[personal profile] wingedbeast
I... think I can forego my usual explanation for those who aren't aware. I won't. Remember how I'm in love with the sound of my own text. But, I could.

"I Dream of Jeannie" is the classic sitcom about Major Tony Nelson, an astronaut, and the Djin he meets after splashdown from a mission has him long off his expected target. By accident he releases her from a bottle. He immediately recognizes that she is what we call, in modern days, a genie and says, to himself, that he has read about them, and immediately sets to making wishes in the hopes of getting back home and/or back to NASA.

If you have read of the Djin, including the powerful ones that need to be bound inside vessels, you should know that wishes aren't something to rush into. Part of what you should have read involves stories of wicked tricksters. Or, spirits resentfully bound into service. Neither of these bodes well for how they will choose to go about granting your wish.

Of course, you should also know that they're not certain to have great magical powers. They can be spirits of fire or air. That's why the popular image of a genie is that of a person from the waist up and a dust-devil from the waist down.

None of all of that applies to "I Dream of Jeannie", of course. It's just a silly situation comedy about an everyman, his wacky neighbor, and the nigh-omnipotent deity which the everyman controls and eventually marries.

That's right. Her second sentence in English is to declare Major Nelson to be her master and she his slave. That status doesn't seem to change, but they do eventually wed. This entire show can become disturbing if you start to take it seriously... which isn't an argument that you shouldn't.

By the way, I've referenced this before, but there's an excellent discussion of different manifestations of sexism, using "I Dream of Jeannie" as an example. Link provided below*.

"I Dream of Jeannie" may have been intended as not more than lighthearted fun (and can still be enjoyed as such), but I don't see any reason why we can't take it seriously and have comedy at the same time.

There are elements that I believe only exist because they were convenient for the writers. Major Nelson being an astronaut, for instance, served to put him on a far-away island. While it can color things, well... the show didn't do much for accuracy. And, I don't see any point to it, otherwise. Seriously, NASA might as well have been any other sit-com office job of sit-coms of the day.

As well, the need to keep Jeannie a secret. I can find no reason for that, save that it gives an excuse to put people in situations of comedic stress. Oh, I can imagine good reasons to avoid telling the world that a woman exists who can be an ultimate servant and readily enslaved with a bottle. Nothing like that is ever stated. The secrecy doesn't seem to exist for Jeannie's benefit or for Major Nelson's, but for the benefit of the comedic situation.

A remake would have to address both these issues. But, there are two other elements. I recently viewed, on YouTube, what I believe is the pilot episode, "The Lady in the Bottle".

Firstly, there's how Jeannie treats Major Nelson. I want you to take a moment and look back on all the problems of Fifty Shades of Grey. Now, take Christian and, without changing how he treats Anastasia, imagine that he wants to be the sub in the BDSM relationship. Nothing gets any better. Arguably, the show gets away with this because it is a product of its time and abuse by women of men is still downplayed in terms of the harm it can do. So, this aggressive woman, transgressing the boundaries of a man and ruining his relationships with forced affection is treated as though it's comedic rather than potentially horrific.

Then there's the other, related issue. In the show, she was put in that bottle by a powerful djin as revenge for her refusing to marry him. She states that she was in that bottle for two thousand years. It isn't her home or her natural living space, though later on it is treated as such. As a spirit of air, Jeannie would have loved her freedom and been denied that for two thousand conscious years.

Reasonable arguments have been put forth that solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment, actual torture that causes psychological harm.

Two thousand years.

America watched a sit-com that, with just a slight change of framing, could be a horror movie with a monster that is no less monstrous for all that she's sympathetic and played by Barbara Eden.

So, what do we do with all of these issues in the remake? Firstly, if we do keep with the idea of an astronaut and the NASA connection, accuracy has to be important. That means that we don't have the astronaut suiting up in just another office. That means getting the right sets and doing some freaking research.

Otherwise, get rid of it entirely. I, for one, favor a college setting, in order to enable the intellectual exploration and research that would be a key to my idea.

In my idea, the difficult part to write would be why this Tony Nelson was the one to release the Djin from her supernatural confines after so long and why not anybody else in so much time. That becomes the difficult part, but not insurmountable and, potentially, not all that important.

The important part comes in the difference. In the show we have, after Tony Nelson makes his first successful wish for rescue, he frees Jeannie. She remains the aggressively servile and soft Jeannie as always, but one with the freedom to leave if she chooses. The fantasy is... excessive.

In our new version, freeing her shouldn't be that easy. In fact, she might have been released from the bottle many a time, only to have her binding to the bottle be something more than can be undone by removing a cork. After Tony attempts to give her freedom by merely speaking her free or wishing for her freedom, the limits of her power become apparent.

The Djin in front of him, who hasn't shared her real name because names have power, is a spirit of air. Her magic powers can involve illusion or invisibility, controlling winds to a limited degree, controlling her appearance, spying on others and, to point out the disturbing element, being a wife. She is no great and powerful deity, capable of springing life from the ether or transporting one in time. But, she has very useful powers and no immediately available way of breaking her bind.

This makes Tony's responsibility clear. He has to find a way to keep anybody who would abuse the control over "Jeannie" from getting hold of that bottle. At the same time, he has to figure out if there is, indeed, a way to break that spell. That will be one element of the situation, finding a way to research this without being found out.

The second part of the situation will be "Jeannie's" exploration of the closest approximation of freedom she's had in two thousand years. Learning about the modern world from the position of someone who's never been able to enjoy it as a member thereof will involve many a culture-clash, as well as exploring the depths of what was done to her.

At the same time, she might develop feelings for this Tony Nelson, if only because he is a rare example of someone who, when they had this kind of power over her, made the effort to avoid using and abusing her and even started an effort to free her. This will lead into the third.

In the original series, at least at start, Major Nelson had a fiance. She wasn't yet a wife and, as stated previously, Jeannie would eventually marry Major Nelson. But, one thing that bugged me was how Jeannie described this fiance as a "woman made of ice". She was framed as being cold and not nearly so affectionate or servile as Jeannie.

That judgment needs to be addressed and a love-triangle can be accepted so long as it's resolved quickly. In this show, we need to be clear that "will they or won't they" is quickly answered. In terms of the Djin and Tony Nelson, they won't. Tony is engaged to be married with a woman that he does love and does love him and an aggressively affectionate Djin won't change that.

The resolution to this love triangle comes when Tony Nelson finally finds a way to convince his fiance of the reality of the situation. He instructs "Jeannie" to manifest, personally, in front of the fiance. He leaves them to have a private conversation.

Here is where "Jeannie" makes her most aggressive move against the fiance. She cannot kill her or hurt her, but she can attempt to intimidate.

"Jeannie":I have spent two thousand years found to that bottle and to whomever holds it. I have been the subject of the wise and the foolish, the gentle and the cruel, but I have never been subject to someone who would think to give me freedom.

I have powers the likes of which you cannot imagine and I have had millennia of time to learn, to practice, to know all the ways that I can be a better wife than you. I will not have him taken from me by the likes of you, mortal.

(name to be determined) looks "Jeannie" in the face for a moment... then pulls her into a hug.
(name to be determined): I didn't know. I'm... I'm so sorry."

Jeannie: What's... what's happening here? I'm telling you that-

(name to be determined): That you've been so hurt and I'm so sorry.


Feelings don't go away in a flash. But, what was a thought to take a husband for herself can change. She can recognize that there are two good people who are both willing to help her. If they cannot achieve her complete freedom, they can at least use their position to protect her temporary freedom for as long as possible. In her position for the past two thousand years, she'd been starved of friendship as much as she'd been starved of freedom.

From there, well, who knows where the story and the mythology can go? The options abound that are not, themselves, bound to a fantasy of aggressively affectionate servility.

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5YXaRovnIA&t=208s

Date: 2017-05-25 03:52 am (UTC)
dragoness_e: Raven strolling (Raven strolling)
From: [personal profile] dragoness_e
I remember this sitcom. It was regular viewing when I was growing up. You forgot to mention Major Nelson's idiotic comic relief sidekick, whose name I fortunately forget.

The reason to keep everything about Jeannie secret was delved into some episodes down the line--astronauts who hallucinate beautiful supernatural women get grounded really fast and aren't candidates for landing on the moon someday. Astronauts who keep mysterious, unmarried, unreported foreign women in their homes are also violating lots of amusing security regulations, which will get them grounded and possibly demoted. Tony and his idiot buddy (who is in on the secret) don't want to be grounded. As it is, the usual comedic shenanigans that keeping a culturally-clueless foreign woman that lives in your house a secret leads to enough weird behavior on Tony's part that the Air Force doctor responsible for clearing Tony for flight status suspects something is not quite right about every other episode. (He's a regular foil for our morons).

My main problem with the show is that even as a child, I could never believe that real astronauts would be such inept morons, or so easily rattled.

You want a supernatural comedy from the period with some real questionable stuff? How about remaking "Bewitched"? I was thinking about that lately, and really wanted to go chew all the main cast out about how they gas-lighted their elderly neighbor into insanity. (Well, they certainly made everyone think Gladys was crazy, quite deliberately). I can forgive Endora for being a complete bitch-queen to Darrin--she's an immortal demigoddess whose immortal demigoddess daughter is marrying a mortal of dubious character (from her point-of-view--he's in advertising, for goodness sakes!) Shades of Elrond, Arwen and Aragorn--and Darrin is no Aragorn! However, Samantha and Darrin's abuse of nosy old lady Gladys Kravitz is inexcusable, even if she is the "looking for Reds under the bed" type.
Edited Date: 2017-05-25 03:58 am (UTC)

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