Category Archives: representation

Do Better. Sincerely, An Exhausted Fan.

Here we are again. Three years later and a hell of a lot less patience on my part. I’m tired. I’m tired of being disappointed by the choices made by shows that I really loved and connected with. I’m tired of fandom needing to rally around each other to call out harmful storylines and ensure that their fellow fans are OK, regardless of whether they’ve spoken before (though I am extremely grateful to be part of a community that will do this). I’m tired of the idea that “subversive” writing is automatically good, that the shocking choice is also the strongest one. I’m tired of the idea that hope and healing are somehow less valid of an artistic choice and the prioritization and fetishization of pain being the only thing that’s real. I’m tired of creators specifically being praised for their inclusion and portrayals of queer characters and storylines (and actively courting a queer fanbase along the way) only to later diminish those stories or take away some of that still lacking representation.

The beauty of fiction is the way we bring ourselves to the story. We bring our worldview, our past experiences, our strengths, and our insecurities. We become attached to the characters not just for what they do but for who they are and what they represent. They teach us things about ourselves. They teach us how to love parts of ourselves we previously found unlovable. They give us hope. They give us connection and show us we aren’t alone. But that beauty comes at a cost. It’s what makes it hurt the way it does when something lets us down on a fundamental level.

And wow did The Magicians let me down. How is this the same show that gave me All That Hard, Glossy Armor? That had an entire meta episode about the way that stories matter, that how they’re filed matter? These last two episodes tainted that legacy for me. Kady has been reduced to Penny’s girlfriend (really? that was the only thing she wanted?) who might occasionally remember that she believes in the power of a group of metaphorically marginalized people. Margo is still Eliot’s best friend and I’m grateful that they are reunited but you expect me to believe she was gonna stay behind while someone else was supposed to be getting him back? It didn’t work out and she saved him in the end but it was sloppily done. Julia is just never going to have any say over her life or her body but it’s fine because the man in love with a version of her from an alternate timeline couldn’t stand to lose her and turned her human. And she has her powers still anyway so who needs actual autonomy. Alice’s story has admittedly been a problem for nearly as long as Julia’s, to the point that I don’t even know what they are trying to do with her.

Then there’s the Q of it all. Even taken strictly in context of the episode itself with no thought to creator intention or larger implications, things didn’t really work for me. There were some emotional character beats that I could take with him and as affecting as Jason Ralph’s performance was, it couldn’t bridge that gap for me. And as much as I have loved this show leaning back on a musical moment to best get a feeling or theme across, the fire scene with what would have ordinarily would have been a lovely cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” managed to both make me cry and feel incredibly out of place.

Continue reading Do Better. Sincerely, An Exhausted Fan.

100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Four

At its core, sense8 is a show about relationships and the connections we make with other people. So it seems only fitting that it would be a show full of special romantic relationships. Throughout the course of the first season, we are able to watch some of these relationships grow as the bonds between the sensates deepen and turn romantic in a few cases. With others, however, we drop in on already established relationships and are able to watch them adapt to lives that were very different than what they imagined. While each of the four main romances on the show offer something special (and I will be writing about at least one more before this feature is done), today I want to talk about the one that first grabbed my heart. It was these two and the unshakable bond they share that initially drew me into the show and that I hope will continue to play a prominent role in the upcoming season.

Nomi and Amanita are the definition of #relationshipgoals. Their relationship is full of love, support, unwavering trust, a fierce protectiveness, laugher, and great sex. There is a warmth and intimacy that pervades every scene between them that you simply cannot help but love. It’s not always easy to make established couples every bit as compelling as couples that develop over the course of a show, but sense8 manages it with these two.

Our first introduction to these two is a sex scene and it conveys so much more than just their physical attraction and sexual connection. There is a playfulness and a tenderness that is present in the scene and in its aftermath that reveals a lot about who these people are to each other. It’s the sex you have with a partner you’ve been with for a while and who you care a great deal about. It’s wildly different in tone than the initial sex scene between Jimmy and Gretchen, for example, and not just because the tone of sense8 and You’re the Worst are very different. It is clear from the very beginning that these two adore each other. Their playfulness and comfort with each other continue to be seen throughout the pilot episode, with little touches that speak to a deeper intimacy and long-lived relationship. While sharing a burrito on a bench before Pride isn’t an inherently romantic act, there is joy on each of their faces that comes from sharing time with the person you love and it is this casual connection that instantly warms your heart.

As Nomi recalls their first Pride together, we get a glimpse into the early days of their relationship and their dynamic as partners. Amanita is excited to introduce Nomi to her friends, only to have one of them disagree with Nomi’s stance on the term “LGBT” and invalidate her womanhood in response. Amanita’s response is to instantly leap to her girlfriend’s defense before running after her. It’s clear that this isn’t the first time Nomi has experienced transphobic remarks by people who disagree with her blogging but it was the first time she’s had someone there to defend her. She’s touched that Amanita would do that for her and you can see the heartbreak on Amanita’s face when Nomi admits to her that no one had done that before. Her eyes are filled with love as she pulls Nomi closer and you can feel the implicit promise that she’ll never have to go through that alone again. Nomi calls it the moment she knew she would love Amanita forever and I can understand why because I fell in love with her in that moment too.

That scene sets up Amanita’s protective nature and it comes back in full force after Nomi passes out while taking part in Pride festivities, is held in a medical facility against her will by her mother (who repeatedly misgenders her), and made to believe that there is something wrong with her brain. She’s scared and alone but when she talks to Amanita, she promises to “burn down the hospital before anyone touches [her] beautiful brain” and she was not exaggerating because she actually does set a fire in the building in order to mount a rescue. Amanita sees everything that makes Nomi special and makes her who she is and she is unwilling to let anyone or anything take that away. This is a couple that will go to hell and back for each other because at the end of the day, all they want is for the other to be safe, happy, and whole.

In many shows, being a part of a group of people across the world who are mentally connected and can appear and switch bodies with you as needed would be something to keep a secret. It would be a source of drama and tension in the relationship because heaven forbid a couple is happy and stable. Fortunately, sense8 chose to go another direction with these two. Nomi tells Amanita what’s going on and Amanita’s immediate reaction is to trust that her girlfriend is telling her the truth as she knows it and offer to help and listen however she can. There’s never any questions about her sanity or if the doctors could have done something to cause this. She’s ready to believe the impossible because she believes in Nomi. It’s a level of unconditional trust that we don’t often see displayed, on TV or in life, but it is beautiful to witness. It is clear that they are team and no matter what life throws at them, they would rather face it together than apart.

I dearly love the strength and solidness of their relationship but they aren’t the only things that set this relationship apart. This relationship, the strongest on this show, is between a trans woman (played by Jamie Clayton, who is also trans) and a woman of color. It’s not a pairing often represented on TV and seeing this couple portrayed so lovingly matters. They get to have a happy life together, be a team, help save the day, and enjoy each other’s love. They are a fully developed couple and that’s exciting and still too rare.

With such a large cast and only one season aired to date, we haven’t spent a lot of time with Nomi and Amanita. But when you have actresses as talented as Clayton and Freema Agyeman, who have infused such depth and history into these characters and their bond and who care about this relationship as much as we have come to as viewers, that small amount of time is all it has taken for these two to win a permanent spot in my heart.

Let Yourself Be Seen: Vulnerability and Fandom

Navigating fandom is a vulnerable experience, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. We become attached to characters, relationships, and shows because they resonate with us in someway. Sometimes it’s a theme that speaks strongly to us. Other times, a character or relationship provides an example we wish to follow. More often still, at least in my experience, we find a character with whom we are able to relate on some level.

I love this quality of fiction. I love that each person brings their own set of experiences and biases to a work and interprets it in their own unique way. There are certainly overlaps in the way we see things, but no two people will ever see every aspect of fiction in exactly the same way. And that’s exciting! But this quality of fiction that I love so much is also the quality that seems to cause the most hurt.

There are very few people who are naturally comfortable with being vulnerable. It’s an important component to connection but it’s not without risks. Vulnerability opens us up to hurt and that is especially true when we aren’t aware we’re doing it. So when someone views a favorite character in a way that is contrary to our own thoughts, it can make us mad. It can make us want to jump to defend them. I spent a lot of energy in high school arguing with a classmate about Sara Sidle from CSI because I related to her so strongly but wasn’t able to identify or articulate those feelings.

When we jump to anger first instead of introspection, we put up a barrier between ourselves and others to prevent any potential hurt. It’s not inherently a bad reflex. There will always be people who aren’t willing to listen and accept our vulnerability and we never have any obligation to be vulnerable around such people. We don’t have to open ourselves up to people who only intend to criticize or dismiss our emotions. But using that same anger as a weapon to strike out against others neither serves our own personal growth nor contributes to the fandom experience, for ourselves or others. It creates a cycle of attack and defense that quickly leads to a fractured and negative fandom environment. It creates a culture where the act of loving something is seen as an attempt to undermine the feelings of others who disagree at best or an act of hate toward others.

But when we use our emotional reactions as an opportunity to look more closely at ourselves and learn what’s driving that reaction, we are then better equipped to share our insights and a piece of ourselves with positive results. This planned and intentional vulnerability is given the opportunity to lead to something truly beautiful. It is through this shared vulnerability that we are able to form connections that go far deeper than a mutual appreciation for a show or character and lead to profound and long-lasting friendships. Through the filter of our favorite things, we share details about ourselves that we might be hesitant to bring up on our own. We may not talk about the walls we put up to protect ourselves when talking solely about ourselves, but we feel more free to bring it up when talking about the ways Kate Beckett or Emma Swan or Maya Hart inspire us. We don’t always talk about the self-doubt that plagues us despite our best masks, but we can talk about what it meant to us when Raven confided her worries of being broken to Sinclair. Continue reading Let Yourself Be Seen: Vulnerability and Fandom

Thoughts on The 100’s Character Death and The Reaction To It

Over the past year, I’ve not hid my love for The 100. I sung its praises and encouraged others to watch, it was one of the most featured shows in my Best of 2015 series, and I was excited enough to want to try my hand at weekly reviewing for the first time. As you may have noticing, that hasn’t worked out so well. There were some other, real life factors, that went into my decision to stop but even more than those, it was because I no longer knew what to say. Unlike the first two seasons, which had the characters moving the plot forward with logical development, this season has taken the opposite approach. Pacing issues and pivotal moments happening off-screen has led to a show that moves characters around to suit the plot, with much less thought to their overall development.  It has left me with much less desire to talk about the show as a whole but given the events of last Thursday’s episode, there are a few things I’d like to say.

The way Lexa’s death was handled was a disgrace. I can understand the need to work with Alycia Debnam-Carey’s schedule on Fear the Walking Dead. I can even almost understand the need to kill Lexa at all, though I can think of ways that could have eliminated the need and kept her character off-screen in a believable way, as it did give us a significant piece of information that should have a large impact on the show moving forward. However, what I won’t accept is the way they chose to kill her.

Lexa, the Commander of the entire Grounder nation and proven warrior, deserved more than a stray bullet. Had she died protecting Clarke from Titus or at the hand of one of her people who was unhappy with her rule, I could have accepted that. That would have allowed her to go out on her own terms or at the very least, in a way that recognized the cost of her leadership position. If the show is considered entirely on its own, it was a bad decision and just another one of many missteps this season.

I was spoiled for the ending of this episode. Being the fangirl that I am and knowing what a character death does to fans, I took a look at the Clexa tag on Tumblr to see how fans were doing. I expected sadness and anger at the specifics on how the death happened. I didn’t expect the personal heartbreak. I didn’t expect the resignation and the loss of hope that I found there.

I love TV. I’ve seen a lot of it and I’m continually striving to see more. I also know the importance of representation and it’s something I feel passionately about. I’ve written an entire post about the importance of media literacy. And I failed at it. I was thinking about The 100 in a vacuum and the loss of Lexa as just another character and I was wrong. I had the luxury of overlooking the history of killing lesbian women on television, often right after happy moments. It wasn’t ignorance, I’ve seen more than one show do it and have known of more. But they weren’t the first things that popped into my head. They didn’t have to be because I’m not a lesbian. I haven’t seen characters like myself die with alarming frequency.

Continue reading Thoughts on The 100’s Character Death and The Reaction To It