There are spoilers for the December 4 episode of Reign below, and I know the west coast hasn’t seen it yet, but you deserve the warning the eastern part of the country didn’t have.
I’m still trying to process this. The thing is, 1) I’m not so naive as to expect that rape won’t at some point be a story element on some of the television shows I watch, but 2) some heads up, at the very least, would have been useful. I’m still in shock over the scene that I can’t even get to the root of how I feel about the way it was handled. To be honest, I don’t know what a “good” way to handle a rape scene is. I know what a bad way is (see Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, etc.). I know that, again, at the very least it would have been better for the audience to have had warning of the scene to come than for it to spring up in the middle of an act. But given that it did happen the only response now is to talk about how it was handled.
Last season we saw the consequences of acts of sexual violence at the hands of Henry, but we didn’t really see the violence, that I can remember. Now, I get that the women in those scenes weren’t our focal character. It makes sense that we would see…something of Mary’s response as it was happening. I’m still in too much shock to figure out if I’m just angry right now or if the scene actually did drag on longer than necessary, but somehow I feel that it did.
That said, they did get some things right: there was a clear emphasis that what was happening wasn’t sexual desire–it was a power exercise. We don’t always see that in media depictions of rape (or in real life responses to it…), so I am glad at least that the show came at it with this mindset. Both the visual aspect of her violators as well as the dialogue, both in the moment and in the aftermath, clearly stated that this was about power and station.
I also appreciated the scene that followed with Catherine. Now in season 1 Catherine did actually attempt to have Mary raped–let’s not forget that. And in that moment it was discussed that it would have been seen as a reflection on Mary, it would have “ruined” Mary, it would have broken her betrothal, etc., etc., etc. Later we heard Catherine talk about her past, how she had been raped, how she had survived. Tonight we saw Catherine walk Mary through that survival. She empathized with her, she cared for her, she was sensitive to her, but as a queen she also knew that there was another part that Mary had to play.
This is obviously an extremely sensitive issue, and it was obviously meant to elicit an emotional response from the audience…but again…it really could have been handled differently. Throwing up a message at the end of the episode, after most people have probably changed the channel because CW doesn’t have original broadcasting after the 9/8 PM hour, wasn’t the best way to address the episode’s events. By all means, put it at the end of the episode. But also put it at the beginning of the episode, at the beginning of each act, or at the very least the act in which it takes place. I might feel differently about the whole thing had that warning been available.
Sorry about that. The month of November has been a little hectic for me and I just haven’t been able to make myself do much in the way of writing. Truth be told, I still don’t, so this is mostly just a little update to say, hey, I’m still here, but things are a little scattered right now for various reasons. Hopefully I can get my mojo back soon and get things–writing and other ambitions–back on track.
During my marathon Netflix-ing in September, I decided to give About a Boy a try. I had seen the last episode just before…whatever it preceded last season, and it wasn’t quite the disaster I had expected it to be. I love the 2002 movie, and movie to sitcom transitions often don’t work. I mean…there’s MAS*H, but that’s an extreme example.
Anyway, I was wary and avoided it, but since I had a better reaction to the finale than I thought I would, I decided to give the whole season a try. Honestly, I found it to be cute and basically true to the spirit of the film and book. The pilot does make the heinous mistake of trying to recreate a 2 hour movie in 20 minutes, but it gets better as the season moves along. There are hints of Fiona’s depression but it’s severely toned down and to be honest it might be all but eliminated at this point. “Killing Me Softly” is sadly replaced by One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” however the removal of the romantic focus from the singer to the subject makes it more palatable (don’t get me started on that song as-is), and it’s certainly more up tempo in keeping with the sitcom atmosphere.
I hope the second season holds up to and improves on the first, but surprisingly this is a show that I have now added to my weekly schedule!
I am so glad I found this show. It’s true I recently wrote about it in my TV review section, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into these women. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Let’s start with Mary, Queen of Scots. Not usually the focal point of royal historical fiction of this era, the show does a great job of bringing this character to life in her own right and not just as a supporting player to Elizabeth I.
We first meet Mary as she is returning to French court after spending several years hidden away at a convent for her own safety. She’s an innocent and an outsider, court having changed in the years of her absence, and her reunion with her betrothed Francis doesn’t initially go as planned. In addition to his seeming disinterest, Mary soon realizes that she’s in danger not only from the English but also from the French. Her life is at risk, as is the Scottish alliance with the French when she realizes that Henry has no intention of finalizing her marriage to Francis any time soon, while he holds out to see what other opportunities await in his planned takeover of England.
Mary grows up quickly (to be honest, I’m really not sure what ages she and her contemporaries are supposed to be here–Francis is far too sexually active and has far too much facial hair for a 14 year old boy), forging her own alliances (sometimes with more success than others), and all too aware that she is Scotland. Francis often has difficulty understanding her decisions, because while he’s certainly the heir to his throne, Mary is already seated on hers. She sees long before he does that when it comes to their relationship and their marriage, she is first and foremost Scotland, and she will do what she must to protect her country and her people above all else.
Despite her strength as a ruler, we also see that Mary is sometimes governed by her emotions–in other words, she’s human. She knows her responsibilities to her people, but if she can find ways to satisfy their needs while compromising so as not to harm others, she tries.
The other queen in this show is Catherine de Medici, Henry’s queen consort. Catherine reminds me a lot of Game of Thrones’ Cersei Lannister. It’s easy to hate this woman, to throw names at her, to see her as the villain. But while Catherine can be ruthless (like Cersei), the driving force behind her deeds is primarily her love for her children (like Cersei). While she and Mary are usually on opposing sides (Catherine has tried to kill her several times), they know when it’s time to put aside their grievances with one another in favor of a greater cause. Catherine is a queen all but displaced by her husband in favor of his mistress, doing what she feels she has to do for her own survival and that of her children. Her heavy reliance on Nostradamus’s prophecies is a key factor in the first season.
This post wouldn’t be complete without addressing Mary’s ladies in waiting: Kenna, Greer, Lola, and Aylee. These characters take the place of the Four Marys, the actual Mary Stuart’s ladies in waiting. Probably because 5 companions all named Mary might actually have been a bit much for a show (unlike the Asha/Osha issue on Game of Thrones, which I’m pretty sure would have been fine).
Of all the ladies, Kenna is easily the one depicted most sexually, as she soon becomes Henry’s mistress. However she shows a naiveté in her role and the actual level of influence that comes with it, often causing her to overshoot. What’s great about the way the show handles Kenna is that the show never really judges her for her sexuality–she’s judged by other characters, but the show itself doesn’t attempt to paint her in a bad light because of her sexuality. She’s young and not as worldly as she thinks she is, but she has a good, kind heart and a sense of loyalty.
Though her appearance on the show is brief, Aylee also makes an impact with the time she has. She takes on the potentially dangerous task of double agent for Mary against Catherine, confirming Mary’s suspicions that Catherine is not her friend. Her fate is foretold and therefore expected when it comes, but I still would have liked to have seen more of her and how she would have evolved.
Lola is perhaps the most levelheaded of the group (Catherine makes this assessment as she taunts the girls while being held prisoner), but she’s also the one who finds herself in the most precarious position after falling pregnant with Francis’s child. The show addresses Mary’s resentment while maintaining the women’s friendship, and Lola shows the wisdom to know that being the mother of the dauphin’s child isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (Kenna celebrates the pregnancy as she feels it secures Lola’s position at court).
Finally we come to Greer, who unlike the others does not come from a titled family. Greer’s father has made it clear to her that the fate of her family rests on her ability to secure a wealthy, titled husband. She begins a (relatively) chaste affair with a servant in the castle, both knowing it can’t lead to marriage, while continuing to search for a match. When his fortune changes and Greer insists that she still can’t marry him, he is understandably upset.
Despite showing the hurt feelings on both sides of the couple, Greer is not treated (by the show) as anything but pragmatic enough to realize what’s at stake for her family. At one point Greer even rejects a proposal from a suitor who knows of her prior relationship, because she doesn’t wish to abuse the kindness he has shown to her and her lover. (Admittedly her parents also have a match on his way to meet her, but this match isn’t 14th in line to the throne, either.)
Women in period pieces are so easy to attack with a modern lens, without stopping to think of the cultural and social differences (though usually even with an appropriately used modern lens the attack would still be sexist and unwarranted). Additionally viewers (professional critics, casual watchers, and fandom alike) are quick to hold female characters to unrealistically high standards regardless of their age or appropriate emotional maturity, often standards to which men aren’t expected to adhere.
This one is for all of my Riceans, wherever you may be.
That may sound odd. Allow me to explain. In 1994 Warner Brothers released a fabulous, lush, beautiful film called Interview with the Vampire, based on Anne Rice’s book of the same name. By 2000 the company was set to lose the rights to the books unless principal photography began on another film. Enter the travesty and heartbreak that was 2002’s Queen of the Damned (Aaliyah’s beauty and presence as Akasha notwithstanding). Stuart Townsend was chosen to replace Tom Cruise as the Brat Prince himself, Lestat de Lioncourt. (Incidentally, QOTD was my first exposure to the Eighth Doctor.)
Funny note about Stuart Townsend: there is a character in Rice’s The Witching Hour with the same name. It’s not a particularly common name (and he’s not a particularly important character) so the coincidence was amusing. But I digress. This post is, well, About Adam.
For all the things listed above, I was curious about this movie. I watched it years ago, so I had almost no recollection of it or my reaction to it at the time. Behold, Netflix! This is a cute film, not particularly memorable as I’ve just stated, but fluffy and enjoyable enough. My reaction to Townsend this time around was far more favorable than my reaction to his performance as Lestat (that will never be favorable). Kate Hudson’s Lucy is cute if a bit flighty, Frances O’Connor delivers a charming performance as her sister Laura, and Charlotte Bradley plays the eldest sister Alice. Interestingly it seems Alice is the sister with whom Adam is the most honest (perhaps because she’s the one most able to accept his truths).
The feel of this movie is similar to many British rom-coms of the late ’90s/early ’00s; for some reason I’m particularly reminded of Sliding Doors at the moment. There’s no masterpiece at work here, though this could be one of those movies that some people watch repeatedly because it’s light entertainment that doesn’t require much thinking–and sometimes that’s just the kind of break from life that you need. I have several movies that fall into this category for me personally, and while this likely won’t become one of them, I could see how it might serve the same purpose for someone else.
This was a cute little show I found on Netflix about a department store in northern England toward the end of the 19th century. It’s based on a French novel. It only lasted 2 series (16 episodes total) and I watched it probably over the course of a week.
The central character is Denise Lovett, a young woman whose intent to work for her uncle leads her to the department store across the street, where she quickly becomes a star in ladies’ wear. Meanwhile there’s mystery surrounding the store’s owner, John Moray, and the death of his wife, while he’s also being pursued by an heiress, Katherine Glendenning (and leading her on knowing her feelings run deeper than his). There’s jealousy and backstabbing and romance and heartbreak–all you could want from a fluffy costume drama, really.
While the quality wasn’t always consistent, overall it was cute and entertaining. Of the three characters I mentioned above, I have to say that in the end, I think it was actually Katherine with whom I could sympathize the most. Throughout the series we see John Moray insult and undermine the women he supposedly loves (if it weren’t obvious, he and Denise do end up together), toy with Katherine, and for the most part she just takes it.
At the outset, Katherine is spoiled, used to getting what she wants, won’t accept defeat. My god, you might just call her confident. By the end, I found her quite sympathetic and the most well rounded of the three. While she seems to be painted as an antagonist for much of the series, taking into account the time in which it is set, the status and therefore the rights (and lack thereof) she has, at her core she is, despite appearances, kind hearted. There is one aspect about her story at the end of the show that bothered me, as it seems to sweep away some abuse she suffers, but looking at her critically, I do think she was the best developed.
Denise is likable but there seems to be a missing quality that I can’t quite put my finger on–while her ambition is certainly a focus of the show, I felt like it wasn’t always handled with as much depth as it could have been. The way the show addresses her excitement, ideas, and passion sometimes seems like a project left three-quarters finished. Additionally, the romance never really seems organic or believable–somehow the actors’ chemistry just wasn’t there–and aside from some feminist dialogue brought in by some conflict, I didn’t feel that it served either character’s story.
Overall, though, this was a light, enjoyable series to watch.
Before I dive into my favorite characters, I need to introduce you to Tatiana Maslany. She is an acting goddess. On Orphan Black, she has so far portrayed 9 of 13 known clones (and counting, I’m sure) onscreen (and posed for photos as 3 others). The five characters pictured above are the primary focus of the show, and the subtle changes she makes in her speech, facial expressions, and movements to convey these women and their differences are positively incredible. She has been snubbed for an Emmy nomination 2 years running, thus invalidating the award’s credibility. This show and her performance(s) cannot be praised enough. There’s plenty of discussion online already about how amazing and revolutionary this show is, but this article really hits the nail on the head with regard to portrayals of women in media:
The idea that ladies all think and act the same (many vaginas, one mind?) is an old one: past generations and years engrained societal thought have allowed and perpetuated this for years. By making the main protagonists of the show female clones, Orphan Black forces the viewer — even though they all have the same face; even though they’re all played by the same actress — to see them all as unique, individual humans in spite of that.
All of these women are multi-dimensional characters, despite seeming to fit in perfect little boxes (a Tumblr user actually did a Clone Club/Breakfast Club crossover cartoon which illustrates the point quite nicely). Sarah is the central character of the show, but the grifter (or the “punk rock ho” as one character dubs her look) we initially meet shows deeper layers of intelligence, cunning, loyalty, and a fierce sense of protection for those she loves.
Cosima is the most affable (and consequently a fan favorite), and as an evolutionary developmental biologist, she has the most understanding of the science behind their biology, but isn’t without her own emotional stresses–the cloning project begins to interfere with her physical and emotional well-being as she is welcomed into the inner sanctum of DYAD, the company responsible for her and her sisters’ existence. I haven’t really seen a lot of anti-Cosima sentiment, aside from some valid criticisms re: her wardrobe/hair and cultural appropriation, but as to her overall character, I haven’t really encountered any unwarranted fandom hate.
Alison may be an easier target for that sort of reaction (luckily I have the good fortune to interact with intelligent viewers so I haven’t seen any misogynist names thrown at her directly), given that she epitomizes an uptight soccer mom–Alison is one of those moms who does everything she sees on Pinterest and does it better than the original. But really what Alison is is terrified of what being a part of Project LEDA means, how it affects her biology and her family. Like Sarah, everything she does she does in an effort to protect those she loves, but her life experiences differ from those of her sisters to the point where she often expresses feeling useless compared to Cosima’s scientific knowledge and Sarah’s force of will, and powerless overall as to her very existence. She copes with guns, pills, and alcohol, and eventually forms a close relationship with Sarah’s brother (and honorary Clone Club member) Felix, depending heavily on him for emotional support and validation.
These three are the clones we get to know first, before being introduced to Helena, initially an antagonist. Helena’s mental and emotional stability are nonexistent due to the traumatic abuse of her upbringing, but she eventually recognizes a kinship with Sarah and manages to break free of those who have kept her caged and controlled. (Incidentally, Helena’s theme music is fabulous.)
Finally we meet Rachel–I’ll be honest, my least favorite of our primaries–a woman who has been brought up within DYAD, with full knowledge of what she is. Rachel is ruthless when it comes to dealing with her fellow clones, and emotionally she comes across as incredibly cold and unfeeling–there’s a brilliant scene where Cosima talks to Sarah on the phone as Sarah explores Rachel’s apartment, Cosima’s theories immediately shown to be wrong as Sarah discovers Rachel’s past. Rachel is emotionally wounded due to a variety of factors, and she doesn’t have the human connection that her fellow clones have with one another or a family of her own. Rachel’s entire life is DYAD. Rachel is an antagonist, but she’s still given enough depth and characterization to be HUMAN.
I also need to acknowledge the other principal female characters on the show, not portrayed by Tatiana Maslany: Siobhan Sadler, Sarah and Felix’s mother; Kira Manning, Sarah’s daughter, and Dr. Delphine Cormier, Cosima’s monitor and girlfriend. Siobhan’s strained relationship with Sarah is a point of contention early on, Sarah having left Kira in her care then disappearing for a year. Siobhan (“Mrs. S” as Sarah and Felix call her) has secrets, knowing more about Sarah’s past than she lets on, but her ultimate loyalties lie with the protection of her children (even though that doesn’t always seem to be the case).
Kira, meanwhile, is not only an astoundingly astute child, but there are indications that she has some type of super-human abilities due to being a derivative product of the Project LEDA, and she shows on occasion that she’s willing to go even further than her mother would ask to aid her newfound aunts. Still, she is a child, and even though some of her behaviors might cause viewers to raise an eyebrow, she exhibits innocence and, despite being sharp as a tack, isn’t shown to simply know what things are if she’s entirely unfamiliar with them. She has an uncanny ability to judge a person’s character and enough knowledge to play along with those who she views as a threat. I’m interested to see where they take her, especially considering how season 2 ended. (I won’t spoil you.)
Finally we come to Delphine, whom Cosima pegs as her monitor immediately and then actively pursues a close relationship to find out information. Delphine is more aware of the true purpose of her role than the other monitors (which also serves to bring Cosima into the DYAD fold), but ultimately as her feelings for Cosima grow, her loyalty shifts away from the project and toward Cosima. Still, because of her love for Cosima, she sometimes takes action that may be in Cosima’s personal interest but not in the best interest of her sisters–Cosima makes it clear to Delphine that to love her is to love all of them.
All of these women are complex, and are intentionally presented as such. We see moments of strength and weakness from all of them. And what’s so amazing about Maslany’s performance is how easy it is to forget that she’s only ONE person (credit also to Kathryn Alexandre, Maslany’s stand-in/double for every episode), often acting opposite a tennis ball, bringing such unique life to each of these characters. She is so amazing at her craft that, if a character’s life seems to be in peril, it’s easy to forget that even if that one character dies, she isn’t leaving the show.
So this post is as much a celebration of Tatiana Maslany as it is of ALL the clones (not just the primaries mentioned here).
I’ve tried using this app and another one previously, and they lasted…maybe about 3 weeks. So in an attempt to hold myself accountable (again), I’ve downloaded the app (again), and started logging my food yesterday. I didn’t eat the best yesterday (Monday), but it was at least an improvement:
Breakfast was a 16 ounce caramel latte. Unfortunately I don’t know the actual nutrition info because William in the lobby of my office building doesn’t have an entry in the app database. So I guessed with Starbucks. Anyway, that’s all I had until dinner (I know that’s not good).
For dinner we ended up at O’Charley’s, where I had the 6 ounce steak and shrimp scampi meal, with a side of broccoli and coleslaw. I also caved and had 2 dinner rolls because did I mention that I had previously only “eaten” latte?
So that’s exciting, right?! Today’s “breakfast” again is coffee, but it’s the controversial “Bulletproof™”/butter coffee. It’s not as gross as I thought it would be, but it’s also incredibly bland, and that’s with heavy cream and a teaspoon of vanilla added.
Okay. There was a time lapse, as I began this entry before work this morning. Now that I’ve had time to feel the effects of the coffee, I can tell you that I was not energized and was incredibly hungry all day. If I do this again, I’ll be sure to eat something, but I think the point of the coffee is that it replaces a meal. Well. It doesn’t.
At lunch, which I often do not eat, I couldn’t take it anymore and went to the Wendy’s nearby because between that, Taco Bell, and McD’s, if I’m counting carbs, they had the most meat with the fewest grams. So I got some spicy chicken nuggets and that was that. Right before I left work I had a handful of pistachios.
For dinner I’ve had a small plate of roast beef, and that’s it. I’m still hungry, but I don’t want anymore meat today. Whipped cream for dessert? What kind of dessert can I make with that? I do not have any fruit that would go well with it.
I apologize for the size of this image because I couldn’t find a LARGER ONE. Sorry, I can’t apologize for the size of this image. I can’t decrease the size of the picture when the two fabulous ladies in it have a presence so large.I. Love. This. Show.
I didn’t get to watch this as it aired last season, but Netflix added it not too long ago so I watched the entire season over the course of a weekend and now I’m watching the current season as it airs!
A friend described this show as Gossip Girl in the 16th century, and it is fabulous I never actually watched Gossip Girl, but I know the vibe she’s describing. I wasn’t really sure what direction this show was going to take–a period piece on the CW? Weird. But its look is surprisingly lush, the characters are REALLY good, and I love pretty much every principal female character on the show. Catherine isn’t just painted as a, well, bitch (if I must use that word to convey my meaning), which is what most shows would do with her. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of Diane de Poitiers, but as that isn’t the real focus of the show, I can live with it.
Adelaide Kane does a superb job showing Mary’s innocence and her evolution into a ruler, both with her strength and missteps, and in her dealings with her future mother-in-law. The Four Marys are present but, for simplicity’s sake I assume, have all been renamed (Aylee, Greer, Kenna, and Lola).
Rounding out the primary cast of characters of course are Henry II; the dauphin Francis; and Sebastian (Bash), a fictional son of Diane and Henry, to vie for Mary’s affections; as well as Nostradamus, whose inclusion brings a somewhat supernatural element to the show. Amy Brenneman also guests as Marie de Guise, and she is equally fabulous in her brief role.
Historical accuracy isn’t something this show is terribly concerned with, and while there are some shows or films that I can’t stand for this sort of thing, Reign gets a pass. It knows its place in the canon of historical drama and it doesn’t apologize for it. The show is very female-centric with complex characters who have clear motivations. It’s positively refreshing. It’s The Tudors for network TV, but with more estrogen and less blatant objectification.
Another thing I love about this show is the wardrobe, particularly that of Mary, her ladies, and others of their age. The dresses are inspired by 16th century clothing but are in no way historically accurate–I feel like I’m looking at haute couture at the French court. They are GORGEOUS (as are the hair and makeup). The costuming manages to help add some levity to the show without being completely laughable, perhaps because the clothes are just so well done.
If you aren’t watching this show, then you definitely should start.
One of my primary areas of concern/interest when it comes to media has to do with the portrayal of women in television and film. Literature as well, but written works aren’t always so immediate in public consciousness, not to mention fandom (series aside; for this I mean stand-alone works). These Awesome Lady Characters posts will focus on some of my favorite characters from TV and film, many of whom have been criticized as being (often a combination of) stupid, whiny, emotional, and everyone’s personal favorite, a bitch.
The Strong Female Character™ is a phrase, an idea, that gets thrown around a lot in discussion of women in media. On the surface, it looks good: these characters are often seen in traditionally male roles, but they end up eschewing roles or activities that would be seen as traditionally feminine. All too often the Strong Female Character™ is a conventionally attractive woman in sexualized attire with a phallic weapon, all designed to appeal to the male gaze.
While the subversion of traditional gender roles in media is important, it is equally important not to demean activities, appearances, or behaviors traditionally seen as feminine. Not to mention for the most part, this subversion is women taking on traditional male roles; men very rarely take on traditional female roles in media without being met with ridicule or some reminder that the male character is taking on a role usually filled by a woman (Mr. Mom and similar titles, for example, and these are generally used to comedic effect). Zoe Washburne may be easily juxtaposed against Inara Serra, but she is never viewed as less of a woman simply for wielding a weapon (meanwhile Inara is derided as a “space hooker” by her would-be love interest, who is also the focal point of the show; i.e., the good guy).
Unfortunately the SFC tends to fall into the same trap of glorifying the traditionally masculine as superior to the traditionally feminine. This is a problem. Androgyny doesn’t only mean that girls play with “boy” toys or women taken on roles requiring physical strength. If boys aren’t also free to play with toys marketed toward girls, or men aren’t free to pursue nursing or childcare or design without a) having their gender status called into question and b) being referred to as women/girls as an insult, then the SFC as a concept has failed.
(Stepping outside of media for a second, comparing a man to a woman as a way to mock him is saying that femaleness in and of itself is laughable, and that women are not worthy of respect. It’s misogyny, plain and simple.)
So let’s put aside the Strong Female Character™, and instead focus on good, complex, well rounded women who are capable of strength in their own unique ways; and for simplicity’s sake, I will be referring to them as Awesome Lady Characters. There will be women who have often been referred to as SFCs in my list of favorites, but let’s shed the implications that to be strong is to be masculine, or that strength of character is indicated only by how many men you can take out in a fight. Besides, being Awesome opens up much more room for inclusion of women who have been rejected as SFCs because of their traditionally feminine qualities. That’s not feminism; that’s a Trojan horse.