I don't imagine many of you are Dollhouse viewers, not least because the new series by Joss Whedon of Buffy and Angel fame had a rocky ride of a first season. If you gave up on him, I have a new mantra for you: Joss is always worth the trouble. Joss identifies as a feminist, and indeed, before anybody scoffs or points to Buffy's short skirts or what have you, I encourage you to read this.
That said, Dollhouse ain't perfect, on feminist or any other grounds, frankly. I only managed to stick it out through its initial rough patch on faith alone. See, Fox forced Joss to retool the show and rearrange some plot development early on. This led to some awfully confusing early episodes in which the network's desire to sell the show as Sexy! seemed at odds with Joss's own plans. The premise of the show being a brothel staffed by people who have, literally, had personality lobotomies, this isn't just in bad taste - it is bad marketing.
Here's a shocker: when you start dating your boyfriend thirty seconds after he leaves his wife, the woman who carried his eight children, he might not be sticking around with you for very long. You might also be surprised when, as his divorce is being talked about everywhere from websites, to TV shows, to our podcast and oh, right, on his reality show that perhaps maybe, just maybe, you, as the lady who decided to date this man, might be dragged through the mud along with him when his divorce from his wife and subsequent fall from A-#1 Super Dad status gets ugly. It was a fantastic idea to date him in the first place, don't get me wrong. I mean, as a "journalist" for Star Magazine who was supposed to be covering the shitstorm that is Jon and Kate Gosselin's life right now, you definitely did not overstep any boundaries by being with him in the first place. And yes, you should absolutely go on E!, Inside Edition and The CBS Early Show and let all of us know how he "totally screwed (you) over and acted like a dirtbag". Maybe, you know, you shouldn't have believed him when he said he would be with you forever. This is a man who started seeing you when he was still married. Perhaps, and this is just me rambling here, you shouldn't go on TV and get upset about how you broke up and are now having to deal with the aftermath. This is douchey behavior. Yes, Jon Gosselin's behavior was douchey, as well, absolutely, but you cannot fight douchebaggery with douchebaggery, you know what I'm sayin'?
I can't say that this first episode of the third season of Mad Men wowed me, but I suppose it was inevitable, amidst all the hype, that the episode would disappoint at least one person in its audience. And indeed, it was something of a shaky start. Don's reminisicing - or, really, more accurately, reimagining, since he can't possibly remember - the circumstances of his own birth made for a rather confusing opener. Not only did there seem to be, literally, a dick joke in it (not a particularly clever one IMHO), it was an oddly sentimental moment for a character whose trademark is emotional opacity. Don has never been the kind of man who much interests himself with the inner lives of women, or more particularly someone attached to the notion of mothers and origin. He is, as the old saying goes, the epitome of a self-made man, constructed entirely of the things he thinks he wants to be, however disappointed he may be when he gets them.
These scenes seemed designed to tell us that Don is newly recommitted to his life at home with Betty and the kids (who are soon to number three). But we swiftly learn that he is still a womanizer. But there's something new about his taste. One of the things that has always rescued Don from the "complete tool on the subject of women" column has always been his interest in what used to be called "difficult" women - sexually-free, bohemian Midge; reluctant adulterer Rachel; ambitious Bobbie; mysterious Joy. Whatever might be said of Don's philandering, in short, at least the man had taste. But this time, Don is after an airline stewardess (played broadly by Sunny Mabrey with an irritating accent) for whom mystery and subtlety are foreign concepts. And, for the love of God, she's a blonde - very much what Betty might have been had her modelling career tapered off (the
stewardess coyly offers that she is asked all the time whether she, herself, is a model) and she had never gotten married.
I admit that when I heard Mad Men was going to premiere just as I was starting this TV guestblogging gig in the otherwise rather deserted month of August, I breathed a sigh of relief. If there is one television show that not a one of my communist, death-panel-supporting, child-killing liberal feminist friends is ashamed to admit to loving, it is Mad Men.Mad Men, in short, has an acceptable television pedigree. In my particular case, and I am not kidding about this, I started watching it because it was recommended to me by none other than Joyce Carol Goddamn Oates at a talk I attended a long time ago at the NYPL. Talk about your "I-don't-even-have-a-tv" bookworm street cred. And Feminist bloggers love Mad Men too. In fact, it's just about the only television show that gets universal coverage in the feminist blogosphere, and all week, everybody's been gearing up for the Big Event. DoubleX is live-tweeting it. Some other prominent feminist bloggers, including Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte, are having a salon about it at RHRealityCheck. And pretty much everyone I know who loves Mad Men loves to talk about how very, very feminist it feels to have so many nuanced portrayals of women on a single television show.
I, too, think that there is a lot of feminist merit in Mad Men - more on that in a second post this weekend, and I'll have thoughts on the premiere next week, it's gonna be a Mad Men heavy guestblogging experience - but I find it really problematic as a show to recommend to people who aren't feminists, or who aren't, at the very least, what I would call ready for a serious discussion of gender roles.
Image from susanphotography at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
I am just about the only person I know - and certainly the only feminist - who has been religiously watching Showtime's Nurse Jackie (In fairness, Jezebel started out covering it but seemed to lose interest very quickly, and the only regular commentary I see on it is Jacob's excellent recaps at TWoP.) Maybe I should be generous to the fools people who don't watch the show. Perhaps the neglect is due to the unfortunate dead end of July and August. Perhaps it's because the show has the unfortunate timing of airing whilst we are all salivating at the imminent prospect of a new season of Mad Men (more on that tomorrow, by the by), which happens to be everybody's favourite feminist-food-for-television thought nowadays. Perhaps it's because most people I know only watch television shows once they are out on DVD anyway, so all first seasons on cable are kind of a wash, popularity-wise.
Hi Bitch blog readers! I'm a sometime blogger (under an assumed name, mostly, but my sorely neglected personal blog is here) and I can't tell you how excited I am to be associated with Bitch even briefly. I am incredibly honored to get to talk to and with you for the next few weeks about women and television, a subject about which I am embarrassed to say I know entirely too much.
Saturday morning cartoons was a rite of passage for many of us growing up in the USA in the 1980s. Smurfs, Transformers and even the WWF cartoon was on the docket each weekend. Yes, each of them were platforms for selling us cereal and toys, but it still stinks.
If I were in a same-sex relationship in California and looking to formalize my commitment to my partner, this new show on the CW, Hitched or Ditched, would not be improving my mood right about now. They pick a straight, non-engaged couple and surprise them with an ambush wedding in one week? Srsly? And they won't let couples who've been together for over 20 years and have children together be at each other's bedsides in the hospital?
OK, Gretchen Bonaduce and Danielle from Real Housewives of NJ are both maybe a little psycho, but can we get a little bit of love for these two plucky divorcees trying to pick themselves up and move on with their lives? No?