I like bad television. Not always but sometimes and yes, I have a slew of guilty pleasures. But more than bad television, I like those shows that revel in their questionable status. Those shows that openly accept their status as guilty pleasure and challenge you to question if maybe they’re better than you’d like to admit while still holding on and indulging in their own camp and soap appeal. The newest show to join that lot for me? Syfy’s Lost Girl.
Okay, so technically it’s not a Syfy show, it’s been on since 2008 in its’ native Canada, but unless I have readership I don’t know about (any Canadians give a holler) if you’ve heard of this show and you’re reading this post, it’s probably because of Syfy’s current airing.
The show is about Bo, the above-center Anna Silk, a succubus who was raised by humans and didn’t become aware of her Fae (think magic/fairy/non-human) World powers until she discovered them Rogue-style by killing her first boyfriend as they were about to get it on for the first time. In this Fae World, succubi feed off of sexual energy, so she runs away jumping from town to town killing dudes and dudettes (more on that later) until the powers that be of the Fae World show up and tell her she has to pick sides. Sides of what exactly? Why the Light and Dark Fae, of course!
Because she’s all “I don’t get this” and “I don’t belong” she chooses to be neutral and chill with her human friend Kenzi, the green-streaked Ksenia Solo, who is snarky and cute and really there for her and stuff; together, they decide to form a supernatural detective agency which allows for plot-lines of them sticking their noses into matters of which they are woefully uninformed. And so Season 1 goes, with Bo and Kenzi mismanaging the politics of the Fae World and occasionally, almost getting killed.
Aside from the reasonably interesting version of Fae world-building, the show bids for its audience through Whedon-esque banter and at least one sex scene between Bo and the wolf-shifter/werewolf Dyson, the above thoughtful and seated Kris Holden-Ried (also, a dude named Kristen? Wha-?[and double what, he was totally on Degrassi!]), per episode because that’s how she heals and the premise seems to demand for an Angel to her Buffy. At the same time, there’s a budding romance-laden professional relationship between Bo and scientist/doctor-for-the-Light Lauren, far right blonde Zoie Palmer, which offers a slight switch-up to the typical television romantic triangle.
This show is driven by sex and identity, due to the nature of its star character who is learning to control her sexual urges all the while searching for information to find her real parents, but it glosses over any real discussion of sexual identity. This could possibly be excused by the fact that the show is Canadian, if it was American it seems like writers would feel more pressed to make this a main topic of discussion. Either way, the sexual identity of Bo, is the most pervasive metaphor underlying all story-lines.
It’s hard not to read into it: Bo is consistently asked to choose one side over another, Light Fae or Dark Fae, but stubbornly remains in-between. Just as her desire leads her to engage in relationships with both Dyson and Lauren, all the while she laments not wanting to be forced to rule the other one out. Bo is clearly unwilling to accept simple white and black, male and female binaries. Her relationship with Kenzi acts as a a balancing point, sisterly and affectionate peppered with easily managed arguments, where she can develop a non-sexual relationship outside of the triangle.
Somewhere between this love triangle and the collegiate atmosphere with her roomie, what is slowly forming is my new favorite reason to watch the show: despite its fantasy setting and less-than-literary goals, Lost Girl has produced three female characters that are reasonably well-balanced, interesting and interact with each other in basically realistic female relationships. This isn’t to say that these characters and their relationships aren’t entirely unproblematic…
Kenzi, the quirky con-artist with maybe Russian mafia roots, often balances out (read alternately: undercuts or kills) her badass/I-carry-a-sword cred-building moments by making stupid obvious mistakes (she walks into the house of a sick and possibly dying Fae and helps herself to some soup off the stove without finding out exactly what is making said other character so sick). This leads into the other characters having to care for her as if she’s a child. To compare her to the Buffy-verse, it borders on Dawn-level annoyance. However, I’m more willing to excuse this as “Stupid Teenager” tropes instead of “Stupid Girl” tropes, despite the fact that Solo is actually in her mid-twenties, and moments where we see her quick-thinking (and sometimes Russian-speaking) ways maneuver herself into success balance out momentary stupidity. And Silk, in an interview with The New York Post, establishes the most important think about Kenzi “she’s the first person who saw what Bo could do and didn’t run away, so they become instant sisters.” Kenzi is almost more accepting of the fact that Bo is Fae than Bo is, and that’s a point to grow from.
Bo, is almost straightforward, as my friend Marianne says, “It’s interesting how this superpowered/badass/loner/sexpot girl in leather has become such a staple of urban fantasy.” While falling in line with these cliches of the titular “Lost Girl” variety, is interesting in the way she challenges them. In that same Post article, Silk admits that she feels Bo is “the perfect balance of tough girl and wide-eyed sensitive” by saying that “she’s scared. Her strength honestly comes from her fear. Her greatest strength comes from her vulnerability.” If Bo’s strength is in how she responds to fear it’s also in that she challenges it.
And, like her sexuality, she’s “figuring out what… the fae world [is] – it’s endless, it’s almost like she would never be able to learn all about it – and how she fits into it,” or how she is determined to not fit into it. It’s clear that for this character, and this show, while sex and sexuality are tools for the storytelling they are constantly being shifted out of focus to leave the Soap Opera plotlines in the spotlight. Because the show embraces camp the way Whedon-verse shows, and others, have done before it, it banks on the fact that it’s only meant to be fun “eye candy for all” without being too challenging.
Lauren may be the most complicated. As a human, she not only works for but is owned by the Light Fae leader, The Ash. While this serves primarily as a plotpoint to cause complications for her relationship with Bo, again, I can’t help pointing out that a male character of authority is in ownership of a lesbian character and at times dictates action in their relationship. Looking forward into the second season, that has already aired in Canada, the figure of this male authority only becomes more prevalent and oppressive. However, from the standpoint of the American viewership and without looking into the future episodes, Lauren plays out her part as the secondary contender for Bo’s affection in the romantic triangle relatively simply.
I think what is interesting me overall, is that despite its determination to stay a simple mind-candy-guilty-pleasure-soap-opera, Lost Girl is fluid in all of its terms of how to get there and therefore can be possibly welcome in a much wider audience. This is nothing new in geekdom, in fantasy or in science fiction, and as you can probably tell from my references, I can imagine at least a subset of Buffy fans are probably already joining me in enjoying this show in a similar fashion. But when formerly geek-cornered areas of obsession are already flooding popular media, I think it’s extra interesting to see a show like Lost Girl establish itself in the playing field. Even if the ways they are expanding that field are largely unspoken and ultimately not jaw-droppingly surprising, it’s fun. And what’s wrong with that?
Watch full episodes online at Syfy.com/lostgirl/episodes.