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    Women and Drama!

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    Loki

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    Women and Drama!

    Post by Loki on Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:33 pm

    Hey friends! Todd!! posted this article between Matt Zoller and Alan Sepinwall on the Twitters. It's pretty great as a whole, but I wanted to discuss this page, which gets into some interesting ideas about gender and feminism.

    I disagree with the implicit ideas behind this statement:

    "t’s also interesting that so many of the so-called 'quality dramas,' the dramas that are descended from Hill Street and that critics think of as recappable, are extremely male in their focus. They may or may not have strong female characters built in as well, but often they’re male focused. And more often than not they’re built around crime or violence."

    I agree that there is a male focus on many of the big quality dramas. Certainly I don't think you can argue that Mad Men or Breaking Bad or similar programming are extremely male in their focus. However I don't think it is as widespread as this article seems to indicate. Buffy, Veronica Mars, Damages, and Homeland cover, essentially, the entire period of time this article is discussing. Battlestar Galactica very consciously always had a male and a female character paired of approximately equivalent rank and series importance. Adma and Roslin, Starbuck and Apollo, Helo and Sharon, Baltar and Six. While Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones and The Wire have ensemble casts so massive that calling any singular character the lead is somewhat ridiculous While I think this assertion is based on a partial truth, I think a lot of it goes down to the idea that as far as current dramas are concerned there's Mad Men and Breaking Bad and then everything else.

    I also think tied up in this is the idea that crime and violence are inherently masculine traits. I think that is reductivist and dismissive. Are Buffy and Veronica Mars somehow unfeminine because they are built around crime and violence? Is Mad Man somehow less masculine because it is not about crime, but about relationships? The sub-text of this statement is that there are men's shows and there are women's shows, and men's shows are about big guns and big explosions while women's shows are about love and romance. I could not disagree more. I think one of the more interesting things is the slow evolution of the female anti-hero becoming a Tony Soprano or Walter White figure. Starting with Veronica Mars. She was always "right" in the sense that she was always on the side of the victims rather than the perpetrators (and if she was on the wrong side, it was because she was mistaken and immediately jumped to the right side). However her tactics were anything goes, ends justify the means. She was occasionally criminally complicit, and often ethically compromised. After he was Nancy Botwin on Weeds, who was an actual criminal. In the seasons of Weeds I have seen, she was buffeted by the same pressures as Walter White, just never putting her in the extreme positions he has been in, however she consistently compromised herself and endangered her family for the easy money, thrill and empire building. Patty Hewes on Damages is as much an absolute monster as anyone she fights against. A woman with utter narcissistic-sociopathy, who attempted to put a hit out on one of her employees and has no qualms about employing any dirty trick to win a case. The only thing that keeps her just a shade shy of Tony or Walter is the fact that her chosen setting is corporate law rather than criminal cartels. Finally there is Emily Thorne on Revenge, a show which is, in every single way, a traditional, late night soap opera but loads it up with violence, crime and superheroics. Its a show that takes both the concepts of feminine and masculine TV and shoves them together with a female protagonist who is clearly a rather vicious anti-hero. I think stating it is either women or male focused is an incredibly superficial statement unless you are talking marketing demographics (and we shouldn't!).

    Once more I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding as to why people dislike Skyler. I absolutely agree it can express itself in a misogynistic way, but I don't think it actually originates in misogyny. For good or for ill, whether we like him or not, Walter White is the protagonist of Breaking Bad, which makes Skyler often an antagonist. In the beginning she's specifically a problem that Walt has to get around. He has to make his meth without her finding out. It reduces her to a simple dramatic plot device and makes her an uninteresting one at that. Skyler wondering where Walt spends his days is not as compelling a conflict as Hank's investigation into Heisenberg. Skyler is at her best when she is making her own moral compromises, rather than as just another obstacle for Walt to overcome. This is far, far, far more obvious with Lori on The Walking Dead. In order to create dramatic conflict, Lori would always take the exact opposite side as Rick, without any logical reason. Sometimes in direct conflict with what her position was an episode or even less before. A wife on a drama can not exist primarily as a means to introduce conflict with the protagonist without the audience disliking them.
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    odduck

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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by odduck on Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:57 pm

    Loki wrote:Are Buffy and Veronica Mars somehow unfeminine because they are built around crime and violence?

    Nope, they're also not "quality dramas".

    Loki wrote:The sub-text of this statement is that there are men's shows and there are women's shows, and men's shows are about big guns and big explosions while women's shows are about love and romance.

    I don't see it that way. I think you're reading way too much into it.

    Loki wrote:I also think tied up in this is the idea that crime and violence are inherently masculine traits. I think that is reductivist and dismissive.

    They can look like inherently masculine traits, because they are part of the norm of masculinity for such a huge chunk of society. So much of the fiction aimed at boys and men, from toys to movies, pushes violence and crime, so in the end men do tend to be more attracted to it imo, irregardless if there was an initial natural inclination to it or not.

    Gauephat

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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by Gauephat on Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:40 pm

    One could argue that most crime stems inherently from violence, therefore naturally making it a male-dominated area.
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    Chicanery

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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by Chicanery on Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:48 pm

    Because women can't be violent?
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    UnregisteredGuyNamedEric

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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by UnregisteredGuyNamedEric on Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:38 pm

    High on my own DRAMA??

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    affrosponge88
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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by affrosponge88 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:25 pm

    First off, I pretty much agree with everything Loki has pointed out. Secondly, Buffy and Veronica Mars are quality dramas, whether Odduck likes them or not is independent from that fact.


    Last edited by affrosponge88 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:07 am; edited 1 time in total


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    Gauephat

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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by Gauephat on Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:03 am

    Chicanery wrote:Because women can't be violent?

    They can be, but societal and inherent physical limitations prevent them from being as violent as men.

    Men are almost 10 times as likely to commit murder.
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    odduck

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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by odduck on Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:06 am

    affrosponge88 wrote:Secondly, Buffy and Veronica Mars are quality dramas.

    You can call them quality dramas all you like, and they do have a lot of elements of quality dramas, but you can't deny that they're not generally considered quality dramas.
    That's not because they're lacking quality or drama, that's because they're adding an element which most people do not want in their quality dramas: too much humor. The thing that all quality dramas share imo is the fact that they take themselves very seriously, even if they throw in a joke or an ironic twist from time to time. Buffy and Mars have too many tongue in cheek moments that distract from the generally accepted quality drama atmosphere.
    I'm not very familiar with Buffy (I might have watched the first two seasons, but that was more than a decade ago), but I'm pretty sure it also has numerous meta moments, which again don't help it in that regard and detract from the seriousness.
    Weeds kinda has the same problem, even if it employs a very different tone than those two. Out of all the shows Loki listed, I think Damages and Homeland have the highest chances of joining that quality drama hall of fame.
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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by digifreak642 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:56 am

    odduck wrote:
    affrosponge88 wrote:Secondly, Buffy and Veronica Mars are quality dramas.

    You can call them quality dramas all you like, and they do have a lot of elements of quality dramas, but you can't deny that they're not generally considered quality dramas.
    That's not because they're lacking quality or drama, that's because they're adding an element which most people do not want in their quality dramas: too much humor. The thing that all quality dramas share imo is the fact that they take themselves very seriously, even if they throw in a joke or an ironic twist from time to time. Buffy and Mars have too many tongue in cheek moments that distract from the generally accepted quality drama atmosphere.
    I'm not very familiar with Buffy (I might have watched the first two seasons, but that was more than a decade ago), but I'm pretty sure it also has numerous meta moments, which again don't help it in that regard and detract from the seriousness.
    Weeds kinda has the same problem, even if it employs a very different tone than those two. Out of all the shows Loki listed, I think Damages and Homeland have the highest chances of joining that quality drama hall of fame.

    Both Buffy and Veronica Mars are considered quality dramas. Buffy is the most academically studied television show of the last twenty years. Almost all professional tv critics DO consider them to be quality dramas. Mad Men arguably has more humor in a lot of episodes than Veronica Mars. Breaking Bad is hilarious. Sopranos has many meta moments. So does The Wire (season 5). You admitted that you haven't seen much of Buffy so maybe you shouldn't talk about something you don't know much about.
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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by affrosponge88 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:04 am

    odduck wrote:
    affrosponge88 wrote:Secondly, Buffy and Veronica Mars are quality dramas.

    You can call them quality dramas all you like, and they do have a lot of elements of quality dramas, but you can't deny that they're not generally considered quality dramas.
    That's not because they're lacking quality or drama, that's because they're adding an element which most people do not want in their quality dramas: too much humor. The thing that all quality dramas share imo is the fact that they take themselves very seriously, even if they throw in a joke or an ironic twist from time to time. Buffy and Mars have too many tongue in cheek moments that distract from the generally accepted quality drama atmosphere.
    I'm not very familiar with Buffy (I might have watched the first two seasons, but that was more than a decade ago), but I'm pretty sure it also has numerous meta moments, which again don't help it in that regard and detract from the seriousness.
    Weeds kinda has the same problem, even if it employs a very different tone than those two. Out of all the shows Loki listed, I think Damages and Homeland have the highest chances of joining that quality drama hall of fame.

    Let's drop Veronica Mars, just for the sake of keeping the discussion consistent.

    You say that most people don't generally consider Buffy as a quality drama, and that kind of baffles me. It's the most academically written about television drama in recent decades, and two of the top television critics writing today have nothing but praise for it. Todd listed it at #8 in his "Top 100 Shows of All Time" list he made a little while back, and Alan Sepinwall's new book, called: "The Revolution was Televised" is literally a book that tracks the evolution of dramatic television, as he picks the ten most representative dramas to illustrate the evolution of the genre: Buffy is one of the ten.

    Buffy's use of humor doesn't undercut the drama in any way shape or form, unless it's a character literally doing that so as not to face the grim reality of what is happening around them (Xander is the biggest perpetrator of this). The show could be as serious as it wanted to (see Season 5's "The Body"), where not a single instance of humor occurs (aside from a slight joke Willow makes at Xander to stop him from breaking down completely, something a friend does for another friend, not something a show does to undercut its drama). The humor actually accentuates the drama, because when one gets comfortable and likes spending time with these characters (often due to humor), it makes the pain and suffering they go through all the more heartbreaking.

    The other assertion you're making is: that most people don't want too much humor in their quality drama. I'm curious as to how you came up with this, seeing as some of the most heralded dramas have tons of humor to go with it. Mad Men, for instance, can be one of the funniest shows on television when it wants to, and is one of the most "serious" dramas currently on. As far as meta moments go: I believe there's only one actual "meta" joke, which comes in a line from one of the songs during the musical, so I don't see how that has to do with anything, really. A lot of the jokes stem from the characters observing the situations around them and making clever commentary on them, but it is hardly "meta." If they were breaking the fourth wall, then maybe there'd be something to that argument, but they never even lean on it.


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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by odduck on Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:23 am

    I don't think Mad Men has "tons of humor". For me there are "humorous moments" from time to time, but I guess that's really a matter of perception.
    I have only one more thing to add. The fact that there is a musical episode, no matter what the explanation for it is in the universe, it a huge meta joke in itself and it's really cheesy. But what do I know, people probably want their dramas to be cheesy as well.
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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by Stephen77 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:07 pm

    I haven't been paying attention to this discussion, so if I'm moving away from the initial discussion, please forgive me.

    I've always said that one of the things most great TV dramas share in common is a great sense of humour. Deadwood, The Sopranos, The Wire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (sorry but this claim, as affro and digifreak have demonstrated, that Buffy isn't generally considered one of the all-time great TV dramas is ridiculous), Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Twin Peaks all have their laugh out loud moments and are, at times, amongst the funniest shows I've watched. The same goes for slightly lesser shows like Justified and Terriers. I think even Game of Thrones has its humourous moments.

    Great humourless dramas are rare to find.
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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by Traegonometry on Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:39 pm

    Well I might be wrong here, but life can be pretty funny, so a drama documenting people's lives should be humourous sometimes, or even a lot of the time. The fact that these critically acclaimed dramas can be so hilarious at times is, I think, another demonstration that the writers are keen observers of social interactions in addition to their ability to write realistic, dramatic interactions between characters. So to me it makes a lot of sense that great dramas should also be really funny.
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    Re: Women and Drama!

    Post by TheTuna on Tue Dec 11, 2012 4:46 am

    If you think that Buffy is not a quality drama, I would invite you to watch "The Body" or "The Gift" and reevaluate your position.

    Hell, "Once More With Feeling" itself is a fantastic dramatic episode as well as a comedic one. It's a bit cheesy, sure, but OMWF is considered the musical episode for a reason. "Standing", "Walk Through The Fire", "Something to Sing About", all are excellent dramatic bits despite also being songs in a musical episode.

    Personally, I never perceived Mad Men as lacking in humor. I laugh at that show quite often.
    Stephen77 wrote: I think even Game of Thrones has its humourous moments.

    I'd say GoT has a lot of humor. Ygritte is basically one non-stop laugh stream at Jon's expense, and the exchange between Tyrion and Shagga while arresting Grand Maester Pycelle was one of the funniest things I've seen this year. That's to say nothing to all of the other characters, too, many of whom are possessed of at least a mild sense of humor.

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