TV

THE REAL REEL | Australian Show "Sisters" is Worth a Peek

This show's success relies largely on women disrupting female stereotypes and acting humorously "out of character."

Oh Netflix. More shows for white middle class folks...that I enjoyed, despite being fully aware that this show in no way represents racial or economic realities for a multicultural audience.

They did however succeed in depicting a sexually non-binary (code for not "totally straight, gay, or bi") character…so thank you for that! It also holds the topic of fertility at the center of the plot, which in my opinion, may be the defining issue for middle- to upper-class women of this current generation. This show attempts to give you a version of 'woman' that you can relate to, much like white girls did with Sex In The City ("you are SUCH a Miranda!"). While it does do some gender/sexuality bending, it sticks to fairly normative feminine ideals, while succeeding in not totally overgeneralizing their identities.

Sisters is an Australian show that feels like an ongoing romantic comedy. It has a fun plot with lots of lovable characters, and some pretty awesome female characters that challenge some conformist gender identities. In everyday language; the ladies on this show are pretty awesome. If you wanted to, you could easily generalize the main characters into three archetypes, being, the 'pretty blond,' the 'fun-loving-down-to-earth-girl,' and 'the power-suit-emotionless-smart-girl.' The show's success relies largely on these women disrupting those stereotypes and acting "out of character," so to speak.

The main character Julia played by Maria Angelico is a curvy, no frills, not much makeup, but pretty feminine, happy to be a woman character. We see her as the girl next store type… always wants to do the right thing, a little codependent, but resists many other feminine media ideals like anorexia and a competitive nature against other women. She's a "girl's girl" who trusts her intuition, enjoys her sexuality, and stands up for "what's right," unmotivated by money, material goods, or status. Her main challenge...to fight for what/who she wants.

The other main character, Roxy, played by Lucy Durack, is the "pretty blond," but audiences get to see her challenge feminine ideals, struggle with addiction, and lots of other human situations that endear audiences to her. While seemingly a "simple" character, we learn some of the costs of fame and being a "good lady," through Roxy's struggles. Admittedly, her character is the least compelling, as she is psychologically young, and some of her plotlines come off as too basic.

The third main character, Edie, played by Antonia Prebble is arguably the most complex character on the show, mostly due to her sexuality. She is a smart, a go-getter lawyer who normally can keep any emotions at bay, and embodies all the traits of a stereotypical revered professional man...until she falls in love with (SPOILER ALERT) someone who is not her husband...and is not a man. While resisting and hating the term lesbian, she is forced to recon with her sexuality that is as surprising to her as everyone else. (This is where I remind us that having feelings for someone of the same sex is only surprising in a society whose homophobic hegemonic forces impose only binary sexualities and relationships.) SO, 1990s...and plotlines like this should not still be surprising…but they are.

Shocking to admit that in almost 2019 it's even possible to surprise audiences with an "OMG she's gay!?" plotline. Just goes to show you where we still are as a society. If queer and interracial, relationships are still even "interesting," not because of the character's personalities, but simply because they challenge popular configurations of relationships and sexuality in the media… we still have further to go. So many shows are considered progressive and "current" because they have queer or interracial family members but often it's their queerness and race we find the most interesting. Its still absorbed as a "peek" at "the other."

I like this show and many others that give us that "peek." I do however yearn for the days that gay, queer, working class, and multiracial are boring, the norm, and are taken for granted. Then we will know that our racism, sexism, and homophobia are no longer at the center of our society. Until then...I will keep "peeking."

Speaking of peeking...Boo! Happy Almost Hallows Eve...a wonderful time to have fun genderbending.

Rachel


Rachel Hall has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, is a writer, a personal coach, and even though she is very very fun (just ask her three-year-old daughter) due to her academic inclinations, always the pooper at the party. She works with all kinds of people to improve their ability to work with all kinds of people. She can often be found hiding from her two children in her laundry room. More about her on her website.


POP⚡DUST | Read More…

The REAL REEL | Formally Obsessed With Hulu's 'Casual'

THE REAL REEL | Showtime's 'I'm Dying Up Here' Is Everything

THE REAL REEL | Showtime's 'The Affair' Addresses Homophobia & Racism

FILM & TV

THE REAL REEL | Formally Obsessed With “Casual”

This Show Makes Us Feel Good About Our Functionally Dysfunctional Families

Hulu has done it again.

They fired up a show of mostly well-off white people, that I had to watch in its entirety. Truth be told, I didn't watch it with scorn or irony, I genuinely enjoyed it. They pushed the gender boundary, so realistically and subtly, it was hard for me not to love. Why did I not want to love watching this show? Because any issues pertaining to race were ignored for the most part. The show has one character who is Black and English and one Asian American, but they stay in an almost all-white world where their race is seemingly unnoticed. Buuuuut...I watched it all and it still remains in my most enjoyed shows categories for a few reasons. It does "queer" well, it does "over 40 woman" well, and it normalizes "non-traditional" family pretty swimmingly.

What does "doing queer" well, mean? It means that this show presented us with a main character who winds up dating a woman...but she isn't reduced to her "gayness". Often times when people on TV are gay they "come out" as….something (gay, bi, trans, etc…) but it's clear that we (who are we...I'm not sure, because it's certainly not all of us) are moving towards a post-sexuality label movement.

Of course because homophobia/transphobia is still so perverse...we need labels and language to effect change...but so many people don't want to have a political name attached to their individual identity. It drove me CRAZY when people asked me "so are you bi?" "are you a lesbian" "is this a faze"? There's no name for a sexuality for people who only date large people, blondes, rich people, etc…one does not ask someone, "So...are you a baldsexual?" if their last partner was a bald man. I'm ranting...because we need the labels and I hate the labels, both things can be true for now. That being said, Laura played by Tara Lynne Barr, does not offer us the opportunity to be labeled. She just starts dating a woman and we have no idea if she "is now a lesbian" or bi, or what, it's not discussed, belabored, or announced. It is just accepted, like a spoonful of honey. It's freakin' refreshing!

Thank goodness for Val's character, played by Michaela Watkins, she gives those of us women who are approaching "mid-life" (when the hell does that actually begin?) some hope. Hope that we can remain a mess, have sex, drop the ball, wonder about life, begin new careers, new relationships…ya know, basically that we are not dead and invisible to the world. Sounds sarcastic but most women over 30 on television seem to exist only to serve others in a care-taking role, a doting wife, responsible mother, reliable secretary, or cold bitchy shrewd who is sad and lonely.

Val's character complicates the "over 40," without clinging to her youth, or putting one foot in the grave. She is very much alive, very agile, confused, and begrudgingly open. You get the sense that she surprises herself with her choices of sexual partners (has a "later life" lesbian experience), career shifts, etc…She remains youthful in her ability to admit how lost one can be at 40, but in no way wants or pretends to be 25.

Ooook. Let's talk about families. I don't know about you but at my current family holiday gatherings, often present are my divorced parents and my dad's partner who is exactly 18 months younger than I am. I love her. Also, there is usually a family friend who is single, perhaps an elderly person whose partner passed away many moons ago (insert archaic term 'widow', maybe a queer couple, and a sprinkling of a single parent and child.

As a child growing up, holidays were often either a bunch of heavily intoxicated hippies, or a slightly more subdued group of single mothers and children. Either way, there was never a bunch of happily married couples and their well-planned children. Even divorced families on TV are usually super hetero-normative, and the divorced flaky father/mother messing up the family function is now way too played out.

For centuries, families have been made up of all kinds of people and now, we have a generation who has seen way too much divorce, and are marrying at some of the lowest rates in history. That being said...we still don't know exactly what that looks like. If we are not marrying, but having children...do we live together? Do we date other people? Do we live together and date other people? WE DON'T KNOW. That's OK…we are figuring it out and in 20 years there will be all kinds of statistics on us. For now, we can know that families with three parents, one parent and 20 friends, 2 parents and 3 nannies, one Petri dish and a surrogate, etc…are all happening. This show deals less with what is "good" and "bad" and more with what...is.

I have to get slightly sentimental and acknowledge that this show does a great job of showing us that love means showing up for someone, over and over again. Love does not necessarily mean marriage, heart-shaped muffins, and a minivan with exactly two cis-gender parents. This show does a horrible job of portraying economic realities...horrible. We barely know what Alex, played by Tommy Dewey does for a living, we just know he pays the mortgage on a really expensive house. Shove that economic fact deep into the dark tunnels of your brain (where you store the leftover memories of '90s infomercials perhaps) and focus on the fact that this show makes some of us feel good about our functionally dysfunctional families.

Casually,

Rachel


By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, is a writer, a personal coach, and even though she is very very fun (just ask her three-year-old daughter) due to her academic inclinations, always the pooper at the party. She works with all kinds of people to improve their ability to work with all kinds of people. She can often be found hiding from her two children in her laundry room. More about her on her website.

FILM & TV

THE REAL REEL | Showtime's 'I'm Dying Up Here' is Everything

This Show Asks Us to Embrace Our Humanity and to Look Ahead with Hope. It Also Shows Us Just How Hard This is to Do.

http://www.tracking-board.com/im-dying-up-here-review-the-unbelievable-power-of-believing/

By "everything," I mean it checks all the boxes of an addictive, binge-worthy show.

Boxes like great characters, great writing, great set, beautifully captured '70s era, a plot you are excited about and engaged with…but several episodes in realize you don't really care about the plot because you could watch these characters do nothing all… day… long. Sadly you can't watch them do nothing all day long…but you can watch them for a solid hour, one episode at a time, and I can't get enough of them. The fact that this show also checks my "Real Reel" boxes of incorporating aspects of race, class, and gender struggles is just heaven.

Most people would rather eat live worms than to perform stand up comedy. I'm not one of those people. For a hot minute I dabbled in stand up…and by hot minute I mean I took one measly stand up class thinking I would learn a little about writing material. I was shocked to find out that there would be a live, end-of-class stand up performance in front of our friends and family, and anyone else we were dumb enough to invite. Of course some people fled the class after finding out that tiny performance requirement. I did not. Instead, I got a stomachache, lots of anxiety, and plunged ahead. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. Some people jump out of airplanes, some people don't floss regularly, and some people do stand up. It is just one example of a high that can be extremely invigorating or a total crash and burn. I say all this to let my readers know that my five minutes attempting to be publicly and purposefully funny clearly makes me an expert to review this show from a "comic" perspective. Hopefully you get my sarcasm here.

Don't watch this show because you love stand up and truly appreciate comics; although what kind of un-self-deprecating-confidant-self-esteem-fueled monster doesn't? Watch this show because you love dynamic, nuanced, multi-faceted characters; characters who are confidant savants in one realm, and complete idiots in others. Characters you will relate to because they succeed and fail as often as you and I do. These characters make you uncomfortable, sad, and proud. They are full bodied, well-rounded, and beautifully flawed. They are not "just gay" or "just Black" or "just a feminist" or "just a junkie". While these characters struggle with deeply personal issues pertaining to their race, class, and gender, it is never just one issue or struggle that defines them. Their race intersects with their sexuality; their economic background challenges their reproductive path, their abusive path butts up against their masculinity. For every idiosyncrasy you hate about one of the characters, there is something about them you will love equally.

You will watch this show and forgive yourself for transgressions you were both aware of, and unaware of. This show begs us to acknowledge our past, validate all the ways others have hurt us as well as all the ways we have hurt others…but not to be consumed, defined, and limited by these assaults. This show asks us to embrace our humanity and to look ahead with hope. It also shows us just how hard this is to do.

A joke is just a joke, but comedy is a moment of connection. This show pierces us right in the heart of everything that matters, and dare I say…connects us to our higher purpose.


By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, is a writer, a personal coach, and even though she is very very fun (just ask her three-year-old daughter) due to her academic inclinations, always the pooper at the party. She works with all kinds of people to improve their ability to work with all kinds of people. She can often be found hiding from her two children in her laundry room. More about her on her website.