Inventing Anna, a Netflix mini-series about the rise and fall of a fake socialite from creator Shonda Rhimes, is fascinating and compelling television. I took it as a parable about the rot at the heart of the American psyche. It’s a classic tale of good and evil, truth and lies, reality and illusion.Continue Reading: Inventing Anna, or the American obsession with money and power
Bridgerton is the first Shondaland series produced on Netflix. It’s already set for a second season of proper society, steamy sex, secret sins, and a racial equality rewrite.Continue Reading: Bridgerton brings Shondaland Sensibility to Regency England
I know you’ve seen the statistics from This Changes Everything about the percentage of women in front of and behind the camera before. But This Changes Everything takes you inside the story. It lets in you in on the struggle to count the data, check the boxes, and fight the fight.Continue Reading: Review: This Changes Everything
Darby Stanchfield is moving herself into the director’s chair. She’s normally in front of the camera in Scandal. In this short 6 part web series, Scandal: Gladiator Wanted, the Scandal team is looking for a new Gladiator, and Darby Stanchfield is directing.
You can view the series any time on abc.com. Continue Reading: Darby Stanchfield Directs Scandal: Gladiator Wanted Web Series
The Women’s List is on your local PBS or PBS online. Fifteen women are featured in this one hour film by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.
Featured women include Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, 1997-2001, Gloria Allred, lawyer, Laurie Anderson, artist, Sara Blakely, entrepreneur, Margaret Cho, comedian, Edie Falco, actor, Elizabeth Holmes, scientist and entrepreneur, Betsey Johnson, fashion designer, Alicia Keys, singer-songwriter, Aimee Mullins, athlete and fashion model, Nancy Pelosi, politician, Rosie Perez, actor, Shonda Rhimes, writer-producer, Wendy Williams, talk show host, Nia Wordlaw, pilot. This is a diverse list of women, some of whom you may know, some of whom may be new faces to you.
The women share their experiences struggling against discrimination and overcoming challenges to make their voices heard.
— Archie Panjabi (@PanjabiArchie) March 25, 2015
Archie Panjabi sounds ready to hang it up in this tweet.
If I were Archie Panjabi, I’d have mixed emotions about leaving The Good Wife. Archie’s had a landmark role on a great show. Her character Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife was a cultural pioneer in many ways. Yet Archie Panjabi is making news because she’s leaving The Good Wife before its run is finished.
Lately Kalinda has been stuck away in a minor plot line where she plays a terrified baby sitter for Lamond Bishop (Mike Colter). If she’s left in this powerless spot, she will just fade away. Kalinda can’t just fade away.
Here are my 3 top reasons why she deserves a great send off when she leaves the show at the end of season 6.
1. Kalinda brings the diversity
Before everyone was trying to score diversity points by having a woman of color in their cast, Archie Panjabi was bringing diversity to The Good Wife. This award winning actress wasn’t stereotyped as some ridiculous ethnic character, she was the investigator for a law firm, a multi-layered, complex woman.
Before Shonda Rhimes had 3 shows, before Orange is the New Black brought a rainbow of characters into stardom, Kalinda was there.
2. Kalinda is bisexual
Kalinda was one of very few bisexual characters on TV for a time, and it was no big deal. It was simply Kalinda. She broke ground for other bi characters to follow.
3. Kalinda is THE MOST BADASS
In a cast full of amazing women including her bosses, one of whom was Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), Kalinda takes the badass prize every time.
Kalinda can out-badass her other badass boss, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski).
Kalinda can find any answer, solve any problem, crack any case in the service of her lawyer bosses. She is brilliant at badass.
And then there’s her badass wardrobe. The leather, the boots. Kalinda Sharma in leather is the iconic badass look. Before Bo (Anna Silk) took leather to sexy heights in Lost Girl, there was Kalinda looking professionally dangerous in leather. Kalinda could stand beside Alicia or Diane in their couture suits and dresses and look like she belonged in an office. She belonged in the office, but she was different: sexier, more dangerous, mysterious. Archie Panjabi owned that leather with her posture, her attitude, her dark-eyed stare.
The Send Off
Creators Michelle King and Robert King have written brilliantly on The Good Wife with an array of complicated characters and pointed plots. I’m hoping they’ve figured out a fantastic way for us to say goodbye to Kalinda – a way that makes us happy she’s leaving and lets the cast give her a lot of love along the way. I hope she has a show or two to take the lead, drive the plot, and finally take her leave for a logical reason.
Lately the names Mulder and Scully have been in the news. Nobody has to explain those names. Everyone knows them. We know who Buffy Summers is. We know who Bette Porter is. We know who Thelma and Louise are. Through some magic of writing and casting, some characters become icons. Archie Panjabi created Kalinda Sharma with such power that she’s reached iconic. Kalinda Sharma is loved by many, and valued by many as a symbol. Kalinda Sharma will not be forgotten.
Many thanks to Michelle and Robert King for writing her to be the badass we love, and many millions of thanks to Archie Panjabi for bringing her to life as an unforgettable character.
She will be missed.
It’s a brain dump day. Short thoughts on big topics.
Just released photos of Supergirl’s costume show a muted color palette. But the costume is not over-sexualized. I love that. It looks like Supergirl, but a serious super hero, not a sex object.
I was hoping for brighter colors and mentioned that on Twitter. Heard back with this:
@OldAintDead like other DCCU promotional images the colors are muted on purpose, at least that’s what I hope, brighter would be better.
— Willie Yarbrough (@Black_Vulcan69) March 8, 2015
Fingers crossed that Willie is right!
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
I went to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on the first Saturday it was open. The theater was crammed for the 4PM matinee with a crowd of mostly older people.
The film was charming and very funny. There were many laugh-out-loud moments. The cast was fabulous – every one. The performances from Maggie Smith and Judi Dench were particularly interesting. There was an intimate feel to them. Maggie Smith showed a side I’ve never seen from her before. There was the trademarked acerbic wit but she went beyond that into something quietly profound at the end of the film.
Go see it.
Is it just for The Blacklist Red Reddington character, or has James Spader always tilted his head toward his shoulders to deliver his lines? Maybe I’m just noticing it because he gets so many close-ups on the series. Or maybe his neck is failing him and he can’t hold his head up straight. It isn’t always the left side like in the photo. It’s the right side, too.
I don’t remember him doing the head tilt on Boston Legal or The Practice. It’s driving me to consider buying him a neck brace. Does it distract anyone else but me?
Maggie Smith & Judi Dench photo credit: AP. Supergirl image: CBS. Scandal image: ABC.
Warning: Last Tango in Halifax spoilers.
My mission on this blog is to mention, support, and promote things I like. I usually don’t mention things I don’t like. Today is an exception. I want to talk about something I don’t like: the kill-the-lesbian trope.
This subject is fresh on my mind because Kate McKenzie was killed off on Last Tango in Halifax in episode 4 of season 3, but I could have written about the topic once a month since the birth of the blog and still have plenty of subject matter.
When I recapped the episode in which Kate died, I did it as a straight report on the story as writer Sally Wainwright wrote it. It’s her story, her creation. She can write it as she wants. (I took to heart a tweet from Shonda Rhimes about fans who think they can tell her how to write her stories.)
I don’t want to tell Sally Wainwright how to write a good story. She knows. She’s written wonderful female characters in Scott & Bailey, in Happy Valley, and in Last Tango in Halifax. I thank her for all of them.
I think this character is part of a larger discussion about media in general and LBGT / woman of color representation in particular.What I do want to explore are the implications of picking this particular character, Kate McKenzie – played by Nina Sosanya – to die. I think this character is part of a larger discussion about media in general and LBGT / woman of color representation in particular.
Kate’s death means that a story about this lesbian couple – one of them a woman of color – is over. There will be no married life struggles, no child raising drama, no representation of two brilliant successful lesbians living a normal life in modern day Britain.
Kate’s death means that a woman of color in a leading role as a lesbian is gone. Her presence in this story, not just as a lesbian but as a woman of color, was significant to many people and to society as a whole. The number 1 search term that brings people to this blog is “Nina Sosanya.” The number 1 post on this blog week after week is about Nina Sosanya. This says to me that she represents something to a majority of people interested in Last Tango.
Kate’s death means that Celia – played by Anne Reid – doesn’t have to grapple with her homophobia, her racism. Kate is gone and with her an important and much needed character arc for Celia.
Kate’s death means that Caroline – played by Sarah Lancashire – will live without love from now on, will grieve for what she’s lost from now on.
Interviews, Quotes, and Comments
Sally Wainwright’s first interview after the episode was with Diva Magazine. When asked why she killed off Kate she said,
It was a really massive decision. And it just felt it wasn’t as… [long pause]. It didn’t give the series as much emotional impact as we normally like to give the audience. I suppose that’s why we made that decision. But I am sad, and I’m really aware that I’ve upset a lot of people.
Later, she was asked why Kate and not John (played by Tony Gardner)? Her answer,
The narrative was that Caroline and Celia had fallen out so badly with Celia not going to the wedding. They weren’t going to speak to each other ever again. Narratively, nothing can ever bring this mother and daughter back together again. And then of course when there’s this huge, massive catastrophe in the family, people do rally round. People do get back together. So it was a narrative decision. It was more about the relationship between Celia and Caroline, and what that gave us.
Celia and Caroline fight regularly and viciously. And make up. That’s been part of their narrative all along. I find it hard to believe that someone had to die for them to make up.
When asked if Caroline would meet another woman, Sally Wainwright answered,
No. And she’s not going to meet another man either.
Nina Sosanya’s first interview after Kate’s death was with Cultbox. When asked for her reaction when she heard about Kate’s death she said,
I was warned before I read the script – which was kind of them – and my honest initial reaction was ‘oh that’s a good idea!’, because the drama is great, but then slowly it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be in it anymore! So that was a bit of a slow burn, but it was off for me because from an outside opinion I could completely see why that’s a great story turn.
But it was quite devastating to have to say goodbye to that relationship, particularly with Sarah, because you build up a working relationship that’s quite unique. It was really sad.
Nina didn’t know at the start of series 3 that she was going to be off the show is how I read that. Assuming she really is off the show. In episode 4 – the funeral episode – she was there as she appeared in Caroline’s grieving visualizations. She may be around for a while in Caroline’s imagination.
When asked about playing Kate as a ghost she said,
Yes, that’s quite an interesting thing to play, because you’re not really playing the character anymore, you playing it as imagined by someone else. So that was a challenge, it was quite good really.
And would she work with Sally Wainwright again? Yes, definitely!
A powerful post on Lady Parts deserves a reading. It’s titled Lesbian Lives Matter. Read the entire post, please. Here’s a bit of particular interest.
There is great division in the lesbian fan community right now. Some people are very angry from years of disappointments and have banned the show, much like they did with “The L Word,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Chicago Fire” and countless other shows that let us down. Some do not want to bite the hand that feeds us and are worried that the show might be canceled and Caroline might never get another chance at happiness.
Well, I don’t want the show canceled, but I do want this to be a teaching moment, for Wainwright and everyone who follows her. I want us to scream loud enough, I want them to hear, and I want to finally earn their respect. Lesbian lives matter. Queer lives matter. Stories on television matter. They give voice to those who are struggling to be heard, and they give a face and a familiarity to the Other.
I Want to Have Them Here
A Tumblr blog called “I Want to Have Them Here” posted an piece called In Memory of Kate McKenzie. They suggest an action that would be an example of what Lady Parts called a teaching moment.
. . . it wouldn’t be right to let this wonderful couple and all that they represent, simply fade away without their significance being recognised therefore we are proposing a highly visible demonstration of our gratitude for the gift that is Kate & Caroline and our appreciation of the two sublime actresses who portrayed them so skilfully and honestly.
We are co-opting the phenomenon of Lovers’ Locks, a symbol of everlasting love. It says a lot about how we would have preferred the script to have gone as well as a warm embodiment of our feelings for the characters and their relationship as lesbians.
The suggestion is to put lover’s locks in a fence near the Red Production offices at in Salford in England. (The address is in the article.) I think this is a quiet, gentle act that could build into news that many writers and producers would notice and think about.
The final quote comes from a piece on After Ellen by Elaine Atwell. Elaine is mad as hell and doesn’t want to take it any more, as are many fans who are fatigued by the kill-the-lesbian trope. Here’s a quote:
. . . writers, producers, and showrunners have no qualms at all about taking our faith and our love and our loyalty and shoving it right back in our faces. Sure, they love us when we offer nothing but praise. They collect the GLAAD awards like Greek gods courting temple sacrifices. They eagerly repeat the stories of how their characters gave real life people the courage to come out. They pat themselves on the back so hard and so often it’s a wonder they’re not all in a constant state of cramp. But when we dare to object, when we express fatigue or frustration with being force-fed the same tired cliches again and again, then the same queer women who formed a vital part of their fan base become a nuisance. When we complain, they call us shrill. And when we try to sneak the characters under our T-shirts and spirit them away to the worlds of Tumblr or fan fiction, places we know we can at least keep them safe, they call us crazy.
What is the kill-the-lesbian Trope?
There’s a wiki called TV Tropes. It has a page called Bury Your Gays. This page, with it’s links to other similar pages, is an education in the frequency with which the trope is used to kill off gay characters. Read and get educated. A quote (emphasis mine):
Please note that sometimes gay characters die in fiction because in fiction sometimes people die (this is particularly true of soldiers at war, where Sitch Sexuality and Anyone Can Die are both common tropes); this isn’t an if-then correlation, and it’s not always meant to “teach us something” or indicative of some prejudice on the part of the creator – particularly if it was written after 1960. The problem isn’t when gay characters are killed off: the problem is when gay characters are killed off far more often than straight characters, or when they’re killed off because they are gay.
Under that are examples from anime, comic books, fan works, film, literature, TV, music, theater, video games, web comics, web original, and western animation. Open and look at all of them. If you’ve heard of this trope before but never really seen it documented, open and look at all the examples. An educational moment.
In the TV section alone, examples come from Chicago Fire, True Blood, Will and Grace, Ally McBeal, The Andromeda Strain, Battlestar Gallactica, Bramwell, Cold Case, Damages, Dark Angel, Dirty Sexy Money, Foyle’s War, Hex, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, House, Lost, The Sopranos, Supernatural, Veronica Mars, Warehouse 13, Boardwalk Empire, The Tudors, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hemlock Grove, The Killing, American Horror Story and more and more. Now Last Tango in Halifax can be added to the ever growing list.
The Issue of Representation
Pop culture and representations of society and its multitude of individuals in our media matter. LBGT representation, women’s representation, men’s representation, the representation of the handicapped, the disabled, the old, the representation of people of color, the representation of races, religions, belief systems: it all matters.
Television, film, YouTube, advertising, media of any kind teaches us who we are. Teaches us what our culture believes we are. Teaches us what we can and cannot be.
Taking the route of killing off yet another gay character teaches us that gay people are expendable and not worth keeping around. It’s a plot device that needs to be examined by every creative person who writes for TV, film or any other medium. It matters how LGBT characters are handled in the media. Representation matters.
Why Are We So Attached to Kate?
Update: 8/20/2015: Why do we mourn so angrily when our favorite characters are killed off? Here’s a fascinating article at The Mary Sue called The Psychology of Fandom: Why We Get Attached to Fictional Characters that explains what’s happening in our brains and thoughts when a favorite character departs suddenly.
Let me count the ways that Thursday nights, AKA Rhimesday nights, are going to be amazing when the fall TV season begins.
- Shonda Rhimes
- Ellen Pompeo and Chandra Wilson and Sara Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew and more
- Kerry Washington
- Viola Davis
That’s 3 solid hours of women lead drama from Shondaland productions. That’s a night for television, my friends. May I celebrate the fact that two of those leading actresses are women of color? Yes!
What Shondaland will Cause on Rhimesday Nights
On Thursday nights real life will stop. The only things operating in the void will be televisions tuned to ABC and eleventy million tweets about every move on ABC for 3 solid hours.
Those fat cat white male dudes who run ABC and Twitter should be bowing before Shonda Rhimes. Bowing.
Here’s a little preview from Shondaland of where we might be going with Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder.
New TV series in the works with women in the lead or co-lead roles look very good. Some start as soon as summer, some are scheduled for fall.
Starting in June on TNT is Murder in the First, which stars Teye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson. Kathleen Robertson may not continue throughout the series as lead, because she’s only in 7 of the 9 episodes that comprise the first season, but it’s worth checking out. Murder in the First is a Steven Bochco production. Bochco has a long string of successful police dramas behind him, including NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues, and LA Law.
Also coming to TNT, but not until fall or possibly 2015 is the new Jennifer Beals supernatural medical drama Proof. Proof also stars Matthew Modine and Joe Morton. The series is produced by Kyra Sedgwick. Of everything that’s coming, and a lot of it looks really good, I’m very excited about seeing Jennifer Beals back on my TV every week.
Jennifer seems excited about working with Matthew Modine.
— Jennifer Beals (@jenniferbeals) March 26, 2014
TNT announced casting Julia Stiles in a legal drama called Guilt by Association but I haven’t seen any follow up news about the pilot being picked up.
Red Band Society is a remake of a Spanish series. Octavia Spencer leads the cast of this tale about teenagers living in a pediatric wing of a hospital. It will be on Fox.
Fox also scheduled Empire starring Taraji P. Hanson and Terrance Howard. This series is about a family who runs a hip hop empire. The music is supposed to be excellent, if you’re a hip hop fan. The show is by Lee Daniels and features many well-known African American actors including Gabourey Sidibe.
Another new show with a woman of color in the lead is Shonda Rhimes new drama, How to Get Away with Murder. Viola Davis will star in this legal thriller as a criminal defense professor who gets tangled up in a murder plot. Anything Shonda Rhimes does is going to make a big impression. This one should be a hit for ABC for sure.
NBC brings us State of Affairs starring Katherine Heigl as a CIA Agent who reports to the U.S. President. The President is Alfre Woodard, who is one of my all-time favorites. These two should be fabulous together.
Another political drama on NBC is Odyssey. It stars Anna Friel as a soldier. Odyssey is described as a sprawling international conspiracy that ties together three very different characters – a female soldier, a corporate lawyer and a young political activist. The other two characters in this threesome are played by Peter Facinelli and Jake Robinson.
TV is where women are making a mark these days, and these upcoming shows are part of that trend. Do any of these shows look especially interesting to you? What are you planning to watch? Did I miss anything new with a female lead?