"When the Nights Were Long and the Days Were Deep": Fairy-tale Forms and Feminism in Lovretta's Killjoys
Michelle Lovretta’s Killjoys features technological spectacle with an underlying narrative drive of fairy-tale. Dutch is a runaway assassin-princess educated through stories that open with a form of “Once Upon a Time”: “When the nights were long and the days were deep…” (Lovretta & Boxen). The television series focuses on the Green: a parasitic liquid that transforms humans into Hullen, and exists outside the body as pools of networked memory. The Green first appears as a neurobinder, biological computer, blood analogue and mysterious pool on a dead planet; it is reframed as a vessel that holds memory and creates spaces for story. Sofia’s reading of container technologies tells us the container is not a simple or passive holding body, but a mechanism of change. The Green and the fairy-tale operate in tandem as transformative containers of storytelling. The fairy-tale frame is a tool of transformation, making Lovretta’s work both feminine and feminist.
Christina Fawcett teaches English at the University of Winnipeg. A monster theorist with a PhD from the University of Glasgow, her work examines monstrous spaces in Young Adult Literature and video games, focusing on ludics, player experience, and character. Current projects address monstrous environments, trauma, and emotion in participatory narratives.
Leather-Clad Dominatrices, Machine-Gun Girls, and Greened-Up Bad-Ass Bitches: Reading Prosthetically Enhanced Femme Subjects in Killjoys Against the Grain
It would be easy to dismiss Michelle Lovretta’s Killjoys as a misogynist science fiction that deploys female characters as figurative males. In their embodiments of the figure of the dominatrix, their love of phallic weaponry, and their tendency toward the type of violence that has traditionally been monopolized by male action heroes, they evoke masculine power. The central Dutch-Khlyen relationship, however, is key to understanding Killjoy’s queer orientation toward violent, badass women even if, at first glance, it seems to merely reproduce Orientalist and girl-assassin tropes. Depictions of male and LGBTQ characters and parodic perversions of sexist and colonialist genres such as the Western supplement the Dutch-Khlyen relationship in queer-/querying gender and the anxieties that the green — interpreted here as a metaphor for the posthuman — provokes in all who encounter it. Killjoys is an innovative queer text that ultimately troubles the notion of the tough female character as figurative male.
Heather Snell is Associate Professor of English at the University of Winnipeg. She specializes in postcolonial cultural studies with a special interest in speculative fiction. She is currently working on two projects, one that explores psychogeography in North American YA texts and another that explores postcolonial literary engagements with tourism.
The Green as Elemental Media
Killjoys imagines a future in which a parasitic plasma known as “the green” operates as an information conduit. In “The Green as Elemental Media,” I approach the green as an allegory for networked digital technologies. Following John Durham Peters, I explore the green as an instance of elemental media: “vessels and environments, containers of possibility that anchor our existence and make what we are doing possible.”
The green also displays what Wendy Chun calls the “dream of programmability”: a sociotechnical orientation toward the collective data we leave behind as organizable into “programmable visions that extrapolate the future — or, more precisely, a future — based on the past.” With digital networked technologies as key “infrastructures of being, the habitats and materials through which we act and are” (Peters), Killjoys’ green plasma helps us imagine the directions such elemental media may take in the future.
Andrea Braithwaite, PhD, is an Associate Teaching Professor in Communication and Digital Media Studies at Ontario Tech University. Her research examines gendered discourses of sociability and belonging in pop culture. She looks at gender, crime, and detection stories across media, especially Canadian media. She also discusses representations of and responses to feminist activism in online and gaming communities.
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