Killjoys: Breaking through the Double Standard

Syfy/Bell Media
Syfy/Bell Media

Despite the fact that it’s 2016 and gender equality in front of and behind our television screens is getting better and better, there’s still a very big double standard that exists when it comes to male versus female characters on television. Similar to real life, when a male character has several different sexual partners he’s often patted on the back (way to go bro! stud!), but when a female character displays similar type behavior she’s criticized, perceived as damaged or looked down upon (slut!). While change can be slow, thankfully there are shows like Killjoys out there who are not only breaking, but completely shattering these antiquated double standards.

While Season 2 of Killjoys has certainly been the Year of the Woman, focusing on several different female characters during its sophomore run thus far, make no mistake about it, this is Dutch’s show. Some fans have commented that earlier episodes this season seemed to be pushing Dutch aside and she wasn’t as central as last year, but that’s certainly changed over recent weeks. Hannah John-Kamen has grown nicely into her role this season and completely owns the character in every single facet. Showrunner Michelle Lovretta has said she wanted Dutch to have more fun and be more playful this year–given how young John-Kamen actually is–and we definitely have seen that youthfulness shine through in fun undercover ops or when the actress showed off her singing chops.

But perhaps one of the (many) great things Killjoys has done with Dutch this season is show that a woman is fully capable of having many different types of relationships. Killjoys is a diverse show, not just with its cast, but also in the wide variety of character traits and relationships it portrays. Just as they do in real life, people on Killjoys are not confined to having just one type of relationship or one type of romance and that’s extremely evident with Dutch in Season 2. While she may have connected with D’avin (Luke Macfarlane) in Season 1 over shared experiences, we’re now seeing her connect with Alvis (Morgan Kelly) in a different, but equally important manner. Lovretta has even hinted that she’d really love to give Dutch a long term relationship in Season 3, exploring what a committed, extended and meaningful romance would look like for her.

Syfy/Bell Media
Syfy/Bell Media

While no one’s “number” should matter any more, on television there’s a sexual double standard that female characters are still judged harshly by. Even a character that was as liberated and upfront about her choices as Samantha (Kim Cattrall) on Sex and the City took heat for the choices she made, while a male character acting the same way would be congratulated or held in high esteem. The only way we can move past such old-fashioned thoughts and fight these double standards is to stop using these labels and changing up the way women, like Dutch, who embrace their sexuality are portrayed.

Killjoys proves time and again that it’s far from the typical TV show, never labelling Dutch as weak or portraying the fact that she needs to find comfort as a character flaw. Dutch has a lot on her plate right now. She’s trying to figure out what Khlyen (Rob Stewart) is up to, who she really is and where her life is headed. She doesn’t have time for a relationship and Killjoys lets us know that’s perfectly OK. It doesn’t mean something is “wrong” with her character or prove that she’s damaged in some way. The fact that she and Alvis have a casual sexual relationship is perfectly fine in Killjoys’ book.

These two characters have a long history together, but Lovretta has made clear that she doesn’t view their arrangement as romantic in any way. Instead, being with Alvis fulfills a need for Dutch at this moment. She needs the companionship and comfort that he can offer because everything else in her life–Khlyen, her relationship with Johnny (Aaron Ashmore)–is a bit out of control. As Lovretta has stated, “If that’s how Dutch gets her comfort and wants to spend her time then I’m good with that.” Many times on TV, and in life, women who are sexually active like this can be negatively labeled. That negativity can often lead to suppression of such sexual desires, but Killjoys proves that giving into them now and again can be healthy and something that can also empower women.

Syfy/Bell Media
Syfy/Bell Media

All of this doesn’t mean that Dutch is perfect. She’s far from it, but she’s trying and that should count for a heck of a lot. Many critics and fans applauded Jessica Jones when it arrived on the scene last fall for its portrayal of a woman who was a sexual assault survivor and how that affected her sexuality and intimacy levels. Like Dutch, Jessica was a woman not afraid of her own sexuality and going after what she needed. Dutch isn’t a victim of sexual assault, but like Jessica and other female characters similar to her, she has a dark past that has resulted in some very dark sides to her.

In some ways Dutch herself is very much a villain, a fact that most other shows would shy away from or gloss over. Again, Killjoys isn’t most shows. Not only does Dutch confront the dark sides of herself, the villain deep within, but the show is constantly reminding the audience of this fact as well. Some of the dark decisions and choices she’s made are not entirely her fault, but they still have incredible impact on the people around her. No one is more aware of that fact than Dutch herself. So even though some may say she’s half dead inside, she’s going to keep clinging to those Jaqobis brothers and keep fighting for that other half–the half that can be better and be more than just what Khlyen and her past have done to her.

This has been a key element that Dutch has really started to understand in recent weeks and one of the biggest aspects I look forward to seeing play out as Killjoys heads towards its Season 2 finale. She’s discovered and accepted the fear that exists as it relates to Khlyen and as it relates to herself and what she’s capable of, but how does she move on and deal with it? With its track record I have no doubt Killjoys will give us some thrilling answers to many of our questions. In the meantime I’m going to sit back, relax and enjoy the fact that a show like Killjoys exists and is bold enough to break through antiquated standards and ways of thinking. Other shows take note: this is how you become an original.

 

What do you think of Dutch’s journey this season? Sound off in the comments below!

Killjoys airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on Syfy and Space Channel.

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