Monday, July 14, 2014

Review of HEMLOCK GROVE: or "Aptly named series, because it’s going to piss you off so badly you’ll have apoplexy and expire"


So I don’t usually write reviews of movies, or TV series, or even TV shows, but I think a review of Hemlock Grove needs to be written. Badly. For all of those of us who do those Netflix binges and wonder whether a series is going to be worth committing two full days (or longer) to watching, we desperately need reviews, because there is no real, Rotten Tomatoes-style reviews for those non-movie-theater, direct release shows.

Too busy/lazy to read the whole thing? Here’s the nut shell:

It’s a shit sandwich:
Pretty and white on the outside but stinky and gross, and festering with maggots, inside.
Skip it.

Okay. For the rest of us, those of us taking a break from grueling work, or from Candy Crush, here’s a bit more detail:

The good: The cast is amazing. The actors are top notch, and do a fabulous job of making me believe. The story itself goes beyond yawningly predictable in many ways, and that’s really tough for a werewolf/vampire show to do. 

The development of the unlikely friendship between the two main characters, Roman and Peter, both high-school-aged males, was well done.

But those don’t even begin to outweigh the bad. Here goes.

The bad: WTF? 

No -- what the ACTUAL %*^&?! Did the Hobby Lobby CEO write this show?!

These are not the 1950s, Netflix. No -- Really.

Ne’er-the-less, in Hemlock Grove, there exist women a’plenty, but nary-a-one is a decent character. Not one ANYONE would want to hang out with, frankly. They’re either weak as milk and soon DEAD (Letha), or jealous and mentally unstable and soon DEAD (Christina/Chrissy), or catty and shallow and soon DEAD (the Sworn twins), or competent, and super smart, but an alcoholic and perhaps sociopath who is soon DEAD (Dr. Chasseur), or a goddamned, nagging, ballbusting, deceitful, megacontrolling bitch who, when Roman FINALLY kills her, we’re supposed to cheer and sigh with relief for poor, oppressed Roman (Olivia).  There are two sort of “nice” women, but one is also a criminal and soon driven out of town (Lynda), and the other is so severely deformed she must hide her face, and she can’t talk, and she must, of course, ultimately sacrifice herself for Peter (Shelley).

Yep. Every single female character is one- or two-dimensional, stereotyped, and killed off or driven out. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

(To be fair, Letha’s mom is cheated on for twenty years, then abandoned, but she doesn’t die-die. She just gets left for another woman. She also, however, doesn’t get to speak more than a total of about twenty words during the entire first season. Maybe for women in HG if you speak over a certain number of words you have to die -- ?)

This, Hemlock Grove, is a boy’s world, where boys and men are the makers and shakers, and movers and groovers, the rulemakers and the takers, and women are nothing but arm candy, or nagging, drug-addicted, oppressive bitches, or bisexual whores, or jealous little snatches who do nothing but dress up and make fun of other people. Oh, and those who don’t fall into those categories are mentally unstable murderers. Or just mentally unstable. And they all die.

There are the two boys. The main characters. They're pretty hard to like. Well, Peter anyway, and for sure. He is a DICK. He’s a coward, and acts like a mean, name-calling asshole to Letha. And when he kills the cat, I’m like, “I hope you die next, asshole.” And I am sure I’m not the only one. You don’t kill animals in movies, you stupid assholes, unless you want everyone to stop caring about a character.

And I can only I hope he’s killed off soon. I won't be watching to find out.

But I digress. 

Now Roman, played by Bill Skarsgaard, is a far more sympathetic guy, overall. Oh, yeah -- except for that rape of his female classmate that he made her forget. And let’s make sure we fully comprehend that he raped her even though she was willing to have sex with him. And then he made her forget.

A boy’s dream, no? Well, he did tell ("make") her to “dream of something nice.” Well then! That makes up for it!

At one point, Dr. Chasseur unwittingly tells us what this series is really about:
“All girls experience a blood ritual that transforms them into adulthood,” she tells someone (not that it matters whom). “Whether they’re ready or not. That’s why cultures across time enact and fabricate rituals for boys to cross into manhood. And they always involve blood.”

So -- envy? ENVY is at the basis of manhood rituals?! 

Agree or not, this show tries its hardest to narrate that moment where two boys transition into adulthood, MANHOOD, and it certainly does use blood. A lot of blood, nearly all of it women’s, rather ironically. But it also uses a lot of sexism, and even misogyny, and a boatload of stupid stereotypes, and employs weak, cowardly, unethical characters who misuse those people over whom they exercise power. Is that how you see boyhood, and manhood, Hobby Lobby CEO/Netflix? Really? Apparently so, because ALL of the males in HG do bad things to women, from the boys to the men to the “mad scientist” at the Godfrey plant.(And some women do bad things, too, but pretty much only to other women. They only nag and seduce men.)

And get this: the show's“big” experiment, and the  mad scientist's“big” secret? Creating a baby without a womb. Yes: An artificial baby.

And this made me laugh. Do you know why? Women have been making babies for millions of years. Do men really envy us babymaking that much? Really?! 

So maybe this show is entirely about envying women after all.

Oh, grow up, Hobby-flix. You don’t need men to be women to be fulfilled (nor vice versa, BTW), and women don’t need to die in droves during boys' efforts to become men. How about kicking Hobby Lobby off the writing team and instead look into something a little more neutral, or even --- gasp! --- empowering for women AND men!

Speaking of which, I’ve got a series of books that might just work . . .

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't have put it better. I only watched the first seven episodes of season one. I stopped after Roman raped his classmate (Does she have a name? Ah, who cares, right? She just had nice boobies!). It drove me crazy. It's so teen-angsty, privileged-boys-need-a-space-to-wallow-in-their-OMGPAIN!-and-to-feel-better-by-reminding-themselves-they-can-always-enact-violence-against-women. They may be disempowered by race (Peter) or, um, supreme wealth and power (Roman) and a domineering mommy, by by god, when it comes to women' bodies, they always have a safe space where they can feel in charge.

    I agree, btw, that Peter is one of the worst characters I've ever seen on TV. He's sarcastic, petty, emotionally stunted, mean, and not entirely bright. Who cares what happens to him? Roman is more sympathetic, as you said, but he's also a RAPIST. What kind of show would make the main character a rapist? Drug use, sarcasm, and promiscuity may make for that _American Horror Story_-esque edginess _Hemlock Grove_ seems to be striving toward; a rapist just makes me wish Roman really had died for good at the end of the season.

    Then again, _AHS_ used rape and birth as central driving forces, too. Maybe there *is* something about womb envy to all this.