Friday, January 27, 2012

Hollow Characters of Colour on Lost Girl

Okay, sit for a moment, folks and let us consider the side characters of Lost Girl. What can you tell me about them?

Well, Kenzi. Kenzi’s awesome. We’ve met her aunt steeped in old Russian folklore, and we know she had problems with her mother and ran away from home.  We know she had to hustle and run cons to get by. We know she maintains contact with numerous dubious figures from her time living on the streets. Now she even has a boyfriend who she is on tour with, a boyfriend she has had a long history with and knew in childhood. While she is light and frivolous, we know a lot about her history, goals and desires.

Dyson? well we’ve seen Dyson’s story back and forth in many a flashbacks. he’s been a warrior for an ancient king, he’s lost his best friend (and loved his best friend’s wife), considered making deals with the Norns, and has an ongoing relationship and history with Ciara. While he is very taciturn, we know quite a lot about his history, goals and desires. Including the fact that his junk can cure cancer (yes, Kenzi is awesome)

Trick? oh there’s so much to know about Trick. He’s clever and wise and has a long history as the blood king. We know about his wife who died tragically, and we know he used his great power to stop the fae fighting amongst themselves. While he is ever a mystery figure, we know quite a lot about his history, goals and desires.

Lauren? We know about her girlfriend, Nadia and her driving passion to free her from her coma. We know how she fell into the Ash’s hands after Nadia was cursed - and we know why and how Nadia was cursed. We know that she was a doctor doing research in Congo - we know quite a lot about her history, goals and desires.

Hale? We know... we know... hmmm... we know...? Well, we know he comes from an aristocratic family - but only because it was briefly useful to Bo & Co for one episode (even more ironically, even this revelation was to coerce him into doing something he didn’t want for the sake of the rest of the cast). And in the very same episode, we learned that he wanted to avoid Fae politics (and, therefore, becoming a character of note) so became a police officer. Other than that? Well we know he’s a Siren? yes, that basic bit of knowledge we know about every fae within 5 minutes of meeting them.

And that’s pretty much it.-- he’s been part of the show since the pilot,  and he’s still a completely empty character. It’s not even a mystery - mystery would imply that there is something hidden we want to know - I don’t think any of the other characters (or the writers) even give a damn. He’s just a hollow character. He only shows up when he is needed, his only actions are to serve the rest of the cast. We know nothing about his history, goals and desires. I don’t even know if he has any

And while considering the prominent POC in Lost Girl we have to look at the old Ash. Now Bo’s relationship with the Ash (either Ash) has always been fraught but there is a glaring difference between the old, Black, Ash and the current Ash, Lochlan.

In fact, that right there, is a perfect example of the difference between them. Lochlan has a name. The old Ash? Was the Ash, he had no name, he was just his title. We also know what kind of fae Lochlan is - he’s a Naga. The old Ash? We have no idea. The old Ash was a distant, mysterious figure, a place holder almost. He wasn’t a person, he was an embodiment of his position, a physical avatar of the Light Fae and not a person or character in his own right. In some ways this exposes a problem we often see in Urban Fantasy - when we see minor characters who are POC they are often placed in positions of authority. And this seems empowering because, yes, they are important, powerful, authoritative figures. But as people in authority, they’re also distant, with limited screen time and little characterisation or real presence - they’re a title/position/figure more than a character or a person. And there can be no greater example of this than the old Ash.

And beyond mere personality, Bo’s interactions with both Ashes are very different. Bo, just introduced to the world of the fae, was hostile and avoident with the old Ash. She had little or nothing to do with him, avoided him when she could and his presence was always an irritating tangent to any story. He turned up when his position was useful to advance Bo’s story, and then he faded into the background again.

Then move to Lochlan, and even though she is very antagonistic with him, they already have a relationship and continually contact each other. She learns to work with him and show him grudging respect when necessary. Even Bo’s anger towards Lochlan is much more personal and connected than towards the old Ash - and its certainly more passionate and emotional (can you imagine Bo even caring enough about the old Ash to want to kill him?) And now, as the story moves forwards against the Garouda, Lochlan is central to the story. He is present in nearly every episode and he is integral to the growing meta-plot. He isn’t a periphery character, he is a central element, his venom is key to killing the Garouda, he is recruiting Bo as his champion and Bo has agreed to be his partner in the war. This isn’t a back seat character, this is a character who is at least as integral to the plot as Dyson and probably more so than Kenzi and Lauren (especially since both have moved off with their partners) and, if it even needs to be said, most certainly more important than Hale.

Outside of these two characters, the only real POC we see are the endless “monsters of the week” who are quickly dispatched, killed or solved and banished from the screen before they can have any real, meaningful part in the plot (and, between savage, primitive tree woman, the Chinese apothecary woman, to cursing witch-doctor, they’re not exactly stellar representations)

Again we see that inclusion alone isn’t enough. Inclusion has to be analysed and, far too often, it is flawed in a myriad of ways. In this instance we have a classic case - the included POC characters serve much lesser and subservient roles with no real characterisation of their own. they are hollow, place holders, existing only to advance the other characters’ plot and storyline.

And if your inclusive characters are not really characters - it hardly counts as inclusion at all.