Little Girl Lost

Reposting something here from one of my fan spaces.

Have just recently started getting into Syfy’s “Lost Girl.” The show’s currently on its third season (it’s been airing in the UK and Canada, I believe) but we’re just now getting the first season here in the US. In some ways, I consider that alone to be a nice step forward, considering the show’s subject matter. I’m guessing Syfy wanted to wait to be absolutely sure US audiences could handle a show with an actively bisexual lead and a fair amount of sexuality, mild nudity and swearing. You get that sort of thing on premium channels all the time, but it’s definitely rare to see it on basic cable.

Bearing in mind that I’m only up through episode 6, and things may well change later on, I admit I’m of very, very mixed feelings about this show. It’s fun, definitely, and there are a lot of things that my feminist heart loves about it, but there are also some things that really rub me the wrong way. To wit:

OK, so first off, there are some very big pros:

-Female lead with a female sidekick. This pretty much never happens, especially in genre entertainment (we get a fair number of female leads, but the Xena-and-Gabrielle type of thing is unicorn territory.)

-Said female sidekick is a full character in her own right. And though she does fit a type (the wise-cracking streetwise kid—see: Claudia Donovan, et. al.) she’s given a lot more to do than deliver funny lines and look adorable.

-Lead is bi, and actively so. Also basically unheard of. Plenty of queer women, but few true bisexuals, and virtually no leads (with the exception of Sanctuary’s Helen Magnus, who wasn’t confirmed bi until very recently.)

-Female sidekick, however, is straight. There’s a little flirtation between the two, but generally speaking, they have a truly close, platonic relationship. I actually think it’s refreshing for them not to be doing the obvious pair-up there. (Also, a related pro: sidekick and love interest have a nicely platonic quasi-frenemies thing going on. That alone is rare.)

-Sexuality (at least in the uncut On Demand version) isn’t shied away from—even the same-sex stuff.

-Lots of other female characters. I’d actually venture to say there have been more women than men with speaking parts on this show so far.

But, there are also some big cons:

-Lead has a bad case of Hot Bi Babe syndrome. It’s nice that she’s actively bi, but she’s also framed as basically a nympho. The Anything that Moves thing is annoying.

-Lead’s main love interest is opposite sex. As yet, she’s not shown any interest in having actual relationships with women, as opposed to just having sex with them (this may change; there are hints of something going on with the doc.)

-While the two female leads regularly pass the Bechdel test, there’s also a LOT of girlish chitchat about the male love interest. Yawn.

-As yet, all female characters with more than a few lines are young and/or conventionally attractive. There are older/non-conventionally-attractive male regulars, and a few older women in small, one-off roles, but that’s basically it so far.

-So far, only one male regular (the love interest) has been framed as eye candy, but virtually all of the female regulars have been—scantily clad, sex scenes, lascivious shots, etc.

-Some rather icky body-negative language from both the lead and sidekick.

-A fair number of PoC characters, but only one that’s a true regular. (And, I’ll just be shameless here for a moment, and say how much I wish they’d add him to the gratuitous male eye candy tally.)

-Plenty of queer women. As yet, no queer men except a redshirt that had all of 30 seconds of screentime.

I do like Bo in a lot of ways, but unfortunately, she kind of represents one of the big fails with female characters in genre entertainment: the badass babe. She’s smart, competent, has some ass-kicking skills, etc., but she’s tarted up like a streetwalker in virtually every scene. She’s not allowed to be unattractive. Even when she’s hanging around her house, she’s still dressed like she lives in a Frederick’s of Hollywood. Her sidekick gets to cover up a bit more, albeit in a fairly stereotypical cute goth kid way, but our lead seems to be required to be eye candy in every single scene. And that kind of cancels out all the good stuff about her.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with female characters having active sexuality. That’s a good thing, and I actually applaud it in many cases. But the problem we usually see is that if a character is allowed to have active sexuality–especially if it’s non-mainstream in some way–that’s all she’s allowed to be. It’s right back to square one of the madonna/whore thing. If you want respect, you have to give up your sexuality. If you want sex, you have to give up everything else you are. Ugh.

Throwing in other traits on a hypersexual female character is pretty much meaningless if most of what you’re featuring about her is her sexuality. You can’t just point to her list of vital statistics and say, “see! we also made her a doctor/lawyer/stamp collector” and expect that to count if those aspects make up only 1% of her screentime.

I get that in this case, this is part of the character: Bo is a succubus, which is something like a sexually-charged energy vampire. She gets “hungry” for human energy, and feeds off of it when she’s getting it on. But in a way, that’s kind of part of the problem. It’s a little annoying that they chose that particular kind of creature, because it ends up framing the whole show as not much more than supernatural softcore. It could (and may, later on) be so much more than that, so to go the easy Id-tickling route of making your lead a hot bi nympho is just sad. I get that the titillation brings in audience, but really, mouth-breathing fanboys already get pandered to a lot. Can we have some deeper characterizatrion to go with that, please?

Now, like I say, I’m only a few eps in, and at the moment, there’s definitely enough good stuff to keep me watching to see if the bad stuff improves. Hoping it does. The good stuff is so rare to see in genre entertainment that it would suck if it was ultimately rendered pointless by the cheap porn aspect. Speaking as a bi chick, I WANT to see more representation of us onscreen. But I also don’t want that representation to be little more than the same old tired stereotypes about who we are.


About Shawna (A Mediated Life)

Writer, singer, parent, fan, media maven, and general ne'er-do-well. Fierce protector of the rights of the disadvantaged and endless pontificator on subjects both ridiculous and sublime.
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Feminism, Geekery, LGBTQ, TV and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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