5 Things: Big Little Lies

I’ve been MIA recently (that’s my bad team!), but now I’m back and ready to write! Sarah’s done a few reviews/discussion posts on documentaries and podcasts, so now I’m getting in on the action with my thoughts on HBO’s Big Little Lies. I really loved this series, and it engendered a lot of thoughts & feelings for me.

Synopsis: The show follows a group of women in the extremely wealthy Monterey, CA area who all have kids that go to the same elementary school. The show starts by letting you know that someone was murdered at a school event, but you don’t know who or why. The story exposes the truth through an intensive deep dive into the lives of these women and their families as you learn that the surface is never as perfect as it seems. It is also based on the novel by Liane Moriarty.

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Here is my list of what was beyond exceptional in this show:

  1. The Cinematography: Holy smokes you guys. This show is STUNNING. I grew up in the Bay Area and have been to Monterey before, but I was floored by how gorgeous each shot was. The show used its scenic backdrop like a supporting actor, every frame accentuated the actors performance or propelled the story further. Speaking of providing a powerful assist…
  2. The Music: The soundtrack to the show was at another level. This show is like a case study in how influential music can be.  Music defined the show, and every use of a song added so much gravity and emotion to an already exceptional scene. Why was every scene so exceptional, you might wonder?
  3. The Acting: When you have 2 Academy Award Winning Actresses (Reese Witherspoon & Nicole Kidman) and Academy Award Nominated Actresses (Laura Dern) combined with the amazing Zoe Kravitz, Shailene Woodley, Adam Scott, and Alexander Skarsgard you are going to get cinematic magic. Everyone was on their A game. Every scene was like a masterclass in acting- comedic or heartbreaking or some expression of subtle secret emotion. It was so clear how immersed and engaged each actor was. Give them all the awards. The way these characters related and interacted with one another was so compelling (and they didn’t even need dragons or robots to make it interesting- it actually felt like real life!).  Actors don’t really have any ground to stand on without the dialogue and source material, which brings us to…
  4. The Story: Liane’s world is rich and robust and real. Her story spans genres as it has lighthearted, funny moments while also being punctuated by moments of fear and drama. She created women who were more than one dimensional caricatures of women- her characters were flawed, and gritty, and relatable. She explored themes of abuse, of the struggle of balancing careers with families, of the dichotomy of individuality & having an identify as a mother or wife, and of relationships between women.
  5. The Relationships Between Women: I didn’t realize how rare it was to see deep and compelling relationships explored between women on screen, until I watched this show. BLL didn’t shy away from exploring the all too real competitive nature of female relationships. However, BLL spent just as much time showing how women stand up for one another, in both subtle and massive ways. In my experience, all women have one thing in common- we are always looking over our shoulders, some more than others. I’ve discussed this before, but from a young age, women are aware that they need to be careful (I wish this wasn’t true), but there is a very real threat (usually, but not always) perpetuated by men (obviously not all men). Big Little Lies explored this idea in a lot of ways, some more overt than others. Whether is was sexual violence, physical intimidation, physical abuse, a side comment with an underlying message, or just a look that lingered a second too long to be comfortable, Big Little Lies showed a very real look at what it can be like to be a woman. Big Little Lies made sure to explore how relationships between women can be extraordinarily powerful when a group of women bonds together and overcomes the petty and mundane day-to-day issues when presented with a real threat. I don’t want to spoil the show (since all of you are going to watch the show immediately), but the powerful last image of the series felt so real and so right.

In summary, you should all watch this show. Major props to HBO and Reese & Nicole for securing the rights to the novel and producing this amazing piece of art.

My Thoughts on the Gilmore Girls Revival

Major Gilmore Girls spoilers ahead. Stop reading if you haven’t finished the revival. But the spoiler is going to be right below this line so you are probably already screwed.

 

RORY IS PREGNANT! And my immediate reaction was “Is this a joke?” Then I saw the credits running. Nope, not a joke. I know everyone took this ending in their own way, but for me it was bitterly disappointing. Here are a couple of my main issues with this ending:

  1. The circle of life is bullshit. This isn’t the Lion King. We don’t need a Disney-type neatly wrapped up plot where the end meets the beginning. First, I think this is very over-simplistic and lacks imagination. And second, I think it is depressingly fatalistic. Rory is bound to turn into her mother who is bound to turn into her mother. But why? Rory is in many ways the exact opposite of her mother and it seems to discount the nuances of her character. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lorelai and it’s not always a bad thing to turn into your mother (I should be so lucky), but this storyline diminishes the power of choice. Not to mention the fact that it’s not just Rory turning into her mother by getting pregnant, but now we are supposed to view Logan as Christopher and Jess as Luke. All of the characters start to mesh into each other, leaving little room for individuality. In the end, they’ve all just become depressing clichés. Seven seasons worth of character development and distinction down the drain.
  2. Rory’s entire life is defined by men. Yeah, I’m putting my feminist boots on (I know that’s not a thing, but I just made it a thing). Now, I know that part of the ending suggests that her life is not determined by men because there is the implication that she will raise her child on her own just as her mother did. Fine, woohoo independence. But every life choice she makes up until this point is either instigated by or inspired by the men in her life. Even her greatest accomplishment, writing her book, was suggested by Jess. Before the revival came out, Alexis Bledel basically said “Hey everyone stop trying to guess who Rory will end up with. She has more important things going on. Like a career and a life.” Obviously I’m paraphrasing here, but it was suggested that it is frivolous to talk about Rory in terms of “Team Dean,” “Team Jess,” and “Team Logan.” And yet, that’s almost all the revival was about. Sure, we saw some career struggle, but for the most part we didn’t hear about her career over the 10 years in between the last episode and the revival. We didn’t really see her succeeding in writing or in a stable job. All we saw was her floundering and barely keeping her head above water while obsessing over Logan. Maybe that was the point because it was setting up the end where she gets her book together and is going to raise this kid on her own, but I think it doesn’t do much for female empowerment.
  3. The characters really haven’t gone anywhere. For the most part, it seems like no time at all has passed since the last episode of the official series. There has been speculation that this is because Sherman-Palladino didn’t write the 7th season and so wanted this to be her final say of how it should end. But the impression it gives off is that all the characters are pretty stagnant. Lorelai to some degree realizes this with her Wild-inspired hiking trip. But that trip ends with her not even hiking, staring at a hill and then deciding to marry Luke. And we all knew she should marry Luke 10 years ago. Maybe we were supposed to feel like this was a giant step for her, but it really didn’t feel very climactic. I appreciate that in real life change is often subtle. Big steps are often made out of a lot of small steps, but I can’t even see where the small steps are going for the Gilmore Girls. Again maybe that is the point. But I’m not satisfied.

End rant. I know I am taking this way too seriously considering it is just a tv show, but some shows kind of become intertwined with your life. Especially for shows like Gilmore Girls, Friends, Sex and the City and other long-life series, you kind of grow up with them and the trajectory of the characters can sometimes mirror the trajectory of your own life. You relate to them and take some comfort in the story, seeing yourself reflected in many of the characters and your life reflected in many of the events. The biggest source of the disappointment for me I think in Gilmore Girls is that now the ultimate lesson of the show is life comes full circle. Whereas before, for me at least, the main lessons of the show were the strength of the bond between mother and daughter and the power that women have to take control of their lives. And now we are left with this ending that basically suggests we are powerless in the face of destiny and incapable of forging our own paths.

-S

“13th”

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As promised, some of this blog will contain light-hearted Netflix recommendations to break up the seriousness, except this one is not so light-hearted. A couple weeks ago I watched the Netflix documentary “13th” and was deeply moved by it. The documentary centers around the 13th amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The director, Ava DuVernay, focuses on the clause “except as punishment for a crime” in examining the ways that modern mass incarceration has been a continuation of slavery and free labor and has crippled the black community.

The documentary traces the history of black oppression post-slavery, from lynchings to the Jim Crow laws, to the war on drugs, to the documented police shootings of unarmed black men. Part of her argument surrounds the depiction of black people in post-slavery America as criminal and a threat to the safety of society. She examines the way that this implicit (or at times explicit) bias has played a part in political policy, laws and the enforcing of those laws.

I won’t outline point by point the brilliance of this documentary in this post. All I will say is, if you have ever doubted even for a second that racial oppression has been systematically and intentionally carried out in the last century in America, please watch this film. If you have ever believed that our justice system is colorblind and free of bias, please watch this film.

As a white person, racial inequality can be very difficult to talk about. I was hesitant to even write this post because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to strike the right tone. But this documentary shook me to my very core. And I think if we want to be people who fight for justice and equality, we have to allow ourselves to be so affected by things. And then we have to be brave enough to talk about them. In the film, they discuss effectiveness of videos of police shootings in bringing to light this oppression. This documentary serves the same purpose. It forces us to see injustice and challenges us not to look away. We can’t fight it if we refuse to see it. In summary, watch “13th” and other documentaries like it. Read articles that challenge your beliefs. Engage in dialogues that promote understanding and educate yourself every chance you get.

-S