Recently, Jennifer Lynn Jones and Phoebe B. got together over a Google Doc to discuss one of their favorite summer shows, Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva (DDD). Read on for thoughts on why DDD is the most awesome, the recent season, and much more!
What made you start watching the show? Why do you keep watching it?
Phoebe B: Honestly I can’t quite remember what made me start watching it, but I am SO glad that I did. It is perhaps one of my favorite Summer shows on TV. I keep watching it for a variety of reasons but I think one of the things I like most is Jane (and Brooke Elliot who plays her is so amazing). She is such a badass lawyer and such a great friend (I kind of wish we were friends). But perhaps most importantly, in a TV landscape that is often unkind to women as we’ve seen in Lena Dunham’s recent treatment, DDD celebrates women of all shapes and sizes.
Jennifer: I started watching it because it seemed like it might have some connection to my dissertation, which is on fat stars. I remember it started in the summer of 2009, right around the same time as Fox’s reality dating competition More to Love, so that moment seemed to present a potential zeitgeist for larger-sized characters sans makeovers on television. At first I’d be hard-pressed to say I was a fan of either, but DDD definitely won me over by the end of the first season. I think the hardest part for me to swallow was that the most winning characteristics of Jane’s personality seem to come from Deb, so that the traits of the “thin model” seemed to remain the most significant parts of the character. Over the next few seasons though, it felt like the specter of Deb sort of “thinned out” in the character, and what remained was Jane as this unique, large, lovely character, who yes, I would also very much like to be or know in real life!
How would you describe it to people who haven’t seen it?
Phoebe B: Deb, a super skinny model dies on her way to a Price is Right audition, goes to Heaven’s processing center, pushes the return button, and finds herself back on earth in the body of Jane, a plus size braniac lawyer. Deb, now Jane, has to learn to live in and love her body while also learning how to be a lawyer and grieve the loss of her fiance. There are love triangles, there are musical numbers, and fabulous guest judges. Jane, as she struggles with Deb and learns to navigate her new life, becomes a truly compassionate, complicated, and delightful character.
Jennifer: Yes, that exactly! I often call it an updated version of Ally McBeal, with Jane being a combination of Legally Blond’s Elle Woods and The Practice’s Ellenor Frutt.
Phoebe B: Oh my goodness, that’s PERFECT. Jane’s hair flip often reminds me of Elle.
Jennifer: Yep, that flip from this week is definitely an Elle trait, as well as the “toe tap booty bounce” from the first episode.
This week, we learned a lot about the patterns our PLLs fall into with their extended network of psychopaths, boyfriends, and family members. Hanna and Caleb continued their who’s-protecting-who spiral of deceit. Spencer had blinders on when it comes to her big sister’s nefarious ways. Aria was still trying to shield her mom from her father’s skeezy choices, and Emily was still grieving over Maya (and finding comfort in talking with Maya’s new-to-town cousin). But a few twists — and at least one major revelation — shook up the status quo. Read on for this week’s recap, and let us know your take in the comments.
Melissa is the Black Swan! And we found out that she had been faking her pregnancy for super-long. But do you believe her?? Was she really threatened by A?
Sarah T: The first part of this season seems to be devoted to giving all the prime suspects alibis. Last week Jenna explained why she’d been faking her blindness; this week Melissa explains why she’s been faking her pregnancy. Maybe next week Noel Kahn will explain why he’s been faking his… general opaqueness? Anyway, it’s true that Melissa was trying to tell Spencer something in that one episode last season, and that she called it off when she saw Spencer’s phone, so that part matches her story. And I guess I believe that A might have made her be the Black Swan, although why she would end up running away when she saw the rest of the PLLs still doesn’t make much sense. Actually, you know what I think? I think Melissa a) had something to do with Ali’s murder and b) is not part of the A-team. So I believe that she was getting threatening texts from A but I don’t believe she’s innocent — not with the incriminating video evidence, Ian’s line about how he was doing all this for Melissa, and her ample motivation for wanting Ali dead.
Phoebe B: Hmmm, Sarah I think you are on to something! I too am oh so suspicious of Melissa and can’t imagine that she is completely innocent. I mean she did fake a pregnancy for months and was sketchily hanging out with Garrett before his arrest. It would make sense if Melissa had something to do with Ali’s murder or at least knew something. (maybe Ali had something on her too?? Just like the PLLS.) But I agree I don’t think she is A or perhaps even on the A team. Also, I LOVED the PLLs snooping around Melissa’s apartment and making comments about she was more anal than Spencer and then I also giggled when they found the feather in the costume dress after the dramatic unzip. Such great stuff.
[Spoilers dot the article to follow like so many will-o'-the-wisps!]
Early on in Brave, rebellious Merida–she of 1,500 fiery curls–leaps on her Clydesdale and gallops out into the woods. The movie’s vision of its heroine at home in the Scottish countryside is breathtaking, despite the generic spread-your-wings-and-fly soundtrack that accompanies it.
Slinging arrows and mounting craggy rocks to duck under waterfalls, Merida is strong, fast, and physically fearless. Like another archery-loving 2012 movie heroine, Katniss Everdeen, she’s easy and knowledgeable in the wilderness. But while Katniss depends on the woods for her survival, Merida takes to the trees in order to escape stifling expectations about how a princess is supposed to behave.
In a pop culture landscape over-saturated with Disney princesses, Merida stands out from the pack to some extent. Not only is she utterly uninterested in getting married (or even falling in love at this particular moment in time), the movie doesn’t try to change her mind. Instead, Brave centers on her fight to choose her own destiny — romantic and otherwise — and on her troubled relationship with her mother, Queen Elinor. Elinor’s ideas about femininity, manners, and tradition are as oppressive as the wimple she uses to hide Merinda’s unruly mane.
With her slightly gap-toothed smile, round face, and freewheeling curls, Merida is also physically distinct from the usual Disney bunch. However, her appearance is perhaps most remarkable for the modesty of its deviation from the doe-eyed, bobble-headed norm. Her body may be more athletic than Cinderella’s, her features less delicate than Belle’s–but she’s still white, slender, and conventionally pretty. It’s great to see beauty standards expand, but the minuteness of the subversion feels a bit like a lost opportunity.
Sadly, the same could be said of Brave as a whole. I get excited just thinking about the possibilities of a movie that uses the word “brave” to sum up a girl. It’s a descriptor that’s been associated with masculinity for far too long. But oddly enough, after that first scene in the countryside, the movie doesn’t give Merida many opportunities to demonstrate how courageous she can be. She’s good at standing up for herself, as when she enters a tournament in order to win her own hand in marriage. And certainly she’s not timid or fearful. But because she’s never far from home or from her mother’s watch, the audience never gets to see her really test her mettle.
It’s true that Brave flips the script on the usual parent-child dynamic. Once a spell accidentally turns Elinor into a bear, Merida assumes responsibility for protecting her mother and reversing the magic before it’s too late. But it’s a bit disappointing that Pixar’s first female protagonist is so closely tied to her mom that she can’t just get into trouble solo for a little while. Finding Nemo centered on the relationship between a parent and child too, but it allowed Nemo to have adventures on his own. Merida, on the other hand, never appears to be more than an hour’s horseback ride or so away from the family castle.
Escaping your family, even temporarily, isn’t a prerequisite for independence. It can definitely help, though — particularly for women, who have historically been tethered to hearth and home by patriarchal ideas that keep domesticity, marriage, and motherhood sacrosanct. Family bonds can be wonderful, of course. But sometimes they weigh a good story down.
I recently had the desire to hate-watch my way through a parade of Manolo Blahniks, fancy bags, and bad acting—otherwise known as Sex and the City 2 (word to the wise: don’t watch SATC 2! It is terrible. It is almost too bad for hate watching.). The movie takes Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda out of Manhattan and into Abu Dhabi for a girls vacation, where they cause quite a lot of trouble with their American ways.
Amidst the recession and two wars in the Middle East the film proclaims a clear pro-America stance that figures the Middle East as repressive and oppressive. The ladies, on the other hand, are supposedly the picture of liberated white womanhood—defined per SATC 2 by super expensive fashion and sexual liberation. SATC 2 seems to imagine itself as on the progressive edge of feminism. But in fact, it trades in some of the worst stereotypes about both Middle Eastern cultures and Western, white feminists in the name of progressive politics.
Samantha, the leader of the trip to Abu Dhabi, is certain that her American way is the right way. She refuses to cover her shoulders or legs, behaves inappropriately, and flouts the rules. For example, Samantha and her architect date kiss on the beach after some overly sexual hookah smoking, despite prohibitions against public displays of affection and the clear discomfort they cause a nearby couple. Then she is arrested and quite miffed and surprised that she’s punished for her behavior. Not to fear though, back in America at the end of the film, she and her architect can have sex on a beach (not the drink) without legal interference. Oh freedom, how great you are!
This week things started to get a little bit out of control for the PLLs. It appears Mona is faking her crazy, Lucas is being creepy and also visiting the not-so-crazy Mona, Caleb is getting grumpy, and Mr. Fitz bonds with everybody. Read on for more thoughts on this week’s “Kingdom of the Blind”!
Do you believe that Jenna is scared? Or is she playing the PLLs?
Melissa: I really can’t tell for this one! The story she told about Emily just wandering around town drunk was a little out there…but then again, “out there” things seem to happen all the time in Ye Little Towne of Rosewood. The infamous fly-smashing shot really set her up as a villainous femme fatale, and her wide green eyes shouldn’t make us forget the scheming she and Garrett got up to last season. Then again…she did almost die in a fire and she did go blind in a fire, so Jenna has plenty of reasons to be scared. Could she have been a pawn in A’s game? And how hilarious was the bait and switch scene that led us to a doctor’s office and then to a gun store, all based on a note in a flute case? I kinda wanna call the girls paranoid, but Em had a good point: “You’re not paranoid if someone’s really out to get you.”
Sarah T: Jenna is nothing if not complex: I think she’s probably genuinely scared of someone and that she’s definitely not telling the Liars everything. But why should she trust them, really — from her perspective, these are the girls that blinded her and have done nothing but yell at her and act spooked ever since. She’s been sketchy too, of course, and she definitely set up Garrett for who knows what reason last season, but at this point it’s impossible to say what side she’s fighting on or what her motivations are.
I’m also interested in the implications of Jenna asking the Liars to keep her sight a secret. This is the first time she’s ever asked them for anything — not counting asking Aria to be her accompanist I suppose — and it has the potential to forge a bond between them. (Ben Franklin argued that if you want someone to like you, you should ask them for a favor, and I think he’s probably right.)
Phoebe B.: I agree with both of you! I am SO confused by Jenna … At once, she is totally the victim of Ali and the PLL’s cruelty but at the same time she has been set up as a femme fatale and also was super tricky last season. I just don’t know! But I am inclined, at least for the moment to believe her, though the story of her picking up Emily seems pretty weird although not impossible. But why would Emily be at Ali’s grave ready to get framed for digging up the grave? Was that just a coincidence? It seems so unlikely. Though I do agree that Jenna asking them to keep a secret seems like a gesture of trust, but what if she is just playing them? Trying to rope them into trusting her? It all seems so dangerous! Continue reading
It seems like only yesterday that Girls Like Giants was a tiny blog-like twinkle in our eyes. But the calendar doesn’t lie: GLG is officially one year old.
So much has happened in the last 12 months, it’s as if we all exist in a perpetual state of hyper-reality. Titanic sailed back into our lives on the winds of romantic nostalgia and 3-D mania; Katniss slew our hearts with her hardcore, hard-up courage; Rihanna found love in a hopeless place; the whole internet world stopped to argue about Girls. And this blog became a place for sometimes-complicated, sometimes-funny, always-thoughtful conversations about media and popular culture.
That last development is thanks to GLG’s awesomely talented contributors and to our equally awesome readers. You are the smize in our eyes, the Knope in our hope, the Unique wonder that makes us feel glee. Basically, you’re the best. Without you, we’re just a blog in a big old black hole of nothing.
To celebrate our blog-o-versary, we’ve put together a short list of some of our favorite posts from the past year. We limited ourselves to picking just one post from each author. What were some of your favorite posts from the past year? And what kinds of subjects and topics would you like to see GLG take on in the future? Let us know in the comments — we’re all ears.
Sarah T. tackles literary sexism in “Jonathan Franzen, Edith Wharton, and the Problem of Personality.”
Phoebe B. reflects on a gymnastics-filled childhood, tough coaches, and her favorite show in “Post-Dance Academy Reflections on Teaching, from a Former Gymnast.”
Melissa S. considers how to reconcile her love of Kanye with hip hop’s frequent women-bashing in “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Affair with Misogyny, Hip Hop, and Post-Feminism.”
Chelsea B. explores how removing Katniss’s voice impacts The Hunger Games movie in “On Silencing Katniss and Lady-Feelings.”
Sarah S. revels in Vampire Diaries, Caroline, and second chances in “The Unique, Potentially Surprising Ethics of The Vampire Diaries.”
Chelsea H. examines the Food Network’s treatment of ethnicity, race, and cultural cuisines in “Food Network Star, Branding, and Ethnic Entrapment.”
We also want to thank our other amazing contributors Narinda Heng, Taylor D., Jennifer Lynn Jones, Austin H., Jeni R, Sarah H., and Gina L. for allowing us to post their thoughts on everything from rock climbing to The Hunger Games, Torchwood, Rachel Dratch, Scored, and beyond.
Here are some fun and interesting things the GLG folks read this week. What did you read this week? Let us know in the comments!
From the Racialicious Tumblr, debunking the Kumbaya myth.
Check out the awesome trailer for the upcoming Dear White People movie here and their Tumblr here.
What pop culture items do academics study most? Buffy? The Matrix? Find out the answer this week at Slate.
Lastly: Going on a date this weekend? And looking for a perfume? Smell like Labyrinth! Check out Labyrinth-inspired perfumes over at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.
So this is what it’s like to be inside Fiona Apple’s head: Beautiful. Weird. Always intense. There’s a giant octopus waving its tentacles in the river Seine and a smaller octopus which you are permitted to wear as a hat. In bed, you confess your innermost secrets to a gentleman who wears a mask of a bull. Sometimes you commune with the snails.
With your brain, every single night’s a light and a fight. You carry it around in a medicine bag. Once in a while you cup your mind in your hands, consider its treasure and weight.
You want to connect. Play with a hula girl and it means you’ll become her. Look in an aquarium and soon you’re inside. You see bright threads running between a figurine Eiffel Tower and the real one, sparkling like fire; between them and you; between you and a small paper globe. They’re crossing in every direction. You can’t see what’s pulling the strings.
In your music and interviews, you’re vulnerable and conflicted and unfailingly honest. Earnestness paired with eccentricity can make for an easy brush-off: fifteen years ago you were widely ridiculed for speaking your mind.
These days, people are slower to laugh. It’s not quite cool to like you, but mostly because you’re out beyond cool. You tend to convert the most committed of skeptics. When you say “I just want to feel everything,” the way your voice rings and falters, there’s no way to doubt you mean what you’re singing.
Where the pain comes in, you’re almost Ophelia: long hair, heavy dress, floating still in the water with your blue eyes closed. But you’re not so far gone — you can turn things around. You swim upside-down when you need to.