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 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.
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