Developer Diversity: The Mars/Venus Thing and WordPress Moderator: Karen Arnold
Panelists: Suzette Franck, Alison Barrett, Daryl L. L. Houston, Virginia DeBolt, Mark Casias
The discussion was about how to get more women in tech fields, among other things.
One of my talking points whenever I get to talk about this is to bring in how pop culture affects perception. I like to bring up the acceptance of gay couples on TV, the changing acceptance of openly gay people in our everyday world, and the changing acceptance of the idea of gay marriage. I think the visibility of gay characters on TV has changed the majority attitude of society. It’s my example of what needs to happen to visibility for girls in tech.
If that worked for LGBT visibility, why wouldn’t it work for women in tech? Why wouldn’t it work for girls who are interested in science and math, but who drop the idea around middle school in favor of being popular or not viewed as geeky and weird? If they saw a lot of geeky teen girls being successful and in leadership roles in popular shows, I think it would change attitudes.
If you can get girls through middle school still owning up to their interest in science and math, they can go on to careers in those fields. But they hit middle school and nerdy girls get teased and bullied and don’t get the attention of cute boys. That could be changed to a large degree by pop culture. We need to reframe and reset the popular image of female geeks.
One of the audience members at the panel discussion pointed out the geeky women in both NCIS shows, and one on Numb3rs. That’s great, but those aren’t shows that young girls are watching. There is a geeky female character on Big Bang Theory. I think young girls probably watch this show. Am I missing any current shows?
Where we really need geeky female characters are on shows like Pretty Little Liars that millions and millions of teen and pre-teen girls are watching.
We need more characters like Tina Majorino as Mac on Veronica Mars or Alyson Hannigan as Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Miranda Cosgrove as Carly on iCarly.
A lot more characters, not just one every few years. In fact, I’ll say that every show aimed at pre-teens should feature a geeky female character – hackers, programmers, scientists, and engineers who are teen girls or young women and are leading characters in an engaging drama or comedy. Geeky girls with lots of friends, interesting adventures, and a great personality.
Fringe completed its 5th and final season earlier this year. There were 100 episodes in this Sci Fi drama full of parallel universes, strange beasts, and far out science – or “fringe” science – concepts. When it first came out, back in 2008, I watched a few episodes, but my attention was spotty. It was on at a bad time for me and I couldn’t give it the regular week-by-week attention it requires. I never got into it.
Why didn’t I get into it? One of its creators, J.J. Abrams, is known for some pretty popular shows. That didn’t sway me. I originally wanted to watch because of Blair Brown. Blair Brown has been a huge favorite with me since her wonderful performance on The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. That couldn’t keep me watching. Bottom line, I just didn’t watch it.
Five years go by, and Netflix keeps suggesting to me that I would enjoy Fringe. Netflix knows my Sci Fi habits better than I do. It’s that time of year with the summer shows are over and the fall shows haven’t started. What can you do with an empty TV night? Giving Fringe a try sounded like a good plan.
I love Fringe!
No surprise to you Fringe fans out there – I love the show. I’m only in season 2, so I have lots more watching to do, but I’ll share why I love it. If you aren’t already a fan, you might give it a try.
This procedural drama is fronted by a woman. Anna Torv plays FBI agent Olivia Dunham. Olivia Dunham is strong, smart, brave, and a great detective. A perfect character to lead the cast. A show led by a woman who is strong and smart? Bingo.
I’m now a hopelessly devoted Anna Torv fangirl.
Binge watching turns out to be a perfect way to watch Fringe. You need to see every episode in order to make sense of the story. The fringe science builds over time to explain what’s happening, and the idea that there is a parallel universe threatening the one we live in develops episode by episode. Each episode has its own standalone FBI mystery to solve, but the plot points lead you into a larger story about parallel universes and alternate timelines.
Going from left to right in the photo of the season one cast, the players are:
Lance Reddick as Phillip Broyles, Olivia’s FBI boss. He seems stern and obstructionist, but he generally believes Olivia when she comes to him with a strange story about creatures who can shape shift or have body parts that come from scorpions.
John Nobel as Dr. Walter Bishop, a mad scientist who’s been in a mental institution for 17 years but is responsible for most of the fringe science that’s invading the current universe. He’s brought out of the nut house to work with the FBI to figure out the mysterious goings on. Walter doesn’t always remember what he did years ago to create the startling science cases we see now. Part of Walter’s charm comes from the things he goes through to try to jog his memory. In addition to not remembering a lot of his former science experiments, Walter is hiding information deliberately, especially from his son Peter.
Blair Brown as Nina Sharp from Massive Dynamic, a biotech company headed by Walter Bishop’s former partner William Bell (Leonard Nimoy). Massive Dynamic may or may not be responsible for much of the chaos the FBI sets out to investigate.
Kirk Acevedo is Charlie Francis, Olivia’s FBI partner.
Mark Valley is John Scott, another FBI agent. Olivia is in love with him but he’s killed off early in the series.
Joshua Jackson is Peter Bishop. He’s Walter’s son. The two have been estranged for years, so there’s a subplot of father son relationships running through each episode. Peter has a rather testy attitude toward his father’s mad science, but nevertheless helps the FBI by keeping his father focused and by being a generally handy fellow to have around.
Jasika Nicole is Astrid Farnsworth, an FBI scientist who becomes Walter’s lab assistant. Her part grows slowly. She has little to do early on, but she is used more and more as the series goes on.
Looking forward to the far-out science
Based on where I am in season 2, the real story about parallel universes and alternate timelines is just getting going. Season 1 was mostly build up. I’m looking forward to the rest of the story.
If this show had been canceled after season 1, it would never have had a chance to tell its real story. There was danger of that, because the show had low numbers, but it hung on. Now it has a developing cult following, including me. I’m still a little amazed that our digital lifestyle allows shows to live on and continue to grow and convert new fans.
Fringe had an active Facebook page with about a bazillion photos you might enjoy looking through.
Are you already a Fringe fanatic? Please share your reasons for loving the show.
We begin back in the cafe where the two daughters went last week to retrieve their parents. They are shocked when the newly engaged Celia and Alan (Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi) announce to their children that they are getting married. Instead of congratulations for the announcement, Gillian (Nicola Walker) rushes off to the loo and Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) claims to be too busy to stay and chat.
Our old young lovers agree to talk tomorrow as the children rush them off. They look at each other with so much affection, it’s simply lovely.
In the car, Celia tries to convince her daughter Caroline that she’s serious. Caroline blows her off by saying she doesn’t have time to think about it. It’s clear that she doesn’t think a marriage will actually happen.
Gillian asks her dad what the hell on earth he thinks he’s doing. He tries to explain about how her mother tricked him by not delivering Celia’s note all those years ago, but he doesn’t quite get it out.
Next day at school Kate (Nina Sosanya) tells Caroline that she told another teacher named Michael about her relationship with Caroline. Kate said all she told was they kissed a couple of times.
Celia calls Alan and says she wants to come over. She asks Caroline’s errant husband John (Tony Gardner) for a ride to rent a car. He asks her to put in a good word for him with Caroline. She doesn’t say she’ll help, but instead asks what he thinks about her news.
At the farm, Gillian tells her father that she thinks she should tell her son Raff (Josh Bolt) that his father actually committed suicide because Raff’s uncle keeps raising the issue of the father’s death.
John calls Caroline at school to see if she will agree to go out to dinner with him. He says he finds the relationship between Celia and Alan life-affirming. Caroline still continues to blow it off. I have to say I agree with John on this one. When he hangs up the phone he finds his girlfriend Judith (Ronni Ancona) at the door. That can’t be good.
At the school, Michael comes into Caroline’s office. He tries to intimidate and threaten her with his knowledge about her and Kate. Her response is, “Sod off, you little prick. Do you really think you can humiliate me? Go for it, genius, spread a few rumors. It will say more about you than it ever will about me. This is 2012. I was single. She’s single. We’re adults. We had a fling. The ladies have landed. Quite a long time ago in fact. Get over it.”
At Caroline’s house, John and Judith are discussing their breakup. Judith wants him back. They start drinking. That can’t be good, either.
At the farm Alan drags a box of photos down from the attic. He and Gillian look through some of them. There are photos of her mother, and her mother with both Alan and Celia. Once again he muffs the chance to explain to her that the only reason he ended up with her mother instead of Celia was because her mother tricked him. Celia arrives in her rented car. In Alan’s eyes it’s like the sun just came out. They talk about where they might live after they are married. His little house, which is currently rented. At the farm. In her cottage at Caroline’s. Three choices, no decision.
Gillian is using rocks to rebuild a wall when her bad boy lover Paul (Sacha Dhawan) drives up. Just as he asks if anyone is at her house, Celia and Alan drive by on their way to lunch. Well, no one’s at the house. Quickie time for Gillian and Paul.
On the drive into town, Celia suggests to Alan that they sell both their small cars and buy one car – something they’ve always fancied. Alan may be dazzled when he learns exactly what Celia’s always fancied.
John and Caroline’s eldest son William (Edward Ashley) arrives home from school to find John and Judith drunk. In his eyes, his dad is now officially a wanker. Gotta say I agree with him, even though John technically is innocent of any wrong doing on this particular occasion. Just as Judith heads out the door, Caroline phones and says yes to going out to dinner with John sometime. I love the way the writers framed these two phone calls about a dinner date for the reunited married folks with Judith’s arrival and departure.
In an auto showroom, Celia and Alan are looking at a red Lexus convertible. You read that right. A red convertible. While they look at the car, they exchange stories about their kids. Celia doesn’t understand why Caroline let John come back. Alan reveals his son-in-law’s suicide. They have trouble getting the salesman to take them seriously and let them drive the car. Ageism is rampant even in the UK.
At the farm, Gillian and Paul have finished their little love fest, and she tells him to bugger off. After he goes, she looks in the mirror with one of those what the hell am I doing looks.
The car salesman is finally talking deal with our favorite lovers. It will cost them about 10,000 (euros? pounds?) each. Turns out Celia drives a hard bargain.
They decide to have an engagement party on Saturday at the farm.
The minute Gillian gets her dad alone again, she brings up the question of telling Raff about the suicide. Alan agrees that it needs to be done. He tells Gillian he thinks it’s wise, one of the kindest things I’ve ever heard a parent say to a child in a television show.
When Gillian does tell Raff, he asks several questions. She tries to reassure him. She talks about how everyone has demons, a line of thought that seems to apply to her more than her dead husband. She mentions that Raff’s dad had a wonderful side and a dark side, and assures him that he doesn’t have a dark side like that. He’s like her dad – kind, thoughtful, balanced.
Celia arrives back home and tells Caroline about the party on Saturday at Alan’s house. They talk a while, giving Celia a chance to explain her feelings and how she doesn’t see her behavior as “rushing.”
This episode is full of deep conversations between parents and their children.
On Saturday morning, as they prepare to go to the engagement party, Caroline almost tells John about Kate, then changes her mind and talks about being snotty to Gillian instead. Then she tells him he can start sleeping in the bedroom with her again.
The engagement party starts off well, conversation is flowing. Alan stands up to give a speech and finally tells the tale of the deception that lead to him and Celia losing touch. Gillian looks gobsmacked when she realizes the implications of the story. As they toast the happy couple, the new Lexus is delivered. Everyone rushes outside to see it. The two daughters finally share a moment of bonding as they look at each other in dismay over their parents car buying behavior.
During the excitement over the new car, the police drive up to take Raff away because he assaulted Paul. Seems Paul was talking about his mother in a way Raff didn’t like. Gillian doesn’t have time to explain to Raff and the police that she’s been shagging Paul. During the arrest, William tells his mom about Judith being at their house. Finally convinced that John is a wanker, Caroline leaves him standing in the middle of the road at the farm and tells him he can’t come back. Feeling guilty about Kate is one thing, but a wanker is a wanker is a wanker. John is yelling at Caroline that she can’t leave him there when Celia walks up and slaps him.
As if Gillian hasn’t had enough to deal with already, we can look forward to learning in episode 3 whether or not she will claim her relationship with Paul or continue to try to hide him from her family. I’m also eager to find out where Celia and Alan are going to live.
What did you think of episode 2? What do you think will happen next?
The tweet lead me to this story in TIME Magazine : Memories Can Now Be Created — And Erased — in a Lab. In TIME, the writer talked about the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I’m with Dara, the story makes me think about the series Dollhouse.
Created by Joss Whedon, Dollhouse was on the air for 2 seasons from 2009-2010. The premise was that the residents of the dollhouse, who were captives, could be remade over and over into new people with new skills as needed for new jobs. Their memories were constantly being erased and rebuilt, depending on what the puppet masters needed them to do. Sit them in a special chair, zap their brains, and suddenly they were skilled surgeons or soldiers or equestrians.
Like Orphan Black allows for virtuoso performances from Tatiana Maslany, Dollhouse allowed the lead characters, particularly Eliza Dushku who played Echo, to be a completely different personality every week. All the actors who played “dolls” had the dream job of demonstrating their chops by inhabiting an ever changing array of personalities and characters.
If you are a Whedon fan, you know that Eliza Dushku also worked with Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Other Whedon regulars who appeared in Dollhouse include Fran Kranz as Topher, the mad scientist who rewired everyone’s brain with aplomb, Amy Acker as (mostly) a doctor who helped take care of the dolls, Alexis Denisof as a Senator, Summer Glau as one of the dolls, and Alan Tudyk as a scary character named Alpha.
Harry Lennix, Tahmoh Penikett, and Olivia Williams were in the cast as characters who ran The House and the dolls. Most of the time these characters would be considered “the bad guys” but that was a bit fuzzy on this show. In addition to Echo, other dolls included Enver Gjokaj as Victor and Dichen Lachman as Sierra.
The conflict and struggle in Dollhouse partly came from the fact that the memory wiping and imprinting process was never quite perfect. For example, Echo always had vague ideas about who she really was and struggled to hold on to that. Victor and Sierra were in love. No matter what personality they had to take on, that basic emotion always seemed to creep back in. The struggle to recall who they really were led the dolls to attempt subterfuge and misdirection in an attempt to save their own memories and to escape from the dollhouse.
Mixed in with that overall story arc of the dolls attempting to get back to who they really were, there were the weekly stories centering around whatever action or job needed to be done by the dolls that week.
You could wipe my brain and make me forget that I’d ever heard of Joss Whedon, but I’d only have to watch one episode of Buffy kicking vampire butt or Echo fighting to retain her true self or or Gina Torres decked out in leather and guns aboard The Serenity to fall in love with his fictional females all over again.
If you missed Dollhouse the first time around, I suggest you watch it now. And if you’ve already seen it, binge watching a second time is a perfect way to spend a weekend.
You can watch both seasons of Dollhouse on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu.
Like many Whedon creations, Dollhouse inspired an obsessive fandom to create a Wiki for the show. If you feel like getting into the details, the Wiki is your happy place.
August: Osage County is the most promising movie, story, cast, whatever, to come along in a very long time. It’s a family drama with many strong women called together by a family crisis at their childhood home in Oklahoma. It’s based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts. Letts also wrote the screen play for the film, which debuted this week at TIFF, although it isn’t scheduled to be released in U.S. theaters until December 2013.
Take a look at the trailer.
What a cast! Meryl Streep is the family matriarch, Violet, who suffers from mouth cancer. Sam Shepard plays her husband – an Oklahoma poet who quotes T.S. Eliot. This couple have three daughters played by Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson. Roberts is married to Ewan McGregor. They have a daughter played by Abigail Breslin. The sister played by Juliette Lewis arrives with a man in tow, played by Dermot Mulroney. The Julianne Nicholson character lives near her mother, something that probably makes her an expert on the family dysfunction in a way the two other daughters haven’t experienced. Other characters include Violet’s sister (Margo Martindale), her husband (Chris Cooper) and their son (Benedict Cumberbatch).
If that list of names isn’t enough to get your attention, the producer is George Clooney.
Early reviews coming out of TIFF are favorable. Julia Roberts in particular is attracting attention for her performance. It must be an intimidating proposition to try to stand out in a cast like this one, but Julia Roberts has apparently achieved that.
Abigail Breslin – if my math is right – is about 17 now. We’ve been watching her grow since Signs in 2002. She’s been in Raising Helen, Little Miss Sunshine, My Sister’s Keeper and much more. In every part she’s had, she’s demonstrated brilliant talent. Now she’s nearly “all growed up” and will be playing adult parts in the future. This may be the last time we see her as a teen or as someone’s daughter still under the parental wing.
August: Osage County is obviously complete or it couldn’t be playing in Toronto at a film festival. Yet we have to wait until December to see it. This means it will be released with prime Oscar nomination timing. The last thing we see in a year always has a better chance of getting the Oscar votes than something that comes out early in the year. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Julia Roberts get an Oscar nomination out of this one? Or how about a movie by a female writer and full of fabulous female characters getting a nomination as best picture? Now, that would be pretty damn wonderful.
UPDATE: A second trailer for the film is out now.
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The romantic comedy Enough Said coming to theaters on September 20 looks good. It stars the late James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus who get romantically involved as a couple of empty nesters. Look at some of the cast members.
Last Tango in Halifax is a 2012 British series which started on PBS last night. There are only 6 episodes in season 1, so get organized fast to watch this one. Last Tango in Halifax is all kinds of love stories, chiefly one between Celia and Alan, played by Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi.
Here’s the basic setup. Celia and Alan were in love as teens. Through a series of mishaps, they failed to get together. Each married someone else. Fifty years later these two tech savvy elders find each other on Facebook and get together, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. Reid and Jacobi are absolutely lovely together. It’s so wonderful to see a love story between people in this age group. I suspect that dwelling in the first bloom of love is going to make these two elders act as foolish as teenagers before this story is told.
Sarah Lancashire plays Celia’s daughter, Caroline. In the opening scenes we see her take back her philandering husband (Tony Gardner). She doesn’t show much enthusiasm for his return, and neither do their two sons, but back he is. Later, we realize she’s been filling in the time during his absence with a female teacher in the school where she’s headmistress. The teacher, Kate, played by Nina Sosanya, is dumped without ceremony because, “John is back.” The indications in the opening episode are that John’s stay back at home may be limited, and Caroline may not be fully finished with Kate. So, another kind of love story.
Alan’s daughter, Gillian, is played by Nicola Walker. When we first meet her she’s worrying over her son’s devotion to his Uncle and their penchant for dangerous motorcycle sports. There’s a lot of backstory involved in the relationship with the uncle and her late husband’s death that Gillian has to face with her son in the first episode. Gillian works in a grocery store, and we learn via her sale of a package of cigarettes that she’s sexually involved with a younger bad boy character played by Sacha Dhawan. It isn’t clear from the first episode if this can be called another love story or is more about loneliness and sex.
In addition to the romantic love stories and second chances that sprinkle Last Tango in Halifax, family love and parent and child relationships are explored. All kinds of love stories. I don’t know about you, but I firmly believe that the only good stories are stories about love – what ever kind of love that might be. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic love, family love, friendship or even love for a pet. Maybe that’s why I recommended this series about love so enthusiastically.
PBS doesn’t put their videos on YouTube where it’s easy to pick them up to display here. But if you go to the PBS page for Last Tango in Halifax you can watch a couple of videos from episode one. Once the season is over, all the episodes will be available on pbs.org/tango.
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.
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?
I’ve never liked Jon Voight. I don’t have a good reason, he’s just never done anything for me. Of course I’ve seen him in a lot of things – there’s no avoiding the man. But, wow, he found the vehicle of a lifetime in Ray Donovan on Showtime. He is so perfectly Mickey Donovan – his walk, his tone of voice, his expressions, his questionable sincerity – his entire being is flawless in this part.
I, who would never see anything simply because Jon Voight was it in, am telling you to see this if you can because of Jon Voight. If you don’t have Showtime, file it away as a must watch on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu or someplace like that in the future.
The series is currently nearing the end of season 1. Here’s the trailer.
Voight aside, the entire cast is exceptionally good at creating the gritty and steamy world of Ray Donovan.
The title character Ray is played by Liev Schreiber. He’s an Olivia Pope from Scandal fixer sort of guy, except he uses violence more than cunning to do his job. Ray takes care of the illegal and misguided antics of the rich folks in L.A. while Olivia is keeping D.C. running smoothly.
Ray is a family man, as his father Mickey is attempting to be on his return from 20 years in prison. But Ray keeps his family in the dark about his less than admirable work life. This is a source of conflict with his wife (ably played by Paula Malcomson) and his two kids (played by Kerris Dorsey and Devon Bagby). Ray is close to his brothers, Terry (Eddie Marsan) and Bunchy (Dash Mihok). As the story gets underway, Ray learns that he has a African-American half-brother, who serves to help push the plot line involving Mickey’s devotion to black women and their asses. (Mickey definitely knows what twerking is.) The half brother, played by Pooch Hall – a boxer in real life – has been hanging around the boxing gym Terry runs. Terry and Bunchy both knew about the relationship for years, a fact that does not sit well with Ray.
That’s as far as family love goes with Ray. He hates Mickey for reasons that haven’t been fully explained yet. He doesn’t want his father near his own family or hanging around with his brothers – both things Mickey immediately does on getting home from prison.
The series is a rich drama with lots of stories intertwining from a past full of secrets and lies as well as Ray’s present unsavory work. Worthy of special mention as supporting players are Kerris Dorsey (you may remember her from Brothers and Sisters) as the teen-aged daughter, Katherine Moennig (from The L Word) as one of Ray’s assistants, Elliott Gould as a business partner hiding secrets from the past while quietly going cuckoo, and Paula Malcomson as Ray’s wife.
A woman, Ann Biderman, is the series creator and writer. This matters to me.
Showtime will let you watch episode 1 for free. I urge you to take advantage of the offer.
All images property of Showtime.
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