From ‘Riverdale’ to ‘Bates Motel’: Revisiting Classics With Progressive Images of Women

TV shows that draw on decades old source material are not exactly a new phenomenon, but there is certainly a new trend arising from it: the revitalization of classic, but problematic, material. The fact is, there is an overwhelming number of great stories out there that, by today’s standards, are burdened by their historical baggage — perhaps most notably in their politics of gender and sexuality. A good example is the cover of a 2011 Archie & Friends comic, in which Archie is asked how he tells apart his set of twin girlfriends, and with a big smile he replies: “I don’t even try!!”

As popular culture becomes increasingly progressive, looking back at some of our favorite classics requires a certain amount of whistling passed some pretty unfavorable images of patriarchal and heteronormative values. But we do it because, hey, they’re the classics! And we justify it with extensive contextualization, which is fine. But what’s braver, is questioning those images. And that’s exactly what we are seeing on TV these days with shows like Bates Motel (2013 – 2017) and (2017 – present). These shows are more than simple remakes, reboots, or re-imaginings, they are subversive re-contextualizations; and though they aren’t perfect, they’re rather brilliant.

Let’s take a look at why.

Continue Reading on Movie Pilot

images credit to The CW and A&E

Child’s Play

Delilah could feel them gaining on her. She wanted to look back, gauge their distance, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the ground. What if she tripped on a branch, or stepped on a chipmunk? It would squeal under her foot, it’s back crunching, it’s body writhing. She’d scream, and lose her balance. No; she couldn’t afford any mistakes.

“Heeeeereee piggy piggy!” she heard them squeal.

Hoards of maniacal laughter followed from the eager, unrelenting, crowd behind her. Delilah gasped, her air supply falling short now. She dared a glance beside her and tried to calculate whether she could hide behind the tree to steal a breath. Maybe she could change directions and lose them completely. But, that would be cheating; Delilah knew the rules better than anyone. In fact, she had made the rules.

“Hey Piggy Piggy Piggy!”

Delilah swiftly brought her attention back to her feet. Her eyes widened when she saw they were caked in mud – when had that happened? She had only looked away for a second! Grunting and panting in displeasure and desperation, Delilah kept moving. But now she could hear the stampede right on her heels. She could feel their sticky hands clamouring for her, smell their anxious breath being carried by the autumn breeze.

It was now or never, so Delilah chanced another glance up. Hopefully she wouldn’t get stuck in a knee-high mud pond. But it was worth the gamble, because just ahead, within her reach, she could see it. Safety. She was going to make it. She was going to be fine. She leapt, just the way her phys-ed teacher had taught her.

“HA!” she yelped as her feet slipped into the centre of the giant leaf pile they had compiled for this very moment.

She cackled obnoxiously, throwing leaves at the boys who looked distraught and unnerved. Max rolled his eyes and insisted they start over; he’d be the pig this time and Delilah would be a wolf. But no one was paying much attention to him. They were all in the leaf pile now, so he put his sulking aside and joined in.

“I told you I was faster!” Delilah screeched at him, sticking out her tongue and scrunching up her face. He smashed a handful of crisp yellow leaves into her face, laughing as she spat and whined.

“Sore loser!” she accused.

Delilah scrambled free of the group and looked down at her shoes. Her mother was going to have a fit. They were brand new and Delilah had heard daddy complain about the price. She looked at her watch and felt a cold sweat overtake her. 6:48! The trouble had just doubled. She was late for dinner – again. Delilah could hear the scolding now, ‘you and those boys Delilah I swear, you’re like a wild animal out there! No sense, I tell ya, no sense!’

“I gotta go!” Delilah yelled passingly behind her as she made her way back through the woods. If she was as fast as a piggy, she’d make it just in time to not get dessert.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

 

The Morning After

The sound of his heaving envelops you; your heart rate syncs itself to the chase. At some point you start to pant and realize your sweating – slippery, sticky, terrified. Your legs go numb. Your thoughts start to jumble. You try to plan your next move and the one after that. The only signal your brain seems to compute anymore is GO.

So you go. It’s all instinct, now. You go, go, go. You know you can’t keep going, and yet – you do. There’s a desire you never knew you had; a desire so strong it fuels you when you have nothing left to give. It’s the desire to live.

He catches your arm and in an instant it might be all over. Might be – but it’s not. Because you drive the knife right through him. And the skin is tougher than you imagined; everything under it, softer. Physically, it’s a difficult thing to do, but you do it. He drops. The blood seeps out of him and crawls towards you; disappears under your feet and surrounds you.

You did it. You survived. Now what?

3 days, 3 Quotes Book Tag – Day 1

A big thank you to Irene of Books and Hot Tea for tagging me on this one – it’s going to be a lot of fun. If you’re a book lover, be sure to stop by her blog for her awesome posts on all things lit.

Here are the rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post three different quotes in three consecutive days
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day

So I’m going to kick this off with a quote from one of my favourite books, Let the Right One In by John Lindqvist. It’s not one for beautiful prose; but this complex, multi-levelled, narrative does have a lot to offer in every line. Using the guise of a vampire thriller, Lindqvist seizes the opportunity to discuss the innocence of coming-of-age, starkly contrasting a pre-teen boy’s sweet simplicity with the ugly world in which he lives. One of the most difficult topics he tackles, is sexuality.

Elias. Elias. A boy’s name. Was Eli a boy? They had… kissed and slept in the same bed and… Oskar pressed his hands against the bathroom door, rested his forehead against his hands. He tried to think. Hard. And he didn’t get it. That he could somehow accept that she was a vampire, but the idea that she was somehow a boy, that could be… harder.

 

Oskar’s struggle with his romantic feelings for Eli throughout the novel are some of the most genuine moments the book has to offer. I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a true coming-of-age tale, tarnished with a gritty darkness that is intense enough to stay with you at night.


Today I nominate Tiffany – Book and Coffee Addict, Magic of Stardust and Words, and 23 Galaxy St. Cosmic City. Hope you join the fun, but don’t feel obliged 🙂

 

The Vision

You know that expression women like to throw about unwittingly? “Not if you were the last man on Earth”- we say. But can it ever really be true? What if someone really was the last man on Earth. Could you hate him? Could you love him? Are we all heterosexist enough to think this is a fair question? See? It’s complicated.

The thing about Yan is, he is the last man on Earth. Well, as far as I can tell anyway. You see, I have a gift. You’ve heard of omens and signs. Most of us think that’s just people assigning meaning to arbitrary things to give them purpose, and to make the world seem more logical, more rational. But they’re real. And I’m one of the few people in the world who can read them. It’s almost like a vision. I see a crow or the number 13, and I’m hit with a sudden knowledge that I can’t ignore. And last week, I saw Yan.

I guess I should start from the beginning. Last year, an illness – no, a plague – attacked us. It spread like wildfire, or more accurately, like biological warfare. It was meant to wipe out the world’s entire population, and it nearly did. But there was one unexpected quirk. The Y chromosome was far more susceptible to it. Females were by no means safe, but we weren’t exactly doomed. Not like the males. Month after month passed us by, and none of the survivors had been able to find any men. I don’t think anyone was really looking. Mostly, we were concerned with figuring out what happened, and why.

But then I had a vision. I saw him. Alive, and well. In hiding, of course. We like to believe that people are basically good, and yet we know enough to hide when there’s something… special… about us. And there is something beyond special about Yan.

“Ophelia?”

I roll my eyes and shudder. “I know,” I mutter, “my parents were, uh, romantics – I guess.”

“I like it.”

He smiles and my heart flutters a little. I hate that, but I don’t seem to have any control over it at the moment. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen a man. I guess I’m a bit of a romantic, too. I honestly can’t tell if he’s attractive, but I know it could be a lot worse. He’s even about my age.

“And how did you find me again?” He removes his hood, finally letting his guard down a little, and pats the empty spot next to him on the park bench.

“Well, I know it sounds kind of nuts, but it was kind of like a vision. I have them sometimes.”

Yan nods suspiciously, but seems overall willing to accept my answer. I guess when 75% of the world crashes and burns before your eyes, it ups your threshold for believability.

“I know of a facility. You’ll be safe there, I promise.”

He snorts a little. Maybe he’s not as trusting as I’d hoped.

“So they can do a bunch of tests on me? Steal my sperm?” He spits the word sperm and I know it’s personal, so I don’t ask.

“Well, some tests, definitely. But nothing to be afraid of. We’re not trying to re-populate. Cloning facilities are working on that.”

“So what’s your facility working on?”

I think on it for a moment and realize we don’t really know. “We just wanna figure this thing out.”

“That’s promising.”

He turns away from me. I can see his jaw clenching and I know he’s fighting back tears. I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t really thought about how emotional this must all be for him. He’s scruffy, dirty, a little underweight. I’ve lost fifteen pounds since all of this, and I’m not even hiding.

“Are you hungry?” I ask, snuggling into him a little more. I do it to make me seem inviting; friendly, but I do enjoy the sensation of his leg against mine. Not that it matters. I learn pretty quickly that he has no intention of reciprocating my desires.

Six days and four meals later and I’ve got him on a train. He insists on wearing a hood and a scarf to cover most of his face, even though spring is coming on fast and hard. I can still tell he’s a man, and I think most people would if they bothered to look at him. But no one really does. Self-absorbency, no plague can kill that.

“What’s that?” Yan asks as Dr. Ving brings the machine towards his face. He’s in a panic, and all the unfamiliar tools aren’t helping.

“It’s just going to scan your eyes.”

“My eyes are fine.”

“Well, I guess we’ll know in a minute.” She holds the device up to his eyes and waits for a DING before jotting down the results.

“So?” Yan asks, his voice shaking.

“Your eyes are fine.”

Dr. Ving is losing patience with him, but I’m not. The twitchier he gets, the cuter I find him. I almost want to tell him about the secret alliance we’ve made with a neighbouring cloning facility. Almost. But not quite. In my latest vision, there was a little Yan, and he was happy. I know better than to mess with a vision.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

 

 

Song and Salacity

It had begun as a typical night.  There was a light howl in the wind, whispering desires through the air; a flutter to the crisp leaves that hung from the branches above, plotting their descent; a flap of wings, eager to dance to the sirens’ song.

Percie had just completed a tiresome novel by the fire.  The sun had just begun to set and she decided to ease her eyes by letting the night pour in.  She smothered the fire and breathed deeply, allowing the scent of char to wash through her.  In the kitchen, Percie prepared herself a cup of warm milk on the gas stove.  The crickets had begun their annoying symphony, but she knew her songstress’ would put an end to it soon.  Anything that bothered Percie was considered a threat in the eyes of her winged protectors.

As she sipped her milk, Percie gazed at the blackness outside of her back window.  It was not unusual for her to do this; it calmed her to affix her sights on something non-specific.  Otherwise, they grew weary, and she became utterly aware of her aching body.  But tonight, something felt different.  There was an eeriness about the night that seemed to be staring right back at her.  Believing it to mean her subconscious was warning her that she had forgotten to tend to her garden, Percie placed her cup down and reluctantly walked over to the sink.  The crickets had hushed and a low rhythmic humming was in the air now.  Her songstress’ had fed, but only a little.

Outside, she flitted about the garden, swiping her dainty fingertips against petals to check for dampness.  It did seem as though all of her plants had been watered, which all the more confused her.  Something was making her uneasy.  As her heart rate sped up, the humming grew louder.  Her songstress’ could sense her distress and were growing anxious by it.  She was happy to have their protection, but also needed to assure them that, for the moment, everything seemed alright.  If she did not, they may become undisciplined.  Temperamental as they were, she loved them.  She offered a reassuring whistle, lacing it with a familiar cadence that they returned before falling back to their quiet, watchful, humming.

Back inside, Percie let the rest of her milk flow down the drain.  She watched it spiral away, tickled by the image of disappearance, until she was jarred back to reality by a squawk so violently intrusive that she had to bring both hands to her ears.  Losing her balance, she fell over and cried out gently.

It was her songstress’; their worry and tension had suddenly turned to erratic vexation.

Percie scrabbled about until she was on all fours, simultaneously basking in the pain and trying to detach herself from it.  That was the thing about sirens, their pain was inviting. Even Percie, a keeper and beloved friend, was not immune.

The squawking continued to rise.  The pitch seemed impossible, and yet, there it was forcing its way into her.  The songstress’ had found a real threat.  Something terrible was out there.  Against her better instincts, Percie began the tedious task of crawling out to the garden.  For this, she had to rely upon her forearms and fingertips, for, her legs were incapacitated by the invasive song.  Her hair was in her eyes now, and she grunted in a high pitch, almost matching her songstress’ emphatic levels.

When she finally made it to the back door the squawking had begun to lull. Sensation tingled a return up Percie’s legs, making their throb more apparent.  Every muscle in her body screamed.  It was always like this when they fed – always.  Percie staggered through the gardens and around to the back of their tree.  She knew she would find them there, and she did.

As she came upon her protectors she squinted impotently through the dark, but their shadows were immediately apparent.  Three heads bobbed up and down excitedly.  Their song was now reduced to a croon, backed by a ruffle as their wings flapped with appeasement.

Although he made no sound, Percie could see their slender arms pulling and tugging at their victim.  A man who thought he could creep about, unnoticed – watching, lurking.  A man who thought he was a predator when in fact he was merely prey.

One feeder sensed Percie’s presence and rose from the earth, elongating her crouched legs.  Percie caught a glimpse of her bouncing breasts in the moonlight as she turned to face her.  She smiled graciously, knowing the songstress could see her well.  The other two continued to feast, though there could not have been much of the man left. The thrilling obscenity of the picture caused Percie’s heart to pound against her chest.

The standing songstress soon curled herself back to a perched position, guarding the others.  She let her wide bronze wings fold over one another so that only one eye would remain exposed.  Percie could not see this exactly, but knew the posture well enough to imagine it distinctly.  Drained from the ordeal, she let herself drop to the cold ground, and then lied flat against it.  All she felt now was an exhaustive satisfaction.

When the songstress’ had had their fill, they took flight over Percie’s amative body, offering a resuscitating breeze.  It was as welcomed as the bright moon.  Their eyes twinkled until they disappeared again into the treetops, while Percie slept deeply, and fully.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

Intuition

It started with nothing more than a quizzical glance from the girl next door on a stormy afternoon in September. It was the first time Jackson had seen her, and as he stared – as though marooned on a surreal planet made up of only her eyes – it occurred to him that her sudden appearance that day made perfect sense. If spring was a time of beginnings, it followed that fall would be the dawn of ends. She, he knew somehow, would be his death.

Noticing that he had mysteriously managed to grab her curiosity, if only for a second, Jackson decided to work up the confidence to approach her. He was not typically a shy guy, in fact he was usually downright impulsive, but something told him that this manoeuvre demanded a rehearsal or two. It was the way a simple glance from her seemed to tug at his brain and nestle in his gut like a parasite. She, he knew somehow, was a tumour.

Thanks to the storm, the bus was behind schedule, giving Jackson time to plan his attack. Her alarmingly green eyes, which had passed over him with an undeniable intensity, were now buried in a book. Her small umbrella seemed more protective of it than of her, and heavy droplets were rolling down her head and falling off of her pointed nose as a result. Having no umbrella of his own to offer her, Jackson opted for a more daring approach. He pulled out his phone and dialled a taxi. When it pulled up (luckily, before the bus), he gestured her towards it with a simple, “on me.”

“I’m Jackson,” he said once they were safely seated in the vehicle, which splashed silt up at the passer-bys as it took off.

She eyed him once more, squinting with persistence. Jackson almost worried that she was seeing through his veil of false-ease, but then decided to blame the dark grey day for her carefulness.

“Lianne,” she finally responded.

“Well, Lianne, where are we off to? Ladies first, of course.”

“Well, Jackson, that depends on whether you’re willing to play hookey with me.”

A subtle smirk appeared across her face just as a flash of lightening cracked through the sky. Had he not been stunned by her forwardness, Jackson might have noticed how it revealed a hint of monstrous salacity behind those increasingly haunting eyes. But wasn’t that always the story?

He, she knew somehow, would be just as easy as the rest.

©Shyla Fairfax-Owen