Tag Archives: television

What I’ve Been Watching (TV)

Along the lines of my last post, I thought I’d share some brief thoughts on the TV shows I’ve watched over the last few months. I tend to watch one show at a time, watching through a full season on Netflix or a DVD box set, mostly by an episode a day. These are the ones I’ve finished lately.

Sense8

This was a really well made show that I enjoyed a lot. A science fiction show about 8 people around the world who have a connection that lets them communicate, share thoughts and emotions, and even control each others’ bodies. Though some of the storylines were clichéd or used stereotypes, and it tends a little toward soap opera-ish drama, it was still a really good show. Looking forward to more.

Person of Interest (s1-3)

I finished the third season (the last one available on Netflix) of this last week. While it starts out as a fairly formulaic crime-of-the-week show with an annoyingly hypercompetent male lead in season one, the quality is high throughout, and the show evolves by season three into a complex SF drama with an ensemble cast and tackling themes of surveillance, security and artificial intelligence. Despite the departure of one of the show’s best characters I’m still looking forward to more.

I can’t say that I support the show’s implied belief that all-seeing surveillance is good so long as it’s in the right hands, however.

American Horror Story: Freak Show

Thanks to DVD release schedules I’m always a year behind on this series. I enjoyed this about as much as the previous seasons, though like Asylum it kind of fizzled out in the final episodes. I also felt like the character of Dandy was a bit inconsistent through the season, changing his behaviour to fit whatever was going on in the plot. Still, it’s always an interestingly weird show and I’ll keep on watching.

Jessica Jones

Lots and lots has been said about this one lately. I watched the whole thing even faster than I did Daredevil, and it was pretty great. It’s very much a show about rape and consent, and the consequences for victims, and those issues are handled well throughout. Killgrave’s power is terrifying, although I found his actions lost impact the more we saw of him. I agree with some of the criticism that the story meanders a little – it takes a couple of episodes too long to reach the final confrontation, though there are other good bits in there – but I still enjoyed it all. I really want to see more of Trish Walker and her becoming Hellcat, and I wouldn’t mind more of Jessica-as-PI (there were only really two episodes of PI cases in a season otherwise focused on the “find and expose Killgrave” plot).

Legend of Korra: Book Four – Balance

Legend of Korra has had its ups and downs, but season 4 was this show at its best. Focusing strongly on Korra’s recovery and PTSD after the end of Book Three, we see a hero who is struggling to find her strength and purpose while dealing with a morally complex political situation in the Earth Kingdom. …At least at first, as my only real criticism of this season is that the antagonist Kuvira, “Great Uniter” of the Earth Kingdom, goes far too rapidly from a complex character trying to do what she feels is best for her people, to an outright evil maniac with a superweapon. I feel like this was an issue of season length: the pieces were there, but in a half-season there isn’t the time to explore and develop them fully.

I compare this with the show’s precursor Avatar: The Last Airbender, where large parts of the show were devoted to following characters like Prince Zuko as he struggled with his purpose through the course of the show, moving from a villain to an ally over three seasons – a fully planned-out series with full length seasons gives creators the luxury to delve into the evolution of a complex character like that. From what I gather, Legend of Korra was never guaranteed to continue beyond each short season of 12-13 episodes, which left the creators having to build their story out of short single-season arcs. They still did very well with what they had.

Also watching…

Aside from these listed series, I’ve also been keeping up with Agents of SHIELD, which is doing much better than when it started out. I was until recently watching Doctor Who, but I’ve let that one slide. Right now my new daily watch is Aziz Ansari’s Master of None – I’m three episodes in, and the third episode was pretty great, so I have high hopes for the rest.

Quick Thoughts On What Was Wrong With “Deep Breath”

Now, I’m mostly going to be echoing what a lot of other people have been saying about last night’s new episode of Doctor Who, and many of those people will have said it better than I do.

Before I get started, let’s get this out of the way: I enjoyed the episode, and I think Peter Capaldi’s Doctor has potential. I do criticise Doctor Who fairly often, but once again: I like the show, as the fact I’m still watching it shows. I do think it’s worth looking at why Doctor Who attracts the criticism it does, though.

I’m skipping over the boring, trivial issues – yes, the episode has some really dumb plot points, but it’s a rare episode of Doctor Who that doesn’t, and in fact the rare TV show these days where dumb things don’t show up now and then (Orphan Black, I’m looking at you…). The issues worth noting concern the way the episode treats women.

It’s not so much about what Steven Moffat put in the script, but about asking why it was included.

A big deal was made in “Deep Breath” about Clara having difficulty adjusting to the new Doctor – and Madam Vastra outright accuses her of only being with the Doctor because he was young and good looking. This means that a significant part of the episode is spent on Clara having to explain that she isn’t and never has been interested in young, pretty men; the implication being that it would be wrong if she was with the Doctor partly because she found him attractive. The question is, why would that matter at all, and why is it relevant to the episode, to the point that they put this much emphasis on it? Why did Moffat feel the need to have Clara challenged on the issue of being attracted to the young Doctor, and have her accused of rejecting the new one because of his age?

The thing is, Vastra’s reaction to Clara and the subsequent interrogation seems entirely unwarranted. Yes, Clara is confused and upset by what has happened to the Doctor – she doesn’t know how his regeneration works, and he’s suddenly turned into a very confused old man. Vastra’s hostility to Clara comes when she asks the perfectly valid question – for someone in her situation – of how do we fix him?

Later, we have the scene where Strax, where he gives Clara a physical examination with some kind of alien device. The question again is why this scene was necessary. It’s another excuse to get some jokes out of Strax’s complete ignorance of human biology and lack of social graces, but beyond that it serves no purpose other than to make some jokes about Clara’s body, and one about female aging in particular. There’s also a bit about Clara’s subconscious being full of images of muscled young men doing things that may or may not be sports. While I do not object to the depiction of Clara as someone with a sexual side in itself, in the context of the rest of the episode it comes out as another attempt to belittle her for her sexual attractions. I’m only glad the scene managed not to have her react as if she were ashamed herself of those thoughts.

And finally there is the way Madam Vastra was depicted in the episode. Vastra is a lesbian, married to her “maid”, Jenny, and the episode takes every opportunity to use her to objectify the other two women in the cast. In the middle of a murder investigation, we see her having Jenny pose in a revealing outfit for what seems to be a portrait – but oh ho ho, she’s really tricked her wife into posting in her underwear for no reason, isn’t that hilarious. (Not really, no.) There are also repeated references to Vastra, a happily married woman, being attracted to Clara – including Clara accusing Vastra of thinking she is shallow just because she is attractive. Immediately after Vastra’s abuse of Jenny’s trust to get her to pose barely dressed is revealed, Clara walks into the room, and Vastra attempts to get her to take her clothes off also.

The scene’s only purpose in the episode is to laugh at Jenny’s expense and depict Vastra as a woman who eagerly objectifies other women. Anything relevant to the larger plot happens after this part is over.

Now, I think the key point to make here is that these latter two scenes are both played for laughs, and it’s very easy for people to just let those things slide when you do so. If something is portrayed as a harmless joke, a lot of people will gloss over it, and not realise the issues at play. Even minor things like these, though, are problematic because of how they normalise certain jokes and behaviours. Objectifying women is funny, women having water retention is funny, oh, ha ha, this young woman can’t stop thinking about young, attractive men, isn’t she silly. Funny how the show doesn’t do any of this stuff with male characters.

And the former scene I mentioned has its own whole host of issues, for the way it implicitly criticises women for liking the Doctor – which would probably include Doctors Smith, Tennant, and Eccleston – in part for being good looking. Given the large female fanbase of the show, this has not been well received.

Once again, I am not condemning Doctor Who. I just think the people making the show, particularly writer/showrunner Steven Moffat, need to ask themselves questions like why they’re including these jokes, and at whose expense they are being made.

(These quick thoughts have not been as quick as I intended.)