The Final Girls: Potential ABC Family Series

According to Deadline.com, ABC Family may be producing a series called The Final Girls based on the horror movie trope of the same name. The project hasn’t yet been picked up for a pilot, but so far director Steve Miner is attached to the project, and so is one of the most famous final girls: Jamie Lee Curtis of the original Halloween franchise.

Laurie Strode Jamie Lee CurtisAs the name implies, “final girl” refers to the last girl left alive at the end of a horror movie. I’ve talked about the role before, primarily in my discussion of the series that I feel does the best work with them, A Nightmare on Elm Street, so I don’t think I need to discuss the trope itself too much. What I plan to do today is speculate on what this new series may become and how excited I am for it.

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The Fosters

The FostersThe Fosters is a new series on ABC Family. The show, which began airing earlier this month, is about the family pictured above which consists of two mothers (Stef and Lena), one biological son (Brandon), an adopted set of twins (Jesus and Mariana), and a new foster child (Callie). Absent from the photograph but also appearing in the series are Stef’s ex-husband/Brandon’s biological father (Mike) and Callie’s little brother (Jude).

Obviously there’s a hell of a lot going on in this show. How well is it being handled? Ah, well, that’s the question I intend to address, though perhaps not fully answer.

The reason I don’t feel I can fully answer the question is that the show is very young, only four episodes old, and I haven’t done a particularly good job keeping up with it despite wanting to. Still, I believe I have enough to go on to discuss a few of the show’s strengths and weaknesses.

Its strengths, I believe, are its diversity and especially its representation, while its main weakness is poor pacing. The diversity on the show is pretty apparent from the multi-racial family and homosexual relationship, but what I think is more impressive is how these things are handled. After all, it’s one thing to have minorities present on a show, merely filling spots on a diversity checklist; it’s quite another to actually make their characters unique and rounded and from what I’ve seen The Fosters is definitely putting in the extra effort to do so.

The twins, Mariana and Jesus (pronounced “hey-ZOOS”, by the way, in case you were reading his name the same as you would Mr. Christ’s), are Latino and their heritage is present in the story without being trumpeted every time they enter a room. For example, in a recent episode Mariana celebrated her quinceañera, the Latin American celebration of a girl’s entering womanhood on her fifteenth birthday, showing an important part of her culture, but she and Jesus don’t go around daily listening to salsa music and peppering their speech with simple Spanglish to accentuate their heritage without alienating the English-speaking audience.

Similarly, the relationship between the two mothers is portrayed as simple and natural, without ignoring the fact that homosexual relationships still face prejudice:

Callie: So, you're dykes? Jesus: They prefer the term "people", but yeah; they're gay

Callie: So, you’re dykes?
Jesus: They prefer the term “people”, but yeah; they’re gay.

The show is walking that fine line between sensationalism and erasure: these characters and their identities are nothing to gawk at, but neither are they anything to be ignored or glossed over: they are worthy of attention and will be portrayed on screen. I was also happy to see that the lesbian relationship doesn’t go too far into the heteronormative representation of homosexual relationships where one partner is “masculine” and the other “feminine”. Both women feel realistically rounded and fulfill their roles as parents and lovers without losing their individuality.

The problem I had with the show’s pacing came from how quickly plot points were thrown at the viewer in the pilot episode. To break it down, within the first hour of the series I was expected to:

  1. Get on board with the overall plot of the show
  2. Meet some eight or nine characters and understand their complex relationships with each other
  3. Invest emotionally in each of these characters’ lives
  4. Follow at least three independent stories which each had their own climax by the end of the episode

That was quite a lot to absorb in roughly forty-five minutes of storytelling. I found it to be too much to tackle for a pilot, which should have focused on introducing the characters and setting before having each character tackle a dramatic personal hurdle that the audience can hardly be invested in after only knowing the characters for about twenty minutes.

That said, I was pulled in by the show, but I honestly had difficulty telling if it was because the writing was actually good or if I was just being emotionally manipulated, because I’ll come right out and say it: I’m soft and my heartstrings are easily tugged, especially when it has anything to do with young people and/or families going through tough situations. As such, I definitely plan to watch the show some more to flesh out my opinions. If you’re watching, let me know what you think of the show and maybe you can help me make a more level assessment free of my interfering sentimentality.

Nikki of ‘Switched at Birth’

I wanna talk about Switched at Birth again because something happened on this week’s episode that I was honestly shocked by. Legitimately shocked; I did not expect this to happen and I had no way of prepping for it.

Last season a character named Nikki was introduced, played by Cassi Thomson. The character is a love interest for Toby who meets her at church and the two start a Christian rock band. Nikki has taken a purity pledge and this coupled with her strong faith are points of mild contention for Toby who is not particularly religious. I expected very little from this character because the last time ABC Family tried to give us a Christian character concerned with chastity this is what we got:

^I stopped watching that show a long time ago so I don’t know if it ever got any better. I kind of doubt it.

Now it’s not like the shows are written by the same people or anything, and I have already been proven wrong by this show’s handling of potentially difficult themes, so why was I so quick to judge? I think because Christians are hard to write because they’re either sanctimonious paragons of virtue (a la 7th Heaven) or wicked, hateful stereotypes. Whether the writer is trying to portray them in a positive or negative light, they almost always become two-dimensional caricatures rather than worthwhile characters, so when this show introduced Nikki and her primary characteristic seemed to be “Christian with a capital C”, I was concerned. Continue reading

Switched at Birth

Switched at Birth- Bay and Daphne Kennish-VasquezSwitched at Birth is one of those shows that I initially wrote off but ended up loving once I gave it a chance. As you can probably guess from the title, the show is about characters who were switched at birth. Of course, the characters find out about their switch and drama ensues. This show airs on ABC Family, which hasn’t produced entertainment of particularly high quality as of late, so I was very skeptical when this show premiered.  I know the ~drama~ this channel likes to pump into its shows at the expense of character and story development, and the premise of this show set itself up for dramatic dramatized drama in spades.

I am glad to report that this show is actually fantastically written and, while it does dip itself into soap opera territory with certain plot elements, it is overall a very smart show.

The two girls switched are named Daphne and Bay. Bay (the brunette in the above image) is raised by the wealthy Kennish family consisting of Kathryn, John, and older brother Toby while Daphne (the redhead) loses her hearing as a child and is raised by a single mother named Regina Vasquez, whose estranged husband Angelo was absent for most of Daphne’s adolescence. The show explores some really intricate themes but especially the ideas of who these girls are, who they would have been, and which (if either) is who they are supposed to be.

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