Life in a Glasshouse: A Christening

The Immortal Obsessions

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I'm immortally interested in cultural/literary deconstructions, feminism, anti-racism, South Korea, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, food (including but not limited to maple butter, tomatoes, and toast), fairy tales, parentheses, paper airplanes, films and books.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Christening

I'd like to christen this new blog with a great big gush about a old show I recently discovered. But first!

With blogging so extensive these days, I think I'll be posting up my reviews as well. Reviews will come in every Tuesday and Thursday with random blogging fun on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

I look forward to this adventure already!

Meet Dark Angel:

The Awesomest Awesome Medium Ever Made

A dramatic show set in a future of political, economic, and moral collapse that results when a shadowy terrorist group wipes out America's economy with a massive electromagnetic pulse. A genetically enhanced Super Soldier X5 prototype named Max escapes from military confines and dwells amidst the decadent underground street life of 2019 Seattle while making minimum wage at a bike messenger service called Jam Pony and occasionally stealing. Searching for her brothers and sisters who were scattered in the aftermath of their escape from Manticore in 2009, Max encounters Logan Cale aka Eyes Only, an idealistic cyber-journalist battling repression and corruption in post-apocalypse America.

Eventually, Logan calls her to the highest part of her being and she becomes his samurai, taking on the ruthless power-brokers of the new millennium. Max and Logan's odyssey leads them closer to the secret of her past, deepening and complicating their relationship in the process.* 

Dark Angel is the most progressive show ever made (that I've watched thus far). How sad is it, also, that this ridiculously progressive show, aired at the beginning of the millennium, is infinitely more tolerant than anything you could turn on TV/DVD player and see? Allow me to explain the ways in which Dark Angel trumps, owns and indefinitely pwns even Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Yes. I went there. That is how amazing this show is.

Let me start with the race card. In the pilot, we meet Max Guevera: a genetically engineered nineteen year old with a delivery job and enough cheek to edge her off the line of an annoying. She's also got a thing for motorcycles. Now let this sink in: Max is the name that she and her fellow siblings gave to her. Guevera is one she picked out herself. This girl is racially ambiguous, and yet, she chose a hispanic last name. She was also raised as a soldier. Yet she still procured and held onto an ethnicity. (Also, I must say that the cast directors were outstanding in choosing the Younger Max, who looks *ridiculously* alike to Jessica Alba. I mean, it's freaky.)

The whole White is Default has to light rapidly in recent years, leading people online to wonder about their beloved mediums. For example, take the Evil Queen in Once Upon A Time. Many became upset that the Queen was portrayed as white when her actress was Latina. Although the character's double in the modern world was a wealthy, high-powered mayor, there didn't seem to be any markers of Race in the Fairy Tale World. Yet, most people automatically defaulted her into being White. Even though she hadn't said so herself, and her father was Latino as well.

In Dark Angel, the amount of ethnic diversity (grunt men and extra messengers range from Indian to Hispanic themselves)  heavies staggeringly against any show on TV, period. (I'm not even going to compare BTVS's diversity here, because as you will see, Dark Angel wins, hands down.) In 2000, the helmspeople of this show have done everything that people are calling out for, and it's barely even acknowledged. I can get behind this. I myself eyed Dark Angel with a mixture of disdain, trepidation and curiosity. I mean, it's from 2000. The hottest thing Jessica Alba wears in the pilot, she wears with that gelled wet-hair look that people went nuts over back then. Yet, the show proves itself over and over again. You know it's progressive the underground is realistically portrayed as being a thousand times more diverse than anything near that Glass Ceiling.

In addition, the majority are teritary characters - ones most would have casted as white since, you know, whites are what you do with that shit (until Tokenism came around - but you don't see that here!) You have Japanese stallkeepers, Latino shopkeepers, black message therapists, Indian highrollers, Latino mafia, Japanese genetic engineers and more (I'm only up to the eighth episode here). 

What's empowering here is not the wily-niley-ness of playing the Tokenism card. These people have done their research. Yes, a show produced by James Cameron has done its research. I know. Take a moment to take that in.

Hip-hop culture hugely influences the way people talk and react in Dark Angel, especially Max. A lot of it nowadays seems dated in that heavy-speak way, but you get in the groove of it after a while. One of Max's friends, Herbal, is a Rastafarian. While most people would just establish that he smokes pot and leave it at that, he's played from the beginning as a laid-back guy from Jamaica (with a believably heavy accent that few other than his friends bother to understand), and then he's re-introduced as a Rastafarian. His philosophy is only altered for a brief moment, when he's having trouble with his relationship as a friend stays with him and his girlfriend for a few days. His friend is real friendly with his GF, but Herbal just says his patent love thing and shakes it off. After a while, though, he loses his temper and no one goes all ballistic on him. He just admits that there's a time when you've got to stand up for yourself, and moves on.

In another example, we have the Indian businessman who's checking out Jam-Pony, the messenger company that Normal (Max's employer) runs. Somewhere within the funny subplot where he actually believes he's about to die, he  confesses that he has yet to visit a city (didn't catch which one) and bathe in the holy Ganges. I had to take a few steps back and breathe. I've NEVER seen an Indian on a non-Indian-centric show admit to something like that. While it seems like the show's playing it up as funny, it's still taken somewhat seriously.

Then we have what most Super-Soldier plots miss: different races. And not only different races, but ones, like Max, that could fit in potential any country in the world. Meaning, they literally could pick one mixed kid and drop them in India, and they wouldn't stick out that much. I'm sorry. But I don't ever remember anyone (TV/book-wise) including this kind of thought into their plans. What's even more awesome is that it's included without any fanfare. Like, y'all should be smart enough to get this yourself.

When mix in the amount of interracial couples in this show, it just makes me want to sing. In the pilot, we have a East Asian man whom Max covers for at their job married to a black woman with a biracial child. Max herself seems biracial. Max's best friend, Original Cindy, claims to have a preference for submissive white girls (I admit there are some problems in that, but hey. At least she acts on it). Then, to top it all off, we have the antagonist, Lyedecker, married to his childhood sweetheart, a black woman. (Minor spoilers) She was killed in his past, and this led to his alcohol abuse - but no one even blinks at her color. How many shows have this? It's usually "What? He's married to a black girl?!?!" since the whole attitude toward interracial couples hasn't at all changed.

(Seriously, Mad Men. In this department, you're like every single show on TV, except you've ratcheted up the sexism about three times higher.)
And, oh.

Oh, the feminism.

(Continued next post.)

*Taken from TVTropes.

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