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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Thoughts on "Outcast" (SGA)

There seems to be a general consensus (unless I'm just not looking in the right places) that John Sheppard is rebellious son of Old Money. And I can see that, and I can even believe that the writers intended this. But I seem to have gotten a different impression.

I think John's the rebellious son of New Money. I think he's closer, in that regard, to Lex Luthor of Smallville than Jim Ellison of The Sentinel.

And I'm basing this on relatively flimsy evidence, too. :)

1. The newspaper clipping called Patrick (note the name) Sheppard a utilities mogul. Now, "mogul" does mean wealthy, powerful person, but colloquially (or at least to me), "mogul" implies self-made. You don't call the son of the big publisher a "mogul" even if he's running his mom's empire. You reserve that for the person who built the empire.

Now it could very easily refer to someone who used inherited money to make their own place in the world, but such a person would not insulted if their sons also went their own way. But a man who started from scratch might well think his sons have a duty to continue this.

2. Sheppard is an Irish name. It's also English, but the Patrick is suspicious. There is Irish Old Money, of course, but most of it is only a few generations old - the Kennedy wealth comes from Joe Kennedy, JFK's father.

3. I know so little of general funeral customs - that wake with the closed casket in his own house - is that typical of any group?

So, this is the back story I'm creating in my head:

Patrick was born just at the tail end of the Depression in 1939. He's family is maybe a step above working class. He's smart - brilliant, in fact, ambitious and athletic - enough to get a scholarship to Harvard in 1957 (which is nicely between Korea and Vietnam, and so if there is a draft, he'd get deferred immediately.) And being charming and bright, and maybe better socialized than his son, he makes Old Money friends and decides he wants that life - all the trappings of it - multiple houses, horses, children who follow his legacy, all of it. Maybe he even marries a friend's sister after grad school. If he has a kid right away, he's permanently free from the draft. Twenty years earlier, he'd have become Episcopalian, but by the time he finished college, JFK is president and it's okay to be Catholic, although his wife doesn't convert.

And he gets it. He becomes wealthy and powerful and can act just like his college friends, and he raises his sons to be like Old Money. And David is perfect. He likes that life. He happily follows Dad to Harvard and now he's a director in Dad's company, and he'll take over now.

But John? John's a rebel. He doesn't care about the money. He likes the horses, but he likes skateboards and surfboards and ferris wheels, too. See, if Dad really was old money, John's going to Stanford (if he went) would have been easily explained. "John's very much interested in computer science, and much as it pains me, Stanford's program is better than Harvard's." But Dad sees it as a rejection - "Thanks to me, you're a legacy! How can you turn that down?"

And he does want to fly, but he also joins the Air Force because Dad offered him a job in his company - I'm assuming John was a math or engineering major, or even computer science - and John turned him down. Didn't want to come back East, didn't want to be under Dad's thumb - who knows? Wanted to make his own way. And Dad cut him off from any allowance. So John joins the Air Force and goes to pilot school, and he's reasonably happy.

He meets Nancy, and Dad likes Nancy. There's hope of a real reconciliation when they get married. But he's doing whatever he's doing in the Air Force and then something else happens - I have my suspicions, but there's nothing to really prove it (other than David's reaction to Ronon.) And the marriage fails, and with it any real hope for John and Dad.

That's my back story, anyway.


David's reaction to Ronon

You mean the HUGE SIGNIFICANT PAUSE between "You two" and "... work together"?


I was also struck by having the casket in the house - that's definitely not an Episcopalian or Catholic thing -- at least not in my small-town experience. Wakes are held at the funeral home, when/where people can view the body. The funeral is usually the next day. After the funeral, people gather, usually at someone's house.


I may need to watch the episode again to understand the plot, because most of the time I was all "TALK MORE ABOUT YOUR DADDY, JOHN". Four years in, and we finally get some backstory. Sheesh. I like your take on things.

Someone said that maybe it was in the house becuase the expected crowd would be too large for the funeral home

Yes, the huge significant pause *not* accompanied by an expression, however subtle, of surprise.

As in, "Of *course* you took your latest boyfriend to Dad's funeral."

A few things I would suggest (edited because the way I wrote it was a bit snarky):

1. Utilities: almost always new money.
2. Name: Sheppard isn't an "Irish name": in 1881 it was far more common in the southwest of England (and especially in Wiltshire) than anywhere else in the British Isles. (This according to the dictionary of surnames.) I suspect the name "Patrick Sheppard" might be an in-joke, because Mr. Justice Patrick Sheppard of the Ontario Court of Justice is renowned for having struck down Canada's marijuana laws. Of course, the writers might have simply decided he was Irish for reasons of their own.
3. Wake: if the wake was quiet and dignified, I'd call it a visitation and suggest it was English. If it was happier and more of a party, Irish.
4. Religion: The West is a centre of Roman Catholicism in England, so a family from there being Catholic would not be a surprise.
5. Stanford vs. Harvard - agreed. Old money wouldn't need to prove anything by forcing children to attend Harvard. New money is plus royal que le roi lui-meme. Old money wouldn't even excuse away Stanford - they'd see it as a perfectly valid choice, and perhaps even a better choice than Harvard which even twenty years ago was more difficult to get into than Stanford, even for alumni's children.
6. Is Patrick's age set in stone? If not, I'd suggest a few years older for him - 1928 to 1933. That'll make him just too young for WWII. It also gives him the chance to have begun to earn his fortune by the time he married a younger woman for his first wife in ca. 1964.

Edited at 2008-02-06 10:59 pm (UTC)

Is Patrick's age set in stone?

Yes, the headline on the article Ava finds gives his age as 69.

1. Yeah.
2. Okay - it's just that there are currently two men on TV named Sheppard or Shepherd, and both are played by men with Irish names. Which is hardly meaningful, I'll grant you.
3. They said "wake", so...
4. Okay.
5. Yes. Like that. (Although a Princeton family would try to excuse away a different university. And my husband likes calling Stanford a "Junior college" because it's part of the name.)
6. Set in stone, yes.

I absolutely agree with you that Patrick was *not* Old Money. However, I think he did not try to emulate Old Money, either, because if he did then Dave could not accuse John of coming back to get the money -- the money would all be tied up in trusts. [note: from a Doylist POV, this is because the writers know absolutely nothing about real Old Money, but Hollywood is riddled with the most obvious sort of New Money] Slacker kids are a major issue for real Old Money families, and John would hardly stand out that way.

No, Patrick was an entrepreneur, and that can mean boom-and-bust, and a constant striving that is the antithesis of Old Money. This is where John's slackerness, secretiveness, & sexuality could bring him into conflict with his father's rigid expectations -- expectations that were rigid precisely because Sheppard family finances weren't all that stable, or didn't feel stable to Patrick.

Trusts are fairly complicated, and take up capital, which is why they're often used for legacies - not easy for New Money in the process of being made.

John, btw, is NOT a slacker. He just acts like one so no one will suspect he's actually a geek. Slackers don't get to Stanford and don't make Major in the Air Force. But the rest - yes.

I'm actually thinking this - Patrick recognized that David was the dutiful older son, who'd make a good director, a good manager for the company, but John - John was *brilliant*. John was the person who'd make the business go further. John was the chosen successor. Except that he didn't want that - he seriously has no head or interest for business - and he did want the Air Force. But David can't forget that he's the older but he's also second choice.

that wake with the closed casket in his own house - is that typical of any group?

In general, a casket is closed only if there is unreconstructable damage done to the face or if the deceased specifically requested it closed.

Having a casket in one's home is nothing new; in fact it's very old and not much done in this century. My Mother could recall - in the late '40's - being asked to sleep in the living room with the casket (and body) of an aunt.

A number of reasons were behind this practice - fear of being buried alive, no money for a funeral home, families being far enough apart (and transportation being slow) that it was difficult to congregate all in one place, all in one day, etc.

I think that as the funeral industry became 'industrial' and modern medicine made it less likely that a person would be buried alive, this practice went out of fashion.

Thank you.


I asked the casket question in my LJ, there were MANY answers if you want to see. Mostly open is for close family only, so for it to be closed at the wake makes sense.

I kinda think it might be a combination of old money and new money. If that makes sense.

As in, John's mother was old money?

Entirely possible.


Talk about TPTB being inconsistent!
Originally, Gateworld had a description of John Sheppard which included the fact that he was the son of a famous Cold War Colonel.
Am I the only one who remembers this?
This was the family history they gave for at least 2 years.
Now thats gone- and he's the son of a mogul? Why? Or was Dad both a Cold War Colonel and a mogul? (scratching head, confused)


No, everyone remembers it. The producers are now saying it was never official, even if it was on the official site.

So they jossed themselves.