Sunday, May 9, 2010

Network Femonomics: The Women of V

With Lost nearing the end of its six-season run, ABC has been trying to find an action-packed scifi replacement for primetime. One of these new shows is V, a remake of an eighties series wherein aliens come to Earth purporting to help humanity, but with ulterior sinister motives. We don't know yet what those motives are, but I think they are going to eat people. The show has excellent production values, a super-attractive cast, and plenty action and special effects (also fair-to-middling writing, but you can't have it all.) But by far the most exciting part of this show is that it features three women as starring heroes and villains.

Elizabeth Mitchell (formerly of Lost) plays Erica, an FBI agent and single mother who is also secretly a member of the Fifth Column, the insurgent movement fighting the aliens. She is a completely rounded-out character, allowed to be the hero while still having
traditionally feminine characteristics. She is (a) kickass - taking out aliens and a skilled boxer (b) in a position of authority in her job, which she is great at (c) a mother who worries - incessantly - about her teenage son (d) still smarting from her divorce and (e) dead sexy. So basically, a complicated character with lots of motivations. Unlike some shows (ahem, Lost), where the ladies are only interested in men and babies.

Anna, played by Morena Baccarin, is the baddie for the series, and complicated in her own right.
She is the leader of the Visitors - in command of the entire species! Because she's an alien, I was a bit confused as to her female status, but since she's portrayed by a woman and is able to have alien children, I think she counts. Anna is extremely intelligent, driven, and authoritative. Anna also has a daughter, and seems to serve as a sort of mother / protector figure to her entire race. Additionally she is completely evil, but as an incredibly competent villain (in heels!) I think we can say she is a great example of gender equality. If you are planning an invasion of an alien planet, this is unequivocally the woman you want in charge.

Finally we have Lisa, Anna's daughter tasked with seducing Erica's son Tyler. Clearly this plot line is primarily intended to pit Erica and Anna directly against one another, but Lisa's portrayal is interesting unto itself. The V's differ from humans in that they don't experience emotion, but are at risk of developing feelings if they spend too much time in human company. Lisa, marked as a potential successor to her mother, finds herself in this awkward situation. While this storyline has only just begun to develop, and is nothing new (girl forced to choose between family and love!) I am interested to see how it plays out. It is refreshing to see a young woman pursuing romance without a boatload of insecurities (I'm looking at you, Grey's Anatomy), and the traditional hookup narrative is smoothly subverted in a recent episode.

As an action junkie, I am hooked on V, and LOVE that women are getting in on the actual action. I'd like to hear others' perspectives on V's feminist credentials - I know one Sady Doyle is not a fan. Do you agree that these characters are complicated and progressive, or are they reinforcing negative stereotypes about powerful women? Maybe a little bit of both?


  1. Hey, wasn't Elizabeth Mitchell as Juliet kickass, great at her job, worried about her family (cancer-ridden sister), still smarting from her lover being killed on a fool's errand, and sexy? Granted, she did care a lot of babies, being a fertility doctor and all :P

    (though I do agree with you about most Lost female characters)

  2. Juliet was really cool, up until last season, when she lost all other interests and only cared about her bf. Like, she exploded a bomb on herself because Sawyer briefly made eyes at Kate! Not the Juliet I knew and loved of earlier seasons. Also I love Elizabeth Mitchell - she's also awesome in Gia with Angelina Jolie.

  3. I LOVE V. I particularly love Erica. She is a tough woman who is not afraid to get her hands dirty and yet they take care to show the tenderness she shows towards her son. This is a total woman friendly character. I think it is all the more interesting because in the original series there was no Erica and the role of the counterpoint to Anna was played by a man. SO clearly when the writers thought to bring the show back they attempted to update it so who changes in human society. Yes you can absolutely have a kick butt heroine

  4. Now this is a really interesting (negative) take on some of the feminist credentials of V. I hadn't thought of the vagina dentata argument, but now it seems kind of obvious. Also, why is Erica so desexualized? I suspect this will change in upcoming episodes. Hollywood usually doesn't let dead sexy actresses keep their clothes on too long.

  5. Meh. I find V altogether boring. For a great female lead supported by maybe-villian ladies and wing-women, watch Fringe. Nouveau X-files with a mad scientist and a stand-up heroine with secret powers! Hell yes!

  6. I like the series but the "rolling my eyes" moments are far too many so far.
    I enjoy the fact that no sexual and romantic feelings have been developed so fat between the characters of the 5th column, which is more than great, and actually they look pretty real (ok... more real than LOST at least)... but... yes, there is this tiny "but". Something is very off with that little company.

    I understand we have to understand that Anna is evil. E-e-e-e-v-i-l... and using the reptile metaphor is pretty old. But can anybody explain why she had to eat the person she copulated with? I mean... snakes don't do it, only few species of insects. And if we are speaking about reptiles, please stick to this animal kingdom. Because now Anna is not only evil and dominating (oohh, dominant woman=evil) but she also eats men. I try to ignore that this reminds me to all stereotypes toward strong women and feminist women... but I can't stop and wander. Is this character looking like this because of the story, or because of some other reason?

    Next... isn't there not one single parent in the entire American fiction universe which child isn't a complete mess??? I have never met in my life a person of any age who thinks and acts like this. I realize that this is a very small reason to rant about but combined with all the other crap, just... irritates me.


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