Misfits – Super Powers are a Turn On

Last night I watched E4’s new teen drama Misfits (I have no idea why… I guess I thought the idea of Skins with super-powers might be good. Trust me, it’s not)

Misfits E4

There is often critique about the way fantasy writers treat their female characters, much of it regarding the way the super-powers given to them fit their stereotypical role as a woman. Whilst male superheroes are going around smashing and killing and KAPOWing, female superheroes are more likely to be deflecting bullets, reading minds and becoming invisible. All whilst looking damn hawt.

So last night, 4 of the 5 Misfits got their super-powers… and they were all pretty lame, to be honest; invisibility, mind reading, turning back time. What, no setting-things-on-fire-just-by-looking-at-them power? Oh well, that’s an E4 style budget for you…

The power attributed to the character of Alisha really took the biscuit though. Her power was… wait for it… …when a person touches her they are overcome with the desire to have sex with her. Yes, really!

Alisha Misfits E4

So we saw two male characters touching Alisha (above) and declaring “I’m so hard for you!”, “I want to piss on your tits” whilst fumbling with their flies.  There’s no clue yet what happens when a woman touches her, but you can bet all those pubescent viewers out there who love a bit of faux lesbianism can’t wait to find out.

This new found power was all rather scary stuff for Alisha who, obviously, wasn’t in the mood to be shagged or pissed on right there and then. It made for uncomfortable viewing too, since the boys’ lustful cries mixed with Alisha’s scared ones came far too close to a near rape scene for my liking.

What really annoys me is that the writers had obviously thought this power would be fitting for Alisha because, in earlier scenes she is shown as completely in control of her sexuality. She confronts one of the boys she sees ogling her with an offhand “Feel free to look at my tits, yeah?” and tells a story (with explicitly mimed explanation) of how she ‘gave head’ to a breathaliser when stopped by police for drink driving.

It feels like this power is a punishment to Alisha for owning her sexuality. We’re led to believe that these kids don’t have much going for them, so it seems a bit harsh to lay down the law to this one particular character by saying ” You want to rely on your sexuality to get by? Allllrighty then, let’s see you cope with THIS!”

I can’t say much more, I think, except – can I have my hour back? If only I had the power to turn back time…

(Images taken from pictures section of the E4 Misfits site)

Edit: Really good analysis from JenniferRuth over on theFword, where she connects Alisha’s ‘Power’ to rape culture;

“This is one of the most blatant examples of rape culture I have ever seen … A woman who can be raped without consequence because it isn’t the man’s fault as her powers literally “make them” rape her.”

By: Sarah Barnes, 13.11.2009 | Comments (20)
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  • Gill
    November 13th, 2009
    3:35 pm

    Oh god, a friend to me to watch this today, because they thought it was good! Argh – the above does not sound good in any way.

  • Dan
    November 13th, 2009
    4:05 pm

    I wonder how they would have portrayed that power if it had been attributed to a man? Sounds like a Lynx advert waiting to happen to me.

  • hana
    November 17th, 2009
    1:03 am

    well to be honest… i really enjoyed watching it… and even with the near rape scene, she learn from it and before she goes out, takes off her earings and the “bling”… so how bad can it really be?

  • Sarah Barnes
    November 17th, 2009
    9:52 pm

    Hey Gill, cheers for the comment! Well, I think it’s actually being received pretty well so I’m not surprised your friend recommended it to you. If you watched Skins, then you’ll know what to expect; clunky acting, contrived dialogue but still pretty compelling. Sadly no great turns from older comic actors though… yet.

    It was Alisha’s ‘power’ that really turned me off though, I couldn’t have any respect for the programme after that. Let me know what you think if you do watch it though!

  • Sarah Barnes
    November 17th, 2009
    9:58 pm

    Good point, Dan! I’m sure if it was a male character the whole scenario would have been presented as a blessing, rather than a curse. Still, don’t know how happy I’d be if E4 managed to turn this Alisha’s ‘power’ around into her own little Impulse advert. But then, there’s no pleasing some people, is there?

  • Sarah Barnes
    November 17th, 2009
    10:58 pm

    Hi Hana, thanks for your comment! I think if Alisha’s ‘power’ hadn’t have been so badly thought out then I could have enjoyed Misfits too. As it was, though, I’ve been completely put off.

    I don’t think any woman in control of her sexuality should have to ‘learn’ anything, and especially not through a near-rape experience. Of course we’re only talking about a TV character, not a real person, but I still think it’s worth commenting on. So often fiction can tell us about the society in which we live. As Jennifer Ruth said over on The F Word, this whole story-line reflects and re-inforces a society that blames women for rape. Alisha’s ‘power’ mirrors the belief that women bring rape on themselves by seducing unsuspecting men into raping ‘because they can’t help it’.

  • Clare
    November 20th, 2009
    12:17 pm

    I think Hana’s comment missed the point. Why should Alisha trying to make herself less noticeable as a result of the near rape scene and of her experiences with her “power” more generally be seen as a good thing? Why should she be the one to “learn from it” when her ability to influence that situation was wholly compromised? That suggests that Alisha should bear responsibility for other people’s sexual advances towards her. In the case of unwelcome advances, it removes any agency from the perpetrator – instead the victim is accountable for perpetrator’s actions and thus feels shame that is not rightly hers for acts she cannot control. To the extent that these experiences encourage her to change, to have a more negative relationship with her own sexuality (and identity) – illustrated, for example, by removing eye-catching jewellery – Alisha is being punished by a set of cultural precepts. Meanwhile, the characters (male, so far) who have threatened her with sexual violence are portrayed as passive, attracted to a magnified depiction of female sexuality that they are physically unable to resist. At this point, there have been no ramifications for them.

    In an interview with ITN the actress playing Alisha, Antonia Thomas, describes her character’s “power” as “not even really a power, more of a curse”. I think that phrase summarises it quite neatly. Misfits falls in line with a long history of portraying sexually confident women in this way (i.e. as eventually subject to and/or to blame for some form of curse, the moral consequence of their behaviour).

    It’s early days for this series. There is still potential for future episodes to subvert the aspects of so-called “rape culture” that have been represented so far, turning it into a critique of our perjorative treatment of female sexuality (and especially sexually empowered women) rather than just a disturbing reflection. It would be both refreshing and constructive for a prime-time show with a large audience of young people to do this.

  • H Davey
    December 3rd, 2009
    8:50 pm

    I think alot of people are looking at this the wrong way. The feeling of being uncomfortable in the near-rape is meant to be there, and i don’t think it is trying to suggest that it is a woman’s fault if someone rapes her. It is an ironic twist that her power is the extreme of what so many girls her age try to do: get noticed through their looks and sexuality, but she can’t control it. It’s meant to be sad and confusing for her, not an acceptance of rape-culture or anything like that.

  • Mimi
    December 11th, 2009
    11:25 pm

    The show is brilliant, entertaining and the characters are well developed. Stop hating and get off your high horses sheesh! Enjoy entertainment for what it is, entertainment.

  • Violet
    December 16th, 2009
    2:20 am

    I don’t know why people seem to think that being in control of your sexuality has to mean sleeping around. It is possible to be sexually confident and comfortable with your own sexuality without being promiscuous. The whole argument that the story surrounding the character is somehow promoting rape culture is grabbing at straws if you ask me, the whole nature of the near-rape encounters and the reaction of the other characters clearly shows that it is viewed as unacceptable. Furthermore, why are people referring to Alisha as a victim when she is the one who took it upon herself to touch curtis and make him want to have sex with her, even though he already asked her not to. I think that the character of Alisha is like most girls her age, incredibly insecure. It is evident from her behaviour that she measures her own self-worth based on how many boys want to sleep with her. I think that there are probably many young girs who can relate to the feeling that they need to be sexually active in order to gain attention and acceptance from their peers. I think this is the issue that the show is actually trying to tackle. Whilst Alisha may view her power as a curse at the moment, it may be a blessing in disguise. This power may force her to change the way in which she interacts with men and by doing this she may find something more substantial to value in herself and to base her self-worth upon than sexual conquests. I really hate this misguided popular belief that girls who are sexually promiscuous are somehow liberated, powerful and confident when in fact they are likely to be the most damaged emotionally. There is nothing wrong with showing restraint, it is when you respect yourself and your body, connect with people emotionally before opening your legs to them and feel safe and secure with the people you choose to have intercourse that you can truly say you are in control/owning your sexuality.

  • Netanya Marie Smith
    December 28th, 2009
    12:59 pm

    What an unbalanced and inappropriate critique.
    There is very little information about the actual programme and content in this alleged article. It’s merely a hackneyed semi feminist (and misguided) rant about one of the characters and her super power. Each of the characters have a power which helps them develop as a person. for example Kelly…her telepathy makes her a more understanding person. As for Aisha, I agree with the above comment. It’s a sweeping generalisation that a young person who is promiscuous is a happy and well rounded individual to start with…
    This is all a deviation from the programme as a while though. You provided a very vague and mostly opinion orientated plot summary. The programme is expertly cast and very well acted. The characters are believable (to compare it to Skins is laughable) it’s tightly scripted and written with wit and intelligence. Considering it is low budget it has been put together wonderfully. It’s got more imagination and grit than Heroes. It’s a wonderful new British creation and has had me hooked from the beginning although I’m out of the initial demographic. A sincere mix if humour and tragedy and tackling issues which may actually cause younger people to think before getting laid, doing loads of drugs and getting drunk, but without the preachy element. I’m not sure if this is the intention or just my perception. Either way, it may benefit you and your readers to provide a more well rounded critique of a television show if you’re to avoid making a fool of yourself..

  • dls
    January 6th, 2010
    12:16 pm

    Okay, I do see how her power could be seen as punishment for her being an overtly sexual creature, but seriously, she DOES take back control of her sexuality! I thought that that was the whole point of that particular storyarc! She’s the one who suggests that she and Curtis have ‘phone sex without the phone,’ she still dresses and acts in the same way, she is still the same person and she’s found a way of moving beyond what should be a horribly crippling power. :/

  • annie
    July 16th, 2010
    12:21 pm

    i think you’re missing the point of the show. it never says that the powers are random, or they’re ‘paying her back’ for being in control of her sexuality or whatever you’re talking about… i think you’re reading too much into it. basically, each of them gets the thing they most desire – for example, Alisha likes to be wanted, so that’s her power; Curtis wants to turn back time to take back a mistake, so that’s his power. this is just a teen tv show, you should really research what you’re writing a critique on because you obviously haven’t got the facts straight.

  • Alex
    July 21st, 2010
    10:40 am

    In an ensuing episode she uses her ‘power’ to have sex with one of the male characters and there is a scene with huge emphasis on how degraded he feels and how she is a sick twisted pervert (not in that many words) for forcing him to have sex with her in that way…
    Of course! When a man is seduced by a woman’s mesmirising sexuality HE is the victim. Maybe we should just start viewing rapists as the victims! While the female character is nearly raped left right and centre and the rape is not addressed in the slightest, apart from one female character asking if she wants to talk about it when she walks in to find a police officer trying to rape her…
    And yes, then she pulls that shit about how she’s a very beautiful girl and all the men must be after her…

    Ahhhh rage.

  • Alex
    July 21st, 2010
    10:42 am

    @ Annie:
    When misogyny is portrayed in media people always say “oh but it’s JUST music” or “JUST a tv show”.
    Where do you think average society learns norms and popular values from? When misogyny is all around you and portrayed as normal you are going to think that misogyny is normal and OK, and that is exactly where we stand today.

  • Jenni
    July 30th, 2010
    11:53 pm

    For a start, I think you have completely missed the point about this show. The “powers” (they are more like weird attributes than super powers in some cases) they get are all related to what they are thinking at the time. So:

    *Simon feels invisible and therefore can become invisible
    *Kelly wishes she knew what people were thinking and becomes a telepath
    *Curtis wishes he could turn back time and not make his mistakes so he gets that power
    *Nathan talks big because he wants to feel invincible, like no-one can bring him down and weaken him and he gets….watch the last episode people!
    *The probation worker Tony is thinking about how much he hates ASBO kids, so he gets some kind of super rage against them
    *Alisha is thinking about sex and how much she likes guys wanting her so she gets desire-inducing powers.

    You’ve taken a few surface points about Alisha and what happens to her and jumped to conclusions, completely missing the way in which all of the characters are portrayed in a somewhat negative light, and the powers actually have the potential to make them see things differently. Look at Nathan for god’s sake! He’s a complete tool, and pretty highly sexed himself, and he’s certainly not happy or well adjusted.

    Also, I get that you are saying that women should be able to behave as atrociously as some men do if they want to, fair enough. If a man can sleep around, so can a woman – it is a free country after all. But are you really going to go as far as saying that their misbehaving should be seen as good? Because I think you’ll find that plenty of people are disgusted by men who have sex with everything that moves, so why should it be ok for a woman?

    Both men and women can be “sluts”, and it’s not particularly nice in either gender. Both genders have to suffer the consequences – that random sex may feel gratifying at the time, but ultimately it’s not a particularly fulfilling way of life. Let’s not glorify it by saying that it’s empowering for women, and for god’s sake let’s have some damn equality. If you think it’s gross that a man can get away with sleeping around, don’t act like it would be better if it was a woman.

  • skye blue
    September 23rd, 2010
    1:39 pm


  • Kelby Browning
    October 30th, 2010
    1:42 am

    I think you have over-reacted to this ‘NEAR RAPE SCENE’

    ….He grabs her, in front of the others, in the middle of a community centre, in broad day light? OK.

    Also, it’s teaching her how to grow up. That if you take the time to find someone who loves you for yourself, and not your body then you can do more with it. I am sure she can control her power, she just hasn’t bothered to as she was no reason to, as the one she want’s wont touch her until he really, really, REALLY wants to, so she know’s he’s for real?

    If it had been a man with this power I am sure you wouldn’t have had a NEAR RAPE scenario. That your over-imaginative and dramatic mind thought up. It would have been seen as him learning to respect woman and resist there body and look into their mind. Something along those lines.

    Risky bit o’ sexism there. DQ <3

    - I am 15 and I LOVE misfits. We watched it in citizenship and it was great. There are some great examples of teamwork (Yeah sure…burying your probation officer and fellow young offender isn't and Ideal example situation, but it left the message didnt it?) and how just because you are a 'chav' or a recluse, a really promising runner or a complete twat, doesn't mean that you aren't an insightful individual either who would help a friend in need, and be right there when you need to be. They have to handle harsh situations on their own without any adults around (As convinently, no probation worker is ever around when something goes really wrong) and selflessness in alot of cases.

    E4 blatantly know what they are doing with this bad boy :]
    one love <3

  • Jonny
    December 16th, 2010
    11:34 pm

    I think the reviewer completely missed the point. The powers all reflect an aspect of their personality, eg regret in Curtis’ case. This is the case with all the powers given during the storm. For example there is a girl in season 2 who is frigid and thus can freeze things (although beyond her control). I am 15 and i understood this very clever and interesting twist, so i find it shocking that the reviewer completely missed it.

  • CC
    August 7th, 2012
    10:27 pm

    You took this into a completely wrong perspective. All the powers that people got in the show were reflecting themselves and their desires. Nathan wanted to be young and stupid forever, so he got immortality. Curtis regretted and wanted to change his past, so he got the power to turn back time. Kelly wanted people to say what they were thinking of her and not lie to her face, so she got the power to read minds. Simon already felt ignored and people never noticed him, so he got invisibility. Alisha, while this power does suck, got the ability to make people sexually attracted to her because she wanted guys to notice her. Every other character in the show with powers shows the same thing. You should really give it a chance, because it’s actually a very good show, even if it has a lot of sex and stuff. It’s funny and clever and is really well put together.

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