Category Archives: About a TV Show

Watching Orphan Black as a Faceblind Person

I’ve written about my face blindness before — what it means is that I generally recognize people by things like hair, clothes, context, and voice inflection before faces.  My face blindness isn’t as bad as it could be, and I mostly get along just fine, but it’s bad enough to interfere with my life, especially when I see people out of context or after long gaps.  As a gauge of severity, let’s put it this way: I’ve never not recognized my parents after not seeing them for a while, but I always worry I won’t.

So I was a bit nervous about trying to watch Orphan Black, despite the entire Internet telling me to.  Because, especially given the skills of the lead actress, I was afraid that there would be moments when the “reveal” would depend on me recognizing that two women with completely different deportments and hairstyles had the same face, and I wouldn’t.

Well, considering that I just watched two seasons of Orphan Black in two days, clearly my faceblindness didn’t impede me too much!  In fact, for anyone else who’s bad with faces who is hesitating over watching this show — you’ll be totally fine.  Once you pick up on who the clones are at the beginning, which the show is very, very clear about pointing out in multiple ways, it’s smooth sailing.  (In fact, since the show asks all viewers to differentiate the clones based on things other than face, it might be even easier to watch than other shows — I have a lot of trouble on some shows with people of the same gender/age/race having similar hairstyles and I mix them all up, whereas here, they have to make sure that doesn’t happen or everyone will mix them up.)

But if you want some interesting notes about the experience:

(here there be spoilers through the end of Season 2)

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Firefly Asian Dream Cast

"For a universe that's supposed to be half Chinese, Firefly sure doesn't have any Asians."

Part of xkcd comic http://xkcd.com/561/. CC-BY-NC.

I love Firefly.

It’s is a brilliant show, and one of the parts I love most is worldbuilding that mixes the U.S. and China as the dominant cultures in a far-flung space-faring future.  The characters are all fluent in Chinese, wear Chinese-inspired clothing, eat with chopsticks, and wear white to funerals.

Therefore, the fact that the show has no Asian actors in leading roles is a very troubling and uncomfortable thing.  It’s hard enough for Asian actors to succeed in Hollywood; it’s even more depressing when a work of media steals the shiny bits of our culture and then gives no opportunities to Asian-American actors.

“Maybe there weren’t any Asian actors up to the job,” people say, every time this comes up.

Bullshit, says I.

Don’t get me wrong — I adore Firefly’s cast.  But . . . just for fun, behold my Asian Dream Cast!  The rules were as follows:

  1. The actors had to be of East Asian descent and work in the U.S.,
  2. The actors had to be actively doing television (as opposed to purely film actors),
  3. As much as possible (just for my sake), I wanted actors I was familiar with,
  4. To avoid driving myself crazy, I did this as if we were casting in 2014, rather than trying to figure out how old people were ten years ago.  Scanning the list, it looks like most of these actors could have played the same roles I’ve cast them in in 2002 anyway, and the ones who couldn’t would have been easy to cast with actors currently ten years older than the role (as noted below, River would have been far easier to cast older, and I had a list as long as my arm of possibilities for Kaylee).

I imposed rules #1 and #2 because I wanted to prove that it is just not true that there isn’t a fantastic slate of talented East Asian-descent actors doing American television.  #3 was just because it’s more fun for me if I’m familiar with the actors I’m talking about!  (#3 was the most limiting.  I’m famous among my friends for not having seen enough movies and never knowing who any of the actors are.)

Now, drum roll, please . . .

Firefly East Asian Dream Cast

(cut because of lots of video embeds)

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It’s Okay, He Wasn’t a Main Character. (Or White.)

So I watched the pilot episode of Killer Women, and I’ll probably start watching the show.  (This doesn’t say much, as I have a very low bar for cop and lawyer shows, but yeah, it’s a fun show so far.)

Buuuuuut there’s one thing about the pilot that really annoyed me . . .

(spoilers follow)

Tricia Helfer, aka Molly Parker (whom I’ll hereafter refer to as Six) is talking to her DEA love interest and trying to convince him to go into Mexico after a mother and child who were kidnapped by a drug cartel.  DEA love interest at first says no, then, after Six’s intense, er, persuasion, he says okay, but it’ll just be the two of them, and he’ll only use one of his Mexican contacts.  “We’ll probably die,” he warns her as he walks off.

(We know already that they’re not gonna die.  Right?  Right.)

So they infiltrate Mexico along with DEA LI’s one Mexican contact, who gets them in.  Naturally, there’s a shootout as they try to get the mother and little girl out.

Naturally, LI’s Mexican contact gets shot and killed in the shootout and our two main characters get away.

(And by the way, both our main characters are attractive and white.  Just to add to the picturesque contrast here.)

Six and her LI get out of Mexico with the female plot devices kidnap victims and have heroically saved the day.  In the final scene, they’re all smiling and relieved and all is wonderful because the daring and break-the-rules Texas Ranger Six has brazenly rescued her plot devices and she and the LI have emerged unscathed as heroes.  There’s a palpable sense of relief and heroism and all-American patriotism and the good guys winning the day.

Nothing is ever said of the poor Mexican dude whose bullet-riddled body was left in the drug cartel’s compound.

Which.  Okay.  Seriously?

They got LI’s contact killed—they got someone killed—and the narrative’s going to play that as an Awesomesauce Win, no second thoughts, not even a drunken toast in his name in the bar afterwards?  Unless the writers are trying to frame their MCs as having some level of sociopathy or dissociation from other people’s deaths, there’s something seriously wrong with that in a narrative.  If you want your heroes to be, y’know, heroic, playing off the death of someone who helps them as unimportant, as something that does not impinge an unsullied victory, is a rather poor writing decision.

How I Would Rewrite That Atrocious Gun Scene in “The Newsroom”

The Newsroom is a great show.  I do have some doubts, however, on whether Aaron Sorkin has any idea at all how to write a believable Republican[1]—Will is supposedly a red-blooded conservative, but we’ve seen him smoke pot, bully a (gay) man to the point of cruelty over not being supportive enough of gay rights, and freak out over people carrying guns (one of whom was his bodyguard, and both of whom were licensed).  If we saw him rant about fiscal conservatism and shrinking government alongside these things it’d make more sense, but, y’know, we haven’t.

I thought the gun episode would have been a perfect time to showcase some more Republican-esque beliefs and make him a more believable conservative.[2]  Also, it would have been nice if it hadn’t been utterly failtastic in the way people handled firearms!  So, I give you:

HOW I WOULD REWRITE EPISODE 4, PARTICULARLY THAT ATROCIOUS GUN SCENE:

  • The team is going over how the gun lobby has misrepresented the debate (which I think was all well done, incidentally; I’m constantly reassuring my friends in the gun community that Obama does not want to come steal our weapons[3]).
  • Will goes on a date with the crazy woman.  He goes to get the marijuana from her purse and sees the gun.
  • He freaks out a little bit.  He asks her about it.  (So far I’ve changed nothing.)
  • Now, instead of WAVING THE MUZZLE ACROSS HER with the gun fully loaded (WHAT), what if he’s freaked out and doesn’t want to touch it?  And what if he’s pro-gun in the show instead of anti-gun, and his freaked-out-ness is despite him being pro-gun?  I know a lot of people who are good with guns in theory, but absolutely disturbed by them in practice.
  • Then, how about if the woman takes it and unloads it, NOT POINTING IT AT HIM, and gives him the line from the show about being a liberal from the South.  Then what if she says something like, “I thought you were a Republican.”
  • And maybe he says he is, but he’s still not sure he’s comfortable with a gun in his living room.
  • Instead of POINTING THE GUN AT HIM, she cites some statistics about gun ownership reducing violent crime rates.
  • Instead of POINTING THE GUN BACK AT HER, he confesses some doubt over the veracity of those statistics, or agrees with her but says dating someone who’s carrying just freaks him out, or admits that it feels different when he knows he’s with someone who’s actually armed, or, I don’t know, ANYTHING BUT POINTING A GUN AT HER.
  • Later, he talks to Olivia Munn’s character about setting him up with “Annie Oakley,” and how about if she says something like, “I thought you were a Republican” and he has a continued crisis of theoretical Second Amendment beliefs versus feeling freaked out by his date packing heat in her purse?  Instead of Will having some sort of bizarre across-the-board condemnation of firearms despite being a Republican, what if this encounter makes him question his pro-gun Republican beliefs?  NUANCE, Sorkin, NUANCE.
  • Above all, don’t end the episode by lining it up with the Gabrielle Giffords shooting.  Not because of my personal feelings on guns, but just because it felt really emotionally manipulative.  Like an episode in which the characters debate domestic terrorism defense ending with 9/11 would.  The Giffords shooting was a huge tragedy, and it felt cheap to use it to cap an episode about guns.

You know, I’m totally fine with the show’s narrative coming to the conclusion that the benefits of gun control outweigh the benefits of gun rights.  But in the past (see The West Wing), Sorkin has been better about at least showing the various sides of political arguments, of having a reasonable voice of dissent that shows not all people who believe XYZ are evil irrational monsters.

To sum up: Why did the one woman who carried in the episode have to be painted as a crazy lady, and why did Will dismiss gun ownership as crossing-the-line insane despite being a Republican, and why did every sane character dismiss gun rights as not even worthy of debate instead of there being a single rational line expressing the other side of the issue . . . and above all, why did the two characters point a firearm at each other despite both being coded as knowing something about guns?  Seriously, the flagrant gun safety violations bothered me more than EVERYTHING ELSE in the entire episode.  Forget the politics; if you have the least iota of firearms knowledge or experience, YOU DO NOT DO THAT!

  1. Or woman, but that’s a different story.
  2. I’m pretty slanted on the liberal end of the spectrum myself, at least on social issues . . . but I do so hate informed attributes in characters.  I’d rather see a believable character I disagree with than a shell of a character whose views are entirely inoffensive to me.
  3. Of course, the state of California is another story . . .

Castle Reaches 100 Episodes

I just watched the 100th episode of Castle, which was quite fun.

I’m so glad this show has reached 100 episodes.  Not only do I watch and enjoy it, but I know a bunch of people who work on it, and it’s such a great group of people—I just want their show to keep going and going forever.  Cheers to the cast and crew!

(Plus, y’know, it films here in LA, and I’m fully in favor of all shows that film in LA succeeding madly and all shows that choose to film elsewhere dying horrible deaths.  ‘Cause then natural selection would bring the film industry back to LA.)

Arrow: Your Failure At Elementary School Science Makes Me Want to Cry

Oh, Arrow.  You’re a superhero story with great action scenes; you had such a low bar for me to like you.  And yet.

I stopped watching Arrow (aka the Privileged White Dude Is Always Right show) once I kicked the typhus—the race!fail and gender!fail were too much—but I’m sick again this week (this time with a bad cold, not typhus, though I feel I already paid my illness dues for the year so NOT FAIR), and I poked my head back into Arrow.  I . . . don’t know why I did this.

(rant below contains a minor spoiler for dialogue from Arrow)

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“They’re Not Going to Kiss. It’s a Family Show.”

So, I don’t really watch Once Upon a Time.  But I do watch Revenge, and the friend I’ve been watching it with does watch Once Upon a Time, so since it comes on right before I’ve ended up watching the odd episode with her this season.

(general thoughts on Once Upon a Time, and very specific thoughts on a character aspect of the most recent episode, below)

(also, trigger warning for passing mention of rape)

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