Archive for October, 2013

watching t.v. as a woman

I was staying over at a friend’s house who has cable.  I cut my cord years ago, so this was like coming across a secret buffet of all the foods you gave up on your diet.  In the menu of On Demand shows, it has the first season of Magic City, a show I had been curious about because it stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

I loaded up the first episode and settled in to enjoy the ride.  The first thing we see are the credits, which feature a naked woman swimming through space or a pool.  It has the look of a James Bond credit sequence from years ago.  Okay, it’s a period piece, so I get the reference.  The next scene features Mr. Morgan quietly leaving a bed shared with another naked woman.  We get to see that he is also naked, so okay, maybe this is a cable-style show where everyone is naked.  I have no problem with equal opportunity nudity, so I keep watching.

Next comes some exposition where we learn that Morgan’s character Ike Evans has worked very hard to own his very grand hotel free and clear of any mob involvement, and that he now is battling the Unions.  We also learn that the ticking clock is that he has Frank Sinatra staying in his hotel, ready to sing in a show that night, and he has picket lines in front of the hotel.  Someone drowned his wife’s dog to intimidate him, and he throws the corpse back on the picketers, as well as a few punches.  He then orders a flunky to buy a new dog that looks just like the old one so his wife doesn’t notice it’s gone.  So, Evans cares about his business, but not about dealing with his wife’s grief.  Hmm.

The next scene introduces us to a young man driving a car rather recklessly down the highway.  It is revealed that this is because he is receiving a blow job while he drives.  Oh, how edgy and scandalous!  And when he crashes the car into a public fountain, he simply wanders off, leaving our unnamed and unimportant female character wailing about her ruined car.

We learn this young reprobate is Evan’s son when he goes to see his father.  He finds instead the woman who I am presuming is Evan’s wife, clearly a second wife as she is roughly the same age as the son.  He spies on her while she is sunbathing, naked of course, eyeing her salaciously for a while while the camera also eyes her, encouraging the audience to feel the same lust for the offering of her nude body that the character does.  When our young man does make his presence known and she covers up to speak to him, he asks after his father, and the young wife gives a reply that includes an analysis of her husband’s emotional state, about which she is clearly concerned.  She thus establishes her role in this drama is to be the support for her man, as his character takes the journey with which the plot will be concerned.

And that was enough for me.  I switched back to the menu to look for something else to watch.

But, you say gentle reader, this was a period piece!  Of course the women were not central to the action, because real women in that time were just there to support their menfolk!  It wouldn’t be true to the given circumstances if they made three-dimensional female characters who moved the action!

Well, yes, not all women of that period had agency.  But not all men of that period owned large hotels in which Frank Sinatra was about to sing.  These male characters are by no means Average Joes either – rich and powerful and concerned with Very Important Things.  We choose to tell their stories because they are such men.  And yet, we choose not to tell the stories of such women.  It’s also a choice to only put into the stories we do tell, the small (albeit present) percentage of women who had no power or agency of their own, but could only try to influence the actions of the men who did.  This is a choice.  Don’t tell me there aren’t good stories that can be told about powerful and influential women.  They are plentiful, if you do the barest amount of research.

So I’m sorry, Magic City.  You are shot beautifully, and have some great talent telling your story.  But it’s a story that is being told without me in mind, and has nothing to say to me, like so many other pretty stories produced by Hollywood.  I’ll pass.