Downton Abbey vs. Walking Dead, #dontmakemechoose

by Jess Faulk

walking-dead-downton-abbey

Sunday night. Housework done. Snow shoveling done. Weekend winding down.  Should be a relaxing time for most.  And yet, it brings with it a very difficult question that would stress out any reasonable human being, what do I watch on TV tonight? Downton Abbey or The Walking Dead!?!

Lucky for me, thanks to the invention of TIVO, I know my answer to that question – both!  Although it did make me wonder, how many others are in the same boat as me, psyched to watch these two radically different shows?  I am sure it is not a coincidence that they have placed these two wonderful shows opposite each other, on the assumption that they won’t attract the same demographic.

It is possible I am an outlier, having full appreciation for the romance, drama, and history of Downton and equally loving the gore and intensity of the post-apocalyptic world of Walking Dead.  However, I have a hunch that I am far from being alone in this mixed genre affection, and that my fellow blog readers are among those who can appreciate a wide range of interests.
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I still vividly remember listing to NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’s bluff the listener game in February 2009.  They shared three stories about classic works of literature being “improved.”  The stories were all equally unbelievable as usual.  But when I heard the story of blending zombies and Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, I listened intently hoping that that story was true.  The question of whether Mr. Darcy will capture Ms. Bennet’s heart, or whether that heart would be eaten by the Zombie hordes is just too exciting for it not to be true!  As we now know, it was true, and Seth Grahame-Smith published the awesome mash-up, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I felt like it was written just for me.

As a female geek I am (almost) used to being questioned when I express an interest in stereotypically different interests.  Growing up, I liked playing video games and also liked playing dress up.  I liked watching the Terminator and liked watching Titanic.  These days, I like reading tech blogs and also like reading romance novels.  And as I’ve made obvious, I love Downton Abbey and also love The Walking Dead.  I have found excitement in these “contradictions” and I hope that future generations of young women feel comfortable exploring whatever interests they want to without judgment.  Talking about it, normalizing it, and celebrating a variety of interests with both little boys and little girls is important. Who knows, maybe when our kids grow up, they won’t have to choose between two of the greatest shows on TV because the networks will schedule shows based on a new demographic that loves both!

Blog Prompt: What hobbies are you into that other people feel are contradictory?

Photo Mashup: by Brian Huntington on http://www.notzombies.com/tv/downton-zombie/
F
un LA Times article on the similarities between Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead

Downton Abbey vs. Walking Dead, #dontmakemechoose

Blog Prompt: State of Women in Movies & TV

By Anitra Cottledge

I’m not going to talk about the show Girls in this post, or all the attention it’s gotten, except to say, I’m not really interested in watching it, although it does raise interesting debate about African Americans having to choose between misrepresentation in or exclusion from film and television.

I’m only going talk briefly about The Avengers, simply because I haven’t seen it yet. But, please know that I am going to see The Avengers. I’m expecting to really enjoy it. I heart Joss Whedon, comics, and pop culture. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to enjoy it even though there are only three major female characters in The Avengers: Black Widow, Agent Maria Hill and Pepper Potts. I’m reasonably certain I’m going to like it even though it apparently still doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test because the women “never talk to each other, about a man or anything else for that matter.”

I’m imagining that the three female characters have some nuance, despite not passing the Bechdel Test. Joss’ female characters tend to have layers.

Of course, I could talk about the fact that none of the major female characters (or any of the major male superhero characters, for that matter) in the film are people of color, but that’s another, although related, story for another day.

I could also talk about how, even with some Joss Whedon layers, comic book film adaptations tend to be very gendered. Artist Kevin Bolk points this out:

All of these things are part of a conversation about women in film and TV.

My latest TV addiction, Scandal, has also generated a lot of discussion about the depiction of black women in television. Scandal, a show about a professional fixer, “just might be the first television show on a major network both created by [Shonda Rhimes] and starring a black woman [Kerry Washington]. Could Scandal be indicative of a shift towards a broader and more balanced range in depictions of African American women on TV?

I often say that the problem is one of range, of having (or not having) enough options in the type of character one is going to portray so that all the pressure doesn’t rest on one or two shows to speak to all the multitudes of personalities, ideas, beliefs and experiences within any one identity group.

When you think about it that way, this is both an individual show/film issue and a larger industry issue. In reference to Girls (which I’m still not talking about), “The Problem of Representation, as they say, is the entertainment industry’s problem, not Lena Dunham’s.”

I also think that the industry’s “Problem of Representation” is greatly supported by the virtual invisibility and underrepresentation of women in film and tv. According to the Women’s Media Center, during the 2010-2011 television season, women made up:

  • 18 percent of creators
  • 22 percent of executive producers
  • 37 percent of producers
  • 15 percent of writers
  • 11 percent of directors
  • 20 percent of editors
  • 4 percent of directors of photography.

P.S. Those numbers haven’t shifted much since the 90s.

As someone who works in a Women’s Center, I find myself often saying to people that, of course we need to celebrate and acknowledge women’s progress to date, but our job is to also remember that there is still much work to do. And that, for me, sums up the state of women in film and TV.

While there is much more to learn about women and Hollywood, I want to leave you with something to celebrate: Ten Women of Color Behind the Camera in Television Whose Careers You Should Follow. Get into it.

Blog Prompt: State of Women in Movies & TV