Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Intolerance at a Supernatural Convention

This post was written by a member who attended BurCon, a Supernatural convention in Burbank.

Two weeks after the convention I am still bothered by my experience there. I finally decided what happened should not pass without comment. The GHPALS blog gives me the forum to vent that I need, and I thank my fellow members for allowing me to use it.

I love the show Supernatural, so when I read about the convention in Burbank I eagerly bought a silver ticket. I saved up so I could stay at the Marriott and really enjoy myself. Mostly I did.

The timing, it turned out, was unfortunate because it started two days after the Presidential election. As we all know, the voting results shocked a great many people who had assumed Mrs. Clinton's election was assured. 

The disappointed and upset included the major Creation staffers and most of the actors appearing at the convention, and they were very vocal about it. Several of them made negative comments about Trump supporters as well as the President-elect. Audience members cheered these remarks, sometimes enthusiastically.

I was one of the finalists in a trivia contest. The last two contestants were always asked where they were from and audience members cheered the location. I answered "Orange County" and the moderator sniffed disdainfully. Evidently he knew Orange County usually voted Republican. I wanted to shout, "We voted for Clinton, you asshole!" but of course I didn't. 

At one point the audience was asked if anyone there voted for Mr. Trump. No one raised a hand.

There had to be someone in that room who voted for him, but no one subjected themselves to the scorn that would have been heaped upon them. I wouldn't have. 

Not raising your hand in such a group is not an act of cowardice. It's an expression of "I don't need the hassle."  The crowds at Mr. Trump's rallies was an indication of his popularity. I know the rally here in Costa Mesa was packed.

Misha Collins was obviously devastated by the election results, since he had campaigned for Mrs. Clinton. He had the grace not to bash Trump or his supporters.

Mark Sheppard, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki made no comment on the election. It's not relevant to the show we were all there to celebrate.

I have read many blog posts reporting on Supernatural conventions. They always say fans are friendly and embracing newbies. I had been looking forward to that happening to me. It didn't, I'm sorry to say. 

Instead I sensed I'd stumbled into an exclusive club, one where only people who thought a certain way were welcome. 

That feeling was reinforced by the flyers someone left on horizontal surfaces throughout the hotel. The tone deafness of the author, who must not have sensed the absurdity and condescension inherent in such a note, is obvious. Trying to be inclusive, the result was exclusive and offensive. If you aren't on this list, you aren't respected because you don't deserve to be.

At least that's how I felt, a white female of European descent who may, or may not, have voted for Mrs. Clinton*, who respects everyone without needing to know their race, ancestry or sexual orientation,

* I'm a firm believer in the sanctity of the secret ballot.

Does the Bechdal Test Work for TV?

The other day our members had a heated discussion about the Bechdal test–Does it work for TV?

Originally created to judge the lack of good female characters in movies, the test asks 3 questions:
  1. Are there two female characters?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. Do they talk about something other than a man?
To pass, the answer to all three must be yes.

Naturally given the nature of our membership, long and involved discussion ensued. Weighty issues were thoroughly considered and consensus was finally reached.

Our conclusion:

  1. The Bechdal Test can only be applied to the entire run of a TV show, not individual episodes.
  2. It is not a good test because a character's role is more than just dialog with another woman. Given the time constraints of fixed length episodes, there is rarely time for conversation that doesn't drive the plot forward in dramas. In comedies the conversation often is the point.

We reached these conclusions by testing a variety of popular shows from the past.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Naturally this was the first show we discussed. It passes the test and has great women role models.

Xena, Warrior Princess Ditto.

Dr. Who Rarely do two women talk to each other in this show. Donna and her mother were great exceptions. Leela didn't talk much at all, but she was certainly a strong female character.

Battlestar Gallactica Starbuck. Need we say more? Who cares about conversations when there's a character like her in the show.

Supernatural The show is about two guys. Any other character, male or female, is subservient to that. Yet the show has given us Charlie Bradbury, Jody Mills, Ellen & Jo Harvelle, Mary Winchester, Abbadon, and lots of other string female characters.

Ghost Whisperer Two female characters often talk about things other than men, though the husband and son tend to come up frequently in their conversations. Not every woman is a babe in it.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Clearly this show flunks since there's rarely two females in an episode.

Another Period Lots of women talking about lots of things, so it passes the test and provides employment to many actresses.

The Beverly Hillbillies Grannie and Elly Mae had lots of conversations that weren't about men, covering topics like possum stew and animals in the cement pond. Elly Mae was the sweet but idiotic eye candy, but completely independent and not looking for a man. Miss Hathaway was a hilarious stereotypical successful but man hungry professional working woman. Granny was the matriarch who everyone deferred to, though they didn't always obey. Were these women good role models? We decided they might well be because they were always themselves and no one demanded they change.

Green Acres Lisa Douglas often talked to Mrs. Ziffel and the lady plumber/contractor, and they rarely talked about men (though Arnold was a male pig). Lisa's conversations with her mother-in-law were almost always about Oliver though. Can't say this show had any meaningful roles for women, though everyone in it accepted everybody else for who they were, quirks and all.

Bewitched Samantha and her Mom always talked about Darren. This show didn't have meaningful roles for women since Sam had to change to fit her husband's ideas of a good wife.

The X-Files Dana Sculley talks to all kinds of women about all kinds of things, so it passes the Bechdel test. Plus she's on heck of a female role model.

Wonder Woman Diana Prince/WW talks to a variety of women (my personal favorites are the German agents in the first season). They rarely talk about men.

Hazel (Does anyone remember that show? It's on reruns here.) The maid talks to women about all kinds of things, rarely about men.

The A Team The lady newspaper reporter often talked to women clients, and it was usually about how the team could help. Or two women clients talked about their problem, usually caused by men. Does this count? This show flunks. But who cares–it's too fun to watch.