Thursday, March 24, 2016


The A.V. Club does a good job covering popular entertainment.  If they have one problem*, it's their reflexive politics. To give an example, more than once they've noted in reviews the desirability of a "diverse" cast--which may be nice for political or business reasons, but has little to do with the quality of a movie or TV show.  (I've loved a lot of foreign films that only seem to have people from one ethnicity--do they need more diversity, or do they get a pass?)

People are always going to have political opinions, but at the A.V. Club their beliefs often play too significant a role in their reviews.  I could give many examples (if I weren't so lazy--I did once discuss something similar relating to their coverage of Game Of Thrones), but let's look at something I just read, Donna Bowman's review of the latest Better Call Saul, which focuses on the character of Kim Wexler, law associate.

The only way her gender enters into it is that she believes[**] she needs to play the game without any mistakes, staying later, working harder, and complaining less than her male counterparts, to get the same rewards. That’s a bind that women (and other minorities in the workplace) readily recognize[***]. Portraying that reality as the central concern in the life of a television character probably shouldn’t be revolutionary. That doesn’t make it any less thrilling to witness here.

The first sentence is a questionable reading of the show.  Wexler has to work hard because she's an associate in the doghouse who needs to prove herself. Must the character believe it's happening because she's a woman?  And can Bowman not imagine a straitlaced male associate who puts his nose to the grindstone to get ahead, doing all the thing Wexler is doing?

It's bad enough Bowman's political opinion may be leading her astray, but before too long she's stating her opinion is "reality." She simply dismisses the idea there could be any other explanation.  And then, because she believes her politics are being reflected on the show, she makes an aesthetic judgment that it's more exciting to watch.  So I guess a show that suggests women or minorities don't, in every situation, have to work harder and complain less, would be no fun and get a thumbs down from Bowman?

*I have a second problem in how I often disagree with their aesthetic beliefs, but that's pretty much how it's got to be for any such place.

**It's possible Bowman is simply saying this is about Wexler's perception, not necessarily what true, thought the rest of her piece seems to go against this argument.

***Perhaps the enlightened bosses at The A.V. Club should look into this--sounds like Bowman may feel underappreciated.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Political comments are offputting in reviews (or in pretty much any nonpolitical activity) but I think readers/viewers only really tend to notice them when they clash with an underlying views or assumptions.

6:34 AM, March 24, 2016  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's some wise words, right there.

SWMBCg, etc.

6:56 AM, March 24, 2016  
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