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I've been following the new NBC show Heroes (all two episodes) after I saw a commercial for it on TV. Because, hey, superheroes! (Also, the song used in the ad was Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek," which happens to be tied to the Jedi game. XD;;) I'm posting this review for people who might also be interested in it, because it shows a lot of potential.

Right now, I like it a lot. I know it's yet another one of those series trying to garner the same success as Lost - large cast, character-driven, and most of all, a conspiracy-flavored supernatural mystery at its center. Still, it's not annoying because it's definitely its own show. I mean, hey, superheroes! (This is a big theme for me, you realize.)

There is a central conspiracy, yes, but I think its purpose is just to introduce an antagonist/supervillain. Unlike Lost, which keeps pointing in the direction of secret organization experiments and destiny as the causes for the events in the story, Heroes seems to be less ambitious. A la the X-Men, these people were just born that way, a result of genetic evolution. I think - I hope - the characters will end up coming together out of choice, rather than inescapable fate (because that would push the show toward being an annoying Lost-ripoff).

Also, I love the fact that we're starting with low levels of power. Not only are they uncontrollable because they're new, but especially with Peter and Matt, their actual capabilities are still relatively low. It just adds to the sense of wonder tied to the powers, because our sense of disbelief isn't stretched too far.

Of course, I can't discuss this show without touching on - you guessed it - race and gender. It's far from perfect in its treatment of either of these issues, but at least I can evaluate it. Most TV shows are so hopelessly mired in racial and sexual stereotypes that it isn't worth trying. Heroes seems to be trying to step outside these bounds, though it still remains a mainstream series with views compatible to the mainstream.

For one thing, the show seems to try to be "international" in scope (again, Lost is probably part of the influence there). Unfortunately, that means, "A bunch of people from the U.S., one dude in India, and one dude from Japan. Also, both of them end up in New York by the end of the first episode." Points for effort, but that's about it.

Related to that point is multiracial cast. The Indian character, Mohinder, is played by Sendhil Ramamurthy (who's actually Indian, woohoo!). The Japanese character, Hiro, is played by also-Japanese Masi Oka. Supporting character Simone is played by Tawny Cypress, who is mixed European, black and First Nations (though according to mainstream U.S.'s "one-drop" mentality, she's pretty much black). Unfortunately, everyone else appears to be white.

Among the white cast members, there's blonde Hayden Panettiere (Claire) and blonde Ali Larter (Niki). Though a few years apart in age, they are both similarly built with shoulder-length hair (i.e., not wildly different in appearance). Let me tell you, they would never do this with two black women, or two Asian women. People would get "confused." Notice that, even in multiracial shows like this one and Lost, you can generally describe "the black guy" (Michael, at least for season one) or "the Latina woman," (Ana Lucia) but not "the blonde woman" (Shannon? Claire? Libby?). There's generally only one of each non-white ethnicity, as if there's a quota that you can fill and then feel good about yourself for being "non-racist." This bugs me to no end.

Moving on. (Remember that, even though I'm criticizing, it's a good sign that I can enumerate the points that are worth criticism, instead of just throwing my hands up in the air and saying, "forget it, it's all racist!")

Next up: gender. The cast is pretty evenly split, I think - I haven't done an actual count, because I'm not sure yet who the main characters are exactly. But one of the things that impresses me is that the powers don't fall into typical gender distribution - non-combat powers like telepathy and flight are given to male characters, while physical regeneration (think Wolverine) goes to a cheerleader.

Unfortunately, the female characters are still all sexy-sexy - which, okay, isn't that bad when the cast is all made up of pretty people anyway. But it gets really bad with Niki, a single mother who sells videos of herself stripping online. Even worse, her power is first triggered when she's about to be sexually assaulted. Nothing is inherently wrong with using these plot devicesthis kind of character background; however, this is part of an overdone trend of the powerful-yet-sexually-vulnerable woman that just falls flat. (For more on sexual assault as plot device, see Ragnell's take on the subject.)

One final note - why is this show so gory? I know it's on at 9 p.m., but the bloodiness (particularly involving Niki and Claire) actually surprised me. It's also a little excessive.

-Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy): I appreciate that the narrator (and possibly main character?) is Indian. As for Mohinder himself, I like his personality - driven, as main characters tend to be, but also low-key. He gets embarrassed by getting carried away and speaking passionately during his lecture. He runs away from scary Evil Glasses Dude instead of trying to attack him. I don't even think he has superpowers, which theoretically makes him a Professor X-type non-combatant.

-Peter and Nathan Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia and Adrian Pasdar): They're brothers who clash, but still have affection for each other. Yay for male-male emotional connection! They even (appear to) have the same power of flight. Their little family is dysfunctional without being too cliche. Also, Peter as the "I wanna believe" sad-eyed puppy is endearing, and he wins points for being a nurse - without it being undermined by any efforts to "prove" his masculinity.

-Niki Sanders (Ali Larter): This is the down-and-out-forced-into-prostitution character. Sigh. Additionally, her power is confusing (her reflection in the mirror takes over and does things for her? is maybe evil?), so she isn't very compelling. Also, I fear that she might be a vehicle for racial stereotyping - the father of her son, D.L., is a black man (we haven't met him yet, but he's in the cast list) who has left for reasons yet unknown. Combined with her sexualized portrayal, it plays to the stereotypes of black men chasing white women, black-male/white-female relationships being about sex (with the child out of wedlock), and black men being irresponsible fathers.

-Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere - incidentally, the dub voice for Kairi): Or, as I've seen her called, "Cheerlogan." XD She's got a healing factor, and it's depicted in bloody ways, the worst being the hand-in-garbage-disposal trick. >_< One thing I like about her is that she has meat on her bones! I don't know if she gained weight specifically for this part, or if that's just her normal body type (in which case, good for her not starving herself to conform, and for the casting directors not getting hung up on her size), but it makes me happy that we can't see her ribs. Well, except when they were broken and sticking out of her flesh. :P

-Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka): I'm somewhat ambivalent on this character. On the one hand, he's a stereotypically nerdy Asian man. On the other hand, his role is different from typical Asian nerds in that he's not just a bit part for comic relief - he's a main character who does things instead of having things done to him. Also, the ending of episode 2 put him in a prominent position, because he's the person who knows the most about the impending nuclear(?) crisis (and, um, isn't an incapacitated crackhead). Also, it's been pointed out that it's weird that he's an otaku who appears to be obsessed with Western/U.S. geek culture, rather than Japanese media. I'm willing to accept that, however, because it does seem like he's supposed to be interested in the West. Unfortunately, this also has the side effect of making his individualistic personality seem like a result of his "Western" spirit, as opposed to his nationalistic, conformist co-worker. :/ Without knowing how the character will develop, I can't give a definite opinion on Hiro yet.

-Isaac Mendez (Santiago Cabrera): Isaac could go one of two ways. Either he drops the drugs and tries to join the "team," guiding them from behind the scenes with his visions, or he gets killed as we saw during Hiro's time-jump. I can't see him being workable in the story as-is - a drug-addicted, borderline-paranoid. Also, I'm not sure if the crazy seer-type is a typically female role, but I would hazard a guess that it is - so I'm glad it's Isaac here.

-Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg): I remember this guy as the dead pilot from Lost. ^^; He's the psychic, and it's unclear right now whether he can only read thoughts or if he'll be an actual telepath. Since we've only seen about five minutes of his character, I don't feel strongly about him one way or the other.

-Evil Glasses Dude (Jack Coleman): So far he appears to be a standard villain-type. The revelation that he's Claire's (adoptive) father led me to believe that he might be more complex, but that hope ended when he was all, "it's too bad I'm going to do evil things to you anyway moo ha ha." I hope he at least does interesting villain-y things.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 9th, 2006 05:50 pm (UTC)
That's definitely a viable explanation. I mean, the whole "lookit me I'm EVIL" atmosphere around him might just be a ruse to make us *think* he's evil ...
Oct. 7th, 2006 04:15 pm (UTC)
short thoughts. lol. isn't greg in almost every jj abrams show? just because they've been best friends since kindergarten or sometime relatively young. i remember him first from felicity.

was actually thinking about checking out the show.. my co-worker insisted i watch it, although she isn't really into the superhero stuff. i was intent on comparing this more to the likes of, say... smallville. (mike says he's not sure he'll like it... sounds like "city of heroes")

when you talk about race and gender in a tv show, i wonder about what your thoughts would be on dark angel. (outside of bad acting)
Oct. 9th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, is that why? It's sort of sad that he died a horrible death in the Lost pilot, then. ^^;;

I haven't seen Smallville, so I couldn't say how close Heroes is to it. But everyone I know who's seen the pilot likes it so far.

I never saw Dark Angel, unfortunately. But I already had the impression of Jessica Alba as a bad actor. :p
Oct. 7th, 2006 04:16 pm (UTC)
I pretty much agree with you on the cast. Though I'm hoping Matt is an actual telepath, which'd be sweet.

Also, am I the only one who thinks of Northstar and Aurora when looking at the brothers? Maybe when they hold hands they'll have special powers. XD

I like Claire. A lot. If they don't mess up her character too much, she could easily become my favorite. "Cheerlogan" *gigglesnort*

Thanks for loaning me the first episode! Dude, I'm watching American TV again. What's up with that?
Oct. 9th, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
You keep giving me JLU and I'll keep giving you Heroes. More superhero content for both of us is teh win. :D

Dude, after seeing Hawk and Dove, the idea of brothers with coordinating powers seems kind of ... special. XD;;
Oct. 9th, 2006 11:15 pm (UTC)
Rock! Though I'll probably just watch the show, you know. On TV. Easier that way. Which means I have to remember to actually turn on the TV tonight. ^^;;;

Ha! Yes. XD I'm now looking into getting more JLU and the plain old Justice League. More cartoons than you can shake a stick at. Now if only I could get Gargoyles...
Oct. 9th, 2006 11:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, I forgot that you have a TV that gets network channels. ^^;

Ooh, Gargoyles! That was a fun show. And I would certainly help you watch Justice League. XD
Oct. 8th, 2006 07:13 am (UTC)
Druggie McFuturepaint.
Cheerlogan LOL.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )