Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘TV’

I only realized in the past week or so that yes, on the whole, I prefer TV shows to movies.

This is a strange about-face for me to make. I was the roommate who, in freshman year of college, fought hard to prevent having the TV in the living room. I came from a household where we watched TV pretty much every night, usually for 3-4 hours, and I was sick of it. I became sick of it before I went away to college, and I’d hide out in the back room practicing music by the hour, reading lots of books, and whiling away my remaining time playing backgammon and Hearts with a computer AI.

But now, I find when I get to choose between a TV show and a movie, I am more likely to select a TV show.

I prefer TV shows for the same reason I prefer novels. I am what I call a character reader; I get pulled through a story because I am invested in the characters’ lives and development. World building I only care about if it is so off as to be distracting. Plot I care about more. But it is the characters who breathe life into the experience for me. And TV shows allow a lot more space for character development than most movies

But perhaps more importantly, I was listing my favorite shows and found that all of them feature either a female lead character or ensemble casts with plenty of female characters. Which is something that can be hard to find in the movies, which too often have the token female character or the two female characters who never even talk to each other. (Thank you, Bechdel test, for helping me systematically notice this.)

In fact, these days I tend to choose not to watch TV shows that have a male lead character as opposed to an ensemble cast. (The exception to this is Sherlock. My love for Sherlock Holmes is greater than my irritation at the low numbers of female characters in the show.)  I was never interested in Dexter or Breaking Bad. A serial killer who the audience is supposed to be okay with because he chooses his victims carefully? A teacher who is a drug dealer and brings his student and family with him on his downhill plummet? Ugh. Both of these shows have their merits, from what I hear, but they are unappealing to me. Plus in the current culture, neither of those characters, anti-heroes at their finest, could have been female, simply because they aren’t likeable enough in their conception. Ugh again.

No, instead I have an endearing love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Not so much love for Angel.) I enjoy the ensemble casts of Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones. (Yes, GoT women tend to conform to types, but at least they exist as main characters, and their stories, horror and all, are illustrative of what it’s like to lack power and agency due to gender and the different ways they are forced to strive for power in spite of their genders simply in order to survive.) I rewatch Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls. I watched every episode of Gossip Girl, and I’m catching up on Vampire Diaries.

Murray Close/Lionsgate Publicity Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen.

Are these shows perfect? Not by a long shot. But at least I get to watch women doing stuff and being a real part of the story. Perhaps with the box office successes of Catching Fire and Gravity, I’ll get to watch more women doing stuff in the movies too. Maybe they can even do stuff together. Maybe Frozen did well enough that next time, I’ll get to watch a female snowperson sidekick/comic relief, without any sexist jokes being involved.

And in the meantime, I’ll be sitting on my couch watching Buffy.

Read Full Post »

On Tuesday night my husband and I went on a date night to see The Adjustment Bureau. During the car ride home, I proceeded to tear the movie apart: partly its plot (especially the end, ouch) and partly its portrayal of women. My direct quote: “Was this movie written by people who hate women?” Yeah, not pretty. (Also, just for the record, this movie is urban fantasy, not science fiction.)

Well, at least the poster is pretty.

While I could easily spend an entire blog post critiquing this movie (and wouldn’t my snark be amusing?), I’m going to restrain myself and instead point out something else. If I had watched this movie three years ago, I would have thought it was mildly entertaining and left it at that (except the end. I still would have thought the end was stupid.) I wouldn’t have noticed the negative depiction of women, and I definitely wouldn’t have noticed the issues I had with the plot.

Becoming a writer has changed me in many ways, not the least of which is the way that I engage with entertainment. I read differently, and I watch TV series and movies differently. If I still played video games, I’d probably experience them differently too. Even when I force my mind out of critique mode (which I can usually do if the errors in front of me aren’t super egregious), I notice aspects of the narrative that I never saw before. I think about conflict, I think about stakes, and I think about character motivations. And I notice when women are being portrayed as playing pieces instead of fully realized characters.

When I’m not enjoying a novel, instead of just putting it aside, I start to analyze why it isn’t working for me. Are there too many info dumps, or is the beginning too slow? Do I not understand or buy into the world building ? Does a character’s voice not ring true? Or is it merely a personal preference issue? (I tend to bounce off fairly dense prose with large amounts of description. Sometimes I can objectively see that this is good, but it doesn’t matter. I’m still bored out of my mind.)

When I am enjoying a novel, I try to pay attention to why I’m loving it so much. What combination of techniques is the author using to give me such a reader happy? How is that Guy Gavriel Kay switches POVs and tenses as much as he does without making me hate the book? How is it that Suzanne Collins keeps the pace so breathless in The Hunger Games?

I don’t usually mind this interference. It sounds awful, and if I had known about it ahead of time, it might have given me pause. But in reality, it’s kind of like a nerdy, intellectual game. It’s fun to be able to have solid reasons to put behind my opinions. It’s even entertaining to have debates on the relative merits and drawbacks of a certain work.

But perhaps most importantly, I haven’t merely learned how to read or view media differently. Becoming a writer has changed how I see and understand the world and its history, present, and future. It has changed how I see the people in that world. And I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

If you’re a writer, how has it changed how you read or experience the world? If you’re not a writer, have you encountered something else that has had a similar effect on you?

Read Full Post »