Saturday, 12 November 2011

Misfits: Series 3 Episode 1

Female Characters: 4 (Alisha/Kelly/Charlie/Tanya)
Male Characters: 5 (Simon/Curtis/Rudy/Sean/Seth)
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Yes.

(Given that it is one of the most innovative and entertaining programmes that British television currently has to offer, I felt compelled to begin writing about the new series of Misfits. My intentions are to go back and write a little piece on series one and two, but for now I’m just going to catch up on the first few episodes of series three and follow it weekly. WARNING: Heavily spoilerific!)

After the departure of fan favourite Nathan I guess the writers were a little worried about who would provide the necessary dick, shit and jizz jokes. Enter new character Rudy who is every inch as obnoxious and puerile as his predecessor, (if not more so given this episode’s continuous references to all things anal). However, in contrast to Nathan, Rudy’s power means that he literally has a more vulnerable, sensitive side. His cocky bravado and obnoxious posturing is a front to make himself appear more confident and hide the insecurities that literally split apart from him in the form of a duplicate. Through this alter-ego we learn about Rudy’s confusion about his sexuality, his guilt over a sinister childhood prank and his heartbreak and depression when he was rejected by Alisha. Provided that we get to see more of this other side of Rudy in future episodes, he will most probably prove to be a little easier to stomach than Nathan ... maybe.

The other eagerly anticipated plot point in the new series concerned the new powers each character would choose. One of the most interesting aspects of Misfits is that each individual character has a power that is not just arbitrarily assigned, but specifically chosen depending
on their personality and situation. The ironic twist given to each power provided an element of dark humour, and was for me one of the programme's major strengths in that it instantly gave each character more depth. I was keen to see whether their new powers would be equally apt, but found myself disappointed as I struggled to see connections as clearly as I did with the original powers. First of all there is: 

Simon, a socially awkward loner who often feels invisible, originally developed the ability to literally become invisible. His confidence grows throughout the series and it is revealed that he is the time-travelling masked hero who has been looking out for the gang throughout the series. Unsurprisingly, his new power really only relates to his personality in so far that it enables him to fulfil his role as Superhoodie in training. However, I am interested to find out how being able to glimpse a few seconds into the future will develop into the ability to travel back and forth through time. It does mean that Simon has gone from being invisible to being the hero, suggesting that maybe these new powers symbolise each character moving in a more positive direction.

Curtis, a promising young athlete who finds his prospects limited after  being caught with drugs, can rewind time. However, he is unable to control his power, making it impossible for him to rectify his past mistake. His new power enables him to become a woman, who we see briefly in this episode and is later revealed to be named Melissa. This ability gives him the opportunity to compete in athletics again, and also makes way for a very interesting episode exploring gender roles in episode two. 

Kelly is concerned with that others think about her and resents being labelled as a ‘chav’. Her powers enable her to hear other people’s thoughts, which often reinforce her insecurities about herself. Her new power is played mainly for laughs, with Kelly exclaiming several times throughout the episode, ‘I’m a fucking rocket scientist.’ Hopefully her power will explored more fully later on in the series, because the only way I can see it becoming positive, and as a contrast to her previous power, is if she proves people wrong and makes them reconsider their initial prejudiced reactions to her.

Nathan, who is to all extents and purposes a cocky little shite, lucks out by gaining the power of immortality, confirming that life is not fair. In the online webisode used to explain his departure, Nathan is seen in Las Vegas, using his new reality-warping powers to cheat the casinos.  Again, he has landed a choice power that appeals to the exhibitionist in him.  However, karmic justice ultimately prevails and he is caught and left to languish in a Vegas slammer*.

Finally, there is Alisha’s power which is a trickier point to tackle and has been a sore spot among some feminist bloggers.  She finds herself unable to  touch anyone without inflicting them with an overwhelming urge to have sex with her, which often results in violence towards her. Yes, basically she has the ‘power’ to inflict rape upon herself so it’s hardly surprising that this plot point rang alarm bells for some.  I was reluctant to read Alisha’s power as being a punishment for her promiscuity. Given that all the characters have an ironic twist to their powers that seem to play upon their deepest insecurities and regrets, I read Alisha’s powers as an exaggeration of her feelings that she was only judged by her looks and her insecurities about being labelled a ‘slut’. However, let me digress for a moment to explain why this episode’s harsh treatment of Alisha made me reconsider my initial analysis. 

It surfaces that Alisha knew Rudy at college, and that they had slept together. Rudy was deeply in love with her and had lost his virginity to her, so when she ignores him afterwards it affects him majorly and results in him attempting to commit suicide. I couldn't help but think that Alisha’s reply, ‘It’s not my fault that you’re so messed up you tried to kill yourself, fuck you and your sad little fantasies’ was fairy justified. Especially considering the judgmental reaction she gets from everyone around her, including her current boyfriend, when Rudy talks about her ‘going with all them other boys’ and how she was nicknamed the ‘cock monster’. The inclusion of a scene like this makes it hard to ignore the general ‘slut-shaming’ tone of the programme in relation to Alisha. After this scene she has a talk with Simon and explains how she is ‘not that person anymore’. Given that she is now aware that she caused some real hurt to Rudy, this revelation would be fine if it just mean that she now felt she was a more considerate person, and one who would not mess with another person’s emotions as she had previously. However, this is not the case as the conversation focuses more on her past reputation and it seems that by saying she is ‘not that person anymore’ she really means that she is no longer the kind of person who sleeps around. 

There is an extremely negative attitude towards female sexuality when it comes to Alisha’s character, and the only attitude that can possibly be comprehended when it comes to her past is one of shame and regret. In one scene Simon tries to comfort her by making a joke about how he used to be known as the ‘pussymeister’. This is funny mainly because it is so un-Simon, but it also inadvertently highlights the double standard that exists surrounding this issue. It is a socially acceptable idea to consider guys who sleep around, but when it comes to girls it is shameful. This post demonstrates this as I’m finding myself unable to write about Alisha without using negative terminology such as ‘slut’ and phrases like ‘sleeps around’. Men have womaniser, player, ladies’ man and stud but there are no positive equivalents, as far as I’m aware, that pertain to women. Her new power provides even more problems. She describes it as the ability to put herself in other people’s shoes and see what they see through their eyes. Again, I feel that this is too harsh and places a lot of blame on her. For me it suggests that we’re supposed to think that she should learn a lesson and become more empathetic and less self-involved. I’m hoping that there will eventually be more development of her character and more light shed on why she has this particular power. However, I fear that she may wind up being simply relegated to the role of  Simon’s girlfriend, with all subsequent attention being focused on her relationship with him. 

*Given that the photograph of Simon and Alisha in Vegas is yet to be taken (right?) does that mean that there will be a brief return from Nathan at some point later on? Simon mentioned in this episode that they were all invited to Nathan and Marnie's wedding in Vegas, but how will this pan out if he's trapped in jail. 

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