Lost Grrl? A Feminist Shift in Sci Fi

Well, maybe ‘feminist’ is a stretch, but perhaps a little subversive? The Canadian-made sci-fi show follows the monster-of-the-week format that has been so successful with sci-fi shows in the past, making full use of the plethora of mythical creatures that can be showcased as modern reinterpretations. It’s a classic tale of self discovery and heroism that plays into the audience’s deep seated fantasies of an exciting world beyond our mundane existance, and that we, too, might be ‘special’ and just not know it.

But it’s the new twist on these familiar ideas that makes this show appeal to me. After all, what’s not to like about a sexually liberated, bisexual Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Add to that the fact that most of the characters are over 30, the lead actress rocks her curves, her healthy weight seen as not only positive but powerfully sexual, plus the most powerful, wise, and beloved character is a four foot tall king. While the writers have embraced a fairly conventional narrative, this doesn’t seem to extend to the way they treat their characters, or who they’ve cast. These guys are not 6ft, 110lbs, impossibly beautiful and 21 years old (with the notable exception of sidekick Kenzi). They’ve managed to cast a range of characters that don’t necessarily fit Hollywood ideals (I’m thinking, for comparison, of other fantasy-based entertainment that’s popular at the moment, like the Vampire Diaries or the Twilight Saga, where everyone is essentially a teen-model and wearing a coating of makeup so thick that there’s no danger of the sun coming into contact with their daylight-senstive skin).

The one point Lost Girl consistently fails at is a realisitc ethnic mix- their one character-of-colour has always been second-tier, and has been largely absent this season. Human sidekick Kenzi is Latvian and does speak in her native tongue in some episodes, but she’s still white/European, and her cultural roots are usually dealt with in a fairly carnivaleque manner. Bo, the lead character, is mid-West farmgirl white, and her posse of helpers/lovers are all blonde and verging on (or actually) Nordic. I suppose you could blame this on the fact that the legends being played out have, in large part, Nordic or European origins, but it’s not like there aren’t other cultures’ legends to draw from.

And while I’m not totally sold on the idea of a heroine whose power is drawn from her sex appeal (quite literally, she mesmerizes people into doing what she wants by using her sex powers on them), I have to say that the exploration of Bo’s relationships and sexuality this season has been interesting and perhaps even progressive. While the first two seasons focused on her standard romance with a gruf male lead, some tension was added by dangling the possibility of a lesbian relationship with Doctor Lauren which was finally fullfilled in season 3. This season has shown Bo experimenting with monogomy and coming to the conclusion that it’s not ‘in her nature’, so we’ve seen her somewhat successfully navigate an open relationship, enjoying consensual, no-strings sex with other fae while still maintaining an honest and emotionally rich relationship with her human partner. Female sexuality and female pleasure is so rarely given centre stage, and Bo’s voracious appetite isn’t met with even a hint of slut-shaming.

Also the sex scenes this season predominantly showing two women enjoying each other without a man in sight is a refreshing departure from the usual sci fi romance.  And the fact that the same-sex relationships are given as much attention as the hetero versions is also nice. Initially I thought it was unfortunate choice that the lesbian relationship was seemingly ‘lesser’ because Lauren is human and therefore has an expiry date. By contrast, the hetero option allows Dyson- an immortal like Bo- to wait in the wings for that relationship to peeter out owing to human-fae longterm incompatability. I wondered if the writers were going for some kind of underdog/against-all-odds appeal with Lauren, but as she got progressively more complainy and insecure, and Dyson ‘got his love back’ for Bo, I could see the progressive sexal plotline drawing to an unsatisfying close.

Valkcubus

But then the writers turned this love triangle into a square by bringing in Tamsin, an immortal, in-control, confident and powerful foil to Lauren’s all-too-human insignificance. So now Bo has a few options- hetro bliss with Dyson, who, as a ‘wolf’, can only ‘give his love’ to one person, therefore guaranteeing an eternity of monogamy (not great for a Succubus?). A finite and therefore potentially doomed open relationship with Lauren, who as a human can never be enough for Bo. Or a tension-filled love-hate partnership with a warrior Fae who seems to be as powerful, badass, and sexually empowered as Bo is (Bo’s reaction every time she’s made out with Tamsin of, “holy crap I’ve never tasted chi like that before” seems to bode well for the Valkyrie offering something that neither the wolf nor the human can).

So this show is ticking all my sci-fi boxes at the moment, and not even making me constantly cringe at all the heteronormative submissive female bullshit that I usually have to endure in a fantasy show- or indeed, in much of television these days.

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