I’ve watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was eleven years old. At twenty-seven, I reflect.
Thank you Willow, for showing that while society may ostracize you as a shy, socially awkward, bookish computer nerd, there’s nothing wrong with you; those are, in fact, your strengths. People who value and uphold you exist out there, somewhere, even amongst a literal hellscape. Thank you for figuring out your passions and sexuality openly and without shame; for demonstrating female friendships as the most inspirational, grounding, and empowering of all; that there’s redemption from the soul-consuming darkness of grief; that loving other women is normal, natural, okay.
Thank you Anya, for reassuring a girl who never allowed herself to display rage, who always felt out of step with expected humanity, it’s okay to be angry, bitter, and vengeful. To never reconcile centuries-long distrust of men, and never have to. To keep living after the douchebag you trusted leaves you at the altar.
Thank you Tara, that compassion and acceptance and the internal power of witchcraft are as transgressively affecting as physical strength.
Thank you Sineya, Kendra Young, Nikki Wood, and Xin Rong, for proving the saviors of the universe aren’t only white blondes.
Thank you Dawn — despite the will of the oppressors, you alone are capable of deciding your future; your body is more than someone else’s desire.
Thank you Cordelia — being the popular girl who crushes on boys and cares about prom doesn’t make you shallow, vapid, or worthless, and there’s always room, and time, to grow.
Thank you Joyce —a lesson in cherishing every moment with your mother.
Thank you Giles — a father figure who realizes the best thing for his surrogate daughter is letting her choose freely.
Thank you Faith, Darla, and Drusilla — embodying the power of societal non-conformity, embracing their goals without regard for opinion, rejecting the “good girl” image because it is neither condemnation or limitation.
Thank you Angel and Spike, for teaching me early the stereotypically pretty boys you crush on can, in an instant, become privileged, hateful, violent, and abusive. Thank you Xander and The Trio for proving even the seemingly kind male friends can be the same, and the worst of all enemies.
Thank you Buffy Anne Summers. For showing that wearing miniskirts, nail polish, and lip gloss never negates your strength. That a girl isn’t the hapless victim, but a hunter. For fearing, failing, crying, and fiercely, unrepentedly loving while simultaneously snapping off witticisms. For losing herself and running away. For refusing to run. For crumbling against unthinkable expectations. For getting up again, bruised and bloodied and fearsome.
For telling a pre-teen girl when you lack weapons, friends, and hope, all that’s left is you, and it’s enough.
For making every woman a hero — even though we already were, just without superhuman abilities. We don’t need to be Chosen according to the rules of some inexplicable preordained destiny, because we make our own. All of us are powerful. All of us are Slayers.
“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.”
Stories influence and reflect our world. It’s been that way since ancient mythology and prehistoric cave paintings— we try to understand ourselves and our place in the universe through the interpretive prism of fiction. That’s one of the reasons why inclusive, diverse representation in media is so vitally important — seeing yourself onscreen is unfathomably powerful. That identification, the acknowledgment that you exist, that you can accomplish wonders, that the worlds of movies and TV aren’t exclusive to just the nauseatingly overrepresented white male, is precious and desperately needed. Doctor Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, become an astronaut after seeing Nichelle Nichols’s Nyota Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise in Star Trek.
Onscreen inclusivity leads to richer storytelling landscapes with a wider range of perspectives, ones that disprove dangerous stereotypes and hopefully lead to better understanding. It’s never “just a movie”; we’re shaped by what stories tell us, just as we shape the stories told.
Luke Cage is more than another successful Marvel venture in a string of solid, formula-aligning Netflix efforts. It’s undeniably urgent, undeniably relevant, and undeniably black. A thrilling, genre-bending hybrid, its hero a bulletproof black man in a hoodie walking unafraid into a barrage of gun fire and emerging unscathed, an image the power of which can’t possibly be overstated. It’s a love letter to Harlem — its history, its culture, and the community living within it. Conversations meditating about the legacies of sports figures, hip hop artists, authors, and war heroes are as important as outwitting a villain’s schemes. The visual choices and music cues are steeped in layers of black history, the latter especially woven throughout the series as its beating lifeblood (every episode is titled after a Gang Starr song). The subjects of police brutality, systematic racism, economic inequality, the criminal justice system, and politics are combined into a nuanced, seamless whole. There are no deplorable stereotypes or cheap caricatures but a rich, complex, multifaceted, stunning cast of characters with histories, dreams, goals, motives, perspectives, and experiences, both shared and different; heroes, villains, and the spaces in between, with a cast made up almost entirely of people of color. Trust, legacy, dignity, respect, and responsibility are all reexamined. It gets inside your favorite superhero genre cliches and tears them apart from the inside out; reinvents them through the perspective of a black man’s life in modern America.
Spoilers for Arrow, Sleepy Hollow, The Americans, Empire, and Vikings, and past episodes of half a dozen other shows.
Seven women died on television last week.
Four were women of color. At least two were lesbians. Let’s add this to the six other women, mostly non-white and LGBTQ, who were also killed since the start of this year.
(Spoilers for Arrow episode 4.18, “Eleven-Fifty-Nine.”)
It’s a familiar refrain for me by now. “That female character deserved better.” From her series, her writers, the fans. The disappointment never seems to end in that regard, and it’s been one hell of an awful year already for LGBTQ, WOC representation on TV: Lexa from The 100, Rosa from Jane the Virgin, Denise on The Walking Dead, Mary Louise and Nora on The Vampire Diaries, and a casualty on The Americans just this week.* No female character, it seems, is off limits.
When Daredevil hit Netflix this time last year, it was a revelation. The streaming site gave Marvel a venue to explode with a previously unseen maturity on par with anything on cable. With season two upon us (and Jessica Jones months prior), it’s clear the collaboration wasn’t a fluke. Daredevil’s sophomore outing more than holds up to its premiere season, even surpasses it in some ways.
Obviously, that’s my cue to talk about it! Here’s what I loved and what didn’t float my boat, in a handy list format. (Spoilers abound for everything.)
I’ve had two weeks to digest the latest effort from Marvel and Netflix’s collaboration. It might not be the best testament to my writing prowess, but I couldn’t talk about Jessica Jones right away. There was too much in my head to process. I have an embarrassing, overly emotional confession that will undoubtedly draw mockery from friends and strangers alike: when the credits rolled on the final episode, I watched them through a fountain of grateful tears.
Because Jessica Jones is a nigh-miracle.
An imperfect one, which I’ll get to later: but here is a female-created, female-driven narrative wholly centered around women regaining their autonomy, their bodies, and their futures; that treats sexual assault with the responsibility and gravitas it deserves rather than as a cheap plot device or the exploitive, disgusting, omnipresent trope it’s become; and it stars at its core a smart-ass, hard-drinking, emotionally shattered, deeply caring private investigator straight out of a classic film noir, who just happens to exist on the darker side of the colorful Avengers universe.
Given how even in 2015 our media landscape is so heavily skewed toward the male experience (especially considering we won’t see our first female headliner in the Marvel movie universe, Captain Marvel, until 2018, and the constant sidelining of Black Widow as a character), for a show one hundred percent devoted to the female perspective to not only exist, but be successful, is a revelation.
Hence the tears.