When you think of male protagonists of detective novels, you might come up with the classics: Sherlock Holmes or maybe Hercule Poirot. Or you might think of the “hardboiled” types of 1930s and 40s detective fiction: the Sam Spades and Mike Hammers, or their contemporary cousins such as Ian Rankin’s John Rebus.

Reading Swedish author Henning Mankell’s hit series of novels about Detective Kurt Wallander, I pictured the character as a bit of a combination of Rebus (independent, headstrong, grumpy) and Holmes (rational, morally upright). I always pictured him as stereotypically masculine, because the examples of detectives I had growing up always were.

So it’s been a real treat to see Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of Wallander, now in the second series of 3 episodes on Masterpiece Mystery (the last episode airs next Sunday, October 17). I expected Mankell’s suspenseful and creative plots to come to life well on the small screen. I even sort of expected the outstanding visuals. Phil Hogan at The Guardian says: “Even with bodies piling up – and we had a beautiful dead horse to admire last week – there’s always a moment when you find yourself thinking it might be a nice place for a holiday.”

What I didn’t expect was for Wallander to be a new type of detective who breaks with traditional ideals of masculinity.

The International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities contends that male investigators in detective fiction historically fell into one of three categories: the “analytical detectives” (Holmes, Poirot), who “embody a Victorian ideal of manliness” that sees violence as inherently masculine but requires that men control their aggressive emotions in order to be good citizens; the “hardboiled detectives” (Spade, Hammer), whose masculinity “emerged now as the radical antithesis of ‘femininity’, as a quality cleansed of any soft or feminine taint”; or the detectives in early psychological thrillers, who usually end up being destroyed unless they can completely quash the female-criminal element within them.

Rupert Graves in "The Man Who Smiled". Wallander Series II.

Branagh’s Wallander doesn’t fit any of these categories. He works under a woman boss and while he seeks out dangerous situations on his own, it doesn’t feel like he’s doing it to try to prove his manliness.

Above all, he’s emotional but not only in expressing anger and rage, like traditional male detectives. Wallander fears ending up like his father, who suffers from dementia, he longs to be closer to his daughter Linda, in Series I we see him shy and insecure on a first date (clips below), and in last night’s episode “The Man Who Smiled” he’s suffering immensely and considers resigning after shooting a neo-Nazi in self-defense.

At one point in “The Man Who Smiled” a suspect (Rupert Graves) implies that Wallander is tormented, wondering: “Does your pain make you a good man? Or a weak man?” Wallander rejects the premise of the question that it has anything to do with his masculinity and replies, “I took a life.”

If you haven’t watched any of the episodes yet, they’re definitely worth checking out. In addition to the intriguing plots and stunning visuals, it’s not every day you get a male detective whose feelings aren’t a weakness.