13 Months After 13 Reasons Why

Warning for discussions of sensitive material ahead, including suicide and rape.

(You see, Netflix? That’s what you’re supposed to do. Put a trigger warning beforehand.)

Hey, it’s Catherine. Catherine, the Red Lady. That’s right. Don’t adjust your…whatever device you’re reading this on. It’s me, live on the internet. No return engagements, no encore. And this time, absolutely no requests. Get a snack. Settle in. ‘Cause I’m about to tell you why 13 Reasons Why is garbage.

I read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher in high school. I knew going in that it was about a girl who commits suicide and then leaves behind a series of cassette tapes (what is this, 1994?) narrating why she killed herself, and why her classmates are to blame.

I wasn’t greatly affected by the book because a), I already knew what was coming, and b) I wasn’t suicidal in high school. Depressed, yes, suicidal, no. I didn’t really think much of the book to be totally honest. It was about Stephanie Meyer level prose. Just milquetoast teen melodrama.

Then about a year and a half ago I learned that that book I read in high school was getting its own Netflix series. And I remember thinking to myself, this could potentially be very bad. Suicide is a touchy subject for most people. That’s not to say there should be a taboo on the subject. I think a certain amount of healthy discussion can actually help prevent suicide. It’s all in how you handle it. The important thing is to show suicidal people the consequences of committing such an act, without glorifying suicide or shaming those who might be contemplating it–as if suicidal people don’t have enough to feel bad about. It can be a tenuous feat, which is why most people don’t even touch it. Between glorification and victim shaming, I’m sad to say that 13 Reasons Why succeeds in doing both.

It’s been roughly 13 months since the first season debuted on Netflix, so I think now is a fitting time to discuss it, especially since a second season is in the making why??? Why would they do this?????.

Everyone’s hot take on 13RW is that it’s suicide glorification…which is true. Hannah Baker leaves a suicide note behind for the express purpose of inflicting guilt on everyone she felt had wronged her. Suicide isn’t about other people. Suicides are singular events. People kill themselves because they truly feel they have nothing to live for. They aren’t thinking about revenge or how sad everyone will be about their deaths as they do the deed. They’re just thinking about how everything will finally stop, and maybe there will finally be peace.

Even though it’s mostly Hannah’s point of view guiding the audience through the flashbacks, it’s a boy named Clay who is the narrator. He was in love with Hannah, and only sees her as this guileless cinnamon roll who was too good, too pure for this world™️. Since the two main points of views come from the victim herself and the guy who was blindingly in love with her, of course Hannah’s death is going to feel romanticized.

But at the same time, 13RW also manages to shame suicidal people as well. It paints suicide victims as pathetic and vengeful, as people just seeking attention. Hannah’s tapes torture the people she talks about on them, and then she ensured those tapes were distributed. Not to her parents, who might be horrified to learn of what their daughter went through in that last year but at least they could make sense of this horrendous tragedy and not wonder forever if it was their fault…but to the people Hannah deemed responsible for her death. The backstabbing friends, the slut-shamers, the rapist, and the dismissive counselor. And also Clay; for some reason Hannah decided to torture him for 10 tapes or so before finally revealing that he wasn’t to blame because he was actually really nice to her. And then there’s the contingency that if the tapes are properly listened to and shared, an ally of Hannah’s was going to make sure the tapes went public. It was very clear that this girl was seeking revenge, not peace.

…oh yeah, and all the obvious ones, like the graphic rape scenes and Hannah slitting her wrists onscreen (in the book, she just takes pills, but I guess that doesn’t have any shock value), but everyone else has already covered that.

Look, I appreciate what Selena Gomez and the creators of this show were trying to do. Suicide and depression are serious topics, especially for teenagers, so they made a show specifically targeted at teens to dissuade them from killing themselves. But like the book, this series didn’t have anything poignant to say on the subject. It was essentially thirteen hours of angst and violence porn that only caused an upsurge in teen suicide rates. I haven’t heard of anyone who was comforted by watching the show–only traumatized or further depressed by it. I don’t know that there’s a positive way to portray suicide…but this definitely isn’t it.

And I beg of you, if you are contemplating suicide, consider this your sign not to. Talk to someone. If there’s not a counselor or someone close to you you can open to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (America): 1-800-273-8255. Or if you’re not American, go look up the hotline for your own country. Because speaking as someone who has been depressed for years and feels as though surviving each day is an uphill battle, believe me when I say: there is always something worth living for. ~TRL

(PS, I wasn’t serious about that “no return engagements” thing, that was just a joke. I’m still going to make posts on here. That is, if I’m still able to if and after Congress repeals net neutrality.)

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Neo-existential Nihilism On The Rise…In Cinema

Existentialism is a pretty ubiquitous term, as my History of Theatre professor once said to me. Essentially existentialism is the examination of the individual and how their own free will shapes the path that their life will take. This is going on the idea that there is no grand scheme or cosmic force that affects the universe or its events. An existential crisis may lead the individual to ask the questions, “What makes life meaningful? Does life mean anything at all?”

Well, a nihilist would say “no”. The word nihilism literally comes from the Latin word meaning “nothing”. A nihilist rejects all conception of intrinsic value in life and existence. There is no meaning to life, so why even try to seek it? Why bother with anything if there’s no point to living?

Take Sherlock. In the beginning, the show seemed like a fun modern imagining about a socially inept detective and his everyman best friend solving crimes and righting wrongs. But at some point…the story changed. By the last season, Sherlock and John were no longer solving crimes. It seemed like all their characters seemed to exist for was to suffer. It was no longer a story with a definite beginning, middle, and end, but just a montage of pain and suffering. It’s like the writers didn’t give a shit anymore about telling a story or honoring the original material. They just wanted to squeeze their money’s worth out of teenage girls in love with Burberry Cumbercooch’s lizard face. The writers presented these mysteries, like how Sherlock survived falling from atop a tall building, or where it was all leading with Moriarty, only to laugh in the viewers’ faces for daring to care about the story in the first place.

Or better yet, look at Star Wars. The original trilogy is a masterpiece in story telling. The reveal of Luke Skywalker being Darth Vader’s son is revered as the most amazing plot twist in cinematic history. People became enchanted with this idea that stories could be clever and tie together in ways you would’ve never seen coming but make perfect sense once the answer is revealed. But the new movie, The Last Jedi, seems to spit on one of the core reasons the original movies were so beloved. The makers knew that people would be speculating about Rey’s origins, because her character was purposely made mysterious to get you wondering about her, only to tell the audience that Rey’s parents are nobodies. There’s no grand plan, it’s just nothing, and the makers think you’re stupid for picking up on clues specifically put there for you, and for trying to solve a mystery when there never really was one in the first place.

Oscar Wilde once said “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” And nothing has proven him more right than this new age of social numbness, what I call neo-existential nihilism. It seems like humanity is caught in a backwards slide, losing more and more of our empathy day by day. A giant halfwitted bigot is running the United States, Congress is doing nothing to stop him, there’s a new hate crime or school shooting every week, and the only people who seem to give a damn about standing up to it is high school students–the same ones who are getting slaughtered. We live in a time when we care more about getting to own guns than the lives of children. It’s an idea that sounds like it belongs in a gritty dystopian society YA novel, but it’s not. It’s our horrifying reality now. Did we really, as a people, become so disenfranchised with our own species because of Columbine, and 9/11, and all of humanity’s other atrocities, that we lost the ability…to care?

I Need A Wayward Sisters Spin-off ASAP

I need to scream about Supernatural for a second. **Spoilers for last night’s episode if you haven’t seen it yet.**

OH MY GOD???? I NEED A SPIN-OFF OF JODY AND DONNA AND THE GIRLS HUNTING LIKE THREE YEARS AGO???? Claire is such a badass!!!!! I love her!!!!!! And I ship her with Kaia so hard!!!!! And I don’t know if that thing that came out of the rift was Kaia resurrected or a Mirrorverse Kaia or what but whatever, Dreamhunter is my new OTP!!!!!!!!

And Jody keeps adopting all these daughters! She and Donna being hunters moms together???? I’m here for that shit!!!

And I love Patience and Alex too! They all bring something to the team and I just don’t mean abilities. JUST SIX BADASS LADIES KICKING SUPERNATURAL ASS. SAVING PEOPLE, HUNTING THINGS. THE FAMILY BUSINESS!!!!!!!!

(I need Charlie and Eileen on this team too. If only they weren’t dead.) ~TRL

Why I Like Slash

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I am a queer person, and I use the term queer to describe non-heterosexual/non-cisgender people. If you don’t like that term, you may not want to read this article.

There’s a nasty stigma around slash fiction that all the enjoyers and creators of it are crazy fangirls that fetishize same-sex relationships between men. But in my experience, that’s only a very tiny minority. Most slash writers are women, yes, and queer women at that. Here is a forum that talks a bit about the phenomenon of transformative fiction, and why generally women and other minorities are drawn to it more than to straight, cisgender, white men. Basically, minorities enjoy expanding past, or even straight up changing, canon because they crave representation, and material they are able to relate to.

But I’m not here to get into a big conversation about demographics and socio-political zeitgeists. I want to talk about why I like gay fanfiction.

To clarify, when I say “gay”, I don’t mean just mean gay male fanfiction. I have almost as many female/female ships as I do male/male. It’s sad that, as many queer women are involved with fan fic, that the amount of femslash pales drastically in comparison to dudeslash and het fic. (More on that at this link.)

First of all, fan fiction is not exclusively smut. Sex scenes do take up a good portion of the medium, but in most cases, smut accompanies real plot lines, usually a buildup of romantic tension between characters. Most fan fiction sets up the scenario where the characters in question finally admit their feelings for each other…which is usually then followed by sex as a form of catharsis for all the romantic and sexual tension that’s built up over time. The sex is usually a celebration of the getting together, not just porn for the sake of porn.

Second of all, I mentioned above that most slash fan fiction is about two (usually white) cisgender males, written by female-aligned persons. My friend Gemma made a YouTube video about that phenomenon, which you can watch here. It’s easy to pass off male/male fan fiction as young straight women using it as masturbatory material, but, I also stated that most slash fiction writers are queer themselves. So why would gay (I’m using that as an umbrella term here) women spend their time writing about the relations between two men? Sexually, aesthetically, and emotionally, what do homosexual relationships between men have to do with us?

Right now, on Fanfiction.net, the dominating fandom in TV is Supernatural, with over 120,000 fan fictions written for it. On Archive of Our Own, the number of fan fictions is over 170,000. Of those AO3 fan fictions, the top three most commonly written about pairings are all gay relationships between two white men, one of which is incestuous. Dean Winchester/Castiel (Destiel) takes up almost 40%, Dean Winchester/Sam Winchester takes up 14%, and Sam Winchester/Gabriel takes up 6%.

The loathsome BBC Sherlock series has 102,021 fan fics (as of this writing) on AO3, and over 50% of them are Johnlock. Again, two white guys. This leaves the next dominant pairing of the fandom, Sherlock/Molly, in the dust with only 6855 (currently) fics to its name.

And the pattern continues. Marvel Cinematic Universe? Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes, Steve/Tony Stark, and Clint Barton/Phil Coulson. BBC Merlin? Merlin/Arthur. The entire pantheon of Star Trek? Kirk/Spock. All of Star Wars? Kylo Ren/Hux. ALL WHITE GUYS.

But, maybe with the exception of Kylux, pretty much all of the fandoms I just named all feature white men as their main characters. They are the most developed and central to the story. And usually, their connection to each other is the most meaningful, even though both parties may have female love interests in their life:

  • Except for his brother, Dean Winchester’s most important connection is to Castiel. The angel even says himself that he and Dean have a “profound bond”. Even though Dean’s supposed “love of his life” is a woman named Lisa, who is promptly shunted to the side whenever the plot shows up and eventually put on a bus, never to return to the show.
  • Bucky Barnes is Steve’s best friend for life, and when forced to choose between Bucky and his loyalty to the Avengers (not to mention his own personal freedom and safety), Steve picks Bucky without a moment’s hesitation. Even though Steve is maybe? dating Peggy Carter’s niece?
  • And everyone, even non-slashers, sings praises to the deep friendship of Kirk and Spock, the slash pairing that more or less started it all. Even Gene Roddenberry himself wrote into the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture that their connection “had been the touching of two minds which the old poets of Spock’s home planet had proclaimed as superior even to the wild physical love which affected Vulcans every seventh year during pon farr” and called them soulmates. Even though Kirk is the essential “ladies’ man” and Spock is “supposed” to have no feelings.

Even a fandom like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which is dominated by strong female characters, a good amount of which are lesbians/queer, the second most popular relationship tag on AO3 is a non-canon m/m pairing (two white dudes, of course; ones who have little to no significant interaction, I may add). The first and third are het couples, and the very prominent lesbian pairing that is canon comes fourth.

However, there are exceptions to every rule. The Once Upon A Time fandom (I wrote a bit about feminism, or lack thereof, in the show in this post), despite the fervor of the Emma Swan/Captain Hook shippers, currently has more Emma/Regina Mills fics on AO3 than any other pairing. A f/f pairing! And one of them is sort of a WOC! (Lana Parrilla is Latina, but her character isn’t necessarily. I mean, Mills is a pretty white last name.)

But this is not about me trying to convince you to ship what I ship, or even have a deep in-depth conversation about the nuances of fandoms in cases of race, gender, or sexuality. I’m just trying to explain why I like slash.

Kirk and Spock. Dean and Cas. Steve and Bucky. Holmes and Watson. These are indelible bonds that endure the test of time. Kirk loved Spock so much, he threw away his entire career just for the chance to bring him back from the dead. And to quote the greatest movie of all time: death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.

When I ship characters together, it’s not because of how attractive they are or if I think they’d have hot sex scenes together. I see this connection between them, this kindredness in their souls that scream that they are at their strongest together, and that they make each other feel whole and content. And I’m sorry to say, but I usually see that in pop culture between the main man and his “bro” rather than between the two heterosexual love interests. Very seldom do I see the protagonist and their opposite sex partner share that intense yet tender bond (there are the exceptions: Buffy and Angel, Smallville‘s Clark and Lois). Maybe that’s because screenwriters don’t know how to write meaningful romance. Or maybe actors have trouble portraying that deep need. Whatever the cause, for the most part, slash just seems to work better. So until Hollywood dramatically improves its m/f relationships, I’m gonna keep on shipping the gay. ~TRL

“Wynonna Earp” Is Everything “Once Upon A Time” Should Have Been

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**Spoilers ahoy.**

Our main character is a badass woman in a leather jacket, with past childhood trauma and a history of institutionalization. She is forced to travel to a small town that contains clues about her origins – apparently, one of her ancestors (or two) were legends. She teams up with a man in law enforcement. Her greatest wish is reconnect with her family. She’s the chosen one who has to save the tiny town she and her loved ones live in by fighting supernatural forces.

I used to love the TV show Once Upon A Time. Emma Swan was everything I wanted in a strong female character. But ever since…ohhhh, around season 3, the show’s been on a downhill tumble. It got so pathetic that I straight up quit watching after a while. There comes a time when you realize a show isn’t going through a bad spell–it’s just not good anymore.

Wynonna Earp, like OUAT, is about a woman who is the descendant of a famous hero. The show is based on the mythos of Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Wynonna is a complex anti-hero who teams up with her sister and other characters to protect her town and break her family’s curse. I’ve watched the first season and man, is it good. But I can’t ignore the more than passing similarities to the fairytale show I used to enjoy.

What Once Upon A Time Did Wrong

When OUAT began, it promised a show about strong women, family, and the power of true love. The main story was about Emma and her strained relationship with her son, her journey to believing in fairy tales–and herself–and Regina Mills’s attempt at redemption for the sake of her beloved son and her struggle with her dark side.

But all these fresh new ideas were shunted to focus on the toxic guyliner-wearing fuckhead Captain Hook, who from his first appearance made an impression as a disgusting slimeball who comes off as a bit rapey. And Emma gives up all her strength and agency when she bewilderingly falls in love with this festering pile of leather. Regina, Henry, Snow and Charming–they were all forgotten, painted into the background as a backdrop for the dais worshipping the all wonderful King Hook and his abusive relationship with Emma.

And this is to say nothing of how the show has completely exhausted its vault of ideas, despite having the entire Disney pantheon at its disposal, or that only one (1) of the main cast is a POC, and that the LGBT community only got one (1), rushed, undeveloped arc shoved into one (1) single episode.

TL;DR: Terrible character development, stale plot arc, practically no representation for anyone who isn’t white and straight.

What Wynonna Earp Did Right

Wynonna is a well developed character, clever, strong, and flawed. Her relationship to her sister outshines either of the relationships she has with her two love interests. The cast is significantly more racially diverse than that of OUAT, and the lesbian relationship between Waverly and Nicole easily gets as much attention as Wynnona and Dolls or Wynonna and Doc.

(Doc Holliday being an immortal sassmouth is probably the coolest thing about this show, to be totally honest.)

Also, Doc and Dolls are both great guys, complex in their own right and vastly different from each other but still utterly lovable, and they both adore and respect Wynonna. And her character isn’t sacrificed for the sake of her relationship with either of them. A female character who isn’t defined by her relationships with men! So refreshing.

I have strong hopes for Wynonna Earp. I just hope I won’t be disappointed again. ~TRL

A Really Great Show With A Really WEIRD Premise

Don’t worry, they’re the nice kind of Nazis!

Imagine you walk into a studio executive’s office today and said, “Hey. I’ve got a great idea for a television show. It’s a sitcom…set in a prisoner-of-war camp in Nazi Germany.” They’d probably tell you to get out of their office. Well, in 1965, you might have had a better chance of someone taking your pitch seriously.

Hogan’s Heroes ran on CBS from September of 1965 to March of 1971, for six seasons and 168 episodes. Let me put that into perspective: that’s more episodes than Game Of Thrones (67, currently), the original series of Star Trek (79), LOST (121), and the same amount of episodes as The Mary Tyler Moore Show. That’s a LOT of f**king episodes!

(Let me clarify something quickly: when soldiers are captured in war, sometimes instead of being killed, they’re put into these prisoner-of-war camps. It’s like jail. It’s not the same as a concentration camp or a death camp. Honestly, Hogan’s Heroes doesn’t even really have to do with the Holocaust. So it’s not making light of genocide or anything. Don’t get mad.)

What it does make light of, however, is the Nazis themselves. Pretty much every German soldier in the story suffers from such incapacitating stupidity that it makes you wonder how the Allies didn’t win the war a lot sooner.

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“Gentlemen, the war effort is depending on this group of lovable rag-tag idiots.”

The heroes of the story (ha ha), are five prisoners of war who are imprisoned at German POW camp Stalag 13. Their leader is American Colonel Robert Hogan, played by Bob Crane. Hogan is basically the love child of Captain Kirk and Tony Stark–he’s dashing, quippy, ingenious, sneaky, and quite the ladies’ man.

His cohorts are Sergeant Andrew Carter, Corporal Louis LeBeau, Corporal Peter Newkirk, and Sergeant James Kinchloe. Carter is the Chekov of the group (because he’s the baby). His character can basically be described as “dumb blonde explosives expert bordering on mad scientist”. (He’s a little too eager to blow stuff up, you know?) He’s also scary good at impersonating Hitler, so much so that it’s a running gag in the show, and he actually dresses up and poses as Hitler in an episode–and the Germans fall for it! They really believe he’s Hitler! I told you–the Nazis are f**king idiots in this show.

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What? You thought I was kidding?

Then, there’s LeBeau, who is the token French character: he wears a beret, he’s the group chef, he’s short, he’s scrappy, he’s a snob about food and wine and art, and he turns into Pepe le Pew when he’s around women. But, he’s adorable. Newkirk is English and is played by the immortal Richard Dawson, and he’s a magician, safecracker, and pickpocket. And finally, Kinchloe is the radio technician and expert in other communications and electronics. It’s understated in the show, but he’s also second-in-command, which is kind of a big deal, since this show is from the 1960s and Kinch is a black man. So, yay, racial progressiveness! (Seriously, between Kinch and Star Trek, the CBS is on fire in the ’60s with positive race representation.)

Okay, why is this show so damn funny? Well, the premise of the show is that despite the fact that they’re imprisoned, these five men are secretly running an Underground Railroad out of their camp to help other prisoners of war escape Germany, and just aid the war effort in general. And it’s right under the Nazis’ noses–they don’t suspect a thing.

I’m the biggest threat on this show. No, seriously. Me. The captain of The Love Boat.

The two main German characters in the show are the man who runs Stalag 13, Commandant Wilhelm Klink, and the ranking German staff officer, Sergeant Hans Schultz, and both are complete idiots. Colonel Klink is such an overconfident, neurotic loon that he proudly believes that no one has ever escaped from his camp. It’s part of why it’s so easy for Hogan and the boys to carry on their business. The Heroes have a series of intricate tunnels underneath the camp, where they have a ham radio station, a mint for printing up counterfeit German marks, a tailor shop where they make German uniforms and civvies to help the escapees disguise themselves…even a barbershop.

…like I said, it’s a really ridiculous show!

“Where the f**k are my pecan pinwheels?!”

Sergeant Schultz is a big coward. He more or less knows everything that’s going on, but he’s so afraid of being shipped off to the Russian front fighting lines, that he just turns a blind eye to everything Hogan and his team are doing. His catchphrase is, “I see/hear/know nothing, nothing!” So if you’ve ever heard anyone say that…that’s where it’s from.

I think the reason this show worked so well in the ’60s is because the war was long over, and even though its effect shook the lives of many individuals, it must have been a comfort to some to watch a show about five funny, inventive guys just taking the piss out of the Nazis. It may seem insensitive to make light of such a horrible event in history, but like M*A*S*H*, Hogan’s Heroes maybe gives WWII a more positive outlook. It’s by no means a deep show, but when I think of Hogan’s Heroes, I take away this message: even when you’re in an impossible situation, you’re not helpless. And people who hate are stupid, and inevitably, good will win out over evil. And when things look dark, you can still find things to laugh about, because laughter is our biggest weapon against despair. That’s what Hogan’s Heroes means to me.

So if you ever get the chance, go watch the show; it’s on some of those classic TV channels (TV Land, MeTV, etc.). The characters are endearing, the antics are hysterical–it’s worth the time, I promise. ~TRL

Why Does Everyone Hate Smallville?

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We all know the origin of the Man of Steel: infant refugee from the planet Krypton, sent by his parents in a spaceship to our world. Endowed with superhuman abilities, raised by simple farmers, and eventually became humanity’s champion, fighting for truth, justice, and the American way.

BUT DID YOU EVER STOP TO CONSIDER SUPERMAN GOING THROUGH PUBERTY?????

Smallville is the story of a teenage Clark Kent growing up in rural Kansas, learning to deal with the normal pains of adolescence, along with being a superpowered alien. It’s a new perspective on an old story. You get to see Clark’s journey from young man finding his own identity, to the paragon of goodness we all know.

Not only that, there’s other characters from the mythos you get to meet and watch develop too. In this narrative, Lex Luthor is Clark’s best friend who gradually turns to the dark side and grows into his role as Superman’s greatest enemy. Lois Lane starts out as Clark’s comic foil, but their love and respect for each other grows throughout the story in a very natural and endearing way. There’s even appearances by other famous DC superheroes, like Green Arrow, the Flash, Aquaman, and Zatanna.

Are there obvious reasons why someone wouldn’t like this show? Yes. For one thing: TOO MUCH LANA LANG DRAMA. And I will admit, the first season…and some of the second…are pretty cheesy. Like for instance, (minor spoiler) the first time Clark uses his heat vision is when it’s accidently triggered by some lusty teenage hormones he’s feeling over an attractive substitute teacher. Or the girl who eats kryptonite-laced vegetables while dieting and her metabolism starts going super fast, so she has to suck the fat out of people. Or this one episode in the fifth season when Lana Lang joins a sorority of vampires. OR this one episode when Lana, Chloe, and Lois get possessed by 17th century witches and hexes everyone at a get together Clark was throwing to strip down to their underwear and act like party animals-

What, it was funny, okay?!

And you’d be surprised how many famous people played minor parts in the show. The fat-sucking girl I mentioned above? Amy Adams. Yes, the woman who now plays Lois Lane, ironically. Jonathan Taylor Thomas plays a guy who can clone himself. Lizzy Caplan plays a girl who can morph into whoever she wants, and at first is obsessed with Lana and wants to kill her so she can become her, but then comes back and tries to pass herself off as Lana’s ex-boyfriend Whitney so she can be with Lana (yeah, it’s a gay thing).

Overall, Smallville is an awesome show. Even if you’re not a fan of Superman or comics in general, it’s worth watching. No matter what happens, Smallville will always hold a special place in my heart. ~TRL