Thursday, June 14, 2018

Siren, Season 1, Episode 9: Street Fight

It’s more mermaids and problematic racial tropes!

I mean, in a genre where the writers are aware enough to think “hey, how about we don’t make all the mermaids white for once?” could they not also make the depiction somewhat cringeworthy?

We also have different levels of unstable going on here: Ben is getting more and more obsessed with Ryn presumably due to the siren song - he’s having disturbing sex murder dreams about her. His decision making is now… questionable

Decker continues to obsess about Donna because of the Siren song

While Xander is deeply grieving for his father and on a major vengeance kick against the merman who killed his dad -but not all merfolk at least. Though he does want Ryn to show him to the Merman and is wandering around with a gun which is always questionable.

The three visiting merfolk quickly steal some clothes and go looking for Ryn, including menacing Helen who is definitely a mermaid but no-one is talking about it (and has a great put down on the merfolk acting extremely human with their pursuit of revenge). Rynn assumes they’re coming to drag her back to the ocean which Ben is very upset about because of the whole obsession thing - and tells her “he needs her.” While Ryn would quite like to be able to come and go between land and sea as she likes - but recognises it may be best to go back to the ocean rather than have more conflict and these three mermaids killing humans.

They meet up and Donna is happy because Ryn is coming home. But the other two are not here to bring her home - they’re here to kill her. Donna switches sides and they run and explain some back story

So we heard about how Ben’s ancestor slaughtered mermaid? Well, apparently he fell in love with a mermaid who spent a lot of time on dry land. The mermaid and Ben’s ancestor had a kid which was apparently disfigured or not human or otherwise troubling. So Ben’s arsehole ancestor murdered said child and his mermaid partner declared “fuck that” and went back into the ocean. To which the child murderer upped his arseholery and led the slaughter of the mermaids.

Mermaids have decided from this that any merperson who hangs around on land for too long may cause another genocide. Perhaps not the best cause and effect reasoning but I feel humanity isn’t in a position to throw stones here.

Since Ryn has become too human, the two merfolk want to murder her to save the merfolk from another genocide.

Ben leads Ryn and Donna to hide and they run into Xander who recognises Donna - but is again focused on killing the merman. Ben disagrees because peace and love - while Ryn is all, actually, yeah murder may be the best solution. Donna agrees, murder is definitely necessary. I can get resorting to murder as a last resort, but the speed to which Ryn and Donna jump on the murder train seems.. Dubious. I mean Donna went from “humans are terrible kill them all” to “this human with a gun should shoot my friend” in like

Meanwhile Maddie goes to her aware dad, the Sheriff and asks him to take care of things because dealing with dangerous murderous people is kind of what the police do. She gets steadily more frustrated and even disgusted with Ben as he completely refuses to hunker down and let the police handle things. Her dad’s already got reports of violent nudists and calls out the police… though Maddie does have some concerns about how dangerous mermaids are

Which is somewhat followed through by the sheriff being attacked by the two merfolk… which is scary. But he has a gun - which kind of puts a whole lot of perspective on the whole idea that these mermaids are just that scary. He also has a car which he uses to knock the merman out and imprison

Of course he forgot that whole super strength thing so the merman escapes. We also have a kind of weird colour-blind thing going on as the sheriff describes the female mermaid and doesn’t say “Asian”. Since when do police describe potential suspects without mentioning their race?

Which leaves pretty much everyone - including Dekker - wandering around the dark, foggy town with guns for the humans and heavy objects being thrown by merfolk super-strength. All the while Maddie is pretty much chewing Ben out for not HIDING AND LETTING THE GUYS WITH GUNS SORT THIS OUT. While Ben thinks they can take care of it super quietly without the police being involved while Maddie points out how utterly ridiculous this is

There’s lots of fight scenes and the sheriff is injured. Ryn tries to reason with the mermaid which doesn’t exactly go anywhere. Xander accuses both Decker and Ben of being enthralled by the sirens which, y’know, isn’t wrong.

The stand off eventually ends when Ryn defeats the female mermaid and lets her live… and the merman bows to her. As Helen explains, merfolk are matriarchal and by winning the fight Ryn established herself as dominant and therefore all the fears the merfolk had about genocide no longer apply? I get the idea that she’s in charge now but it doesn’t help humanise the merfolk - especially the merfolk of colour - by having them submit to an alpha without a word of complaint like a feral pack animal rather than continue to argue their point: especially when they literally fear a reprisal of genocide. “Hey I’m afraid humans will wipe us all out but you won a fight so, yeah, we’re offski” is not the decision making of a reasoning being.

Yes, I know hardly anyone’s decisions on this show count as the acts of a reasoning being, but that’s because of stupidity, not feral animal-ness

I’m also not happy that the motives of the murderous mermaids of colour went from “humans are trying to kill us in evil sadistic laboratories” and even from “humans are eating all the fish and leaving us to starve” to “we’re going to kill Ryn for convoluted reasons.” By forcing this ridiculous motive shift we’re pretty much forcing these merfolk into the bad guys camp without nuance. Fighting against vivisection? Gives them a strong motive for their violence which is hard to blanket condemn. Fighting against a literal attempt to starve them? Yes, again, makes their motives more understandable and harder to just blanket condemn

But killing Ryn? That’s a simplistic good mermaid vs bad mermaid conflict. NAMELESS bad guys.

Also bad is Xan deciding to shoot the merman anyway and Ben jumping on him and Xan shooting Donna by mistake. Oh you do not fridge this woman, Siren this is not ok

She’s taken to Helen and since they can’t turn to any human medical professionals (even Ben’s weirdly corrupt doctor), they have to resort to Dekker. The man who experimented on Donna.

Donna deserves better.

Maddie’s also super super pissed with Ben and is looking after her injured father. While Maddie is clear that Ryn proves merfolk can “learn” to be human (aaaaargh, I’ve said this is a problem before making Ryn the “human” mermaid and the others the violent “animal” merfolk is an issue). But the Sheriff is clear - he doesn’t want them here and if it’s a choice between merfolk and the town, he’s choosing the town.