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.

FILM & TV

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

I Love That This Show Finally Found a Reason to Weave Racism and Homophobia Into Their Highly Sexualized Plotlines…But Why Now?

In it's 4th season, Showtime's drama The Affair, which started out as a steamy forbidden romance, is suddenly taking on issues pertaining to gender and race. Non-hetero normative sexuality was barely ever touched upon on this show, and racism was never talked about…and now all of a sudden (spoiler alert), key characters are facing obstacles surrounding racism and homophobia. What gives?

Don't get me wrong, I love that this show finally found a reason to weave racism and homophobia into their highly sexualized plotlines…but why now? I can't help but think that networks as boundary-breaking as Showtime know their audience, and they must know that anyone who will watch a show about extra-marital affairs…for four seasons…is also concerned with gay rights and racism. Too far a stretch?

Let me connect the dots. If watching someone dissolve a marriage, in almost the most destructive way possible (Noah Solloway did not bow out of his 20-year marriage gracefully) is entertaining to you, it's likely because you relate to some of the characters. Even if you swear that you don't relate to the cheating Noah himself (he is very relatable), the wife he cheated on, Helen, isn't exactly a bowl of ice-cream. Noah is "the cheater" but the writers do a great job at compelling us to love and forgive him despite his indiscretions. So audiences must like Noah at least a bit, as the show's plot-lines rely solely on the fact that there is no one "bad guy," and all characters are flawed and forgivable. Then, isn't it possible that Showtime is making the assumption that audiences who find intellectually sharp, emotionally challenged, complicated characters compelling must be progressives and thus must care about homophobia and racism? I hope so! (I'm sure there is technology that Showtime is using to know if this is true or total malarkey).

So how does the show address racism? Wellll…the best way! From the perspective of white privilege, which is fantastic since even in the era of Black Lives Matter, so many well-meaning white people think they can end racism just by "being nice" to people of color. But you, my sophisticated readers, know that that's ridiculous! You know that racism relies on a system of privilege and it is this system (not individual acts of racism, though duh…those are bad too) is what needs to be disrupted. This unhelpful, "white savior" approach to racism is what I think the writers wanted to depict when they have Noah inspire teenagers of color to stage a school wide walk-out. What happens? He almost gets the kids shot. Why? Because when white suburban kids walk out of a high school the police assume they are protesting peacefully. Guess what they assume when Black teenagers walk out of a high school?

So, Noah learns that he is not Michelle Pfeifer and this isn't Dangerous Minds, and clearly he has no idea how to serve communities of color (hint, it's not by leading them). But don't worry. It looks like he will sleep with the very smart Black principal of the school and all will be forgotten. I said the show "takes on racism," I didn't say it did it well. But don't worry…he has a gay son! I think.

Noah and Helen's son seems to be coming out as gay…but the best part is that Helen is obsessed with the fact that there is a reason for it. It's 2018, this show was seemingly filled with very progressive characters, and yet, the idea that a parent can accidentally make you gay is still a thing. I like this. No, I don't believe it, but I like that this show is shining light on some of the darker ideologies that many families are still dealing with. Yes, we have made progress, and yes we have Queer Eye, Ellen, and Modern Family, but we still have kids being bullied for being gay, families that blame themselves for "making their child homosexual," and millions of people globally who think gay people are sick, broken, and morally screwed. Even in progressive familes you can hear parents say out loud, "Of course we accept you!" and in the same breath utter, "Where did we go wrong?"

This show doesn't get it all right, but I enjoy the nuances of the characters, their outward progressive values, and their veiled unaddressed ignorance. It's how many of the liberals I know exist. When it comes to real life people, it's not all bumper stickers and memes. "Black Lives Matter"…unless you really want that 3 bedroom Victorian in that "up and coming neighborhood" and "Gay Rights Are Human Rights" ...unless I have to take time out of my day to organize a petition. After all, I have a haircut and a basketball game to catch.

Keeping It Real,

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.


Humor

Tig Notaro's New Netflix Special Is AWESOME (& Jennifer Aniston Agrees)

Tig's Ability to Portray and Parlay Hateful and Discriminatory Stances as Ironic Makes her Humor Subversive.

I'll get to Jennifer later, that was just an attention grabber...

Whether you have been a fan of Tig for years, or just fell in love with her show One Mississippi, her recent Netflix Special Happy To Be Here is lovely/hysterical/spot on/enjoyable/worth watching and many more positive adverbs. Tig is most famous for her comedy surrounding extreme life events that she survived like cancer, a double mastectomy, death of her mother, and almost dying from c-diff. That's not what this special is about.

Tig proves she is not only able to make great comedy out of life's misery she is able to make jokes and find humor in the non-dramatics of life - the diapers, the dumb questions your loving spouse asks you, and how people react to your parenting choices. She paints us a picture of a calmer, happier, more stable and healthy phase of life and yet, you will be slapping your knee, mouth open, no sound coming, until your laugh finds its way out.

How great is it that Tig normalizes gay-ness (whatever that is), femaleness, breast-less-ness, etc.? A boyish lesbian with a double mastectomy can still make jokes about day-to-day life. Tig doesn't relegate her humor to lesbian jokes, cancer jokes, etc. Tig has a wife, her wife asks her wicked dumb questions (like "What do you think they are serving for breakfast on the flight this morning?" and "Do you think you should meow at our cat? You don't know what you could be saying to her."). I won't spoil much more of her special but as I said, don't expect just gay jokes, women jokes, cancer stuff. This special is for everyone.

Tig is one of those people who makes everything funny. Her delivery is suuuuper dry. She is comfortable thinking through something on stage, and she doesn't tell "jokes." Tig tells stories, and offers us her unique, hysterical perspective. While I said this special is not relegated to cancer, gay, and death jokes, of course those elements are included, as is marriage, motherhood, and being famous. Tig is able to offer a vantage point on all of these topics from both a marginalized and empowered perspective. Tig is clearly comfortable with so many aspects of herself that so many people in this world are still so uncomfortable with. Tig is able to name this discomfort that others have with her, without blaming them.

What a gift Tig offers us, being able to be comfortable with other people's discomfort. In a world where the news and politicians are polarized, people have to choose sides, choose one community over the other, claim one identify over another, just by being herself, Tig is often able to stand smack in the middle of the fray. She doesn't feed off controversy, but certainly relishes irony. Her ability to portray and parlay hateful and discriminatory stances as ironic is what makes her humor so subversive. When Tig is onstage, it's as if she is leading her own peaceful protest that we all get to watch.

PS: Sounds Like Jennifer Aniston thinks Tig is all that as well since she is on board to star in Netflix's new show First Ladies.

Keepin' It Real

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 | What's So Funny About Splitting Up Together?

This Show's Portrayal of Divorce Actually is Not Far Off

Jenna Fischer we love you. We loved you in The Office and we were ready to love you in almost anything…almost.

ABC's Splitting Up Together might have to fall in the almost category. While no one wants to be pigeonholed, when you think of Jenna Fischer you think of understated, funny, ironic, witty, etc. Splitting Up Together is cutesy, overstated, and serves up obvious punch-lines like hot cakes at IHOP.

Despite the ridiculousness of the almost exclusively white upper-class affluence this show is set in…from a socioeconomic perspective, it's portrayal of what divorce actually might look like is not far off. The fact is, the only reason this show is funny, is because middle class white people are choosing not to divorce like wealthier white people. "Isn't it funny we can't afford two 4-bedroom houses!? Isn't that funny?!!" No, not really. Working class people can't afford to divorce any other way. Splitting Up Together makes financial realities look light-hearted and fun because they had more to start with than most families in America. Oh, and because it's a sitcom on ABC.

When my parents divorced it meant my mom moved into a one-bedroom apartment. She slept in the living room on a daybed, and I slept in the "real room" so I could have a door to close for bedtime, playtime, etc. It wasn't because we were about to starve to death; it was just because we were working-class. We could afford to eat, to go to the movies occasionally, have potlucks, take classes at the rec center, etc.

My dad lived in a small house that he rented in a poorer part of town, but not the worst part of town. As a child I never went without food, electricity, etc., however because of the TV shows I watched and the school I went to, I thought I was being raised in poverty. One of the main reasons I felt "poor" was because I qualified for a full scholarship to private school and got to go to school with some of the wealthiest kids in my city. Had I gone to my local (partly gang-ridden) public school, I would have felt middle class, average, normal.

When it comes to shared-custody situations, the media usually shows wealthy divorces. Kids being shuttled around (and ignored) in the latest mini-van, a doting nanny, a self-absorbed single parent who hates the other self-absorbed single parent, etc. Usually the kids are caught in the middle, the parents don't get along, and they all go home to their beautifully furnished homes. There are problems, but they can afford to solve them without having to communicate in person with the co-parent. Large sums of alimony just magically fill bank accounts. This doesn't happen for most divorced families.

When you don't have lots of money, you might need to live close to your ex, perhaps even in the same house. You might have to take turns picking the kids up from school because you have shift work that is unstable and changes from week to week. You also might rely on each other's families for continued financial support, childcare, holiday observance, birthdays, etc. You don't send a nanny as a go-between, cleanly depositing your children at your former husband or wife's compound. Nope, you drive your own beat-up car to the agreed upon drop off location, and if you can't afford to move out of your ex's home, sometimes that means just walking to the basement apartment or next door (my parents lived in a side-by-side duplex at one point).

I'm sure you have heard of the "Kids Stay" model that suggests keeping kids in the same home and letting the divorced parents travel back and forth. It's so funny that white upper class people need to formalize this with fancy names, when poor people have been doing this for years. Who can afford two houses?! Upper class peeps.

So, if you are upper class, come from divorce, and were shuttled around by nannies, you will think this show is a real hoot. But if you remember staying in your pajamas, walking from your dad's kitchen, to your mom's "living room" you might not see what's so knee slappingly funny. You might just watch and think, wow, that house is beautiful and looks big enough to house four more people.

Keep it Real

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.


POP⚡DUST | Read More…

The REAL REEL | 'Tully' Highlights One Of Our Greatest Fears As Mothers

The REAL REEL | Dear White People

THE REAL REEL | I Love This Show To Pieces And Jew Should Too