[personal profile] wingedbeast
I want to like Forever. Really, I do. I... haven't been able to. I've managed not to dislike it. But, while I'm still trying and I still see potential, I don't yet like it.

The Immortal In Modern Day genre has potential. I like the possibilities that it represents for storytelling. But, Forever seems to want to tease me with that potential, er, eternally.

Since I really do like this sub-genre, I want to see it do better. The aggressively generic Forever isn't accomplishing that. So, using Forever as a guidepost, I'm going to come up with a with some useful rules for future Immortal In Modern Day fiction.

#1 No More Self-Hating Immortals

Dr. Henry Morgan, our immortal, longs for death. I don't know why. He just does. The show doesn't present any indications of depression or having an unpleasant life. He quite clearly has attachments to the world of the living. Why does he want to die?

Well, it seems that he just feels that life is better if it's going to end. No real thought beyond that. He doesn't like being immortal.

This seems like the classic self-hating vampire trope, only without the vampire. I think we can all aggree that the self-hating vampire trope is overdone. Subtracting the vampire from the trope doesn't improve things.

If your immortal character is a vampire, this rule stays in play. We're done with the whole self-hating thing. If you need the vampire to be a good guy, just go with it. If you need your vampire not to kill people, that's great, make the vampire not kill people. No need for self-hating repentance or even unusual goodness. Just a general appreciation killing humans tends to get humans killing you.

#2 Adapting To New Technology Is A Necessity

The Internet. Chances are you don't need me to say anymore. I will, because I'm in love with the sound of my own text, but I'm guessing you can predict most of this.

Forever shows Dr. Henry Morgan, who has been immortal and living the immortal life for more than two centuries now, react to the advent of the internet by disdaining it and computers in general. From the perspective of creating endearing quirks... eh, passable. It doesn't turn me off on its own.

It does, however, make a problem in that surviving for 200 years means adapting to the technological times. If not for reasons of fitting in, for reasons of continuing to take part in modern society. Once upon a time, there was no such thing as an internal combustion engine. Then, there was, then it became available to the wealthy. Then, it became impossible to travel without it, then it adjusted our view of what constitutes a long travel distance.

Right now, the internet is so common that we're running out of options to take part in modern society. It won't be long before not being computer-literate isn't just a quirk, but a major difficulty in getting a job... or establishing a new identity.

#3 The Days of Hiding Immortality Are Numbered

That same technological advance is going to take away an immortal's option to hide hir existence. Let's pretend that one need never establish one's own online presence, that moving onto a new identity does not require moving onto a new Facebook account with a picture of the same face.

The internet will still track you... and do so without even trying. Cameras are everywhere. You have to get picture IDs for the bulk of most jobs. Your friends, assuming you have any, will want to take a selfie for some special occasion. And, even if you don't, the odd selfie will catch you.

Now, just add facial recognition software that will be employed by law enforcement, as a standard background check by employers, as a research method by investigative reporters, and just for fun. To add the less savory onto the list, also by stalkers.

Any immortal who does not recognize the internet as the eventual end of their secrecy hasn't been at it for very long.

#4 Other People's Stories are Still About Other People

In a recent episode, a case that Dr. Morgan investigates puts him in position of being uncomfortably close to the setting of the first time he died. Part of the reason he was uncomfortable was that he thought he had failed to save the lives of several slaves... on a slave trading vessel.

During the episode, we get more flashbacks of the general happenings around his death. The short of it is that he attempts to preserve the life of a slave and gets shot by the ship's captain for his troubles. Soon after he died and was thrown to the water, the ship sank.

At the end of the episode, a wealthy man and amateur historian tells Henry Morgan that the slaves managed a revolt, thanks to a shot and struggling man dropping a key. The story of the men revolting against their slavers, making it to shore, and establishing a colony in what is now Canada is told just as quickly as reading this paragraph. The reason is that, for the show, the point is to show us Dr. Morgan's relief.

This could be done much better. As it shows, their story is only a minor part of his story, not a major element of their own story. Another way to go about this would have been to have Dr. Morgan research and learn more about their story, the actions they took, what they achieved, in a way that acknowledges that his actions were a minor part of their story. He, being the main character of the show, is not in danger of being dehumanized.

Instead, their entire story, as far as Forever is concerned so far, is that they were a source of moral anxiety for Dr. Morgan, who now has some moral relief.

#5 Your Immortal Must Have Been On The Wrong Side Of History

Dr. Henry Morgan's first life was that of a wealthy, educated man of good breeding. And, his first actions are, despite being on a slave-trading vessel his family owns, as anti-slavery as he can manage. Okay, I don't deny him the right to be anti-slavery despite his family's holdings or his situation. He wouldn't have been the only one.

But, throughout the rest of his historical flashbacks, we never see Dr. Morgan on the wrong side of history, even when the opportunity avails itself. Don't get me wrong, we can like him today and find him to have all the right values for our morals today, but there has to have been some change to achieve that.

Chances are you'll want your immortal to be a good-guy today. So, you don't want him currently engaging in the kind of things that would turn people off. This is the advantage of immortality, a lot of time to change a person. And, those flashbacks can be flashbacks to things that your immortal really did wrong.

This is especially the case if your immortal character has racial, gender, and orientation privilege, such as our Dr. Morgan has. They don't even need to be completely evil... so much as subject to the banality of evil that can overtake even good people.

If your immortal lacks privilege in some way, they don't have to stand against social changes that would benefit them. But, note that the fight against racism hasn't always had a good record on sexism and the fight against sexism hasn't always had a good record on racism. Show a character that has grown, changed, improved, learned from past mistakes.

Hopefully, keeping these rules in mind will improve the stories and move to a better tapping of a wellspring of story potential.

Date: 2015-04-11 09:08 pm (UTC)
inquisitiveraven: Purza the cat (Default)
From: [personal profile] inquisitiveraven
On point 5) Let's not forget TERFs and people fighting racism against their group while supporting racism against other groups (e.g. African Americans supporting racism against Asians or Native Americans.)

Date: 2015-06-06 02:11 am (UTC)
madgastronomer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] madgastronomer
Ah! AAAAAH! DID EPISODE THREE JUST SERIOUSLY IMPLY THAT HENRY AND THE OTHER DOCTOR WERE LOVERS, AND THEN GIVE THE OTHER DOCTOR A WASTING DISEASE THAT WAS SORT OF THE EQUIVALENT OF AIDS? I mean, is that just me imagining it? Because they framed that arm-around shot exactly the same as the previous two shots of people flirting. And then really did make him up rather like a dying AIDS patient.

If that's what the point was, why the fuck not just SAY SO OPENLY? It's goddamn 2015! (OK, 2014, I guess; first half of the season.) ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH.

Date: 2015-06-06 08:50 am (UTC)
madgastronomer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] madgastronomer
The shots with the arm around were anvillicious. It was definitely intentional.

Date: 2015-06-06 09:04 pm (UTC)
madgastronomer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] madgastronomer
They had, in close proximity, they fake doctor at the clinic put his arm around the woman who was is lover, framed from the back with them both wearing white lab coats; then the lady copy, to flirt with the fake doctor, put her arm around him the same way, also framed from the back, with him still in his white lab coat. Very shortly thereafter, it went to flashback, and Henry and the other doctor were talking about the quack electrotherapy. They stood there watching, both wearing their labcoats, and the other doc put his arm around Henry -- and it cut to a shot of them from the back, framed the same way.

Date: 2015-06-06 11:44 pm (UTC)
madgastronomer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] madgastronomer
Oh, and the wasting sequence? The famous look of someone dying of TB is very pale, with very red cheeks and very bright eyes. Instead, they gave him loose, grey skin and made him look as if he'd lost a lot of weight -- which is how a late stage AIDS patient looks.

Date: 2015-06-06 08:20 am (UTC)
madgastronomer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] madgastronomer
And now to address your actual post.

I'm going to disagree with you on #1. I don't think he actively wants to die -- at least not as far as I've gotten, which is only 4 episodes in. And indeed he told Abraham he didn't mean to kill himself even if he worked out how. I think wants to know that he can die. And I get this. It seems like a reasonable reaction. Partially because death is very much a defining part of the human condition: All humans die. Not being able to die makes you less human. I would feel really alienated by that. Knowing that it was possible, no matter how difficult or unlikely, would help with that. And life has a lot of pain, and for many people, death has been the only escape from that. Knowing that it was an option could make it easier to bear. I'm reminded of Hob Gadling's line from The Sandman, "Do you know how hungry a man can get when he doesn't eat but can't die?" And Hob knows that he is immortal, but he still knows that if he needs it badly enough, there's an out for him. Death offers him the opportunity to grow old and die if he wants to, and he seems to take comfort from that, and he still declines. "Nah. Death's a mug's game."

So to me that's doesn't look so much like self-loathing as it does like a way of coping with the massive weirdness of finding himself immortal. He has no way of learning how this happened, why him, any of that. So he's settled on discovering everything he can about what's actually going on, including trying to find out how to change it if he needs to.

Also, if he knows what can kill him, then he can avoid it.

What I find even worse about #2, though, is that he's clearly kept up with current medical technology. He knows the signs of cosmetic surgery and what prion diseases are (although he should have been quicker to put that together; prion disorders are basically the only things that literally eat a bunch of holes in the brain, and he ought to have at least jumped to mad cow (nvCJD) immediately, if not all the way to kuru), and all kinds of other things. More and more of the cutting-edge stuff is available primarily online, especially since he doesn't seem to be going to conferences and stuff. And a man of science of his era should be a technophile. That's very much what they did.

One of the things I've particularly liked about Sleepy Hollow is that Ichabod is confused by technology and often frustrated by the process of learning to use it, but he's also properly fascinated by it, as any educated man with scientific interests should be, in his time. He didn't live through the intervening time, so he doesn't already know things, but he's very interesting in learning. Cell phones, computers, gaming consoles, cars. He wants it. And that provides some of the best character moments in the series.

Absolutely agree on the others, especially #5. And he's definitely aware of facial recognition software -- he's seen it in action!

Date: 2015-06-07 05:55 am (UTC)
madgastronomer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] madgastronomer
I might have to check that out.

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