On Screen in 2012

I wrote this post about a week ago and just realized today was the last day I could post this and still be taken seriously, which is also why there are no pictures to accompany my spiel below (no time!). As a pop culture addict I thought a nice way to wrap up the year would be to put together a list of shows and films that I enjoyed in 2012. Most of these hold up under very flimsy sociological analysis. I can’t promise they’ll stand their ground if you dig too deep, but give them a shot anyway.

7. New Girl

I wasn’t a huge fan when this show came out because there’s a lot to be said about the manic pixie dream girl ideal and claiming that Zooey Deschanel has made it OK to be ‘adorkable’ didn’t make all that other stuff better. In having said that, there are many manic pixie dream girl characters I’ve really admired on screen most notably, Natalie Portman as ‘Sam’ in Garden State. The biggest issue I have with New Girl is that Jess, the only vital female character in the series is portrayed as too-ditzy-to-function on occasion, constantly relying on the boys to pull her out of whatever dilemma she finds herself in. She seems to exist in a parallel universe where the world is full of rainbows and lollipops. Too much Jess can be a bit nauseating.

The other recurring female character is Cece (Cecilia) Jess’ BFF and unfortunately Cece’s very good looks seem to be the focus of much of the story. So after that critique why do I still watch it? I became addicted to the subtle Jess/Nick chemistry and I’m really hoping they get married and have Jess/Nick babies. Who lives in a parallel universe now? But I also have to admit that Jess might have actually grown on me. She may not be the character who’ll blow every female stereotype out of the water but at least she’s a sweetheart, ditzy but a definite sweetheart. Plus I have friends who are like that so at least she’s also a bit real. By friends I obviously mean me.

6. Covert Affairs

Ok, I confess I actually discovered this in 2011 on the long haul flight from Dubai to Sydney but I became addicted in 2012 so it still counts right? The protagonist Annie Walker is a strong central female character. As is typical of most women on television, when their career is thriving, their personal life is suffering- apparently even in the realm of fiction we can’t quite get the balance. Someone once told me that’s because television requires drama for a storyline and if her life were perfect there’d be no story. Fair point.

Like her predecessor, ALIAS’ Sydney Bristow, Annie’s sex appeal often becomes a central part of the plot. I occasionally allow myself to overlook it because Auggie, her sometimes-love-interest, is such a delight. Though the feminist in me duly notes this contrast and wishes covert agents relied on their intellect less than their bodies.

5. Criminal Minds

Criminal Minds is one of my more recent discoveries and of yet I haven’t seen the female agents use their femininity or sexuality to solve any case. Though they also remain on the fringes for most of the episodes. The boys seem to take center stage and thus the female characters appear less established.

There’s no doubt about how much I love crime drama. A girl doesn’t undergo a PhD on the genre unless she seriously loves or hates it and I have a relationship that spans both. I love this show not because the women are awesome but because it had me asking myself why I’d never considered becoming a behaviourist. It’s not too late, is it?

4. Parks and Recreation

Just when you thought Tina Fey would always be your Queen Bee, Amy Poehler comes as a pretty close contender for girl idol. Learning that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are BFF’s had to be one of the greatest moments in my pop-culture driven life. While it doesn’t quite beat 30 Rock (in my opinion), the satire makes me LOL and if you’ve ever that the pleasure (?) of meeting some people in local government you’ll find this funnier than you should.

3. I Luv U But

There’s nothing I love more than a story told with heart and writer/director,Fadia Abboud gives nothing but heart in I Luv U But, a short web-series about an Australian-Lebanese couple who marry for convenience. He (Sam) being gay and she (Mouna) a lesbian. The situations they find themselves in are just hilarious. The beauty of humour is that it can bare a lot of soul without alienating its audience. It’s through comedy we’re taken on the tumultuous journey of Sam and Mouna’s double lives.

A couple of the characters feel a little forced to begin with but grow into themselves quite beautifully a couple of mini-sodes in. Mouna’s mother is by far my favourite character as her performance is effortless and warm not to mention flawless.

2. Girls

My best friend introduced me to this show about a month ago and I’d initially resisted watching it despite the great reviews. But within two episodes I was addicted. Unfortunately this made me very late to a graduation party (sorry Sema) and I ‘worked from home’ the following day to finish it. When I discovered there was only one season I was mortified!

This show is pretty self-explanatory- four girls, four journeys, and four sets of hilariously awkward moments. It’s raw, it’s funny and it’s as real as fictional TV gets… if the only women that existed were White.

The overarching criticism of the show is that it’s very ‘white’ with someone claiming it probably should have been called ‘White Girls’- this is a fair enough critique since the greatest diversity we see is the Jewish Shoshanna. My greatest hesitation in watching this was that I wouldn’t relate to any of the characters, but apparently awkwardness transcends culture. So while I would love to see a show made about four quirky women from a non-White background as they navigate their 20’s (it’s coming, I can feel it!), I’ll take what I can get in the mean time.

My personal critique would be the often-unnecessary sex scenes between Hannah and Adam, which border on gratuitous. We get it- they have a less than conventional sex life.

Below are some links to interesting reads on Girls

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2012/oct/21/girls-smart-sassy-brits-groundbreaking

http://jezebel.com/5903382/why-we-need-to-keep-talking-about-the-white-girls-on-girls

http://thehairpin.com/2012/04/where-my-girls-at

1. Hala’ la wein?

Not surprisingly it’s a ‘foreign film’ that takes the number one spot in my heart in 2012. I loved it so much I saw it twice! The story follows a group of Muslim and Christian women living in a small village in Lebanon who pull together to protect their little community from feeling the rift of an ongoing civil war.

This is the best depiction I’ve seen of Lebanese women of my mother’s generation in cinemas ever. That could of course be more of a testament to my limited viewing than lack of content, so if you know of others I’d love to hear them.

Writer/director, Nadine Labaki brought you the beautifully told Caramel and Hala’ la Wein? Or Where do we go now?, made me laugh and cry at various intervals. There were lots of reasons I enjoyed this film and it probably had a lot to do with the company I was keeping- women of my generation who were also really inspired by the courage and resourcefulness of these women.

The strongest critiques of this film have been either mostly stylistic or concerning the depictions of men in the film. The first is a realm I’m not qualified to comment on. While I understand those who say it was neither funny nor serious enough, I actually enjoyed the balance between bawling like a baby and laughing hysterically.

The second criticism relates to the stereotypical depiction of Arab men as brutish thugs ready to go to war with little instigation. While I absolutely see the grounds for this argument I think the story was about women and I didn’t leave the cinema thinking what a terrible depiction of men but what a touching and refreshing representation of women. Which begs the question can we make women look good without making men look bad? The obvious answer is that we probably can and I think in a way Labaki does that in Caramel. So while I note the criticism I don’t think it undoes the good work Labaki does for women and I highly recommend this. In fact it should be compulsory viewing.

clap

And that’s a wrap!! Enjoy what’s left of 2012 (if anything) and be safe as you celebrate (or sleep through) the New Year! Happy holidays 🙂

This image was supposed to make up for a lack of images elsewhere.
(Image credit)