Bad Penny. The evolution of women in sitcom culture.


THE BIG BANG THEORY

Penny and Leonard from the Big Bang Theory

I was raised on sitcom culture. One thing I have noticed in the past decade or so is a shift in how women are portrayed. Unfortunately, it’s not for the better.

Women used to be shown as the subservient wife and mother who surreptitiously leads her husband from behind in order to get her way, like June Cleaver, Donna Stone, Samantha Stevens and Lucy Ricardo. There was always an unspoken (or even sometimes actually spoken “One of these days, right in the kisser.”) threat that she was risking violence if she were caught going behind the back of her husband in order to get what she wanted.

Lucy_desi_1957

The Ricardos

Then, in the 1970’s women were portrayed as feminists for the first time. Maude, Mary Richards, Margaret Houlihan and Emily Hartley to name but a few. These were women who are unconventional and ground breaking. Maude fought for women’s rights and raised an independent daughter. Mary was the ultimate working woman who, not only didn’t need a man, but refused to settle. Major Houlihan worked alongside her male counterparts in the most dangerous of settings. Emily Hartley was seen as a woman who chose to work and a true partner in her marriage with her husband. These women were much healthier role models then the women who came before and after them. These sitcoms are proof that female characters can be well written, fully actualized, real women who are also funny.

Mary_Tyler_Moore_throwing_hat_in_air[1]

An iconic symbol of feminism.

Now we’re seeing women who are perennially annoyed with their husbands, or single women who continually make bad choices in men. Take, for example the show Everybody Loves Raymond, featuring Debra Barone, a woman who gave up her career in order to raise her children (which is a luxury in today’s world and an admirable choice). She is shown as constantly finding fault with her husband, who is somewhat childish, but all in all, not a bad guy. One of Debra’s most frequent insults is to call him an idiot. Another example of the continually annoyed wife character is on the show Rules of Engagement. The character of Audrey Bingham who is a childless, married, working woman. Audrey is married to Jeff, a former frat boy, jock type who is an excellent provider, a bit childish and a tad oblivious at times, but again, all in all a good guy. Audrey’s default setting is mildly annoyed with her husband and it just gets worse from there. She seems generally disappointed with life for the most part. This type of character reminds me of a great quote from Bill Maher, “Women cannot complain about men anymore, until they start getting better taste in them” These women go around unfairly blaming their husbands for behavior that they were fully aware of when they said I do. I have zero sympathy for this type of woman. They have no one to blame but themselves.

rules-engagement-85

The bickering Binghams from Rules of Engagement.

Then there is the other prevalent female sitcom archetype, the single woman who makes bad choices. One of the most frustrating examples of this is Penny from the Big Bang Theory. Her father gives some examples of her previous boyfriends in the following clip.

She has dated white rappers, cow tippers, a guy who blogged about their sex life and a guy who cheated on her and had violent tendencies (Kurt). When faced with a relationship with Leonard, a genius physicist who is, admittedly, a little clingy, she pulls away thinking that she can do better. I will never understand why young women would rather be abused by the bad boys than have something real with an intelligent guy who will treat her well. Okay, maybe I do understand it… young women are inherently insecure and feel undeserving the majority of the time. What bothers me most about Penny is that she thinks that she is the catch in her relationship, when clearly the real catch is Leonard. Looks fade, but intelligence is forever.

castofgirls

The cast of the HBO series, Girls

My final example of the single girl who makes bad choices is from the HBO hit, Girls. All four of the lead characters in this show are hot messes. Yes, they are young, insecure and still ‘finding their way’ but they all have absolutely no respect for themselves. These young women were raised by mothers who would have come of age during or after the feminist movement and yet every character is clueless and self sabotaging. I would have hoped that their mothers would have instilled in them, some sort of sense of self by the time they were out on their own. For me, the most disappointing thing about this show is the fact that it was created and written by a woman.

It seems that women can’t write good parts for women in Hollywood, so how can we have the audacity to expect men to write them for us?

A New Year’s Eve tradition


Recently, my mother told me about a New year’s Eve tradition in which my German relatives partake. At some point during the evening, they watch a sketch called Dinner For One (also known as The 90th Birthday) and laugh their collective asses off.  It seems that they are not the only ones enjoying this brilliantly done bit of British physical comedy. This sketch is known as a New Year’s Eve tradition in many countries other than Germany including, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands and South Africa to name but a few. Ironically, it never really took off in Britain. Sadly, it has yet to take off in North America, but I hope to remedy that, in some small way, by showing it here. Dinner For One was originally written for the theatre in the 1920’s and first filmed for television in 1963 as a one shot/take 18 minute sketch. That it was done in one take without an edit just serves to make it that much more brilliant. So, without further ado, may I present, Freddie Frinton and May Warden in the original black and white version of Dinner For One in English with introduction by Heinz Piper in German (the sketch begins at the 2 minute 23 second mark).

The sketch was so popular that there have been many versions performed along with several parodies, most notably (and recently) one in which the heads of Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy are superimposed upon those of the original actors’ and the dialogue deals with the Euro zone Debt Crisis. In 1999 German television station, NDR colorized it, presumable to bring it more up to date.

I hope you enjoyed this bit of proof that, yes Germans do have a sense of humour after all.

Here’s wishing you and yours a prosperous New Year with a picture from last year’s New Year’s blog.

baby-newyears1Same procedure as EVERY year.

Hollywood Part Three: The Sequel


BirthnationPoster for Birth of a Nation 1915

When author Thomas Dixon decided he wanted to cash in on the immense success of director, D.W Griffith’s filming of his novel the Clansmen which became the movie Birth of a Nation by writing and filming a follow-up called Fall of a Nation in 1916, he gave us perhaps the most prolific of film genres, the sequel. Even then, the sequel was far less successful than the original and was panned by critics and audiences alike. In fact, no prints of Fall of a Nation have survived and it is considered to be a lost film.

To me, the motive for filming a sequel has always been an obvious one… greed. After all we are talking about show BUSINESS and all too often the business part has far too big a say in what gets produced. There have been some very good movie franchises, like Star Wars (the first three), Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and The Godfather. With the exception of the Star Wars trilogy (which were written by George Lucas expressly for film), the others were all based on a series of bestselling novels and each of the films were painstakingly made over a long period of time by filmmakers who genuinely loved the original texts.

The-Lord-Of-The-Rings-Trilogy

Then there have been the sequels that have been but a disappointing follow-up to a successful movie, which, sadly is the case with the vast majority of sequels. But love them or hate them, sequels are here to stay as long as movie makers still need investors to create their films. So, in the spirit of if you can’t beat them, join them, I am going to suggest a couple of movies that could use a sequel, if for no other reason than I would like to know what happens next.

AmericanGraffiti

Written and directed by George Lucas, American Graffiti is a classic film from my childhood. Set in 1962, in Modesto California, it takes place over the course of one night in the lives of a group of teenagers who have just graduated high school and are about to embark on the next phase in their lives. It remains one of my all time favourite movies. George Lucas did make a sequel to American Graffiti six years later in 1979 called More American Graffiti, which I have yet to see and therefore cannot comment on. The sequel I would like to see is one where all of the original characters now have children who are the same age as they were in the first film (perhaps even played by some of the original stars’ actual kids… Bryce Dallas Howard for example) on their last night of freedom. It would be a nice  way to come full circle on the story and perhaps give Ron Howard a vehicle in which he could direct his daughter.

bryce-dallas-and-ron-howardRon and Bryce Dallas Howard

The next movie I would like to suggest a sequel to is the Breakfast Club. John Hughes 1980’s teen classic about a group of highschoolers from different cliques who spend a Saturday in detention together and find out that they are all so much more than the sterotypes they represent.

breakfast-clubThe stars of the Breakfast Club (minus Emilio Estevez) then and now

I don’t know about you, but I would definitely go see a sequel to this movie (as long as it starred the original cast). Perhaps a highschool reunion brings them together for the first time since graduation and one by one they all end up in the library. It’s just too bad that John Hughes is no longer around to direct a sequel.

Those are my suggestions. I’m sure they’re not great, but they are a damned sight better than some of the sequels Hollywood has forced down our collective throat.

stayingalive_lPoster for Stayin’ Alive, the crappy sequel to Saturday Night Fever

What movie would you like to see a sequel to?

 

 

Hollywood Part Two: The Remake


The movie remake is a time-honoured Hollywood tradition, making Hollywood the only place on earth where people get paid to plagiarise. Like the biopic, the remake is a hit and miss genre of film. Movies get made from plays, books, comic books, video games and even other movies (remember Gus Van Sant’s shot for shot remake of Psycho?) . It seems the screen writer can steal ideas from anywhere as long as the studio pays enough for the rights to the story and characters. It’s not enough to remake an idea once, either. Just look at Shakespeare, who, along with Dickens, is one of the most stolen from writers on the planet. The story of Romeo and Juliet has been told 13 times since 1900 is various movies, and that’s not including movies that don’t use the title Romeo and Juliet, but still “borrow” the storyline.

One of the latest incarnations of the Romeo and Juliet story

I mentioned Dickens as well because A Christmas Carol has been filmed 14 times (again, not including the times that it has been told under a different name) starring a wide variety of Scrooges from Jim Carrey and Bill Murray to George C. Scott and even Susan Lucci.

Susan Lucci as a female Scrooge

It’s not just classics that are remade either. Lately Hollywood has been dipping into the 1980’s to remake movies that can still be seen on cable, like Fame, Footloose and Red Dawn in an attempt to lure the nostalgic movie-goer back into the theaters. Nevermind that most people of my generation (okay… younger than me by 5 to 10 years) are too busy with work and kids to bother going to a theater to see a movie and would prefer to send their kids off to one so they can have some quiet time at home.

The “new” Footloose

I am not a fan of the movie remake in general, but as it is a practice that has been going on forever and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, I would like to offer up a movie that is ripe for a remake. Building on the success of movies that star people from my parents generation (and older) like Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Dame Judi Dench and Robert DeNiro because Baby Boomers are going to the movies in droves, I say why not do a remake of Arsenic and Old Lace?

Carey Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace

Originally a hit Broadway play, this movie has only been remade once in 1969 as an ABC movie of the week, so it has not been done to death. I have even taken the liberty of putting together a fantasy cast for the project. Below is the original cast of the main characters for the Frank Capra 1944 version.

Now here is my fantasy cast.

  • Hugh Grant as Mortimer Brewster
  • Gwynneth Paltrow as Elaine Harper Brewster
  • Maggie Smith or Betty White as Aunt Abby Brewster
  • Judi Dench  or Cloris Leachman as Aunt Martha Brewster
  • Robert Englund as Jonathan Brewster ( the he looks like Boris Karloff joke could be updated to say he looks like Freddy Krueger)
  • Danny DeVito as Dr. Herman Einstein
  • The obvious choice here would be Robin Williams as he has already played Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum movies, but I would like to offer up Anthony Hopkins as an alternative casting choice (he doesn’t do much comedy, but I think this is an untapped talent that he possesses) as “Teddy Roosevelt” Brewster

If Hollywood MUST churn out remake after remake, I say maybe movie-goers should help them along with some creative suggestions of our own.

What would be a movie you would like to see remade and who would star?

Hollywood Part One: The Biopic


I have long been a fan of biographies of famous and infamous people. I read biographical and autobiographical books, love to watch the biography channel and usually enjoy watching biographical movies.The Hollywood biopic is a hit and miss genre. When it’s done well, there’s nothing better, when it’s done poorly there’s nothing worse. While casting is important in all film genres, it is perhaps most important in the case of the biopic. The actor or actress must, not only look quite similar to the original subject, but they must walk alike, talk alike and have their mannerisms down to the smallest detail, so that even the most discerning of fans can be transported for the length of the film into that person’s life. It’s a genre that can make or break an actor’s career. This past weekend I watched two movie biographies, one that was critically lauded and one that was critically panned. In my opinion, they had more similarities than differences. Let’s start with the, made for Lifetime TV movie, Liz and Dick.

Lindsay Lohan and Elizabeth Taylor

I went into this movie expecting it to be a glorious train wreck and I was somewhat disappointed. Oh, it was an awful movie, don’t get me wrong, but I was expecting it to be bad in a much more campy and funny way. While this movie failed on many levels there were things in it that should be praised, like the hair, make up and costumes, the sets, the classic cars. The whole look of the movie was very well done. Theresa Russell, (an actress who, in my opinion never got her due) as Taylor’s mother gave a solid performance. Grant Bowler (of Ugly Betty fame) was fairly good as Richard Burton, although he could have worked a bit harder on the Welsh accent as his natural New Zealand accent won out more often than not. The entire supporting cast really did their best to rise above a terrible script and a truly horrid performance by the lead actress. The script sounded as if it were written by a 10-year-old with lines like “I don’t loathe you, I hate you!”. Now I am not against the telling of the unvarnished truth, warts and all, but this seemed to have been written for the express purpose of sullying the memory of Taylor and Burton. It was all warts… no all. Speaking of the lead actress, Lindsay Lohan didn’t even seem to be trying to portray Elizabeth Taylor as much as she seemed to be trying to connect some of the events in Taylor’s life to her own. Elizabeth Taylor had a high-pitched, almost childlike, feminine voice, Lohan sounded like a ninety year old Jewish woman sending back soup in a deli. To be fair, that is Lindsay’s natural voice, but when you are portraying someone else, you MUST, at least try to, sound like them… especially when you are using the part as a comeback vehicle. Lohan was too skinny, too freckled and too immature for the part. I suspect that the only reason her name was brought up for the role was that she had previously done a pictorial for Interview Magazine where she was done up as Taylor. There is a vast difference between posing like an icon while in the right styling, make up and lighting for a still camera and actually portraying that person for a motion picture camera and Lindsay does not look enough like Elizabeth Taylor to suspend the viewer’s disbelief. I understand that Lifetime is a small budget network known for schlocky movies of the week, and casting Lohan in this role was, in itself, quite the marketing stroke of genius. They knew there would be millions of people (like myself) tuning in just to see her fail and that was something they could sell to advertisers. After all, there’s nothing the public likes better than to see an actress who is already on the decline, make a fool of herself. To Lohan’s credit there was actually one believable moment in the movie. There is a part where Richard Burton is trying to comfort Elizabeth Taylor who is crying after storming out of her 40th birthday party because a couple of the catty guests said she was no longer a movie star. Lohan as Taylor utters the line, “I’m not a star, I’m a joke.” In this moment Lohan actually connected with the truth, perhaps ironically, but it was a moment of truth in an otherwise hopeless performance.

The other biopic I finally got around to watching this weekend was My Week With Marilyn, a film that received two Oscar nominations and a host of other accolades

Michelle Williams and Marilyn Monroe

As a fan of Marilyn Monroe, I went into this film with mixed emotions. I have read almost everything there is to read about her life. I have seen literally all of her films multiple times. I have watched interviews with her, talking about her life and her work. It was going to be difficult for me to be able to suspend my disbelief enough to give Michelle Williams a fair shake. The movie, as a whole, was not terrible. Like Liz and Dick, the attention to detail was very good and the supporting cast rose above a bad script. Dame Judy Dench was perfection as Dame Sybil Thorndike. Julia Ormond absolutely became Vivian Leigh. Dougray Scott was wonderful as Arthur Miller (although his part was small and poorly written). Kenneth Branagh as Sir Lawrence Olivier was transcendent. The script was an amateurish, mean-spirited and one-dimensional portrayal of every character, especially Monroe, but most of the actors were able to bring more to their portrayals than what was on the page. The story could have easily been written by someone who had never even met Marilyn and had just heard the gossip and rumours of her behavior on set (another case of all warts and no all). It came across as the deluded bragging of a young man who thought himself the only person who could understand Marilyn Monroe. That being said, Michelle Williams’ portrayal did nothing to give any real depth to the part, focusing solely on her insecurities, fear of abandonment and need for approval. Another case of bad casting. Now I am not saying that Williams is a bad actress, quite the contrary, I have enjoyed her in many other movies. It is simply that this role was too big for her, both figuratively and literally. Williams, (like Lohan) was too thin for the part… and the opening scene with her dancing in a sheer gown was distracting if only because of the OBVIOUS padding of her hips and bottom. I couldn’t help but think, several times while watching this movie, that HBO would have done a far better job with it. In fact, I would have given this film much more slack if it had been made for TV, but as it was not and as it was so acclaimed, I was more critical of every little detail. Unlike, Lindsay Lohan in Liz and Dick, Michelle Williams did not ever seem to connect with Monroe (even ironically). The whole performance was a pale imitation and a let down.

Tippi Hedren and Sienna Miller

There have been biopic movies that I have thought were well done. Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren in The Girl, Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady, Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis Jr. and Joe Mantegna as Dean Martin in The Rat Pack, Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar and Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin in Game Change. With the possible exception of Sienna Miller (it was almost creepy how much she looked like Tippi Hedren), none of these actors looked exactly like the person they were portraying, but they were able to get past the persona to the person inside and transform themselves into those iconic roles.

And they said it wouldn’t last


Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog. Over the past 52 weeks, there have been 118 blog posts on a large number of topics, prompting 556 comments, 161 followers (not including the 1,415 followers on twitter) and 38,055 page views.

I have blogged about many things over the past year from my three-part series on crimes that shouldn’t be crimes,

https://windupmyskirt.com/2011/11/16/its-a-crime-part-one/

https://windupmyskirt.com/2011/11/18/its-a-crime-part-two/

https://windupmyskirt.com/2011/11/19/its-a-crime-part-three/

and my homage to my homeland during “Canada Week”,

https://windupmyskirt.com/2012/06/22/my-top-ten-favourite-things-about-living-in-canada/

https://windupmyskirt.com/2012/07/01/a-cavalcade-of-canadian-comedy/

to creating a new game called Celebrity Butterfly Effect.

https://windupmyskirt.com/2012/06/10/celebrity-butterfly-effect/

https://windupmyskirt.com/2012/07/30/another-round-of-celebrity-butterfly-effect/

https://windupmyskirt.com/2012/09/23/more-celebrity-butterfly-effect/

There have been some controversial opinions,

https://windupmyskirt.com/2012/09/16/shhhhhhh/

https://windupmyskirt.com/2012/08/28/unpopular-opinion/

https://windupmyskirt.com/2011/12/29/us-vs-them/

but I have always tried to include some more fun and cute blogs so as not to be too depressing.

https://windupmyskirt.com/2012/09/28/these-are-the-days-of-my-week/

https://windupmyskirt.com/2012/01/31/cute-cupids/

https://windupmyskirt.com/2011/12/04/happy-bunch-of-days-off-in-december/

It’s been a year of ups and downs, like any other. What makes this past year different is that I get to say thank you to everyone who has spent time here for making this year a year of which I can be proud. Yes, proud… proud of every word, every image and every view that this blog has generated.

Today I pat myself on the back, tomorrow it’s back to ranting as usual.

This is my favourite view, from high atop my soap box.

 

Clever advertising


This week gave us a couple of very clever ads. The first seemed to be unintentionally awkward and funny, the second was very expensive and made no sense. I submit that both were very successful in achieving their end goal.

Let’s start with British Gas’ sponsorship of 18-year-old Olympic swimmer Tom Daley.

Perfect placement for maximum exposure if you ask me.

The incredibly clever placement of the British Gas logo had the internet buzzing and giggling. Yes it’s funny in that, insert fart joke here, kind of way and that’s precisely what makes it so clever and ultimately successful. Had the logo appeared only on the jacket of Tom Daley’s warm up suit, no one would be talking about British Gas, but place the logo on the back of his speedo and you have advertising gold. Talk about bang for your buck.

Speaking of bang for your buck, the folks behind the new advertising campaign for Chanel Number 5, a fragrance so iconic it really doesn’t need to advertise anymore, paid Brad Pitt $7,000,000 to stand in front of a backdrop in a studio somewhere for 30 seconds and read the most nonsensical copy that had absolutely nothing to do with the brand.

Seeing as all of the late night talk shows, the entertainment “news” shows and the blogosphere (including this humble little slice of the web) is talking about the puzzling ad, I would say that its money well spent. By creating possibly the worst ad I have ever seen, Chanel has successfully created their most talked about ad campaign in decades.

After all, the goal of advertising is to get as many people talking about your brand as possible. With these kind of outside the box ideas, both British Gas and Chanel have done just that. Though personally I prefer a little more truth with my advertising like the ad slogans from the movie Crazy People.