In which the Cat preaches it, again

Cat Valente on Lost:

But here’s the thing, guys. If you don’t want to get tarred with the SF brush, you don’t get to play with our toys, either. That means you do not get any of the following exciting action figures: monsters, immortal beings, time travel, alternate universes, glowcaves, Egyptian mythology, electromagnetic magic, insta-healing, psychic powers, Dark Lords, Lords of Light, magical touched by an angel fatecakes, teleportation, mystical islands, or bodily possession. Get your sticky hands off them–you’ll only break them. Make a sitcom and shut up, if you want to howl about not being SF. Make a gritty procedural. Make Thirty-Something, I don’t know. But don’t make an SF show and then prance around telling everyone it’s SUPER REALISTIC while trying to conceal your painful giant quantum rabbit erection. You can’t trot out all those shiny SF baubles and then refuse to develop them or treat them seriously.

And while we’re on the topic of TV and not respecting stuff? I’m at a point where I would like to ban all shows from touching the topic of sf/f community, including but not limited to: comic book fans, LARPers, Renfest folk, players of video games, and anything else of a remotely geeky stripe. Just leave them alone, TV people. You don’t understand those groups, and what’s worse, you don’t want to understand them; you just want to toss them in because you’ve decided to do an episode about people who are totally detached from reality and can’t keep their non-fantasy lives in balance with anything else. And you’ve decided we are those people. Kindly piss off, leave the geeks out of your police procedural or whatever it is you’re making, and stick with things you actually have respect for.

It’s not what Cat was ranting about, but it was on my mind, so I decided to kill two birds with one ineffectual blog post. After all, that’s what the internets are for.

0 Responses to “In which the Cat preaches it, again”

  1. matociquala

    Watch Criminal Minds. It **adores** geeks. The characters have nerdy conversations about Kurt Vonnegut and the body’s endocrine reaction to peas.

    • Marie Brennan

      Science geekery (which is your latter example) has moved into a far more enlightened zone, what with forensics being the New Hotness for crime shows. Fannishness, not so much. But CM was one of the shows I suspected did better with it — “better” as compared to the things I’ve been watching lately, at least.

      • matociquala

        They have a computer nerd, a backup computer nerd, a nerd nerd, and a nerd jock. Two of those are female, the computer nerd is femme and HAWT, the nerd nerd is a tough little motherfucker who will not stay put down and listens to Isaac Asimov on tape, and the nerd jock dorks out about Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury.

        The show’s executive producer is a Marion Zimmer Bradley and comic book fan, and the show makes Girl Genius and Tank Girl and Cory Doctorow jokes. They have an episode where !Frank Miller goes on a vengeance-inspired killing spree with a plot lifted more or less from THE CROW, and they have an episode that revolves around a book that is an unholy cross between PLAYER PIANO and DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP.

        And the book inside the fake dust covers? Is a copy of TOUCHED BY VENOM.

        I shit you not.

        These people are nerds, and they love us.

      • matociquala

        Oh, and this character? Has memorized every single Star Trek:TOS episode.

        In conclusion: totally Nerds. *g*

        • Marie Brennan

          Oh, I don’t doubt you. As I said, CM was on my shortlist of “shows that probably get it more right.” (If Netflix would just offer it streaming, I’d already be watching it. But the laziness, she is mighty, and so other things have surpassed it in the queue.)

  2. kateelliott

    Yes, indeed.

    My rant:

    Make a world where women over the age of 45 exist.

    I saw a few eps of season one of Lost, and one ep of season two, the ep about the people from the other group making their way to the first group (unknowingly). There was a middle aged woman in the original group (she happened to be black). She had lost her husband in the crash but “was sure” he was still alive. There was a middle aged man in the second group (he happened to be white). As soon as I saw him, I *knew* he was the missing spouse. After all, what other reason would there be for there to be middle aged people there except for direct plot points?

    The *surprise* was supposed to be that they were a mixed race couple. My only surprise was that two middle aged people had actually survived.

    But, alas, if I complain, then I am just being a bitchy middle aged woman. *g*

    • moonandserpent

      The interesting thing is that Middle Aged people, especially women tend not to test well demographically with Middle Aged people, especially women.

      I’m not saying that TV doesn’t need to be more representative – it does, badly. But it seems that large parts of the audience including the parts that producers and writers may be trying to represent, aren’t interested in watching people like themselves.

      It’s weird as hell. Sometimes you don’t get over 45 women because the over 45 women in the test audience HATE THEM.

      • kateelliott

        I would need to know more about the test audiences and the roles those older actresses are given to play and how they are portrayed/written. Because I am sure the producers and writers are saying the same thing about the need for white male leads in, say, the new Hawaii 5-0 remake, a show that is being made with no local actors in leading roles (so far; I am sure it is not all cast yet). But audiences want them! And them only!

        • moonandserpent

          Hawaii 5.0 has been cast and the first few eps have been shot. Still no local actors, though.

          (New Credits sequence here.)

          Audiences are weird things. Witness the EXTREMELY negative female fan reaction any time they have tried to insert long-term female characters into SUPERNATURAL.

          And test audiences tend to just be random (usually LA or NY) groups shown the pilots or whatnot. Women over 40-something consistently (or so I’m told) HATE older female characters unless they’re “non-threatening”. (Like say Rick Castle or Michael Weston’s mothers.)

          Of course, as has been shown several times, we live in a world where you can STILL give a child of colour two dolls to choose from, a white one or one of their ethnicity, and they’ll statistically prefer the white one because it’s “better” “prettier” or “normal”.

          It’s a messed up world and a messed up industry.

          I’m still reeling over being told by a producer friend of mine how small a percentage of the audience for an hour long drama is expected to understand it and be able to follow the plot. Scary stuff.

          • kateelliott

            I knew that four leads were cast, plus two blonde white women in secondary roles, all non local. *sigh* You know, Daniel Dae Kim is gorgeous, and he does live here now, which makes him exactly as local as I am. I had to laugh as the first true body shot in the opening credits is, yes, a bikini girl. So disappointing. My spouse, who doesn’t follow these things, was completely floored; he’d assumed they would cast a local guy, or at least someone like Dwayne Johnson (obviously not him) as the lead.

            Yeah, I totally agree: it is messed up.

            One of the most striking things for me about moving to Oahu almost 8 years ago was how I went from being almost invisible in the college town we were then living in (as a woman in my very early 40s), to being visible here, because this is what I call an “Auntie” culture where older people in general and definitely older women are visible and respected. So there are striking differences between here and the Mainland on many counts.

            I am so very sad about the reboot of Hawaii 5-0. It sounds a lot like “North SHore” and “Hawaii” which filmed partial seasons the same year “Lost” started, and which also used Mainland leads and mostly Mainland actors. “North SHore” was particularly bad. Everyone in a rather large ensemble cast was white except for “the bartender”. Auwe!

    • catvalente

      Well, there were some awesome older women on Lost at one point: Danielle, Eloise, one of the Others whose name I can’t remember, Rose. But they either killed them all or forgot they existed. Yay? They killed all the non-white people and also all the women who are not Kate too.

      • kateelliott

        But they either killed them all or forgot they existed. Yay? They killed all the non-white people and also all the women who are not Kate too.

        Alas, and yet so familiar.

    • Marie Brennan

      We could make an entire conga line of the types of people who need more and better representation on TV: non-white people, gay people, geek people, people over 30, etc.

  3. moonandserpent

    I think the second part is changing. There are lots of shows that are either getting it right or getting it better without geek-culture being the CSI-style WTF of the week. Even in places I wouldn’t expect it.

    (Party Down for ex blew my mind by having an episode-long Snow Crash joke punctuated by a subplot about a rare Uncanny X-Men book, recently.)

    I think as the outsiders are becoming Hollywood insiders, there’s a Geek Cred sea change. We’ve hit the point where a “Momicide” show like CASTLE wears its Geek Cred on its sleeve and stars a guy who ICly and OOCly has a lightsaber collection.

    Now TV and Hollywood only gets it wrong 6 times out of 10 instead of 10 times out of 10.

    • Marie Brennan

      Kyle passed on your comment about Party Down, taking it instantly from “show I’ve never heard of” to “show I reallyreally want to watch.”

      I’ve just hit a lot of bad instances lately, I think, hence the crankiness. Both House and Bones recently made me want to throw something through the screen.

      • moonandserpent

        Bones is really bad about this for well… most “outsider” groups, as is House – since house is basically a “Momicide” style police procedural, anyway it easily falls prey to the same issues.

        The problem is that the “Momicide” is basically built around CSI’s successful model of subcultural or news-event exploration. The model of the show is to a large part ABOUT poking at “outsider” groups, the real mystery being how do “those” people think – usually delivered in a way designed to reaffirm the assumptions or core values of the audience.

        The murder or mystery illness is usually just an excuse to explore social situations or move the soap opera aspects of the characters about. The formula thrives on the misrepresentation of all sorts of “marginalized” groups.

        Party Down is from the folks who did Veronica Mars and some of the people responsible for the VERY LARP friendly movie Role Models. So there’s a history of geek-friendliness there.

        • Marie Brennan

          It drives me crazy because that format could be used for entirely different purposes: exploring the value and beauty of other subcultures, rather than just reaffirming the assumptions of the core audience. If House’s recent ep “Knight Fall” had taken the stance that, okay, proclaiming that you are a knight in real life may be odd, but at its core that’s about declaring a moral code and dedicating yourself to upholding it and that’s actually kind of admirable . . . then I could have loved the episode. Instead they went from “these people are freaks who can’t separate fantasy from real life” to “these people are hypocrites who dress their lies up in stupid clothing.”

          And don’t get me started on S1 Bones’ bit with the
          “superhero” guy. Kyle and I both were kind of yelling at the TV.

          • moonandserpent

            “Knight Fall” was a wreck. Crazy! SCA! Ren-Faire! Pagans!

            I’m not the biggest guy on the Poly bandwagon, but that ep, recently, was horrible as well.

            And Bones… *shudder* Their Trans ep from last season wasn’t… actively horribly offensive mostly, but it wasn’t good or… umm… respectful, either. And their recent Pagan ep was laughable.

            S’what I like about Castle. Generally, they do take the stance of “here is how most people involved in x subculture operate” or “this is a little bit weird but also a little bit cool” and frankly the S&M episode was the best “S&M as topic” episode I’ve ever seen – not perfect but generally positive.

            And hot. Ahem.

            But, alas, a “Momicide” that didn’t reaffirm the cultural assumptions of the audience prolly wouldn’t be a “Momicide”.

            Whenever this topic comes up, though, I can’t help but remember when I came out as trans @ Build-A-Bear. As soon as my other Manager could process it, the first thing she said was “like on CSI?”

          • Marie Brennan

            That gives me more reasons to be interested in watching Castle. Now if only Netflix streamed it . . . .

    • Marie Brennan

      BTW, which ep of Party Down was that?

  4. unforth

    I don’t know, Supernatural killed me when Sam and Dean walked in to that comic book store and got asked if they were LARPers. That’s, like, my favorite episode of the whole series…so I’m going to defend the right of Supernatural to mess with that stuff if they want (they lost points on the convention episode, but not enough to overcome the massive points they had gained…)

    • moonandserpent

      Supernatural has a Famous Comics Writer as a head writer, so that helps, I’m sure 🙂

      Hell, I loved the convention ep, even… it being 100% dead on some Vampire conventions I’ve been to.

    • Marie Brennan

      They’ve done a lot better with it, yeah. (With the occasional “really, people, wtf” directed at the fanficcers — but it’s never come across as mean-spirited, at least to me. And by this point it’s happened enough times that it’s become kind of a friendly in-joke, I think.)

Comments are closed.