Van Helsing

Van Helsing - Really That Bad

So, I sat down and watched season 3 of Van Helsing and despite what I said in my last blog post on the subject - it’s doubled down on the man-hating social justice rhetoric and become a clusterfuck of a show. Along with the ridiculous propaganda it’s peddling, the storytelling of the show has devolved into absolute absurdity. It’s not trying to appeal to a broad audience anymore, it’s not even pretending to appeal to a wider audience, it’s purely a radical feminist girl-power romp through the post apocalypse.

Vanessa Van Helsing is a fucking joke of a protagonist - she snarls and stomps her way through this season. I guess they’re trying to show her devolution into a vampire-like being, but she’s just an absolute arsehole. As an example - Axel, the marine with multiple tours of combat duty before the vampire outbreak, is trying to enter a building with some form of tactical awareness, but Vanessa just gives him the finger and waltzes inside. I get that they’re trying to portray her as an experienced combatant who is also superhuman, but this “badassery” would be described as “toxic masculinity” if it were in a male character. She literally kills an innocent man, just to drink his blood, and then forgives herself in the next episode and it’s never brought up again. She even admits that she killed a guy in the first season despite knowing he wasn’t the murderer in their group, simply because she wanted too. To put it as bluntly - she’s just a cunt of a human being.

It’s just this all season - a snarl and this weird cowboy stance.

It’s just this all season - a snarl and this weird cowboy stance.

And the show has totally reverted to it’s original anti-male narrative, where if something bad is happening then it’s typically a man’s fault. A male nurse hits on a side character, who rebuffs him because she’s a lesbian, and he ends up attacking her in a psychotic rage. Both those things already happened in the first episode of season one, but they decided to reuse it for some bizarre reason? If the leader of a group is male then they tend to be evil, or they’re gay and get killed, or they’re female. It’s a female prisoner, who is chained to a really weak and effeminate male, who stages a riot on a prison bus which allows everyone to break free. Axel finds his long lost sister, just like Vanessa found her long lost sister… just like Mohammad found his long lost sister… and it turns out she was kidnapped and used as a sex slave by some guy who ends up having memory loss.

She was alive the whole time, trapped in the basement of the guy he worked for as a kid… and she survived the apocalypse and somehow managed to learn how to use a gun?

She was alive the whole time, trapped in the basement of the guy he worked for as a kid… and she survived the apocalypse and somehow managed to learn how to use a gun?

And the worst example, the one that nearly had me evacuating my bowels out of sheer outrage, was the castration. There’s this twitchy vampire that’s been awkwardly convulsing his way through the series and in this season he’s decided that he wants to join this sisterhood of badass vampires… and they decide to let him join, but only if he has his nuts taken off. As ridiculous as that is, the worst part is that he actually fucking begs them for it…

“Yes, do it. Make me like you. Make me a sister.”

Sorry to break it to you, but having your nuts taken off doesn’t make you a woman - it just makes you a shitty male. And not only does he have his nuts chopped off to join an all-female order of vampires, they go ahead a lop off the sacks of a whole bunch of other male vampires they force to join their ranks. They’re fucking undead, they don’t even procreate. I guess there’s the symbolic gesture of it, but what’s the point of the castration in terms of the story beyond some appeal to a batshit insane form of feminist extremism? How about I write a story about women being forced to get hysterectomies in order to join a gang… let’s see how long I survive after writing that.

This dude is just pathetic, that’s all there is to it.

This dude is just pathetic, that’s all there is to it.

Beyond this inane pandering to an ideology of victimhood, the storytelling itself has completely gone to shit. All the main cast of characters are either immortal or immune to the vampire plague, even though there’s multiple strains of it now. Someone is even healed from near death by being bitten by a vampire, despite also being immune to the virus. The vampires can’t figure out if they’re burning in the sunlight or if the clouds provide enough cover for them to walk around without protection… but it doesn’t even matter anymore because there are “Daywalkers” now. And no, despite making a joke about the shows similarities to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they couldn’t even give a nod to the fact that they stole the term from Blade. I guess Buffy gets a nod because that had a chick lead, but since Blade was a dude then he can get fucked.

Blade - the one and only Daywalker.

Blade - the one and only Daywalker.

The secret organisation Blak Tek also plays a bigger role in this season but they’re just as stupid and just as mustache-twistingly evil. They’ve set up a safe zone in Denver but it’s all about experiments on unwilling human test subjects and forced labor in prison camps. There’s a bunch of elder vampires who are two dimensional and a prophecy being told by some literal hag who just appeared this season, and it all ends with an ascended Sam standing off against Vanessa and her newly resurrected Van Helsing ancestor. And you just know that the fight isn’t going to happen at the start of season 4 because it’ll be forestalled somehow and dragged out for the entire bloody season.

She lost her sister and gained a great great grandmother… it all balances out.

She lost her sister and gained a great great grandmother… it all balances out.

Van Helsing at least appeared to be correcting it’s course by the end of season 2, but it totally reverted in season 3. It’s shit storytelling combined with a failed attempt to pander to ideologues that’s created this absolute abortion of a show. Vanessa Van Helsing isn’t a strong female character, she’s a shitty male character being played by a woman. There’s still a few half decent characters in this show, but they’re few and far between… it’s like wading through an ocean of shit to find a dime or two.

These are probably the only decent characters in the show, base level humans (or thereabouts) who have real problems and character growth.

These are probably the only decent characters in the show, base level humans (or thereabouts) who have real problems and character growth.

I’m sure I’ll see season 4 at some point, because it got renewed for some reason, simply for closure more than any interest in seeing where the story goes. It’s clearly not written for people like me, it’s a show that preaches to the already converted under the guise of trying to illicit social change… and it can’t even tell a half decent story. But for some bizarre reason these Van Helsing posts are some of my most popular content - which both perplexes and irritates me to no end. Gotta give the readers what they want though, even if it’s a crazed rant about a lame-ass show. I’m just glad I haven’t had to pay to watch this tripe…

How I felt going into each new episode…

How I felt going into each new episode…

Van Helsing - Not That Bad

Back in January I made a post that was pretty much just me ripping into Van Helsing. Looking back now, after having watched the first two seasons, I think I may have been just a little too harsh. Just a bit. So this is my recant, the show's not perfect but neither is it as bad as I initially speculated. 

Spoilers. Obviously.

It's actually not that bad, it's certainly not groundbreaking but it's good enough to watch if you've got nothing else. They did away with a lot of the issues I'd raised in my initial post, and it actually got me interested in seeing where things were going. I had an issue with an everyday chick being more of a badass than a trained solider... but eventually we got to see what that trained soldier can do and it was an absolute bloodbath. By season 2 the actress who plays Vanessa Van Helsing had become pregnant and while they didn't incorporate it into the story they managed to hide it well enough and she continued to do actions scenes.

Mohamad is just a normal kid for most of the series, but he's holding his own just as well as the rest.

Mohamad is just a normal kid for most of the series, but he's holding his own just as well as the rest.

I was watching the final season of Zoo at the same time as watching Van Helsing. It had this stupid twist where it was revealed (in goddamn season 3) that the protagonist had had a wife and son who were killed when he was 19. But then the son is randomly revealed to be a character he's been interacting with all season. Dumbest, most ham-fisted, story move I've ever seen. But then it's a show about animals attacking humans, so I don't know why I expected anything else.

Anyway, back to Van Helsing. When Vanessa's long lost sister, as well as her long lost mother, popped up in the show I sort of just groaned and my eyes rolled out of my head. Dead family members should stay dead. Ask anyone who has lost a loved one before, any time this happens in a show you instantly get a bad taste in your mouth. It happened in Gears of War as well, and I love that series, so you know I'm not just picking on Van Helsing and Zoo here. We'd all love for a dead loved ones to just randomly walk through the door with a slight case of amnesia but life just doesn't work that way. 

They came up with some vague magical reason why the sister who lived a normal life before the world ended is still stronger than the sister who was raised as a survivalist ninja.

They came up with some vague magical reason why the sister who lived a normal life before the world ended is still stronger than the sister who was raised as a survivalist ninja.

My only real gripe with the show, beyond all that, is what they ended up using Christopher Heyerdahl for. That guy is a fantastic actor and he has taken on some amazing roles in his career, but here it was nothing new. He started out as Sam the deaf guy, and that was a cool character, not only for Heyerdahl but for a post-apocalyptic story. Having a handicapped character always makes things interesting, and this guy was kicking arse despite his handicap. 

He went from this...

He went from this...

But then it turns out he's a serial killer and he turns into a crazy vampire, which was basically just the same character he played in Hell on Wheels - the Swede. We had a great character that was an original role for the actor but then they pulled the rug out from under us and turned him into something cliche. It was a shame, because I really like Heyerdahl and I really liked Sam. 

...to this.

...to this.

Besides that, the world of Van Helsing is consistent and we've got characters who are all various shades of grey. Vanessa and her sister are basically "Daywalkers" like Marvel's own half-vampire character, Blade, so there's all the usual superhuman fight scenes and moral struggles that go along with that. They killed off Vanessa's daughter pretty quickly after they saved her, which was a good call. It's never nice to see a child killed (unless it's Zach Goodweather from The Strain) but the story would have stalled if the protagonist suddenly had to look after a kid. A side character finds out he's going to be a dad mere moments before his newly pregnant partner is forced to frag herself alongside some vampires. The main group find another group of survivors who are surviving by eating the vampires, which was actually a pretty fun episode. And there's the typical "Elder Vampire" character who appears at the end of season 2, but they manage to spin it around and do something original with it.

This all-female clan of vampires is pretty damn awesome too!

This all-female clan of vampires is pretty damn awesome too!

It's a dumb, fun show that's probably written for high school girls. It's Buffy 2.0., and that's fine. It's not groundbreaking, it's not going to revolutionize the post apocalyptic genre, but it is good enough to keep me entertained between the occasional eye roll. I'll happily watch the recently announced season 3, but I'm not exactly waiting with baited breath for it to arrive.

Wynonna Earp is still a fucking travesty though... 

Van Helsing - Poorly Executed Post Apocalyptic Feminism

So I was chatting with a mate on Twitter about Van Helsing, it's a Post Apocalyptic TV series about vampires. He's been trying to get me to watch it for a while now and I finally caved and started watching it with my girlfriend. We're only up to the second episode and I took issue with a scene in particular. Don't worry, I'll still watch it all the way through... my girlfriend loves it, and I need to study it.

This is ahead of where I'm up to, but the cast is actually pretty interesting thus far.

This is ahead of where I'm up to, but the cast is actually pretty interesting thus far.

Basically, Vanessa, the protagonist, arrives home and we hear a domestic going on in one of the other apartments. A couple is arguing, we hear strikes, then a man storms out into the hallway. After a short altercation with Vanessa, the man proceeds to get his arse handed to him.

Now, as previously stated over and over, I've got no problem with strong female leads. You couldn't have a show like this without the main character being a badass, so that's not the issue. My issue is that we learn she's a badass by way of seeing her kick the shit out of a guy who is clearly an abusive partner. It's not enough for her to be able to beat the crap out of a guy who is much larger than her, she's got to beat the crap out of a guy who is proven to be abusive towards women. 

That's my issue.

I get what the show is trying to do but the whole thing, to me, lacks subtly. The writers want to show off Vanessa as being a competent fighter and someone who is willing to step into harms way in order to protect the ones she cares about, that's fine. But they took it a step too far in their attempt to virtue signal, because now Vanessa isn't just protecting her friend... she's beating a guy who beats women, she's "striking back against the patriarchy" so to speak.

Yellowstone National Park went boom, which explains why the sky is blacked out... which in turn allows the vampires to get around. From what I've seen thus far, it's actually a pretty good set up.

Yellowstone National Park went boom, which explains why the sky is blacked out... which in turn allows the vampires to get around. From what I've seen thus far, it's actually a pretty good set up.

But in the scene before this one, she's rebuffing a guy who asks her out while she's giving blood, so straight off the bat we've got this anti-male sentiment that has a high probability of turning away male viewers. Now, we could go down the road of "the show isn't written for you, a straight, white male, so stop complaining!" but I'd say that it should be written specifically for me. It's me, and people like me, that you want to convince to watch this show!

There's no use in preaching to people who already believe the same things you do, that's just wasted breath. What you want is to convey your message to people who don't believe the same things you do, to try and sway them to your way of thinking. But to do that, you've got to deliver your message in a way that's palatable enough for them to sit through and willingly swallow. Annoying your intended audience by forcing them to roll their eyes in amusement or disgust is not a good way to get your message across. 

Vanessa is a badass, there's a female doctor whose sister works for the military in some capacity, while the leader of the military unit that comes to secure the hospital is also female. All of these female characters are great representations of strong and capable women, one of them even has a whole unit of trained men who follow her orders. That's how you get your message across, with subtly and nuance, by simply having women who are clearly competent, respected and holding positions of power. This is not a hard pill to swallow because it's not in your face with some "girls rule boys suck rah rah rah" message, it just is. 

Have your female protagonist beat the crap out of a guy, that's awesome. Have a whole bunch of men defer to her trained judgment, that's cool too. But the second you make her beat a guy who's an abusive partner, that's saying something. It crosses the line into the territory of moralized preaching... and nothing turns viewers away quicker. 

I've got no problem with the message these shows are trying to convey, there's been a serious shortage of great female leads in shows and movies - especially in action roles. But there's gotta be a smarter way of going about it than what I've been seeing. You don't need to pull men down to raise women up, that's only going to foster resentment and resistance to the idea of seeing women as equal. Which, if I'm not mistaken, is kind of the opposite of what the creators of these shows would like to happen.

As I stated at the start of this post, I was talking to a mate about this over Twitter and one of the writers of the show popped in, then the showrunner did as well. We all kind of got into it and I got accused of mansplaining (which is just the weakest form of rebuttal) and pretty much told that my subjective views weren't viable.  The sad part is, we're all wanting the same thing, better representation and an improved society. But judging from the fact that I got told by the show runner that "this is TV, not Tolstoy" they evidently don't care enough about their own show to put in the effort required to tell a half decent story.

First they try to convince me the character wasn't an abusive partner, then they tell me to lower my standards for shows... that's a really shitty attitude for a Showrunner to have.

First they try to convince me the character wasn't an abusive partner, then they tell me to lower my standards for shows... that's a really shitty attitude for a Showrunner to have.

I want better stories. I want shows that manage to stay on the air for more than two seasons to take more care in the manner in which they deliver their messages. Considering how easily great shows get cancelled these days, it's almost a responsibility to tell a good story and to convey the right message. Considering how many people watch television these days, it's not something to be taken lightly. 

But of course, it's far easier to take the populist route and reinforce the opinions of the baying masses who already agree with you, rather than challenge and attempt to change the opinions of those who stand against you. So maybe they're less interested in social change than they purport themselves to be and are in fact simply interested in appealing to as many people as possibly to maximize revenue...

...yeah, that's probably it.

Note - there’s an update to this post - here.