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November 04, 2010


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I think I disagree.

I thought the first conversation between Rick and Shane was meant to set up Shane's character as a boorish misogynist. I feel like you're reaching for something, or over thinking a moment. As for Lori, she was only onscreen for about 30 seconds.

I don't think you're wrong necessarily, I just think it's a little too soon to make an assessment.

Anne Moore

I'm hoping I *am* wrong, as I think there are a lot of really exciting directions that a serialized horror show that's really grounded in horror (not soaps) could go--it's certainly something new in the medium.

That being said, Lori's lack of screen time makes me even warier about the way they're characterizing her. If we have so little time to get impressions of her character, the content of those impressions seems more important, especially since she's such a thematically central character. If Rick's whole mission is finding Lori and Karl, then she's super-important to the story. The moments she's on screen become a kind of shorthand for her character. If all we see is shrew (which could be undone down the line, and I'm hoping it will be), I think we're meant to extrapolate that this is her character. It's the same logic you're using to use Shane's opening dialogue as evidence that his character is a boor--in a pilot in particular, specific character moments stand in for characterization.

But we'll see. I haven't given up hope yet :) Mostly, I just want us to be thinking about gender as we move forward with this conversation, since that's what has stood out to me the most so far.


I'd also like to argue that the female characters on Breaking Bad are pretty well developed, if occasionally odious (as you seem to believe), and although we were only just getting to know Tanya on Rubicon (and may never again), her shifting justifications were fairly interesting. I guess I'm curious to hear why you feel these characters are poorly represented, though we're in agreement that the leads and majority of screentime have been given over to the men.

Anne Moore

Okay, so the most important thing for me to do first here is some truth in advertising: I haven't seen Rubicon, so I should probably back off of the AMC-argument a bit. But re: Breaking Bad, (and again, this is based on the first season--let me know if/how things change down the line) Skyler's main purpose as a character seems to be to show the audience how emasculated Walter is. His arc as a character is clearly about taking control of his life, but the biggest (or at least the first) way we know his life is out of control is his inability to wear the pants in his family. I read the family therapy scenes as not just difficult, but humiliating for Walter, and not in a way we're meant to question.

But I'm curious to hear a counter-argument, definitely--what do you think are moments that show deeper development of her character?

Also--in the interest of letting AMC off the hook, the intensity of my reaction has a lot to do with the preoccupation with the "sociopath with a heart of gold" that seems to be at the center of so much "quality television." It's an interesting question, how do men live with themselves after doing terrible things?, but it seems like it's the only question television shows are asking these days, especially those shows that have an aspiration to art.

So I shouldn't focus the argument on AMC--and it's not necessarily about female characters, per se (although I stand by the lack of female characters to date on Walking Dead). After all, like I said, I think Mad Men is the most feminist show on TV, and does a great job of tackling the question of the construction of masculinity without making its female characters into ciphers in the process. But Mad Men seems to be the exception in this game--on Breaking Bad, at least, it seems like the narrative purpose of the female characters is just to tell us things about the men.

Does Skyler improve? And tell me more about this Tanya...


I'm in a weird position with it, since I'm a bit more familiar with the comic and with Lori's storyline and, honestly, what we see here is a bit of a step forward. I agree that we're already not supposed to like Shane very much. Maybe it's projecting, but I kept thinking that Lori was just feeling trapped. One small, quick subtle thing that I may be reading entirely too much into was the way she wiped her mouth after he kissed her. I'm not saying it's more feminist; I'm just saying it may be more complicated that that short scene showed.


There were no live women until 2/3 of the way through, and then when there finally was one, she first has to be talked to like a child by a man in order to think rationally, and then the beat after that she's defined as relevant solely as the member of a love triangle that will devastate our hero when he finds out. PATHETIC!

As for Breaking Bad, seasons 2 and 3 really open up the storytelling beyond Walter. Skyler's character perspective deepens, and Walter becomes infinitely more problematic as a figure to identify with. That said, I'm totally with you on the one-sided gender focus of so much of quality TV. It was quite fitting when critics were saying Lone Star was like a network show trying to be a quality cable drama. Yup, a charismatic dude manipulating two women who barely get any meaningful screen time, that's quality cable drama all right. Of course, regular network tv isn't much better (though I'll reserve some praise for The Good Wife), but at least it isn't praised all the time for its complexity.


Nice, Chris -- I just got into The Good Wife myself, and I must admit, I never thought I'd like anything on CBS. I've been proven wrong, and even if Ms. Florrick is all too often summed up into a drawn smile, and her female boss is often given just a quick laugh, the two actresses manage to draw a lot more out of the show.

Back to Anne and Breaking Bad, yes, while Skyler may have started out as a ball-buster, she's become just as complicit, and her choices w/r/t learning the truth about Walt (I.F.T) make for some interesting TV, and put her in the same boat as Walt, as far as I'm concerned. And though she's played mostly for comic effects, let's not forget about Hank's wife, who came into her own when "helping" her husband to recover from his accident.

As for Rubicon, there are three women in the main character's life--one is a meek woman who loves him, for some reason, and is trying to get close to him, one is a strong woman who loves him, for some reason, and is trying to get close to him. That's predictable, borderline sloppy stuff. But then there's also Will's employee, Tanya, who quickly moves from being the drug user of the group to being the moral compass of the group, and the way she starts to take action--not just for herself, but for her associates--makes her the sort of character I don't often see.

As for AMC and their programming as a whole, well, they didn't exactly invent that model of TV: FX got there first. (And they're doing women a lot better--Katey Segal and Maggie Siff are tearing up the tough-chic stereotype on "Sons of Anarchy" and the genius/mentally ill sister on "Terriers" is the most interesting character I've seen in some time. I only wish "Rescue Me" and "Justified" could say the same.)


Just found this blog, wishing I had a long time ago!

I have a different reading of Breaking Bad. I thought Walt's chivalry complex, his inability to trust and lean on his wife's strength, was part of what dooms him to becoming a sociopath. It's not just the he wants to concieve of himself as Skylar's protector, but also [SPOILER] his refusal to take money from a woman who dumped him (and the man she dumped him for). I didn't see these portrayed as healthy choices, or healthy attitudes. The same themes - men unwilling to be dependent on perfectly capable women - are explored with different resolution with Hank and Maree. Skylar herself is no angel, and, while I was hanging out for her to wake up and eventually smack him into next century, her own "breaking bad" process involves just as much rounded character development, and is probably more long-term interesting. But then, I wouldn't call Walt a "sociopath with a heart of gold" - I'd just stop after sociopath.

Having said that, I'm also kinda sick of the most interesting gender stuff happening on shows that are mostly about sexist men (SOA, Mad Men, Breaking Bad). Where are our modern Buffy/MTM/Cagney&Lacey's? Yep, The Good Wife is an exception, but frankly, I don't think it is THAT interesting.

I hated the portrayal of women in the TWD comics, too. Stopped reading eventually from annoyance.


The portrayal of Lori in episode two is horrendous: essentially it's "Women really just want to be taken by force." Then again, its portrayal of just about EVERYONE in episode two is horrendous, so I stand by my being unimpressed with "The Walking Dead" TV show (though I like the comic, which continues to surprise and sadden me--mainly because it's faster paced).

Alison, as for your modern Buffy characters, well, there was Alias (don't bother with Nikita), but uh, yeah . . . I see your point. Weeds, maybe, at one point?

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