• I’m just confused why everyone’s so down on Alex Drake. She’s an amazing, complex, surprising character – flirty, ballsy, intelligent and drunk half the time. I’m afraid I’m gonna have to play the gender card and say it’s just not a role that women get all that often, and we should be embracing it.
    [/rant]
    😉

  • MediumRob

    I don’t think I mentioned Alex this time, but I’ll bite anyway
    1) You can’t play the gender card unless you can name for me three male characters in the last five years who have been amazing, complex, surprising, flirty, ballsy, intelligent and drunk half the time. Sorry, but those are the conditions of licensing and good characters are pretty far between for both genders, these days.
    2) You can’t like a character simply because he or she ticks a particular set of political checkboxes. Not unless you’re an android/gynoid. There are other intangibles in there.
    3) She’s not smart – she’s daft as a brush but carps on all the time about how much better she is than everyone else. Proof? We’re inside her head right now and it’s full of clowns, slightly dodgy crushes on her godfather (?) and iconography borrowed from John Simm’s fantasy life.
    On the other hand, there may well be a debate on whether society looks less favourably on female dickheads than on male dickheads. A debate worth having? Probably not: they’re dickheads, after all.

  • Yeah, I know you didn’t mention Alex, that’s why I put [/rant] That was a bit crap. It’s just something I’ve been pondering a lot today. I’m in a minority here, I know I am, and now you’ve put all your points I do feel like an idiot ( 😉 ) I didn’t set out with any list of things I wanted to Alex to be; all’s I know is that I’m constantly surprised with what they do with her character, and not in a ‘she would never do that’ kind of way, but in a ‘wow, that’s a very human reaction to that situation’ kind of way. And maybe the gender thing is wrong, but even if you take that element away, I still find her an incredibly interesting character.

  • “slightly dodgy crushes on her godfather (?)”
    Her daughter’s godfather. Pay attention, 006andabit.

  • I can’t. I’m bored.
    Actually, that plot element makes even less sense than my imagined one.

  • AnnaWaits

    I have to agree with you there… how old is he meant to be….?

  • 1) You can’t play the gender card unless you can name for me three male characters in the last five years who have been amazing, complex, surprising, flirty, ballsy, intelligent and drunk half the time.
    Detective McNulty, The Wire.
    The John Simm character in State of Play.
    The Doctor, except sober.
    That took me about thirty seconds.
    I heart Alex Drake.

  • MediumRob

    1) The Doctor’s only drunk once and he’s faking therefore he’s disqualified. And he’s not that flirty either. He just doesn’t realise the effect he has on the ladies.
    2) State of Play just about gets in since it was screened in 2003 but Simm’s character is drunk only twice and is only flirty with someone he’s already had an affair with (if I recall correctly), never anyone else.
    3) McNulty I’d give you, if we were to ignore his season four abstinence and the ridiculously stupid serial killer scheme he hatches in season five. Which we aren’t going to.
    So they’re all disqualified, I’m afraid. Shame.
    I would like Alex Drake more if she weren’t played by Keely Hawes who is currently in my bad books thanks to her “gosh, I’m a girl therefore I must be a dimwit” ads for Boots. I would like her even more if she ever said anything that was both intelligent and not immediately obvious or if she were ever so slightly less snooty, patronising and condescending to – and let’s not forget this – people she invented with her own consciousness. It’s like “look at me, I’m so posh and privileged but I’m in a coma now with no one to patronise, so I’m going to make some people up so I can do it. They’re all Northerners – they deserve it”. Bah.

  • Scott Matthewman

    “amazing, complex, surprising, flirty, ballsy, intelligent and drunk half the time.”
    Bernard from Black Books? Although I suppose he wasn’t much of a flirt. And I’m not sure you’d call him ballsy. And it was WAY more than half the time…

  • MediumRob

    I’m going to have to change this to to the “Sh*t, we’re getting old” thread. Black Books first aired in 2000…

  • I know. Doesn’t time fly? Although Series 3 didn’t air until 2004…

  • MediumRob

    Tis true. It’s probably simpler though to keep it to male characters who first appeared within the last five years. After all, if there are so many of these great male characters who are amazing, etc, that they are like the water in the rivers and the air in the sky compared to the rarer female of the species, fudging it so that we start drawing in characters who might have first appeared over five years ago but have continued in long running series should be unnecessary, no? Otherwise, we’ll just be including the latest Sherlock Holmes remakes, etc (you say he wasn’t flirty or drunk, I say you don’t know what he and Watson got up to behind closed doors) or haggling over transmission dates.
    On which point, even if I hadn’t already disqualified them, I should note that Detective McNulty first appeared in 2002 and apparently the character of the Doctor was first spotted in 1963. Would you Adam and Eve it?
    I’d also add that if we’re in the treasuring female characters who are amazing, etc, then y’all have to start treasuring Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica. Go on, off you go. Get yourself Sky dishes, try to catch it on Sky Three or buy the DVDs or else you’re not properly treasuring.
    That does mean people who think these male characters are very very common nowadays now have to come up with between four and six examples to show they outnumber their female counterparts so hugely, since we’re now up to two female characters in the last five years. Assuming we’re classing Alex Drake as a great female character for some reason.

  • In order to approach this in a more scientific fashion, I got my Time Out and had a look at the listings for tonight to see if there are any decent male or female characters in any of the programmes on, and basically, there aren’t. Depressing.
    You may well be right that recent TV is more gender-balanced than we give it credit for. In defense of we touchy feminists, we have had to put up with decades of male-led film, books, and television, where the female characters have only ever been WAGs. I was struggling recently to think of a single film which is considered “important” that has any significant female character at all – this thought prompted by No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood. Films and TV with large female casts tend to be explicitly aimed at women, whereas if it’s all-male or close to all-male, as a woman you are expected just to see this as a straight view of humanity. It’s fairly standard for a “balanced” team on an ensemble show – Primeval, for example, or Torchwood – to actually have the men slightly outnumber the women. Most of the shows I love have only one or two female characters – aforementioned State of Play, The Wire etc. Also the men have at least some room for unconventional looks, but the women have to be beautiful – cf Heroes. I’m sure it will all change – is all already changing – but it could really do with hurrying up.
    So maybe in terms of female leads these days we are getting some good ones but it has been a long time coming.

  • I would agree with you on the general point that over the years, there have definitely been far fewer decent female characters over the years, that there’s been greater pressure on the women to be beautiful, that women are outnumbered, etc (although it looks like Primeval‘s edging its way towards more women than men in series three to be fair to that show).
    But my more general point, as you discovered from Time Out, was that in recent years there is more of a gender balance but not because we’re getting more great female roles but because we’re having fewer great male roles. In general, looking at television through my sepia-tinted glasses, the last five years have produced an obvious lack of decent characters of both genders.
    Frankly we should be treasuring any decent character who comes along – which is why Gene Hunt went down a storm during series one of Life on Mars. Like him or loathe him, he was interesting.
    Having said that, I’m not especially treasuring him at the moment, because I don’t think that just because we have been the figurative dying men/women crawling across the desert of modern television, looking for the water of good character, that doesn’t mean we should necessarily drink anything we find uncritically, particularly if it looks like the camels of bad Ashes to Ashes writing have been peeing in our previously pristine oasis of Mars.
    Alex Drake might look like an oasis, but to me she’s more of a mirage.

  • In order to approach this in a more scientific fashion, I got my Time Out and had a look at the listings for tonight to see if there are any decent male or female characters in any of the programmes on, and basically, there aren’t. Depressing.
    Although well past their best, I would suggest Frank Gallagher from Shameless; Ian Gallagher also counts as a great character. It’s a shame that the brilliant female Shameless characters — Fiona and Veronica, and Sheila to a lesser extent — have now gone from the series as it’s tumbled into sitcom. Steve, Lip (in the early series) and Tony the Cop are also worth mentioning.
    Rob, you’re viewing Life on Mars through seventies-style rose-coloured spectacles (probably with oblong frames). Sometimes it was great, but there were several painfully duff episodes, with the Dreaded Chibnall a prime culprit. Stories which made no sense at all, and quite a few where I got the suspicion where the writers were trying to have their cake (‘Wouldn’t it be great if you could write a violent, politically-incorrect cop show? But you can’t do that anymore. Shame’) and eat it (‘I know! Let’s put in a modern cop to shake his head and say how dreadful it all is!’)

  • MediumRob

    Shameless does sneak in at 2004, but having never watched it, I can’t tell if Frank, Ian, Steve, Lip and Tony are “amazing, complex, surprising, flirty, ballsy, intelligent and drunk half the time”? I’ll take your word for it if they are. Statistically distorting though if it turns out that the only male characters that met the target criteria were all in the same show…
    Re: Life on Mars – I was talking predominantly about the first series since I wasn’t so impressed by the second series. I was also talking about the character of Gene Hunt rather than the plots.
    Still, it’s hard to slag off dreams of making no sense. You could probably have slagged off Life on Mars more for making sense, since dreams don’t tend to make any sense (cf anything by David Lynch). Unless, of course, it’s the after-life after all.

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