The creators of HBO's Big Love have just announced that the fifth season, which begins airing in January, will be the series' last. It's hard to greet this news with anything but relief; the last, abbreviated season of the show was something of a mess, with a subplots, I kid you not, about Mexican grindhouses and genetic engineering that exceeded any reasonable person's suspension of disbelief. But until that point the show was probably the all-time best case study I can think of for the phenomenon I've been trying to document in this space: the strange fact that the premise of any television show is almost irrelevant as the basis of any critique, because the key to doing a good job of depicting women is about execution, not playing to type.
Big Love after all, has pretty much the mother (ha!) of all potentially anti-feminist dramatic premises. The Henricksons' is not a world where patriarchy is implicit, or simply the product of social arrangements that have been handed down through the ages. It is one in which a very literal form of patriarchy has actually been chosen by the characters, even though other alternatives were available. The head of the family, Bill (Bill Paxton) has come actually kind of late to his firm belief in the righteousness of the Principle of plural marriage, after having been expelled from a polygamous compound as a young man. His wives, Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), Nicki (Chloe Sevigny) and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) are not constrained by law or social custom to agree with Bill on that point. Throughout the show, it's made clear that all three remain in the marriage willingly, although their own personal relationships to the Principle range from ambivalent (Barb) to largely emotional (Margene) to almost entirely inherited (Nicki).
As far as human emotions go, if the 2004 elections were about fear and the 2008 elections about hope, it seems fair to say that the 2010 midterm elections have been about anger. Anger at the government for what's perceived as a weak economy. Anger at Congress, either for not getting enough done, or for turning the country into a cesspool of socialism, depending on one's political leanings. Anger at immigrants, who are so crafty to get into the United States that they'll even crawl under fences that aren't on the border with another country (at least according to the ads in Louisiana and Nevada). Anger at liberals and their long affair with taxes. Anger at gay people. Earlier this week Mother Jones ran a cover with Sarah Palin in the image of the '50s movie poster, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, to attempt to show how middle class anger is so fever-pitch high that people are talking about voting against their own interests, and what was the response? Anger that they would replicate such a sexist image.
Fresh off the harddrive, this episode of Bitch Radio features women from the Make-Believe issue of Bitch! If you're into women who make pop-culture collage art (say, Sonja Ahlers, author/artist of The Selves), who make it in Hollywood sans plastic surgery or selling out (I'm talking about the hilarious Jamie Denbo of Ronna and Beverly, Weeds, and Best Buds), who document the riot grrl movement (maybe Sara Marcus, author of Girls to the Front), or who use what most people consider a nerdy pastime for social change (like LARPing expert and player Sarah Bowman), then you should not miss this podcast! Plus it features music from Twin Sister, whose latest EP, Color Your Life is available from Infinite Beat records and they are currently on tour with the Morning Benders. .
Stream it below, subscribe on iTunes or RSS, or download at archive.org. Transcription available here (.doc). (Thank you, Katie!) Script after the jump.
Along with the rest of the ladycentric internet this week (including Bitch), I've been following the kerfuffle over Maura Kelly's post at Marie Claire about how disgusted she is by fat people. The post, ostensibly, is about the television show Mike & Molly, which is a romantic sitcom about a couple that meets in an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. The creator of the show has already fired back, noting that Molly will perhaps cancel her subscription to the magazine in an upcoming episode, and making the point we've all been thinking: the show "is just about human beings."
As to the merits Mike & Molly particularly, I have only this to say: I watched a couple of episodes at the beginning of the season, thinking I might cover it for the blog, but ultimately the show itself is very bad, and very bad shows don't tend to provide me with much meat for critique. So I let it go.
As many of you know, we've been hosting Mad World here on the Bitch blogs (and around town) since March, and we've had a great time discussing advertising, gender, and identity as a part of this series. However, as Johnny so eloquently said to Pony Boy, "nothing gold can stay." (OK, so he was quoting Robert Frost, but the cuteness of the young Ralph Macchio means we're going with the remediated version.) Our Mad World series is coming to a close, but that doesn't mean we're going to stop with analyzing ads. We'd never do that—it's our mission to bring you a feminist response to pop culture!
By the end (I'm hoping not for good, but for now, anyway) of Sleater-Kinney Corin Tucker's voice was a finely honed weapon, full of deep, slow, sexy soul and capable of an earsplitting wail, a bonechilling snarl, a rock'n'roll howl that didn't so much as defy gender as rip the guts straight out of it.
Her new record, 1,000 Years puts that voice front and center, without the thrash that made The Woods so threatening at the time.
Last night, observing that Joy Behar had said Sharron Angle was going to hell, Stephen Colbert joked, "I hadn't realized [Angle] would be on The View." Readers, I laughed. Indeed, I'm kind of surprised that I've gone this long writing about television from a feminist perspective without directly addressing the national embarrassment that is The View.
In many ways, on paper, The View appears to be the platonic ideal of feminism in media: it turns the microphone over to women exclusively, just like we've always wanted, right? Women talking to women about issues of importance to women: what could be more feminist than that? That claim to fame is bolstered by The View's excellent ratings for its time slot, and its cred even led it to land a coveted interview with President Obama this summer. (Question one: "Have you ever watched us?") And it's now, officially, spawned an imitator at CBS called The Talk.
On Monday, I took a look at LGBT candidates running for office. The general frame of that article, and of most of this series of articles for Bitch has been set within the confines of the US election structure—a within-system critique, taking a discursive analysis approach to the text and narratives of these 2010 midterm elections. I have not been asking about forms of government, the viability of democracy, nor envisioning some new electorate-driven strategy for liberating the oppressed. Those conversations happen, of course, but the focus here has been narrow because I have been interested in putting pressure on the many and varied contradictions floating in the messaging in these individual campaigns and in the media coverage of them as a whole. And I do see opportunities for feminist and progressive-minded people in investigating why those contradictions are so prevalent and so unexplored. Today, I'd like to push in a different direction. What would it mean to queer the election?