Serena Watches TV… and Is Mostly Disappointed

Welp, it came to pass of late that I watched some movies and TV. Or TV-like substance delivered via the new interwebz talkie dealers like Amazon and Netflix. But what’s a girl to do between 1) awaiting admissions decisions that will determine the course of the next several years of her life, 2) a little bit of contract work, and 3) a 46-hour wifi-less Amtrak ride? (Yes, I did it again, and yes, I still loved it.) PSA: Apparently you can download shows in advance for those long rail-bound hours! And yeah, I am only just learning this because I am 1,000 years old.

I had some thoughts about these shows, though, and thought I might save you some hours with a few reviews…

Alias Grace

This one goes first because yes yes yes yes yes. Watch it. Excellent. Amaze-ovaries. Yes.

I’m somewhat biased because I heart Margaret Atwood, but this was just such a stunning and beautifully executed exploration of the psychic consumption of womanhood—to say nothing of its health and economic burdens—that I couldn’t help but be rapt from start to finish. Plus, the main character’s migration story, her brogue, and her sharp clear eyes… swoon for the good lass already! And her hunky psychologist, yummm. I’ll admit that I haven’t read the book (eeeeeep, but I read Handmaid’s Tale and didn’t watch the Hulu series, so I’m all mixed up!), but I look forward to doing so even more after seeing the series. Meanwhile, also read Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, which is still on my top five list.


Mkay… argh. Mmrrrppphhh. I was really digging this show for a while there. Like, a good long while. Like, hours upon hours of staring at my phone for it on the train and not caring about my audible reactions among all the strangers who were my fellow passengers because:

  1. Women running a town together after all their hubbies got exploded in the local mine one day, WHOMP;
  2. More honest nods than most shows manage toward the genocidal acts of white settlers toward Indigenous and Black communities;
  3. A couple of moments of that intimacy-amidst-battle trope, but played out between women characters (rather than men, a la every war movie ever)—how novel!; and
  4. MARY from Downton Abbey making a whole new name for herself as a (still high-minded, poised, gorgeous, impeccably costumed) cowgirl in the late 19th-century US Southwest. Believe it! Her name is “Alice.”

Unfortunately, the last 15 minutes of this show undid all those hours of enjoyment utterly. **Semi-spoilers follow.** These minutes included:

  1. Truly violent acts against an entire community of Black people (former Buffalo soldiers cum farmers), whose bodies are left gruesomely exposed and whose characters are unceremoniously subsumed into a tool merely to stoke outrage and fear for the remaining white characters, especially as compared to the super ceremonious funeral for one albeit sweet little white dude who got all stabbed up in the early minutes of the final gunfire blowout scene;
  2. Two dudes basically nodding agreement as to Mary/Alice’s romantic future with one of them, as if she is not a grown-ass woman who thinks for herself and fucks whom she likes and is nails and SERIOUSLY?! Fuuuuuuck thaaaaaat; followed by
  3. So-gratuitous-as-to-first-seem-satirical-but-it’s-not-so-it’s-just-enraging long-ass minutes of one of those dudes abandoning Mary/Alice and her son (to whom he’s become a father figure, of course) to wistfully ride off into the sunset for-fucking-ever, repping that tired, fake, unrelatable, romanticized lone-dude archetype to join his long-lost brother in California who’s probably died by now anyway. Actually, I hope he has, just to spite this idiot runaway who should’ve stayed with Mary/Alice and had great sex with his hot bod and been a cool dad and trained more horses and whatnot etc. Ughhh.

Gotta move on. So annoyed.

The Post

Okay, I’m still annoyed. I’m more annoyed, I think. I just saw this movie this afternoon and, like, whaaaaa? I think this movie did as well as it did because it was released exactly when it was: a) in the “fake news” Drump era when all us libs are scrambling to i) defend what’s left of our underfunded press and ii) discredit the real fake news out there (how confusing is that phrasing?); and b) amidst the rise of #MeToo, when we’re like, “YES! Lady power! Don’t let him mansplain or man-propriate [steal your ideas and say them out loud like they’re his]! Oh, you already did, Meryl? Oh, um…. It’s cool… But once you put on that gorgeous gold and cream gown, you’ll get your groove back!” And she did. And that dress was bomb. But like… sigh.

I love me some First Amendment rights, but the movie revolved around a game of theoretical stakes between two wildly privileged and connected white people, predictably played by typecast American darlings Streep and Hanks—and let’s be real: those fools were never going to prison. Throw in some shots of interns running between buildings, two instances of almost getting hit by a New York cab on the same street, a lovely John Williams score (duh, for Spielberg), a few scenes of furious typesetting and paper-printing, and you have a weak semblance of cinematic suspense that, in combination with the aforementioned present cultural moment, sells a movie. Tah-dah!

Movie-critic-self out. Back to Parks & Rec re-runs and my books, which, fortunately, have recently included or currently include:

  • We Were Witches, by Ariel Gore (h/t DL & JG)
  • The Mushroom at the End of the World, by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (h/t MA)
  • Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, by Rob Nixon
  • A bunch more bike travel books…. for spring/summer scheming!

More on these later.

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