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Friday, April 8, 2016

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Is it just me or have female characters been dying at an alarming rate these past few weeks? I'm currently watching four different shows across three different networks, and all of them have featured the violent death of a woman – one show even managed to include two murders in a single episode!
I have a little rant below the cut (so expect spoilers) but I also take a look at some of the latest trailers of upcoming films/television shows... 

These last few weeks have been tough for female characters – especially those that have names beginning with the letter L – and after Lexa and Laurel, you can bet I was terrified for Lagertha going into this week's episode of Vikings.
But it was not Lagertha but Yidu and Princess Kwenthrith who were killed off: the former drowned in a river by Ragnar, and the latter stabbed to death by Judith in defence of King Ecbert. Not only that, but last week Indian Summers depicted Kaira (the lover of the show's main character) getting shot in the head, execution-style.
Look, I'm not saying that female characters should be exempt from violence or death – that would be silly. But the recent slew of women dying violent, pointless deaths on television (or at least the television I watch) in such quick succession has been a draining experience, especially since I was so deeply invested in at least two of them.
There has been plenty said elsewhere about the ever-growing death toll of LGBT women on television, and the grotesque amount of fridged women on Arrow (essentially Shado is killed so Sara can live, and Sara is killed so Laurel can become Black Canary, and Laurel is killed so she can ... prop up Felicity with her dying breath?) but what makes it all extra messy is that so much of the discourse is "tainted" by shipping wank. It's impossible to talk about The 100 without mentioning the rival factions of Clexa and Bellarke, or Arrow without the ongoing debate that surrounds Olicity. For me at least, it makes so much of the conversations fraught with ulterior motives and insincerity, and it's difficult to untangle the genuinely important issues from the blather that's rooted in shipping preferences.  
So when it comes to the shows and their respective fandoms, this little ditty sums it up:
When I left Once Upon a Time and Sleepy Hollow, it was more out of a sense of disinterest than outrage (and I still haven't ruled out revisiting either one in the future). But the deaths in The 100 and Arrow were deal-breakers. They've left me angry and tired, however silly that may sound.  I'll be sticking to Black Sails, which has miraculously managed to keep all three of its bisexual female leads alive and kicking (so far).  
***
So let's turn our attention to more promising stories on the horizon. After staring at that single promotional picture of Felicity Jones and her co-stars for months on end, we finally have a full trailer for Rogue One. And what a trailer!
Granted, it's not quite as magical as the first The Force Awakens trailer, but it comes pretty close. That the Star Wars theme is played softly on a piano conveys so much about the difference between this film and the other trilogies: that though it's part of the same universe, it won't be part of the grand Skywalker Saga.
Instead we're dealing with the rebels who steal the plans for the Death Star, which end up being hidden inside R2D2 by Princess Leia at the start of A New Hope – and honestly, of all the stories they could have picked for a Star Wars "spin-off" film, they struck gold with this one. Sure there's a Foregone Conclusion as to whether or not they'll be successful, but suspense can be derived from the certainty that not all these characters will survive the mission.
There's still a disappointing lack of WOC involved, though I'll admit I was surprised that we're getting another female protagonist so soon after The Force Awakens (I assumed Disney would be frantic to swamp us with male heroes in the wake of Rey). From what we've seen of Jyn Erso she has more of an attitude than Rey, which isn't surprising given the general tone of the film itself.
Mon Mothma caught me by surprise; firstly by being there in the first place (somehow I missed the casting memo) and then by bearing such a startling resemblance to Caroline Blakiston in The Return of the Jedi that I initially assumed she was computer generated. Turns out that she's actually Genevieve O'Reilly, who had scenes as a younger Mon Mothma in The Revenge of the Sith which were cut from the finished film, but who was invited to return to the role for Rogue One – so I'm very happy for the actress!
In all, I think this has the potential to be very, very good: a Star Wars story (as it announces itself) that isn't concerned with Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, but the nitty-gritty aspects of warfare and politics. I can't believe I'm praising something for being Darker and Edgier!
(But is anyone else already sick to death of Bothan jokes? Especially since Mon Mothma's line "many Bothans died to bring us this information" was actually referring to the events surrounding the second Death Star?)
***
The full trailer for the third season of Penny Dreadful has also been released, and I just want to roll around in all its glorious Gothic aesthetic. I mean, look at this thing:
Having read John Logan's interviews at the end of season two, I understand the mentality behind "salting the earth" and spreading out his cast across the world. As such, this trailer makes the scope of the show look much, much bigger, with scenes set in what I can only presume is the American West.
We get a glimpse of some new characters as played by Wes Studi, Christian Camargo, Brian Cox, Jessica Barden, Shazad Latif and Perdita Weeks, whose inclusion I'm sure will be to give our main cast something to bounce off of before they're reunited in London, but who will hopefully get a chance to emerge as fascinating characters in their own right. And I can't wait for the return of Patti LuPone to see how her take on Doctor Seward will (or will not) connect to her past performance as the Cut-Wife.
Storywise, it looks as though the vampires are back with a vengeance, and that Dorian and Lily's plans for world domination (or whatever they've got planned) are well underway. There's also plenty of talk about the End of Days, which means we're now on the fast track to the apocalypse and Vanessa's part to play in it.
"Such music my master makes" certainly heralds an appearance from Dracula; the line is too close to Bram Stoker's: "the children of the night; what beautiful music they make" to be a coincidence.
More Wolf-Man action, Malcolm prowling through the mist, Frankenstein still dabbling in things he shouldn't, Caliban looking increasingly distraught (though when is he not?) yet no sign of Hecate. Shouldn't the witches be represented in some capacity?
I'm happy to let the show surprise me with whatever it has in store, but I dearly hope this is the season Ethan finds out what Frankenstein did to Brona.
However, I'm going to miss watching it in tandem with Salem, which has apparently been pushed back all the way to October. Whaat? My weekly double-dose of witchcraft and devilry is no more!
Another mysteriously delayed show is The Musketeers, which I'm pretty sure was wrapped up (or at least airing the tail end of its episodes) this time last year, but so far all that's emerged for its third (and possibly final) season is a Turkish trailer.
However, you can watch the first four minutes of Orphan Black's season four premiere right here. But maybe think about not doing so. I couldn't help myself and so went right ahead and watched it, but in hindsight I wish I'd exercised patience and just waited for the full episode – it's whetted my appetite, and now the wait will be agonizing.
***
Naturally there has been some fascinating meta written in the wake of Lexa's death on The 100, and outside the Bury Your Gays trope there's been a considerable amount of attention given to the relationship between creators/fans that's established and sustained through social media. How deeply should writers and actors engage with fandom? How much responsibility do they have in regards to the promises (implicit or explicit) they make? When do fans cross the line from "eager" to "entitled" and how much should they truly expect from the shows they support? Here are some of my favourite articles on the subject:
Variety's Maureen Ryan: What TV Can Learn from The 100 Mess
And of course: The Trevor Project, to which Clexa fans and supporters of LGBTQ have donated thousands of dollars in the wake of Lexa's death.
Whew. It's been a very fraught time on television these past few weeks. I'm looking forward to getting back to the tranquillity of murderous clone conspiracies and Satan's attempts to bring about the end of the world...

EDIT: It has not been five minutes since I posted this, and I've just found out what happened to Abbie Mills on Sleepy Hollow. WHAT. THE. HELL. IS. GOING. ON.

5 comments:

  1. Ha, I read this whole thing thinking it was in respect to the very recent Sleepy Hollow news! I am glad I bailed out early, but finding it so hard to believe they killed of such an important character, extreme sarcasm font follows: "but the only way to let a character exit a show is in an extremely violent and perverse manner, especially if they represent a minority - and there is no way in hell we can let them be love interest"

    sighs - Its just so cheap, lazy and racist. As read elsewhere (Could have been Foz Meadows on twitter) Its just exhausting - and I'm cis! I can only imagine what it must be like for those who are not.
    There is also the fallout between Whittle and Rothenberg
    You know its a big deal with these things are making the headline of the daily's - TV is failing on so many levels - and badly.
    Am so glad I got out of Games of Thrones too - they have a lot of competition now, and they're probably up for it in a big way!! which is not a good thing AT ALL

    So, yes, looking forward to Clones, Satan (although NOT son of... sorry Arthur, that looks horrible) and our Queen unravelling the mystery that is her best friends husband in Undercover
    I had not heard what had happened to The Musketeers, so that is weird.

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    1. I don't know if it's the shows I'm watching or just a perfect storm of various showrunners making shitty creative decisions at what is coincidentally the exact same time, but it is, as you say, exhausting.

      I think the public is very much nearing the end of its patience with anti-heroes and grimdark stories: it's time for some levity to be inserted back into the world.

      Personally I'm thinking about dropping television shows for a while (sans the ones you mention in your last paragraph) and focusing more on books/films/miniseries. You have more control over which ones you chose to engage with, and it's less of an emotional/time commitment.

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    2. As fandom often points out - nothing happens in a vacuum.

      Its not the genre either, I recently watched The Night Manager, the story literally unfolds because of the death of a woman who he slept with (and a WOC at that) in the first episode

      I can't be the other person who is sick to death of watching stuff about guys, especially two white CIS guys who have the bro-ist of bromances, or main pain to end all man pain.
      I can't be bothered and I just don't care

      Also - the douch-bag part of the Internet reaction to The Rogue trailer is another sort of ridiculousness entirely.

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    3. Really? And I was looking forward to getting to The Night Manager! Gah! (As someone said on Tumblr, it's a serious problem when LGBT and POC see themselves on television and their first thought it: "when's this character gonna die?"

      And although I have things like Jyn Erso and Vanessa Ives and the clones of Orphan Black to look forward to, it's a different situation entirely for WOC.

      It's just not FAIR and I don't care how childish that makes me sound! I'm putting all my hopes in younger Millennials who are absorbing all this criticism and will enter writing studios in the near future with a greater understanding of what to do and not do.

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    4. The Night Manager is still totally worth seeing, The acting all round was brilliant, its beautifully shot, and I liked the ending too. Its just that start - I consoled myself with the old "well, its based on a Le Care book, and the few I've read start with a woman's death But go watch it for sure.

      Its really not fair.

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