Sci-fi/Fantasy Movies and TV Shows

I watched a really good sci-fi movie the other day that got me thinking about the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I’m a huge fan of SFF—especially if there’s a good romantic subplot (or main plot) in the mix. Lately there’s been a surge of SFF movies and TV shows. And YA is really starting to bring in some fantastic fantasy (pun intended) and sci-fi. The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Throne of Glass, The Hunger Games, and Grave Mercy are just a few of my favorites.

It’s been my experience, though, that the movie making industry has a harder time creating strong SFF. This is understandable once you consider how many people read and make changes to a screenplay before it reaches production. And then there are the changes that get made while it’s undergoing production—changes by the director, the interpretation by the actors, etc. While these changes are understandable, I don’t think we can excuse all of them. When the storylines are riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies that are so bad that they make you unable to suspend your disbelief halfway through the movie, it’s a problem.

So to remind us that the genre is wonderful and worthy of our attention, I thought I would list some good SFF shows and movies to look into (and some old ones to remember and appreciate).

First is Live. Die. Repeat.: Edge of Tomorrow, the excellent sci-fi movie that I mentioned watching earlier. Basically this movie is Ender’s Game meets Prince of Persia.

And since I just mentioned them, I will add them to the list formally because they are both fantastic SFFs.

Prince of Persia

Ender’s Game

Next up is Pirates of the Caribbean.

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Need I say anything else?

Guardians of the Galaxy

Everything in the Marvel universe is already awesome, but I especially enjoyed GotG. Talk about fantastic dialogue and characterization!

Galaxy Quest

Laugh out loud funny.

The Hunger Games

Probably one of the most brilliantly done movie adaptations of a book.

Stardust

And now some timeless classics:

Star Wars

The Lord of the Rings

And a few great shows:

The Vampire Diaries

I know I talk about TVD a lot, but, guys, this show is brilliant. I had never seen a show that gets better with each new season until I saw TVD. The series arc is brilliant, and the plots are oh, so fun!

Every show by Joss Whedon:

Firefly

Dollhouse

I feel like Dollhouse is lesser known, but it is still an excellent show. If you like sci-fi, go watch now.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

(These next two are not by Joss Whedon, but they’re both great.)

Witches of East End

Sorry, couldn’t find an official trailer.

And last but not least, Orphan Black

This actress is phenomenal.

Now go watch something awesome. Watching awesomeness always inspires me to write 🙂

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Ladies, Please

We live in a time where the world is more aware than ever that there are more people in it besides white males over 21 who own land.

There is a high demand for more diverse representation in our media: diversity in race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, etc. There are so many voices that need to be heard, and there is no question that we will suffer as a society until equality for all people is achieved.

However, before we can truly begin to grasp all the ways people differ, I think the world needs to fully embrace the fact that there is more than one gender on the planet. One-half of the population still needs to be represented.

I’m talking about you, ladies. About us and our representation.

Rather than complain about all the ways that people are doing it wrong, I would like to focus on the people who are doing it right. My heroes in the entertainment industry.

First up, of course, is the wonderful Joss Whedon, a brilliant mind in the film industry. Joss is responsible for giving us shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, and Firefly. Joss isn’t afraid to have a female play the leading role in his shows. And in shows where he doesn’t have a female lead, he ensures that his cast is full of female characters. Female characters who don’t all have the same personality. Look at Inara, Kaylee, River, and Zoe. Vastly different characters—all with important roles to play. None of these girls are present to merely be a love interest. Zoe is the one always helping Mal make sure their deals go down smoothly. Kaylee keeps the ship running. Inara uses her contacts and influence to save the crew from more than one tight spot. And River, well, can anyone forget the badass role she plays at the end of Serenity?

Right now, Marvel owns Joss’s brain. He had perhaps the most influential roles to play in The Avengers as both the screenwriter and director. While it’s sad that Black Widow is the only female character in the avengers gang, Joss could only draw from an already set cast in the Marvel comics. But he does pull in Agent Maria Hill as part of the movies, giving us another fantastic female addition to the movie. Where Joss does have a lot of leeway is with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He is responsible for helping write the show. All those fantastic female characters—May, Skye, Simmons—are no doubt his doing. Distinct, important, and awesome. Each and every one of them.

Next up is Shonda Rhimes, who is responsible for giving us fantastic shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and the newly aired How to Get Away with Murder. Not only does Shonda give us fantastic female characters, she also loves to give us wonderfully diverse characters. Her shows always feature PoC and frequently have LGBTQ characters. How many lawyer shows and medical dramas are out there? SO MANY. Yet Shonda’s shows stand out among others in their genres. Her characters develop beautifully, and the plot arcs are to die for. These shows should not be missed.

Julie Plec, most known for The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, is responsible for my favorite show on television (TVD). This show has the best series arc I’ve ever seen. And talk about a wonderful female cast of characters. Nina Dobrev does a wonderful job playing doppelgangers Elena and Katherine. Their personalities are as different as fire and ice. Elena is the sweet, small town girl while Katherine is the manipulative, only-cares-about-herself type. These two characters alone demonstrate the diversity of female personalities—even when the characters look exactly the same! Then we add Caroline to the mix. Detail-oriented, snarky girl with attitude. Everything is just full of awesome.

Aside from these wonderful TV show producers, there are other people doing exciting things in the industry. I have to give a quick shout out to Peter Jackson for adding a female character to The Hobbit movies that was not present in the book. I gave him a single-person round of applause as soon as I found out. And (*spoilers* for the third hobbit movie are ahead) I just love that part in the The Battle of the Five Armies where the women decide to go out and fight alongside their men. It’s moving and heartwarming in a way that makes you want to cheer on all women. My only complaint about Peter’s addition of Tauriel was that her purpose ultimately came down to being a love interest. She’s distraught after Kili dies, and there’s no mention of what happens to her afterward. If you’re going to create a new character and get us invested in her, the least you can do is let us know what happens to her after the battle.

I also appreciate the show Elementary and its attempt to promote female characters. The show is a modernized, Americanized story of Sherlock Holmes. They decide to change things up by making Watson a girl. I love it. I’m all for remakes and reinterpretations. I only wish they’d taken the time to make Watson’s character more interesting. As it is, she’s really boring. Not much of a personality there. There is no excuse for poor characterization for male or female characters. But it’s especially poor taste to think that having a token woman in a story otherwise filled with men makes her distinct.

Lastly, I would like to recognize Stephenie Meyer. She’s a brilliant mind in the storytelling industry. There’s no denying that she’s influenced teens across the world through her writing. And now she’s focusing her efforts in movie production. Her company, Fickle Fish Films, is providing vast opportunities for females in production, so that more female voices can be heard in Hollywood. And they’re focusing on adapting books for the big screen. How cool is that?

As a concluding note, let’s listen to Joss Whedon’s Equality Now speech. Because it’s full of awesome. (Start about two minutes in if you want to get to the good stuff right away.)

The Devil’s in the Details

My husband and I recently started watching a show called The 100 on Netflix. The 100 is based on a book series of the same name by Kass Morgan and the first season aired on the CW last year. (Oddly enough, I heard absolutely nothing about this show until the last few months when it made its way to Netflix and, subsequently, made its way to tumblr fandoms.) Anyway, as far as entertaining and diverse media goes, I’d give The 100 a solid A. I’m only six or seven episodes into season one, but the cast features plenty of PoC and women as driving forces of the narrative instead of just background decoration, and that’s something I can always stand behind—especially when it’s entertaining too!

The-100-cast-season-one

image from primetime.unrealitytv.co.uk

 

The 100’s grade starts slipping a little, though, in the details of its storytelling. During the first three episodes, my husband and I had a rousing good time picking apart all the flaws in the plot and in the costuming and in the world building. To be fair, I’m married to the sort of person who spends the drive home every time we go see a movie picking apart every single detail about said movie that doesn’t make sense and he can be overly critical, but at the same time, I feel like he and I were making some good points—and these good points have shifted The 100 from “oh my gosh everyone go watch this show it’s amazing!!!” to “eh it’s a pretty good show and entertaining, but it could have been so much better.”

Let’s look at the costume design. The 100 is set 97 years after a nuclear fallout on Earth and the only surviving humans are the descendants of people who’d been living on twelve different space stations (now hodge-podged together into one). The only resources these people have are what already existed on those space stations at the time of Earth’s destruction. And yet everyone wears tailored-to-fit skinny jeans and I’m pretty sure that the teenage cast (the 100 juvenile delinquents sent to Earth to see if it’s survivable) were all outfitted with custom made leather jackets before they were booted out of the space station. (How else are we supposed to indicate that they’re delinquents if they’re not wearing leather?)

The show has nodded to the fact that the people on the space station to recycle and reuse a lot of clothes and shoes and supplies, but there hasn’t been a significant explanation of why those space stations had all that gear in the first place.

And beyond the jeans and leather jackets, we’ve seen a couple of girls in their underwear and so we know that at least one of the girls wears a standard underwire bra—that apparently fits her like a dream even though that bra is 97 years old (or has been repurposed from 97 year old parts). I’m lucky if my bras last more than a year.

Now, I suppose a lot of this is probably nit-picking. It’s just costuming, right? Besides, skinny jeans and combat boots and leather jackets are part of the post-apocalyptic aesthetic and that sort of aesthetic is important when marketing a show so people know what they’re getting themselves into. Fine. Fair enough. I’ll give you that.

But what about this guy?

image from thetvaddict.com

image from thetvaddict.com

This guy is a grounder—the descendant of one of the humans who survived the nuclear fallout 97 years ago. Until the 100 showed up, he’d been living in a cave, but LOOK AT THAT T-SHIRT! I can perhaps buy that the clothes on the space station have held up better than they should because they haven’t been exposed to natural elements, but this guy has been living in a cave and I’m pretty sure I could find that exact shirt out at Hollister or something. That doesn’t suggest to me that the grounders have been living it rough the last 97 years.

Another thing about that character? He speaks and understands English. In the episode where he’s introduced, the showrunners make a little nod to the fact that he probably doesn’t understand English, but by the end of the episode, it becomes pretty clear that he does. And while 97 years isn’t enough time for language to completely shift—enough time for the space survivors and the grounders to be using wildly different dialects, perhaps, but not enough for them to be speaking completely different languages—I still have a hard time believing that the 100’s space pod, which essentially crash-landed in the middle of a forest in some unidentified part of the world, happened to land in the pocket of the world that still speaks English. The odds are unfathomable.

And from here, my problems with the details in the storytelling only get worse. In the first few episodes, several of the teenagers take a dip in a river. How did they learn to swim? I doubt their space station has a lap pool. Even if they do have enough water to fill a lap pool, I doubt they’d want that water being contaminated by people swimming in it.

And that time they had to save one of their buddies from a fever from an infected wound? As far as I can tell, they just went out to the same river and grabbed a handful of radioactive-red seaweed and…boiled it? And it saved him? Granted, I know nothing about herbal remedies, but doesn’t anyone else think that the flora on Earth would be so warped by radiation that you shouldn’t really trust it without testing it first?

And when some of the 100 drag home a wild monster-puma for everyone to eat, how do they know how to cook it? Have any of them ever eaten meat? Where did they get meat in space? And how do they know how to control fire so well? Considering the space station is running out of oxygen, I’d assume that fire would be a number one banned item in space considering how it feeds off oxygen.

On the subject of oxygen, what’s the deal with the space station government executing criminals by throwing them out of an airlock—along with an entire room full of oxygen? The method of execution does add some fun vernacular—the practice is called “floating” and leads to such phrases as “Oh, go float yourself”—but for a people concerned with conserving oxygen, it does not make an ounce of sense to launch your criminals into space through an airlock without vacuuming the oxygen out of the room in the first place! Especially since these people operate by a “one strike and you’re out” policy. How much oxygen have they wasted by booting people out of airlocks like that? How much of their current crisis could have been avoided if they’d figured out a better way to kill their criminals?

At the end of the day, all of these details are pretty extraneous. None of them are terribly important to the plot and none of them feel like gimmicks designed to prop the plot up (which is a worse crime, in my opinion). But the fact is that these extraneous details pull me out of the show and out of the story. As much as I enjoy the show, I can’t help but notice all these little things that don’t make sense and then I spend time complaining about it with my husband instead of paying attention to the show. The show is very good, but it’s not mind-blowing in the way it could have been…all because the attention to detail is a little lacking.

How to Get Away with Murder and Bisexual Representation: You’re Doing It Wrong

How to Get Away with Murder is the diverse show we’ve all been waiting years for. Of the six principal cast members (Annalise and her five student interns/employees) only one of them fits into the “default character” mold of straight, white, and male—and so far, Asher, our resident token white boy, has gotten the least amount of screen time of all the principal characters (and is generally the least likable). By putting its diverse cast members front and center, HTGAWM proves that having a show populated with people of diverse races and sexual orientations on a mainstream television network can be just as successful as our typical, run-of-the-mill shows with predominantly straight and white cast members.

image from abc.go.com

As great as HTGAWM is in terms of representation, though, it totally dropped the ball in last week’s episode when it came to bisexual representation.

And I mean really dropped the ball.

In “Smile, or Go to Jail” (last Thursday’s episode), we finally got to meet Michaela’s fiance, Aiden. It turns out that Aiden and Connor already have a history with each other and way back during Connor’s New Hampshire boarding school days, he was busy hooking up with all the hot boys—including Aiden. When Michaela figures out that Connor isn’t just trying to get under her skin with off-handed remarks about how hot her fiance is but has, in fact, seen Aiden naked and slept with him, Michaela looses it.

Now in all fairness—not that I am feeling particularly generous toward Michaela after her rampant biphobia—she and Aiden had told each other about their exes and previous relationships and Aiden had neglected to mention Connor. In that respect, I think she is right to be angry and annoyed with him. But she doesn’t seem particularly angry that Aiden has kept a past relationship from her. She seems upset that he kept a relationship with another guy a secret from her. Her reaction is rooted in the fact that Aiden’s sexual history includes men. If it turned out that Aiden and Laurel had had a relationship as teenagers, I sincerely doubt that Michaela would have reacted in the same way.

The episode posits two—and only two—options for Aiden’s sexuality. He can either be 100% straight or 100% gay, and Michaela treats Aiden’s single instance of sleeping with a man as proof that he must be completely and irrevocably gay. (Which, let us remember, is par for the course for bisexual men. Whereas bisexual women are usually assumed to be straight and pursuing relationships with women as a way to garner male attention, bisexual men are almost always assumed to be gay and too afraid to come out of the closet.) I waited and waited for someone in the show to whisper that mystical word bisexual as an explanation for Aiden’s past, but it never happened.

Now let me be frank, not all people who have relationships with people of multiple genders are, or identify as, bisexual (or pansexual or any of the other words the English language has to describe people who experience attraction to a multitude of gender identities). It is entirely possible for a “horny kid” (as Aiden describes his teenage self) to have same-gender relationships and not be homosexual or bisexual. Plenty of people experiment or question and explore their sexual identity—and that’s probably the case with Aiden. He IDs as a straight man who once had sex with another teenage boy. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that.

What is a problem is not even mentioning the word bisexual. What is a problem is acting like someone who has been in relationships with people of different genders is incapable of being loyal and faithful to just one person. What is a problem is implying that any man who has ever had a sexual relationship with another man must be gay. What is a problem is an extremely progressive and inclusive show perpetuating biphobia and bisexual erasure.

For those of you who don’t want to fall into this trap in your own storytelling endeavors, here are a few things you can do.

(1) Use the word bisexual. I cannot emphasize how important this one is, so say it with me. Bi-sex-u-al. It’s not a dirty word, despite what media’s extreme avoidance of the word would make you think. The end confrontation between Michaela and Aiden would have been SO MUCH BETTER had either one of them mentioned the possibility that Aiden could be bisexual—even if he’s not. Instead of having Michaela demand over and over again to know if he’s gay, she very easily could have said, “Are you gay? Are you bi? What’s going on here?” Her reaction, I think, still would have felt a little extreme, but bisexual people everywhere would have breathed a little sigh of relief because someone actually acknowledged they exist. (Despite common misconception, bisexual people are not mythical creatures like unicorns.)

(2) Be aware of negative and damaging stereotypes that affect bisexual people—and avoid them. These stereotypes include the assumption that bisexuality is a phase instead of a long-lasting orientation, the assumption that bisexual people are greedy or confused or are cheaters, and the assumption that bi women are doing it for attention and that bi men are afraid to come out of the closet. You might not think that playing on these stereotypes is harmful, but when you consider that bisexual women experience a higher rate of intimate partner violence [X] and that bisexual people of any gender report higher rates of anxiety and depression than monosexual people (ie people who are only attracted to one gender)[X], you begin to see the damage we’re doing by perpetuating those stereotypes.

(3) Treat bisexuality as a valid option for your characters instead of favoring characters who are “just going through a phase” or are “just” experimenting. Instead of making Aiden “straight but with an exception,” he very easily could have been written as a bisexual man and his argument with Michaela at the end could have had just as much emotional impact. Instead of denying that he was gay and writing off his relationship with Connor as “a stupid thing that happened,” he could have talked about his fear of coming out to her because of the assumption that bisexual people are greedy cheaters and he still could have ended the argument with an assurance that he loves her. Just because he has the potential to love men and women doesn’t mean he’s incapable of being loyal to one partner. Choosing to make your characters bisexual and experience the lasting potential to be attracted to people of more than one gender does wonders for bisexual people who long to see themselves in the media they consumer. Let’s remember that “straight with an exception” or “gay with an exception” is not edgy nor is it a convenient recipe for angst. It’s erasing bisexuality and depriving those who identify that way of much needed media representation.

Morally Ambiguous Characters

For starters, I want to clarify the differences between a bad boy and a morally ambiguous character. Bad boys have had many sexual partners. They often don’t give a crap what other people think, and they don’t like to follow rules or laws. While many morally ambiguous characters are bad boys, not all bad boys are morally ambiguous. Although, both tend to wear black and/or leather outfits. Guyliner can also be involved.

Morally ambiguous characters (MACs) are mind changers. They can’t decide whether they want to be good or bad. It depends on what they’re trying to achieve “in the moment” rather than making decisions based on a set of morals that they already possess. VERY often, a girl is involved in their decision making process.

Now, just so we’re all on the same page—let’s look at some examples of MACs. Take a look at these beauties:

Spike

Picture from Wikia

Damon

Picture from Wikia

Hook

Picture from Stuffpoint

Loki

Picture from Unwinnable

Guy

Picture from WordPress blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk briefly about what makes them morally ambiguous. First, we have our two vampire boys from different shows: Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Damon from The Vampire Diaries. Were they real, they’d be considered serial killers. But they both end up making better choices for the sake of a girl. Not tough to see the moral ambiguity there.

Then we have Guy of Gisborne from BBC’s Robin Hood. He’s a bad dude. Oppresses the people under his care, kills innocents, etc. He also starts to change for the girl.

Next, there’s Loki from Thor: The Dark World. I reference this movie specifically because this is the one where he starts to become morally ambiguous. This is the movie where we start to question his character. Previously, Loki had tried to take over the world in Avengers, which resulted in the deaths of lots of people. But in Thor 2, he starts to help his brother once his mother dies—but at the end of the movie, we have no idea whose side Loki’s on.

And last, but certainly not least, we have Hook from Once Upon a Time. Throughout the show, Hook is not afraid to work with the bad guys to get what he wants, regardless of the consequences. He puts his needs (which start out as being revenge on Rumple) before everyone else’s. And he, too, changes for the girl.

Now let’s talk about four reasons why these characters work so well in stories.

  1. Character Development.

MACs have SO FAR to go. They often start out on one side of the bad/good scale and then go clear to the other side after an inciting event. Then they start to fluctuate on the scale. As readers and viewers, we like to watch characters grow. Character growth comes from internal conflict, which drives a story sometimes even better than external conflict. You can root for a character who you want to see change. Will Loki ever become a good guy and help out the Avengers? We’re dying to know what he’ll do next. We’re so invested in him as a character because we want to see him reach his full potential. To see what he can do when he puts all his energy into helping the cause. (Or, on the other side, to see just how bad he can get. And what he’s willing to do to prove a point.) The point is that we can easily become invested in MACs because there’s so far for them to grow. They can’t always sit on the fence. In the end, they will be good or bad. And we want to see where they’ll end up.

  1. Romantic Tension.

Guy and Marian, Buffy and Spike, Damon and Elena, Hook and Emma. (Loki is the only one of my examples not to have a girl involved, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before Marvel jumps at that opportunity. They’d be fools not to with all of Tom Hiddleston’s fan girls.) Those of us who enjoy romance in our stories love to see the guy get the girl. We like to see a guy change for a girl. We like to see the bad guys do good things for the girl. It makes the girl special because she is the only thing in the world that can motivate the MAC to be good. I think girls love this fantasy of a guy who will change for them. I believe we call it the Beauty and the Beast Complex. Whatever you call it, it’s powerful.

  1. Humor

MACs do have some good qualities. More often than not, they’re funny. Loki, Spike, hook, and Damon are all funny. Everyone loves to laugh. So even if characters do bad things, yet have good qualities that we can admire, we’ll overlook the bad ones. Humor isn’t the only good quality they can possess, but it is certainly one of the most powerful, I think. All MACs, and bad guys in general, should have at least one good quality. Nobody is all bad. We’re fascinated by things like murderers who have pet kittens that they adore. It’s bizarre. It makes you question who they are and what motivates them because we seem to think at times that good and bad can’t exist together. In the story world, they always should.

  1. They stand out from everyone else

They’re just so interesting. They’re unpredictable. You have to be invested in them because you’re dying to know what choices they’ll make. Readers don’t like stories that they can predict. Even in stories where we want a happy ending, we don’t want to be able to predict how we get to the happy ending. The “bad guys” in a show steal all the attention once they become morally ambiguous. Thor may be the god of thunder, but Loki is the god of tumblr. Delena has way more fangirls than Stelena. Once Spike realizes he has the hots for Buffy, does anyone else in the show even seem as remotely interesting? No. Joss Whedon even ends up making him one of the main characters. Because he’s so darn interesting. And *spoiler* for my example for Guy if you haven’t seen the series—BBC ended up killing off Maid Marian because her dynamic with Guy was so much more interesting than the one she had with Robin. Guy was a more interesting character. Everyone rooted for Guy. No one wanted her to get with Robin. MACs steal all the thunder.

I wish we saw more MACs in the novel realm. All my examples are from movies and TV shows because I had a harder time coming up with ones in books. I noticed that the MACs tended to already be reformed by the time the story starts. But I would LOVE to see more of them in YA. In fact, after I finish the book I’m working on now, I will have one of my next male leads be a MAC. Should be fun.

In the comments below, tell us about some of your favorite MACs that weren’t mentioned here.

Three Awesome Shows and Magic that Fails

Rather than give you a third post on NaNoWriMo this week, I think I’ll save it for later in the month, so I can include an update on my progress as well.

So instead let’s talk about something totally random: TV shows. I love TV shows so, so much. I might even be tempted to say that I like them more than movies. Because TV shows get me more grounded in a story. We’re able to have so many more characters (and get to know them more!) than what is possible during a 2 hour movie. We are better able to see these characters grow and develop over the different seasons. We get to see hundreds of different plotlines form. We get to spend more time with characters we love—until they’re killed off, that is. But really what I think is super awesome about TV shows is that they give me an experience close to the one I have while reading a book because both modes of entertainment are able to give me the aforementioned things.

So, on to what this post is about:

Image from Collider


Image from WordPress

Image from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A discussion of three TV shows that use magic: Once Upon a Time, The Vampire Diaries, and Merlin.

Just from knowing this, it can be easily seen how much I enjoy fairytale retellings, hot men in leather, and bromances, respectively.

But it’s not just fairytale retellings, it’s the brilliance that Once Upon a Time uses to thread all these fairytales together and make them all a part of the same story. And I absolutely LOVE that they base them off of the Disney versions. OUaT perfectly balances the present story with flashbacks. And the flashbacks are told out of order, but it works so well. Fans can easily follow the progression of the story. And it makes it that much more exciting! (Hey look! I just started a sentence with a conjunction.)

Vampire Diaries. I think one of these days I’ll have to do an entire post on it because I love it so much. The thing is that people hate on it without watching because they think “Oh, it’s just another stupid vampire story. That story has already been told 100 times.” To you people, I say, “FALSE.” Vampire Diaries has one of the most complex and intricate and UNIQUE plotlines I have ever seen. And just when you think the danger is over, a bigger bad guy believably (and the key word is believably) comes into the picture. And a love triangle with hot vampire brothers, need I say more?

Now what can I say about Merlin? I love the stories involving King Arthur, and I especially love this retelling because it’s not about Arthur. It’s about Merlin. Sometimes the sidekick gets the shaft, okay, usually the sidekick gets the shaft. And in this show, Merlin frequently gets the shaft from others, but we, the viewers, know what really goes on. We see how Merlin saves Arthur’s life time and time again unbeknownst to any of the other characters. And Merlin and Arthur have the cutest little bromance. Their friendship is awesome, and I love the bickering.

Now, those were all examples of things that these shows did right! Now, because I can do whatever I want, I would like to discuss one common thing that each of these shows (dare I say it) does wrong. And that is the way in which they use magic.

I love magic in shows, but sometimes it frustrates me. ESPECIALLY when magic, well, when magic magically saves the day. When the magic is not fully understood by viewers, it is completely unsatisfying when it solves a problem. On the opposite end, it can be said that it’s unsatisfying to know a rule of the magic and then not see the characters utilize the magic to solve a problem.

Allow me to use an example from each of the aforementioned TV shows.

First, Once Upon a Time (sentence fragment!). During the Hansel and Gretel episode, Hansel and Gretel have bested the child-eating witch and lock her in her own oven. Once this happens, the evil Queen Regina (who also made an appearance in the Tricia’s List of Bad Guy Motivations post), who has been watching all this go down from her handy dandy mirror, throws a fireball through the mirror and burns the witch in her oven. Now I ask the obvious question: If the queen can throw fireballs through her mirror, why does she not exact vengeance on everyone in this way? The answer is simple: if she did this, OUaT would not be a very exciting story. But the point is that the creators have established a rule and then ignored it. Frustrating.

Now, Vampire Diaries. How many times does Bonnie use her witchy powers to solve a previously unsolvable problem? How convenient that when Elena or Jeremy are about to die, Bonnie has a witchy solution, but if say (*spoilers coming!) Jenna or Alaric dies, there is no such solution. Come on, Bonnie, it’s all or nothing.

And Merlin! Talk about a messed up magic system. Did we not establish in the first episode that the thing which makes Merlin unique from all other magic users is the fact that he does not have to utter a spell? Instead his eyes just do that weird light up thing. But later we see examples of other magic users not uttering spells to use magic. And now Merlin sometimes DOES have to say a spell in order to use magic.

Another example. We have seen Merlin do various things with his magic. He has caused branches on trees to break, caused various items to move around, etc. Yet, in one of the newer episodes, when Arthur and Merlin get stuck in a net made of rope, they’re helpless for some reason. I kept waiting for Merlin to simply break the rope, but he never did! And don’t you try to tell me that he couldn’t risk using magic around Arthur. We both know that he could have made it look like a stroke of luck. No, it’s clear that the thought doesn’t even cross his mind.

That being said, do I still love all of these TV shows? Absolutely. But just think about how much more awesome they could be. That’s what kills me.

But this also motivates me to write my own TV series someday. Yeah, that’s happening.

Do you have any suggestions for magic shows that do or don’t work?