#TooFemale. That was the hashtag that dominated Twitter after CBS shoved a foot in their mouth and proceeded to choke on it by not picking up ‘Nancy Drew’ (with lead Sarah Shahi) for, of all reasons, being too female. It rightly caused outrage on Twitter—not just from Shahi’s legions fans of ‘The L Word’ and ‘Person of Interest’ fans, but simply across the board. I can’t say I’ve worked in the television industry thus my experience here is lacking, but when you justify not picking up a pilot, did anyone think to maybe, I don’t know, suggest that including ‘too female’ in the statement—when you’re a network picking up a billion other pilots centred around the typical male—was kind of a bad idea?
Well, it looks like nobody did, and it’s a ruddy shame too—because on the very same channel in the mind-blowing episode ‘6,741’ of ‘Person of Interest’—in an entirely Sameen Shaw (Shahi) centric episode, Shahi absolutely kicked ass and proved to pretty much everyone that if you should be clamouring for a female lead of a series, Shahi may certainly be your first call.
There’s nothing wrong with the lack of pick-up with ‘Nancy Drew’ (despite it reportedly testing well with audiences…oh boy). If you have a promising line-up of clearly superior shows, then of course ‘Nancy Drew’, if proven to be less promising than them, would be shunted away. But the very excuse of ‘too female’ is quite frankly ridiculous—and whilst some lamented the idiocy of CBS’ statement (and that’s what it was: idiocy) others turned it into something of a wry joke. Including myself. Because there cannot be a more pathetic, disgusting, stupidly churned-out excuse for not picking up a pilot—of all the excuses in the world—they went for literally the most brain-zapped one. Which was ironic, considering CBS executives must’ve looked at ‘Person of Interest’ episode four and thought, “well darn, we’ve just got to air a Shaw-centric episode with a rough female/female sex scene.”
I can’t argue for CBS’ facepalm-worthy statement. I think others have been far more eloquent in doing so—and I think Twitter, certainly, has gotten to the stage of mockery and disgust that it’s quite prevalent what the general audience think of such a statement. But there is a show that I’m immensely enjoying that wallops #toofemale in the ass and sends it to the pits of hell with a simple “lights out, bitch.”
That show is ‘Wynonna Earp’. If you haven’t heard of it, you might not have opened Twitter for about five years thus not quite catching wind of Ms. Emily Andras’ female-led adaptation of Beau Smith Ranch’s graphic novels of the same name. The premise is simple and a garble of every horror, Western, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy and drama churned in a magical pot of unapologetic badassery. If it were a sausage machine it would puke out sausages that’d burn your tongue for the number of snort-inducing one-liners laced in the dialogue, and then soothe it with magical calamine at the refreshing development of characters and importantly, a web—not an exclusive network of pairings—of relationship arcs.
Melanie Scrofano is the unfathomably kickass lead with a truckload of snark, a haunted past, a dash of vulnerability, the ability to pull off a one-liner like nobody’s business and a top-shelf ass (hey—not my words). As the eponymous heroine, Wynonna is all of these things but most importantly, she loves. She isn’t just some closed-off, robotic, stoic piece of granite (with some great dimples—seriously). She loves with all her heart. She’s still somewhat haunted by her past, though often she makes light of being the ‘town pariah’. Her love for Gus, and most notably her love for her younger sister Waverly (the fantastic Dominique Provost-Chalkley) is hands-down the best relationship on the show. Without a single doubt. Their undying love and faith in each other is incomparable. Waverly might welcome her sister back to Purgatory with a rifle and a threat to slip into something comfy—”like a coma” (seriously, watch this show)—but it’s Wynonna who saves Waverly’s life when she’s kidnapped. It’s Waverly who helps the Black Badge division with her brains. It’s Wynonna who Waverly calls when she, er, scissors a stripper (that’s Chrissy’s fault). And it’s Wynonna who comes to her rescue and comforts her in the freezing cold as they lament over Waverly’s misery at never being able to play the piano again. Not that she played it in the first place.
Wynonna and Waverly’s relationship is wrought with humour, trust, heartrending loyalty, dedication, and most of all—they know each other inside-out. Wynonna and Waverly to me are like a brain meshed together; a right and left hemisphere, if you will, and the corpus callosum is their immense love for the other. This isn’t a show where love is centred around your typical ‘ship’; this show is centred around Wynonna’s hunt for the seven who killed Wyatt Earp, and the romance is centred around this beautiful smatter of television.
Waverly is someone I think I could gush about for days. Brilliant, intelligent, charming, winningly beautiful and a talented pom-pom swirler (and singer!), she’s the grin-inducing, bubbly younger sister of grumper chumper Wynonna. And yes, Wynonna’s snarkiness and her unwitting moments of humour are point-blank hilarious (and played to a tee by Scrofano) but Waverly has won my heart a little, admittedly, for the good-natured attitude she has towards life. It is somewhat jaded by the darkness that shrouds Purgatory, but her upbeat attitude and her acceptance of everyone (okay, even Chrissy, come on—but I do mean Doc, really) is refreshing. She kind of wants to be a crowd-pleaser, as Officer Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell—we’ll get onto that later) notes—but is truly coming into her own these past couple of episodes. Firstly: I would like to commend Waverly on dumping that boy-man Champ (though bless him…but good for you) and spouting this winner of a line:
How can someone so pretty be so smart? – Champ
Ugh, because the two aren’t mutually exclusive! – Waverly
Proudly earning her the status as the keeper of bones (and then immediately endangering her life—yes, this is good ol’ Wynonna Earp) by cleverly solving her uncle’s riddles, Waverly’s not only technically brilliant in the years of research she dug up about the Revenants in Wynonna’s absence, but she is utterly independent of her sister. The two share a bond I have raved about above, but without Wynonna, Waverly is not a helpless girl. Though episode seven opens with Wynonna a little concerned about Waverly being lonely, she responds with a grin and a hair-flick. In the very same episode she endures quite possibly the most torturous of things: an engagement party with one heck of an idiot bride-to-be, a big-ass male ‘stripper’ who turns out to be the stone witch’s lackey (and she stabs him with a scissor) and the aforementioned stone witch zombifying the dead in order to attack the Earp house.
Waverly’s response? She rants and rants about salt, she flabberblubbs her way through admitting she is a ‘freak’ in a proud manner, I interpreted it as. She admits: she’s a freak; Wynonna’s a freak; Doc’s a freak (to his insistence) and she doesn’t give a rat’s arse because she scissored a stripper and also because she’s going to save everyone’s lives. And she does, with a throw of a skull so worthy of the Olympics shotput event that if Ms. Provost-Chalkley does not enter herself, I might have to do it covertly for her.
Wynonna is undoubtedly the hero—if there are any heroes and villains, truly, of this piece (well, okay, Constance Clootie)—but Waverly, quietly getting on with her work, her riddles and rebuilding her life around the (somewhat mild) loss of Champ, still getting used to having her sister back on the radar, and perhaps coming to terms with an unexpected connection with a new police officer in town—Nicole Haught (it’s pronounced ‘hot’)—is without a doubt a hero herself. There can be very different definitions of heroes. Wynonna is the crazy chick with a gun who is reckless, fearless and will either snark you to death or literally Peacemaker you to death (with a solid catchphrase to boot) whereas Waverly’s the book-smart, intelligent, charming, unassuming one. In my book: they’re both heroes, and their relationship? About as heroically needed as they come. So often on my television screen it’s built for comedy when you get bickering siblings, or there just isn’t that closeness—convincing closeness, and credit must go to Scrofano and Provost-Chalkley for such incredible chemistry—than I’ve seen on Wynonna Earp. And I think a lot of credit has to go to the scriptwriters and to Ms. Emily Andras, the show-runner, too. Adaptation or not, it would be so easy to have the lead ‘love’ of the show be Wynonna and Doc, or Wynonna and Dolls, or even some kind of messy love triangle—but without a doubt, it’s Wynonna and Waverly. And without a doubt, it’s the female characters who are getting all the attention, because in this literally ‘too female’ world, that’s the kind of representation perhaps young girls crave.
Why? Because why can’t young girls look up to Wynonna Earp and see themselves as a gun-toting, unafraid, brave and loyal machine-gun of a character? Why can’t young girls look up and see themselves as Waverly, who has been somewhat shunted aside by her friends for being a ‘freak’ but she constantly works her way through it. She doesn’t want to lose her brain; she wants to keep that innate intelligence and use it for good. She likes her affable charm and award-worthy smile; she likes that she’s got hair for days. She’s proud of it—and why can’t young girls look up to those two and think of certain elements they could aspire to? Why can’t they watch Wynonna Earp and watch the siblings make mistakes, and be allowed to by the show—and suffer the consequences for it? Why can’t they be allowed to know that the Earp siblings are fallible; that they are human? That they can relate?
This doesn’t even bring me onto Nicole Haught yet, and the positive representation Officer Haught gives to the very same community. It’s not a general statistic—I don’t have any claims to back that up—but often on social media I see a lot of admiration for the cast for their portrayals of their characters, from young Twitter users. Scrofano and Provost-Chalkley are rightly praised, and so is Ms. Katherine Barrell, who proved in the latest episode that it wasn’t all charming smiles and that love-heart-eyes-emoji (there was plenty of that, though). Barrell’s Haught in episode seven was what individualises her from the rest of the Purgatory sheriff department—this includes the sheriff himself, who’s somewhat useless. Haught is sharp, wary, suspicious, questioning—and she’s probing in all the right areas.
Episode seven also offered up for some incredibly unexpected yet magnificent Haught/Wynonna interaction—and that’s exactly what I mean when I have to praise Ms. Andras for spinning this web of dynamics instead of settling for the same duos every week. Doc and Dolls have had scenes; Dolls and Haught; Wynonna and Doc; Wynonna and Dolls; Dolls, Wynonna and Waverly; Waverly and Doc; Waverly and Bobo—everyone’s connected in some way or another and it’s something brilliant to unravel, because it’s an excellent way of exploring a character’s psyche. How does Waverly act around X, Y and Z? You can literally see it unravel in front of you on-screen. Haught and Wynonna’s interactions particularly won me over because it was a marvellous mesh of Wynonna’s somewhat tipsy but reckless and quick conclusions, versus Haught’s more cautious approach to the situation. It made up for some hilarious conversations, bragging rights for Wynonna that she got a top-shelf ass, and pensive words from a thoughtful police officer. It also made up for some patience being blown out of the water, for suspicions to arise—in a paranoid, jumpy episode.
It’s remarkable, because I don’t think Barrell has had many scenes on the show yet (but has steadily built a loyal fanbase) but she certainly sets the screen alight with her [red-haught] performance (sorry!) every time she’s on screen. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people tweet they’ve missed Haught this episode, or the literal Twitter party everyone seemed to simultaneously explode into when she did return. And I think that’s incredibly masterful.
What I find even better is the way the show is handling the juggernaught of this new ship (massive cruise-liner) “WayHaught” (that’s Waverly and Haught). Admittedly, they haven’t had much interaction at all and the ship has certainly ‘not sailed’ in my opinion; however, their charming scene in episode two and further scenes have garnered huge numbers of views on YouTube and it’s not so much as an exploding supernova than it is a supermassive black-hole consuming our brains as we drift into the inevitable event horizon of WayHaught.
They’re charming on-screen together. The chemistry between Barrell and Provost-Chalkley is absolutely undeniable; it crackles in the freezing cold of the show. But what I find most admirable is the way the actors and the show-runner herself has handled the attention ‘WayHaught’ has gained. For Ms. Andras, I cannot recall her making any false promises or misleading fans in terms of the ship—and you must remember that via Twitter, it does seem to be a very young thus vulnerable demo. After the recent disasters of female/female ships (I’m taking Root and Shaw out of this because—stop it) or just female characters in general, the fact that WayHaught has spawned such an intense following is incredible. The amount of love shown to the fans—and to each other—by the actors is awe-inspiring. The intimate interaction is important—because in this ever-evolving world of social media, where—on Twitter, especially—such validation can come with an instant 140 characters, it’s just heart-warming to see young fans revel and ‘squee’ over their favourite actors on their favourite shows like their tweet or retweet them.
TV is not just a matter of sitting down every week and watching a bolster of a show and switching off again. It’s gone past that point. I mean, my mum used to do that with Xena (I’m pretty sure she had no idea what it was). TV is at a point where you can trend important things for people to see; TV is subject to live-tweeting and immediate responses to the show; TV isn’t in a vacuum anymore (drink everytime you see that phrase and you’ll be on the floor) because social media has grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and given it a good shake. TV is utterly intertwined with social media, because here is a chance for instant validation and reaction of something that’s happened—and it’s already proven (certainly for ‘The 100’) that social media isn’t a joke. Social media can tweet up a storm, and I think that’s an incredibly good thing. Voices otherwise not are being heard. Interactions impossible are suddenly not.
As for ‘WayHaught’—I can say with the positive feedback it’s gotten from the community, from the actresses, from the show-runner—I think it’s a fun addition to an already fun romp (I need to find a new word) of a show. At risk of being hit, I will not say “well, WyNaught?” But I just think, after witnessing the utter despair and loss of hope ‘The 100’ delivered in its usual sub-par manner with Commander Lexa’s almost laughably tropey death, it’s nice to see fans having something to rejoice over again. Yes, fans will be cautious of falling victim to the ‘BYG trope’ again—but for the most part, I can see joy and people just enjoying the thrill of a ride that is Wynonna Earp, and for this, the ship WayHaught. It’s got probably the most brilliant ship name ever, it’s got chemistry that’s like a giant chunk of francium in water and it’s so much bloody fun. It’s on a show that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. It’s on a show where the show-runner is about as unapologetically badass as Wynonna (check her twitter header) and it’s on a show where you don’t get a lady-on-lady conversation squabbling about boys—it’s utterly, utterly too female and that is probably the absolute best thing about it.
This isn’t without saying that Shamier Anderson (Dolls) and Tim Rozon (Doc) give great performances and have sublime chemistry with the rest of the cast too. Miraculously, I don’t find their characters boring hetero males (I mean, Dolls—is he like, a lizard?!) and that’s just why I admire the fleshing out of these characters so much. Everyone, in my opinion, is interesting. Constance Clootie may be off her rocker but she’s incredibly magnetic and watchable; The Blacksmith, though short-lived, was mysterious, strong and admirable.
I don’t know, CBS. Often I think people start shows because they’re too female. And on Wynonna Earp—I won’t pretend it’s the masterpieces of all masterpieces—but it is an genuinely enjoyable, stomach-churning nutcracker—and in a TV-world laden with dark and gritty pieces (most of which work; some tragically fail) isn’t it just feel-good to have a show you can watch (and then rewatch) without realising your face hurts because you’ve been sniggering or grinning broadly at the screen for the entire, too female hour?
NB: I review Wynonna Earp, as ever, on the wonderful TV After Dark. With a lot less snark and ramblings. I can be a pro 0.00001% of the time.