Rasha: What were the questions we ended with last time for Female Friendships?
Gemma: What makes the friendships female, and … hold on.
R: Maybe we should take a step back and offer some context on Why We Care about Female Friendships on TV/Film.
G: Sounds good.
R: I mean, for me, it’s a part of appreciating any meaningful relationships that 1) have stakes, and 2) are not strictly romances. Both in fiction and in the world.
G: I would agree on that. I think that friendships are incredibly difficult to create art about. They don’t necessarily have the same dramatic arcs that Romances do, and such arcs are certainly less structured. We don’t know how to value them in text. So I want to honor that and look at what makes their portrayals successful and potent.
R: I have often thought about what a song like “Pancho and Lefty” would look like if it was about a friendship between women. “Pancho and Lefty” seems like a good example of enduring art about a non-romantic relationship (though I am absolutely onboard for shippers!).
I think if we’re going to talk about the gendered portrayals of friendships, then we might benefit from drawing a couple of examples of the Male Friendships storyline tropes. One I can think of: two boys grow up as friends, but their paths diverge until one day they meet again and are fighting on opposite sides.
Gemma: When I was in college and fighting with a friend, my uncle’s gf said that we’re socialized to believe that friendships between women are these Simple, Beautiful things, and there’s something Wrong if they aren’t, and how much happier I’d be if I realized how deeply untrue that was. I found that to be true in practice and it’s something I’ve watched for in narrative since. I’m interested in the cases where a central character is female-identified and the Best Friend figure has a real story, and where the complexities of the friendship are not written to devalue it.
Rasha: I like your pitch, and I will roll with it. I agree that womyn friendships are Complex, ropey, thorny, full of difficult mirroring, and deeply affirming. It took me a while to realize that. What are some fictional female friendships we can look at on TV/film?
G: Well, my favorite these days is Jackie and O’Hara, even as they are no longer officially on the air.
R: Since this is you and I, we are probably obligated to talk about Kalinda and Alicia.
Rasha: So there are two things on my mind as we return to the topic of Bisexual Secondary Lady Characters in TV and Film: one is obviously Delphine in Orphan Black, and the other is an urge to step back from the phenomenon of bisexuality on TV and film and ask how the appearance of these Bi Lady characters relates to a queer politic–mainly, to queer notions of community and relationship. Are there threads you’d like to tease out in this round?
Gemma: I had been thinking that there’s a queer perspective shift, of which Delphine is a part but so are Annalise, Ilana on Broad City, etc., in the last several years, in which the bi woman not only gains more story significance but also has a storyline related to her sexuality much more integrated with the story at large. Often driving it. And it involves getting beyond the point you named last week, where bi-ness has to be the story.
Rasha: Hidden Figures! This was the right movie to watch at the right time for me. For all of us maybe?
G: Yeah, that’s about where I landed. At other times I would have gotten frustrated with the sentimentality, but honestly, we need it. These particular sentiments are sentiments I am currently welcoming into the world.
R: Yeah, it felt Disney-adjacent in the lightness of tone and careful avoidance of directly depicting violence or strong language, but I don’t feel like it pulled any of the emotional punches. I think the lightness of the surface succeeds because the story is so grounded in the viewpoint of the three women at the center–we are given every scene through their reactions and actions rather than from the reactions of anyone else. From that broke-down car scene at the beginning through to the launch at the end.
Rasha: We’re back, and we’re going to talk about TV and film somehow!
Gemma: Somehow! Because it will continue to happen, and continue to talk to people.
R: You know what TV I’d really like to be reviewing? That puppet show from Russia that got cancelled, Kukly, that used to make fun of Putin as an overgrown baby called Little Tsaches. Maybe there are subtitled archives somewhere?
G: I would be on board for that. Let’s see if we can find it.
G: I know a coupla Russian speakers who could translate if it’s not subtitled.
R: We are legion.
G: This is true. So what have you been watching?
R: I know we’ll talk about this in another post, but I did watch all of The Magicians. I will just say: I hated the pilot, came to enjoy many of the middle episodes, and was sorely disappointed by the finale.
Rasha: Ok, was it me or was this a more directly violent and relentless arc than the previous 2 series of The Fall?
Gemma: Huh. I felt almost the opposite. I didn’t find it as taut as the other seasons, although it certainly had its moments. Maybe the violence stood out more because it was messier.
R: This season/series was notably more quiet and slow in its builds, and in that sense felt very much more like a Netflix series created expressly for binge-watching. From the first episode, the show seemed intent on creating tension and menace by slowing down the whole story. In some ways it worked on me, though I’m left feeling a little confused and not fully satisfied in the end, even though I have a hard time faulting something specific.
G: It didn’t work on me at all. I honestly thought, in the end, the amnesia didn’t work, or at least the drawing out of it didn’t work. It woulda held me for a couple of episodes, but not five. Every other plot point felt right on, but even more than the rest of The Fall, it just took too long and lurched too much.
R: The violence was definitely messier, and most of it happened to our main characters rather than the “victims” from the first two rounds.
G: Which I thought was a reasonable denouement, and one of the things that did work on me was how much Spector’s nurse looked like His Type, making his violence against Stella a more dramatic turn.
R: Absolutely! Ok, do we think Spector really had amnesia?
Gemma: So sometime in the mid-aughts, a bi secondary female character became a hip new thing, particularly though not exclusively on network shows. Specifically, the shock reveal that a secondary female character was bi. I feel like that lasted a while, is still around in some ways. I name, off the top of my head: House, Bones, Nurse Jackie, in its own way The Good Wife, though Kalinda managed to turn the trope inside out for a while.
Rasha: Didn’t Ally McBeal have it too? Or do I think that because I never watched the show and I know who Portia de Rossi is?
G: I cannot remember if Portia de Rossi’s character was queer or not. Ally McBeal had a biphobic episode that was very upsetting to 17-year-old me, though, so I’m not sure they’d have done that.
R: Yeah, it seems like it would be too much for them. Wait, did Sex and the City do it, or am I again confusing a character for the actress?
G: Yes, Samantha had a bi turn. (Not Cynthia Nixon’s character.) She dated Sonia Braga for 3 or 4 eps.
R: Samantha is the sexy one, right? Here I show how I have held myself pure and above some parts of pop culture (mainly because I didn’t have TV from 1999-2006 and the internet didn’t have very much television then).
Rasha: Ok, so this episode right here proves that HTGAWM fears nothing. THEY KILLED WES.
Gemma: I KNOW. IT WAS INSANE. It never even crossed my mind that they could do that.
R: I straight up dismissed that possibility because I was apparently caught up in some real limited sh*t about how main characters can’t die. But look, let’s be real that Sam Keating died in S1 and we are still watching Tom Verica dance through the poison plum fairy thoughts in everyone’s head.
G: Shows in the past have taught me main characters could die–Six Feet Under, just for starters–but I was still shocked.
R: So now Annalise has ghost babies and ghost surrogate sons. Damn, she cannot catch a break! And Wes, that poor young man!!!! I still seriously cannot believe that his life is over and the show is going on. I need Whitney Houston plus Trisha Yearwood right now. How. Do. I. Live.
G: I honor them, though. They knew how high the stakes were. They knew Nate was Ex Machina and that it would have been disappointing to have it end up him. They played us with the timeline in a way that was just enough for us to know we were played but not enough for us to feel betrayed about it. And they knew the only way we could be devastated enough was if we lost the person we didn’t think we could lose. As a writer, I honor this sh*t.
R: For real. They are teaching me. They ain’t never scared! This is some Season 1 ish have me screaming at the television, just gasping.
G: It didn’t even click. When Nate walked into the autopsy room, I actually had to think “…but who else is there even?”
R: I mean, emotionally, it absolutely makes sense. These motherf^ckers right here, though, I would never play poker with any of them. Stakes so high!
Rasha: So we’re here to talk about the Sisters Mills in a character study, yes, in good part prompted by the death of Abbie on Sleepy Hollow. What have you watched of the 3rd season?
G: A plurality, if not a majority. I skipped about six. Maybe more. It was pretty boring. But I have the basic story arc.
R: That’s about where I am, though my several skipped episodes were toward the end of the 3rd season. I did watch the finale and I agree that I didn’t feel like I’d missed much by skipping the half dozen or so episodes preceding it. Except I was all like: now Captain Danny is in on the whole deal too, and turns out Papa Ezra Mills is beginning to express some Papa Eli Pope mastery outta nowhere wrt All That Occult Sh*t?
G: I skipped a few at the beginning, a few at the end. And yes, that is a pretty precise parallel. Makes me wonder but without much energy what Ezra Mills will be doing this season.
R: I guess I would be okay with it in theory, but the story potential lost with the death of Captain Irving (as in he must surely be a descendant of Washington Irving, the author/scribe/witness?! to the Sleepy Hollow source material–it is hard to make it up with a handsome Captain Past/Future Love Interest and Sudden Occultist Dad of Contrition. (more…)