Saturday, September 29, 2012

TV Moms, Part Four: "Thank You For Being a Friend"

Just before ABC brought Roseanne to the screen, NBC gave us insight in to the lives of four older women living in Miami. This 1985 to 1992 sitcom, like others of its time, took on social issues in addition to showing the viewership the characters' shenanigans, and touched on groups that were otherwise largely ignored by television-- particularly the elderly and the LGBT community. The Golden Girls was immediately a hit, raking in 11 Emmy Awards and staying in the top 10 of Nielsen rankings for six of its seven seasons.

But wait, you're thinking, the women on The Golden Girls weren't moms. There were no kids in the main cast.

Plenty of sitcoms showcased the traditional nuclear family--Mom, Dad, school-aged children with maybe an aunt or grandparent thrown in to spice things up. The Golden Girls, though, took a look at a different and generally ignored demographic: women "of a certain age," whose husbands were either dead or otherwise out of the picture, and whose children were grown.

Blanche Devereaux, Rose Nylund, Sophia Petrillo, and Dorothy Zbornak may not have lived with their children, but parent-child interaction was a pretty significant theme of the show.

Rose deals with the her boyfriend's grown daughter telling her stay away, and we see Rose's oldest daughter struggling with accepting the other three women as her mother's chosen family. Blanche's daughter deals with extreme weight gain, a verbally abusive partner, artificial insemination (which turns out to be more of an issue for Blanche than the daughter), and being a mother on her own. We also learn about Blanche's regrets: on more than one occasion, she mentions wishing that she had been more involved in the lives of her children, citing that even in their twenties, her kids felt more attached to their nanny than they did to her; in fact, Blanche spends most of the series trying to make amends with her children.

While the stories about Rose's and Blanche's relationships with their children are told with care and deal with some interesting issues that are specific to mothers with adult children, there's one mother-daughter pair that gets more attention on the show than any other.

In the pilot episode, Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy are already living together in Blanche's house in Miami (with a not-unstereotypical gay cook character who vanishes by the time the second episode rolls around), when Sophia, Dorothy's mother, shows up at their door saying that Shady Pines, the rest home she'd been living in, had burned down. Because it's television (and because Sophia's pretty much the most entertaining character in the show--or maybe that's just my opinion), Dorothy's other housemates immediately welcome Sophia and invite her to live with them.

Dorothy and Sophia have a relationship that is not often seen in sitcoms. Mothers of adults are rarely seen outside of the bothersome mother-in-law role in television comedies, but in The Golden Girls, Sophia broke that archetype.

Through the show's seven seasons, we see how Sophia and Dorothy's relationship has changed now that Dorothy is an adult and Sophia is elderly. Role-reversal is frequently apparent: we see the traditional "My roof, my rules" discussion with Sophia on the receiving end, Dorothy enforces a curfew for Sophia and worries about her when she goes out with her friends--even following her out after Sophia has a fight with her friend at the beach, and Sophia is constantly asking Dorothy about her allowance and to borrow the car or some money. And it's done with banter, outrageous stories ( Sophia's stories always begin in basically the same way: "Picture it. Sicily--1920"), and no small amount of snark.

But more than just showing this reversal, Dorothy reacts to it. "When did I become my parents' age?" she wonders in one episode. More than once, Dorothy is forced to face Sophia's mortality and has to confront the idea that she will be an orphan--even though Dorothy is over sixty.

Dorothy and Sophia, though they fight and call each other names ("deceitful Sicilian gecko" is one of my personal favorites), manage to cope with the transition from parent and child to friends.

What's most interesting about this to me is that it almost didn't happen. Sophia fits the trope of the Ascended Extra: the creators had intended her to be only a recurring guest on the show, but because of the overwhelmingly positive response to her first appearance, she was written into the main cast, allowing a world of viewers who, perhaps, hadn't given much though to women in their fifties and sixties--much less to the mothers of women in their fifties and sixties--insight into the relationships between mothers and the adults they raised.

Adding in Sophia officially was a great call. Aside from being widely acknowledged as the show's breakout star and becoming one-half of a fantastic comedy duo, as Dorothy's actress Bea Arthur said of Estelle Getty's Sophia following Getty's death in 2008, Sophia opened the door for a different type of mother-daughter relationship to be explored on the small screen.

Check back in the coming weeks. We'll be taking a look at Phylicia Rashad's Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show and at Brett Butler's Grace Kelly from Grace Under Fire.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We'll Be Back

No new post content today, folks.

Apart from the grad school prep and potentially getting to write a guest post for DC Women Kicking Ass (I'm all manner of excited about that), there just hasn't been enough time.

And, also, there are a couple of comic book movies that are out today, and I have no choice but to indulge.

These'll make for a good day, I think.

I'll be back on Saturday with part four of the TV Moms series; I'll be taking a look at Sophia and Dorothy from The Golden Girls and mothers with adult children.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tell You Something Good: Warehouse 13

I've taken a Saturday to talk about something that makes me angry.

I've taken a Saturday to talk about something that makes me sad.

It seems only right that I take a Saturday to talk about something that makes me happy. Stupidly, ridiculously, fantastically happy.

My job, which is wonderful in that it gives me money so that I can pay rent and buy food, kinda stinks because the hours I work make it impossible for me to watch any prime time television that isn't aired on the stations I work for as it airs,so I am way behind on fall premieres. It's really not that bad--I have to avoid spoiler-heavy sites (which is much more challenging than it really ought to be), but I get to spend my mornings picking my favorite programs and watching them at my leisure, which, inevitably, leads to personal marathons.

Recently, I've been binging on the SyFy original series Warehouse 13.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, imagine a police procedural, but replace the station house with the giant warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant is sent at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark and swap out chasing criminals for chasing down magic objects with historical significance.  Secret Service agents Myka Bering and Pete Lattimer, while saving the president from an attempt on his life, stumble upon an "artifact"--a piece of historical brick-a-brac imbued with magical properties that are a manifestation of some aspect of the personality the object's original owner or user. In a typical "they know too much" way, Pete and Myka find themselves whisked away to Univille, South Dakota, home of their new workplace, Warehouse 13, where they learn they will be sent out into the world to "snag, bag, and tag" artifacts that are out in the world and apt to "ruin the world's day."

I'll make no secret about it--I love this show. So much. After Community, it's probably my favorite show currently on TV.

There are a ton of subjective reasons that I like this show--I wanted to be an archeologist when I was a kid, so the bits of history thrown in delight me; and I'm a big fan of procedural shows in general. But I'd like to focus on some more objective things that she show does right.

(Be warned: this post will contain spoilers through season 3 and up to the fifth episode of season 4. If you haven't watched the show but think you may want to, it might be best for you to skip this post until you're caught up. Seasons 1-3 are on Netflix Instant Watch, and, as of this post, the first five episodes of season 4 are on Hulu.)

As a person who has made it her business to study how different types of people are represented on television and various other media, I am frequently disappointed. There are exceptions, of course, but on the whole, we see TV characters falling into certain types of roles based on their gender, race, and sexuality, and there's a emphasis on sexual male-female relationships between main characters, while male-female platonic relationships are largely ignored.

While it's important to note that Warehouse 13 is not completely immune to this--people of color are numerically underrepresented, and though at least two of them have authoritative roles in the world of the show, they don't get nearly as much screen time as their white counterparts, and we haven't yet seen any cannon non-hetero romantic relationships on the show among the regular characters--the show is full of complete female and  non-hetero characters and the most significant relationships in the show are platonic and/or familial.

Warehouse 13 has no shortage of incredible female characters.

Myka, even before her transfer to the Warehouse, was a top Secret Service agent, and she's clearly the brains of the team of agents. Leena, keeper of the bed and breakfast that houses the Warehouse agents, knows the artifacts and Warehouse as well, if not better, than senior agent Artie and keep the artifacts from negatively interacting in the Warehouse. Claudia, who, it's worth mentioning, is the youngest employee of the Warehouse,  was able to hack into the Warehouse and is constantly creating new tools for the agents to use and upgrading the computer systems and imaging technology in the Warehouse. In season two, it's revealed that Claudia will be the next Caretaker of the Warehouse, a role with just as much power and responsibility as the title implies. And H.G. Wells (yes, that H.G. Wells and yes, she's a woman) is a martial arts expert and inventor in addition to an agent of the now-defunct Warehouse 12 all before she even appears in the series and joins the Warehouse 13 team.

These four are competent ladies; they get the job done. They're also flawed, funny, and charming.  Their storylines are interwoven with those of the male characters, but not dependent upon them. They get to do just as much ass-kicking as the guys. Sometimes more.

They prove that it's possible to have amazing women in a TV show without detracting from the equally amazing men in a TV show.

And the men are amazing. Mentor agent Artie is a curmudgeonly but deeply caring father figure to the younger agents, and Pete is charming, charismatic, and refreshingly sincere. I could write pages on the both of them, but, even though characters as memorable and lovable as Pete and Artie are a rarity, there are tons of great straight male leading characters on TV.

And this is more a post about what Warehouse 13 has that other shows don't.

I mentioned earlier how rare complete non-hetero characters are. Frequently, gay, bisexual, and lesbian characters are either played as jokes or reduced to their sexuality in characterization. Warehouse 13 does it right: Steve Jinks, who is gay, and H.G. Wells, who is bisexual, are both multifaceted and engaging characters that are also non-hetero. While no secret is made of either character's sexuality, and--wonderfully--neither character is shamed for their preference, they're not limited to being gay/being bisexual as an identity. They have aspirations and motivations that are given just as much weight (and aren't much different) than their straight companions.

The show also subverts the trope Bury Your Gays. But since there's a good possibility that not everyone reading this has seen the show, I won't go into how. (But, seriously, why haven't you watched this show? It's beautiful.)

As if outstanding female and non-hetero characters weren't enough, non-sexual relationships are not only featured, they're put in the foreground and given focus, treated as if they're more important than the sexual ones.

There are so many great friendships.

There's the father/daughter dynamic between Artie and Claudia that shows pretty much the full spectrum of parent-child interaction at one point or another.

 And Myka and Pete, who have not only mostly avoided the Will They or Won't They trope (though how well they've avoided it depends on the opinion of the watcher, I suppose), but also reverse gender roles-- Myka is the more logical and Pete is the intuitive one.
And Claudia and Steve, who pull off the straight-girl-gay-guy friendship without going to Will and Grace extremes and who literally feel each other's pain.

So, yeah, this show has a lot about it to love.

Clearly, since this is my longest post yet.

Between politics and television and the rampant sexism in internet and nerd culture, it's easy to say that there's nothing encouraging about the media.

But then, a show like Warehouse 13 comes along and does it right. And, more importantly, does it right and makes it.

And that, Saturday crowd, is something that makes me very happy.

(Season four of Warehouse 13 is currently airing on Mondays at 9/8 central on SyFy, and the previous three seasons are out on DVD and up on Netflix.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TV Moms, Part Three: "What Doesn't Kill Us is Making Us Stronger."

In the late 1980s, the United States experienced a stock collapse even greater than the famous one of 1929 that is recognized as the spark of The Great Depression. Families in the middle and lower classes found it harder and harder to make ends meet.

There was, in this time, no place in the world for the likes of June Cleaver.  She and the Cleavers were no longer representations of the average American family, and their quaint life was viewed less as the striven-for ideal.

Many American TV viewers of this time sought a fictional family that reflected their lives; they wanted to see people like themselves, struggling to make ends meet, dealing with rowdy kids and a dirty house, and trying to keep the delicate balance between busy lives and loving families.

And so, in October of 1988, ABC introduced Americans to the Conners.

Roseanne, which premiered on October 18, 1988, was arguably the first time that a blue-collar family was the focus of a sitcom. And, while the Conners themselves may have had less money to burn and more mess and chaos in their home than the Cleavers did, they saw far more success in terms of ratings, hitting number one on the Nielsen rankings, and staying in the top twenty for eight of nine seasons (and anyone familiar with the show can probably guess which season didn't do so well).

While Roseanne wasn't the first sitcom presented from a female's perspective, but it's safe to say that no television family has had a matriarch quite like Roseanne Conner.

In the tradition of comedians who are given sitcoms, Roseanne (Barr Pentland Arnold Thomas) herself played the title character.

Roseanne Conner was as flawed as June Cleaver was perfect. She was loud and bossy; she wasn't a traditional beauty, and, though she kept her house running, it was almost constantly a mess and the Conner children got up to shenanigans that would astonish even Wally Cleaver's friend Eddie Haskell.

In spite of her imperfection, Roseanne was strong. Until the last season (oh, that last season), Roseanne worked outside the home in a number of less-than glamorous jobs. In eight seasons, she worked as a line worker in a plastics factory, selling magazines over the phone, a secretary for her husband's boss, a bartender, a cashier at a fast food restaurant, a floor sweeper/shampoo girl at a hair salon, a waitress at a restaurant in a department store, part-time worker at the Conner's bike shop, and as a waitress and co-owner of the the Lanford Lunchbox. She struggled to make time to get to parent-teacher conferences--and there were a lot of them, between younger daughter Darlene barking in class, older daughter Becky allegedly flipping the bird during class pictures, and son DJ bringing "obscene reading material" to school.  She provided emotional, and sometimes financial, support to her sister, Jackie.

And Roseanne struggled with her and Dan's relationships to their parents--both of them promising to provide their kids with a more loving home than either of them grew up in.

Though it often seemed that Roseanne held the reigns in the Conner family, and, in fact, Dan is sometimes shown to rail against Roseanne's apparent authority, at the heart of their relationship, Dan and Roseanne are partners. Their combined income keeps the family afloat, true, but more than that, they are shown to share parenting duties and take equal part in the lives of their children.

Roseanne and the Conners, over-the-top as they often were, worked through problems that their viewers were able to relate to, which is probably no small part of why Roseanne was, and still is, such a popular show. While Roseanne may not have perfectly reflected the life of the average mother in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the ins and outs of her daily life were something to which everyday American families could relate in a way that they no longer could with the Cleavers. Shows like Roseanne provided not the escapism that Leave It To Beaver offered, but a reflection of life in art.

Roseanne, of course, was hardly the only major television mother in the 1980s and 90s. In the next several posts, we'll take a look at other television families of this time and their particular representations of motherhood.

Part One
Part Two

Saturday, September 15, 2012

After These Messages

We'll get back to television mothers on Tuesday.

It's a busy time, and I want to do each TV mom justice.

In the meantime, here's a video from Jean Kilbourne about advertising techniques and how the effect society and what it teaches the people to whom these ads are directed.

For more about this series and for other video resources for media education, visit

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TV Moms, Part Two: "You Look Lovely, Mrs. Cleaver"

The period of American history that followed World War II is rife with images that, even now, Americans associate with ideal family life: white picket fences, cookie-cutter houses with neat green lawns, Mom and Dad with two kids (two-point-five, if you want to go with the statistics, but I sorta find the notion of half a child to be disconcerting).

These images of idealized life were reflected in the television families of the time. They were reflected through the fictional families of Donna Reed and Harriet Nelson.

But perhaps the most lasting ideal family of the time was the Cleavers.

Leave it to Beaver first aired on CBS in October of 1957 before moving to ABC in its second season and running until its cancellation in 1963. The show was moderately successful, never achieving number-one ratings or winning big awards, but never being in danger of cancellation due to low numbers once it made it to ABC. Ward, June, Wally, and Theodore (or "the Beaver"), in spite of experiencing only middle-of-the-road success, became one of the most memorable families on television--to the point that viewers even fifty-five years after the first episode aired know the show, the characters, and the style.

And even in 2012, women are still pointed to the prim and coiffed Mrs.Cleaver as an example of motherly perfection. She cooked, she cleaned, she catered to her husband and children, and she looked great doing it.

It's understandable, from a certain perspective. June Cleaver is beautiful. Her clothes are stylish; her house is spotless. Her children are, for the most part, well-behaved, and when they're not, it only takes a stern look from her husband to put them back on track. June keeps the Cleaver home running smoothly and does it all wearing perfect makeup, kitten heels, and a string of pearls. She's the portrait of a successful woman.

June, like most mothers in the 1950s and early 60s, didn't work outside of the home, but she was forever busy. The pristine Cleaver home, after all, didn't become that way of its own accord. And someone had to make sure that Ward, Wally, and The Beaver were fed, clothed, and seen off to school and work.

While, admittedly, June Cleaver was never shown to have any kind of final authority in the home and she didn't seem to have a true place outside the Cleaver house, June is never played insignificant.

It's impossible to imagine June being absent from the Cleaver family.

June is a shining example of the functionality of the stay-at-home mother. She glamorized, yes, and far too perfect to ever be possible. But she is what keeps the Cleaver home running. In the days when she graced the televisions of America, she was an idealized version of the normal. Women lived lives like June Cleaver's all over the country, and they saw in her themselves perfected.

Between the Feminist Movement of the sixties, the economic changes in American society, and the changes in the availability and stigma of divorce, its easy to see why it's harder to relate to Mrs. Cleaver. Many women want to pursue a career in addition to motherhood, and the women who do want to be stay-at-home mothers frequently find it difficult to manage financially on one income. The definition of a successful woman doesn't necessarily jive with June Cleaver and the way of life she's come to represent.

June Cleaver may no longer reflect the majority of women--and whether that's good or bad could be debated until the end of time without a definitive answer ever being reached--but she did capture the essence of the post-War era and embody that time's ideal of female perfection. Her example of motherhood is a traditional one; her life and identity revolved around her family, leaving little time for her to pursue the outside activities that later television mothers, and real women, too, were able to explore.

Feminism and the working woman may have ended June Cleaver's era as a prime example of American motherhood, but they opened the door to a slew of different types of mother. Next week, we'll take a look at a television mom that's about as different from June Cleaver as it gets: the blue collar mother of the 1990s, Roseanne Conner.

Part One
Part Three

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Break in Our Scheduled Programming

I know I said that today's post would be about June Cleaver and the traditional family, but there's been a lot on my mind lately, so I'm afraid television's classic mom will have to wait a few days.

Also, as a warning, this post is going to be a downer. And there'll be some potential trigger words and situations and a fair bit of NSFW language--both in the body of the post and in the links. If you'd rather avoid these things, skip this post. Come back on Tuesday when I'll be talking about television again.

Those of you who keep up with the comic world, comics creators, and comic bloggers on Twitter may have heard this past week about a campaign to ban a guy who was using, among others, the Twitter ID @JonVeee (this and his other IDs have, to my knowledge, been suspended, thanks to the flood of people marking his tweets as offensive) to verbally attack women who write and women who write about comics. His tirades eventually started turning towards men in the comics industry, but the main focus of his rage was women.

And we're not talking a little ribbing here. We're not even talking about some jackass who trolls you until you block him and then moves on to torment someone else. If you want to know what exactly was going on with this guy, take a look at this piece by Heidi MacDonald at The Beat. Or this one by Sue over at DC Women Kicking Ass where she details how she spent well over a year dealing with this guy.

But I warn you, these are both rough reads that include this man's threats of rape and stalking, not to mention one charming incident in which he goes after a woman's children. Seriously.

This is an extreme case. Most people aren't trolls, and even most trolls don't do go this far--creating multiple IDs and using proxy servers to get back to sites that have banned or blocked him.

But he's hardly the only one out there giving women who talk about traditionally male dominated media a hard time. Remember Anita Sarkeesain from Feminist Frequency? Earlier this year, when she announced a Kickstarter for a video series exploring tropes and female characters in video games, she was met with a reaction that... well, just click here to look through some of the comments that got left on the video for the project.

And that's aside from the vandalism to her Wikipedia page and the creation of an online game in which the player punches Sarkeesian in the face, complete with visible bruising effects after each swing.

So, yeah, trolls are out there. They don't always attack women, and they don't always attack the well-known, but they're out there, and they target anyone that they feel is encroaching on their territory. They're just a fact of the Internet.

Something in the DCWKA post, though, caught my eye, and pretty much captures a cruel reality of the Internet.
Frankly if you are a woman on the internet you might as well have a sign on your back that says, “Troll me”.  If you have an opinion or focus on commenting in a male dominated field, you probably double your chances.
It's horrible, isn't it? It's also true.

Worse than that, it happens to women who are just trying to enjoy things.

In a conversation with one of my female gamer friends, she told me the story of when she explained her gamertag to some guys she with whom she was playing a game. She had recently changed her tag. When they asked her why, she explained that the one she had been using was feminine--it was pretty obviously the tag of either a female or gay man--and she didn't want to put up with the harassment that a feminine tag invites.

Or, as she put it to me, "I didn't want to be called 'cunt' or 'faggot' every time I played."

This happens, guys. This is a thing that happens to people. All the time.

I have been very fortunate--in my experience, the men I've met in the geek community have been great. Aside from a couple of jerky exceptions, I've never been made to feel unwelcome or treated like a lesser member of the community. 

But I'm an exception.

And the fact that is the case really sucks.

I'm not saying that I think all guys in geek culture treat women in their interests as though they don't belong. I don't even think that most men in geek culture are that way--I think the majority of guys in the geek world think it's cool when women develop enthusiasm of the stuff that they like.

The problem isn't the number of guys who are jerks. The problem is that they're louder than the ones who aren't. And that's something to think about.

So, I'm sorry for the serious and depressing post. But this sort of verbal assault and these threats being tossed around are a troubling thing to me, and it didn't seem right for me to ignore what's been going on.

I just wanted to join the people who are spreading news like this in saying, "This is not okay."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Series Premiere: TV Moms, Part One

Like most people my age, and more than a few in the generations prior, my life has had one pretty formative outside influence on it: television.

Television is great. Even when it's terrible, and it frequently is terrible, it's great.

Aside from the entertainment and aside from the escapism, television does something wonderful. It captures the time. And not just through nostalgia. Watching shows through the years, one can see how things have changed--fashion, writing, acting, social and political policies.


It's easy to think of the family as something that never changes, but a quick look through the history of television proves that wrong. The core unit may seem the same, but families evolve, just like the rest of society.

I mean, the Cleavers definitely aren't the Conners. And the Conners aren't the Dunphies or Pritchetts.

Though the television time capsule makes it easy to see how the family as a unit has changed in the fifty-plus years that TV's been around to document, there's one member of the family that's gone through something of a more visible change than the rest.

There was an episode in season seven of Roseanne where sitcom moms of the past paid a visit to the set of Roseanne to scold her for the way she was portraying motherhood. Apart from being pretty funny (I mean, the mom from Lassie laments being told that "June" was too long to be on a title card--and by "laments," I mean "calls the people who told her that 'those bastards'"), this episode is a pretty cool look at how TV moms have changed through time.

Moms changing on TV isn't an isolated event. TV writers are products of their times, so the changes in the worlds of our favorite television characters are reflections of the changes in our society at large.

Over the next several posts, I'm going to take a closer look at moms in television--how they reflect the thinking and politics of their time and what reactions and lessons can be gleaned from them in the present. I'm going to look at the different types of mothers and family situations that television has captured over the years--like June Cleaver and her idealized family, Roseanne and the Conners, Murphy Brown and Lorelai Gilmore as representations of single mothers. And even surrogate mothers like Phoebe from Friends.

It's gonna be an interesting ride; I hope you'll stop by.

Coming Saturday: June Cleaver and the "traditional family."

Part Two

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cabin in the Woods, or, How to Deconstruct Tropes While Still Adhering to Cliched Gender Roles

(Forgive me, I am late to the party on this one—I didn’t get to it until the movie made it to the dollar theater, so, yeah, this post is closer to the DVD release date than the theatrical release date.  This is what it’s like to be employed, but still pretty broke.)

(Also, you know, spoilers.)

It takes a lot to get me to go see a horror movie.  I’m not particularly a fan of the genre in general, mostly because the films tend to be poorly written and incredibly trite. But Joss Whedon could write a movie about a throw pillow, and I’d probably go see it and think it was fantastic, so, for The Cabin in the Woods, I made an exception.

The horror genre is one rife with tropes, and if there’s anyone you who’s willing to turn tropes on their ear, it’s Joss Whedon. And that’s what he does with this film. Almost every horror trope still appears, but each one is twisted or, in the least, explained as part of a larger plan to appease a group of divine beings that will destroy the world if they don’t get the required sacrifice before the deadline. Everything from the choice not to Stay Out Of The Woods to Jules’s Death By Sex is explained with drugs that alter brain chemistry or pheromones pumped into the air or some other outside force concocted by a bunch of people in an office with Ominous Multiple Screens.
It’s certainly refreshing to see what are frequently clichéd and easy screenwriting techniques given actual purpose that’s defined by the main conflict of the plot, and one has to respect the details included in both the writing and directing of the movie. But there’s one thing that confuses me.
In all of this effort to turn tropes inside out, it seems like one important cliché was overlooked.
Traditionally in storytelling, there are two female archetypes that are used over and over again: the virgin and the vamp. The virgin embodies purity and "traditional feminine values"; the vamp is a woman of questionable morality—meaning she is a sexual being, and unabashedly, even aggressively, so.
The Cabin in the Woods, likewise, bases its main characters in traditional archetypes.  The five guests in the cabin—three men and two women--are placed explicitly in the roles of Athlete, Scholar, Fool, Whore, and Virgin.
I’m sure it surprises no one that the two females filled the Whore and Virgin roles. In fact, it didn’t really surprise me. Though I don’t agree with it, I do understand that there are certain archetypes that the average viewer will always expect to be female and, while I think that’s a narrow view and, more importantly, sends messages to movie-goers that really don't need to be encouraged, movies are, at their core, produced so that they can make money, and most of that money comes from average viewers.
The thing that really puzzles me is that women were cast in only these two archetypes. Like I said, I'm normally a big fan of Whedon, and Whedon has a pretty good track record with female characters—Buffy and Zoe come to my mind, and there are certainly many others—which, I suppose is why I was disappointed that the film (which, on an only slightly related note, failed the Bechdel Test, unless you count The Director as a name, and even then, it's a very brief interaction) didn’t branch out. Why couldn’t the Athlete be a female? Or the Scholar?
            For a film that was supposed to be subverting, deconstructing, or at least poking fun at tropes, sticking to conventional gender archetypes feels almost like a broken promise.
            I shouldn’t complain. Even stuck in traditional roles, the women in the cabin, or at least Dana (poor Jules didn't last too long), were active participants in the story, and the women working with Sitterson and Hadley, though they were only shown briefly, appeared competent and professional. As far as representations of women in film—particularly in horror films—go, this one did pretty well.
            But it could have done better. It’d have been nice to see some ladies in major roles that weren’t defined by the amount of sex they’d had.
            And I don’t think that’s asking too much.