I remember ending the last blog post I did on the House of Cards in the hope of Claire Underwood becoming the President (or the series becomes worthless). For combinatoric reasons (#Metoo related complete exit of Spacey and the scope for a better story) that did happen in season 6 (or is it 5). However, to me, the resounding hollowness of the previous seasons just maintained their echoes. Despite quite a topical angle (autocratic, criminal-minded, unpopular and almost unqualified president) with a defiantly combative edge of feminism, sort of an oblique view on #Metoo used by people on the other end of the spectrum from the usual proponents: powerful women, but still quite on point if it only had been braised right! But that was not to be… I am so glad there are only eight episodes of over-the-topness to get through.
*** SPOILER ALERT***
I see this season doing real well with the right wingers, ultra right wings and MAGA supporters, after all: they will see what can happen once a white woman, openly feminist becomes president. She even uses her pregnancy to gain sympathy and gets rid of all her enemies under the guise of progress. And that is my problem with this season. What it should have been is a controlled rendition of an autocrat, more stewing for well done meat, depicting the current state of affairs since it is clearly inspired by it, in a way that despite it being a woman president, we could still see what personal ambition looks like, in the world’s biggest public office. How it doesn’t matter who, what color or sex the dictator is: and how to differentiate their spots from other ‘politicians’ with vested interests but not (entirely) criminal minds. They could have angled it to show that dictators will use whatever they can, even their own pregnancy, generally the most sacrosanct human states, to get what they want. What I got however was how manipulative women can be, and for that you can presumably just watch a season of Real housewives (am I right?). In my previous posts I had speculated that perhaps Claire Underwood has a conscious, and perhaps she sees herself as someone who can make real progress happen. Since personal ambition is usually fueled by the belief that one is deserving of a position, it was more natural for her tyranny to arise because she sees herself as most suited for the job. As being deserving of it, being more “Capable” than the others she see vying for the job. Her growth to a full blown tyrant was missing. We knew her ambitions and ruthless nature, but none of that vacuous. The worst was adding all kinds of subplots based on historical petty rivalry and dysfunctional role of the “deep state” using some multimillionaires was played out, poorly.Was I asking for too much and too predictable? I don’t know. But the corporate players that were brought in, instead of indulging more to Claire’s character, did not inspire any awe in me. It could have been done well, but wasn’t.
The pervasive problem of American shows is exactly this: maintaining only a superficial semblance to anything real. Not only were the Shepherds lukewarm, in season 6(or 5) it was Doug Stamper’s insistence on clearing the dead Francis’s name via a posthumous presidential pardon was just beyond explanation. Not to mention the family melodrama of the powerful Shepherd sibs, where the the sister’s son- initially shown to be a ruthless technocrat, on top of spying apps and clandestine deals, has an emotional collapse on account of being adopted. Okay, it wasn’t a real collapse, but it was still pretty silly.
As Claire went back to her maiden name (good call in the script) and is mind-gaming all her adversaries with virtually no help needed or provided, one after the other people drop dead to help her, possibly with divine intervention. No, she doesn’t kill her husband, or almost anyone directly in this season. We find Jane (her advisor)and Mark’s (now Vice President) characters being frustratingly moral, which also I can abide because after all, these two were never politicians and do understand that a global system needs to be maintained. If not of peace, then of some form of ‘stable catastrophe’ so that people can continue to make money. Jane helps Cathy (ex-Sec of State who was pushed down the stairs by Francis Underwood because she happened to be not quite so bent) escape, Mark seems to always be regretting his decisions of trying to control Claire, despite his loyalty to the Shepherds for whom he actually works. Annette Shepherd (quite a good performance by Diane Lane) being mostly controlled by emotions (some rivalry followed by anger-revenge), as far as I could tell anyway. As for her brother, he was one of the weakest links, in addition to the superbly vacant Doug Stamper storyline.. The performances are great, as usual. I am just so underwhelmed with the storyline! Psychotic or not, I just can’t buy Doug’s story.
Again Robin Wright can do anything. Her poise is enough to kill people, I tell you. But not one complain about being on stilettos all day, while pregnant? Not one bad hair day either. Who wrote this thing???
Ultimately in this season and the show, it is her innate glory that incites the loyalty of every one to keep watching, or killing (as it happens) that keeps the show going. Sadly, loyalty is not my strong point. And like the real feminists of Claire’s all female cabinet, I didn’t sell my logic to the highest bidder.
(the trial in the title was an afterthought, the trial was the show making an attempt to show the dark side of feminism, not a good attempt)
On my trip to Whitehorse, Yukon territory, I found my likely spirit animal: the raven.. Actually ravens are hard to miss there, no wonder the first nations have them in many tales, they are symbolic of creativity and tricks. Bald eagles are symbolic of peace and friendship and we saw a few of them. But this one flew across the Yukon river, straight over our heads, I met his eyes as he flew very close and then over to the roof of this building, where he met ‘my’ raven. The tricenter reference is allusion to the Chrestomanci heptalogy where there are series of earths and universes by Diana Wynne Jones and other books that link multiverses. Ravens are like Douglas Adam’s dolphins that make the rules…
Conclave of my raven and the young one
Decided none could keep the sun
When Tom awoke on tricenter-epsilon
Her fiery breakfast had a bright bun
ID (September 23rd 2018) edited March 2019
We also saw the spectacular northern lights in full flare. I am sure the ravens had something to do with that too..
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.
These are photos from two years ago. I just found them today and as it has often (if not always) happened, I like them more now than I did when I saw them soon after our trip. This is not the Vegas strip, this is the made-over downtown, and with its lights and whole walls of Times Squaresque commercials.. seemed quite lively. I had wanted to do a ‘series’ called gamblers of Vegas.. maybe I will find the photos meant for that series another day. Until then.. photos from my iPhone.
There are so many times I feel that I am stagnating. In a limbo. Getting nowhere, doing nothing valuable. Then I blame many things that have caused me to get into this rut, family expectations, my being a perfectionist by nature, living in a small town with few resources and close minded people.
Today, again, my mom reminded me how lucky we have been. We have not had the large, looming issues in my family that many families, including my family-in-law, face for years. Long sickness, financial crises. In fact, we are blessed with being competent at our jobs which we were mostly allowed to choose (not so much for my mom in the beginning, but now she only does social work she likes). These jobs at least have had the potential to impact or directly impacted humans (my dad is a consultant now and before retirement was involved in the construction of many hydroelectric power projects). Our health concerns have been many, but almost always minor and manageable. That will change I am sure, but what we still have is priceless!
So, out of nowhere an image of a stream came into my mind. The stream of my life, I suppose. As a child I hurtled past obstacles to land with bubbles and effervescence back into one wholesome life path. Now, many rocks and driftwood have split my life into streams as a way of getting through, when it was no longer possible to pass full strength. Most of the threads on the surface are going strong, even if they are no longer together. I have expressed my sadness about that before in this blog. But today I want to celebrate it, to all these tiny streams of my life making their own connections, taking me on different paths at the same time, I say: thank you. If I am meant to live many ways at the same time, I shouldn’t be sad that some of these streams are bound to run dry. Maybe one will meet other streams like mine, or one day, all of mine will find a connection and then we will run along together. All my life I have been waiting for a mighty current to take me where I am meant to be and I know that I will make my own. Perhaps the only way there is to be in many tiny streams now.
Streams of dreams, they are. So I will garden, I will make new friends, worry about my beloved family members, I will do my job, I will paint, I will dance, I will watch nature, I will cook and I will dream. None of these streams really know the others, I am in all of them in different ways; none have turned into the current yet, but maybe there is still time. Otherwise, to have so much is a dream come true in itself.
Thanks mom. I honestly only just remembered that Mother’s day is around the corner. Cheers!