Friendship, Fandom and Female Agency in Lost Girl

by | January 7, 2014
filed under Feminism, Pop Culture

Cast publicity picture from Lost Girlby Erin Tatum. Originally posted at Bitch Flicks. Cross-posted with permission.

Supernatural shows and crime shows are a dime a dozen, but something amazing can happen through the fusion of the two. Putting a no-nonsense Action Girl at the center is just icing on the cake for Lost Girl, which has consistently managed to capture lightning in a bottle for four seasons.

The show follows Bo (Anna Silk), a succubus, and her human companion, Kenzi (Ksenia Solo), as they unravel the mysteries of the Fae, a secret supernatural society hidden in plain sight. At the beginning, episodes tended to fit the mold of a campy CSI parody. Expect rapidfire snarky one-liners. One of Lost Girl‘s most endearing qualities is its embrace of all things cheesy. Plus, you’ll be treated to countless cameos of every Canadian actor that you’ve seen in anything ever.

Over time, Bo’s overarching journey to find her identity takes increasing president in the narrative. Torn between the factions of dark and light Fae, she perpetually struggles to retain her independence in a world defined by labels. Drawing obvious parallels to society’s stringent policing of women’s roles, pretty much everyone Bo encounters tries to force her to pick a side or fill her with self-doubt by insisting they know her true nature – evil and manipulative. Her rebellious nature also applies to her sexuality.

Anna Silk as Bo in Lost GirlAs a succubus, Bo feeds off sexual chi to survive, meaning that superficial constructions of orientation don’t hold much weight since intimacy is essential. While the idea that a woman literally needs sex to live could inspire a flurry of unfortunate stereotypes with respect to slut shaming and biphobia, no one bats an eye at Bo’s sexual appetites and she has serious romances with both men and women. If anything, her queerness seems to have set off a domino effect of subtle pansexuality in the rest of the cast. Trust me, you won’t find another show with more ambiguous same-sex sexual tension.

Now, it may make you groan to see yet another female protagonist saddled with a love triangle. Lauren (Zoie Palmer), a human doctor, and Dyson (Kris Holden-Reid), a werewolf, vie for Bo’s affections.

Their rivalry did feel a little high school-esque for awhile, with many Lauren/Bo fans viewing Dyson as nothing more than a one-dimensional heterosexual love interest for the sake of it (which he kind of is, but to be fair, you can only do so much with the macho personality type). Far more intriguing than Dyson and Lauren’s initial sparring is the budding friendship between the two. Imagine, love interests that don’t have to be defined by antagonism or possessing someone! The fact that Dyson and Lauren discover that they can form a relationship outside of their respective entanglements with Bo is a testament to the writers’ commitment to the characters individually and willingness to explore all types of chemistry, not just romantic.

In keeping with that theme, Lost Girl always finds new terrain to explore, frequently through “alternate universe” episodes where anything goes. There doesn’t appear to be any fandom fantasy that the writers aren’t willing to at least momentarily indulge, particularly with romantic pairings.

Sometimes the AUs reach Inception levels of intricacy as a way of nodding to multiple fan bases at once. A recent episode featured Bo traveling through Dyson’s memories via Dyson’s point of view with the caveat that her subconscious would insert people that she knew. As a result, Kenzi flirts with Bo (as Dyson) and Bo has sex with Lauren…as Dyson. Yes, four pairings in one fell swoop.

That’s why it’s just plain fun to be a fan of Lost Girl. Fandoms are often maligned by showrunners as rabid, obsessive, and demanding, threatening to destroy coherent narratives by relentlessly pressuring the creative team to cater to their every whim. I’ve been a long-time fan of several shows that I wound up bitterly regretting because the writers develop so much resentment for fan feedback. Lost Girl managed to find a brilliant way to make fans feel heard without derailing story arcs.Bo and Kenzi

The pièce de résistance of the series is Bo and Kenzi’s friendship, which provides a rare shining example of an unbreakable bond between women. Given that Bo’s love life is constantly in flux, she needs someone to be her rock.

Kenzi vocally confirms her heterosexuality in the pilot. At first, I was annoyed that it was such an unnecessary #NOHOMO announcement. In hindsight, immediately designating their relationship as arguably the only dynamic without sexual undertones enables Bo and Kenzi to represent an entirely different sort of love. Each of them will drop everything for the other, including partners. Women are always encouraged to see other women as competition and liabilities, so it’s refreshing to see a friendship with such mutual respect. No matter who they end up paired off with respectively, you get the feeling that they’ll always be in each other’s lives. I think we all need a little reassurance that ultimately, true friends never really leave us.

With any TV show, you’re going to have people complain about declining quality. Lost Girl is no exception. However, I have to give the writers credit for not being afraid to try new things. Each season has fallen into the pattern of having a nebulous mega-villain. That admittedly gets a little stale, but I ultimately stay because the interpersonal relationships are so damn charming.

My favorite recurring theme of Lost Girl lies in the simple reminder that relationships are complicated and there’s usually a lot more to them than meets the eye. By refusing to pigeonhole anyone’s characterization, the writers allow the cast to form a group connection that feels organic precisely because they’re so mismatched and fallible. If all else fails, it’s always delightful to watch a fiery succubus kick some ass with good old-fashioned girl power.

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