Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tropes, Buffy, and Annoying Commercials

1. You Too Can Be Depicted!

I recently came across a (sort-of) wiki called TV Tropes that is quite entertaining in its exploration of many television (and movie, literary, and comic book) devices and conventions.

Some of these tropes include, for gays, the usually male character of Gay Best Friend (think "George" in My Best Friend's Wedding) and for black people, those trusty roles of Black Best Friend (think "Dionne" in Clueless) and Magical Negro (think "Morpheus" and "the Oracle" in The Matrix)?

I know, coming the day after a post in which I criticized an anti-gay person for taking issue with a "normal" lesbian character, you might be thinking that I'm implacable. But, media representations can be powerful, so it's something I think about quite a bit. For instance, it used to be a common cliche for writers to make gay and lesbian characters evil, incapable of finding happiness, and then ending up dead. Within the Dead/Evil Lesbian Cliche, "one of the most repeated scenarios is that one lesbian dies horribly and her lover goes crazy, killing others or herself." Yet, tropes, or so the TV Tropes site argues, are more benign than cliches and they are not necessarily "bad." Rather they are just patterns in storytelling that people come to recognize.

Speaking only for myself, what I want from the media is for minorities to be depicted as embodying the full range of humanity in the same way as people who are considered the norm, as much as that's possible in storytelling anyway. While it's true that sometimes people do really have Gay Best Friends. Where we have a problem is when virtually every single representation of a gay person is of Gay Best Friend. It sort of reduces the person to an unrealistic character who lacks "any wants or motivations not directly related to the [usually heterosexual] protagonist." Which is fine, if you and people exactly like you are the protagonist. But, not so swell when people like you are rarely the storyteller.

2. Buffy, Take Two

Ever since it was announced a few weeks ago that a Buffy the Vampire Slayer remake of the (sub-par) 1992 film, Buffyverse fans have expressed an almost collective sense of disappointment that producer Joss Whedon will not be a part of the project.

Although whoever produces this movie has big shoes to fill, given the current sausage-fest that is this summer's Action Flick line-up, I am not all that disappointed about the revival of a movie about a female hero. Many of us have been waiting a long time for a movie/television continuation of one of the few television series centered not only around a strong empowered female hero, but also a lesbian character who had real relationships and sex with other women.

Yes, it is difficult to conceive of a Buffy project without Whedon or any of the original Scoobies, but I think the producers could assuage a tiny bit of this disappointment, at least to a certain segment of the Buffyverse fan base, if Lucy and Renee were somehow thrown into the mix. If you're part of that certain segment, "Lucy and Renee" require no further elaboration.

3. Very Important Poll

In other news, judging by the results of my Very Scientific poll (n=10), commercials featuring Billy Mays are officially the most annoying commercials in the world. I concur.

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