TV Shows About Complex Women

(Welcome to Small-Screen Stream, a feature where we share the best television shows streaming and where you can watch them.)

The premiere of Sharp Objects inspired me to do something a little different with this week’s streaming column. Watching Amy Adams in HBO’s incredible new miniseries made me yearn for other complex, layered, broken female characters, ones who don’t fit into the neat little boxes where women in media so often reside. Ones who drink when they shouldn’t or speak out when it feels uncalled for or let their makeup smear, their hair tousle. Silly little things, maybe, but things we so rarely see in a sea of perfectly manicured cable characters.

So I set out to compile a list of streaming shows filled with a-typical TV women. They’re not all complex in the same way – and some are still pretty manicured – but instead offer some variety. These are women who don’t behave the way society might want them to, and that’s exactly why they’re so endlessly watchable.

I also wanted to emphasize shows with largely female creative forces behind-the-scenes (as much as I could). Because female creators, directors, and writers lend their shows a unique quality, one of truth and experience. We need more of them, but these are the women who have already started paving the way.

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little women remake

What makes a story timeless? It’s a loaded question, with infinite answers, but there are certain through-lines when you take a monocled look. The stories that get retold, over and over ad nauseum, are elemental: hero’s journeys, love stories, arch enemies. Easily adaptable, impressionable by nature; no matter how they are told, how closely they adhere to origin, they feel new. Jesus, Hamlet, Jane Eyre. They are fables ripe with possibility.

When it was announced last week that Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to Lady Bird – her first solo feature as a writer and director, which earned her dual Oscar nods as a result – would be an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s seminal novel Little Women, there was a bit of a backlash. There are, to date, six film adaptations of Little Women, with a seventh – a modern retelling starring Lea Thompson – due later this year. Additionally, there have been four BBC miniseries based on the book – including one that came out just last year – a made-for-TV musical in 1958, a 2012 Lifetime movie, and several anime spinoffs. Why, some wondered, do we need another?

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(Welcome to Small-Screen Stream, a feature where we share the best television shows streaming and where you can watch them.)

It’s been a hard few weeks.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there’s an exhausting onslaught of things going on that have made it very difficult to remain positive, focused, and productive. It’s also been hard to watch television lightheartedly; things like The Handmaid’s Tale and Westworld – about body politics and oppression and challenging ideologies – are a little too real in the wake of all that’s happening around us.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been tuning out the noise with whatever lighthearted entertainment I can. Whether that means re-visiting old favorites or discovering new comedic gems, I’ve been making my way through an array of shows, and wanted to theme this week’s column around that. Because we could all use a little lighthearted escapism right now.

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Best TV Streaming Now

(Welcome to Small-Screen Stream, a feature where we share the best television shows streaming and where you can watch them.)

Summer is here, and with it comes a pretty eclectic group of impulse watches. Whether you’re drowning out the heat with the AC or anxiously awaiting the warmth, that distinct summer feeling is already in the air. And sometimes, the only thing that satiates it is shows about people basking in the heat, same as you. Or true crime. Or fluffy comedies. Or a Twin Peaks marathon.

Okay – there isn’t one true way to get in the summer mood, but if you’re like me, and enjoy an eclectic mix of media, here are my suggestions for the best shows to binge on streaming services this week.

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Star Wars Fandom

I love Star Wars.

In our current defensive, insular fandom climate, that’s a contentious thing to admit. But I love it still, and I love its fans, and I love the warmth the movies – all of them, even the bad ones – give me, and have always given me, and will continue to give me forevermore. I’ve always been a fan, but it reached a crescendo in 2015, when The Force Awakens resurrected what had sat dormant for more than a decade. A special, familial, dreamlike pleasantness that starts with a blue serif font before catapulting my heart and imagination into a galaxy beyond.

I’m speaking so romantically of Star Wars because it’s easy to forget what brought us to these movies in the first place. As the Twitter war machine loads another round of ammunition, as the new creators are forced to protect themselves and their talent from vitriolic personal attacks, as conversations about the brokenness of fandom poison our timelines – and our spirit – we slip further and further into an empty void of endless, cyclical diatribe. Nothing changes, nothing gets better, things just dredge on with a savage melancholy that clashes diametrically with the essence of the thing we’re fighting about.

It’s called Star Wars. It’s about love.

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con of thrones 2018

Winter is here for Game of Thrones fans, who are in the midst of a great content drought; the show isn’t back until next year, and George R.R. Martin may never finish his A Song of Ice and Fire book series. But for three short days in May, those things didn’t matter, as a contingency of fans gathered in Dallas for the second annual Con of Thrones, a convention dedicated to celebrating Martin’s rich, fantastical world.

And judging from the passion radiating off of the walls of the Hyatt Regency, this is a group that could survive the longest of winters – so long as they’re in each other’s company.

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tv bits friday night lights

(Welcome to Small-Screen Stream, a feature where we share the best television shows streaming and where you can watch them.)

Hello all, I’m back for another week of Small-Screen Stream, where I’m bringing you suggestions about the best TV to stream this week. There were some new releases this last week, notably the second season of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, but I’m steering clear of the more obvious stuff and going for some purely emotional choices this time around. (It’s been a rough week, if you haven’t guessed from the constant onslaught of horrible news, and we could all use an upper.)

But worry not, I also have Solo on the brain, and used that as an opportunity to sneak in some Star Wars and Star Wars adjacent choices. I hope you dig in and enjoy the offerings, and feel free to let me know the TV you’ve been checking out this week!

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Women of Solo

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: despite the best intentions of everyone involved, the women of Solo: A Star Wars Story get the short end of the stick.)

Rey. I think about her a lot. A beacon of hope in a fandom so punctuated by masculine energy. There is Leia, yes, a feisty ball of purely female spitfire, a woman who lit a spark in the original Star Wars films and who lives inside every girl of a certain age even still. But Leia was never our focal point, and Rey is. The new dawn of Star Wars entered stage left with a message loud and clear: there are other kinds of heroes in this world, and this is what they look like.

The Disney era of Star Wars is not without its setbacks, but the women have been across-the-board fantastic from the perspective of this lifelong female fan. Rey, Jyn, Holdo, Rose, the return of Leia as a general; strong signals in a hellfire of war and famine and the disturbance of peace. Trailblazers who will not be silenced no matter the boycotting hashtags or insular vendettas. To us, the women who love these movies, they are setting the stage for a new kind of intersectional fandom inclusion.

I had my reservations about Solo: A Star Wars Story, but was excited to see what it might do with its troupe of new female characters. Qi’ra, L3-37 (the first female droid with a major role in Star Wars history), Val. The marketing made them look distinctly impressive, with new energies to bring to what could otherwise be a very male-heavy narrative.

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Marvel Cinematic Universe romance problem

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: after the release of Avengers: Infinity War, Lindsey Romain takes stock of the MCU’s romance problem.)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, at best, a series of intricately laced human stories amplified and filtered through the lens of absolute power. At worst, it is a series that never hits the emotional highs and lows of its characters, favoring spectacle and applause over the metrics of human condition. Avengers: Infinity War falls somewhere in the middle of this chart. It is undoubtedly geared to deliver stadium-style hoots and hollers, but goes for the jugular in a few key moments. Youll laugh, youll cry. Its a lot of movie.

Its also a good reminder that the MCU is loaded with troubled romances that have a hard time feeling relevant. It wouldnt be much of a problem if the films climax wasnt anchored almost totally on the relationship between a young woman and a character that is essentially a sentient Siri in human skin, a couple so important that we have to buy that they would risk humanity to save their love. The highest of stakes are predicated on two characters the world probably wouldnt miss that much, but Infinity War still begs us to fret over. Even though, by my measure, it doesnt care itself about developing Wanda beyond what she provides to male narratives, or Vision beyond his omniscient but hackneyed origin story. That sort of sums up Marvel romance in a nutshell: hollow and unearned fabrications that only matter apocalyptically.

There are many layers to MCUs romance problem, so lets take a deeper look at what its done right, what it cant seem to master, and what it might do to rectify this issue going forward. Spoilers ahead. Read More »

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Best Television Streaming Now

(Welcome to Small Screen Stream, a feature where we share the best television shows streaming and where you can watch them.)

Ahoy, streaming fiends. We’re here with a brand new column dedicated to ready-to-watch television. There’s a mountain of content out there, so I’m here to help you keep track of what’s new, what you’re missing, and what you should catch up on before new seasons hit.

There’s a little bit of all of that this week, so without further adieu, here’s a look at the best small-screen streaming options currently at your fingertips.

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