The time has come, gentle readers, to say farewell, because every good contract must draw to an end, and this is the end of mine. I have really appreciated the opportunity to interact with all of you over the last two months, and I think we've had some excellent, if sometimes contentious, discussions.
It's clear that a lot of readers started thinking in new ways, and I appreciate everyone who took the time to read, comment, email, link, discuss offsite, or do all of the above. My goal with this series was to challenge dominant narratives in pop culture discourse and feminism, and I'd like to think that as each of you settles down in the next few weeks, months, years, to listen to a new album, crack open a freshly released book, watch a television pilot, this series will trickle through to you. You'll think not just about the depiction of women, but other issues, like race, fat, disability, class, sexual orientation, transgender identities.
Gay high schoolers have a pretty rough go of it. Bullying, harassment, and feelings of isolation are all too common for a lot of gay teens, and many of them live in situations where they don't have access to queer-friendly organizations. Last week, a gay high school student in Indiana named Billy Lucas took his own life, reportedly because of the torment he experienced at the hands of his peers.
I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.
But gay adults aren't allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don't bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.
Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don't have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.
When I last wrote about Mad Men two weeks ago I mentioned the affinity I had for Peggy, and a commenter noted that they'd never really understood Peggy's appeal, that she seemed entitled to them, and "embodies the kind of "feminism" that places the needs of white, cisgendered, straight, able bodied women at the center of the universe." As if on cue, this week Mad Men provided an episode in which proto-feminist Peggy is invited to comment directly on the civil rights movement and what she said was jarring.
Set up at a bar by her new friend Joyce (Zosia Mamet—yep, of those Mamets, hence the flat affect), Peggy got thrown for a loop when young (white) radical Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) decided to start lecturing her about the moral compromises of her career path. Pointing out that one of her clients was currently under a boycott for refusing to hire African Americans, Abe made fun of her work. "Civil rights isn't a situation to be fixed with some PR campaign," he said, snottily. Thus backed into a corner, Peggy noted, somewhat non sequitur-ishly, that she, as a woman, cannot do many of the things African Americans are also barred from doing. And then comes
the kicker. When Abe notes (incorrectly, both historically and in the show's own context) that there are no African American copywriters, Peggy says: "I'm sure they could have fought their way in like I did; believe me, nobody wanted me there." Abe snorts: "Alright Peggy, we'll have a, uh, civil rights march for women." Peggy picks up her purse.
Once, twice, three times a douchebag for Johns Hopkins University's student newspaper The News-Letter, who hit the student body with a double-whammy of sexist, rape-apologetic articles in the last two weeks.
Once upon a time, in an era that feminists called the "second wave," there was a group of women writers who thought that Western European fairy tales were pretty fucked up. Fascinated by this fucked-up-ness, the women decided to retell the stories in order to explore and combat the ancient -isms that lay deep, deep (actually not so deep) inside. Using fairy tales as their starting point, the women created awesome and super weird novels, poems, and short stories that would delight, perplex, and frustrate feminists forever after. In honor of the Make-Believe issue of Bitch (available now!), here are a few of my favorites.
We've got five new shows coming up with women on the creative team and I thought, as I wind up my time here, that I'd delve into them to see what we have to look forward to this fall/spring, and to see what kinds of women-led television make the brutal cuts of pilot season.
Two of them are romantic comedies. Two of them are cop dramas. One of them is a medical drama.
It's notable that these shows, for the most part, aren't being created by women writing about women's experiences. Evidently the networks feel that such a thing wouldn't be very interesting to members of the general public.
Boardwalk Empire, the new HBO series from a Sopranos alum that is probably best known to you for trumpeting its association with Martin Scorcese all around town, premiered Sunday night. I expect that the jury is going to be out in this show for some time. That's at least true for me. I've learned, through hard experience, not to judge these high-end cable shows based on their first hour. These things are slow burns, not forest fires; I actually can't think of too many of them that managed to get all their cards on the table in the premiere. When you have eleven or twelve hours to go, you usually lose much of the first episode to setup.
The show is set in 1920s Atlantic City, New Jersey, and centers around the life of Enoch "Nucky" Johnson (Steve Buscemi), a casino-owner gangster type. (The character is allegedly based on a real-life figure.) Prohibition is newly begun, and Nucky's already playing politics with the local women's temperance union, where he meets Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), a pregnant Irishwoman trapped in a bad marriage from which it seems inevitable that Nucky will liberate her. Meanwhile, his second-in-command, Jimmy (Michael Pitt), changed by the front lines of the Great War, is growing impatient with his income level and social status, and is eager to get scamming and killing, much to the comparatively laid-back Nucky's dismay. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service is beginning to watch the gangster activity in AC more closely, with Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon) at the helm.
As even that preliminary list of actors should indicate, no expense has been spared as to casting the show, which is chock full of faces you'll recognize from other series, including Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire's quixotic Omar) and even Molly Parker (Deadwood's Alma Garret) in a framed photograph of Nucky's "dead" wife. The look of the show, though beautiful, is a little clean for the subject matter, all bright eyes and scrubbed faces and red lipstick, without a trace of grime or dirt. Even the eruptions of flesh and blood from the show's many gangster shootouts are clinical and clean in a way. That's probably just the Scorcese influence. And perhaps I've become too used to the sepia, nouveau-grime aesthetic of most of HBO's other period pieces like Carnivale and Deadwood.