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 fetish 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

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“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

The Art Of Writing Female OCs

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Television and film writers, I get it. You wanna have more awesome girls to even up the playing field and level out these awesome guys you’ve got to work with – and that’s great! But there is a way to go about it, and there is a way to NOT go about it. As a woman, and a writer, will you please…just listen to me? Because I’m about to give you all the secrets to creating strong original female characters.

*Note, this is an article focusing on creating female OCs for media based on pre-existing material. Not that it can’t help with purely original works either.

Comics have been dominated by men since forever (even though their female audience is larger than they realize), so naturally, there are a lot of strong male superheroes. Yeah, we’ve got our Wonder Womans and our Black Widows, but let’s be real: when you think of  “superhero”, you probably think of Superman, or Batman (because money is totally a superpower, right?), or Spiderman. I mean, how many of you have actually heard of Ms. Marvel? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

With shows like Arrow and The Flash, stories about boys saving the world, there’s a crying need for a female counterpart. A Bonnie for every Clyde, a Scully for every Mulder. Oliver Queen has Felicity Smoak. Barry Allen has Caitlyn Snow and Iris West. Even Kara Danvers on Supergirl has her sister Alex. All badass secondaries in their own right. But the grandmother of all these awesome OFCs is the intrepid right hand of Smallville‘s Clark Kent – Chloe Sullivan.

Chloe was my idol growing up. She was whip smart, witty, brave, and indomitable. She wasn’t just a love interest or just a sidekick. She was a person, with an identity and a personal life and a mind of her own. Yes, she did have a crush on Clark for a while, but it didn’t define her. Helping Clark and the Justice League was important to her life, but it wasn’t the only aspect of her character. She wasn’t stuck as a prop in the narrative. Chloe was so freaking awesome, she actually was put in DC Comics as a real canon character. That is the way you write new female characters.

So let’s just make a little list of dos and don’ts when writing strong, three dimensional women:

  1. DON’T make a woman just a love interest or helper for the main protagonist.
  2. DO give your female characters a backbone (or have them develop one over the course of the narrative – because character development is always a great tool for a writer to use!).
  3. DON’T presume that a “strong” female character just means a woman who punches people a lot (because let’s be real, without the ass-kicking, Black Widow would just be Ms. Fanservice).
  4. DO give your female characters a storyline of their own! If they don’t have a life of their own, they’re not really a character, they’re just a object in the narrative. There’s an easy test you can use called the Mako Mori test. There’s only three requirements: 1) have a female character, 2) who gets her own story arc, and 3) her story arc doesn’t support that of a man. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. Believe me – it’s not as hard as you think.
  5. DON’T make a woman a damsel in distress. It’s fine if she gets saved sometimes, but it’s great to turn the tables occasionally! Lois Lane saved Superman a few times, you know.
  6. DON’T define a woman by traditional gender roles (romantic interests, mothers, etc.) – be original!
  7. DON’T have “strong” women be romantically interested in jerks or weak guys – because that doesn’t happen in real life. I know men don’t really want to have to try when it comes to getting women and they think they just deserve us because that’s what our society has taught them, but in reality, truly strong women don’t love men who obviously aren’t good enough for them. Instead, have a man truly earn her love – that does not mean automatically receive it just because. Or have the man and the woman be on equal footing from the beginning. When a woman says she’ll never love a man because he’s a jerk, DON’T have her do a 180 by the end of the episode and throw herself at said jerk (lookin’ at you, Supergirl).

This is turning into a rant, I’m gonna stop myself now.

To provide a cautionary tale of what NOT to do, I’ll bring up the infamous BBC Sherlock. The original Holmes canon doesn’t lend itself very well to strong ladies. It’s essentially the excellent adventures of two “heterosexual” male life partners. The only long running female characters are Mrs. Hudson (sometimes Turner), the voiceless housekeeper, and Watson’s beard wife, who except for the one story where she’s a client, pretty much has no dialogue either. So naturally, there’s a crying need for girl power.

Enter…Molly Hooper. Oh, Molly.

In the very first scene she’s in, it’s made apparent to everyone that she has a gigantic crush on the eponymous detective. Okay, that’s fine. But that’s literally where her characterization begins and ends. Throughout the entirety of the series, Sherlock either ignores her, makes outrageously rude remarks to her, or uses her feelings for him to get her to do things for him. There was a brief respite in the beginning of series 3 where it seemed like there was some growth for Molly’s character in being able to move on from Sherlock, but in the last episode of the show, Molly has hit rock bottom in the pit of patheticness, getting weepy over Sherlock and demanding that he tell her he loves her, even though she knows it’s not true, instead of just realizing that Sherlock is kind of a dick to her and moving on with her life.

I pity any woman who thinks they should have been together. If that’s your idea of romance, don’t be surprised when none of your boyfriends respect you.

So, TLDR, don’t make a Molly Hooper. Make a Chloe Sullivan. ~TRL

6 Pairings That Romanticize Abuse

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Every time, I swear to God, every time I fall in love with a new TV show, some asshole comes along, sweeps up the main character, and brings down the entire show, causing me to stop watching in disgust. I’m not kidding, this has happened three times this year alone.

Abusive relationships being romanticized is one of the things that I absolutely hate with a burning passion. But gone are the days where the hero dudes go around smacking their girlfriends, because if that happened, everyone would be up in arms. No, TV and movies have found sneaky ways to paint abuse as “true love” and get away with it scot free. But luckily for you, my little raspberries, I’m here to expose their malpractices with the light of truth!

For this article, I’ve avoided obviously abusive pairings, like Joker/Harley Quinn and Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham, or pairings that have been beat to death by the mainstream like Bella/Edward (seen above) and Anastasia Steele/Christian Grey. I’m choosing to focus on those pairings who are the darlings of their fandoms, who can obviously do no wrong. Oh, but they can, my ducklings! They can. I’m about to rock your world.

**Warning: mild spoilers ahead for various media, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and BBC Sherlock.**

1. The Phantom and Christine Daaé, The Phantom Of The Opera

Because every girl’s fantasy is to be stalked by a murderer in the shadows and be forced into marrying him or have to watch her childhood best friend be strangled to death. I don’t give a shit how many roses he leaves in her dressing room – that’s f**ked up.

Not to mention, Christine is 18. Eighteen! She’s barely legal as it is. She claims that the “Angel of Music” (the Phantom) has been tutoring her and watching over her since she first came to the opera house. She’s been living there since she was eight years old. And thanks to Madame Giry’s flashback, we know that Erik is only a few years younger than Madame Giry – so he’s 40, at least. This is a fully grown adult who’s been stalking a child and gaslighting her until she’s old enough to bang. That’s disgusting.

But, you know. Some free music lessons and a candlelit boat ride through a swamp make everything okay.

Gaslighting: a practice in which the abuser gains the trust of the victim and uses that trust to manipulate them into doing things against their will, all while maintaining the pretense of someone who has the victim’s best interest at heart.

2. Rey and Kylo Ren (Reylo), Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

It honestly shocked me that this was even a popular pairing – or a pairing at all. Not as popular as Kylux (Kylo Ren and Armitage Hux), but it’s up there.

There’s not much to go on here, as there’s really only a couple of scenes between them, but what is there, is pretty frightening. I’m going to put aside the fact that Kylo straight up murdered Rey’s friend and father figure. I’ll even waive all the physical abuse in the lightsaber battles because, hey, this is Star Wars, and it isn’t exactly Star Wars without lightsaber battles.

But there is the creepy torture scene (torture isn’t a very good premise for a romantic relationship, now is it?) where Kylo is trying to get information out of Rey and threatens her with a line about how he can force her to tell him what he wants to know, and J.J. Abrams himself admits that this is supposed to be a “rape” scene. Getting inside a person’s head and violating their thoughts is mind rape. Plus there’s the disgusted, fearful look Rey makes as Kylo reaches toward her face that tells us all that Rey is in distress. Rey is trapped in the room, tied down, and can’t escape this situation, where she’s under the threat of physical violence and having her mind raped by Kylo. And that is abuse.

3. Kara Danvers and Mon-El (Karamel), Supergirl

This is what I was talking about earlier when I said TV shows often get ruined by some asshole (Mon-El) swooping in and becoming the protagonist’s “true love”. I’ve stopped watching Supergirl because my once beloved show about a strong, kind lady hero has been hijacked by this entitled jar of mayonnaise.

Upon crashing down in National City, Mon-El has done nothing by lie to Kara (not telling her that he’s the prince of Daxam), insult Kara and everything she stands for (“You fly around, rescuing people, like you’re just pure of heart, but that is crap. Because you love that attention. You love people loving you. You are not selfless.”), and go against Kara’s wishes (“You have ignored what I need from moment one today”), and generally just be a piece of shit (“I never said I wanted to save the world.” “Oh my God. You are so selfish!”). When she doesn’t return his affections, he whines and guilts her into loving him. And somehow – he ends up with her! What kind of message is that sending young girls?

Also, telling someone you allegedly love that they’re your “Kryptonite” (weakness) is NOT romantic. Love is supposed to make you stronger. If your romantic partner makes you “weak”, that’s a bad sign. Believe me, I know.

4. John Watson and Mary Morstan, Sherlock

I’ve been a little harsh on men in this list. But women can be abusers too, and this is a prime example.

Thanks to poor writing from misogynistic, self-satisfied dipshits, Mary Morstan’s characterization has been all over the place. But two things are for sure: Mary is a psychopath and a pathological liar. It eventually was revealed that Mary wasn’t as sugary sweet as she initially tasted. She was actually a killer for hire before meeting John, which she kept from him for almost an entire year, even after they were married. And the lengths she goes to keep that secret from him are outrageous. Namely, attempting to murder John’s best friend – the very same friend who had been missing for two years, whom John had been grieving over, which Mary had to know would devastate John at losing Sherlock all over again. But does she have any regards for his feelings? No. She would rather kill her husband’s dearest friend then have to come clean.

John does eventually find out, and naturally, is a little pissed off by it. So much so that he leaves her. When John finally does agree to speak to Mary again, she immediately guilt trips him – for being rightfully angry about Mary lying to him and trying to murder Sherlock. But for some reason, John takes her back and all is forgiven and forgotten.

(By the way, she never actually says that she’s sorry for shooting Sherlock in the chest. Not until she herself is dying, but honestly, series 4 is such out-of-character, bizarre, melodramatic, sloppily written horseshit that I don’t take any of it seriously. But that’s an essay for another day.)

And beyond all that…she’s just not a nice person. She makes fun of everyone, treating them all like they’re so beneath her. At one point she implies that John is so stupid, a dog is superior to him in intelligence. She’s manipulative, critical, and conniving. And yet, even though there’s little to no affection shown between John and Mary, she’s supposedly the great love of his life. His saving grace. His angel with a sniper rifle. *noise of disgust* Whatever.

5. Emma Swan and Captain Hook, Once Upon A Time

God, where do I BEGIN with these two?

Captain Hook completely ruined Once Upon A Time. He’s been sucking the soul out of Emma Swan for four seasons, and now she’s pathetic, codependent, and completely unrecognizable from the amazing, badass female protagonist that rolled into Storybrooke in a beat up Volkswagen seven years ago.

Hook started off, appropriately, as a villain. He gets into a sword fight with Emma right off the bat and makes lewd, rapey comments towards her. Emma was sensibly repulsed.

Then in season three, Hook decides he’s going to become the guy everyone loves – especially Emma. “I will win your heart,” he growls in her face. Again, another line that’s supposed to sound romantic, but is actually really gross.

Eventually, Emma was hooked (get it?), and her character development was sacrificed for makeout scenes with this guyliner wearing piece of shit. Like Mon-El and Mary, he lies to her constantly, doesn’t respect her wishes, manipulates her, and verbally abuses her when his world isn’t going perfectly ducky. In season 5, Emma saved Hook’s life by using dark magic, turning him into a Dark One (long story). She erased his and everyone else’s memory, but he does inevitably find out, and boy, does he drop that sweet boyfriend act fast. He hits Emma right in the emotional chink in her armor – by saying that all she’ll ever be is an orphan. He knows Emma’s trigger and uses it against her in the most brutal fashion possible. But are there ever any repercussions? Nope. Because Hook is the love of Emma’s life, and he can do no wrong!

Luckily, Jennifer Morrison, who plays Emma Swan on OUAT, has announced her retirement from the show after the end of season six, and this godawful romance can die a festering death. Let’s just pray Colin O’Donoghue (Hook) gets fired and the show is left to be run by the only two likable characters left, Regina and Henry Mills.

And number six…

6. Severus Snape and Lily Evans, Harry Potter

I get it, Internet. You pity him. He never got the girl of his dreams. It’s the age old love story: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy calls girl a racial slur – wait, what?!

There was no fucking excuse for Snape to EVER call Lily a Mudblood. James was bullying him, Lily stepped in to defend Snape, Snape got his sensitive little male ego bruised and had been hanging out with a bunch of wizard white supremacists, and called Lily the worst word possible. She was his best and only friend, and he called her that. So no, I don’t feel bad for Snape at all. Especially since he carried his butthurtedness against her and James past their deaths and onto their orphaned child who had endured domestic abuse for the last ten years of his life. Snape gets no sympathy from me.

Okay. Rant over. Hopefully next post will be something more cheery. Thanks for reading. ~TRL

Buffy Best To Worst – Season 2

**Spoilers for season 2 of Buffy if you haven’t watched it.**

#19: “Go Fish”: ugh. It’s so bad. It’s probably the worst episode of Buffy – or anything – ever (except for maybe “Where The Wild Things Are”). I mean…fish rape????? Uuuuuuuugh. For such a good season, it’s such a turd. It’s totally skippable, if y0u’re not OCD about seeing every episode.

#18: “Killed By Death”: this episode is just unnecessarily gross. Der Kindestod is even more horrifying than certain grinning, suit wearing floaty monsters from season 4. And the child acting is a little too convincing. Plus, Buffy’s fear of hospitals just seems to have been made up for the sake of the plot (although, if you’re reading ahead, say, in season 6, it makes a little more sense). It’s pretty mediocre; it only stands out because of the horrifying monster of the week. The two shining moments are Cordelia, as usual, hitting the nail on the head about Buffy “needing a monster to fight so she doesn’t feel so helpless” (Cordelia is so understatedly brilliant), because tact is just not saying true stuff, and a defenseless Xander standing up to Angelus to defend Buffy. Yes, it was another faux-white knight moment for the Xan-Man, but remember, this was more than just Xander’s racism/jealousy at play here. Angelus had just killed Jenny Calendar in the previous episode. No doubt the rest of the gang was still mourning her and feeling a bit bloodthirsty. I get so pissed off with Xander sometimes, especially in season 3, but I have to remind myself, going back over the high school seasons, that Xander grows as a character and won’t always be that awful, mean high school boy.

#17: “Some Assembly Required”: this episode and the next one are the episodes I consider straight up filler. It’s an interesting idea, obviously a play on the Frankenstein monster and his bride, but it was just such a cheesy episode. It would have belonged in season 1 better, I think.

#16: “The Dark Age”: this one is just like SAR above; an interesting premise, poor execution. It is nice to get some insight into Giles’ life as “Ripper”, but this episode just didn’t do it for me. Probably a matter of taste.

#15: “Ted”: now we’re getting into the episodes that are bad but in a funny way. Let me put it out there right now: Joyce’s new boyfriend, old Jack Tripper…is a robot. There. That’s the twist. And if you’re older than seven, you probably saw it coming from a mile away. However, it does touch on a topic that will be revisited in all seriousness in season 3: what if a Slayer, a supernaturally enhanced superhuman, killed a normal human being? What would be the repercussions? Buffy, being a moral individual, immediately feels regret for what she’s done and confesses to the police. Now, granted, Buffy probably didn’t intend to murder anyone, she just wanted to rough Ted up a bit. And to be fair, he was a grown man getting physical with a sixteen year old girl. If Buffy wasn’t the Slayer, she might not be able to defend herself. But Buffy, having the advantage (Ted being a robot aside for the moment), doesn’t have the right to manhandle a normal person like she did. Luckily, Ted wasn’t really dead – or human – and Buffy gets a pass. This time.

#14: “Bad Eggs”: if the plot of this episode seems familiar, it’s because it’s basically a fusion of Alien and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. I like this episode. It’s amusing, and a little bit suspenseful. And the Gorch brothers are fun idiot villains. By the way, if the running theme of sex for this season wasn’t clear before, it should be fairly blatant in this episode. Buffy misses Sex Ed and the lecture on the consequences of teen sex, for one, and the monsters of the week take the form of eggs, the symbol of human fertility, and the big mama is basically a giant vagina with teeth that swallows a man whole. Meanwhile, Buffy and Angel are getting cozier and cozier. They make out against a headstone reading “In Loving Memory” that the camera lingers on. Yikes.

#13: “Reptile Boy”: this episode is fluffy and light and just a bit of fun. Cordy and Buff invade a college frat party, Xander get dressed up in drag, and Buffy kills a giant snake monster. Again, the sex theme is heavy here. Buffy and Cordy getting drugged and chained up in the basement for the Makita demon to eat by the frat boys is an obvious parable about date rape. Not to mention that the Makita (named after a brand of tool, aptly) is a giant penis that Buffy, er…circumcises. But rape undertones aside, it’s a fairly fluff episode. Also, it goes to show that whenever Buffy acts like Cordelia (representative of her past “normal” life before Slayerdom – metaphorically speaking, like a child), bad things happen.

#12: “When She Was Bad”: after watching Passion of The Nerd’s review of this episode and then reading Mark Field’s in-depth guide, Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Myth, Metaphor, and Morality, I understood the point of the episode I’d missed the first time through I watched. Buffy returns from a summer away from Sunnydale and is inexplicably acting like a bitch to her friends. She’d been killed by the Master in the last episode of the first season, and had gone through trauma she needs to confront. But remember, Buffy’s self-sacrifice is symbolic of her committing to her destiny: Slayerdom. Growing up. Xander and Willow are still in their “kid” phase and Buffy sees them, and Angel (because remember, Angel, being a vampire, can never “grow up”), as not understanding what she’s going through, which is why she tries to push them away. Meanwhile, Giles (her mind) is what Buffy sees as having pushed her into her destiny before she was ready to accept it. And the one who forces Buffy to face her issues is none other than Cordelia, her mirror, the symbol of her old life. So now I get the point. This episode still isn’t as resonant with me (even though I’m a 20 year old college student), but I ranked it higher on the list because I feel like me not getting it is my bad, not the writers.

#11: “Inca Mummy Girl”: Oz! Hooray! IMG, like “Reptile Boy”, is another fluff piece which I enjoy. I gotta say, Xander gets some of the best centric episodes, as you’ll see when you get to my number five item. It’s fun, it’s a little heart wrenching, and Buffy saves the day in the end. Nuff said.

#10: “Passion”: I’m surprised Passion ended up so low on my list. I feel like it should be higher up because it’s so important, but this is due to my own preferences, so whatever. Anyway, so it’s just after Valentine’s Day (when Angelus is notorious for wreaking especially sadistic havoc), and Angelus decides to toy with Buffy and her friends. The whole drawing people as they’re sleeping thing is super creepy, but I think what officially wigged me out was Angelus’s assault on Willow’s fish. I’d like to mention: I like fun villains. And Angelus is fun. He enjoys being evil; he gets off on it. And in the end, he kills Jenny Calendar – doesn’t even drink her, just heartlessly snaps her neck – and arranges her in Giles’s bed as the final offense. I feel like I should have been sadder about Jenny, but the fact is, she was an underdeveloped character. I didn’t care when Spike roasted the Annoying One, and I didn’t really care about Jenny. She was cool, but she was little more than a plot device. I only mourned her because Giles did. The significance of her death only makes Angel a corporeal killer in the eyes of the viewer. There will be no coming back from this. By the end of the episode, Buffy declares that she thinks she’s ready to do what she has to do.

#9: “What’s My Line”, Part 1 and 2: these episodes, once again, explore the idea of Buffy’s identity as the Slayer, a topic we will revisit over and over (buckle in). WML contains a lot of golden moments: Willow and Oz finally meeting, Xander and Cordy making out in Buffy’s basement, Buffy kissing Angel in vamp face (which Darla said she would never do); I even kind of liked the scene with Dru torturing Angel. Not that I want Angel to suffer, obviously, but you think about it from Dru’s perspective: this is the man who killed her entire family and tortured her until she became a creature of pure evil like himself, and now he’s good and fighting against her and Spike. Of course she’s pissed. And then, of course: “I om Kendrah. Te Vampeer Sleeyir.” (Okay, I’m sorry, but that accent is so fake. I mean…”cheek fie-eet”!) It brings up an interesting idea: Kendra is here now, and is obviously more dedicated to the cause than Buffy, so why couldn’t she take over and be the Slayer and let Buffy live a normal life? Well, it’s like Kendra says just before she leaves: “You act like Slayin’s a job. It’s not – it’s yah life.” And it’s true. Buffy can’t escape her destiny, no matter what. Growing up isn’t optional. The only thing we can do is accept it or we become objects in the universe. Accepting unchangeable facts of life isn’t weakness. It’s what we do to deal with those facts is what makes us truly strong. There’s two really great quotes about choice in this season that you should pay attention to: Buffy’s speech in “Lie To Me”: “You have a choice. You don’t have a good choice, but you have a choice“; and a line from the demon Whistler’s line that I’m posting at the end of the post under “Becoming”, Parts 1 and 2.

#8: “School Hard”: this is a FUN episode, in which we get the introduction of Spike and Druscilla. The whole episode is just brilliant. It’s good pacing, action packed, and obviously an homage to the movie Die Hard. I can’t pick what I like more: Spike’s swagger, his and Dru’s creepy yet tender affection, Angel pretending to be Angelus and offering up Xander to Spike as a snack, Buffy and Spike’s “will we need weapons” scene, Joyce finally standing up for Buffy…but I think my favorite part was Spike throwing a caged Annoying One into the sunlight. I actually cheered at that part.

#7: “Lie To Me”: this is such an important episode in the whole series. Like I mentioned above, it sort of sets one of the mission statements for the show: “You have a choice. You don’t have a good choice but you have a choice.” Buffy’s friend Ford is an important avatar for Angel and his character arc later in the season, but the words Buffy tells him will come back and resonate in a pivotal moment for her. Plus, it’s a Spike and Drusilla heavy episode, which are always fun. Okay, so the vampire wannabe cult is a little bit lame, but for me, it’s a enjoyable episode over all. I crack up every time at the scene where Angel is dissing the groupies, then one dressed exactly like him walks past. And Chanterelle, the blonde girl from the wannabe gang, will be a sort of important character later on, in the first episode of Buffy season 3, “Anne”, and later on Angel: The Series.

#6: “Phases”: I love Oz-centric episodes, and they’re few and far between. Oz is such an intriguing character. He’s the most relaxed of the Scoobies, but inside him he’s got this raging monster. Some people think this one falls flat after the emotional circus that was the “Surprise”/”Innocence” two-parter, but it’s one of the ones I look forward to personally. Kane the werewolf hunter is pretty lame with his stock character sexism, but otherwise this is a great episode. And the last scene between Willow and Oz is so adorable.

#5: “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”: like I said with IMG, Xander has the best one-offs (with the exception of “Teacher’s Pet”). This is definitely one of them (it’s a close contest between this and “The Zeppo” in season 3 to be totally honest). I always love the love spell trope (as long as no one gets used against their will and the spell caster learns their lesson, of course). Amy from “Witch” is back, and Cordy continues to reveal her hidden depths. The only complaint I have is that, according to Giles, Angelus is his most sadistic and destructive on Valentine’s Day, but Angelus doesn’t actually really…do anything? Yeah, he tries to kill Xander, which would have been really cruel to Buffy, but he originally went to the Summers’ house with the intention to kill Buffy. So what’s so special about that, exactly? It’s not the great act of pure evil I expected from Angelus. One would think some torture would be involved first, like the stalking he does in “Passion”. I think they were scared about making our pal Angel too evil, only giving him a few sparse moments like when he snapped Jenny’s neck, or crushed Buffy’s heart in “Innocence”, or tortured Giles just for fun. Angelus is supposed to be all big and bad, and I would have liked to have seen more of that.

#4: “Halloween”: this is one of the most iconic Buffy episodes, and for good reason – it’s awesome. It’s on most people’s lists for “favorite episodes”, mine included. It’s just pure fun. Soldier!Xander, ingenue!Buffy, ghost!Willow, Oz making another cameo, and of course, Cordelia in her cat suit. I don’t have much to write about this one, but it’s just really good.

#3: “I Only Have Eyes For You”: since this is a list being made according to my personal preference, and I’m a sappy romantic at heart, IOHEfY naturally ranks high on the list, and in my opinion is one of the best one-offs of the whole series. It’s one that I’d gladly go back and watch just for the hell of it. It probably doesn’t hurt that it’s bookended by the two clunkers of the season, “Go Fish” and “Killed By Death”. The metaphor for the episode, the ghost lovers being mirrors for Buffy and Angel, can be a little in your face, but not in a bad way. It’s totally logical, and you don’t really understand the poetry of it until the culminating scene taking place in the school with the possessed Buffy and Angel. The only complaint I have really is the parameters of James’s supernatural powers. Telekinesis and possession are par for the course for ghosts and poltergeists, but where did James get the power to summon the bees? Or transmogrify the students’ lunches into snakes? In this sense, it seems like James has whatever superpower the writer gives him so that it’s convenient for the story. But I’m willing to overlook some silliness or plot holes if the episode is overall good, and this episode overall is very good.

#2: “Surprise”/”Innocence”: now we’re finally getting the meat of the season. The arc of season 2 is Buffy sleeping with Angel, Angel losing his soul, and Buffy being forced to essentially take down the man she loves. Now, I don’t think Joss is trying to send any negative messages about having sex, or even having underage sex (because technically Buffy is only 17, and Angel is an immortal 20-something). I think he was trying to make commentary about losing yourself in your passions and losing focus on what is truly important. Take the arguably two most iconic teen romance stories, Romeo and Juliet, and Twilight. In both stories, the teenage lovers completely lose themselves in each other and their relationship. Being in love is fine, but when being in love with someone is your only character trait (*cough, cough* Molly Hooper *cough*), you as an individual disappear. Instead of taking agency and trying to resolve the conflict between their families, Romeo and Juliet are so wrapped up in their tragic love for each other, that it ultimately leads to their self-brought demise. William Shakespeare says it in the very beginning of the play: “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes/A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;/Whose misadventured piteous overthrows/Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.” The whole point of R+J is that teenage love is hormone-fuelled idiocy. And similarly, Buffy loses herself in her passion for Angel. The back half of the season is about Buffy having to rebuild herself now that she no longer has her boyfriend. This isn’t to say that Buffy is weak when she’s with Angel – a woman loving a man isn’t inherently weak. But she neglects her responsibilities (“Bad Eggs”) because she is too absorbed by him. Season 3 is more about Buffy finding herself again, but everything post “Innocence” gives her the building blocks for that reclamation, culminating in her ultimate sacrifice in “Becoming, Part 2”.

And the episodes are both so well done, “Innocence” more than “Surprise”.  The scene where Buffy finally finds Angel(us) again after sleeping with him feels like a gut punch, the way Angelus slyly uses every tool at his disposal to utterly destroy Buffy. Angelus is my favorite Big Bad of the entire Buffy pantheon because he’s so diabolical and all the time while wearing the mask of our beloved Angel. It’s the third greatest landmark of the whole series, in my opinion, apart from the end of season 5 and the next item on the list…

#1: “Becoming”, Parts 1 and 2: season 2 contains two emotional wallomps (three if you cared about Jenny Calendar), and this is the one that totally breaks me every time. I’m of course talking about Buffy being forced to murder her true love. Having to kill Angelus would already been traumatic for her, but having to kill Angel is just so much more brutal. So much more in fact, that she runs away from Sunnydale, since she’s been thrown out by her mother, kicked out of school, and it seems to her that her friends are rooting for her to murder Angel. Admittedly, I don’t much care about the vampires’ evil plan, but as always, the greatness lies in the characters: Angel’s backstory, Angelus torturing Giles, Spike and Buffy’s reluctant collaboration, Willow’s creepy sudden possession by magic, Buffy “coming out” to Joyce as the Slayer and her monologue about how she’d prefer a normal life but that’s simply not in the cards, Xander’s Lie, and of course the heartbreaking scene of Buffy having to kill a newly-resouled Angel. Also, one of the most adorable and unusual friendships in all of Buffy, Spike and Joyce.

There are two things that always stand out for me in this two parter – the part during Buffy and Angelus’s epic duel where Angelus seemingly has Buffy defeated, with his sword to her face.

Angelus: No weapon. No friends. No hope. Take all that away, what’s left? *pauses, then makes to stab Buffy*

Buffy: *calmly grabs the sword and looks Angelus in the eye* …me. *butts Angelus in the face with the pommel of the sword*

(God, I just want to stand up and cheer at that scene.)

And then, Whistler’s voiceover, which I mentioned above:

Whistler: Here’s the thing: there’s moments in your life that make you, that set the course of who you’re gonna be. Sometimes they’re little, subtle moments. Sometimes they’re not. Bottom line is, even if you see ’em comin’, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what are we, helpless? Puppets? Nah. The big moments are gonna come, you can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.