onsdag, maj 13

Top Five Best Female TV-Series Characters (of late)

Originally, this was going to be something of a gender study. It'll still be, in part, but I'm just not in the mood to do anything remotely academic. Just take it for what it is, my Top Five of female characters that are both cool and/or cute, and interesting from a feminist standpoint. I'll argue why with each entry, of course. (Do watch the linked videos; they're good examples of each characters particular awesomeness, but there's slight spoilers in some of them). Thus, here goes:

5. Eirene/Adela (Rome)

While "Rome" was indeed filled with good female characters, maybe even to an unprecedented degree, I found one of the most unassuming ones to be the most interesting. Almost every female role portrait in "Rome" provides an excellent example of how one can do a believable and complex female even in an extremely patriarchal setting, but Eirene was the only one to include a class journey, to boot, with resulting confusion and conflicts. She's also just about the single most sympathetic character in the whole series, which could very well have been a bad thing, as such (female) characters are generally portrayed as weak. And she is weak; a german slave, lost and abused, she spends most of the first season quiet and afraid, huddled in a corner, but she does have dreams, humble as they may be, and in one scene, she's almost about to kill her owner in his sleep because he shattered them.

Later, after her marriage, stuff gets real interesting as she desperately tries to live up to her new and unfamiliar role as a roman housewife, with mixed results. She does find real love, which she much deserved, but in the crapsack world of "Rome", of course, she doesn't get a happy ending.

In a regular tv-series, Eirene would simply have been a completely pointless character; she's almost only there to act as Pullo's love interest, after all. Fortunately, she was in "Rome", whose writers gave her so much personality, feelings and inner and outer conflicts that she became a textbook example of how a good character should be. And she was still only supporting cast. There's a reason "Rome" is the second best tv-series ever.

4. Karen McCluskey (Desperate Housewives)

How often do old women like this one get any screentime at all?. While only a supporting character, she's gotten more and more screentime as the series progresses and viewers realise how awesome she is. (Actually, it even seems like she's getting her own spinoff). She's the complete opposite of Eirene above; confrontational, grumpy, and cool. While she's had her fair share of sorrows in her life, she refuses any form of sympathy almost to the point of foolishness. Eventually, she warms up a little as she befriends various people of the main cast, but she keeps her awesome, sardonic outlook on life, and still doesn't take shit from anyone.

While Mrs McCluskey could easily have fallen into the old "bitter, lonely old woman"-cliché, the writers avoids this by giving her friends, complex feelings and an intriguing and believable personality. And she's a woman of action; when she found her husband of many years dead and discovered that all his possessions were testamented to his first wife, she simply stuffed the asshole in the freezer downstairs so that she could keep cashing in his checks. Her Crowning Moment of Awesome is probably when she's about to scatter her dead friend Ida's ashes on a football field, and suddenly starts reciting this really beautiful poem, only to end it with "let's dump her".

3. Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica)

There's only one other series that have as good female characters as "Rome", and that's this one. While Starbuck was absolutely excellent, Laura Roslin stands out even more because she couldn't fight at all and was, well...middle-aged. How often do middle-aged women get to be main cast? And how often do they get the central love story of the whole series? With a man their own age? Laura Roslin got all that. And she was insanely cool while doing it. Calm and composed and reasonable, she was an excellent leader, and yet she had passion, both of the romantic and the violent kind. Cross her, and you are fucking dead. Let me quote her Crowning Moment of Awesome, when mutineers on Galactica claim that they've executed her lover and demand her surrender (she's on another ship):

"No. Not now, not ever. Do you hear me? I will use every cannon, every bomb, every bullet, every weapon I have down to my own eye teeth to end you! I swear it! I'M COMING FOR ALL OF YOU!"

She rules.

2. C.C. (Code Geass)

While the portrayal of women in anime is often downright horrible, occasional brilliance stems from the general japanese knack for good characterization and great storytelling. When a female anime character actually is good, she's almost always great. And C.C. is just about the coolest and most interesting female character I've encountered in a long, long while.

An immortal from the middle ages forever locked in her sixteen-year old body, C.C. is tired of life, and pursues a way to end it. She bestows her supernatural gift, geass, on the main character, Lelouch, in the hope that he'll eventually take over her burden of immortality and let her die. Thus begins an awesome dynamic of psychological and sexual tension between the two of them, where C.C mostly adopts a background role as advisor to the genial Lelouch. Still, while he might be the more intelligent, she's got more experience and knowledge, and it's frequently shown that they both need each other. As often as Lelouch comes to her rescue when she's in trouble, she comes to his, and she readily took over his entire organisation in his absence. She's not a follower because she's female, but because she's a lone wolf and prefers it that way, and because she perceives it to be the best way to reach her own goals. Cynical, unemotional, practical and witty, she has of course a softer side that's eventually revealed, but that's part of the reason she became so disillusioned to begin with. And then there's intriguing and bisarre quirks like her obsession with pizza and hugging pillows.

Her Crowning Moment of Awesome is when Lelouch tells her "don't die" as she's about to commit a suicide attack (still being immortal, of course), and she answers, smiling: "who do you think you're talking to?".

However, she's still in an anime, and occasionally objectified to certain degrees. While she has relatively small breasts for anime standards, especially compared to other characters in this series, the animators do seem to love her butt quite a lot. Even so, she's a character of the kind only the japanese create; cool, cute and immensely interesting. It helps that her voice actor, Yukana, has a comparatively deep voice, giving her a fitting air of maturity.

1. Joan Holloway (Mad Men)

While certainly quite cool, and very sassy, Joan Holloway is also quite tragic. But she doesn't realise that herself, being utterly brainwashed by the patriarchal society she lives in (early 1960's America). For her, the first two seasons of the series seem to be about a gradual realisation of how oppressed she really is.

A secretary at the office the series is centered around, Joan accepts that she's a woman in a man's world and doesn't really mind that, at first. She's still not a pushover in any way; with both style and wit, she's the queen bee of the office, and all the other office girls look up to her. Most of the men also respects her, and she has a passionate affair with one of the bosses, for a time.

Then, she get's the opportunity to help a guy with his work of reviewing various tv-scripts, and she really enjoys it, and discovers that she has a knack with charming the clients. But in a few days, the guy in charge hires a young man to take over that job from her. Joan is clearly very disappointed, but quietly gives up.

And then we learn that her doctor fiancée abuses her, which she, of course, doesn't really realise. Eventually, there's this scene in her boss' office where her fiancée tells her something like "pretend you're my secretary", and she keeps begging him to stop, but he just force her down on the floor and rapes her while she quietly endures, focusing her gaze on a wall across the room. That scene was worse than even the infamous rape scene in "Irreversible", despite being much less violent.

Later in the very same episode, Joan say that her boyfriend "really is a wonderful man," as though she is desperately trying to convince herself of that.

No other character I've encountered in a tv-series have been such a disturbingly realistic example of the intricate mechanisms of oppression as Joan Holloway is. Of course, there's other sides to her character, and they're all interesting and well done, but this particular theme strikes me as something that haven't really been portrayed nearly as good as in "Mad Men", ever before.

Over and out


4 kommentarer:

  1. Jag har ju inte sett någon av serierna förutom BSG och där bara första säsongen, men jag håller med dig. Jag är väldigt förtjust i Starbuck, men det är ju för att hon är ansinnigt lik än av mina favoritkaraktärer. :)

  2. Välskrivet och intressant! Blev sugen på att börja titta på Mad Men nu. Du skriver bra, skriv mer!

  3. I will :D tack för responsen!

    Mad Men -är- mycket bra, men det stör mig att den är så tungt centrerad runt huvudpersonen, Don Draper, som jag finner osympatisk och ointressant. Nästan alla bikaraktärer är mycket bättre.

  4. http://www.cracked.com/blog/why-you-should-be-watching-mad-men/

    You need to read this :D