Tag Archives: feminism

BINGE OR NO: Netflix’s GLOW

(Soon to be cross-posted on Agony Booth.com)

When I was a kid, my mother was a huge fan of soap operas. In the days before DVR, and before Netflix made binge-watching a “thing,” she would record an entire week’s worth of her favorite soap, Days of Our Lives, while she worked, so that she could spend her Saturdays catching up with all her fictional best friends and lovers and their increasingly wacky lives.

As a result, my father would often chide my mother, a career woman with a Masters degree, for her deep-abiding love for this evil-twin having, devil possessing, amnesia abusing, secret love child coveting, art form. Whenever he did so, my mother would wryly reply that my father’s ability to watch countless hours of WWF wrestling was pretty much precisely the same thing as her Days of Our Lives addiction. Wrestling, she claimed, was, after all, a soap opera geared toward men. This argument undoubtedly horrified my father, who would inevitably respond by turning up the volume on his wrestling match full blast, as if to say that no series that LOUD AND OBNOXIOUS could possibly be equivalent to a “ladies’ television show.” But deep down, I think he knew that my mother had a point.

This exact same epiphany is experienced by GLOW’s co-female lead Debbie Eagen, a former soap star, who must now try her hand at a role where your ability to “pretty cry” is not nearly as important as the depth which you could realistically portray the pain of having someone twice your size sit on your face.

Based on an actual television series of the same name that took to the airwaves for four seasons, during the years of 1986 through 1990 (many of the wrestling personas portrayed here are based on characters from the original series), Netflix’s GLOW is a ten half-hour episode long comedy set piece about the maybe (?) origins of women’s wrestling.

The REAL cast of GLOW

Leading this large and diverse cast of mostly female actresses is Allison Brie, as Ruth Wilder, a grown-up theater geek, and out-of-work actress, who is desperate to find an on-screen role where her character does more than bring a powerful male lead coffee, or tell him that his wife is on line 2.

That is, perhaps, one of the most interesting things about GLOW the series, the way in which it argues that women’s wrestling, as an art form, was actually pretty progressive, particularly for its time period, in the way in which it championed strong females, both as the heroes and the villains of its stories. Not such a big accomplishment, you say? Think about what a HUGE deal everyone made over the Wonder Woman movie actually featuring a female superhero, and how long that film took to make it to the big screen. And this is 2017, over thirty years after women’s wrestling premiered on TV!

In GLOW, Ruth is able to take on the role of her dreams, that of a female lead villain, who is strong, tough, takes no prisoners, and would sooner pour scalding hot coffee on a man’s head, than serve it to him black with two sugars. I mean, sure, women’s wrestling had its down sides too. Most of the “characters” on the show were thinly drawn, and often aggressively offensive, racial, and socio-cultural stereotypes: The Terrorist, The Welfare Queen, The Evil Communist, and an Asian Character named Fortune Cookie. Not to mention how the female wrestlers were often hooted at, degraded, and objectified by men, as they rolled around with one another in scantily clad outfits. Yet, arguably all those same downsides applied to men’s wrestling as well. So, there’s an odd sense of equal opportunity here, when it comes to poor taste.

Speaking of objectification, those men out there looking to revel in hot bodacious babes engaging in Sapphic aggressive dances with one another might be a bit disappointed with Netflix’s GLOW. With one or two exceptions, this is not a particularly glammed up bunch of ladies. 80’s fashions (which are showcased in all their neon-tinted, big-hair having, glory here) do NOBODY any favors, appearance wise, at least by modern-day beauty standards. Even Allison Brie, who in real life is quite beautiful, has her looks noticeably, and purposefully, toned down here. Her character Ruth wears little to no makeup throughout most of the series, and often prefers shapeless, oversized, outfits to more form-fitting attire.

In terms of characters, Brie’s Ruth, Betty Gilpin’s Debbie, and Marc Maron’s schlocky, but occasionally paternal, showrunner Sam take center stage here during most of the episodes. The rest of the cast serves largely as comedic support, their roles limited mainly to the stereotypical characters they play on the wrestling mat. As a fan of Jenji Kohan’s other Netflix Series Orange is the New Black, I found myself wanting to see more of many of these characters, and to learn what brought them to this unique job opportunity, possibly through the use of OINTB inspired flashbacks. There are no such flashbacks in GLOW.

Just as OINTB’s Season 1 story was largely about Piper and her complicated love-hate relationship with Alex, so too was GLOW’s Season 1 story predominately about Ruth and her friendship turned antagonistic relationship with Debbie. (I’d tell you why it turns antagonistic, but I’m afraid that would be a bit of a spoiler.) Perhaps, if the show gets picked up for a second season, GLOW, like OINTB, will branch out and feature more of the backstories of its intriguing and diverse ensemble cast.

As for the series itself, though it takes a little while to find its footing and humorous tone, GLOW is sudsy good fun, with just the right amount of 80’s camp, and a pro-feminist message thrown in for good measure. At a mere five-hour run time, GLOW is easy and painless to breeze through. The live-taping of the wrestling show featured in the final episode serves for an exciting and entertaining, colorful capstone to the series. And you will undoubtedly find yourself missing GLOW a bit when its over.

So, in the end, my mom was right.  Wrestling, and shows inspired by wrestling, are a bit like soap operas. Both are guilty pleasures, for sure. But if you look closely, you might just find a little bit of substance underneath those suds.

FINAL VERDICT: BINGE IT!

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My Love Letter to AMC’s Mad Men

To promote Season 4 of its critically acclaimed television series, Mad Men, AMC will be airing “marathons” featuring the five “best” (as determined by viewer votes) episodes of the show’s first three seasons.  The marathons are scheduled to air each Monday night (starting at 8 p.m.) until the season premiere (Sunday, July 25th at 10 p.m.). 

Tonight’s marathon installment featured five episodes from my favorite season of the show, namely, it’s first season.  Watching the marathon (and yes, I actually sat through all five hours) reminded me of how spectacular this program is, and how much I have missed having it in my life during its interminably long hiatus. 

The phrase “relationship television” refers to the phenomenon where a viewer will compulsively watch a particular television show each week, to the point of sometimes altering their personal and professional lives around the viewing of that show.  I am not ashamed to admit that I am in a “relationship” with Mad Men.  And you know what’s great about relationships?  The cheesy love letters that come with them, of course!

Dear Mad Men,

The first time I heard about you, I wasn’t sure we would get along.  You see, typically, I’m not a big fan of “period pieces.” 

And, although you are certainly more contemporary than other shows of that genre, you ARE technically a period piece, Honey.  Granted, you received rave reviews from highly intellectual critics and pundits, even before you arrived.  But that just made me think you were stuck up and elitist.

Plus, you were on a television channel that I had never watched before — one that I had heard catered almost exclusively to really, really old people.

But a friend of mine aggressively sang your praises.  She told me how hot, sexy, smart, and witty you were.  She had me at “hot and sexy” . . .

So, I watched the pilot episode.  And even before the first commercial break, I was hooked.  I mean, it was REALLY love at first sight.

Your pilot episode opened with this brilliant scene!   In it (just in case you don’t remember), the lead protagonist, Don Draper, is in a bar, struggling over an advertising campaign he must pitch to the makers of Lucky Strike cigarettes, the following morning.  You see, it had recently been revealed that smoking could cause lung cancer. 

Furthermore, federal legislation prevented advertisers from saying that cigarettes were “healthy.”  The meeting was just a few hours away, and Don still had nothing to present to his clients.  So, understandably, your protagonist was a tad stressed out.  So while Don is busy getting plastered at the bar, he is also hard at work, brainstorming ideas for his campaign (Talk about multi-tasking!).  To organize his ideas, Don uses the advanced technology available to him during the 1960’s.   No lame lined notepad is good enough for the likes of Don Draper! NO WAY!

Don has something a bit more “high-tech” in mind . . .

I mean, seriously, he wrote ALL OVER that napkin!  By the time he was finished, there was so much writing on that piece of cloth, you could barely tell what color it was! 

When the waiter approaches Don, the latter tries to wrangle him into a conversation about what type of cigarettes he smokes (Hint: NOT Lucky Strikes).  “I just love to smoke,” explains the waiter, matter-of-factly.  Don deems the statement important enough to jot down on the sacred napkin.  (Way to go, Waiter Dude!)

This conversation is interrupted by the manager of the restaurant, who immediately presumes that the waiter is bothering Don, simply because said waiter is black.  As a child of the late 20th century, I found the blatant racism to be pretty shocking and offensive.  But back then, it must have been fairly common place.  Then, as Don scans the bar, the entire room seems to explode in a giant puff of smoke! 

Because, of course, EVERYONE smoked in the early 1960’s!  The scene I just described was less than five minutes long.  Yet, despite its deceptive simplicity, it spoke volumes.

That’s one of the things I love most about you, Mad Men.  You never talk down to me, or feel the need to spell things out for me.  You don’t take my intelligence for granted.  This makes me feel smarter, when I watch you.  And, in case you haven’t noticed, I enjoy feeling smart. 

(It happens so rarely, after all.)

Aside from your witty writing and snappy dialogue, you know what else is so great about you?  Your cast of characters . . .

When writing a show that takes place in a corporate environment, it’s sometimes tempting to simply rehash the same stale corporate stereotypes we generally see on show’s of the “office” variety.  But you didn’t take the easy way out, Mad Men.  Each of YOUR characters are multi-faceted and complex, from the lead role down to mere walk-on parts, like, for example, that waiter in the aforementioned pilot episode. 

In fact, it wouldn’t be at all out of the ordinary for a character who initially seemed pigeon-holed in the uptight “goody two shoes” role to rock out at a party . . .

. . . or get high on some killer weed, while spending a late night at the office . . .

. . . or get knocked up by a coworker, and not tell him about the baby until a full season year has passed, since it was given up for adoption.

I also wouldn’t put it past you to have a heretofore pristine and well-coifed housewife come completely unglued . . .

 . . . or to have a beloved gay character nearly raped by a man, and then subsequently fired for REFUSING to submit to the rapist’s advances . . .

Oh, and the female characters on this show?  They totally kick ass!

Early 1960’s America wasn’t a kind place for working women.  In the workplace, they were often mistreated, and undervalued, if not openly sexually harassed.

They also lacked the same opportunities as men, and were expected to conform to the demeaningly narrow stereotypes of the era.

And yet, many of the female characters on this show, bucked societal trends, and found success in the “take-no-prisoners” world of corporate New York City.

Did I mention that the men on the show are hot?

And their sexual conquests are even hotter?

Seriously, what more could I ask for in a “Television Show Relationship?”

Well . . . maybe there is one more thing, I could ask for.  It’s a minor thing, really.  It’s just that . . .  DO YOU HAVE TO KEEP GOING AWAY FOR SO DAMN LONG?

I know they say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but a YEAR???  Come on, Mad Men!  That type of “absence” just makes the heart depressed.

And yet, now, I hear you are returning to my home in just a few short weeks!

So, I hope you’ve been working out . . .

 . . . because I plan to have some SERIOUS makeup sex with you, upon your return!

See you on July 25th!  I love you!

XOXO,

KJewls

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Anatomy of a Trailer: Eclipse – Twilight Saga, Part 3 (Now includes NEW second trailer . . .)

I tried not to blog about this.  Really.  But it simply refused to be ignored.  So, here I am . . .

I can’t believe they are already releasing another one of these movies!  I feel as though I literally just saw the last one in theaters.  New Moon (based on Book 2 of the Twilight series) was, in my opinion, one of the most unintentionally hilarious films of all time.  

The cheesy 360-degree rotating camera shots to represent Bella’s months of “depression;”

the cartoonish CGI Wolfman graphics;

 the obligatory topless shots of those male strippers  Jacob and his wolfpack; and

the way Edward’s disembodied head would appear in the clouds, every time Bella was about to do something “bad.”

“Don’t do it, Bella!”

All of these gems made me, and the rest of the people in my theater, laugh out loud, multiple times, throughout the film.  In short, I enjoyed New Moon, but probably not for the reasons that I was supposed to enjoy it . . .

So, when I heard that Summit Entertainment had released a new trailer for Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight Saga, curiosity (and my odd sense of humor) got the best of me.  I simply had to watch it. 

Well, color me impressed.  It’s a pretty good trailer, actually.  Granted, there wasn’t a lot of action in it.  However, I think the producers did a nice job of establishing in a relatively short amount of time (90 seconds) the immensity and increasing urgency of Bella’s choice, and the impact it will have on the people she loves. 

Let’s take a look . . .

 :13 – Say what you will about the Twilight movies, but the location shots in them are absolutely breathtaking.  The book and movie are both supposed to take place in the fictional town of Forks, Washington.  However, the film was shot mostly in and around Portland, Oregon.  Who knew Oregon was so gorgeous?

 :20 – I never officially came down one way or the other on the Team Edward versus Team Jacob debate.  However, I will say that Edward and Bella have an ideal height differential on their side.  In case you were curious (because I was):  Both Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner are in the mid to upper range of 5 feet, while Robert Pattinson is a lean 6’1”.  So, if Bella ever wants to wear heels, Edward is definitely her guy . . . 

(Then again, in the book, Wolf Jacob is supposed to be about 7 feet tall.  So, who knows?)

 :27 – I’m not quite sold on Dakota Fanning as Jane yet.  Based on my interpretation of the books, the Jane character has “pretty, but creepy looking” child star written all over her (Actors that fall into this category include: Haley Joe Osment in The Sixth Sense, that girl from The Ring movies, and those twin girls in The Shining. )

“Come play with us.”

At 16, Dakota has aged out of “pretty, but creepy looking,” I’m afraid.  She looks like a real teenager now! 

 

Perhaps Movie Jane would be scarier, if she didn’t talk so darn much!  Dakota sounds like she has a bit of a cold, in this scene . . .

:34 – Is it just me, or does Robert Pattinson look a tad constipated, here?

:37 thru :39 – I like that they included Bella’s parents in this trailer.  By choosing to become a vampire, Bella isn’t just giving up a boy, she’s giving up her whole human life.  The books often give this part of her decision short shrift.

:43 – Jacob: “You don’t have to change for me, Bella.”  (A solid argument for Team Jacob.)

1:10 – Here is our first look at Bryce Dallas Howard as the new Vampire Victoria.  As many of you know, Howard replaced the original Victoria, Rachel Lefevre, in the series, as a result of “scheduling conflicts.”   It sounds like a bunch of hooey to me. 

Personally, I think Summit probably wanted to cash in on the movie’s success and bring in a bigger name.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Bryce Dallas Howard.  I think she’s a talented actress.  I’m just not sure she’s right for this role.  She just looks too nice  and sane to play this menacing, woman-on-a-rampage, character.  Her hair even looks tamer than the original Victoria’s!

1:14 – Edward: “I will protect you, no matter what.” 

Feminists beware.  Twilight is not exactly a “girl power” series.  Until the final book, Bella mostly inhabits a damsel-in-distress type role.  Throught the book, the films, and this trailer, there is tons of talk about protecting Bella.  This is fine, I guess.  However,  it would be nice, if  our heroine fought back on her own, every once in a while.

1:19 – Obligatory Taylor Lautner Shirtless shot . . .

(He still looks pretty good, but slightly less buff in this trailer than in the last film.  No?)

1:22 – Jacob:  “I will fight for you, until your heart stops beating.” 

Based on the YouTube comments for this video, the aforementioned line was a big hit with Team Jacob fans.  I’ll admit that in the context of the film, and given Bella’s impending choice, the line is a moderately romantic one. 

However, as a stand alone, it’s more than a little disturbing.  For a second there, I thought I was watching one of those Lifetime movies.  Specifically, the ones where the wife-beater / lunatic guy chases some B-list actress (Tori Spelling?)  around the house with a knife and says, “If I can’t have you,  NO ONE CAN!”

Eclipse hits theaters June 30, 2010.  Will YOU see it?

P.S.  For all you Twilight fans out there, it looks like Summit Entertainment has recently released a new trailer for Eclipse.  Unlike the sort of lovey-dovey first one, this trailer focuses more on the action / horror elements of the upcoming film.  Let me just say, I think it is TEN TIMES better than the first trailer!   Parts of it are downright scary, and the special effects and CGI graphics seem much improved from the first and second installments of the series.   And I’m not exactly a “Twihard” girl, so when I say it, I mean it. 

Rather than make this post any longer than it already is, I’ll simply let the new trailer speak for itself . . .

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Filed under Eclipse, Movie Trailer Recaplets, Twilight Book Series