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.”
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.
Will I jinx the state of the television universe if I said AMC is unstoppable? Almost everything it touches turns to gold. The network’s newest drama, Into the Badlands, might not reach the same Emmy-adored levels as Breaking Bad or Mad Men (yet — we’re just one episode in), but not since The Walking Dead have they taken such a creative leap of faith.
Into the Badlands, loosely based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West, is a martial arts/post-apocalyptic genre mash-up set within a steampunk-infused future. After a nuclear war destroys most of the population, seven feudal Barons rule different portions of what lands and people remain. Guns are outlawed and men are tools — main character Sunny is an assassin warrior known as a Clipper, a tool of his Baron for killing, intimidation, and enforcement. Said Clippers live in cramped, poorly maintained soldier barracks, while the Barons reside richly in their Civil War-esque plantation farms, earning profits off the backs of workers. In this ruthless hierarchy of inequality, loyalty to your Baron is sacred above all else. Sunny is the most loyal, the most skilled, and the most troubled, with over four hundred deaths to his name. Killing for his lord no longer brings him joy, and a strange boy with mysterious powers (oooooo!) may lead him onto a journey of self-discovery.
We’ll see how everything unfolds over a season, obviously, but it shows a lot of promise. The mythology is dense and refreshingly original in a mediascape overrun by both apocalypses and swords-and-horses fantasy, and although it indulges in several cliches, it seems self-aware enough to underplay them. In fact, it’s overall a restrained effort; although the cinematography is sweeping and the visuals superb (sets that were built! Green grass and poppy flowers! What a blessed change from too much CGI and barren dark colors, respectively), it’s not trying anything too fancy. Just good old-fashioned quality.
The style’s clearly rooted in the Bruce Lee 1970s movie tradition, with fights filmed and choreographed as dance pieces performed by actual artists. The action carries the, well, action, rather than relying on fast cuts only to create energy. Everything is solid, from concept to acting to aesthetics. It doesn’t overplay its hand, although hell if it doesn’t have fun, too. After massacring a group of renegades, Sunny literally dusts dirt off his shoulder. And who doesn’t want to watch a slo-mo, close-up, eye-poppingly gorgeous fight scene in the rain? Bueller?
As for the women, we haven’t seen enough of them in action to decide my feelings on their writing. I have a suspicion they’ll go the “trapped women fighting against patriarchy” route with their futuristic world, which I’m more than a bit tired of when it’s used for exploitation and violence. So please do the opposite. There’s potential in the three leads for certain: the Baron’s wife Lydia seems the strategic power behind the throne, the Widow has taken over her dead husband’s title, and Jade has ambitions for power brewing behind those sweet eyes. I’ve been a fan of Sarah Bolger’s since The Tudors, so I’m particularly interested in Jade. Bolger’s a underrated actress and I’d love to see her land a meaty role.*
If you’re looking for a more entertaining, visually scrumptious show to indulge in this season, you won’t find it.
*(My affection also stems from the fact she’s my dream actress to play the main character in one of my kinda-sorta book ideas. She and Mads Mikkelsen would make a fabulous romantic pair, don’t you agree?)