Tag Archives: television

Heroes – I Don’t Even Watch You And I’m Sick Of You

Okay geek confession time – I don’t watch Heroes.

I know, I know *wrist slap* bad sci-fi comic geek.

I tried during the first season and got about 11 episodes in mostly carried by my interest in the Nikki/Jessica and Claire characters – I like crazy, homicidal women and women who will put a man through a car windshield. But I’ll be honest my interest was simply not enough to carry me through the winter hiatus/re-runs. Plus the race politics from the jump were sketchy as hell. We had the silent Haitian – who I’m pretty sure still doesn’t have a name, the drug addict Latino Issac and the criminal black man DL. Sure we had Simone but she had no powers and look how she ended up. Then there are Hiro and Mohinder who are based on the “overachieving Asian” stereotype.

Now some of you are sitting back there thinking “How can this guy critique the show when he’s only seen 11 episodes?” and I agree that I can’t do an in depth critique but the fact of the matter is that being in geek circles I know the basic story lines of what has gone down on the show and really it sounds like its gone down the toilet hardcore.

I watched parts of the third season opener with my housemates and as K. Tempest Bradford says in her awesome column on the premiere Unbreakable Habits: Heroes Returns (which y’all should check out) it was “Two hours I will never get back.”

It was simply train-wreck after train-wreck and as one of my friends said (can’t quite remember who) “Heroes never met a stereotype it didn’t like.” and that’s one of its main problems right there. Every brown and female character on the show starts as a stereotype and I have yet to see them grow beyond that or disrupt that even a little bit (of course most don’t live long enough to get the chance). Mohinder and Maya engage in the out of nowhere rough brown people sex after he injects himself with the serum. The literalmagical negro in Africa – who again I don’t think we have a name for as of yet - helping out white boy Matt Parkman. The friendship between Hiro and Ando being broken apart by Hiro’s continued naivete and obsession with the truth of comic books – at this point it’s just annoying because he makes stupid ass decisions over and over again. You think that after the first two seasons he would have learned something. And there’s … have any of the other brown characters been featured as of yet? Micah? Monica? Are they just gone into the ether never to be mentioned again? 

There are basically no strong female characters on the show who are not evil in some way – the only two I noticed were crazypants sociopath Elle and manipulative Angela Petrelli. The other women have been crippled or broken in ways where they basically have nothing left of the fire that attracted me to the show for even that short while.  And can we talk about the lack of diversity in the female characters? I’m not just talking race here but size and hair color as well – there’s a preponderance of the the skinny white blond girl that Ijust find confusing and odd – Daphne, Elle, Claire, Nikki/Jessica, Tracey I mean damn is there some linkage between blondness, skinniness and the gene that gives these folks powers? Also don’t even get me started on Niki/Jessica’s death and the whole any sexually free or confident woman must die trope and the whole Tracey vs. Niki/Jessica thing they’re trying to do – show how different they are which stinks of  and plays on the Virgin/Whore dichotomy women are constantly subjected to in our society.

The other part of Heroes that works my last nerve is that its comic in visual form which I normally would be down with but all their are doing is taking X-men and Justice League swallowing it down and regurgitating it onto the screen. There is almost nothing new or original in what they are doing. Every snippet I watch just reminds me of a comic I watched as a child. Sylar as the third Petrelli brother = the search and mystery surrounding the third Summers brother. The Shanti virus = the Legacy virus. The future “league of villains” thing = something we’ve seen dozens of time. And as my housemate Jackie pointed out the whole third “book” Villains is just a rehash of Kingdom Come …but y’know bad.

They say there are only seven original stories and everything after is simply a copy of those. Yeah that’s all well and good but if you’re going to rehash a bunch of things I read growing up then you need to add something, make it your own in some way otherwise it’s just seems like boring adaptations of old favorite but without the characters and twists that made it great.

Critiquing Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon created – Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity and the upcoming Dollhouse. Now I have issues with a lot the shows listed, I’m also a huge fan. My problem isn’t entirely with the shows but also in the way a lot of of fans perceive Joss. He gets a lot of cachet from certain segments of fandom – about how he loves strong women, how he describes himself as a feminist, his population of diverse women.

Yeah I kind of scoff at all of that. First of all I will never understand why men who choose to treat women decently get a fucking medal, that should just be par for the course. I know it’s not and we as a society need to work on that but handing out cookies to these men and not allowing them to be critiqued or not critiquing them just allows them to get away with a lot of bullshit – that without the cachet of being a “feminist man” or “pro-feminist man” they would be torn to shreds for.

While I love Buffy & Firefly. (Angel I’m kinda *meh* on) the first thing that I notice is that Joss likes a certain type of woman to be strong: they have to be skinny and white and ever so traditionally beautiful. Not really that feminist to me. I’ve had a lifetime of reading comics where skinny  women become superheroes all the time. Buffy was little different from them to me. I liked her sarcasm, her determination but didn’t truly see her or the show as ground breaking…wait rephrase perhaps it was ground breaking for the medium of television specifically. But it seemed to me that everytime there was a feminist moment of fabulousness it was always within this very narrow view of women so that no ground was actually gained in my eyes. If it was anything it was the feminism he ascribed to was this prevalent “girl-power” pseudo-feminism. Yes, it was great to see girls and women being strong but you know what I would have loved? If we could have seen women of different colors, sizes, abilities, classes being just as strong without fucking up and killing someone innocent (Faith) or dying (Kendra).

And so often the shows fell into stereotypes and tropes:

The destruction of Angel’s life through Cordelia’s rampant sexuality and yes we find out she was possessed and it wasn’t really her but that whole excuse was way muddled and not thought out. 

I would have loved for Gunn (the only recurring POC in his first two shows) to just be able to be smart without a mystical intervention.

The dead lesbian – Tara

The breakdown of women without a male partner or when the male partner leaves – Buffy, Anya, Willow and on and on – in a way where we rarely if ever saw the reverse with Xander and Giles.

There’s a way in which Joss likes to consistently pair physical strength in girls with emotional weakness or fucked-up-ness, almost as if they have to exist side by side and that’s what pissed me off more than anything.

And yes we can’t say that Joss had a hand in all of those, he was the creator but he did not write every episode but as the creator he sets the tone, the pace and the message of the show. None of the show writers are going to write a character completely out of the character that Joss has set. It’s a trickle down effect.

Also I think most of us can agree while Joss might have an inkling of feminism he’s really bad at race…really really bad. Yes, in Firefly we have a mixed crew – which I love – but there’s a way in which River and Inara never have their heritage brought up and the complete absence of Asian folks in this Asian inspired show could be a whole post in and of itself. Just plopping down some folks of color is not good race politics you have to explore it at least a little – and I know he only had 12 episodes. Also the gender politics in Firefly/Serenity weren’t the best. In fact cracked.com listed Hollywood’s 5 Saddest Attempts at Feminism- River’s at #3.

I want to talk about these things, I want to talk about his consistently really bad race politics in all three of his shows. I want to talk about the co-opting of feminism by the mainstream into this whole “girl power” movement where there’s not real critique of power structures and the similarity of this “girl power” movement to the Republican ideology of “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” without any discussion of the continuing hierarchies and how difficult that can make it. I want to talk about all of that and how that’s filtered into Joss’ work but all too often I’m completely shut down by calls of “He’s a feminist!” as if that gives him a free ride to do whatever else he wants.

I own: all 7 season of Buffy, Firefly, Serenity & the first two seasons of Angel so it’s safe to term me a fan but I know that Joss has issues that crop up as do all creators. Shoot I know my own work probably has issues but I would hope that no one would give me a pass, that folks would tell me imy issues so I could be aware of it and either acknowledge it as a problem that had to exist in the work or apologize and try and do better next time. When we don’t allow for these critiques and questions to be voiced then we’re doing a disservice not only to the work but to the creator as well.

There might be posts later that focus on these shows and specifically their race politics when I get the time because:

Buffy - So. California town with little-to-no People of Color?

Angel – Only representation of POC is the trope of ghetto-gang-hustler?

Firefly/Serenity – The already mentioned absence of Asian folks coupled with the complete appropriation of their culture.

More of me @ Fantasy Magazine!

My second column about SGA is up at Fantasy Magazine right now:

Now this is the point where I and anyone else raised on sci-fi/horror films began to scream, “No don’t do it! Don’t go on the ghost ship!” While on the ship energy begins to build up (”Run, run now! Like the wind fools!”) and in a blink something happens (”You’re screwed.”). They figure out that there’s a drive on board that is jumping them through dimensions rather than space (”See, screwed.”)

Check it out.

Problematic Things I Enjoy – Beverly Hills 90210 (A.K.A. The Brenda Walsh Show)

OKay admission of a child of the 90′s – I used to watch Beverly Hills 90210.

Alright, that’s a bit of an understatement my mother still mocks the fact that I watched every episode of the early seasons and would rush out of conversations if it was starting. My main reason for watching this show was – Shannen Doherty/Brenda Walsh. I loved her. Most other fans of 90210 will admit that Brenda was one of the most interesting characters on the show. Her character arc had her going from a sweet girl from Minnesota to a manipulative liar to an animal rights activist. Her popularity was quite obviously helped by the off-screen tabloid appearances and rumors that spoke of major problems between Doherty and Jennie Garth, the actress who played her best friends/main rival through the four seasons she was on the show.

Okay so why is BH 90210 so problematic? 

The class issues alone are enough for a whole series of articles and while I vaguely remember them attempting in inject some class consciousness into the show it was never enough to take away the fact that like it’s successor Dawson’s Creek it was a show about pretty rich white teens that date other pretty rich white teens and have OMG!Melodramatic problems.

And then of course there’s the fact that anytime someone of a different race or class background or sexuality or ability level or size or etc. showed up it was always “a very special episode”. The show had almost no social consciousness anything that could have been a real learning moment was milked for as much meodrama as possible and stereotypes were relied on frequently to shortcut characters and plotlines.

The show was completely and utterly vapid, over-the-top, and had no connection to my life (or I suspect the lives of most folks) but there was something riveting about the show. Something that kept me tuning in for four years I’ve never been able to figure out what. (Some friends claim the joy is in watching the extreme lengths the writers had to go to to create problems for the pretty rich teen boys and girls and that is part of it).

Really I’m just waiting for “Compton”. The show about youth trying to get out of the ghetto, going to college, police harassment, gang involvement – kinda makes whether Dylan is there to meet Kelly or Brenda at the Peach Pit seem kind of like frivolous bullshit AND IT WAS but I still loved the show.

So yes there is a spin-off coming simply called 90210 (creativity does not live here). I’ve been less than enthused about it and hadn’t intended to watch it. That is until I heard that Miss Brenda Walsh will be returning to the show, now a famous theatre actress/director she returns at behest of fictional frenemy Kelly Taylor (play by real frenemy Jennie Garth) to direct the high school musical.

What sparks will fly?

Will Brenda and Kelly get into a knock down drag out fight about their ex-beau Dylan? (Yes please!)

When will the rumors of backstage fights begin?

Will the newbies bow down to the Queen of 90210, Brenda Walsh as they should?

How will Shannen leave the show this time in joy or anger? Well, some questions are rhetorical but you get my meaning.

There’s already been one cast member pushed out before it even began! Tori Spelling who played Donna Martin in the original show was rumored to be returning along with Doherty and Garth until she found out how much they were being paid. This is all rumors but it’s been reported that when Spelling who was being offered 10k-20k per episode found out Garth and Doherty had range of 35k-50k per episode. She demanded parity and the producers refused. While not Doherty’s fault it sure sets the stage for the drama of this new show. I’m in as long as Brenda’s there, once she’s gone so am I.

Media Friday – The Buffy Spin-Off that Never Was

Recently a three minute clip of the scrapped Buffy cartoon was leaked online. I think all the actors from the show voiced their characters except for Sarah Michele Gellar and I don’t know who they got but her voice is very reminiscent of SMG’s. Checking it out I see a lot of potential, there are some rough jokes and weird pauses but then again this is a pilot so chances are it would have gotten better over time.

For me this goes in the “Things The Suits Passed On But Never Should Have!” along with the Global Frequency pilot. Anyway check out the clip!

My First Column!

The first edition of my column Crossing Lines is up at Fantasy Magazine. It’s about the Fifth Season Premiere of Stargate Atlantis. Go check it out and comment!

Now I Have To Watch Law & Order UK? Unfair!

So yes I do like Law & Order, whenever there’s a marathon I am stuck to my seat for all 33 hours of it. It can also be a supremely problematic show, especially the Special Victims Unit- spinoff (which I stay far away from most of the time as much as it hurts ’cause I adore Olivia and Elliot), I know this and I deal with it the way I deal with other things I enjoy that are problematic. I dissect it.

But this post isn’t about that (maybe a later post), right now I’m just pointing out how much I love Crime dramas in general. This is so you can understand how odd it was of me to have had no intention of watching the new UK version Law & Order: London .

This was for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that the showrunner is Chris Chibnall. Now those who love Torchwood might recognize that name, he is the lead writer for Torchwood and the episodes he wrote are among the worst of each series. Just…bad, sometimes his build up was okay but he just did not know where to take it from there so it often fell into stereotypes and non-sensical endings. The actors and their interplay and the episodes written by other people keep me a Torchwood fan but I figured there were enough L&O spin-offs in the states to keep me occupied anyway.

The second reason was that I heard one of the leads for the series would be Jamie Bamber, who plays Apollo in the Re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series. This was another strike against the show because honestly I know Bamber is a great actor but Apollo’s emo-manpain on BSG turned me off the actor for a while.

So what could counteract both these issues and make me vow to tune in for every episode?

Freema Agyeman!

That right, Martha Jones from the third series of Doctor Who has been cast as the main court prosecutor.

Damn it all to hell!

I love Freema too much to stay away from any series she’s a part of so it looks like I’ll have to watch. It was like the remake of the Bionic Woman series, no one really tuned in for any other reason than Katee Sachoff was kick ass as the evil first bionic woman.