I followed the advice in my last post, went on holiday and left the computer at home. Very relaxing. But now I’m back, and so is Misfits.
I have no idea whether Misfits has travelled beyond Britain. I can see how it might not have done. Not everyone’s going to buy into the story of a group of British delinquents who acquire ill-explained super-powers and use them in the most misguided ways. But that niche approach is part of the appeal for me. It doesn’t show people using powers in the traditional framework of heroes and villains. It shows them doing what most people do with any talent – nothing of much note.
Ah Nathan, how I miss you
The other Britain
Equally admirable is the show’s engagement with a Britain not often seen on TV screens. This is the place where vast swathes of the population live, in run down old estates and jobs that are demeaning if they even exist. Looked down on for infractions that are petty or even normal within their social sphere, punished with marginalisation and in this case community service for being who they are, whether that’s good people or not.
The only comparable example I can think of is Top Boy, which like Misfits neither glamorises nor condemns lives of boredom and petty crime. Both shows, in very different ways, show people living on the edge of the society we normally talk about. What’s special about Misfits is that it addresses this not with seriousness, but with grim humour and a touch of the fantastic.
For me, what this really highlights is that you can write fantasy in any setting, but that modern fantasy, urban fantasy, can be quite narrow in its focus. It’s detectives and journalists, successful criminals and mysterious academics. The humans it mixes with the magic really represent a minority of the population. That’s a shame, and maybe part of why fantasy remains slightly marginalised as a genre.
Sure, Misfits goes too far at times. Almost anyone will find it offensive at some point. But for all that its fourth season struggled with cast changes and poor structure, it’s still one of the best bits of TV coming out of the UK right now. Fantasy can shine a fresh light on reality, and it shouldn’t limit the reality it explores. Misfits is refreshing, adventurous and willing to go too far. And isn’t that what superpowers are all about?
What do you think? Have you been watching Misfits, and what do you think are its strengths and weaknesses? What are your favourite scenes? If you haven’t seen it then what other super-powered shows, books or comics would you recommend? What does something interesting with powers? Let me know below.