Television Tuesday :: 2014 in television (a few overarching problems and a couple smaller ones)

23 Dec

So here are the smaller ones.

1. Hallucinations
I am just… really over hallucinations, and this is 100% the fault of the fallacy (because that’s what I call True Blood‘s seasons six and seven to distinguish them from My Show).  This show has a long history of ghost visits, be they vampire ghost Godric (Allan Hyde) visiting his progeny Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) or one of the many adventures of possessed medium Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis).  Hell, my precious season five was even centered on hallucinations, but those were… openly acknowledged as such, if not by characters then at least by the narrative.  Those were the sanguinist chancellors getting high and seeing Lilith bidding them to do her will, and that actually served the purpose of furthering characters.  It was also never out of character in the strictest sense.  But I’d convinced myself that season seven couldn’t possibly make me as angry as season six did, because otherwise I didn’t know how I was going to be able to watch it (and both because of it being a socially watched show and because of my completism problem I knew I would have to) and then… it killed Tara (Rutina Wesley) in the first five minutes of the first episode.  That was, as I think I’ve said, the one thing that was so horrible I didn’t even expect it.  (I’m not kidding: I expected literally every other female vampire to die, and while I would have been angry about all of them doing I said to myself “nothing will make me angrier than if Tara dies, but they wouldn’t do that, they can’t be that bad.”)  And I resigned myself to no more Tara, and that sucked, but then… oh, surprise, here comes an entire bullshit subplot about her mom (Adina Porter) “seeing her ghost” and her ghost “trying to tell [her mom] something important.”  And that something important was “hey, Momma, forgive yourself for treating me like shit my entire life.  I forgive you for doing that.”  Man, there’s nothing worse than when your character is assassinated metaphorically after already having been assassinated literally.  I’ll get to why this pissed me off in one of the overarching problem points, but as hallucinations go: I was convinced that what Lettie Mae was seeing wasn’t Tara’s ghost but a hallucination of Tara that was created by her own psyche.  (It only appeared to her when she took V.  And she had an addictive personality.  And ghosts on this show traditionally appear in the clothes they died in, and Tara sure as fuck didn’t die wearing a white maxi dress a la season 2’s maenad parties.  And Tara wouldn’t waste her afterlife trying to assuage her mom’s guilt.  Etcetera.)

And then there was the whole business with Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) hallucinating Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) in the beginning of season two.  Now with 2a being done I’m trying to figure out what the point of that was, narratively, other than the effect of the first episode’s surprise reveal.  Because Coulson (Clark Gregg) said that Jemma left so Fitz would get better, but then Fitz wasn’t better, but then Fitz seemed to be better when Mack (Henry Simmons) was around, but then Mack told Jemma when she did come back that her being there made Fitz worse.  So I’m sort of confused (and also aggravated that everyone was sort of putting the blame on Jemma darling without considering her side, because while I can imagine why Fitz would have a hard time being around Jemma for the reason of her being a reminder of his previous functionality even if there wasn’t the annoying romance bit, that’s also not Jemma’s fault, that’s Jemma as an idea but in a way that’s more palatable to me).  Actually, I think I might have just figured out one of the points of that, but I won’t write it here so it has a chance of coming true.

And then Gemma (Katey Sagal) on Sons of Anarchy kept… well, not hallucinating her dead Tara (Maggie Siff) but talking to her, and that wasn’t fun either.  Especially because Gemma was the one that killed Tara.

Okay, that’s a larger problem than I thought it was.

2.  What I have dubbed the “surprise Maleficent” thing.
This is not even an overarching problem.  This strictly speaking only happened the once, on Game of Thrones, but I… cannot feel comfortable with it, because we don’t know where it’s going next.  By the “surprise Maleficent” thing I mean the end of Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) line in season four, where she comes down the stairs in the black dress with her hair dyed.  And the thing is, it is book canon that she dyes her hair.  That’s not weird.  But she does that before setting foot in the damn Eyrie, and Lysa (Kate Dickie) never knows who she is, and the other nobles of the Vale never know who she is, and she never wears a damn sexy Gothic dress and she never smirks at godsdamned Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen).  So it could be okay, but it sort of came off like they were trying to make her go dark to appeal more to the normals who find standard polite femme Sansa cloying, and this is verified to me by the fact that while Funko never made a standard polite femme Sansa (despite making a godsdamned generic White Walker) they almost immediately put out a “surprise Maleficent” Sansa.  So I’m… aggravated, conceptually.

Okay, onto the big ones.

1. Forgive your abusers.
Also the related “abuse justifies/erases abuse” problem.  This is what I was referring to in the hallucination rant.  Because while it kind of struck me as out of character at the end of season six to have Tara forgiving her mom and then promptly (and rather Greek-tragedyishly) nomming her mom, it really struck me as out of character to have Tara’s supposed ghost spending half a season running around the hallucinated woods trying to get her mom to forgive herself, especially because the whole reason for this was… drumroll, please.  Apparently Tara’s mom had been abusive toward Tara because Tara’s dad had been abusive toward Tara’s mom.  (And that’s also, uh, not a super great thing, but.)  Not only did it take far too long (and far too much semi-Biblical symbolism) for this reveal to happen, it was both forgive your abusers and abuse justifies abuse.  In her human life, Tara was aware of her dad’s abusive nature and the fact that he ran out on them, and possibly that’s part of why she kept striving for her mom’s approval anyway despite the fact that her mom was abusive (verbally, regarding neglect, etcetera), or possibly it was guilt that she had to take care of her mom, but when in season five she became a vampire and her mother disowned her, she did not beg for forgiveness.  She cried it out on Pam’s (Kristin Bauer van Straten) shoulder, but the general consensus (thanks also to Pam) was “and fuck her then,” or at least “well, too bad, I don’t need her if she’s going to be like that.”  She finally was in a position to have the power to not need to cling to a situation she could recognize as harmful.  So her suddenly forgiving her mom not once but “twice” felt like a regression and also a sapping of her brief agency.

ETA something that I previously forgot because it’s less of a narrative problem and more of a fandom problem, but “abuse justifies/erases abuse” is definitely a mentality that I see in, uh, fans of Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and that’s messed up.

2.  Dead queer girls.
Poor Tara.  Victoria (Saffron Burrows) and Isabelle (Lucy Lawless) of SHIELD, though uh, neither of them were openly queer in show canon.  Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) of Arrow, because while I don’t watch that show I heard from all of my friends who do about how outrageously shitty it was.  I know there were more that I’m just not registering right now.  Stop.  (Dead women in general should stop, also specifically dead prostitutes, but.)

3.  Compulsive heteroeroticism.
Or heteronormativity.  And this is a case where SHIELD… did the thing but didn’t do the thing.  The whole Fitz and Jemma situation, that is.  It genuinely seemed to me like the network told the writers that they had to make there be heteronormative attraction in their case, but what the writers did was say “okay, we will give you one-sided heteronormative attraction, but it… surprise is not actualized!  And also is harmful to health.”  So.  That situation at large is complicated and not done with and I’ve already gone off about my hopes for it on tumblr but I won’t link that here because it’s also ridiculously personal and rambly and optimistic, but it wasn’t really doing the thing in the ay I was afraid of.  Once again I will cite the fallacy and its inexplicably sitcommy finale, where for some ungodly reason Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and Hoyt (Jim Parrack) got married despite having only been reuinted a couple nights ago (and having broken in up season four and cut ties in season five because Jessica just didn’t want what Hoyt wanted out of life) and then flash-forward to the future where they were still together and Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and Brigette (Ashley Hinshaw) who had only just met at the time that the rest of the season ended were married with a passel of children (at least one of whom looked too old to have been born in the alleged timeframe for this epilogue) and Sam (Sam Trammell) and Nicole (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) were still together with multiple children Andy (Chris Bauer) and Holly (Lauren Bowles) were still together and Adilyn (Bailey Noble) was still with her stepbrother Wade (Noah Matthews) and… yeah.

Also, here’s my drift partner talking about some more compulsive heteroeroticism on what was once her show, Warehouse 13.

Warehouse 13 was a very special show because, for multiple seasons, it avoided the cliche of “mixed gender partners with UST.” While Pete (Eddie McClintock) was established as being something of a ladies’ man in the pilot (a point of characterization that deteriorated as the show went on), Myka (Joanne Kelly) rebuffed him repeatedly and emphatically throughout seasons 1-3. And while the show did work on establishing a strong bond between them, they frequently used sibling terms to refer to each other and there is an entire episode (3×03) whose plot hinges on the fact that Myka, while under the influence of an artifact, insisted on doing something she would never do while “sober” so that she could retrace her steps when the effects of the artifact wore off – which ended up being getting in bed naked with Pete. Repeatedly, Myka reacts to the idea of being romantically involved with Pete with disgust. Pete seems more amenable to it, but Pete is generally a romantic and processes feelings in a very general lovey way. (This is another way the show was special – Pete is far freer with expressing his emotions than Myka is, and he is the one with the “intuitive” power of getting “vibes” when bad things are about to happen.)

And then in season 4 someone got it into their head that, despite years of the show emphatically avoiding the idea of Pete and Myka beyond a few weird one-off remarks, it would be good to head in that direction. This involved an objectively terrible episode in which Pete accidentally uses a wish-granting artifact to magic Myka pregnant. That was the first time I really got concerned about the direction the show was heading in, and it turned out I was right to be concerned. The consensus in the fandom seems to be that SyFy basically ordered showrunner Jack Kenny to make ~Pyka~ endgame in season 5 because…heteronormativity? IMAGINE GREATER. But it’s possible that Jack Kenny also just couldn’t handle actually having Myka kiss girls. The man had a real problem with including non-problematic queer content, particularly in the last season. Either way, season 5 took a hard right into suddenly, for no apparent reason, dropping strong nonsensical hints that Pete and Myka should get together. My personal favorite was the part in the finale, which was a fake clipshow because the final season was truncated from 10 episodes to 6, where the show literally invented a mission for them that involved Pete and Myka having awkward flirting. The desperation for the writers to make us believe that they were ~meant to be~ was palpable and would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so disappointing.

The main problem I have with this is that, while Pete had been kind of into Myka from the beginning and I could at least acknowledge that he had at some point had feelings for her, Myka literally never expressed romantic interest in Pete. As mentioned before, every time it was even hinted at her reaction was some variety of “EW GROSS NO THANKS HE’S LIKE MY BROTHER.” At one point “I don’t want your cooties!” was directed (playfully) at him. So to randomly have her blush and stammer and react in the least Myka way ever to the suggestion that she was in love with Pete…was the least convincing thing that has ever happened in the show. Including the episode where HG (Jaime Murray) went off to play house with randoms in the Midwest and kept saying “I’m fine, really, I’m happy.” It also reeks of putting Pete’s desires above Myka’s – the writers apparently decided that the finale should be all about Pete and Pete’s hissy fit about the Warehouse shutting down because, um, it’s not like most of the show was from Myka’s POV or anything. Only what Pete wants matters. And Pete wanted Myka, so he got her. Never mind that it required destroying Myka’s character development. Never mind that it killed one of the best platonic relationships I’ve ever seen on TV. Never mind that it pissed off actress Joanne Kelly so much that she will literally go off on rants about Myka’s character assassination at the slightest provocation. Never mind that it confused and upset even casual fans who don’t ship Bering and Wells. No no, this was definitely the best ending. Because boy meets girl is the only story we can ever tell, apparently. Imagine greater.

ETA because I hadn’t seen the end of the season at the time I wrote this: Sons of Anarchy, somehow getting both compulsive heteroeroticism AND queer erasure done in one fell swoop by making Wendy (Drea de Matteo), who had once been in a relationship with Jax (Charlie Hunnam) but since declared herself a lesbian (so already potential bisexual erasure), sleeping with Jax once again.

So.  That’s that.

–your fangirl heroine.

presumptuous much

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