Review of Runaways

Runaways (2017–2019)
Come on. Let's be honest.
2 July 2018
I initially gave this show six stars because even though it's abysmally bad, I loved so much about it. I loved the diversity. I loved the comic books that inspired it. I loved how well the TV characters matched the look of their comic book counterparts. I loved the... did I already mention the diversity? Oh. Ok then. Let's move on to the things that I hated, which was essentially everything else.

The acting ranged from sub-par to passable. The plot was a boring and utterly forgettable mess. I watched it a few months ago and have already forgotten most of it. What I do remember is that the writers seemed to check off a list of comic book plot points and filled the time in between these checkmarks with irrelevant tripe. Ironically, said tripe was likely supposed to make the show feel more relevant. I vaguely remember Alex playing a World of Warcraft-type MMO. But the comics were published in this century, not in the 1980s, and have lost nothing of their relevance. There was absolutely no reason to inflate the first five-ish comic book issues, which can easily be read within half an hour, into eight (!!!) boring hours of soapy fluff and blather.

The reason I'm writing this review months after sitting through this show is that I've noticed a pattern in my own behavior, as well as the behavior of TV and movie critics. We reward what we would like to see more of, which is diversity in this case. Black, Hispanic, and even an Asian lead character? Awesome! An LGBT character? Great! (An attractive lesbian character, the safest possible choice, but still). Diverse body types? This show has it all! Even now, I despise myself for having to tear down this awesome show for such petty reasons as the fact that I found it terrible and hated every minute of it. But we really need to start being more honest and demanding because Hulu and Netflix aren't free and eight or more wasted hours are a lot of lost time.

Let's talk about capitalism for a second. In a capitalistic market, producers create a new product, find out which ingredients appeal the most to the consumer majority, and maximize those ingredients while lowering the overall product quality in an attempt to minimize production costs. Over time, the quality drops rapidly, until the only thing that keeps selling this cheaply made crap are a few desirable ingredients that have us all hooked.

This is what's happening to Marvel's superhero TV shows right now. Daredevil was the perfect product. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage lowered the production value while adding ingredients that are loved by critics and audiences alike. Their second seasons were boring slogs with thinly stretched plots and sparsely used special effects. But they have female and black lead characters, respectively, touch important social issues, and give black and female writers and directors a chance, which of course affects the rating. And it absolutely should. Just not to the point where we start to hate sitting through these shows and don't dare being honest about it because it kind of feels like misogyny or racism. Alas, that's exactly what's happening. I caught myself doing this one too many times, and it stops now.

Runaways shows just how low the quality can drop without being reflected by an equal drop in audience and critical ratings. This needs to stop. Our money and time are too valuable to buy into another mess like this, suffer through it out of loss aversion, and even give it a favorable rating because it feels like our civic duty to reward certain traits of these shows. We're neither doing ourselves nor the social issues and minority groups we care about any favors. We need to demand better than this. Netflix has shown us just how high TV consumers and superhero fans can set the bar. Let's not be content with a lesser product.
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