Orphan Black explores the question of who owns a woman’s body

Tatiana Maslany recently gave an interview to TV Guide. They were talking to her about her upcoming role as Aziz Ansari’s love interest on Parks and Recreation, but the conversation quickly turned to Orphan Black and clones.

In the final episode of season one on Orphan Black, the clone Cosima, a scientist, does some binary decoding and discovers a patent is listed in the DNA of the clones. They are the “property” of Neolution.

Tatiana Maslany as the clones
Tatiana Maslany as the clones

TV Guide asked about that.

At the end of Season 1, we learned that the clones are actually trademarked, so will the question of freedom be a running theme in Season 2?

Tatiana Maslany: It resonates differently for each of them. There’s something about that idea of ownership over your body that I feel is quite resonant to women. It’s so interesting that it’s in the context of clones, but it’s all women dealing with this idea of, “Do I own my body? Is my body mine? Who am I if I don’t own my body? Who am I if somebody else has decided all this stuff?” I think Sarah is a fiercely rebellious person, so anybody putting her in a box is when she’ll lose her sh–. Cosima is fascinated with this concept because of the science of it and because of the way that she can break things down and understand them better. Alison bought into it. It’s cool that they all deal with it very differently.

In the current political climate in the United States, where right wing activists are pushing bills through state legislatures that take away women’s rights to govern their own bodies, this is a particularly interesting topic for a TV show to take on. I cannot wait to see how the issue is dealt with in the fictional world of Orphan Black.

The value of science fiction

The value of science fiction is that it lets us take a look at issues and talk about them in a place away from an emotionally fraught reality.

On the SyFy channel, Continuum is doing something similar to Orphan Black, but on a different topic. Season 1 of Continuum describes the premise best. (It gets lost in the action a bit in season 2.) Here’s the premise. The show opens in a world 65 years in the future. There is no illusion of government left, there is only the corporation. THE corporation. The corporation rules the world for its own good.

Several people from this world get sent back in time, including the series star Rachel Nichols. She plays Kiera Cameron, a cop in the future who falls into a role as a cop here in our time. She is desperate to get back to her own time and her family. Many of the people who traveled back in time a part of an organization called Liberate which is trying to prevent the corporation from rising to power. Kiera wants to prevent this because she thinks it will change the future and her chances of being reunited with her family will be lost. It’s an Occupy movement story, a 99% story, using time travel as the vehicle.

These are two important issues. Do you find that thinking about things like this in relation to a fictional world like Orphan Black or Continuum has an effect on how you feel about such issues in the real world?

Images ©BBC America.

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Entertainment is a gift, hating on entertainers isn’t

We have a serious problem with our entertainment. We think we own it. We think we own the stories, the characters, the actors. We think it’s ours to dictate and control. If it isn’t the way we want it to be, we get vicious.

Entertainment is a gift to us, created and conceived for our enjoyment by someone else. We don’t know or own that someone else.

It’s the Internet. It’s Twitter. It’s message boards. You can say whatever lame-brained thing you want and send it out into the world. It’s so easy, even I can do it.

That doesn’t make it right.

Anna Gunn and Bryan Cranston
Anna Gunn and Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad

Actress Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad wrote this op-ed piece: Breaking Bad star Anna Gunn: I have a character issue. She made several good points in her post, including this one.

At some point on the message boards, the character of Skyler seemed to drop out of the conversation, and people transferred their negative feelings directly to me. The already harsh online comments became outright personal attacks. One such post read: “Could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” Besides being frightened (and taking steps to ensure my safety), I was also astonished: how had disliking a character spiraled into homicidal rage at the actress playing her?

Before I started this blog, I was putting an occasional pop culture post on one of my other blogs. That’s where you’ll find Dear Lesbian Bloggers, Isn’t it Time to Forgive? The post is about the resentment many directed toward The L Word. In that post, I stated,

I surfed around among many lesbian writers, sampling what they had to say about The L Word. I was surprised when I discovered a plethora of complaints, vilifications, and shaming. Nobody liked Ilene Chaiken. Nobody was satisfied with the plot. The characters were all too pretty. It wasn’t realistic. Everyone was mad because Dana died. Everyone hated Jenny. And on, an on, and on.

On the blog Dorothy Surrenders the other day, I saw On Faith and Fandom. She was talking about the attacks on two actresses because of their personal beliefs.

Which leads me to the recent heated fandom debates – to put it very mildly; you should see the email folder I’ve made for all the messages – over Rachel Skarsten of “Lost Girl” and most recently Laura Prepon of “Orange Is the New Black.” Both have been tied to churches that are reportedly anti-gay.

Fans argued that it was okay to hate a character and the person who plays her because of a religious belief. Even though before they knew this one personal thing about the person, they loved the character and the actor playing her. Nothing about the show or the character changed.

Love a show? Then watch it.

Is there some show you love? Breaking Bad or Orange is the New Black, perhaps. Yea! Then watch it for your entertainment pleasure. It’s a gift to you from a network and a creator and a producer and a huge crew and a lot of actors who work for months to bring you said entertainment. If the show you love has a message or a larger cultural meaning about good and evil or visibility for LGBT people or some other topic dear to your heart, good for it! You can support the show on that basis.

If the show you love has a character you like or don’t like (because every drama has to have a protagonists AND an antagonist or nothing dramatic happens) then good for the show’s creators for giving you characters that make you care.

The thing is, it’s fiction. It’s story. It’s made up. The actors are not the characters. And neither the actors or the characters belong to you. You don’t get to judge entertainment based on the actor’s personal lives. You don’t get to hate them when the characters they play don’t do exactly what you want. Just because you feel invested in a story or character, it’s still mass entertainment and not your personal possession.

Here’s how Shonda Rhimes (Gray’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal) put it on Twitter:

Advice from Uncle Bill

When I was a kid, my Uncle Bill was a theater manager. That was back in the day when Elizabeth Taylor was a huge star. She was on her 5th or 6th marriage, and I commented to Uncle Bill about not wanting to see her latest movie because she got married all the time. He said, “Look at her her acting. Look at the work. That’s all that matters.”

Look at the work. A lot of people did a lot of work to tell you a story. Watch it with pleasure or don’t watch it at all. But don’t threaten to harm the people telling you the stories.

Breaking Bad image ©AMC

Orphan Black Creators Talk Season 2, Possible New Clones, and DVDs

The creators of Orphan Black, John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, talk with TV|Line about season 2, Emmy snubs, Tatiana Maslany’s mad skills, whether there will be new clones coming, and the goodies available on the newly released DVD set of season 1.

See Also: The Force That is Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black

The New Doctor Who

Reaction began immediately on Twitter to the announcement that Peter Capaldi would be the 12th Doctor Who. It was the top trending topic.

I was hoping it would be a woman – I heard Helen Mirren said she would do it – but the choice they made seems to be a solid one.

I do love this tweet though – let Tatiana Maslany play all the characters on Doctor Who!

What’s your reaction to the announcement, Whovians?

Official Press Photo of Peter Capaldi via @DoctorWho_BBCA

Must Watch Show: Switched at Birth Renewed for a 3rd Season

Switched at Birth on ABC Family is a terrific series. The announcement came this week that it’s renewed for a 3rd season. I originally watched because I’m a Marlee Matlin fan and like shows that feature sign language, but I quickly got caught up in the story and interested in the characters.

Daphne Toby Emmett Bay

The story involves Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano) who should have been a Vasquez, and Daphne Vasquez (Katie Leclerc) who should have been a Kennish. Instead they got switched at birth and went home from the hospital with the wrong families. The story begins when the two girls are in high school and the truth is revealed to the families and the world at large because Bay does a science project involving DNA.

The Kennish family is wealthy and privileged.  D.W. Moffett plays John Kennish, the father. Lea Thompson is Kathryn Kennish, the mother. Lea Thompson and Katie Leclerc could be biologically related – they look that much alike. Lucas Grabeel is Toby Kennish, who is Daphne’s biological brother but regards Bay as his sister.

Constance Marie plays Regina Vasquez, who raised Daphne as a single mom. An alcoholic single mom. Single because Daphne’s father, Angelo, who we don’t meet into well into the series, took off. He’s played by Gilles Marini. He may have taken off because Daphne got sick and went deaf or because of issues around Regina’s drinking. Anyway, he was an absent father.

Associated with these characters from the start are Emmett (Sean Berdy) a deaf friend of Regina and Daphne’s and Emmett’s mother Melody (Marlee Matlin) who is also deaf.

A recurring conflict in the series is what happens when the deaf community comes up against the hearing community. When the Kennish family meet Daphne, they all learn some sign language. But there are conflicts around this culture clash in many episodes. In one episode the deaf students at the school that both Bay and Daphne attend stage a strike to try to keep the school from going 50% hearing / 50% deaf. Since Bay is hearing, this adds to the many conflicts between Bay and Daphne.

Incidentally, the school strike episode was almost completely done in sign, a first for any TV series.

Bay and Daphne face conflicts over boyfriends and schools. There are jealousies over access to parents and acceptance by parents both biological and by upbringing. The girls face their identity crises in completely different ways.

Everyone in both families consider the parents who raised each girl to be the parents. The parents with the last word, so to speak. The newly discovered birth parents are referred to as “biological” parents. Soon enough, however, both girls effectively have two sets of parents because they all live together in the Kennish compound, which includes a guest house.

Another recurring storyline of conflict involves who knew what and when. Turns out Regina knew early on that the babies had been switched and had been keeping an eye on Bay all along. Boy, was John Kennish mad when he found out that secret.

ABC Family put together a couple of videos that will help you see a little of this in action.

Beginners Guide to Switched at Birth, Part 1

Beginners Guide to Switched at Birth, Part 2

ABC Family can add this to its list of other series that look at the question of what makes a family, most notably The Fosters. In both The Fosters and Switched at Birth, there are themes around whether family is biology, or love, or some other combination of factors that mix with biology and love.

If you aren’t already a fan of Switched at Birth, I hope you’ll give your consideration. It’s worth it.

Season 2 Casting News for Orange is the New Black – Updated

The latest from Netflix about season 2 of Orange is the New Black is that Lorraine Toussaint was added to the cast as a prisoner named Vee. Lorraine Toussaint was a regular on Body of Proof, Friday Night Lights and Saving Grace, but I love her most of all from Any Day Now. Any Day Now was set in 1960’s Birmingham, Alabama during the height of the civil rights movement. If you haven’t seen it you should look it up and watch it.

Danielle Brooks

Netflix also announced that Danielle Brooks, who plays Taystee will be a regular. Danielle Brooks is fresh out of Julliard. Her career is off to a solid gold start with OITNB and Taystee.

Taryn Manning

Taryn Manning is promoted to being a cast regular as well. The announcement is a bit of a spoiler alert, since it means that Piper didn’t do as much damage to Pennsatucky at the end of Season 1 as we might have thought.

Update 2/1/2014

The news about casting for season 2 announced recently is that Lori Petty from Tank Girl has a part in Orange is the New Black. The name of her character and what part she’ll play in the show isn’t explained yet.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Trailer (video)

Katniss Everdeen is the perfect heroine: motivated by love, wary of attention, an independent thinker. We loved her in part one of this trilogy and can’t wait for Catching Fire.

Are you planning to catch this flick as soon as possible? I am.

Orphan Black: Send in the Clones (Video)

BBC Home Entertainment released a video showing a bit about how Tatiana Maslany becomes 7 different characters in Orphan Black.

See Also: The Force that is Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black and The 2013 Emmy Nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress.

Veronica Mars Movie Sneak Peak (Video)

This Veronica Mars movie sneak peak was released at the recent San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). In case you aren’t aware of the back story, the money for this movie was raised in a Kickstarter project. The funding goal was raised in almost seconds (just a slight exaggeration). The Kickstarter project raised millions beyond its goal. It is one of the biggest fan-driven fund raising events to date and the start of a new trend in how movies get made.

Fans will get their movie in 2014.

If you missed Veronica Mars when it was a TV series years ago, it’s available via streaming services, and it’s worth watching. She’s a high school girl who helps out in her dad’s detective agency. I know, high school kids – I’m so beyond that – but it’s a good show.

Interesting Tweets from the San Diego Comic Con 2013

There is some fan insanity going on in San Diego this weekend. Here are some interesting tweets about some of my favorite shows and stars from the event.

From the SyFy show Defiance cast member Jaime Murray. Jaime Murry is also in another favorite show of mine, Warehouse 13.

Jaime Murray posted lots of pics. Check her Twitter feed for a lot more, like this one referencing Warehouse 13. You may be able to find one similar to this of her giving her co-star Joanne Kelly a smooch, something we have yet to see on Warehouse 13.

Here’s one from Lost Girl star Ksenia Solo, who puts a lot of photos on Instagram.

  From a fan of The Hunger Games.

Here’s what the fans camped out all night to see.

A lot of happy fans got to stand beside their favorites.

Here’s a video of a session with Orphan Black cast members. Since this video is long, I’ll end with it.

Do a Twitter search on #SDCC for thousands more tweets like these.