NEW AT BEACON: “Fall TV 2014-15 – The Girls Are Back! Mindy and Jess Return to FOX!”

It’s time for my weekly post at Beacon! And as shows continue to return for the current season, I’ll be spotlighting the shows I think are worth watching. This week, two of my favorite, female-fronted comedies returned to FOX. It’s all about The Mindy Project and New Girl!

EXCERPT:

One of the things that made me fall in love with [New Girl] from the pilot was the honest, real depiction of modern-day friendships. Many women I know are primarily friends with guys, and I loved that there was a show that was capturing that dynamic. The last thing I wanted was for any of the guys to be a love interest for Jess.

Then, Cece (Hannah Simone) and Schmidt happened. And Jess and Nick happened.

And while Jess and Nick were a cute enough couple, I think they make better friends, and I’m glad the dynamic is back to the way it was at the start of the show. It isn’t that Jess is One of the Guys – she’s very much a girly-girl. But she and her roomies look out for each other. They are friends, with no ulterior motives, and I like seeing that on television.

If you want to read and comment on my full post, you’ll have to subscribe to my work over at Beacon! Starting at only $5/month, you’ll be able to access all my pop culture criticism, as well as the work of 100+ other journalists writing about the topics you care about. Check it out! Once there, please click the “Worth It” button on the bottom of my article! (That is, if you actually like what I’ve written.)

Thanks! 🙂

Pike and Trident Premieres TODAY!

I’m very excited to announce and support a new, female-led digital series called Pike and Trident, which launched TODAY! It’s the story of two museum curators from the future – Myrtle Pike and Trudy Trident –  who must time-travel to regain important historical artifacts that were lost when one of them, ahem, SCREWS UP. 🙂

If Doctor Who and Game of Thrones had a baby girl, it might look something like this.

The series was written by and stars my good friend, Patty Robinson, and co-stars the lovely Kim Turney. It’s co-directed by Turney and Jan Bryant, who is also the stunt coordinator. And stunts there are! One of the coolest things about Pike and Trident is the fact that so much focus is placed on sword combat between the two leads. This series is great, in part, because Pike and Trident are the opposite of besties, and watching them be at each other’s throats even as they need to rely on each other to get out of trouble is a lot of fun!

Right now, only the pilot is available, with more to come soon (and hopefully, they’ll be able to raise the money to continue the show as scripted – though there are currently plans to regularly put out supplemental digital content from the world of Pike and Trident). Check out the pilot (below!), then head on over to the Pike and Trident website, and “like” the show on Facebook, to keep up with future content and episodes.

If you love female protagonists, time travel, sword fighting, sci-fi, and general badassery, give Pike and Trident a whirl.

It’s my Talk Like a Pirate Day gift to you. Arrrrrrgh! 😉

NEW AT BEACON: “Joan Rivers: Unapologetic”

I write a pop culture column over at Beacon. So it would be remiss of me to not talk about the passing of one of pop culture’s loudest satirists, the inimitable Joan Rivers.

EXCERPT: 

I’ve spent most of my life not a huge Joan Rivers fan. 

I know, I’m not supposed to say that now that she’s passed away (she died yesterday at the age of 81), but considering how outspoken and brash she was throughout her career, I’m sure she wouldn’t begrudge me the opportunity to speak my mind. 

Her jokes always seemed a bit dated to me – women either being sluts, or “not being able to catch husbands,” etc – and I found the way she tended to laugh between each joke, as if she wanted to fill in just in case no one in the audience found her funny, a bit grating. People of my generation have known of Joan Rivers’ existence for our entire lives. However, unlike Robin Williams, she rarely appeared in a context that we were allowed to enjoy as children, so we didn’t “grow up” with her in the same way. Her stand-up was either on late-night talk shows, which we couldn’t stay up and watch, or it was on cable, where it was allowed to be as raunchy as she could make it, and we weren’t allowed to watch. So, unless we were specifically interested in pursuing comedy as a career, my generation primarily grew up knowing Joan Rivers as That Annoying Woman on Awards Show Red Carpets Who Doesn’t Have Her Facts Straight and Is Embarrassing Us All. We grew up with parodies of Joan Rivers, and very often, Rivers seemed like a parody of herself. 

And this is a horrible shame. 

It wasn’t until I watched the brilliant documentary about her life and career,Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (IFC, 2010), that I truly began to understand just how much she contributed to comedy, to show business, and to feminism.

If you want to read and comment on my full post, you’ll have to subscribe to my work over at Beacon! Starting at only $5/month, you’ll be able to access all my pop culture criticism, as well as the work of 100+ other journalists writing about the topics you care about. Check it out! Once there, please click the “Worth It” button on the bottom of my article! (That is, if you actually like what I’ve written.)

Thanks! 🙂

NEW AT BEACON: “All About That Bass: White Girls and Booty”

This week’s Pop Goes Teresa column over at Beacon actually talks about pop music. Or rather, one particular pop song that my pals Maighread, Jason, and Alison turned me onto.

I discuss Meghan Trainor’s debut single, All About That Bass and how, while it’s a great song, it throws women – particularly skinny women and Women of Color – under the bus.

But it’s still so damn catchy!

EXCERPT:

But even just looking at the photos above – Miley Cyrus during a performance of We Can’t Stop; Lily Allen in her video for Hard Out Here; and now Meghan Trainor’s video for All About That Bass – you can see that even in videos created by white women trying to make a positive statement, black women are being used. Sure there are other white women in the videos, too, but they’re not the ones being grabbed. They’re not the ones being used as visual aids. They aren’t asked to be props in addition to being performers. 

And yes, in the case of someone like Lily Allen, she’s doing something like this to speak out about how wrong it is that this gets done. I get it. But you know that by doing stuff like this, you’re just making it happen more, right? And it’s hard for me to respect a message coming from the Mileys and Lilys and Meghans of the world when they aren’t even willing to bear skin and get grabbed in the same way in their own videos, staying above the demeaning treatment while attempting to comment on it.

Actually, scratch that – of the three examples above, Miley Cyrus is the most balanced! In the We Can’t Stop video, she does grab black women’s asses, but they also slap her ass. What’s more, she grabs other white women and lets them grab her. And also, there are scantily-clad people on both ends of the gender spectrum. Really, she just wants people to live, love, and say who and what they want to. Point: Miley Cyrus. (At least on the video. That live performance was another story…)

If you want to read and comment on my full post, you’ll have to subscribe to my work over at Beacon! For only $5/month, you’ll be able to access Pop Goes Teresa, as well as the work of 100+ other journalists writing about the topics you care about. Check it out! Once there, please click the “Worth It” button on the bottom of my article! (That is, if you actually like what I’ve written.)

Thanks! 🙂

NEW AT BEACON: “The Angel of Verdun: Nuanced Female Characters”

Posts once a week at Beacon. That’s how I wanna roll. 🙂

Anyway, here’s the latest at my pop culture column over there. It’s about the difference between “Strong Female Characters” and “Nuanced Female Characters” and why I think Rita Vratasky (Emily Blunt) in Edge of Tomorrow is a great example of the kind of female character we should be clamoring to see in films.

EXCERPT: 

I hate the phrase Strong Female Character

“Strong Female Character” carries with it a judgement that I don’t think its users intend. After all, what does “strong” mean? Does it mean physically strong (and so, are we defining strength according to stereotypically male criteria)? Does it mean emotionally strong (and so, does this mean that if a woman cries, falls in love, or protects her children she’s not strong)? Does it mean assertive and ambitious (and so, can more average women not be “strong characters?” And how do we square that with the fact that, with male protagonists, the Hero’s Journey is often defined by his starting out as an ineffectual schlub who grows into leadership. Was he not a “strong character” until the very end)? 

My preferred phrase – and what I think most people mean when they say “Strong Female Character” – is Nuanced Female Character.

What those who want gender parity in pop culture want in their female characters is complexity. We want them to be more than girlfriends, doormats, or prizes to be won. We want them to have their own inner lives and goals in the stories we watch. Even if they’re not the protagonists, we want them to be fully-realized people, not caricatures. We want them to have strengths and flaws. We want them to have, or at least want and earn, agency. Most of all, we want them to have a reason to be in the story that doesn’t boil down to: Plot Device.

If you want to read and comment on my full post, you’ll have to subscribe to my work over at Beacon! For only $5/month, you’ll be able to access all my pop culture criticism, as well as the work of 100+ other journalists writing about the topics you care about. Check it out! Once there, please click the “Worth It” button on the bottom of my article! (That is, if you actually like what I’ve written.)

Thanks! 🙂

NEW AT BEACON: “When Feminism Becomes a Marketing Tool”


Finally, a Beacon post about something OTHER than the movie, Noah! 🙂 In my latest over at Beacon, I talk about the current trend of using feminism to market products: when it’s effective, when it isn’t, and whether doing it at all is OK.

EXCERPT:

Not to be left out, Pantene put out an ad that focused on the double standard inherent in labels placed on confident women who work hard (“bossy,” “selfish,” “show-off”) as opposed to men who do the same (“boss,” “dedicated,” “confident”). The ad encouraged women to #ShineStrong (and apparently one way to do that is by washing your hair with Pantene, rather than – I don’t know – getting a Masters Degree), and again put the onus on them to not “let labels hold [them] back,” while not acknowledging that beauty companies are a big reason why women focus so much on their looks as their only asset, which leads to the labels this ad is warning against.

These ads are the equivalent of your older sibling grabbing your hand, slapping you in the face with it over and over, then asking “Why’re you hitting yourself? Why’re you hitting yourself? Why’re you hitting yourself?”

If you want to read and comment on my full post, you’ll have to subscribe to my work over at Beacon! For only $5/month, you’ll be able to access all my pop culture criticism, as well as the work of 100+ other journalists writing about the topics you care about. Check it out! Once there, please click the “Worth It” button on the bottom of my article! (That is, if you actually like what I’ve written.)

Thanks! 🙂

TERESA’S BOOKSHELF – “CHICK LIT” EDITION: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Book: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004)

Author: Susanna Clarke

Chosen because: Female author; female illustrator – Portia Rosenberg

Finally, after almost three years of picking it up and putting it down again (and I know when I started reading it, because I was using my ticket stub from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway in 2011 as a bookmark), I finished it!

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke…I have BEATEN YOU.

It’s the story of two magicians in 19th Century England. Mr. Norrell is an old fogey who thinks that being a magician is an elite thing that requires decades of study, tons of books, and isolation. Jonathan Strange is a handsome, younger man who becomes one of Mr. Norrell’s best pupils, and thinks that magic should be more accessible to everyone and that Mr. Norrell is totally unfairly hoarding his knowledge (not to mention all the books in his kick-ass library!). Wackiness – including several people being stolen away to Faerie, travel and war, and one instance of a severed finger – ensues.

A large part of me enjoyed the hell out of this book. It was as if Jane Austen wrote a Tolkien novel. There’s tons of humor, well-rounded characters, and a seemingly huge knowledge of genre. Clarke clearly knows and loves English fantasy literature. Also, I’m a sucker for books for adults that have illustrations, and Portia Rosenberg’s illustrations do a great job of  evoking the magical environment of Clarke’s 19th Century England.

So, why did it take me three years to finish it?

Well, at 846 pages, it’s long, and not an easy “Harry Potter long.” It’s a dense book with even denser footnotes from alternate-history books that don’t even exist. The actual plot, though it involves a bunch of characters, is actually really simple and straightforward, but it often feels bogged down (and lost) in world-building. You could probably cut 200 pages from this book and have it be the same book, so that made it a bit of a slog. The parts I loved, I loved because they were more Austen than Tolkien, because of the commentary on humanity, manners, and our relationship to magic and stories. The parts that lost me – or rather, the parts during which I found myself distracted by other, shinier books – were the in-depth passages that dissected the faux history of magic in England.

I know, for many of you that’s probably exactly what you loved about the book. Fine. That’s why you’re you, and I’m me. 🙂

I have a thing about footnotes, too. If you’re going to build a world, you should be able to weave it seamlessly into the narrative. Footnotes, to me, scream The story doesn’t actually have anything to do with any of these details, but AREN’T THEY COOL? No, not really. I’d much rather get back to what the characters are doing, thanks.

Not that all the characters were great. There were entire swaths of characters – like the entire Greysteele family, for instance – who only seemed to exist to do this one thing, and I was all Couldn’t you just cut this whole stupid, boring family out and have one of the other characters do this one thing? Cause this family takes up a lot of prime real estate and they’re SO BORING.

The thing is, I kept coming back to the book, because much of it was well-written, and fun. Most of the characters also kept me coming back. It’s a testament to Clarke’s writing that I enjoyed getting to know these people, and I found myself wanting to get back to them. In addition to the titular magicians, the black servant, Stephen, was fascinating as he struggled between escaping from Faerie and going back to an England that looks down on people with his skin color. Strange’s wife, Arabella, was also interesting, and I found myself thinking that she could’ve done a lot better than Jonathan; and Norrell’s mysterious servant, Childermass has an intriguing journey from monosyllabic toughie to magic enthusiast.

This is Clarke’s first novel, and it’s a doozy. It’s really ambitious, and she’s clearly a talented writer. I just wish that she would’ve gotten out of her own way a bit, and trusted the fact that her story was good enough without all the superfluous footnotes and alternate history. The ending of the novel made it seem like we haven’t seen the last of these characters, and I feel like there must be a sequel in the works (there’s also a BBC mini-series in the works). I’m looking forward to it, and I hope that Clarke will go back to basics, keeping the magic, but losing the world-building for its own sake.