Once Upon A Time geeking, pt II: Gastown, Vancouver, BC

With bonus Highlander.

Anyone who’s watched OUAT, Highlander, X-Files, Continuum, or a dozen other made-in-Canada TV shows will recognize Gastown. It is the semi-gentrified “hip” neighborhood along the waterfront in downtown Vancouver. Like such neighborhoods in many cities, you can turn a corner and go from a trendy shopping area to a dodgy skid row. Most of the OUAT “Manhattan” scenes were filmed in the Alexander/Powell/Carrall street triangle.

On-screen and off-screen photos follow. Warning: Image heavy. All screencaps courtesy of screencapped.net.

Continue reading “Once Upon A Time geeking, pt II: Gastown, Vancouver, BC”

Confessions of a Hero Whore


More often than not when you ask me who my favorite character in a book, film, or television series is, it’s the hero. Not that I don’t appreciate the grayer characters, the morally ambiguous types–tricksters, shady allies and informants, double-agents, self-serving baddies with sympathetic pasts and motivations. But I think sometimes those grayer characters get overvalued, proclaimed “way more interesting” than the heroes, who are decried as boring and predictable when the do the right thing, and lambasted when they make a mistake. Similarly, fans who like hero characters are made to feel like throwbacks to 1952.

But where would we be without the heroes? A story full of characters whose primary motivations are self-serving or up for grabs may make an interesting read/viewing experience, but an abundance of stories like that leave me feeling ungrounded. Morally gray characters are like icing without the cake. I need to have someone in the story who I can root for without feeling like I washed myself with a dirty rag. Someone far from perfect, but who shows genuine courage, and who I know is trying to do the right thing, even if they mess it up a lot along the way. Even if, in the end, they fail.

An engaging hero character requires work on the part of the writer. Many heroic characters face odds so steep that their success, or the traits they possess that allow their success, make them larger than life and difficult to relate to. Giving them flaws that humanize them, though, is tricky. If a hero character is flawed in ways that make him or her unlikable, a reader/viewer can feel manipulated by the narrative–as if they’re “supposed” to like them, even if they don’t.

One thing to remember, though, is that there is a difference between the viewer/reader rooting for the hero even though s/he’s a better man than you, gunga din, and being able to “relate to” him or her. I often don’t relate to the heroes that I find myself rooting for. I can’t imagine being them. But I root for them nevertheless, because the writer has made them sympathetic, human, and likeable.

It’s a bit embarrassing, though, to be asked who your favorite character is and have to “admit”:

Oh, Highlander? Duncan Macleod
Harry Potter series: Harry Potter
Merlin BBC: well, Merlin, of course
Angel the Series: Angel
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko
Once Upon A Time: Emma Swan
Harry Dresden: Harry Dresden

…and so on.

It’s not always the case though. My favorite ST: TNG character was Data. But of course, he was the epitome of the awkwardly sincere trying-to-be-the-best-of-humanity. And my favorite character on Lost was Hurley, but y’know, Everyman with a Heart of Gold, he was. On ST: Voyager, I liked Be’lanna Torres. I have a thing for the fucked-up tough girls. But I’m not sure I would have stayed glommed onto the angry, screwed-up babes if they weren’t flawed-but-trying-to-be-a-good-person. To wit: Faith on BtVS/AtS. Although she was never my favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I never really had one, except possibly the foursome of Buffy+Giles+Willow+Xander. The collective heroic.

Do I get points if my favorite Anne Rice vampire was Armand? He was no saint. I could never stand Lestat, but I liked Louis quite a bit. I prefer my vampires with a soul.


You know, I don’t read AU fanfic. Of course, I don’t really read much fanfic, period, but I have no taste for AU at all, I’m the original Canon’s Bitch. The original author determines what the story is, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to keep reading/viewing/etc. That’s how I feel. I even suffered five months of Post Traumatic Stress syndrome after the AtS episode “Home” because that’s how I feel.

But you know what I can’t deal with, and will never be able to deal with so much so it just simply never happened?

Season 5 Highlander ending spoilers

I feel like I should bow or have honor or something – Highlander S. 3 DVD review

I don’t know why it is I feel I need to do reviews of Highlander DVD sets and not, for example, Buffy or Angel. I love these shows equally. Maybe it’s just that I figure most of my friends are already familiar with Buffy/Angel and my feelings about it. But I love DSN just as much as these others, and I don’t have a lot of DSN fans on my friends list, but I don’t feel the need to review those, either. Hmm.

Maybe there’s just something special about Highlander. It has that hidden world of fantasy in the midst of the real world, it had a basic moral message of honor and decency, it had strong female characters (and great characters in general!), it had fun flashbacks.

DVD extras

The Champion

One of my favorite TV shows of all time is “Highlander”. It’s about Duncan MacLeod, a champion. In fact, looking over the TV shows I like best–BtVS, Angel, DSN, and Highlander–they are all about champions. I don’t apologize for the use of that term anymore than the producers and writers of “Angel” do, even though they do overuse it.

A champion is a warrior who takes on the battles of people who can’t fight (physically) for themselves. I used to wonder why I was so into shows about warriors and fighters, given my own pacifist proclivities. Duncan Macleod helps illuminate this. He is a warrior. He’s killed lots of people and continues to. And yet, at the same time, he is a pacifist. There was a time when he wasn’t a pacifist, at least not consciously. He was raised a Scottish clan warrior. His responsibility was to protect his people from their enemies. He continued to be a professional soldier for years and years until he met Darius, who helped him recognized within himself a feeling he already had–that most killing is senseless slaughter, that the cycle of revenge is pointless. That the only reason to fight is to defend people against those who would slaughter senselessly.

The Duncan we meet in 1993 doesn’t go looking for fights, but if someone challenges him, he will fight if he is forced to. Often he tries to find ways to avoid a battle. But if he must fight, he does, and if he has to, he will kill.

As a warrior, Duncan can never stay far away from battles for very long. He tried to. He stayed on “holy ground” for years avoiding other immortals and their quest for “the prize”. He was an abolitionist during the Civil War. He lived with the Sioux during an era when American Indians were being mass slaughtered. He was a medic in World War I. He helped save refuges in the Viet Nam War. Always in the war zone. Always the champion.

Pacifism isn’t about believing that all war is bad. It’s about recognizing that all war is sad. Sometimes it is necessary for the greater good, but the pacifist warrior is someone who choses his battles carefully, who never seeks them out, who defends the innocent and recognizes that the value of people isn’t based on how strong they are.

Some of his pacifism probably isn’t always wise. He lives by a code of chivalry that won’t allow him to kill people who can’t engage him in a “fair fight”–he won’t kill women immortals, or child immortals. As Methos pointed out to him, there’s more than physical strength involved in a fight. The women and children have their own weapons. Duncan knows this, and he understands the “weapons” they use. But still he won’t kill them, and this may one day be his undoing.

Or maybe he will be the one. He will be the last immortal in the end. He will win “the prize”–all the strength and knowledge of the other immortals will go into him, making him the most powerful person on Earth. Jim Dawson hopes so. And when his clansman Connor forced Duncan to kill him so that they could defeat a powerful evil immortal, Duncan came that much closer to being “the one”, as far as story lines go.

We’ll probably never know if Duncan will be the last immortal, although, what’s the point of telling his story if he isn’t?