The Awesome Ladies of Television

I am a big fan of strong women in media. and not just those cat suited kick ass vixens as portrayed in recent movies and TV.   I’m talking about strong Character driven roles, where a lady can show off her acting chops rather than her curves. Some times less skin is better. When the plot drives the action and not vice versa, what you get is more enjoyment out of the story. Case in point is the movie Barbwire, starring Pam Anderson. Sure you get lots of T&A but it was a totally unmemorable waste of time. I’m glad I didn’t waste my money to watch it on the big screen. On the other hand you have Lori Petty in Tank Girl, an equally  Cheesy story but so much more re watchable. I was going to use Helen Mirren in The Debt as an example, but that would be like comparing a Waterford crystal goblet to a Kmart plastic cup, but you get the point. So this week I’m dedicating this blog to my favorite TV strong women.

TATIANA MASLANY: ORPHAN BLACK

If you get BBC America check out Tatiana, as she convincingly plays a collection of clones, all with different lives and different personalities, and all of them potentially dangerous. The fact that the clones are all so different raises the question is it nature or nurturing that makes us who and what we are. They range from a mild mannered soccer mom, to a marginally mad psycho and a con artist.This is like an ongoing acting exercise and Tatiana Maslany does a great job managing it. She shows strength, vulnerability and adaptability all in one package.

EMILIA CLARKE: GAME OF THRONES

As Danaerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) rules. Rising from a frightened little girl, barely in her teens, to a fearsome Khaleesi of the Dothraki horsemen. The Dothraki are a warlike nomadic people in the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s book series, A Song of Ice and Fire. She is wise beyond her age and has out smarted all of the men who sought to exploit her. Danaerys is a real survivor.

ANNA SILK: LOST GIRL

Bo (Anna Silk) is literally a soul sucking succubus and not the kind that you hear divorced guys talk about. She will actually drain you of your life force and leave nothing but an empty shell. She’s the protagonist of the series, so everybody else is so much worse, that she looks like the nice one. She is strong, loyal and doesn’t depend on a man to save her or validate her existence.

LUCY LIU: ELEMENTARY

Dr. Joan Watson is not the bumbling comic relief of the old Basil Rathbone movies. She is as brilliant as her charge, a capable and competent healer and sobriety coach. She also sees things that Holmes doesn’t, providing a fresh pair of eyes when Holmes hits a snag.

KATEY SEGAL: SONS OF ANARCHY

Gemma Teller Morrow is one mean motorcycle mama. She not only has to keep her husband and her son from killing each other; she has to tread the mine field between family life and Matriarchy of an outlaw biker gang. She has endured many trials and tribulations but still manages to be the moral center in a family that has few morals.

KRYSTEN RITTER: Don’t trust the B______ in APARTMENT 23

Chloe, is Holly Golightly without a conscience. She’s the manic pixie girl on drugs and alcohol who bulldozes her way through life, with panache and pure moxie. She is the text book definition of a brazen hussy, a sociopath who always manages to land on her feet. I have no doubt that Chloe could survive in any environment.

REBECCA FERGUSON: THE WHITE QUEEN

FAYE MARSAY

AMANDA HALE

Watching this trio of ambitious ladies, is like watching a female version of the Good the Bad and the Ugly, without the good. They cajole, prod, instigate and manipulate the menfolk like pawns in a chess game, while vying for supremacy in Jolly old England. The winners get to sit on this cool throne and wear a heavy crown. The losers get skewered, smothered, drowned in wine vats, poisoned and beheaded. The headsman’s axe gets a regular workout on this show, some of them deserve it, others just had the misfortune to get caught up in this war of the women.

LENA HEADEY: GAME OF THRONES

Cersei Lannister is just as capable as her brothers, Tyrion and Jaime and as cunning as her father and would probably make a better monarch. Her one weakness, is her devotion to her sadistic bully of a son. Prince Joffrey is a hand full, whose favorite sport is abusing and killing whores and being a bad ruler.  Poor Cersei has to handle him, while simultaneously handling the intrigues of court life and placating her Father.

ELIZABETH MOSS & CHRISTINA HENDRICKS: MAD MEN

Peggy Olsen (Moss) and Joan Harris (Hendricks) are two women in the male dominated world of Madison avenue ad agencies. These ladies are as smart as, if not smarter than most of their male counterparts. They have taken divergent paths to get to the top but neither one has had it easy. They have endured good old fashioned sexism and generally bad male attitudes, all while watching lesser males be promoted over them. Both women have prevailed in an atmosphere that has literally driven one of their male colleagues to suicide.

ANNA GUNN: BREAKING BAD

Skyler White on the outside is a typical suburban housewife and working mom. In reality she is her husband’s partner in crime. Walter White aka. Heisenberg is a rogue chemistry professor, tuned meth drug lord and the most dangerous man in Albuquerque.  Skyler gets to watch her mild mannered doormat of a spouse degenerate into a violent criminal mastermind. When she first discovers Walters wrong doing she is appalled, but eventually she succumbs to the lure of filthy lucre, for the sake of her children. In spite of everything she manages to survive, masterfully maneuvering to evade prosecution.

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ANNA LISE PHILLIPS:  REVOLUTION (as Maggie Foster) I know that she was killed off in the first season, When she died, I stopped watching. Awesome Lady.

MAISIE WILLIAMS: GAME OF THRONES (as Arya Stark) Beware of the pointy end of her sword.

GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: GAME OF THRONES (as Brienne of Tarth) Physically and morally strong she’s a lady and a knight.

As you can tell I am a game of thrones fan, and just about all of the main female characters are strong, in every way imaginable. Great crafting of female characters Mister Martin.

Star Maidens: a really, really, really, guilty pleasure

One of the things that I love about  You Tube, is its function as a defacto Archive of vintage movies and television. I spent a good part of this winter hunkered down in my snow bunker, searching You Tube for ancient gems. So far I have found more than enough to keep me busy on those cold winter nights. Two of my favorites from  my childhood (in the 1950’s) were the 1930’s serial version of Flash gordon and Buck Rogers; incidentally both of these starred Buster Crabbe. I have already watched all of the episodes of both serials

On further examination I have rediscovered some of those great 1970’s and 80’s Sci-Fi TV show that I had forgotten long ago, like Space 1999. However there are some shows that I have never seen before, because they are from the U.K. and were not aired on American television. One of the few Brit Sci-Fi shows that aired on American TV. was and still is Doctor Who, (on BBC America). I am not familiar with British TV from the 70’s and 80’s so when I discovered STAR MAIDENS I was pleasantly surprised. I must admit that it is slightly silly and campy, but in a good way; unlike the laughable and awful Galactica 1980 which was a total flop.

Star Maidens a 1976 British and German production, is one of those rare reflections of contemporary society that in retrospect is quite progressive. It is representative of second wave feminism because it stands gender roles on their heads and highlights the pernicious and banal male attitudes of the time. Some of these attitudes still persist today. The main premise of the story takes the gender  role reversal to its logical conclusion; the nightmare of all Macho male misogynist, a Female dominated society.

Plot summary: the Planet Medusa is struck by a roque asteroid and forced out of its own orbit and strays into the orbit of our sun. The remnants of their population have moved underground and developed a matriarchal society. I guess the reason for this mega disaster back story, was solely for the purpose of moving the planet close enough to Earth for the action to take place.

Two lowly male servants, Adam and Shem virtually enslaved by the evil dominating women, discover that they are close enough to another planet to risk an escape. The reason why they want to escape this planet inhabited by oodles of beautiful women, who use them for sex as well as labor, is that they are tired of not being taken seriously and being condescended to. Don’t you worry your pretty little head, let a woman do that for you. Your man brain is too small to comprehend such technical things. These are the kind of attitudes that the women of Medusa have toward their unworthy male domestics and laborers. These are the common complaints of women in our own society and it is hilarious to see the tables turned.

Adam (a male domestic) and Shem (a mechanic) steal a space ship and high-tail it to the big blue marble. The women are incredulous about the escape and don’t believe that the men could actually make the journey without killing themselves. Much to the women’s dismay the bumbling men actually make it to earth alive. The first thing they do upon arrival is try to converse with a cow and then eat some grass. These guys aren’t really the brightest bulbs in the light shop.

The Medusans then dispatch Fulvia and Octavia in the Hunter ship Nemesis to apprehend the two male fugitives. It’s for their own good, men are too stupid to survive on their own. On earth Octavia and Fulvia come head to head with the insolent and arrogant Earth men and start making demands for the return of their property. In the mean time Adam and Shem have turned themselves in, and ask for political asylum.

The women discover that they can’t reason with unreasonable males and kidnap two scientist Liz Becker and Rudy Schmidt and abscond with them back to Medusa. Immediately upon their arrival the pair is quickly separated and begin to learn what is expected of them. Liz is set up in luxurious accommodations, while Rudy is set up in a male barracks with the other sausages. It is soon obvious that Liz loves her new status and that Rudy hates his new life on Planet Medusa. When it is explained to him, how men had mishandled the planet for thousands of years, before the women turned it into a peaceful paradise, (for women) he says that he would rather live on a planet of war and greed than stay on medusa.

I guess that Rudy doesn’t  believe in the old adage that, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”  The underlying themes of, freedom is relative and empathy is impossible are explored in a light hearted manner. Rudy insulated by his male superiority, feels enslaved, while Liz feels liberated in a matriarchal society; although she claims, she just wants to return to Earth and be Rudy’s assistant.

As the story progresses Fulvia makes her way back to Earth, albeit against orders, to try to retrieve Adam, her domestic who she obviously loves. On earth Fulvia is kinda put in her place but not quite as she learns the quirks of earthly behavior.

This show is a fun diversion full of feminist themes, as well as a a lesson in tolerance and gender parity. As campy as it is, Star Maidens is a satirical denunciation of sexism that’s done in my opinion in a non offensive way. It is worth a watch if you like campy Sci-Fi with intelligent themes.

Why Can’t we learn from History?

A guy running for president, gets on his soapbox and starts talking about change, rich versus poor and so on and so forth, you know the spiel. Some rich guys get together and decide that they don’t like what this guy is saying, so they band together and throw copious amounts of filthy lucre into a campaign against this guy. The rich guys then get some business friendly dope to run against the change guy, hoping for a pawn to manipulate in the white house. Sounds familiar doesn’t it.

I’m not talking about the 2008 election or even the 2012 election. I am referring to the 1896 presidential elections,when William Jennings Bryan, the progressive candidate for change, faced off against William McKinley a pro business moderate who believed in trade protectionism and imperialism.

If you read the sanitized version of history in which all presidents are practically saints then McKinley sounds pretty good. He did get some things right, that did help America to prosper; however most of the prosperity went to the top and was not spread around. What I find most disturbing about his presidency was the way in which he got into office in the first place. The office of the president was bought and paid for by three of America’s wealthiest industrialist, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Again if you read the sanitized version of history, these men were benevolent Philanthropist. They modernized and industrialized America, made huge contributions to the arts and sciences, created universities and left endowments that still exist. Unfortunately, this is all that most people know or remember about these paragons of America’s golden age of industrialization.

It would take a scholar with multiple degrees to navigate through the nuances and intricacies of this period in our history, but there is an easier way because this is the age of television. Instead of trying to read hundreds of dusty tomes, simply tune into, The Men who Built America on the history channel. All of that tedious drudgery has been done for us. The result is a blistering commentary on America’s most famous and revered business Icons. The creators of this program haven’t pulled any punches about the dastardly deeds and evil machinations of our sainted heroes.

While watching this program I couldn’t help making the comparison between then and now. People working more hours for less money, the widening  disparity between the rich and the poor, high unemployment and a dwindling middle class. The dissatisfaction with wall street is not a new concept. Everything that happened then is happening now, and for the same old reasons, poorly regulated business practices, political corruption and plain old greed. Growing poverty and high unemployment weren’t the only problems. Being a factory worker in the late 1800’s was dangerous and sometimes fatal. The conditions were so bad, that it spawned the labor movement, the progressive movement  and the anarchist movement world wide; which brings me back to William McKinley who was assassinated by an anarchist.

With the death of McKinley, his veep the very progressive Teddy Roosevelt took the office of president. Woe be to those who try to mess with T.R. who rightly went after the big monopolies which earned him the moniker of the trust buster. For the first time a president dared to confront big corporations in the highest court of the land and bring them to heel under the Sherman Anti-trust act of 1890. President Obama could learn something from the first President Roosevelt, by breaking up the oil and banking monopolies that exist today as a result of reckless deregulation. It is obvious that history is repeating itself, which means that we have forgotten the lesson that we once had learned.

What the Men who Built America teaches us is that, what’s good for business is not always good for the people, and this applies to any age and in any era. These industrialist had more money than any of them could spend in a lifetime, so why did they need more? I don’t think that anyone can answer that question; but what history tells us is that their greed and complacency created very dire consequences. The human toll was atrocious by today’s standards, even in third world countries. Long hours and unsafe work conditions killed thousands, including children working in factories and coal mines. The figures on work place fatalities are well documented; but figures for those adults and children that died of starvation, exposure and disease aren’t . All of these deaths can be directly attributed to the economic disparities caused by the greed of a few men.

You could argue that all of the men featured in the series first season, created the America that became a great world power. On the other hand they could have been magnanimous and not really have sacrificed much of their wealth. Henry Ford who shows up late in the first season got it right. He paid better wages and established the forty hour work week and at the same time created a product that the common man could afford. He created a model for the world to emulate. I’m not saying that Henry Ford was a saint because he wasn’t, but he set a standard that created a healthy thriving middle class with leisure time and money to spend. For anyone who wants to learn the difference between a conservative and a progressive, or if you just want to see were we’ve been and how much we have reverted to the old way, I highly recommend, The Men who Built America. It’s informative and intelligent and worth giving it a try.