The Trouble With Tokens

Posted December 22, 2014 by Meoskop in Media Reviews, Television / 0 Comments

The logos for networks ABC and FoxMuch of my tweet stream has been annoyed with a male author attempting to redefine the erotic romance genre in his own image. To that I say whatever – when money appears there is always a white guy with an entitlement vacuum right behind it. Nowhere is this more obvious than the land of television. Many of us at LITM have been strong supporters of the show Sleepy Hollow. I have also been pushing Nashville and Agents of Shield. With the mid-season finales having aired, let’s discuss how the entitlement vacuum works.

Sleepy Hollow

Why We Loved It: A badass black female lead with a multicultural cast behind her, Sleepy Hollow was about The Chosen One being a black girl. Abbie Mills had a father figure, multiple love interests, a hot career and a complicated family background. Having played the respectability game until she left everyone behind, Abbie discovers that the system is stacked against her. Ichabod Crane is hurtled forward in time to partner with her in saving humanity. Nicole Beharie’s stunning beauty and formidable talent made Sleepy Hollow a must watch show. Abbie was the center of the show and Ichabod was the sidekick. Brilliantly cast, well written, everything about Sleepy Hollow made for epic television.

What Went Wrong: The show was a hit. Where the money flows, the whitening follows. Suddenly we had Hawley (ok, he’s kind of cool, but we didn’t need a second black market contact, we had Jenny Mills.) Instead of multiple love interests for Abby we had Corbin’s son hating her, Hawley setting the sisters up and all the Cranes. So many Cranes. Cranes as far as the eye could see. Katrina became the show’s focus, to the detriment of both the mission and viewer desires. The Headless Horseman was transformed from a figure of terror into a pouting blonde boyfriend. Captain Irving disappeared and may be dead. Redheads in corsets, white men whining, Daddy issues for days (Abbie and Jenny Mills don’t get a father at all, what with both their father figures gone) and three dead lovers for Ichabod. Ichabod inexplicably becomes the leader, Abby is reduced to an exasperated sidekick, and the show morphs into a vaguely Supernatural mess. Each week brings greater disappointments.

Where We’re Going: Nowhere. This is a dysfunctional relationship we’ll cling to until we can’t take the pain a second longer. Jenny and Abbie Mills deserved so much better, and so did we. Sleepy Hollow threw away greatness.


Why We Loved It: Let’s be honest, this show is a campy carnival about the whitest music genre in the world. We loved it’s super soapy vibe and the Power Coupling of Avery and Juliette. Will, a straight out of the 80’s Afterschool Special, was a nod to modern times as the closeted gay cowboy. Things went wrong for Nashville the minute they tried for relevance.

What Went Wrong: It’s like Nashville never heard of K.D. Lang. There have been at least half a dozen country stars to come out of the closet in her wake, making Will’s bathroom hookups, beat-downs and cover marriage seem even less likely. Black characters have fared no better. An early black lead (the highly principled Coleman) is disgraced and gone. Recent additions included Magical Homeless Negro Terry who exists solely to show how some people just can’t be helped. Having inspired Scarlett rediscover her self confidence and blazing talent, we’ve probably seen the last of him. Scarlett’s best friend Zoey served as a human punching bag. First accused of stealing Scarlett’s man (one she’d kicked to the curb) then Juliette’s career (after she collapsed mid-song) and finally Gunnar’s dream of a family (for wanting to pursue her career) Zoey is seen leaving for L.A., where black girls apparently belong. As a final blow, the talent scout Zoey so desperately wanted to impress says Scarlett is a better fit for Zoey’s band than Zoey was. Little blonde angels stay winning.

Where We’re Going: Nowhere. We have such low expectations for Nashville that as long as Avery hangs out, so will we. Nashville puts the guilt in guilty pleasure.

Agents of Shield

Why We Loved It: Coulson and May. As a man with ethics in an unethical business and the woman devoted first to him and then the organization, Agents of Shield carried us through some rough times while it found it’s footing. Another largely white show, Agents of Shield makes you care about characters it has no intention of keeping. In the pilot there was a bait and switch when we met the half-Chinese heroine Skye (so saintly she makes her own eyes roll) and the black single father Mike. We wanted them to save Mike, but it was Skye who became the show’s focus. What started as a very weak show picked up steam with the revelation of Hydra.

What Went Wrong: Bringing in new characters was a smart move, but Agents of Shield has a rigid One Black Guy At A Time rule. First Mike – a mutant – was turned into a terrifying machine that harms his friends on command. Mike can never return to his son and is off the show, at least for now. Next came Tripp. Tripp is a legacy Shield agent and a potential love interest for more than one of the female leads. He dies trying to save Saint Skye because the show recently added Mack. (Please see the One Black Guy At A Time rule.) Mack was turned into a terrifying machine that… well, you know. He appears to be on the show for now but he’s a love interest for no one and it’s been strongly hinted he plans to betray everyone. If he was a white guy he could be Ward, who has tried to kill everyone, betrayed the team, permanently altered at least one of them, murdered his brother and kidnapped Skye more than once. Ward remains as a sympathetic core character and love interest to Skye, even if May has kicked him to the curb. The show has four to six white guys at any given time so Ward isn’t going anywhere. While Shield has May, Skye and Mack, Hydra is looking pretty white except for Reina – the untrustworthy street girl with a heart of self interest. I love Reina for her refusal to put anyone’s survival above her own. Hail Hydra.

Where We’re Going: Agent Carter is starting soon. It’s allegedly got more than one minority character and a female lead in a period drama. It could be worth watching. We’ll find out. In the meantime, I’ll likely come back to Agents of Shield for Coulson, May and Reina but the DVR stacks up three or four episodes before I bother to watch. Not a good sign.

Once Upon A Time

Why We Loved It: The show started weak but clever casting and the promise of more kept us tuning in.

What Went Wrong: Any character with a bisexual or gay slant is out. Characters of color are evil or unimportant or put in place to stop the heroine (Regina) from her happy ending. Regina is a genocidal sociopath, but hey. That’s the deal with OUAT –  on this show everyone is a good guy. Stack as many bodies behind you as you like, you can still cry in your coffee about love. Once Upon a Time went extra pale with a Frozen parade this season, hammering home again and again that no family is too dysfunctional or murderous to try and save. Love means never having to say “I won’t kill you.”

Where We’re Going: After barely hanging on through the mess that was Oz and being bitterly disappointed by Pan it’s evident that Frozen has shut the last ember of interest we had down. We’ve been watching for Hook, a romantic lead to rule them all, but given the arrival of Cruella and Ursula it’s time to go. Good luck, OUAT fans, we’ll be thinking of you. Let us know when Gold finally beats Belle to death. (It’ll be okay, I’m sure he’ll feel really bad about it.)

*This post originally appeared at Love In The Margins.