Sorry about the hiatus, dear reader. Clara has been away and I promised her I wouldn’t talk about Avengers: Age of Ultron until she got back. Also I’ve been busy and haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road yet so obviously my hands have been tied!
Anyway, instead of writing one long post about a particular movie or show that’s out right now, I’m going to do a roundup of quick thoughts on some of the television I’ve been watching over the past month. Spoilers ahoy! Also, be warned for discussions of rape and drug use.
Game of Thrones
Let’s get the big one out of the way. Episode 6 of the current season of Game of Thrones has caused quite a stir among online feminist circles for yet another controversial depiction of rape. In a plotline that is a marked departure from the source material, Sansa Stark has been promised to Ramsey Bolton (formerly Snow) whose father Roose currently holds Sansa’s old home, Winterfell. In the final scene of the episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” Ramsey rapes Sansa on their wedding night and forces Theon to watch.
The multitude of reasons why this scene left many viewers feeling ill has been discussed at length, but perhaps my strongest objection to it is the way a woman’s sexual assault is framed as tragic and important because it hurts a man. Despite the fact that Sansa has been manipulated into a terrible situation, forced to marry the sadistic bastard son of the man responsible for murdering her mother and brother, the scene makes Theon’s pain the focus; the last image we see is his tearful, trembling face. Many fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire series have also accused the Game of Thrones showrunners of again including a rape scene that never occurred in the books, essentially using a very real, violent, and traumatic act for shock value and an easy way to give female characters edgy development. While I haven’t personally read the books and have only watched the show, I agree that rape is treated much too casually on Game of Thrones and am consistently uncomfortable with the way violence against women is often treated as sexualized and titillating. For many viewers, this scene was the last straw, and they are refusing to continue watching Game of Thrones. I’m not personally boycotting the show because honestly I am too curious about the story to let it go, but I am disappointed in showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ consistent shortcomings with regard to women’s issues, and will be especially wary of it in any of their future projects (if, in fact, I choose to see them at all).
I recently got caught up with season 3 of Elementary, and saw the season finale where Sherlock, after being manipulated by an ex-dealer of his, relapses in his heroin addiction. The moment was rough, as Holmes’ sense of control over his addiction (not to mention his life in general) has seemed more stable than ever this season. But Elementary’s choice to depict this Holmes as a recovering addict has truly not been a casual one.
Rather than treating addiction as a one-note character flaw, Sherlock’s recovery is depicted as a never-ending process, one that he cannot tackle alone. Whether it’s Joan as his former sober companion, Alfredo as his sponsor, or the many support meetings he attends, it’s clear that Sherlock needs others to maintain perspective and sobriety, which is humanizing and grounding for a character that is too often depicted as hyperintelligent and in complete control of himself and his surroundings. When Sherlock, angry and alone, retreats to an abandoned tunnel and succumbs to a familiar enemy, we understand the weight that this moment has for him, and it hits like a punch to the gut. The combination of Sherlock’s relapse, the imminent return of his absent yet oft-maligned father and Joan’s recent introversion and struggle to reconcile her detective work and personal life, is setting up season 4 to be a painful rebirth for the entire cast. Nonetheless, I will watch it faithfully in my bed with the covers pulled up to my chin to catch my tears, because while the “mystery of the week” style cases Sherlock and Joan tackle in each episode are rather predictable (and as I have often described them, “CBS-y”) I am completely in love with these characters and cannot wait to see how they continue to grow and shape each other.
Jane the Virgin
I have a hard time not gushing about this show to anyone and everyone because it is truly everything I could have ever wanted out of a primetime drama and it consistently delights and surprises me. In case you don’t know, Jane the Virgin is based on the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen, and it takes plenty of cues from the telenovela format. The plot twists and turns, emotions run high, and important moments are punctuated with cheeky commentary from the narrator or on-screen stage directions (typed as though in a screenplay).
The show’s central drama is the pregnancy of the titular Jane, who is accidentally artificially inseminated and decides to keep the baby. Many, many things also happen throughout the course of the inaugural season, but since the show is new and half the fun is the wild ride the plot takes you on, I will leave any other spoilers out this time. The first season just wrapped up this month, and I’m already dying to know what happens next. Even though I’m keeping it zipped on the particulars of the show’s storyline, the most important things to remember are that the cast is fantastic (Gina Rodriguez in particular is incredible in her first starring role) the story is equal parts funny, touching, and honest, and the second season premieres in October. Set your DVR already!
Finally, I’m really looking forward to Seinfeld coming to Hulu on June 24. It’s about time for a rewatch of my favorite 90s sitcom about misanthropic white people in NYC! Sorry, Friends.