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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"I'm so evil, and skanky. And I think I'm kind of gay."
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July 13 2007

Cable's saving grace is women. Huge props given to Mutant Enemy alumn, Shawn Ryan, in this USA Today article about big name actresses making the jump to cable to get TV's best lead roles for women.

"I think (Shield creator) Shawn Ryan and The Shield busted cable out. We can take more chances and explore the humanity of these characters. And we can show that women are just as complex and compelling as men."
-Saving Grace creator Nancy Miller.

It sounds to me like network cable TV, if not HBO or Showtime, is a great place for Joss to make his return to show running.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2007-07-13 04:14 ]

[ edited by Hjermsted on 2007-07-13 16:54 ]

Glenn Close on The Shield was criticised for being stunt casting but I think she was fantastic and I was gripped for the whole season. So thank you, Shawn Ryan.
I plan on watching all these new shows (I already can't miss The Closer). I am thrilled that someone out there is making television that reflects the real (or hyper-real) lives of women over 25,over 35, and over 40.
I've seen a few episodes of 'The Closer' and liked Kyra Sedgwick's performance (maybe a few too many 'forced' eccentricities but otherwise good) but I don't make a special effort to watch it because the character started to annoy me slightly. She seemed so, so together professionally that I started to have trouble believing she was so, so not together in her personal life.

Unlike say House, where what makes him so brilliant is also partly what makes him such a personal screw-up that didn't really seem to be the case in 'The Closer', which seemed inconsistent. Or maybe they are related and I just missed why.

(do agree though that it's great to see more interesting and active roles for women, especially women over a certain age - before they've been relegated to a 'type' e.g. mothers and/or housewives which all largely conformed to the stereotype)

Keep meaning to have a look at 'Weeds' and 'Saving Grace' also sounds interesting (really like Holly Hunter).
I don't really see a conflict between the good at work, not good in personal life dynamic in The Closer. We see male characters who understand their jobs and work environments but have difficulty functioning in their personal lives all the time...especially in police shows. I don't really see the difference. After all, she is not nearly as disfunctional in her personal life as House is. To me, it seems like she has found a way to both use and subvert her upbringing in her work life, but in her personal life she has a much harder time with the conflict between who she was raised to be, who she is and the fact that she still has not figured out who she wants to be.

Saving Grace has not started being broadcast yet. I think the premier is the 19th. (?)
This isn't related to whether she's a she or not newcj, i'm judging her character on the same basis I judge any other (which, admittedly, could be part of the problem). It's true though, we see male characters that are functional at work and dysfunctional at home BUT they're almost always dysfunctional at home precisely because they're functional at work i.e. their character flaws are strengths in their work environment and weaknesses at home. House is slightly different IMO in that he chooses to be dysfunctional in order to do the best job he can (as he sees it) while living the easiest life (again, as he sees it). He's also fairly unusual in that, to him, he's entirely functional, in fact, as far as he's concerned, he's the only one that's 'got it right' and everyone else constantly blinds themselves with emotions and subjective concerns (Johnson for instance is well aware of what a mess she is, so are Monk, Holmes, the guy from 'Psych' and most of the other 'defective' detectives from TV/books etc.).

Johnson's interrogation skills seem to indicate an extremely high empathy for others (as well as a sometimes ruthless goal-oriented approach to problems) and I guess I don't immediately see how those cause her to be so ineffectual (and occasionally socially dense i.e. unempathetic) in her personal life (I can see that she's complex, I just like my character complexities to be 'joined up'). I've only seen about 8 episodes though so I may well be missing something.
I think Brenda Johnson made more sense to me after the reveal that she'd been a CIA agent. Looking for the motherlode of weird personalities? Try intel.

Seriously though, the ruthless goal-oriented thing is something she shares with the criminals she's investigating and interrogating, thus the empathy. What's the goal in a relationship? So confusing.
Actually, I consider her femaleness and what the culture she was raised in emphasizes and expects of its girls and women, to be the major element that makes her good at her job. At the same time, I see her personal conflict with those cultural expectations to be the reason why her personal life is messed up.

I see her as having been raised in a traditional culture that trains women to survive and even thrive by manipulation. My take is that she was trained to always be pleasant, polite, able to read other people and to manipulate them, preferably without them ever realizing they have been manipulated. Her culture's purpose was almost certainly for her to become a perfect society wife, but she rejected that and chose a different path. In her job she can use all her training and talents without worrying about the ethics of it, but in her personal life she runs up against the conflicts between what she recognizes a modern relationship should or could be and how she was taught to handle...well...men.

I'm guessing I just annoyed a couple people, but that was not my intent.
Err, not me, hope you didn't get that impression newcj, we're just talkin' like we have a squillion times before (FWIW though, one of the few things that will annoy me are oblique references to 'people' if/when you mean me, I don't like it in the world and it turns out I feel the same way online. Straight talk suits me better - course if you didn't mean me then just ignore this. Actually, maybe I should've put that bit at the start ;).

My point was that since cops on TV have been overwhelmingly male and male written (and I *checks*, yep, am male ;) I might just be too used to judging on that basis and therefore slightly 'blind' to the link between personal and professional in Johnson's case (maybe most male characters are simpler or maybe they only seem simpler to me because i'm a) a guy and b) in a job where a very literal frame of mind, pedantry and almost obsessive attention to detail are definite pluses whereas in personal stuff not always so much).

For instance, it's a good point about what she was raised into, hadn't thought of that. I guess being southern she might have had an even more rigid view of femininity imposed upon her and I like the idea that she might feel conflicted at, in some ways, being too good at being a 'woman' (i.e. what she was raised to think of as one) while being disgusted at what that actually is.

Reckon though I see empathy as more like Monk's OCD than House's emotional distance in that it's not something you can switch on or off (though with empathy you can obviously choose to ignore what it's telling you, maybe that's what Johnson does and i've just missed it). So if Monk makes a personal faux pas because he's e.g. obsessive about germs that makes sense to me but if he makes one because he's unobservant that feels inconsistent (because we know he can't help but be hyper-vigilant, it's who he is).

(and I didn't know about the CIA thing dreamlogic, might've been after I stopped watching but yeah, certainly in espionage fiction - never met a spy in real life. Or is that just what they wanted me to think ? ;) - there's a great tradition of slightly batty characters. When you think about how twisted the secret life is you'd either have to be bonkers to sign up or bonkers by the time you left. It's also true that relationship goals are much harder to pin down than "Get perp to tell truth". Happiness ? What does that even mean ?)
Oh come on. You know me better than that saje. If I meant anyone specific, I would have said so. I was just concerned that someone would be offended at the idea that IMO most cultures, and in this case Southern American culture trains and expects women to be manipulative.

I don't see Brenda Lee Johnson as turning off her empathy, I see her as usually knowing exactly what she would need to do to make people in her personal life happy, but conflicted as to what it would mean for her and the relationship if she did those things. She almost always knows she is doing something to mess up the relationship, and she does it for a specific reason...usually while feeling terrible about it.

She was raised to care about what people think, and she does. Unfortunately for her she also does not want to live in the way that she was taught would bring her social approval. I'm guessing she is afraid of losing her identity if she lets herself be governed too much by what other people want and commit herself too much to a relationship...because that was what she was raised to do. In her job, those are not concerns. She can be totally lost in her job and ruled by the objective of solving the case. It is alright to not consider anything else.
That's what I figured ;). Reading it again, I see you meant 'just' as in 'just now, the immediate past' rather than 'just' as in 'all i've done, only'. Soz ;).

Seems like we have a different take, like I say I could be missing something that'd lead me to your interpretation, might be worth having another look at it sometime (though there's a long list of stuff I keep meaning to look at). Or I might re-watch it and be annoyed anew, horses/courses.

Reckon you're onto something about her preferring more clearly defined situations, sounds quite like House in that way. He loves the seeming clarity that comes from pure objectivity in science (obviously actually just a story he's telling himself about science, in real life it's not like that) so tries to manufacture that clarity in his personal life by applying the same process and unwavering honesty to his relationships - with some success it's worth noting (though by our standards only by sacrificing quite a bit). She's trying not to apply the same process cos she knows where that might lead. Two sides, same coin.
I can't wait for this one. I adore Holly Hunter and I think (from the trailers) she's going to be someone I'll enjoy and relate to a lot more than Brenda on The Closer, who I find to be too self-consciously eccentric. And a supernatural element, always a big draw for me.
BTW the premier has been changed to July 23rd. I'm having surgery on my foot that morning & will be spending the night in the hospital, so I have a huge note to myself on my frig to set it up to record, before I leave.

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