Saturday, January 27, 2018

Supernatural, Season 13, Episode 11: Breakdown

We have a young woman with very positive lefty bumper stickers stop for petrol in a small town, middle-of-nowhere truck stop full of creepiness. There’s lots of waiting for something to kill her but she manages to get her petrol with minimal fuss. We do learn her name: Wendy Hanscum. Which makes her a relative of Donna’s.

If you hurt Donna, our lovely sunshiney Donna, we’re going to… do nothing. Because nothing we can do will remotely compare to the epic pain she’s going to serve up. She has a flame thrower.

But when she drives she finds her car has been sabotaged - and she is kidnapped.

Donna, naturally, calls Sam and Dean. Even though it isn’t a supernatural problem, of course she reaches out for help and equally of course Dean accepts without one tiny second of hesitation.

Donna’s grief and worry is really well done here, it’s palpable. She’s joined by Doug the small town cop she’s dating who is very out of his league. More awkwardly she’s also joined by an actual FBI agent so Dean can’t pull his usual “I’m an FBI agent don’t check my credentials” thing so instead says he’s offduty and Donna’s cousin (which Doug is a little suspicious of). The FBI agent is, surprisingly, happy to have them help because he’s dealing with a serial killer known as the Butterfly who has been active for decades, preying on people who he thinks will not be missed. He has a whole board and files full of the investigation and a whole lot of evidence

And wouldn’t there be more people? I mean I get cold cases being abandoned and all that but this is a serial killer who crosses state lines repeatedly, doesn’t appear to have one set pattern of victims and is STILL ACTIVE. It’s not a cold case. He’s not only still active but quite prolific since he has snatched someone else shortly before Wendy.

Sam is leery working with the real FBI since they are actual fugitives even if they have faked their deaths. Also a conventional human serial killer isn’t there thing. Dean has no time for this - Donna asked for help, Donna is one of them; he is not saying no. This is also part of Sam’s ongoing funk of bleakness since Mary and Jack were lost in a different world and Kaia died saving them

Time to do some investigating, with then fixating on a road preacher red herring. He’s quickly dismissed following Donna’s excellent skillfull questioning and the logic of pointing out a serial killer who hasn’t been caught for 12 years doesn’t leave a blood stained t-shirt where it can be easily found

While this shows Donna’s skill it also presents the old ploy of “if you want a lawyer it will take several days and in the meantime we’re going to lock you up in a dangerous place where you will be abused” which police shows like to play with and presents it as a GOOD THING and reasonable tactic rather than a bitter indictment of the injustice of the system and police not only not fighting against such injustice but actively preying upon, encouraging and exploiting it

Friday, January 26, 2018

White Trash Zombie Unchained (White Trash Zombie #6) by Diana Rowland

Last book Angel, literally, fell apart. It’s a zombie problem.

She’s back together now - but there’s another zombie problem: Shamblers. Mindless, hungry, aggressive… and contagious. Suddenly all of those fantastical images of a zombie apocalypse seem very real. And no matter what the outcome, it won’t end well for the zombies of the Tribe

The Tribe is willing to go to extreme levels to find a cure as soon as possible, even work with sworn enemies like Christy Charish. As more and more of their human loved ones are at risk, time is running out and Angel worries her own past choices may be responsible for the growing body count.

Angel struggles to find a cure, to be taken seriously, to protect the ones she loves even as she resolves their complicated relationship. And she has zombiegators. Which are awesome.

The plot here is a wonderful investigation of a new zombie plague which draws upon… everything

Y’know, while acknowledging that I am an utter fanpoodle here, I have to say how good Diana Rowland is doing this. She takes these wonderful long series, pulls together many themes and events - and then when getting to the later books in the series manages to bring together EVERYTHING - yet at the same time makes it work! She did the same thing with the equally awesome Kara Gillian series. We’re drawing on Angel’s relationship with her father, we have her ex boyfriend and his family and conflict, her relationship with the Tribe, how they survive, the moral quandaries they face, keeping their secret and not going into the dark side, Sabreton’s shenanigans, her job, her love life: all of it is here. And all of it works.

We continue the world building of the Tribe, the conflicts they face deciding how to keep surviving. We have some really excellent explorations of zombie history, the nature of Mature Zombies and their abilities and even a moment where a past assumption/theory is disproved. I really like this because how often is mystical world building presented as solid unquestionable fact? That isn’t how science works, it’s never how science works.

The world building remains solid. The investigation is fun, well paced, full of heavy emotion and with several wrong turns and red herrings capped off with some really excellent twists. The balance of all those world elements is excellently mixed with the plot so the pacing remains good - in fact it works even better because these red herrings and frustrated lack of leads never makes the book feel slow (which can be a problem in investigation books)

And seeing Angel spar with Christy, especially at the end, is excellent. Seeing Angel hold her own is generally always fun

The Heathers and Hollow Minority Characters

Recently classic film, The Heathers has been rebooted and the first trailers for the new version have been released. And the titular Heathers, the mean girls, have been cast as fat, LGBTQ and POC.

Casting these over-powerful Mean Girls as minorities is just plane bizarre. The idea that any of these girls would have “too much power” in high school is simply almost too bemusing to be offensive. Almost. Throw in the cishet white thin girl fighting violently back against these marginalised oppressors and we have something that turns the stomach.

We need to remember exactly how unpleasant and even damaging some of these portrayals can be. The idea of a highschool terrorism by a coalition of marginalised characters is not only completely alien to reality, but it’s outright offensive compared to the lived experience of actual teens. It’s very much a case of Reverse Oppression: which we’ve condemned before and it is most definitely no less damaging here where we have the most prominent victims of highschool bullying, victims who are driven to suicide in vastly disproportionate numbers, now been presented as the villains deserving of attack. While the ones most often responsible for real marginalised people’s torment are recast as the poor, innocent, persecuted victims deserving of vengeance. People are angry and my gods they have good reason to be.

This reality does not exist. Or it does, in one place - the imagination of entitled privileged people who think marginalised people speaking up or taking steps towards equality are “dangerous” and “oppressive” and need to be - often violently - put back in their place. I bet these people are going to love the new Heathers, they’ll be cheering it on as each one of those terrible minorities is taught a lesson for getting above herself. And likely feel inspired or justified in their own attitudes - or even actions.

I think the core of the problem here is that these are not POC, fat or LGBTQ characters. They are cishet, able bodied, white characters with marginalised labels attached. There has been no attempt to actually create a marginalised character, no examination of what the lives of marginalised characters are like, no concept of differing experiences, different histories, how this may reflect on culture, viewpoint, personality or any other aspect of this character. Instead we have produced 3 marginalised characters who are completely alien to actual marginalised people, 3 marginalised characters who interact with the world in a way actual marginalised people find bemusing, and a world setting that is supposed to be like ours but is completely alien because of these changes.

The problem here is in no way limited to The Heathers – we’ve seen plenty of other, but usually less egregious examples, in several of our shows and books. You can tell when a writer has written a book full of straight people and then decided, belatedly, to declare one of them to be gay – so just decided to call them that. Probably once. Without any real examination of how Gay Fred would be a different person from straight Fred. You can tell when a show has written roles for cishet white people (often they will call this role “open” by which they mean, because of the societal default, it is for cishet white, able bodied people) and then decided at the last minute to cast a Black girl in that role without any real thought as to whether her character would in any way differ from the white girl initially imagined.

The truth is that marginalised people do not generally live identical lives to those who lack marginalisations. Some of this is as benign as differing cultures or subcultures which influence language, food, experience, social life, gathering places and so much more. And a lot is far less, the basic issue of being marginalised of facing prejudice of not feeling safe, of being excluded or unsafe in certain places or around certain people. Of major social institutions being menacing, of having a completely different outlook to government, the police, churches, schools, to growing up being taught different things, seeing people like you in radically different contexts or removed entirely from fiction and history

All of these things can and do leave a mark. They change and build a person.

This doesn’t mean you should create a character who is entirely defined by their marginalisation - and ye gods we’re certainly not calling for more Lesbian Sharks who are incapable of doing anything in their lives that does not entirely revolve around their marginalisation. But do research, do recognise ways in which a marginalised character may approach life differently. There are countless minor ways you can incorporate their marginalisation into their daily lives (without rendering them near invisible) and properly flesh out these characters as more than  just labels on cishet white people. You can see good examples with Peter Grant in Rivers of London, the characters in Dyre, and the Astounding Antagonists and the Rise of Io, The Rayne Whitmore Series, Signal to Noise and Bone Street Rumba. Here we have marginalised characters whose marginalisation informs their character, is part of their character, their experiences, they way they see the world without being the sum total of their character.

And if you can’t do that (and it’s not asking much, so you can. It just involves trying. Just a little bit), at least examine the scenes you’re putting them in and ask if this would be different for a marginalised person so you don’t dump them in a collection of cringeworthy tropes.

The people in Vampire Diaries may love gathering around to celebrate their slave owner founders and watching Gone with the Wind, but is it possible, just possible, that Black woman Bonnie may be less invested in this?

Maybe someone needs to watch Bellamy asking an all white room “DO I LOOK DIFFERENT TO YOU!” without wearing the special Colour-blind-glasses.

Maybe ask whether you need to kill that LGBTQ character and that LGBTQ character and this LGBTQ character and this LGBTQ character and this LGBTQ character, and these LGBTQ characters, and these LGBTQ characters and these LGBTQ characters, and these LGBTQ characters and these LGBTQ characters and for fuck’s sake I’m not drunk enough to continue this list. And I’m not even half done.

Maybe ask yourself if running POC through the grinder to be quickly replaced by equally characterless clones is the choice here?

And before you run to me saying “hey my fictional world has no prejudice” - yeah, this is not a an excuse. You still have to do the work.

 In all, this is another classic example of half-assing diversity. As more and more writers are realising marginalised people have money and really want to see themselves portrayed, and more and more of us are willing to speak up about erasure, we’re seeing a wide range of token tactics to try and get the most praise for doing the very least. Throwing in someone with the appropriate skin tone or who mentions they like the same-sex once every 11 episodes is not sufficient for producing believable, fully developed marginalised characters, It’s not even sufficient to prevent your characters blundering through grossly offensive tropes like a concussed alcoholic rhino. You need to look at marginalised characters as characters, as people, as elements of books and shows that need to be developed and worked on and researched. It takes a bare modicum of effort, not just throwing in some labels.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Superstition, Season 1, Episode 12: Resurrection

Ok this was awful. Super super awful. It’s an offense to this excellent show that this is the episode that actually counts as the season finale. Thankfully, it’s not necessarily plot that is the problem -so let’s dwell on the plot before we have to reach the final battle which was plotted, choreographed, designed and embellished by five year olds.

The Dredge whispers in Calvin’s ear and eventually turns him to the dark side following the convoluted deal Calvin made last episode. Calvin fights despite being very very spooky and creepy - and it’s finally clear how far he’s fallen when he comes onto May. She tells him no - and he presses and starts to get forceful and the spectre of rape is in the air before Garvey interrupts. She tells Rus something is up (and Russ has also developed a supernatural database which could be useful as well. It also implies they’ve let Rus loose in their library)

May, and later Tilly, consult on this and believe Cal may be suffering from PTSD - since he is a veteran who was in a war zone. They do raise the possibility of possession though and do focus on PTSD. May confronts Cal and Cal realises he doesn’t remember anything. May thinks he should get help but he decides he’s a terrible person (he is appropriately devastated by what he nearly did to May), bringing up his dead brother and Dredge who called his soul Black.

Cal goes on to stab the Mayor - not fatally but definitely unpleasantly - and raids the alchemy room. He also has a creepy moment with Isaac when he shows off his new awesome runed bullets - which can kill absolutely everything which both impresses and slightly scares Isaac. But Isaac has a touching father some moment, especially since Cal seems to be trying to say goodbye. He does the same with Tilly which leads everyone to realise that Cal may be possessed and not just traumatised.

Cal also, finally confronts daddy-dearest. Isaac tries to talk Cal into giving up the ring - he’s realised what the cause is. Instead they fight and Isaac may be the better fighter but he’s unwilling to hurt Cal - so Cal wins. And slices open Isaac’s stomach and takes away some of his intestines as one does

Cal does try to fight against possession by trying to commit suicide - this doesn’t seem to work at all. So being possessed makes you bullet proof… He also steals The Dredge’s old host

The mayor is smart enough to speak to Isaac about his son’s stabbing rather than plotting revenge and he and Isaac are both very respectful and mildly menacing to each other.  They get together and decide to stop possessed Cal and try to figure out what he’s doing with this ghoulish scavenger hunt: apparently with the blood of an immortal (how many immortals are there out there that people have made a spell around them?), the blood of an Infernal and a blood of a virgin can all be used to resurrect an Infernal’s body - and make it indestructible. This will be bad.

And that virgin Cal’s using is his own daughter Garvey, which gives us the cringe worthy moment of a man asking his daughter if she’s a virgin. Nope nope nope nope.

Also, do abstinence-only advocates realise they’re leaving our children vulnerable to human sacrifice? Or, given its success rate, maybe they do and they’re secretly campaigning against teenaged virginity?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Lucifer, Season 3, Episode 12: All About Her

Having stabbed Cain, Lucifer now has a drink with him because he’s healing. Dying still sucks for Cain because he still suffers and then heals quite slowly

Cain does admit to dumping Lucifer in the middle of the desert - but the whole wings and devil face thing is nothing to do with him. Yes the Sinnerman was also his minion but apparently went “rogue” so he had to kill him. Rogue? We’re just going to let that nonsense drop and skip over this entirely disposed of character? Really? Back up and fill this in please.

Cain leaves and the best threat Lucifer can come up with is “I’ll tell everyone you’re Cain”. Uh-huh, as Cain points out, he’s been telling everyone that he’s Lucifer and no-one believes him.

Meanwhile Chloe is pissed at Lucifer. She expresses this by being annoyed with Maze for engaging in knife throwing around the home (which is kind of a legitimate complaint) but Maze pegs the real reason. She tells Chloe that she cannot expect Lucifer to change - he will always be selfish and self absorbed.

Chloe maintains this anger with Lucifer all through the murder plot this week (which doesn’t really add anything: Dan can surf and some lady wants to make a public beach private and is willing to strangled strapping surfers to make it so. I’m sure at some point it was explained how this lady managed to physically strangle a man three times her size but it’s not super relevant and we can just exchange strangling for machine guns)

Lucifer talks to Linda about Chloe’s anger and Linda, again, tries to get Lucifer to realise some basic empathy and see that Chloe actually has feelings and Lucifer should respect that. While Lucifer takes this to mean if he focuses on Chloe for a while he can bribe her to help him investigate Pierce’s shenanigans

Chloe sees right through him and remains angry in the face of Lucifer’s largely inept help and keeps trying to push him out. One possible last straw could be Lucifer trying to reorganise Chloe’s desk -most ineptly. Chloe insists that she absolutely won’t help him - but he no longer needs her help. She realises that, despite his usual habit and how he probably wouldn’t even see it himself, he’s helping Chloe (however ineptly) because it’s important to her. He seems to have learned. A little.

What Chloe hasn’t learned is that one moment of almost humanity is not sufficient. Lucifer and Chloe need to get out of this pattern of secrecy, him, being an arsehole and then Chloe being ok with it after a minor gesture of niceness. It has happened too often now - Lucifer needs to turn this round.

But why does Lucifer no longer need her help? He confronts Pierce and, at his insistence, used the desire power on him. Cain revealed his greatest desire is to die. Because life as Cain sucks and immortality is not fun. And he only got rid of Lucifer so he could be alone with Chloe

Because he’s here for Chloe. Because he heard that Chloe’s presence made Lucifer vulnerable so he hoped that this would be a whole supernatural death aura thing. He even set up the scene where he was shot (Lucifer is Not Amused since this put Chloe at risk - though he’s not nearly angry about this reality). But didn’t kill him. So he’s given up hope and plans to leave town

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Star Trek Discovery: Season 1, Episode 12: Vaulting Ambition

Let’s begin with a particular likely enraging element that i will never ever ever ever be forgiving this show for - Stamets and Culber.

Stamets is lost in the Magic Mushroom network which quickly dumps the glowing acid trip for a much easier set - the Discovery - in which he meets himself. This himself is, of course, Terran Stamets who is evil because he’s Terran. Terran Stamets has been stuck in the Magic Mushroom Network for some time and has been reaching out to Federation Stamets and giving him visions of his world which explains some of the moments F!Stamets has been having. It doesn’t explain why he was so loopy though so I’m going to put that down to good ol’ brain damage.

Another problem is the Magic Mushroom Network is dying and this is a terribad things, especially since it’s infecting T!Stamets already. But F!Stamets is distracted by the ghost of Culber

Which means he learns that Culber is dead and rthey have another romantic scene when they were at their best brushing their teeth in the… seriously guys? This oral hygiene fetish needs to end. Yes, I get the show has done very very very little to actually establish their relationship but there must be more than opera one of them doesn’t like and tooth brushing.

They have a big romantic moment I would be far happier about if it weren’t a goodbye

Hey, remember when they did gaydeath and a not-insignificant part of the LGBTQ fans they’d been marketing too said “what is this fuckery?!” and they hastily hit social media saying “it’s not gaydeath! They will meet again! Their best scene is yet to come! Their love is epic!”

I think this may be that scene. I think this is it. I dearly hope I’m wrong (and even if I am they’ve got a hell of a hole to dig out of) but this looks like it. Which honestly makes me even more angry with them - because if they saw our anger and deliberately deceived us with this? Then I am doubling down on my rage. I would say “fix this” Star Trek but I don’t think you can

Stamets does wake up but the mushroom network on the Discovery has been destroyed so the only way to get home is for Michael to succeed in her task. Also I think F!Stamets and T!Stamets may have swapped bodies?

Leaving this terribleness, let’s move on to Saru

Saru is dealing with Tyler who is completely melting down between Tyler and Loq and generally falling apart and suffering immensely. Saru goes to L’Rell to ask her to help him. She refuses because he’s a noble warrior who made an agonising choice and she will honour that choice in the name of war because this is what war means, weak Kelpian who has hidden super powers and can probably rip Klingons apart limb from limb. She does explain how they mushed an actual captive Tyler’s DNA onto the Klingon Voq hence the very detailed personality graft

This raises the possibility that they can change him into Tyler permanently - not that she says that but they have made it clear that Tyler’s fake personality isn’t just fake - it is more transplanted. Ish. It’s a show that has mushroom based teleportation so let’s not poke it too hard

Tyler continues to suffer massively and Saru throws this in L’Rell’s face. Because this is war - not honour, not glory, but completely pointless (since in the mirrorverse the war is irrelevant) suffering. Saru has not time for this bullshit as both a member of a non-violent species and a member of the Federation. He drops Tyler in L’rell’s cell and makes her witness her beloved suffering. She breaks and admits it can be reversed - but only by her

So Saru allows it - and Tyler/Voq becomes pure Voq

I know there’s a lot of eye rolling about this decision but I think this wasn’t necessarily Saru trying to restore Tyler as it was to stop suffering. Because even if Voq is an enemy, the Federation does not willfully cause suffering and does not allow suffering which they can alleviate. This is what the Federation is - even if that means saving Voq and losing Tyler.

Now to the main plot with occasional eye rolls

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Librarians, Season 4, Episode 9: A Town Called Feud

This week we have American civil war re-enactors and a pesky case of haunting.

This naturally pings the Library’s radar - and in part it’s well timed because the librarians are at each other’s throats: Cassandra is very much in favour of multiple Librarians (supported by Jenkins - who is still heartbreakingly dealing with creeping mortality, bodily function, food etc. And even talking retirement! NOOOOOOO. Stop this! stop)

The tethering ceremony is coming soon and Eve needs a Librarian to tether with, just one (JENKINS! CHOOSE JENKINS! PLEASE GODS CHOOSE JENKINS! We know he can handle immortality, he’s an incredible asset! JENKINGS!)

This is why Jenkins and Cassandra stay back in the Library for an awesome high tea and looking for the Librarian’s correspondence so they can see why the two warring Librarians actually attacked each other. Which means a scavenger hunt because some previous Librarians decided to move them and leave a series of cryptic clues

Look, I’m no fan of the Dewey Decimal system either - but this is ludicrous

The civil war re-enactment takes place in a town called Feud which is right on the Mason-Dixie line and is all about the civil war, museums and turning it into a vast tourist attraction

Jake doesn’t approve of this because he’s a historian and all the fudging of facts for the sake of entertainment Does Not Amuse Him.

Eve is also not best pleased because, as a soldier who has actually been in combat, she is also Not Amused by turning it into entertainment.

Both of them are a little hostile when it comes to questioning the museum director about ghosts etc. It doesn’t help that they all kind of assume she should accept the reality of ghosts which just kind of feels so very very weird. I mean, I think we’re expected to see her as unreasonable or evil or… something? For not just believing these three random people telling her to shut down her big money making event because ghosts? And she does mean things like call the police on her when they break into her office and safe… so she’s definitely bad apparently?

The story is that during the war two brothers fought for separate sides and were not super happy with each other. Their dear mother wasn’t thrilled by her little boys trying to shoot each other in the face so left them a locket - broken in half in the hope they would reconcile and reunite the rocket. The museum had one locket for a while and now has found the second locket. Apparently separately so the assumption is these brothers didn’t make up at all.

The town was renamed “Feud” and this whole town built itself around this story. And the curator, Janet Hedge, is very invested in it

Through this we have plenty of ghostly visitations - including a woman in widow-weeds and a small child who has lost things. And we have lots of snarking between Ezekiel Jake, each showing off their skills to prove who is the greatest Librarian of them all, much to Eve’s annoyance.