CW’s new TV series, Nikita, is actually the fourth time this tired plot is getting told. First there was the French movie, La Femme Nikita, and then, American writers went on a repackaging spree, turning it into a TV show twice (and now, a third time). A mere nine minutes into the first episode of this fourth take, my feminist writer’s soul started getting crushed. Then there were the abominable next 30 minutes. The following is a play-by-play feminist response to all the kyriarchy and lazy writing that is Nikita.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
In the first five seconds, we learn that Nikita was forced to become an assassin by the government and escaped, determined to save others from the same fate.
- Problem one: My, my, sounds a lot like Alias. Somebody gets the lazy writing stamp.
- Problem two: Can’t a girl make her own bad choices? Why is it that in TV shows with women in questionable professions, the woman has to have been coerced into choosing that profession? Why can’t she be like Mr. White from Breaking Bad, who chooses to make meth to make money? Take us off that darn pedestal. (Some of us are afraid of heights.)
Then there’s obligatory bikini scene in which a “hot” assassin kills a conventionally unattractive man.
- Problem one: I know some people are naturally mesomorphs/ectomorphs/endomorphs, but the assassin actor here is scary skinny. Since women come in all shapes and sizes, it would be nice if women characters started reflecting this same variety.
- Problem two: Why do shows like this assume women assassins use their sexuality to kill people? This seems to be a common theme: Women in control of their sexuality are scary, dangerous killers! Obviously a fem-ssassin’s main weapons are her boobs, amirite? Lady Gaga and Katy Perry have visually implied as much. Were she a male assassin, she would be proving her awesomeness by sniping her target with a phallic assault rifle from 5 million feet away. Maybe even with the Hello Kitty model. Here’s hoping that next man-ssassin movie will feature him snapping necks in short-shorts with killer bulging thighs.
- Problem three: Why are the targets always conventionally unattractive men? My guess: because a lot of conventionally unattractive men are watching the show, and get off on imagining sexy assassins coming to get them. Lesson in objectification and male sexual gratification.
Next, we learn that Nikita wanted to get out of the assassin business because…drumroll…she fell in love. But her organization doesn’t approve of romance–or people putting their guns down to go get married–and killed her man.
- Problem one: Somebody stole a plot device from Alias. Or Maybe Alias stole it from the first remake of Nikita. In any case: LAZY WRITING STAMP.
- Problem two: (Turn on the sarcasm!) We all know love for a man is always a woman’s primary concern in life. Because if a woman falls in love with a man, she will obviously want to quit her job and accommodate her life to fit his needs. This assumption is very old, and quite frankly, boring in a gut-wrenching way, as it sets off all the “cliche” warning signs.
Back at the government camp where they train kidnapped misbehaved youth to become loyal government assassins, a few of the recruits are having a wee chat. White woman recruit gets in a scuffle with black woman veteran, until random white man comes along to break up the fight by physically restraining the veteran. She says, “I like it when you hold me that way.” The recruit gets called off to mini-charm school for assassins, and gets a sexy lecture from a sexy teacher about sexiness: “Embrace your beauty. Sometimes vulnerability is your greatest weapon.”
- Problem one: “Angry black female” cliché. This isn’t just kyriarchal, it’s lazy writing. Insert cliché and voilá, you’ve got yourself a plot.
- Problem two: Above cliché seems to enjoy being controlled by the “rational white male” cliché. Sigh, how many lazy kyriarchal writing stamps can one TV show get?
- Problem three: Vulnerability is not a weapon; that’s something that the people on top want others to believe to preserve the status quo. Somehow, I can’t help but feel that the writers wouldn’t try putting a white male character in this scene and tell him to “embrace his beauty” and “use vulnerability as an asset.”
The show does have one thing going for it–Nikita is a really good assassin and beats up the boys. But maybe we shouldn’t be seduced by her capacity for violence, and instead see that it’s a front for embedding kyriarchal messages that further the status quo.