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.


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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Sleepy Hollow, Season One, Episode Two: Blood Moon


Okay, I am less enthralled with this show now that we have hit the second episode.  I don’t like that Ichabod and Abbie have quickly turned into Mulder and Scully circa 2013.  I can understand Abbie not believing that Ichabod Crane has been transported in time, but the witches and the demons,given everything that she has seen?  I don’t like that Mulder and Scully Ichabod and Abbie have quickly become archetypes that are all too familiar on television.  When I learned that Ichabod had an eidetic memory, my eyes just rolled reflexively.  This is so overdone on television. Just check out the list below of characters who have had eidetic memories on previous shows and think about how they neatly align with our man out of time Ichabod Crane.

    Dr. Douglas “Doogie” Howser from Doogie Howser, M.D.
    Solf J. Kimblee from Fullmetal Alchemist
    Special Agent Fox Mulder from The X-Files
    Professor X from X-Men
    Zack from Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?
    T.J. Henderson from Smart Guy
    Max Guevara from Dark Angel
    Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote
    Victoria Sinclair and her uncle Sir George Sinclair from 2008 TV movie The 39 Steps
    Batman, Bane, and Barbara Gordon from Batman
    Detective Adrian Monk from Monk
    Jimmy Neutron from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
    Dr. Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds
    Dr. Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap
    Dr. Lexie Grey from Grey’s Anatomy
    Dr. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory
    Percival Rose from Nikita
    Ingrid Third from Fillmore!
    Shawn Spencer from Psych
    Olivia Dunham from Fringe
    Myka Bering from Warehouse 13
    Mozzie from White Collar
    Olive Doyle from Disney’s A.N.T. Farm
    Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation
    Kes and Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager
    Spock from Star Trek: The Original Series
    Susan Ivanova from Babylon 5
    Brick Heck from The Middle
    Charlie Andrews from Heroes
    H. M. Murdock from The A-Team
    Mike Ross from Suits
    Carrie Wells from Unforgettable
    Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle
    Kei Takishima from Special A

Then of course, we have the quick leaps, because the plot must be resolved in an hour. Yes, the wicked witch must want the descendants of the men responsible for her death.  It’s, elementary my dear Watson Abbie.  I am throwing that in because Ichabod is clearly loosely modeled on Sherlock Holmes.  Just look at how socially awkward he is (but wait time travel explains that; he’s just antiquated) and look how he follows clues (nope, just skills history professors naturally have).  Much of Sleepy Hollow is dependent upon this device and though it’s cute now and mildly amusing, if this continues, it will simply become irritating.

We did a learn a lot more about Abbie this episode.  We know she had a boyfriend, has a troubled family history (it wouldn’t be urban fantasy without it) and of course has become stagnate by fear.  In the first episode, I really got a sense that Abbie and Ichabod were partners but it seems that in this episode, Ichabod is the leader and Abbey is just holding on for dear life.  I would like to see more equality between these two characters because no one needs another version of able bodied, straight, White guy saves the world.

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Rachel Skartsen and the Mosaic Church

Recently it was drawn to our attention that there was a brouhaha about Rachel Skarsten - the actor who plays Tamsin on Lost Girl - tweeting her support and membership of the homophobic Mosaic church in LA. Naturally, this caused some comment, especially given the prominent lesbian and bisexual characters in Lost Girl

This is always an awkward topic to talk about and I was in two minds about talking about it at all. However, having decided to, it is one that requires some nuance and length.

Firstly, it’s a discussion that raises the question of whether we’re going to examine all actor’s religious beliefs - especially since Ms. Skarsten’s church, as far as I can see, is no more homophobic than many other large churches like the Catholic church, Anglican church, Baptists, Latter Day Saints - in fact, I would say that the Mosaic church is pretty standard in its homophobia compared to the majority of organised denominational Christian churches. It would not surprise me if a huge number of the actors in shows we love, attended churches that hold objectionable, homophobic views. I would say it’s almost a certainty that many of them do.

On that, it feels rather unfair to single out Rachel Skarsten. Especially since organised Christian churches that don’t hold views that aren’t at least a little homophobic (churches that outright say being gay is not sinful and treat gay parishioners with exactly the same respect, rites and blessings as straight ones) are not actually all that common. This is a deeply depressing state of affairs - and certainly one that mainstream Christianity needs to address; but how much blame should attach to individual Christians for that? Because if we are apportioning blame, there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world supporting a church whose homophobic rhetoric is, at very least, as homophobic as the Mosaic church. I would rather all supporters and members of homophobic churches take a good, long look at what they’re supporting and endorsing rather than singling out one among many.

Ultimately, as well, how people deal with homophobia from their churches can be a fraught issue. Personally, I cannot understand why someone would seek deity in a place that preaches hatred. I do not see how a place that preaches discrimination can be regarded as a source of deity (and certainly not morality). I do not understand this, I find it dubious. However, at the same time I acknowledge that the church can be a source of immense importance to people - religiously, culturally and from a community standpoint. I find it… distressing that people feel they cannot connect with their faith, their god, their culture or their community without also endorsing and supporting bigotry; I also can’t help but feel that people are saying “the humanity and rights of GBLT people are less important to me than X” (whatever “X” the church provides for them). But these religious choices are extremely powerful and personal. And at least it’s a little better (though very much in the same vein) than people saying that the humanity and rights of GBLT people are less important to me than fried chicken or watching a film. Because that’s just really depressing.

But there are three elements that I feel are worth mentioning in this case - and they apply not just to Rachel Skarsten but as good general points.

Firstly, there is an issue of tweeting the church and endorsing it; attending a church and extolling its virtues are different things. Herein lies one of the problems with both the brevity of twitter and celebrity endorsement - it’s a good idea to check out what you’re endorsing first. I don’t know how aware Rachel Skarsten was of her church’s stance on homophobia - in fact, I did a fair amount of googling and the Mosaic church does put its homophobia as front and centre as many churches do. This is a trap I’ve seen other celebrities fall into - in fact, it wasn’t long ago that Cher tweeted support for a homophobic pastor and faced gentle criticism of the bigotry she was promoting. I have to say, Rachel Skarsten’s response was considerably better than Cher’s rather… excessive rant.

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The Walking Dead Vol. 2 Miles Behind Us

This volume, Rick and his gang (Andrea, Dale, Glenn, Allen, Donna, Sophia, Carol, Lori, Karl, Billy and Ben) head out, away from Atlanta looking for shelter. Along they way, they run into more survivors, Tyreese, his daughter Julie and her boyfriend Chris. After a brief stop in a gated community, which turned to be full of angry zombies, Carl is injured and they find themselves at Hershel’s farm, along with Hershel’s children (Lacey, Maggie, Arnold, Billy, Rachel and Suzie) and neighbours Otis and his girlfriend Patricia.

Carl heals quickly, but tensions flare between Rick’s group and Hershel, over Hershel’s barn o’zombies and Rick & co have to leave, leaving Glenn behind with Maggie. Rick & co arrive at the prison. And Lori is pregnant.

I think the main theme for this book is a kind of wary acceptance. Having moved on from Atlanta, there’s a greater sense of threat from the group, after the joy of reunion and the shock of the attack there’s less of a sense of hope of things getting better. Rick tries to hold onto the positive - but he does it with naive hope (Carl being able to sleep until the dystopia ends) and by refusing to look at the negative (encouraging everyone to congratulate him and Lori over her pregnancy). He even goes as far as to deny the possibility that the father of Lori’s baby might be Shane. But the general mood is one of fear and acceptance - Lori and Carol worry about giving birth without any medical attention. Even Tyreese warns his daughter, Julie, about the risk. Lori worries about raising a child in the dystopian world.

This volume isn’t about the world getting better, it’s about finding a safe place to survive - and being burned out so much that even the prison - living in a prison - seems like a good option. And it’s also about beginning to find a reason to survive, characters begin to have sex and partner off; embracing life and relationships in a much smaller population.

In a great moment of increasing inclusion, Tyreese joins the cast. Almost from the beginning, Tyreese is a productive and useful member of the group - partly by being so physically fit and a strong, capable fighter; which is pointed out repeatedly and gratefully by the group. They do not take him for granted. In turn, this leads to some extremely belated gratitude to Glenn, for the risks he took keeping them supplied, when they are forced to deal with hunger for the first time and learn the deprivations Tyreese’s family had to endure on the road. It’s late and they really should have said it sooner, but at last his achievement and risk has been acknowledged

But Tyreese is more than a big, strong Black man, even at this early stage, Rick frequently considers him to be his natural peer. Tyreese is the one he goes hunting with, Tyreese is the one who leads the second group whenever they split up. And when Rick is hasty or angry, Tyreese is the voice of reason. Beyond reason, he is the voice of compassion - after Otis shoots Carl by accident, it is Tyreese who reaches out to him.

In a parallel with the TV series, we also see Glenn in a relationship with Maggie - which is rare to see, an Asian man with a White woman in the media.

Unfortunately, the treatment of women hasn’t really improved since the first volume. Women are constantly put in a secondary role in this series so far. We hardly ever see them with a weapon, we never see them actually kill a zombie (even in the dramatic fight outside the barn, Lacey jumped in and died, Arnold fought and died and Maggie just fell to her knees comforting Herschel). Women are delicate flowers who are kept to child rearing and tending while the men fight - they’re certainly never consulted for any decision making. In the beginning, when Dale appoints Rick leader, his logic is that Shane is dead, he’s too old, Glenn is too young and Allen isn’t a leader. Not only are the women not considered for a leadership position; but Dale thinks they need a strong leader to be protected.

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