Tag 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.

Everything is a Story: The Importance of Media Literacy

One of my least favorite things to hear in regards to fiction is “It’s just a show/movie/book”. It’s usually being said for one of two reasons. First, it’s in response to someone writing a social critique of the work. It occurs every time diversity in Hollywood is brought up. It occurs when critics and viewers get tired of the depictions of sexual violence on TV. It occurs every time someone is brave enough to share why a work hurts and belittles them and their struggles. Second, it’s in directed toward fans who get emotionally attached to their media. While I also have plenty to say about the second usage in particular, the motivations behind the two aren’t so dissimilar and honestly, are just plain wrong. Nothing fictional is “just” anything. It reflects a particular viewpoint. It provides a narrative. It teaches us what to expect.

One of the things in life that I am most passionate about is the idea of media literacy. For those unfamiliar with the term, the Center for Media Literacy defines it as “a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.” It’s a form of critical thinking that specifically asks us to look at the messages that are being produced by our media – both fictional and non-fictional.

When we write or speak, we create a narrative. We’re filtering our opinions through the specific lens of our past experiences, beliefs, and values. We filter them in a way that reflects our intended audience. It’s easy to see this in non-fictional examples. This is how two different news sources can tell two drastically different stories about the same event. Each cater to specific viewpoints and will resonate with particular types of people. We can tell this story both with the words we choose and the amount of attention we pay to a given topic.

Presidential elections will be held next year in the US and throughout the primary process, I urge you to look for the narrative the candidates and the media are presenting to you. What are their views? Not just the ones they will come out and say directly on camera but the underlying beliefs that underlie those views. Look deeper at the words they use to sell you on themselves. Look at the way their statements are used and interpreted in the media then decide for yourself if that is really what they are saying or if it’s all spin.

The same is no less important in fictional media. When something is created, it tells a story that goes beyond the plot. It’s a story that says what is acceptable, what is normal, what is worth focusing on. It teaches us about beauty, about acceptable behavior, about how big we should dream. It says a lot about sexuality and gender expression. It provides example about what is possible.

Continue reading Everything is a Story: The Importance of Media Literacy