Feminism and Fringe

Fringe has been one of my favorite shows ever since it began. I loved the focus on a strong female lead who attacked problems head-on and who, at least in the beginning, provided direction for the group as a whole. But I’ve recently started to notice a few troubling details that make me wonder whether the writers are working with unconscious sexist assumptions.

Really, it all started with the horrid episode 4.19. It struck me as very odd that Olivia and Peter’s daughter should be, essentially, a clone of Olivia, and not have any of Peter’s scientific genius. This made me start to think about the female characters in Fringe in general, and I realized that none of them is really a match for Peter, Walter, William Bell, David Robert Jones. There are no genius woman scientists in Fringe.

Nina is said to be a scientist, but we rarely see her doing anything related to science. More often she is managing Massive Dynamic or directing others to perform scientific experiments. She can’t even repair her robotic arm on her own.

Astrid has a gift for computers, languages, and code-breaking, but more often than not she is relegated to the tasks of lab assistant and babysitter. We have never really seen her take the lead on a project, though she may make small observations that help the show’s featured geniuses arrive at a conclusion.

Other than that, we have the Fringe events of the week, some of which involve women, but usually those women are either pawns or are using technology they got somewhere else. We have had no main scientific antagonists who were female.

Do the writers of Fringe believe on some subconscious level that women can’t be genius scientists? Is this why there are no female Observers? (If what September said was true, and the Observers are the future of humanity, this implies that humanity evolved away from, or forcibly shifted itself away from, having two sexes. Are we to believe this is because women were inferior scientists and could not “keep up”?)

This all comes as the show has shifted its focus away from its protagonist, Olivia, to focus on Peter. Suddenly Peter is the one who has remained the same throughout all four seasons, not Olivia. Our base of “normal” is no longer Olivia, but Peter. We don’t see Olivia directing the action anymore…instead, she reacts. Things happen to her. At the very end of 4.20 she started to take control again, but after a full season without that strength, it didn’t feel like enough to re-cement her protagonist role. And we already know that in the ridiculous totalitarian Observer future, Olivia isn’t even there.

It’s just all very troubling, and I wonder if the writers see it.

Fringe 4.19 [SPOILERS]

I am disappoint.1

For the most part, I have been enjoying this eclectic season so far. It’s difficult to completely alter reality, and every character’s situation, and have the show feel like “home” to a viewing audience. Eureka kind of lost me, for example, when the main cast went back in time and changed the course of history. There were just too many differences in the new reality. I never regained that sense of “normal”.

Fringe has always been pretty mind-bending, and I was truly impressed with what the writers had done with the characters and history in the alternate universe. So I held out hope that our reality, the foundation we’ve been building for the past three years, would come back strong in season four, merging with the new timeline…that somehow, everyone, or at least everyone aware of Fringe events, would remember both.

Instead, the last handful of episodes have indicated that the only ones who will remember what the viewers remember are Peter and Olivia, and presumably the Observers, who worked to erase that timeline.

This climactic battle with the Observers in the future may yet lead to a restoration of the original timeline. It’s possible; anything is. But if that’s it, if that’s all, if that’s the resolution I’ve been waiting for, then what a letdown.

First of all, putting text on a screen to quickly explain an all-new story concept right in the middle of a show that’s already working within a different reality than the one previously established is heavy-handed. It might have been more confusing to be thrown into the episode with no explanation, but it certainly would have felt less awkward and B-movie sci-fi.

Second…Observers, in a nightclub, acting like gangsters, forcing themselves onto women. Uh, what? This is the first time I have ever seen an Observer do anything remotely sexual, and what a cliche way to add that to the story. I realize there are no female Observers–I’ve wondered about that for a long time, actually–but it doesn’t follow that upon wresting control of Earth from their ancestors, they’d start behaving like thugs from the 1940s.

Speaking of the 1940s: human enforcers of Observer law, dressed up like Nazis! Really! Yes, let’s invoke Nazi Germany in our already trope-heavy dystopian dictatorship.

I guess one thing that really drives me crazy about this is that the future September showed Peter seemed so bright. Humans would evolve and grow and eventually be able to go anywhere and Observe anything. This seemed Good. He never mentioned anything about destroying the planet in the future and then going back into the past to take it over. That, to me, sounds like some hack writer’s drunken “Dude, wouldn’t it be awesome if?”

But September fervently warned Peter that it was imperative he and Olivia get together, because their child would be essential. (If it wasn’t obvious to you that Etta was their kid, the millisecond she first appeared on screen, you haven’t been paying attention.) I had assumed at the time that this meant Peter and Olivia’s child would be part of building the bright future that led toward human expansion into the galaxy…not that she would be vital to stopping the Observers because her mind could somehow not be read by them. Snore.

And did it annoy anyone else that while Etta is practically a clone of her mother, she doesn’t seem to have picked up any of Peter’s scientific genius? What’s that about?

Speaking of clones: last night, I was convinced that this future must be some alternate timeline that would inform our own story, but did not doom our characters to its realities. My main support for this belief was the fact that William Bell was there. Only this morning did I remember that Walter didn’t bother to take William out of the amber…he simply removed his hand. This could imply that he intended to clone William, which could further imply that the William in the amber was also a clone. So that turns out not to be proof after all, much to my dismay. And come to think of it, I don’t think we actually know what happened to William Bell in this timeline anyway. He died in the original timeline, not this one.


Already this season I’ve had many of my assumptions challenged or overthrown (I thought Evil Nina and alt-Broyles were shapeshifters, for example), so maybe things aren’t as doom and gloom as I think. Maybe something good can yet come out of what for now appears to me to be a very trite, uninteresting story. There are little things that intrigue me, like Walter having his brain back, Etta’s life and how she managed to hide the fact that she’s Peter and Olivia’s daughter (her last name was never mentioned in the episode), what happened to the other universe (is the bridge gone?), and whether David Robert Jones is still around somewhere. I’m not so keen on watching another episode without Olivia. Etta does a good Olivia impression, but, you know, Olivia is the main character. Kind of like having her around. It sounded like something happened to Olivia, though, which implies she may not be in this little dystopian future story arc at all. Blerg. [Edit: Looks like I don’t have to worry about the next episode not featuring Olivia, as we are apparently leaving the future storyline unresolved and going back to the present next week.]

At least we already have established precedent for Peter going forward in time, then back in time to change the results he saw. It’ll be totally cheesy if he does it again, but I won’t complain.

I think what bothers me the most about this episode is that my entire understanding of the Observers has changed. I used to think of them as, well, observers. They watched and didn’t interfere. They were scientists and historians. They were interested in their own past and were lucky enough to be able to go and see it in person. September, our most sympathetic Observer, made a big mistake by changing the timeline in two universes, and that touched off all the events where Observers started interfering (except that one where an Observer decided he didn’t want a particular young lady to die). Olivia had an affinity for the child Observer they found, and I felt that this indicated the promise of future friendship. While I knew the Observers were willing to sacrifice people for the sake of the timeline, I always felt they were working for the greater good.

This episode would have me believe that everything, all of it, was the Observers preparing to take over, and just watching and preparing for the best time. And that one big piece of their puzzle was making sure no Peter Bishop ever had a child with our universe’s Olivia Dunham. You might ask, “Why not just kill them, then?” I’m sure a writer somewhere can come up with an explanation like “It would affect other things in the timeline too much.” Never mind all the other timeline changes the Observers kept making, including trying to erase Peter. Did they ever think to stop our Olivia from getting treated with cortexiphan, or is that too obvious?

I’m just disappointed. I’m unhappy that the Observers are nothing more than ruiners and conquerors. I’m unhappy that basically the writers are saying humanity can’t evolve past our petty greed and selfishness in 600 years, even as we make astounding scientific discoveries (and apparently eliminate all women :P).

What this episode is telling me is that even if Peter or someone else from the cast is able to prevent the Observer takeover in 2036, that won’t necessarily stop the Observers themselves from being evil. I’d grown rather attached to them, and I didn’t want them to be evil. I didn’t want this to be so freaking black and white. I wanted a nuanced story with hard situations and tough decisions for everyone.

It’s naive to think that totalitarian regimes can’t exist, obviously, and I probably shouldn’t dismiss them as cliche in stories. I guess I was just expecting more from a civilization 600 years older than our own.

Fringe, season 1

* This post is rife with spoilers. *

The season finale of Fringe answered a lot of questions.

For awhile I thought William Bell was dead, or that he had never existed. We never saw him.

I knew that Walter and Peter had been saved at the lake, and that Walter now owed the Observer a favor, but I could always tell that there was something more to that story and I didn’t know what.

Olivia started getting flashes of what I assumed were various other universes.

Now, after the season finale, it seems there is one main alternate universe. Liv’s flashes all came from that same universe…a universe in which 9/11 didn’t quite go the same way, and in which there was some other, more recent attack. After seeing the finale, I speculate that her flashes are due to the fact that that universe is starting to merge with ours. The “soft points”, from which radiate all manner of phenomena, are only the beginning.

It also seems likely that the kickoff point for the dimensional collision was Walter’s selfish snatching of another Peter–I’ll call him Peter’–from the alternate universe when his own son died. Indeed, the place where I imagine that theft took place–the lake where the two of them were saved–was the soft point Jones was able to use to open the doorway. I presume what actually happened was Peter drowned, Walter went to the alternate universe and retrieved Peter’, and the Observer was helpful in some way, but told Walter that at some point he would need to deal with the ramifications. The stealing of Peter’ was obviously a huge dimensional event–matter was taken from one universe to another, and has existed for some time in a place where it doesn’t belong.

William Bell has been living in the alternate universe for “months”, at least. (That’s how long Nina Sharp claims she hasn’t seen him.) It’s possible that he’s there in an attempt to stop or delay the merging. Perhaps he didn’t realize until recently that Walter stole Peter’. Once he knew the reason for the soft spots, he tried to compensate by shifting some of our universe’s matter–himself–into the other universe to replace what it’d lost.

I imagine his move will end up being too little, too late. Since Bell’s a completely different person, it’s not an equal exchange. And even though it’s not clear what role time plays in this, the fact that the exchange took two decades to happen will probably also have an effect, unless Bell has been there longer than Nina implies.

What confounds me at this point is where the show can possibly go from here. What will we discover about alternate universes? Will we end up able to cross between them with impunity after all? Or am I right, and does dimensional travel without equal exchange cause irreparable damage that will ultimately lead to a universe-collide? If we’ve answered most of the questions about why these events are happening, what kind of questions can we ask next season?

The revelation that Peter’ isn’t from this universe adds a new layer to Walter and Peter’s relationship. We know that Peter’ considers Walter to have been an abusive father. I’ve seen some speculation that it was Walter’ who was abusive, and Walter was a loving father who was too late to spare Peter’ from his father’s abuse. I think it’s more plausible, though, that Walter didn’t know how to relate to Peter’ because Peter’ wasn’t really his son. Whenever Walter is able to connect with Peter’ in a meaningful way, he is so delighted that I imagine it doesn’t happen very much. Walter was trying to bring his son back, but instead he brought home a stranger, and I imagine that fact, plus the guilt over what he’d done, plus the pain over losing his real son, drove him to abusive behavior and insanity.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Peter’ finds out about all this.

Monk S07E09

…was fantastic, and here’s just one of many reasons why:

The moving mustache: Randy's got one, Stottlemeyer doesn't
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Ah, Lois & Clark

Lex: I’ve never noticed your eyes before. How rich, how deep. Like pools of light. A man could drown in those pools.

Lois: …Huh.

Totally hot

Young Bruce Wayne yes.

Can I keep him?

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"A real live Pakistani, who practices Muslimism"

Have you heard of this new show Aliens in America? I hadn’t, until TheStraightPoop mentioned she’s going to be an extra.

Click here and watch some of the videos. I mean, damn. I’m offended, amused, and intrigued, all at once.

It looks like it could be worth watching. Actually, some of the stuff, just from the videos, is scary because I recognize it from my life. I’m not talking about the prejudice, which is more blatant than I would expect, but the other things, the culture. The alpacas :>

(I do think I should point out that I was once acquainted with some Pakistani Muslims and I’m not sure they would always wear traditional garments. It seemed like it was the women who did that, while the men just wore western clothes.)

“Muslimism”. Snerk.

ReBoot rebooted

So, you may have heard that one of my all-time favorite TV shows is supposed to make a comeback. A publisher I’ve never heard of called Zeros 2 Heroes is apparently taking over the franchise. (Edit: Actually, Zeros 2 Heroes is a “social media company” that is handling the community part and possibly the webcomic part of the new effort; the actual production company is Rainmaker Animation, which apparently bought out Mainframe Entertainment.) Five different groups have presented concepts on their website, and fans are rating and commenting on them.

I looked them over and wasn’t very happy, but I didn’t expect to be. Maybe a cool show will come out of all of this, but it’s not going to be the ReBoot I fell in love with. Hell, season 4 wasn’t, either. In seasons 1 and 2, Bob was Han Solo, perfectly willing to delete Megabyte if he got the chance, but in season 4, suddenly Greedo shot first. (And Dot had apparently lost her mind.)

Some of the new incarnations don’t bother to give us our old characters, or when they do, it’s in a vague, “in the past” kind of way. The ones that do “continue” the story completely destroy the characters…Bob becomes a big bruiser in one of them, and Mad Max in another. Isn’t this what games are for? And also, it’s been done. Even if we ignore season 4 hippie Bob, I can’t see Guardian 452 turning into a musclehead. It’s just not…him.

In one incarnation, Dot is actually described as “just a girl”. What? In another, somehow she is married to Megabyte and the mother of a child with two fathers. What?

After season 4, I’ve had about enough of Dot getting the shaft, thanks. I’d like to see her kick some ass, like she did in the first three seasons.

There is no way Dot would ever think of herself as “just a girl”, and there is no way she would knowingly and willingly marry Megabyte, regardless of whether or not she had “code growing inside her”. (Bleh.)

Matrix and AndrAIa, who probably fit these new “hardcore” (snerk) concepts better than our original cast, are curiously absent, though one of the concept creators promised they’d show up later.

In most of these stories, Mainframe has been destroyed. In some of them, the city doesn’t even appear at all. Mainframe is kind of like one of the main characters of the original show, and the search for it was the entire point of season 3. Plus, Mainframe is awesome. Why would you ever get rid of it?

And then, oh and then, there’s the art. All but one of the designs goes completely off from the look of the original show. Honestly? I don’t think the show needed an updated look. Smoother animation, better textures, maybe. But it doesn’t have to look world-realistic…it’s happening inside a computer. I think season 3 was as far as they should have gone with tweaking the look. Season 4 crossed the line–somehow, the characters looked like action figures who didn’t quite seem to be placed properly in the scene, like they were filmed on a green screen. Now these new concepts are telling me that my beloved characters won’t even look like themselves.

What reason do I have to watch this new incarnation, really? I can’t seem to find one.

I think I will just have to write this off. And while I’m at it, I’ll write off season 4, too. Season 3 had a perfectly good ending. Sure, they didn’t beat Daemon, nor did they meet “the User”, but they saved Mainframe and they were all reunited. It ended with a sense of hope. I’d rather leave ReBoot there than with all these new, “darc” incarnations–season 4 included.

Reasons Earth 2 was brilliant

1) The utter disdain in Devon Adair’s voice as she reproaches the interrupting O’Neill, “I’m putting my son to bed, Commander!”

2) They never do tell you who it was Bess thought about. Because that wasn’t what was important. Here was a show where when there was trouble in a marriage, it didn’t automatically end. Here was a show that dealt with choice and consequence. Here was a show with people with real feelings and real emotions who made real mistakes and then had to live with them–and who chose to fight instead of taking the easy road.

3) Terry O’Quinn.

4) Tim Curry.

5) Devon and Danziger. Especially the scene where they’re tied up and Devon has to grab the canteen with her mouth.

6) Real children, and real parents. These aren’t adorable, model children. These aren’t scenery. These are kids with real personalities and motivations, who don’t always know what’s right, and who react extraordinarily realistically to being stranded on a planet with none of the luxuries they were used to. These are kids whose actions often drive the plot. These kids are characters!

7) Alonzo grinning when Danziger asks how old he is, and responding, “A hell of a lot older than you, kid.”

8) Deadly viruses that come not from the new hostile environment, but from something that happened years ago and light years away.

9) The Grendlers. They could have just been boring, stupid, and ugly. But they’re complex, motivated, friendly with a twist–their love for the taste of human blood. And then there’s that episode where their “humanity” is incontrovertibly shown…

10) Danziger’s apology to True. I cannot describe how attractive a good father is.

11) The amazing shot framing. I am constantly impressed by how plot elements will stay framed in the background, even when the action is in the foreground, or how receding action will remain framed by something related in the foreground. And then there are scenes that are just pretty.

12) The concept of a planet’s life forms having direct symbiosis with it. Sure, it’s an obvious environmentalist statement…but it’s also rife with story possibilities. Especially when you throw in the human factor.

13) How a story that seems fairly simple continues to become more and more complex, yet retains the themes that make everything still seem simple.

14) Fantastic props and costumes and set pieces. And who knew New Mexico was that beautiful? (I’ve never been there–sorry New Mexico!)

15) Morgan Martin, one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen. He’s not a hero in many ways, and yet in other ways he is. Most of all he’s real. He’s real and he makes all kinds of mistakes. But he’s not comic relief–or if he is, that’s not all he is. He’s a main character. (Side note: the actor who plays him is named Gegenhuber…was the writer of Kyou Kara Maou a fan?)

16) Exploring what it means to be genetically designed for something and to have other, seemingly baser motivations. Exploring various ways of dealing with criminals–exile, mind wipe–that aren’t really possible currently, but are just as rife with ethical dilemmas as the procedures we have now. Exploring so many science and social possibilities, all within the framework of real people stuck together on a mission gone sour.

17) Discovering things we take for granted about planetary life for the first time: wind, rain, snow.

18) The VR. I know, it seems to randomly appear after Julia uses it to contact Reilly…but it’s just so cool!

19) Reilly: You must tell me where you are so we can come and collect the child. Who knows? When you do, maybe the Council will name an entire continent after your family.

Julia: Yeah. Maybe they’ll call it Hell.

Waiting for a Fare

by Antonio Scarpacci

for a fare.

Here comes one now.
Oh, it looks like he wants to go someplace far.

You just want directions to the lighthouse?

It’s right there, you stinking little tourist!
What are you, blind?
Hey! You’re gonna lose that finger, pal!
Get in! I’ll drive you into the cold, dark ocean!

for a fare.

(Yes, my Wings season 4 DVDs arrived today. How could you tell?)

"I’ve been denied everything…even my revenge!"

My Gargoyles season 1 two-disc set arrived the other day, and I’ve already watched all the episodes plus the commentary on the first five. Good stuff.

Gargoyles is still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Watching it again really took me back to my life as a teenager, though. The commentaries especially reminded me how much time has passed, and what things were like for me in 1994.

Sometimes I wonder if nostalgia is wanting things to be the way they used to be, or wanting yourself to be the way you used to be. Either way, it’s wistfulness over an impossible dream…but it can be such a poignant feeling.


Have you seen The Batman? I watched an episode the other day, and now it’s on again. It’s really neat! The art is just odd enough to be interesting without being irritating (so much of modern American animation art annoys me these days), and the animation is both smooth and stylistically choppy. Some CG work was obviously used, but it blends really well. I like the story, too–it’s a younger Batman, and he’s got all kinds of crazy gadgets. I guess it feels like a sequel to Batman Begins, in a way.

The opening credits are hilarious, too: music with a slightly techno, slightly 70’s flavor, bright horns for all the pows and socks–I love the reference to the Adam West series ;>

The clincher? Barbara Gordon just said, “Brucey, you are so the Batman.” XD