I would like to apologise. Cannot believe I am starting my blog with an apology but as we like to say where I come from, ‘I taking in front before front take me’. So remember this apology Sleepy Hollow fans when you finish this article. What am I apologising for? I’ll tell you at the end.
So, this is a Sleepy Hollow Season 3, Episode 6 review. My Twitter and Facebook suddenly blew up last night about how the Caribbean folklore tale of the Soucouyant was featured on said Sleepy Hollow episode. Now Sleepy Hollow is one of the few shows that I actually watch and I knew since November 2015 that they had a show referencing the Soucouyant. I know how the season ends, but don’t worry I won’t be giving any such spoilers today, especially about Jenny and that red stone.
But I was busy at that point and was still plodding through season 2 anyway so I put if off and put it off and forgot to watch it altogether. So, when I started seeing the rave tweets from among my fellows who had just seen it I decided now would be the time to watch it, finally.
Now let me just say this. I am from Trinidad and Tobago (if you didn’t already know). I grew up in the time when a TV was the most popular and coveted electronic item around. A ‘tablet’ was still something you got at a drugstore and the word ‘internet’ was not yet in the dictionary. So what did this bright youth have for entertainment? My books and our traditional folktales. So while attempting to get the folktale right might not mean much to some, simply because they weren’t grown with them, I was. It means something to me.
And while I read a lot of folktales from other countries in books, the ones from here, at home, were passed down at my cousins house from my uncles or at home on a night when there was no current (you see, I call electricity ‘current’ that should be an indication of how country I am), when my mother would tell of all the near jumbie encounters she would have (or thought she would have) with her brothers when they were little.
So, the folktales of my homeland hold a connection to me that feels like family. I don’t need to Google Soucouyant to know what the story is, but after watching last night’s Sleepy Hollow episode, my friends, my Trinbagonian friends, I think some of yu’all need to. But I’ll do you the favour, as was done to me, of passing down oral traditions. Not orally evidently but still… Eh-hem.
The Soucouyant or Soucriant is an evil spirit, a form of jumbie as we call it, that masquerades as a wrinkled, old woman by day but by night sheds her skin and travels around as a ball of fire searching for human blood.
Basically the Soucouyant is the Caribbean version of a vampire just without all the tall, dark(haired) and handsome charm vampires are portrayed with these days. But their motive remains the same. Find someone, suck their blood. Closing the window at night just wasn’t about not catching a cold. If you weren’t careful a soucouyant might fly in an suck your blood while you were asleep. Except the only evidence of this in the morning, should one survive, would be visible dark bruises on the fleshy parts of the body, like the arms and the legs where the soucouyant took it’s fill.
At night the old woman would return to her skin before the sun rose and use the blood she collected to barter with the devil for her witch like power. Now I am not going to go into the details of how to get rid of a soucouyant and what to do to ward it off because you know, neither did Sleepy Hollow.
That show vex me. To the point I had to laugh. The episode was interesting but it was not about the Soucouyant. The Soucouyant would roll in their grave, if they had one, to know they were so grossly misrepresented.
I expected mention of flying balls of fire at night which ‘roused suspicion’ (just imagine Crane saying that, ‘roused suspicion’). I expected them mistaking it for an actual vampire, getting lost on the trail until Crane’s research told them otherwise in the nick of time leading them to capture and destroy the soucouyant. I could have written a bad-ass soucouyant story for them! But apparently they didn’t want one.
What we got was something whose look resembled more of a human jep. A beautiful Face Off makeup, but not a soucouyant. I got a swarm of marabunta (they even pronounced the shit wrong), jeps, jack spaniards or whatever you grew up calling it, instead of a ball of fire. Stinging people to death after driving them mad (they actually referred to it as a ‘Trinidadian Paranoia Monster’) instead of drinking their blood. The ONLY friggin accurate correlation was Soucouyant —-> Trinidad.
And no, I am not jumping on the, ‘they big up Trinidad so is okay’ bandwagon! And here’s why. I was ready to loan Crane a few of my own books or books of my fellow writers because I’m sure I am not the only person who thought the folktale was off in more than one way. I thought apparently his grungy old leather-bound was misinformed. But upon further inspection of his material *puts on professor spectacles* his book had it right too.
Now you won’t normally catch me irritated about how our culture here is represented out there because half the time the people doing it just don’t know what the hell they are doing. It was like the argument over the internet about Miss Minaj using a Jamaican accent in one of her songs or not using a Trinidadian accent or … something last year, I don’t know.
It was not an issue for me. Why? Because I don’t expect Minaj to know anything about a Trinidadian accent to begin with. Yes, she was born here, but she spent the majority of her life, and still spends the majority of her waking, sleeping and living moments in the place she grew up in and considers home, America. I see her as American first and it is typical American behaviour to mix up peoples accents. I was not surprised at all. That didn’t matter to me but this does.
Maybe it’s because I am a writer, and I would hate to have my story misrepresented.
Maybe it’s because I am currently writing a story involving particular characters from Caribbean folklore. I am in it everyday so the differences are more glaring.
Maybe it’s because despite the fact that I grew up with the folklore I still took the time for a few months before I started my book to research the characters and how different Caribbean islands represent them to make sure that at least on some level, albeit an imaginary one, I have my facts right.
Sleepy Hollow did that, I’ll give them the credit, then ignored it and made the soucouyant into whatever they wanted it to be anyway.
Which means, all my dears who were excited about Trinidad being ‘bigged up’, it was never about Trinidad and Tobago. They (FOX) don’t care to big ‘us’ up in the least. It’s about them and their falling Season 2 ratings that they are trying to regain by enticing what seems to be an extremely naive audience. It’s for their gain. If we happen to benefit, that’s minor matters.
It upsets me that I can no longer trust that any of the great supernatural detective work that I have come to enjoy on this show had any merit or resemblance or similarity to the history/folklores that they claim to be about. Did I ever trust that it was? Not really. But I really liked this show and the entertainment value has been considerably diminished for me. Instead of just suspecting that they were talking shit now I know they are. Damnit!
But what really upsets me. Sigh. I am so, so, so, so very disappointed that so many of my fellow Trinis believed it. Really, did you? Please tell me you didn’t. Please! I mean, have you really never heard the story of the Soucouyant before? Is it really okay to just be happy Trinidad is being mentioned and to hell with the rest?
Who cares if they mentioned Port-of-Spain when according to BarTab (no your drunkenness does not excuse you!) most people here think Port-of-Spain was ALWAYS the capital of Trinidad. What’s the sense being excited that somebody is putting your culture out there when you don’t know it? They could hit you, and the rest of the world, a six for a nine and it would pass because you can’t verify shit. It says to me that our original folktales are dying and not being passed on the way they should and that is heartbreaking.
Well, this was supposed to be a review so, I guess I’ll try to recap something of this folly!
The thing that is not a soucouyant was summoned by Pandora and she sent it off to kill the judge who just happened to be handling Crane’s case I believe. Clever way to fix that. The thing that is not a soucouyant then attacked a teacher, was it? Danny got stung, took off with Mills, was acting all crazy like, ‘you playing me, bitch?!’, and Mills took him down.
They then figured out the weirdest riddle ever using Jenny’s party girl days (yes FOX, we know, she’s the bad sister) and Crane’s logic. How do you take ‘…watching foul flies roost in the spice tree…’ and come up with bird pepper, Crane? We call that putting two and two together and getting six. No sir, that not adding up, at all.
Jenny and Joe ‘sitting in a tree…’ Eh-hem, sorry, couldn’t help it, they went off to find ingredients for a treatment for Danny and met an ‘obeah man’ with the most muddled Caribbean accent I have EVER heard. He could have been from any island, (hence all the flags up in his shop) except Trinidad apparently, because an actual Trinbagonian would know that that flag is upside down.
And like anybody really believes ‘Shadow Beni’ aka ‘Bandanya’ aka ‘Culantro’ is on a RED list. Jenny find a farmers market and forget that fraud, bringing out thing in suitcase like is ammunition he packing. Gimme a chance.
Anyway they made the treatment, found the thing that is not a soucouyant and stopped it from causing anymore trouble with highly concentrated (and apparently unstable) Det spray and clove oil! What? No. Abbie, being the bad ass she is, took down the hive without one sting and for the moment we don’t have to watch Pandora talking to herself in the dungeon anymore as she’s fled the scene all dressed up for a hot date through the enchanted tree.
Had this been a regular episode of Sleepy hollow with a demon Queen Bee or something it would have been not too bad at all. But I’ve been jilted. Sleepy Hollow has officially made themselves into a fraud in my mind. And not just any fraud but a fraud that knowingly reinvents the ‘truth’ any way they want regardless of who it affects and how.
I won’t be able to watch anymore without skeptically Googling and researching all their shit and I know it’s just a show. It’s all made up stuff in the end. They have to bend and twist things to fit their story line but I wish they could find a way to do it without actually doing that as many of these stories represent a culture.
So what was I apologising for at the beginning? For what seems to be the fact that my fellow Trinbagonains have completely no sense of their own folklore to tell when it is wrong and for the fact that I might not enjoy one of my favourite shows as much as I used to. What’s that? Did you think I was apologising for the backlash this might attract (I doubt) from Sleepy Hollow fans? No, never. After all, you don’t have to take my opinion as law, because critics may lie.
– Written by Travesaou
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