We need to talk about television 

Tuesday 4 July, 2017

As you know, I am an entertainment consumer buff. If I’m not watching films, I’m watching TV, if I’m not watching TV, I’m playing games, reading books or listening to audiobooks. I go through cycles and phases but I am always consuming media of some sort. When my health craps out, when I have the flu, when I’m brain tired but not body tired, I watch television. I don’t want to sound like a hipster, but I was marathonning tv shows before it became ~cool~, before the Netflix generation inherited the earth.

Here’s the problem, television keeps dissappointing me. It might just be me and maybe I have high standards, but there’s not many television shows made in the last 10, even 20, years that I have watched from start to finish, without either losing interest half way through or suffering through mediocre plotlines and self contained episodes until I can’t suffer anymore.

I could give you a whole list of the shows that have lost me or dissappointed me in my entire life time, but, in all honesty I just tried and I derailed and ranted and remembered how dissappointed in House I was and that spurred a very long entry on it’s own, and then had to go for a lie down.

So I’m going to just mention the last few series I had high hopes for, and try to keep it to the point.

But saying that, shall we get it out the way first? House. You know how I feel about this show and it’s downfall. It was the best thing on television… for all of 2 and a half years. It was everything I wanted from a show, I didn’t even realise it was what I wanted from a show. Murder mystery in a medical setting, because the disease is the murderer. House, like Holmes, has to work out the intricate web of lies and livestyles to figure out why the victim is the target, and who is trying to murder his patient. Sometimes he went wrong, and killed them faster, but usually, the man and his ducklings came through and saved the day. What more could you ask for!?

Well, consistency would have been good for a start. Then longevity. And a little less of the producer’s own fantasy wish fullfilment. I think it should have finished at the end of series 3, when something shifted the focus away from Patient of the Week and Clinic Patient of the Week, on to character drama. Yes, okay, we could have had a bit more about Wilson’s brother in the first series, but there is a middle ground between the strict procedural that left us wanting it was in the first series and the soap it turned during series 3.

I said I wasn’t going to go on about it, and I won’t. But I just really wanted to get that out. I loved House, then House changed, I feel not for the better, and then it dragged us through 5 more series until it ended.

Shortly after that was Alphas. I know, it was generally disliked by the masses. It was like X-Men, it was stereotypical, it had problematic casting by casting a british non-disabled guy to play an American 20-something autistic guy. But… for the first series it was quite good! It had me hook, line and sinker. I do love me some mutant powers and hey, X Men 3 was a botch-job, I had to get my Mutants Saving The Day fix somewhere. And then series 2 happened, and one character’s own personal problems and a love triangle drove one half of the plot, and the other half of the plot came from a personal vendetta characer arc that dragged on for far too long. It just lost what made it enjoyable in the first series. It did not surprise me that it didn’t get renewed for a 3rd series, though I am annoyed they messed with the airing of the second in the UK off the back of that decision. It also could have improved for series 3, with the feedback of what failed in series 2.

I was briefly into Rizzoli and Isles. I seem to be a sucker for any show that is even remotely Holmes and Waston-esque. Here we have Jane Rizzoli, a streetwise hard boiled egg of a Police Detective with her friend and colleague, Dr Maura Isles, an intelligent but socially-blind Cheif medical examiner, working together to solve Murders of the Week. It works very well, and should have remained a strong series despite set backs and personal tragedies, but the writing team behind the scenes changed hands and took the show in a different direction. Apparently, in response to the fan reaction supporting the idea of Jane and Maura becoming an item, they promptly wrote in male love interests for both characters to prevent anyone from doubting the two main character’s sexualities or romantic interests is anything but straight. Nothing is confirmed but the implications have been noted by better notekeepers than myself.

The introduction of the love interests wasn’t as much of a problem for me as obvious signs that the new writers had no idea or care for what came before their involvement. Jane had a dog called Jo Friday, the dog dissappeard off-screen, and eventually we got the bizarre explanation that Jo Friday wasn’t Jane’s to begin with and has been returned to her real owners, which the Mum keeps in touch with. Thank God that explanation was scrambled together, otherwise we might have thought they’d killed off Jane’s beloved pet dog in an arson attack on her flat. The same arson attack that led to her moving in with Maura, which fuelled the relationship rumours the writers became concerned about.

Maura had a tortoise. I don’t know what happened to the Tortoise.  Then we have Jane’s brother Frankie, which is short for Francesco. But you wouldn’t know it from the once-proud Italian-American mother suddenly calling her Italian-American son “Frances”, which just would not have happened in the earlier series. And all  sorts of other little details that were retconned or ignored or over-shadowed in favour of lazy writing, which was clearly starting to affect the actor’s ability to act.

One day I just stopped putting myself through it. Much like what I did with Person of Interest. Talking of…

Person of Interest was a flash in the pan in my eyes, but that might be due to the binge watching. I came to this party very late in the game. It was already on hiatus in America, and it was on Hiatus, from what I can gather, because it lost thousand of viewers over the course of series 4 and something was aired during a mid-season break that got higher ratings so the cast were waiting both to see if the first half of series 5 would be aired, and if it was, whether they would be in the second half. Added to that, the writer’s had admitted to losing interest in the show and did not want to complete it.

Going from series 3 to eventually seeing most of series 4, I can see why it lost viewers. This show, which started off brilliant and almost flawless, and with characters you can believe to be real people, changed into something else. It was a procedural with heart. Finch was the leader, a bruised and broken genius who lost his best friend before the start of the show. He follows the intel a highly intelligent machine gave him, and gave orders to his second in command, John. Along the way, after a lot of pain and anguish, they make trusted acquaintences with two new york coppers, Joss Carter and Lionel Fusco. For the first 2 series, Finch’s greatest enemy is a megalomanic sociopath with computer skills to rival him, she goes by the name of Root and she kidnaps him and terrorises him. John’s ability to take down the enemy for Finch and save people because that’s what good poeple do, Finch’s determination to save people because nobody else can, along with the goodness of Joss Carter and Fusco’s redeption of wanting to do good for Selfless reasons drove the series.

The series all fell apart when the writers dissolved the friendship between Reese and Finsh almost over night during series 3. I don’t like to talk about queer baiting because I still don’t really understand the phrase, but all the work put in to Finch’s past, the relationship parallels between a normal couple of Finch and Reese’s friendship, not to mention the looks between them that don’t seem within the normal paramaters of Friendship, it really feels like a plot bomb that was dropped was the end result of queer baiting and everything was retconned rom there. Then they turned Root from a very scary Baddie, to a redeemed saviour who had all the answers. Suddenly she was better at programming than Finch, a better shot than Reese, and it didn’t matter that she was practically sexually harassing late-joiner Shaw, she was what Shaw was somehow missing after years of working for the ISA. What the Machine was at the start was always going to change, but there’s very little reasoning as to why it had to involve Root being the Machine’s mouth piece over the more logical choice of Reese. Her redemption makes no sense either. It wasn’t like Fusco’s, slow, well written, with acknowledgement of his earlier wrong doings. Root’s is “Well she’s good now because that’s what The Machine wants, let’s forget she spent 2 whole days terrorising Finch, that’s all in the past now~!”

I stalled during watching series 4. I’ve now got 2 episodes of series 4 to watch before I can start series 5 and I just don’t really want to. The procedural element went, there was a lost plotline to do with a third party team getting revenge, and that didn’t really go anywhere, and it does seem to be the “Look at how brilliant Root is at everything” show. That’s not what I signed up for when I started watching the show.

The most recent dissappointment was The Flash. I really liked the first series. I’d been meaning to watch everything Super-hero related everything anyway, I was just waiting for the time to become available as well as the DVDs, then a friend lent me her boxset of The Flash. I watched all of the first series in 2 and a half days. I thought it was Brilliant, and it wonderfully filled in the holes that Person of Interest was leaving me with. It ended on a cliffhanger and I was dying to find out what happened next.

Series 2 did not have the same effect. It started off well enough but somewhere along the line, I think maybe with the Wells we grew to love to hate (and love again if you’re into that sort of thing) going, the dynamics of the show changed. It didn’t quite make the new mark, and the ending annoyed me. This show is superhero procedural with an over-shadowing arc with a Big Bad, much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer was, and as the procedural element was being drowned out by personal drama as the character dynamic shifted and changed, the over-shadowing arc dragged on rather than shone. And then Barry pulled a Barry and left us all wondering why we wasted 23 hours of our lives watching series 2, specifically the Ross and Rachel plot line of Barry and Iris. And then series 3 happened. I won’t get too far into series 3, I think spoiler warnings can sometimes extend to a whole year! But I think it started off weak, everything was a mess canonically and it didn’t make for good watching… besides Julian. That was a nice little gem on an otherwise pile of bricks. I know the fandom loved the Musical episode. I was impressed by the singing, I wasn’t impressed with the execution or arbitrary plot developments leading up to it so that they could have it in the first place.

“Once More With Feeling” it was not.

And the big bad of the series? Called it. Though not the reasonings behind it, because I couldn’t have guesed that mess in a millon years. To me, that part of canon made very little sense whatsoever.

What has happened to this show!? I can only hope, without sounding like i’m mis-quoting D:Ream, things will get better. Before the last episode, I thought if the ending crapped out, I wouldn’t be watching series 4. I’ve heard that Arrow fell in a similar way and redeemed itself during series 4 and came back stronger, so I’m willing to give the 4th series a go. But it has until the 3rd episode to pull me in as much as the first series did, an if it doesn’t, I’m out.

It seems to me that most of these series start with a very strong recipe. They know what they want out of the show, so they know what to put in the show, and then suddenly what they planned ran it’s course. So they throw in personal drama, they change the dynamic, they hope it’ll make their characters grow but put hardly any of the groundwork to make it work like it did in the first series. They guess their audience and half the time they guess wrong.

I’m show hopping right now. I’ve found watchable shows to watch, such as The Blacklist, but nothing that has grabbed in the way that House/Alphas/POI/Rizzoli and Isles/Sports Night/The West Wing/Sherlock/Breakout Kings/Law and Order: Criminal Intent did before their inevitable downfalls.

And that’s what I think about Television now, and televsion shows. It’s only so long until the new shows of today have their inevitable downfalls, so is there really any point in investing time into watching them?

I want to end this on a special mention of the series of long, film length episodes: Hornblower. That show, though it changed over the years, and one of my favourite characters got killed off, never dissappointed me. Upset me, yes, but not dissappointed.

Asexuality Awareness Week – Day Four (Entry #1)

Thursday 30 October, 2014

First let me say that I know that I’ve let this ship sink somewhat, but I did not abandon it. I’ve been trying to update for months but between problems accessing my own computer and health problems, it’s been impossible to start and finish a post. By the time i can get back to it, the thread had been lost or the post was made completely irrelevant.

But I planned sticking to Asexuality Awareness Week. I had many ways for all areas of my life to celebrate it, but just before Monday, I came down with a flare up of Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome in my left hand, and accessing my computer became even more difficult. It also made using my phone in it’s place even more difficult. There is no good angle to position the phone in place whilst I type and I couldn’t hold the phone with one hand and type with my right. And the less said about dictating to my phone, the better.

Or as my phone would say: The best head about the taking, the fatter.

But as my hand has improved and my determination increased, I am sat awkwardly in front of my laptop.

So let the Awareness Week belated begin (Around these parts!)

Just a reminder of the basics: Asexuality is the lack of a sexual attraction towards other people, and/or the lack of sexual desire. It’s an umbrella term which also covers Grey A, which is a term for people who have fluctuating sexual desire or do find people sexually attractive, but barely and minimally; And it also covers demisexuality, which is when people have to have a romantic foundation with a person before finding them sexually attractive.

It also covers people who are aromantic, which is when people don’t have a romantic drive.

Not every asexual is aromantic, and not every aromantic person is asexual. Asexual people can also be heteromantic, biromantic and homoromantic. And, some asexuals do have sex, though I myself don’t nor do I understand how that’s possible.

The important thing is, is that even when we don’t understand something, sometimes we just have to accept it anyway.

So, them’s the basics! If you didn’t read any of my previous posts over the years, hopefully that sums it up for you.

Now, I have been an active participant in Asexual Awareness Week for three years, now. I’ve seen an increase of awareness and acceptance, I’ve kept track of celebrities who have labelled themselves asexual, and characters who were brought into pop culture as seemingly asexual. I then saw a shift in attitude towards asexuality. As acceptance for asexual people who have sex, for whatever their reasons or circumstances, increased and became the expected norm, acceptance for asexual people who don’t have sex plummeted.

People who have fought against ignorant questions and attitudes themselves turned to other people and did the same thing. I’ve seen plenty of asexuals who have sex state that there must be something clinically wrong with those of us who don’t.

I don’t understand why. If I’m meant to accept people who, to me, have changed the diameters of a term to include them, then why can’t they accept people who, to me, were the meaning of the word? Asexual. As in lack there of.

I said all this last year, and unfortunately, it’s either the same or even worse, depending on your point of view.

Popular Culture has very much taken a dive for the worst. Lady Gaga is no longer asexual. Though I did predict that as soon as she declared herself to be. All popular fictional characters we once undoubtedly knew were asexual have been put through the sexual desire mangler. I do realise that I am on the cusp of the controvercial fault line, because I know demisexual people who can relate to Sheldon Cooper. Unfortunately, I can’t see it the same way as they seem to do.

If the creators had said “This is a character who is asexual. He might discover, somewhere down the line, he’s demisexual, and it’s a struggle for him.”, well, I’d take it with a pinch of salt but I’d have no foundations for an argument. They didn’t do that, though. Almost from the start, creators and actors alike talked around the issue, never used the words or terms, and have said in many different ways that one day the character might grow up and find a girlfriend. But of course, that can’t possibly insult an asexual person, because they’ve never explicitly used the word “asexual”.

But, what can be an asexual’s struggle has become the butt of their punch line. I feel like any relationship between Sheldon and Amy is for a build up of Will They/Won’t They, although knowing how sitcoms work, it’s probably more “Of course they will, but when!?”.

I feel like this entire relationship is just a way of “normalising” Sheldon. It’s saying, “People who aren’t interested WILL become interested if the person is persistent enough” It doesn’t do any favours for asexuality or asexual people at all.

I’ve said before about the problem with giving any label to Sherlock Holmes. It’s only open to interpretation due to the lack of explicitness, and hardly anyone seems to be taking into consideration the times the books were written in. The telly shows don’t just interpret Holmes’s orientation in their own ways, they seem to interpret Asexuality in their own ways as well.

Stephen Moffat has said Asexual people are boring, that’s why his Sherlock isn’t asexual. The people behind the american version seem to confusing asexuality with celibacy (The conscious decision Not to have sex rather than a lack of desire). How are we meant to normalise asexuality if people keep going out of their way to give the mass media the wrong idea?

And there really hasn’t been anything else, that I know of, to bring asexuality out of the niche of internet and into the general public.

And I can tell this because, in the past six months, I have filled in two Equal Opportunities-like forms and there still isn’t an Asexual tick box for the Sexual Orientation question. That’s how invisible we are. People who are meant to be in the know about these sort of things either don’t know, or don’t care.

And that, yet again, is why this week is so important.

I’m sad that all my plans fell apart right before it started, but hopefully I’ll be able to do some catch up today.

And hopefully I’ll be back with more Awareness tomorrow. For more information and ranting, please feel free to look through my previous Asexual Awareness Week posts.

I’ve been your Asexual Failed Journalist.

Good day!

Unofficial Asexual Awareness Week 2012 – Part 3

Thursday 25 October, 2012

Last year when I blogged about asexuality, I talked about how much representation we do and don’t have in the media, and how the portrayals could potentially and actually do affect the asexual community.

I used Sheldon Cooper, Sherlock Holmes and Lady Gaga as examples, because those at the time were probably the most visible to a mass audience and fan base. A year on, and, well, hmm… Let’s start with Sheldon, shall we?

Sheldon Cooper is a fictional character from The Big Bang Theory. Now, I’ve not seen the show since before the last time I blogged about this exact same thing. I saw up to where Amy came into it, and Sheldon kept stating that she wasn’t his girlfriend, she was a friend who was a girl. Sounds ridiculous, but can make all the difference in the asexual community.

It was never explicitly said that Sheldon was asexual. The closest we got was when his friends talked about “His Deal”, meaning what he was ~into~, gender inclination wise, and his best friend Leonard said he didn’t think he had a “Deal”, implying asexuality. But it was enough to go on for the time being, because it’s the closest a show had got to saying “This character is asexual”.

The thing is, and this is where it gets a bit muddy, asexuals do have relationships. Asexuals have sexual relationships, even. But a year on, they have Sheldon in a relationship with a character who isn’t asexual and any changes in the nature of their relationships seem to be played for laughs. It’s no longer just a question of whether this character is asexual or not, it’s a question of how many of this characters oddities affect his romantic life. As I’ve said, I’ve not seen the episodes, but if TV Tropes are anything to go by, he’s getting more and more romantically and sexually involved with his now more-of-a-girlfriend-than-just-a-friend and is more likely just repressing that side because, well, in-show reasons are probably down to scientific reasons. Hygiene, cleanliness, waste of time when he could be figuring out the higgs-boson particle.

Out of show, though, in Meta Land, it’s probably just to make fun of the character by saying “Oh look how weird he is”.

It leaves those of us who are asexual and don’t have sex and so on and so forth in the dark with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths. Now, of course, he could be demisexual, he could be a grey-A, his sexuality could have changed due to sexuality being fluid. But this isn’t reality, this is Chuck Lorre land where things aren’t that complex. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sheldon having sex was treated as a phenomenal event as he finally transcends from Wierdsville into Normal Land.

I was never too happy with Sheldon being a portrayal of an asexual in the first place, just because of the way they treated it as a part of his quirks and characteristics. It was like the icing on the cake. But it was better than nothing. Now if people were to use him as an example of an asexual, I don’t think many asexuals would be happy about it.

Next up is Sherlock Holmes. Now, given the time and era that the stories were originally written in, it was also never said outright whether the character was asexual, just that he had no interest in relationships. There probably wasn’t even a word back then for asexuality,  they barely understood homosexuality, so the description leaves a gap for people to fill. It might mean he had his heart broken pre-canon and it left him disinterested in trying again, it could mean he wasn’t interested in relationships but used, erm, women of service if you get my drift. It could mean anything if you didn’t want to go for the flat, straight forward meaning of the words “not interested”. The lack of a known and defined term isn’t proof that he wasn’t asexual.

Nobody can say for sure, but there’s plenty of reason to believe ACD was trying to portray a man who didn’t care about sexual relationships with men or women, only the work and his enemies and of course, his dearest friend John Watson.

There’s also plenty to go on in the canon to suggest he’s gay. Maybe he’s not interested in relationships because homosexuality was a punishable crime during that time. You look for something and you’ll find it in some nook or cranny of one of the stories. Is it likely that Conan-Doyle intended to write a gay romance story incidental to a detective series? Again, there’s enough there to suggest yes as there is enough there to say that’s a ludicrous suggestion.

Last time, I talked about the BBC modernisation of the stories, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. There were many reasons to believe that the BBC version was portraying an asexual Sherlock. Even after series two aired. The problem is, of course, are the writers.

They’ve written scenes that imply he’s asexual. The awkward dinner at Angelo’s with the awkward “married to my work” conversation being the first that comes to mind (which I also mentioned last time), followed with the un-aired pilot’s version of that scene where it’s made even more clear that he doesn’t do relationships. Even the Irene Adler episode, which was turned into a story about a dominatrix blackmailing people to save her own life.

Many might say that, due to the chemistry and the nakedness and Sherlock’s interaction with her, and the way John treated Sherlock’s interaction with her. that he felt something for her. He certainly gained some respect for her, even if it wasn’t really how it went in the canon, but even if he did care for her on some level, caring doesn’t automatically mean a sexual interest. Maybe to sexuals, but not to asexuals, and that’s the problem. That’s the very nature of asexuality, caring for people without a hint of a sexual connection.

Personally, I don’t see it. She was a clever person who got into a bad situation who gave Sherlock the run around, but I can’t see him being interested in her beyond a case the same way I can’t see him being interested in Moriarty beyond a case. He didn’t do anything to encourage her interest, and as we know from one scene, he didn’t even reply to her texts.

I think there was more in that episode to further the asexual possibility, or the gay rumours, than there was for romantic interest in Irene Adler.

But then the writers say “Oh, well, you know, we didn’t intend for that to be the case. He is a sexual person, but he’s too busy to be interested in it.” and interviews that suggest that asexuality might just be a bit too weird for Sherlock Holmes.

Well, I know plenty of asexuals who say that exact thing. Yeah, they could have sex if they wanted to, but there’s better things to be dong. It, for them, is exactly what makes them asexual. I’m a bit offended by this brush off, when scholars and literary fanatics have plenty of source material out there that suggest that is also exactly what makes Sherlock Holmes asexual, and that the only reason we don’t know for sure is because ACD never said. (And we’ve come full circle)

Don’t get me wrong, I adore Cumberbatch and his acting, but he has a hell of a case of verbal diarrhoea, and Moffat can be just downright offensive with his opinions of the asexual community.

Unfortunately, like I said in my first post this week, more visibility has led to a lot more anti-asexual comments thrown around. I still think Sherlock Holmes, in most formations, comes across as asexual. Maybe not aromantic, but definitely, in my eyes, asexual. Even if Gatiss, Moffat, Thompson and Cumberbatch don’t agree, I hope they’ll remain just as respectful as the canon not to screw with it too much in the third series and aim for a romantic interest for Sherlock. It was never in the books, and Moffat and Gatiss are Canon fanboys, so there’s hope. But there’s also an audience to please and there’s plenty of people hoping for romance between Sherlock and Molly…

Sherlock Holmes of the Elementary series, however, apparently made it very clear that he was not asexual. I won’t go on to comment as I haven’t seen it for myself, also I don’t want a comparison between the two versions of Modern!Sherlock to take over.

I think the worst hit to the asexual community this year was probably the episode of House. I’ve not seen the episode because I gave up on House a few years ago, but I know the outrage it caused.

This was the first time Asexuality was brought up on a hit television show that hits a very wide audience across the world. It would have been the first many people will have even heard of asexuality. Television shows, whether they mean to or not, do help shape some people’s opinions about things. They’d already seen the effect it had on the medical profession, whether it was people self-diagnosing themselves with conditions they’d seen on the show and being wrong, sometimes being right, or influencing the level of standards patients expected from their doctors. Even some research facilities reported a demand for tests and equipment that worked the way they do on the show and actually aiming to create/recreate them (the same way Star Trek invented CDs).

Given all of that, which they are aware of, you’d think it would have aimed to treat it with respect, but no.

The asexual characters were disbelieved, mocked and then proven to not be asexual, just as House had said all along. It showed asexuality to be caused by a brain tumour, and his wife just lied to make him happy. It furthered the opinion that people can’t possibly know they’re not interested in sex until they can try it properly, it furthered the opinion that asexuality was something to cure and most importantly, it portrayed asexual people as not really existing.

Now, people say it’s just television. No one in their right mind would believe or take anything away from that episode, but I am telling you as a member of the asexual community that it did have an effect. It validated all those people who don’t believe in asexuality, and I know it because I’ve seen comments that say so.

And worse, when people of the asexual community complained and demanded an apology, the response from the general public was “I don’t know why they’re so upset.”

If that was any other minority, there’d be outrage in the general public too. But no, because asexuality still isn’t understood, this portrayal was allowed and worse, accepted.

No apology can reverse that.

So, who do we have left who may or may not be asexual in the mass media, hitting a wide audience?

Well, Lady Gaga’s suspiciously quiet as of late but at least she hasn’t announced she’s no longer asexual.

Castiel, the angel from Supernatural is apparently asexual. He’s an angel. I don’t know much about the show, but it is a big hit so that definitely counts if it’s true. There’s not much else out there.

There’s plenty around in the small corners of the internet but as for reaching the masses? We’re once again left wanting.

Thank you for reading!