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Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

Why Supernatural’s Bloodlines Got Called Off

In Movies/TV, Pop Culture! on May 14, 2014 at 9:51 am

CW’s planned spinoff of Supernatural is officially dead in the water.  Bloodlines, which entered the picture during Supernatural’s season 9 episode (9×20), felt too much like The Originals for many longterm Supernatural fans to stomach.  The backdoor pilot episode earned a slew of negative reviews on Tumblr that outweighed the positive response and killed its future.

Bloodlines wasn’t a bad show.  It wasn’t even a bad concept.  Many fans miss the “good ol’ days” of monster hunting before Supernatural began using the Bible as a reference book.  Setting up a monster mafia in one of America’s most historically corrupt cities was a stroke of genius, and writers could have explored Chicago’s mafia-ridden roots.

But the CW pilot failed in several key points, which they should acknowledge if they expect to keep the Supernatural giant from sinking after season 10.

Upper class, white monsters

Margo Lassiter, shape-shifter family, lassiter shapeshifter, spn bloodlines familiesThe CW hosts slew of glamorous shows about betrayal, monsters and fashion trends.  And they could have continued the run with Bloodlines but for one worrisome fact:  upper class white monsters.

Spinoffs aren’t expected to be identical to their origin material, but Bloodlines proved too jarring a transition for many fans.  While Supernatural chronicles migratory life of blue collar roots, home town cops and your small town Everyman, Bloodlines set its eyes on a more glamorous life.

The pilot split the story between Ennis Roth, the urban man with more traditionally Supernatural roots, and the posh world of monsters.  After giving a courteous head nod to other monster families, Bloodlines focused in on the very wealth – very white – shapeshifter and werewolf families.

I hope the writers planned to expand the story in future episodes, but I was left miffed by how they handled race and class.  Surely the Lassiter family, pure-born shapeshifters, didn’t need to be white – or at least not entirely white.  And where are the other factions, the Djinn and ghouls, who could be cast with more diversity?  Why is Ennis, the protagonist and only minority character, simultaneously given blue collar roots and the less captivating storyline?

Man Pain and Women in Refrigerators

Supernatural has the dubious legacy of beginning its nine season run by killing Sam Winchester’s girlfriend, Jess, and setting a long precedent for killing off the show’s female characters as a plot device.  Bloodlines had the misfortune of mimicking the trope and doing so clumsily.  Not only have audiences become more aware of Women in Refrigerators – when TV shows, movies and video games kill off the main character’s significant other as a motivating plot device for the male protagonist – but they know when it’s not done well.

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Ennis’s story is fueled by the death of his girlfriend.  David Lassiter spends the pilot grieving his lost relationship with Violet, which is dead in another sense.  The villain is a grieving man, driven crazy by victimization at the hands of monsters.  Even Sal, who departed within minutes of the show’s opening, died grieving and remorseful.

Too close to the Supernatural pilot

A successful, independent young man is called back home by his sibling to take care of family matters.  He struggles to reconcile the loss of his girlfriend while taking care of the job, eventually deciding to stay on with the family business.  Surprise!  I’m talking about David Lassiter, not Sam Winchester.

Jessica Moore, women in refrigerators, tropes in TV shows, women representation in Supernatural

A hot-headed young man takes up hunting to seek revenge following the brutal death of his girlfriend, but things are more complicated than they seemed.  Then he receives a surprise call from his “dead” father telling him not to get involved with affairs in Chicago’s underworld.  No, I’m not talking about the Winchesters.  I’m talking about Ennis.

I enjoyed the clever characters in Bloodlines, but witty banter and brotherhood forged in loss couldn’t save the show.  Maybe the Winchesters will return to Chicago in season 10 so we can get some closure – and the spinoff that longtime fans deserve.

Rev: “The Only Boy” (2013) Loses Rhythm in POV Transitions

In Books/Authors, Pop Culture! on May 8, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Writing itself is a practiced craft, and we only we expand our skills through trial, error and critique.  Still, stories are incredibly personal to the writer. It took me so long to write this post because, honestly, I hate giving negative reviews.  Few things in this world are worse than disliking a book, and one of them is receiving a negative feedback.  Criticism stings.

“The Only Boy” by Jordan Locke is a story that could have been good but never got the chance.  Set an indeterminate time after disease wipes out the world’s male population, it’s a strange place where doctors genetically create children but still rely on scavenged food rations to eat.

The novel follows two teens – Mary, a curious girl with authority issues, and Taylor, the lanky boy hiding in a world of women – as they defy authority and fall in love.

Except the romance doesn’t convince. Their relationship seems to stem from the idea that Taylor is a boy rather than from their chemistry. In fact, Mary and Taylor’s interactions lack depth.  They spend most of the book bickering, storming off and pining for each other rather than, you know, actually communicating.

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“Why do I love you?” “I don’t know. We literally just met.”

Some of the problem lies with the perspective and narrative structure.  One of the perks of writing in first person is that the author can get inside the characters’ heads, building world views and a depth of feeling necessary for the story.  Readers get access to character motives in a way third person doesn’t allow.

Proper use of first person is especially important if the plot is driven by a character’s interior motives or if the overall premise is weak.  “Divergent” by Veronica Roth is a memorable YA novel because Roth uses first person storytelling to capture Tris’s thoughts and character development, not because the overall premise makes sense.

POV, narrating POV, character development POV,

Locke wrote the novel in multiple first person, a tricky but manageable POV.  However, rather than using viewpoint to explore the main characters’ interior lives and motives over the course of events, Locke transitioned POV when tension within the scene built.  The effect throws Mary and Taylor into an unfortunate action-before-motive loop, making their decisions seem impulsive and childish (until the halfway point, I guessed their ages at 11-13 instead of 16-17).  Consequently, the reader has trouble following the story and a harder time suspending disbelief.

A plot revolving around deadly disease requires considerate world-building, which begs the question why I found myself halfway through the novel before learning important details such as the ages of the main characters.  As the facts continued to elude me, I was left without a clear understanding of the setting or history.  How does the disease work?  How long ago was the outbreak?  What are the Sections?  Where is the story set? And, seriously, why can they design children in tubes but not grow their own vegetables?

The actual impetus for overthrowing the Matriarch’s authority comes too late and too lightly for me to get on board.  Why would I justify a regime change because a couple rebellious teens disagreed with the rules, especially after I spent most of the book questioning their judgment and rash behavior?

Rating:  2 Stars

Favorite Character:  The old lady in the rocking chair

Top Reasons to Read:  It helps you understand first person narrative structure and scene transitions

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