Person of Interest’s Root, Shaw and a ‘Happy Ending’

It’s been a year, hasn’t it?

Roughly a year since season four aired ‘YHWH’ and we were left with radio-silence in regards to ‘Person of Interest’. It’s been a year of muddled up rumours, evasion of airing schedules, messiness like that—but finally, finally—over the past week or so, the Person of Interest fandom has leapt to life in joy and good riddance!

With perhaps the best trailer for a TV season I have seen of all time, exciting storylines looking to converge and emerge, theories and speculating wildly being thrown about, giddiness (and gross sobbing over Shaw…is that just me?) at what could happen in what promises to be, and I fully believe it will be, the most mind-blowing thirteen episode season ever. And I believe that because even with a hugely serialised arc, the executive producers and writers still managed to hold together a compelling and thrilling story whilst keeping the plot tight. In my opinion, yes, in season four, I thought there were a number of fillers. In those fillers they sometimes contained important cluedrops—but they were minute and could’ve been fitted in elsewhere—which is why I think thirteen episodes might literally kill us off. I think I tweeted that nobody would die on POI in the end…it’d just be the audience left dead!

Thirteen episodes. Thirteen episodes of fast-paced, non-filler, action-packed drama—fraught with reveals, romance, the conclusion (a definite one? Or not?) of this AI war, relationships (not just romantic ones) reaching straining point, and a whole lot of guns (not you, Ms. Shahi, but…yes, also you)—I’m excited. I’m literally bubbling with excitement. I can see a promotional picture and babble on about it. It’s not good for me (but it so is oh my God).

I do want to talk a little bit about Root and Shaw (as previously done). The timing of Person of Interest comes at a height of fear of the ‘Bury Your Gays’ or ‘Lesbian Death’ trope. And I completely understand that. As someone who watched Lexa’s death scene, and heard of others such as Denise from the Walking Dead, or the two girls from the Vampire Diaries—I utterly get that. I get the caution in approaching a show with a same-sex couple because of fear you’ll get your heart broken again. That actually makes me incredibly sad that at this state of television viewing, some viewers cannot approach a show for fear of falling trap to the trope.

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Root and Shaw’s undeniable, blossoming romance has been on the cards for a long time–and fans cannot wait to see how it’ll return. For Shahi, it is “absolutely a romantic return”.

I do ask: how many of these concerned fans have actually seen Person of Interest? It is not an accusation, but merely a question. It’s something that I understand, but I also have my heart deeply buried within the Person of Interest fandom. I was so happy when they were jumping for joy at the trailer, at the glimpse of the Root/Shaw romance we were teased with by Lead Troll Sarah Shahi and Shyer Troll Amy Acker and the executive producers as well. And from my standpoint: I don’t think the writers or execs have anything to prove. They have proven that they can write a tight and gripping plot for four seasons; excellent characterisations; non sexualisation of female characters; a lead male with a chronic disability; accurate perceptions of PTSD; very accurate computer science; that women are equal to men and the men treat them as such—with no pat on the back whatsoever (I’m talking especially about Reese here, who is just amazing); the non stigmatisation of Iranian characters, Persian characters; the non stigmatisation of disability in both Root and Finch; the non stigmatisation of mental health disorders for example in Shaw.

This is a ‘ship’ that started with a flipping iron (you could say their chemistry was sizzling hot in this scene but then you’d groan and facepalm). I don’t think Person of Interest does normal, but they jumped at this chemistry and ran away with it; they saw it as a romance and they just did it, without self-congratulation, without calling themselves ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘revolutionary’. They just did it because Acker and Shahi were so magnetic together on-screen and it was unavoidable. The level of chemistry they have has spiralled to insane heights.

And as this last season approaches, I hear a lot of concerned fans—and I will say, for example, from The 100 (though of course not exclusively—I am definitely not here to point fingers), because I have been witness to that as followers on Twitter of both fandoms—regarding the trope. I would never urge you to watch a show and force you to do it—that’s insane and kind of arrogant of me. In my opinion, where The 100 always lacked quality (like, since forever), Person of Interest had it in bucket loads. Not just with the same-sex couple but with everything.

I remember the happiness The 100 fandom exploded with when the kiss was ‘leaked’, and the second kiss was ‘leaked’ (four for you, E4, now leak the finale) and everyone was congratulatory from what I saw—across all fandoms. Because LGBTQ representation is so minor and there really isn’t much to get seriously giddy about—and on an actual TV channel as well—of course everyone was happy. Why not? Even if you weren’t a fan of the show (and to be frank, I wasn’t at this point, anymore…and had already pondered why I was a fan in the first place. I enjoyed the many moral, war, ethics, martial arts discussions spawned, but…I started to think: were they even on the show itself?) you could be happy that a show was getting some aired same-sex love. And of course it came crashing down and it was devastating. And I’ve written and written about my empathy for that, and I still empathise with those hurt—I truly do. Because I still believe that television for some is not just a matter of sitting down weekly for an hour and then going “okay, bye”. It resonates within the heart and soul.

I guess I’m just trying to plead: before you make snap judgements about Person of Interest, or indeed Root and Shaw, perhaps watch the show. The last thing I’d want for the Person of Interest’s fanbase heading into its final season is to be subject to prejudice regarding a show they know nothing about, or indeed the fanbase still are in the dark about—we don’t know how POI will end. We’re crapping ourselves too! But over four quality, quality—insane quality—seasons, I don’t think the writers have anything to prove. Just watching Root and Shaw scenes on YouTube will not give any indicators of the Person of Interest world. You may skip episodes and stuff if you like (I would advise against it) but I just plead—because I’ve seen this capslock giddiness (okay, hands up, this includes me) and excitement surrounding the show and Root/Shaw—that you don’t try to douse the roaring fire that is the fanbase out. I think the POI fanbase know to expect what to expect…if that makes sense.

Subtext whaaaa? These two have been confirmed to be gloriously beyond it. Ask David Slack...

Subtext whaaaa? These two have been confirmed to be gloriously beyond it. Ask David Slack…

It’s healthy, I think, for the soul to be more optimistic than pessimistic. It is also healthy to be more realistic than delusional. One cannot deny that Person of Interest is not prone to an error, but if you find a perfect 10/10 show…let me know. The thing is, for Root and Shaw, is that their return has been hyped and massively played up (especially for Root in the back end of season four) for a long time. Root and Shaw exist beyond just their romance; they exist to serve gigantic plot purposes and are absolutely integral to the plot, but of course there are people who absolutely love this ship to bits. CBS are burning out the show’s run to kind of get rid of it ASAP (I’ll never get CBS…) and please—I find it much nicer and easier to let people be happy rather than drag people down into misery. I find it much easier to just… let people be. Let people celebrate; let people be joyous and excited and inspired. It makes me smile and it makes me happy that others are so genuinely excited. It’s heart-warming. And when the season ends, I will mourn the ending of a fantastic series—of a quality I think I shan’t ever see again, or at least, it’ll take a bloody huge series.

So really all I want to humbly request, is—do you see that tiddly-tot Root/Shaw shipper over there who’s happy that their ‘OTP’ is returning soon? Please just keep it that away. Please just let that smile stay on their face; please let them remain inspired by their art. Please don’t make statements and smackdowns based on past experience (and I know past experience!) with same-sex couples. Whatever happens—please just let them enjoy it in peace. I cannot ask for more. If there is negativity to be had…I ask you merely to wonder is this directed at Root/Shaw or is it from somewhere else? And why must you swerve direction to point it at Root and Shaw? I also ask: would you rather see somebody happy and delighted their Root/Shaw will come home to roost soon, and be excited and anticipated for the season, trusting in the writers they’ve trusted for four whole seasons, to deliver an epic episode… or would you go and tap them on the shoulder and say “excuse me, but ‘bury your gays'”?

It isn’t a criticism at all. I completely understand the awful, awful loss of LGBTQ characters over the past month or so—and that’s completely inexcusable. But when fans are genuinely excited about the return of one of their favourite, favourite relationships (and personally, my favourite ‘ship’ of all time) I plead you to not rain on their parade. It truly is a joyous time for the Person of Interest fanbase. I beg of you: please allow the joyousness.

The hotly anticipated, what looks to be an emotionally-fraught scene in a Shaw-centric episode. Broken tailbones may have gone into the making.

The hotly anticipated, what looks to be an emotionally-fraught scene in a Shaw-centric episode. Broken tailbones may have gone into the making.

I hope this resonates; I hope this allows those POI fans, even if it only is read by a small sect of them, to just enjoy season five in peace—though I fear I have been condescending because I assume you will not have listened to such negativity with much seriousness in the first place. Thank you for your consideracy, and let’s plough on forth for one helluva closing chapter!

To add a quick amendment/ETA: I would say perhaps it is more fun to approach a show with some optimism and excitement, as the fanbase seem to have gone (in capslock…and yes…me too…) with, because I think to watch a show expecting the worst will always make way for gloom. I know, I know, the classic phrase: lower your expectations. But all I can say is, if the fans’ expectations are so high, why bring them down? Is there a reasoning for that? Or are they high at all? Are they simply just excited because the fanbase has literally been starved of new material for a year? Either way, to comment as such to fans without even seeing the show or knowing anything of it, is saddening on the part that fans cannot even watch same-sex couples’ journeys without reassurance of their ending, and also a little bit of a downer. Imagine a random person who doesn’t watch your favourite show goes up to you and says: “well, [X] trope so…your show’s so tropey” (okay, I made that up, I don’t think anyone speaks like that). How would you feel? On your favourite show? It is often sometimes best to watch, perhaps the lesser quality shows with lower expectations—from personal experience, I think I certainly watched some episode of The 100 with no expectations—but all I ask is to give the Person of Interest fanbase a chance to be happy. Their channel has messed with them and been general plonkers. Now they are consistently getting brought down when they should be happy for their new content and it saddens me as much as it saddens me to see people who cannot enjoy f/f couples anymore without death as the number one concern. It’s all I wish to ask. A fun task before Person of Interest airs may be to count the number of times Root and Shaw get shot. That may take you wayside from the ‘stray bullet’ fear (it seems, on POI, the gay actually counteracts the bullet. It’s science). And I only request: if one cannot approach a show with optimism or be happy for the joyous…then perhaps not make the effort to bring them down. Who knows what’ll happen with this show; maybe everyone will die (…that’s legitimately…possible) but consistently—consistently—Person of Interest has offered hope. And who’s to say POI cannot be the, er, lost bottle of Chanel among the manure? Who’s to assume anything before it’s even aired its premiere episode?

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I Am Honestly Speechless.

Let’s talk mortality/morbidity rates from a non-idiotic POV, aye?

Firstly, one must ponder what someone defines death as. Car accident? Cancer? Cardiovascular fatality? You may say ‘HIV/AIDS!’ and before you even get to the forward-slash mark, Imma stop you there and tell you now that most people live with good lives, at a low viral count—thus not progressing onto AIDS—happily. Yes, especially in the eighties’ (where certain morals may still be stuck) the death in the gay community due to AIDS was high. By the end of this decade, WHO reported at least 400,000 AIDS cases worldwide, from 145 different countries.

Now that’s a high death count, but you have to also take into consideration:

  • What AIDS, medically, is
  • The state of medical care in the eighties and the lack of biologics
  • Other contributors to this: needle-stick users, for example

In summary—people were (rightly) starting to panic about this oncoming epidemic. The LGBTQ community were terrified. In a more touching, personal account of these experiences it was revealed that whilst a lot of people within this community were not affected—there is a snippet with a lesbian woman there—people didn’t just abandon gay sufferers, whereas on the converse, gay sufferers also found that there were people who wouldn’t even kiss them on the cheek. Information about transmission and avoidance was sparse, because nobody knew what the hell this awful thing was. Some believed it to be pneumonia; some believed it to be some kind of rare cancer; others just thought it was a disease ‘from the gays’. It’s horrifying, the ignorance displayed especially during this decade—yet it’s almost made up for it by the sheer kindness shown.

Reports from the same article remember the kindness of other citizens as AIDS sufferers unavoidably sunk to their deaths. For a more dramatised version (and a decent film—and I’m not big on musicals, actually) you might want to watch (or have seen) ‘Rent’.

I’m not talking miracle cures. There just weren’t any. I’m talking about the kindness of people—lots of them women—in bringing these suffers food they could stomach. Making sure to look after their symptoms with any cough medicines, blankets, items for sweats and fevers; I’m also talking about the more unpleasant tasks like cleaning up after vomit and self-defecation. Some today may see AIDS as a four-letter acronym that is a near impossibility now, but back then, it was very real, very scary and very unknown. It did not only touch the lives of the gay community, but the drug-using community—and all their families and friends too. And something common shared between them? The huge, disgusting stigmatisation driven directly at them.

This was hugely prevalent, and of course I wasn’t even alive during that time—I don’t know what it was like. It’s also not the focus of this little piece—but if you’re interested in researching about this, I’d for once not recommend scientific articles, but more personal accounts—such as this reddit thread from responders who lived through the HIV/AIDS terror.

 

LGBTQ DEATHS

I’d firstly like to make a point of being sensitive about this topic. My last wish would be to offend any who have lost LGBTQ friends or are feeling this subject sitting heavy on their shoulders. I’m not a health practitioner—yet—but all I can offer are condolences, and also to advise you to stop reading and perhaps block the crap out of some people on Twitter if you’re following them.

I want to say what I feel like is a really bloody difficult concept for people to grasp: that people within the LGBTQ community are humans. They are human just like everyone else on this planet (this includes the bigoted idiots, unfortunately—sorry). We are, scientifically, junk DNA with a small proportion making up our individuality. If you cannot treat people openly, equally and respectfully for simply who they are—whether that is because they are in this community, or because of their race, their religion…then quite frankly that is disgraceful. You are not doing humanity in a service. You are, in fact, dividing humanity into unnecessary sects and spreading pointless hate when you could, I don’t know, take a walk or go for a jog or see some sunlight.

When it comes to LGBTQ deaths—like any other death rate—statistics must be transparent in order for people to make (ignorant) statements about it. I don’t know where this myth of ‘there’s high rates among LGBTQ’ folk came from—because the LGBTQ community are not massive. That’s not to say they don’t make up huge numbers, but they are—er—don’t shoot me, but they are a minority (hey at least I didn’t say “for a reason”, leave me alone).

Now if we’re talking suicides—and I’m going to assume nobody made statements about ‘LGBTQ folk are more likely to get hit by a car because everyone got a tramp-stamp saying they were a minority for a reason and those Fiat Pandas went mental and ran them all over’—then yes, among the LGBTQ community—suicide rates or suicide ideation can be high. I wish to reiterate that this is within the community. A community that is a minority. This may come in later when—okay, I’m just going to say it now—LGBTQ death rates aren’t bloody high. Over 17 million people die each year due to a cardiovascular disease. Some may be from the LGBTQ community; in my experience they are mostly not. CVDs are a slow and creeping danger—especially with diabetes on the rise.

If we briefly get back on to the topic of suicide—there’s a wide under-reporting that makes even WHO unsure (their latest stat collection was back in 2012) and that’s because of stigma, religion, laws…all sorts—as Bertolote & Fleischmann find out here in their 2002 paper.

Perhaps one of the biggest reviews of the literature on this topic is the Figueiredo and Abreu (2015) paper and I have quoted this one already before. The rationale is because these two researchers noticed that among the community, co-morbidities such as depression and panic disorders were prevalent too. With some digging, they found this:

There is evidence of elevated rates of reported suicide attempts in LGBT compared to heterosexual adolescents and adults, worldwide. Individuals reporting a bisexual orientation had an increased risk of suicide attempts and ideation compared with their homosexual and heterosexual peers. Mental disorders do not appear to entirely explain elevated rates of suicide attempts in these individuals. Social stigma, prejudice and discrimination associated with this individual are important factors.

Before anyone makes misinformed and quite frankly insensitive comments on the topic, perhaps take—literally—a few seconds to type in ‘LGBT’ and ‘deaths’ in the search bar of JSTOR, ScienceDirect, ncbi—or any other reputable journal collation and read. Inform yourselves. I’m not saying this generally because I know there are people out there who have done so, and I know there are people out there who are loving, kind and generous—and non-ignorant.

LGBTQ deaths (I’m just going to assume it was meant as suicide, because that makes the idiotic comment…somehow less idiotic. I can’t believe I’m helping this) are not just part of life—they can be avoidable, as the HIV/AIDS epidemic showed us in the eighties. With the still rampant stigmatisation of gay individuals, medically that area of focus was swamped with research and the development of life-saving drugs—some so old that they are still in use today for their efficacy. Today, women with HIV can be treated to a point where their viral count becomes so low that they can give birth to their child without vertical transmission of the disease i.e. the child does not have HIV. HIV patients get such effective treatment that quite rarely they progress onto AIDS, and instead live a happy and fulfilling life.

I think most tellingly, what has told us of the action we can take towards LGBTQ suicide rates—if we cared—is the inspiring fundraiser set up by those oh-so-meddly minority groups. Informed websites such as We Deserved Better, LGBT Fans Deserve Better and outreach onto platforms like twitter via @LGBTFans is important and necessary. I’d like to point you towards the Testimonials page of the LGBT Fans Deserve Better website because if that isn’t further proof that this project and this fundraiser has united this community and given everyone a helping hand, allowed people to meet others they hadn’t before—then what is? I can say from a personal level I never thought I’d chat to the start-up of this fundraiser, ‘G.T’, but G.T. is so inspiring and positive that she makes me hope for a brighter future. The mission statement exhibited by both websites is so positive and wonderful that I hope others take heed. This is not a fundraiser made of spite; this is a fundraiser made of a spiteful scenario and the community capitalised on that by responding with something beautiful. Anger will not get you anywhere; positivity and intelligence will get you everywhere. By that, I mean the attention of esteemed critic Ms. Mo Ryan, the willingness to listen and understand by the lovely and admirably open Mr. Ryan McGee and even the massive Washington Post.

Again, some may claim “hey yeah but this lesbian was so mean to me!” and I’m just thinking—please…stop. Stop making generalisations based off a minority within a minority community (so many jokes to be had here—I’m gonna keep the tone serious). I’d advise you to read Ms. Mo Ryan’s article closely again (if you haven’t read it fifty billion times already because it is awesome). Do you realise how hurtful it is when privileged people make sweeping generalisations of an already marginalised group just because of who they are? Against hard evidence that a.) they have raised an insane amount of money for charity and b.) have inspired fandoms past and present to join and support; c.) hit the straight community hard and let them take a step back, and come back into the fray with determination to learn and understand.

Across all humanity we are hit with mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. The NHS actually did some research and found that one person out of every four are affected as such, at some point in their lifetime. Perhaps this is higher in the LGBTQ community—but why? Well, I ask you—are many groups like the LGBTQ community targeted for prejudice, discrimination, stigma, hate and death threats (I believe many have so called ‘receipts’ for this) as the others? My solid answer would be no. Are people with different ethnicities other than Caucasian and perhaps privileged ever shunted to one side and silenced because, again, of who they are? I can definitely say that’s a solid yes.

The Trevor Project is immensely important because this is a charity that focuses on saving LGBTQ lives—by protecting those vulnerable people from suicide or suicidal ideation. Without the Trevor Project, there are not that many of such scale. There are support hotlines (if you’re in the UK—the Samaritans is excellent; worldwide, online chatrooms such as 7 Cups of Tea may be useful too) but this is where the money from the aforementioned fundraiser is going to. I cannot fathom why anybody would actually be against that idea because they are taking action to save lives. In my book, that’s a very honourable approach. If perhaps you do not believe in such ideals…I’m speechless.

And if anybody thinks that such LGBTQ suicides (again I refuse to just say ‘deaths’ because it’s so stupid) are just part of life and that sucks for them…well…maybe look at the contributory factors to suicide? Though unrelated to LGBTQ deaths, Arvind in 2008 from the Oxford University Press found that is was highly unlikely for a suicide to be attributed to a single anomaly. I think from personal experience I can support that statement. There’ll usually be 3-4 factors whirling around before somebody tragically tries to (and sometimes succeeds) in committing. But if you look at some of the stronger factors that clue into LGBTQ suicides, these include, as aforementioned: stigmatisation, bullying, hate, prejudice and discrimination. And no, these do not come from within the LGBTQ community (why would they? That’s—oh God, that’s so ridiculous)—they come externally. From the non-minority groups who have also stigmatised and hated on the gay community during the HIV/AIDS epidemic; some still do. This is not to say that all white, straight people do this: absolutely not. I wouldn’t have the audacity to make such a generalisation—in the same way that I would not have the audacity (or idiocy) to make a generalisation of one member of a minority group’s idiocy representing the entirety of the community. It has to go both ways, and if people cared about human lives—if people could just see beyond labels and see that the LGBTQ community as a whole are made up of humans—then would that not change how you see the LGBTQ community? Rather than generalising them all as hare-brained losers?

If you had the opportunity to make a change in such statistics, would you? Because from my stance, discrimination, stigmatisation, hate…they aren’t factors that are simply ‘there’. They aren’t factors inherited and thus unavoidable. They are factors that can be stopped, and changed. If you took ‘bullying’ as an example—perhaps teenaged lesbian girls would not come running into my Direct Messages, crying, because they had been bullied and called awful names—if you didn’t bully these vulnerable members of the community, would that not make a change? Does this make any sense?

For once, change can be made to a crappy reality. For once, people can do something about it. I have no doubt the fundraiser plus its testimonials and comments have saved lives; it has certainly saved mine, on many occasions. I have no doubt that the whopping amount of money the Trevor Project will receive from this will literally save lives—as such is their charity aims to do. But if you sit back with a blasé attitude of ‘yeah well, LGBTQ deaths happen…and they suck’ that’s lazy and that’s uncaring. If you cared at all about humanity—about the sheer talent that has come and is yet to come from this community—about their humour and kindness (I could be making a generalisation—but this is all I’ve encountered from that community—I cannot endorse or condone hateful comments made within the community, of course, that’s despicable—but again: minority of a minority), and if you had half a brain cell you would realise that suicide or death is not something to be so nonchalant about. That if you researched into the factors attributing to LGBTQ suicides…you’d realise that most of them are avoidable and can be saved, if the community are just shown some kindness, love and respect.

I think humanity in general is quite capable of such things—so why can’t they offer the same support to the LGBTQ community like that? Because of a few bad eggs? Would you rather spend your time making huge, unfair, sweeping generalisations of some comments…or would you try and be a bit more tolerant and sensitive?

I know which I’d choose.

The Importance of Minorities: It’s In the Name

MinorMn

They’re a minority for a reason.

This is a phrase I’ve heard time and time again, flung between fandoms and Twitter handles and Tumblr users in disdain; it’s a phrase that has sickened hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people (yes, there are people behind these computer screens) which makes me believe that this isn’t a game of Chinese Whispers. Somebody had the idiocy to utter those words. At first, I was cynical somebody could even say something as audacious and inconsiderate as that. Surely even if there is a bit of a problem with the ‘human decency’ side of someone’s brain, a phrase as offensive and ignorant as that cannot pass from brain to mouth. And yet it has, because the exact phrase has been uttered over and over, with understandably disgusted and appalled reactions to the phrase—for good reason!

I’m a minority. I am a minority in more than one sense, and I like to think that I matter to people in some way or another. Talking in terms of media, I am still a minority. My ethnicity is hugely underrepresented, as is my sexuality—and when ‘represented’, it’s often badly so or used for comic relief. What I think people have misconstrued, lately, is that minority does not equal LGBTQ. Minorities include men and women of color (that’s not just black men and women, but Hispanic, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian…the list is endless), individuals with disabilities (mental and physical disorders), individuals with varying religious beliefs, and individuals who do not fit the Hollywood frame of skinny, long-legged and blonde.

You may ask: why do you care about minorities so much? They’re called ‘minorities’ because they’re in the minority, so why are people making such a huge fuss about them?

Commander Lexa--arguably the spark of this revolt. A great character cheated out of a great exit, and minorities finally decided: "I've had enough."

Commander Lexa–arguably the spark of this revolt. A great character cheated out of a great exit, and minorities finally decided: “I’ve had enough.”

I may retort, slightly bitterly, that there are nearly seven billion people in this world. A minority does not mean a group of ten gay people, or a meeting of six chronic pain sufferers in wheelchairs. Minorities may be the collective umbrella term, but minorities can manifest in numbers up to thousands, or hundreds of thousands—and still be in the minority. Minorities can be supported by those who aren’t, those who have the heart to consider them, those who understand what good representation is on media—and I guess that’s why this is so important to me, as a minority myself.

I confess, whilst television is not in a vacuum anymore, I do still watch television with a level of detachment. I very rarely get too attached to a character, and thus when representation dies—I’m upset, but I get over it pretty quickly. But that’s just me. I will take the cases I know most about, and the show that has kicked up the most controversy (though I endeavor not to ignore the recent ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries’ disasters): The 100.

In three episodes (do I count episode eight as an episode?), The 100, in its unfortunate shock-value way (i.e. shock value for the sake of shock value to a point where it is really, really, really, really not shocking anymore) committed child slaughter (whilst they were sleeping. It appears cowardly genocidal tyrants like killing masses of people in their sleep on this show), killed a lesbian in a frame-for-frame comparison to Willow and Tara from Buffy (though I confess Mr. Whedon is a good writer) and also executed from point-blank range, a peace-seeking, loving, innocent black man, Lincoln, in one of the most graphic scenes I’ve ever seen on any channel. It took the phrase ‘torture porn’ to the next level—because that’s all it was, and it was disgusting.

Not that I want to see massacres of sleeping innocents on my television (or really this show at all, but gif-makers—you’re quick!) but I find it worrying how this season things took a heavy, racial, minority-aimed step into the dark abyss of no-hope. In episode five, the massacre of the three hundred Grounders wasn’t shown; in the recent episode, Ontari was not shown killing the Nightbloods (alright, I don’t want to see those innocent kids die—and I guess it was for ‘shock value’ because nobody guessed Ontari would kill those Nightbloods, right?). The Hakeldama one is most prominent in my mind. Led primarily by Pike and his gullible sidekick Bellamy, they mass-murdered three-hundred innocents. Only the aftermath—the field of the dead, very brief flashes of about two bodies, and a slow-motion entrance into Arkadia for the genocidal monsters was shown. I don’t know what this show implicates, in writing a scene that way—the same as when they shot Lexa straight after she’d consummated her relationship with Clarke. Maybe they didn’t want viewers seeing fan-favorites do an awful (that’s too kind—this is genocide—crimes that dictators and terrorists commit) thing, so it’s a little easier on the redemption arc when the tears and manpain starts.

It’s not enough. What happened on that field is by every single definition a war-crime and whether you like it or not, one of the war-criminals was Bellamy Blake, shooting to death sleeping Grounders with his rifle. The 100 won’t put Bellamy Blake through the Nuremberg trials. That’s a little too harsh—I mean, the genocide-committer’s a good boy at heart, isn’t he? It shames me to say this because I enjoyed his character up until this season, where his character’s 360 was the weakest, his ‘redemption arc’ nonsensically atrocious, his story-lines horrific and bland—and it hurts, because I did like Bellamy. But when every—single—critic absolutely loathes that story and thus him now; when even the esteemed Ms. Mo Ryan says on the Televerse podcast she can’t even face him as a character—you know you’ve assassinated that character. I’ll never truly understand the appeal of a ‘bad boy’ versus, you know, a decent and peace-seeking man but Bellamy’s not a ‘bad boy’. He is an irredeemable war-criminal with innocent Grounder blood on his hands—perhaps he’s too far gone, now, and any attempt to bring him back will just be laughable. Every single critic I’ve seen has ridiculed a potential redemption arc for this—this isn’t slapping someone in the face. This is genocide. I can’t emphasize that enough because I need to put real weight behind that word. Even when Clarke visited, Bellamy—a grown man—shouted and reminded an eighteen year old girl of everything she’d done, put all the blame on her because his poor twenty-three year old heart couldn’t handle it. A grown man reduced a teenager to tears, and then handcuffed her to be taken to Pike. There’s a worrying trend or I guess double-standard of audiences enjoying ‘bad boys’ suddenly doing one good thing and thus becoming amazing, whereas the badass Clarke—if she’s not physically fighting, but rather politically and cleverly fighting, i.e. using her brain—is seen as either useless for her political scheming in Polis or boring. Either way, it’s gone too far. When that decision is made, and the war-like (ethnic cleansing) execution of the black man is the source of such torture porn (who cares, right? But you can’t watch a white boy* commit genocide because we need to redeem him later) then it’s too far. When suicide hotlines need to be posted, it’s too far. When Lincoln’s only real screen-time this season involved a little with Octavia, then mostly inside a prison cell, and then getting executed—the implications are clear, and it’s—too—far.

Lincoln's had more screen-time as the show's shirtless torture-toy than he has a character, beside his romance with Octavia, at the hands of colonialist Arkers.

Lincoln’s had more screen-time as the show’s shirtless torture-toy than he has a character, beside his romance with Octavia, at the hands of colonialist Arkers.

This is my first article in which I will say that this next paragraph may trigger some of you (I apologize—and I also understand if you skip to the next paragraph or this article altogether), because when that episode aired, I confess—I didn’t watch it—but soon videos and gifs were being spawned on Twitter, and I saw the scene in its entirety. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. A black man, imprisoned all season long for doing no harm except being different—i.e. fall victim to a xenophobic tyrant—sacrificed himself to save Kane and allow for his escape whilst bravely condemning himself to his fate. The heroism of Lincoln’s actions and his burgeoning, enduring love for Octavia, his girlfriend, will not be forgotten—but neither will his death scene. It wasn’t shocking as much as it was depressing. In fact, the only thing that startled me, quite frankly, from this repulsive show is that Lincoln didn’t fall like a rag doll into a pit of freshly-dug mass graves like the horrors of Romanian and Serbian laborer camps—he fell into a muddy pond instead.

Why am I talking about The 100 again, when I’ve made it pretty clear I couldn’t care less for the show nor its lack of quality? I speak of The 100 because of the very real effects it’s had on real human beings: they are the individuals I care about. All over my Twitter I had horrified teenagers speaking of triggers and suicide—again—following Lexa’s death by mere weeks. E4, the broadcaster that airs the show in the UK, have done excellent jobs in providing viewers with warnings before the show airs that some viewers may find scenes distressing, and at the end of the program (E4 does this on principle—not just for The 100) they provide a helpful list of hotlines and websites in case anybody needs to seek urgent help for what they’ve just witnessed on-screen.

I’ve heard plenty of excuses (seriously, why?) too. One angered me: one compared the show to some American town (Detroit, I think it was) where gun crime is rife and minorities are killed aplenty. I argue the case that The 100 is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the ‘groundbreaking’ show-runner already stated factors like race and sexuality were nullified—so why compare real-life events to very fictional ones? Hasn’t the show-runner already smugly distinguished his world from the real one? Indeed, should it not be one television’s primary aims to offer escapism and hope in a world very deprived of it?

Recently there have been terrorist attacks in Pakistan, Brussels and Turkey; there continue to be attacks in Syria and bomb strikes; there’s a surging terrorist epidemic and under-reported massacres across Northern Africa. There is the existence of Donald Trump. There are people living with chronic, fatal lifelong conditions, battling each day. There are addicts spiraling into an endless abyss. There are young children diagnosed with rare forms of terminal cancer. There’s one suicide every forty seconds. There are LGBTQ teens being bullied both physically and verbally; both in real-life and online. There are people of color everywhere being harassed—again, physically and verbally, both real-life and online—for the color of their skin, the slant of their eyes, their religious beliefs and practices. It’s a dark world for hundreds of thousands of people and if you are in a position of privilege where you are blissfully ignorant of this, then I pity you and I implore that you read on it; that you be kind. If you are in a position of privilege and you simply don’t care, then I pity you for your inconsiderate nature and heartlessness. If you’re in a position of privilege and you contribute to such insults, bullying and petty behaviors in order to discriminate against these minorities even further—I only have the greatest sorrow for the hollowness of your soul, because I cannot imagine anyone with a heart that has the audacity to do such a thing.

The Vampire Diaries killed their LGBTQ characters simultaneously...which must be going for a record, or something.

The Vampire Diaries killed their LGBTQ characters simultaneously…which must be going for a record, or something.

Other excuses have ranged from “well, they’re a minority, so why should they be overly represented?”—and my answer to you would be that they aren’t overly represented, if at all, and that’s one of the biggest problems. My other part of the answer would be what you define representation as. Do you define it as simply sticking a token Asian on-screen? Or do you define representation as a good, realistic, down-to-earth portrayal of that minority?

Some may say: “well, I’ve been picked at by a minority so why should they deserve my time?”—and my answer would be: are you really that desperate to generalize an entire population for a few bad eggs, to masquerade your hatred? If I was hassled or bullied by a white person—and I have been—that doesn’t mean I hate every single white person on this planet. Quite the opposite! I have strong opinions on fascist regimes—I’ll plunder for the popular ones—such as Hitler, Mao and Mussolini—but do I hate every German, Chinese and Italian person for it? No! I shall not hold any person associated with that race accountable for a few’s actions—just as the concept of holding an entire community responsible for the actions of a few is an incredulous, despicable, and frankly a stupid idea. Is ‘an eye for an eye’ really the only policy you can draw here? Or would you prefer it if I proposed this: block or mute—or whatever you do on social media—for a few. And consider how many LGBTQ people there are on this planet. Consider how many POCs there are. Out of nearly seven billion.

Out of an impassioned piece on my anger and distaste of this issue, I do offer some things I wish not to do. First of all, my number one stance is to never tell anybody how they should feel. This includes people who quite simply tell others to “get over it”—be it over a fictional death or, will you believe it, real ones. Whatever you grieve for and however long, and however it may affect you—I shan’t have the pretentiousness to dictate that. You must consider that for as many minorities there are individuals who have co-morbidities such as anxiety and depression; grieving times and severity varies over this wildly heterogeneous population. Perhaps you don’t understand, and that’s fine—it really is—butplease, I beg, for their sake, do not be inconsiderate and rude. It takes more effort and more of your energy to be hateful and spiteful than it does to simply be quiet or offer quick condolences.

I also do not wish to speak for all minorities. That, I hope, is obvious. As a minority of many myself, I can speak from individual experiences but as each of you on this planet is precious and different and unique—I cannot speak for your experiences. I cannot speak for the young lesbian teen still struggling to come out of the closet; I cannot speak for the Hispanic suffering of autism; I cannot speak for the black thirty-year old man in a primarily white neighborhood. Yes, those are scenarios I plucked out of my head—but the point is, is that we are so diverse on this planet. We are surrounded by a sea of color and love that is varied and bright. Why is that something that isn’t celebrated, but rather crushed upon? Bullied for?

I’ve seen teenagers getting bullied or getting into arguments with grown men and women about this issue. I’ve seen people accuse others of using the word ‘minority’ as a cover-up for LGBTQ. I’ve seen articles from reputable websites accusing mourning viewers of The 100 of only grieving the loss of Commander Lexa because the actress was white—and that they wouldn’t be mourning if the actress was black. I have a quick word to say on this, because clearly the journalist had perhaps not researched into the depths of why the community was angry. It barely had anything to do with the death, andnothing on the actress’ skin color; in fact, it had everything to do with the exploitation of vulnerable youth, alleged (and I think confirmed) suicides relating to the death; the year-long misleading of writers and show-runners in baiting the LGBTQ community in their supposed safe-zones by luring them into a false sense of security. And as Ms. Mo Ryan wrote here, the show-runner himself invited fans to watch the filming of the finale on the streets of Vancouver—where everyone would spot the iconic warpaint of Commander Lexa, thus throwing further oil into the already-alight pan—in a long-drawn game of trickery and masquerading so sick that it resulted in self-harm, tears, suicidal ideation and writers desperately tweeting suicide hotlines. I shan’t speak once more of how atrociously the death was handled because many articles have covered it much more eloquently than I shall, and this podcast is an excellent listen for further explanation.

In the space of about a month, there’s already been four LGBTQ deaths (three from the CW, one from AMC) and a graphic execution of a man of color (the CW…again). Again, articles have covered these deaths much more eloquently than I shall—for example, the girls from the Vampire Diaries, Denise from The Walking Dead, and Lincoln from The 100. A week or so ago, ‘MINORITIES ARE NOT DISPOSABLE‘ trended on Twitter. It was then when I saw people—grown adults, mainly—accuse teens of masquerading the word LGBTQ behind the word minority. And I have to say, with the uproar Lincoln’s death has caused on The 100, I think they’ve just been proven mightily wrong.

Denise's arrow through the eye was not even intended for her--she died by mistake, in place of--yes, a white male.

Denise’s arrow through the eye was not even intended for her–she died by mistake, in place of–yes, a white male.

We know this now: TV is not just a weekly sit-down and family gathering. TV affects us in real life because people talk about it; people discuss it on social media; people get sucked into the hype and buzz. People seek escapism from their harder real lives; people seek solace in online friends; people seek online safe-spaces. Yet the Internet is a double-edged sword. It can offer both kindness and cruelty. It can offer understanding individuals, open-hearted people willing to listen—and it can offer delusional, petty bullies.

I only ask that you navigate Twitter and Tumblr and such with care (though I’m sure literally everyone’s more proficient at social media than I am) and never let those words, that you’re a minority for a reason, sink into your hearts. After all, you have very human beating hearts—same as everyone else. People may despise you for your skin color, your religion, your ethnicity, your weight…and you know what, in this world of billions, it’s easy for me to tell you to just not care about them. But I know as well as you that words hurt—that’s why people use them. That’s why insults are thrown around. That’s why hate-mail is sent. I can’t ask you to ignore all of that; I can’t ask anything of you. All I ask is that you know there are people in the Twitterverse, the Tumblrverse, the Facebookverse, the Periscopeverse—however many ‘verses there are (just not The 100’s, because you will die if you are a minority, sorry)—who care, ardently. There are people who are willing to talk and understand and reach out. There are people who empathize; who sympathize; who are rational, decent human beings. And just like minorities may never get the same representation on television as we’d like, because society has fooled itself into being progressive, bullies do not represent the general population. They represent a small percentage of cowards who dare only to attack young, vulnerable teens from behind a computer screen. If anyone has encountered such a being, then my heart goes out to you—but know that you will always be supported by the humane ones on this planet, and I think I can safely say that makes up the majority of people.

Meanwhile, I will pop on Person of Interest, in which the main male lead is permanently and chronically disabled, the male lead is never hyper-sexualized and does not do the same to others, the same-sex couple consists of a half-deaf cordial twerp and the other is a Persian badass with an Axis Personality II Disorder, and their detective on the inside is an overweight but honorable and dutiful cop. (Was that a ‘ding’? I think that was the sound of quality).

I love it when a bit of genuine quality pops up on my screen.

I love it when a bit of genuine quality pops up on my screen. No whiff of exploitation, baiting or lies either (and the POI squad never have done, in four years). I heard exploitation and lies smell like alcohol and trains.

*As played by the show, in which this character’s younger sister is Octavia, and there’s been no indication with regards to Bellamy’s potential parentage. As Octavia is white (or Marie Avgeropoulos is at least half-Greek?) I would assume as siblings (certainly from the same mother) there’s nothing to warrant Filipino origin there. I’ve always fully known the actor, Bob Morley, has Filipino roots. The show, in its flashbacks with Octavia, young Bellamy was played by a white actor, Spencer Drever. I have since been assured via multiple platforms that Filipino children do not get darker as they grow older, hence the whitewashing of Bellamy Blake seems to remain a valid claim. Once more: this is not a slur on Mr. Bob Morley. I completely respect his pride of his heritage—especially coming from a minority myself, where I admittedly was not always comfortable in my own skin—and on a personal level, I wish the CW, Mr. Jason Rothenberg and the show had been willing to portray their main male lead as a man of color. 

Thank you once more for reading. I understand now is a sensitive time for many, and I offer my condolences. I confess I don’t watch all the shows I’ve mentioned here but my heart does genuinely go out to anyone who’s suffered through this. Paradoxically, I find this statement uplifting andheartwarming: you are not alone. And I hope solace is found and social media used for good in this context. To end on a positive note, this smashing fundraiser has achieved over $112,000 as I write. Minorities, huh?

As ever, I’m on Twitter at @NicolaChoi or via the comments below—thank you.

Person of Interest’s Tasers, Kinks and Cuffs…A.K.A. ‘Shoot’

POI6ArticleMainImg

In the light of recent LGBTQ TV scandals, I felt cautiously inappropriate in hindsight submitting this Root and Shaw article. Then I thought: no, I shouldn’t feel guilty for investing in and enjoying a genuinely enthralling same-sex couple relationship on a show where the producers are devoid of baiting and exploitation. For fans of the show who don’t enjoy the Root/Shaw pairing—despite my best efforts to make this an exploration of their relationship and how it slots in culturally, rather than an article of ‘squeeing’—then I’d strongly advise you to read no further for the sake of peace and lack of unnecessary inflammatory comments in this otherwise unified fandom. I like to think that’s what sets the Person of Interest fandom apart.

I don’t know when the time is right to publish an article like this because I know LGBTQ fans are still hurting—and that understandably may never stop. I still miss Lexa. But I don’t think that should hinder fans of Root and Shaw, or indeed Person of Interest—and actually, if this article makes you want to check out a really decent, tightly-plotted and excellently handled show then by all means do so. If the thought of another LGBTQ pairing is still frightening and you don’t want anything to do with it—equally, you are entitled to that opinion, absolutely. I utterly respect both stances. But in terms of the article, I’d like to analyze the only romance that exploded with critical acclaim—hence why I will only explore this dynamic (as stated in my previous article, if I explored every dynamic in-depth, I would be writing for years—and I do have a real life to juggle).

Romance isn’t core to Person of Interest, a show dominated by two warring AIs, but where humanity (and consequentially romance) is key in fighting back, Root and Shaw are not the only romance to have existed, and thus the plot never revolves around them. Just like Reese and Carter; Finch and Grace; Reese and Iris. They often endure struggles without each other, but Root and Shaw’s unique charm threads them inevitably together. Superbly, independently developed characters already, they only need moments—not fifty hours of screen-time—to set the screen alight. The duo’s evolution from antagonism to mocking to flirting to caring and loving has been beautiful to watch bloom on-screen—and gorgeously, heart-wrenchingly played by Acker and Shahi. It’s not to say their romance dominates—every single dynamic on the show is hugely important, be they platonic or not.

During their first encounter (bear with me), Root tasers Shaw, zipties her to a chair and wields a steaming-hot iron ready to torture some information out of her. Somehow, Acker and Shahi’s chemistry literally sizzles with blazing sexual tension. Root is a “big fan” of Shaw’s, and Shaw, awaiting her imminent torture, dares to tease Root: “I kinda like this sorta thing.”

Once upon a time, a sizzling iron and the promise of torture...

Once upon a time, a sizzling iron and the promise of torture…

It’s a setup for some unexpectedly hilarious moments between them thereafter. When Root’s freed, the Machine tells her she needs Shaw for a mission—so in typical Root fashion, she watches Shaw sleep,tasers her, sedates her and basically kidnaps her until Shaw groggily awakes at the steering wheel of a car and says hazily, to Root’s uproariously ridiculous apology, “Which part? The tasing, the drugging, or whatever this is?” Acker and Shahi not only exude sexual chemistry and tension whenever they’re on-screen: they’re comedy gold together.

I honestly have no witty caption for this.

I honestly have no witty caption for this.

Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman hit the jackpot with them—so they took their chances. How many times have we had amazing chemistry between two females only for showrunners to turn them into best-buddies and then tease at fans about their obvious UST? But they don’t differentiate Root and Shaw’s budding romance from anybody else’s; they don’t loudly and pretentiously pat themselves on the back in congratulations as if to say: “Yay! We’re totally representing the LGBTQ community!” They write Root and Shaw because they honestly love them. They completely normalize it and it’s so wonderful to see two kickass, independent women in their own right also as part of an explosive, dynamic and fun ship, whilst still keeping the core relationships intact and central to the show.
Root and Shaw do not need to be physically together to be badasses nor exude chemistry. There's no damsel in distress situation between these two ladies.

Root and Shaw do not need to be physically together to be badasses nor exude chemistry. There’s no damsel in distress situation between these two ladies.

Alright, buckle up australopithecines, this might get long. Well. It is long.

 

REPRESENTATION—AND WHY THIS MATTERS

Root and Shaw’s sex lives are heavily alluded to—notably in ‘Honor Among Thieves’ in which Root interrupts Shaw’s meeting with Tomas by waffling about a certain ten hours in a CIA blacksite. At the end, Shaw approaches Root and confesses she rejected Tomas’ offer of Barcelona because she cares about people here. It’s brushed off, in characteristic Shaw fashion, but Shaw goes on to claim that she—a medic—can’t interpret Finch’s viral decontamination instructions. The all-knowing smirk they share when Root suggestively says “this’ll take all night…” says it all. It’s gloriously beyond subtext, and it has been for a long time. It’s never mocked, or turned into a joke: they talk about it openly, Root flirts blatantly. Shaw delivers a desperate kiss to Root in ‘If-Then-Else’ in front of everyone. It’s normal. It’s fine. Why shouldn’t it be?

I don't know what I'd do for ten hours in a CIA blacksite but these two clearly do...

I don’t know what I’d do for ten hours in a CIA blacksite but these two clearly do…

When Shaw’s almost killed by Martine, Root, upset by Shaw’s blasé attitude to the near-miss, shakily tells Shaw that while she mightn’t be scared, “other people are—people who care about you.” It’s clear Root’s alluding to herself. I could rave about their stunning chemistry together, but astoundingly, they ooze chemistry even without the other in the scene too. When Root goes to meet Samaritan’s interface, Shaw immediately packs her weapons in a bag, determined to back her up—because she will not let Root die, alone. When Shaw sacrifices herself at the Stock Exchange, Root claws desperately at the cage as the elevator doors slam shut, screaming in hapless terror. It’s refreshing, to see an epic love story played by two women to this scale of rawness; idyllic highs and tragic, heartbreaking lows.

Root and Shaw argue after Shaw scoffs at the notion of being scared for her life; Root, clearly hurt and scared, angrily reminds Shaw that there are people who care for her life—that she matters.

Root and Shaw argue after Shaw scoffs at the notion of being scared for her life; Root, clearly hurt and scared, angrily reminds Shaw that there are people who care for her life—that she matters.

Furthermore, Shaw has an Axis II Personality Disorder, and Root’s aware. Samaritan labels her a sociopath; Shaw describes it as “when I kill you and your friends, I won’t feel a thing”. It’s quite easy to generalize this. Sociopaths are grossly misrepresented in media: how often have we seen that they’re insane, crazy, murdering nutjobs? Shaw’s human—not a label. She adores Bear; she makes terrible jokes; she has fond memories of where her mom and dad first met…and she cares so much. It’s aptly summed up by Root in ‘Control-Alt-Delete’: “…Technically she’s a sociopath: incapable of caring for others. But the thing about Shaw is, she does care. Enough to save my life.”

Gen pokes an exasperated Shaw to make sure she's not a 'robot'. Later, Gen notes of Shaw's Axis II Personality Disorder that "It's not that you don't have feelings. It's just like the volume is turned way down. Like the sound on an old tape. The voices are there. You just have to listen."

Gen pokes an exasperated Shaw to make sure she’s not a ‘robot’. Later, Gen notes of Shaw’s Axis II Personality Disorder that “It’s not that you don’t have feelings. It’s just like the volume is turned way down. Like the sound on an old tape. The voices are there. You just have to listen.”

Root, on the other hand, after enduring endless cycles of amphetamine and barbiturate torture, then suffers a stapedectomy without anesthesia. Yet still she manages to break free from her captivity—and not once does she trudge through her hearing impairment with a ‘woe is me’ attitude. She breezes through bravely, installing a Cochlear implant so she can have direct communication with  The Machine—but she’s still half-deaf, something Shaw takes advantage of in ‘Honor Among Thieves’ when she playfully sneaks up on her deaf side. But neither Shaw’s disorder nor Root’s partial deafness is mocked or stigmatized on Person of Interest; they don’t spend episodes mourning over their ‘incapability’—because any disability does not equal inability.

Just look at the horrifying number of amphetamine/barbiturate syringes Control's put Root through: an endless cycle of the central nervous system manipulation.

Just look at the horrifying number of amphetamine/barbiturate syringes Control’s put Root through: an endless cycle of the central nervous system manipulation.

I’d like to save my last point for this beautiful quote that came to me anonymously:

This is why Sameen (her name is a part of her culture also) is a very important character. There aren’t many characters (actually at all) on tv at the moment that are Persian, bisexual, described as a sociopath & isn’t a terrorist. Add to the fact that she’s just as strong as any man & the show makes that very clear. I will always love the writers for the way that they wrote her because it’s just very important to have strong WOC on tv that aren’t degraded because of their race etc (especially important to me because I’m a WOC myself.) Also I love that Shoot are interracial & f/f. This makes them ten times more special & needed.

Shaw’s Persian heritage isn’t fussed about on Person of Interest. She’s proud of it, and yes, isn’t it refreshing to see a woman of color who isn’t a terrorist but rather somewhat of a hero? It’s never mentioned between Root and Shaw, nor among the team. But for those who identify with Shaw for her race and the show’s embracement of it, it’s heart-warming because racial stereotyping is still prevalent, especially in crime dramas—and Shaw, as a bisexual, gun-toting, badass, neuroatypical, Persian hero—is surely going to be an inspiration, if not already, for many young women, globally.

To collate those aspects together: this will be a phrase used many a time, but representation matters. Viewers can look up to Root and Shaw and see that they can be badass and LGBTQ; they can watch for an entertaining hour of escapism from a harsh world of discrimination and stigmatization they may endure; they can relate to the relationship, and who are we to have the audacity, the pretentiousness, to take that away from LGBTQ viewers?

 

CHEMISTRY: A MASTERCLASS BY AMY ACKER & SARAH SHAHI

Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi are impeccable. Acker as the villain-turned-hero and Shahi as the paradox of Sameen Shaw: an emotionally blunted ex-soldier with an enormous capacity to care. Alone, they are spectacular. Together, they combust. Their flirtation is a joyous, frantic push-pull of Root’s playful come-ons and Shaw’s exasperation—but she never tells Root to stop. Root doesn’t push because she’s a harassing plebeian who can’t take no for an answer; she pushes because Shaw lets her, despite her incessant eyerolling. The very instant Root appears somber, in ‘Prophets’, Shaw immediately questions the lack of innuendo and even calls her ‘Eeyore’. According to The Machine, their conversations often go a little like this:

Root: [Root calls Shaw] Overly affectionate greeting.
Shaw: Greeting…
Root: Transparent rationale for conversation.
Shaw: Annoyed attempt to deflect subtext.
Root: Overt come-on.
Shaw: Mildly embarrassed defensiveness bordering on hostility.
Root: Playfully witty sign-off!

The duo sure knows how to push each other's buttons when it comes to flirting.

The duo sure knows how to push each other’s buttons when it comes to flirting.

Whether they’re firing their pistols at the enemy together, or conversing practically into each other’s mouths, or Shaw’s getting pressed against a box of items in a moving truck a little too closely, and, like, seven hours too long, Root—their crackling chemistry is undeniable. Even apart, the care they’ve developed for the other is apparent. After ‘Prophets’, Shaw asks of Root’s whereabouts and safety—only for Finch to imply that she could have died in the shootout. The look of muted horror on Shaw’s face says it all.

 

THE UNIVERSALLY LOVED ‘SHOOT’

It’s rare to see a same-sex couple on TV that isn’t just to tease its LGBTQ viewers. Critics have widely acclaimed the Root/Shaw development, for its organic roots and centrality to the plot in a way that doesn’t diminish the importance of the main cast. The show has magically balanced this arc whilst still maintaining Finch as our ethically challenged computer genius, Reese as his kickass right-hand man and Fusco as the broadly-changed, honorable cop. Jonah Nolan, Greg Plageman and Denise Thé completely support ‘Shoot’. And they mean it, genuinely—there’s no messing around. They don’t self-congratulate, but they are aware of the importance of this ship.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Nolan says about the kiss: “[We focused on] making the moment feel genuine and earned, where one character’s clearly been pursuing the other a bit more strongly in terms of the reciprocation of that moment, how it would feel real and raw and satisfying.” Nolan also confesses to Entertainment Weekly: “We’ve been invested in that relationship from the beginning.”

Plageman elaborates more on that here: “I think the thing that struck me the most in terms of the two of them the first time they were on camera, the moment they were on the screen and she pulls out the iron, and I went ‘Something that is supposed to be sadistic has somehow become seductive. There’s something here that we’re missing on the show.’ And we just went with it.” How refreshing is it, to have two females emanate such irrefutable chemistry to the point where the producers jump ardently to creating something seductive and now romantic, rather than pair them up as simply best friends, or indeed ‘gal pals’? To continue passionately whilst weaving the relationship into the plot, instead of simply using the LGBTQ relationship for publicity or as a stepping stone for some other character’s arc?

Amy Acker: "Who's got two thumbs and got to kiss [Shaw]?" (NB: I am Greg Plageman's cackle).

Amy Acker: “Who’s got two thumbs and got to kiss [Shaw]?” (NB: I am Greg Plageman’s cackle).

In terms of the actresses, they can perhaps be described as goldmines for Root/Shaw shippers. Sarah Shahi is brilliantly candid in interviews and comic-cons. About Root and Shaw’s blossoming relationship, she says: “At the end of the day, her heart belongs to Root—and that way it will stay.” After her exit, Shahi noted: “I know what the fans want; I think it’s important to give the fans what they want because I feel like they’ve been down that Root and Shaw journey for so long.” It’s brief but earnest—the LGBTQ community have been disappointed so many times that the phrase ‘Lesbian PTSD’ sadly still exists. She’s perhaps most hilarious at the comic-cons, in which she took great glee in claiming at New York Comic Con 2013: “The only romance on this show is between Root and Shaw.” and declared in an AfterEllen interview that “Root and Shaw should have little Samaritan babies and they’ll just take over the universe.” (Is there fanfiction out there for this…?)
Acker likes to joke that the Root/Shaw chemistry is all down to her, with a beaming smile and a 'just kidding', but seriously, after watching Relevance for the fiftieth (er—I meant fifth!) time, the girl ain't lying!

Acker likes to joke that the Root/Shaw chemistry is all down to her, with a beaming smile and a ‘just kidding’, but seriously, after watching Relevance for the fiftieth (er—I meant fifth!) time, the girl ain’t lying!

They both seem to have such respect for the other, with Shahi declaring:”I love working with Amy. She and I are very similar. And when you are part of a boys’ club, it’s nice to have some females” which is backed up in the same interview by Acker, who—oh, Amy Acker, bless you… “I have loved Sarah since I first tortured her with the iron.”

Shahi speaks ardently about the importance of the role of LGBTQ women and role-models in television from her past experience shooting on 'The L Word', as well as praising her screen-partner Acker.

Shahi speaks ardently about the importance of the role of LGBTQ women and role-models in television from her past experience shooting on ‘The L Word’, as well as praising her screen-partner Acker.

And finally, the exchange from the AfterEllen interview regarding season five that killed every Root/Shaw shipper off:

Amy: “It’s their first time it’s true love—”
Sarah: “Yeah, I think their hearts are in it—it’s more than just—a fling—”
Amy: It’s more than just a…it’s not a fling. It’s something that feels like that [Root] really needs [Shaw] to live…to be.”

 

A FOUR ALARM FIRE IN AN OIL REFINERY

I won’t go down the BDSM route for the sake of keeping this under fifty-thousand words, but the deliciously naughty banter is dazzling to watch and it’s a small part of what makes them dynamic, individual and fun. As Root merrily puts it, she doesn’t like the thought of anyone hurting Shaw… “Except me”.

One of the most remarkable moments for me came in ‘Deus Ex Machina’. Root, alone, searches for and finds Samaritan’s base in order to plant seven key servers in the very heart of Samaritan that’ll enable them to hide in plain sight.

"Look, I might've cycled across NYC during a blackout and crawled under a fence and then took out a guy about to shoot you—but it was all for the damn mission." – Sameen Shaw, probably.

“Look, I might’ve cycled across NYC during a blackout and crawled under a fence and then took out a guy about to shoot you—but it was all for the damn mission.” – Sameen Shaw, probably.

We know Root’s unafraid to die a martyr—alone. She calls Shaw, directing them towards saving Finch—but Shaw knows Root and she knows she’s going to get herself killed. It stops her in her tracks, even as they’re pushed for time. Reese once told Shaw: “In our line of work, we walk in the dark. Doesn’t mean we have to walk in it alone.” And Shaw absolutely, will not let Root do this alone. Fun, kinks and flirtation aside—these two care about each other, and Shaw lets Reese and Hersh find Control and Finch whilst she cycles across New York City(!), crawls under the fence(!!) and knocks a man out about to pull a gun on Root, saving her life. This isn’t baiting, or subtext, or fun flirtation to lure viewers in. This is real.
The fight slowly dissipates from Shaw's eyes as they both realize what must be done: one must be the martyr today, and Shaw will not let that be Root. She yanks Root in for one, last, desperate kiss.

The fight slowly dissipates from Shaw’s eyes as they both realize what must be done: one must be the martyr today, and Shaw will not let that be Root. She yanks Root in for one, last, desperate kiss.

They punch and tase and handcuff and smirk and plough through innuendos…and they care. They look out for each other. But tragically, as Root has proven time and time again she is willing to die a martyr—at the Stock Exchange, it seemed to be Shaw’s fate, not hers. And for Root, it should’ve been hers and never Shaw’s. Never Sameen Shaw. But in Shaw’s words: “If you wanna die, okay. But die for something that you love.”

 

ROOT’S UNDYING FAITH IN SHAW

Amy Acker’s performance as Root post-‘If-Then-Else’ was undoubtedly one of the best and widely-praised performances on television. Reese and Root wreak havoc across New York City, determined Shaw’s still alive. She’s unhinged yet hauntingly heartbroken as she pleads with The Machine to give Shaw’s location—only to be told to ‘STOP’.

Root tearfully pleads with The Machine: is Sameen Shaw alive or is she dead? She needs to know; she needs to hope—but as Harold notes, hope is painful.

Root tearfully pleads with The Machine: is Sameen Shaw alive or is she dead? She needs to know; she needs to hope—but as Harold notes, hope is painful.

On television, where men are regularly shown fighting their pain of loss, Person of Interest—’groundbreakingly’, and of course, I’m kidding here—allows a woman to grieve (it can’t be that hard to show, can it?). Root struggles with her loss, simmers with uncontrollable rage, clamors for vengeance, cold cruelty and ruthlessness—but it’s all a facade for the shattered heart that lies beneath. It’s scary sometimes, the lengths she’ll go to in order to find Shaw. Even when she knows Finch believes her to be dead, even when all their leads in Maple arrived at dead ends, devastation and despair, Root never loses faith in Shaw. Perhaps one of the most apt quotes regarding Root’s faith in Shaw is this:

Reese: You really are sure she’s alive.
Root: You know about Schrödinger’s Cat? There’s a cat trapped in a box with something lethal. There’s a 50% chance the cat’s been killed, but until you open the box, there’s no way to know one way or the other. Quantum physics says before you open the box, the cat isn’t dead or alive. It’s both.
Reese: What about after you open the box?
Root: Reality collapses back onto itself. Cat’s either alive, or it’s dead.
Reese: Well, we’re gonna see reality soon. But you don’t bet against Shaw.
Root: No. Nothing kills that cat.

Most phenomenally in ‘Asylum’, Root runs—no, sprints—straight into Samaritan’s trap even though she knows it’s one, in order to find Shaw. The horror and anguish that adorns Amy Acker’s face when she spots Shaw’s bullet-ridden coat is so painful it’s near unbearable to watch, but let this be said: do nottake Sameen Shaw’s life away from Root (you’ll get your neck snapped!), because if Root could burn the world down to find Sameen Shaw again, she’d do it.

 

“MAYBE SOMEDAY.”

In the brilliant, mind-bending, best hour of television I’ve ever seen, ‘If-Then-Else’, written ingeniously by Denise Thé, one of the simulations involves Root calling Shaw. In the back of a police car, Shaw notes it’s not the right time for a conversation—lest a heartfelt one—but Root needs to know if they ever have a chance, which leads to this:

Shaw: Root, if you and I were the last two people on the face of this planet…
Root: An increasingly plausible scenario given Samaritan’s plans.
Shaw: Fine. Maybe someday, when Samaritan wipes everyone out we can talk about it.
Root: You’re saying maybe someday?
Shaw: Yeah, sure, Root. Maybe someday. Is that good enough for you?
Root: Yes, Sameen. That’s good enough for me.

Root knows of Shaw’s disorder; she knows Shaw can’t offer her full affection like in a traditional relationship—but she doesn’t care. When has ‘traditional’ ever been in the ‘Shoot’ dictionary? She just wants Shaw. Sameen Shaw is enough—and what’s most tragic about this simulation is that as the shot pans out, we realize Root’s about to get gunned down by a hoard of Samaritan agents. She’s calling Shaw one last time—not to say goodbye, but to be reassured that there is a “maybe someday” for them.

Root's never pushed Shaw for more—even in the face of death. Here's to hoping their 'maybe someday' will come in season five.

Root’s never pushed Shaw for more—even in the face of death. Here’s to hoping their ‘maybe someday’ will come in season five.

But what about season five? Sarah Shahi assures us that for Root and Shaw, it’s “absolutely going to be a romantic return and that there’ll be a Shaw-centric episode to find out what happened to her during her time in Samaritan’s captivity. Amy Acker has utter faith in Shaw: “I’m definitely on the side that Shaw can do no wrong, and even if something had happened, I think Root feels like their relationship is strong enough that she has the power to turn her back. It’s going to be an interesting struggle.” Plageman said: “I think Shaw has come around to realize maybe this is the person for her in the world.”

Sarah 'The IDGAF' Shahi boldly declares at this con: "I'll put it to you this way. Amy and I both have bruises, and it's not from any of the fight scenes."

Sarah ‘The IDGAF’ Shahi boldly declares at this con: “I’ll put it to you this way. Amy and I both have bruises, and it’s not from any of the fight scenes.”

There’re lots of questions left to unravel: how does Shaw return? Is Root right to place utmost trust in Shaw? Will ever get our “maybe someday”? Did Samaritan ever use the neural implants Root and Reese found in Maple? How will they rebuild The Machine, and will it be a very different one? As for Root and Shaw—I hope their fun dynamic remains, and I hope they continue to flirt and tease—but I also hope there’re some sincerely beautiful scenes between them, and I really think there will be.

Root’s journey after losing Shaw was heartbreaking. By now, she knows how much she loves Shaw—so upon her return, there could be a huge shift in dynamic. With the way Acker and Shahi have so excellently portrayed their characters, I’ve never been more excited to see how this one pans out. Whatever happens, I have utter faith in these writers and producers to go out with a bang and a serious mic drop—I think I have about as much faith in them as Root has in Shaw. However, I may stay clear of Amy Acker’s adorable ideal ending of Root having a happy family with the Machine, Shaw, Bear and Shaw’s twins (Amy Acker, what world are you on?!)—but you never know, huh?

 

THE ‘SHOOT’ FANDOM

I don’t think I could say a good word about the show without bringing the talented fanbase in. I’ve always stated on any platform available that I’ve never been so warmly welcomed and encouraged by a fanbase other than Person of Interest; to be so included and shown such kindness. I was genuinely taken aback by it—and even when I jokingly started calling the fanbase #POIFam on Twitter, I have seen an influx of tweets that all allude to the fanbase being a tight-knit family, and this is not exclusive to the Root and Shaw fanbase.

There is incredible, breathtaking fanart. The detail and the sheer time that must be invested in these pieces of work is truly incredible and absolutely inspiring.

An example of many of the hugely talented fanbase. The full version of this spectacular fanart can be found here: http://nevenne-creates.tumblr.com/post/139685264645/the-otp

An example of many of the hugely talented fanbase. The full version of this spectacular fanart can be found here: http://nevenne-creates.tumblr.com/post/139685264645/the-otp

There are a huge number of fan-videos on YouTube, all immensely talented and again, they must have taken absolutely ages to do. The editing I’ve seen on those videos has been nothing short of magical.

The detailed discussion and speculation of the show has always been interesting to read—well-researched and cleverly thought-out. And lastly: the fanfiction. I cannot reel off a list of quality fanfiction I’ve read for the duo, but as someone who aspires to write as eloquently and as beautifully as you writers do, even if it will not be my day job in the future—absolute kudos to you, because to plan a story and execute it so brilliantly is nothing short of fantastic, inspiring and real entertainment through a hellishly long hiatus. This is what I mean about the fandom banding together: it’s not just the kind and heartfelt messages I received on Twitter. That impacted and moved me massively. But in searching through Tumblr and various other sites I’ve learned that such talented fanartists and writers have been sharing their work for a very long time, and that has to be celebrated. And that’s, I guess, why I wanted to save my last point for you—because as talented, funny, witty, kind, generous fans of the show—youare making the change and you are inspiring legions of young writers and artists to follow in your footsteps.

As a final word: this show, and its fandom, is much more than just the Root and Shaw dynamic—but one cannot deny the charming, magnetic chemistry between Acker and Shahi. I can only applaud their commitment and gung-ho approach to the Root/Shaw relationship, for always being transparent and honest to their fans, and this goes for the executive producers and writers, too. As Shahi put on Twitter: “All’s well that ends well. Root and Shaw.”

Thank you for reading (this ridiculously long article)! As I’ve gotten deeper into this experience and fanbase I cannot express how grateful I am for your kind and encouraging responses. Thank you. As ever, I’m contactable via @NicolaChoi or the comments below.

When Does Social Media Go Too Far?

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In my honest opinion, I think social media is a fantastic tool. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Periscope, Facebook—you name it, I think they’re fantastic (even though I am terrible at using social media). On social media you can chat to other people, globally, about things that interest you; you can vent and blog about things you may not want to reveal in real life. You can make online friends who are funny, witty and intelligent; you can have intellectual and deep discussions with others and learn. You can use social media as a tool to bring communities—past and present—together, such as the very topical fundraiser for the Trevor Project has recently.

A fantastic fundraiser for a truly fantastic cause. If you're unaware of what the Trevor Project is, I highly recommend googling them for an idea. To The 100 fans: Heda would be so proud.

A fantastic fundraiser for a truly fantastic cause. If you’re unaware of what the Trevor Project is, I highly recommend googling them for an idea. To The 100 fans: Heda would be so proud.

But as I’ve mentioned, it’s a double-edged sword. I’ll start with the very simple issue of cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying accounts for a large number of suicides in the WHO’s most recent suicide collation—however, suicide is a murky subject as under-reporting and mix-ups are a huge problem in terms of numbers. As it stood of 2012, WHO reported a suicide rate of 804,000 per year (that’s 1 suicide every 40 seconds). In the light of such horrific things I’ve seen on twitter such as suicidal ideation and self-harm, this is an extremely topical issue, considering I follow many twitters that are television fans. The most topical issue I can think of is the outpouring of grief following LGBTQ deaths on The 100 and The Walking Dead.

I’ve also stated before that since opening my direct messages on Twitter, I have received messages from fans all over the world looking for some consolation or advice; some, I’ve extended my help to regardless, and we’ve had a nice chat and I’ve made some new friends. But as the fundraiser grows, so does controversy around one show in particular: The 100.

As recently revealed on the We Deserved Better website, site creators professionally collated a huge and damning amount of evidence implicating one of the show writers. To summarize, the show writer had visited a lesbian message forum (upon already knowing Lexa had died) to ‘reassure’ them differently.

The webpage and collection of hard evidence says it all, really. I don't know if anyone over the years of industry has seen unprofessionalism quite like this.

The webpage and collection of hard evidence says it all, really. I don’t know if anyone over the years of industry has seen unprofessionalism quite like this.

I don’t know when this scandal over this show will blow over—I don’t know if it ever will, because accusations and immense evidence like this keep leaking. But one thing I do know for sure, and this isn’t from a critic/writer’s standpoint, is how to be professional. I am a pharmacy student and I hope to become a successful one. My main goal and vocation is to make patients my first concern. Yet there are aspects of my course that retain professionalism (be it attire, attitude, honesty, integrity) as one of the core points of our course. Why am I talking about pharmacy here? Because in all aspects of a profession, as the name suggests, surely professionalism is key. What has happened here, in this particular case, is absolutely, disgustingly unprofessional. It isn’t illegal—I don’t think so and I’m pretty sure it isn’t—but it is scandalous, exploitative, manipulative and cold. So cold. How cold must you be to deliberately post on a lesbian message forum (and if it’s a lesbian message forum, then surely it is amok with Clarke and Lexa fans) to essentially trick them into a false sense of security? To ensure that they are fully sucked into the frankly appalling game of PR and television business, knowing their beloved character is already dead, just to keep viewership levels up?

I think what is often forgotten is that behind these TV/computer screens, behind the statistics that are simply figures—there are real humans watching this show. There are real humans getting exploited and misled by false claims, lies and manipulation. That disconnect shocks me, considering writers often talk of making people ‘feel’. So how do writers feel when they blatantly lie and mislead their audience? Manipulate them? There can’t be any care there, for that level of exploitation—so really, is it just money?

Before this was even reported, I’ve had messages flooding in saying they’ve never seen exploitation—not just from this particular writer, but from the staff in general, including showrunner Mr. Jason Rothenberg—to this level before. Upon seeing this, I was horrified and shocked when I scrolled through the entire collation of tweets.

As just previously stated, if you are interested, it may be a good idea for you to check out the We Deserve Better website as a whole. I’d advise you to take some time in going through the website’s posts and collection of evidence, including tweets, pictures, quotes and other excellent articles covering the show’s scandal, to get a whole picture of what this means for the show.

The 100 is renewed for season four, as are all CW shows, so its future is secure. As for the viewership figures, the continued social media manipulation, the disastrous interview the show-runner finally gave(timely, before WonderCon) about the episode ‘Thirteen’, that remains unclear. Of course, there will still be a steady viewer base, because not everyone liked Lexa, not everyone liked Clarke and Lexa together, and some people may still be invested in the plot-line…whatever remains of that. So in light of this almost sensationalized article (good grief, I am becoming a newspaper journalist—help me) I want to congratulate the talented cast for getting season four, because Eliza Taylor is stunning as Clarke Griffin, and Lindsey Morgan in particular is an absolute star—honest, earnest and emotive.

To round off, I want to go back to my question: when does social media go too far? I’ve talked of cyber-bullying on a general and very serious level. But when it comes to professionals using social media, such as writers, then in my humble opinion, this is the very definition of ‘too far‘. As a professional surely you cannot exploit a trusting and vulnerable LGBTQ fanbase like that. As a professional surely you cannot have the audacity to lie, bare-faced, like that. As a professional, you must be professional. And in the light of today’s reveals, I can say without a doubt—this went too far. It went so far that I think it’s actually shot out of the planet and is currently orbiting another galaxy.

My last note is an apology. I wish to apologize to those very vulnerable LGBTQ fans I was talking about; I want to apologize to everyone who cried to me in my direct messages. I want to apologize to everyone who trusted a professional writer and got absolutely swindled. I want to apologize because every single one of you is a decent, beautiful human—and nobody deserves to be exploited or lied to like that. By anyone, lest a professional. So I offer my sincerest apologies. However, I do wish to end on a positive note.

In the light of all this consistency of scandals, there is still ongoing positivity with the fundraiser for the Trevor Project. As I write, it has garnered a mind-blowing $62,625. Yes, this recent news is horrendous and inexcusable—but I applaud everyone who has raised money for this excellent cause, and for anyone who cannot donate, I applaud you for sharing and promoting the cause too.

I have never really encountered a fanbase that has been consistently hit with so many disgraces in such a short period of time—but goodness me, on the flipside of that, because of such disgraces, I have never encountered a fanbase that has endured positively through all of it. I’ve never encountered a fanbase that has united others, inspired spoofs, raised money to save lives. This is the highest, most condemning level of unprofessionalism there is—there is no doubt about that. It is shameful and disgraceful (and I’m being extremely polite)—but thank you to the fanbase, and other supportive fanbases too—for continuing to march onwards with positivity and pride—as you should.