Oi! Nice to see you Dame Nation!
We are Cate Young and Ianthe Metzger, full-time first cousins and part-time friends (that’s a joke! I hope...), and we’re so excited to be your substitute Bossy Dames for the week. We are plenty bossy in our real lives, so we think you’ll be more than happy with what we’ve put together for you! Between us, we’ve got a keen interest in pop culture and women’s rights in the most literal way possible. I (Cate) am a freelance writer and pop culture critic and Ianthe works in the communications shop at EMILY’s List, an organization with the stated goal of getting (pro-choice, democratic!) women candidates elected to office. We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about politics but don’t worry, there’s still a Bachelor obsessive between us (*whispers* it’s not meeeee). This week’s newsletter is chock full of stuff we’re thinking about, obsessing about, and positively drooling over, and we hope you’ll be just as hopelessly devoted to our ridiculous interests as we are. Let’s get to it!
TV SQUAWKING with Ianthe
Is this gif everywhere? Yes. Is its popularity deserved? ALSO YES.
Lots of secrets were revealed in the most recent episode of HBO’s Big Little Lies, mainly because Madeleine “I don’t care about homeless people” Mackenzie’s kids CAN’T KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT. But I (along with the rest of Black Twitter) am still waiting for the biggest reveal of all: where does Bonnie gets her braids done? It’s killing me and I’ve been thinking about it even more this week after her mom acknowledged that Black people pretty much don’t exist in Monterey. I started thinking about what products she uses and where she buys them, before I realize that Bonnie probably makes them herself, because of course she does. Other thoughts on this season: Meryl Streep has maybe made me suspicious of short people and I’m loving the Miranda Priestly energy she’s bringing to the role, Laura Dern is the real MVP of this season, but can they cool it on the jump cuts? What they call artsy, I call distracting...
We’re all really sad that The Good Place is ending. It’s the show I watched to clear my head after I mistakenly binged When They See Us at 1 am and after I listened to my new serial killer podcast obsession (more on that later). Seriously, I could watch “Dance Dance Resolution” on a loop for the rest of time. But shows knowing when to end is a good thing, and it makes you appreciate them more. Given its concept, The Good Place wasn’t built to last 8 seasons and I’m sure if they dragged it out we’d all grow to hate it. It’s got me thinking about other shows that (from what I can tell) were supposed to be limited runs or miniseries but just got renewed for season 2. Did we need another season of Russian Doll? And I’m enjoying Big Little Lies but do we need season two? And then there’s Fleabag. The season 2 ending was so goddamn perfect that Phoebe Waller-Bridges better keep her promise that this was the end this time. That said, I’m still a hypocrite who will totally eat up new episodes of all of these shows while simultaneously complaining. I’m just complex like that.
TV SQUAWKING with Cate
Anne Lister has truly DIZZYING levels of swagger.
I haven’t figured out precisely why just yet but I’ve been very drawn to #queercontent recently, and nothing has scratched that particular itch like Gentleman Jack on HBO. Based on the life of historical lesbian Anne Lister, the show has focused not just on her queer relationships, but on how much romances of the time were tied up in a woman’s need to provide for herself and her children. As noted by Slate’s Inkoo Kang, It was fascinating to watch Anne’s own refusal to conform to the contemporary ideals of femininity (and the financial privilege that allowed her to do so) conflict time and again with the more restricted freedoms of her lovers. I loved it, and can’t wait for season two.
Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I am one of the ten people still watching Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Every hour is more painful and frustrating than the last, and I still haven’t forgiven June for spurning the Marthas’ sacrifices so she could… voluntarily return to a misogynistic theocratic state to make an ally of the woman/war criminal who orchestrated her (repeated) rape??? It doesn’t help that the show seems to have tripled down on its refusal to engage in any kind of racial analysis, making the conflicts June has with black Handmaids incredibly fraught. One day I will get over my FOMO enough to divorce the shows I hate, such as this one, but not today. I do not let go easily-- my breakup with CW’s Arrow was slow and exhausting. (Ianthe: This show has been on my list of things to watch, but damn, you’re making me want to take it off.)
Even though it’s ending soon, Jane The Virgin is still one of my all-time favourite shows, and I’m excited that-- 5 seasons in-- it can still find new ways to get me excited. The evolution of Jane and Petra’s relationship from sworn enemies to co-parents to best friends has been glorious to behold, and they’re now the pairing I’m most invested in, despite the fact that the show is very traditionally in the romantic comedy/telenovela mould. The show successfully found ways to bring the two women closer and closer together and eventually develop a real and meaningful relationship between them without sacrificing the traits that make them quintessentially themselves. The only other female friendship I can think of that was given this much depth and development was Meredith and Cristina on Grey’s Anatomy and they had twice the time to do it in. (Ianthe: What about Eve and Villanelle on Killing Eve? I kid, I kid!)
CONCERNING OBSESSIONS with Ianthe!
Is Rob Lowe the concept of privacy OR white people’s unjust freedom from the carceral state? YOU DECIDE!
In a recent piece for The Atlantic David Sims perfectly sums up the future of TV and my constant (first world problems) struggle. These days we’re supposed to have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, CBS All Access, and if you’re decidedly uncool like my husband and me, Hallmark Movies Now and DC Universe Now. And soon we’re going to be “forced” to get Disney Plus, Warner Media’s subscription service and whatever it is that Apple is coming out with whenever they decide to come out with it. As David points out, studios are taking back their content from platforms like Netflix and starting their own subscription services which altogether will cost us just as much as the cable subscription we got rid of in the first place. Oh well, enjoy Friends on Netflix while you can! Even though I’ve never seen an episode of that show…. (Cate: me either! Gossip Girl is my rich white people show of choice! #Blair4lyfe)
Last year when police arrested the Golden State Killer by using genealogy websites, I was freaked out. I’m one of those who has questioned the ethical implications and moral quandaries and the “blah blah blah” of using a service that the suspect did not opt-into to identify them, but then I started listening to The Los Angeles Times and Wondery podcast “Man in the Window,” and I think(?) I’ve changed my mind, again! This man was more horrific than I realized. In addition to being a killer, he was a burglar, a rapist, a stalker and just a general peeping Tom. And then to confuse me even more, "The Daily" from The New York Times recently did a deep dive on Genetic Detectives where I learned that they can now basically find every white person in America because of how extensive these genealogy databases are. (Cate: black people told y’all not to give them your DNA, I’m just saying!) They describe a case where they literally identified a woman who didn’t know who she was after she learned the man she thought was her absentee father, was actually HER KIDNAPPER! This is wild stuff and I still can’t figure out how I feel. Also, privacy is literally dead.
CONCERNING OBSESSIONS with Cate!
Technology: Bringing a whole new meaning to Ralph Ellison’s concept of the invisible man.
My conspiracy theory level suspicion of DNA programs in the hands of law enforcement extends to technology and the ways in which the racial disparities in tech might actually work in favour of black and brown citizens. Zoe Samudzi’s essay in The Daily Beast provided a great breakdown for why the minor inconvenience of unresponsive motion sensor faucets might be worth it to remain invisible to racialized modes of identification technology. Big Brother is coming y’all!
I’ve also been thinking a lot about ableism is general and straw bans in particular. As a feminist who hopes to be an ally to other marginalized people, I’ve been reflecting on the ways that the things I take for granted contribute to making life more difficult for the disabled community. This has manifested in a (possibly misguided?) one-woman crusade against straw bans across my social media, and amplifying the words of disabled people who take the time to explain why blanket bans on plastic straws harm them. NPR’s reporting on the issue has been instructive for me personally, as well as this piece in The Establishment about why straw bans are exclusionary.
LADIES RIGHTS with Ianthe!
Honestly? This is a campaign slogan we can get behind.
*Joanna Coles voice* This season on The Bold Type, Kat Edison (one of the show’s three protagonists) decided to run for New York City Council after realizing that the guy who currently holds the seat is a self-serving asshole. I’m really glad they explored this storyline since young people and women are more politically engaged than ever and are running for office in record numbers. That said, I really wish they gave Kat more of a platform and took the time to show just how much work running for office requires. She wanted to close a crisis pregnancy center in her district and save a lesbian bar -- both admirable goals, but like...how? And is that even achievable once elected? We saw her have late night prep sessions with her campaign manager and post a lot on social media, but what about doing call time, which is when you literally make calls to everyone you’ve ever met to let them know you’re running for office and ask them for money. What about town halls with future constituents or leading a community event or rally, or just anything where we’d see her talk more about why she’s running to the people whose vote she’s courting. Either way, I applaud the effort and do hope the storyline did inspire women to run.
Anyways, Kat’s city council run and the fact that we’re in the midst of an agonizing presidential primary with a record number of women candidates, got me thinking about the damn “electability” question because if you haven’t heard, white men are the most electable and apparently the only ones who can beat Trump! If a friend, family member or coworker comes at you with that BS, I think it's important that everyone is armed with actual facts. First of all, a woman did beat Trump, by 3 million votes, and in 2018, more women than ever were elected. In fact, in the states that Trump unexpectedly won (blue wall anyone?), they knocked it out of the park. The governor, attorney general, and secretary of state in Michigan are now all women; Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin’s race for reelection was pretty much a done deal as soon as the polls closed; and in Pennsylvania -- a state that had no women in Congress -- four women were elected. Electability is a BS argument and as my boss Christina Reynolds recently told Vox: “Metrics like authenticity and likability and electability are just code that we use against candidates who are not like what we are used to.” After all Trump and Obama were both unelectable.... until they got elected.
And one more thing: while I’m up here on my high horse, I wanted to address the women are "less effective in politics" than men argument that’s been bubbling up, because the OPPOSITE is true. Studies have shown that women in Congress are more effective legislators than men, sponsoring more bills and getting more federal money for their districts. Okay, getting off this horse now. (Cate: Get back on! The horse can take it!)
POP CULTURE EPHEMERA with Cate and Ianthe!
Wendy speaking our hearts in re: Ladies Who Punch
Ladies Who Punch by Ramin Setoodeh
Cate: I’ve waaaay behind on my Goodreads goals for the year, but I’m so glad I decided to skip all the other books on my list and dive into Ladies Who Punch by Ramin Setoodeh. As a millennial, I’ve only ever known The View as a general part of the cultural landscape that simply ~exists~ somewhere in the ether of pop culture noise, so it has been absolutely fascinating to read about the show’s original feminist intentions, its tenuous beginnings, and how it morphed into the viral political hotbed that exists today. Trust me, you have to read this. (Ianthe: Since you mentioned it to me, I now think about the fact that Elizabeth Hasselback got her start on Survivor at least once a day. Thanks for that.)
Janet Mock, Pose and the Trans Experience
Taylor Swift just wishes she could come up with lines this good.
Cate: Janet Mock’s profile in Vulture at the end of season one was revelatory for me in the way she described her intention of creating a trans fairytale. Blanca’s arc was fairly unrealistic given the circumstances of her life, but when viewed through the lens of fantasy it all comes into focus. Sure, most people wouldn’t have ended the story that way. But when you’re from a community that is rarely depicted in ways that don’t include tragedy and violence, fairytales are essential. Watching season two with that in mind has made the show so much more fun.
Ianthe: Speaking of Janet, our girl made history this week becoming the first openly trans woman to land a multimillion-dollar deal with a major studio (thanks Netflix!). Sadly, as Janet reached this milestone, the epidemic of violence against trans women, particularly trans women of color, rages on. Janet reminded us that during this Pride month alone, 5 Black trans women have been murdered or reported dead. Representation through media and culture matter, and can be the difference in the life of a young person who’s struggling with their identity, and maybe get lawmakers to finally pass common-sense non-discrimination protections. The Equality Act just passed the U.S. House, call your Senator and say you want a vote in the Senate. Pass it on...
SHAMELESS BRAGGING as LADIES’ RIGHTS with Cate!
A model for us all, truly.
It turns out that I’m quite a talented writer and critic and, as a feminist, I believe in celebrating women’s work and banishing forced humility. So for your consideration, here are three of my recent essays that I’m quite proud of (Ianthe: Get it!):
“The Promise of A Black Future Is Compromised In See You Yesterday” over at Jezebel, in which I review the new Netflix film and write about why the very premise of the story makes me feel slightly resentful. The movie is very good and exquisitely filmed and I was immediately interested when I realized it was a time travel story with black teens(!!!). But there’s an underlying sadness about the inevitability of violence that I couldn’t shake.
“Beyonce’s Homecoming Makes The Past Present” also at Jezebel. I don’t need to tell you Dames about the glory of Beyonce, but Homecoming put me in awe of her might in a whole new way. Her skill at reworking her own ouvre into something novel and new is unmatched. We are truly living in the world Beyonce built.
What TV And Movies Still Get Wrong About Black Women And Dating at Nylon is the hardest piece I’ve worked on in a while. As a long time fan of The Fosters watching Good Trouble was a no-brainer, but I’ve still be pleasantly surprised at how smart, pointed and cutting the show is with its social commentary, and how intelligently it tackles contemporary issues without feeling like its pandering. The way the show tackled colourism and the romantic bias against dark-skinned black women cemented it as one of my favourite feminist television shows.
Cate wrote the intro so I’m writing the outro! We hope we’ve earned the privilege of your time (anyone other than Dame Margaret see the movie Late Night?) Seriously, this has been a blast. Thanks for reading and thanks to Margaret and Sophie for trusting us to do this #TrustWomen.Don’t forget to subscribe and tell your friends about Two Bossy Dames and consider upgrading to a paid subscription. We’re (at least I am!) exhausted from just one week, so I can’t imagine how they do it every week. Every penny counts and they deserve it.
Bye for now!
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