Ask A Slave: Thalia and Clio Collaborate

Clio, as I hope my Thalia’s Musings readers know, is the Muse of History. It’s quite evident that Clio and Thalia have both bestowed their blessings on Azie Dungey, creator and star of the historical comedy webseries Ask A Slave.

Azie Dungey in character as Lizzie Mae. Image via Ask A Slave: A Comedy Web Series

Ask A Slave is a comedy web series based on the actress’ experiences working at Mount Vernon portraying one of George Washington’s slaves. All questions and interactions are based on true life events. Watch Lizzie Mae, housemaid to President and Lady Washington, respond as modern-day Americans say the darndest things about history!

~ Ask A Slave YouTube Channel

Lizzie Mae is fictional, but her awesomely snarky answers to modern Americans’ questions are based on extensive historical research. Sometimes her guests are as fictional as she is. Other times she interviews real historical figures like Seneca chief and dignitary Red Jacket, and abolitionist Tobias Lear. Lizzie Mae’s interviews challenge stereotypes about life in colonial America, especially in regard to race relations, in an engaging, entertaining way. I always laugh and I usually learn something when I watch them.

So, if you’re a fan of quirky web comedy videos and/or American history, check out Ask A Slave! Here’s the first episode to get you started:

And here’s one more shot of the lovely Azie just because:

Azie Dungey as herself. Image via Ask A Slave: A Comedy Webseries

Want more info on Azie, Lizzie Mae, or the series? Click here for the official website. Enjoy!

Sleepy Hollow #MediaMondays

From left: Katrina Crane, Ichabod Crane, Lt. Abbie Mills, Cpt. Frank Irving. Image via Fox.

So far, Sleepy Hollow ties with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the Fall 2013 show I’m most excited about. Since it seems like everyone else has done Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I decided to start my Media Mondays prompt by reviewing Sleepy Hollow. And by reviewing, I mean shamelessly fangirling.

In this modern-day twist on Washington Irving’s classic, ICHABOD CRANE (Tom Mison, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”) is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers. Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman who is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod quickly realizes that stopping Headless is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and only one of the many formidable foes that Ichabod must face to protect not only Sleepy Hollow, but the world.

As Ichabod finds himself in 2013’s Sleepy Hollow, he discovers a town he no longer recognizes and grapples to understand. Teaming up with Lt. ABBIE MILLS (Nicole Beharie, “42,” “The Good Wife,” “Shame”), a young cop who has her own supernatural experiences, the two embark on a mission to stop the evil that has awoken along with Ichabod and that now is seeping into this once-sleepy town.

Clues from the past enlighten mysteries in the present, as each episode features a flashback to Ichabod’s life in 1776. Ripe with untold stories from American history and cloaked in mythology, the divide between present and past becomes dangerously blurred. Lives are in the balance, including that of Ichabod’s late wife, KATRINA (Katia Winter, “Dexter”), who is trapped in a mysterious netherworld. In his pursuit to save her, Ichabod uncovers secrets about her, leaving him with countless questions.

Not everyone believes Ichabod’s tales of 1776 and supernatural evils, especially the new head of Abbie’s police precinct, Captain FRANK IRVING (Orlando Jones, “The Chicago 8,” “Drumline”). When faced with bizarre events he can’t explain, Capt. Irving reluctantly turns to Ichabod and Abbie to investigate.

Ichabod’s extensive first-hand knowledge of our country’s hidden history, coupled with Abbie’s superior profiling and modern threat assessment skills, make them a formidable duo. The complex pasts of the pair, from Ichabod’s inclusion in the powerful and secretive Freemasons Society to Abbie’s childhood visions, will help them solve the intricate puzzles of Sleepy Hollow in order to protect its – and the world’s – future. As history repeats itself, the oddly-linked pair will draw on the real stories and secrets this nation was founded on in their quest to stop an increasingly vicious cycle of evil.

– Sleepy Hollow on FOX

Where to start. Okay, the premise. I love mythology (shocking, I know). Not just the stories themselves, but the concept of mythology and its role in a civilization. Washington Irving’s works are part of the mythological canon of the civilization that currently calls itself the United States of America. You don’t see American mythology in fantasy entertainment that often since it’s a pretty young civilization. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the apocalyptic aspect is uniquely American, we do love us some apocalypse. Seriously, there is nothing Americans can’t turn into The End of the World As We Know It. The Endtimes and seven-year tribulations haunted my childhood nightmares. Sure, TV shows about demon hunters bagging and tagging the monster-of-the-week have been done before, but on Sleepy Hollow, they’re hunting my demons.

And how about those demon hunters? We have a beautiful Brit from another era who is both a soldier and a scholar, paired with an equally beautiful policewoman who is a strong character without being a Strong Female Character™. Both have compelling backstories that make you want to learn more about their past, present, and future.  Some fans are shipping Ichabod and Abbie, i.e. “Ichabbie,” already. Others want to see their relationship stay platonic. Personally, I could see it going either way (just PLEASE don’t screw up their dynamic by giving either one an unrequited crush on the other!). Their interactions are always fun to watch. They’re both quick with the snark without either one coming across as antagonistic or mean-spirited. There’s something rather endearing about Abbie’s efforts to help Ichabod acclimate to the 21st century. I have no idea why it’s so freakin’ cute when Ichabod calls Abbie “Leftenant,” but it is. Maybe it’s because it took an upper-class white man from the 18th century all of two minutes to accept a black woman as a gun-wielding, badge-wearing authority figure. (Oddly enough, he took longer to get over the fact that she wears trousers.) Abbie’s reaction when Ichabod proudly identifies as an abolitionist is priceless.

And, yeah, did I mention Abbie is black? Sleepy Hollow‘s cast is even more colorful than my other favorite Fox drama, Bones. Missing from the above image is a recurring antagonist played by John Cho, and Abbie’s ex-boyfriend (to whom she was not betrothed, TYVM) played by Nicholas Gonzales. It’s only been two episodes, so I knock on wood as I say this, but the non-white characters are as well-rounded as the white characters, not racial stock figures. And by that, I don’t mean that the show takes a “colorblind” approach and doesn’t acknowledge racial differences at all. Waking up to a diverse America with people of color in positions of power is a big part of Crane’s fish-out-of-water arc, perhaps highlighted by the fact that the ghost(?) of his late(?) wife Katrina is the only white person he really has consistent contact with. And the great thing is, Ichabod never appears bothered by the passage of the white establishment. The diversity in modern Sleepy Hollow is portrayed as fruition of the free, equal United States of America he was fighting to create.

Now, sales tax, that’s another story. Maybe Ichabod should go to Oregon and see what The Grimm is up to.

ETA 10/1/13 – I’m getting a lot of search engine hits from people asking why Ichabod calls Abbie “Leftenant,” so here it is: he’s calling her “Lieutenant” with the British pronunciation. It’s like how we pronounce the word “Colonel” with an R and no L in the middle. Want to read a discussion on how to say “Lieutenant” from The Guardian, a prominent UK news site? Click here.