Image: Pam Halpert from The Office, in front of her watercolors
The Office is a show that focuses on men–four out the five stars are male. Nonetheless, it's one of my very favorite shows, and I think it has strong, likable, interesting female characters. It's launched the career of Mindy Kaling, who writes for the show and plays the totally hilarious Kelly Kapoor. And it's got Pam Halpert (formerly Pam Beesley), whom I like quite a bit. Over the series, she has grown quite assertive, a admirable quality not usually rewarded in women. But her early independent ambition for art has been abandoned so that her professional identity can be attached to her husband Jim Halpert's.
Image: Lost character Kate Austen played by Evangeline Lily
I was going to begin this post with the line "Kate is a divisive character among Lost fans", but I won't, because it's not true. The Lost fan community is, with some exceptions, united against Kate. Very few Lost fans are Kate fans, the way people are Ben fans or Juliet fans or Hurley fans. In fact, many fan discussions are rife with discussions of how much Kate sucks – and I must admit, I occasionally join in.
In a show with plot holes the size of my Hyundai, bad dialogue, and Jack "I'll Fix You Whether You Like It or Not" Shephard, why is Kate often the focal point for the problems of the show among the fan community? Is it poor writing? Misogyny? Disappointment at the Lost opportunity for an amazing strong female character? I talk to The Curvature and Feministe blogger Cara Kulwicki and fellow fans from ontd_Lost to try to figure it out.
In the first post in this series, I looked at how white and nonwhite characters in representation and death on the Island at the center of Lost. While the Island is the focus of Lost, flashbacks and other off-island plots are the main way in which the show develops individual characters, and these stories deserve individual analysis.In this post, I'll be looking at the other narrative side of this complex show: off-island action, in flashbacks, flashforwards, and sideways flashes, with help from my friend and fellow Lost fan, Renee Martin of Womanist Musings.
Representation is not necessarily anti-racism, and Lost's framing and depiction of nonwhite characters is often violent and damaging. A pertinent example of this in the current, last season came two weeks ago in the episode "The Candidate", in which Sun, Jin, and Sayid–three out of four of the remaining characters of color from the original cast - were killed within the span of a few minutes so white characters could live.
It may be a bit late in the "Tuning In" series to reveal this, but, like some music critics, I watch Fox's American Idol. I still follow it even though the past few seasons have been lackluster. I caught the end of the first season, which Kelly Clarkson deservedly won (cue "Since U Been Gone" and rock out), but remained a hold-out for a few years until my partner got me following Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice's season four tête-à-tête.
However, I have a love-hate relationship with the program. Many of the contestants bore or irritate me and the winner is often not who I'd choose. It also frustrates me that the competition can seem a bit racist. The wrongful ousting of Tamrya Gray and Jennifer Hudson make this evident, as did Jordin Sparks's season six win, which came after darker-skinned contestants LaKisha Jones and Melinda Doolittle were voted off.
In addition, I think the show needs to end. Simon Cowell is leaving. Episode premises and possibilities for new mentors have been stretched. Idol Gives Back continues to bloat on its own self-importance despite its purported altruistic intentions. I've also seen far too many Ford music videos (though I did perk up when last season's group did a rendition of Lykki Li's "I'm Good, I'm Gone," as my synapses fire when indie and mainstream music culture coalesce).
This season has left me with little to latch onto. In a season that's been defined by artists packaging themselves as hipster- or indie-friendly, the majority of these contestants have demonstrated for me how disappointing it can be when underground music is co-opted by the mainstream. That many of these bland artists were pretty white women with little staying power is even more disheartening. Ellen DeGeneres has offered some perceptive advice. There have been a few noteworthy guest performances, including Lady Gaga's pared-down "Alejandro" and Rihanna's "Rock Star," which made me want to teach her how to actually play the guitar. Beyond that, there's the lone female contestant in the top three who I hope takes over the title on May 26th.