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.

 

Three OTPs I Just Can’t Stand

I talk pretty regularly on this blog about my discomfort with certain relationship tropes – unhealthy ones, mainly. Let’s be clear: I don’t hate to read/watch unhealthy relationships play out. I think it can be interesting or funny depending on the tone of thing. What I can’t stand is when such a relationship is represented to us as the most romantic thing. I find it difficult to tolerate stories that tell us that it’s okay if they treat us really badly, because deep down they love us.

To that I say two things.

  1. *Loud, exasperated sigh*
  2. Go look at Khloe Kardashian’s Instagram, in which this subject is discussed at length.

I bet you weren’t expecting that second one.

So, to continue the ever evolving discussion of things that make me uncomfortable, here are some famous OTPs that have made me awkward-squirm.

Gossip Girl – Chuck/Blair

blair and chuck

This may be the most controversial of the bunch.

Gossip Girl was one of those shows I devoured when it first appeared on Netflix. Throughout seasons 1 and 2 my love, much like Chuck and Blair’s, was fun and surprising. Three words, eight letters: That’s how I felt about Gossip Girl.

Then Chuck ‘sold’ Blair to his creepy brother in return for a hotel, and things turned somewhat sour. That’s just not good boyfriend behaviour. And yet the will-they-won’t-they continued for several more seasons. The whole thing left a decidedly bad taste in my mouth.

Blair changed from an independent, driven – and yes, vindictive and evil – woman to someone who’s entire life revolved around her relationship with a man who treated her horribly but refused to let her go.

Blair and Chuck’s awfulness combined with my deep hatred of Serena made the last few seasons of Gossip Girl pretty hard to sit through. Sometimes the only thing that kept me going was the beauty of Chace Crawford’s face.

(That and Blair and Dan’s moment. The destruction of that relationship broke my televisual heart. Even now, I just can’t even talk about it).

Scandal – Olivia/Fitz

olivia and fitz
If someone said this to me, I would run far far away.

I hate it. I hate the music that accompanies every scene with them, and that face Fitz makes when he wants Olivia to know that he feels like a sad puppy. I hate every over-dramatic kiss and I don’t want to see any more sex in the Oval Office. No amount of assassination attempts, kidnappings or public declarations of love will make me care about this couple.

When the professional killers your father sends to have sex with you are more attractive than your actual boyfriend, you really need to re-evaluate your life.

The Originals – Klaus/Cami

Cami's_Death
When you kiss a guy and this happens… It may be the universe telling you that it’s time to move on.

Okay, setting aside the obvious attempt to recreate the dynamic Klaus and Caroline had in his Mystic Falls days – which is super annoying – what really bothers me about this relationship is the balance of power.

Klaus has all of it.

In the beginning Klaus controlled Cami by stealing her memories. When he wasn’t doing that he was using her grief and emotional damage to manipulate her. Their entire relationship is one in which her function is to soothe his pain.

There’s this bit in a Sarah Kay poem I love, The Type, where she says ‘sometimes he will want to hold you up like The Answer/You are not The Answer/You are not the problem.’ I want to sit Cami down and tell her this.

What I loved about Klaus and Caroline’s relationship is that she refused to take any of his shit. Whereas Cami? The girl is drowning in it.

I hoped Cami turning vamp might provide a solution to the issue but so far it hasn’t. I dislike her more than ever.

 

Are there any OTPs you just can’t stand?  Or, do you disagree with me? I’d love to hear your thoughts!