thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Archive for the ‘TV villains’ Category

Forever Young, Forever Violent: Imagination, Sadism, and Once’s Peter Pan

In ABC Soaps, TV villains, violence, white masculinity on September 11, 2014 at 11:40 am

(Or, “Violently Inclined, Part II”)

rs_560x415-131213083649-1024.Peter-Pan-Once-Upon-A-Time-2.jl.121313

Phoebe B.

In many children’s stories, young men function as the site of imaginative production. Books from Peter Pan to Harold and the Purple Crayon are populated almost exclusively by young boys who dream big and create their own worlds. Boys’ imaginations, these stories suggest, are capable of creating universes well beyond the scope of their immediate existence.

In Harold and the Purple Crayon, Harold draws his own world. Max ventures into the land where the wild things are; the little prince sketches his way through adventures to escape the adult world; and Christopher Robin traipses through the woods with a bevvy of furry imaginary friends. And in Peter Pan (the book and the movies), Neverland is a welcome escape for young white boys and even Wendy Darling—a place of youthfulness, fun, and a little benign mischief. 

On this last point, the latest season of ABC’s hit fairytale mash-up Once Upon a Time begs to differ. Instead of fun and clever mischief, Peter Pan’s creative landscape is a site of destruction and violence run amok. In Neverland, as Pan says, nobody ever says “no” and violence is a casual, everyday occurrence. This Neverland more resembles the heart of darkness or Lord of the Flies than Disney’s previous Neverland versions replete with laughter, song, and light. 

In Once’s fairytale world, Peter Pan is a permanent villain. His island is cloaked in darkness; his shadow—far from the playful version in the Disney film—is evil and entirely capable of murder. The character has kidnapped hundreds of kids over the years to keep him company in his eternal youth, preying on lost and lonely boys by convincing them that no one else cares for them, thereby breaking their bond to any worldly place or people. He even keeps Wendy Darling in a cage as if she is his permanent possession, using her captivity to turn her brothers into Pan’s personal henchmen for a century.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

I Don’t Like Skyler White. And That’s Okay.

In class, feminism, gender, misogyny, Television, TV villains, violence on September 2, 2013 at 1:00 am

Sarah S.

Alright, “don’t like” might be a bit strong but I definitely feel conflicted about her. Shortly before this whole conversation blew up about Breaking Bad‘s Skyler I tweeted the question: do people find Skyler White sympathetic? I wondered if others felt confused about her waffling, her semi-dubious claiming of the high ground, her own forays into unethical and even criminal activity. Were her reactions to these circumstances believable? Does the plot justify the battling loyalty, loathing, and fear she heaps upon Walt (her chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-dealer husband)?

In case you missed it, a lot of people hate Skyler, and I mean HATE, given the number of Facebook pages and websites dedicated to loathing her. In a response, JOS of feministing.com blames sexism for society’s inability to accept a complex female character. The actress who plays Skyler, Anna Gunn, even wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled “I Have a Character Issue.” She describes getting death threats because of how people feel about the character she portrays. Similarly to JOS, Gunn argues that Skyler “has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women.” This description makes it sound as if dislike for Skyler stems purely from misogyny but is Skyler really so uncompromised as Gunn and others make her sound?

***mild spoilers***

Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking Bad: Against Family

In misogyny, Television, TV villains, violence on August 13, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Sarah T.

Walter White is a family man. When the 50-year-old chemistry teacher at the center of AMC’s Breaking Bad is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, his immediate concerns lie with his wife and kids. How will they manage when he’s gone? In order to cover college, the mortgage, cost of living, and medical care, he calculates, he’d need to leave behind $737,000. That kind of sum is not typically available to educators in the U.S. public school system. So Walt does what any self-respecting man of the house would do: he starts cooking and dealing crystal meth.

Of course, Walt’s journey from mensch to monster isn’t really for the benefit of Skyler, Walt Jr., and Holly. If Walt really cared about his family, he wouldn’t endanger them by immersing himself in a world where people get plugged for dealing  on the wrong street corner and ruthless twins slaughter innocents as easily as they slip into their sharkskin suits. He wouldn’t risk getting caught by the feds and spending the short time he has left behind bars instead of at home. And he wouldn’t ignore the toll that his new line of business takes on his wife and son, who are first disturbed, then alienated and finally–at least in Skyler’s case–ruined by his choices.

But while Walt isn’t a family man by any sane measure, he does fulfill the role in a way that’s true to his vision of what a husband and father should be. Providing his family with love and support and a sense of security was never Walt’s goal. His goal was to become someone powerful and strong and feared, a head of household who rules over his family and makes unilateral decisions on their behalf. Walt begins Breaking Bad as a man who feels emasculated by the humbling circumstances of his life. The show is, in part, the story of his journey toward embodying a patriarchal ideal of the family man, and of how poisonous that ideal turns out to be. Read the rest of this entry »

How To Be Awesome Like Claire Underwood

In adaptation, DNC, feminism, gender, How to be Awesome Like, Netflix, parenthood, reproductive health, spoilers, Television, TV villains on February 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Sarah S.

In the first episode of Netflix’s House of Cards, one recognizes immediately that Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) is Lady Macbeth to devious congressman Frank Underwood’s (Kevin Spacey) Macbeth/Richard III hybrid. But despite her overt support of villainy, Claire is easily one of the most fascinating women in a current series. Here’s how to be awesome like Claire Underwood.

-Marry not because you’ll be “happy” or “stable” or have a passel of children. Marry because your Intended promises you’ll never be bored.

-Know what you want and go after it.

-Look your age but with an unwavering running schedule, an amazing haircut, and a wardrobe of dresses to die for. (I love how this show plays off Wright’s star text by hearkening back to Princess Buttercup and her being the “most beautiful woman in the world.”)

claire2

-Have a hot, art photographer ex-lover in Manhattan on speed dial for whenever you’re feeling a little bit down and/or your husband is being an unsupportive ass.

-Have a true companionate marriage based on absolute honesty and respect and so

-Be pissed as hell when your husband begins to sacrifice your career for his and asks you to make compromises he’d never ask of himself.

claire1

-Be part of an interesting experiment in the evolution of “television.” House of Cards, Netflix’s foray into series making, has flaws but it’s super interesting on multiple levels nevertheless. If nothing else, am I irritated that Claire’s sense that her life is missing something is manifesting in her wondering if she should have had (and should pursue having) children? Absolutely. Because it’s boring and cliché and so obnoxiously obvious and typical—e.g. not like Claire at all. (Related, I also hate that in her discussion with her doctor we receive two pieces of medical misinformation: first, that despite what she’s heard her age is no impediment to a healthy pregnancy; second, that her uncomplicated abortions might have negatively affected her fertility.) However, perhaps we are supposed to think that this newfound desire is misplaced, given what we know of both Underwoods. Only time will tell if Claire will be crushed by the inevitable tumbling of this House of Cards.

How to be awesome like Georgina Sparks …

In Gossip Girl, How to be Awesome Like, teen soaps, Television, TV villains on March 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Phoebe B.

Gossip Girl’s Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg) is one of my favorite television villains. We first met Georgina at Constance where once upon a time she was best friends (albeit briefly) with Serena (Blake Lively). These days their relationship, like all of Georgina’s, is fraught at best and enemies at worst. In earlier episodes of the series, Georgina drank too much; hid a man’s death after he died in her and Serena’s presence (something I think she blackmailed Serena about and perhaps also the beginning of the end of their friendship); and convinced Dan he was the father of her child and then abandoned said child (by the by Dan is not the father). Then, Blair exiled Georgina to Russia, which was after Georgina had found God and promptly gotten kicked out of her God-camp, perhaps also at the hands of Blair. And, most recently Georgina ruined Blair’s wedding to Louis. In fact, one of the reasons I think I like Georgina so much, besides that she is hilarious, is that she makes a good rival for Blair as she is perhaps almost as good a schemer.

Georgina dressed as a priest and set to ruin Blair's nuptuals

This season Georgina returned to New York married to a supposedly rich yet not so bright man, Philip, with her child Milo, and on a new mission to stir up trouble on the Upper East Side. And just this week it seems that she was successful. Indeed, Georgina did declare quite happily that it appears that she has just taken “down the entire Upper East side.” We’ve celebrated many wonderful characters and actresses in the “how to be awesome columns,” thus, I thought it was perhaps time to celebrate a good old TV villainess. So, while you might not want to be awesome like Georgina, after all, she is a little evil, here are some tips of things to avoid should you want to stay far away from the villainy behavior that defines Georgina Sparks.

Read the rest of this entry »