Weeds in its first three seasons was an excellent show—it was well-written, clever satire with multifaceted and funny characters. Its send-up of the rhetoric and culture of suburbia was funny and pointed and coherent. Celia was a hilarious and capable antagonist, and I loved that the older het white men on the show—Doug, Andy, and Dean—were strongly characterized as inept and lazy. In contrast to the class and race privileged characters in Agrestic, Heylia James and her nephew Conrad Shepherd, the pot dealers who gave Nancy her start in the business, were funny, sympathetic, and competent. They were easy to root for, while Nancy made irresponsible decisions by the dozens. Heylia and Conrad took themselves and their ambitions as individuals seriously, and handled themselves and their business adroitly.
I'm not alone in thinking that Weeds has fallen hard in recent years. The basic thesis of the show in its fourth and fifth season seems to be "everything falls to shit, and Mexico and Mexican folks are every awful stereotype you've ever heard." All but the most clearly and slowly spelled out motivations of the characters are completely unintelligible. It's not very funny, and doesn't put sexism or racism or classism in any kind of critical context. The greatest indicator of this steep drop in quality is the complete and total erasure of Heylia and Conrad. Much to the show's detriment, these two fine characters have been abandoned, literally never mentioned at all after the end of the third season.
We had a conversation in the comments section on another Mad World post a while back regarding ads that use real people instead of actors to sell their products. Do these people get paid? Are they actually just actors in disguise? Why are we strangely compelled by their "real" presence in commercials? Well, dear Mad World readers, to get to the bottom of these issues, I recently went undercover as a "real" person in a commercial photo shoot (well I guess I wasn't technically undercover since I am actually a real person, but you know what I mean) and got the scoop.
The ubiquity of commercial cigarettes in the United States is a 20th century phenomenon. In large part, the massive popularity of cigarettes in the United States can be traced back to their rationing to soldiers during World War I and World War II. The cigarette's rise in popularity amongst women, however, is a different story all together. In this special edition of Adventures in Feministory, we're taking a look at how flappers, Freud, feminism and fashion transformed the perception and popularity of women cigarette smokers.
I love movies, and I am more than interested in politics. So it behooves me to think about the sizable overlap between the two. One of the things I love about political movies (and heck, political television shows, too) are the tropes they include and play to, especially as tropes reveal something about an era's ideology around politics. There's something different in the feel and mood, for example, in the original and remake of The Manchurian Candidate that goes to the heart of 1962's understanding of the Korean War and the just-after 9/11 tragedy zeitgeist's take on the first Gulf War, respectively, but both take on conspiracy theory and the presidency.
Whenever I am asked to name a film whose female actor's performance lifted me out of the recliner I immediately think of Angela Lansbury's chilling turn as Eleanor Iselin in the 1962 John Frankenheimer film The Manchurian Candidate. (Don't bother with the soggy 2004 remake, which is awful in every way imaginable) The Manchurian Candidate is a palate cleansing suspense thriller worlds away from Lansbury's sweet, meddling mystery writer J.B. Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote.
It's that time again! We're rounding up some of the most interesting things we read this week in the another edition of On Our Radar.
With the release of Forbes' list of the top 100 Websites For Women, Renee Martin of Womanist Musings writes on the incredible lack of blogs by women of color, trans women, and disabled women.
Shelby Knox reflects on body image and feminism after modeling for a mainstream women's magazine.
Over at Racialicious, Safa Samiezade'-Yazd writes on the politics of curly hair.
Bitch contributor Tammy Oler reviews the fantastic-sounding new science-fiction film Splice. The film, about a pair of scientists that secretly engineer a "gene splice, mutant test-tube baby" win's Oler's praises through, among other things, its strong female lead and its interesting evocation of gender.
U.S. Social Forum National Coordinator Adrienne Maree Brown talks to Democracy Now!'s Mike Burke about the forum and science-fiction writer Octavia Butler.
Irin Carmon investigates the "boy's club" that is The Daily Show on Jezebel.
For more on sexism in comedy, take a look at Lisa Wade's analysis of "comedy as a masculinized, heterosexualized space" on Sociological Images.
Watch out, non-dude citizens of Charlotte, North Carolina! Misty at Shakesville presents us with America's Manliest City, brought to you by the extensive research of Combos Snacks.
Via Feministing: Katie Couric interviews Gloria Steinem and Women's Media Center president Jehmu Greene on her CBS News web show @katiecouric.
Threadbared has a call for submissions for the exhibit An Other Fashion: Claiming America through Dress, which seeks to find "hidden histories stashed in the basements and attics, in the backs of closets, and in lesser-known personal and institutional archives of and about women of color."
Find something that piqued your interest this week? Leave it in the comments section!
As a bit of a contrapositive to our weekly Adventures in Feministory, I have to include these 19th-century British political cartoons by John Leech that The Sexist linked to today.
Father of the family: Come dear, we so seldom go out together now - can't you take us all to the play tonight?
Mistress of the house and M.P.: How you talk, Charles! Don't you see that I am too busy. I have a committee tomorrow morning and I have my speech on the great crochet question to prepare for the evening.
At some point between the release of 1996's Mission: Impossible and Jerry Maguire I discovered I could predict future Tom Cruise trends based on what I knew about his upcoming releases. Granted, I could not give pertinent details such as box office grosses or where he might holiday with his family, but I could predict things such as potential co-stars (I had Thandie Newton as his M:I2 co-star before I'd even left the screening of the first installment of the franchise) and general trends. I have always believed Cruise's persona was carefully constructed in a way that is much more sophisticated than many stars' audiences are used to. Personally, I don't think any incarnation of Cruise's persona is in fact representative of Cruise himself, but I do think they tend to represent areas of concern he opts to explore on screen.
In the camp of You Can't Make This Shit Up, I'd like to take a brief look—a glance, really—at a few odd stories about the weird things former politicians and lobbyists (and politicians who became lobbyists) do. Honestly, I don't think I should write about this for too long, as something in my brain might start to mis-fire on purpose. Contemplation isn't worth long-term cognitive damage, after all. First, there's the Bill Clinton weight loss story that I keep pretending isn't there, but like Al Pacino says in The Godfather Part III, it keeps "pulling me back in."