Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pilot Season: Revenge (Women Are Apparently Awful)

Plotting.  No, really.
We’re into day two of my plan to watch every single female driven pilot that came out this year, and I am already annoyed.  Verging on pissed, actually.  And it’s not just because I actually sat down and counted how many shows starring women came out this year (but there are a lot and I am going to be doing this series until I die), but because I am now caught in a dilemma.
Art vs. creed.

I love television.  It makes me happy in a warm special way reserved for spectacular storytelling, unexpected rainfall and hot cocoa.  The stories you can tell are endless and occasionally beautiful.  I got a Master’s Degree based on my love of television (and movies, but mostly television).  So as a storyteller, I really appreciated some of the stuff from tonight's pilot. 

As a feminist, it pissed me the hell off.

REVENGE (ABC, Wednesdays at 10 EST)

As I said above, I was very divided in my feelings about this show.  As a writer, I like complex multi-character narratives about bad people doing worse things.  Conflict makes the world go round, especially in television.  But as a woman and as a feminist, I had a big problem with this show, and it can be summed up thusly: Every single woman on the show is a bitch.

Blah blah blah rich people.
Quick recap: Emily (Emily Vancamp) is a pretty, incredibly rich young woman renting a house in the Hamptons for the summer.  She just happens to move in right next door to the Hampton’s most influential family, the Graysons, and meets all of them.  From “Queen” Victoria, to her philandering husband, to their obviously-a-ripoff-of-Ted-Kennedy son Danny.  She charms them all.  But it turns out that Emily isn’t Emily at all.  She’s really Amanda, a former child of the Hamptons, whose father was (probably) having an affair with Victoria and who was framed (?) for murder (?) for it.  I’ll be honest, they lost me a little in there.  Oh, and her old childhood friend Jack is still around.  He has a boat.

It was pulpy and fun and a little silly if you tried to think about it for more than a second (which I wouldn’t advise), but a relatively interesting hour of television.  Better than the hour I spent watching CSPAN with the sound off at least.*  The issue was that I kind of hated everyone on the show.  Like, everyone.  I didn’t even really like the dog.

Understandably for a show that is based on revenge, called Revenge, and entirely concerned with the story of one woman trying to get revenge on another woman, there are some unpleasant characters.  Whatever, that’s fine.  I’m comfortable with anti-heroes.  If I weren’t, I wouldn’t watch Sons of Anarchy.**  I find it distasteful when all of the unpleasant characters are unpleasant in precisely the same way: namely, again, they’re all such bitches.

The pretty dresses hide their talons.
I don’t mean that in the slightly empowered sense that people have tried to push for the last few years.  Oh, you’re such a bitch!  And so on, said with giggles, and a vague effort to reclaim the word.  No.  I mean that they are bitches.  I would not want them near me, for fear that their bile would infect the water supply.

Everyone on the show is like that.  It makes for great television, and I rather enjoy it.  But I hate how it makes me feel about my own gender.  It implies that women, even women who break the law, are not interesting unless they’re being catty.  That women alone cannot hold up a show without the requisite witty bon mots and careless takedowns of their rivals.  In short, if every woman on this show is a bitch, then that somehow seems to imply that every woman is a bitch.

And they aren’t.

So I’m going to keep watching, because it was halfway decent television, but I really am less than happy about the bitch effect.  Is it wholly impossible to consider a world where a woman doesn’t have to be a right bitch to get her own show?  Or has Desperate Housewives tainted us so thoroughly?

Don’t answer that.


*If you are going to watch CSPAN, try to watch the British Parliamentary Debates.  British Parliament is hilarious, and they come up with some surprisingly funny insults.  Also swears.  You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a Senior Labour MP call the Tories “Rotting bastards who want to cannibalize the health system and eat the brains of the NHS.”  I’m paraphrasing, but it’s awesome.

**There will be an article forthcoming about the inherent issues of the gender politics in that show, however.  Gemma rules, but she has some weird issues.


  1. If every woman on the show is a bitch, doesn't it get kinda repetitive? Or are there levels/varieties to their bitchiness?

    P/S: I wasn't going to ask but my OCD won't let me - why do you always hit double space after a period?

  2. Yes, it does a bit. I mean, there are varieties (vengeful!bitch, snarky!bitch, cheating!bitch, evil!bitch), but they're still all bitches. But the plot's not half-bad.

    P.S. Because my typing teachers were relentless in their adherence to that format. It's since fallen out of favor, but I happen to like it and see no reason to retrain myself.

  3. Please, please try to. It drives me nuts.

  4. I really wanted to send a small word to say thanks to you for the fantastic points you are writing on this site.
    hotmail login