Game of Thrones, Taylor Swift, Scandal—oh my! So much of the pop culture we consume is a guilty pleasure—media we're a little embarrassed to admit we kinda love. Some guilty pleasures are truly shlock. But at the same time, what's considered highbrow media is colored by race, class, and gender. Pop culture made by and for women is often treated less seriously than books, movies, and TV shows that are all about men.
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I have been absolutely bereft without Scandal. I have been so bereft that I have taken to drinking red wine on Thursdays in tribute to the one show I actually record on my DVR and make sure that I’m perched on the couch to watch live.
Viola Davis stars as a brilliant criminal law professor Annalise Keating in How to Get Away With Murder.
Last week’s New York Times article about Shonda Rhimes raised a lot eyebrows for its suggestion that the showrunner's autobiography should be called How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman. In my work as a psychologist, I’ve seen firsthand how her characters can be good role models for women—not for being angry, but for the way they define themselves positively.
On TV, there's a new guard of heroines calling the shots. From chipper Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation to fractured Carrie Mathison on Homeland to narcissistic Amy Jellicoe on Enlightened, we see women anchoring our favorite shows. So what makes these characters so often cringe-worthy?
In The New Yorker, TV critic Emily Nussbaum took note of this new small screen female archetype, the Hummingbird:
They're different ages; some are more manic, some sweeter or more sour...But they do share traits: they're idealistic feminine dreamers whose personalities are irritants. They are not merely spunky, but downright obsessive. And most crucially, these are not minor characters. On each show, the Hummingbird is a protagonist—an alienating-yet-sympathetic figure whose struggles are taken seriously and considered meaningful.
At first glance, this seems like a mere gender shift from the lauded male antiheroes whom TV audiences have embraced. Think Tony Soprano, Dexter, Don Draper, and Walter "Heisenberg" White. And to some extent, it's true: Contemporary audiences love to root for the bad guy, so why not the overwhelmingly eager woman?
I've eagerly anticipated the series premiere of Scandal, Shonda Rhimes's new foray into DC politics and the people who manage political personalities (and their many issues) behind the scenes. Led by Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope—a legendary game changer with connections all the way to White House leadership—a lawyer-heavy, fast-talking team of People Who Excel have become a kind of Leverage-like problem solvers. (It's just that these problems and situations don't require nearly as many rappel lines or night vision goggles.) I was curious to see what kind of woman Rhimes would create to unravel the misdeeds of political figures, since she's given us other strong-minded, independent women of color in Cristina Yang and Callie Torres on Grey's Anatomy. And with one huge, gaping caveat, I wasn't disappointed in the first episode.
Lots of people keep diaries. Lots of diary-keepers even write things down in multiple diaries, spanning years—thoughts that are meant for them alone. And yet, some of these diaries see the light of paparazzi cameras and heck, congressional hearings. Like this one:
Grabbed Tracy Gorman behind the Xerox machine today and she got a little pissed. What's the big deal? I was smiling while I did it. She made this big stink about it and it took me about two hours and a couple of thousand dollars to calm her down. I have one question — if she didn't want me to feather her nest, why did she come into the Xerox room? Sure, she used that old excuse that she had to make copies of the Brady Bill, but if you believe that, I have a room full of radical feminists you can boff. She knew I was copying stuff in there. I had my jacket off and my sleeves rolled up, revealing the well-defined musculature of my sinewy arms which are always bulging with desire. I know what she wanted. This didn't require a lot of thought.