Images courtesy of Showcase Lost Girl site
We all have guilty pleasures. Maybe you’re a hardcore leftist intellectual whose partner publishes dense books on comparative religion and you read People Magazine on the sly; maybe you’re a professor of Music specializing in Medieval religious music and you follow Miley Cyrus on Twitter and have every one of her albums; maybe your an avowed fan and proponent of the detective novel as major literature, a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, and a regular speaker on the influence of Doyle on modern detective fiction, but you have every episode of Scooby Doo on your Tivo. I dunno what yours is; I just know that people have them.
For me it’s usually some TV show or other. I can rationalize it; for example, I can make a good case that my love of Kim Possible shows my feminist leanings, my support of girl empowerment, and come up with plenty of other pseudo-intellectual nonsense, but the truth is I watch it because it’s funny and Kim kicks ass.
But I want to mention one guilty pleasure that is in some ways truly remarkable: Lost Girl.
At first blush, this is your classic guilty pleasure. Vampires! Werewolves! Succubi! Conspiracy theories and lost civilizations and lots of fight scenes! Lots of hot women in tight leather outfits! Gratuitous ow-neckline cleavage shots! Girl-on-girl make-out sessions!
And let’s just stop there and back up a minute. Because here’s the thing:
From a perspective of how women are treated and how GLB (no trans characters that I can remember) relationships are treated, it’s one of the most level-headed shows I’ve ever seen.
The most obvious thing is who this show is about: A woman. And her female live-in, non-sexual best friend. And the main character’s girlfriend. And her main protagonists: The leader of the “dark” folks (that’s what they call themselves)–also a woman–and her long-lost mother (yes, a woman). (And oh, yeah; her sort-of boyfriend the werewolf.)
Seeing a pattern here?
The three main characters; what’s unusual for TV lead characters about this picture?
I haven’t even mentioned the many, many characters who are on for longer or shorter periods, like Linda Hamilton in a multi-show guest-starring role, or Rachel Skarsten as real-life valkyrie, or . . . well, you get the point. LOTS of women, and front and center. This show passes the Bechdel test with ease (although I’m sure there must be an episode somewhere in its five-year run that doesn’t).
And as a middle-aged guy who has always been aggravated by the way women’s roles in film and TV seem divided into two classes (ingenue, and mom), I’m absolutely thrilled that the powerful, strong, independent, sexy (it has to be said; she playing a succubus, for Pete’s sake!), tough, absolutely kick-ass woman who plays the lead is over 40 and (in real life) a mom. A middle-aged woman who plays an independent person not mooning after some guy or is a mom? Wow; who’d’a thunk? And despite the “common wisdom” among Hollywood movie and TV types, it’s run for five seasons. So put that in your sexist pipes and smoke it, you jerks!
Lead character, Bo, preparing to kick ass
And finally, I’m incredibly pleased at how unremarked the treatment of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals this show presents. The lead character is a bisexual woman who has had men, women, and sometimes both as partners and lovers. Various other characters are straight, gay, or lesbian, and no one makes a big point of it; it’s just part of their character. We don’t have situations like “Will and Grace” or “Ellen” or many other shows and movies where a big deal is made of the fact that this or that character is gay or lesbian or bi and oh my god shouldn’t we get a lot of credit for being so brave? Nope; it’s just a natural part of how the characters are portrayed. And in my opinion, that’s what we’re driving towards, right? Where being GLBT is so normalized and unremarkable that we don’t, well, remark on it. (And a lesbian actress plays a lesbian character; heaven forfend!)
Now yes, this show definitely falls into the “guilty pleasure” category in many ways. Being Canadian, it can show more nudity than US programs, and it takes this as far as it can–lots of beautiful women and men in very revealing clothing. (Oh yes; men too. You should see the scene where Bo, the main character, visits her mother’s house and is served–and offered “services” by–her mother’s shirtless, tight-leather-pants-wearing, hunky Chippendale’s male “thralls”.) Lots of cleavage and tight leather pants and sex scenes. Not to mention plenty of fighting with swords and knives and fists, claws and cross-bows, you name it. Our Heroine has a trunk filled with weapons.
So yes, “Lost Girl” is a guilty pleasure on one level, but on another, it’s quite a remarkable show. If you at all like science fiction, fantasy, or strong, powerful, interesting lead characters, gender equality, and positively-presented (without a lot of self-congratulation) GLB characters and relationships, you might enjoy it, too.