tori_angeli: (uptonogood)
I was watching the commentaries for season 2 of Leverage when I realized that not everyone watches them for the same reason.

I sometimes hunt down and read interviews with actors.  I was wondering why I do this when I hate remembering an actor's name while I'm watching them play a character.  Associating that face with a real person messes with the escapism.  But simply, it's for the same reason I watch commentaries: I'm hoping people will give little insights or tidbits into the characters.

I think it's left over from writing fanfic.  You know how even the tiniest bit of information is something that helps you map out the whole?  I collect info almost obsessively.  I don't even write fanfic anymore and I HAVE to have as accurate an image of these characters as possible in my head.  I HATE the idea that I'm misunderstanding something.  So now I know which Leverage actors are the most chatty about their characters (and spoilers *coughTimHuttoncough*) and which voices on the commentaries belong to which character-knowledgeable people (John Rogers FTW).  It occurred to me that I'm a little weird when I started to realize not everyone in the fandom had read/heard this little insight or that little insight and have only had the show--actual canon--to figure things out by.  The tidbits I've found?  Could be changed at any time.

That would suck.
tori_angeli: (sterling)
Leverage fandom, hypnosis is not brain rape.  Neither is suggestion.  Granted, neuro-linguistic programming doesn't really seem like a nice thing to try out on your friends, but it's still not brain rape.  Apparently, it's planting a suggestion in such a way as to make someone think it was their own idea.  Not that big a deal when the suggestion is "pour me tea," and surely it wouldn't work if the suggestion was "jump off a cliff or do something else harmful."

Also, any woman with a good enough sense of self-preservation not to date a self-destructive man should be lauded, not criticized for "not accepting him as he is."
tori_angeli: (uptonogood)
Spoilers for a future episode of Leverage ahead.  I don't know if ANYONE on my f-list (besides Aub, who's never on LJ) watches this show, but I have to get this off my chest.  Keep in mind that this is just venting my terror, not predicting what will happen.  None of this is meant to be taken particularly seriously, and mild annoyance at some news about my favorite television show is, ultimately, not the only emotion I'm venting.

What are they thinking?

Oh, I know what they're thinking: FANSERVICE.  They're thinking fanservice!  Usually they manage to do that with short moments, but THIS?

Seriously, peeps.  If you're a fan of Christian Kane and want to hear him sing, buy his freaking album.  Or watch that one clip from Angel over and over again.  Please don't pester the (ultra-kindly accessible) producers and writers into giving his character a song on the sho--crap.

I know, I know I should trust the writers to keep it from being too wildly out of character.  It's just that said writers (and the producers, and the actor) have said that Eliot singing isn't really...plausible.  At all.  They ruled out the possibility of it happening a long time ago.  Are they finally caving to fan pressure, or have they found a way to slip it in without making me want to flatten my face against the top of my desk until my sinuses cave in and the bones in my nose spear through my brain?

It wouldn't be nearly as freaky if they hadn't JUST had an episode centering around a (different) character's musical talent.  And it was a REALLY GOOD episode.  Really, really good!  Having ANOTHER character pose as a musician two episodes later has the potential for disaster.  Not to mention what happened last time Eliot discovered a hidden talent--he became nearly insufferably smug about it (see, they named this sandwich after him, so it was obviously a pretty big deal).  We REALLY need a repeat of "The Three Strikes Job?"  Really?  'Cause we already had that episode as well.  Repeating two episodes in one?  Really?

Not that that's what this will be like.  These are really good people working on this show, and they've never put out a bad episode.  How many shows can you say that about?  Not many.  I doubt they'd betray the awesomeness inherent in their work just to throw out some cheap fanservice.  Not without Serious Meddling on the part of the network.

...PLEASE let there be no Serious Meddling on the part of the network.  If that's what this is, we're all screwed.

I am going to go absolutely batshit insane if anything else pops up in my life that is more important than a TV show.
tori_angeli: (deathlikesymptoms)

The first two or three minutes of season one, episode one of TNT’s Leverage introduces us to an alcoholic who used to be an investigator for a massive company that insures art.  Used to, because as soon as his son took ill they refused to cover a treatment that could have cured him.  Now he is childless, divorced, unemployed, and utterly without direction.  His name is Nate Ford, and his case is infamous.
 
After taking up an offer from someone who claims to have been robbed by a rival company, he is grouped with three thieves he has chased in the past.  We know their names and specialties and the fact that they all have distinct personalities.  That’s about it.
 
Okay, to be fair, we know Parker (no other name given) stole a stuffed rabbit and blew up a house when she was a kid.  We know Alec Hardison once hired a bunch of girls to dress up in gold bikinis a la Princess Leia and fight with light sabers (GEEK PRIDE!).  Eliot Spencer’s flashback reveals that he retrieved a baseball card by beating up a host of guys with guns and didn’t even spill his coffee.  Later on, when we meet future team mom Sophie Devereaux, it’s revealed that she and Nate have a long history together.  Since this initial introduction, we have learned very little else about any of these characters’ pasts.  But exactly how much does that detract from the experience?
 
The fact is that we’re dealing with amazing characters and a cast with absolutely incredible chemistry, but what part does their past play in all that?  The writers of the show try quite consciously to leave most of their backgrounds as blank slates, but are they really doing themselves any favors that way?  It would probably be more problematic if they weren’t revealing the characters’ hidden depths in such a way as to keep background information secret.  It’s an interesting take on character, and one most authors wouldn’t dream of.  After all, what is a more ripe and easy source of depth and angst than a dark, secretive background that’s revealed almost first thing?  The fact that the writers of Leverage are able to create such fascinating characters without falling back on background alone is very telling, and other writers and shows could learn from this example.  After all, in the end, the show is about the characters as they are, not as they used to be.  So why are fans crying for more background information?  Well, there are two reasons.

First of all, the audience expects to have background information on the characters they love.  It’s not a sense of entitlement that causes this so much as out-and-out curiosity and love for the character.  We want to meet Nate’s father not because it's convention, but because we love Nate and want to know as much about him as possible.  We like hearing that Hardison was a foster kid and Eliot used to be claustrophobic.  We take joy in the information and devour the tidbits each episode throws at us.  If you’re dating someone you’re really interested in, you want to see their baby pictures and hear their parents talk about them.  It works the same way with characters.

Second of all, we want character background because, frankly, it’s essential to the character.  It’s not that a character’s history is useless when it exists only in the mind of the author, but the audience needs to be able to place the current story in the context of the character’s life.  For example, Parker, who has one of the most fleshed-out backgrounds on the show, has a clear motive for staying with the group.  We understand, because we have the context of her history, why these people are so important to her and that this is very much a unique life experience for her.

However, the amount of background we know has little to do with this.  Technically, we have “enough” background on Sophie simply because we do understand the events of the series in the context of her life.  All the same, we have very, very little information about her history.  Contrast Eliot, who we have even less on, and whose motives remain a mystery even though we see many, many facets to him.  As a result, he may be the character hardest to relate to on the grounds that we don’t have the context with him that we have with the others.  Does that make it meaningless when we see him compassionate, angry, or annoyed?  Absolutely not.  It’s still character depth, it’s just out of context.

Nonetheless, character background is not the only thing that makes a good character, as Leverage shows very well.  What relevance does Parker's past have when she and Eliot are acting like little kids together?  Do we have to know who Sophie's parents were in order to relate to her identity crisis?  Do we need to know, this moment, what landed Hardison and Parker in foster homes when they were kids?  Not really.  What’s important is that they have that common experience, even if they were different experiences, and can connect to each other on a deeper level than before.  When Eliot chooses to champion a young victim of child abuse, does his motivation come from his past or from his own capacity for compassion?  The important thing is that he is compassionate, and that this is a tender side of him we’ve never really seen before.  I actually prefer to think he, like most people, finds child abuse reprehensible without having to dig up some dirt from his past.  It speaks more to the type of person he is that he finds it horrible without having to be shown firsthand.

The fact of life is that who you are right now is not who you were years ago.  Authors who fall into the trap of defining a character strictly by their past should keep this in mind.  People change, grow, slide down the slippery slope, and change even more.  Their past is past, the road that got them to where they are, the road that has branched out and will continue to branch out into other roads, a network of choices and experiences.  Leverage makes the important statement that a character, and indeed a person, is not limited to what they have previously experienced.  Our stories are still being told, and so are theirs.

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Tori Angeli
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