Stop giving female characters cheap storylineson March 25, 2014 at 11:01 am
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I have a rant coming on. If you don’t like rants about women in media or cheap “character development” by using unwanted pregnancy as body horror then you may want to skip this blog post. Also, spoilers (??????) for the first season of Angel, which is 15 years old at this point so it shouldn’t really be spoilers? And spoilers for the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is 16 years old right now, so again, shouldn’t really be spoilers?
So I finished watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer a few weeks ago. I know, I’m about twenty years too late for that fandom, but I really enjoyed the series. I’d started watching it originally so that I could watch Angel, because… well, because David Boreanaz, that’s why. And I ended up really enjoying Buffy and binging on it for several weeks to finish all seven seasons.
So, with Buffy done and an empty hole in my soul, I started up Angel. I’m about twelve episodes in, and enjoying the show okay so far. However, when I read the description for Season One, Episode Twelve, I thought to myself that I should probably skip it. But I didn’t. For reference, here is the description of the episode:
Cordelia has a date, wakes up at home and is very pregnant. She has been impregnated by a demon.
I saw that and immediately thought of a similar episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Troi wakes up to find out that she’s pregnant. I hated that episode, which was what made me think I should skip this episode of Angel. But, like an idiot, I watched it instead.
It was an incredibly dumb episode, and it made me start thinking about these sorts of episodes and why they bother me. And I think I have an answer, at least for why I haven’t like these sorts of episodes in any series I have ever seen them in.
First of all, let’s break down Cordelia and Deanna Troi. Both could be seen as sort of shallow. But they’re both capable women. Cordelia in the first twelve episode of Angel has shocked several vampires and demons alike by not being shocked to find out what they are, and in fact even attempting to stake them or burn them to death with sunlight. She’s from Sunnydale, she knows what goes bump in the night, and she’s not going to let it get the better of her even as she’s trying to find stardom in L.A. Deanna Troi is also a smart, strong, capable woman. She’s an empath, she knows how people are feeling and these abilities come in handy quite a few times. Later on in the series she even tests for command status and has a stint or two on the bridge, iirc.
So apparently the best plot we can come up with here for these interesting characters is “they wake up to find they’re pregnant”? And this is even after Cordelia has been gifted with visions to know when people are in trouble and tell Angel where to go, so it’s not like she’s just the secretary any more. I could think of half a dozen more interesting storylines than “random unwanted rapidly-developing pregnancy” off the top of my head.
Troi and Cordelia don’t want to be pregnant at first (though Troi does say that they should do what’s best for the safety of the ship, but that she’s also having the baby). Cordelia says blatantly that she doesn’t care if she miscarries. They’ve been impregnated by something they didn’t consent to (Troi by having a “presence” enter her body, and Cordelia by consenting to sleep with the man she was on the date with but NOT to being impregnated by a demon). By the end of this episode of Angel however, Cordelia’s mind has been taken over by the litter of demon babies inside of her and when Westley and Angel are trying to figure out a way to take care of the babies, she knocks Westley over the head and escapes so she can go give birth.
Basically I’m just bothered that these shows thought it was a good idea to essentially rape two characters and turn them in to baby slaves. Because there is nothing else interesting for women than giving birth, right? Cordelia could have started, I don’t know, training to be a demon hunter too since she is constantly around demons. That would have been far more interesting than an episode where she’s turned in to an incubator for demon spawn. In the ST:TNG episode it turns out that the light that entered Troi was interested in humans and so decided to experience life as one.
Well how about instead of it deciding to impregnate a random woman, it just… I don’t know? Turn human? Maybe it could have asked if Troi was okay with this before doing it, instead of just using her as a host?
Usually I find Joss Whedon better at writing interesting stories for his female characters. Buffy was an incredible character, surrounded by incredible female characters. Even Cordelia, who started in B:tVS as a vapid, shallow airhead eventually grew, became part of the Scoobies, and learned to set her shallowness aside at times. Then she goes to Angel and in the first episode escapes a vampire who’s been preying on women, because she actually knows that vampires exist. She’s even the one who comes up with the idea that they make a business in L.A. of Angel helping people in trouble, and she sets up the office and pretty much holds the entire operation together- all while trying to get discovered as an actress, might I add.
I guess my point is… stop writing body-horror stories that star women getting unwantedly pregnant? There’s about a million other, more interesting, much more dramatic storylines that could be used and they’d all be a lot better, imho. And these two episodes bothered the hell out of me and I had to rant about why they were bothering me.