Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review of Season One of Charmed

Charmed is the story of three witches. When we first meet Pru, Phoebe, and Piper, their grandmother who raised them has just passed on.  Pru and Piper are living together when Phoebe shows up from New York.  Piper is happy to see her but Pru is not. Pru believes that Piper stole her boyfriend.  In short order, the sisters are lead into the attic where they discover the book of shadows. When Phoebe says a spell at the beginning of the book, their powers are unbound and they become the charmed sisters.

Piper has the ability to stop time, Pru can move things with her mind and Phoebe can see the future.  Much of the first season is spent with the sisters learning how to use their powers and coming together as family. Each one of them is haunted by the early death of their mother and their very absentee father.  Each week some new form of demon makes an appearance and the sisters who are charged with saving the innocent must take action. They are never allowed to use their powers for personal gain because they are good witches.

This show takes place in San Francisco and yet there are very few people of colour and no GLBT people, though there is a lot of conversation about coming out as witches. Interesting how they don't mind using the language of a marginalization but have no problem including actual marginalized people. The people of colour are all extremely passive and essentially exist to be saved by the sisters, which essentially turns them into great earth mother. Darryl Morris is the only reoccurring character of colour on the show and he functions as a sidekick to his partner,  Inspector Andy Trudeau, Pru's love interest for much of season one.

Out of Sight and The Power of Two, are the only two episodes in the first season of Charmed, which feature disabled characters.  In Out of Sight, the sisters face a demon that steals children and then leaves them blind. to learn his location they track down one of his first victim. His victim is now a grown man; however, he is extremely haunted by what happened to him as a child and the manner in which people reduced his experiences to trauma. The sisters of course come to the rescue and manage to not only slay the demon but in the process give all of his victims their sight back. This is very typical treatment of disabled people in the media.  Heaven forbid that a person with a disability be allowed to remain disabled.  This is of course is easy to do because disabled actors are rarely hired to play disabled people. In the Power of Two, the villain is a wheelchair user. In and of itself this would not be a bad thing if disabled people had more diverse roles to play on the show however, because of the limitation it is problematic.  To make matters worse, in his dreams he is able to walk.  Yes, another hard down by able bodied actor got a job.

The obvious plus of course to this show is the strong relationships between the Halliwells.  It's a rare thing to see women actually interacting with each other and not getting together to talk about men or cry about their weight.  It is still worth noting however, that there is an ongoing competition over Leo which is childish and does not make sense given the nature of their relationship. I particularly enjoyed the growth of Phoebe.  Her power is passive because unlike her sisters there is no physical manifestation but she quickly augments this by taking self defence classes and learning how to kick ass.  While Pru and Piper are lost without their powers, Phoebe is still able to carry on and is essential to the work that the sisters do. Phoebe is pro active in a way that her sisters are not and easily the most empowered sister of the three.

The Halliwell sisters all have sex with various men throughout the first season.  Sex happens everyday but women having sex with multiple partners with no slut shaming element is extremely aware.  To have this happen during the nineties makes Charmed absolutely ahead of its time.  Not only do the sisters feel comfortable and confidant enough to have sex, and express their sexual desires, they also talk openly and honestly about the need to have safe sex. 

Charmed has moments when it is absolutely camp, and it's clear from the extremely limited special effects, even by nineties standards that they this was a low budget show.  The genius of Charmed is that the story was absolutely strong enough and the characters real enough for a lack of special effects not to really be an issue.  I look forward to seeing how the Holliwell sisters grow in the next 8 seasons.