Monday, June 04, 2007

Hex: Let's Talk About Hex, Baby

Thanks to BBC America's marathon Saturday, I'm now all caught up with the American airings of Hex, Britain's answer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Having watched the entire first American season and the first couple episodes of the second (the show has finished its run across the pond), I find myself a bit torn. On the one hand, I do love me some supernatural teenagers, but on the other hand, Hex has some serious issues. The show starts out following Cassie, a student at a boarding school in England called Medenham Hall which is apparently chock full of ghosts and demons. She finds out that she's linked by destiny to the fallen angel Azazeal, and things pretty much go downhill from there. The show now follows Ella, a 500-year old teenager and last of the anointed witches, who is sworn to kill Cassie and Azazeal's child in order to prevent Armageddon.

First off, the show takes itself way too seriously. Where Buffy used to pair its heavy mythology with a wink and a shrug, Hex is fairly straight-up dark, without enough levity or satire to balance it out and acknowledge the absurdity. Second, for a show that takes its mythology so seriously, it picks up and drops characters and plotlines like so many hot potatoes. To the point where they actually replace the main character midway through the series, making Azazeal, the villain, the only constant (and apparently he's gone now, too). I found myself constantly asking questions like, "Wait, whatever happened to that guy?" and "Hey, didn't that teacher go back to the dark side last episode?" And Medenham Hall seems to have a conveniently broad history: voodoo-practicing slaves, cursed families, amateur Egyptologists, witch trials...each facet being forgotten as the next is taken up.

My third, and probably most serious, problem is that for all the "girls kicking ass" aspects of the show, the messages actually coming across seem to be fairly anti-feminist, or even sexist. Multiple times on Hex, women have literally put the fate of the world in danger because they were too soft or emotional (or, worse, sexual), and couldn't get the job done. Cassie can't resist Azazeal, Thelma can't bear to never see Cassie again, Ella can't finish off Malachi, Roxanne betrays her friends to her evil lover...once or twice would be one thing, but it's a pretty clear pattern.

That said, if you don't take the show too seriously, it can be pretty fun. I mean, come on, a crazy British boarding school where the students drink openly all the time, go out at all hours, and sleep around (including with demons)? Awesome! (Seriously--are British boarding schools like this? 'Cause my American boarding school was definitely, definitely not. Damn puritans writing our laws. Of course, we had far fewer mysterious deaths.) And the fact that it's a British show, although I've heard BBC America is censoring it a little, means that anything can happen. Like the word "abortion" actually being uttered on TV. Oh, those wacky Brits. Buffy, however, Hex is not (much as it is obviously trying to be). But hey, what is?