Confidence and self esteem: learn’ings’ from TV

While I didn’t participate in the #MeToo movement on social media, for personal reasons, I am privileged to live in the time where it happened. I lament about all things going wrong in our time,  but one must witness some things that will be ‘good’ history (or so I hope, remember history is written by the victors). And #MeToo is just that. The making of good history.

I say this as I think of all the woman who fought for universal suffrage in the U.S. and Britain. In India universal adult franchise was implemented in our very first elections in 1950 and even before independence there was no real debate about whether or not women ‘should’ vote..India has a strange relationship with women and I have to say that current television shows are certainly not cultivating what one would call a forward thinking, ahead-of-her-time type of woman audience. And the Indian males who catch the shows are prone to think that in the end, all women want is to one-up other women by hook or crook and be a glamorous slave to their husbands and in laws, while still getting graduate degrees or fighting criminals. It is a bunch of befuddled women: pursuing herculean tasks trivially and jealousy or rivalry full throttle. Or this is my fading, vague recollection from TV I stopped watching 16 years ago, but still hear in the background when my mom calls or when I am visiting home. (Yes.. yay for me!)

I also finally got my head around why some people think feminists are belligerent and pushy. Those people should watch an Indian soap mother-in-law to get what those two words mean. And yes, they are misinformed, probably misdirected and definitely provincial (that is a new word I learned to use from the wonderful TV show, ‘The Durrells in Corfu’). As for female right activists and supporters: I don’t think being aggressive is a crime, in fact it is a crime if one is not, because believe me, everyone else is aggressive about their agenda. They may not show that face on camera because they don’t have to. They have money and power and they are the white male or upper-caste male, or maybe just rich male and their female partners (ahem.. Melania Trump) who dominate with ease and flair, as much as they love looking down at “screeching” women who want basic rights. And while still on Melania Trump , I believe she knows what Trump is doing, she wore that jacket probably in response to Stormy Daniels and oh, just about everything else that is going on,but because she is dumb, she wore it to the absolute worst place possible while visiting the refugee detained children!

Talking about women who are NOT dumb and ok, may only exist on TV (and I will come back to the Durrells soon). # SILK. I have never been that much in love with a female lead. Not ever. I am sure the #newdoctor will change that to some extent, and yes I have looked in awe at many female leads over the years. The operative phrase as the senior clerk Billy says in the show, applies for me too, regarding Ms Martha Costello, Queens Counsellor (QC, that is what Silk means) is:  “How I feel for Ms Costello surpasseth all understanding.” Maxine Peake as the “cross between Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and a small rottweiler” (again Billy’s description in an episode) is truly the type of woman I want to be. I may already be the small rottweiler part. She is a defense lawyer with a soul, who believes in Habeas corpus, personal liberty, innocent until proven guilty and the right to defend oneself above that of any nationality or religion or just about anything else (paraphrased from one sentence she speaks as she defends a minor about to be extradited to the US with unproven connections to a terrorist attack). Unlike any american law show that I have ever watched (Ally McBeal, what-was-that-one-with-DylanMcDermott, the good wife etc) there are no deals that she cuts. She doesn’t need to, she looks at the people she is defending and can see their souls and then she goes and actually does her job of examining evidence for loopholes, subtle ways of manipulating witnesses (e.g., just by extending the amount of time a photo is displayed onscreen, with other photos for identification) and then cross examines till people quail. When forced to be a prosecutor opposing a far less competent defense lawyer than her, she practically does the job for both the defense and prosecution. She says in her silk interview that she likes to win because she is good,  not because  her opposition is incompetent. Something that really strikes a chord with me, because while I really am not a sports/ competitive type of person, life has challenges that should be won because of competence, tenacity and actual caliber, not pure dumb luck. While Clive Reader (Rupert Penry-Jones, excellently cast and played) is self aggrandizing enough to warm up to prosecuting as that is how you get the bad guys and make a difference in society, Martha is determinedly a defense lawyer fighting for every individual’s right. Her delivery of the lines, as she advises a young brown girl to not feel guilty for wanting more from her life, than what her family thinks she should have and that “guilt takes away your life”  made me rethink my own guilt-prone existence. She doesn’t go on lecturing her clients on how to live their lives or anything, but she will hold the hand of the ones who need that. Most importantly, no one scares her, no one can puncture her integrity because she may not always get things right, but she always does things with the right motivation of seeing justice done. Not judgement, but justice. I wish I was her, not because of her successful career, but her success in holding on to her inner compass in what is clearly the murkiest or murky landscapes in criminal defense. For her strength of character she will eternally remain my most favorite lawyer on television. She should have been Dr. Who (just sayin..). Maxine Peake, Peter Moffat take a low bow and please come back onscreen together soon.

As for Mrs Louisa Durrell, a widow in the 1930s, taking off with four children to an unknown island of Greece with no money or paying skill (for the time). Keeley Hawes(I have adored her since her line of duty appearance) does an impeccable rendition of a woman with a strong will, soft core and steel grit.  Being just a mother to four children is a monumental task. But the strength of this show is the treatment of Mrs Durrell’s love affairs. Love affairs of the middle-aged often get scoffed as midlife crisis and unless they are super rich, high society affairs related to some power struggle, romance for the middle-aged seems to be rarely depicted and even more rarely done right. Some movies I am sure have glamorous older people coming together, but glamorous is the operative word here. In the Durrells in Corfu (based on a book by one actual Durrell), Louisa is widowed, almost penniless since she bought a dilapidated house in the island coming up with new ways to make a living and feed her four children. Yet, her life has romance blooming. And why not? Sure, young lovers with star-crossed eyes and their entire lives ahead of them to be in love (which, they may or much more likely not, remain in) are who have claimed love for eternity. But, I would say the older romances are the ones that would endure. For IF, by a certain age, you are self-aware, you know what you can offer and what you want offered. Reality has hit, more than once and since you are not dead, you know how precious life actually is. You have tried different lives, with different motives. Made some people happy, others mad, and realized it matters only so much if you are unhappy yourself. So, in short, I am glad they show her desirable and desiring of love as a widow weaving her way in the practicalities of life because young girls with no knowledge of the world are, well, boring. Not to mention their sense of humor is limited, superfluous and often, yes, boring. Louisa is funny because humor is what has seen her through life’s worst. And that is the time for humor in our lives. Adulthood. As is the time for love, and of course, I didn’t come up with that!

These two women from two different worlds with different tales that made me admire them, and all real women who are anything like them. That is feminism people, being a fighter, being strong and being prepared to be soft. Looking for equal partners. Having dreams then giving them life. Facing-off everyone who says you cannot and being prepared to handle the consequences, because hey, the most difficult thing in this world you can be is yourself, when you are a woman. Now you know. oh yes, before I forget #MeToo.






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