Lost Girl: Season 2 Questions, Answered

You asked, I rambled.

The Counselor is in.

How do you see masculinity dealt with on Lost Girl? Dyson, in particular, is a difficult character in this regard. KHR recently mentioned that Dyson would be “neutered” in season 4. This obviously impulsive statement makes clear the deep unease that surrounds and permeates Dyson as a character. This is a discomfort that doesn’t really get articulated or explored as such, but overflows into audience *and* actor reception and expectations regarding the standard “male lead” characterization. Dyson is very ambiguous, not because of his motivations, which I think are fairly straight-forward, but because of his shaky, unclear status as a “man” on the show. Buffy never messed with this – only maybe a little when she called the season 4 love interest “kitteny.” This was a biggish deal to the character, which is why I remember it after all these years. And I’m blanking out on this guy’s name. What do you think LG is doing here, with regard to masculinity? Do they even know?

Masculinity isn’t the focus (nor should it be) and sometimes the clarity what they’re doing Dyson gets dropped or bungled because they’re concentrating more on developing strong female characters. Overall, Dyson is a conglomeration of male stereotypes; possessive, snarling, physical, a cop, not good with emotions or verbalizations, a wolfshifter, (generally male, with the exception of True Blood and . . . True Blood. Am I missing any shows?). Physical prowess and some of these other things aren’t inherently bad, but the way they’re used are clearly markers of a familiar tv Type.

His ubersimplistic stereotypical masculinity isn’t a positive thing, nor is it meant to be. It is interesting since – even with all those characteristics which generally demarcate alpha male leaders  – he plays second fiddle to just about everyone. He serves Trick and the Ash at their wills. Though he seems to have seniority in cop partnerships, Hale often outclasses him and Tamsin simply bulldozes him. Bo leads the group despite his wider array of Fae experience and knowledge; even in “Fae Day” Bo’s coming into her own and Dyson’s more the guide than leader. The one time he asserts himself and tries to take charge, he bungles it terribly. He ribs Kenzi as a younger sister but cedes to her in social situations; the only time he truly saves her is by offering the traditionally-feminine emotional support while two women go and kick ass and use smarts and obtain the cure (“Food for Thought”), and then a season later Kenzi ends up saving him when he gets in over his head. In fact, I don’t see Dyson as the ‘male lead.’ I see Bo/Silk as the lead, and everyone else as supporting players, fairly equally so (screentime aside). If anyone gets second billing, it’d be Kenzi/Solo. Whether Dyson’s status as ‘traditional man’ being backgrounded is intentional or not, the mere fact it’s unimportant is . . . well, fantastic.

Riley was a similar supposed alpha male character, though he was much more touchy about being one-upped by Buffy than Dyson seems to be by Bo. Is that because Dyson is more progressive? It’s not a word I’d really associate with him, but I think he’s more accepting of equality on an individual basis (possibly because of the seeming fae idea of equality . . . so long as you’re fae) than Riley was, and ultimately that was a large part of Riley’s ‘downfall.’ Which apparently helped enlighten him, because he ended up with another kickass woman figurehead. Now I’m off topic.

As far as Buffy touching on manhood, that’s definitely another conversation, but Buffy mostly confronted it outright via verbal quips. The biggest thing which strikes me as similar is Spike’s brain implant; does the stripping of his violence challenge only his identity as vampire, or also his identity as a man especially in the feminist world he’s landed himself in? To tie it together, could this be the sort of neutering Kris Holden-Ried is referring to? Would being stymied as a wolf shifter (as punishment, through being thrown into another world, after a fight with the Wanderer, who knows) challenge his identity not only as a fae, but as a man? Not that it should, but society ties many arbitrary and superficial things to manhood including leadership, displays of strength, vestiges of power, which, being stripped away, still have a very real psychological and physical affect on those who have lost.

Perhaps that’s what he meant. Perhaps it’s a manifestation of how the show presents Dyson as alpha male but strips him of the powers and successful leadership generally associated with that. Perhaps a dozen things. Once you delve into specific verbiage from an actor, specifically about a season we’ve yet to see, I can speculate all day, but sometimes it’s just a word – and one often associate with wolves/dogs, to boot.

 Dudes of LOST

Speaking of masculinity, I was asked via Twitter, “Revolution does masculinity very well where Falling Skies was total shit. Agree?”

I’ve never seen either of these, but just looking at Fallen Skies‘s promo pics made me feel it doesn’t do too well. I did find this really interesting.

We had a short conversation about LOST in comparison to Revolution; I will say though LOST wasn’t primarily concerned with masculinity, it certainly had an undercurrent in many of the stories, always mixed with something else. I’ve not seen the show since it aired, but remember the following. Jack’s is mixed with Type A Saviour Complex. Jin’s is mixed with culture and tradition. Locke’s is mixed with daddy issues. Desmond’s is mixed with fighting general societal ideals and his fiancee’s rich daddy. Sawyer’s is mixed with his presentation as cocky jackass, but internal insecurity. Charlie deals with his in the issue of fatherhood and adoption. Sayid, with his obviously ‘other / scary’ nationality and soldier background, actually has by far the most balanced grasp on his masculinity [at least on the island, his flashbacks show some hesitancy and struggles with it], and flipping that narrative from what the typical American probably expects isn’t just genius, it’s important.

I think I've explained why this scene sums up.

What is your take on where is the love triangle at the end of S2? And I know this one is not really fair and I’ll understand if you want to dance around it: is the love triangle still more useful than a burden for the writing at this point in the show?

At the end of S2, Lauren has publicly made it known (albeit under pressure of the world ending) she’s ready to try something with Bo. Dyson, who has just gotten his love back, watches it happen without protest – probably because his chivalrous code demands it, but also because getting his love back is going to mellow him out overall. Thank goodness, because Uber Cranky Dyson was really getting to me. As Dyson and Lauren slowly come to respect each other more, it will help, and in fact by the time Lauren breaks up with Bo, Dyson will buy her a drink and sympathize.

Despite all this, Dyson isn’t just rolling over. His suggestion to Lauren at the end of 2.21 that she run is a coy effort cloaked in friendly suggestion, perhaps rationalized to himself as ‘just in case’ Lauren really does value her freedom above her chance with Bo. Dyson doesn’t recognize here at the end of S2 that Lauren also has a sense of duty, not just to Bo and the Scooby gang, but somewhat to all of faedom. It comes from a different place than Dyson’s allegiance, and it’s much more broken, and at times it’s so tainted with Stockholmian possibilities it’s hard to suss out. As Dyson recognizes that, so grows his somewhat grudging respect. But along with that loyalty, Lauren knows what’s going on here. She thanks him but declines both his offer to run and his offer to get back with Bo.

When Lauren graciously accepts his advice but stays, Dyson backs off. Mostly. Egged on by the world’s most terrible advice from Trick, ‘Eh, just wait and Lauren will die,’ and a continuing sense of his own importance, there’s that one scene, which I’ll get to, which does trot out the uberselfish Dyson of S1, and which is fairly inexcusable, though the sex-to-live thing does try.

While I get the pragmatism in the ‘wait it out,’ idea, and surely there’s no way Dyson can keep from thinking it deep in his subconscious, going about life / his relationship with Bo with that philosophy is harmful. Even worse, trying to keep himself fresh in Bo’s mind for the next many years is a truly dick move. When he can accept his friendship (and sexual tension) with Bo, rather than push his current or future agenda, is when the ‘triangle’ works best.

[It may give you some insight here to know two things about me. I strongly believe in intense platonic friendships, and relatedly, I don’t believe all TV representations of such, including those with sexual tension, need to fall into romance. I also believe ex-partners can continue as friends; not all can, but it’s certainly possible, viable, and able to be healthy.]

At the end of Season 2, the love triangle is more useful than a burden, for a few reasons. Dyson and Lauren have both lost loved ones; it makes sense they’re going to revert to someone they’re already comfortable with, both for emotional stability and sexual healing and a known entity of relationship. It takes time to build in a new character as a new interest for any of the three, and this is a show about a succubus, and they are three really good looking people, and there hasn’t actually been a long stretch of time when Bo was fully with either one, and Dyson has been missing his love for a whole season, so teasing it out makes plenty of sense.

At the end of Season 3, the triangle is probably more of a burden than anything. We’ve hit most of the beats, we have a new character in the mix and Season 4 can introduce another one or two or four. Picking one point (Lauren or Dyson) and adding another party to make a new triangle is still an option, as is an open relationship – which Dyson doesn’t seem amenable to, but Lauren is willing to try. It’s certainly likely Bo will go back to one or both, not just out of convenience but a strong affinity – and let’s be honest, the chemistry is too good to let go. It’s also true they’ve been the defining romantic relationships in her life to this point, and two of the three most important overall relationships, and that’s going to be hard for Bo to either relinquish or reorient.

If I had to say which relationship hasn’t been as well explored, I’d say Lauren’s. I’m not, however, going to get into potential endgame, especially since that will change depending on how many seasons the show gets. Though it was suggested to me some sort of poly arrangement with the three could be made, I do think Bo will end up with at least one as a friend. Dyson isn’t keen on sharing, period, and Lauren has an obvious hangup about Dyson as a partner for Bo. Add that to Bo’s being the least thoughtful in her relationships, and certainly less mature than Lauren at this point, that setup would be a disaster waiting to happen.

I’m not writing off some sort of return to Dyson, though as mentioned above I see the friendship route as viable. I was totally for the Dyson/Bo sex, but against the relationship in S1-2. Dyson may have been what Bo needed physically and in relation to her burgeoning understanding of faedom, but they both acted far too immaturely. Unlike Ryan, however, I don’t believe Dyson is too enamored with his own behaviors to completely write off the potential for change. Unlike Tamsin and Bo, I don’t think Bo and Dyson’s personalities are simply romantically incompatible. Before I’d be happy seeing them together-together again, though, both would have a lot of growing to do, and Dyson would have to come to a realization of all and a relinquishing of many of the behaviors expounded on in the first question.

Meanwhile, as Dyson’s loss of love made him a complete raging asshole incapable of loving anyone, the return of said love could be written to mean he discovers an ability to love others, romantically and otherwise, or at least have sex and cuddle afterwards. It doesn’t have to be Tamsin or anyone we’ve met to this point, though Val is probably a decent option. 

As for Lauren, breaking up was the right move. She was too far ahead of Bo, and her own needs were being marginalized and ignored; not intentionally by Bo, but certainly as a consequence of Bo’s continuing immersion in the fae world (and possibly as a side-effect of the dawning?) and as part of Bo’s pattern of deception and running which must be broken before Bo can have a successful relationship with anyone.

The only person Bo really works with emotionally and completely right now is Kenzi, and that’s because Kenzi makes Bo jettison the deceit and flight instinct and selfishness. Simply by nature, Kenzi also needs less complete attention than any of Bo’s partners have. Even so, sometimes Bo is too preoccupied or absorbed to pay attention, and it has endangered Kenzi, emotionally and quite literally. It’s a pattern that needs breaking before Bo’s able to have a healthy long-term romantic relationship with . . . well, anyone.

Let’s end on a video note. 

Other than the Quentin Tarantino-lite font work at the end (which if they were going to use, I wish it were at least throughout), I wonder if this is a hint of the new look they’re going for. I wonder if they’re carrying it through the whole season. I don’t watch Once Upon a Time, but this seems to be edging towards that look. Taking the show towards a new world (with The Wanderer) may enable them to tweak their vibe, and hopefully John Fawcett is back to direct some more / reestablish the visual tone. I guess I don’t have too long to wait to find out.

I do, however, have four more episodes to review before that point. 3.01-3.04 coming up over the next couple weeks, and a bonus post about 3.01’s problematic . . . problem. Then, if you were wondering, I will be reviewing along with Canada’s broadcast schedule, not SyFy’s. What can I say, I live close to the border.

Comments
8 Responses to “Lost Girl: Season 2 Questions, Answered”
  1. cleop527 says:

    And yet. KHR is billed second and has spoken of himself as the male lead. I was just discussing this fact in my house, and coming to the conclusion that while Kenzi is a far more popular and interesting character, KS would never take billing precedence over KHR. There are certain expectations that Lost Girl seems to be trying to kick aside… What you say about Dyson is clearly true – a ridiculous amalgam of the worse male stereotypes. Yet the expectations remain, and remain strong. Not saying masculinity per se is a focus. What I mean is that Dyson’s character is problematic in all the ways you describe because he is also simultaneously surrounded by cultural gendered expectations. This is actually something that fascinates me about LG: Everything about it is ambiguous. It is able to generate layers of meanings from the most obvious to the most subterranean, subverting itself at every level. The triangle is a fine example. So is Dyson’s character.

    Ha. I think for the first time I totally disagree with you. When I finished watching the first season of Revolution – the new show by the people who did Lost (JJ Abrams and …?) – I realized that Lost as well as Revolution is completely about masculinity. Lost in more obvious ways than Revolution! You went through all the Lost characters’ arcs descriptions, and yes, exactly, those are all dramas about the experiences of men. The two women on the show had their stories and arcs, but their stories and arcs did not have nearly the emotional depth that the men’s did. I can remember everything about Jack, Jin, Sawyer, Locke, the musician guy, and so on, and very little about the two women. ALL the men on Lost had father issues, btw. That’s really what I mean by “masculinity” – it’s gender, a category that gathers up all the aspects of what it means to be “a man” in a given society.

    • Melanie says:

      Well, Kris Holden-Ried/Dyson is. His contract and scripts essentially say that, the credits say that, it’s more than completely fair for him to refer to himself as that, he’s the male romantic interest and guy with the most screen time of all the guys – I just never frame it in my head as ‘male lead,’ because, well, I guess I’m rejecting the binary male/female lead thing? It is and feels like a very ‘female-led’ show, more than the credits would indicate, and that’s what I meant. KHR/Dyson is, but doesn’t feel like, second billed. No dispersion on KHR whatsoever. It’s simply a show which plays to women’s strengths, and women’s stories.

      I see LOST (Abrams and Damon Lindelof, as well as several other producers owing to scope) as primarily about faith, more specifically religion versus science, and the verifiable versus the supernatural. Admittedly my recognition of the themes and specifics of how its used is largely due to how I was raised, but it’s certainly there at the forefront, from ‘miracles’ to Adam and Eve. The show has got undercurrents of masculinity and crossculturalism and the postapocalyptic and a Lord-of-the-Flies-ian breakdown of society and what that does to our humanity (which I might call the second level down from faith, but I’d need to think a bit harder on that); sure, it’s all there. But to say it’s completely about masculinity feels like quite a stretch. Also, there are at least six major women players: Kate, Sun, Claire, Juliet, Shannon, Penny; and several minor including Ana Lucia and Rose. Also, most of the women also had daddy issues, specifically Sun and Kate, and some of the men had mommy issues. I remember Kate and Sun’s arcs quite clearly; actually, I remember Kate, Sawyer, Jin, Sun, Sayid, then to a lesser extent Jack and Locke, Charlie and Claire, Desmond and Penny, then everyone else’s. I see what you’re talking about with ‘masculinity’ in its broadest sense, and the overarching masculine presence which tends to be predominate in society runs through this show as it does many others . . . but we’re going to have to see this one quite differently.

      • cleop527 says:

        No, I can see what you’re saying. I think it’s reductive to say “completely.” It’s highly subjective too. “Masculinity” is a kind of trendy academic preoccupation. And I don’t think I paid as much attention to the show as you did!

        • Melanie says:

          I’ve only seen it the once, but I was pretty into the mythology / reading the reviews (several, including the weekly six-pager by, I want to say Entertainment Weekly) / studying the subtext at the time. For one of the later seasons, I was also roommates with the writer who did the recaps for PASTE Magazine, and several of us would watch and then dissect. So . . . you could say I paid attention.

          I’m curious what you do/study to make masculinity such a preoccupation, but don’t feel the need to put it on the internet unless you really care to.

          • cleop527 says:

            Oh, it’s cool. I’m just a professor of history. But I’m very on the edge of cultural studies. (History is not necessarily boring!) Anyway, masculinity is one of those things people talk about in relationship to “gender” as a cultural category. There are “masculinity studies” research hubs for instance within Gender/Sexuality type departments. If we’ve spent decades talking about what it means to be a “woman” in society, and reaching the conclusion that gender is difference, is all kinds of construction, it’s worth also thinking about what constitutes manhood and how masculinities are expressed in cultural texts, in familial and intimate relationships, at work, with regard to parenting, etc. Of course, ultimately, masculinity is performance, which leads to queering gender, and unsettling binaries and other certainties.

            I don’t think there’s an implication of sex/gender binaries in talking about masculinity. On the contrary, it could be argued that gender as difference – by which I mean that the category of “gender” works to produce “difference,” and of course inequality – points to gender/difference as ultimately oppressive. I don’t personally work on gender (for the moment), but I read some stuff and I incorporate some limited gender theory in my own work. More than that, I’d have to pm you! 🙂

        • cleop527 says:

          But ok, eta. I think that nonetheless those writers/producers of Lost and Revolution really do engage in meaningful ways with how men relate to one another. I would give them props for that. Because if you think about it, they are trying to deconstruct men, and dig into their psyches, while American pop culture and TV still hang on to very one-dimensional portrayals, where men have very limited emotional ranges, and just are, as unproblematic original models.

  2. N. says:

    I’m curious, how long does a tv show, drama or genre, usually use a triangle?

    • Melanie says:

      Hmm.

      Let’s take the most-compared show. Buffy/Angel/Spike lasted . . . a varying amount of time depending on whether you include _Angel_ when Angel and Spike are fighting but Buffy never appears. But there were slight spinoffs (Buffy had Riley, Buffy thought Faith and Angel were a thing, Spike had Dru and Harmony . . . man, that was weird), and the actual time where all three were in one place and potentially sharing a screen was quite small, really. Still, it was certainly a triangle. On Gilmore Girls, both Rory and Lorelai had on-again-off-again triangles (Dean and Jess, Jess and Logan / Luke and Christopher, Luke and Max, Luke and Digger, respectively) for seven years!

      Here are plenty more:
      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LoveTriangle
      some of which seem pretty long. (I’ve never seen Grey’s Anatomy, but man have I heard about that love triangle.)

      I think a more interesting question is actually: how long does sexual tension usually last before shows decide to indulge it? The X Files, Friends, Castle, NCIS, these shows may not have triangles but they drag the sexual tension out, some for three or four years, some for nine or ten!
      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UnresolvedSexualTension/LiveActionTV
      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WillTheyOrWontThey

      Lost Girl isn’t. by nature, capable of playing that game. Most shows would have teased the Dyson thing out for at least half a season, and the Lauren thing out until S2. But Bo and Dyson, a main source of sexual tension, kissed in the first episode and slept together in the second! That is, so far as I can think of right now, unprecedented for a serialized network show. Lauren and Bo slept together in the first and second seasons, before finally deciding on a relationship in the third. That’s having your cake and eating it, too. All this because Lost Girl is essentially based around sex; Bo has to have sex to live as we learn in 1.01 and as Bo’s voiceovers tell new viewers right up front in to promos.

      Since they can’t play the usual sexual tension game for seasons, they have to find another way to ratchet up the tension. Thus, the long-game of a love triangle.

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