WBEZ | HBO http://www.wbez.org/tags/hbo Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The Handsome Family kills it on HBO http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/handsome-family-kills-it-hbo-109589 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HFTD.jpg" style="height: 333px; width: 500px;" title="Rennie and Brett (WBEZ file)." /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HFTD2.jpg" style="height: 333px; width: 500px;" title="Matthew and Woody (HBO)." /></div></div><p>Almost all of the well-deserved praise showered on producer T-Bone Burnett of late has come thanks to his role in crafting the music of the Coen Brothers&rsquo; moody homage to the pre-Dylan folk scene <em>Inside Llewyn Davis</em>. But as impressive as that accomplishment is, even more awesome are his choices as music supervisor for <em>True Detective, </em>the new HBO anthology series wowing TV critics with stellar performances from Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as cops chasing a serial killer through rural Louisiana in the show&rsquo;s first eight-episode season.</p><p>Rather than the predictable Cajun sounds some might have picked to power this tale, Burnett has instead matched the ominous Southern gothic mood with one exquisitely well-chosen song after another spanning a wide swath of different genres and eras, from &ldquo;Clear Spot&rdquo; by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band to &ldquo;Honey Bee (Let&rsquo;s Fly to Mars)&rdquo; by Nick Cave&rsquo;s Grinderman, and from &ldquo;Stand By Me&rdquo; by the Staple Singers to &ldquo;The Kingdom of Heaven&rdquo; by the 13<sup>th</sup> Floor Elevators. Best of all, however, was his choice for the show&rsquo;s theme song, kicking things off every Sunday night.</p><p>I recognized the dulcet tones of Brett and Rennie Sparks from the Handsome Family 10 seconds into the first episode, but I&rsquo;ll confess that as much as I love their now 10-albums-rich catalog&mdash;all of it released by the under-heralded Chicago indie Carrot Top Records&mdash;I had to do some digging in the stacks to place &ldquo;Far From Any Road&rdquo; as a rather deep album cut from <em>Singing Bones</em> in 2003.</p><p>That isn&rsquo;t to say it&rsquo;s not perfect for the job, or that it&rsquo;s not a great song&mdash;just that those twisted but lovable Sparks easily have a hundred tunes that would fit this tale of the undercurrents of evil and nihilism versus the forces of faith and humanism, and this one wouldn&rsquo;t have even been in my Top 20 picks, until T-Bone brought it to my attention once again.</p><p>&ldquo;The world needs bad men&mdash;we keep the other bad men from the door,&rdquo; McConaughey&rsquo;s philosophical sleuth said in this week&rsquo;s episode. I don&rsquo;t know about that, but even if they continue to prefer life in New Mexico over their old stomping grounds of Chicago (wonder why, with weather like this?), the world always has and always will need the Handsome Family.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/p4zluA60hjs" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong> or join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 14:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/handsome-family-kills-it-hbo-109589 White characters as 'Trojan Horses' for TV diversity http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-08/white-characters-trojan-horses-tv-diversity-108438 <p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1004764_368545756606882_2083732640_n.jpg" style="height: 422px; width: 620px;" title="(Facebook/ABC Family)" /></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>As film increasingly becomes an isolating medium, it is through television &ndash; with its numerous channels and multiple platforms for viewing &ndash; that audiences can find actual characters, people with compelling stories that speak to the dark, the somber, the beautiful, and the lovely aspects of what it means to be human.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">But despite the power and desire to experiment, most television show creators still rely on the same gendered and racial structures that inform and manipulate the mainstream. Audiences find mostly narratives presented through the perspective of white leads (and most often, white male leads), even if people of color are prominent characters or the basis of the show&rsquo;s plot.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">The ABC Family teen show <a href="https://abcfamily.go.com/shows/twisted" target="_blank"><em>Twisted</em></a> is a murder mystery structured around three leads: Danny Desai, the prime suspect; Lacey Porter, one of Desai&rsquo;s childhood best friends and the most popular girl in school; and Jo Masterson, Desai&rsquo;s other childhood best friend and a social outcast. The show begins on Desai&rsquo;s first day back at school after spending five years in a juvenile detention center for killing his aunt. Desai begins to assimilate with his old friends and within his new school, but is once again the town pariah when a fellow classmate winds up dead the next day.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">Although the show is about the mystery and whether or not Danny committed the crime, the creators of the program frame the narrative around Jo. Precious screen time is wasted on conversations between Jo and her parents, or Jo and her best friend Rico. Instead, the show should focus on (and is greatly lacking without) its initial premise: whodunit? </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>As of this week&rsquo;s episode, the show&rsquo;s creators have yet to offer a reason the show must focus on Jo. However, looking at the cast may answer the question. Danny is half-Indian with distinctly dark features. Lacey is black. Jo is blonde and white.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">By focusing on Jo, the show not only does its two other main characters a disservice, it does its audience a disservice. I was drawn to the show because of the murder mystery. Taking time away from that core plot element reduces the show to a whiny drama about how one girl handles her life. As a structure, it&#39;s not compelling and risks turning off viewers.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">From a business sense, it makes some sense. If ABC Family knows that shows with a white female leads do well in ratings, it only makes sense for them to continue to pursue this storytelling structure. However, it is disingenuous to present a show about three people and spend the largest amount of time focused on one.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">In a recent NPR interview, Jenji Kohan, the creator of <em>Orange is the New Black</em> confirmed the idea that her show about the rich characters within and the culture of a women&rsquo;s prison could not sell without a white woman as the protagonist. On the show, Piper is sent to prison for her minor role in a drug conspiracy. Especially during the first episodes of the show, the prison is seen through Piper&rsquo;s eyes. Although this is understandable based on the show&rsquo;s memoir source material, it becomes evident as the show progresses that the most compelling characters and stories have little, if anything, to do with Piper.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">In the interview, Kohan <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/08/13/211639989/orange-creator-jenji-kohan-piper-was-my-trojan-horse" target="_blank">said</a>:</span></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You&#39;re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it&#39;s a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it&#39;s relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It&#39;s useful.</span></p></blockquote><p>Unlike most creators, Kohan has acknowledged this structure and how she had to simply work within it in the beginning in order to tell the stories that could never &ldquo;sell&rdquo; on their own.&nbsp;</p><p>Whiteness is the neutral storyteller. Through the prism of whiteness, creators can focus on people of color.&nbsp;<em>Orange is the New Black</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Twisted</em>&nbsp;are not part of a new trend. Rather, they are merely new shows to add to a long list of shows that have employed this same technique.&nbsp;</p><p>It is important then to recognize the significance of Issa Rae&rsquo;s (creator of <em>The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl</em>) recent&nbsp;<a href="http://www.deadline.com/2013/08/hbo-developing-comedy-series-from-larry-wilmore-issa-rae-to-star-rae/" target="_blank">development deal</a> with HBO. In partnership with Larry Wilmore, Rae would write, produce, and star in a show. As a black woman, a black creator, this sort of creative freedom is unparalleled on television period, let alone a premium cable network as prestigious as HBO. Although no show has been ordered for a series run or even to pilot, this news is hopeful in what it says is possible: creators of color can tell their own stories through their own eyes.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Britt Julious is the co-host of <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbezs-changing-channels" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Changing Channels</a>, a podcast about the state of television. She also writes about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 19 Aug 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-08/white-characters-trojan-horses-tv-diversity-108438 Biopics to watch in 2013, plus the 10 best (and worst) of all time http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-04/biopics-watch-2013-plus-10-best-and-worst-all-time-106676 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Portrait-of-a-Princess-Naomi-Watts-as-Princess-Diana.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px; " title="Naomi Watts as the iconic Princess Di in &quot;Diana.&quot; (Ecosse Films) " /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p>The biographical film, or biopic, is a long-celebrated bastion of cinema that began with <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0018192/?ref_=sr_5" target="_blank"><em>Napol</em></a><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0018192/?ref_=sr_5" target="_blank"><em>é</em><em>on</em></a> in 1927 and continues to dominate movie screens to this day.</p><p>Last weekend<em>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0453562/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">42</a>&nbsp;</em>(a&nbsp;Jackie Robinson biopic&nbsp;starring Harrison Ford and one-time Chicago actor Chadwick Boseman in the title role) premiered to commerical and critical acclaim, as films about <a href="http://www.popeater.com/2011/02/24/the-fighter-dicky-eklund-temple-grandin-conviction/" target="_blank">real-life heroes</a> often do.&nbsp;</p><p>Other big biopics expected for 2013 include:&nbsp;</p><ul><li><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1327773/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank"><em>The Butler</em></a> (with Forest Whitaker as White House butler Cecil Gaines, and a slew of other <a href="http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-10-19/entertainment/35499398_1_white-house-butler-laura-ziskin-film" target="_blank">A-list stars</a> playing presidents Eisenhower through Reagan)</li><li><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1426329/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank"><em>Lovelace</em></a> (Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace)</li><li><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2357129/?ref_=sr_2" target="_blank"><em>Jobs</em></a>&nbsp;(Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs)&nbsp;</li><li><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1758595/" target="_blank"><em>Diana</em></a> (Naomi Watts as Princess Diana)</li><li><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493076/" target="_blank"><em>Nina </em></a>(Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone)</li><li><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2402085/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank"><em>All Is By My Side</em></a> (Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix)</li><li><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1291580/?ref_=sr_1"><em>Behind the Candelabra&nbsp;</em></a>(Michael Douglas as Liberace)</li></ul><p>Of course, movie buffs are already arguing about Saldana&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.examiner.com/article/picture-of-zoe-saldana-as-nina-simone-shows-darkened-skin-tone-adjustments" target="_blank">darkened skin</a>&nbsp;in&nbsp;<em>Nina&nbsp;</em>and whether Kutcher will totally&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ign.com/boards/threads/do-you-think-the-steve-jobs-movie-with-ashton-kutcher-will-be-good.452960885/" target="_blank">bomb</a>&nbsp;as Steve Jobs after mixed reviews from Sundance.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" behind="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/michaeldouglas.jpg" style="float: right; height: 211px; width: 300px; " the="" title="Michael Douglas as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's HBO film &quot;Behind the Candelabra.&quot; " /></p><p>Studios depend on biopics to create a perfect storm of advance publicity, which may or may not translate to big wins at the box office and massive sweeps during awards season.&nbsp;</p><p>Actors often bank on these films not just to win Oscars, but to stretch their limits with challenging accents, method lifestyle changes and shocking physical transformations (remember when Robert DeNiro gained 60 pounds to play boxer Jake LaMotta in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081398/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank"><em>Raging Bull</em></a>?) Some fail miserably, while others are forever remembered and admired for their uncanny portrayals of real people.&nbsp;</p><p>Many biopics had the potential to be great films but fell short.&nbsp;<em>The Doors</em>&nbsp;could have been incredible, if not for Val Kilmer&#39;s regrettably one-note portrayal of Jim Morrison. The 1982 epic&nbsp;<em>Gandhi</em>​ featured a fantastic performance by Ben Kingsley, but ran about two hours too long. More recent biopics like<em>&nbsp;Ray</em>, <em>Capote, Ali&nbsp;</em>and <em>The Aviator&nbsp;</em>also featured spot-on performances from their charismatic leads; but in retrospect, could have amounted to so much more.</p><p>In my opinion, these are the greats:</p><p><strong>10. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0395169/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">Hotel Rwanda</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(2004)</p><p><strong>9. &nbsp;<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1285016/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank"><em>The Social Network</em></a></strong> (2010)</p><p><strong>8. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061418/" target="_blank">Bonnie and Clyde</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(1967)</p><p><strong>7. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099685/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">Goodfellas</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(1990)</p><p><strong>6. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056172/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">Lawrence of Arabia</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(1962)</p><p><strong>5. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1504320/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">The King&#39;s Speech</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(2010)</p><p><strong>4. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0340855/?ref_=sr_4" target="_blank">Monster</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(2003)</p><p><strong>3. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433383/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">Good Night, and Good Luck</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(2005)</p><p><strong>2. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108052/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">Schindler&#39;s List</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(1993)</p><p><strong>1. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108052/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">I&#39;m Not There</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(2007)</p><p><b>Also</b>:&nbsp;<strong><em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066206/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1" target="_blank">Patton</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(1970),&nbsp;<strong><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1013753/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank"><em>Milk</em></a>&nbsp;</strong>(2008),<strong>&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117318/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">The People vs. Larry Flynt</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(1996)</p><p>And now, the 10 worst (ranked from blandly underwhelming to downright atrocious):</p><p><strong>10. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1007029/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">The Iron Lady</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(2011)</p><p><strong>9. &nbsp;<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0125664/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank"><i>Man on the Moon</i></a></strong>&nbsp;(1999)</p><p><strong>8. <i><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363473/?ref_=sr_1">&nbsp;Beyond the Sea</a>&nbsp;</i></strong>(2004)</p><p><strong>7. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1616195/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">J. Edgar</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(2011)</p><p><strong>6. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1129445/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2" target="_blank">Amelia</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(2009)</p><p><strong>5. <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049092/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank"><em>The Conqueror&nbsp;</em></a></strong>(1956)</p><p><strong>4. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097457/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">Great Balls of Fire!</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(1989)</p><p><strong>3. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0129290/?ref_=sr_1" target="_blank">Patch Adams</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(1998)</p><p><strong>2. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0346491/?ref_=sr_6" target="_blank">Alexander</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(2004)</p><p><strong>1. <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2375255/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1">Liz &amp; Dick</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>(2012)</p><p><em>Which biopics do you love, and which ones do you wish had never seen the light of day? Leave a comment below, send me a tweet <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett</a>&nbsp;or join the conversation on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-04/biopics-watch-2013-plus-10-best-and-worst-all-time-106676 Girl problems: Why Lena Dunham gets scapegoated for TV's lack of diversity http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/girl-problems-why-lena-dunham-gets-scapegoated-tvs-lack-diversity-105376 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/large_2.jpg" style="width: 449px; height: 280px;" title="(Golden Globes/AP)" /></div><p>If you&rsquo;ve logged on the internet at all in the past year (or even passingly know what Jezebel is), you know that a lot of people have a big, casually racist bone to pick with Lena Dunham. As the writer/producer of <em>Girls</em>, Dunham was being billed as the &ldquo;voice of a generation,&rdquo; one that would revolutionize the ways in which we talk about women in the media.</p><p>The problem for many with Dunham is the inclusion of young, privileged white women&mdash;about which there are many shows&mdash;speaks to the disinclusion of women of color, who have no one speaking for them. The show continued to marginalize anyone not of Dunham&rsquo;s background and social status (as the daughter of a famous artist), and as the show was marketed as a representation of the Millenial Generation, many felt it was a damaging and problematic representation. Rather than pushing things forward, <em>Girls</em> represented a nudge in the right direction&mdash;or more like a plaintive tiptoe.</p><p>But to many, it looked like more of the same. It was White Girl Problems all over again.</p><p>In interviews, Dunham hasn&rsquo;t been shy about speaking to the show&rsquo;s race problem. She mentioned that, when casting the show, race was not much of a consideration, which speaks the ways in which both white feminists and the television industry often don&rsquo;t recognize racial inclusion as being an issue.</p><p>With the new season, I was looking forward to Dunham taking the internet&rsquo;s criticisms and learning from them, and lo and behold, the premiere practically opens with Dunham carnally knowledging Donald Glover, the black comedian known best for his role as Troy on <em>Community</em>.&nbsp; While they&rsquo;re getting all up in each other, Glover and Dunham keep repeating phrases like &ldquo;You wanted this&rdquo; and &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about damn time,&rdquo; as an overt message to the show&rsquo;s fans. Dunham gets it, y&rsquo;all.</p><p>Many were concerned that Glover was being cast to as a &ldquo;token black friend,&rdquo; and the fact that the show opened with them sexing each other didn&rsquo;t help much, as it looked like just another image of the hyper-sexualized black male. The fear was that Glover wouldn&rsquo;t be presented as a character but an essentialized object, a vehicle of desire. To an extent, that was exactly the case.</p><p>However, Dunham did something interesting: she used Glover&rsquo;s character to call her on her bullshit&mdash;criticizing her for tokenizing him and not being truly interested in getting to know him. Dunham&rsquo;s Hannah was the kind of girl who would date a black guy to feel cool and get to go to the &ldquo;scary&rdquo; part of town. Basically, Glover&rsquo;s character was calling her a hipster racist, which was the major charge against<em> Girls</em> last year. Dunham literally put all of her critics&rsquo; words in Glover&rsquo;s mouth.</p><p>True to her character&rsquo;s narcissism, Hannah ignores them and creates a narrative in which she&rsquo;s in the right in the break up. She&rsquo;s the savior. Life is like <em>The Blind Side</em>, guys.</p><p>Q: Is this progress?</p><p>A: Not so fast. Let&rsquo;s examine.</p><p>Last year, Dunham mentioned that she wrote for white girls because she wanted to write from her own experiences, and this scene serves to narratively let her off the hook for not writing a black actor into the show or doing the work of inclusion. Part of being a good writer is pushing yourself to write outside of your world. Was Dave Eggers an African refugee when he wrote <em>What Is the What</em>? No, but he pushed himself to get inside someone else&rsquo;s head and see the world from someone else&rsquo;s point of view.</p><p>Martin McDonagh, the playwright and director&rsquo;s newest film, <em>Seven Psychopaths</em>, comments on this phenomenon through his lead character, played by Colin Farrell. McDonagh has often been criticized for not writing roles for women, and his lead, a screenwriter, grapples with the same issues in his work. As a part of this meta-commentary, the film&rsquo;s two female characters are vastly underwritten, and actresses Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurlyenko maybe share ten minutes of screen time between the two of them.</p><p>However, McDonagh calling himself on his own bullsh*t lends him an easy out, as he still doesn&rsquo;t have to write a female character. The same is true for Dunham, who gave herself a nice Get Out Of (Hipster Racist) Jail Free card by casting Glover for two whole episodes.</p><p>But what does give me hope is that Dunham has the courage to take responsibility for her show&rsquo;s representation of gender, race and sexuality in a way many shows do not. Shows like <em>How I Met Your</em> <em>Mother </em>and <em>Two and a Half Men</em> have repeatedly bashed transgender people for years, using the idea of transitioning as a cheap ploy for ridicule and laughter. <em>Two Broke Girls</em>, <em>That 70&rsquo;s Show</em>, <em>Sex and the City</em>, <em>Family Guy</em>, <em>Outsourced</em>, <em>Modern Family</em>, <em>Seinfeld </em>and <em>Homeland</em> have gotten away with trafficking in overt racial stereotypes, and shows like <em>Nashville</em>, <em>Mad Men</em>, <em>Raising Hope</em>, <em>The Middle</em>, <em>Enlightened</em> and my beloved <em>Cougar Town</em> have little to no POC representation.</p><p>Even reality shows aren&rsquo;t much better. Food for thought: Neither the <em>The Bachelor</em> nor <em>The Bachelorette </em>have ever starred a minority.</p><p>Last year, television critic Maureen Ryan argued that shows like <em>Girls</em> highlight the ongoing racial disparities on television. The problem isn&rsquo;t that Dunham is racist. Television is racist. Currently, the only primetime network sitcom about a black family is <em>The Cleveland Show</em>, which is a) animated and b) crazy problematic. In the 2000&rsquo;s, network TV saw shows like the traditional family comedy <em>My Wife and Kids</em> and the critically lauded <em>Everybody Hates Chris</em> come and go.</p><p>A television landscape that makes room for <em>A Different World</em>, <em>Cosby</em> and <em>The Fresh Prince</em> is largely a thing of the past, and unless it&rsquo;s Kerry Washington on <em>Scandal</em>, people of color are our black friends or casual flings&mdash;like Glover or Idris Elba on <em>The Big C</em>.&nbsp; Remember: Washington was the first black female lead on a network show in almost <a href="http://www.oprah.com/own-oprahs-next-chapter/Oprahs-Next-Chapter-Kerry-Washington-and-Shonda-Rhimes">forty years</a>. Clearly, TV has a race problem&mdash;or else Ken Jeong wouldn&rsquo;t be allowed to be in things.</p><p>However, Americans aren&rsquo;t often trained to see structural racism&mdash;although we&rsquo;re good at pointing out individual acts. (See: the movie<em> Crash</em>, which only looks at racism as a personal problem that can be overcome with a little shaming, yelling and Sandra Bullock falling down some stairs. Inequality solved!) <em>Scandal</em> showrunner Shonda Rhimes spoke to this tendency when she <a href="http://www.tvguide.com/News/Shonda-Rhimes-Bunheads-1048843.aspx">called out</a> ABC Family&rsquo;s <em>Bunheads</em> for not including girls of color, which sparked <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/amy-sherman-palladino-shonda-rhimes-bunheads-338681">fervent response</a> from creator Amy Sherman-Palladino.</p><p>However, Sherman-Palladino also worked on <em>Gilmore Girls</em>, which championed both women of color and full-figured women in its seven seasons. At a time when the Ally McBeal body was the norm, the show was practically bursting with big girls, and it was awesome.</p><p>I find it interesting that whereas showrunners like Larry David, Ryan Murphy, Michael Patrick King, Mark Brazil, Steven Levitan and Seth MacFarlane are often let off the hook for their race problems or lauded as champions of equal opportunity humor, Dunham and Sherman-Palladino are made to pay for our media sins. In my critiques of King and Murphy, many were quick to defend them and defend them as refreshingly un-PC, willing to say what others are not. <em>Sex and the City</em> was actually about that sort of thing.</p><p>However, almost no one has jumped to defend Dunham for the same reason to defend Sherman-Palladino&rsquo;s right to make a show about white girls. In film, directors like Wes Anderson have, for years, gotten away with making movies with all-white casts&mdash;with almost no one criticizing his right to completely leave people of color out. Anderson&rsquo;s lone black character was <em>The Royal Tenenbaums</em>&rsquo; Danny Glover, who had almost no lines, and his most <a href="http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2010/02/darjeeling-limited.html">racially inclusive</a> movie was <em>The Darjeeling Limited</em>, a film that could have been called <em>Orientalism: The Movie</em>. It was a <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oew-pandey10oct10,0,7184917.story">neo-colonialist</a> <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2007/09/unbearable_whiteness.html">fever dream</a>.</p><p>And remember Pagoda? He won&rsquo;t be winning Anderson POC awesome points anytime soon.</p><p>The major difference between Dunham and Anderson is that one is male&mdash;and the other is not. Although the criticism of Dunham is accurate, one of the things that&rsquo;s made her so easy to critique is the fact that she&rsquo;s a woman and, thus, free game for public scrutiny and paternalism. In a tabloid- and blog-driven media, women&#39;s bodies are an avenue for debate, whether that&rsquo;s Jennifer Lawrence&rsquo;s &ldquo;fatness,&rdquo; Madonna&rsquo;s arms, Angelina Jolie&rsquo;s legs, Willow Smith&#39;s hair, Lindsay Lohan&rsquo;s plastic surgery, Megan Fox&rsquo;s thumbs or Jessica Simpson&rsquo;s pregnancy body. We look at women to ask &ldquo;Who wore it best?&rdquo;&mdash;to hold some up while others are destroyed.</p><p>If you look at shows like <em>Revenge </em>or the <em>Real Housewives </em>series, we root for women to be taken down or torn apart&mdash;to be called out and shown for the frauds they are. For instance, check out that Buzzfeed <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/why-do-people-hate-anne-hathaway">article</a> on Anne Hathaway, which bashes every single facet of her career (and her &quot;stupid face&quot;)&mdash;but for what gain? Even if someone is gracious, hard-working and seemingly perfect, as Hathaway is, we can despise her anyway. As Slate <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/01/31/why_do_people_hate_anne_hathaway_one_reason_is_simple_sexism.html">put it</a>: &quot;Why do people hate Anne Hathaway? One simple reason is sexism.&quot;</p><p>And our media culture of lady hate sets up a discourse where we feel free to tear Lena Dunham apart&mdash;for her privilege, her non-normative body and the fact that she doesn&rsquo;t live up to our expectations who she&rsquo;s supposed to be. A parody of the show&rsquo;s poster&mdash;which re-titled the program as &ldquo;Nepotism&rdquo;&mdash;went viral before the show even aired, before Dunham&rsquo;s work even got the chance to speak for itself. The backlash against her was almost built-in, like the media&rsquo;s dogpiling on Diablo Cody and Kathryn Bigelow.</p><p>Compare the constant criticism of Sofia Coppola for &ldquo;always doing the same thing&rdquo; to Woody Allen who gets awarded for it. The Oscar-nominated <em>Match Point</em> was lauded as a return to form and his best film in 25 years, despite being a virtual remake of his own film, <em>Crimes and Misdemeanors</em>.</p><p>Of course, I don&rsquo;t think the fact of her gender lets her off the hook for the criticism lobbied against her. In her Golden Globes speech, Dunham thanked HBO for letting a misfit like her into their space, as girls who look like Lena Dunham aren&rsquo;t often allowed to sit at the table. However, Lena Dunham needs to use her power of representation to allow others the same privilege and use that power for good. Rather than taking the easy way out, her show needs to do the actual work of inclusion by letting others sit at the table, too. Dunham needs to realize she isn&rsquo;t the only girl in the world and make room for the Issa Raes and the Mindy Kalings.</p><p>However, the burden of change isn&rsquo;t on Dunham alone. The industry itself needs to see racial inclusion as an issue, and we as a public need to hold ourselves accountable to seeing the bigger picture. While critiquing Lena Dunham, we need to hold the industry to the same standards and ask why one of our <em>Two and a Half Men</em> can&rsquo;t be black or our <em>Two Broke Girls</em> can&rsquo;t be Asian. If we&rsquo;re serious about making TV a better place, we need to expect change out of more than just one show and one girl and stop asking women to make it better while the rest of us sit back and watch.</p><p>Dunham has clearly got girl problems, but fixing all of ours isn&rsquo;t one. We all need to call ourselves on our bullsh*t.</p><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org. </em><em>To talk more about Gilmore Girls, follow Nico Lang on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang">Nico_Lang</a> or find Nico on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/girl-problems-why-lena-dunham-gets-scapegoated-tvs-lack-diversity-105376 Single, young and in Chicago? Make a TV show http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-08/single-young-and-chicago-make-tv-show-101864 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/single%20long.jpg" style="height: 444px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="" />&quot;I&#39;m afraid that once I pay rent I&#39;m going to starve to death, just straight up.&quot;</p><p>You&#39;ll hear a lot of that type of dialogue watching <a href="http://www.hbo.com/comedy/single-long/"><em>Single Long</em></a>, the new digital comedy produced by HBO. Conceived of, co-written and starring recent University of Chicago graduates Jack Lawrence Mayer, Ed Hausman and Sarra Jahedi (that&#39;s where I met them), the HBO aspect of the show is huge for them -- but the show itself hasn&#39;t come out of left field.</p><p>In college, Mayer, Hausman and Jahedi produced several webseries together, releasing them online, like&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/DrexelandDrexel">Drexel and Drexel</a></em> and <em><u><a href="https://vimeo.com/channels/63371">Pushing 23</a>.</u></em></p><p>&ldquo;Basically every Saturday we&rsquo;d shoot a two minute comedy almost weekly for two years, almost out of having nothing else to do better on Saturdays,&quot; said Mayer. A year after graduating, Mayer entered a pilot he&#39;d written that evolved from those projects, <em>Single Long</em>, which they shot in about a day with whoever was around, into the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.witsendshorts.com/tv2012.htm">Chicago TV Comedy pilot competition</a>. Much to their surprise, they won.</p><p>&ldquo;Creatively, &nbsp;I imagined versions of the characters we created [for the previous series] taking their next step&rdquo; in <em>Single Long</em>. But technically, Mayer had spent his time out of college &quot;basically spending every waking second working on video production&quot; -- much of which he&#39;d honed working on his blog <a href="http://livingroomsongs.com/">Living Room Songs</a>, which features videos of bands playing in mostly Chicago homes.</p><p>After they won the festival, one of the judges, who was an agent in Los Angeles, asked their permission to shop it around. HBO took the bait, and in the fall of 2011, Mayer, Hausman and Jahedi found themselves writing and rewriting the seven, 15-minute episodes that would be <em>Single Long</em>, about three friends attempting to start a dating website in Chicago of the same name.</p><p>&ldquo;I actually ran an esoteric website believing that one day it would make me money,&quot; said Mayer. &quot;There&rsquo;s a kind of madness when you&rsquo;re running a blog. I remember the day I launched Living Room Songs, I went to the grocery store and I was anxious as if I left my child. I had to go home and check on it.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F57220702&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center; "><object height="288" width="512"><param name="movie" value="http://www.hbo.com/bin/hboPlayerV2.swf?vid=1273087" /><param name="FlashVars" value="domain=http://www.hbo.com&amp;videoTitle=Guy Hits on Girl Promo&amp;copyShareURL=http%3A//www.hbo.com/video/video.html/%3Fautoplay%3Dtrue%26vid%3D1273087%26filter%3Dall-comedy%26view%3Dnull" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" flashvars="domain=http://www.hbo.com&amp;videoTitle=Guy Hits on Girl Promo&amp;copyShareURL=http%3A//www.hbo.com/video/video.html/%3Fautoplay%3Dtrue%26vid%3D1273087%26filter%3Dall-comedy%26view%3Dnull" height="288" src="http://www.hbo.com/bin/hboPlayerV2.swf?vid=1273087" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="512"></embed></object></p><p>After that, things moved quickly: HBO put together a Chicago-based production crew so all budgeting and logistics would be done locally (&ldquo;Strictly speaking, I never knew that number. I have a pretty good guess. It wasn&rsquo;t a lot,&quot; says Mayer of the cost of the series).&nbsp;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATY3HhJnkxs">John Klein</a>, a director of photography who works with <a href="http://www.glasscityfilms.com/">Glass City</a> films signed on, as did producers like&nbsp;Mallory Sohmer and&nbsp;Sarada&nbsp;Duvvuri.</p><p>In the original pilot, &ldquo;Whoever was not on camera was who was holding the camera,&quot; said Mayer. So &ldquo;It scared the sh** out of me to see 20 set people in my house on day one of filming...The division of labor is what I could imagine [would exist on a film set] but never envisioned.&rdquo;</p><p>When watching <em>Single Long</em>, you&#39;ll know where you are: they shot most of the scenes in Uptown, where Mayer lives, and a few in Wicker Park, as well as on the CTA, at the&nbsp;&ldquo;Western Brown line, which no one really knows exists.&rdquo;</p><p>From that, it&#39;s the cultural and aesthetic differences, as well as &ldquo;the pain in the butt it is to get from one neighborhood to another&quot; that Mayer wants people to feel. That and the music, which is largely by Chicago bands.</p><p><b style="font-weight: normal; ">That being said, Mayer recognizes that despite the talent of people he&#39;s wor</b>ked with,<strong> </strong>&ldquo;If you live in Chicago and you don&rsquo;t live in New York or L.A., there&rsquo;s a sense of a ceiling...how far you can go in this city before you&rsquo;ve settled for less than the coasts?&rdquo; That&#39;s a question he and his co-creators -- as well as their characters -- haven&#39;t found the answer to yet.</p><p>Because of its location and topic, <em>Single Long </em>faces inevitable comparisons to what feels like the most written about show of our time, another HBO product called&nbsp;<em>Girls</em>. But Mayer doesn&#39;t see a huge similarity. He cites movies like <em>Clerks </em>and <em>Slacker </em>as better examples for how long the young-person-struggling genre has been around, and says there are other inspirations for their product: &ldquo;Seth Rogen feeling feelings in <em>Knocked Up</em> probably has something to do with the fact that we&rsquo;re doing <em>Single Long</em>.&rdquo;</p><p>&quot;As more and more people stumble into this protracted adolescence...there hasn&#39;t necessarily been media created to speak to people directly living in those situations,&quot; pointed out Hausman on <em>Afternoon Shift</em>. Jahedi agrees: &quot;It&#39;s a time of transition, it&#39;s a time of confusion and growing up and it&#39;s a lot of issues a lot of people can relate to....College is a party and then all of a sudden the real world hits you.&quot;</p><p>But: &ldquo;The women in <em>Girls </em>are having significantly more sex than the women in <em>Single Long</em>.&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s the modern details (like the famous &quot;What&#39;s a drop pin?&quot; <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/24/fashion/girls-fans-interact-with-the-shows-setting.html">moment </a>in <em>Girls</em>) that make this show realistic, and that&#39;s something that Generation X reponds to: Someone on&nbsp;<a href="http://hcnelson.tumblr.com/post/29830806187/i-really-like-the-attention-to-detail-here#notes">Tumblr</a>&nbsp;praised <em>Single Long</em>&#39;s attention to detail, because the iPhone&#39;s on the show actually have a history of text messages shown. &quot;Is this supposed to be the first text they ever sent each other? Come on,&quot; they wrote.</p><p>It&#39;s that realism coupled with the spread of online TV that make shows like this topical, and probably the reason HBO is expanding into digital-only shows like this one.<strong>&nbsp;</strong>&quot;The who-knows-what-the-future-holds mantra has gotta be gone soon seeing as I don&rsquo;t know many people who have TVs,&quot; says Mayer. &ldquo;The internet for me -- starting when I was 19 years old when I wanted to make movies -- was a means of product distribution.&rdquo;</p><p>Mayer says he has &quot;No clue&quot; what&#39;s going to happen next, and is waiting to see how the show is received. The feedback from family and friends has been positive, but what he really wants is some real criticism.</p><p>&ldquo;After I graduated, I wasn&rsquo;t quite as optimistic as I had been,&quot; says Mayer. &quot;It had been a year of a lot of sticks and not a lot of carrots.&rdquo; Looks like he and his co-stars have got the carrot.</p></p> Wed, 22 Aug 2012 10:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-08/single-young-and-chicago-make-tv-show-101864 Neko and Nick don’t suck, but 'True Blood' kinda does http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-06-27/neko-and-nick-don%E2%80%99t-suck-true-blood-kinda-does-88372 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-June/2011-06-27/True Blood_DeRo collage.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-27/bloodneko.jpg" style="width: 460px; height: 308px; margin: 5px;" title=""></p><p>Throughout its first three seasons, as it pushed the envelope on camping and vamping ever further, HBO’s “True Blood” was a delightfully over-the-top guilty pleasure. Like many a jonesing fangbanger, I eagerly awaited Sunday night’s fourth-season premiere. Unfortunately, the best thing about it was the music that rolled over the closing credits.</p><p>As earlier touted in numerous blogs, the show’s consistently inventive music programmers tapped alt-country sweetheart Neko Case and the Bad Seeds’ prince of darkness Nick Cave to do a new duet recording of first-wave Brit-poppers the Zombies’ classic 1964 hit “She’s Not There” for an episode with the same title.</p><p>“You always want to serve the show, but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking about the soundtrack,” music supervisor Gary Calamar told <a href="http://www.billboard.com/news/true-blood-premiere-to-feature-zombies-1005170742.story#/news/true-blood-premiere-to-feature-zombies-1005170742.story">Billboard</a>. The script originally called for Santana’s cover of the tune. But “the key to a good soundtrack is having fresh recordings.”</p><p>Case and Cave toured together a decade ago, <a href="http://jimdero.com/News2002/NickCaveApril29.htm">including a phenomenal show at the Chicago Theatre in April 2002</a>, and much like the modern Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood or Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg pairing of Isobel Campell and Mark Lanegan, they brought just the right amount of sweet and sour, innocence and evil to their rendition of an already slightly creepy tune, with Neko’s gorgeous cooing nicely contrasting with Cave’s especially menacing growl.</p><p>As for the season opener, was it just me, or was just about every twist the writers and producers set up for the weeks to come a huge disappointment? Sookie threatened by evil fairies, Bill becoming a politician, Jason suddenly serving as the responsible one instead of the inept comic relief, Tara remaking herself as a lesbian boxer, Sam running with a band of horses while his annoying brother is kept by Hoyt’s mom… Jeez, all of these story lines seem intensely unpromising, fueling fears that the show really jumped the shark when it killed off Michelle Forbes’ maenad (thereby freeing her up to help drag down “The Killing”).</p><p>Oh, well: We have Neko and Nick. And their tribute to the gang in Bon Temps sure beats <a href="../../jderogatis/2010/06/snoop-dogg-a-pimp-unworthy-of-sookie-stackhouse/27142">Snoop Dogg’s</a>.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" scrolling="no" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/pBX4H06FWd8" width="560"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 27 Jun 2011 11:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-06-27/neko-and-nick-don%E2%80%99t-suck-true-blood-kinda-does-88372 Revisiting a conversation with Temple Grandin after a golden moment http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/revisiting-conversation-temple-grandin-after-golden-moment <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/danes grandin pizello.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Many folks tune in to the Golden Globes for clues about which stars will scoop up Oscars. But there are other winners too &ndash; like Claire Danes, for her portrayal of <a target="_blank" href="http://www.templegrandin.com/">Temple Grandin</a> in an <a target="_blank" href="http://www.hbo.com/movies/temple-grandin/index.html">HBO biopic</a>. Grandin is a research scientist with a gift for working with animals. She also has autism; her mind works by translating images into concepts and generalities. Grandin thinks the animal mind works in a similar way. So she&rsquo;s dedicated her life&rsquo;s work to improving the welfare and treatment of livestock.</p><p>Host Alison Cuddy sat down with her in 2010 before the biopic debuted. She began by saying how impressed she was with Danes&rsquo; performance.</p></p> Tue, 18 Jan 2011 15:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/revisiting-conversation-temple-grandin-after-golden-moment