Back to tv: Supernatural

Supernatural (2005 – ) created by Eric Kripke

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If you spend any amount of time on tumblr – or more specifically tumblr fan blogs – you will have to fight the temptation of starting to watch a new tv show pretty much every day. I’m not kidding. If you’re a fan and you’re following the blogs of other fans they will lure you to watch the shows they love and that you not yet share. And that’s why I bought the first season of Supernatural.

It is probably one of the most well-loved shows on tumblr (beside Dr. Who and Sherlock, perhaps) and so every now and then a half-naked Jensen Ackles will pop up even on my female-feminist-lesbian-centered blog. I’m not complaining (Ackles certainly can pull off the half-naked look), it’s part of being a fan on tumblr. And another part is to give into temptation and start watching shows, even though you already have a problem with keeping up with the shows you’re currently watching.

That’s the tumblr-issue.

supernatural1The Supernatural-issue is another.

The show is about two brothers, Dean (Ackles) and Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki), who are searching for their father John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who had gone missing monster-hunting. And while they’re searching they do what the men in their family set out to do ever since the boys’ mother died: kill monsters. It’s a path of vengeance and righteousness until the family is finally reunited. But evil is never over.

One comparison is unavoidable – and even perpetuated by the show’s creators it seems: the one with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Because Buffy set the standards of modern monster hunting, popcultural references and fast-paced dialogue. And as far as I’m concerned, Buffy is still leading in all those categories. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like Supernatural. I find the closer look at folklore and urban legends very interesting. Buffy was not a one-trick pony but her focus was mainly on vampires – whether it was the search for enemies or boyfriend-material. Supernatural broadens the scope and fights all (evil) supernatural powers.

Having two brothers fighting evil is also something new. Usually the premise of supernatural4a show – that is not a family show – starts with bringing together a diverse pool of people. Sam and Dean are different, sure, but they’re also family and engage in their share of family drama. Their absentee father brings a third angle to the discussion – even when he’s not present.

And therein lies my issue with the show. While the monster-hunting and dark look of the show are great, the family drama gets a little boring at times. The search for their father is a necessary one but the discussion of family issues is repetitive. And, at the risk of repeating myself here, I just don’t find male drama all that interesting. The patriarchal narrative is alive and well in this story. Women fill the void of sometime-girlfriend and evil fiend (and sometimes there isn’t even that much of a difference between these stereotypes because, as we all know: evil is hot). While woman fulfills sinner and saint-roles, the man is engaged in a constant pissing contest with brother, father, male adversaries.

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Am I too harsh? I am. I knew that I would have issues with a story that is centered so entirely around male characters but I still started to watch it because… fans are so really good at making you share their fascination. And the show is not bad and I might yet watch more of it. It’s just that I don’t feel that culture has anything new to tell me about the adventures of the male profession. And I don’t even think that it is me who is so focused on the issue of gender, here. It is perpetuated by the makers, it is shoved down my throat, that male adventure is just different from female adventure, that the male will always be more interesting, more engaged in the extraordinary. There are still people who think that this holds true despite the evidence to the contrary. But I’m not buying – sometimes I’m renting – into this franchise. In the end, your gender is irrelevant, the only important thing is the story you tell me.

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Back to tv: Once Upon a Time

(The purple stuff is not the Gay Menace it’s magic – okay, even I noticed the contradiction in that statement…)

A tv show about fairy tales, I thought, this is either a very bad or a very good idea. I am still not sure which it is but I am watching every week now. The premise goes as follows:

The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) hates Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and wants to destroy her happiness with Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) – actually she wants to destroy everybody’s happy ending. So she curses her enemies to live in a land without magic where she reigns. But the Charmings are having a baby and by prophecy this baby is to rid everyone of the curse – in 28 years. They put her in a magic wardrobe and Emma – thus the Charming’s off-spring’s name – is transported to our world, somewhere in Maine. Not far from that small town that magically appeared shortly after by the name of Storybrooke where all the characters from our favorite fairy tales are now living.

28 years pass – only in Storybrooke they don’t really pass because time has stopped – and Henry (Jared Gilmore) appears at Emma Swan’s (Jennifer Morrison) door, telling her that he is her son and that she has to safe everyone in Storybrooke from the Evil Queen, his adoptive mother, Regina Mills. Emma comes to Storybrooke and as she decides to stay, the clocks in Storybrooke start ticking again.

The story is told in flashbacks that bring us back to Fairytale Land and the story that is taking place in Storybrooke. We get to know the characters and who they were in a magical world and who they have – unknowingly – become.

The concept is actually quite fascinating, especially from a feminist perspective: most of the main players are women because fairy tales are so often concerned with them. The love/hate relationship between Regina and Snow White/Mary Margaret is as much at the core of it as the antagonism between Regina and Emma – who, after all, lay claims to the same boy as son – and the love between Snow and Charmin’ who in Storybrooke are a school teacher and a man in a coma (don’t worry he wakes only to learn that he has married the wrong girl).

With a lot of characters there come a lot of stories to be told. The show does not exclusively tell classic fairy tales either but dips into Wonderland, Neverland and also brings Victor Frankenstein (David Anders) to the (operating) table.

While the story as conducted story is quite fascinating, the handling of characters is sometimes disappointing. It seems that the two villains are treated differently by the writer’s on the ground of gender, while Regina gets the cold shoulder treatment, Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is forgiven his misdeeds because he is loved by someone. The writer’s also like to throw love-interests at Emma Swan, white male love interests while a lot of fans would rather see her with the Evil Queen, Regina, because these two have actual chemistry.

There are a lot of ships sailing under the Ouat (Once Upon a Time) banner, there are very few characters who are not in some way linked to each other and the fans love making up new ships (some of them not even romantic). One thing is sure: the fans are invested – and I count myself among them. Though my ship is the Red Beauty (that’s Ruby/Red Riding Hood and Belle/Beauty to you).

If you find the time, have a look. If for nothing else, the retelling and changing of fairy tales we’ve grown up with, is fascinating. And there’s room for plenty interpretation.

RMB: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Back in the days I have probably watched each Buffy-episode only once… except for the sixth season which I have on cds (yes, cds). Now I have just watched the first season and man, how much one forgets. For example, that you can get addicted to a show like Buffy.

Even with all this hair (there’s really a lot of hair in those first twelve eps) it is a great show. Sure, it is pretty much “demon of the week” mentality but the legendary one-liners (each and every one you could print on a t-shirt), the chemistry, the nerdiness… and rewatching I even like Angel (a little).

I never liked Angel – or Cordelia for that matter – and I was actually relieved when he got his own show which I never watched. And when he took Cordelia and that weird Windham-Price (was that even his name?) with him I was really glad.

But back to Buffy. I spent the last few days watching the first season and it was great – I said that already. But what really got to me was the chemistry between Buffy and Willow. I actually see some subtext there… weird since every time they talk to each other it’s about “boys.” Maybe it’s about the way Willow pronounces “boys” – is she trying to convince herself that this topic might interest her? Then again knowing Willow’s way this kind of thinking is probably not surprising.

Well, this is also the first time I am watching the first season in English and I am as always amazed at how much better it is to the German dubbing (not that it was bad in this case, it is actually okay other than with Xena which was mainly horrible – the translation was, the voices were okay). With Buffy there are so many popcultural references and you don’t get all of them in the German translation.

I am looking forward to watching the whole show again although that won’t be for some time since money is always a factor (I hate it when they not only make the dvd boxes expensive but on top of that make two boxes out of one season – I am not sure they do this elsewhere but they do it in Germany, it sucks.

I am looking forward to meeting Faith again, and Tara… some of the greatest stories already come back to haunt me and I would like to watch them all right now… and then there is always season 7 which I have yet to watch. Did I mention that I never watched season 7 (except for the first three episodes)? Well, Whedon killed off Tara in season 6 and so I lost interest. I am loyal like that and it was not like anybody except Buffy ever came back from the dead (okay, many others did come back but it was usually as vampires and that did not make them quite immortal with Buffy around, if you know what I mean)… Tara was my favorite at the time, I had already lost Faith…

Well, it is good reminiscing every once in a while. Now I am going back to my paper. It’s Sunday, a good day to going back to something you have once loved, whether just remembering it, or maybe re-watching it. Sometimes it is also good to remember that tv did not always suck (pun intended).

Back to tv: Lost

A couple of days ago I had an inkling to go and watch a show I had never watched before – or only little of. I rented the first cd of both Lost and True Blood and must say, I liked Lost better – despite the fact that True Blood has the better accents (or maybe it is just one accent but it is just the best accent ever). So, I now watched 20 eps of Lost and I like it though I am not sure what to make of it.

When the show came out (when was that? I have to look it up.), it must have been 2005 in Germany, I was a little curious but I think they showed it on an incredibly stupid day at an incredibly stupid time and on an incredibly stupid network because I never really watched it. Maybe I missed the beginning and whenever I caught glimpses of it, I didn’t know what was going on and just changed channels again. Well, it seems I have too much time on my hands these days (despite the papers I should be writing) and I am watching it from the beginning – on dvd.

And I like it. It’s not Xena, mind you, nor Buffy (although I must say, I like the official photos of the cast much better than those of Buffy, what an exotic location can do…) but it has elements of action, and fantasy, and weird what-would-you-bring-to-a-deserted-island-thematic. I mean, this island is paradise, right? Yet, it is also hell… no way around it, and on top of that there is something big that is going to kill everyone eventually, and polar bears, and dogs running around without a leash, it’s a nightmare.

Oh, but for the views, and by views I mean: how hot is Kate?! Evangeline Lilly is incredibly hot (though sometimes when they just show her face you wonder how old – and by old I mean young – she is; close up she looks  like a little girl, might be the freckles…). Actually it is almost rediculous how many beautiful people were on that plane. Of course, friends that been to California have told me that the women there are incredibly hot, but I didn’t know that they all flew in from Australia.

The above picture already indicates on what I am waiting for now: Michelle Rodriguez. Had she been on that show from the beginning I would have watched it from the beginning. I have to check out imdb.com to see when she’ll be on. Useless to say, I like her – every lesbian with a pulse does. And not just because she is hot, but because she’s a really good actress. And let’s face it, I got a thing for tough women (another reason to also like Kate…).

(Is that Kate and Jack playing Twister?)

Oh, for the plot: it is interesting and it can get you hooked. But I am always more into characters… and there’s a lot of that. I like how the stories of the main players are told in flashbacks, how they all seemed to be destined to be on the plane that crashed, how their lives crossed without them realizing it (Hurly owned the box company Locke worked for, on the tv in Japan at Sun and Jin’s you see Hurly being interviewed about his lottery win and so on).

The show is also strangely interwoven into a topic that interests me at the moment: queerness in heteronormative environments (or maybe it is hyper-heteronormative environments). We have still to discover a queer character on the show but that the microcosm of the island is heteronormative is clear… and not just from the fact that they named the bodies they found in the caves Adam and Eve… the love/hate-triangle of Kate, Jack and Sawyer… Sayid and Shannon… Shannon and Boone (though that seems a little incestuous, and I am wondering if incestuous relationships can be considered queer)… John Locke might be gay, or maybe he is just really into male bonding…

Anyway, I like Lost and I will keep watching – at least for now.