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October 02, 2006

A Defense of "Heroes"

I've heard some bad feedback on the new tv drama "Heroes" and I'm a bit confused. What's so bad about it?

I've only seen the pilot, and not subsequent episodes, but the main issues I've heard of so far have been that it develops too slowly, that there are too many characters, and that the characters are stereotypes.

The show is about a buncha people who discover that they have superpowers; I think there are supposed to be ten main characters. So far in the pilot we've only met nine of them. Okay, it's traditional to intro all your main xtrs in the pilot, but why do you have to? Answer: you don't. I've had no trouble keeping the xtrs intro-ed so far in order, so I'll have little problem adding one more, if that's what it takes. My favorite shows (Deadwood, Battlestar Galactica, not mention my less-favorites like Lost) all have ten or more major characters to keep track of and no one seems to have any trouble with this.

I think the problem here is that if each of the xtrs has a superpower, then each should have equal weight in the show. In other shows, only two or three xtrs are presented as main xtrs and the rest are supporting. So, because there's a hierarchy, no one has trouble keeping track, even if all of the xtrs have equal time. Actually, it might be a cognitive thing: I seem to remember reading somewhere that you can only focus on so many things at once, but you can note and follow a much great number, provided all these things are given different priorities. Does anyone know anything about this?

As far as the pace goes: most of these characters are only just starting to discover their powers. I've heard complaints that they're taking too long, but discovery of and learning to use their powers appears to be the narrative arc of the first season. Is half the story supposed to take place in the first episode? That's a lot to ask of a show. I'm a big fan of "Unbreakable", which I understand a lot of people hated. I think there's going to be a similar division for this show: people who loved "Unbreakable", the mature pacing and novelistic examination of character, will enjoy this show and people who hated it because it isn't a fast-paced action flick will not enjoy this show.

Yes, some of the characters are riding the edge of stereotype. The Japanese xtr is a Star Trek geek. The Indian xtr is a science prof. The two women heroes (so far) are both blonde, and one is a stripper, one is a cheerleader. Where's the ugly geek girl? Didn't they make so many xtrs to have diversity?

On the other hand, the stripper is the mother of a biracial genius-boy. Yes, the show gets points just for including a multiracial child, extra points for not falling all over themselves to explain his presence ('cause, really, how multiracial children come about is pretty fucking obvious.) There's another, unremarked, interracial relationship on the show as well, and points for that too. Points for the token black being a beautiful woman--possibly a damsel in distress--and not one of those mysteriously-ebonics-speaking-yet-completely-isolated-from-the-African-American-community-and-happy-to-be-a sidekicks. Am undecided about the Latino being an artist; seems like a latent stereotype.

But some of the superpowers seem designed to complicate or subvert the stereotypes of the xtrs. The cheerleader is the strong, unbreakable one (not that we haven't seen that before); the victimized stripper is the vicious killer; the male nurse can fly (maybe). Basically, there hasn't been enough time spent on xtrization to make any definitive statements about stereotypes yet. Wait and see.

Altogether, I'm excited about this show. There are enough smart, culturally savvy elements here to keep me watching for awhile, and since Lost lost me (yes, there is such a thing as too slow, even in my "Unbreakable"-lovin' world), I need something to take its place.

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Comments

I can't say I was impressed by the premiere but at the same time it wasn't bad. I may give it another shot if I have the time. One of the premieres I liked was that Studio 60 one, though I missed the second installment. Unfortunately, I also missed the premiere of The Office (which I understand was a follow-up of one of my favorite episodes "Diversity Day"). I'd purchase the season on iTunes if it weren't for the fact that apple has released a crappy version of iTunes that won't allow me to buy it.

I really looked forward to Heroes and it did not let me down. I've certainly seen better writing, but I too am a big fan of Unbreakable, so I'm looking forward to how this will develope and since SciFi channel is replaying Monday night's episode on Fridays along with Dr. Who and BSG? Wow... well that just sold me and my Friday nights for the rest of the year.

Good news to those who think it's going too slowly. The second episode kicks it up a notch. Without any spoilers... a time limit is set, and another Hero is introduced (watch it on sci fi this Friday!) As for the characters' ethnicitiies and what not, I have to agree with everything you said here Claire... but I love Hiro (the Japanese guy), I love that his name is Hiro, that he loves comics and scifi and I especially love that he is one of the only characters who is happy to have his power! The rest are tragic and confused. He's like, "Rad, I AM a manga character!" it's a nice touch... tho that might change as the plot developes...

Also I bet we'll meet the father of the bi-racial kid soon (possibly), so that'll be interesting... a few non-hero characters were introduced in the second episode, making things interesting...

so see you this Friday, Claire? ;-)

yes you will see me jesse! actually, i'm a little concerned about the kid's father, because it seems like the guy's in jail, or in trouble. but i'll wait and see.

mr. t: my old version of itunes finally stopped letting me download stuff so i had to use the new version. two days after i installed the new version it started bugging me to get the new new version. i fucking hate apple. i'm pretty happy about studio 60 so far, too, although i thought the big number at the end of the second show was crap.

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