Monday, July 13, 2020

TV: The Chatty Nun

When you're an abled kid and watching a show like THE BIONIC WOMAN or THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, you might -- as some have shared with us -- wish you were in a parachute or rocket accident so you could get a pair of bionic legs, a bionic arm and either a bionic ear or eye.


That's a sense of wonder and adventure that shouldn't be discounted.  By the same token, when disability/challenge is used as a plot point and as a temporary one, we should be aware how that plays out -- specifically at a time when the US government is deploying men and women to war zones where they will get injured (or killed).

Season four of ARROW, for example, was outright disgusting as it left Felicity disabled and we all knew it was a stunt.  Stan had blogged about ARROW, watching it each week.  On January 28, 2016, he did his final post (the show would run for four more seaons):

Sorry, I'm done with ARROW.

I was mad watching the latest episode and turned it off around the time the now paralyzed Felicity couldn't reach a cabinet.

I might have hung around if this were the new Felicity.

But to put her through this and the audience through it only to later reverse it (as the nervous show runners are already telling the press)?

That's insulting.

All around.

Including the reality that some viewers of Arrow are challenged or disabled and they will not have a miracle cure.

I'm just not into this show anymore.

The Iraq War and the Afghanistan War have both failed to create peace but they have produced many deaths and a lot more wounded.  Maybe show runners should be aware of that when running their shows?

It's hard to watch WARRIOR NUN, NETFLIX's latest superhero TV show, without thinking about that as the heroine, Ava, becomes heroic only after she gains the ability to walk.

Rosie Knight (NERDIST) observes, "As we learn in the first episode of the show, Ava was quadriplegic, a wheelchair user raised by sadistic nuns in a strange and secretive sect. Granted, at first, the tropey setup does appear to offer up the chance to explore the abuse of disabled people at the hands of those who care for them. But instead, we get a story about a hero who couldn’t save the world until she became able-bodied, steeped in the ever-present Hollywood message that a life as a disabled person isn’t one worth living."

It should be noted that WARRIOR NUN is based on Ben Dunn's comic of the same name.  It should further be noted that no such trope exists in the comic -- nor does the character Ava.

Simon Berry, creator of the TV series and sole writer credited for the first episode, needs to explain why he felt the need to engage in such tropes?  Rosie Knight also points out:

The strangest thing about Warrior Nun is that they only introduce Ava's disability as a "tragic" footnote so it can seem like she's overcome something. (Her mother died in a car crash and she was raised by abusive nuns; isn't that a "tragic" enough back story?) In fact, her disability is really only centered briefly so that when she's "cured" the creators can show her running joyously over the beach, the camera lingering on her now "working" legs and dancing wildly in a small bar… as if people in wheelchairs can experience neither the joy of dancing nor beautiful scenery.

This is a serious problem.  Sadly, it's not the show's only problem.

There's also the excessive dialogue -- which isn't even bad exposition because the useless chatter is not about setting up anything.  But how the supporting characters do blather on -- and about nothing.  It's like one of those bad DOCKERS TV commercials or a season one episode of ALIAS where we they take a 'breather' from the action and spy moves to sit outside at a wooden picnic table and dish, dish, dish.

Vapid, for those not wise to this already, is not an attractive color.

And characters obsessed with trivial nonsense -- as Ava's new 'friends' are (she notes they were friends with each other, but not her friends) -- are not fascinating or interesting so repeated interludes with these characters serve no dramatic purpose nor will they turn a bad superhero series into an Igmar Bergman film.

What they do is spoil every early episode.

They're in episode four, these awful characters, but by then, the show finally has revealed larger themes and a larger purpose.

It's finally interesting.

That it took four episodes to get to that point is a huge problem.

Another problem emerges in episode eight.  Beatrice has been an interesting supporting character.  In episode eight, she helps Ava who is struggling with her powers.  The scene suggests more than it shows or tells.  Beatrice explains a WWII nun had problems as well and why -- she was a lesbian and when she's imprisoned by Nazis for being a lesbian, she goes into a rage that unlocks her powers.

The scene suggests that Beatrice herself is a lesbian and possibly Ava is either bi-sexual or a lesbian.


And then never brings it up again in that episode or the two that follow.

What might have been characterization instead merely passes for titillation.

And they could use more of Beatrice because Kristina Tonteri-Young is a strong actress.  Alba Baptista, who plays Ava, is also an engaging actress.  Otherwise?  The series is cast with an international body of unknowns -- and after one or two episodes, you start to realize why they never broke out in their own country or any other.

WARRIOR NUN could be so many things -- sadly, even after the show picks up the pace in episode four, it's still actually not enough to warrant ten episodes -- let alone the second season some viewers are already demanding on Twitter.  Instead of creating a fascinating world, it relies on worlds created by others -- not just the comic book it's based upon but also films like LOST SOUL, THE EXORCIST,  DOMINION, STIGMATA with a dash of THE DA VINCI CODE stirred into the motley mix.  In the end, WARRIOR NUN doesn't live up to expectations; in fact, it doesn't even live up to its title.

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