Monday, January 31, 2011

People of Color on the Vampire Diaries: Witches & Dead Bodies

Back when we were watching the first two episodes of the second season of The Vampire Diaries, we noticed something... There really aren't too many people of color in Mystic Falls. And those that were there? Most of them seem to be dead by now, except for a select few that have been allowed to survive in order to do the bidding of the other characters on the show.

First of all, as a show in general, The Vampire Diaries is extremely white to begin with. This is somewhat the fault of the books on which the show is based (even Bonnie's character was originally white) and maybe partially the fact that it's on the CW (home of other very white shows like Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill). Also there's the apparent obsession that this fictional town has on its founders. I get why this is an important plot device - flashbacks, family vendettas, etc - but the importance that the characters put on so-and-so being the descendant of so-and-so is racist and classist in and of itself because basically all the super important founders were white rich guys, therefore a lot of the show focuses on them and their rich white descendants.

As we continued through season 2, we noticed that there are only two roles for people of color on The Vampire Diaries: witches and dead bodies. (Or sometimes... dead witches.)

Maybe you think we're overreacting or exaggerating?

There has been violence directed at people of color from the start. Now in their defense, there has been violence aimed at... well, everyone on this show. But it's interesting that so many people of color are treated as disposable bodies. It's such a cliche horror trope ("the black dude dies first"). Let's take a look back at some of the fatalities and feedings...

Bree (Gina Torres) appeared in one episode and was killed by Damon in "Bloodlines" (episode 11).

Bonnie's grandmother, Sheila "Grams" Bennett (Jasmine Guy) appeared in 5 episodes and died in "Fool Me Once" (episode 14) because the spell she did to help Elena and the Salvatores took too much out of her.

Harper (Sterling Sulieman), one of the tomb vampires, appeared in 5 episodes - where he mostly just took orders from Pearl - and was killed by John Gilbert in "Blood Brothers" (episode 20).

There have been only two prominent Asian characters - Pearl (Kelly Hu) who appeared in 7 episodes and her daughter Anna (Malese Jow), 11 episodes. Both are now dead at the hands of the same rich, white guy, John Gilbert, having been staked in "Blood Brothers" (episode 20) and "Founders Day" (episode 22) respectively.

Nurse Haynes (Terri James) appeared in 2 episodes. She was not killed, but was attacked and fed on by brand new vampire Caroline in "Brave New World" (season 2, episode 2).

Carter (B.J. Britt) appeared in one episode,"Brave New World" (season 2, episode 2) in which he was used twice - first as a pawn to test the Lockwoods' powers and then as food for Caroline.

The character of Aimee (Tiya Sircar, who is Indian American) appeared in 3 episodes, in which she did little more than flirt with Matt and Tyler and make Caroline mad. She was killed by Katherine in "Masquerade" (season 2, episode 7).

An unnamed maintenance worker (George Bryant) appeared in one episode, for about 10 seconds, before being brutally killed by Rose in "The Descent" (season 2, episode 12).

And then there are the witches... Possibly the most powerful characters the show has seen yet were women of color, however most of them are reduced to sidekicks or servants.

There's Emily Bennett (Bianca Lawson), Bonnie's ancestor who was a handmaiden to Katherine back in the day. Without her, the vampires wouldn't be able to walk around in the daylight; there would be no magic life-saving rings or "the device" or anything. Even after death she was able to do some serious magic, including possessing Bonnie.

All of the Bennett's descendants that we've met so far have also been extremely powerful. "Grams" (Jasmine Guy) proved that she had some pretty strong powers before she died.

As Bonnie (Katerina Graham) grows as a witch she can easily take Damon down without blinking. Yet, she is often portrayed as Elena's lap dog/annoying bitch. She's way too powerful to simply do the bidding of the Salvatores and Co., yet that's basically what her character has been reduced to.

And all of the witches are black. All of them...

When Damon sought out the advice of another witch, Bree (Gina Torres) in episode 11, we didn't really think about the fact that she was black.

When we first saw Lucy (Natashia Williams), the witch who did Katherine's bidding in the "Masquerade" episode (season 2, episode 7) we were a little suspicious. But when it turned out she was also a Bennett, we accepted it.

But then we just really had had it when we met the Martins - Dr. Jonas Martin (Randy J. Goodwin) and his son Luka (Bryton James) - and it was revealed that they were also witches (or "warlocks", ugh). We certainly hope they're not secretly related to the Bennetts because of the creepy way that Luka has been flirting with Bonnie. They seem to be original vampire Elijah's personal go-to warlocks. Yet again powerful people of color are reduced to doing the bidding for some white dude.

It would be less weird if there was at least one witch or warlock who wasn't black, but at this point all seven have been. It's just really ridiculous. Especially when the only black non-witches all die pretty quickly.

We love everything else about the show, we do... but it's really hard to ignore this. I wonder if the producers/writers even consciously realize that they're doing it, but it's gone beyond the point where we can realistically accept that it's just a coincidence. It's possible that they're just trying to add a little diversity to the cast and unfortunately, the nature of the show calls for the majority of that cast to get killed (or have magic powers) but we think that's cutting them a little too much slack. We do have to give them a little credit that they made the character of Bonnie a woman of color in the first place - because in the original books she is white - so good for them for creating a black character and giving her strong powers. But what they've done with her character - and every other minority character on the show - is just a big FAIL all around.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Being Human comes to the U.S.

When The Gates first aired we asked the question, "Do we really need another show about vampires and werewolves?" (Apparently not, because the show was cancelled after only one season.) Between True Blood and The Vampire Diaries ("True Blood Teen") our supernatural cravings were pretty satisfied.

So when we heard that Syfy was going to start airing a U.S. remake of the BBC show Being Human we asked ourselves the same question... only this time I have to admit I was tempted to answer 'yes'. Yes! We do need it! But do we really?

The BBC's Being Human is a pretty cool show. It didn't follow the same cliche tropes that many of the other shows and films did. (Not that it was free from cliches, but it handled them differently. Maybe it was a British thing, I don't know.) So of course, I had mixed feelings when I saw commercials on Syfy for an American remake (or as they call it, a 'reimagining'). Would it live up to its roots? Would it capture the same essence of the U.K. version? Would this become the new U.S. vs U.K. debate (replace that of The Office)?

Watching a remake is always a little weird... whether you liked the original or not. But when you did really like the original, it's hard to accept new actors portraying the characters you've grown to love...

The cast of the original BBC show:  
Mitchell the vampire (Aidan Turner), George the werewolf (Russell Tovey), Annie the ghost (Lenora Crichlow);  
The cast of Syfy's version:  
Josh the werewolf (Sam Huntington),  Sally the ghost (Meaghan Rath), Aidan the vampire (Sam Witwer).

I'm not completely convinced that I will be able to accept this as a remake of the original... but as a show on its own, it was pretty good. I'm hoping that people - myself included - will be able to forget that there was a BBC version and just watch this as its own, separate show. The first episode was pretty cool...

For those of you not familiar with the BBC show or the Syfy one... Being Human follows three main characters living together in an apartment - a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost. The premiere episode opened up with a monologue from Josh, the self-loathing werewolf::
"I'm only human", you say, and all is forgiven. But what if some cruel, small twist of fate makes you something else, smething 'other'? Who forgives you then? Every human spends a night or two on the dark side and regrets it. But what if you only exist on the dark side? We just want the same things that you do - a chance at life, at love. We're not so different in that way. And so we try. And sometimes fail. But when you're something 'other'... a monster... the consequences are worse. Much worse. You wake up from your nightmares. We don't.
The opening juxtaposed Josh and Aidan (the vampire)'s respective experiences 'failing' ... Josh, having transformed into a werewolf, awakens in a naked bloody mess. Aidan, having been invited up to a coworker's apartment for sex... finds it too hard to resist draining her of blood. Yes, when you're something 'other', the consequences are worse. Both characters work at a hospital together and they decide to become roommates so they can help each other try to be 'human'.
Josh: I used to think this curse was what happened to me once a month. Then I realize this, this is the curse. Every day. Sitting on a bench, watching people walk by, eating sandwiches, making plans, being... what I used to be. I just tell myself "well Josh, this is what you get, this is what you deserve, this is what you are... now". I can't do this like this any more.
They end up renting a place from a guy named Danny who admits that his fiance Sally died there... and they soon discover that her ghost is still there! She's kind of excited about the fact that they can actually see her (being 'supernatural' as well) because she can finally have a conversation that isn't one-sided. She's got issues of her own though... not only does she not know how she died in the first place (the last thing she remembers is going to sleep) but she can't figure out how to leave the apartment.

Aidan as dealt with ghosts before, but Josh isn't exactly thrilled about a ghost being all up in his business.
Sally: Anyway... you two gonna go all Twilight on each other at some point?
Aidan: Excuse me?
Sally: I know what you are.
Josh: How?
Sally: Because it's all you guys ever talk about: 'I wanna be normal... but I can't, 'cause I wanna eat people'... etcetera.
Of course, the guys have got a lot more to worry about than an extra roommate. Aidan is really trying to resist feeding off of live people (preferring to steal from the blood bank at the hospital) but sometimes he slips up... like he did by killing his date the other night. Her disappearance has prompted an investigation and he's the prime suspect. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it) he's got some help from Bishop who is both a police officer and the leader of a nearby vampire legion. Bishop is determined to lure Aidan back into this evil vampy ways.

Josh on the other hand is a self-loathing werewolf and really doesn't want to kill anyone anymore either. Of course, as we know, you cant always get what you want. This first episode hammered that point pretty strongly... and leaves us with a pretty heavy cliffhanger.

Josh has discovered a secret room in the basement of the hospital that he can lock himself in during the full moon. His plan however is complicated when his sister shows up at the hospital and wants to know where the hell he's been for the past two years! She follows him into the basement and they're accidentally locked in together... which puts her at risk for being torn limb from limb.

Josh calls Aidan for help, but he's not answering his cell. Why? Because he's at what appears to be a vampire blood/sex club... having been tempted by Bishop. He's too busy to answer the phone because he's sucking blood out of some hot lady. Hm. He calls the house hoping to get some help from Sally, but she hasn't even figured out how to turn the doorknob, let alone open the door and get the hell out of there.

Dun dun dun....

I'm definitely looking forward to the next episode and hoping that the show lives up to its name. It will take a lot to stand up to the original, but I'll give it a chance.

Best quote of the episode (next to Sally's Twilight reference, which was hilarious):
Aidan: So what about what I said, what about the apartment?
Josh: Yes, it's perfect, that's a great idea, let's do that. It's perfect. We'll have full moon parties. We'll invite the neighbors over... and eat them.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Vampire Diaries: The Return to Season 2

The Vampire Diaries is back! And it's just as cheesy and melodramatic as they always were... not that we're complaining.

Back during the first half of Season 2 [season 2 refresher here] we learned that Elena - the doppelganger - is the key to breaking the Sun-and-Moon spell (you know, the one that keeps most vampires from going out during the day and makes werewolves turn only during the full moon) so the oldest vampire in the history of time, Klaus, is looking for her so he can kill her. One of the original vampires, Elijah has offered to keep Elena safe from Klaus, as long as she plays by his rules so he freed Stefan from the tomb, while Katherine is still stuck in there. Meanwhile Caroline helped Tyler get through his first full moon werewolf transition. Mason Lockwood is dead and his werewolf friend Jules has come to town. She took a big bite out of Rose's shoulder (she was trying to get to Damon) and since werewolf bites are fatal to vampires, she's slowly dying.

This episode opens up with Jules, naked and bloody, surrounded by campers who have been torn limb from limb, most likely by her after the full moon. Bad werewolf.

Tyler's grateful to Caroline for helping him get through his first full moon and she reveals to him that his bite can kill a vampire. He wants to know how she knows so much about werewolves, but Matt interrupts them to give her a big smooch and a make-up speech that's sure to make her feel like shit ("you're a lot of things, but you're not a liar" ha!). She runs away, of course, but then later tells him that she loves him... only to run away again.

Stefan is trying to build up a tolerance to vervaine, just like Katherine did and while Elena is happy to have him back from the tomb, he can't help but keep worrying like the angsty teenager vampire that he is. He wants to get answers from Isobel, Elena's biological mother who was an expert on werewolves and vampires (before becoming one of the latter). Damon wants answers too because Rose's werewolf bite is looking mighty infected and she's slowly dying from it unless they can figure out a cure. They both think Isobel could help and even though Alaric tells them not to trust her, he gives he the last contact number he had for her.

Damon is rightfully pissed at Jules and he offers to not kill her in exchange for info on how to cure a wolf bite, but she claims there's nothing he can do.
Jules: You want a cure? I'll tell you the only cure that exists. Take a stake and drive it through her heart.
Damon leaves Elena to take care of Rose, whose health is quickly deteriorating.
Elena: You're not going to die.
Rose: Such a human thing to say.

Rose then apparently begins to lose her mind as well, mistaking Elena for Katerina (Katherine) and trying to kill her. Elena hilariously protects herself by pushing a dresser in front of the door... are you kidding me? That's going to keep a vampire out? Really? C'mon. Give us a break. I don't care how sick she is...

Rose runs away and shows up at the pep rally (or something? God, Mystic Falls is all about the supernatural creatures and the extra-curricular special events). She's puking behind a dumpster when a custodian tries to help her, so she kills him. Another person of color killed after 5 seconds on screen. What else is new? Don't worry, she shortly afterward kills a white couple too. Damn and Elena find her and she snaps out of it long enough to writhe in pain and beg Damon to just "make it stop". (Congrats to the makeup department for the work they did on Rose by the way... perfect combination of vampire and sick).

Tyler goes to Caroline's house... he can't believe that she risked death (if he had bitten her by accident) in order to help him. And then he plants one on her!

Caroline: Everyone just needs to stop kissing me!
Damon psychically takes Rose to a meadow she enjoyed as a child (in a dreams that he compels, somehow) before giving her a mercy stake through the heart. Vampire euthanasia. Wait... was Damon crying? They keep showing us signs of his softer side... but of course, no good can come of this.

Elena: A friend usually knows when their friend is hurting.
Damon: What do yo wanna hear? That I cared about Rose? That I'm upset? Well I didn't and I'm not.
Elena: There you go, pretending to turn it off, pretending not to feel. Damon, you're so close, don't give up.
Damon: I feel Elena. Okay. And it sucks. What sucks even more is that it was supposed to me. Jules was coming after me.
Elena: You feel guilty.
Damon: That would be human of me, wouldn't it Elena, and I'm not human. You're one to talk about giving up. It's all you've done is give up. Go home. There's been enough doom, gloom and personal growth for one night.
Jules finally talks to Tyler and tells him that she's a werewolf too and offers to help him. She also tells him that Mason was murdered and that Caroline and "her little vampire friends" were behind it.

Tyler: Who are you?
Jules: I'm your friend. There are others like us and they're on their way.
Uh oh.
Meanwhile... Stefan couldn't find Isobel, but he found the next best (er, worst?) thing... Yep. Uncle Daddy is back! John Gilbert. Oh boy.

Mysteriously missing from this episode: Bonnie and Jeremy. Guess Elena and the Salvatores didn't need them to use them for anything. In my mind, I like to believe that they were off somewhere having sex.

The episode ends with Damon going through a downward spiral of existential crisis with an innocent bystander victim, named Jessica...

Jessica: I don't want any trouble.
Damon: Neither do I. But it's all I got is trouble.  .... You are my existential crisis. Do I kill you or not kill you?
Jessica: Please don't.
Damon: But I have to, Jessica. Because I'm not human. And I miss it. I miss it more than anything in the world. That is my secret. But there's only so much hurt a man can take.
Jessica: Please don't.
Damon: Okay. You're free to go.
And then he kills her! Love you Damon... still love you Vampire Diaries.

Vampire Diaries Season 2 (Part I) Refresher

The first half of The Vampire Diaries Season 2 ran from September to December 2010... It has been a long cold winter waiting for the second half and finally it's here! But before you read our recap/review of this week's episode, here's a little recap of what you may have missed at the beginning of Season 2...

[For a refresher course on Season 1 - go here]

Episode 1: The Return

Katherine has returned, is impersonating Elena, and tried to kill John Gilbert. Caroline is in the hospital after the car accident and Damon has given her some blood to aid in her recovery. Tyler's uncle Mason has come back to town after the death of his brother (Tyler's dad). Katherine tells Damon she never loved him and only ever loved Stefan. Damon tries to kiss Elena and she basically tells him the same thing. He snaps Jeremy's neck but he's safe because he was wearing John's ring. Katherine kills Caroline - who has Damon's blood in her system - and tells her to give the Salvatores a message "Game on".

[For a full recap of episode 1 and 2 of Season 2 - go here]

Episode 2: Brave New World

Caroline wakes up in the hospital as a confused vampire and feeds on a nurse. Tyler's uncle Mason is looking for a family moonstone. Damon compells a guy at the carnival to pick a fight with Tyler in order to provoke him (so they can figure out what he is) but Mason breaks it up with superhuman strength (werewolf!) Then Caroline drains the poor guy. Bonnie blames Damon and Stefan promises to help Caroline.

Episode 3: Bad Moon Rising

Elena, Damon and Alaric look into Isobel's research on Katherine and the Lockwoods. Stefan teaches Caroline how to be a better vampire and
and Caroline, but Tyler stops them. Caroline breaks up with Matt in order to protect him from herself.

Episode 4: Memory Lane

Caroline is forced to follow Katherine's orders. Stefan tries to give Katherine vervaine but she reveals that she's developed an immunity to it. Damon stabs Mason with a silver knife, but learns that the whole silver-kills-werewolves thing was just a myth. Oops. No one will die the way they're supposed to! Katherine gives Stefan and Elena an ultimatum: she will kill everyone Elena cares about unless they end their relationship so they pretend to break up.

Episode 5: Kill or Be Killed

Elena and Stefan continue to be fake-broken up. Mason tells Sheriff Forbes that the Salvatores are vampires. Caroline and Elena save them, but now Caroline's mom knows she's a vampire. Caroline apologizes to Elena for spying on her for Katherine and explains that she did it to protect Matt. Tyler almost kills a girl by accident and learns of the Lockwood curse (if you kill someone, you become a werewolf). He gives him the moonstone and we learn that Mason is in cahoots with Katherine.

Episode 6: Plan B

Jeremy offers to help Damon get rid of Katherine. Caroline's mother is compelled to forget that Caroline is a vampire. Bonnie helps the Salvatores get Mason. They torture him for information and then kill him. They find the moonstone but it's buried in a well full of vervain. Katherine compells Jenna to stab herself and compells Matt to attack Tyler so Tyler will kill him and trigger the werewolf curse.

Episode 7: Masquerade

Jenna lives. Alaric keeps an eye on her and Elena while everyone else (Bonnie, Jeremy, Caroline and both Salvatores) go after Katherine at the masquerade ball. Katherine is there pretending to be Elena and she has her own witch to help her, Lucy. Matt picks a fight with Tyler, but Caroline breaks it up. But of course, Katherine had a backup plan compulsion, so drunk girl Sara tries to stab Tyler and he accidentally kills her. The werewolf curse is on! Elena, never one to be left in the dark, goes to the ball to find out what the heck is going on... Stefan and Damon try to kill Katherine, but she's been magically linked to Elena so everything they do to her Elena also feels. Jeremy gets them to stop and Bonnie confronts Lucy, who cast the spell. Turns out Lucy is Bonnie's distant cousin and she agrees to lift the spell and causes Katherine to collapse. She wakes up locked away in the tomb, where she was supposed to be all along. She warns Damon that Elena is in danger and then wouldn't ya know it, she's kidnapped by someone.

Episode 8: Rose

Jeremy tells Stefan that Elena is missing. She's been kidnapped by two vampires named Trevor and Rose, who intend to give her to an 'original' vampire named Elijah. It turns out she is the Petrova doppelganger and the key to breaking the curse that keeps vampires from going out in daylight and makes werewolves only able to change on the full moon. Trevor had helped Katherine escape the originals many years ago and he and Rose have been running from them ever since. Tyler gets Caroline to tell him what's going on with his newfound abilities after Sara's death. She tells him she's a vampire. Bonnie casts a spell to find Elena and the Salvatores go off to rescue her. Elijah kills Trevor and compells Elena to tell him where Katherine and the moonstone are. Damon stakes Elijah and they get Elena home. Rose warns them that Klaus, the oldest of the originals, will be coming after Elena. Damon admits to Elena that he loves her, then compels her to foget and puts her vervain necklace back on her. PS: Surprise! Elijah isn't really dead!

Episode 9: Katerina

Flashback to Katherine in Bulgaria in 1490 giving birth to a baby girl. Her family takes the baby away and says that she shamed her family. Back in present time, Elena is at the tomb with Katherine trading blood for information. Turns out Katherne was a Petrova doppleganger, which is why Elijah wanted to kill her and break the curse. Trevor helped her escape and she used Rose to become a vampire. They've all been on the run ever since. In order to break the curse - which is why Katherine really came back to Mystic Falls, to get Klaus off her back once and for all - she needs a doppleganger, a witch, a werewolf, a vampire, and the moonstone. (Elena, Bonnie, Tyler, Caroline, respectively.) Bonnie meets Luca, a male witch (warlock, ugh) and his father who are secretly working for Elijah.

Episode 10: The Sacrifice

Stefan and Damon try to get the moonstone from Katherine and Elena tricks Rose into bringing her to Elijah, so she can surrender (to protect the others from Klaus). Bonnie tries to lift the spell on the tomb and incapacitate Katherne so Stefan can get the moonstone. She channels power from the warlock she met, but it's still too much for her. Jeremy fucks up the plan further by going into the tomb where Katherine tries to feed on him. When Stefan goes to save him, he gets stuck in the tomb with her (being a vampire and all!) Caroline helps Tyler learn more about what to expect from his first full moon transformation. They find Mason's diary and a video and needless to say, Tyler is freaked. Jeremy and Bonnie almost kiss. What!? Damon saves Elena yet again, but Elijah shows up with two other vampires who are ready to take Elena to Klaus. Instead Elijah kills them and lets Elena, Damon and Rose go. Hm, why?

Episode 11: By the Light of the Moon

Caroline helps Tyler prepare for his first post-curse full moon, which is sure to be painful and horrifying. She stays with him until he tries to attack her (werewolf bites are lethal to vampires). Katherine and Stefan are still stuck in the tomb together. Luca pretends to help Bonnie destroy the moonstone, but he was really just tricking her and instead gives it to his father. Tyler keeps looking for Mason (not knowing he's dead) and leaves him a voicemail that Mason's friend Jules gets, so she comes to town looking for him. Damon discovers that she's a werewolf and she threatens him.

Elijah shows up to make a deal with Elena. He reveals that he no longer works for Klaus and wants to prtect her from him (eventually he'd like to use her to bait him to kill him). He frees Stefan from the tomb and agrees to keep Elena and her friends/family safe. Caroline goes back to Tyler the next morning and helps him deal with the night before. Luckily he didn't get out and didn't hurt anyone. Damon lets Rose stay with him, but Jules (as a wolf) attacks them. She bites Rose's shoulder and they orginally think the wolfbites-kill-vampires thing was a myth, but later they realize her shoulder is all infected. Ick!