Dear television series

Maybe I should vlog it

This post is based on a Writing101 prompt: write your post as a letter.

Dear television series,

After much consideration, I decided it was time I wrote a post about you, and what better way to do so than to address you directly?

As you probably noticed, I have been attempting to distance myself from you in the past few weeks, limiting my TV time to two hours a day on average to make time for more useful activities. I hope you didn’t take it personally; I still love you, but you have to understand that there are other things in my life that require my attention. Some of them are even people, and not just characters.

To make it up to you, here are some of my favourite things about you:

  • I can always rely on you for a interesting evening.
  • You never make me feel bad about spending time without you.
  • You show me the best and the worst about the world I live in.
  • You show me universes I could never dream of visiting.
  • You make me laugh and cry, surprise me, and give me hope.
  • You help and motivate me to learn foreign languages.

But let’s be honest, there are a few things I don’t like as well:

  • You take a lot of my time, sometimes way too much.
  • Many of you are really disappointing in terms of quality.
  • Many of you end too soon, or go on for too long.
  • Too many of you reuse and abuse the same tropes.
  • Too many of you promote misogynistic and racist views.
  • Too many of you lack diversity.

I get it, not every series can be Sense8, but come on! Many of you could do much better! I’m looking at you, sci-fi – how come, in 2015, series set in alternate universes and the distant future still have mostly-white casts, mostly-heterosexual relationships, mostly-traditional gender roles? Are you worried having more non-white, non-heterosexual characters in a world that doesn’t give men as much power over women would make for a less compelling series?

The worst part about these issues is that even my favourite sci-fi series, Firefly, had them. While it didn’t prevent me from falling in love with it, it certainly disappointed me. In a way, it made sense, as the series (in part) mimicked the Hollywood-made Wild West, but it wasn’t a period piece – it was sci-fi. Fans and scholars around the world have phrased it better than me, but everything should be possible in a sci-fi series!

I understand that making a compelling television series requires that you give your audience characters they can identify with. I understand how tackling real-life, “human” issues makes sense even in a futuristic setting. But I don’t understand how moving past some of these issues, and showing the consequences it could have, could be considered a bad idea. How bad would it be to show some hypothetical future in which, say, your gender and the colour of your skin don’t define the way people treat you? How bad would it be to show a better world?

It wouldn’t even have to be a better world. There could be bad, too – like there usually is in futuristic series. You can have a diverse cast and gender equality and still have machines rebel, megacorps rule the universe, or aliens invade the planet of your choice. You can still have huge social inequalities and corrupted governments, time-worn love triangles and season-long “will they, won’t they” mysteries.

Please don’t go thinking that I am disappointed in you. I am only telling you this because I see so much potential in you and hate seeing it go to waste. You could do so much than retell the same stories over and over. You could change the world. People love you, sometimes even need you, and this gives you power over them. I know you are aware of this and already use your power to shape minds, but you could do so much more – in good and in bad.

Maybe you could ease up on the constant drama a little. I mean, I love how complex Revenge can be, but there is so much going on on Switched at Birth that I can’t keep up anymore. Emily and Bay have been through enough – why can’t they relax for a bit? It would be a refreshing change from the usual “everything is going too well for this character, we need to hurt her.”

Maybe you could have your characters actually evolve. Learning from one’s mistakes isn’t always easy, but don’t you think John should have learnt not to keep anything from his wife by now? I mean, even The Legend of Korra‘s Baatar Jr. eventually learnt not to trust Kuvira. Also, we don’t always need the female protagonist to end up with the good-looking guy who is in love with her – I really liked Rory’s sensible decision in the Gilmore Girls finale.

Somehow I think writing to you was exactly what I needed after a TV-less day. But I know I have been a bit harsh and wouldn’t want to end this post on a bad note, so I have a surprise for you: a list! Here are five series which next seasons I really look forward to:

  • Marvel’s Agent Carter
  • Marvel’s Daredevil
  • Person of Interest
  • Sense8
  • The 100

All right sweeties, thank you for reading and see you in a few days!

Take care

Featured image: sense8-12 by 卡文 迪許 on Flickr, resized and cropped by me.

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