Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review of Charmed Season Two

The best word to describe Charmed is fluff.  With the exception of Prue, the sisters just fall short of being irritated.  After a year of discovering they are the charmed ones and vanquishing demons, and warlocks the sisters have grown closer but they really don't seem to have grown as people with the exception of Phoebe.  Because Phoebe has the only passive power, she learns martial arts.  Ass kicking girl power is extremely old hat in 2012 but in the 90's it was still new and powerful.  The only problem of course is that martial arts is something that takes years to master but Phoebe seems to be come an expert after watching a few videos and taking a self defense class.  It would have been much better if we had seen Phoebe actually evolve into someone with martial arts skill, than to have her show up with it one day to counter the strength of her sisters. 

Phoebe has always been the slightly irresponsible flighty sister.  She moves from low wage job to low wage job trying to find herself.  In season two, Phoebe goes back to college and after what could only be a couple of semesters her point of view experiences a real change.  She is no longer flighty Phoebe but intelligent well rounded Phoebe.  Education she learns in The Painted World is not something that one can just wish for.  Though she ends up finding a solution to the problem without relying on magic to make her smarter, it's this incident that is the impetus for her to go back to school.

In season two we get the love triangle between next door neighbor Dan and Leo the white lighter.  Dan is sweet and king while Leo is unavailable.  I actually find Leo's interest in Piper to be quite creepy.  Leo has been watching over Piper since she was a little girl.  Granted, Piper is now a grown woman and is capable of making her own choices but there is something about Leo watching her and biding his time to enter her life and become her lover that feels predatory.  Leo knows everything about Piper, while she actually knows nothing about him.  There is also the issue of the age difference between them.  Their relationship differs from the typical ancient vampire falling in love with a teenage girl, because of Piper's standing as an adult but for the life of me, beyond magic, I cannot figure out what they could possibly have to talk about.

Despite taking place in San Fransisco - a city that is extremely multi cultural, Charmed continues to be exceedingly White. The only re-occurring character of colour is Det. Darryl Morris.  He was the partner of Andy, Prue's love interest in season one.  Darryl continues to help the sister and provide them with information because before Andy died, he asked him to so.  He hold off investigating cases based on their say so, covers for them when their magic might possibly be revealed, and provides answers.  What's a show about magic without a magical negro right?  I suppose that means Darryl fits right in, though he is the living embodiment of a trope.

After their treatment of disabled characters, I was quite happy to see that they simply chose to erase us this season.  I do however have to bring up a comment by Phoebe in season two, episode 22 in which she says, "Leave the genie with the cripple I'm not really in a wishing mood."  This in reference to the fact that she had twisted her ankle and was unable to put both feet on the ground.  This comment smacks of appropriation and ableism because it dares to equate a disability with an injury. If they are going to erase disabled people, they need to erase us altogether. 

In 'She's a Man, Baby', a Man!, Charmed decided to play with gender by having Prue be accidentally turned into a man while hunting a succubus. The succubus in question ran a dating agency and was feeding off of her clients.  To me, this seems like a great choice for a succubus to make however, while watching this episode it made me think about the lack of GLBT inclusion in this series.  Exactly why does a succubus only attack men?  If what she needs to survive is sexual energy, it makes sense that she would get it from any available source.  If that is not enough, when Prue remembers that she is actually a woman and not a man, the spell cast by the Succubus is broken. This is further complicated by the fact that the succubus wanted to be told that she was the most attractive woman and to have her sexuality validated by her prey.  This makes exactly no sense to me at all and makes a powerful supernatural creature, read like a desperate needy woman.  

I am further troubled by the way gender played out in this episode.  The longer Prue remained a man, the more she became masculine and forgot that she was actually female. One's internal gender is not subject to change and it made it seem as though one can simply choose gender. In this episode gender discordance became a cheap plot point, rather than something that is at times extremely painful to live with due to our cissexist society.  Charmed has no trans* characters at all but yet they decided it was fine to have a cis woman play at being trans* for the purposes of a plot point.  Prue didn't experience any of the difficulties normally faced by trans men.  Because of magic, Prue was granted a penis whereas in reality, trans men have to be offered the opportunity for functional bottom surgery. It made being trans* into a game.  The process of transitioning is a difficult time in the life of a trans* person and yet Prue quickly acclimated after having a quick conversation with Dan. 

Season two basically amounted to demon of the week.  We did have the love triangle between Dan, Piper and Leo and an episode in which cupid tried to teach Phoebe to be open to love but romance was the only theme that appeared throughout the season.  There was not meta plot development and it never really felt like the season was going anywhere.  Though this is a show about witches, the special effects were few and far between.  It seemed like the producers were more content to pay for 90's bands like Dishwalla and the Cranberries make appearances at Phoebe's club P3. The only thing holding season two together was girl power and perhaps I am jaded, but I want more from a television show than that.