Virginia Woolf once said, “Women alone stir my imagination.” There are days when, after consuming a beige sludge of ‘critically-acclaimed’ movies and tv shows written by or made for the enjoyment of men, I know exactly what she means. Get me a fully realised woman on the screen. Any will do. Just somebody with motives and desires, fears and failings, strengths and a sense of humour, like anyone else. Seriously. Is that so difficult to ask for?
Apparently yes, going by my reaction to spotting one of these strange three-dimensional women in my media soup. I turn into a tiny puppy put in front of a mirror for the first time. What the hell is that! Woof; and then a tentative paw placed on the shiny surface. Is that...me?
The streaming wars may land us in a Big Disney dystopia where all content feels the same; but for the time being, this is not the case. Netflix has been throwing a lot of money at a lot of different creators who know how to write and talk about women. Remember: a well-written woman is a dangerous woman. Who knows what radical ideas she may implant in the viewer’s mind (for e.g., ‘women are as interesting and complex as you’). But hey. If you like the sound of these dangerous, radical notions, you may like these, all streaming on Netflix:
G.L.O.W. About a scripted professional wrestling series that’s kind of like W.W.E., except it’s the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling! Two desperate producers assemble a rag-tag team of women and turn them into a profit-making reality T.V. machine. This show is about a lot of things: how workers are exploited by their bosses, how racial stereotypes sell, how gender works against you everywhere, from the lowest to highest of social stratas. But at the heart of this story is the relationship between Ruth, a type-A nerd, and Debbie, an alcoholic mean girl. Ruth slept with Debbie’s ex husband and ruined their friendship forever. Now, the two have to work hand-in-hand to make their show a success. Can they do it? Watch it for the funny and diverse cast, the funny and freeing, non-sexual use of nudity, or just the insanely funny writing. Have I mentioned this show is funny?
Sir. This movie has ruined my life, in that it has made it very difficult for me to watch shitty Indian melodramas ever again. Rohena Gera has written and directed a delicate story about a domestic worker in Mumbai who falls in love with her employer. But make no mistake, this is not about the romance as much as it is about Ratna. It is rare to see a movie that focuses so deeply on the perspective of ‘the help’, and that too a young woman who is widowed. But Sir does it so wonderfully that by the end, you’re rooting for every one of Ratna’s dreams to come true.
The Half of It. A coming-of-age film about Ellie Chu, a Chinese American straight-A student living in a rural town. A jock hires her to write love letters to the popular girl: but twist! Ellie is gay, and may have a big gay crush on the very same girl. What makes this movie special, besides exploring the traditional coming-of-age narrative of the kind of character pushed to the sidelines (child of an immigrant, queer, not particularly popular), is the relationship between Ellie and Paul the jock. They share a weird, complicated, platonic love—it’s just not the kind that girls get to have with boys on screen. More of those, please.
The Queen’s Gambit. A miniseries that reminded me why sports drama is one of my favourite genres. This story follows Beth Harmon, a chess prodigy who ascends to greatness in a man’s world. (The men in said world are not very happy about this.) The show revels in Beth’s pure skill, giving her the underdog-to-legend journey so often reserved for men. It also makes Beth unabashedly feminine and interested in fashion. Beth’s nice clothes and hair doesn’t make her any better or worse at checkmating the hell out of her opponent (compare this to the movie Dangal, where Gita Phogat started losing matches once she started painting her nails), which is refreshing. Girls can stomp all over men while looking cute too, thanks.
Grace and Frankie. The premise of this show couldn’t be better: Grace is a cosmetics mogul, Frankie is a hippie teacher, and they do not get along. But their husbands, both divorce lawyers, announce one day that they’re gay and in love with each other—and so Grace and Frankie are forced to move in together. They slowly get to know and accept each other, eventually becoming best friends. Shows with two women as the lead characters are few and far in between. Shows with two old women? Shows with two old women who are quick-witted and petty and horny, and try to sell vibrators to their Catholic friends? I would say such a show can’t possibly exist, except it does, and it’s called Grace and Frankie.
I’ve basically taken care of the rest of your media priorities for the next 3 months of 2021. You’re welcome, and happy viewing.
About the author:
Shreya is a kickass writer (of course). She is doing some brilliant work at a development consulting firm, digs reading and all things pop culture.