Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk: Happy Valentine’s?

It’s been a couple of days since the episode aired and it’s still running circles in my mind. I thought I would have it all out of my system with my lengthy post about Mon-El, but I realized too late that I disregarded many things from the latest episode that bothered me. That’s why I’m coming back to it now.

mrmrs1Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk incited many a fan’s already simmering anger into a hot, white flame. Some of that was because Mon-El (Chris Wood) was EVERYWHERE, and it was annoying. After the show, I actually sat and wondered whether he’s had more screen time than Kara (Melissa Benoist) – I don’t think he did (yet), but he came close. If you don’t see anything wrong with that, let me remind you that the show is called Supergirl, not Krypton Girl & Daxam Boy Saving the World (or alternatively Krypton Girl Cleaning Up Daxam Boy’s Messes as that’s closer to what happens).

Yes, still salty. And not just about the ever-present intergalactic fuckboy (it’s my favorite insult for Mon-El; I’m not sure who coined it, but that person has my everylasting love). Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk should have been a light-hearted comedy with superromantic undertones, but turned into The Manchild Show with superawkward undertones of double standards. How could the powers that be plus writers have messed this up so badly when the premise was so promising? I’m still shaking my head in wonderment.

When I first heard about the Valentine’s Day episode, it was stated that it would center around Alex (Chyler Leigh) and Maggie (Floriana Lima). They’d have some trouble, but would ultimately celebrate their love for each other. That’s how I remember an early press release. That was weeks before the episode was about to air. I wasn’t superexcited because I already had an inkling that mrmrs2the episode would also include some intense Karamel bonding (because that’s how these things usually go). Still, I wasn’t overly worried either because this first press release stated that Alex and Maggie would be in the middle of this (with possible inclusion of some of Maggie’s backstory which I was and still am dying to see more of).

As the weeks passed, it got more and more obvious that there would indeed be some Karamel, that there was going to be a guy called Mr. Mxyzptlk (Peter Gadiot) raising havoc, but I was still not worried. Sanvers was going strong, I was good.

The episode aired and the collective Sanvers fandom scratched its head: that’s it? There were about, what, nine minutes worth of Sanvers scenes? And you call this ‘centers around’ – whoever thought this up should consult a dictionary sometimes. But, okay, what was there was… very well-acted… some of it was touching, sweet, cute, romantic… not really sexy, though, was it? I mean, even the moment that could have been sexy (Alex donning a sexy black nighty? my heart skipped some beats there, seriously) kinda turned awry because of Maggie’s issues with the romantic holiday. It’s not her fault of course, it was part of the story.

Or maybe, it’s part of a bigger problem the queer fans of the show are becoming aware of now – the double standard regarding heterosexual pairings and homosexual pairings. And the episode was a good example of that, ending as it did with Mon-El climbing on top of mrmrs5Kara without much ado while Maggie and Alex are always shown kissing standing up with all hands accounted for.

Don’t get me wrong, the way Maggie and Alex’s relationship progresses is all shades of adorable and sweet, it makes us all swoon. It’s lovely. But even after ‘Maggie spent the night,’ fans seemed unsure if Alex and Maggie had had sex. I never questioned that because the scene in Supergirl Lives prominently shows an unmade bed and that, dear fellow shippers, translates to sex having been had. But the confusion is there and one has to wonder why. The answer is that the relationship doesn’t really progress beyond the sweet, the adorable – not on the screen. We hardly get to see them kiss, but even when they do they’re not exactly making out.

Now, I know what comes next. The big argument of the ‘family show.’ There have been few instances on Supergirl where people engaged in any kind of romantic or sexual relations, I’m aware of that. The instances where these occured were more comically woven into the storyline with Kara getting and ear- or eye-full. But fact is, these instances showed straight pairings (Winn and his Banshee-girlfriend, Siobhan [Italia Ricci], and Mon-El and Eve Teschmacher [Andrea Brooks]). When it comes to intimacy between Alex and Maggie, sexuality it reduced to a few kisses and touches above the waist. It’s as if the actresses have been given schematics of anatomical hot-zones – may touch: hair, face, neck, arms, foreheads; under certain circumstances: waist (but only when hugging or dancing); may not touch: anything else; plus: hands must be visible at all times.

mrmrs4

While at first, this was okay because they were at the beginning of their relationship and everything was slow and sweet, now it becomes awkward. Especially considering the progression of intimacy between Kara and Mon-El in the latest episode, and also Winn’s relationship with his potential alien girlfriend, Lyra (Tamzin Merchant); they very openly made out on top of the bar. This double standard shouldn’t exist. Same-sex couples are not inherently more sexual and do not need to be policed into degrees of sexuality that may be okay for exhibition on a family show. This is homophobia, it’s also bullcrap! Gay teens are watching this and they notice that a difference is being made as to what kind of affections they’re allowed to show in public compared to heterosexual couples. I don’t care about the sensibilities of overprotective parents: love is love. If you advocate for equality, you need to show these relationships as equal; there’s no way to do this half-assed.

And while we’re on the topic of Alex and Maggie: do they still have jobs? Or were they maybe fired because they played hookie that one time in Supergirl Lives? I seem to remember a time when Alex worked for the D.E.O., but lately her whole existence revolves around her relationship. While I love most scenes involving Sanvers (who am I kidding, I love them ALL), I don’t feel comfortable with Alex being cut from the work she usually does with Supergirl. For one, her job has always been important to Alex and she’s good at it, for another, they’re using Alex’ seeming absence to insert Mon-El into that position where he’s the one to help Kara, where he becomes the strongest bond and replaces Alex. I don’t have to spell out to you how fu**ed up that is, do I? Remember when Kara voiced her concern that Alex prioritizes her new relationship over their sisterly bond? Of course you do because that was just two weeks ago. Now the show does the same with Mon-El, and it doesn’t seem to raise any red flags with them.

Alex and Maggie’s relationship seems forced into corners of twosome-ness, restricted by unvoiced rules of touching with a random kitchen counter forced between them to contain the Gay. Is this how queer people live? Is this how straight people suppose we live or want us to live? Is this the only way they feel comfortable with us being around at all?

Okay, this post got deeper than I thought it would. Useless to say, I got my issues with how Alex and Maggie are represented by the show. And I feel this is a good time to point out sanvers12that my issues are with the show runners and writers, not with the actors. Chyler Leigh and Floriana Lima show very nuanced characterizations of the characters and their relationship, even if the material is not always up to par. I was very moved by Maggie’s emotional explanation about her coming out and that was due to Lima’s acting. The scene on the whole was way too short to have any real impact. I hope they’ll revisit the issue on a later date with Alex being able to show the same kind of support that Maggie has given her from the start.

As I said, the Sanvers scenes weren’t really at the core of the episode, there was just not enough of them to compete with the couple that took center stage: Karamel. Insert your argument here that as Kara is the lead of the show her relationship should be at the center of the show, if you must – I said my piece about that. Now, this relationship is so fresh they didn’t even have a confirming kiss yet, but are interrupted by Mr. Mxyzptlk declaring his love for Kara. From the promos, I figured he would be a funny side-plot to bring Karamel closer together, but, ho boy, that was so not what happened.

The problem with that whole storyline starts with Mxyzptlk basically being an intergalactic stalker. As many of the villains so far on the show, he’s come from the Superman side of DC and while I haven’t read up on what caused him to first emerge and test Superman’s patience, I’m almost sure that he wasn’t making advances on the man of mrmrs3steel like he is here on Kara. You know, it’s kinda different when you’re a girl and some imp of the fifth dimension watches you while you change into your supersuit… Think about this for a little while before we move on.

So, Mxy is a stalker, Mon-El was right about that at least, but how does that help Mon-El’s own misogynist case? If Mxy was supposed to be the tool to bring Kara and Mon-El closer together, someone screwed up because most of the episode, Karamel was fighting. And not in a cute bantering way about little nothings they made up in their heads because they’re still unsure about the relationship. These were essential questions, hashed out so violently and annoyingly I had to drown some of it out with painful groans. Banter I get, but this was war between two people who don’t seem to like each other much. Mon-El accused Supergirl of being full of herself and not listening to him and she gave back about him being controlling and full of male ego.

supergirl-karamel1

Well, kids, I hate to break it to you, but maybe you should have a sit-down and ask yourselves if these characteristics you find in the other are not a dealbreaker? You know, I’m not naive, at least not when it comes to cultural theory and tv, I know what this episode was supposed to do, the kind of mechanisms it was supposed to set in motion. As I said: Mxy tool to bring supercute straight couple together. While the end-result was somehow achieved, everything about their get-together was violently toxic and wrong! Mon-El posed as a slightly less dangerous version of Mxyzptlk himself. While Mxy tried to blackmail Kara into marriage with him, Mon-El is still pouting his way into Kara’s pants. He’s accusing her of things that are preposterous, doesn’t listen to her (though he promised he would) when it comes to his education as hero; he’s behaving alternately like a spoilt brat and a caveman and while Kara called him out for it (at least in this episode), she still saw no problem with getting hot and heavy on the couch after Mxy was finally gone.

You have to wonder if the writers know who Supergirl is, at her core? There’s no denying that Mon-El doesn’t know who she is because his case of the jealousies was so insane I don’t even wanna mention it (but I will come back to that later). Mon-El seems exactly the kind who accuses other people of things he would do if places were reversed. Maybe he wanted to be swept off his feet by Mxy? I don’t know. At this point, I’m so confused by this Karamel relationship and the mere existence of Mon-El on the show… I might either take a chill pill and ignore that whole part or stop watching. It’s fucking insane!

Another insane thing: how did Mon-El even get to work in the field with Kara? Yes, I saw those training montages, too; cute. But I also remember Kara being shot at with missiles and Alex having to train two years before J’onn let her out into the field. And Mon-El has made his share of mistakes which usually stem from not listening to Kara who’s kind of his superior, right? But somehow he gets to have an opinion. And his opinion on dealing with Mxyzptlk is killing him? Yeah, it seems like an especially good idea to let someone like that work for the D.E.O. Or not.

alex-kara-winn1I’m being sarcastic and you know why: the inconsistency within the basic workings of the show annoy me. Those inconsistencies usually occur where Mon-El is concerned. I know that some people are saying that Mon-El is still learning and all… but while he’s learning, people are dying. And yes, I quoted James back at these people because so far, Guardian has done a much better job protecting people than Mon-El who supposedly has some superpowers of his own.

Interestingly, in the comics Mon-El (and his differently-named variations) has the same powers as Superman. The only difference between them is that Mon-El is allergic to lead, not Kryptonite. They went a different way on the show, probably to not undermine Kara as the lead (which happened anyway), but maybe also to tone down Mon-El’s overbearance. Remember when Mon-El woke and choked Kara and threw her through a glass wall? Yeah. We’re always told that men are stronger than women, it’s a statement we barely question until it’s proven wrong. Kara defeats Mon-El by the end of the episode (Welcome to Earth) and we learn in Survivors that his powers don’t equal hers.

It’s one of the things that puts a strain on their relationship in Mr. and Mrs. Mxyzptlk. Mon-El is questioning Kara’s approach to dealing with Mxyzptlk, claiming that killing him is the only way. He questions her abilities, and – not for the first time – her motives. At the end of the episode, this all seems to come to the point that he’s jealous of Mxyzptlk, for him being able to give Kara things Mon-El can’t give her. But his behavior seems to show a lot more than just jealousy aimed at an imp who doesn’t stand a chance with Kara (seriously, Mon-El, have you met Kara? the girl who made it her goal in life to protect people? the girl who loves potstickers and ice cream and kitten videos?). His anger redirects itself at Kara because she doesn’t share his point of view, even though he is the self-declared expert on creatures like Mxyzptlk. Now, what could possibly hide behind that?

supergirl-karamel2

A male ego, maybe? Some inherent supposition that as a man he’s better equipped to deal with Mxyzptlk? He actually says that he’s trying to protect Kara’s honor. Can we acknowledge how ironic that is, comical even? This is the girl of steal, buddy, you’re not equipped to defend any part of her. Not even the part you think you own now that you’re dating. Because she can do that herself! Jealousy is not a cute or romantic gesture boys and men show in protection of their lady loves. It speaks of an inherent believe that men own the woman/girl they’re dating and no other man (person?) has a right to her or her time or her attention. And one may wonder where Mon-El even got the notion of that believe. Isn’t he the man who only the week before claimed that the romantic entanglements on Daxam included the catchy motto: The more the merrier?

It’s insulting that the deeper you go into the Mon-El narrative, the more inconsistencies you discover. The more throw-away lines and concepts you discover. For example, Daxam’s romantic and sexual culture seems to adapt to any kind of situation the writers of the show come up with. In The Darkest Place, Mon-El tells James and Winn that on Daxam they had arranged marriages, in Luthors we have that line about polyamorous love (or at least the implication, I’m pretty sure they didn’t think this through), and in Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk, Mon-El claims Kara as his lady and how dare you even talk to her, she’s mine! or something.

Is this just bad writing or don’t they really care about what they write about Mon-El? As I wrote in my other post, there’s a sense of schizophrenia surrounding Mon-El where he’s far bigger than his story allows, where there seems to be a meta-voice calling him out for who he represents as a stereotype (for example, when Mxyzptlk calls him ‘tall, dark, and blandsome’). I get a sense that the writers don’t care about or for him which would be sad if I did care, but is ultimately disruptive because the storytelling gets really bumpy. Inside the narrative, these inconsistencies could probably only be accounted for if Mon-El lied about mostly everything, outside the narrative… I don’t even know… is it bad writing? A character that was forced onto the writers and now they treat him like the scum he is? Is it gonna be explained or will we just have to live with Mon-El for the rest of the show? Is he set up to fulfill his comic-self’s narrative and get forgotten in the phantom zone?

The one storypoint (I’m not calling it a storyline because there’s not enough of it to call it a line) Kara has this season seems to be her fear of losing the people she loves. In loving Mon-El, is Kara set up to lose him to lead poisoning? Will she be the one forced to deliver him to the phantom zone once he’s poisoned or is this part of Mon-El’s story done and over with? I’m speculating, but since Mon-El isn’t really much of a character, could it be that he’ll just be a plot device the writers drag along until they plan to use him?

I have another speculation for you: regarding Winn’s new love interest and his lack of luck mrmrs6in love. The way he met Lyra feels like a certain set-up for me. Winn is attacked by random alien thugs for no reason and then rescued by a female alien who then shows an interest in him? I feel like those three were working together to get Winn’s attention. Maybe they’re looking for Mon-El (that intergalactic search party/death squad we’ve seen in Supergirl Lives?)? Maybe they want a shot at Supergirl?

I think I’m all thought out now. The Valentine’s episode wasn’t really my cup of tea. I’m also questioning the decision to have all the main players (except James) get coupled off. The superhero-tale gets drowned in all the love drama and since I didn’t see the same happening on Arrow, I wonder if this has to do with the hero being a woman (please, let me be wrong because if The CW pulls out this fucking trope, I’m outta here!).

alex-baton1

Well, thoughts and comments are welcome. I don’t claim to be all-knowing, this is my interpretation of what happened, and you’re welcome to disagree.

 

 

 

 

 

Mon-El: disruptive character

Mon-El of Daxam… Yes, this is another blog post about the character on The CW show, Supergirl, and another unfavorable one.mon-el1

It’s not about the comic character which I have just now looked up and find little fault with. I just wanted to have a look at where he comes from, creatively, what happens to him and how he connects to Supergirl in the comics. There’s little on the latter. There seems to only be one instance where they meet and, like early on in the show, it’s a rather violent encounter.

But let’s talk about the one that insults so many sensibilities, the bone of contention, if you will, for something that already feels like fandom war.

Mon-El’s (Chris Wood) arrival was already foreshadowed in the season 1 finale, when a pod – much like Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) – falls to earth, just as the extended Danvers family was celebrating having survived a year of herodom. This also marks the show’s switch from CBS to The CW, a network that’s also showing other superhero shows from the DC Universe (multiverse?).

This switch brought several changes: Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) left National City (it seems this is due to Calista Flockhart not wanting to leave L.A. for an extended amount of time), Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan Tatum) disappeared, but I guess you could say she got replaced by someone with the same initials: Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath). Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) turned out gay and got a girlfriend, another new supporting character, Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima). And Kara broke up with James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) with karolsen1a completely random ‘I’m trying to find myself as Supergirl’-explanation before turning around and… well, encountering a new love interest: Mon-El of Daxam.

Now, all of these changes are important. And some of these changes might already lessen the appeal of the show (I, for one, miss Cat Grant; I’m happy about Alex coming out and finding love; I guess I’m good with Lena Luthor, she seems to have more of a story than Lucy did, though I miss that character too) for some. Personally, I was super-good with all that was happening around Alex and maybe I didn’t pay too much attention to what was developing on the Kara-front.

Early in season 2, people started to complain that Kara was losing her appeal as hero because her only storyline seemed to revolve around Mon-El. I didn’t find him too important at first, but as he was given more and more screentime, I got annoyed. Because he wasn’t interesting. His storyline of being new to earth was amusing at first, but nothing to write (home) about. He was just a dude like we’ve seen before.

Now, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to gather that Mon-El was set up as Kara’s love interest. I was just hoping against hope that they wouldn’t do that, that they wouldn’t just dump Mon-El on us and expect us to like him because he was male and straight and white and cis. Fact is: Mon-El was completely unnecessary.

alex-thatlittlefucker1

Look at the show at the end of season 1: Kara has Alex as her greatest supporter, her best friend; James as a love interest, someone who supports her and is just as adorably giddy to fall in love with her as she is at falling for him; Winn (Jeremy Jordan) was a little bit of a fuckboy, but still a friend – a friend who sometimes screwed up, a nerd friend, and a white dude; Cat was her mentor, J’onn (David Harewood) a stand-in dad; and then there was Eliza (Helen Slater), a supportive mom. Add random villains-of-the-week, an absentee cousin who sometimes helped her out. The show had all the pieces.

I’m not saying that the show should cling to all its components because they worked. But I wish the show runners had exhibited a little more discretion in its changes. Because shooting down James as love interest just to introduce another love interest whose only qualifier is being white is fucking racist! And the shippers of Karolsen are right to be pissed about that. From the beginning, Kara and James had great chemistry, a friendship that grew, hearteyes, the works. The CW could have at least waited to see how it played out between them. This early on the show, probably nobody thought they’d be together forever, maybe they could’ve been set up as endgame with a long interval of… whatever happens when you’re that young. But the network decided that it was better to bring in… a generic white, straight dude (and don’t even give me that line that on Daxam everybody is basically pansexual because ‘the more the merrier’ – I’m not buying that shit, because it was a throw-away line that stands in direct contrast to what Mon-El said in The Darkest Place about arranged marriages).

A generic white, straight dude without any merit other than being a love interest. And while his undeveloped skills at becoming an earthling may have been moderately entertaining at first, they soon became tedious as he was given more screen time than his underdeveloped character deserved.

I’m aware that there’s a backstory waiting to happen at some point. But the show runners keep putting it off and Mon-El doesn’t get any more interesting without it. (This actually seems to be a pattern, since they’re doing the same with Maggie. Lena Luthor has been given more backstory so far than Mon-El and Maggie put together.)

His lack of character, story or relevance are already off-putting enough, but the show is making Kara revolve around his (lack of) story. He seems to be going through phases that kara-supergay1need her immediate assistance: first call-home-but-not-communicate phase, then being-daxam-enemy-of-kryptonians-everywhere, then interested-in-Kara-but-basically-an-ass, then now-wanting-to-be-a-hero-to-get-into-Kara’s-pants, then still-being-an-ass-but-now-they’re-selling-it-as-being-cute-or-something (I haven’t figured this one out yet, probably because it’s the shittiest piece of crap I’ve encountered on any show for awhile).

I’m not sure what the show runners are trying to accomplish at this point because they’re sending mixed messages. While the tropes and themes and stereotypes we know read that Mon-El and Kara will be a couple, banter and be cute and loving, the sheer truth of what is being said and done seems to contradict all that. Because one is perfecty clear: Kara is not happy about falling for Mon-El – if she is indeed falling because it just doesn’t feel like love. It’s not generic, it’s forced, it’s fucking painful to watch how she warps herself into someone who could be with this needy boychild. If what happened at the D.E.O. in Mr. and Mrs. Mxyzptlk is supposed to be banter then some of the writers need serious lessons in how to write banter because Kara and Mon-El were outright yelling at each other. That was a disturbing example of what that relationship starts out with, I dread to see how it progresses. And some of the things being said about Mon-El by James and Mxyzptlk (Peter Gadiot) seem to echo fan-sentiment too blatantly to be completely random or accidental.

It almost seems that Mon-El doesn’t just split the fandom, the show itself tears itself apart over him. Maybe because he’s not a supporting character like everybody else, supporting in their function toward the main character. Maybe he’s a disrupting character. Not an antagonist, but a character that changes the fabric of the show so much that he destroys it? The show is called Supergirl, it prides itself on its feminism, a female-positive, catgrant1female-empowering, female-supporting show. And yet here we have a character who’s trying to possess the female lead, gets jealous and pouty until she attends to his needs. His half-hearted attempts at adapting to Earthly cultures and habits have taken up at least half of the season while aliens who’re just as foreign as he is, without the benefit of being able to pass (on sight) as Earthling, seem to be adapting quite well.

And just as food-for-thought: has anyone realized how he tips the gender-balance of the show toward male? You can most easily watch this in Luthors, when Alex comes out to the superfriends… you have Kara sit at the table with James, J’onn, and Winn; then Alex and Maggie join them and the numbers are even – until Mon-El brings more drinks and is included into the inner workings of this quasi family. Why do show runners feel the need to do that? It’s a female-lead show, why not have at least an equal number of female protagonists, if not a greater number (*cough, cough* like in season 1). But then frail male egos among viewers would implode, right?

You can now accuse me of being salty. I am. What they’re doing to Supergirl (both as a show and a character) is not right. And on the note of being salty: this is not about me (or other fans) wanting Kara to be with Lena or Cat, or just basically being a bisexual/lesbian. While I wouldn’t mind either of these scenarios, I’m not really invested in Kara’s love life. She could be with a doorknob if she only had great chemistry with it and could still be a superhero, still have emotional connections that extended beyond having a boyfriend. This character is important for future generations of women and girls, just as Xena and Buffy were important to my generation. I hate to see young girls and women being let down by a female hero that should make them feel good about themselves. Sure, Xena and Buffy weren’t perfect, but it was never argued that they were the heroes of their own show (not seriously, anyhow, Buffy had her moments, but she usually came out of her boyfriend-trouble a tougher chick).

We hate Mon-El because he lacks substance; because he’s misogynistic and undermines the essence of Supergirl, both as a character and a show; because he’s not good enough for Kara Zor-El, not a good match; because he’s like white bread – bland, tasteless; because we’ve seen characters like him a gazillion times and are sick of the likes of him; because we’re expected to like him despite his lack of appeal; because his entitlement enrages us; because in defending him, some fans show how much it is about him and not about Kara being happy; because he’s completely and utterly useless and mainly a meninist claim on a female-positive show. We don’t hate him because Kara being with him keeps her from being with a woman (we’re queer fans, we never expect ONE happy same-sex couple on a show, much less two; and while some of us may ship Kara with a woman, we’re all aware that there’s snowball’s chance in hell of it happening; believe me, we’re used to that kind of disappointment).

And to those who will now undoubtedly ask me why I still watch the show if I hate it so much: I don’t hate the show, I love the show. And as someone who loves the show, I want it to be its best. Parts of it are so good they make me cry, other parts are so bad… they also make me cry. Part of being a fan is to criticize one’s fave where it’s wrong – and not being persecuted for it by the rest of the fandom. I have a right to criticize because it’s my show too.

alex-gun1

[On a different note: I’m aware that this post sounds like I see nothing wrong with Supergirl as a show beyond Mon-El being part of it. This is not so, and I’m planning on adressing some other issues at a later date – if I decide to keep watching the show.]

 

Of three white dudes and female casualties

poi2

On Tuesday I watched one of my favorite tv characters die. Just minutes later, I defended her death on Tumblr. Today is Friday and I’m no longer willing to defend a woman’s death on tv.

poi9This is to say, of course, if Root’s (Amy Acker) death actually takes – I’m a Xenite, I know how these things sometimes go.

If you’re a tv junkie like me, you have probably heard about the tendency of tv makers this year to kill their queer female characters. I’m not even sure where the number is at right now, but with the latest addition of Root, well, you got me there. I didn’t watch any of the other shows where queer female deaths occured, but I do watch Person of Interest – and with only three episodes left, I will watch it end for sure.

To me, it’s one of the best written shows there is. If you look at how it all started, with two white dudes saving numbers from week to week. Then came Root and the Machine suddenly became vulnerable, hacked. And then the premise changed completely with a second A.I. – a more powerful A.I. – taking over… the story line is so compelling, and it all got so much worse that one couldn’t help but wondering if we’re not already there ourselves, with technology accompanying our every step.

And who could resist loving those characters. Given, I’m as always more interested in the female characters, but I also started to like Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Finch (Michael Emerson) early on. They tried so hard to make a difference, one number at a time. They could infuse a scene with necessary humor with just one look or a hand-off remark. And yet they didn’t lack depth as the show invited us to look into their pasts.

But what the show really needed – and the makers realized that – was a female character. poi6A strong, morally incorruptable female character. Joss Carter (Taraji P. Hanson) was that character. She was everything those boys (meanwhile there were three, even though Fusco [Kevin Chapman] wasn’t a main player yet) needed to keep them on track, to help, to criticize. She was a good guy where Finch and Reese’s organisation was a little shady.

And then she died. She was shot. She died a hero. And I thought to myself: why her? Why not Fusco? I mean, I accepted the fact that Reese and Finch were untouchable, even though both of them had plenty of times they could or maybe even should have died (‘should’ by probability, not because I don’t like them). But as the main characters of the show they’re untouchable. (As I said, I’m a Xenite. I grew up with a show that let its main characters die and die again. Same with Buffy, but I accepted that Person of Interest was not that kind of show.) But what about Fusco? He certainly wasn’t as likable as Carter. He wasn’t as instrumental to the story and with his corrupt past he was also a perfect sacrifice. He could have died saving Reese earning him a postmortem hero status. But it was Carter who died.

Yes, I know, Taraji P. Hanson went on to become the iconic Cookie Lyon on Empire but I was sad and I was angry, because I loved Joss Carter. Fortunately for the show, they’d introduced some other great female characters. Yes, I’m talking about Shaw (Sarah Shahi) and Root (Acker), but I’m also talking about Paige Turco’s Zoe Morgan. Her ‘disappearance’ was so gradual that we hardly even began to wonder why she was never seen again (and, yes, I’m aware of Turco’s role in The 100 – she went on to bigger things, too, and good for her).

poi8With Carter’s death, both Shaw and Root’s roles became bigger, their characters more important, more defined. Their relationship became one aspect of their characterization and it was an interesting and popular decision. They were canon – for about 5 seconds. Then Sameen was captured by the bad guys (and Sarah Shahi had her twins). Too little, too late? She could have been the queer character who died and started ‘We deserve better’ but she wasn’t. Because she didn’t die and the makers of POI made that clear by showing she was still alive – and held captive by Samaritan.

We were all elated. But there was also a piece of the show missing without her. Root’s sadness, the way everything grew over Team Machine’s head – they were desperate for Shaw who could save any day with her no-nonsense attitude and an eyeroll (plus some firepower but that goes without saying with Shaw). But somehow everybody survived that time… of course, in the case of Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni) it was even more than that. We thought he was dead, but incredibly enough he wasn’t. Now, with our three white main dude characters we’re kinda used that they’re invincible, but why bring Elias back for another round, especially since his black counterpart, Dominic (Winston Duke), actually died? There’s no reason for this, really, other than it fit the storyline and he was white (and a bigger part of the story so far, I know).

I guess we can do a little math here if you want: Carter died, Fusco lived. Kara (Annie Parisse) died, Greer (John Nolan) lived. Quinn (Clarke Peters) was arrested and written off while his second Simmons (Robert John Burke) tortured us a little longer with his presence. Zoe (Turco) and Control (Camryn Manheim) were interesting supporting characters for a time but then written off, same with Grace (Carrie Preston). Martine (Cara Buono) and Dominic (Duke) died. If you add up – you were far more likely to disappear or get killed on this show if you were female and/or black. And then there was Leon Tao (Ken Leung) who acted as the comical relief in the first two seasons – never heard from again. There are more: Peter Collier (Leslie Odom Jr.), Cal Beecher (Sterling K. Brown), Alicia Corwin (Elizabeth Marvel).

Finch, Reese and Fusco lived through all 100 episodes (so far) – whether they’ll survive the finale, we’ll see. According to imdb.com, Amy Acker is still listed as Root until the final episode (though I think this might be a mistake and she’ll only appear as the Machine’s voice from now on – unless she’s indeed immortal), but she only appeared in 65 episodes.poi3

Looking at these number, I’m disappointed. It almost seems like Person of Interest fooled me into believing those great female characters had a greater impact on the show’s story than they actually did. Sarah Shahi only appeared in 47 episodes, not even half of the show, but her character seems so much more vital to what happened. But maybe that is the societal fallacy of how big women’s role is on tv. Maybe we all believe that when a woman talks half of the time in a conversation that she dominates it? I don’t know.

Person of Interest is a great show, well-written, with great characters, an evolving story. But it isn’t perfect as far as equal representation goes. It took one of my favorite tv characters from me on Monday (even though I watched it on Tuesday), and another with Joss Carter – a loss nobody seems to care about anymore, maybe because she wasn’t queer, maybe because she was black.

My current favorite show, and Person of Interest is that, is only exemplary of what is a main theme in Hollywood – films and tv alike. The main white dudes don’t die, minority characters are always at risk, female characters are expendable and rarely get their own show. If they do, it’s a show for women, because men couldn’t possibly be interested in all that drama. It kinda makes you miss the 90s, yeah?

poi5

Let’s Talk ‘Queerbaiting’ – An Inquiry into Queer Shipping on ABC’s “Once Upon a Time”

onceuponatime1
I was never sure about the validity of the concept of queerbaiting. As I understand the term, the powers that be put something queer in a movie or a tv show to get queer people to watch. They may not be following through on a story line, they may not make your OTP canon but something queer is happening which to me always meant: exposure, discussion, visibility. A win-win situation. That was until yesterday (Monday) when the strange intricacies of Once Upon a Time‘s (love) story lines hit me over the head and asked: do you think that’s okay?

I obviously didn’t or I wouldn’t be writing about it. What happened? SleepingWarrior happened, or maybe – more accurately – they didn’t happen, per se.

Once Upon a Time is a complicated story, I cannot go into the details of all the story lines, let’s just say every character has a complicated history with every other character and it so happened that Neal Cassady/Baelfire (Michael Raymond-James) came back to the Enchanted Forrest, met Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), talked about his love for Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and got Mulan to go seek her love to tell them how she felt. The next time we see her she is smiling at the sight of Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger) and the hearts of SleepingWarrior shippers everywhere soared but weren’t quite sure whether it would happen, since there was – since the beginning of this story line – Prince Philip (Julian Morris) lurking in the shadows. But here, the producers followed through (kinda), they made Mulan almost confess her love to Aurora but before she can, happy Aurora tells her that Philip and she are going to have a baby.

sleepingwarrior2

Mulan’s heart breaks (as do a gazillion shipper hearts still in flight) and she leaves to join Robin Hood’s merry men.

I guess, I could as well put an ‘the end’ at the end of this short paragraph. Because what else is there to happen? Aurora and Philip have their happy ending as those are still possible in the Enchanted Forrest and it is, after all, the plot device to end all other plot devices. At least, in fairy tales it is so. The question would therefore be: does Once Upon a Time follow the rules of fairy tales? I wouldn’t say so, at this point, I think, it is safe to say that this will turn into a Neverending Story – pun intended. And as we already know that Philip is prone to being cursed or disappear, Mulan might yet get her chance to become Aurora’s one true love…

This would mean, there is hope for SleepingWarrior, yes? I guess there would be if this wasn’t exactly the point where for the first time in my life I see queerbaiting. Before you, a valiant SleepingWarrior shipper, start throwing rotten apples, remember that this is a subjective opinion. I don’t own the copyrights to indisputable wisdom, and I’ve been wrong more times than I can count (and I would be happy to be wrong in this case). But let’s discuss this:

mulan2

Mulan as a character in her own story certainly has the potential to be a queer character – all gender-bending and cross-dressing characters are basically queer. But queering gender and having a queer sexuality are two different things. They are not necessarily exclusive but they are not the same thing. The gender bending, cross-dressing aspect holds true for the Mulan in Once Upon a Time. With her body armour and helmet in place she’s still able to pass, though once the helmet is taken off, there is no mistaking Mulan for a man – which is the desired effect for Mulan, her days of deliberately masking her gender are over. While she might still be queering the gender-range with her garb, her sexuality is supposedly straight (I’m referring to Aurora’s supposition that Mulan is in love with Philip. While Mulan denies this accusation, it is strongly suggested that she lies to keep her peace with Aurora and probably also because she knows that Philip loves Aurora and could never love her).

I’m talking about ‘assumed sexuality,’ here, and should know better. If I learned anything from being a fan and walking through fandoms it’s that any given character’s sexuality is fluid, if not in the canon then in the fandom. With Mulan, there are even more indicators (one might even talk of a stereotype) that she might be gay: the fact that she adopted a male identity in the past, that she is still cross-dressing to possibly appear as a man at first sight, and also the fact that she is Asian. I’m not trying to be racist, it’s a mere fact that women of color are more likely to be chosen as lesbian (or bisexual) characters by story tellers (at least in movies and on tv, I’m not sure if this holds for literature), and especially Asian (American) women have a tendency to be bisexual – or at least, assumed to be bi.

mulan

The possibility of Mulan being indeed queer is great, even though the story-tellers (writers and creators of Once Upon a Time) have been coy to actually let her come out – until Sunday. Because on Sunday they basically shoved her out of it in what seemed like an aweful hurry. If you think about the whole plot device that led Mulan to (almost) confessing her love to Aurora, it seems really constructed. Neal gets shot, tells Emma he loves her and awakes… in the Enchanted Forrest. He explains that he thought of the Enchanted Forrest while falling into the portal but that seems awefully convenient. He’s about to die, has just told the mother of his child that he still loves her and then he thinks of the Enchanted Forrest with all the bad memories of his dad (Robert Carlyle)… well, I guess you can’t control your dying thoughts even if you’re not really dying. He meets Robin and Mulan (is it even explained what Mulan is doing in Rumple’s castle?), recovers really quick from his bullet wound and talks Robin into using his son as bait (which is so unbelievably stupid, I’m still trying to forget it ever happened). Then he releases his speech on love and how he wants to be with Emma because she’s the only one he’s ever loved, yadda, yadda and disappears with Pan’s shadow.

The two reasons why Neal ends up in the Enchanted Forrest are: 1) so that Mulan is discovered to be in love with Aurora and 2) to give the audience another look at the lion tattoo on Robin Hood’s arm, telling us that he’s a supposed love interest for Regina (Lana Parrilla). Holy plot device, Batman! Did the Once-creators just turn one character gay to ensure that another character is definately not gay – especially not with the lead character, and NO SWAN QUEEN, SUCKERS! (I’m sorry, sometimes tumblr-speech just takes over. Or rather: sorry, not sorry at all.) That’s how it looks like to me, at least.
You may ask: okay, what has Mulan’s coming out to do with SwanQueen? Maybe nothing at all. But while there are a lot of SleepingWarrior shippers out there, there seems to be a whole SwanQueen fleet that is slowly but surely taking over the fandom because the creators have failed to give Emma and Regina both a believable (and alive) love interest. Chemistry is a tricky thing but it’s painfully clear that Emma never had it with August (Eion Bailey) or Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and I’m also pretty doubtful about whether she has it with Neal. And Regina may have had chemistry with Daniel (Noah Bean) but he’s dead and I doubt he’ll be raised from the dead a second time. But then Emma and Regina have chemistry together, which is something that is wanted and needed on the show. Without this chemistry, most of their actions would seem stupid and questionable, they wouldn’t be able to make magic together. But here is where it gets tricky: making magic together has become a wonderful euphemism for… being in lesbians with each other.

swanqueen7

The fandom is split on this issue, for sure. There are those who do not want Emma or Regina to be gay, and there are those who want them desperately to be together because it would ensure a happy ending for Emma, Regina AND Henry. There’s a shipping war going on but since the side of SwanQueen-opposition is devided into multiple ships, SwanQueen is relatively dominant. This poses a problem for the creators because they do not want Emma and Regina to be together either (this may be a supposition on my part but I really haven’t seen any indication that the creators are in favor of this ship – if I’m wrong, prove me so). What to do? Give the queer audience another queer character. And here we are back with Mulan and her broken heart. By giving us Mulan, they draw (bait) our focus from SwanQueen while introducing another love interest for Regina in the same plot device and have Neal profess his love for Emma – don’t tell me they did not do this on purpose, it’s simply a too convenient muddle of plot device to not be connected.

While giving us Mulan as a queer character, the creators are not giving us SleepingWarrior as a canon relationship. Given, at this point of the Aurora/Philip/Mulan story line it would have been stupid to do so. Aurora and Philip are a canonical item on the same level that Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) are – their story as fairy tale alone gives them this status. Of course, if the creators had really wanted to create a lesbian relationship and had thought this through and not just jumped into it, they could have left Philip lost. But it really doesn’t feel like they ever wanted to do that – whether the story line was well thought-through or not. And here is where I come back to the queerbaiting aspect of this whole story line – a possible queer character, yes, a canonical lesbian relationship, no. And we all know how much queer action characters get once their status as gay/lesbian/bi/other is established: 0, that’s how much (I don’t think we need to dwell on the reasons for this, we have discussed those at length and the most common [and commonly stupid] for Once has always been the ‘family show’-exclamation of sensitive heterosexualists’ souls).

sleepingwarrior3
There is one aspect in this whole story line that might actually become a redeeming factor for the whole show. When Tinkerbell (Rose McIver) uses pixie dust to conjure up a new love for Regina, one of the fundamental truths of fairy tales is put into question – that of one true love. Daniel has been introduced to us as Regina’s one true love, if there can be another, however, who is to say that this wouldn’t also be true for Aurora (or even Snow)? Of course, this could just be one of those not very well thought-through plot devices that the creators of this show like to throw at us – like how true love’s kiss sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t (unless, of course, as I am kind of hoping Rumple is not Belle’s [Emilie de Ravin] one true love). I would like to see this followed through, however. Not because I want to see Regina with Hood but because I like to see the fairy tale myth questioned and ultimately broken. The myth of one true love has created a standard human beings are not really born to live up to, it also holds us all hostage to a repetitive Hollywood theme that allows a whole industry to become lazy. And it makes Once Upon a Time cling to Snow and Charming as a representative tool for advertising heterosexuality as the norm – when the show could do so much better than this.