As I tried to figure out where to start with this week long exploration of women, feminism, girl power and pop culture, I knew the easiest place to go would be comics, because the past few weeks have seen an explosion of women, and in particular young women shouting, “Finally!” And with my obsession with Kamala and Carol, I knew I would have plenty to talk about, but I’ve decided to start somewhere else.
I want to talk about TV.
A few months ago, Alan and I were talking about women in movies and how there just aren’t movies that are pushed and headlined by women and how that kind of sucks. I shrugged and said, “yeah, but I mean, the women on TV right?”
It’s an amazing time for women on TV, but for reasons I will never understand no one really talks about it, and they should.
Everyone talks about the moral decay of Walter White, but no one discusses Emily Thorne committing murder regularly in the name of justice for her dead father.
Don Draper is a tortured anti hero, unable to remain faithful to the women he loves because of hookers, I think? But what about Olivia Pope, who is so obsessed with being “the good guy” because of her toxic and unending affair with a married man is written off as soap opera.
Sherlock Holmes is complicated and groundbreaking and “fascinating” in his distance from the world, but Lady Mary Crawley is defined by the fact that her husband was killed in a car accident, not by the fact that she and the women around her are in transition, forging ahead into a new era fearlessly while holding onto what’s important to them in the past.
Comedy doesn’t suffer as much because everyone is talking about Hannah Horvath, Selina Meyer and Leslie Knope, because why wouldn’t you? Those shows and their success and the strength of those characters is completely undeniable. (Except maybe Hannah…)
Mainly, though, I want to talk about Olivia and Emily. These women do horrible, terrible things and you root for them. Traditionally in story telling, that is the purview of men. Women have to remain likable, kind and giving if they are to be the protagonist of a story. There are exceptions, of course, but I can’t really think of any other anti-heroines on TV. Except maybe Blair Waldorf, but Blair was a victim as often as she was active. Olivia Pope and Emily Thorne are a lot of things, but they are never victims.
Let’s start with Olivia.
There are few moments that have hooked me more quickly than that moment in the pilot of Scandal where Olivia and Fitz push into the corner of The Oval Office that can’t be seen by cameras and he kisses her and tells her that he still loves her. It’s a hugely influential moment that set the tone for the entire show. Yes, Scandal’s escalation of those “OMG” moments has gotten to the point of ridiculousness. (Although who didn’t love the ending of Fitz crying on the floor of The Oval Office in a hell of his own making? So satisfying) As the show grew out it wasn’t just Olivia, Abby is probably the only character who isn’t morally compromised at this point. I mean, she does manipulate David a lot. But Quinn’s trek to the dark side, while tedious, was pretty new ground. And then there’s Mellie.
I love Mellie Grant. I love her so much. And you didn’t at first. At first Mellie was the worst, she was Fitz’s clueless bitch wife, who stood between our beloved Olivia and the love of her life. And I don’t know how it happen, but all of a sudden she was everyone’s favorite character, including mine. Was it when she insisted on having the baby, and was so heartbroken that it still didn’t fix her marriage? Was it when we found out that she was involved in defiance? I know, I personally, was already on her side when we found out that Big Ger raped her. When she finally got some and slept with Andrew? God that was awesome.
But whether you’re squarely Team Mellie, or still hoping for an Olitz happy ever after in Vermont (I kind of don’t care at this point, but Crystan assures me that it’s something she would like to see, so I guess there are people out there who would like it.) it’s not really about Fitz, or Jake, or Andrew at any point. You’re talking about Olivia and Mellie. And maybe David and Huck. And maybe Jake.
I really love Jake.
But it’s nothing compared to Revenge. I love Revenge so much, and it wasn’t until I started thinking about this post that I realized how little the men matter to Revenge. Revenge is about a war between two women. It’s about Emily and Victoria and yes, a lot of people go down in the wake of these two trying to get at each other, but it’s still about them.
Revenge is notable also because of it’s second lead. (Emily and Victoria share top billing as far as I’m concerned.) Nolan Ross. Nolan and Emily have a purely platonic relationship, rare between a man and a woman on television, and also he’s openly bisexual. We’ve seen him have passionate relationships with both men and women.
But mostly it’s notable because of the horrific things that Emily does while still remaining the hero. Emily is always going to be the good guy, no matter how many people she kills and how many lives she ruins.
That’s new territory for a pretty little blonde woman in a ball gown.
And it’s pretty cool.