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Thursday, 25 of February of 2021

Warehouse 13 – “Age Before Beauty”

“I know what texting is. Also iTunes and color television.”

A very relevant Twitter conversation took place between Nick, Noel and myself yesterday on the troubles of fandom and criticism. Analyzing a popular text as anything but godly is often met with harsh opposition from said text’s fan community. That makes this review of last night’s Warehouse 13 somewhat difficult for me. I love Warehouse 13, it’s probably my favorite new addition to my television roster as of late, but “Age Before Beauty” has some points that should be addressed. And they’re not pretty.

“Age Before Beauty” is a very Myka and Claudia (hooray!) centric episode. While Myka and Pete track down an artifact that is sapping the youth from fashion models, Claudia prepares for her date with Todd, the hardware store kid from last week’s “Beyond Our Control”. This episode was poised to be a great girl-power sort of story but that is not what unfurled. Instead we get a (what I will deem as accidentally) misogynistic view of our lead female characters running to their male counter parts with their problems and insecurities. I sure hope no one from the Syfy message boards is reading this…

Models all over the world are getting the youth and beauty sucked out of them and Pete and Myka are on the case! In an attempt to find the artifact at the heart of the matter, Myka poses as a model to infiltrate Fashion Week. Dealing with the world of fashion is already a sticky affair what with the way models are blamed for the issues young girls have with their body images. So the constant jokes from the designers and models about Myka’s weight, while quite hilarious, don’t help in that arena. And Joanne Kelly being anything but fat and yet constantly ridiculed as such doesn’t help the view of the modeling world and its standards either.

As Myka is preparing to strut her stuff on the runway she gets a serious bout of stage fright. Turns out Myka had a pretty cheerleader for an older sister who was always stealing the spotlight. Even now the memory of living in her sister’s shadow is keeping her self esteem in check. She doesn’t think she’s pretty enough to be out there with the real models. So what does she do? Turn to Pete for validation. Pete (who can’t even look her in the face as he speaks to her) tells her how stunningly beautiful she is and how he wishes the young Myka could see the woman she grows up to be. Only then, after receiving praise from a man, can she overcome her insecurities and get back to doing her job. Hear that? That’s the collective sound of outraged feminists defenestrating their televisions.

Unfortunately the anti-feminist buck doesn’t stop there. In the beginning of the episode a very annoyed Claudia is ignoring texts from Todd. (Typical girl behavior, am I right guys?) She does eventually decide to meet him for a date “pie slash coffee summit”. Cue the world’s most awkward date. Claudia is already a fairly abrasive individual so coupled with the fact that she’s never dated before and her apparent low self esteem, it doesn’t go so well. She actually runs out on Todd. What. The. Hell. She comes back to the warehouse and lays into Artie for his “be yourself” advice. She says she has no past and no real interests. Doesn’t think very highly of herself does she? So leave it to Artie to assure her that she’s not the train wreck she thinks she is as well as to setup Todd date round two.

These happenings aren’t really the types of things we would expect from two normally strong and independent female characters. To play devil’s advocate to my own analysis, perhaps the episode isn’t as misogynistic as I’m reading it is. Maybe the Pete/Myka scene is a change from the usual sexual tension between the two to a more sweet and genuine show of emotion. It’s not a matter of gender representation (or misrepresentation), it’s simply a relationship progression for these two characters. And maybe Claudia isn’t seeking advice and assurance from Artie because he’s a man, but because he’s a father figure to her. These explanations make a lot more sense but regardless, the aforementioned readings can’t be easily ignored. Myka does score one for feminism though with a line from the beginning of the episode: “Some girls played with Barbies, others took fencing lessons.”

Setting aside all this harsh gender reading pish posh, the procedural aspects of the show were par for the course. That is to say they were great. The red herrings were well placed and particularly misleading and the twist at the end was a nice cap to the episode’s mystery. The artifact, a camera belonging to artist Man Ray, was a fun one to play around with and proved to be (as is often the case on the show) very educational. The humor in the episode is excellent as usual as well. Pete has plenty of cheesy lines and the Claudia/Artie banter is Grade A.

So I did enjoy the episode. Really. And I do love the show. Really. But just because I’m a fan doesn’t mean I can’t analyze and criticize and other-ize it. Tell me otherwise and I’ll toss your ass in the Escher vault.

Final Thoughts:

  • Seeing Artie struggle with giving Claudia advice and other facets of father figuredom was very entertaining.
  • The use of Top 40 songs in the episode was near vomit inducing.
  • Step your game up, Todd. Claudia is the perfect girl.
  • In 30 years, Noel will be Artie. Watch.

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