Nikita: Fourth Time’s Still Not the Charm

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.

Comments

  1. FYI, not all the remakes were American and made for TV. After the original French film, there was the American movie starring Bridget Fonda. Then there was the Canadian TV series starring Peta Wilson which aired on the USA network. Now we've got an American-made TV series. I feel the Canadian series was best of all so far. The latest version does indeed seem like a lazy remake so far…

  2. Dominique Millette says:

    The picture kinda tells you everything you need to know.

  3. Most of what you describe was in the movie(s).

  4. Her butt is gratuitously photoshopped, as are her legs. Damnit.

  5. I actually really liked the Canadian version from the 90s with Peta Wilson. But i definitely agree with the author on this one. This and the USA network show called "Covert Affairs" just don't cut it, for trying to show an awesome femsassin/ spy. I thought Angelina Jolie in Wanted was pretty cool.

  6. There’s nothing wrong with being sexy…but yes, the problem isn’t being sexy – it’s the perpetuating of all the stereotypes and status quo norms that you so perfectly addressed, Kathleen. I agree with all your points – so many lazy writing stamps floating around, haha.

    I think the only other positive, besides the fact that Nikita beats up the boys, is that Nikitia shows everyone that being sexy and being smart are *not* mutually exclusive. Most women arn’t naturally that thin, and many don’t carry themselves with that sexy air about them – but I have to admit that when a women in real life really is naturally thin and is being sexy too, people assume she’s not that smart or capable. There’s the assumption that because she’s beautiful, she’s fallen back on that to get her through life rather than developing other assets. I mean come on – you have to admit that stereotype exists too. If you’re a nerd with glasses it’s expected that you’ve developed your brain, but if you’re cute and you express your intelligence, people get so blown away it can be insulting.

  7. I agree with the author, however a vital aspect has been overlooked, I think, and it ties into some of the other points the author brought to bear.

    It's not a "pedestal" – it all comes back to control. Women are not allowed to determine their own destinies. She is not truly powerful – she is doing someone else's bidding. She's not allowed to love, she's not allowed to choose her "career", etc. It's just like the anti-choice movement – control, power, and control. And even a powerful woman – being able to kill with such grim efficiency – must be reduced to a piece of eye candy for Men and is ultimately controlled by her bosses, who are men. Of course no-one, male or female, would be capable of any of the character's feats and be that thin. She is not human. Women are not allowed to be human.

    That's the underlying message of patriarchy.

  8. This show is another uninspired regurgitation of crap that's been a) done before, b) done to death, c) sexist as all hell

  9. “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.”

    The targets are conventionally unattractive men because no one will miss them if they are gone.

    Why would any man masturbate to fantasies of ‘sexy assassins’ coming to kill them? Are there any reliable studies of men with such death-wish fantasies?

  10. Sidney Roth says:

    I generally agree, the show is garbage. However, the author appears to be far too sensitive and biased to have given the show anything that resemble a fair review. In fact, this is exactly what I have come to expect from Ms. blog. When I want to read an attempt to utterly rip a show to shreds with the weapons of feminism, I come here (entirely for entertainment)

    This show, while featuring a woman, isn't (obviously) written for women. As a woman, there is nothing I find appealing about this show. I am completely OK with this. Not everything need be viewed through the prism of feminism. One shouldn't go to a all-female strip club looking for deep meaningful conversations, and should one watch Nikita expecting to find an empowering female role model.

    This deep seated need to fight every battle against perceived misogynism is exactly why we don't call the humble seed of the canola flower by its true name: Rapeseed. Apparently, using the term rapeseed, as is done in all of the rest of the English speaking countries, promotes rape culture. Please…PLEASE find better things to do with your time.

    This wrongheaded, biased, pointless, and highly skewed article is far more destructive to the true feminist goals than the TV show it is written about. Let it go. If a few guys want to have some fun watching an unrealistic TV show…let them. I seriously doubt any of them are forming their life opinions of women based on Nikita.

    TL;DR The show is garbage and the author is a whiny feminist for bothering to point it out.

    • nikitabluewriter says:

      I hope you don't SERIOUSLY think that pointing out misogynism is "destructive to the true feminist goals." And do you "seriously doubt" that any guys are forming their opinions of women based on Nikita?? Wow… open your eyes, kiddo.
      And let me tell you something else: women like YOU who call other women "whiny feminists" for pointing out injustice are the reason we keep slipping back into the patriarchal tar pits. No one here is making ridiculous complaints about plants… but you were probably just being a whiny Barbie doll, so I'll "let it go."

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