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Finding a muse

The most amazing thing happened this week! I met my good friend Dr. D, who is so like me it is eerie, for lunch. Apparently being born in 1973 led to some pretty twisted personalities. In addition to getting our Ph.D. in the same field (at different institutions with different specialties), Dr. D and I share a love of crime novels, BBC crime/mystery shows, Discovery ID, and a healthy fascination with serial killers.

The idea of a healthy fascination with serial killers could seem like an oxymoron, but hear me out. While she and I will both spend hours watching Discovery ID and Biography specials, reading mystery novels, etc, each of us maintains an empathy for the victims, and neither of us is going to start writing letters to prisons any time soon.

As I have written before, though perhaps not here, I believe my fascination with serial killers stems from having grown up in the Pacific Northwest. Although Bundy had been caught in Florida by the time my family moved to Washington, the stories about Bundy and his preference for girls with long straight hair parted down the middle were still omni-present. Those stories also held a particular fascination for a 10 year old girl with long straight brown hair that parted in the middle. I’m not saying any of his victims really looked like me,Bundy's Victims image from http://justmeinthisbox.tripod.com/BUNDY.jpg but they did present a window into what I could look like when I grew up. By the time we moved from Minnesota/Canada Bundy’s Washington siege was over; however, Green River Killer victims were being found at an alarming rate through a good part of my childhood.

Dr. D, I learned that first day we spent getting to know each other, grew up in Atlanta during the Atlanta Child Murders. While she did not fit the victim profile for those murders, the similarity between our likes and fascinations seemed to bolster my opinion that growing up in the shadow of an active serial killer leaves a mark. It is not any one thing I can describe clearly, but I do not believe the similarities between Dr. D and I are that odd when you take into account our formative environments. Children pick up on so much more than we give them credit for, and I couldn’t even guess at the consequences this contemporary melange of misogyny, sex, and violence will have.

Anyway, I think you can see why Dr. D told me I needed to watch Hannibal and tell her what I thought. It might also explain why I broke through my television ennui to actually do it. Dr. D’s recommendation, and my love of the characters in Thomas Harris’ series, led me to go so far as to get the NBC app to catch up to where the series is now. Having admitted to my love of this particular set of Harris’ characters, I also have to give this disclaimer – that love doesn’t extend to some sort of desire for utter faithfulness to Harris’s world or vision. While I enjoyed the book Hannibal, I think there are some important ways the movie is better, which is also true of Silence of the Lambs. All of which could be the topic of a different set of posts.

The television ennui I mentioned above extends over the whole of my life.  Being truly done, having finally received my Ph.D., left me at some fairly significant loose ends. Sure, there is more time to fill, but I haven’t had the drive to fill it with anything. The last two weeks I have spent poking at things – starting crochet projects instead of finishing the ones I already have, whacking snakes in Tapped Out, looking at the mess of a desk I still need to clean up, and wanting to write a blog post here or there – but not feeling like I had anything to say. So, something pretty amazing happened as I began watching NBC’s Hannibal, I realized I had something to say. I won’t make any promises about the speed in which I will write these posts, but I do know there are at least two different posts coming about this show.

Re-run – Rizzoli & Isles Pt. 2

Having vented a little of my general frustration with Rizzoli & Isles, I can actually be a little more articulate about what it is that bothers me about the show.  Rizzoli & Isles is a textbook example of embedded feminism being used to mask enlightened sexism.   Susan J. Douglas’s book Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work is Done, needs to be on your reading list already, put it there.  Douglas defined embedded feminism as “the way in which women’s achievements, or their desire for achievement, are simply a part of the cultural landscape” (9).  Embedded feminism is partly achieved through the representational parity numbers game.  The networks can say, “Look at all the women doctors, lawyers, cops, etc.  on tv, clearly women can be anything they want now.”  Networks can claim that airing shows with strong women in professional careers some how makes up for the blatant misogyny in a show like Two and a Half Men, or the only slightly more subtle misogyny in Big Bang Theory.  If you are, like me, a little crime show obsessed, Dr. Kimberly DeTardo-Bora’s 2009 article in Women & Criminal Justice, “Criminal Justice ‘Hollywood Style’: How Women in Criminal Justice Professions Are Depicted in Prime-Time Crime Dramas,” is a fascinating read. The short summary is that women are over-represented on television compared to their actual presence in the criminal justice field.

Taking its name from the two lead women, Rizzoli & Isles clearly establishes a kind of embedded feminism; it also establishes a “look how far we’ve come” ethos by subtly calling Cagney & Lacey to mind.  I’d love to do a stronger comparison between the two shows, but I don’t have many clear memories of Cagney & Lacey, and haven’t seen an episode since I was nine. Both titular characters are strong women, and have achieved success in their careers, and really that is about it for feminism in Rizzoli & Isles.

Douglas says, a constant companion to embedded feminism is enlightened sexism, which is “[the insistence] that women have made plenty of progress because of feminism – indeed, full equality has allegedly been achieved—so now it’s okay, even amusing, to resurrect sexist stereotypes of girls and women” (9).  This explains why we are supposed to laugh when Rizzoli is tricked into a dress and a date by her mother.  Her inability to conform to accepted modes of femininity, while clearly embodying those forms, is constant fodder for humor in the show. Nothing is funnier than trying to get Rizzoli in a dress, but … damn, if doesn’t she fill out a dress perfectly.

But what about Dr. Isles she is amazing at her job, and manages to do it all in style with perfect hair, fashionable clothes, and always, always in killer heels.  I’d have to go through episodes again, but I’m pretty sure we’ve never seen Dr. Isles (even mid-autopsy) in scrubs.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain the absurdity of that.  Even if I’m wrong about the scrubs, the bigger issue is that despite the fact that she is clearly smart, and feminine, she can’t keep a date because she only looks feminine. She drives men away because she cannot hide her intelligence.

At their very core, these two characters, who are supposed to embody at least one feminist goal (having a career), are played for laughs for all the ways they do not conform to cultural stereotypes about women.  Yet, because it is couched in humor, and we’re supposedly smarter than buying into the stereotypes, if we find the show’s treatment of its titular characters offensive, it is because we don’t know how to take a joke.

Re-runs

In an effort to get back into the swing of blogging, I read through some of my previous posts.  I think these two posts about Rizzoli and Isles deserve a re-run. I will re-post them over the next couple of days.

As a fan of Tess Gerritsen’s books, when I learned TNT was giving two of Gerritsen’s central characters a show of their own, I was excited, and set my dvr accordingly. Then, I set about waiting to see who had been cast in the titular roles.  Don’t ask, it never really occurs to me that I could, you know, use the internet to find out stuff like that in advance.  It was obvious from the first commercials I saw that whatever TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles was going to be, it wasn’t going to be too much like the books.  For about 7 books I’d imagined Rizzoli, as she is described, with a mop of unruly dark curls, and as good looking, but in a unconventional way;  Dr. Isles was, as she is often described, the queen of the dead, a little goth, with red lipstick and straight black hair cut in a bob with straight bangs – which is, as it turns out, how Ms. Gerritsen looks (well, not exactly goth, but you get the idea).  While there was never any doubt in my mind these women would be beautiful in their own ways, um … Angie Harmon and Sasha Anderson were not exactly the faces that lept into my mind as I read these books.

To paraphrase Mr. Gump, casting is as casting does.  It was silly to have any hopes that these women might be cast differently.  This is a review of the show not the books, so this is the last comparison I will make between the two.  One of the most compelling aspects of these characters as written are their insecurities, and Jane Rizzoli’s insecurities are tied to her place in a male profession, and what she sees as her inability to meet feminine standards of beauty; it is impossible to make those insecurities play when the woman playing Rizzoli is Angie Harmon.

Like I said, although I’d initially hoped for something a little different, this review isn’t about comparing the television show to the books.  The characters, stories, and tone of each is distinct enough that a real comparison is impossible.  The books are detective fiction, pure and simple.  The television show walks the genre lines between serious police procedural and comedy.  It is almost as if the producers really wanted an hour long comedy, and knew stretching a sit com that long would grow tedious, so they decided to incorporate a police procedural to bump up the story.  I’ve never seen an episode of Nash Bridges, so I could be wrong, but Rizzoli & Isles makes me think it is like a female version of that show.

It might surprise you, but the light nature of the show is not really what bothers me.  A lot of police procedurals err in the opposite way, taking themselves too seriously. What bothers me about Rizzoli & Isles is that the light tone is achieved at the expense of the title characters. At every turn the show undermines the power of two strong women working together, and becoming friends by making every second conversation between the two about getting, or having, a relationship, every third conversation about the case – as if their jobs are an afterthought, and the remaining conversations about clothes and shoes.  There has to be some sort of heterosexual romance for at least one of the women in nearly every episode because the writers are working overtime to ensure that it is clear Rizzoli & Isles are not lesbians.  (Well, except for those episodes where they pretend to be lesbians – you know, for laughs. Because apparently that is funny.)  As a viewer it is impossible to take either Rizzoli or Isles seriously because at every turn we are reminded that Rizzoli can’t get a man because she is not feminine enough, and that despite looking like a fashion plate Isles can’t function socially because she is just too smart.

I keep watching, hoping, for that moment when instead of going for the obvious – undermining women stereotype or joke, the writers will surprise me, but it never comes.

Cutting my losses …

This morning I finally finished the revisions to Chapter1 *mostly*, which will end up either Chapter 2 or 3.  It is way more than a day late, but hopefully not too short.

The *mostly* (should sound like Newt from Aliens) is because I am waiting on a primary source from the library.  When I get it I will have to go back to change one paragraph, but I’m pretty comfortable with that.

Today’s problem is that my brain, motivation, and body all decided that finishing that chapter was good enough.  I needed a two hour nap, and once I discovered the Luther marathon, well it really was all she wrote. Idris Elba people, Idris Elba.

Image

So, right now I am trying really hard not to beat myself up about my productivity today.

All day I have been mulling where to go next.  Continue on to Chapter 2, where I can work through feed back, or go back to the Preface/Introduction/Chapter 1 type thing, where I need to actually produce new stuff.

In other news, apparently I watch bad television so you don’t have to.  This week I set the dvr to record the series premiere of Perception.  Apparently, both dvr settings were set to record, and there was nothing recorded he wanted to watch, so the DH ended up watching Perception first.  A few days later he mentioned how bad it was.

Foolish me, I chalked it up to his lack of love for the police procedural.  Last night, when my brain was completely fried from the week, I turned on Perception, thinking it might as well give it a try.  Ummm, wow, just wow.  I don’t remember the last thing I have seen that was such a jumble of cliches and really improbable situations.

  • Brilliant, but mentally ill / sick (we don’t know) college professor – he hallucinates, possibly schizophrenic, who’s specialty is “forensic neuropyschiatry”
  • Determines one suspects innocence by diagnosing rare neurological condition
  • “Consults” for the FBI in his spare time – because apparently he never has to prep for class and/or grade
  • Determines another suspect is lying by showing the tape to a mental patient who functions as a human lie detector.
  • FBI agent is former student, barely looks 22 but has already been promoted/demoted from the field office to Quantico and back.  Oh, and whoever this girl is – worst actress ever – really, it is not even worth looking up her name.

House meets Monk meets the Mentalist = worst television ever.

Normally, I am generous with a new show and give it the entire first season, but Perception has already been removed from the dvr settings.

Forbidden Writing, or Rizzoli & Isles Pt. 2

Having only written about 490 words yesterday, there is no way I should be writing here this morning. As someone who can follow every rule, but the one she set for herself — well, it’s probably pretty predictable that I would be writing here this morning.

Having vented a little of my general frustration with Rizzoli & Isles, I can actually be a little more articulate about what it is that bothers me about the show.  Rizzoli & Isles is a textbook example of embedded feminism being used to mask enlightened sexism.  Last year, Susan J. Douglas’s book Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work is Done was published, and if it is not on your reading list already, put it there.  Douglas defined embedded feminism as “the way in which women’s achievements, or their desire for achievement, are simply a part of the cultural landscape” (9).  Embedded feminism is partly achieved through the representational parity numbers game.  The networks can say, “Look at all the women doctors, lawyers, cops, etc.  on tv, clearly women can be anything they want now.”  Networks can claim that airing shows with strong women in professional careers some how makes up for the blatant misogyny in a show like Two and a Half Men, or the only slighly more subtle misogyny in Big Bang Theory.  If you are, like me, a little crime show obsessed, Dr. Kimberly DeTardo-Bora’s 2009 article in Women & Criminal Justice, “Criminal Justice ‘Hollywood Style’: How Women in Criminal Justice Professions Are Depicted in Prime-Time Crime Dramas,” is a fascinating read. The short summary is that women are over-represented compared to their actual presence in the criminal justice field.  It is of course more complicated than that – the article is a fascinating read.

Taking its name from the two lead women, Rizzoli & Isles clearly establishes a kind of embedded feminism; it also establishes a “look how far we’ve come” ethos by subtly calling Cagney & Lacey to mind.  I’d love to do a stronger comparison between the two shows, but I don’t have many clear memeories of Cagney & Lacey, and haven’t seen an episode since I was nine. Both titular characters are strong women, and have achieved success in their careers, and really that is about it for feminism in Rizzoli & Isles.

A constant companion to embedded feminism, enlightened sexism is “[the insistence] that women have made plenty of progress because of feminism – indeed, full equality has allegedly been achieved—so now it’s okay, even amusing, to resurrect sexist stereotypes of girls and women” (9).  This explains why we are supposed to laugh when Rizzoli is tricked into a dress and a date by her mother.  Her inability to conform to accepted modes of femininity, while clearly embodying those forms, is constant fodder for humor in the show. Nothing is funnier than trying to get Rizzoli in a dress, but … damn, if doesn’t she fill out a dress perfectly.

But what about Dr. Isles she is amazing at her job, and manages to do it all in style with perfect hair, fashionable clothes, and always, always in killer heels.  I’d have to go through episodes again, but I’m pretty sure we’ve never seen Dr. Isles (even mid-autopsy) in scrubs.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain the absurdity of that.  Even if I’m wrong about the scrubs, the bigger issue is that despite the fact that she is clearly smart, and feminine, she can’t keep a date because she only looks feminine. She drives men away because she cannot hide her intelligence.

At their very core, these two characters, who are supposed to embody at least one feminist goal (having a career), are played for laughs for all the ways they do not conform to cultural stereotypes about women.  Yet, because it is couched in humor, and we’re supposedly smarter than buying into the stereotypes, if we find the show’s treatment of its titular characters offensive, it is because we don’t know how to take a joke.

Disappointment – Rizzoli & Isles

As an incentive to keep myself from giving up on my dissertation today I promised myself that if I wrote 1000 dissertation words, I’d reward myself by writing a review of TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles.  All the books say never to reward yourself by taking a day off writing, they don’t say anything about rewarding yourself by more writing.  Yes, it does sound a little sick when I say it out loud.

As a fan of Tess Gerritsen’s books, when I learned TNT was giving Gerritsen’s central characters a show of their own, I was excited, and set my dvr accordingly. Then, I set about waiting to see who had been cast in the titular roles.  Don’t ask, it never really occurs to me that I could, you know, use the internet to find out stuff like that in advance.  It was obvious from the first commercials I saw that whatever TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles was going to be, it wasn’t going to be too much like the books.  For about 7 books I’d imagined Rizzoli, as she is described, with a mop of unruly dark curls, and as good looking, but in a unconventional way;  Dr. Isles was, as she is often described, the queen of the dead, a little goth, with red lipstick and straight black hair cut in a bob with straight bangs – which is, as it turns out, how Ms. Gerritsen looks (well, not exactly goth, but you get the idea).  While there was never any doubt in my mind these women would be beautiful in their own ways, um … Angie Harmon and Sasha Anderson were not exactly the faces that lept into my mind as I read these books.

To paraphrase Mr. Gump, casting is as casting does.  It was silly to have any hopes that these women might be cast differently.  This is a review of the show not the books, so this is the last comparison I will make between the two.  One of the most compelling aspects of these characters as written are their insecurities, and Jane Rizzoli’s insecurities are tied to her place in a male profession, and what she sees as her inability to meet feminine standards of beauty; it is impossible to make those insecurities play when the woman playing Rizzoli is Angie Harmon.

Like I said, although I’d initially hoped for something a little different, this review isn’t about comparing the television show to the books.  The characters, stories, and tone of each is distinct enough that a real comparison is impossible.  The books are detective fiction, pure and simple.  The television show walks the genre lines between serious police procedural and comedy.  It is almost as if the producers really wanted an hour long comedy, and knew stretching a sit com that long would grow tedious, so they decided to incorporate a police procedural to bump up the story.  I’ve never seen an episode, so I could be wrong, but Rizzoli & Isles makes me think it is like a female Nash Bridges.

It might surprise you, but the light nature of the show is not really what bothers me.  A lot of police procedurals err in the opposite way, taking themselves too seriously. What bothers me about Rizzoli & Isles is that the light tone is achieved at the expense of the title characters. At every turn the show undermines the power of two strong women working together, and becoming friends by making every second conversation between the two about getting, or having, a relationship, every third conversation about the case – as if their jobs are an afterthought, and the remaining conversations about clothes and shoes.  There has to be some sort of heterosexual romance for at least one of the women in nearly every episode because the writers are working overtime to ensure that it is clear Rizzoli & Isles are not lesbians.  (Well, except for those episodes where they pretend to be lesbians – you know, for laughs.)  As a viewer it is impossible to take either Rizzoli or Isles seriously because at every turn we are reminded that Rizzoli can’t get a man because she is not feminine enough, and that despite looking like a fashion plate Isles can’t function socially because she is just too smart.

I keep watching, hoping, for that moment when instead of going for the obvious – undermining women stereotype or joke, the writers will surprise me.