R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Category: TV

Let’s Talk About: True Detective

True Detective Poster

There was so much–so, so much–hype surrounding HBO’s True Detective, which just finished its first season. Every Sunday night (pre GoT return, of course) it felt like my Twitter feed was full of people talking about this new show. And then came the references. That’s what really got my attention; I didn’t read articles like this one from io9 for fear of spoilers, but just seeing Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow mentioned was enough to convince me to watch the show.

Did the show live up to its hype? What about a supernatural payoff? Did the show deliver on that front? Let’s talk. And of course be aware: this post will have massive spoilers for the entire first season of True Detective. Consider yeself warned!

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Let’s Talk About: Reign

Reign on the CW

I can’t shake the feeling that Reign is a trainwreck. It feels like the CW, seeing the success of HBO’s Game of Thrones, decided they wanted a piece of the medieval-costumed pie. (Though, I guess Reign takes place in the 16th century, so this is more Renaissance-ish than medieval, right?) They went through their roster of CW-esque actors and actresses and made a show. I feel like, costuming and set dressing aside, the cast of Reign is indistinguishable from say Vampire Diaries, or The Originals, or Star-Crossed.

So despite these misgivings, why can’t I turn away while this show is on? Let’s dive into that!

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Let’s Talk About: Moffat’s Doctor Who

The Time of the Doctor

This’ll be a quick post with not a lot of structure. I’m trying to turn these “Let’s Talk About” pieces into looser articles where I don’t have to have a central point or something.

Anyway this morning it hit me that my experience watching Steven Moffat’s three seasons of Doctor Who has been largely defined by questions. What do I mean by that? Well, when watching a Moffat episode (especially ones he writes himself), my wife and I end up pausing the show every few minutes because we’re asking questions.

“Wait… How does that make sense?”

“If he did this thing now, then how could he do that in the past?” (or some other time-travel related question)

“Does this mean he changed the future?”

“I’m confused. How could that happen?”

Over and over. And I really don’t think being confused should be the core feeling one gets while watching Doctor Who. But it’s not that we’re stupid (in my opinion) or not paying attention. I’d like to think that as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I’m pretty good at keeping up with sci-fi shows. Same thing for my wife. She’s not a writer but she gets hyperfocused when she’s watching something she loves, and Doctor Who definitely falls under that category.

So I think this comes down to Moffat’s fundamental flaw as the showrunner: he tries so damn hard to impress the viewer with how clever he is.

Doctor Who the Silence

Sometimes it creates “ah-ha” moments, but for the past few episodes–the end of season 7 and this year’s Christmas special, “The Time of the Doctor,” in particular–those moments never came. Instead the episodes were marked by either me or Erin calling out “Pause! So wait, what…?”

The emphasis on plots, timey-wimey twists and turns, and clever surprises can sap an episode of its emotional, character-driven moments. I really enjoyed Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor, but I was more sad to see David Tennant go than I was last night. Instead of feeling sad last night, my mind was occupied with trying to untangle years of plotlines (exploding TARDIS, the Silence, warrior priest soldier people, crack in the wall, etc.) rather than savoring Matt Smith’s final goodbye. (Okay his last couple of lines about changing from moment to moment were real good)

So another chapter of Doctor Who is over and a new one begins. I’m excited to see how Peter Capaldi will play the character. I just hope that I can start watching the show again without having to ask “How does that make sense?” every few minutes.

Doctor Who Season 7

Side bar: I think having Matt Smith’s last episode be the Christmas episode was a mistake. The show tried to mix normal Christmas-special stuff with Regeneration-stuff plus tying up Moffat’s loose ends. That’s way too much disparate stuff to cram in a single episode.

Side bar to the side bar: Here are a couple of articles on i09 (here and here) about “The Time of the Doctor” that I liked. Check ’em out. They also touch on some of the episode’s highs and lows.

Let’s Talk About: Elementary & Miss Hudson

Elementary logo

Let’s talk about Elementary. My same caveats about my own background and privileges I spelled out in my Let’s Talk About of Teen Wolf still apply. That said, the show’s brilliant.

There’s a dozen of things I could talk about why I like this show, but the biggest one I want to focus on is diversity and how it makes everything better.

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Let’s Talk About: Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf title card

My wife (man that’s still weird to type) got me to watch Teen Wolf with her. Not the movie from the 80s but the “edgy, sexy, totally not Vampire Diaries but with Werewolves” MTV reboot. Okay, that was a little facetious. Despite some misgivings, I have to say that I walked away from the three seasons mostly impressed. There’s a few things that stuck with me that the series got right*, but then there are others that the show gets very, very wrong.**

*Note: I’m looking at this show from the perspective of a straight, white, cis male. It’s entirely possible that some of the things I liked about the series are extremely troubling, problematic, triggering, etc. to somebody else from a different background and I didn’t catch it because of my privileges. If that is the case, please let me know. And then there are the things I think the show gets wrong: if it appears that there are some problems I missed, or that my abbreviated analysis in this post doesn’t go far enough, please let me know.

**Another note: Also, there will be spoilers for all three seasons of Teen Wolf.

Things I Liked

Female Characters

At first I was unsure about Allison and Lydia. Not because they were “bad” characters, but I really hoped that they wouldn’t become just “the love interests.” I was wrong.

While Lydia starts off as one of the stereotypical “mean girls” similar to Cordelia in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it soon becomes apparent that she’s also the smartest person around. I can’t find the exact quote online, but it’s clear that she maintains her ditzy demeanor because of the way gender roles are policed and enforced in a high school social setting.

Lydia and Stiles Teen Wolf

Ambitious and possessing a genius-level intellect, these things make Lydia an important part of the show, and allow her to help out main character Scott time and time again. Oh, and she’s also a Banshee (though the extent of her powers according to the show’s mythology remains to be seen). Too bad she, Allison, and Stiles aren’t the main characters.

Allison is basically the Hawkeye of the show. She starts out more as the conventional love interest for Teen Wolf Scott (yeah I called him Teen Wolf for most of my time watching the show). Her family belongs to a long line of werewolf hunters, but of course she’s been left in the dark so she can have a normal childhood “until she’s ready.” One of those kind of deals.

But as soon as she becomes immersed in the world of the supernatural, her badassery comes into play. Time after time she tells Scott that she can take care of herself. Typical for this kind of show, right? ‘Cause of course she’d say that, but in reality she’d need saving, right? Not this time! Remember how I called her Hawkeye? Yeah. Allison is an extremely skilled archer, and she ends up saving her friends’ lives with her marksmanship and fighting skills.

Allison Argent Teen Wolf

Also, according to her family’s traditions, the women are the strategic leaders while the men Hunters are trained to follow their plans. So by the end of season three, Allison is basically in charge of the Argent family (though greatly diminished by death, suicide, and failed werewolf-ification). She’s seemingly portrayed as the hero’s love interest at the beginning, but ends up a fully fledged Hunter, leader, and expert archer by the end of season three. Oh yeah. She also breaks up with Scott partially because he keeps trying to control her in order to “keep her safe.”

Scott’s mom, Melissa McCall, also deserves a special mention. Single mother, loves her son, works hard to provide for her family, and she even accepts Scott’s werewolfitude fairly quickly once she finds out. Too bad she doesn’t get more screen time or is used as bait by the Big Bads to get Scott’s attention.

Others posts disagree have issues with the characterization of Lydia, Allison, and the other women on the show. They raise good points that I agree with. However, I wanted to focus on aspects of these two characters that I enjoyed. That does not mean that they are perfectly characterized or that the writers of the show can’t improve.

Consent

Speaking of Scott and Allison, here’s the second thing I was impressed with: consent (at least in regards to sexual intimacy between Scott and Allison). In season one, there’s the first big “Make Out, Take Off Each Other’s Clothes” type scene between Scott and Allison. As they’re making out, Scott stops and asks if she wants to continue. She looks him in the eye, and even though she turns the question back on him, it’s clear she’s in control of the situation and it’s what she wants.***

***A third note: However, this post brings up something I completely didn’t think about. Allison says yes to sexual intimacy with Scott under the impression that he’s human and not a werewolf. When looked at that way, she says yes without having important information disclosed to her. While I contend that her breaking up with Scott because “he continues not to talk to her about things because he decides it’s better for her” is a nice bit of characterization in her favor, I can see how it’s problematic from a consent standpoint. My points here also don’t address Teen Wolf’s other issues with consent (i.e. werewolf bites, Peter’s actions towards Lydia). I’m only focusing on something I noticed on my first watch of the series.

And the scene continues. However, rather than removing Allison’s shirt to show her in a bra, her bare back, whatever (possibly problematic because I believe the characters are under 18 in that season), the show has her taking off Scott’s shirt. The camera lingers on his abs and bare chest while the two of them continue to make out. There’s a bit where they remove Allison’s bra beneath her shirt, but Scott is the focus of most of the scene’s “gratuitous” nature. It made the scene feel different and not as “male gaze” centric.

The way the scene was shot and written, there was no coercion, no uncertainty, just a strong assertion that yes she wanted to keep making out and move on to more. Because Teen Wolf is on MTV and marketed at teens, it made me happy to see this scene. Trying to change the way our culture views women, sex, and consent needs to start with how we teach our children. And one of the ways to do that is through popular culture. People reproduce what they see and experience. Maybe I’m missing an important part of this scene because of my privileges, but to me, it was a point in Teen Wolf’s favor.

Stiles

And finally, one of the best things about Teen Wolf is Stiles. He’s Scott’s best friend and pretty much the heart of the show. Think Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer but minus the misogyny. Okay, maybe that’s not quite an apt comparison. Considering how much research he does to help Scott fare better against the show’s evil monsters, he’s probably closer to Willow than Xander. Either way, Stiles is funny, irreverent sometimes, and one of the few characters who recognizes Lydia’s intellect, i.e. in “Formality.” But he does it in a way that doesn’t come across as a Nice Guy™.

Stiles bus Teen Wolf

I can write off part of his years-long crush on Lydia as teenage angst (and this is a show on MTV after all), but for the most part, Stiles treats her with respect. While he does like her in a romantic way, whenever he helps her, it doesn’t feel like (to me) he’s doing it just to put in some kindness tokens into her womanly vending machine**** in order for a sexual payout further down the line. I hope the show keeps them out of a romantic relationship for multiple reasons, the main one being it would feel too much like a “proper reward” for being nice.

****A fourth note for ya: Also read the essay “Toward a Performance Model of Sex” linked in the vending machine article.

Things I Didn’t Like

Fridged Women & PoC? You’re Going to Die

These two issues kind of go hand in hand. Basically if you’re a person of color, especially a woman, on this show your days are numbered.

Every season has at least one woman of color who gets killed, and they’re usually the only women of color on the show. A couple of deputies (that get names posthumously) are murdered. Another woman who helps Isaac (a white male) escape from two Alpha werewolves is killed. We don’t find out her name until many episodes later.

Seriously it got so bad that any time a woman of color appeared on the screen, I’d turn to my wife and say “I bet the show kills her.” I realize that’s a terrible thing to say, and it’s extra, extra terrible when my facetious comment would end up being true! And most of these women are all killed in order to make the male protagonists feel bad.

Derek Teen Wolf Man Pain

Of course, it’s not limited to women. Boyd is the token black werewolf. We learn next to nothing about his backstory. And then he gets killed in order to give Derek exquisite man pain.

Erica, a young woman who goes from epilepsy-suffering pariah at school to bombshell after receiving the werewolf bite, gets killed off-screen. Literally in season three the characters find her body after she’s “been missing for months.” Her death is used for Boyd’s man pain, and then when he dies on-screen episodes later, both deaths are only emphasized through the lens of Derek’s man pain and man tears.

So you have women of color dying left and right, including one who’s part of the Big Bad Alpha Pack. You have other women fridged. Danny, a queer PoC character (who for the most part is written well) barely gets screen time. Boyd dies after being thinly written.

Kali and Morell Teen Wolf

Tyler Posey, the actor who plays main character Scott, is part Mexican, and he says that Scott shares his heritage. However, the show never acknowledges his background. If I hadn’t looked up Posey on Wikipedia and saw a gif where he said Scott is Latino, I wouldn’t have known. That’s not to say that Scott needs to act “browner” or some other racist garbage, but it’s important to note that his Latino heritage is never officially acknowledged in the show’s canon. However, the main cast is very white and almost all of the persons of color on the show either support them or end up being thrown to the wolves.

So What’s Next?

Teen Wolf comes back for part two of season three in 2014. I’m going to watch because I found it compelling (and definitely cheesy in parts), but it’s not a perfect show. Who knows, after all the articles I read while writing this post, I feel like the creators, writers, and producers have to know that there are problematic aspects that fans (and not fans too) are picking up on. Maybe pieces like the ones linked to in this article will help the next season be better and emphasize the positive parts that stood out to me and others.

Veronica Mars First Watch – “Pilot”

Veronica Mars Kristen Bell

With the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter being a thing that exists and many of the people I follow on the internet flipping out about it, I decided that now would be a good time to give the series a try. I saw a few episodes in college when my girlfriend’s roommate was re-watching the series on DVD. The show seemed cool enough but not anything that made me think, “Wow, I need to watch this.”

 But like I said up above, with the movie becoming a reality, and people I follow like Rowan Kaiser saying things about how Veronica Mars is really smart when it talks about social class, I decided the time is right for me to watch this 3-season series all the way through. I doubt I’ll write about every single episode, just the ones that really grab me. With that, let’s dive into “Pilot.”

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