5 Reasons to Watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I adore this show, but for whatever reason, I have a really hard time selling Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to people. The premise of the show is pretty stupid: hotshot New York Lawyer Rebecca Bunch moves to the shitty California town of West Covina to pursue the boy who broke her heart at summer camp when she was seventeen. And it’s a musical.

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But it’s also a frank look at mental illness, feminism and romcom culture; it deconstructs the idea that a relationship is the solution to all problems. And it’s a musical.

It’s a fantastic show. Let’s talk about some of the reasons why.

  1. The songs

So far so obvious, but the songs in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are hilarious and catchy while also functioning as vehicles through which to communicate greater emotional truths. So in the second episode when Rebecca meets Josh (the guy she moved to West Covina for’s) girlfriend, Valencia, her song about her own superiority over Rebecca (featuring lines such as ‘I’m not afraid to get tattoos/and they are all in Sanskrit/butt stuff doesn’t hurt at all/most times I prefer it) ends with the line ‘my father didn’t leave me.’

It’s a funny song about how we compare ourselves to other women that reveals an important truth about Rebecca. Her dad abandoned her.

And it was the song that made me fall in love with the show.

  1. Bisexuality!

This is a minor spoiler (sorry not sorry), but one of the storylines half way through the first season sees Rebecca’s boss Darryl come out as bisexual. As we all know, representation of bisexual people is pretty much non-existent on most shows, and on the rare occasions we do see it portrayal is overwhelmingly negative. In Crazy Ex-Girlfriend we see a divorced man with a daughter heading into middle age realising that he’s attracted to men as well as women, going through the process of coming out and then having a happy, healthy relationship with a very cute guy. For a group so often marginalised even within the LGBTQ+ community, this storyline felt important.

darryl

  1. Complex (like really really complex) women

There is a trope on a lot of shows of the perfect girl getting with the complicated, emotionally unavailable guy (Gossip Girl, New Girl, Veronica Mars, every teen movie from the 80s) that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend really turns on its head. Rebecca is the kind of girl to cause her therapist despair. She’s a woman trying to figure out how to make herself okay without really knowing how to go about doing that. And it doesn’t really matter whether she’s likeable or not during the process.

As someone who is sick of watching shows about women trying to ‘fix’ difficult men, I found this beyond refreshing.

  1. Diverse cast

Josh Chan, the romantic interest and male lead of the show is a first generation Filipino American man. Unless they’re John Cho, Asian men are generally typecast into very limited stereotypes and those generally don’t feature much in the way of romance or sex. Josh Chan turns that on its head by being basically the bro-iest bro in bro-town. He is a complex romantic interest with storylines (and issues! So many issues.) all of his own. In a world where seeing Aziz Ansari perform a sex scene is considered ground-breaking, characters like Josh Chan are so, so needed.

  1. Feminism

How can a show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend be feminist? I hear you ask. In all sorts of ways, it turns out. Through the mediums of song and melodrama the show tackles everything from eating disorders to abortion from a very unique perspective. It is also puts a lot of energy into satirising ‘feminism’ as empowertising, with songs like Put Yourself First sung during a typical post-boy problem makeover. Sample lines include:

‘Put yourself first girl worry ‘bout yourself/make yourself sexy just for yourself/so when dudes we see you put yourself first/they’ll be like damn you’re hot/Wanna make out?’

 patriarchal bullshit

It’s a great and terribly underappreciated show. The first two seasons are on Netflix and they are working on a third as I type, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up with the trials (because she’s a lawyer! It’s funny!) and tribulations of Rebecca Bunch before the third season begins.

Top 4 Villains of The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries ended last week. Though it was time (to be totally honest, it was probably time a couple of seasons back), I will miss the show. Julie Plec’s weekly dose of the ridiculous brought some much needed light heartedness into my life.

I’m going to have to find a new stupid TV show to be obsessed with.

In celebration and mourning of the end, I figured I’d make a list. Because that is what I do in times of strife. Here are my favourite villains of The Vampire Diaries (I tried for 5, but these 4 were really the ones who made the show for me):

4.Katherine Pierce

Katherine TVD

Katherine was the original TVD villain, the bad bitch who would not stay gone, the doppelganger I think we all secretly liked way better. There was something uniquely satisfying about watching her hurl a Salvatore brother across a room. All in heels, of course.

All that said, her comeuppance (both of them!) was probably the most satisfying of any villain in the series. Watching Elena shove the cure into Katherine’s face was a perfect moment of irony and catharsis.

RIP, Katherine Pierce. Those Heretics were an insult to your memory.

Best Worst Moment: That time she chopped John Gilbert’s fingers off. Ouch.

3.Silas

Silas TVD

The best sort of TVD villain is one that takes a long time coming. Silas’ name was uttered countless times before he actually showed up. And when he did, like all best TVD villains, he was a psychopathic comedian.

‘I’m like a supernatural Madonna. I keep reinventing myself.’

Oh Silas, how I loved you.

I don’t want to go on, but how did we go from that to the Heretics? How? HOW?

Anyway.

Best Worst Moment: When he killed the couple at the bus stop after Amara stabbed him in the neck. You know, just cause he was having a bad day.

2.Klaus

klaus tvd

I miss TVD Klaus. Remember back when he was funny? Back before he cried all the time?

Remember ‘because I fancy you?

Those were the days.

There was nothing I enjoyed more than watching Klaus drive Tyler Lockwood slowly insane. If there is one thing I like more than a funny  villain, it’s a charming villain and Klaus managed to be both the guy you’d stake through the heart and invite out for dinner.

Best Worst Moment: Drowning Tyler Lockwood’s mom. Oof.

1.Kai

kai tvd

Yep, it’s Kai. In a lacklustre season 6 (did ANYONE still care about Delena at this point?!), Kai was the gift that would not stop giving. Let’s be honest, we all love a funny sociopath, and Kai’s performance delivered over and over again.

I clapped my hands with GLEE when he reappeared to make the season 8 finale everything we had hoped it would be.

Kai is 100% inappropriate, unapologetic and ridiculous. I would totally be asking for a spinoff if I didn’t know that Julie Plec would turn him into a whiny little bitch (a la Damon and Klaus) given half a chance.

Best Worst Moment: Literally ALL of them.

RIP, TVD. I’ll miss you.

5 Reasons to Watch Search Party

search-partySearch Party begins with the disappearance of Chantal Witherbottom, a girl Dory (Alia Shawkat) kind of, sort of knew back in college. While her friends dismiss the missing girl, Dory becomes consumed with the idea of finding her.

I watched this show when I was in the depths of post-election, post Brexit anxiety. It’s a comedy and a grating satire with surprising moments of heartfelt emotional honesty that make for a pretty great comfort blanket for the news-bruised psyche.

Anyone in need of an emotional break, here are some reasons to watch the show:

It’s like Girls Meets Veronica Mars

This is how the show was sold to me, and it’s the most accurate description I’ve found. Search Party, like Girls, is a perfect satire of a certain kind of white, privileged twenties culture.

Conversations take place at each other, rather than to each other. All the characters so desperate to appear impressive they don’t even notice how they feel, or whether they feel anything at all. The show presents us with these now all too familiar archetypes of the emotionally undeveloped fame and success seekers and then spends a season ripping them to shreds. In a funny way.

It’s about being numb

…In a funny way. Dory is not living the life she imagined. A few years out of college, she’s in a relationship that’s past its best and in a job she doesn’t care about and she has absolutely no motivation to move forward – until she finds out about missing Chantal. It takes the disappearance of a girl she never really knew to wake her up.

She’s surrounded by friends who don’t really care about Chantal, or her mission to find her. Portia (Meredith Hagner), a wannabe actress is more deeply affected by her mother’s dismissal of her acting job than Chantal’s disappearance. Dory’s boyfriend, Drew (John Reynolds) is only concerned with keeping Dory from breaking up with him. Elliot (John Early) really only cares about himself, and his (probably) impending fame.

They mostly just come along for the ride for something to do. And for some great vigil outfits.

search-party-2They are playing at being in a detective show

Dory has us convinced she’s solving a mystery that has Chantal at its centre but her investigation is all dead ends. She spends a day following a woman around New York who swears she has information about Chantal, that she’s being followed, that it’s all about real estate.

We figure out she’s mentally ill a little while before Dory does.

This show does disappointment in a uniquely satisfying way.

Alia Shawkat

Shawkat’s performance really makes this show. She presents as this fragile, doormat of a person who doesn’t realise how desperately she wants to care about something until she learns of Chantal’s disappearance. She plays it with this low key air of desperation that undercuts the satire of the show to create a complex story about life and what meaning we inject into it.

It’s really funny

The important thing to understand about this show is that everyone in it is awful. They are insensitive naval gazers who make even the tragic disappearance of a girl they barely know search-party-1about them. They place themselves at the centre of a story that isn’t theirs – it belongs to a missing girl and a grieving family who get hardly a mention.

Everything they do is so inappropriate… and deeply satisfying to watch.

 

For anyone in need of a complete break from current events (who isn’t?) I recommend this show as part of your self-care regimen.

Feminist TV Shows

Feminist TV is hard to come by. Even in shows featuring the coveted ‘strong female’, she is often the only woman in sight, as if multiple women would somehow disorient us. There is a particular sort of joy that comes in the discovery of truly feminist television. We may not be constantly judging scenes on whether they pass or fail the Bechdel test, but there is a certain comfort when they do. It comes from not having that annoying voice in the back of your head pointing out that the only women in the room are two dimensional and passive. That voice is rarely absent. When it is… it makes for some joyful viewing. I often watch these shows with a silly grin plastered across my face.

Orphan Black

orphan-black

This show smashes the very concept of ‘limited roles’ to pieces. It’s about clones. All of the main characters are played by the same woman, the insanely talented Tatiana Maslany. The other thing? They are all complex and weird and unpredictable. Each takes the stereotype on which she is loosely based and twists it into something unrecognisable. The sisterhood that develops as the show does, the love and tensions between these women, are thrilling to watch.

Oh yeah, and they’re trying to bring down the evil corporation that’s trying to have them killed. What’s not to like?

All of the straight men in Orphan Black are under written idiots. This is a deliberate choice. It is a device to point out the limited roles we give women in television. It is also there as a means of showing how men – even when they are idiots, still work within the privileges afforded them by a patriarchal system. If you’re interested, there is a really great article about this aspect of the show over at Slate. The author refers to men as ‘like so many walking erections.’ It’s a must read. Trust me.

Scott and Bailey

scott-and-bailey

This is a cop show from the UK. Generally speaking, I’m not really into crime shows. Usually because – in the UK, anyway – they are about men, and at a certain point I just got bored of that, you know? Then my brother introduced me to Scott and Bailey. I refused to watch it for ages, because I assumed I wouldn’t like it for aforementioned boredom reasons. How wrong I was.

All of the positions of power in this show are occupied by women. Scott and Bailey are police officers, their DCI is a woman (played to absolutely freaking perfection by Amelia Bullmore, who is also a writer for the show), as are all other heads of departments they encounter. In addition to the women in this show being epic badasses (which they all are), they deal with what are actually some pretty real issues – whether or not to have kids, how to balance work and motherhood (we don’t like to talk about it, but sometimes you can’t), how to deal with the creepy guy who you slept with and who is now kind of stalking you.

Every episode of this is gold. I don’t know that it’s watched much outside of the UK, but it totally should be.

Jessica Jones

jessica-jones

I love Jessica Jones deeply but it has ruined Marvel for me forever. Now I know that they can do better, the utter shit show that is female characterisation in the Avengers movies has become totally unacceptable to me (before I was doing that thing where I pretended I didn’t mind because I loved Robert Downey Jr. so much. I totally mind.).

The entire first season of Jessica Jones is a repeated stabbing of the patriarchy. It covers topics such as abusive relationships, sexual violence and PTSD. It studies women’s agency, and how it can be taken from them. It places a woman as a central character, something Marvel has never done before. Jessica doesn’t spend the entire show being sexualised (cough – Black Widow – cough) – in fact she spends it wearing a pair of jeans so comfortable looking I have been searching for a similar pair ever since. She is an active character coming to terms with the actions of her abuser even as she seeks to bring him down.

It is excellent.

But I will warn you, it will totally un-do all that work you did trying to convince yourself that Black Widow was kind-of-maybe-sort-of okay.

Scandal

scandal

Olivia Pope. Need I say more?

Yes. You might notice something about this list so far. All of the characters I have talked about are white ladies. While there is a growing feminist movement in TV today it is by no means intersectional, a fact that is disappointingly predictable.

But it’s not all bad. Shondaland, exists, after all.

Olivia Pope is a fixer. She sees your problem – a dead body, an unfortunate affair, some illegal action – and she can make it go away. By any means necessary. Growing up, Olivia Pope’s father drilled into her that as a black woman she would have to work twice as hard for half the power. She took that to heart, and if there is one thing Olivia Pope can do it is this: she can work you under the table. She wants power and she is willing to sacrifice anything to get it.

A guy kidnapped her one time. It was super traumatic. He’s dead now. Olivia smashed his head in with a chair.

Olivia Pope breeds presidents. And then she runs the White House without them even noticing.

Olivia Pope is unbeatable.

 

Let’s Talk TV: Shows I’m Watching Now

Empire

I like my TV on the far side of ridiculous, so this was always going to be the show for me. Empire, for anyone who doesn’t know, is about a family warring over who gets control of the Lyon family record label, the show’s namesake, Empire. It could also be known as How To Fuck Up Your Children (throw your gay son in the trash, be openly ashamed of your bipolar son and turn the remaining kid into an egomaniac who doesn’t find it weird to sleep with his ex-stepmother).

When a gloomy diagnosis leads him to question his mortality, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) must decide which of his three sons to leave his Empire to. The situation gets a lot more complicated when his ex-wife, Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) gets out of prison and demands her slice of the pie.

There is music, murder, and hostile takeovers.

Most of the time it’s hard to tell whether Lucious loves his family, or just sees them as chess pieces of differing value.

I LOVE

Cookie Lyon

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She is one of the best female characters on television right now. I just adore her. She is strong, manipulative, loving, hilarious and one of the only people I can genuinely say carries off an animal print dress. She has never beaten Lucious yet, but we’ll all keep watching with the belief that she’s going to take him down eventually.

People burst into song, all the freaking time.

I only wish everything was a musical where people produced hit singles from prison.

Jane The Virgin

Jane decided to stay a virgin until she got married. Then she was accidentally artificially inseminated with a random man’s sperm and everything got complicated.

That man was Rafael, cancer survivor and reformed playboy. The doctor who did the insemination? His sister, Louisa.

Jane’s adorable policeman boyfriend, Michael, doesn’t deal so well with the whole thing.

A love triangle ensues.

Things get a lot more complicated when it turns out that Rafael’s step-mother is a world renowned drug dealer.

…Yeah.

I LOVE

Women!

Jane lives with her mother and her grandmother. I love their set up. There are still very few positive portrayals of single parent households on TV, and I like that the show doesn’t waste time on shaming Jane’s mum, Xo, for her life choices.

Petra

Rafael’s ex-wife, and at the beginning of the show, the villain of the piece. As time has progressed, however, it basically became impossible to not like Petra. She is needy, weird and frequently irrational, but you can always kind of see why.

petra

She’s just a socially inadequate weirdo. We can all relate to that.

(or maybe that’s just me)

Storytelling

Jane The Virgin has a Pushing Daisies style storyteller narrating every episode. His presence serves to enhance the melodrama and dramatic irony of the show. It’s a show that wants its audience to be conscious of the storytelling, both as a nod to the telenovela it’s based on and because its central character aspires to be a novelist.

That, and he’s very funny.

iZombie

This is a new one for me. This past week I have binged my way through season one.

A creation of Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, it’s a lot like Veronica Mars. But you know, with zombies.

Over achieving Junior Doctor, Olivia Moore’s (her name is Liv Moore. They really want us to get that joke) life is changed forever when she attends a party that ends in a zombie outbreak. Newly zombified, she is forced to break up with her fiancé, Major (one of the many delights of zombie-ism is that it can be sexually transmitted) and swap the wards for the mortuary, where she becomes a medical examiner (morgue = easy access to brains). Once she starts eating brains, Liv discovers that zombies have visions of the lives of the dead brains they’ve consumed.

Her next move? Start solving their murders, obviously.

I LOVE

The opening credits.

Blaine

blaine

We all know how I feel about a charismatic bad guy. Blaine is a drug dealer turned zombie with a monopoly on the brain market. He has no morals to speak of and is driven by megalomania, daddy issues and greed.

And he’s the only thing standing between Seattle and the zombie apocalypse.

Sass

Blaine: I don’t know if you’re hungry, but you know what my mom always said?

Major: Why’d I stop using birth control?

Blaine: No! There’s always room for soup!

unREAL

Given the rest of this pro-bad guy list, that I am a fan should come as no surprise.

Watching unREAL is an exercise in disgust.

unREAL tells the behind the cameras account of the fictional, Bachelor-style TV show, Everlasting. Producer Rachel is a natural empath with high ambitions and underlying mental health issues. She is a master manipulator, and winds the contestants (and the bachelors) tightly into her web of control. Mostly without them noticing. Rachel is in turn controlled by show runner Quinn. Together they will create drama, no matter the consequences.

quinn

I LOVE

Rachel and Quinn

They have a complicated dynamic. They might be the only people capable of understanding each other. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to destroy each other, despite the matching Money. Dick. Power. tattoos they both display on their wrists.

Chet

He is a disgusting menimist-leaning joke who never saw a good idea he didn’t want to steal. He is also hapless and hilarious and I still can’t quite get over how much weight he lost out on his manly summer camp.

Reality TV

This show really is a horrifying satire of reality TV and the culture surrounding it. It’s the only non-violent show I watch that sometimes gives me the urge to cover my eyes. In the first season one of the Everlasting contestants killed herself. This season, Quinn is all about getting those ‘suicide ratings.’

 

What shows are you watching right now? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Let’s talk TV.

5 Reasons to Love Daredevil’s Karen Page

(spoiler heavy)

karen page 2

She is a total subversion of the ‘innocent girl’ stereotype

Karen arrived at Nelson and Murdock as a victim. After accidentally being sent a work email she shouldn’t have seen concerning some Wilson Fisk level dodgey accounting, she was set up for the brutal murder of one of her colleagues. Nelson and Murdock scooped her up and saved her, and thus began a pattern of hero worship that established Karen as the typical one dimensional Marvel woman we are all used to being disappointed by.

But then she went rogue. Fuelled not so much by her crush on Matt as her dogged and insistent demand for the truth, she went after Wilson Fisk, murder crime boss extraordinaire, alone. When one of his henchmen, Westley (RIP) came after her, I think we all expected yet another rescue from Daredevil.

Instead, Karen shot the guy with his own gun. A lot. We were all like… Karen? He’s dead now.

karen page gun

It was at this moment that Daredevil started to interest me beyond Matt’s shirtless scenes.

It’s after Westley’s death that we start to see the effort Karen has to put into playing the ‘innocent’ role Matt has assigned her. Throughout season two their every conversation occurs at cross purposes. In episode 5, Kinbaku, when Matt and Karen finally go on their (totally adorable, btw) first date, all they do is lie to each other. When Karen asks Matt how his day was, he says he was working (actually he was chasing his psychopath ex-girlfriend around New York City) and Karen says she was doing nothing at all (she spent the day at The New York Bulletin, working with a journalist to uncover Frank Castle’s past). Karen’s deep need to uncover the truth – no matter the cost – is probably the most significant thing about her. It is her passion and her obsession. And she feels totally unable to share it with Matt. Her drive and determination and the crimes she is sometimes pushed to commit are in total opposition to Matt’s idea of her. So she hides herself from him. This active pretending reveals the ‘innocent’ girl for the imaginary thing that she is. Everyone is more complicated than that.

I found watching such a tired trope toyed with in this way delightful, in case you couldn’t tell.

She’s an accidental journalist

Karen finding her new home at The New York Bulletin has been heavily criticised as unrealistic. Mostly by journalists. To them I say this: you are watching a show about a blind guy with super powers. Get over yourselves.

I adore how separate Karen’s character development is from Matt’s. Yeah, it was through being a legal assistant at Nelson and Murdock that she was able to channel her truth-seeking skills, but in the end it was only outside the constraints of the firm that she would really be able to realise her talents.

(Though this didn’t make the demise of Nelson and Murdock hurt any less.)

Karen Page: Badass Investigative Journalist is a story I could watch for hours.

She’s got sass.

One time a client asked her to give her a kiss before he stepped onto the battlefield (a police sting that would earn him witness protection) instead, she gave him the finger.

And then this happened:

karen page

Karen and Daredevil are basically the same person

Watching season 2 of Daredevil is a lot like losing your mind. It is so frustrating watching Matt and Karen run circles around each other, both of them using their secret identities like invisible suits of armour.

Karen Page and Daredevil both care about justice above all else. They both know that they’ll never stop, even if it kills them. They both believe the people in their lives would never understand this. They both lie to the people they love, freaking constantly.

In so many Marvel movies the love interest is established as a foil to the hero. Where he is irrational, she is sensible. Where he is a playboy, she is dedicated and monogamous. Where he is brave, she is afraid.

Not Karen Page. She’s just as much of a daredevil as Daredevil is.

She’s got secrets

The main thing the past 2 seasons of Daredevil have taught us about Karen Page is that we know nothing about her.

Part of the whole ‘innocent girl’ trope is that she is taken at face value. She acts sweet and dresses girly and we assume there is nothing more to it.

There is so much more to it.

This past season, we found out she has a dead brother. What made this all the more intriguing was the conversation about said brother she had with Matt during with she failed to mention that he’d died.

We have seen Matt’s life through flashbacks, Foggy is an open book and Frank Castle had an entire season dedicated to his personal mysteries. The only person hiding from us is Karen Page.

 

Karen Page has quickly become one of my favourite characters of all time. There’d better be a Daredevil season three. I need to know where her story goes next.

 

karen page gif

 

 

 

 

Cringing at The Vampire Diaries

This post is coming to you several weeks after the fact. It may or not may be because tonight I was supposed to post my review for Jessa Crispin’s wonderful book, The Dead Ladies Project.

Unfortunately that review does not yet exist.

So instead, I’m going to write about The Vampire Diaries. This post contains spoilers. You were warned.

The Vampire Diaries is a ridiculous show. I know this. When I watch it, I do my very best to turn my problematizing brain off.

Mostly, I succeed.

Until it comes to Damon, that is.

Oh, Damon. You crazy controlling ass. I suppose as far as most viewers are concerned, your abs and beautiful face serve to excuse all of your crimes.

For me… not so much.

Shit Damon has done:

  • Killed Elena, the supposed love of his life’s brother, Jeremy because Elena was mean to him. Granted, Jeremy came back to life, but still. Damon didn’t know that was going to happen.
  • Turned a teenage girl into a vampire, had sex with her, and then ripped her head off when he was done (why do hundred-year-old vampires exclusively date seventeen-year-old girls? It’s one of life’s greatest mysteries)
  • Killed his brother’s best friend (and one of my all-time favourite TVD characters, Lexi), because he felt guilty over a previous occasion in which he had sex with her then tried to kill her.

Damon and Elena’s whole dynamic was based on the notion that she made him a better, less murder-ey vampire. As I mentioned earlier this week, the whole he’s-not-a-murderer-because-he-loves-me premise is one I take issue with. That gives the girl in question a whole lot of responsibility for shit that isn’t really her problem.

So on this specific occasion, the problem started with the other Salvatore brother, Stefan. Stefan decided to kidnap his ex-girlfriend, Caroline because she was in danger, but had decided not to leave the dangerous situation. Problematic. Ladies should be allowed to make their own choices.

When he told Damon what he’d done, Damon responded:

‘In my book that’s a notch above flowers and chocolates because when you love someone, sometimes you have to go to those extremes.

I hate the idea that removing a woman’s agency because He Knows What’s Best is somehow romantic. I keep hoping that one day Damon will turn around and realise how awful he is.

damon

But he never really does.

I should really stop watching this show.