Written-By-Numbers Drinking Game: CW Shows

'Cheap booze 1' photo (c) 2008, Melissa Wiese - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

When you consume as much media as we do, the sense of de ja vu is inevitable, there are many ways to cope with this. You can curse randomly, you can break your electronics - or you can make up fun drinking games.

While it may damage our drinks cabinets and certainly our livers, this has always been a favourite.

And this week, we’re going to look at the supernatural related shows on the CW. The CW is a network that has produced a surprising large number of speculative fictions shows which are immensely popular but, barring a few notable exceptions, we see some considerable patterns.

And, frankly, a big bottle of booze is the only way I survived The Tomorrow People

Age:

+1 drink if the protagonist is a teenager
+1 drink if most of the cast are teenagers
+1 drink if everyone turns to said teenager for guidance
+1 drink even if the followers are more experienced
+1 drink even if the world is COMPLETELY NEW to the protag
+1 drink if they actually become the leader
+1 drink if the actor is over 25
empty the glass if they’re pushing 30 (or more! +1 glass for every 5 years over)
empty the glass if there’s no way they could possibly pass for less than 20
+1 drink if they don’t act even slightly like teengers!
+1 drink parents/guardians are never around
empty the damn glass if they HAVE no guardians and live alone
empty the damn glass if they live alone AND have no discernable source of income
+1 drink if they drink hard liquor
empty the damn glass if they do this regularly, in public and no adult comments on it (1 glass each)
+1 drink if they never attend school
+1 drink if they do attend school, but don’t actually attend lessons
empty the damn glass if they still graduate
empty the damn bottle if they still get into college
SPECIAL BONUS ROUND! In the unlikely event of the protagonist actually being an adult:
+1 drink if they don’t work, yet still have income
+1 drink if they have a job but never actually do it

Friendship (or at least likes them)
+1 drink if everyone loves the protagonist
+1 drink if there is no discernable reason why
+1 drink for every friend who is incredibly loyal beyond all reasonable degree
empty the damn glass if said friend will risk job/future/life for protagonist
+1 drink if friends do sacrifice themselves for the protag (+1 drink per sacrifice)
empty the damn glass if said friend became a friend with no explanation
empty the damn glass if said friend gets nothing from the friendship
empty the damn glass if said friend is a minority
empty the damn bottle if said friend has useful woo-woo

The protagonist is super duper special
+1 drink if they have powers no-one else has
+1 drink they have a special super quality no-one or almost no-one has
+1 drink if this quality makes them a desirable acquisition
+1 drink if they are super-duper powerful
empty the damn glass if, despite this, they want “to be normal”

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The Hugo Awards, Vox Day and Apologetics for Bigotry

This year the Hugo nominations had many wonderful and talented authors on the slate, including a few who have included marginalised people in their work or are marginalised themselves.

And it also included a novelette by Vox Day.

For those who don’t know, Vox Day is a bigot. It’s not really worth parsing down what kind of bigot he is, because the answer is “yes”. If someone is not straight, cis, white and male, Vox Day will spew his venom on them. He thinks gay people are a “birth defect.” He thinks Black people are inherently less intelligent (and called N. K. Jemisin not fully civilised for “historical reasons”) and, of course, that he thinks there’s no such thing as marital rape. This isn’t an exhaustive list, not even close, but there’s a limit to how nauseous we’re willing to get to write this post and googling Vox Day is going to give us heartburn. Honestly, there are no words to accurately sum up what a terrible human being this man is.

A lot of people have spoken about this and, to a degree, we felt there was no need to add to the discussion - but then the reaction itself, the commentary we’ve seen, including in several social-justice spaces have added to our already churning stomachs. So let’s tackle this.

First of all, why is Vox Day getting this nomination a problem? Ultimately, not everyone can be nominated for a Hugo. It takes a level of support - I know there have been a lot of allegations of vote rigging, internet campaigns et al on behalf of Vox Day and others - but none of these would have worked if there weren’t a sufficient number of people who decided to champion Vox Day. In fact, gaming the system would require active champions of Vox Day and his hateful campaigns because the merely indifferent would not help him get a nomination.

Him being nominated at all sends the message that there is a not-insignificant number of people in the SFF “community” who support the hatred he espouses - and many more who are indifferent or do not consider it important.

That is a toxic message - and a message we have seen reinforced by some of the commentary - even supposedly supportive commentary - on the issue. The amount of dismissal or insulting priorities we’ve seen really add to the message that there are a whole lot of those indifferent people.


Predictably, as we’ve seen with previous bigots on parade, there has been a vocal demand to focus on the quality of the work an author produces. We’ve heard the same for Orson Scott Card, Frank Herbert - in fact, just about any vile person out there. We’re supposed to ignore the author, consider the author’s actions irrelevant and take their work in a vacuum.

Jim C Hines, who is usually much better on these issues, has written a post on the subject that included a section on “separating the authors from their work” and these lines:

“Some authors are assholes. That doesn’t mean they don’t have fans who genuinely like their stuff.”

and he has tweeted:

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The Originals: Klaus and his Vagina Collection

On The Originals we have a number of female characters - both plotting against the Original family, and the eternally troubled Klaus in particular - and working for them. And, of course, sharing Klaus’s bed. These women need to be careful, though, because there’s fine print - get too close to Klaus and you may become his chattel. And since he’s one of the most powerful creatures on the planet, how free are these women to reject him and his claim?

We have been complaining about the portrayal of Rebekah Mikaelson since early on in her appearances on The Vampire Diaries (TVD). Over time, we have seen her backstory on both TVD and The Originals. There has been one long running theme to Rebekah’s past - she is not free. Rebekah is not free to fall in love and she most certainly is not free to have sex. You might think that a 1000 year old female vampire might just be able to make competent decisions about what do with her vagina but according to Klaus Mikaelson, you would be wrong. Klaus spends an epic amount of time either killing Rebekah’s suitors, or scaring them away. This, of course, is done under the guise of love because what good is a patriarch for if he doesn’t keep the family vagina pure? No man can possibly be good enough for Klaus’s little sister and while he projects this as a sign of his high esteem for Rebekah, it is really just the same ordinary patriarchal desire to control female bodies that has been going on since the beginning time.

That his infatuation with his sister’s genitals is downright incestous is ignored. No, that would be creepy, so instead it is wrapped in sexist justifications that reduce Rebekah’s personhood. Klaus is just intense when he loves people and because he believes that he is protecting her it’s deemed okay and it is further troubling because, as Klaus is the protagonist of The Originals, the audience is expected to see his POV. Yes, Rebekah continually rebels and she talks about wanting to be in a loving relationship and even raise a child some day. What Rebekah doesn’t do is simply express a desire to get laid. Casual sex is something the males of both the TVD and The Originals can and do engage in sex without much direct consequence. When Rebekah seeks a partner it is almost always about wanting a relationship. At times it reads as justifying her sexual desire as chaste enough in the hope that Klaus will break down long enough for her to get her groove on.

What is further galling about this whole situation is that Rebekah has come to accept Klaus’s policing of her sex life. When she finally confronts Klaus about his policing, it’s not because he has no right to control her sex life - but because his standards are too harsh and limiting. She doesn’t think he should have no say in policing her - he just needs to be more relaxed about it, less exacting. She doesn’t question his right to make those decisions for her - she questions whether he’s making good decisions.

The second blonde in Klaus’s life is Camille. Klaus was introduced to Camille by Marcel and from almost the moment he meets her, Klaus manipulates her. Klaus uses compulsion to force Camille to date Marcel, messes with her memory, forces her to provide counselling and, when things begin to look like they just might get rough in the quarter, tries to force Camille to leave New Orleans (it’s for own good, love honest.) Somewhere in the middle of all of that manipulation, Klaus decides that he must police the vagina of another grown woman. And what does Camille do about? Why she panders to it and justifies it of course.

Prior to Rebekah leaving the show, Camille was a fairly independent character who fought back against Klaus’s manipulations every chance she got. The moment Klaus got down to one blonde, there was an instant transfer of vaginal rights to everyone’s favourite vampire patriarch. This manifests after Camille decides to sleep with Marcel in a drunken binge. She is absolutely clear that she doesn’t regret her decision to sex; however, instantly becomes concerned with how Klaus is going to feel about this. Why would a woman who has been so abused by a violent man have concern with how her abuser feels about her decisions regarding her own body? I’ll tell you why - the writers have deemed Klaus’s penchant for collecting vaginas to be non problematic. Klaus’s vagina collection has become such a thing that Genieve wounds him by informing him of Camille’s night of passion with Marcel. When confronted, Camille doesn’t tell Klaus that her sex life is none of his business but stands silently like someone admitting guilt and feeling shame.

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Gender and the Problem with Marie Treanor’s Blood Hunters Series

The Blood Hunters Series is a paranormal romance series written by Marie Treanor. The world is on the verge of learning that vampires who have slaughtered humans for centuries are not simply a figment of the imagination, or sparkling wonders seducing inept teenage girls, but real beings. Treanor relates her tales by shifting through the romance of five different couples. Each book is focused on a new coupling, though Treanor does take care to connect the separate stories by including characters readers have become familiar with. This creates a form of cohesion that allows the stories to be linked, while building her world.

The concept itself is really quite fascinating. Hunters have been policing the vampire population for centuries and with the awakening of the ancient vampire Salomon, the hunter relationship turns from adversarial to allies who try to work through their mutual mistrust. Each book involves a romance between hunters who carry the ancient gene (a sign of descending from original vampires) and hybrids - what we have come to understand as the modern vampire. Hunters have special appeal because their blood is considered especially potent, not only because they are descendants but because it is infused with strength from all of the vampire kills.

Despite the new twist on vampire mythology and great world building, when it comes to gender, the Blood Hunters series is fraught with problems and is extremely trope laden. Many of the female protagonists have missing parents or problems with parental type figures in their lives. Mihaela survived after her parents and sisters were murdered by vampires. Janine is rejected by her parents after she turns to prostitution to feed her drug habit. Finally, we have Cyn whose father is dead and her mother is battling alzheimer’s. With the exception of the hunter community, these women are isolated. In fairness, most male members of the hunters organization all have some sort of tragic past. The problem arises in that their interactions with vampires, the male hunters remain in a dominant position, relative to their female love interests.

In Blood of Angels, Treanor subverts the normal vampire narrative by pairing a female vampire with a human male. Vampires are stronger than humans; however, instead of following through with this, Treanor had Istvan restrain Angyalka so that he could dominate her. She marvels at this and talks about her need to be dominated. When we move onto Blood Descent and the relationship between Konrad and Maggie, we are once again presented with a female vampire and human male love interest. In terms of vampires, Maggie is relatively young, as she was created during WWII. Rather than allow Maggie to be physically stronger than Konrad, it’s Konrad who has the power because his position as the leader of the Romanian Hunters means the power he has absorbed from all of his kills makes him stronger than the undead Maggie. Konrad constantly manhandles Maggie and is physically aggressive with her. Not only is Konrad physically abusive, he constantly threatens to kill Maggie and justifies this as him protecting humans from her predatory vampire nature. At one point, Konrad even chains Maggie to a radiator because he cannot trust her, leaving Maggie completely vulnerable. Maggie passively accepts this treatment, sure in the idea that Konrad can be saved. Maggie even risks her life repeatedly to save him.

Abuse as love, is common in paranormal romance but that certainly does not make it acceptable. The interactions between Konrad and Maggie are particularly problematic. The very idea that the love of a woman can save a man, if she is just submissive enough and patient enough serves to place the onus on the victim, rather than the oppressor for ending intimate partner violence. It makes the victim responsible for her own abuse. This is sexism at its finest and it illustrates how patriarchy manages to justify all manner of abuse against women. In the end, Konrad’s weak apology is enough for Maggie to declare her undying (no pun intended) love, erasing all the harm that was done. Her pain and her abuse serves the purpose of healing Konrad of his demons. Even more problematic, it humanises her. Maggie can only be values because she has been tortured abused, accepted it without complaint and healed Konrad in the process.

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Gender and Relationships in the Mercy Thompson Series

The Mercy Thompson series is a very popular Urban Fantasy series written by Patricia Briggs. When we first met Mercy, she was a fiercely independent female mechanic who had the ability to shift into a coyote. Over the course of eight books, readers have gotten to know Mercy, her friends and the world which Briggs has created quite well. For the most part, the Mercy Thompson series has been interesting to read but like any other book in this genre, it has not been without its share of problems. It would be far too easy to dismiss gender as an issue in the this series because the protagonist is a woman and the author is also female. One would think that at least in this area, a reader could consume an unproblematic story but that is not the case - and we should be wary of assuming strong depictions of women (or any marginalised person) just because of the author. Despite all of the good qualities in this series, gender representation is an ongoing issue.

Like many Urban Fantasy protagonists, one of the most glaring problems with Mercy is her treatment of and relationship to other women. So often in the genre we find strong, capable female protagonists fully in charge of their own lives - but they are exceptional, they are special women. Other women in the series rarely match them for strength and depth of character.

Most blatantly, other women simply are not present - or not present to any great degree. Mercy lives in a very male world. Obviously, as a straight woman, her love interest is Adam and Adam dominates much of her life, but even outside of Adam most of the people around her are men. She worked with Zee and then Tad - both male. Her main contact with the vampires has been with Stefan - male. Back when she lived with the Marrock, the main contacts she had where with him and his son, Samuel and, to a lesser extent, Charles. Her closest friends - Warren and Kyle - are both men. Most of the pack members are men - and, in common with many other series - for some reason women just don’t turn into werewolves very often. She has a somewhat fraught - and definitely low contact - relationship with her mother.

There are very few women in Mercy’s life - and the only one with anything resembling a close relationship with her is Jessee, Adam’s daughter and, of course, a teenager not a peer.

This lack of female equals is already very much an element of this trope - but what women she does meet are usually antagonists. The few female members of the pack are very hostile to Mercy - Honey being the only one starting to thaw towards her in the latest book. Marsilia, the vampire head of the local Seethe, has certainly clashed with Mercy pretty viciously. Mercy even clashed with the Marrock’s wife when she lived in the Aspen Creek Pack (apparently more so than with the Marrock himself). Even her relationship with her mother is fraught and difficult and contains, at best, a kind of understanding contempt of her mother and she appreciates the distance between them.

Any women Mercy seems to build any kind of a respectful, peer relationship with - or has the potential to - are brief appearances, usually confined to one book; while her female enemies are much more prominent.

This comes to a head in the latest book, Night Broken with Adam’s ex-wife who is almost comically awful to Mercy. Because a woman fleeing from a murderous stalker who has beaten her and destroyed her life really has time to play petty “catty” games? Apparently so! This frankly ridiculous caricature of spiteful womanhood, in turn, is presented as an extremely weak justification for Mercy herself sharpening her claws for a truly cringeworthy take down of a battered woman seeking refuge. By the end of the book, the conflict was almost comic in its awfulness, with Mercy wanting to send Christie back to her abuser and Christie wanting Mercy to die on her hospital bed.

But the paucity and problems with other women in the series are not the only problematic elements of this book when it comes to female representation; we have to consider her relationship to Adam.

When Mercy first met Adam, she had been forced out of her home by the Marrok - Bran. She was determined to live independently and resented the idea that Adam moved next to her to watch over her. She chafed at the very idea of needing a guardian because she was very independent. In response Mercy did things like moving a broken down car in Adam’s line of sight because he hated to look at it from his bedroom window. Any way that she could be an irritant, Mercy jumped on it.

When the relationship began to develop between Mercy and Adam her agency began to significantly diminish. Suddenly Mercy moved from being fiercely independent to an object that needed to be protected and controlled. It began quite simply with Adam referring to Mercy as “his”, which is not endearing and speaks of ownership or possession. Dominance issues repeatedly occur in interactions between Adam and Mercy which invariably cause Mercy to do things like lower her eyes, make her posture submissive and even deliberately consider what she is saying for fear that she might upset the mighty alpha. Of course it’s all justified by the fact that Adam is the alpha of the pack (a classic case of Explained by the Woo-woo). Accepting it on this basis ignores the way in which gender plays into this interaction. Sure, all wolves must show submission to Adam but no one is put in their place more consistently than Mercy. Even at the onset of their relationship when lovers are more apt to be kind, Adam is quick to apply pressure. He declares his love for Mercy in Iron Kissed and Mercy is told that her refusal to declare instant true love for Adam was endangering the stability of the pack. Yeah, no pressure, really.

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The Problem With Trent and Rachel’s Love Story in Kim Harrison’s The Hollows

Possible Spoilers Ahead

The Hollows is a series by one of our favourite authors, Kim Harrison. Essentially, humankind becomes stricken by an infection borne in tomatoes and the world almost shuts down. The world is saved by the supernaturals (Inderlanders) who not only announce their presence but take on the jobs once filled by humanity to keep the world running. Our protagonist is Rachel Morgan and she is a witch. She lives with her friends Jenks, a pixie and Ivy, a living vampire. Together our merry threesome spends most of the series involved in one supernatural disaster after another. If you haven’t read The Hollows, we heartily recommend it.

Throughout the series, Rachel for better or worse has had several love interests. In recent books however, it’s clear that Harrison is setting Rachel up to have her HEA with Trent - an extremely shrewd elf. There are longtime fans of this series who are great fans of this pairing and, to some degree, I agree that Rachel and Trent make an awesome couple. I even admit that at one time I may have tweeted Kim Harrison bemoaning the fact that she didn’t let Rachel and Trent do it at the end of book 11. Talk about a pure tease. Rachel and Trent have known each other since they were children and for much of that time it would be fair to describe their interactions as acrimonious. It is only after Rachel works as Trent’s security on a few missions that an attraction begins to develop and they learn to see each other through a different lens. However, as the relationship progressed, even as my pure fanpoodle heart was racing, there were several problems that I have been forced to acknowledge.

Trent has done some terrible things… but this doesn’t necessarily preclude a relationship, especially if the characters and relationship are developed and the problems addressed.

Trent is one of the best characters I’ve seen written in a long time, certainly one of the best villains and, in some ways, one of the best redeemed villains. He appears in the first book as the cruel and brutal organised crime boss, a man engaging in horrendous illegal research that has already destroyed most of humanity - he’s a drug dealer, a murderer, a man Rachel simply has to bring to justice.

As the story develops we learn so much more about him - and see so much about his growth.

Was he ruthless and engaging in terribly illegal practices? Of course he was - his entire species rested on the results of his tests. His people will literally become extinct if he is not successful - how could he not break these laws? And how could he not destroy his enemies with brutal, evil efficiency? This isn’t his money or his power that is under threat - they are threatening the continuation of his species. If someone was literally menacing the last hope humanity has to stave off extinction, what would we do to them?

Was he callous and cold? Yes, but did he have a choice - raised by bodyguards who have extreme trouble showing emotion after his parents were killed? Having dubious friends (at best), the best of which actively engages in a gang war with him? What chance did he have to become other than callously ruthless when he had this solemn duty dumped on him from such a young age? When the only tools he has to achieves these goals break the most vital laws of society, how could he not become an underworld power? There is literally no other way for him to save his people.

As the books progress we learn more and more about his character - not someone breaking the law and controlling people for his own power, but forced into this very dark life by an overwhelming sense of duty. We also learn that his overwhelming loathing of demons, which colours many of his reactions to Rachel’s magic use, has to be overcome in the face of a mutual genocidal war and thousands of years of brutal conflict

We also see him grow as he learns that there are other ways to do things. As he comes to know Rachel - and Jenks - he develops real friendship perhaps for the first time in his life. He learns a way of doing things beyond bribes, threats, charming manipulation and the loyalty of employees, even though he’s tried all on Rachel, none have compelled more than temporary compliance (and no small amount of headaches). As the books progress and he needs them more and more (and is pushed by Quen) he is forced to work with Rachel as an equal, to show her grudging respect and, in doing so, learn a whole new way of living and thinking. In the last book he marvels how many people in Rachel’s life are willing to risk so much for her - how, when her life is on the rocks, she has Ivy and Jenks and David and so many others willing to step up and have her back. Rachel shows him a new way of living and a new way of relating to people and an option beyond the eternal pressures of duty that crush him.

That’s not to say he still isn’t ruthless - but Rachel becomes someone he respects and by Pale Demon - and certainly by Ever After Trent using his powers against Rachel seems completely and utterly unthinkable. It’s a massive shift from Dead Witch Walking but is has been wonderfully developed over the course of the series to create some excellent, organic growth.

But despite that, his actions (especially towards Rachel) have not been addressed.

Trent has a history of being abusive towards Rachel and while his feelings and motivations in that regard have changed, this does not eliminate or erase his past harm.

In Dead Witch Walking, Rachel sneaks into Trent’s office in the form of the mink to investigate his involvement in illegal brimstone trafficking. Once she is discovered Trent decides to use her in underground rat fights, drugging her and forcing her to fight to the death against other animals in the stated hope of breaking her to his will. He would have left her to die had she not managed her own escape.

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Undead Pool (The Hollows #12) by Kim Harrison

Chaos comes to Cincinnati again – magic is raging out of control, waves of unpredictable, boosted magic is messing up spells and charms throughout the city, causing havoc. The Undead vampires, whose mere presence keeps their younger, living counterparts in check as well as organises the Inderland world have fallen to slumber and will not wake. The whole city is falling apart

And Rachel is in the middle of it. Pulled between the elves and the demons, trying to deal with the inexplicable entity that the elves worship as a goddess while dodging her fellow demons who will never tolerate such a betrayal and hunting down the dissidents who are willing to tear the whole system down.

All the while trying to decide exactly what there is between her and Trent, while duty remains an extreme barrier between them.

This book is responsible for my sleep deprivation. This book is to blame for me still being awake when the sun rose, unable to put it down because I had to keep going, I had to keep reading. This book is responsible for me being late for work because I kept putting off leaving just one more minute, just a few more pages…

Bad book. Naughty book. And may the next one be as epic. I don’t need sleep.

Where to begin on all the wonderful things about this book?

First, the world building here is epic. Complex and complicated and wonderfully integrated and explained. The whole concept of the elven goddess, what she is, her very nature and the competing opinions of the elves and demons was incredibly well done. It was both brain hurtingly complex but at the same time amazingly well explained. At the same time it added so much context and information to the elves, their magic and the battle between the elves and the demons; how the elves could be powerful enough to subjugate the demons yet the demons then obtain the power to break free and drive the elves out.

But it’s not just the magic system that has been amazingly developed and explain – the whole context of the elf/demon war has been wonderfully expanded in this book and the last book. the nuance of it, the powers each side had, the crimes each side committed, the reason for the demonic fear and hatred and elven loathing and contempt. There’s a richness and a depth to the world as it builds up book by book – shown in the Undead vampires as well. For much of the series the undead vampires have been a constant, menacing threat, a worry, something everyone could very much do without. We’ve seen how abusive they are to the living vampires who look to them as well as how corrupt they can be – and how untouchable. But this book brought the flip side of the coin – and with The Hollows there’s always a flip side to the coin. The elves are after their own agenda and in hiding, both the witches and the weres being scattered it’s the Undead who hold Inderlander society together. Without them everything falls apart, including the IS – they’re both the glue that holds Inderlander society together and the force that creates order. It’s wonderful to see that, to see the other side to the cold, menacing threat they’ve always been. In turn that creates order for larger society because the Inderlander/human hatred is still there, just under the surface which is so often hinted at through the books.

But we don’t just flip the switch – through Ivy and her struggles with Nina, with the very nature of the Free Vampires reminds us that while the Undead are essential, their reign is still cruel and badly in need of reform. But then, as we learn more of the elves, it’s clear their reign would be far from perfect.

There’s also some excellent character development – and even of minor characters like David, absorbed with the focus, how it has changed him, how it has changed the pack. Even Algariept and Newt have grown (and I love learning more and more about Newt and why she is the way she is, the method to her odd actions). While Ivy is more in the background than she was in the past, that’s partly because she has her own problems with Nina now (though it would be nice if Ivy could be in a relationship with a woman that wasn’t tragically painful) also reflecting both Ivy and Rachel’s growth in not needing each other all the time.

Perhaps the biggest change is Trent and the endless circling between him and Rachel as they approach a relationship and back off then circle in then out again. It’s frustrating and natural and powerful – and it all works in the story BECAUSE this is the 12th book in the series. That’s 12 books of steadily growing sexual tension. That’s 12 books in which the antagonism can flip to love, that’s 12 books in which respect can be built, lust can simmer and love can grow. The 12 books allowed these tropes to work, allowed the characters to grow and allowed Trent to make the massive change as layers of him have been slowly revealed.

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Tyler Posey and the Problem With The Sterek Fandom

Tyler Posey, the actor who plays Scott on Teen Wolf has said something less than complimentary about the Sterek (Stiles/Derek) slash ship - he believes it’s a bizarre, weird, twisted thing. And a large amount of fandom has lost it’s ever loving mind - including lots of accusations of being homophobic.

I feel the need to respond to Tyler Posey’s comments by saying - I completely agree: Sterek is a bizarre, weird, twisted thing.

I actually do hate Sterek - yes me, a gay man, hates the Sterek ship - if you want to run at me yelling “homophobe” over this then I will Have Words.

I hate Sterek because of its power in fandom, because of the way the show creators pander to it (as we’ve mentioned before) with endless slash bait that makes both a fetish and a joke of gay male sexuality. I hate it because the actual gay characters on the show are repeatedly ignored in favour of an imaginary ship. I hate the message this sends to show creators - I hate the idea that hints and subtext are all that is needed for GBLT inclusion because fans will always be happy - and excited - and that this is so much more important than actual representation that actual representation can be ignored in favour of it. The counter argument to this is usually that “it’s all we have so we have to make the most of it” but Danny and Ethan are there and are real and are comparatively ignored. There’s more focus on Sterek than an actual gay couple who have actually had sex, including at conventions and certainly on places like twitter and tumblr where the show creators are bombarded with fannish squee over the pairing. There are even Sterek fans who threatened to boycott Season 3, Episode 6: Hotel California because Derek and Jennifer had sex - their precious Derek was with a woman. Never mind this was also the first episode where we saw Danny and Ethan have sex; pause and absorb that for a second. That is beyond twisted.

I hate that the show creators are clearly listening to this and listening to the Sterek Shippers. I hate that they’re happy to pander to the character hate of anyone who dares to get between their preferred pairing and they’re willing to add to the slashbait and hints of this non-inclusion while continuing to keep the actual GBLT characters so very much in the background.

And I hate it because of the whole way it has changed how Teen Wolf is viewed as a show.

Teen Wolf is hailed as one of the most pro-gay shows on television. And that is really twisted.

WHY?!

We have 2 canonical gay characters on the show, Danny and Ethan. Other than them we have a couple of brief cameo appearances in one off episodes. Yay, two very minor characters, that’s way better than the 30 shows we watch that are completely erased - but two extremely minor side characters hardly worthy of inclusion cookies - in fact, we’ve scathingly criticised a number of shows for having such minor, token members of minority groups.

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The Problem With Queenie on American Horror Story

To be honest much of the time I hate watch American Horror Story. From season one it has been filled with racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism. When I learned that Gabourey Sidibe had been cast, a shiver of dread went down my spine. Though Sidibe is an Oscar nominated actress and is extremely talented the fact that she is fat, dark skinned Black woman had little chance of resulting in a well rounded character. While I am not surprised with the hot mess that Queenie has become, I am disgusted. Why bother getting an actress who is so talented and then reduce her character to a cheap stereotype?

American Horror Story: Coven has taken Queenie and run down a positive bingo card of racist and fatphobic stereotypes and portrayals.

She is loud, angry and, yes, sassy - the trifecta of a cookie cutter Sapphire character. Snarky, loud and angry, she just needs some finger snaps and to talk about wig snatching.

Her signature power is being a human voodoo doll - which is problematic on many levels. First of all, the “voodoo doll” is not a major factor of Voudoun, or wasn’t before Hollywood got its hands on the religion and decided to transpose one of the most well known aspects of European witchcraft. The use of a poppet to transfer effects onto a person is an ancient tradition in many branches of European magical beliefs - in Voodoo? Not so much. But it remains the most stereotypical “Black people” magic that television and our general culture know of - Voodoo is Black people magic. Voodoo = Voodoo dolls so of course the Black witch will have a Voodoo Doll power.

It has the added bonus of reducing Queenie to an object and forces her to graphically mutilate herself (even if the wounds disappear) to fight her enemies.

This bodily destruction is especially poignant because Queenie is fat and fat people are coded to hate their bodies - which includes Queenie. While Queenie describes her virginity as her “waiting”, she is clearly lonely, unhappy and looking for companionship and a relationship. Relationships that are considered beyond her, even comically, because of her weight. She even overtly talks about her weight and her eating as being because she is unhappy, lonely and abandoned - that food is a comfort to her. Queenie can’t just be a fat character, she can’t be a happy fat character - she has to be miserable in her fatness, her eating is portrayed almost as a form of self-harm and rarely does an episode go by without one character commenting on her weight in a mocking and derogatory fashion.

And on top of all that, her backstory involves her, a Black woman, fighting with a Black man over fried chicken. Chicken. Seriously, it could have been anything in the world and American Horror Story chose to have Black people fighting over chicken. We should be grateful there wasn’t a watermelon dessert and a fifth of malt liquor as a drink, I suppose.

It only took until the third episode for American Horror Story to cross an extreme line. When LaLaurie is threatened by the minotaur she created, Queenie jumps up to help. Queenie went on a tour of LaLaurie’s house and is well aware of the crimes this woman committed - not only that but LaLaurie has hurled racist abuse and even physically attacked Queenie.
Queenie could have thrown LaLaurie out to the minotaur, she could have turned her back, but instead Queenie channeled Mammy and decided to help this woman who tortured scores of Black slaves for the sadistic pleasure of it. Not only did Queenie help LaLaurie, she risked her safety to protect her by going outside. Why are we alway getting the stories in the media of Black people rushing to protect hateful bigots? We don’t even get a proper explanation as to why Queenie would decide to help LaLaurie.

Things go from bad to worse when Queenie gets outside. She doesn’t use her magical powers to disable the minotaur, no, Queenie starts to frantically masturbate. But wait, what’s wrong with masturbation you say? Well, honestly, nothing but when it is done by a fat Black woman who has been portrayed as unloveable, while she croons for a half beast man to have sex with her, well, that’s just (say it with me folks) RACIST. This encounter with the minotaur will be Queenie’s first sexual experience and she of course is the only virgin in the girl’s school. No man will have sex with Queenie and it is heavily implied that this is because she is both fat and Black.

We must take a moment to deal with the minotaur itself because it is a very specific kind of horror. Black men have long been constructed as beasts and this is particularly true when it comes to sexuality. They aren’t understood to be gentle lovers, capable of being in a committed relationship. They are nothing but beasts with roving dicks desperate to get sex anywhere and anytime they can. What does it say when a White writer literally turns a Black man into a sexual predator for the sake of entertainment? Further, what about the fact that the Black man is wearing the head of a beast because he is a victim of horrific racially based violence? By placing that animal head on him, LaLaurie turned him into an animal and American Horror Story reified it by making him act like one. It screams racism and no amount of twisting, turning, or white-washing can cause this horrible scene to be read in any other way.

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Why The Recent Upsurge of Zombies?

In the fantasy genre, supernatural creatures fall in and out of fashion. In recent years, we have seen the revival of the zombie with movies like World War Z, television shows like The Walking Dead and books like White Trash Zombie.  What is it about the zombie that has re-captured the public imagination? They are after all rotting, disease ridden and dead.  Surprisingly this is exactly why people are now fascinated with zombies. They represent our near universal fear of death - in particular what happens to our remains. Unlike vampires who become undead and retain their intellect and beauty and gain superhuman powers, zombies reveal in the starkest manner possible that the sweet phrases we parrot to bring comfort only hide the ugliness and dehumanisation of death.

With zombies come a dystopian world. In almost each instance in which zombies appear currently, the society in which they inhabit has broken down. In fact, we have seen a large resurgence of dystopian world recently. This likely has to do with the ongoing depression and the general sense of social malaise which has become the norm. With no sense of anomie or real hope for change, people have become almost anesthetised.  Each day is struggle to pay the mortgage, or hold onto a job that pays below subsistence wages. In a sense, the economic downturn is the equivalent to many of the dystopians we read about or watch on screen. The zombie then becomes the person who shuffles along, powerless to create change - a cog stumbling with no vision and no hope.

For some, these fictional dystopian worlds are meant to show us that life, no matter how bad it is today, can always be worse. We may be struggling to attain the basics like food, shelter and clothing, but at least we are not being chased by zombies desperate to eat our brains.It represents the constant refrain of it could be worse, which is said to lower classes as a way to pacify them. Yes, things could always be worse but if we have reached the point where we are reaching for zombies to soothe, perhaps things are bad enough. At very least, a zombie dystopian world is so different from our world as to be a far greater level of escapism than we often find in Urban Fantasy

One element of zombie stories that differs from other modern monster stories is that there is very little attempt to “redeem” them into sympathetic or romantic characters. We’ve seen this with virtually every other creature - especially vampires (who have almost lost their status as monsters and are often more tragic - or sparkly -  than horrifying). Vampires, werewolves (or were-anything for that matter), faeries, gods and an entire Greek legend of weird and wonderful creatures; they’ve all started featuring more as romantic heroes, soulful protagonists and bare chested, turgid love interests as often as monsters.

But not zombies. Of course, on the shallowest explanation, it’s because it’s hard to romanticise a creature that is a mindless rotting corpse.
Hard to make sexy, but not impossible That’s hard to make sexy. Rotting flesh is not most people’s idea of a sexy smell and appendages falling off bring a whole new meaning to the concept of erectile dysfunction.

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