Good Shows (that) are Difficult to Watch

It isn’t always true that good shows are difficult to watch, of course. Shows like the Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother are excellent and I have no trouble tuning in and watching all the way through. A show doesn’t have to be super deep to say something meaningful about the human condition or to entertain, and I firmly believe that these are worthy goals. I am not one of those people who dismiss romance as meaningless fluff, and I believe that genre fiction as a whole generally does a better job of making a point or making someone think than literary fiction does, though that isn’t what this post is about.

I was watching Falling Skies and it struck me how often I felt the need to leave the room during it lest I be overcome with righteous anger; not at the writers or actors or producers, but rather at the sheer truthiness of the show. It’s the same sort of anger I see when there’s a political ad on that I violently disagree with (a thing that happens so often that my guy, who is usually the one with the remote, is in the habit of muting or otherwise flipping past them) but not the same exact anger, because it’s a different sort of despair. Instead of my intelligence being insulted or my morality being trampled, I have a burning feeling in my gut that says, I know how this is going to go and I won’t like it.

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Problematic Protagonists

“You need to get back,” he said, hardly needing to raise his voice to be heard over the wind.
“I have to find him!”
“Find him from up top,” he said, taking her other arm and physically pushing her from the water’s edge.
She hated the way he put his hands on her, but he had her by eight inches and probably fifty pounds of muscle. Besides, kicking up a fuss would only cause more delay. “I need the line of sight.”
“We don’t know what happened to him. Get away from the water! Don’t you know what flash flood means?”
“Of course I do,” she snapped back, offended.
He picked her up and moved her back a foot. This time she slapped his hands away.
Thankfully, he didn’t seem to mind. “Go!”
Shaking with anger and fear — for herself and for Connor — she trekked back up to the top of the cliff. Her feet slid out from beneath her several times as the mud gave way, but somehow she managed to stay upright.

This is a brief portion of chapter 23 of my work in progress, a science fiction novel that hit the 40,000 word mark (halfway!) last night, if you close your eyes and squint to avoid the fact that the .doc also has little blurb summaries for each chapter so that I know what the hell was supposed to happen, for outlining purposes.

I think that looking at this exchange really emphasizes how much things like rape culture and harassment have become pervasive issues in my little corner of the blogosphere — which is to say, the part I patronize, not the part I take part in, as I am a very small zoo-plankton in a very large sea. I don’t think I would have written in this little bit of characterization if it wasn’t on my mind, and I’m very glad I did, because while I like Trevon as a character, he knows very well he has anger issues and as much as he tries to compensate, he is a dangerous man.

It’s a difficult line to make a protagonist (this story has a five man band cast with point of view alternating on a chapter basis) both problematic and likable, and Trevon’s struggles with his aggression and upbringing make him, I hope, a powerful character. Breaking a cycle of abuse — of any kind — is a difficult thing and I really want to do it justice.

The Obligatory

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee
Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

Enchantée, and welcome to Quaff Nepenthe.

First, a brief aside about the name. Quaff Nepenthe is taken from the Edgar Allen Poe poem, The Raven. I chose this poem both as a Baltimore native and a Ravens fan, and because many a productive afternoon in Poe’s Lounge at the University of Baltimore School of Law, but mostly because I’m a fan of 17th – 19th century poetry: particularly Poe, Lovelace, Tennyson and Kipling.

Quaffing is a wine term to describe a category of wine that is ‘simple and everyday’; that is cheap enough to be consumed in large quantities, usually available also in bigger containers (like the boxes we drank wine out of at philosophically-minded parties in college). Such wines are literally called “quaffing wine”. Because of this, the term quaff has come to mean “to drink (something, esp. an alcoholic drink) heartily.”

Nepenthe is a medicine for sorrow, literally an anti-depressant – a “drug of forgetfulness” mentioned in ancient Greek literature and Greek mythology, depicted as originating in Egypt. Figuratively, it means “that which chases away sorrow”; so, literally, it means ‘not-sorrow’ or ‘anti-sorrow’. In the Odyssey, Nepenthe is a magical potion given to Helen by the Egyptian queen Polidamma. It quells all sorrows with forgetfulness.

As a suicide survivor, the notion of drinking heartily of an antidepressant has special meaning for me… and what better way to stave off depression than to liken oneself to Helen of Troy?

Second, a little about myself: these days I’m a twenty-four year old living in the Baltimore suburbs. I value family more deeply than anything, a fact you can tell because I live in a treehouse apartment situated neatly between my father and uncle. I have a BA in Philosophy and a J.D. but a confluence of events have left me on the path of becoming a teacher. Currently I work two jobs: I sell jewelry for the Boscov’s Department store and I assist disabled children in Special Education while I pursue the certifications necessary to teach Social Studies. In addition, I’m working on a science fiction novel entitled THE GENOCIDE DRAFT and serving as the Head of Building for Lithmeria, a MUD that has been in development since before I went to law school. It is scheduled to release in October.

I have a fairly patchy web presence, under a variety of names, but projects I feel strongly about supporting include Archive of our Own, Twitter, Blood Rites, Scribophile and Pandora.