Christina Yang. Fierce, independent, strong, and long one of my favourite characters on Shonda Rhimes’ ongoing hit Grey’s Anatomy. Played by the fantastic Sandra Oh, Yang is the epitome of the gifted, talented surgeon who’s set her heart on a goal and is working towards achieving it. She works in cardiothoracics, traditionally one of the most demanding surgical specialties, and one heavily dominated by men; a study in 2009 noted that 97% of surgeons working in this field were men. This was actually a worse statistic than in 1996, when 5% of cardiothoracic surgeons were women.
Bones is back with a bang—and a baby—after its long hiatus. Nearly four months after viewers last saw Booth, Brennan, and the gang, ‘The Prisoner In the Pipe’ swung people back into the action, while ‘The Bump In the Road’ helped to establish a new normal for the series in the wake of upheaval for the main characters.
Impatient fans were chomping at the bit for the next installment after the break, timed to coincide with Emily Deschanel’s maternity leave. Were they satisfied with the latest episodes, and what do they presage for the future?
C*nt. Bitch. Whore.
Likely you’ve read these and other epithets, and related threats, flying around the internet recently. If you’re not a woman or a feminist-minded blogger, you might not be used to seeing them quite so often, but rather than dealing with them each on her own, women and perceived-women writers have been talking about them publicly, culminating in a cathartic (and often triggering) sharing on Twitter under the hashtag #mencallmethings. As with many other moments in feminist activism, however, the protest has been as revealing about who is welcome and centered in feminist circles as it has been about the abuse and harassment all such writers, centered or not, receive.
The latest season of Doctor Who (a long-running UK scifi/fantasy series about a time traveling even-longer-lived body-changing alien — whew, shortest summary ever!), the second of current showrunner Stephen Moffat’s tenure, lacks depth and humanity when it comes to anyone who is not male, white, and straight. And, indeed, spends rather a lot of time killing off women’s autonomy and autonomous women. Although Doctor Who has always been another TV iteration of the story of the Independent Rich White Man Having Adventures, in the first few years of the reboot (seasons 2005-2009), with all that can be said against it, there were at least engaging female characters who grew over time. As Moffat seems to have given up characterization in favor of baroque, excessively complicated storylines, the viewer has been deprived of these dynamic, if flawed, portrayals of women. There’s just not much there to engage with when it comes to complex female/nonwhite/queer characters, and none of it is good. So lo! Let us talketh about the men, and — because it ain’t for nothing that “patriarchy” means “rule by the fathers” — about dads particularly.
ABC’s rocky pilot episode of Body of Proof recently highlighted an ongoing problem television dramas seem to struggle with: the accurate depiction of work/life balance for women. As women in society in general are talking about the need for more support for a work/life balance, particularly for parents who want to pursue careers and raise children, the messages projected in television are often rather slanted, and are generally negative.
Women on television with careers tend to be depicted as single-minded people with few friends, the inability to raise children, and difficulty ‘turning off’ to engage in recreational activities or relationships with people outside their workplaces. In part, this is a fault of the medium. People tune in to television dramas like Bones and Grey’s Anatomy for the workplace setting, not to watch characters at home, out in their communities, or interacting with their children. The storylines are driven by the workplace, and the show must perforce focus on this environment.
For shows like medical and crime dramas, seeing children in the workplace would be unexpected. We wouldn’t exactly expect to see detectives breastfeeding in the morgue, or teenagers hanging out in the operating room gallery (although both of these things do happen in the real world). Because the stories take place primarily in workplace settings, it is difficult to integrate people from outside the work environment. As a result, we rarely see the children, friends, and neighbours of our characters, even though they may be referenced.
Veteran parents argue that you never stop worrying about your children, which makes one wonder how George and Barbara Bush get to sleep at night. I sense, too, that part of the ongoing parental worry comes from the insidious mind game older children can play on you by leaking dribs and drabs of “the real story” to you at their leisure regarding incidents long forgotten in the dim recesses of our addled parental minds.
My wife and I have just recently experienced this first hand. Our youngest son had a dead front tooth and needed a root canal. The dentist had dutifully mentioned this to us six months ago, and my wife was surprised to hear this when she brought in son #3 for his check-up. The dentist had made a huge mistake, you see, those six months ago. He hadn’t talked to my wife, nor had he left a message on the machine.
He talked to me at length about it, and I forgot to pass the information along. Oops. But, hey, a dead tooth is just a dead tooth, right?
This incident gave my wife another opportunity to remind me of my parental incompetence, and also resulted in our son confessing the real way in which he hurt his tooth. The original story had him telling us that he ran into a door.
I, of course, do not recall this moment in our parenting past, but my wife remembers it and recalls wondering how he could have been so clumsy as to literally ram his front tooth into the door. Perhaps my lack of recall stems from the fact my children have ground me down to the point where nothing they do surprises me anymore. Nothing. Continue reading
From fairy tales to film, everyone is obsessed with the idea of one’s “firstborn.” But what about the lastborn?
For my part, I’ve recently discovered that the lastborn child has magical abilities.
Of course, you have no idea what I’m talking about right now. Allow me to explain:
At the end of a long vacation week came a ski day for my wife, daughter and me. Discussions went back and forth as to where to go. Mount Wachusett never became an option given it is an over priced, over crowded, underwhelming experience in spite of their advertising (I think the slogan should be – “little mountain skiing at big mountain prices: you might find worse, but you won’t pay more”).
Other options included mountains around two hours away. We eventually settled on a return to Crotched Mountain where my daughter has been involved in a thoroughly enjoyable school ski program, in stark contrast to prior experiences at the operation criticized above.
I hadn’t been to Crotched Mountain in over twenty six years and found it to be a thoroughly pleasant, small mountain experience that likely could use a few more customers. It’s a perfect little place to take novice and intermediate skiers without having to pay for the lift tickets with a financing plan.
So, on Saturday we loaded up the car for a little quality time on the slopes. We planned our arrival perfectly, we would have about 20 minutes before the lifts opened to suit up and get on the mountain for some early groomed runs.
There was, however, one slight glitch that became apparent only after we parked in the Crotched Mountain parking lot.
My daughter forgot her ski coat.
The equanimity with which I took this news astounded me. It was if I left my own body and observed this aging, portly man operating with extreme calm. Continue reading
Shockingly, my 15-year old son has recently become interested in politics. We’re not ready to take off the ski hat, cut our hair, pull up our pants, and don a coat and tie like Michael J. Fox in the 1980s sitcom “Family Ties,” but it’s a start.
Indeed, this emerging interest had me channeling Kenneth Branaugh in the remake of the movie Frankenstein, when said creature stirred for the first time and Branagh looked to the heavens and wailed, “It’s A-liiiiivvvvveeeeee!” Productive intellectual inquisitiveness in the teen male must always be encouraged, no matter how flickering the flame. Words must be chosen carefully so as to gently fan that flame, rather than put it out.
On primary nights, the lad has asked me to turn the television onto CNN “so we can watch the scores.” It’s not a logical leap from ESPN, I guess, and politics is the biggest spectator sport in this country, so I do nothing to disabuse him of the notion.
His comments with respect to Mrs. Clinton would sit well with her adversaries. He’s dumbstruck at how she can conceivably be trying to change the rules with respect to Michigan and Florida. “That sucks,” he says, “isn’t that cheating?”
Our discussion about Barack Obama struck me, however. Continue reading
Women have an incredible ability to block out memories of sever physical pain; how else can you explain the fact that many sign up to endure labor again by having more than one child?
Surely it cannot be because children provide joy that somehow balances out the rigors of passing the rough equivalent of a bowling ball through one’s nether regions.
Children do have a way of making parents of both sexes stupid. We forget all sorts of horrific experiences we vowed never to do again. A few months pass, and, there we are, willfully signing up to do it all once more. Unlike child birth, we can’t blame it on a lack of – ahem – rhythm.
It’s just our abject stupidity.
Stupidity, of course, brings us to sleepovers. Normally such events take place in conjunction with birthday parties. Unfortunately for us, our three sons’ birthdays are a little more than six weeks apart, compressing this fun and frivolity into something more akin to an endurance test, or boot camp. Our daughter has yet to get into the mix, although that looms just around the corner, I am sure.
There have been good ones and there have been bad ones. Good ones usually mean the weather cooperates and the children can be run ragged outdoors in a controlled environment. The physical exertion generally means they will sit somewhat quietly once indoors for a prolonged period of time.
Bad ones remain hard to remember, which goes to illustrate the blocking-out thing we parents do as a form of self-preservation. I do dimly recall one sleepover where two of my charges were on Ritalin – during the weekdays. Taken off Ritalin on the weekends seemed to unleash unholy pent-up energy which they could not adequately harness. I, of course, learned this the hard way when I came downstairs at 2:00 a.m. to find one of them taking apart my computer. Continue reading