Okay, I was in middle school when Dark Angel started airing. The admission, I’m sure, makes me look like an infant or incomprehensibly ancient to most of the people reading this (that’s how people outside of their mid-twenties seem to me as soon as I get context (“You were already in college on 9/11? Were you born in the Great Depression?”). It was the first time that I ever saw Jessica Alba (who is/was super gorgeous, of course—a a super cute classmate in eighth grade had a picture of her on the inside of his locker), and it was apparently created, in part, by James Cameron.
Whose name now gets the James Cameron Song in my head. Thank you, South Park, for being brilliant.
Anyway, at the time, while I was an intelligent middle school student, I was, well, a middle school student. Certain things totally went over my head (which can happen at many ages—when I was eight years old, I did not recognize the gay men or the prostitutes on Batman: The Animated Series). I appreciated some aspects of Dark Angel, but others, well, either did not seem like as big of a deal at the time or escaped my notice.
As an adult, I’ve gone back and watched a few things that I enjoyed when I was much younger. In some cases, things that I treasured when I was younger have turned out to be comically bad. In other cases, they were even better than I had thought. On a whim, I decided to watch Dark Angel (probably just an episode or two) about a month ago, to see what it was like, though I was fairly certain that it would turn out to be just a pretty-lead-actress-beats-up-men-and-shows-some-skin show.
My prediction was incorrect. Like, hot damn, it was incorrect. I ended up watching the entire first season in a fairly short amount of time.
And I’m not going to give you a summary of the show. It’s good. Watch it. If you need to know more than this, read the Wikipedia entry or something.
Dark Angel was surprisingly feminist. Even now, it’s unusual to hear a straight male character on television referred to as a “slut.” It’s accurate about plenty of male heterosexual characters, but a straight guy who sleeps around is still typically referred to as a “stud,” if anything at all. In the pilot, the protagonist casually refers to her straight male friend as a slut—it’s no big deal. Like it should always be in real life.
Dark Angel is filled with feminism, racial diversity, and a kind of awareness that is still unusual now—and was pretty unusual for a show that aired when Clinton was President (not that any of that was President Clinton’s fault, obviously). One of the main characters is a lesbian, and not only is she not characterized as man-hating or butch, she is also not treated—at all—as a sexual object for male viewers. The protagonist, Max (Jessica Alba) is a bit reserved about her sexuality (or, rather, she is hesitant to have meaningless sex), which may be some internalized stigmatization about sex, but this is a character with an awful background. I do not think that she is supposed to be the “role model” for viewers, with her two best female friends (a lesbian and a heterosexual slut) as the “bad examples.” I think that her disposition makes sense for her character and fits into an “it takes all types” world-view.
Which is awesome.
Max (again, the protagonist, played by Jessica Alba) does kick ass. Which is fun to watch. Seriously. I could watch her beat up soldiers and one-handedly choke pedophiles all. Day. Long.
Her male costar is way handsomer on this show than he is on NCIS (Michael Weatherly), and he is wheelchair-bound for most of the first season. He is also a ten-years-early prediction of Anonymous—in the form of someone who hacks television feeds under the pseudonym “Eyes Only.”
And that’s not the end of the predictions (of a show that aired in 2000 but is set in 2019). Law-enforcement (in this sort of post-apocalyptic setting, which is the result of a major terrorist attack) is assisted by “hoverdrones,” which are unmanned aerial surveillance drones. Does that sound familiar to anyone?
Look, watch the show. It’s not perfect, but it is brilliant. There are two seasons. Plus, you get to have fun identifying actors on it who are much better known now (Jensen Ackles, who plays Dean Winchester on Supernatural, is on an episode, and so is the actress who plays his mother. Also, Pam from True Blood gets dangled off of a balcony by her ankle in the first episode).