KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Issue Six

Issue Six teaser: Mel Campbell ‘The Power of Friendship: Social Control and Personal Politics in Misfits’

by Guest Author , June 30, 20111 Comment

So for our final teaser for Issue Six before its release on July 4th. Mel Campbell reviews the award-winning British TV series Misfits, which successfully welds sci-fi, drama, comedy and social critique.

When Misfits first aired, critics widely compared it to the American sci-fi drama Heroes, branding it variously: ‘Heroes with an ASBO’, ‘Britain’s answer to Heroes’, and ‘Heroes for chavs’. In a more admiring vein that perhaps reflects dissatisfaction with Heroes’ later seasons, Misfits was also dubbed: ‘What Heroes should have been’ and ‘Heroes, minus the suck’.

The series do have striking similarities. Both follow a motley group of mostly youthful protagonists who are mysteriously granted superpowers. Both depict characters grappling with the implications of their new-found abilities, while evading antagonists who are threatening them. And both are set in a heightened version of the real world, where quotidian dramas mingle with paranormal episodes.

Heroes, however, is explicitly grounded in the American tradition of superhero comics, especially the angstier and grittier style epitomised by Stan Lee’s work on Marvel Comics such as Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men. Heroes reflects superhero comics’ Manichaean themes and preoccupation with ‘origin stories’, and its major source of narrative drama is whether superpowers should be used selfishly or altruistically.

The series also mirrors comic books in its episodic structure and its visual language. The UK series that best explores these American themes is the 2008 ITV sitcom No Heroics, which exploits for comedic effect the possibilities of comic-book superheroes living openly in mainstream Britain. By contrast, Misfits deliberately refuses superhero genre conventions. While its characters joke about how they could harness their powers (‘There’s always one who can fly!’ says a hopeful Nathan), it’s treated with dark humour:

Simon: What if we’re meant to be, like, superheroes?

Nathan: No offence, but in what kind of fucked-up world is that allowed to happen?

Alisha: I did not sign up for that.

Kelly: What if there’s loads of people like us all over town?

Nathan: No, that kind of thing only happens in America.

But Kelly is right. The Misfits gradually encounter many others whose powers – acquired in the freak storm – reflect their personalities, habits and desires.

The pleasures of Misfits lie in the unfurling friendships between its five central characters. Successive episodes reveal more about the circumstances that landed them in community service, and show the group banding together to escape immediate dangers, bantering and squabbling their way from distrust and enmity to respect and understanding.

Misfits also offers a shrewd, exuberant debunking of moral panics surrounding the UK’s ‘ASBO generation’. Introduced in 1998, the Anti-Social Behaviour Order was a Blair Government initiative restricting behaviour deemed to harass, alarm or distress the general public. ASBOs prohibit individuals from behaving in specified ways; violation of the order is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years’ jail. They’re imposed for petty offences including public drunkenness, theft, vandalism, noise pollution, littering, billposting and fare evasion.

While the oldest ASBO recipient to date is an 87-year-old man forbidden to be sarcastic to his neighbours (and who subsequently violated the order three times), the orders are widely perceived as a panicked crackdown on youthful pleasures – drinking, street art, break-dancing, congregating in public places and organising unlicensed dance parties. However, they also disproportionately target the socioeconomically disadvantaged and the mentally ill.

Being the subject of an ASBO can be either a social stigma or a perverse badge of pride. Early in season one of Misfits, a humiliated Curtis reminds the group he doesn’t have an ASBO, repeatedly insisting, ‘I shouldn’t be here.’ Meanwhile, as the group dumps Tony’s body into a shallow grave, Nathan quips: ‘I’m pretty sure this breaches the terms of my ASBO!’

- Pre-order Kill Your Darlings Issue Six or subscribe to the print journal here.




  • Mark

    Ahhh! Can’t wait to read this. LOVE misfits – and why can’t we get it on free-to-air or even pay tv here?

Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

money

David Donaldson

When does lobbying become corruption?

Whether it’s Clive Palmer buying his way into parliament, the recent, varied ICAC revelations of dodgy fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, or the refusal or inability of successive governments to effectively tackle powerful corporate interests in industries like gambling, mining, media, and junk food, there is a feeling among many Australians that democracy is up for sale. Read more »

cluster munition

David Donaldson

How to make treaties and influence people

In an era when Russia can annex Ukrainian territory, when the Refugee Convention is regularly flouted, and when nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop the carnage in Syria, it can be tempting to ask: what can international law actually achieve? Read more »

My Salinger Year

Carody Culver

Searching for Mr Salinger

Joanna Rakoff’s book is ‘the truth, told as best [she] could’, of her year as an assistant at one of New York’s oldest literary agencies, a job for which many an Arts graduate would sell a kidney. Read more »

editing

Carody Culver

Giving voice to a silent profession

The role editors play in the process of ushering new writing into the world is both vitally important and strangely overlooked. Read more »

354_1

Hannah Kent

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Hannah Kent defends Highbrow Literature

I understand why many people have a problem with highbrow literature. ‘Intellectual snobbery’ is a common accusation, as though the reason people read and write the stuff is solely to intimidate their dinner guests. ‘Highbrow literature is for wankers,’ I hear them say. Well, ladies and gentlemen, so is Fifty Shades of Grey. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Is she Mariah, the ‘elusive’ chanteuse?

Two weeks ago, Mariah Carey launched her fourteenth studio album, Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s hilarious not only because the title is so long and happily shameless but because Mariah has long styled herself as one of the least elusive pop stars in the pop music galaxy. Read more »

Douglass books

Julia Tulloh

High fantasy writers who aren’t George RR Martin, and who are also women

‘Tolkien is the greatest burden the modern fantasy author must labour under and eventually escape from if they are to succeed.’ So wrote Australian high fantasy writer, Sara Douglass, a decade and a half ago. Replace Tolkien with George RR Martin, and one might say the same principle applies today. Read more »

Conchita Wurst

Julia Tulloh

Why Eurovision 2014 was a bit disappointing

No one watches Eurovision to discover surprise new talent, or even to hear good singing. I watch it for the kitschy, pop-tastic visual onslaught which rarely fails to assault viewers. Read more »

Gabrielle

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Beyond tics, limps and prosthetics

Think of a disability – mental or physical – and there’s sure to be a film that features it. What about giving big roles to actors who actually live with the disability they’re depicting? Now that would be authentic. Read more »

Under the Skin

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Size Matters

Bigger isn’t always better, but some films will open themselves up to you and pour themselves out in new ways when you see them on a cinema screen. Read more »

Babadook

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Bad Mothers

Movies – especially horror and psychological thrillers – have always loved to explore and exorcise our deepest fears, and when it comes to mothers those fears are many. Read more »

5881861191_90de8b5bc9

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Making trolls eat their words

If we’re not conscious of a troll’s desired response, we risk inadvertently encouraging further trolling by allowing ourselves to be played. Read more »

filter

Reality vs. Instagram

It’s been over three years since Instagram launched, and we’re still not sure whether processing a photograph might be considered akin to doctoring a memory. Read more »

2014 Budget

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Could we crowdfund the dole?

Following the announcement of the 2014 budget, the director of a leading arts organisation posed a question on Facebook: ‘What recourse do the people have to stop these changes? What are next steps? Would be curious to know of any other effective measures to get the message across… apart from complaining on Twitter.’ Read more »

tumblr_inline_n6wz16ohb91r8e10g

Danielle Binks

YA is the New Black

Apparently those of us who do read and enjoy youth literature should be ‘embarrassed’. At least that’s what Ruth Graham said in her recent clickbait article for Slate, ‘Against YA’. Read more »

A Little Pretty Pocket Book

Danielle Binks

Who run the book world? GIRLS!

‘It’s no wonder boys aren’t reading – the children’s book market is run by women.’ So claimed the headline of an April article in The Times.

*Cue Liz Lemon eye-roll* Read more »

The Fault in Our Stars

Danielle Binks

The Fault in the Cult of John Green

I like John Green as much as the next YA-aficionado. I’ve snot-cried through his books, and chuckled over his YouTube videos. But now it’s time to talk about the media-led oversaturation of John Green, and the insulting way he’s been heralded as the saviour of young adult fiction. Read more »

splash

Chad Parkhill

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

The Soft Pink Truth’s new album ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage’ demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Read more »

The Knife

Chad Parkhill

Never Settled: The Knife’s Shaken-Up Versions

Making live electronic music engaging is a difficult task, and The Knife’s Silent Shout tour shows a band committed to breaking the visual cliché of performers standing still behind banks of electronic equipment. Read more »

Tori Amos

Chad Parkhill

Loving (and hating) Tori Amos

Tori Amos is hardly to blame for the existence of her fans’ expectations, nor for their disappointment when her work does not live up to them – but that doesn’t prevent that disappointment from feeling intensely personal. Read more »

Alg-90210-jpg

Stephanie Van Schilt

Sick-Person TV

The only upside to getting sick was the many afternoons I spent curled up on the couch at home, watching daytime TV. I inhaled the drama of pre-recorded episodes of Beverley Hills 90210 while playing with my Brandon and Dylan sticker collection (interspersed with sporadic vomiting). Read more »

The_Million_Dollar_Drop_logo

Nicholas J Johnson

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nicholas J Johnson defends Lowbrow TV

I can’t stop looking at Eddie McGuire’s smug, stupid face. It’s not my fault. It’s just I’ve never been this close to the man before, and it’s not until now that I’ve realised how oddly smooth and tanned his skin is. As if someone has stretched the orange bladder from a football over a slab of marble. Read more »

deadwood-03-1024

Zora Sanders

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Zora Sanders defends Highbrow TV

I’m going to be honest with you. I feel a little guilty being gifted highbrow TV as a subject to defend. Highbrow TV doesn’t need a defender! It’s a battle that has been won! Highbrow TV is downright fucking awesome and every single person reading this already knows it. Read more »