Tag Archives: ANGEL

ABC's #OUAT @OnceABC: A Complete Ripoff of @Vertigo's #Fables

Today, I come offering an apology to Optimistic Chad. In his post, Why I Don’t Watch Storybook Shows On Network TV, Chad argued that NBC’s Grimm and ABC’s Once Upon A Time “borrowed” elements from Vertigo ComicsFABLES. I had not read FABLES, so I still argues (and I still do), that Grimm is a better show, because it dealt with racial identity and justice ideas (something progressive and race in the horror genre): see Why Grimm is Better than OUAT. Chad remains correct in his points, but Grimm has its own world and has more elements and tropes found in Joss Whedon‘s ANGEL (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off)– this has to do more with David Greenwalt, one of the producers of the show working on Angel as well: see my first post on GRIMM’s similarities with ANGEL.

I also want to offer Chad a huge gratitude of thanks, because for my Blerdieth Birthday, well over a month ago, the Optimist bought me the first 3 volumes of FABLES, and I am sooooo glad he did. It is one of the best comics I have ever read. There are so very few differences between FABLES and ONCE, I would almost say Once is a copyright violation if it wasn’t so wonderbread and tamed compared to FABLES.

Let’s start off with the frightening similarities. FABLES is a comic where the characters from our favorite fairytales have been exiled into this world. Those characters call themselves Fables, and regular humans are referred to as Mundies (those who live mundane lives). The correlation between living in exile (the margins), assimilation, and racial identity are fairly obvious. This became clear to me when one character ________________ joins the Confederate army during the Civil War in one of the first`volumes.

In FABLES, the political leader (officially) is old King Cole the Mayor of Fabletown, but he’s never around, so his deputy mayor, Snow White takes care of all of the Fables and their business. Now, she is not exactly an antagonist, but she certainly is not the most popular Fable in Fabletown. Her actions, including marginalizing Fables who do not look like Mundies to The Farm somewhere in upstate New York does not win her any friends. She’s tough, she has to make tough decisions, and she is surrounded by a number of cronies such as Bigby the Big Bad Wolf gone all reformed and nice, as well as Little Boy Blue) to do her bidding.

In ONCE, storybook characters have been placed in exile by a spell. The antagonist is the Evil Queen, Mayor Regina who is surrounded by cronies like Sidney, the Uncle Tom Man In the Mirror, the Mad Hatter, as well as the former sheriff, The Huntsman. Regina marginalizes other fairytale characters by placing them in a secret jail, persons such as Belle. The premise behind OUaT, having had whitewashed the central idea behind FABLES, is that everyone find true love. So much like Doctor Who, Supernatural (SPN), and other shows, the family is affirmed, and loneliness is viewed as some cold isolation. The disappointing thing about ONCE when it comes to race is that one of its key writers Jane Espenson has even lamented over the fact that not enough people of color are represented in the science fiction/fantasy genre, see Espenson’s introduction to Leigh Adams Wright’s essay “Asian Objects In Space” in Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds, and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

The wardrobe choices for Regina and Ruby of Once are very similar to those from FABLES’ panels, of Snow White and Molly Greenbaum of Fables. Molly is only a Mundy though, and not a werewolf like Once’s Ruby, but the fashion choices are so much alike, down to the waitress uniform, there is no way one could deny that ONCE is at inspired by FABLES. There is nothing wrong with said inspiration, but they need to give credit where credit is due, to Bill Willingham and his team.

As for now, I’ll still watch ONCE, but it’s no longer gonna record on my DVR.

I’m hoping to read even more FABLES though.

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Racial Justice and Science Fiction: Joss Whedon as Prison Abolitionist

“My surreal experience is the stuff of science fiction (sf).This rumination caused me to think of ‘what if’…..”-Isiah Lavender III, in Race in American Science Fiction, page 2

“Somebody get me a lawyer, because my civil rights have seriously been violated. (a beat) Oh, I get it. I get it! You all can cater to the demon, cater to the dead man, but what. About. The BLACK. Man?!”-Charles Gunn, Angel: Season 1, Episode 21 “Blind Date”

Charles Gunn


This blog post was not supposed to happen, except perhaps on the trail end of this series, since I was not going to do this post since Whedon has yet to complete a sci fi novel for his audience to receive (graphic novel yes, comic book yes) but I mean more of the traditional novel format such as the now ever popular and recommended The Hunger Games. However, life doesn’t always work out the way you want it, and now, as with any good blog post before introducing a critical idea, a personal story.

It was late in the evening, around 10:30pm CST. Valentine’s Day was about to end. After celebrating this day of love, and even being an anti-racist witness at work (teaching middle schoolers about racist jokes and why they are wrong), I was in a jolly mood after watching another great episode of New Girl, and surpassing 30k on Twitter. I heard some voices shout close by my front porch. It was strange, but I could have sworn I thought the commotion was happening across the street. I then heard my brother’s voice, nervous and intimidated, explaining he was getting his keeps to our part of the duplex. I walked out, there were two police officers, both white and both male. Shouting at my brother, with a gun pulled out. They asked for his backpack, looked, saw his alibi (he had been to the TCU basketball game where we had just upset #11 UNLV, and then McDonald’s). They let him go, withdrew their guns, and briefly informed us of a robbery not too far from our neighborhood. As if that justified the racial hatred and violence that had just happened. The truth is: my brother was harassed by the police because of the color of his skin.

What my brother and I experienced has a name with a face: it’s called the Prison Industrial Complex–partly involves the corporate takeover of our prison system, the other portion involves the militarization and concrete racist, discriminatory practices by local law enforcement. For more information on the Prison Industrial Complex from a religion perspective, I would start with books like Mark Lewis Taylor’s The Executed God (a link to my review and reflection).

I would like to consider for a moment how could Science Fiction speak to my experience as an African American male, even SF works not originally intended for me to be an attendant in the audience (hint, hint). One of my favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer so far has to be “What’s My Line Again?” parts 1 & 2. In it, we are introduced to a Slayer from Jamaica named Kendra whose bodily existence threatens Buffy’s exclusive claim to the title of Slayer. In part 2, Willow, the open-minded bookworm tries to comfort B, “Don’t worry. We all know you’re the real Slayer.” As if K isn’t a Slayer? She has the same abilities and calling, right? Why shouldn’t K be consider a real Slayer?

While there have been critical race theorists who have rightfully called out Whedon on the awkward storyline that is Kendra (and the view of props people of color in the Buffyverse in general), one thing they have all failed to point out, in light of the U.S.American context at that time and in these times, is that Buffy refuses to be a part of career day. The “test” has picked her future as a police officer. Sure, one could chalk this up as her desire to remain a vigilante. But another perhaps more liberating view of Buffy’s disgust with being part of the 5-O is that she denies the white privilege that the position of being a police officer brings.

For those not interested in a girl power show with tons of humor (but just as much awkward multicultural white liberal encounters with props people of color) but may be interested in a dark horror/detective genre show, I would recommend Buffy’s spin-off, ANGEL. Seasons 1 and 2 of Angel are perhaps one of the most overlooked works by Joss Whedon when it comes to race relations. Through the first episodes of Angel, the villains, Wolf Ram and Hart are portrayed as a demon-possessed corporation/law firm dominated predominantly by white males. The addition of Charles Gunn added a racial and class dynamic to Angel’s story that was there (Angel/Liam is of lower-class Irish origin, and his story is the story of the Irish male outcast in U.S. history). One episode (I believe it was Season 1, Blind Date) has Gunn just walking into WR&H’s headquarters, and shouting, “I feel like my civil rights have been violated!” and who could ever forget his quote about evil white corporations do have a face.

“”Whoo-whoo! My god! They told me it was true, but I didn’t believe them. Damn, here it is! Evil white folks really do have a Mecca. (Holds up a hand to the security guards stepping out from behind their desk) Now, now, girls, don’t get all riled up.”-Gunn

Gunn as both former “thug” and vigilante problematizes Angel (vampire turned redeemer) in his relationship with a police officer, Kate.  The Season 2 (#14) episode, “The Thin Dead Line,” tells of a frustrated police chief using the dark arts to “resurrect” former cops as zombies to harass Gunn and his friends at a shelter. Filled with images of white male police officers, harassing poor blacks and Hispanics, “TTDL” should be seen as an indictment against the Prison-Industrial Complex.

With regards to the Prison-Industrial Complex, it seems as if SF(F)[science fiction/fantasy] may be prophetically speaking ahead of “THE CHURCH.” But then again, we can go back to studying Karl Barth’s systematic theology while devaluing Bonhoeffer’s witness, since his letters were written with chained hands.

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In this week’s episode, Greenwalt and company borrowed images from the Brothers Grimm story, The Queen Bee. I obviously missed the Disney movie on that one. Anyhow, it seems like an interesting story and someday I may read the original Grimm stories I have never even heard of. I keep thinking that this show is a reminder, with a little bird flying above my head chirping, “Someday you will have to re-learn German for a PHD program. German German German.”


Now, to this week’s episode of GRIMM. After reading some previews, I had a very different idea of what this particular episode was going to be about, hopefully a take on gender and such. But, to my surprise and delight, the show was not what it advertised tonight.

Another ANGEL similarity immediately appeared within the first 5 minutes of the episode; a tall tower occupied by an all white, law firm with the propensity for evil is the set for the center of the drama.Insert the one token lawyer joke here. Wolfram & Hart, anyone? Anyhow, the episode takes place first with a female lawyer being murdered by a flashmob on the subway. Her wounds are that of apitoxin, the natural toxin made by bees that causes our bee stings to swell up. Grimm gets suspicious and visits a professor who also happens to be a beekeeper, and who just happened to BEE (hahahah, I know) returning from a conference of bee scholars. To add to Grimm’s and Hank’s confusion, the flashmob has the same alibi. They all met on twitter, and they claimed to want to have fun with strangers.

Grimm goes to the trailer to do research (ala Angel and his investigations in the sewer–hint hint) and learns of the existence of Mellifers, or people who have some of the physical and social characteristics of bees. Their constant communication via Twitter and other social media was a part of their clarion habits. In the words of my favorite character Eddie, “It’s just some fancy pants mumbo jumbo for saying they just like to gossip alot.” Things get complicated when Nick and Hank are ordered to protect Adalind Schade, who Nick has identified as a Hexenbiest, aka, an evil murderous witch. At the conclusion, Nick is put into a situation where he has to ultimately decide whether to let the Queen Bee and her hive kill Schade, or to do his job, and protect his enemy.

Prior to the close of “BEEWARE,” The Mellischwuler (the Queen Bee), played by Nana Visitor (Colonel Kira from DS9!), warns Nick, “He’s coming for you.” “Beware, it’s close.”

I think that this episode is a dark tale that could serve as an allegory of the function of social media in our lives, and how destructive ugly rumors, facebook & twitter statuses are. In addition, there are flashes of how complex our moral choices can be, given our residing in multiple identities. Nick is a police officer sworn to protect the public, but he is also a Grimm with the task of ridding the world of bad monsters (but keeping the good ones like Eddie). As the police force was tracking the Twitter message and it’s location, Sargent Wu joked, “Of course I can, I’m Asian.” His race has nothing to do with his ability to master technology, but the idea of the construction of race in the formation of our identities, especially with stereotypes and social roles, is there out in the open. Something no doubt the writers wanted us to BEEWARE of.