I got a note from someone the other day talking about some of their favorite shows. Many were shows I like. The Walking Dead was on her list, but I’ve never watched it. Look how popular it is as a graphic novel.
I love a good scifi show. I haven’t avoided this one because it’s about zombies. My issue with zombie movies is there are so few women. After learning about producer Gale Ann Hurd last weekend, and the women she makes sure to include in her productions, I’m thinking maybe I misjudged The Walking Dead. Did I?
I trust this woman’s judgement about good shows, so I’m wondering if you watch The Walking Dead? Why do you like it?
I’d never heard the name Gale Ann Hurd before last weekend when I attended the BlogHer13 Conference in Chicago. Gale Ann Hurd was a keynote speaker at the event and I’m a believer in Gale Ann Hurd now.
She’s currently producing The Walking Dead on AMC. Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne on The Walking Dead, narrated a brief video explaining who some of the characters brought to us by Gale Ann Hurd are and why this producer is so empowering for women.
See if you recognize any of these characters.
See any favorites? I sure did, which is when I realized that I’ve been a Gale Ann Hurd fangirl for years and didn’t even know it.
Bonus points to her for bringing everyone a copy of the latest Walking Dead novel and for showing us a preview of season 4 of The Walking Dead. It’s going to be exciting!
Is this your first introduction to this seriously awesome producer? Were you as in the dark as I was about who is behind some of our favorite heroines? I used to love only Joss Whedon, but now I love Gale Ann Hurd, too. Hope you’ll forgive me, Joss.
I just can’t shut up about this series. There’s a lot in it to think about. Social justice, for example.
Orange is the New Black begins each episode with a changing array of mouths and eyes. These are presumably real female prisoners. Here’s what you notice after a while.
Very few of those eyes are blue. Jenji Kohan is showing us this as a fact: very few blue-eyed people end up in prison.
The opening credits aren’t the only place where we must think about racial justice. When blonde and white Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, arrives at the prison to surrender herself, a guard assumes she’s a visitor, not a future inmate.
When we look at a white person, we don’t see a future jailbird. Put a little color in a person’s skin and suddenly they are a criminal. Have you seen this video?
Jenji Kohan isn’t quite that obvious in Orange is the New Black, but the evidence is there.
In the prison society in Orange is the New Black, the inmates have divided themselves into “tribes.” These tribes are based on race. Yes, there is a tribe of white people. But the women of color far outnumber them.
The prison officials encourage this system of tribes and allow one person from each tribe to be elected to a council of women who are promised some input into how things are run.
Race isn’t the only issue in the hierarchy of inmates. There are class-based hierarchies within the tribes.
There’s a scene between a white guard played by Lauren Lapkus and the main character, Piper. The guard says that she could be where Piper is – she just never got caught for her bad decisions.
When Piper’s mom visits her in prison, she laments the fact that Piper took a plea bargain and didn’t go to trial. Why? Because people who look like Piper are never convicted in a trial.
On Piper’s first day in prison, she meets the prison counselor Jim Healy, wonderfully portrayed by Michael Harney. He suggests to her that there is no logic in how long sentences are. Someone who committed a minor crime might get 4 years, while someone who committed a more serious crime might get 9 months. He doesn’t say this is based on race, but studies that compare sentences based on race point to statistics like this.
Corruption within the prison system itself is portrayed by Pablo Schreiber as Mendez, the guard, and Alysia Reiner as Figueroa. These people are as crooked as the inmates.
Orange is the New Black tells a great story with characters we love. Still, there’s a lot going on under the surface that bears thinking about and talking about. America’s system of justice is under the microscope in this series.
Have you thought about the justice or injustice of what we see about women in prison as you watch this series? Please share your thoughts.
Let’s talk about the supporting actresses in this series. There are so many and they are all so good at telling their character’s particular story. Who’s your favorite?
It’s hard to choose. Every choice is outstanding. I liked Miss Claudette and Sophia and Nicky and Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett and Yoga. And Red – Red is a scene stealer. I liked Kathryn Kates in her tiny but perfect part as Larry’s mother. So many good choices.
But I’m asking you to choose, so choose I must.
I’m going with Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren played by Uzo Aduba.
Crazy Eyes is a multiplicity: bit off the rails, a bit violent, a bit wiser than Solomon, a bit of a poet, and smart, smart smart. Uzo Aduba gives her a certain charm and warmth that I found delightful. She also nailed the requisite crazy looking eyes when needed. Her physicality in this role made Crazy Eyes believable and real.
A favorite episode with her is when Crazy Eyes hears there might be an “acting opportunity” in the prison (a contingent of juvenile delinquents are coming and inmates are asked to talk to them), she marches in and announces, “I want to play a role. Like Desdemona or Ophelia or Claire Huxtable.” She’s smart and funny. When the juvenile delinquents appear, Crazy Eyes does a brilliant reading of some lines from Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Coriolanus.
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland
Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in House of Cards
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson in Mad Men
Connie Britton as Rayna James in Nashville
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal
What a great list. I love all these actresses and all these performances and all these shows.
Well, I can’t stand Mad Men. I lived through the 50s once – I don’t need to suffer all that patriarchy again. But I loved Elizabeth Moss in Top of the Lake so I’m happy she was nominated for that, too.
Claire Danes, Connie Britton, Kerry Washington – I lurve them to bits. And a big Hurrah for Kerry Washington for letting herself be filmed with wet hair in the shower with Tony Goldwin and for being the first African American woman nominated in this category in years. I hope she wins.
But, really TV academy people, Emmy nomination people, where the hell is Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black? She really should be on that list. She doesn’t have to win, but cripes, she should have been nominated.
She really should.
Like REALLY should.
Are you happy with the Emmy nominations? What’s your particular favorite category of nominees?
I remember the speech Jennifer Beals gave in Break a Leg about how a woman has to be both beautiful and as good as Meryl Streep to make it in the movies. (You can catch the speech at the 8:29 minute mark in this video.) It is generally accepted in American culture that Meryl Streep is the greatest actress since the origin of the human race. We don’t even have to discuss it – we’ve seen her prove it time after time.
So when you see a great performance, it’s easy to compare the actress’s talents with Meryl Streep. For example, I remember watching Toni Collette in The United States of Tara and thinking, Why have I never noticed how amazing Toni Collette is – she could rival Meryl Streep.
I’m telling you right now that if Streep was a verb, Tatiana Maslany streeped the hell out of Orphan Black. Here’s the trailer for season 1 of this BBC America series, which started in 2013.
This is the preview for season 2.
Here’s the preview for season 3.
Tatiana Maslany is a young Canadian actress who had quite a few roles before she got this part in Orphan Black, but her career will never be the same after this performance. She is simply electrifying.
Orphan Black is a clone story. A nature vs. nurture story. Maslany plays all the clones. You sometimes see her on the screen in two or three personas at the same time. She’s so good at making them unique that you don’t even get confused about who is who – you willingly accept them all as different women. The central character in this web of clones is Sarah Manning. She’s the criminal you saw in the trailer who steals the purse of her look-alike, moves into her flat, and attempts to live her life long enough to empty her bank account. This scheme drags out into a hellish impersonation as Sarah attempts to be a cop named Beth Childs. In season 1, Maslany played at least 7 different clones.
As Sarah gets pulled further and further into Beth’s life she discovers more women who look just like her. She doesn’t immediately realize they are clones – does she have a twin, is she a triplet? Nor does Sarah grasp the implications of what it all means. As various clones are killed off – one assumes by the person who created them – it becomes clearer what danger they are all in. They begin to work together to solve the mystery of who they are, why they are, and what they can do to protect themselves.
The clones include the wild-haired Helena, Cosima a brainy scientist who is a lesbian and Alison, a soccer mom. The other clones don’t show up as often. Helena is a wild animal on the prowl, dangerous and unpredictable. Cosima is trying to work out the genetics of the clones and why some of them (including her) are suffering from respiratory ailments. Alison is hilarious as the uptight suburban wife with undiscovered depths. They look different, sound different, move differently, carry themselves differently. There’s no mixing them up.
Jordan Gavaris plays Sarah’s foster brother and her best friend and confidant. His quips provide some of the comic relief. He gets deeply involved in the danger and adventure as the story unfolds.
Maria Doyle Kennedy is the mysterious foster mother, Mrs. S, who raised the two foster children. She is also the guardian of Sarah’s young daughter and has the power to keep Sarah from seeing her child. We are never sure if Mrs. S is good guy or a bad guy.
Dylan Bruce is Beth’s boyfriend, and possibly something else. He realizes after finding Sarah in Beth’s apartment and boinking her on the kitchen counter that she isn’t Beth, but he goes along with the whole thing without letting Sarah know he’s on to her. Assorted ex-boyfriends and bad guys fill out the cast. Inga Cadranel, who is Bo’s mother in Lost Girl, plays one of the cops. A favorite of mine, Matt Frewer – Max Headroom himself – shows up near the end of season 1. I won’t spoil it for you as to what his part in the cloning story is, but he is a key character.
Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan in “The Fall.” Image via BBC Two.
I’m a mystery fan. Aside from the highbrow stuff I read for my book clubs, I almost always pick a mystery for my personal reading. Watching The Fall is like reading a good mystery.
The Fall is a BBC Two production, available on Netflix. It was first broadcast on BBC Two in May of 2013. The two leading characters are played by Gillian Anderson from The X Files and Jamie Dornan from Fifty Shades of Grey. Anderson is Stella Gibson, a police detective on the hunt for Dornan as serial killer Paul Spector.
Here’s the BBC Two trailer.
It’s a large cast with a number of excellent actors, including Archie Panjabi who plays a motorcycle riding medical examiner. Season 1 has 5 episodes. We know who the killer is from the beginning, but Gibson only gets a glimpse into who it is by the end of episode 5. Season 2 is coming in 2014.
It’s the Pacing
Pacing is the key to this series and the reason it feels like reading a good book as much as it does like watching a TV show.
Everything is revealed in meticulous unhurried detail. The killer’s hunt for prey, his crimes, his attention to detail and his slow slide into carelessness as the pressure builds while the police come closer are all given to us in logical slivers and slices. Jamie Dornan is superb as a loving dad who is hides his killing from his family and co-workers. He comes off as a completely nice guy who is absolutely beyond suspicion to those who think they know him.
Netflix released this trailer for the series.
Gillian Anderson stuns as a Detective Superintendent who gives orders to a whole raft of men of lesser rank. She plays her part with stoic brilliance. Occasional glimpses into her thinking or emotions both reveal and conceal. She’s strong and wields her power quietly but emphatically. If Gibson catches Spector in season 2, I hope there will be additional killers for this Detective to hunt, because Stella Gibson is a strong character, and Anderson makes the most of her. I want more.
Of Similar Minds
The detective and the killer are of very similar minds. They think in the same way, they problem solve in the same way. They are both smart and intuitive. The only difference is that they take these qualities in themselves and use them in different ways – one character for good, the other for evil. In the Netflix trailer above, we see Gibson staring into space as she quietly and brilliantly gets inside the mind of the killer and paints a profile of his needs.
We see the psychological similarities between cop and murderer as the story of the hunt for victims and the hunt for the killer unfold side by side in parallel sequences and mirrored actions. I love the way this story is told. It makes you ponder the thin line between good and evil.
Gillian Anderson is in her 40s now and more beautiful than ever. As Stella Gibson, she dresses in gorgeous suits and attractive silk blouses. Detective Gibson isn’t above unbuttoning the blouse a bit to attract attention if it will help her solve the crime. You can enjoy The Fall just for the gorgeous, even if you don’t like mystery stories.
If you don’t have Netflix, you may be able to catch some episodes of this series on the BBC iPlayer. (They aren’t always available there.)