thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘Television’

Veronica Mars: The Movie!

In Veronica Mars Movie on March 23, 2014 at 9:46 am

Phoebe B. and Melissa S.

MV5BMTQ4MDc0Mjg4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk3NjYyMTE@._V1_SX214_Since lady sleuths are the coolest and both of us have been waiting for the Veronica Mars movie with serious anticipation, we thought we would take a moment–or a post–to reflect on the revival of the most badass lady sleuth. We find Veronica, nine years later, living with Piz (who works at This American Life! And there was a special guest appearance by Ira Glass) in New York on the verge of becoming a high payed corporate attorney. As Veronica’s new boss (Jamie Lee Curtiss) suggests that Veronica’s job will be to defend powerful corporations against frivolous lawsuits, we get the impression that this is perhaps a bad fit. Even though Veronica has made it to the realms of the wealthy, it’s hard to imagine her sifting through papers behind a desk and defending the likes of Kane Software. After all, in Veronica’s words: she is addicted to mystery-solving and helping out those in need. And so it begins as she swoops into a still-corrupt Neptune to save Logan from a murder charge, attend a high school reunion, and find her true (job) calling.

Alert! some spoilers ahead …

What is your favorite part of the Veronica Mars movie?

Melissa S: I had too many. I had to make a list. My top 3 favorite parts included: 1) the fact that there is a club in Neptune called “the 09er,” introduced thus: “When you’re too old the exclude the undesirables from your lunch table, open a club, charge $22 for a vodka tonic, and put up a velvet rope. Make ‘em think this must  be heaven.” That right there perfectly captured the inelegant slide from high school dreams of making it to adult lies to yourself. 2) Mr. Clemens’s brief appearance!!! 3) The moment where Veronica calls Wallace (now a basketball coach at Neptune High!) and asks him to get a student’s permanent file.

Phoebe B: I think you nailed it. The description of the “09er” club was perfect and amazing. I also loved every scene with Dick … and especially his flask belt.

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Quiet Times: Ladies, Friendship, and “The Good Wife”

In CBS, gender, The Good Wife on September 18, 2013 at 5:42 am

Phoebe B.

On The Good Wife, female friendships–especially Alicia and Kalinda’s–and relationships between women are, I think, the driving force of the show. Yet, these relationships are inevitably strained, often silent, and above all else complicated. Near the middle of the show’s fourth season, Alicia and Kalinda sit quietly in a hotel room, drinking red wine. Each woman is atop a separate bed, so that they face out toward the camera. When they speak, their conversations are stilted–filled with one-word answers, long pauses, and minimal eye contact. Adding to the strangeness of the scene is the hunting-themed wood lodge where they’re spending the night, a setting where they are both–with their very nice clothes and red wine–out of place.

Watching Alicia and Kalinda interact this way is an uncomfortable experience for me as a viewer. In fact, seemingly strained silences often make me uncomfortable. Yet the discomfort is wholly my own. The characters themselves are actually quite comfortable; this image of the two of them–together yet distinctly separate–perhaps defines their friendship. And that’s one of the things I love most about The Good Wife: the show challenges my expectations of how female characters are supposed to behave and interact with one another on television.

kalinda-and-alicia

***

The first time I watched Pretty Little Liars was on Super Bowl Sunday about three years ago. At the time, I was living in a cute, though small, house in Eugene, Oregon, which conveniently had a lofted attic. While my boyfriend and two of his guy friends gathered downstairs to watch the football festivities, I holed myself away in the attic with an air mattress, a space heater, and some blankets.

I wandered downstairs midway through binge-watching the show, hungry and hoping to catch the Super Bowl halftime show—truly the only part I ever want to watch. (One word: Beyonce). Sitting on the couch, watching television together but barely speaking or making eye contact, were the three guys. On instinct, I began to talk to fill the space. Their silence made me nervous. The Jewish grandmother in me worried that they weren’t happy, or that they were hungry, or needed more beer. The list, as any goes on. Mostly, I just worried that their silence indicated they were having no fun at all.

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True Life: I’m A Character From Girls

In Girls on January 22, 2013 at 11:59 am
Guest Contributor Rachel Louchen
just one example of hannah's fine cardigan style

Last Sunday was a big night for Girls. The show made a killing at the Golden Globes while the first episode of its hotly anticipated second season ran simultaneously on HBO. But while I enjoyed the show’s first season—Chris O’Dowd, please be in every show ever—I have not been looking forward to its return. That’s because I fear that along with it will come a fresh slew of comments about how similar I am to the show’s protagonist, Hannah Horvath.

This is not a self-assessment, but something that has been told to me dozens of time by dozens of people. On paper, I can see the similarities. Up until recently, I was a 24-year-old aspiring writer living in Brooklyn (Greenpoint, no less)—much like Hannah. Like her, I’ve had questionable relationships with guys who were decidedly not good for me, and I am definitely into contrasting patterns style-wise. However, I worried that the comparisons between me and Hannah reflected more than the surface-level paralells—which in itself makes me too close to Lena Dunham’s over-analytical heroine for comfort.

My first thought after watching the pilot was that I found Hannah an immensely unlikeable and self-absorbed character. So you can imagine my surprise when, not even 24 hours after the show premiered, I was inundated with emails and texts from friends comparing me to her.  They ranged from mildly annoying—“Hey, this girl on TV talks and dresses like you”—to full-blown off the mark: “I didn’t know you were on a television show.” Where was this coming from? Okay, maybe the job interview scene where she makes a date rape joke was in line with my ongoing problem with discerning what is and isn’t appropriate for a given situation. But I find that quality more Bridget Jones than Hannah Horvath.

I especially didn’t feel like I had anything in common with Hannah when it came to financial independence The pilot opens with Hannah’s sweet and supportive parents announcing they are no longer going to financially support her. She responds by being flabbergasted, shocked, and totally entitled. As a girl who always pays the rent check and successfully budgets, I couldn’t relate to her. I couldn’t even sympathize.

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GLG Year-End Picks: Sarah S’s Favorite Books, TV Shows, and Songs

In books, music videos, Television on December 21, 2012 at 10:27 am

Sarah S.

Books

A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin: The segmented plots of Westeros and beyond weave back together in book 5 of the Song of Ice and Fire series. The gang’s together again, so to speak, or at least all the members who’ve made it out alive. Writer faster, George! Write like the wind!

Bossy Pants, Tina Fey: Fey’s self-deprecation does not mask her confidence. Her funny, interesting memoir feels like a sneak peek into the life of the woman we all want to be when we grow up.

Blood, Bones, and Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton: Beautiful. Gritty. Raw. If you live in NYC, I hope you eat at Prune. Wherever you live, I hope you’ll read Gabrielle Hamilton’s exquisite memoir.

The End of Men, Hannah Rosen: I hesitate to call this book one of the year’s “best” but it’s undoubtedly one of the most fascinating.

TV Shows

True Blood: All good things must come to an end, but summers are going to be dry indeed once True Blood goes off the air. This last season had imperfections, including the painfully boring werewolf plot and the heinous Iraq storyline. On the other hand, we did learn a lot about the Authority (at last!), Eric became one of the most interesting and developed characters on the show, Sookie’s charm returned since Eric/Bill’s imprisonment and actress Anna Paquin’s pregnancy forced the character to interact again with her friends and not just mope around in cute dresses/naked. Last, the season took a flailing character—Tara—paired her with one of the series’ best supporters—Pam—and fireworks ensued. True to form, we are left with more questions than answers, especially since Bill has transformed into an evil vampire blood god or whatever. In terms of the unending love triangle, I would say that Eric’s chances are looking up. Oh, and if you are not yet convinced, I have two words: Russell. Edgington.

Boardwalk Empire: There are many ways to revitalize a struggling show, one riddled with complaints about style over substance. However, Boardwalk Empire took an unorthodox approach by ending season 2 with the killing of a major character. Season 3 opened a year and a half later and the audience had to play catch up as we watched Nucky, haunted by his actions, becoming more and more of a monster. Nucky’s development ricocheted out to the rest of the characters—from his wife, Margaret; his brother, Eli; and his “colleagues” Arnold Rothstein, Owen Slater, and Chalky White. Last, we were treated to one bad-ass baddie in Bobby Canavale’s Gyp Rosetti and the lovely development of Richard Harrow. Boardwalk’s always been an actor’s show and this season allowed its cast to shine, showing that—wonder of wonders—Steve Buscemi can anchor a series, Canavale deserves way more work, and that if you give actors meaty roles they will tear into them with gusto.

Sons of Anarchy: Last season I feared that my beloved Sons had jumped their motorcycles right over that eponymous shark. Instead, they brought on Jimmy Smits, complicated Tara and Jax and their relationship, killed off a major character (*sniffle* Opie), surrounded us with baddies yet never let them detract from the real conflict within the club, and revitalized Gemma. In a conversation to be continued, we officially need to come up with a term for shows that seem like they’re about the jump the shark but that—like SOA—do not.

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GLG Year-End Picks: Phoebe’s Top 5 TV Shows

In ABC Soaps, Dance Academy, Pretty Little Liars, Scandal, Television on December 19, 2012 at 11:31 am

I watch a lot of TV. Like a lot. Thus, I was excited to put together this list, which did prove quite hard as there is a lot of fun TV out there right now. Anyway, as I made this list, I realized that all my favorite shows feature amazing leading ladies (both on and off-screen). This top five (perhaps save for PLL) is in no order in particular.

1) Pretty Little Liars

Pretty-Little-Liars-Aria-Spencer-Emily-Hanna

PLL continues its reign in my top spot. I realize this is not a 2012 show BUT last season was so good. It included such gems as a Psycho-esque season finale, a Rear Window reference, and Jenna regaining her sight in the best femme fatale scene ever. Oh and then there is Mona … the best villainess ever.

2) The Mindy Project

mindy-project__oPt

I was sold by the preview and the pilot. There is something so hilarious and charming about the Mindy Project and its hilarious and pretty awesome (and very pretty) heroine. I love Mindy’s spacey and craziness, but also that she has this super successful and amazing career. Most recently, we saw sadly that her new boyfriend turned out to be a jerk, but the highlight of the episode was how great her friends were afterwards. Basically, The Mindy Project is delightful and snarky simultaneously.

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“Nashville”: This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Them. Or Is It?

In class, gender, Nashville, The South on October 15, 2012 at 9:46 am

Firstly, welcome back Tami Taylor! I mean, Connie Britton! You are the best. Secondly, Nashville premiered this week on ABC–a show we at GLG have been super-excited about since the upfronts came out. So we wanted to take a little time to ponder the new series, its leading ladies, and its representation of the South.

What did you think about the Nashville pilot?

Phoebe B: I enjoyed it in part because I sort of love country music and really adore Connie Britton. I am also intrigued by the politics side of things, which appear ridden with mystery and corruption and family drama. I also was intrigued by what seem to be a criticism of youth culture in the music industry and the ways in which female musicians, for example Rayna (Connie Britton), are pushed out in favor of autotune and youth. I also worry, however, about the women in competition with each other aspect but also the show seems to figure that competition as perpetuated by the men of the music industry. Basically, I am excited for more Nashville but also wary of certain aspects of it.

Sarah T: As a fellow lover of Connie Britton and of Nashville (pretty much my entire paternal side of the family lives there), I’m rooting for this show to knock my cowboy boots off. So far I like, but do not love it — but hey, it’s only one episode! The show’s original music is great, and I’m excited to see the relationship and rivalry between the two female leads develop. I am also somewhat confused about whether or not Nashville owes Country Strong a cut of its royalties, since it has the exact same plot minus the older star’s alcoholism. And there are no baby birds in boxes. YET.

Chelsea B: Like both of you, I mostly watched because I adore Connie Britton and had my fingers crossed that her Nashville character would just be Tami Taylor in sequins and with a slightly different drawl. Rayna wasn’t quite that, but she also wasn’t a total disappointment. I also am bummed that the central storyline revolves around building competition between two female leads. I comfort myself (as a long-professed Taylor Swift anti-fan) by imagining that Hayden Panettiere’s character, Juliette Barnes, is actually a direct portrayal of Taylor Swift, despite claims to the contrary. I’m also into the political intrigue, even though Rayna’s daddy issues driving a lot of that conflict are already a bit wearisome. And I’m totally with you on the Country Strong comparison, ST! Leighton Meester could only have improved this show.

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Weight Weight, Don’t Tell Me: Body Image in “The Mindy Project”

In Television on September 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Sarah T.

The first comment about weight in Mindy  Kaling’s new show comes at the six-minute mark. “My body mass index isn’t great,” Mindy Lahiri tells her well-coiffed BFF Gwen, “but I’m not like Precious or anything.”

Kaling’s comedic timing is impeccable, but the joke rests on unsteady territory. Sure, Mindy’s being self-deprecating — but the punchline is really about how big Precious is. It assumes that, like Mindy, the show’s target audience of college-educated, middle-class women in their twenties and thirties will laugh at Precious to make themselves feel better by comparison. Of course, there are plenty of viewers who are closer to Gabourey Sidibe’s weight than to Kaling’s — but the show doesn’t seem worried about alienating them.

“No, guys, a culture that tells women they always have more weight to lose is a culture that wants women to disappear,” is not what they are saying. Maybe next episode.

The Mindy Project, as Sarah S. wrote in a recent GLG post, is a funny show with a heroine who,  in the tradition of Bridget Jones, is both together (doctor!) and a lovable mess (drunk bicycle-pool incidents). And like Bridget Jones, Mindy L. is clearly a bit obsessed with her weight. “Do you know how hard it is for a chubby 31-year-old woman to go on a legit date with a guy who majored in economics at Duke?” she demands as a patient tries to drag her away from a promising restaurant rendezvous.

HOW HARD IS IT?” this late-twenties, probably roughly-Kaling-sized viewer thought in a panic. And then I thought, “Wait. ‘Chubby?’ Is this show calling me fat?”

The answer, I think, is: sort of. The pilot mentions Lahiri’s non-stick-figure-size an average of once every 7 minutes. I don’t think Kaling, or the show, is intentionally trying to make fun of bigger people or rile up the insecurities of its audience. But while Kaling is a talented comedian, her approach to the subject of weight sometimes makes me wince. In her book Is Everyone Hanging Out with Out Me, she writes about being a happy and confident size 8. Yet she seems stuck in the body binary she’s protesting:

“Since I am not model-skinny, but also not super-fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall into that nebulous, “Normal American Woman Size” that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I’m a size 8 (this week, anyway). Many stylists hate that size because, I think, to them, I lack the self-discipline to be an aesthetic, or the sassy confidence to be a total fatty hedonist. They’re like ‘Pick a lane.’

While the language isn’t super-clear, I think Kaling means that the stylists, not her, see larger women as “total fatty hedonists.” But there still seems to be stereotyping of plus-size women at work in this passage, as if bigger physical size necessarily corresponds with an outsized personality.

What’s most revealing, though, is that Kaling describes herself as “Normal American Woman Size.” This is key to Kaling’s image as the ultimate gal-pal, the kind of witty, sparkly friend who’s always up for sleepovers and juicy gossip. “She’s become the contemporary Everywoman,” Jada Yuan’s New York Magazine profile of Kaling reports, “both a Mary and a Rhoda.” The central conceit of Kaling’s public persona — as well as of The Mindy Project — is that Mindy is relatable. And unfortunately, in our culture, one of the things women can relate to most is being self-conscious about weight. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “The Lady Killer” (Season 3 Summer Finale)

In Pretty Little Liars, Recaps on August 31, 2012 at 7:54 pm

This week’s PLL was SO scary and filled with many creepy twists and turns. Plus we got a reveAl, and Paige was cleared of all A-related business. Read on for our thoughts on the PLL summer finale.

Toby?! No! Wait really, do you think he is part of the A-team? Or is he playing Mona?

Sarah T: This reveal made me cackle out loud. And THAT is how you do a twist. I think it’s definitely possible that he’s a double agent who’s crossed over in order to bring down the A-team. He basically threatened to do as much earlier in the season when Spencer was stonewalling him. However, I hope that he’s in the Axis of Black Hoodie Evil for real — not because I want to see Spencer get hurt, but because that is so interesting if it’s true. It’s a total game-changer not just for his character and his relationship with Spencer, but for the entire series. It impacts what we think about his relationship with Jenna: What if she’s the innocent in this scenario? Or what if they’ve both been on the same side the whole time? It also has implications for what we know about the night Jenna got blinded and Ali’s argument with Toby in its aftermath. What if Toby really WAS spying on the PLLs the night of the Jenna Thing? What if Ali had something on him that was bigger than the step-incest intel? I like this plot development for the way it breaks the show open, so I hope it sticks.

Phoebe B: Oh my goodness so many good questions ST! Oh man I actually really hope that Toby is a double Agent and not part of the Axis of Black Hoodie Evil … Mostly I don’t want him to be evil and playing Spencer because they just slept together for the first time (right?) and I feel like it would be super messed up if he was then evil. I feel like if he was evil, then the show would be somehow punishing Spencer for sex and that would make me sad. BUT also, if Toby is indeed evil that would be an insane turn of events since then maybe he really was guilty back when he was accused. And Toby does randomly disappear a lot. Although remember when A-knocked him off that ladder/scaffolding situation at the Hastings? That seemed real and he seemed surprised. But maybe he was playing Jenna or was horrible to her? Rather than the other way around. Oh I don’t know anymore, I’m just so confused!

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Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Stolen Kisses” (Season 3, Episode 8)

In Pretty Little Liars on August 2, 2012 at 10:49 am

This week on Pretty Little Liars, everybody kissed everybody, which was fun, or else they flirted about dry-cleaning, which was very wrong. In other news, Maya had a vlog full of secrets, Ezra has Old Money and a vengeful mom, and A has a pocketful of sunshine. (Pocketful of sunshine = mad cash.) Read on for more on “Stolen Kisses.”

Yay!

Emily was with Paige on the night of the flask-driven wanderings that ended at Ali’s grave! Discuss.

Phoebe B: Oh my goodness! This was SUCH an interesting development and their KISS! SO amazing and such a long time coming. I felt like their conversation, including Emily’s reaction, about the night Emily was drugged was really interesting and seemed reasonable to me too. And then Paige’s apology to Emily was so heartfelt and sad and heartbreaking including her comment about how mad she was at whomever drugged Em. It became so clear to me in this episode how much Paige just adores Emily and is protective of her too. Then their kiss! And then the synchronized swimming!

Sarah T: I was also excited about their kiss and the metaphorical synchronized swimming, and I thought this plotline was often pretty hilarious. Like how Emily and Paige went on a run but really it looked like Emily was chasing Paige through the woods to try to get her to slow down and talk to her about That Night. It’s funny to me when people on TV set up a conversation explicitly to talk about something and then they don’t talk about it until, like, midway through the activity. Emily’s tiny hat was funny as well. She still looked amazing obviously because she’s Emily, but tiny hats are never not silly. Oh and then Paige’s speech to Emily was definitely heartfelt, but also so melodramatic (“It was like a dream… and then you were gone”). That’s just the way Paige rolls I think.

What are your thoughts on Fitz’s family? And his mean (yet super wealthy) mom?

Phoebe B: Ezra is secretly wealthy! And clearly the product of like serious East Coast prep school life! Madness. I did not see this coming at all but maybe it helps explain his random sock drawer full of rolled up bills in a giant ziplock bag. His mom also seems horrible and I couldn’t (and yet could) believe that she tried to buy Aria off. I did love Aria’s storming out (and her dress was SO beautiful) and her breakdown with her dad was also heartbreaking (so much emotion in this week’s episode). It was nice in some ways to see Byron be more supportive and present although I missed Ella and really wanted to know how her hot date with the cafe owner went!

Sarah T: This revelation about Ezra’s old money past makes soooo much sense, actually. That’s why he’s kind of generally dapper and uptight, and why he buys Aria expensive pinhole cameras, and why his version of struggling writer looks so elegantly scruffy — microbrews, Westerns, manly yet bohemian apartment decor. He practically has lightly worn elbow patches. Read the rest of this entry »

Mission Possible: Support Women in Television with “Sigma”

In Television on July 28, 2012 at 7:33 am

Hello Giants whom these Girls Like so very much,

If you like your television with roundhouse kicks and a dose of feminism to boot, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Sigma, a spy action series by Josh Rector and Jesús Alarcón Castellanos. The series follows the story of Agent Sigma, a young woman trained in the art of espionage by the mysterious (and ominous) Eden Group. With two female action leads and killer talent, it’s the kind of show we could definitely use more of.

But Sigma needs your help! The project is raising money through a Kickstarter fund in order to shoot a pilot. Check out a teaser and donate at

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1121873737/sigma-a-spy-action-series

And help spread the word! Tell your friends, tell your spies. Over and out.

Rock and Roll: Lena Dunham’s Girls

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Sarah T.

Five minutes into the fourth episode of Girls, I realized I’d fallen deep, deeply in love. The signs were pretty unmistakable: I was sitting up in bed, grinning a mile wide, and my hands had spontaneously shaped themselves into a heart that framed Hannah Horvath’s winking face on my computer screen.

I knew Hannah couldn’t see me.

I sort of knew she couldn’t see me.

I felt seen.

It was the title card, and what had happened immediately before it, that tipped me into head-over-heels territory.

As the show opens, Hannah gets a sext from her caveman-friend-with-benefits, Adam. That’s enough to make her gasp and laugh disbelievingly with her roommate Marnie. But this sext comes with a sucker punch: seconds later, Adam texts, “Sry, that wasn’t for you.”

You’d think a girl in that position would tell her paramour to take a hike, or at least—as Marnie strongly recommends—refuse to dignify the whole thing with a response. But Hannah’s in denial. “If there was another girl, he’d never be this obvious about it,” she tells Marnie.

She’s also insecure (obviously, she’s 24). But best of all—what makes Hannah Horvath, and Lena Dunham, so much fun to watch—she is absolutely shameless. As Marnie retreats back into her bedroom, a heavy guitar riff kicks in. Hannah strips off her shirt and poses for the camera: face turned in three-quarters profile, mouth open like a Muppet, one eye squeezed shut in an exaggerated wink.

“I can’t take a serious naked picture of myself,” she confesses later in the episode. Posing on the couch, she looks ridiculous. Also awesome. And whereas other shows might use the scene to embarrass or condemn Hannah, this show gives her a rock and roll soundtrack and that wonderful title card—GIRLS, all in caps, big bold font, black background, sans serif. That sequence told me that the show was with Hannah through every mistake she was going to make, and I knew then: so was I.

Almost every episode begins with a variation of the same formula. One of the four main characters does something weird, or awkward, or reckless, or rude. Hannah reads out lout from the diary entry that ruined Marnie’s relationship, then pauses to ask Marnie if she’d have liked it if it wasn’t about her, “just as like a piece of writing.” Hannah takes off for the airport with her clothes bundled into a garbage bag because she doesn’t own a piece of luggage. Jessa receives a text from an unknown number and writes back a flirtatious note inviting the mystery guest to a party in Bushwick.

The opening scene is never concerned with flattering the show’s characters; it just wants to be honest about who these people are. And when GIRLS flashes onscreen immediately following whatever messed-up, beautiful thing just happened, I feel a rush of excitement. This is what girls are like, the title card tells us—not all girls, certainly, or most girls. But these girls: check their radical narcissism, their arrogance and anxiety and guts. The show dares you to love them.

There are valid reasons to decline the dare, particularly with regard to the show’s overwhelming privilege. Girls has got some rad feminist politics, but it needs to be more intersectional. God, I hope it will be more intersectional: Imagine the places this show could go. For now, I recognize the problems with its first season as well as everything the show is doing right.

Last weekend, I picked up Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason at a book sale. Bridget is Girls‘ fairy godmother in a lot of ways: messy, funny, bawdy, bizarre. In the sequel, Bridget’s mother offers her daughter a rare piece of good advice. Lena Dunham and company seem to have taken it  to heart, and they’re pushing viewers to do the same.

Women, Bridget’s mother says, can get conned into believing they have to follow a million different rules to deserve to be loved. They end up thinking they have to be skinny and polished and successful but not too successful and coolly unavailable and freakishly young. It’s all basically rubbish, she says. Remember the Velveteen Rabbit. Truth is, all you have to do is be real.

Divas, Lawyers, and Why “Drop Dead Diva” is the Best Summer Show You Are Not Watching

In body politics, Drop Dead Diva, Lifetime on June 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm

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!

Jane, KK as Nikki , and Stacy (courtesy of Lifetime)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Birds of a Feather” (Season 3, Episode 4)

In Pretty Little Liars, Recaps on June 28, 2012 at 9:48 am

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.

“Trust me. It’ll work. Hot. Mama.”

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Giant Anniversary

In feminism, Food Network, girl culture, Hunger Games, Teaching, teen soaps, violence on June 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Phoebe B. & Sarah T.

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.”

Brian P. contemplates cross-playing gender in video games in “Gender/Play: The Problems, Promise, and Pleasures of Video Game Crossplaying” Part 1 and Part 2.

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.

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Blood Is the New Black” (Season 3, Episode 2)

In Recaps, teen soaps, Uncategorized on June 13, 2012 at 11:01 am

The PLLs are gearing up for a scary, confusing, and crazy season. This week, we discovered a dark secret in Aria’s past; Meredith returned (ugh);  Ella took a test; Mona stabbed her finger with tweezers; and the PLLs proved that Jenna can see. Read on for some GLG musings on this week’s episode!

What’s up with Jody from Center Stage (aka Meredith) getting all up in Aria’s grill? Does her end game involve Jamiroquai

Phoebe: Firstly, is is so weird to see Jody from Center Stage being mean! I just want her to do a rock ballet to a Jamiroquai song. Secondly, Meredith is SO mean! Although some of her meanness makes sense now that we know she was unfairly accused of destroying Byron’s office … It also seems like maybe she suspected Aria of the vandalism already. Also, why are all the women that work at Hollis College really mean and horrible? Like Meredith and Ezra’s ex-girlfriend Jackie (was that her name?).

Melissa: I was also wondering why Meredith and Jackie were so…similar. Snarly diva attitude? Check. Hair that’s just like the PLL’s hair from season one (voluptuous, shiny, long, and curling-iron perfect)? Check. Vendettas straight out of eighth grade? Check. Inappropriate levels of rage towards a high school girl (having nothing to do with her TERRIBLE dress made out of a canvas sack but having everything to do with her terrible, pretentious, cheating father and her terrible choice to date a semi-adult-man who is her teacher)? Check. Also, just for the record, while I’m not planning on having an affair with a much-older and meaner married man any time soon, should I do so, I would kinda expect his children to be vengeful. I’m just saying…

Spencer drank all the coffee out of this bag, then I draped it around my knees and used belts to hold it up!!!

Read the rest of this entry »

“Bunheads”: Regrets, They Have A Few

In teen soaps, Television, Uncategorized on June 12, 2012 at 8:44 am

Sarah T.

The smart-aleck heroine at the center of ABC Family’s new dance drama Bunheads isn’t a mess — though she sure thinks she is. She has, however, messed up several times over.

In the show’s pilot episode, Michelle (Sutton Foster) reveals that she let a promising dance career slip away, gradually sliding from the American Ballet Academy to the life of a jaded Las Vegas showgirl. She lives in a bare apartment with a broken air conditioner and a fridge containing precisely one six-pack of beer.

That’s Mess #1.

Mess #2 happens when Michelle is summarily dismissed from a Chicago audition that she’d hoped would be the start of a comeback. Fearing that she’s over the hill, she opts for a different kind of overhaul. Thanks to a perfect storm of desperation, martinis, and the kindness of a mild-mannered yet ardent suitor named Hubble, she marries a practical stranger. The next morning, she wakes up in the passenger seat of a car bound for the sleepy coastal town of Paradise, California. She ogles her wedding ring, stares open-mouthed at Hubble, and falls back asleep.

As a sucker for heroines who make big mistakes and live through them, I’m already pretty much set to love Michelle without reserves. As played with screwball-comedy jauntiness by Broadway darling Foster, she’s a complicated woman: brittle, warm, goofy, disappointed. She’s willed herself into tailspin for most of her life, using parties and drinks and easy laughs to muffle the nagging doubts that clip at her heels.

“You’ve squandered a lot of potential,” her new mother-in-law tells her. She’s a former professional dancer herself, so she knows what she’s talking about.

“I know,” Michelle says.

“Are you sorry?”

“Every day of my life.” Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “It Happened that Night” (Season 3, Episode 1)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on June 7, 2012 at 10:20 am

The Prettiest of the Little Liars are back and A is scarier than ever. Last season ended with a Psycho-esque turn. With Mona tucked away safely in a mental institution, the PLLs thought their A-related troubles were over. Sadly for them, but lucky for us, they were wrong. This season looks scarier than ever replete with empty graves, a new and more terrifying A, and much much more. Read on for GLG’s thoughts on this season’s opener.

“Mona played with dolls, I play with body parts”. -A

What do you think about the PLL’s individual states of being? Emily is understandably having a rough time…

Sarah T.: I’m glad they all had prototypical summer activities: Spencer was scholarly, Aria was artsy, Emily was a do-gooder and Hanna had fun with cooking classes and new vocabulary a la Cher from Clueless. (Maybe my favorite moment of the episode was her solemn attempt to comfort Aria by correctly yet oddly using the word “jubilation.”)

Spence and Hanna seem to be the most stable at the moment. It completely makes sense that Emily’s in heavy-drinking and mourning mode: she’s now lost two people she was close with (and with whom she had romantic relationships ranging from semi- to fully-realized). Shay Mitchell did good job of showing how Emily’s sullenness is a cover for the real pain she’s dealing with.

Aria seems more fragile than usual in the aftermath of the A-bathroom scare, which probably has as much to do with the fact that her parents are splitting up as it does how terrifying that hoodie person was. (What happened when the stall door swung open slowly? We never find out. Did she have a panic attack and black out the way Emily did, or was there no one there at that point?) I’ll be interested to see if A is finally going to start coming after her the way A has with the other three girls.

Phoebe: I totally agree about Emily and feel like her response is pretty reasonable. Although, I felt so sad for her when she felt guilty as if A basically abducting her and taking her to an empty grave (ie framing her) was her fault! Also, I thought it was weird that this episode the PLLs were apart so much. Like they were together initially at Spencer’s house and then the Lake house but then spent most of the episode in separate places, which made me anxious!

Also, Aria! So, while the episode totally set us up to believe that she has having a panic attack (what with her earlier bad dream at Ezra’s) I am not sure that she did have a panic attack. I wondered if perhaps A was in the bathroom and being extra scary. Since A seems to always know everything, maybe A knows and is cruelly playing on Aria’s panic attacks?

Lastly, I love that Spencer spent her summer sitting in the former A room at the former creepy motel and trying to reconstruct it from memory. (Although I am worried that her computer will be gone by next episode since she foolishly left it in the room when the PLLs went out to discover all the photos in Spence’s car.) But I love that she realized that there is more to A than Mona and that she decided to be proactive and detective like about it. Go Spencer!

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome Back Pretty Little Liars!

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, Recaps, teen soaps, Television on May 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Next week, the Pretty Little Liars are back! And a few of us at GLG are pretty excited for their mystery-filled summer return. But before they’re on our screens again, we thought a little pre-season catch-up might be in order. Read on for our thoughts on last season, our favorite and least favorite beaus, and some predictions for the PLL’s summer homecoming.

In your opinion, what are some of the most important things that happened last season?

Phoebe: Jenna can see! Remember when she hit that fly in the mirror and it was AMAZING. Also, Mona is A or part of A and also pretty crazy, it turns out. Poor Hannah … But, oh man was Mona’s final monologue in the season finale amazing (and Norman Bates-esque). And, Mona was visited by somebody (maybe Vivian Darkbloom?) while in the mental hospital. Also, definitely worth noting, A is definitely a group of people, not a single person. The therapist is back but I’m a little bit worried that she has returned to do A’s bidding, rather than help the PLLs. Importantly, the season ended with the PLLs finding out that Maya is most likely dead and most likely killed by A, whomever that may be.

Melissa: Phoebe really hit the highlights. Can you say VIVIAN DARKBLOOM? Also, love-problems: Aria’s dad tried to send Mr. Fitz to Georgia; Toby thinks Spencer was dating Wren (or does he?!?!?!) and seems to be back in service of Jenna; the probably-dead Maya seemed to have some secret goings-on that she kept from Emily, and I’m not talking about under-water light-mobiles; and Caleb is going behind Hanna’s back to elude her overly-protective, blender-wielding, thumb-drive-demolishing ways. Also, the moms thought about mobilizing again to protect their daughters, though that hasn’t yet come to fruition.

Sarah: Since you two have covered the most important plot points, I’ll focus on the most important style points. Aria wore neon platform clogs and ladder pants and some kind of dead Muppet vampire vest. Wren perfected the rumpled, spritely English gentleman vibe. Paige dressed in a tuxedo at the final dance and she looked hot. Mona was a vision at all times and I started wearing a side ponytail so I could be more like her, although now it appears I should also invest in an oversized black hoodie and a straitjacket.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fall TV Upfronts: The Cliff’s Notes

In Television, Uncategorized on May 21, 2012 at 8:50 am

Upfront season has come and gone, like a mysterious stranger who really wants to talk to you about dystopias and dating in the big city. Below, Phoebe and Sarah chat about a few notable shows heading to a television/Hulu near you this fall. What’s your take?

The Mindy Project, Fox

Sarah T: I am torn here. Mindy Kaling is really funny — I liked Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) — and I dig the idea of her as a single, fun-loving OB/GYN in the big city. But the trailer makes the show look as if it’s going to embrace a pretty mainstream rom-com idea about What Women Want, you know what I mean? Like there’s going to be a lot of jokes about buying shoes and the impossibility of having it all. And that is fine, I guess, but I have higher hopes for Kaling. (Although her comedic persona is kind of about doing a twist on those tropes, so maybe this is actually what I should have expected.) Anyway, I’ll definitely give at least the pilot a shot, if only to see how many sparkly dresses she can wear in one episode.

Phoebe: I am intrigued by Kaling’s show and actually thought the trailer was quite funny. I do see the potential pitfalls of embracing the mainstream romantic comedy situation, but at least the preview felt like it was super self-conscious about its genre and will play with it, which could be quite fun and intriguing. And dating when you work a lot, in a city and in general, is hilarious and weird and hard and I think this show might be a fun take on it. Plus, Kaling is running her own show! Read the rest of this entry »

Dan Harmon’s Last Stand: On Community

In Television on May 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

Sarah T.

“Introduction to Finality” wasn’t the last episode of Community, but as of yesterday it became showrunner Dan Harmon’s final outing. Vulture reports that Sony Pictures Television is replacing Harmon with Happy Endings writers David Guarascio and Moses Port.

Happy Endings is a funny show, and I’m sure Guarascio and Port are quite talented. But, at least at first, the choice to grant the low-rated but much-beloved Community another season yet oust Harmon seems to be a real head-scratcher. After all, pretty much everybody agrees that Harmon is the soul of the show. As Harmon himself writes in responding to the news: “I’m not saying you can’t make a good version of Community without me, but I am definitely saying that you can’t make my version of it unless I have the option of saying ‘it has to be like this or I quit’ roughly 8 times a day.”

Without Harmon, there are no adorable 8-bit videogame character and claymation specials. There’s no episode-long parody of Heart of Darkness, no epic paintball games, no magical trampolines, no multiple timelines. Basically, without him the show gets a lot less weird, which is both why Community fans are up in arms over his dismissal and (probably) why network executives fired him in the first place. As long as Community was unpredictable, self-referential, and sometimes inscrutable, it was never going to gain a very large audience. Speaking as a fan of unpredictable self-referential inscrutable shows, it’s kind of amazing that Community and Harmon have even lasted as long as they did.

As disappointed as I am over Harmon’s forced departure, I’m now especially grateful for “Introduction to Finality,” which concluded the show’s third season. The episode would have worked just as well as a series finale, and in light of Harmon’s exit I’ll go ahead and think of it that way. Read the rest of this entry »

Bare Your Fangs: Torture, Women, and The Vampire Diaries

In misogyny, Television, Uncategorized, violence on May 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

Sarah T.

I do not want to write about The Vampire Diaries and torture porn. If I write about it, I have to watch the torture scenes again, and that makes me feel at best feeble and at worst extremely nauseous. But after watching “Before Sunset,” the penultimate episode of season three, I can’t put it off any longer.

In many ways The Vampire Diaries is a compelling show. The plot moves at a clip as lightning-fast as the show’s bloodsuckers, and there are enough juicy love triangles to stump (and enthrall) a practiced geometry teacher. The central characters are permitted to evolve over time, often branching out in surprising new directions.

The show has its problems too. Racialicious, for example, has featured two great articles outlining the issues with the show’s treatment of characters of color, particularly Bonnie Bennett, teenage witch. TVD also features a mind-boggling amount of scenes that depict protracted physical pain, violence, and human suffering. All of the show’s main vampires have been tortured at one point or another, but the character who seems to get tortured most often is the young, blonde Vampire Barbie—also known as Caroline Forbes.

No way I’m showing an image of violence against Caroline here. Instead, here she is befriending a horse.

Caroline is one of the show’s most well-developed characters, a rightful fan favorite. (Sarah S. explains in more detail what makes her so awesome here.) She’s funny, neurotic, and deeply caring; her commitment to social events and proper dress attire is unparalleled. Theoretically Elena, as the kind and broody girl torn between two brother vampires, is the show’s central character, but Caroline tends to get more emotionally rich scenes and storylines.

She also tends to get caged, bound, gagged and tortured while she screams in pain and begs for her suffering to stop. These torture scenes render the most physically powerful woman on the show—a character with superhuman strength and speed, not to mention immortality—essentially, though temporarily, powerless. Read the rest of this entry »

Post- “Dance Academy” Reflections on Teaching, from a Former Gymnast

In Dance Academy, gender, Teaching, teen soaps, Television on May 14, 2012 at 10:54 am

Phoebe B.

I am a teacher, and I have just about always known that I wanted to be one. I have selfish reasons aplenty for why I love to teach, and there are just as many political reasons why I think teaching is important. But this post is about more than just my teaching experience or thoughts on teaching, rather it’s about teaching style and the teachers we see represented and reflected in popular culture. That said, my own experiences as a teacher and a student certainly provide the lens through which I understand and negotiate teaching. I am, as described by my students at various points, fun and funny, awkward, difficult and rigorous with high expectations, goofy, helpful, young-seeming, and tough. I’m sure there are many more adjectives that might describe my teaching, from my students’ perspectives or even mine for that matter, but I want to stick, at least for the moment, on the descriptions of difficult, rigorous, and tough.

I grew up doing competitive gymnastics, a sport I began at 3 or 4 and left at 17, right before my junior prom (the prom pictures still reveal quite a few left-over, and impressive, gymnastics muscles). Gymnastics, from the time I was in third grade through the time I left at 17, was my whole life or at least a giant part of it. In that sport, you learn to push yourself all the time. Your harshest critics are your biggest fans, your coaches push you beyond your perceived limits to find new limits, they spot you until they trust you can do it on your own, and they sometimes cause you pain to push you further that you thought possible or even productive. The gym was a space where all the girls on my team both suffered and triumphed together: there were tears, frustrated storming out, yelling, time outs, extra strength exercises because you talked back, and hugs and congratulations when you stuck your landing.

I was never the best gymnast or best gymnastics student, nor was I the best school student. I didn’t stand out a particular amount, but I worked really hard, often surrounded by people that were better than me. This continually pushed me to be better–to be more like them. But the tough coaches were also crucial, although it has taken me quite some years to realize and appreciate this fact. They treated us like family, we were like their kids. When we traveled together, they set our bed times, made sure that we ate enough when we went out to eat, set rules and regulations for acceptable forms of behavior and instilled in us the idea that we were responsible for ourselves, our success, and our failures.

These coaches were, and probably still are, really demanding. But their toughness made me strong and responsible and sometimes even resilient. And I would venture to say that this is true of just about all the gymnastics girls I grew up with. They were the kinds of teachers whose methods I did not always like, but whose lessons have stuck with me. They were the teachers, along with some crucial writing teachers in high school, that influenced my own teaching. They are the teachers that lead my students to label me as tough, rigorous, and demanding. But that rigor, those rules, that discipline, also allowed crucial space for fun, for experimentation, for creativity, and for self-expression.

The Dance Academy crew

This phenomenon, the tough yet caring teacher, is not one I often find reflected in pop culture. But then there was Dance Academy, the marvelous Australian TV show available on Netflix. As GLG co-founder and partner in crime Sarah T. will tell you (she is the one that convinced me to watch it), Dance Academy is amazing. And it is amazing for SO many reasons. But for now I’ll just stick to one, which is the relationship between students and teachers at the Australian National Dance Academy. There is one teacher (and by the second season she is the principal of the school), Miss Raine, who particularly strikes my fancy.

Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up: Race & the Media

In activism, race, violence, Weekly Round-Up on May 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

It has been a rather quiet week on GLG (mostly because we are having an in-person GLG reunion over here in Oregon) and we shall be back in full force next week. But, in the meantime here are some links on race & the media. Have a great weekend!

From Adrienne K. of Native Appropriations:
http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2012/04/johnny-depp-as-tonto-im-still-not.html

Not from this week, but a great post from Herman Gray on Flow TV on race, space, and the media:
http://flowtv.org/2012/03/gloved-hands-pressed-uniforms/

From Thea Lim at Racialicious:
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/05/02/a-historical-guide-to-hipster-racism/

Also from Racialicious, Arturo Garcia on Ashton Kutcher in brownface (WTF!):
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/05/03/half-baked-popchips-and-ashton-kutchers-brownface-fiasco/#more-22466

From the Nation, a great post on Race, Racism, and Millenials:
http://www.thenation.com/blog/167590/race-millennials-and-reverse-discrimination

Lastly and importantly: race, violence, transphobia, and activism for Cece McDonald.
http://supportcece.wordpress.com/about-2/background/

Rebound: Being Unique on “Glee”

In gender, girl culture, Glee on April 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Phoebe B.

Lena Dunham’s hotly anticipated Girls is still the topic of the week, with bad and good reviews in every major and minor news outlet. In all the hubbub, I worry that we might have missed what was (for me at least) the most exciting moment of television in some time. Last week, Glee addressed being gender non-conforming through high school student and Vocal Adrenaline member Wade/Unique. Wade feels more at home when expressing his gender as feminine and the amazing Unique is definitely not the kind of girl who gets included in Girls.

Unique is played by Alex Newell, from last year’s Glee Project. Alex regularly performed in drag during the show. For example, he once wowed Ryan Murphy by singing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls as Effie White, which may or may not have brought me to tears (I love that song!). He is truly talented and I loved him on the Glee Project (and on Glee for that matter). Sadly, he didn’t win the Glee Project, but I am grateful that Ryan Murphy saw his talent and cast him anyway—and I would LOVE to see more of him.

So here’s what happened on Glee last week: Wade asked Kurt and Mercedes whether he should perform as Unique in a Vocal Adrenaline show. The duo dissuades him from doing so, then persuades him (per Sue’s evil-ish influence), and then attempts to dissuade him again. The final dissuading, however, is unsuccessful, and Wade goes on to perform as Unique and wow the crowd. She sings, following the Disco themed episode, “Put on My Boogie Shoes.”

Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up

In feminism, Television, Weekly Round-Up on April 21, 2012 at 9:31 am

Here are just a few good reads from around the internet this week. Have a great weekend!

“Bodies Have Histories” From the Crunk Feminist Collective:
http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/bodies-have-histories-musing-on-makode-linde-and-that-cake/

Adrienne K. on “Savage That” Video over on Native Appropriations:
http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2012/04/midweek-motivation-savage-that-awesome.html

“Horrible Death Imminent according to TV” at the Awl:
http://thehairpin.com/2012/04/horrible-death-imminent-according-to-tv

On Tupac’s digital second life, from the New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/20/opinion/tupac-live-and-onstage.html

The Rise of the Mormon Feminist Housewife, from Salon:
http://www.salon.com/2012/04/20/the_rise_of_the_mormon_feminist_housewife/

And, finally why Community is TV’s most ambitious show, from Vulture:
http://www.vulture.com/2012/04/seitz-community-is-tvs-most-ambitious-show.html

The Politics of “30 Rock” and “Parks and Rec”: Macho Men and Powerful Women

In Television on April 20, 2012 at 8:18 am

Sarah T.

“Bitches get stuff done,” Tina Fey proclaimed in a 2008 SNL Update, defending Hillary Clinton against sexist naysayers. A jubilant Amy Poehler grinned and threw signs at her side. The women’s allegiance to one another, and to Clinton, was palpable. Together they formed a triangle of  smart, powerful ladies, ready to catch whatever insults got hurled their way and eat them for lunch.

Four years later, Clinton is a Tumblr-inspiring Secretary of State and Poehler and Fey head renowned comedies on NBC’s Thursday lineup. Like Clinton, their characters Leslie Knope and Liz Lemon make their livings getting stuff done. Both are professional single women in their thirties who keep their workplaces afloat—Leslie through five-alarm enthusiastic productivity at all hours of the day; Liz by harriedly shepherding her coworkers over and around the obstacles they create for themselves.

But it’s their bosses Jack Donaghy and Ron Swanson who are truly brothers from another mother. Jack and Ron like their governments small, their Scotches fine, and their red meat cooked so rare it’s practically bleeding. Their trim haircuts hold effortless swoops. They’re manly, confident, all-American, irresistible to ladies, and politically rightward of their female counterparts.

While Fey and Poehler are the heart of the shows as flawed, lovable protagonists, Jack and Ron are meme-generating myths. Onscreen, they’re universally admired by their coworkers and treated as heartthrobs, their aura of manliness serving as catnip for straight women and gay men (bears!). As “real” men, they’re meant to be a dying breed; therefore Jack always has a video vixen or Fox money bunny on his arm, while Ron makes his friends’ ex-wives swoon. (Offscreen, they tend to elicit the same response—a recent article by LA Times critic  Mary McNamara confessed her undying love for Ron Swanson.) And on comedies that are quick to identify characters’ weak spots—whether lovingly (Parks and Rec) or cynically (30 Rock)—Jack and Ron are rarely the butt of a joke. The character-driven jokes about their personalities and preferences tend to come from their own mouths, not from other characters; their fortress of masculine invulnerability protects them from cutting zingers. Read the rest of this entry »

Mad Men’s Terrifying “Mystery Date”

In gender, Mad Men, race, Television, violence on April 12, 2012 at 8:39 am

Sarah S.

This most recent episode of Mad Men initially stumped me. It linked its many plots with a theme of sexual violence against women that, at first, seemed heavy-handed and obvious. Yet after contemplation I think it might represent one of the smartest episodes to date. Mad Men makes a lot of hay out of gender relations in the 1960s, leading to a lot of smug pearl clutching over how far we’ve come; “Mystery Date” (season 5, episode 3), however, resonates because it reveals how far we have not come in certain respects, and the way that threats of sexual violence still keep women in check.

The episode begins with Peggy’s (Elisabeth Moss) friend Joyce (Zosia Mamet) sashaying into the office with pictures of the recent nurse murders in Chicago, “unsuitable for publication.” The responses range from horrified fascination from most of the team to revolted contempt from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s newest hire, the marketing prodigy Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman). Ginsberg, however, takes his disgust and translates it into an ad pitch for Topaz pantyhose that involves a single-shoed Cinderella running in a panic from a dark, looming castle while a stranger chases her. When he finally grabs her, he’s handsome, but it doesn’t matter because her face indicates that she wants to be caught. Topaz eats it up, and Don (Jon Hamm) is annoyed at Ginsberg for going rogue with his vision, but everybody thinks it’s a great idea for a commercial. The nurse murders remain a theme throughout the episode, coloring every interaction we see. But the linkage between the “Cinderella” commercial and the violent rape and murder of nine nurses highlights the disturbing relationship that America has to controlling women. (Note: I’m breaking this up mostly by sub-plots rather than chronologically to get at the main themes and points.)

The theme continues after Don, sick with a bad flu, runs into an ex-lover on the elevator (much to Megan’s [Jessica Paré] annoyance). He goes home sick for the day but the woman, Andrea (Mädchen Amick), shows up at his apartment. Don hustles her out but she returns and, Don being Don, they have hot sex. Afterward, Don tells her this is the last time but she sasses him back, pointing out that he’s too twisted to say no. In a rage, he throws her to ground and strangles her, finally shoving her body under the bed before passing out. We discover, of course, that he hallucinated the whole thing in his fevered state. This twist stands out as particularly heavy-handed and opaque. Are we meant to view it as a Freudian peek into Don’s psyche, the legacy of a violent father, or, rather, to contrast “bad girl/slut” Andrea against “good girl/wife” Megan and see that Don believes entirely in such dichotomies? He certainly has a history of mistreating “bad” women (i.e. every meeting of his affair with Bobbie Barrett [Melinda McGraw]) although his track record with “good” ones isn’t very impressive either. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Finale Recap: “‘A’ Day” (Season 2, Episode 25)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television on March 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

This week, on the season finale, the PLLs wore some masks; traveled to a Psycho-like hotel in search of A; Spencer found A’s lair but was tricked by Mona; and Mona was revealed as part of the A team. Read on for more on this week’s crazy episode!

Mona is A! (Or at least part of the A-team.) How do we feel in our hearts and souls?

Melissa: Sad! I believed in Mona’s redemption, up until this very episode. But I also still kinda love her, because she is such an evil mastermind, and it was gratifying even to me (Spencer’s biggest fan!) to see Mona outsmart Spencer for a few moments. (The muttered line, “Cashmere sweaters……” was so hilarious to me. What a reveal for Spencer!) I also feel like this was a half-reveal. Mona herself admits that she’s only part of the A-Team (a fact the rest of the PLLs seem to be blithely ignoring, God only knows why) and I feel like she’s clearly not THE mastermind, as the closing tag shows her saying, “I did everything you told me to!” I’d say whoever is pulling Mona’s strings is the real (wo)man behind the curtain…

Chelsea B: The whole Mona storyline over the last half of this season felt so weirdly centralized that it was always suspicious. However, I did think Mona did a good job of bluffing with Spencer (Master of Suspicion) up until she was good and ready to show her hand. She knew the black swan thing would be a tipping point, for reasons I’m still unclear on. I suppose I mostly feel validated, but interested in more details about the Mona/Vivian Darkbloom partnership because if her story about shopping in Brookhaven and running into Ali wasn’t entirely fabricated, the red coat that appears in the final scene has important implications.

Phoebe: Yes yes and yes! So, I loved Mona’s final monologue about lipstick and things. It was so creepy and amazing and felt straight out of Psycho (as did the rest of the episode I suppose). And, I was gratified to find out that Mona is actually super smart and kind of like an evil Spencer. And, the red coat at the end I feel like is a sign that Ali has a twin. Okay, so I just really want Ali to have an evil twin who is running the show.

Sarah T: I was only really sad when I thought Mona was dead — when her eyes flew open and she checked her watch I was flooded with relief. Because as Melissa and Phoebe say, it turns out she’s a pretty awesome psycho-villain-genius, just as she was a pretty awesome superficial mean girl with a heart of gold and a pretty awesome eager nerd with braids and glasses. Mona just gets five stars whatever she does in my book. However, I feel awful for Hanna, who really loved Mona and must be experiencing serious trust issues (and now Lucas is implicated too?).  Good thing Dr. Sullivan is back in town. OR IS IT? Trust no one. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “If These Dolls Could Talk” (Season 2, Episode 24)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television, Uncategorized on March 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm

This week, our beloved show finally lost its mind, and it was amazing. Dolls came alive and murdered everybody; creepy psychic children ate lollipops while imagining what it’s like to be buried alive; Garrett was arrested; Jenna is not blind (what?!); and Ali sure gets around for being six feet under. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, you get the drift. Read on for more of this week’s end-of-times-esque PLL adventures.

PLL is really pushing hard for the sheer skirt over short skirt trend these days.

Let’s talk creepy dolls. What did you hide behind (scarf, pillow, sweater, etc) during the “Follow me, end up like me” scene? And why are the grandmother and kid on A’s dole?

Phoebe: Oh my goodness, this scene was SO creepy. I most certainly hid behind my hands and the dog. And, then peeked out to see what I was missing. Between the creepy doll-voice and all the dolls falling on the PLLs, it was totally freaky. Also, I want to know how the creepy doll store owner and A knew that the girls would go back to the store and thus had the perfect set up to terrify the PLLs. Or, was A there and thus controlling the strings of the creepy dolls coming alive situation? But, also, that child! So terrifying. And, I cannot figure out what their relationship is to A, maybe the grandma owes A a favor? Or maybe they are related?

Sarah: I actually can’t remember the last time I was so freaked out by TV. I was totally edging back on my couch and looking wild-eyed at the door as if a tiny Ali doll was going to burst in bearing a butcher knife. But that image of the Ali doll parroting “Follow me, end up like me” half-buried in a mound of dirt is so powerful — it’s going to stay with me (terrifyingly!) for a while.

Good question on whether A was there at the of the flying shelves and cymbal-banging monkeys — I feel like either A or the grandmother must have been behind the doll attack, unless PLL is straight-up going the supernatural route. (But how would A or the grandmother make the dolls’ eyes snap open like that?? AGH they’re alive.) And also: how perfect that this show keeps coming back to creepy dolls. Every time we see dolls — normally a symbol of innocent girlhood — they’re always monstrous. Our core four don’t live in an innocent world.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sympathy for the Supervillain: A Post-Bachelor Wrap

In Uncategorized on March 14, 2012 at 8:20 am

Guest Contributor Sarah H.

Before I begin, it might be good for you to know: I am a sap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a well-educated, well-rounded, well-read woman. But I’m also a hopeless romantic who self-medicates during these long single times with guilty pleasure television like The Bachelor.

But I’m not dumb, I swear. I’m a smart person and I’m freakin’ awesome. (See Sarah T’s recent GLG post “Defending Deschanel” for a more thorough defense of the kind of person I am. I get the Jess comparison a lot.) Rather, I’m just a woman who has grown up with an evolving mental picture of a perfect mate. I want what the Bachelorettes want. I want to fall in love and find that fairy tale. That’s why I watch this stuff. And to be fair, I’m not the only one in this boat. After all, both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are pretty popular.

Now, on with the show. (spoilers abound!)

I’ve liked Ben since Ashley’s season. He’s down to earth, a little off-kilter and he makes wine, which is a total win for a wino gal like me. He’s more relatable than ken doll, jock-brained Brad (Seriously, though. Don’t you think Brad probably has a pink plastic Mattel mound down there?). He’s kind of a normal guy. I believe, under the right circumstances, with my own makeup and wardrobe team, I might even be able to lure him into a conversation.

Throughout this season, I saw him act with a fairly level head. I saw him ejecting ladies in a rational and, I thought, healthy way. He got rid of the crazies, flakes, and fakes. He waded through the boring girls and kept a fairly solid final five including one larger-than-life personality that I, at first, thought was around for production value only.

Courtney simply overshadowed every other lady in the running. I watched each episode this season and have a hard time recalling the names or faces of the other 24 women fighting for our hero’s affections. For the last 8 weeks or so, since the first claws came out, she has been the entire selling point for the season. She was the topic of commercials and online banter and debate, not to mention half of the evening on the “Before the Rose” feature. What would have happened to ratings had Courtney not made it to the end of this competition? Ben’s locks weren’t enough to secure viewers alone.

Ben + Courtney "After the Rose"

What was it exactly that had people so excited about this woman? She wasn’t a villain in the Cruella de Vil sense. The crux of her evil really comes down to a trait Ben’s sister praised in her: she doesn’t “sugar coat”—that is, she isn’t careful. This saccharine series has a premise of finding true love; it’s full of Minnesota-nice, homegrown girls. They are normal girls who deal with conflict in the normal way: through passive aggressiveness. Courtney isn’t passive in any way. That’s her supervillain power. Read the rest of this entry »

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