When I heard the news, I grabbed a copy of the book to get a sense of what we’ll be in for. Lovecraft Country is an excellent novel which makes a few daring choices in transmuting 1950s America into the sort of non-Euclidean horrorscape that made Lovecraft himself a household name. Better still, it does not shy away from confronting the shocking racial hatred that always underpinned Lovecraft’s work: the man who invented the Cthulhu Mythos also penned “On the Creation of N******.”
We’ll be in good hands with Jordan Peele bringing this to the screen: Peele has proven himself more than capable at fulfilling the promise of his genre.
Trigger warning for frank discussion of racism below.
Futurama is one of my all-time favorite shows. I have watched these episodes so many times I think I broke Netflix’s suggestion algorithms. While there are many aspects to the showthat are brilliant and remarkably nuanced, one topic that they have addressed repeatedly, and one that their exploration has handled in widely disparate and often problematic ways, is gender and gender identity. While not a main theme of the show, various aspects of gender and sexuality are regularly explored and put under the lens of Futurama’s satirical distant future.
A genderbent recreation of the Barbarella poster with Fry and Leela. (Screenshot from Futurama.)
In examining how this is generally handled, the good and bad alike, there are some specific episodes scattered throughout the show’s run that specifically deal with these issues and demand specific attention; mostly through changes to the gender identity of one of its most widely known characters: Bender B Rodriguez.
TW: Discussion of transphobic and homophobic themes.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: this season’s titles come from the fiery-badass poem 1695 by Etta Wheeler Wilcox, which y’all should read. Really, it’s short.
Done? Cool, let’s get on with the show. This week’s premiere picked up pretty much right where the Season 4 finale left off: Sarah injured, Cosima reunited with Delphine, and everything happening so much with Alison, Donnie, and Helena.
So, while the creators have been saying it since day one, it was still startling that The Leftovers ended last week without definitively explaining the Great Departure. The event was the show’s central mystery: in an instant, two percent of the world’s population vanished without a trace. Since much of the series was about the struggle to understand the Departure and find meaning in a world where such things can happen, it was a bold choice to, shall we say, let the mystery be.
This is significant, not only in light of the show’s thematic work around doubt and anxiety, but also in the current era of television, where audiences endlessly focus on solving riddles and then angrily demand answers for ambiguous moments.
As I was writing about Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood of the Shadowhunters series, I was actually thinking about their relationship a lot as well. So it’s only fitting, having discussed these characters separately, to also discuss their relationship, especially since it is such an important part of both Magnus and Alec’s character development. As such, it’s interesting to look at their relationship through the lens of their age difference, as Magnus is hundreds of years old and Alec is barely out of his teenage years, as far as we can tell. If not handled well, this kind of age difference can (and often does) lead to an unfair and creepy power imbalance in the relationship, which most works of fiction conveniently ignore. However, Malec, as they’re known, is a pairing portrayed in such a way that both Magnus and Alec are on more or less equal footing despite their different experiences.
Spoilers for the Shadowhunters series below. Trigger warnings for mentions of pedophilia and statutory rape.
HBO promotional image of Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston)
As it prepares for its final episodes, it’s time to revisit HBO’s The Leftovers, where past years of struggles and miracles give way to a looming cataclysm. In brief, the show depicts the aftermath of the Sudden Departure, a Rapture-like event where 2% of the Earth’s population vanished in an instant. The first season focused on the immediate aftermath of the event in a small town in upstate New York, and the second turned to a community in Texas, which was spared altogether.
Having already moved most of the cast across the country, the final season moves most of the action to Australia, in the days leading up to the seven-year anniversary of the Departure: a growing consensus sees this occasion as the likely beginning of the End of Days. Simultaneously darker and funnier than its predecessors, the show is very conscious that this season is its last. Absurdity and grief pair together as the characters realize that their quest to make the Departure meaningful approaches its final hour.
While the other seasons largely focused on community responses to tragedy, this final season has been atomically individual. After all, we each go into death alone, even though we are all going to die.
It seems in recent years as though a dam has broken and the notion of what is “acceptable content” for a kids or YA show thankfully now has an ever-increasing flow of support. While themes of inclusivity and equality have been a staple of the genre since the early days of Children’s Television Workshop, recent examples like Steven Universe have dealt with gender identity and sexuality in ways that would likely have been vetoed by the networks even a decade ago. One show that, in many ways at least, was at the forefront of that charge is Adventure Time. While by no means perfect, it gives us numerous examples of gender equality and represents a fairly wide range of gender, sexual, and romantic identities that fall outside the heteronormative narratives that many of the genre’s examples, even the best ones, have traditionally retold ad nauseum.
Grab your friends, we’re going to very distant lands. (screengrab from Adventure Time)
While Adventure Time does this in numerous ways and through numerous characters, there is one example that is among the most direct and the most enduringly popular: Fionna and Cake. In looking not only at these characters specifically, but also more broadly at what they show us about the Ice King and toxic masculinity, we can see one of the best examples of these themes being presented in subtle and complex ways that are accessible to the target age group and, ultimately, further that tradition of inclusiveness.