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19 Responses

  1. karak
    karak November 30, 2012 at 2:05 pm |

    I sometimes wonder whether it’s worse to watch a sci-fi show with no characters of color or watch one with a character of color and watch the character be completely sidelined.

    Both are so… nasty. And now you’re reminding me of Buffy and Angel and Stargate and the total lack of color on that screen.

  2. chava
    chava November 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm |

    Reading this made me realize just how much I had projected who I WANTED Astrid to be as a character onto the hollow character she’s become in order to be able to tolerate that aspect of the show.

    She had such potential to be kickass, too. I had a lot of hope after Making Angels, but they never followed up on it–and it was too little, too late, anyway.

    1. Brandy
      Brandy November 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm |

      Yeah. I love the *idea* of Astrid as a fully-developed character but they’ve never given her a chance. It became even more obvious in that Making Angels episode, which treated the interaction between Astrid & Alt. Astrid more like a digression than part of the show’s story.

  3. Jadey
    Jadey November 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm |

    I can’t stand anymore hearing Walter call her after an object (“Astroturf” is particularly fitting/horrifying). At least at the beginning it seemed to show her sympathetically, having to put up with an unpleasant old man, but as Walter has been redeemed, so have his eccentricities, and now she is just an outlet for his oddness. His ability to call the alternate Astrid by her name was just a further insult because it showed how unnecessary the abuse is.

    My only hope left is that Jasika can leverage this role into something better after Fringe ends.

  4. seisy
    seisy November 30, 2012 at 9:29 pm |

    I think there are some repeated paragraphs.

  5. seisy
    seisy November 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm |

    Also, I think I read that Alt!Astrid being autistic was something Jasika Nicole came up with for the character? As a kind of tribute to her sister?

  6. Bethany
    Bethany December 1, 2012 at 2:14 am |

    I totally agree with this assessment of Astrid and have felt it for some time to be a thorn in the side of my enjoyment of Fringe. I still enjoy the show, but I accept and understand its faults and wish it could be better. I’d hoped that in the last season, she’d have a more integral role but without some major plot twist, it doesn’t look like that will happen.

  7. amblingalong
    amblingalong December 1, 2012 at 10:02 am |

    I think you have a couple good points here, but I basically think you’ve drastically overreached with sections like

    What makes Olivia’s survival more important than Astrid’s? The only thing that separates the two women is race. The blond-haired Olivia is deemed essential, while Astrid is understood to be disposable.

    Sure, this is an essay about race, but this is a damn silly statement; you’ve been watching Fringe for this long and you can’t think of a single reason Broyles has a different relationship with Olivia than Astrid, aside from race? Please.

    The treatment of Astrid is basically the same as the treatment of supporting characters usually is (in Fringe and elsewhere). There’s a genuine point to be made regarding casting POC in supporting roles and white people in lead roles, but that is the nexus of unequal treatment, not the lack of attention paid to Astrid post-casting, which is comparable in tone and depth to many of the other second-tier Fringe characters.

    Incidentally, alt-Astrid is not the only PWD on the show; so is Walter. For fuck’s sake, he spent years in an asylum. Let’s not overlook that, hmm?

  8. A4
    A4 December 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |

    The other day i was watching Alias, another five season long show by J.J Abrams about White people saving the World. The black characters on that show follow a strikingly similar pattern. Dixon, who starts as Sydney Bristow’s partner and then in season 3 becomes her boss, is a black male character who we learn very much about and who is very invested in the white female protagonist. His wife is one of 3 characters who are black women, the other two being Sydney’s friend Francie and Sydney’s spy-rival, Anna Espinosa.

    Francie is turned into an evil double agent when Allison Dorin is morphed using technology to look exactly like her. Allison, wearing Francie’s body, kills her and assumes her place, therefore turning Francie into a villain to counterpoint Sydney’s Goodness. Bad-Francie kills Dixon’s wife with a car-bomb.

    Sydney kills Bad-Francie at the end of season 2, but we find out that Bad-Francie is still alive in Season 3. At one point during the episode where Bad-Francie returns, Sydney’s boss, Dixon, tells her that the order is to kill Bad-Francie because she killed his wife, and with great fervor he informs her “I want that bitch dead”.

    The other black woman on the show, Anna Espinosa, Sydney’s other spy-rival, is morphed using the same technology to look like Sydney, which really brings home the idea that these women were simply used to counterpoint the good Sydney Bristow with their eeeevilness.

    J.J Abrams seems to have a strangely specific pattern going on, and this is a good example of how racism and sexism against black women can be its own particular harmful brand of bigotry not visited upon either white women or black men. The two major spy characters played by black women are the ones who are painted as particularly soulless and evil, deserving of great punishment for their misdeeds but as far as I can remember, their motivations for such evilness are never explained.

    1. Kristen J.
      Kristen J. December 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm |

      Thanks for the interesting analysis. I didn’t make the connection between the shows.

  9. Dana
    Dana December 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm |

    Also, I think I read that Alt!Astrid being autistic was something Jasika Nicole came up with for the character? As a kind of tribute to her sister?

    Apparently not…according to this interview the writers didn’t know it when they originally conceived of the alt version.

    Also appropriate for this topic. (Link to Jasika Nicole’s tumblr page.) I am not usually a fan of celebrities/actors/performers in real life (as opposed to being a fan of their work), but Jasika is awesome.

    1. seisy
      seisy December 1, 2012 at 6:57 pm |

      Oh, thanks. I must have gotten it mixed up in my head. And she is totally awesome.

    2. Jadey
      Jadey December 1, 2012 at 7:11 pm |

      Thank you so much for linking to Jasika’s tumblr – I love her acting, but I had no idea how awesome she is just as herself! Now I’m even more irritated about how under-used her character is and even more hopeful that she will get picked up for a project where they will appreciate all her talents.

    3. carol
      carol December 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm |

      her reblog just makes it all worse :(

  10. carol
    carol December 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm |

    the fact that they created this super smart and interesting female black character and then just made her the barely there sidekick (especially this season) is beyond disappointing.

  11. j_bird
    j_bird December 3, 2012 at 10:48 pm |

    Ugh… Paul and Renee, I had many of the same thoughts you did while watching Fringe. Thanks for articulating them. I too was irritated when it became clear that we were supposed to find Walter’s insulting treatment of Astrid just another cute old-man quirk. I enjoy seeing dark, unlikeable characters and antiheroes, but only when the writers have the guts to leave off pretending that the characters are cute.

    This reminds me a bit of Uhura in the last Star Trek movie. She’s supposed to be very smart and talented, but aside from providing a bit of useful information and telling Spock she’s there to support him right before they kiss, we don’t see much about how she feels, what she thinks, or how she came to love Spock. Of course, the thinness here may be due to time constraints and a decision to make Spock the focus of the movie, but Fringe really has no excuse.

  12. Codi Johnson
    Codi Johnson December 4, 2012 at 5:05 am |

    Once again, someone takes something good, dissects the crap out of it, and turns it into “an issue.” This is the United States. Three quarters of its people are white. The creator of the show is white. Do the math. Let’s say we make all the lead characters non white and do the exact same show. Would any of you be lamenting the lone white girl and how her role was not nearly what it could have been? No. In fact, in all likelihood, you wouldn’t be discussing it at all because it would probably been canceled after the first half season.

    The fact is, the main TV audience is white; hence, most of the characters in TV shows are white. It doesn’t make anything inherently racist. Stop finding trouble where there isn’t any.

    1. Rhoanna
      Rhoanna December 4, 2012 at 11:06 am |

      The issue isn’t that the majority of the characters are white. The problem is that far less than 1/4 of main characters (across all American television) are non-white, and that non-white characters aren’t treated the same. They aren’t as important, they aren’t as well developed, and they often fill certain stereotypical roles. Like this post explains.

      1. matlun
        matlun December 4, 2012 at 11:38 am |

        Why are you using the figure 1/4 above?
        Considering the US demographics, wouldn’t that proportion actually mean a numerical over representation?

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