damkianna: A cap of Irulan from the Dune miniseries, with accompanying text: "Empress". (Empress.)
[personal profile] damkianna
Setting this up was actually a really relaxing way to spend the day - sunk deep in fannish joy, composing a giant wall of text about a character I love. \o/

And, uh, not kidding about the wall of text thing; this is a herd of teal dear if all you're looking for is picspam. If you want a summary of basically every second Irulan's onscreen in the first miniseries, though, you are in the right place. I got a little carried away. /o\

This only covers Irulan's role in Dune (2000), not Children of Dune (2003), because I didn't have quite that much free time today. I did have to shovel the porch, after all. (And help the plow guy get out of a snowbank, which, that is an impressive snowstorm right there if it can get the plow guy stuck.) Also, I took the caps myself, so they are not super high quality, and some of them look a little odd because I lightened them up, that kind of thing. Hopefully they're still sort of okay.

Okay, so. I am not going to try to convince anyone that Dune and Children of Dune are problem-free source, because they are so not. Honestly, they're a lot like Avatar, if Avatar had been about six times as long and lower-budget, contained much more political maneuvering, and had a simultaneously more complicated and more subtle environmental subtext. What These People Need is a Honky, White Messiah, Rock Beats Laser, Women Can't Handle the Power, the whole bit - even a little spare Fat People are Evil. Technically speaking, by the time we hit Children of Dune, the hero is biracial, but he and Ghanima are both blond, and the driving question of that miniseries is whether they'll follow in Paul's footsteps; I'm not sure they ever even talk about Chani.

But! Also like Avatar, there are plenty of fantastic female characters who get sadly underused and often fridged by the story, which is pretty much catnip as far as my brain's concerned. Disclaimer: obviously, I am only talking here about miniseries-verse - I read the book version of Dune a while ago, and part of Children of Dune, but I got bored with the latter when there was not enough Ghanima to hold my interest. So I can't say whether the books handle things better or what. I sort of suspect not, since the broad strokes of the story are pretty much the same, but I don't actually know.

So: Irulan. The eldest daughter of House Corrino, firstborn of the Padishah Emperor. Not allowed to inherit the throne - I guess Shaddam's a less progressive guy than Ozai - so she gets stuck getting sent to parties to look pretty and remind people her dad is in charge, which is how she meets Paul.

But the first time we see her, she's at home on Kaitain in the imperial palace, working on her bending space ballet.

Okay, this is actually probably some sort of Bene Gesserit exercise, judging by the way the Reverend Mother is standing next to her critiquing. But there's no actual explanation in the movie. **hands** All the Reverend Mother has to say is, "The emperor's daughter must do better."

Irulan, who has clearly done this sequence a bajillion times, is not best pleased.

But she sucks it up, and starts again.

What I like best about this is the direct contrast it provides with Paul, whom we have so far seen sitting around whining about how awful everything is for him. Obviously, things don't always go the way Irulan wants them to, either, but she doesn't sit around griping about it; she deals with it.

Irulan's next appearance is at that party I mentioned, and while I don't think the hat is very flattering, still: QUEEN OF THE BUTTERFLIES.

I love her hands and her face in that cap; it's so, "Yeah, that's right, I am THAT AWESOME. Get used to it."

Anyway, she loses the hat for dinner, which is great, because it's pretty wacky and her hair is gorgeous, and the gown without the hat isn't half bad. She's next to Paul, and says decently insightful things about Arrakis, given that she's only been on-planet for a few hours at this point.

Paul can't keep his manly tempestuousness in check long enough to make it through a whole banquet without being insulting and then running away, though, so it's up to Irulan to stay classy and then follow him up to the balcony where he's sulking with Gurney Halleck.

Paul nods Gurney away, and then warns Irulan to watch out for the spice beer.

But Irulan's pretty sure she can handle her liquor.

Irulan tries to convince Paul that his life is not the only one that sucks sometimes, and only partly succeeds, while the lighting is busy blueing it up.

They dance very briefly, but then get interrupted by their respective entourages of soldiers, and Irulan is informed that her father gave strict orders as to when she had to be back in her shuttle and departing. Again, she is not happy, but she sucks it up and deals with it.

We don't see her again until after House Atreides falls, but by this point, it's clear that Shaddam was involved - the house that led the attack, House Harkonnen, used some of the emperor's elite guard. And Irulan is emphatically not happy about having been used as a pawn to keep suspicion off him.

He tries to pass this bullshit off as what it takes to rule an interstellar empire.

But Irulan isn't buying it. I love the actual exchange: he tells her that one day she'll learn what it means to be emperor, and she pulls his hands off her shoulders and says that when she does, he may regret it. It's beautiful - to me, that expresses so clearly that she knows exactly what he means, and she does understand why it seemed like a reasonable move to him; but she still thinks it was wrong, and hopes she always will. ♥♥♥

Also, Irulan is not willing to let that be the end of it, which I found delightful. The sexism of the Dune universe means she can't demand the answers she wants outright; so she gets sneaky.

But first, I must be semi-shallow.

SHE'S KIND OF A NERD. I have a special soft spot for nerdy and/or dorky ladies; Irulan has a little too much poise to be out-and-out dorky, but she manages a little nerdiness here and there.

Anyway, Irulan gets her scheming face on.

She tells the unfairly pretty Farrah to insinuate herself into House Harkonnen and get as many details as she can about the night of the attack; Farrah agrees. Cue schemeface!

Pleased Irulan is pleased. (As she should be; it takes about two seconds for Farrah to get in good with Feyd-Rautha, who is a spoiled jackass who apparently hates wearing a shirt. A spoiled jackass with excellent musculature, I grant you, but still.)

Unfortunately, time presses, and Irulan decides she's going to have to get the answers out of Feyd-Rautha herself. TIME FOR MORE SCHEMEFACE.

Ironically, Shaddam doesn't want to let her go because he thinks she's going to be ensnared by Feyd. Which, seriously? Have you even met her? There is a kind of person who could probably distract Irulan, but Feyd is so not it, excellent musculature or not. Anyway! He's convinced eventually because somebody explains to him that he might be able to use her to get stuff done, and apparently Shaddam just can't pass up a chance to turn his daughter into a prop. Great father, or greatest father?

The next time we see Irulan, she's at House Harkonnen, in a hat to which I prefer the butterfly hat a thousandfold.

However, she is also glibly pretending that she enjoys nothing more than watching Feyd-Rautha and his pecs beat up slaves for fun, in a silky evil voice that I imagine she had a lot of fun practicing on the way over from Kaitain.

She gets the baron and his flunky to leave her alone, and then, across the arena, Farrah appears in the shadows, and they smirk at each other.

Obviously, I am annoyed that she needed to pull off this workaround to get what she wanted; but I love that she did it when she had to, and that she enjoys using her smarts to get things done.

So, Irulan, like the master of stealth she is, sneaks into the room where Feyd's preparing to murder another slave for kicks as the night's entertainment.

She eyebrows her way around the tub where Farrah's helping a couple of other girls oil Feyd up.

Instead of chopping his stupid groping hands off the way I'm sure she'd like to do, she takes over the job, so that she can crack him properly. Never let it be said that Irulan's not willing to get her hands dirty.

And for someone who's never tried it before, Irulan seduces creepy bad guys like a CHAMP.

He tells her everything, of course, including just how deeply her father was involved, and she does a deeply excellent job of hiding her rage - she is a fantastic double agent. One of the things that annoys me most about Paul is that despite his upbringing in a very political household, he still throws fits like the one at the dinner party. Granted, he grows out of it a bit as the miniseries goes on, but he's pretty transparent at first, and incredibly bad at keeping his temper and being diplomatic. Irulan, on the other hand, has obviously taught herself to smile winningly in the faces of people she hates, and I really love that.

Anyway! She also gets him to tell her that he never found Paul's body, or Lady Jessica's, and makes this face when he does:

Then she leaves him with Farrah - Feyd-Rautha is not the kind of guy who cares especially if you switch out one pretty girl with another - and goes to, presumably, take a really long bath. And save House Atreides, too. Determined Irulan is determined.

Obviously, I am not exactly a big fan of having women use their sexuality to get stuff, because it is so often a cheap way to advance the plot and insert fanservice at the same time. :P But in the abstract, the arc of Irulan deciding she needs information her father won't want her to have, figuring out how she can get it, and then getting it is a satisfying one. So I like and dislike this part simultaneously.

The next time we catch up with Irulan, she's working kind of an Ozma look, and she's casually goading her father into a deep suspicion of Baron Harkonnen.

This scene, I LOVE: Irulan does a little math and a short battle assessment, and reveals that she knows what the baron is up to, and figured it out before her father or any of his advisors. And she presents it in a way that prods her father's paranoia - I realize this is something of a painful moment in some ways, but I get a tiny vengeful thrill out of the idea that after being used by him so many times, Irulan is learning to use Shaddam right back.

During this scene, she also reveals that she may have worked out something that even Gurney Halleck didn't know until Paul popped up right in front of him the scene before this - that Paul is the Mahdi, the savior that the rebellion on Arrakis is rallying around.

Yay, my favorite: determination face.

Anyway, House Harkonnen gets summoned to the palace to get yelled at. This is a short moment, but her little I-totally-hate-you slouch at Feyd is really fabulous.

A lot of stuff happens in here; Paul foments a rebellion, and Shaddam decides to move the palace to Arrakis because Baron Harkonnen's nephew-who-is-not-Feyd-Rautha clearly can't handle it, etc. etc. We don't really see Irulan again until near the end, when Paul's little sister Alia gets nabbed. She is introduced to the court as a bargaining chip because she is the younger sister of Muad'dib, the Mahdi; Irulan sees a resemblance immediately.

She gets faint but detectable smug face.

A storm comes, and the Fremen time their attack to match; as the sandstorm whips by and the explosions begin, Irulan gets hurried away, but not before she gets a chance to give her father a look that lands somewhere between triumphant and unhappy.

Finally, the last scene of the first miniseries: Paul asserts his control over the universe, and Irulan knows right away that the only way House Corrino is going to get out of this intact is if she marries Paul.

Feyd-Rautha starts being a jackass before she can complete this move, however, so she has to wait for Paul to kill him.

Paul does.

Important note: Irulan is not intimidated by your goriness.

I sort of hate the end, because it exemplifies how badly Irulan is screwed over by this whole story. I love Chani like burning, but what I want more than anything is the story where she's the Mahdi, Irulan is sent to take over Arrakis by her father, and they get married and share Paul and enjoy blissful imperial threesomes. Instead, Irulan and Chani are forced into positions where it's incredibly hard for them to like each other, and Irulan is stuck forever on the outside.

For what it's worth, it's a pretty beautiful shot; but I hate the situation it represents, even though I like most of the players involved. :/

So! That is everything you probably never cared about when it comes to me and my ~thoughts~ on Irulan in Dune. \o/ Probably Part 2 will take me waaaaaay longer, unless the Snowpocalypse keeps up.

ETA: Part 2!
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damkianna: A cap of the Reverend Mother from the Dune miniseries, with accompanying text: "Space cowgirl." (Default)
'tis not so deep as a well

October 2017


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