Heroes Season 2: Okay, but Monica is awesome

As promised yesterday, the good news from Season 2 of Heroes: Monica Dawson.

Monica is a black teenager (Micah’s cousin) living with her family in New Orleans. I don’t recall that the show specifies the exact ways that Hurricane Katrina affected this family, but among them is that Monica has become the primary breadwinner. She’s put her college dreams on hold and is working full time at a burger joint. Even prior to realizing her heroic ability, she’s a great character–strong, hopeful, and loving toward her family members.

Her power is that she can learn to do pretty much anything just by watching someone (even on television) do it, and it manifests when she stops a robbery at her workplace using very Buffy-style martial arts skills. First of all, this is a great power, with so much potential. Second, it’s nice that she learns about it by showing agency and actual, you know, heroism rather than by becoming a victim of her own abilities/lack of control the way so many of the other women have. And third, I am so glad to finally see one of the female heroes react to their new power with some sense of excitement–though she’s a little intimidated by the idea, she almost immediately turns on a Bruce Lee movie and starts imitating the moves in front of the television.

So she’s an awesome character, but what I personally like most about her storyline is the way actual everyday examples of sexism and racism are not ignored in terms of the way others treat her, and the realities of what she struggles against are not glossed over. People in her life are shown trying to hold her back and convince her that she’s just another poor black girl, so she would be better off accepting her station and forgetting all those silly dreams she has. These “silly dreams” consist of such mundane goals as a college education or a managerial position at the fast-food restaurant. After taking the manager’s test, her boss tells her that although she did very well, she won’t be getting the manager’s training based on his assumption that she wouldn’t be able to leave her family (refusing to accept that she’s the primary income and so her family would have to go with her). Her best friend tried to tell her not to bother taking the test in the first place, and then, when Monica stops the robbery, asks “How did you do that? And more importantly, why did you do that?” The message she sends there is clear: it doesn’t really matter if you’re obviously capable. You shouldn’t bother trying to change anything–everything is hopeless. It strikes me as extremely realistic that Monica would have to constantly fight these low expectations, projected assumptions about her role in her family, and attitudes that fighting to make change–in other words, being a hero–is just not worth it.

In a show about heroism appearing in the real world, isn’t she exactly the model we need to see? It gives me hope that the writers get that, but at the same time, that makes me wonder just how they can fail so miserably with the other female characters.

Comments

  1. scarlett says

    Monica is so cool. I love that a) she got a cool power (no Nicki or Maya) b) she’s keen on seeing what she can do with that power and 3) she’s proactive about using that power defensively. In our geeky list of which heroes had the coolest powers, my brother and I put Monica fourth, bumping down Claire :p

    Having said that, I can’t help but think that Claire has a cool power too, and claire started off season one running around filming herself doing literally death-defying stunts, then they quickly turned it into her hiding her power and needing to be hidden from Silar. While I hope and pray they don’t do it, I can see them going the same way with Monica.

  2. sbg says

    Thank you for putting exactly why I like Monica so succinctly. She rocks, and I really hope they 1) keep it up and 2) give her an adequate share of the story.

  3. Lindsey says

    So glad to see a XX hero with no fear of using her powers. They’re treading a thin line though from the looks of the last episode with her and Surresh, where she appeared more apprehensive than ever (but that probably would happen to any of us should some strange man appear and take us to a strange facility).

    They better not kill her off! Tim Kring has said some newbies will die off in his apology for the second season. I was so disappointed when Eden and Charlie got killed, and even Candance! They love killing the cool women for some reason.

  4. SunlessNick says

    Her power is that she can learn to do pretty much anything just by watching someone (even on television) do it

    Does this apply to the other characters’ powers? Because that would be all kinds of awesome.

  5. scarlett says

    My brother and I talked about this – we came to the conclusion that in all liklihood, Monica would only be able to copy things that the human body (at least, the non-Hero human body) is physiologically capable of. So she could learn to be a martial arts expert even if her body wasn’t in a physically fit position for it, but she couldn’t learn to heal herself of shoot out lightning bolts.

    But that was just our theory :p

  6. says

    The character of Candice was killed because actress Missy Peregrym moved on to a starring role on the show Reaper. Her character was originally intended to have a long story arc with Sylar, and Missy wanted to continue in the role, but her duties on the new show tool precedence. That is why the character was killed/written out of the storyline, not because the writers “…love killing the cool women for some reason.”

  7. says

    John Foley, as discussed here, she’d already BEEN replaced with another actor, which was particularly easy to do given her power, so the original actor’s departure really can’t have been the reason they killed off the character.

  8. MaggieCat says

    My brother and I talked about this – we came to the conclusion that in all liklihood, Monica would only be able to copy things that the human body (at least, the non-Hero human body) is physiologically capable of.

    That’s what it is- no copying of superpowers. If a normal human being can’t feasibly do it, neither can she. Or at least that’s what the creators have said. Having her able to copy any superpower would just make her Peter part 2, and I want better for her than that. I spend most of my time wanting to smack Peter.

    John Foley, as discussed here, she’d already BEEN replaced with another actor, which was particularly easy to do given her power, so the original actor’s departure really can’t have been the reason they killed off the character.

    It still is a lot of the reason. They knew Peregrym was leaving so they cast a new actress specifically for a single episode because the audience refuses to believe offscreen deaths. (Which from what I’ve seen is definitely true.) They realized too late that they liked the new actress, but by that point a lot of the season had been planned from that point, so there wasn’t any way to go back. (Producer/Director Greg Beeman discussed it here.) I think something Greg Grunberg said in one of the commentaries applies: “Sometimes the plot moves forward and characters get left behind.”

    Now that fact that it’s frequently the women who get left behind is another point altogether. I actually have huge issues with the way they killed Candice off (I thought I had a post, but I seem to have misplaced it at the moment) even while I agree that they actually did need to get rid of her power at some point for the story to work.

  9. scarlett says

    Well, bro and I agreed that Peter had the cooler power, but I think Monica has much greater scope to be an interesting character.

  10. SunlessNick says

    Having her able to copy any superpower would just make her Peter part 2, and I want better for her than that. - MaggieCat

    As I read the post, I had the image of Sylar trying to open her head up, and her knitting it back together, which I thought would be cool; then in the episode I just saw, Peter did it. So now I feel the same way as you. And I hope she sticks around.

  11. SunlessNick says

    Thread necromancy… :)

    Heroes season 2 has started showing here, and I’m just up to Monica’s first episode. I don’t know if the show will live up to it, but her debut is everying I’d hoped for after reading this.

    People in her life are shown trying to hold her back and convince her that she’s just another poor black girl, so she would be better off accepting her station and forgetting all those silly dreams she has.

    This is a particularly good part because the people holding her back aren’t bad or nasty; they’re just a little more crushed than her.

    She’s exactly what I wanted in the show – the other enthusiastic hero we have is Hiro, who is right away on the big and epic – here we have someone on a more normal scale, intent on making her own life, and hopefully her corner of the world, a little bit better. Given the general tone of the show, I’ll assume she ends up in the epic sooner or later,* but I’m glad to see the personal for a bit.

    Though I also note how she refers to a sense of being meant to do something better – the first female character to express that sentiment, if I recall.

    And I think her power is the one I’d most want out of any in the show so far.

    * Or gets killed. She’d better not get killed.

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