Maria Ramos

Maria Violet is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy.

orphan black_girlsThe science fiction in Orphan Black has been highly praised for its realistic depictions of genetic engineering, human cloning, and the ethics behind it all. However, this is not the only true or relevant aspect of the show. Its large cast of female characters are at the heart of the story and this is primarily what makes the series so believable and real. Without the intrusion of dominant male characters to define who they are, these women are portrayed as multidimensional, fully realized individuals who can think and act for themselves–much like women outside your television screen.

Those who have not watched the show and experienced what these women are made of, may, from the outside, see some cliches: Sarah is a punk rock con artist; Alison is a suburban, straight-laced soccer mom; Cosima is a nerdy PhD student; and Helena is a trained murderer with a dark past. Although these stereotypes presumably encapsulate their personalities, there is much more to them than what’s on the surface. And despite them being clones and coming from the same genome, in no way are they exact replicas of each other, unlike the cookie cutter versions of women seen on many other television shows today.

Sarah-OrphanSarah Manning is the main protagonist and within the first few minutes of her airtime, we see a criminal who’s made a handful of poor choices. However, she is much more than that. She’s a mother, a sister, and part of a bigger and controversial issue that surrounds her and her sister clones. We come to learn that her intentions are not all bad as she will fight tirelessly for her own, and her clone sisters’, freedom and individuality. She could have very easily been put into a box as the punk character constantly doing the wrong thing, needing to be saved. But Sarah doesn’t need anyone to save her because she is fully capable of saving herself. Tatiana Maslany plays the parts of all the clones in the show and because they are all vastly different characters, we constantly see the breadth of Maslany’s talent.

Orphan Black is a show that seeks to portray empowered women and is a genuine celebration of diversity. Although the clones are unalike and come from different backgrounds, they support each other, love each other, and want the best for each other. This can not always be said for other televisions shows that pit woman against woman in meaningless antagonisms, which only reinforce the stereotype that women are overly dramatic. No…in Orphan Black we find a family that works together for their collective happiness.

felix_jordan-garavisThe men in this show are less fully realised: Paul is a secretive man easily distracted by sex; Art is a typical cop; Vic is an abusive drug dealer. They are mostly antagonists, created to get in Sarah and the clones’ way. The only man in the series who is consistently smart, strong, and worth anything is Felix Dawkins (played by Jordan Gavaris), Sarah’s adopted brother. Felix could have easily been written as “the gay comic relief”, but instead was able to transcend the labels and become something more. He’s an integral part of the show, and his sexuality (like Cosima’s) is just seen as another piece of who he is and not a defining characteristic to focus on for either comedic or dramatic purposes.

There’s been some discussion that perhaps Orphan Black goes too far in its poor treatment of male characters. Many believe they are one dimensional in order to make the female characters stronger and more important. And while it does seem like they do spend the majority of their time as set dressing and background filler, that may be less because they are being marginalised and more because they simply aren’t the main focus of the show.

Sarah, her sister-clones, and their stories are what makes this series worth watching. They move the story forward without any man or tragic event to help them develop. Though the fourth season will not be here until next year, you can catch previous episodes on Netflix, DirecTV, and Comcast Xfinity. That way, you won’t have to miss your favourite clones breaking down walls and destroying stereotypes. Although Orphan Black isn’t as well known and watched as Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black, it is just as worthwhile.

orphan black_girlsHaven’t I been raving about Canadian TV for a while? Well, Orphan Black really seals it for me. What a great show! I’ve just watched season 2 which contained, what I think is, my favourite ever scene on TV–the clone dance.

For those of you who don’t know the series, this is the gist from wiki:

Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction television series created by screenwriter Graeme Manson and director John Fawcett, starring Tatiana Maslany as several identical people who are revealed to be clones. The series focuses on Sarah Manning, a woman who assumes the identity of one of her clones, Elizabeth Childs after witnessing Childs’ suicide. The series raises issues about the moral and ethical implications of human cloning and its effect on issues of personal identity.

There are so many good things to say about Tatiana’s acting, and how she gives such defined and individual characterisation to each clone. Never once, do you feel like you’re watching the same actor switching parts. It’s quite a remarkable feat.

Tatiana is well supported by Jordan Gavaris as her foster brother Felix, and some other great actors: Maria Doyle Kennedy, Matt Frewer, Michale Mando, and little Skylar Wexler, who is quite astounding as Sarah’s daughter Kira. (Go ‘neting and you’ll find her singing a simply amazing version of Rolling in the Deep by Adele. Stunning.) Some of the minor characters have great impact as well… Kristian Bruun as Donny, Michael Huisman as Cal, and Michelle Forbes as Marion Bowles stand out.

So, to the clone dance. I kind of had shivers watching the scene below, where Tatiana is choreographed in a complex pattern of movement so that they can splice together what seems like the four clones dancing with Felix. Aside from the fact that it’s a funky little remix–Music by Adham Shaikh, “Water Prayer”: Mat the Alien Remix.–the distinct dance styles and the sense of love on the dance floor is unbelievable. I’m lost for superlatives.

Much has been made of the fact that Tatiana has been snubbed at the major awards. My response is fairly blunt: what a bunch of douchebags that they can’t acknowledge the power of what she has achieved. Did she not go to the right acting school or something?

Risk taking, meaty content, great dialogue, mostly fab acting and a fresh and energetic cast puts Orphan Black in a class of its own. Bravo BBC America!

Clone Dance Party

 

Season One Trailer

 

Season Two Trailer

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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