English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: Michelle Lovretta

Small Choices of Camera Make Big Differences

With the rise of online streaming and various alternative television channels, low budget television shows have been on the rise again. Although these TV shows might have been produced with a small budget, many of them are still able to capture the attention of its audience just like the major blockbusters, with prime examples being KillJoys and in movies the Hallmark movies.

Coping with its low budget, we don’t see fancy CGI being used in Killjoys and it is often shot on simple sets, while the external locations are usually just old factories or farms. What made Killjoys enjoyable and stood out among other TV shows was its near excellent use of cinematography. It’s uses of camera angles and how it designed the compositions of the scenes, effectively constructed the atmospheres of each scene while building up the personality of the characters in the show. Today, we shall be discussing how effective cinematography has propelled Killjoys to its success.


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Example of how a tense atmosphere is constructed just by the cinematography


Have you ever wondered why your focus has always fallen on Dutch while watching the series? Don’t worry, this isn’t something wrong on your part. In fact, it is something the director wanted its audience to do. Apart from Dutch having a longer screen time than the two other main characters (individually), notice how when Dutch is on screen with other characters, she is often placed in the centre of the screen. Although just watching through the episodes, it is pretty hard to notice its effects, as on first sight the characters will be seen on the same ground by us. However, as cognitive misers, especially we turn our brain off while watching TV, what is at the centre of the screen easily becomes our centre of interest. The director’s use of screen composition subtly guides us on who to focus. We usually won’t notice this, but it is this extra time we focus on Dutch, especially when she is with other characters that lead us to become more connected with her over the other. This allows the screenwriters to ultimately “force” a bond between the audience and Dutch.



How Dutch is the Center of Interest


Throughout the series, we are also often given the feeling that Dutch is a woman with a strong character and excellent fighting ability. Apart from the actions she has been seen doing – single-handedly fending off a whole group of mercenaries or directly confronting Delle an Aneela, as you can guess the use of camera also plays a great role here.  Indeed, this can be attributed to the use of low angles shots for Dutch in the show. Same as the reason why your friends might like to take low angle photos, low angle photos can make a person seem more confident and stronger. It makes a person taller and, in the process, distorting body portions resulting in a misjudgment by the audience. The director of Killjoys plays around with this effect, allowing Dutch to remain more confident and dominant over other characters even in crises, strengthening her image while preserving a natural storyline.


A video on the effects of camera angles:


Killjoys – Revolutionizing Gender Norms on Television

By now you should have now realised KillJoys is known for having a female show creator, and it shouldn’t surprise you the way women are portrayed in KillJoys is unlike most other TV Shows.

Female show-creators, although aren’t rare, isn’t common either. KillJoys is exceptional because it has a female creator who truly had her own say, allowing the adoption and portrayal of characters which is unlike most popular TV shows. Female characters in the show consist of a wild spectrum, from the lead protagonist and hero such as Dutch to the antagonist and extremely evil characters such as Delle and Aneela. Although all the female characters may have varying motives, they can all be called a hero as each of them undoubtedly had their own heroic moments. Even the most nefarious female villain in the show, who have unquestionably committed unspeakable crimes, are presented their other side of their sense of inarguable rightness and greater motive, which manages to win over the audience’s sympathy and admiration over the long run.


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Delle Seyah Kendry in Killjoys

Just as female villains aren’t necessarily manipulative like how they are often portrayed in popular culture, a protagonist is neither always heroic or selfless. Dutch as a prime example has often veered off to her self-desires during missions, most notably trying he save her “mentor” regardless of knowing the crime he had committed. On the other hand, Dutch’s background is also gradually revealed during season 2 – turns out she was from a wealthy family. From Dutch’s perspective, here background is full of sorrows, although this was questioned in season 3 when alternatives of Dutch’s background events were revealed. Afterall just like the villains maybe Dutch was trying to gain sympathy.

But then when you add the questionable acts of “The Company ” and Killjoys and the story mostly told from Dutch’s perspective, who knows who’s the actual villain of the Quad.

Nonetheless, the portrayal of Dutch as the captain of the team and the ship, while seemingly holding a monopoly over power allow females to reach a new height within popular TV culture. This also defies the social norms TV shows have always been engraining us with. Dutch is a fighter, an assassin, a killer and a strategist; something females wouldn’t have been portrayed as in TV just a decade before. At the same time, Dutch doesn’t lead a team of female fighters. Instead, both of her team members – John and D’avin – are both men. Dutch as a female dominates men, reversing the stereotype of males being dominant over women. The character of Dutch on television definitely revolutionize popular culture while its appeal towards the audience and the success it has achieved speaks for the gender imbalance in television women have always been enduring.


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Dutch leading the charge in season 1 episode 4

Killjoys have certainly made a great stride forward in how females are portrayed in television shows. However, apart from how women are portrayed, KillJoys have also made a breakthrough in season 3 – the cast of a large number of disabled actors. Read more about it here.

Killjoys Experiences with a New Theme – Non-Sexual Relationships

Today, we’ll be exploring the themes present in “Killjoys”. Since you’re back, I expect that you have a genuine interest in “Killjoys” and have already watched it. I’ll try to minimize the number of spoilers, but if you are still worried you may consider watching the first 5 episodes before reading on.


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Michelle Lovretta


In August 2015, the showrunner of the Killjoys series Michelle Lovretta interviewed with Veronica Scott of USA Today – Happy Ever After. In the interview, Michelle points out one of the major themes that ran through season 1 of Killjoys – a “non-sexual relationship” between characters of different genders. In fact, the sexual relationship of main characters with others of opposite sex have become somewhat defining of television shows since the 2000s. This includes major hits such as Jane the Virgin, Game of Thrones and The Good Place, which have featured sexual relationships between characters of opposite gender (or sometimes the same) as one of the storylines, for some being the entire driving force of the show.


Hannah John-Kamen as Dutch and Luke Macfarlane as D'avin on Killjoys. (Photo: Syfy.com)

Main Characters Dutch and D’avin of Killjoys


Michelle’s Killjoys certainly proves that sexual relationship between characters within a TV show isn’t the key to a successful series. Adopting a non-sexual relationship theme, the relationship between Dutch and Johnny, as well as D’avin who joins later on, is more of a brother and sister relationship. They certainly do not have any sexual affection towards each other (please don’t argue the relationship between Johnny and Lucy is), and none of their action and the decisions they make can be attributed it. Instead, the whole season is progressed by the values of each character, both similar and different, such as families, friends and loyalty. The departure from using sexual relationships as a storyline and adopting a non-sexual relationship theme brings out the brotherhood and sisterhood in the series together with the added benefit of making the motives of characters appear much brighter. At the same time, this usage of the theme of non-sexual relationship criticises the overgeneralisation of sexual relationship in pop culture while providing an alternative for the audience.


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Lucy in Killjoys


Furthermore, the successful adoption of a non-sexual relationship theme demonstrates romance isn’t essential for TV shows to grasp the attention of its audience. Instead, one without could still have the same elements of action, sympathy and arguments while being more easily understandable and relatable. This provides the audience with a completely different experience, probably one that the general population would easily connect and relate to. After all, not everyone has experienced or like romance, while on the contrary, everyone has experienced some kind of brotherhood/sisterhood.

This brings us to what this theme of non-sexual relationship contributes. While it certainly makes us reflect how pop culture has been overusing sexual-relationship to capture audiences’ attention, it also brings out the decisions we as human beings often must make; what is more important? Family? Friend? Loyalty? Responsibilities …… In case you need a reminder, life is not always a choice between who do you love or choosing between a sexual relationship or something else.


Liszewski, Bridget. “KILLJOYS’ MICHELLE LOVRETTA WRITES WHAT SHE LOVES”. Thetvjunkies.Com, 2016, https://www.thetvjunkies.com/killjoys-michelle-lovretta-writes-what-she-loves/. Accessed 11 Sept 2018.

Sara-goodwin. “Interview: Killjoys’ Tamsen McDonough Talks Fan Experiences, Playing a Spaceship & Being Part of the MCU.” The Mary Sue, The Mary Sue, 1 Nov. 2016, www.themarysue.com/interview-killjoys-tamsen-mcdonough/. Accessed 12 Sept 2018.

Scott, Veronica. “Interview: Michelle Lovretta, Creator of SyFy’s ‘Killjoys’.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 29 June 2016, happyeverafter.usatoday.com/2015/08/20/veronica-scott-killjoys-michelle-lovretta-interview/. Accessed 11 Sept 2018.



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