thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘supernatural’

Bare Your Fangs: Torture, Women, and The Vampire Diaries

In misogyny, Television, Uncategorized, violence on May 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

Sarah T.

I do not want to write about The Vampire Diaries and torture porn. If I write about it, I have to watch the torture scenes again, and that makes me feel at best feeble and at worst extremely nauseous. But after watching “Before Sunset,” the penultimate episode of season three, I can’t put it off any longer.

In many ways The Vampire Diaries is a compelling show. The plot moves at a clip as lightning-fast as the show’s bloodsuckers, and there are enough juicy love triangles to stump (and enthrall) a practiced geometry teacher. The central characters are permitted to evolve over time, often branching out in surprising new directions.

The show has its problems too. Racialicious, for example, has featured two great articles outlining the issues with the show’s treatment of characters of color, particularly Bonnie Bennett, teenage witch. TVD also features a mind-boggling amount of scenes that depict protracted physical pain, violence, and human suffering. All of the show’s main vampires have been tortured at one point or another, but the character who seems to get tortured most often is the young, blonde Vampire Barbie—also known as Caroline Forbes.

No way I’m showing an image of violence against Caroline here. Instead, here she is befriending a horse.

Caroline is one of the show’s most well-developed characters, a rightful fan favorite. (Sarah S. explains in more detail what makes her so awesome here.) She’s funny, neurotic, and deeply caring; her commitment to social events and proper dress attire is unparalleled. Theoretically Elena, as the kind and broody girl torn between two brother vampires, is the show’s central character, but Caroline tends to get more emotionally rich scenes and storylines.

She also tends to get caged, bound, gagged and tortured while she screams in pain and begs for her suffering to stop. These torture scenes render the most physically powerful woman on the show—a character with superhuman strength and speed, not to mention immortality—essentially, though temporarily, powerless. Read the rest of this entry »

A Great and Terrible Beauty: A GLG Reading Group

In A Great and Terrible Beauty, gender, girl culture, Libba Bray, YA on April 3, 2012 at 8:19 am

Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty (AGTB), set primarily in Victorian England, is the first in a series of three books that trace the coming of age of Gemma Doyle. Gemma is not like every other girl at her boarding school, Spence. In fact, she is the last in a line of powerful women in possession of supernatural power. In a society where women must behave according to very specific and constraining codes of behavior, Gemma comes to realize that these constraints are not meant to protect women, but rather to control them. As Gemma becomes aware of the patriarchy that defines her world, she also realizes that the world of magic is one controlled and managed by men. AGTB is a novel about young women finding power, but also learning to manage and control that power — for without control, we learn, come terrible and terrifying consequences.

After finishing AGTB and missing Pretty Little Liars, we thought another reading group might be fun. Read on for our favorite characters and some more general thoughts on AGTB. But beware: spoilers abound.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Ghost of Herself: Supernatural Femininity on “Being Human,” Season 1

In gender, race, Uncategorized on December 13, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Sarah Todd

One day, I hope, I’ll get the chance to sit down and chat with a supernatural character from popular culture. Maybe  Angel and I will toast Guinnesses at a local Irish pub and we can laugh about his fake accent. Maybe I’ll trick Edward into inviting me into his bizarre bed-less Neomodern home where he still lives with his parents even though he’s a hundred years old, the weirdo. Regardless of how these talks happen, I’ll ask them all the same question: What’s the big deal about being human? Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Going to See Breaking Dawn OR How A Smart, Independent, Educated Woman Learned to Love Twilight

In gender, girl culture on November 23, 2011 at 12:48 am

Melissa Sexton

The first time I went to visit my sister in her new home in Seattle, I needed something to occupy my time during the long days she spent working. I was a 2nd year PhD student in a literature department, so the last thing I wanted to do on my downtime days was read anything serious. Still, my sister made a full disclaimer when she handed me her roommate’s copy of Twilight. “It’s not great literature,” she said with a shrug. “But I bet you’ll be entertained.”

Such a disclaimer was more than warranted given my lit snob past. I had spent my teenage years aspiring to an elite aestheticism, sneering at my younger sisters for their fantasy novels and their mainstream movies. Like many a wanna-be intellectual before me, I wanted to like the right things. I wanted to read philosophy and great literature; I watched old movies, not blockbusters, with my boyfriend. I didn’t watch TV; I backpacked, hello. Before I ever even thought about drinking, I started going to “shows.”  I was relentlessly and, to be honest, baselessly opposed to anything that could be construed as popular. Luckily for me, I was already outgrowing what I still think should never be more than an an adolescent phase: the conviction that, just because we don’t like something, this makes the object of our disdain inherently and objectively bad; that there are good and bad things to like, and your aesthetic preferences say something meaningful about your character; that there were things not just that I hadn’t read but that I wouldn’t read, that I shouldn’t watch. Read the rest of this entry »

The Secret Circle Roundtable, Season 1 Episode 7: “Masked”

In teen soaps on October 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm

This week on The Secret Circle, Cassie throws a Halloween party replete with kidnappings; Faye wears a daring top and Diana wears some rad fake teeth; lots of people bleed, one person dies, one person burns, and one person gets a concussion (Cassie’s grandma, hope you’re okay!). Read the rest of this entry »

The Secret Circle Roundtable: Season 1, Episode 6, “The Wake”

In teen soaps on October 25, 2011 at 7:01 pm

This week finds our young witches mourning (or oddly not-mourning) the death of one of their own; reconfiguring with the appearance of a new circle member; and ducking witch-hunters. These kids can’t catch a break. Read the rest of this entry »

The Secret Circle Recap, Season 1, Episodes 4 & 5 (“Heather” & “Slither”)

In Secret Circle, teen soaps on October 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm

This week we recap times two! On the agenda, Heather and demons, Nick’s untimely death, more demons, wonderful grandmothers, and so many mysteries!

How scary do you think TSC was in the Heather-demon episode, on a scale of one to ten? Is the show scarier/darker than you expected?

Phoebe: I would say it was an 8, but maybe a 10 on the Secret Circle scary chart. I thought the Heather with demon situation was scary but so intriguing and added an extra layer to the mystery, which was rather intriguing.

Sarah: I agree with Phoebe’s rating. I normally don’t expect to be scared by CW shows—Buffy’s special effects were way too ridiculous to be fearsome, and Vampire Diaries is suspenseful but rarely chilling. But seeing Heather-as-demon levitate and chase Cassie really freaked me out. I think it bodes well for the series’ range, but badly for my ability to watch the show without hiding under a blanket.

Why do you think Heather went with Cassie’s mom that night? And now we know Cassie’s mom was good, yes?

Phoebe: Now I am thinking she went because she believed in Cassie’s mom or something and that Cassie’s mom was it turns out really good and not evil, as it was perhaps suggested last week. But she bound the demon and that seems like a good and nice thing. Or, maybe Heather already had the demon in her when they went to the shipyard? Or maybe they summoned the demons in the ship yard and Heather and Cassie’s mom went there to stop it? I don’t know! I want to know more …

Sarah: I think it seems like Heather went with Cassie’s mom because she wanted to support her best friend in preventing whatever dangerous ceremony was about to take place—which means that both Heather and Cassie’s mom were good. My guess is that they arrived too late, and the demon had already been summoned and entered Heather. Cassie’s mom couldn’t get rid of the demon, but she could stop the pain/torment by effectively sedating Heather.

What do you think about this evil demon apparently summoned in the parents’ binding ceremony? Did they intentionally summon the demon? What is its story/purpose? And, does this mean that the parents were always out to practice black magic, or was black magic an unintended consequence of the quest for more power?

Phoebe: I am so curious about this issue … It seems that the binding had already happened and they were toying with their magic and got intrigued, as a teen might, with black magic. I can imagine teen witches getting curious about summoning demons and then not able to foresee the consequences and still not wanting to ask their parents for help. It seems very much like teen life but with the added power of witchcraft things. But clearly, I think the parents got into black magic, but then maybe as we saw last week did not want it around anymore. I want to know more!!

Sarah: I think you’re right, Phoebe, that the parents were experimenting but not necessarily intending real harm when they summoned the demon. It seems likely that they didn’t understand what the consequences of their actions would be but were excited by the idea of getting more power and exploring their dark sides.

How great are television grandmas?

Phoebe: I love love television grandmas and particularly Cassie’s grandma. But it reminds me of how great Hanna’s grandma is on Pretty Little Liars. So great! She is so strong and badass and amazing. And she brought so much power into the room and commanded so much attention and respect and also is so supportive of Cassie. I <3 her so much.

Sarah: I concur. It’s so nice to see strong older female figures represented on television (not that the grandma is actually very old at all, she’s probably about 50 aka not anywhere near grandma-age in my family. But when you’ve got Cassie’s mom having a baby at roughly age 18 max I guess that makes sense). But yes, the grandma is awesome, and I’m relieved that she and Cassie are talking more openly about witchcraft now. I hope that openness doesn’t mean the bells are tolling for her!

What do you think about Nick’s untimely death?

Phoebe: I am so sad! i was loving the relationship between Melissa and Nick and how it was developing and I was sure that the grandma would bring Nick back to life in the same way that Dawn brought the school president back to life. But alas, not yet! Ugh. I was so interested in that story line. And also, what about Melissa’s possession? That was crazy! But also, I am really glad they did not kill her off as she rocks my socks, particularly as we are seeing her come into her own.

Sarah: I can’t believe Nick is really dead, and so early on in the series—it seemed like the show was really developing his character and his relationships with Melissa and Faye, so it was surprising to see him killed off. Assuming he doesn’t come back, though, I can see how his death may act as a catalyst for our other characters. Melissa will be grieving, Faye will be comforting Melissa, and Adam/Diana/Cassie will be trying to figure out a way to prevent such a death from happening again. I’m also interested to see whether Nick’s death will weaken the circle’s power—based on the dance episode, it seems as if one member’s death lessens the strength of the whole.

How do we feel about Charles and Dawn now? Post-killing Nick …

Phoebe: I feel SO conflicted. Like at once they did it to help Nick sort of, but also to protect the kids and themselves. Also, I feel like Charles is clearly interested in Dawn and so there may be some post-kill blossoming romance which seems weird. And interesting too that their crystal didn’t work and now what will they do? And I want to find out why they are so into getting their powers back I understand if you know once you were a witch and now you’re not and that that would totally suck. But, I feel like they have some super secret plan that we are not yet privy to.

Sarah: Yeah, I like that the show is deepening the complexity of those characters. Clearly they (and especially Charles) feel terrible about Nick’s death, but at the same time they’re guilty of causing it—not only because they drowned him to try to rid him of the demon, but if Dawn really wanted to be a hero she would have let the demon enter her instead of Nick. I think Dawn ultimately looks out for number one (and Faye, as an extension of number one). She’s not necessarily out to kill without discrimination, but most other people seem negligible, at least thus far. Charles, on the other hand, seems more conflicted—particularly when it comes to the kids.

When are we going to find out what happened the parents in the fire?!

Phoebe: I want to know SO badly. And I guess this is kind of covered by the other questions but I just want to know! But I also thought it was interesting that we learned that Cassie’s grandma did not know what happened with her daughter (Cassie’s mom) and so that now she seems not to be holding things back so that is interesting potentially …

Sarah: Yeah, my number one question is what happened that caused the death of one parent minimum per kid. And good point about the grandmother—it’s helpful to know that it’s as much a mystery to the elders (at least to a certain extent) as it is to the youngest generation.

The Secret Circle Recap, “Loner,” Season 1, Episode 3

In Secret Circle, teen soaps on October 5, 2011 at 8:14 am

Faye for the Win

Phoebe: Can we talk about redeeming friend moments?
Sarah: Let’s! First of all, i think Faye totally wins the friendship sweeps this week (and the awesomeness sweeps).
Phoebe: Agreed.
Sarah: For standing up for Melissa and telling Melissa to stand up for herself, and for giving Nick the what-for.
Phoebe: She was amazing! It was really cool to see girl friends stand up for each other, and to see Faye’s softer side.
Sarah: And also I loved her hilarious and affectionate delivery of the line, “See you losers tomorrow” addressed to Adam, Cassie and Diana. She is such a secret softie.
Phoebe: That was also amazing!
Sarah: And her insight into Nick hating Nick (not Nick hating Melissa) showed that she is good at reading people too. But what do you make of her expression when she sees Melissa and Nick walk away looking cozy? She kind of half-smiles to herself (which makes sense, given her actions making that come about), but then the smile drops and she looks sad. Which made me wonder:
– is she feeling lonely/left out?

- does she wish she were in a relationship?

- is she secretly in like with Melissa?

Phoebe: My gut instinct was that she was missing Melissa, but not that she wishes she was in a relationship with Nick. I didn’t get the she is into Melissa vibe, but I did get the being a teenager and feeling left out when your best friend starts dating vibe. But it is early yet! Who knows what will happen …
Sarah: Yeah, it could be just missing Melissa (or preparing herself to miss her). But I think I really want the show to have a gay character.
Phoebe: Fair enough — we will just have to wait and see.

Murders and Motives

Phoebe: What did you think of this new guy that was introduced? That went after the kids …
Sarah: Hmm well, I’m interested to see what develops re: his relationship with Heather and Amelia, and what happened with Heather at the binding ceremony
Phoebe: Indeed … From the preview it looks scary!
Sarah: But also, something that I thought was confusing was, in the initial scene with Cassie it seems like he still has fond memories of Amelia.
Phoebe: But then tried to kill Cassie
Sarah: WHY DOES HE WANT TO KILL HER?
Phoebe: Indeed it was very confusing
Sarah: I get that he wanted to get someone from the circle to break it. But i would think he’d pick someone else who was NOT the daughter of his old friend
Phoebe: But I think he blames Amelia for what happened to Heather. He says at one point that Amelia sucked her in and did the worst things to her after she started hanging out with the witchy crew. BUT also, that Heather never stopped believing in Amelia—hence why she wound up in the line of witch fire
Sarah: Right. I just hope the show gives us a reasonable explanation for the Cassie-targeting, otherwise it just seems like lazy storytelling.
Phoebe: Although, I surmise it was that she was in the wrong place at the right time, slash that he is super duper resentful of Amelia, hence Cassie was a target. But I think we are going to meet Heather next week. And she looked SO scary!
Phoebe: Also, what did you make of our first glimpse of bound magic?
Sarah: I’m a bit underwhelmed, but I’m sure it will develop more — the magic stuff seems a little hazy right now. What about you?
Phoebe: Yeah I concur, although I loved that paper flying scene in part as it just looked cool and also like straight out of The Craft, and it felt guided by the girls more than the guys—which I also like
Phoebe: Similarly, I am loving (despite that I think she is a little evil) how bad ass the principal is. She just is a take no prisoners kind of witch
Sarah: Yes, I think Dawn’s pretty tough. I like that she took the time out from saving the kids to order the two making out kids back to the gym. Double-duty!
Phoebe: YES. That was perfect, and then the way she threatens the dude who tried to kill Cassie, but doesn’t kill him. And makes it clear to Diana’s dad that they can’t just go around killing people all the time.

Make It or Break It or Decorate It and Then Talk About It Incessantly

Sarah: Also, what did you think of Luke?
Phoebe: I thought his response to Cassie’s not paying attention was kind of awesome. And I sort of want her to give him another shot or rather him to give her another shot.
Sarah: Yeah I’m curious to see if he’ll be a recurring character. He is from Make It or Break It, also, which makes me think he will be back
Phoebe: Oh really? Do you think he will have a gymnastics super power on this show? I would totally support that
Sarah: I think they could totally work in some cool backflips with all that witchcraft.
Sarah: And, did you like how Cassie was acting as if helping with decorations was like a HUGE commitment?
Phoebe: Right?! Did we even see them decorate? Those decorations certainly did not catch my eye …
Sarah: No! It was like three streamers and a balloon. And yet Cassie is using it as an excuse for why not to have a date and that she’s rounding up all of her circle friends to help. Think of better excuses, Cassie!
Phoebe: I could not agree more.
Sarah: Oh and speaking of the dance and of good friendship moments, I thought it was very sneaky (in a good-friend way) of Sally to make Cassie and Adam dance together. And apparently she was psychically conspiring with the DJ to make the music switch to a slow song
Phoebe: I also kind of like Sally and would like to see more of her. But now I am worried that more bad things will happen to Sally if she stays close to Cassie … Do you think there will be any consequences of Sally being brought back to life? We haven’t seen any yet, but Jeremy sees ghosts in Vampire Diaries.
Sarah: I hope so, because that would give Sally more to do (not that she is boring or anything, I’d just like her to have more plotlines).

Social Groups and Social Graces

Sarah: Something else that I’m hoping the show will explore is how other people at the school perceive the circle hanging out together — since it seems pretty divided into two social groups (Faye/Melissa/Nick and Adam/Diana/now Cassie). The audience knows why they’re all hanging out, but I bet the other kids at school would be confused. And I think that’s interesting to think about transgressing cliques and social boundaries.
Phoebe: Good point! I wonder how they will negotiate that too … but also they spend much time all together in secret. I do like the idea of transgressing cliques, but also that it is family-bound transgressions. But also, this was seemingly true for Amelia as we found out in this episode that she was not friends with the witch crew before.
Sarah: That reminds me: so Cassie is supposed to have a loner thing going on and she says she didn’t have much of a social life at her last school (slash any social life). But I find that hard to believe! Like she could well be flinty and whatnot, but she’s still a normal, nice girl. I think she would have had at least a friend or two.
Phoebe: I imagine her having a friend or two but kind of being on the outskirts and being super close with her mom … Also, I feel like I believe it more because Luxe (from Life Unexpected) was kind of a loner/bad girl, and so I feel like my perceptions of her have transferred to Cassie
Sarah: But Luxe had Bug and her BFF!
Phoebe: True … but Bug was terrible! wasn’t he?
Sarah: I could never decide!
Phoebe: But I imagine Cassie as that kind of loner—like a few friends but not popular, and not real social.
Sarah: I can buy that, I just want the show to acknowledge that she has a past beyond her mom. I guess because otherwise her character feels not filled out, and saying that she just didn’t have friends or a life at all before her new town feels like an excuse not to fill in the past more.
Phoebe: Also, it’s understandable if her mom was super suspicious of friends as things went horribly wrong in her circle, she might have passed that on to Cassie?
Sarah: Now THAT would be an acceptable explanation
Phoebe: Well in that case, I say that IS the explanation! That was my guess at it at least or why it would make sense …
Sarah: Okay if they don’t go there, I vote you write to the show and tell them they need to say so
Phoebe: Done and done.
Sarah: In order to appease the angry Sarahs of the audience
Phoebe: That is an important demographic.

The Secret Circle Roundtable: “Pilot,” Season 1, Episode 1

In girl culture, teen soaps on September 22, 2011 at 8:00 am

Teen shows are a kind of siren song for the ladies of Girls Like Giants. Naturally (or perhaps supernaturally?) we felt compelled to check out the CW’s new show The Secret Circle. Read on for a breakdown of the bewitching world of sad teens, missing and evil parents, youthful grandmas, and beautiful frozen raindrops (a perfect way to set the mood during a romantic trip to the woods!).

Cassie and Her Secret Circle

Sarah: So what do you make of our witch-y protagonist?

Phoebe: Well I have a soft spot for her post her performance as Lux on Life Unexpected. So I like her, as I think she is kind of grumpy which I like and stubborn.

Sarah: Yes, I didn’t see that show but I think she is a promising lead — I also like her grumpiness and the sense of integrity she projects. I think it’s interesting that Faye calls her “sad and delicate” because she’s understandably sad (given the death of her mother) but she didn’t really seem delicate.

Phoebe: Yes true. But not delicate at all

Sarah: It’s like Faye sees her as a Bella, but I have a feeling she’s way more of a Hermione

Phoebe: Yes, indeed and oddly unlike many of our current teen brunette heroines, she is blonde

Sarah: Right! More like a Buffy/Veronica Mars

Phoebe: Yes, totally like Buffy and VM (my fave). And all the other girl witches have brown-ish hair

Sarah: Which relatedly. What do you think of Faye and Diana? And their relationship with each other?

Phoebe:  I think Faye reminds me a little of The Craft and Neve Campbell/Robin Tuney, which I am digging. Diana, I am not sure yet especially given her dad is seemingly evil and a Vampire Diaries Elijah look-alike

Sarah: He does! I liked Faye a lot because I think she’s got the bad-girl vibe but isn’t evil herself. She’s interested in power, but she clearly doesn’t want to hurt people either. Read the rest of this entry »

My Fall TV Line-Up

In girl culture, teen soaps on September 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Phoebe Bronstein

I got this idea from one of my favorite daily blogs,Grantland, which did a Fall TV cancellation forcaste. I am super excited for Fall TV Season, so instead of a forcaste for failing, I decided to do a Fall TV Line-Up. So here are a few shows that I plan on most certainly watching (new and old), a few I might watch, and one I will definitely skipping.

New:

The Secret Circle (CW): I just watched the first episode, which is available free on iTunes (Thanks Sarah Todd!). It is Vampire Diaries-esque, but with witches and set in Seattle, apparently the new West Coast home for creepy (ie The Killing and Twilight). I won’t spoil anything from the pilot, but there are teenage witches, romance, dark shadows, and plotting parents. Plus it will be on right after Vampire Diaries, so clearly there is no good reason not to watch it.

Cassie of Secret Circle

Ringer (CW): Okay, so Ringer premiered last night and stars Sarah Michelle Geller (aka Buffy) as both good and evil twins (anybody else noticed a twin/doubles theme on recent teen television? Vampire Diaries, The Lying Game, and maybe PLL if my theories about A are correct). I feel that SMG is all I needed to be sold on this show. Seriously, Buffy’s back and now she has a twin.

Ringer = Buffy v. Buffy. Awesome.

The Hour (BBC): So this Mad Men-esque drama is set in the 1950s newsroom right at the shift from radio to television news. It started a few weeks ago, but I am including it here as it is really good and worth watching. It has a little bit of Mad Men and a dash of AMC’s short-lived but awesome and slowly paced Rubicon. There is murder, there is intrigue, there are great clothes, and rampant1950s sexism. As if that was not enough, The Hour also stars Jim McNulty (ie Dominic West) from The Wire as the face of the news program. Turns out he is British!

The cast of The Hour. Classy, No?

Up All Night (NBC): So I am not usually a fan of sit-coms, however, Up All Night, has such an awesome cast that I feel I will likely break my no sit-com streak. Tune in for Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett, and Christina Applegate. Sounds pretty good, right?

The Up All Night Comedy Team

And a few old:

Vampire Diaries (CW): Firstly, I just downloaded the free catch-up from iTunes and plan to watch it tomorrow before the Vampire Diaries premier. As far as I remember bad things are afoot in Mystic Falls. For one, Stephen is evil again (right?), Elijah escaped with Klaus but was then killed by Klaus (oops), Damon is still smoldering but not dying from a werewolf bite (yay!), and Caroline is still the most awesome vampire around.

Gossip Girl (CW): Even though the old standby wasn’t too great last season, I can’t stop watching it. It did get better near the end after all, when Chuck punched some glass amidst crazy camera angles, Blair officially left him (but will she be able to keep away? I hope so!) and went for the adorable and sweet Prince Louis. Serena stopped trying to be Blair, but not before she had unforgivably betrayed her (right?), and Blair and Dan are still BFFs who watch Netflix together but are not in love. Their friendship makes me happy. Oh yeah, and the crazy cousin Charlie, who was not a cousin! But rather someone, Lily’s sister paid off. So where is Serena’s real cousin? And what is the crazy Charlie imposter going to do now? Reek havoc on the Upper East Side? Most likely.

A few that might grace my TV:

The New Girl (FOX): I will admit I did laugh a lot in the pilot. But I have my reservations … See Melissa’s thoughts on it to see why it is on the maybe list.

Prime Suspect (NBC): Another year, another remake. This year NBC tackles a BBC and Helen Mirren classic. Perhaps it will be good, though I doubt as good as the original. Then again, I am rather partial to British television and the BBC.

Pan Am (ABC): Christina Ricci, Flight Attendants, looks like Mad Men. Maybe, just maybe since I do like Christina Ricci a pretty reasonable amount.

Definitely NOT:

Charlie’s Angels (ABC): I see no good reason to remake this show, which was then a myriad of movies. Thus, no good reason to watch it.

And lots of other stuff too.

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