A Personal Manifesto

A couple of decades ago I realized everything in my life up to that point had been determined by men. I can hear my friend Denise shouting, “It’s the patriarchy, stupid!” That’s not it – at least not completely. The patriarchy is still with us. But inside my head, things have changed.

Let’s start with ancient history. I grew up when the movies were westerns with Roy Rogers or Gene Autry. Or they were war movies with Aldo Ray and Montgomery Clift. Stories were about men. Books were about men. In college, I majored in English and I read dozens of books by dead white men. Men were supposed to rule the world and women were supposed to let them. I lived with a man who controlled and manipulated everything about my life. And I let him.

Then I stopped letting him.

After that, I wanted to think some new thoughts. I wanted to learn about feminism, which had passed me by. I wanted to read books by women, I wanted to see movies about women, hear songs sung by women, and see TV shows about women.

I’m not saying I started hating men. I like men. I have a son who is the finest man you could ever know. It wasn’t about men. It was about women, about finding the feminine, about understanding the female heart and mind, about finding the essence of what it is to be a woman.

The first thing I did was start reading books by women: Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Edwidge Danicatt, Margaret Atwood, Sara Paretsky, Amy Tan, Mary McCarthy, Annie Proulx, Leslie Marmon Silko, Jeanette Winterson, Sandra Cisneros, Dana Stabenow, Rita Mae Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, Joan Didion, Gloria Steinem, Diana Galbaldon, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Berg, Janet Evanovich, Sarah Waters, Rita Dove. I didn’t care if it was great literature or a speed-readable romance as long as it was by a woman.

No more war movies, no more westerns, no more guys coming of age (girls coming of age are acceptable), no more buddy films about guys. I became attached to films like “The Secret of Roan Inish” and “Practical Magic” and “Thelma and Louise” and “How to Make an American Quilt” that told stories about women. I decided what to go see based on who the female star was – the male star didn’t matter. Did it have Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Queen Latifa, Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan, Julie Christie, Angela Bassett, Shirley MacLaine, Holly Hunter, Halle Berry, Alfre Woodard, Julia Roberts? I was there.

I started to get a bit picky, a little more demanding. The woman had to really be there. Be a person who added to the film. If “The Fugitive” advertised Sela Ward and she got offed in the beginning so all we could do was watch the hero run around, I was pissed.

Television had some women to offer. There was Mary Tyler Moore. Carol Burnett. There were shows with a lot of male characters and a few memorable female characters. “China Beach” had both Dana Delany and Marg Helgenberger. “Northern Exposure” had Janine Turner and several other interesting women. “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd” was all Blair Brown. “Cagney and Lacey” – Woohaw! “Any Day Now” with Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint – double woohaw! The four fabulous women on “Sisters” – a quadruple woohaw.

In the last couple of years some really good female led TV has come along. “Saving Grace,” “The Closer,” “In Plain Sight,” “Hawthorne,” “The Good Wife,” “Weeds.” I’m loving it.

And, there was “The L Word.” A show that was practically all women. I so, so loved it. I thought I loved it because I liked Jennifer Beals. I watched every old Jennifer Beals movie that I’d missed over the years. I found dancers, cops, crooks, a naive housewife, a madam, a psychic, a blind wise woman, singers, liars, the bride of Frankenstein and a whole lot of other people, but I didn’t find Jennifer Beals. I only found characters. That’s when I realized the thing that really attracted me was the character of Bette Porter on “The L Word.”

Bette Porter. A strong woman who stands up for herself. She’s not perfect, but she’s powerful and inspiring and a leader. She seems very real there inside the TV.  She’s who I’ve been looking for in all the books, in all the movies, in all the TV shows. She’s in the courageous politicians I look up to. She’s in the tech savvy leaders I admire like the founders of BlogHer. She’s in the organizers for charity and the women who fight against injustice. She’s in the writers who tell stories that change the world. She’s in my daughter, who’s raising a kid with no help from the father. She’s in my granddaughters, who don’t take shit from anybody.

Real women I know have courage and strength and power. Maybe even I do. I’ve been trying to figure that one out for about 20 years. I could be close to an answer.

[Reprinted from Two decades of women on First 50 Words.  This post was first written in August 2010. I decided to repost it here as well because it’s relevant to why I started this blog.]

Winners and Losers

Four new TV shows caught my eye. After checking them out for two or three episodes, I’ve picked the winners I want to keep watching and the losers that will disappear from my viewing schedule.

The Winners

The two shows I find the best are Intelligence and Killer Women. Sheer dazzle makes Intelligence interesting. Josh Holloway is excellent as the cyber-brained lead character with whiz-bang computer skills embedded in his brain. His supporting team, Meghan Ory and Marg Helgenberger are both doing a terrific job in their roles. Plus the show includes some particular favorite actors of mine such as John Billingsley and Lance Reddick.

Intelligence is sci fi done right: engaging characters, plots that work, fascinating tech.

Killer Women is also a hit with me. Tricia Helfer, who’s worked in a long list of things we’ve all seen, never came to the front of my attention before the way she does with her leading role in this drama. She’s doing a terrific job as a tough Texas Ranger. Remember how awesome Gina Torres looked in Firefly with that gun strapped to her hip? That’s the vibe Tricia Helfer is giving off in Killer Women. One helluva woman.

I know Killer Women has suffered some negative reviews – by men – but the women reviewing this show have spoken positively about it. So as a representative of the female TV viewing audience, I cast my vote for a renewal of this show!

The Losers

They looked good, the previews and trailers looked good, but two of the new shows failed to engage me.

I like Billy Campbell, I enjoy sci fi, and I had high hopes for Helix. It should be good. Good cast, great sets, strong premise, diverse characters. But it bores me. The 3rd episode, which will be the last one I devote my time to, left me yawning and wishing it would hurry up and end. It has devoted followers, if tweets in my Twitter stream are any indication, but I’m not one of them.

The other show that leaves me flat is Bitten. It’s rare that I can’t get into a show with a female lead character. Laura Vandervoort does a perfectly fine job as the lead in this werewolf story, so it isn’t her.  Bitten feels opaque. Too many undefined characters, not enough clarity about the stakes involved. Not one thing in this series has made me care.

Do you have winners and losers from the new TV season? What are they?

Monday Night Madness

Now that the new TV season brings back some of my favorite shows, there are so many shows on Monday night I want to see that it took me two days to watch them all. Here are some quick reactions to what I watched.

Join in with a comment if you have a different Monday night favorite.

Switched at Birth

I love this show, I love the silent moments where there is only sign language, I love the characters. The first episode of the new season was a solid one, building on where we left off last season. New students at the school will be interesting. Kathryn (Lea Thompson) is having some sort of personal crisis. Lots of new things going on while the old plot lines advance.

The Fosters

The honeymoon lasted all of one morning for newlywed moms Sherri Saum and Terri Polo. That’s when they figured out that the foster daughter they were all set to adopt (Maia Mitchell) had run away. The rest of the episode was the hunt for her and a look at how her absence affected other members of the family. Annie Potts was still hanging around post-wedding and anytime you get to see Annie Potts is a good time. This is such a good show. I hope you are watching it.

Castle

Here we are in season 6 of Castle and, WOW!, one of the best episodes ever of this show pops up. James Brolin guest starred as Castle’s father. There was just the right mix of crime solving, character, suspense, emotion, and great storytelling in this episode. It was electrifying.

Bitten

I haven’t made up my mind on this one yet. It’s a werewolf story, which is okay. No problem with the scifi stuff. I’m not crazy about the ratio of male to female characters. Too many males, not enough females. Too many characters, period. Who are all these people? I had a problem with the one leading female character (Laura Vandervoort). I’m not really attached to her yet. And if I’m not hooked in the first episode, I may not ever take the bait. I’ll try again next week and see what happens. What did you think of it?

Lost Girl

This show is a complete favorite of mine. You know that if you’ve read any of my Lost Girl recaps from season 4. This show does have a great male to female ratio and the women are not just there for decoration. Bo (Anna Silk) wasn’t around much in episode 1 of the new season, but it gave us a chance to see Ksenia Solo take a turn in the lead and do an outstanding job at it.

Intelligence

Episode 2 was even better than episode 1, in my opinion. Josh Holloway is doing a great job as Mr. Cyborg of America while remaining entirely human in his performance. Meghan Ory and Marg Helgenberger’s interactions with him are perfect. The tech is fascinating.

I know a lot of people like Sleepy Hollow and Almost Human but I can’t build up any enthusiasm for either of them. What was your Monday night schedule?

First Impressions of Intelligence and Killer Women

Intelligence and Killer Women both opened their seasons this week. Here are my first impressions.

Intelligence

Intelligence touts Josh Holloway as the lead character, Gabriel Vaughn. He’s a government operative with a computer embedded in his brain and is considered the government’s most valuable asset. It’s on CBS.

The main cast of Intelligence
The main cast of Intelligence. Image via CBS

Behind this computer-man are Riley Neal (Meghan Ory) as the secret service agent in charge of keeping Vaughn safe and out of enemy hands, and Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger) who is head of the cyber security agency that manages Vaughn.

I am always interested in shows like this that take a look at the direction we are heading with technology. The technology here is dazzling, if unrealistic, and gives the series an awesomeness vibe that should serve it well in future episodes.

In the lead, Holloway is stubbornly human in spite of his computer chip of a brain, which makes the story interesting. Ory is tough and capable and in sympathy with Holloway’s tendency to be human. Helgenberger seemed a bit stiff and stoic, but perhaps that’s a requirement of the role.

It’s an action story with fighting and guns and international intrigue mixed in with the government operations and human interaction. I was happy with the first episode and think it promises to be an interesting ride.

Killer Women

On ABC, Tricia Helfer leads the cast on Killer Women. She’s Molly Parker, a Texas Ranger who works on murder cases where women are the murderers.

Molly Parker in Killer Women
Tricia Helfer in Killer Women. Image via ABC.

Molly is a bundle of complexity, which is always good in a character. She’s trying to get her husband to sign divorce papers while conducting an affair with an FBI guy played by Marc Blucas. (I’ll bet if you counted them all up, Marc Blucas has been the love interest for more leading women in television than any other actor.)

Molly’s living at her brother’s while getting the divorce. The brother (Michael Trucco) may play an important role in the series since he was all over the premier.

Molly is more interested in justice than in closing cases. Get this. She plays the trumpet in a band when she’s not working a case – that’s a new twist on a character.

The shots of Austin and what I assumed are San Antonio looked real, although IMDB says the show was filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I saw the Frost Bank building in Austin and the state capitol building in Austin, and the highway scenes showed green vegetation beside the roads – not something you’d see in the New Mexico desert. I sure looks like it was filmed in Texas.

Much as I liked the main character and Tricia Helfer as a Texas Ranger, some of the situations were a little unrealistic. For example, Helfer and Blucas take off to Mexico, completely unofficially,  to rescue some people and while there they shoot people without any apparent consequences. Drug cartel people, so shooting them doesn’t count or something – right? Action heroes in movies shoot people without consequences all the time, but I seldom see women doing it.

Killer Women has my interest so far and I’ll continue to watch.

Did you watch either of these premier episodes? What were your impressions?