Fur, Blood and Revenge

A few days ago I wrote a blog post in which I stated that I would be writing at least three blog posts in this series relating to characters portrayed by Jason Momoa, or simply referring to Jason Momoa himself. He appeared in my first post in the series, in which I suggested that he and Chris Hemsworth audition for the role of Gallowglass de Clermont by wrestling each other a la Greco-Roman style. Today, however, I will be talking about one of the fictional characters he currently plays in the Netflix Original series, “Frontier.”

If you haven’t watched “Frontier,” it’s an exciting and somewhat educational series that depicts a period of history, during the late 1700s, when the British Hudson Bay Company (HBC) had its fur-trading monopoly that it stole from Aboriginal peoples challenged by French, Scottish, and American companies. The ruthless and often brutal fights that occurred to control the wealth associated with the fur trade make for entertaining television. And, the excellent International ensemble cast (America, UK, Canada), with Jason Momoa as it’s anchor makes this rather dark period of history come alive.

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Just a heads up, while this is a well-acted TV show with a great plot, script, loads of inappropriate humor, and beautiful locations that delves into an interesting period of history, this probably isn’t a show you want to sit down and watch with the kiddies. It is violent and bloody. A great deal of that violence is sexual in nature. Not all of the sex is violent. In fact, there are a few romantic scenes that are down right chaste. And, there is a decent amount of profanity thanks to the Scottish characters. But, beyond the violence, the type of violence runs toward torture, it is violence in the extreme, and the people doling it out enjoy what they do. Oh, and there’s a cross-dressing homosexual serial killer, so…yeah, you probably want to watch this after the kids go to bed.

Jason Momoa’s character, Declan Harp, may not enjoy doling out violence as much as some of the other characters, but he is damn good at it. In fact, he is notorious for his ultra violence and creative methods of obtaining information from his enemies. He is an outlaw. An enemy of the Crown. And the smoking hot antihero of this binge-worthy series.

Fur, Blood and Revenge: Declan Harp

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ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK, SPOILERS AHEAD

The opening scene of the series features Declan Harp raiding an HBC outpost with the help of his men in the Black Wolf Company, a fur trading company made up of mostly Natives. Three soldiers in red coats are on their knees begging for mercy, and Declan Harp slits the throats of the first two and then brutally stabs the third. He then sets a fourth man free as a message to the HBC to let them know he’s coming after them and their money.

Declan Harp has revenge on his mind. He is the son of an Irishman and a Cree woman. His father worked for the HBC and after his death, he was raised by his mother until he was taken in and raised to adulthood by a high-ranking official within the HBC, Lord Benton. Lord Benton taught Declan everything he knew about the fur trade and how to be a brutal bastard and a shrewd businessman. Disgusted by the treatment of his mother’s people, his people, by the HBC, Declan left the company and went into business for himself. Pissed off by the betrayal, Lord Benton killed Harp’s wife, son and unborn child. They are now sworn enemies and live to see the other one dead.

Lord Benton hires an Irish thief who stows away on his ship, Michael Smyth, to befriend Declan Harp and report back to him so that he can capture Harp and hold him responsible for his crimes against the HBC and Crown. Michael Smyth is coerced into his role as a spy due to the fact that the girl he loves is in prison in London. Benton has promised to free the girl for Michael’s service. Michael’s introduction to Harp makes it clear that the man he is to spy on can be rather terrifying if he can’t trust you.

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Michael ends up proving himself as a valuable addition to the Black Wolf Company and earns Harp’s trust. Michael is no fool. While he wishes to save the life and virtue of the girl he loves, he also knows that Harp is a better man than Benton. His loyalties change as he gets to know Harp and his people better, but especially Harp’s wife’s sister, Sokanon. Sokanon and Harp are close and mourned the loss of her sister together. She is a strong woman, skilled in hunting, killing, and living off the land. She has turned her back on her duties to her tribe, including the arranged marriage she has yet to accept in order to fight at Declan’s side. She and Michael spend a lot of time together and eventually fall in love.

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Harp is consumed by his desire to become an economic power within the fur trade so as to ruin the HBC’s stronghold in Canada, as well as his blood lust to kill Lord Benton. Yes, he is a brutal bastard. His favorite weapons are knives, hatchets, and well, just about anything with a sharp edge that you can use for slicing, stabbing, and throwing. He takes killing very seriously, and likes to get up close and personal with his victims. There’s a scene in episode three that’s reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs, in which Harp questions a man who killed an innocent Cree youth and took Michael hostage. Declan asks the man if he works for one of his competitors, Malcolm Brown. When the man not only refuses to answer, but also spits in Harp’s face, he slices off the man’s ear, holds it close to his mouth, and says, “Perhaps you didn’t hear me. I asked if you work for Malcolm Brown.” Then he continues to speak into the ear to make sure his point is clear. God bless me, I laughed out loud.

It’s no secret that I have a special place in my heart for monsters. And men like Declan Harp can be driven to do monstrous things. He is not driven by greed or the desire to subjugate others. He is driven by emotional and psychological pain. He was turned into a monster by men who do far worse things in the name of greed and power. Declan Harp is a monster we can easily feel empathy for, and cheer on as he battles against true evil. I want Declan Harp to win. And, in most cases, he’s justified in the extreme amounts of violence he uses to deal with his enemies and the enemies of people he believes to be treated unjustly.

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Declan is not a fan of oppression. Perhaps, this is because he is half Irish and half Cree. He is not considered white by Europeans, and even though he was raised by his mother’s people, some of the Cree do not trust him and view him as being more European. He lives between worlds, which I believe gives him the ability to see the true nature of people more clearly. It pisses him off when the British, or any white people for that matter, treat brown people badly. Brown people and women of any color. Yes, he’s an outlaw. He’s poisoned by his own desire for revenge. But along the way, he is also a champion for the rights and freedoms of people who are treated like garbage by white capitalists. He’s no saint. He’s killed a lot of people. But he is not the animal the HBC and others try to make him out to be. He genuinely cares for the people under his command, and he cares for a woman who is a friend and ally to him, Grace Emberly. Grace owns and operates an ale house and has access to information that she trades to maintain and acquire power within the small community. As the proprietor, she employs women, but does not allow them to prostitute themselves. She’s a business woman at a time when most women earned a living on their backs with their skirts raised. She is living a very dangerous life in the Canadian frontier, playing forces against each other while trying to keep Declan safe.

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There is no shortage of strong female characters in this show. Harp, unlike most of the other men, finds that strength to be a positive thing. He likes strong, smart, resourceful women and treats them like equals. Which, by the way, is super fucking hot in my opinion. Harp’s relationship with Grace is unclear at first. We know that she knows him well enough to worry about his safety. She knows about his wife’s murder. She knows about his vendetta against Benton. And, she knows he makes her girl parts get all tingly when he walks into a room. When we first see them together, Harp goes to her for information about a kidnapped Cree boy. She tells him she hasn’t seen him in months and she’s upset that all he wants is information. There is obviously something else going on between them, and it is clear her feelings are hurt.

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There is a bounty on Declan’s head and he is hunted day and night throughout the series. He is beaten, tortured, and almost killed time and again. Grace gives him shelter and it seems that she has a history of nursing him back to health. Because she helps him and enables him to get closer to his goals of ruining the HBC and killing Benton, Grace finds herself in a lot of trouble on a regular basis. Unlike Harp, the other men in her life betray her and refuse to accept her as an equal. And, despite whatever feelings she may have for Declan, she’s backed into a corner and forced to marry Capt. Chesterfield in order to keep herself and Harp safe.

When Declan finds out that Grace married Chesterfield to save him, he is initially angry at her. We’ve seen proof that he cares about her, but this is the first sign we get that his feelings for her go beyond friendship. OK, so one of his faults is irrational jealousy over the fact that a woman he loves essentially sacrificed her own freedom so he could have his. His anger seems to be over the fact that she has given herself to another man, despite the fact that she has refused to consummate the marriage with Chesterfield. She only has eyes for Declan, and he doesn’t seem all that appreciative of the fact that she’s just saved his ass.

Eventually, he realizes that he’s been a dick and apologizes to her for his shitty behavior. It’s at this point that we are no longer in the dark about his true feelings for Grace. When they kiss, I was like FINALLY. Each time they were alone I couldn’t figure out how the hell she was keeping her hands off him. Her control was commendable, but I was thrilled when she finally climbed up the front of that mountain of a man to suck face.

When Grace is kidnapped at the end of season two, Chesterfield and Harp will most likely have to team up to save her. It’s one hell of a cliffhanger, and I cannot wait for season three. Despite the spoilers, I still encourage you to watch “Frontier.” It’s a great show, with memorable characters you will love as much as I do. The Brown Brothers are absolutely fucking delightful. And hey, Jason Momoa looks great in that leather coat, wrapped in fur, covered in blood, murdering greedy racist assholes, making a fire, skinning a deer, hell, he even looks good while being tortured. Seriously, what the hell are you waiting for? You could probably binge your way through season one and two this weekend.

Fuckable Fictional Characters: Magneto

Over the weekend I went to see X-men: Apocalypse. I enjoyed the movie. In fact, as I usually do when watching Marvel movies, I experienced some catharsis. Marvel’s heroes and villains have always had a powerful effect on my psyche, and more often than not, when I see a movie featuring these amazing characters I cry. Laugh if you need to, but Marvel characters tend to experience some heavy-duty tragedy in their fictional lives, which makes them interesting, believable, and deserving of our empathy. Like regular old people such as you and me, they react to this tragedy in a multitude of ways. Some of them channel those negative feelings into helping others, while some take their pain and channel it into seeking revenge.

I don’t condone the choice to take revenge for the pain and suffering that people (fictitious or real) have experienced in their lives, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the desire to do so. Revenge always seems like it’s going to be satisfying and it tempts us into believing that making our enemies pay for the hurt they’ve caused will somehow heal us. Unfortunately, for most people, revenge only causes more pain and turns people into the villains they hate so much.

A Heartbreaking Villain: Magneto

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Erik Lehnsherr is a tragic character. His story line is riddled with black moments. Born Jewish in Germany, he survived the Holocaust, but his family didn’t. In the comics, we are told that he not only survived, but also was later made to work in the death camp at Auschwitz to remove the dead bodies of his fellow Jews who were murdered in the gas chambers. The Nazis persecuted him for being a Jew, and then because of his mutant ability, he was hunted and threatened by people who feared him, which put other people he loved in danger. His daughter Anya died at the hands of an angry mob after people witnessed his mutant power. His wife, pregnant with twins, left him because she was devastated by the loss of their daughter and frightened by his power. To say that Erik is emotionally damaged by the terrible things that happened to him and his loved ones would be an understatement.

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When I was first introduced to Magneto as a kid, I didn’t understand why he was viewed as a villain. In fact, Stan Lee has been quoted to say that he never intended for Magneto to be seen as a villain. Inspired by the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, he envisioned Magneto as the Malcolm X to Professor X’s Martin Luther King Jr. – two men fighting for the same cause, but with different ideologies. Each man wishes to protect mutants from persecution and violence, but Magneto prefers to be proactive and confront the enemies of mutantkind BEFORE they can hurt his brothers and sisters. Charles Xavier has chosen to walk a more peaceful path, and never gives up hope that mutants and humans can live peacefully together. However, he also understands that the path he’s chosen is dangerous and trains his students so that they are ready to fight when the war against mutants ends up on their doorstep. He’s hopeful, but not an idiot.

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Our tax dollars at work.

The common struggle that initially unites these two men is compromised by their opposing views on how to deal with the threat of humanity. Magneto has witnessed the evil of humankind time and time again. His trust for humans will only extend so far, because he is always waiting for them to disappoint him. If we were to diagnose Erik with a psychological disorder, I think it would be safe to say that he suffers from PTSD after the atrocities he witnessed in Nazi Germany, which has contributed to his trust issues and difficulty maintaining relationships, romantic or otherwise. Intimacy can be a real challenge when you ultimately trust no one.

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They need more on-screen smooch time.

Because, even the people Erik has loved and attempted to trust have either abandoned him, or given him a reason to turn on them. Or his paranoia leads him to betray them before they can betray him. His agenda, to punish those who threaten him and his mutant brethren, has destroyed more relationships than healed them. His pursuit of revenge alienates him from friends and family, potentially making him one of the loneliest villains in the Marvel universe.

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What? That there should be scenes of both of you naked? That’s totally what I was thinking.

There’s a lot of ground to cover with Magneto seeing as how he appeared in the first X-men comic in 1963. Since there’s so much material to pull from, I’m going to cheat a little and only focus on the films that he’s appeared in. Yes, I’m fully aware that these films deviate from the original storylines that appeared in the comics, but since amazing actors have portrayed him on screen, I’m going to focus on them for the purposes of this blog post. I’m sticking to the films mainly because while Magneto has always been an inspiring character in print, it’s Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of him that stirs my heart (and loins) the most.

Magneto, played by Ian McKellen, first appeared on film in X-men (2000). McKellen did an amazing job of conveying the complexity of the character, as well as his cleverness, his power, his skills at manipulation, and his single-minded determination to stop all threats to mutant life. No matter what. McKellen reprised the role several times, including his appearance in X-men: Days of Future Past in which he plays the older Magneto and Michael Fassbender the younger Magneto.

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The sassier side of Magneto.

When we were given an in-depth peek into Magneto’s origin story in X-men: First Class (2011), Michael Fassbender had the unique opportunity to convey the raw emotional turmoil and rage-inspired violence that labeled this misunderstood character a villain. Not to mention the fact that he also brought Magneto to a level of sexiness that pairs well with James McAvoy’s equally sexy Charles Xavier. Maybe it’s the costuming from the 1960’s that reminded me of some of my favorite spies played by gorgeous British actors, or maybe it’s just the fact that Michael Fassbender is simply one of the sexiest men alive. At any rate, I have no complaints about the casting.

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Speaking of fantastic casting choices, when I saw X-men: Days of Future Past, my head nearly exploded when Evan Peters took on the role of Quicksilver, Magneto’s son. He was amazing, and his scenes were by far some of my favorites in both Days of Future Past and Apocalypse. Evan Peters stole my heart in the American Horror Story series, and he’s definitely on that list of actors who portray monsters in such a way to make me lust after them. I’m not one of those women who considers marrying serial killers on death row, but I do fantasize about fictional characters who commit similar acts of horror.

I think anyone would find it difficult to argue against Magneto’s complexity, or the fact that he is a damaged soul. And, even though he makes a lot of terrible decisions, I often find myself cheering him on. Humans do terrible things to each other, but those horrific acts become even worse when targeted at people who don’t look like them or share their cultural beliefs. You’d have to be an idiot not to grasp that the battle between humans and mutants is an allegory for racism. The fact that Erik is a Jew who survived the Holocaust allows me to overlook some of his methods for dealing with his enemies.

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In fact, I applauded his mission to track down and kill former Nazis who associated with the man who exploited his power and turned him into a monster. However, his belief that mutants are superior to humans sounds an awful lot like the ideology of the Nazis. That’s not a coincidence. Ironic, yes. Coincidence, no. It’s one of the personality quirks that make him such an interesting character. His psyche was so damaged by his tormentors that he uses their ideas and methods to smite his enemies.

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A friend of mine who also saw X-men: Apocalypse over the weekend was unable to accept Magneto’s actions in the film as redeemable. He’s right. A lot of people died because of his choices and the actions of the people he teamed up with to essentially destroy the world. Again, we were reminded that his pain and rage are his two biggest motivators. Does that excuse his actions? No. Do I still feel a kinship with him because of his pain and because he’s one of my favorite fictional characters? Of course I do. Is it true that each time I see Michael Fassbender in that role I want to help Magneto heal his pain any way I possibly can? Absolutely.

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Seriously. Look at this guy. You know you want to hug him. Kiss him. Handcuff him to a bed frame. Whatever it takes to distract him from making any more mistakes.

I’m not going to lie. A character with a backstory like his in the hands of a gorgeous actor like Fassbender is going to win my heart every single time. He is powerful, emotionally damaged, fighting for a cause I can get behind, and smoking hot. And he fucks up constantly and continually drives a wedge between himself and the people who care about him the most. In his efforts to protect mutants, he ultimately destroys all hope of uniting them on a common front. He becomes worse than the enemy he’s fighting. And, my heart breaks for him. There isn’t enough love in this world to heal Magneto, because he refuses to be healed. He isn’t redeemable because he doesn’t wish to be redeemed.

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Let Magneto’s major flaw be a lesson for us all. You can’t heal your own pain by causing pain in others. But, that doesn’t make him any less deserving of our empathy and love. Magneto will always have a special place in my heart, in that dark corner I reserve for the justifiable villains, antiheroes and monsters. Always.