“Why were you working as a mule for a bunch of Russian gangsters, if I may ask?”
“I am a young capitalist in a failing economy. I saw opportunity and I went for it.”
—Dark Angel, S1 Ep4
Back in the early aughts (wow, I can actually say “aughts” now) I used to watch the TV show Dark Angel. It’s about a young woman, Max (Jessica Alba) who escaped from a covert military operation that genetically engineered human beings to be superior killers. Now she’s living in Seattle, in a future-world USA where an electromagnetic terrorist attack has reduced the country to a third world economy. She’s trying to find her comrades who escaped with her while staying on the down low from the head of the operation that experimented on her. She teams up with “idealistic, lefty humanist” journalist Logan: he helps her find her peeps, and she helps him fight the war against corruption, oppression, and injustice. I used to watch this show devotedly, often re-watching taped episodes multiple times during the week before the next show aired. It gave me life.
When Dark Angel premiered, I was just starting out with my own place to live. I had no car but lots of debt. My living room was still littered with worn out second hand furniture. All my clothes came from thrift stores. So a show that centered around working poor people who had to heat up bath water on the stove was mega comforting to me. I inner glamorized my money problems as me just having street cred, being one of the cool Jam Pony bike messengers in tattered jeans. If Max and the gang could barely scrape together lodging situations and still live colorful, meaningful lives, so could I.
This was also a time when I was exploring what it meant to be a newly single woman with no one to answer to but myself. Looking for some action, looking to scratch that itch. Max and her homegirls were like blam!– new kind of woman I’d never seen represented before. Strutting around all punk and sullen and getting away with it. Being the ones the man runs to for help when he’s in trouble with Russian gangsters. Plopping down on the couch in a pelvis forward, legs spread, feet planted alpha male power pose around the man she’s attracted to. I was so inspired. I was like, I no longer have to restrain my highly developed masculine side. Nor do I have pretend I’m not also a girly girl. Fuck that shit. I can be all the things I am. All the things.
Added bonus—the diversity. Blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, LGBTs all over the place. Like it’s just a fact of life. No big deal.
I started thinking about this show again recently, because I was revising a scene in my manuscript where my protag is telling her friend her plan to go to a party and find a guy to have sex with. It reminded me of the Dark Angel ep where Max is at the bar with her friends, looking for a man to take home and have sex with. I was like this is so cool, it’s just like yeah, the female lead in a show can do this. Max’s friend Cindy says “You don’t see men down on themselves cause they about it.” That’s right, girl.
So I pulled out my season one DVD set and started watching while I lifted weights.
Here’s the weird thing. When that show first aired, it was set twenty years in the future.
Today, it’s like three years in the future.
And some of the stuff is eerily topical.
Like Max breaking into a hospital pharmacy to steal life saving medicine that she can’t get otherwise.
Max sharing a jail cell with a man who has been arrested—again—for putting a flyer for a police brutality protest in his shop window.
Poor people being really poor, and rich bullies being really rich and really shitty.
(I think you know where I’m going with all this.)
It’s time for an entire Dark Angel re-watch.
When I read the recent horrific daily headlines (fuck affordable health care, fuck freedom of speech, fuck freedom of information, fuck drinking water supply, fuck non-white immigrants), I remember Max and Logan and the rest of them fighting the good fight.
My solace and inspiration is in place.
“Even in these dark times, you’d like to think the U.S. Constitution still means something.”
—Dark Angel, S1 Ep5
2 thoughts on “Dark Angel – When A Show From the Past Becomes Relevant to the Disturbing Present”
Love this post, Shannon.
“I used to watch this show devotedly, often re-watching taped episodes multiple times during the week before the next show aired. It gave me life.” I am with you on that. I did the exact same thing.
Dark Angel, Buffy, Roswell – all those shows gave me life back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Yes! I was a big Buffy fan, too, but Dark Angel has a special place in my heart.