English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #1102Fem

My Final Farewell Before Being Fresh Off the Blog

Alright, yay! Last blog post! Party time! My journey with Fresh Off the Boat is finally coming to an end. Looking back, I am going to be honest. I did not like the show to begin with, and I still do not like the show now. However, it is a good show. I see that. It is just not my sense of humor, but it is well made and touches on real issues going on in the world today in a subtle way.

However, I feel like it’s only gone downhill. I love analyzing themes in shows and the deeper messages and the commentary on society. All shows do this (even the funny ones), but Fresh Off the Boat has lost its touch. They started the season really strong discussing topics such as stereotypes and gender roles. Now I have no idea what the show is talking about.

I saved my choice blog post topic for last, and I always had the intention of writing about theme for this one because it’s so interesting for me to discuss. But if I’m being honest, it hasn’t been interesting at all in the last few episodes. I watched 3 episodes today (I’m last minute I know) with the hopes of something worth talking about coming up and I got nothing.

The first episode I watched was about a gay man who came to visit who thought he had dated Louis Huang and had dated Jessica Huang as a cover for his sexuality. There’s nothing there so I try to search for some significant theme in the Huang family children. Eddie is unable to think of a science fair project, so he tries to get infected by his brothers’ chicken pox to avoid working and fails. In the end he learned so much about chicken pox by accident that he did his project on that with the help of his brothers. So, yay for comradery, but what’s the message. Learn about things you are passionate about? Even though he doesn’t actually care, and it was a ploy to do his work?

This is the Wham Halloween costume of Louis and the visiting college friend. It was too good to not include.

Fresh Off the Boat is doing good things in terms of putting a spotlight on important topics, but I don’t think that just because a show is lost in the middle of the season it should give up on delivering an important message. The writers don’t even have to come up with new themes and messages every episode – just thread the same ones throughout the entirety of the show. But, hey, I have to cut them some slack; I am basing this off of half of their first season. Maybe there’s more to discover if I keep watching?

Part Of The Resistance: How Broad City Tackles The Current Political Climate

Broad City is a show known for its absurd sense of humor that plays well with its demographic of millennial viewers. But with this off-brand sense of humor, the show tends to not cover critical current events that happen around us. That changed when the fifth episode of Season 3, titled “2016,” aired in early 2016.

While Broad City is not usually known as a deep show that tackles current issues on a large scale, the creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer decided to chime in by creating an episode based on the 2016 election. This episode is pivotal for the show, not only for its cameo appearance of Hillary Clinton herself, but also because it signifies a tremendous shift of the tone and mood from what the show initially conveyed.

Hillary Clinton’s cameo appearance on Broad City

In “2016,” Ilana stumbles upon the HRC headquarters in New York when she picks up a job being a bike messenger. Ilana adores powerful feminist icons, and she holds Hillary Clinton to an almost deity-like stature, so she decides to quit and volunteer for the campaign. At the end of the episode, Hillary Clinton walks into the room to meet the girls, and Abbi and Ilana, for the lack of better words, lose their shit.

After this episode aired, there were speculations as to why Hillary chose this show to cameo on, but it does bring up a point that relates to Broad City’s unique demographic of young, female viewers. Maybe her cameo was to boost her exposure and likability among young voters, but maybe this appearance was a way for the creators to show their support for her campaign in the upcoming election. Besides the speculation, “2016” was a pivotal episode for the show, but it was not entirely intentional.

Many did not see Hillary losing the election, especially Abbi and Ilana, so when the show came back for a fourth season, Abbi’s and Ilana’s characters surprisingly matured from their pasts of being absurd yet optimistic about the future. This maturity and part-of-the-resistance tone is evident throughout the fourth season, especially in the second and eighth episodes. The second episode of Season 4 opens with Abbi and Ilana wearing the pink Women’s March hats as they guide women through protests to the Planned Parenthood clinic. The eighth episode has Ilana seeing a sex therapist because she cannot have sex ever since Trump became president.

Abbi and Ilana escorting women to Planned Parenthood

Ilana going to sex therapy

These examples highlight the hysteria around the 2016 election, and the results have created a polarized atmosphere where the young people are increasingly resisting and opposing the current administration. Therefore, it is key to note that Broad City has taken a step back from their comedic absurdity in order to shed light on the atmosphere of the country after the election, especially for their demographic of millennial viewers. The show as a result has become a beacon for the millennial psyche of resistance, which makes Abbi’s and Ilana’s characters much more relatable, real, and funnier than before.

The Women Behind “Grace and Frankie”

For this blog I have decided to take a different approach. Rather than focus on the show, I am going to focus on three women who work on the show: Marta Kauffman, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda.

Marta Kauffman is the co-creator and an executive producer of the show. Kauffman was born and 1956, and started her career in TV in 1987. In the show running business she has held the job of writer, co-creator, creator, and Executive Producer. Certainly the most notable show she has worked on is the famous 1990’s sitcom “Friends”. In this show Kauffman was the co-creator, the writer for some episodes, and the executive producers for several seasons. She even participated as an extra in several episodes. Kauffman is a very important women in the world of television.

Marta Kauffman

Lily Tomlin acts in the show as Frankie, one of the main characters. Lily Tomlin started her career as a stand-up comedian and an off-broadway actress.  Her role in “Grace and Frankie” has been so successful that she has gotten four consecutive Emmy nominations for her role. Furthermore, Tomlin has won an Emmy award, a Tony award, and even a Grammy award. Tomlin was also the voice of Mrs. Frizzle in the “Magical School Bus”. Thus, Tomlin has been a female front runner in many fields of the show business.

Lily Tomlin

Jane Fonda plays the role of Grace in the series. Jane Fonda started her career as a broadway actress in 1960. She has appeared in many movies and tv shows since. Furthermore, she is known as fashion model, a fitness guru, and even a political activist. Through her career, she has won multiple Golden Globes, Academy Awards, and distinct lifetime achievement awards.

Jane Fonda

These three women are great examples of what women are capable of achieving, even at an older age.




Moving forward: Goodbye Coach -Topic 6

Not every person we like gets to stay in our lives. Often, we have to leave behind a majority of our friends, family members, and acquaintances. The episode of New Girl titled “Clean Break”, really explores this concept. This episode focuses on the idea of leaving people behind, and whether you should try to take things that remind you of them.

One of the main characters and roommates, Coach, is moving away with his girlfriend May.

Coach and May

Coach explains to Jess that whenever he moves, he “makes a clean break”, and does not like to get sentimental. The episode starts off with Coach only wanting to take the essentials with him and leaving everything else behind. Coach then convinces the rest of his roommates to do the same thing and get rid of unnecessary things in their lives and clean up their rooms. Nick, who is basically a hoarder, is unable to and claims that everything he owns has significance. I really like this episode because it contrasts the different ways people deal with moving. Coach tries to be completely apathetic and only wants to pack essential items, whereas Nick hoards everything including candy wrappers.

I can really relate with Nick since I like to keep mementos from every milestone in my life and have a really hard time throwing away sentimental things.

Later, Coach who is adamant about leaving all memories behind, argues with Winston- another roommate- about what he should and shouldn’t pack. Winston insists that Couch keep a frying pan they bought when they were really drunk because it symbolizes their friendship and pancakes. However, Coach refuses to take it with him. But before Coach leaves, he accidentally hits his suitcase, and it is revealed that Coach took memories of his friends with him and that he wasn’t truly able to just pack the essentials.

When Coach leaves, a song played in the background, that solidifies this as one of my favorite episodes. The lyrics of the song goes “a year from now we’ll all be gone. All our friends will move away. And they’re going to better places. But our friends will be gone away”. This line from the song really impacts me because of all the people in life I left behind to be where I am right now.

This episode really resonates with me because I have moved so many times in my life. I have this desire to keep every friend I ever had in my life, however, that is just not realistic. At the end of the day, the people in your life change and evolve and most the people you love can’t stay by your side forever. You have to move on and meet new people, as hard as that may be.

The message of this episode

Moral Compass and Actin’ Pompous


Good evening fellow Scandal fans!!

Related image

** these Scandalous feelings got me like…

Tonight, we are discussing THEME. The final episode of Scandal’s first season deals heavily with the theme of morality. Almost every single main character is shown facing questions about their morality. A long chain of immoral actions and unethical decisions becomes a vicious cycle as the culprits start lying in order to cover their previous mistakes.

Well, let’s begin at the start of the episode. It opens with a very gruesome scene that places Quinn at the scene of a horrific murder. Instead of calling the police, Quinn calls Olivia. Together the team argues over whether they are willing to break the law and risk their freedom to defend someone they barely know. Ultimately, they decide to break the law, not because they care about protecting Quinn, but solely because of their fierce loyalty to Olivia.

From here, the show depicts how Billy, the victim’s actual murderer, copes with his actions. He must decide whether he will come clean, run away, or cover it up. Initially, Billy really grapples with himself after killing the victim. In private, he struggles with his emotions, but he puts on a brave and innocent face in public. Billy finally decides to lie about this incident and make up an additional issue concerning the President, raising further questions of morality.

Next, the President must decide how he will handle his immorality. At first, it seems as if Fitz will do the unthinkable and actually tell the truth about his affair(s). Shockingly, his wife and former mistress (Olivia) convince him to lie about his affair with the office aide.

Finally, David, the Attorney General, condemns Olivia and her team for breaking the law. He calls himself the law and states he will always keep it. However, in the very last scene, we see David conflicted with compassion and the moral high ground. Thankfully for Quinn, David chooses compassion. But, we can tell this decision still really bothers him, as he feels he is betraying his country and his duty to uphold justice in this country.

Overall, this particular episode of Scandal desires to demonstrate to viewers that each human on this earth will face different questions of morality. In this episode, the show asks the hard questions like, “Is doing the right thing always right for everyone?” or “Is kindness more important than justice?” and of course, “How do you internally handle your immorality?”

Obviously, a show called Scandal will be dealing with some aspects of immorality. But, by showing how each character wanted to respond to the immorality they faced, versus what they ended up doing, Scandal shows us that the world is not strictly black and white. Sometimes good people do bad things for the right reasons. Sometimes bad people do good things for no reason. And, sometimes people just don’t know what they are doing at all, but they desire the best for others.


Grace and Frankie’s Portrayal of Genders

The gender spread of the show is pretty evenly sampled. We can see that Grace and Frankie, two of the main characters are females, as Robert and Sol, the other two main characters, are male. Furthermore, we can see that the secondary characters are also evenly spread out. For example, Robert and Grace have two daughters, while Frankie and Sol have two sons. However, Grace and Frankie tend to get more representation and air time than other characters, given that the show revolves around them and their struggles.

These are the four main characters of the show.

The show does revolve about the main decision of Sol and Robert to come out and proclaim their love towards each other. Grace and Frankie do have to react to this decision at first. However, after this main decision, the show turns its attention to decisions that Grace and Frankie make. The show still puts some attention on the decisions made by Sol and Robert, but the main scope is now with Grace and Frankie.

Furthermore, the show connects the genders it represents to many other axes. We see how the two male lead characters are homosexuals, and the two female lead characters are heterosexuals. This allows for representation of multiple sexual orientations. Furthermore we see some representation of mental illness. This is because one of Sol’s and Frankie’s son is a alcoholic and drug addict.

The show however fails to represent some axes. The show does include one African American character, but beyond that, the show lacks proper racial representation. Furthermore, the show focuses on highly upper class characters. So far all of the characters that have appeared on the show belong to very high socio-economic status. Additionally, the show has yet to show any major character with any disability.

Here we see how the cast of the first season is mostly Caucasian.

Although the show has some shortcomings in representations, I think this show represents pretty well the genders it shows.


The Irrelevance of Age

In this episode I saw of Grace and Frankie, the theme deals with their age, and the irrelevance that accompanies it. We see various low-key examples of this theme. For example, we see how Frankie has difficulty hearing what Grace says, and how Grace truly cannot read without her glasses.

However, this episode contains some significant examples that deal with this theme. We see how Grace tries to get a job at the company she created, but later passed on to her daughter. The daughter tries to turn down Grace as politely as possible, but Grace can only realize how she has become “irrelevant”. The main blow is given when she realizes her face is no longer on the product, given that young women would not respond well to this packaging. Frankie has a different type of moment where she realized that people would discriminate her due to her age. She applies for a job at a nursing home, but due to her age she is received as someone that wants to live in the nursing home.

Here we see how Grace reacted when she found out her face had been removed from the product.

This episode exemplifies how our society often discriminates people, or sees them as irrelevant due to their age. We often forget that elderly people are still capable of doing great things, and that we should not discriminate them for some small qualities they lack due to their age.

Another theme that is dealt with in the episode is the one of a “blended” family. We can see how tensions run high between step-siblings, and between them and their new step-dad. It is fair to notice that the dinner party with the new “blended” family did not go as planned. We also see how Sol, thinks it would have been better to let more time pass before the first family dinner. This theme is also dealt with, when the fact that, the two dads cheated on their wives before acknowledging and admitting their true love, is discussed.

Here we see the awkward welcoming of the new step-daughter.

Is Jessica Jones a Feminist TV Show?

In my opinion, feminist shows are shows in which women are placed into positions where they are not restricted to a one-dimensional personality, where they are portrayed as independent members of society, and most of all, where they can be the masters of their own destinies. In the past, television predominantly showed women as wives rather than individuals, or they were “sidekicks” to a male protagonist. Jessica Jones brilliantly rejects this outdated model, and not just because the main character is a superpowerful woman.

The first thing about Jessica Jones (the character, not the show) I noticed as I watched the first few episodes is that she was nothing like the cookie-cutter female characters in superhero media. Early on, we are introduced to her alcoholism, her non-existent filter, and her superstrength. While Jessica Jones having these characteristics did not make the show inherently feminist, it did confirm one thing: Jessica Jones is not here to make anyone’s sandwiches.

Rather than dissecting Jessica’s character, I wanted to take a look at the gender spread on the show’s main cast (pictured below). As you can see, among the eight most important characters, there’s a nice 50-50 split between men and women. Hiring more female actresses into important roles is always a great first step towards producing a show with feminist values. This show also fulfills another of my requirements to be considered feminist: the female characters are all portrayed as independent members of society. In addition to the no-nonsense Jessica Jones, Jeri Hogarth is a ruthless lawyer, Trish Walker is a self-asserting public figure, and Hope Shlottman is a girl who, despite being raped, does not succumb to the attitude of a victim. These 4 characters are a powerful group of female leads, not limited by relationships to any men, contrary to many female characters in recent media.

Also contrary to most of today’s media, the show gives us a sidekick who is not only male, but mostly important because of his relationship to Trish. While this is mostly true earlier on in season 1, the portrayal of Will Simpson as a supporting character supports the kind of role reversal between male lead and female supporting character the show writers were going for. With all this in mind, it’s hard to argue that the show Jessica Jones favors men over women, or that it victimizes female characters, so I’m gonna chalk this show down as being feminist, in the best way possible.


Above: The main cast of Jessica Jones.

Visualizing Our Darkest Desires

WestWorld is a theme park created on the premise of satisfying humanity’s deepest desires without repercussions. Visualizing this with meaning is thus an obvious challenge, but it’s a challenge the creators and directors of WestWorld confront seemingly effortlessly.

The show is shot from different perspectives for long periods of time. Each episode, we see the camera alternate to follow different characters in the show. For example, we may start off following Dolores, but 8 minutes later will find ourselves back at the park headquarters following Bernard. These are mostly long shots, and while many other shows employ this tactic when there are multiple characters in the storyline, WestWorld employs it in a unique way. Since WestWorld is literally about a world within a world, each time we change character perspectives we find ourselves in a totally new world (I know, a lot of “world” in that sentence). When we find ourselves following a character in the park, for example, it’s easy to fall into the perception that it’s real. It takes the changes in perspective to headquarters for us to get a reality check and remind ourselves this is nothing but a simulated world. This tactful employment of cinematography makes it all the more interesting for the viewers as we immerse ourselves in two different worlds and eventually watch them collide.

Whenever we find ourselves in WestWorld, everything is often bright and vibrant. We’re treated to beautiful shots of the canyon landscape, enthralling rivers, and colorful towns. When characters embark through journeys in the park, the weather is often sunny, and the shots will give us impressions of desolate lands. This is in stark comparison to our shots within the WestWorld headquarters, where shots are often darker, the ambience far from vibrant, and the perception gloomy. Offices are seemingly always windowless in this building, giving the impression of more of a labyrinth than a workspace. This highlights the stark difference between the two worlds: The simulated world of pleasure, and the reality of running such a morally ambiguous world.

Seeing how I’ve finished the show by now (I did a little bit of binging), I can analyze the visuals of the show as a whole. While the show overall follows the trends I’ve explained above, it gets even more complex as the show advances. When these two worlds of simulation and reality begin to collide, we begin to witness the visuals reflect this. Slowly but surely, both worlds become more reflective of the reality, and the visuals of WestWorld become more morbid and dark. Overall, the writers, directors, and producers go through great lengths to wrap the viewers in the visuals of two distinct worlds, and the amazing quality of WestWorld reflects this.

The beautiful scenery of WestWorld

Cinematographic effects used to show Derek’s dark death :( and one of the saddest moments of my life

Grey’s Anatomy, season 11 episode 21… an episode that I think will always stay remembered in our hearts and our minds. This episode, in charge of showing the death of one of the most loved characters, Derek Shepherd, used different cinematographic techniques that made our hearts teared apart little by little.


The episode starts with a bunch of  vanished quick shots that show some of the most important moments of Meredith and Derek Shepherd’s life. In addition to this, there’s a shattering image of police sirens in the background that indicate us, since the beginning, that something is for sure going to be wrong. As the episode goes on, shots go back to normal, some of them tend to be a little longer than others, but they are all shown through different angles (in the case of the car crash we are able to see through both the inside of Sara and Winnie’s car, and through the overall scene of the accident), which makes it interesting and captivating. The first half part of the episode is shot during the day, including bright and natural colors (like blue, green and yellow). However, when Derek (one of the primary characters) gets tremendously injured in a moment that we never expected, the screen goes all black and the cinematography of the episode starts to change immediately after that.

This is one of the quick throw back shots shown at the beginning, middle, and end of the episode  :(

Although it is exactly at the half of the episode that Derek’s accident happened, the transition in cinematographic effects goes back to the same they used at that beginning (a bunch of quick shots that showed some of the most important moments of Meredith and Derek’s life with the shattering image of police sirens in the background), indicating us that since that moment things will just go darker and darker. After this happens, the time of the day changes too, it passes from morning-noon to night, which makes all of the shots darker and sadder. The shots continue to transition from different angles, focusing on the face of Derek when he’s thoughts are being played in the background, and on the general image of the hospital when other important things were going on. Finally,  there are other two important cinematographic moments: when the police goes to Meredith’s house and tells that there’s been an accident (showing again a shattering image of police sirens on top of Meredith’s overwhelmed and shocked face), and when it comes the moment for Derek to pass away (ending the episode again with the remembrance of quick shots that show some of the best and happier moments of Derek Sheperd).


In general, this episode’s cinematographic use is not like all of the others because it is suppose to be a much more dramatic, sad and emotional moment for the show. As sad and resentful fans may feel about this, there’s no denial that lights and special cinematographic effects stand out through the entire episode.


Seeing the real New Girl-Topic 3

Overall, New Girl utilizes a lot of bright and happy colors, this allows the show to maintain its light-hearted and humorous tone. The show is very aware of the fact that New Girl is supposed to be an escape from reality for many people and offer them good light-hearted laughs. The colors, especially ones around Jess, is incredibly fun and energetic. This is because, as a person, Jess is the most bubbly and energetic; she is always in a good mood even in Armageddon.

The lighting in the show is very bright during the happy times. However, there is a noticeable shift in both color and lighting during gloomier moods, the lighting is more dimly lit, and the colors are more browns and grays. Like for example, when Nick was contemplating moving in with Caroline the color scheme is very depressing and consists of a lot of beige and grays. The colors signify how the main characters feel, the colors tend to shift with the atmosphere of the room. In Nick’s case, he was feeling confused, upset, and lost.

In New Girl, the camera usually focuses on only the person talking. This is done so the audience focuses on only the person talking and doesn’t get distracted by the rest of the actors. When there is some major revelation or something bizarre happens, however, almost everyone is in the shot. This is so the audience can see everyone’s reaction.

The set for the show is also very quirky like the characters in the show, and it really does look like four young adults live there, adding to the realism of the show.

I appreciate that there isn’t any laugh-track, it makes the show more realistic. I feel like the soundtrack also complements the visual aspects of the show well. For example, during the sad moments of the show, the sad music creates an atmosphere where you feel what the characters are going through, and the moment is further enhanced by the music. The music also gives cues as to what the audience should feel at the moment.

Example of the bright color themes in New Girl

Don’t forget. Everyone is a person.

Sense 8 is a television show that is known for its diverse cast and filming locations. This is done very intentionally. I mean, it would be significantly easier and have taken a lot less money to have the same concept shot only in one country or with one type of people. Yet, that is not what they did. The show is founded upon the idea of human interconnection. Eight people from eight different cities across the globe all come together because they have been ‘reborn’-a term used in the show which entails that ability to see and feel from other people’s bodies.

Throughout the show the viewer watches these eight individuals find the extent of their new abilities while learning about each person and their struggles. Overwhelmingly, all of the people are very open-minded and empathetic to each other. There is no hatred or discrimination amongst the group of eight. Is this because they are all sharing this common connection and the struggles that come with it? or Is there a greater message to be seen from the interactions between characters? In episode 5, Capheus and Sun share a moment where they have a conversation on some steps in the street of Seoul, Korea. During the conversation, it is obvious that they share very similar family struggles and end up helping each other cope.

You may be wondering- how on earth can these people realistically communicate? Yes, in everyday life language barriers are very troublesome. Many times they allow people to distance themselves from other large groups of people and their respective cultures. Nevertheless, after being reborn, the group of 8 share such a strong and immediate connection such that they posses the language skills of all the other characters. Not only do they possess their languages, but, done right, they can posses other’s skills as well. Overall, the theme that I have been building up to here is that beyond languages and cultures, everyone is a person and we are more alike than many want to admit.

-sierra villarreal

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