Mark Watches ‘Wonderfalls’: Episode 3 – Karma Chameleon

In the third episode of Wonderfalls, this episode is brilliant, super-meta, terrifying, and hilarious, and all those things at the same time, and wow, I’m real confused. In a good way! Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Wonderfalls.

[Since there are different viewing orders of episodes, either by airdate or by intended order as on the DVDs, the master schedule now has the episode titles listed.  For future reference, Mark is going by DVD order.  – echinodermata]

Odd’s bobs, what do I even say about this episode???

  • Let me start by saying that I really liked it, but it’s certainly all over the place. It goes from being a touching example of kindness to Single White Female and then to pure horror, then it’s a meta-examination of the very nature of the show, then it’s back to being utterly terrifying, and then that last scene is full of feelings.
  • And really, I feel like the format of Wonderfalls is the only thing that allowed Tim Minear to pull off a story that otherwise would have been a complete and horrible mess. When the bass in The Barrel tells Jaye that she needs to “get her words out,” things are pretty clear cut at first. Jaye helps Bianca speak when her stuttering gets bad.
  • What I found both chilling and totally rewarding about “Karma Chameleon” is how Minear was able to make both the audience and Jaye look at the very idea of disaffection among post-college folks and examine that for what it means. As Jaye begins this lengthy (and at times uncomfortable) journey of introspection, I found myself thinking about the very framework of both Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls. As I brought up in my review on Monday, both shows deal with a young woman who purposely refuses to succeed and draw attention to herself. But what does that mean? Why does Jaye do this when the rest of her family doesn’t?
  • There were two things in “Karma Chameleon” that I was able to relate to, and I think that’s a big reason why I liked it so much. Like Jaye, I entered college with the pressure of parents and peers who expected certain things of me. I know that my parents didn’t vocalize it, but they were disappointed and saddened by the fact that I never finished college. I was working full-time in a job that barely paid me more than minimum wage, and they knew I hated it. I had essentially become what they never wanted me to be, especially since they’d thought I’d be a successful writer or editor by the time I was twenty-two. Instead, I was bouncing from house to house, never settling down for more than a year, unable to save any money whatsoever, and often skipping family get-togethers because I simply couldn’t afford.
  • Having been valedictorian of my high school and then throwing away a four-year scholarship because of a traumatizing firing, let me tell you that I was in the exact headspace Jaye was, minus one thing: I didn’t have the stress-free zone. But I did have people telling me that I’d just not found my calling in life, or that I was a late bloomer. Which might be the case, but honestly? I already knew my calling, and I was pretty awesome before getting fired, so it’s not like the event was some ~learning experience~ that made me a better person. I was unjustly forced to cope with impending homelessness again, and being poor is not a goddamn learning experience. It sucks.
  • It was weird getting a MySpace account (WOW, JUST DATED MYSELF) and seeing people I went to high school with starting families, graduating college, moving to faraway places, and leading lives that looked successful. I realize now that I had no way of knowing that my perception of such things was flawed due to my depression and the fact that appearances aren’t reality. Still! It was hard to deal with. I didn’t have health insurance until I was twenty-six. I hadn’t been in a relationship that lasted longer than six months while my friends were all getting married. I felt static, like the world was rushing by me.
  • Suffice to say, things have changed. A LOT.
  • So, the other thing that made me appreciate this episode is the fact that I have been stalked. A LOT. Oh my god, I have been stalked so many times. And I even had a stalker who built a “shrine” (for lack of a better word) that contained photos and personal info much like Bianca’s van did. And despite knowing how terrifying and degrading the experience was, I never felt gross watching this episode. It’s a pretty accurate depiction of my own experience of dealing with the phenomenon, especially the idea that other people in your life refuse to believe that a stalker is treating you badly. THIS HAPPENED TO ME, AND IT WAS AWFUL.
  • It’s the balance Tim Minear injects into this episode’s story that makes it possible for this to work so well. As the message changes its context, Jaye has epiphany after epiphany about what this might mean. First, she’s helping Bianca speak; then she’s helping Bianca write her article; then she writes it for her, which has two meanings.
  • Oh god, can we talk about that? I brought up the fact that I was curious if these messages from the animals will ever benefit Jaye, AND THEN IT HAPPENS. Yes, Jaye writing Bianca’s article allows Bianca to overcome her fear of her first published piece, and it’s a way for her to not become Jaye. At the same time, Jaye realizes that who she is isn’t a terrible thing. Just because she isn’t as “successful” as the rest of her family doesn’t mean she is worthless or a loser. First of all, the article she writes for Bianca is clearly a sign that she can apply herself.
  • (Which, as an aside, is also evidence that she is not the character of Georgia Lass all over again.)
  • Secondly, whose to say that she won’t become who she wants to be later in life? Why does it have to be at twenty-four? Why can’t she be a work-in-progress for years to come? That is such an awesome revelation for a character to have, and it was enormously reassuring to me, even considering where I am in my life right now. I don’t feel like I’m at a place where I’ve wanted to be, but that’s perfectly fine. I know I’m getting there, so I’m going to enjoy the journey, too.
  • Y’all, I know I’m only three episodes in, but this show is REALLY FUCKING GOOD. I’m already damn happy I started it.

Mark Links Stuff

- The Mark Does Stuff Summer Tour is happening soon! Check out the posted dates, suggest new ones, help bring me to YOUR TOWN.
– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
- Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
- Video commissions are open, and you can commission a Mark Reads/Watches video for just $25!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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