- No matter what the situation of the woman getting pregnant and the way that she gets pregnant, she always wants to go through with the pregnancy and have a child and raise it herself. Where are the miscarriages? Where are the adoptions? [Once Upon a Time, featuring Henry, Emma's son that was given for adoption shortly after birth, remains an exception to the rule.] Where are the abortions? Mainstream pop entertainment does not reflect the realities of so many pregnancies.
- The attitudes of the prospective parents suddenly become suffused with gooey lovey-doveyness, confidence, starry-eyed idealism and happiness. I mean, God forbid that anyone feel hostile or ambivalent about the fetus! That's just not possible! That would destroy the unrealistic emphasis that TV has on pregnancy and childbirth being some sort of panacea for life's problems.
- Pregnancy brings out the inner femininity of the pregnant woman and fulfills her. No matter how many successes and enjoyments the character has had in her life before becoming pregnant, the glorifying way in which pregnancy is haloed on TV makes all the other accomplishments and sources of joy insignificant in comparison. For some women, pregnancy may be the best thing they've ever done with their lives, but, if TV insists that every pregnant female character feel this way, then these shows are just reproducing boring, essentialist, reductionist stereotypes about what women can do and be.
Pregnancy Plots just instantly flatten out character depth and plot dynamism. Furthermore, their relentless heteronormativity makes me want to throw up.
- Bones. I'm rather worried for the start of this season, which is the last one. Now that Brennan is pregnant with Booth's child, I fear that the season might do away with all her character development and just show her as a mindlessly joyous mommy-to-be, in the way that the previous season was all about Angela and Hodgins having a baby, blech.
- Fringe. Previously extolled.
- Haven. In this summer SyFy series, FBI agent
Mary SueAudrey Parker investigates people with unusual powers, who all live in the small town of Haven, Maine. Helping her in her quest are police chief/ love interest Nathan Wuornos and the guy who just hangs around being a lovable scoundrel, Duke Crocker. Intriguing hints of an overall conspiracy or mythology rise above thoroughly mediocre acting and predicatable mysteries of the week.
- Sanctuary. One of my friends turned me on to this Sy Fy show last year. It's about an immortal genius, Dr. Helen Magnus, who preserves, studies, rescues and allies herself with "abnormals," or paranormal, mythological, folkloric beings. Amanda Tapping, as the indefatigably capable Magnus, is an exemplar of feminist heroism, besides being really sexy. The constant time-traveling, season-end cliffhangers and whammy-like game-changing twists [Magnus' daughter dies! Her supposedly dead father comes back! There's a Hollow Earth inside this one! It's invading our Earth!] provide mindless entertainment. It's a silly series, but I keep coming back, even though Agam Darshi as Kate Freelander is a character so annoying and useless that she needs to go away.
- Supernatural. Why do I even bother with this misogynist drivel? Must be my crush on Jensen Ackles, whose portrayal of the long-suffering Dean continues to attract my eyeballs. Since it burned out its universal apocalypse storyline at the end of season 5, this show has had nowhere else to go, instead just preferring to hang around into irrelevancy. I only watch occasionally.
- Warehouse 13. This SyFy series concerns two Secret Service agents, Myka and Pete, who happen across a warehouse filled with magical, semi-historical artifacts. They join the quest to snag, bag and tag artifacts when the artifacts are wreaking havoc across the world. Repartee between the two agents, the silly Pete [played by Eddie McClintock] and the more tightly wound Myka [played by Joanne Kelly], provides chuckles, as does curmudgeonly leadership from Warehouse head Artie [played by a dry Saul Rubinek]. Add a computer genius in her 20s, Claudia [played by Allison Scagliotti, who is way hot], always ready with a slick phrase, and you have a low-key, good-natured series.
Watched the first two eps of the BBC’s Sherlock the other night, starring Benedict Cumberbatch’s lips and cheekbones as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson. The three-ep first season transplants the crime-solving duo from Victorian/Edwardian London to present-day London, where the two act as “consulting detectives” to Detective Inspector Lestrade and the rest of the new Scotland Yard.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes really reminds me of David Tennant and Matt Smith as the Doctor. With a spectacular intellect that moves much faster than the brains of mere mortals, Cumberbatch’s Holmes astounds people with his rapid-fire deductions in the same way that Tennant’s and Smith’s Doctors shock people with their free-associating intelligence. Additionally, both this Holmes and those Doctors take a self-conscious, performative glee in their superiority, enjoying the way that they befuddle people. Just as Smith’s Doctor is an adventure junkie, gleefully shouting “Geronimo!” as the TARDIS speeds toward a crash, so Cumberbatch’s Holmes enjoys living on the edge, dancing near suicide in the first ep just so he can get the buzz of adrenaline. I attribute some of this similarity to the fact that Sherlock was co-written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, both writers of eps for the New Who. Also interesting to note is that Cumberbatch has something of the Doctor – or at least the Doctor’s potential in him – as evidenced by the fact that he discussed taking over for Tennant, but never did.
Needless to say, I love Sherlock for its strong characters, its Doctor-like Holmes and its stellar lead actors. I dislike it for its pointless exoticization of Chinese people as demonstrated in the ep The Blind Baker. From the minute the eerie stereotypical bamboo flutes start playing in the first scene as a clay tea set is ceremonially laid out, we know we’re in for Chinese stereotypes. The stereotypes continue throughout the ep, including a scene in which the Chinese tea set-laying-out character speaks to her brother in unsubtitled Chinese, reinforcing the idea of foreign characters as strange and incomprehensible. This ep’s main villain, General Shan, leader of a gang called the Black Lotus, even delivers, as her first line, a supposed Chinese proverb in halting English [something about a book being a magic world in your pocket]! [I also noticed that General Shan’s English started out broken in her first scene and markedly improved throughout the rest of her scenes, making me think that she was directed to speak in stereotypical stilted English.] I condemn such lazy, thoughtless characterization as racist.
After reading my analysis of season 7, ep 15, “Manipulated,” of Law and Order: SVU, my sister Jill, who uses a wheelchair, added another stereotype to my list of those that the ep perpetrates:
1. Disabilities are horrible things. Linus obviously thinks so; as I pointed out in a previous entry, he calls his wife Tessa, who uses a wheelchair, a “victim,” that is, a contemptible object of pity. Jill points out that Tessa also uses negative language to describe her disability. She claims that Walter is persecuting her, saying, “If I weren’t stuck in this chair, I would kill him myself.” Tessa clearly adheres to the stereotype of a wheelchair user as someone who is “wheelchair-bound,” that is, limited and restricted by the chair, rather than enabled to move around.
Jill also notes that there is a long tradition of characters in various media faking disabilities, which only causes able-bodied people to regard people with disabilities with suspicion and hostility.
Law and Order: SVU season 7, episode 15, “Manipulated,” is the gift that keeps on giving. Every time I think about it, I discover more reasons to ferociously criticize its portrayal of people with disabilities. [Here’s my plot summary of the ep if you haven’t read it. http://blogofstench.
The identical twins in the ep commit a supposedly "perfect crime" at the end of the ep by murdering the doctor who molested them. Actually, only one of the twins murders the doctor, but no witnesses, including the security camera, can discern which twin it was, and the twins aren't talking. Furthermore, there was DNA from one of the twins left in the form of spit on the doctor's corpse, but DNA tests, according to the ep, will not point to one twin or the other, because, as Stabler says, "Identical twins, identical DNA."
WRONG! Identical twins have been long thought to have identical DNA, but recent research suggests that their genes are very very similar, but not the same. See the New York Times "Really?" column for details.
In all fairness, though, the SVU ep "Identity" did come out in 2005, three years before research about identical twins' different genes was published, so it was still within a period during which identical twins were thought to have identical DNA. Granted, but I still fault SVU for sloppy, stereotypical thinking about the similarity of identical twins, making us seem like magical duplicate halves of a single entity, instead of two very similar, but separate, people. >:
The Law and Order: SVU ep “Identity” [season 6, ep 12], summarized earlier, features a bitten penis, gangbanging, homeless women, ID theft, an anti-graffitti task force, a pair of unusually identical twins, a sex therapist, a secret language, possible incest, violent siblings, possible lesbianism, unethical investigation of medical records, non-consensual gender reassignment of a minor, molestation by therapist and, finally, “the perfect crime.” Now that I’ve summarized the plot for you, I’m exhausted. No, seriously, it’s time to examine some of the deleterious assumptions at work in your average SVU ep.
Thesis: SVU pathologizes everything in sight.( Read more... )
A corpse drops off the top of a building right through the windshield of some guys with blue balls. Stabler, Benson and the ME wonder who the dead chump is. His bling labeled "SCA" seems to be a clue. Also someone bit his penis real hard. DUNT DUNT! ( Read more... )
Bones. I watch this primarily for the great chemistry between David Boreanaz [Seeley] and Emily Deschanel [Bones]. After a flaccid, frankly boring start to season 3, the quality has picked up, both in the writing and in the mysteries. Though I find the increased prominence of the earnest, lonely, overanalytical and geeky psychologist Sweets charming, I'm still bitter at the writers for dispensing with Zach at the end of Season 2. His out-of-character departure ruined the wonderful rapport between the "squints" on Bones' team.
The Colbert Report. Amusing mild parody. I enjoy watching how much fun Stephen Colbert has with his character.
The Daily Show. Amusing mild parody. Jon Stewart's straight-man mugging STILL hasn't gotten old for me.
Fringe. Painfully stupid, chronically incoherent and blitheringly underpsychologized, this simplistic show is one that I love to hate. I also like listening to it because it's so anvilicious that I don't even need to look at the pictures. Will never be forgiven for its mangling of the "Boston" setting.
Heroes. You know, back in season 1, I used to like this show. However, I think it hit its peak with the season 1 ep, "Company Man," focusing on Noah Bennet and family. Since then it has imploded on itself repeatedly, reformatting character development multiple times, introducing and dropping characters at alarming speed, creating plot holes so large that they could expand and engulf the universe and, msot criminally, turning all the characters into impetuous, stupid morons. Like Fringe, it requires no brains or even eyeballs to appreciate its schlockiness.
House. I actually really like this show, mostly because I really like watching Hugh Laurie act like an arrogant genius bastard. Brilliant comedy!
The Office. I watch this not for the plot or even the characters, but because its small moments accurately capture the combination of zealotry, awkwardness and puzzlement characterizing white-collar at-work interactions. The characters' strange antics aren't so amusing as the other characters' often deadpan reactions to said antics.
Psych. I'm conflicted about this show. It's a comic detective show about a guy who pretends to be a psychic for a police department. It would be a slight, silly diversion, except for the fact that the fake psychic's reluctant partner and best friend is a black dude who suffers slapstick indignities and gets ordered around by the fake psychic all the time. Very Stepin Fetchit. No new eps until January, by which time I will probably have conclusively determined that it's a racist cesspool and therefore left it alone.
Supernatural. Even though this show suffered a largely plotless third season and even though it suffers from such misogyny that it kills off all female characters or makes them disappear, I'm still a loyal fan of this show who will be watching it through the bitter end of season 5. Actually, it's more accurate to say that I will be watching JENSEN ACKLES AS DEAN WINCHESTER through the bitter end of season 5. Ackles and co-star Padalecki consistently use their nuanced portrayals of the brothers to turn the occasional mediocre script and hammy line into a sincere, layered portrayal of fraternal devotion. Also, in case you haven't noticed, I think Ackles is hot. With an angel charging Dean with aversion of the Apocalypse, there seems to be an interesting plot for season 4, so I'm excited about the show on a structural level again, which I haven't been since the end of season 1. Let's hope that the Apocalypse doesn't fizzle like the demon war that was supposed to happen after the Winchesters opened up the gate of Hell.
Despite its obsession with the entertainment industry in this season, Nip/Tuck refuses to make the most interesting leap: for the characters to realize that their lives are just as soap-operatic as the shows they are involved in. Refusing to acknowledge the meta-melodrama inherent in the situation, Nip/Tuck plays the most stereotypical plot devices -- in the last ep alone, an incestuous relationship is broken up; Julia wakes up from a coma with retrograde amnesia, and Sean gets stabbed in the back by his deranged ex-agent -- seriously, with solemn music underneath them. I'm supposed to feel sympathy for these characters, but I can't because I'm all too aware how cliched the plot developments are. Therefore I get a little bored with the proceedings. By ignoring the fact that it is a high-gloss SOAP OPERA, Nip/Tuck disservices itself.
I really like Raines for a few reasons. 1) Because I talk to myself [and frequently talk back], any show with a character who does the same interests me, especially if the show portrays him as unusual, but also imaginative, intuitive and successful because of this trait. Raines frequently worries that he's going crazy, and everyone agrees that he's mentally disturbed, but they don't automatically demonize the way he talks to people in his head.
Incidentally, the show nails perfectly the ways in which seemingly independent imaginary characters talk to their creators. Raines' characters appear and disappear easily, changing clothes and hairstyle as quickly as a thought. Their forcefulness distracts him, not because he's literally hearing them [hallucinating], but because he's imagining so hard that he tunes out the outside world. The characters don't know any factual information that Raines doesn't know; at the same time, they often make astute observations about emotions or motivations that Raines has a hard time grasping himself. They're very Trickster-like.
2) In a manner unusual for a cop show, Raines focuses on the victims and gives them a voice. While many cop shows are about the mechanics of solving crimes [examples: any Law & Order, Bones, etc.], Raines is about as character-driven as a cop show can be. Most of the action occurs in Raines' head, and it consists of his perceptions changing about the victims as he learns more about them. While Raines seeks to learn how the victims were murdered, the show seems just as interested in why. With most cop shows, the victim's body is the beginning of the case investigation and the true meat of the show. With Raines, the victim's body represents the end of a life which the show seeks to delve into and reconstruct.
3) To the end of reconstructing lives, Raines enjoys subverting stereotypes. Again, in the example of Meet Juan Doe, Juan at first appears to be an illegal Mexican immigrant out to take the life of an anti-immigration city councilman who came to LA illegally himself. Turns out that Juan was coming to see his dad, the councilman, to show him his daughter-in-law and grandson. The councilman shot his son, thinking his son was an assassin. In the pilot, prostitute Sandy Boundreau is earning money to help her mom leave her abusive husband; plus she refuses to play along with a wife to entrap a husband into supposedly cheating. By refusing to accept that characters are as cliched and evil as they may initially appear, the show argues for optimism and, surprisingly for a cop show, a view of human nature as good.
Over there I've been watching many hours of two shows. One is House, which is, of course, about a brilliant asshole doctor, medical mysteries and his untermensch staff. This show really tries to be a medical show or some sort of procedural [like Law & Order in the hospital] or even a drama, but it really is a comedy at base. The stock plot -- dramatic falling ill, weird symptoms, doubting co-workers, brilliant deductions by House, diagnoses + fascinating/revealing/icky revelations about the sufferers involved -- are so fixed that I don't notice them, although I do like to see what weird disease cocktail the writers think up next. Plot aside, the show basically consists of House proving what a genius he is and making fun of other people. Since he's always completely vindicated, despite his momentary hang-ups, his triumphant conclusions are never in doubt, so I just go along for the ride, laughing mostly at the character's ruthlessness and arrogance. Laurie's long resume as a comic actor serves him well here, as his expressions add hilarious nuances to his condescending remarks. So basically House is an hour of a magnificent bastard making faces. Being a sucker for magnificent bastards, especially when they make faces, I really enjoy this show.
The other show that I've caught up on is Heroes. Like a comic book in TV form, it tracks the slowly interlocking story of a bunch of adolescents and post-adolescents who have superpowers. This show leaves me emotionally unegaged [except for the story involving the cheerleader, realistically and engaging played by Hayden Panetierre, and her evil dad] and the creators can't really create strong female characters. However, I really enjoy the leisurely way in which the stories unfold, then slowly interlock. The show's structure, suspense and clean use of comic tropes pulls me in. Although they could do without the pretentious beginning and ending narration.
I also tried watching some Smallville season 6, but so far it's a big fat turd without much soapiness to make for enjoyably slumworthy viewing. There's also some Gilmore Girls up there, for those interested. AND LOTS OF SOUTH PARK!
Now I just have to find me some Supernatural [available on dailymotion.com, but in French dub] and, of course, BTVS!
EDIT: You can find the latest eps of some primetime NBC shows on their Web site: http://www.nbc.com . Beware, though -- there's nothing beyond the latest ep, and each ep appears in 5 chunks of 8 minutes. I do have more success loading NBC shows than I do with ABC shows, though.