Monday, February 6, 2012

Face Off: Hale Vs Bonnie, Battle of the Hollow Tokens

Now, a token black side-kick is vital for any good Urban Fantasy, it’s a great way to get your inclusion cookies going without putting in any effort. And yes, the lack of effort shows and few places more so than Hale in Lost Girl and Bonnie in The Vampire Diaries.

So it is time for a face off. Which token inclusion side-kick is the hollowest? Which is most lacking in history or characterization? Which is the most dragged into situations that do not concern them and they’re not even slightly interested in? Who keeps a pager to hand in case the white folks need something? It’s the battle of the tokens!

Time spent in the plot box

Plot boxes are used to store unnecessary side-kicks when they aren’t serving the protagonist’s needs. For several episodes they will just disappear. Of course we could imagine them living lives and pursuing their own agendas during these disappearances, but that’s just silly since we know they have neither lives nor agendas there’s no way this could be happening.

Hale: Entire episodes of Lost Girl go by without Hale showing up. Maybe we’ll see him lurking over Dyson’s shoulder providing generic backup, but often times he’s not there. When he does show up it’s usually because his siren abilities are needed. But, hey, the crew are flexible, sometimes police powers/contacts are needed and Dyson isn’t available, sometimes someone is needed to cover for Dyson and one time his family connections were needed as well. So he’s not just one trick Siren, there’s plenty of ways he can serve - but he’s only pulled out when he’s needed to serve

Bonnie: Now Bonnie probably spends less time in the plot box than Hale - but that’s because she’s used more. With Elena’s endless incompetence to clean up after as well as Damon and Stefan’s less than brilliant planning, the Swiss Army Witch needs to be called out on a regular basis. Still, it does result in more screen time, but still, even the much needed Bonnie can find entire episodes past with barely a sign of her presence.

We know so much about their family

Hale: Though Hale has been on Lost Girl since episode one, we know virtually nothing about is background.  We do eventually find out that Hale is actually a member of the royal family but only because Bo needs someone to run in the election for the next Ash. This is something that Hale does not want to be and has done much to separate himself from his royal obligations; however, he quickly capitulates to Bo’s need for help, after all what’s a Black sidekick to do when a White woman comes running?   We never actually see any members of Hale’s family, and we only learn that his grandmother is disappointed that he has not achieved more considering his royal heritage.

Bonnie: During the first season, Bonnie’s grandmother dies after helping her to open the vampire tomb.  We learn that Bonnie’s great great grandmother worked as a handmaiden (read: slave cause God forbid that The Vampire Diaries confront slavery) We go all through season two without finding out anything about Bonnie’s family or who she is even living with. At the beginning of season three we learn that she left town to spend the summer with her father, which means that during the year we have no idea what Bonnie’s living arrangements are.  She has not connection to anyone really until her mother who abandoned her as a child is brought back to town because of course, the White people need more servants.

Willingness to act on behalf of White protagonists

Hale: We only learn about Hale’s family because Bo & the Gang want to use it in the competition for the next Ash. He expressly stated he wanted nothing to do with fae politics but was dragged in anyway. Most of the rest of the time, Hale is a much happier servant than Bonnie, willingly going the extra mile and pulling out that oh-so-useful whistle whenever called. When Dyson went off on a wolf rage after losing his love for Bo, it was Hale who was stuck hunting him down and putting him back on the right road. Even now he is risking his career to cover for the pouting and angsting Dyson, though he has made it clear how much being a cop means to him.

In Hale’s case the other issue is the willingness not to act on behalf on behalf of the White characters as well.  Part of Hale’s job as a police officer is to pull out cases that clearly have fae involvement to ensure that the humans don’t intervene.  In Table for Fae, Hale takes a case to Trick about young travelers being killed and instead of giving the case to Hale to handle, he gives it to the ever incompetent Bo. Hale is clearly upset, but hey, the White man has spoken.

Bonnie: Bonnie sets a record here not just because of the amount of time she spends in service of the white characters - but because of the amount of time she spends serving the white characters even when she disagrees with what they’re doing. She helps open the tomb full of vampires when she disagrees. She repeatedly gets dragged in to help Stefan and Damon even when she hated them and was hard pressed to tolerate their presence without melting their heads and even when she considered them responsible for the death of her grandmother. She made Caroline a sunlight ring when she didn’t agree with it, she set herself against the only other witches she knew (and was growing to like). She resurrected Jeremy despite the spirit witches intense disapproval. And now she has been dragged into hiding and opening the coffins that could earn the anger of the Original Vampires - but that should be no surprise, like her dead grandmother, Bonnie is willing to die to serve Elena & Co. But most stunning of all is how not only is Bonnie pulled into service but also her entire family - from distant ancestor Emily through to her grandmother (again, against her grandmother’s best wishes and costing her her life) and now her mother as well. It’s like every generation must put in service.

Amount of cultural references that ensure that more than the colour of their skin makes the character as Black.

Hale:  In a season and half, other than the obvious markers of Hale’s skin, there really has not been much to distinguish him as a man of colour. In many ways he’s like a White man painted Black, with the exception of his role as perpetual servant. In Barometz Trick Pressure, Dyson, Hale and Trick go to visit Wai Lin, a fae who has the power to acquire truth. Wai Lin is looking pretty rough, and so Trick explains that she used to look better, causing Hale to respond, “play on playa.”  Yes, in that moment Hale actually said something that made sense culturally.  It only took a season and a half.

Bonnie: She watches Gone With the Wind in a great big outside screening, in between preparing to celebrate Founders Day Celebrations for her nice little Southern town. Do we really have to say more here?