Letting My Bi Flag Fly: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the Show We’ve Been Waiting For

Crazy Ex Girlfriend is a phenomenal show for a vast, vast number of reasons. Too vast to really write all of them here, but let me give it my best shot: healthy (and not so healthy) portrayals of female friendships, representation of mental health, a diverse and wonderful cast and serious discussions of addiction, body dysmorphia, abortion and relationships. And, naturally, a lot of these topics are discussed in musical form, and though I generally dislike musicals – I just cannot get enough of of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It’s frank and honest portrayals of so many taboo topics (honestly, Paula’s abortion storyline was phenomenally put together) means it stands head and shoulders above a lot of shows on TV right now.

Though I’d love to write a book about how awesome the show deals with everything above, first I’d like to focus on Darryl Whitefeather (Pete Gardner) and how Crazy Ex-Girlfriend deals with bisexuality.

There have been representations of bisexuality in TV in the past. Willow (Buffy), Piper Chapman (Orange is the New Black), Kalinda (The Good Wife), Cosima (Orphan Black), Annalise Keating (HTGWM), Captain Jack (Doctor Who, Torchwood), Clarke (The 100), Stella Gibson (The Fall) and a fair few more. Things are, undeniably, looking much better for representations of bisexuality than they were, say even five years ago. Sadly, there is one thing (other than being bi) that almost all of these characters have in common. The word ‘bisexual’ is never used to describe them. It is never actually said out loud, either by the characters themselves or by other characters in the show. These characters are referred to as gay or as lesbians, even if they have had prior relationships in the show with members of the opposite sex. Or, in some cases – it’s just never even discussed.

Bisexuality is either invisible, or a short ‘waystation’ (to quote Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) to being gay. A lot of the characters mentioned above are also portrayed as mentally unstable, or unhinged – which seems to be either a result of or very much linked to their bisexuality. Most recently I watched Gotham and despite loving most of it, I found the portrayal of Barbara Kean’s mental health and bisexuality incredibly disturbing. Sadly, this is pretty much the norm. Enter Darryl Whitefeather…

When Darryl Whitefeather began to question his sexuality in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I naturally assumed this revelation would go the same way. Despite having been married to a woman, I expected Darryl’s interest in men to be depicted as him realising that he has always been gay. Surprisingly (and thankfully), Darryl’s discovery of his sexuality and subsequent coming out turns into one of the major sub-plots of the series and is pretty damn fantastic.

Darryl, aside from being an alarmingly bad boss at the law firm Rebecca works at, is a sweet yet bemused man who is only just finding himself at the age of 40ish. Darryl’s exploration of his own self, his sexuality and his identity becomes an important plot during season two. To begin with, Darryl doubts himself and believes his attraction to white Josh to be simply friendship, and admiration of his gym repertoire (we’ve all been there, am I right?). Daryl slowly realises that his desire to spend time with Josh may not solely be about wanting to have his physique. Or rather, he desires white Josh’s physique in other ways…

“Now some may say, ‘Are you just gay? Why don’t you just go gay all the way?’ But that’s not it cuz bi’s legit! Whether you’re a he or she, we might be a perfect fit.”

We get to witness Darryl’s self realisation when he has a crush on another man and the process is handled sensitively, though not without humour – the show is still a comedy after all. Throughout the second season, Darryl and Josh go through many normal ups and downs of relationships – not least when they go to Burning Man Festival in ‘Why is Josh’s girlfriend eating carbs?’ Darryl meets several of White Josh’s exes and becomes unnerved that they are all older – specifically, they are all around Darryl’s age. Darryl confronts Josh, believing that Josh is only with him because he has a fetish for older men. Fortunately, Josh sets the record straight and the two rekindle their love at the end of the episode. It’s a small example, but it goes a long way to normalise Darryl and Josh’s relationship – they have issues just like anyone else. The portrayal of their relationship also combats the ‘bisexual’s just like having sex’ stereotype, as White Josh and Darryl are committed to each other and clearly have a lot of love and respect for one another.

The show also completely humanises Darryl. It would have been very to make him two dimensional, with his only characteristic being his bisexuality. As it happens, Darryl is a complicated character. He is introduced as a small town, incompetent boss – even making an anti semitic remark in the first episode. His law firm isn’t doing very well, he overshares about his upcoming divorce and he sings a very strange song about his daughter. As we get further through the series, Darryl’s insecurities about himself begin to surface, especially his desire to be friends with Rebecca. He may be insensitive and inept, but doesn’t that just make him a far more interesting (read: human) character!

Darryl is a huge change from the tradition of slotting bisexual characters into either the ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ label, or just ignoring them completely. The fact is that there is little support for bisexuals in the real world, from both the LGBTQ community and in general society. Bi-erasure is everywhere. Just in my personal experience, my own bisexuality has been negated by so many people around me – especially from those who I would expect support from. The general response is ‘so what?’ – I can only assume because I am in a long term relationship. In a relationship or not, bisexuality is a valid and legitimate identity, and one which deserves to be represented. So, getting to watch a musical number which solely focuses on how being bi is enough in and of itself is just so awesome.

Also, reportedly Rachel Bloom and co hired a GLAAD representative to assist with Darryl’s storyline, in order to get it right. A smart move, and one that a lot of screenwriters could probably learn a huge lesson from.

 

Also, can I just say that in addition to ‘Gettin Bi’, I strongly identified with ‘Heavy Boobs’. So strongly, I play it at least twice a day to remind myself that there are others out there like me. Heavy boobs are no laughing matter and it’s totally true, they are just bags of yellow fat. Love you Rachel Bloom, thanks for everything.

On Depression and TV Shows: A Two Way Relationship

 To those people who say television doesn’t affect real life, to them I say bullshit. Television and the real world have a very two way relationship. In a way that differs from cinema, TV shows enter our homes and sit with us in our living rooms, our bedrooms and become a huge part of our lives. Seeing those characters on a daily basis can replace seeing friends, entering those spaces through your laptop screen can replace going outside. When struggling to deal with depression and anxiety, television shows can sometimes become the closest thing to interaction that you get.

I’ve struggled with both depression and anxiety throughout most of my life, and I know for a fact that without some television shows, I probably wouldn’t be here in the capacity that I am. That’s not to say that TV is a replacement for a good therapist or prescription medication, but often when you are depressed you can reach out to your favourite TV shows in a way you simply can’t with your friends or family. I know this first hand. When I am having a particularly ‘bad episode’ (no pun intended), I often spend hours and hours watching endless TV – Netflix and Amazon subscription services have made it incredibly easy to do this. Being at home watching television was maybe not the best way to combat depression, but it made me feel involved rather than isolated and it helped to take my mind off what was going on inside my head. I owe a lot to the television shows below:

The X Files

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I began watching The X Files whilst I was at university, during my second year. University is a weird and wonderful experience full of new friendships, exciting experiences and all-nighters to finish deadlines. University can also be an incredibly lonely and isolating time, as I discovered. I was surrounded by new (and truly wonderful) friends but towards the end of the second year I began spiralling downwards. I would come home after lectures (sometimes not attend lectures) and spend a lot of time in my room by myself. In the second term, I was supposed to go on a trip with my course to Berlinale Film Festival but managed to get tonsillitis the day we were flying out. I couldn’t go. Sick, depressed and lonely, I went home for the weekend where my Dad tried to cheer me up by buying me the entire X-Files boxset.

It sort of worked. After feeling incredibly low, I continued to turn to The X Files whenever I felt the need to retreat inside myself. Somehow, the show was grounded in enough reality to make me feel a part of something real, but also supernatural enough to satisfy my need to escape. One of the greatest things about the show was it’s mix of Monster Of The Week episodes and Mythology narratives. On the one hand, I could just about handle not needing to be committed to each episode but the slow burning mythology meant that I also clung onto it – needing to find out what it was all about. Mulder and Scully are compelling, complicated characters and I enjoyed coming back to them everyday. In a time where most things in my life seemed to be in a sort of turmoil, Mulder and Scully were there when I needed them.

In between the stress of moving out, beginning third year and experiencing stress like I never have before – I continued to watch The X Files. I cried and I laughed, I was scared and I was comforted. The nature of The X Files combines an incredible range in narrative, plot and characters throughout it’s nine season arc.

 

Bojack Horseman

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“Everyday it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it everyday, that’s the hard part”

Bojack Horseman, whilst being a comedy, is the best representation of depression I think I’ve ever seen.  Of course, most of us don’t have a lifestyle that comes close to the ease, luxury and comfort of a Hollywood actor trying to make a comeback. On the surface, we can’t understand why Bojack would be unhappy with his life. He has had a career (possibly not the one he envisioned), he is financially stable, he has a great house and everything along with it. This, however, is the point. Depression doesn’t need reason, depression doesn’t listen to the facts. Bojack is unhappy because he isn’t taken seriously as an actor and he hasn’t got many friends, but it’s more than that. He’s unhappy because he doesn’t see a point in life and is confused by the futility of it all.

In the very recent third season, Bojack visits the Pacific Ocean City in an episode called ‘Fish Out of Water’. Being underwater, Bojack has to wear a oxygen helmet, but whilst wearing it he can’t seem to understand what anyone else is saying or be understood himself. Throughout the entire episode, not a single coherent word is spoken and Bojack is completely isolated from the world around him. Whilst he succeeds in returning a baby seahorse to it’s father (bonding with it on the way), his miscommunications with other characters result in devastating consequences. However it is his missed connection with Kelsey **, the director whom he managed to get fired last season, which hurts the most. Bojack tries to send her a note to apologise for getting her fired but fails completely. When Kelsey eventually receives the note, it’s blurred (of course) because it’s underwear and completely unreadable. This episode is so allegorical of what anxiety and depression can feel like – to be so completely incapable of communicating with anyone around you. To want to talk to others so badly but there is an invisible barrier preventing you from doing so. And of course, as Bojack finds out in the end, we have the capacity to communicate with others all along – we just need to know which button to press.

All we have in life are the connections we make.

 

The Office (US)

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Leaving university for the big, bad, real world is a scary experience. Having done an arts degree, I found myself in the unfortunate position of not securing a job in my sector. Despite all the experience, the unpaid internships and the hard work I had done to ensure some kind of job prospects at the end of my degree, I needed a job. So I took the first one I found (girls gotta pay the rent you know). I spent about eight months working in retail and then in admin, cursing myself every single day that I wasn’t starting my “career”. Why did I go to university? Why couldn’t I get a job related in some way to my degree? What was the point?

It was about this time that began watching The Office (US version, sorry brits) from the beginning again. I would watch an episode whilst getting ready for work in the morning, and I would watch an episode before going to bed, ritually. I was comforted by the idea of other people just taking any shitty job they could to get by and also by the realisation that work is not the defining factor in everyone’s life. Working for Dunder Mifflin is no-one’s idea of a dream job (except perhaps Michael), but it is not their positions within that company that define who any of the characters are. I identified a lot with Pam throughout the first couple of seasons. She was sacrificing her love for art to pay rent and be with a man who didn’t support her dreams. When she finally got her drawings in an art gallery and no-one from the office showed up to the opening, I almost cried. But then Michael arrives, and he’s wonderful. It made me realise that you shouldn’t give up on wanting your dream career. Even if what you are doing now isn’t related to *your dream job*, it just means that you are doing what you need to do to get by right now. This isn’t the end, it’s only the beginning.

Aside from making me laugh and invest a lot of love into all of those characters, The Office was a beacon of light, reminding me that we are not our jobs. We are so much more than that.

 

Broad City

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There are many, many reasons why Broad City is a fantastic show and time is way too short to list all of them here. It’s on this list for two reasons, though. The first being that Abbi and Ilana’s hijinks and adventures never fail to make me laugh. It’s a guarantee that whatever they are doing in each episode is going to epicly fuck up at some point and be absolutely hilarious when it inevitably does. It’s highly relatable in its humour for us twenty-somethings, because (like The Office) both girls are not working their dream jobs and are just doing what they need to do to get by. Ilana works for ‘Deals, Deals, Deals’ with no real obvious aspirations other than to get rich and boss someone else around. Abbi has dreams of becoming an artist but these are rapidly being swallowed up by the amount of hours she works at Soulstice. Abbi goes through phases of trying to make herself believe that she actually wants to be a personal trainer, to justify herself working there. The mishaps and misdemeanors stem from the girls trying to deal with this adulthood that has been thrust upon them.

The second reason why Broad City is on this list is for Ilana’s revelation that she is on anti depressants, in the final episode of season 2. It is not a laboured conversation, just a passing comment when Abbi asks what Ilana would like to achieve in the next year. Among other things (including signing up for Ancestry.com), Ilana mentions that she would like to lower her dosage of antidepressants. There’s two really important things happening here. The first is that the show doesn’t waste time focusing on why Ilana is depressed or opening up the conversation to be super serious. It would be out of character for Broad City (who make light of some of the most serious situations). It’s just said as a passing comment and accepted. Ilana is still Ilana, nothing has changed. It’s a small piece of information that does not change Ilana at all, for us. The second thing is that Ilana has previously been portrayed as a fun loving extrovert which is contradictory to what the mainstream media would have you believe depression looks like.  Not including the stereotypical images of Ilana ‘being depressed’ (whatever that means) removes the stigma around it.

 

So there we have it – a little list of the TV shows that have helped me carry on, even when I thought I couldn’t. What are some the shows that you turn to when you are feeling low? Recommendations always welcome! Stay safe, folks x

Zero Dark Thirty: An Imaginative Piece of US Propaganda

The story of the capture and assassination of Osama Bin Laden was bound to make it’s way into the cinematic world sooner or later. It is, naturally, the event that the American government may be most proud of during the Obama administration. They ‘defeated’ the enemy. They chucked his body into the ocean, without trial. They are so very proud of this.

Whichever way your opinions fall on the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the (arguably incredibly fictionalised) version of events, Kathryn Bigalow’s ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, has been praised almost unanimously by critics and audiences alike. Visually, it is creative and interesting. It also appeals to the patriotism that is so often seen in American war films, as ultimately ‘the good guys win’. Having watched Zero Dark Thirty only very recently, and having the benefits of a) being able to question the US Government’s version of events and b) having watched a number of interviews which directly contradict the events in Zero Dark Thirty – I have to say, I have a lot of questions.

I am very aware that cinema is fiction. Even documentaries, though claiming to present fact, are works of fiction in many ways. Zero Dark Thirty is a fictional film, but presents a very real event – possibly one of the most important events of the 21st century. The film presents its narrative as fact and purposefully leaves no room to question its message. Jessica Chastain’s character, Maya, is not real but was based on a CIA researcher who was heavily involved in the hunt for Bin Laden.

Let’s start with the positives. Chastain does an excellent job with a very poorly written character. It’s never clear what Maya’s motives are (other than undying patriotism to avenger her country), but Chastain manages to hold interest throughout the film. Visually, it is well shot and though it’s over two hours long, the pacing is impeccable. Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and feels tight and polished. The third act is tense, the lack of any music or score ensuring that we are kept of the edge of our seats. If you can engage with it, that is.

Similarly to The Hurt Locker, Bigalow demonstrates just how adept she is at controlling the visuals, sound and landscape of her films. Everything feels very deliberate, strong and there is no room for error. It mirrors the military/CIA narrative. Sadly, though, I just found Zero Dark Thirty far too war-masturbatory to enjoy it at all. The unequivocal patriotism and unwavering loyalty to destroying America’s ‘enemies’ just did not sit right with me at all.

One part that I found incredibly disturbing was the use of real life news footage from the London bombings in 2005. At best, distasteful and at worst incredibly offensive, the footage was used to merely propel the narrative on within the film – more ammunition as to why they need to find Osama Bin Laden. To use the deaths of real people as a catalyst within the narrative (complete with actual footage from the bombings), I found highly, highly insensitive.

I had the privilege (and I say privilege because it was a fantastic film) of watching ‘Eye in the Sky’ a few months ago. It’s a tense, tight hour and a half thriller which takes us through the chain of command that is activated when considering a drone strike. The subject matter is pretty similar to Zero Dark Thirty, in that a group of white people in Western country get to sit in a room and decide the fate of a group of people they have decided are terrorists. There are definite differences in the films (Zero Dark Thirty is dealing with Al Qaeda, Eye in the Sky is dealing with terrorist activity in Libya). The major difference however is that, although they are technically both fictional films, Eye in the Sky presents us with a situation that we are completely aware is fictional, but implies that this might happen. Zero Dark Thirty presents its narrative as fact.

Not only this, but Eye in the Sky leaves the audience with an uncomfortable taste as it refuses to condone the actions of the British and American governments. Far from triumphing the drone strike as heroic or even necessary action, Eye in the Sky uses the situation to investigate the morality of the strikes. It holds a mirror up to the incompetent UK government, the aggressive US military and the innocent people in faraway countries which get caught up in the conflict.

Compare this to the actions of the SEALS in Zero Dark Thirty, in particular the scene where they discover the children in Bin Laden’s house. The SEALS have just massacred the parents of these children, and their reaction is to tell the children ‘It’s okay now, everything is going to be okay now”. In other words, everything will be fine, the white man has arrived to save the day. It could be that Bigalow is criticizing the white saviour mentality by inserting such an insensitive piece of dialogue, but I doubt it. The entire last part of the film ramps up the tension – we are really supposed to want Maya and the seals to succeed. We understand how much is riding on this (actually, just mostly Maya’s credibility as a CIA agent) and the entire sequence feels like patriotism on speed. Are we supposed to enjoy watching Pakistani’s being murdered in cold blood? Are they guilty by association? Are we supposed to applaud them?

It’s also telling that, throughout the entire film, we only see the effects of terrorists attacks in Pakistan from a white American perspective. Never mind that Al Qaeda and the Pakistani government had been waging war on it’s own people for years. The first terrorist attack we see targets a restaurant where Maya and her friend are eating dinner, the second is a calculated attack on the military base. In both instances, the only victims discussed are the Americans. Particularly evident in the restaurant attack, we watch Maya and Jessica escape through the kitchen but there is no sense of the Pakistani victims. In fact, Zero Dark Thirty pretty much equates all ‘brown people’ as terrorists, similarly to another US war film in the last few years – American Sniper.

Just as UK and the US had (and still have) no second thought for the people who inhabit the countries that we strike daily with bombs and drones, Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t want to think about the people in Pakistan, those who were equally and more so affected by the rise of the Taliban.  Zero Dark Thirty has nothing interesting or new to say about the conflict. It merely reiterates imperialist propaganda which has been preached by the media and governments alike, in favour of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberation’. But much like the story told in Zero Dark Thirty, it’s all a pack of lies.

 

 

7 Best Girl Power Must-Sees Streaming on Netflix

A lot of the media would have women believe the only things that ever get promoted are beautiful bimbos in bikinis. And while that may be the style of Michael Bay (sorry, dude), it’s certainly not the norm anymore.

From kick-ass leading ladies to snarky girl relationships that teach us all how to be better debaters, there’s plenty out there that will remind you it’s not all about Baywatch, and they’re all streaming on U.S. Netflix. For international viewers, check out these tips from Secure Thoughts on how to watch Netflix outside of the U.S., so you too can grab your remote and pop open Apple TV for some much-needed girl power binge watching!

 

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 Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones’ take on female superheroism is something that has sparked the industry in a way that hasn’t been seen in any other television show, and it’s got all the execs talking. With frank conversations about rape and its portrayal of queer relationships, it’s Marvel’s first dive into the world outside of vanilla heterosexuality, and it’s not the only thing keeping everyone talking. From being called “a hardboiled feminist” to a “female anti-hero,” it’s obvious that Jessica Jones’ character has some actual depth, making her an anomaly in the otherwise male-dominated cinematic culture and is fascinating to watch.

 

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Iris

Nothing signifies girl power better than a woman who flouts protocol to do exactly as she pleases, and Iris is that Big Apple chameleon. This documentary may be about fashion, but it doesn’t dilute the raw otherness of Iris Apfel, a nonagenarian living, working and dressing in Astoria, New York City, and it makes her all the more remarkable. The documentary is about a businesswoman, interior designer and fashion icon, but Iris is not your average story. It’s about breaking the mold, giving into inspiration and not being afraid to be a little bit different. Who doesn’t need more of that in their life?  

 

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Rebellion

The only thing better than a little personal rebellion is a full-on national rebellion, and the girls at the heart of the miniseries Rebellion are certainly embroiled in something quite serious. Set in Ireland in 1916, the character-driven miniseries is positioned at the start of the Easter Uprising to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of one of the most defining moments in U.K. and Irish history. While history spoils the end of this five-part television series, the attachment to the characters at the center of the story and their fates is one that will compel you not to put the remote down until the very end. From fighting for what you believe in to learning the power of relationships and consequences, Rebellion is a tale for those who are interested in historical tales that, for once, put a highlight on the women at the center of them.

 

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 Amu

Debuting at the Berlin Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival in 2005, Amu is the tale of an Indian-American 21-year-old who travels to India to discover the culture of her past but uncovers something much more life changing. When Kaju, a recent UCLA graduate, decides to return to the country of her birth, she bypasses the traditional tourist track by visiting the crowded markets and slums of India to find she has serious feelings of having been there before. Between meeting new friends and coming face-to-face with her family in Delhi, the secrets of her past start to unravel as she delves further into the neighborhoods that bring back scarring, unbelievable memories. Unlike many films with female protagonists at the center, Amu doesn’t rely solely on others to help Kaju discover her past, and instead, the film illustrates how girl grit and intensity can expose a national conspiracy and cover-up. Talk about lady power—this film has it in spades.

 

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 V for Vendetta

Natalie Portman’s turn in V for Vendetta may have reinvigorated the on-screen head shaving trend in cinema, but she also sparked plenty of female protagonists to go out of their way to fight the patriarchy—hello, Katniss Everdeen—down the road. Based on the 1988 comic series of the same name, V for Vendetta is a new-age dystopian thriller that centers on an anarchist vigilante and the working woman who gets entangled in his plans. The 2020 depiction of the world is one that is both terrifying and almost believable in these confusing political times, and it will make the viewer wonder whether truth is more important than safety.

 

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 Dear White People

Labeled as “the movie for the Obama generation,” Dear White People had shock value with its title alone, but it follows through past first impressions and makes for a great girl power watch. Following Samantha, “Sam,” a biracial twenty-something going to school for film production at a predominately white college, the movie starts with her feeling the racial tension in her life and on her campus. She’s compelled her to start the broadcasting program Dear White People to criticize the racially fueled wrongdoings of white culture on her campus. Full of laughs, truths and wonderfully non-cookie-cutter characters, Dear White People is sarcastic, out to make its voice heard and, personally, I think it’s worth a listen.

 

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Gilmore Girls

The return of the Gilmore glamour to television has to be one of the most anticipated revivals ever to grace the small screen. Original gal pals Rory and Lorelai bring their bantering and family-friendly drama back for a second round, and it’s great news for lovers of strong female characters who have intelligence and extreme knowledge of pop culture. We’ve gotten a sneak peek at Stars Hollow and Luke’s Diner, which means there’s a couple returning characters in store, but even if you’re a newbie to the series, you’ll fall in love with this mother-daughter duo that reminds us why family and friendship are the greatest parts of our lives. Catch the original series on Netflix before the show returns in November.

If you’re into the kind of female characters who know when to talk and not listen, say what they think no matter consequences and give it all up for the things they believe in, watching the shows on this Netflix playlist is sure to entertain you for weeks—and I can’t say that I blame you. Have any other girl power movies and TV shows you like to watch? Leave a comment down below; I’m always looking for new material to devour.

 

 


Caroline is an entertainment, culture and feminist prose junkie. Having read and watched everything from Harry Potter to Ghost World, she’s all about strong female characters who remind her that all ladies don’t come in the same shape, size or type. Check out more of her work at Culture Coverage.

The Box: What I’ve Been Binging Recently (#1)

It’s time to reflect on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2, Orange is the New Black Season 4 and Bojack Horseman Season 3. It’s also time to decide whether I watch too much television (or whether I have unhealthy obsession with Netflix). The answer is almost definitely yes to both.

 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2

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I am well aware that the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt came out a few months ago, and for my own sake and dignity, I did watch it as soon as it came out. I have been meaning to write a post about it alone but you know… work/social life etc. Either way, it’s still very much worth discussing, even if it is a few months late.

After the incredible success of the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, we always knew there would be a second season. What was unclear, however, was whether the series had any staying power. The first season was incredibly fresh and funny but many of the jokes relied on Kimmy’s lack of knowledge of the 21st century. With Kimmy getting more and more used to technology, iPhones and googling – would it still be as funny? The answer is a resounding yes. For as much as it is still funny that Kimmy fundamentally lacks understanding of the world today, the second season bought in whole new narratives. Whilst Kimmy was clearly the star of the first season, season two is almost an ensemble cast. We got to watch Lillian become the activist of her youth by protesting gentrification (“the neighbourhood always provides!”), Titus getting into a loving and committed relationship (with the builder who catcalled Kimmy in the first season) and we watch Jacqueline recover from her divorce and become a whole new person.

Both Jacqueline and Titus get more of a narrative arc this season and both characters go through situations that are new to them. Jacqueline breaks out of her rich and privileged lifestyle to become a far more rounded character – realising many things in the process. After her divorce she goes back to visit her parents (which is hysterical in itself, her attempts to live a rural life fall very flat) and eventually meets a man called Russ, back in New York. Russ is… not Jacqueline’s usual type, but Jacqueline comes to realise what it means to truly like someone for who they are, not the amount of money they have. She becomes a likeable and interesting character, but still with a few flaws – which actually makes her more relatable.

Whilst Kimmy retains its quick jokes and easy laughs, it also makes a point to talk about the important issues. Kimmy begins going to therapy in the second half of the season, after taking a job as an Uber driver and meeting Tina Fey’s therapist character, Andrea.  Although it is immediately apparent that Andrea needs help (she’s an alcoholic), it becomes clear that whilst Kimmy says that she is over her experiences in the bunker, she clearly isn’t. Andrea encourages Kimmy to wonder why it is that every time Titus or Jacqueline need her help, she goes running to their rescue. Kimmy has to face up to the fact that her life changed irreparably from her experience within the bunker and that she needs to learn to accept that.

The reunion between Kimmy and her mother (played by Lisa Kudrow, of course) in ‘Kimmy Finds Her Mom!’  is all sorts of sweet and sad. The rollercoaster ride serves as a metaphor for the rollercoaster ride that their relationship has been on. It turns out that, subconsciously Kimmy blames her mother for her abduction because Kimmy got held up tying her shoelaces – her mother had never taught her how to tie them properly. Kimmy’s mother, grief stricken, also left the family home after Kimmy’s abduction to join a travelling rollercoaster appreciation society (or something). Both women are dealing with their grief in separate ways and although the episode is as funny as we expect it to be, it’s also emotional. After screaming their heads off on the rollercoaster (a fantastic release of all the frustration both the women feel), Kimmy realises that being angry with her mum isn’t going to un-kidnap her. It’s a pretty valuable lesson.

Though this season brought to the surface many serious issues that Kimmy is facing, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s greatest accomplishment is it’s charming ability to be funny and sad at the same time. There’s a great many comedies that have sad and funny moments, but Kimmy manages to invoke both emotions in vast quantities at the very same time.

Orange is the New Black Season 4

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Where do I even begin with Season 4 of Orange is the New Black? Well, I suppose it would be wise to start at the beginning. I was apprehensive about the 4th season, mostly because season 3 ended on such a fantastically high note. The women of Litchfield Penitentiary had their moment of freedom, even if we knew it was going to come to an end. Watching their joy at simply being in the lake was wonderful and probably my favourite season finale I’ve ever seen. Of course, there is the small question of what is going to happen to Alex – but to be honest I’ve never really watched the show for Alex or Piper.

There’s so much to unpack this season. From allusions to police brutality, the black lives matter movement, to white supremacy, racial profiling and just how fundamentally flawed the prison system is – Orange is the New Black seemed to shift its focus from altercations amongst inmates to growing tensions between the inmates and the guards. There are still a fair few plots involving inmates (Piper and Maria’s feud being one of them) but in line with what is happening in the world today, the show seems to want to discuss the injustice of the (ironic) justice system in the US.

We spend time with Caputo, more than we have done previously, as he navigates around the new corporate world of prison funding (with his new gf Linda from Purchasing) whilst simultaneously dodging Sophia’s wife who is desperately trying to get Sofia out of SHU. Caputo is reluctant to do anything which might cost him the respect he has earnt from management, but seems to have enough of a conscience to actually pull through in the end. It doesn’t redeem him completely (and nor should it) and we see the Caputo, despite walking the walk and talking the talk, is actually kind of spineless.

The other newest additions in this series was the introduction of the ex-veteran guards, drafted in after the walkout of the prison guards at the end of the last season. Headed up by Piscatella, the new guards are brutish and come across as just evil. Ironically, despite the waves of violence and torture inflicted on the inmates quite deliberately by the guards, it is an accidental move by Bayley which results in the death of Poussey. It’s a bold move, to kill of such a beloved character and I am unsure exactly what the statement was that the writers were trying to make. It wasn’t the brutish, thuggish, power hungry guards who ended up killing a black inmate. Instead it was a young, naive guard – compliant in the violence against the inmates, but not a perpetrator. What are we saying here? That good guards make mistakes? That we should feel sorry for Bayley too? It just didn’t fly with me. It’s almost #notallguards, except yes all guards because all of them were incompetent at protecting the people they are being paid to be responsible for. That includes Caputo. 

Maybe it’s a comment on police brutality, maybe it’s a comment on the power structures that exist within the prison system. I appreciated the stance that the writers are trying to take on the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial profiling that goes on, inside and outside of the prison system. It’s just that – by painting the guards as wholly evil and not exploring the reasons why they behave in this way means that we can’t have a dialogue about it. The only reason given for the way in which the ex-vet guards behave towards the inmates (flies/baby mouse etc, table etc) is that they like to abuse their power because they are bad people. This is counter productive – we can’t examine the institutional racism, misogyny or power structures in society if we just brand everyone who propagates it as simply bad people. They are more, and less than that.

For example – Lolly and Healy’s ‘friendship’ allows us an insight into why Healy treats the women in the prison in the way that he does. speaking with Lolly, and finding out about his childhood with his mother, we realise that he isn’t a ‘bad guy’ – he’s just as fucked up as everyone else. This is what initially made OITNB a standout series. No-one is all good, or all bad.

Overall, I enjoyed season 4. I don’t think that OITNB has lost it’s touch quite yet and there’s still plenty more to explore. The revelation of Susanne’s crime was absolutely heartbreaking and watching Piper get branded was definitely one of the more satisfying moments in the entire series. Watch this space.

Bojack Horseman Season 3

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Oh Bojack. I can’t decide if I hate you or love you. As a character, that is – the show is still very firmly at the top of my ‘show’s I can’t live without’ list. The thing about Bojack Horseman, the character, is that he is equal parts relatable and equal parts repulsive. Which actually make him more relatable, because who among us are not repulsed (even slightly) by the thought of ourselves?

The third season follows Bojack’s futile attempts to reach Academy Awards status and gain a nomination for Secretariat. This is despite the fact that Bojack doesn’t actually appear in the film, rather they digitally reproduced his image through CGI. Ah Hollywoo – it’s just like the movies. Bojack’s publicist/friend with benefits, tries to secure the nomination for him and although the movie is well received, Bojack (inevitably) is not nominated for an Oscar. In his usual style of self sabotage, Bojack manages to destroy his friendship with Todd, destroy his friendship and working career with Princess Carolyn and at the end of the series he also manages to destroy the life of the young girl he tried to sleep with at the end of the third season.

There is one point where Princess Carolyn accuses Bojack of fetishizing his own sadness, and I think there is a really valid point in that. We know that Bojack is depressed, and that he lives in a vicious cycle of day to day self destruction because he can’t face up to his fears, his loneliness and ultimately his life. However, Bojack does wallow in his own self pity and becomes a truly dreadful person to his ‘friends’, yet excuses himself of these actions by blaming it on his depression (or his inability to feel anything).

This season we also got more of a much needed backstory for Princess Carolyn and her history with Bojack. From starting as an assistant, to building her own company – we understand Princess Carolyn’s frustrations at Bojack leaving her agency as she’ll certainly struggle to make ends meet with his star power. Princess Carolyn’s relationship to Bojack, his dependence on her is symptomatic of his relationships with almost everyone he is friends with. He is under the impression that all the people in his life are relying on him (Todd living on his sofa, Princess Carolyn for her agency, Diane for her book) but it is Bojack who left alone and friendless when he realises that he has pissed off anyone who ever cared about him. It turns out he was as dependent on them, if not more.

The standout episode of the series is clearly ‘Fish out of Water’ – an almost completely silent episode where Bojack visits the Pacific Ocean Film Festival, which is located… you guessed it. At the bottom of the ocean. Bojack doesn’t speak the language, and his speech is also muffled by the oxygen bowl around his head. He can’t smoke cigarettes, or even drink beer. He is completely out of his comfort zone, but more than that, he is isolated from the world around him. When he spots Kelsey Jannings at the festival, he tries all attempts to get a ‘sorry’ note across to her. When he finally thinks he has succeeded, she looks puzzled at him and throws the note back at him. The water has smudge the ink, and Bojack’s heartfelt message is gone.

Ironically, Bojack being in this unfamiliar situation actually means for once, he doesn’t fuck anything up like he usually does. Sure, the taffy factory is destroyed, but he returns the baby seahorse to it’s father and essentially saves the day. Instead of talking all the time or acting like a complete idiot because he is drunk, Bojack focuses on the task in hand and succeeds. It’s more than this though. Bojack has the time to evaluate himself, to realise how hard he finds it to connect to other people. The lack of communication, wanting to express feelings and opinions but not being able to, is brought to life in this episode.

On a quick final note, I also appreciated the taxi franchise which Todd and Mr Peanutbutter developed this season. As always, the show’s writers never hold back on politically charged discussions and this was no different. Tying the whole saga in with the orca-strippers was also some stellar narrative arc. Once again, Bojack Horseman does not disappoint on the social issues front.

 


So there you have it, the last couple of months in television! Let me know what you guys made of OITNB, Kimmy and Bojack this year – I am especially keen to hear what you thought of OITNB, it seemed to spark a lot of anger among fans. 

Dana Scully: Femininity, Otherness and The Ultimate X-File

Originally posted at Bitch Flicks as part of their Women in Science theme week!

Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) is my ultimate icon. She’s intelligent, cool-headed, and super sassy. She also has the best job in the world which usually involves traipsing miserably after her alien-obsessed FBI partner Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) in a bid to prove the existence of extraterrestrials to the United States government. Yeah… and I thought my job sounded stressful…

Continue reading “Dana Scully: Femininity, Otherness and The Ultimate X-File”

Gender at War: Women on the Frontline

Recently, there has been an increase in the ‘action woman’ – the women on the frontline of modern warfare. Sicario, Camp X-Ray, Lioness all tell a new story – a story where women are fighting for something bigger than before.

Films that feature women on the frontline tend to say a lot more about the state of warfare, how justifiable it is and critique the nature of war as a whole. This is part 1 of a 2 part series for Film Inquiry where I am looking into the portrayal of women in war zones.

Part One click here!

Part Two click here!

Continue reading “Gender at War: Women on the Frontline”

Thelma and Louise: 25 Years Later

I am about to make a very embarrassing confession. Well, two actually. The first is that before this week, I had never watched Thelma and Louise before. Continue reading “Thelma and Louise: 25 Years Later”

Stop the Fridging! The Invisible Feminism of ‘Arrow’

Is TV series Arrow feminist? Being brutally honest, it almost certainly is not. Does Arrow have characters with feminist undertones, or female characters with more depth than meets the eye? Well, that’s where it gets more interesting. Continue reading “Stop the Fridging! The Invisible Feminism of ‘Arrow’”

On Susan Sarandon Calling Out Woody Allen (and why it needs to happen more)

Susan Sarandon just spoke out about Woody Allen and it was marvellous. Continue reading “On Susan Sarandon Calling Out Woody Allen (and why it needs to happen more)”