The Handmaid’s Tale
In this adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, the protagonist has been conscripted into the ranks of a Handmaid, where her sole role is to produce children for the infertile wives of the community leaders. It’s a startling premise, but the series has ably captured how an evolved society can disintegrate into an oppressive and fundamentalist one when subdued acts of misogyny go unchecked. With subtle subversive humor, smartly placed pop culture references and rich multidimensional characters, the story feels simultaneously modern and regressive… and, at times, uncomfortably familiar.
Everybody is talking about the inspirational (and previously untold) story of the African-American women running the numbers behind the scenes at NASA as the USA raced Russia to put a man into space. The foresight, determination and talent of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson meant that they too, as individuals, entered unchartered territory.
Big Little Lies
Following the stories of a group of mothers in an affluent California community, the series begins as yet another show about entitled women creating conflict among themselves in order to add meaning to their lives. But the seductive beauty of the characters and scenery are ripe with allegory, and the show becomes a commentary on how quickly we trivialize gender-specific conflict as a means of discrediting it. By the final episode the clichés have been dismantled and we’re left with a story about how profound, even life-saving, friendships between women can be.
Now in its fifth season, the spy drama continues to focus as much on the missions of its Cold War Russian agents in deep cover in Washington, D.C. as the perennial questions around raising a family with an all-consuming career. The struggle to “have it all” has never looked quite like this.
Little Pink House
This 2015 Athena List finalist (the female-focused cousin of Hollywood’s “Black List” of unproduced screenplays) opened the 2017 Athena Film Festival in February. Unfolding the true story behind Kelo vs. City of New London, the film follows Suzette Kelo (played by Catherine Keener) as she leads the fight to save her blue collar neighborhood from corporate bulldozers.
Disney’s recent hit takes its “princess” formula to Polynesia with a knowing nod at the tropes of the genre. The film is being enjoyed by all ages; what’s not to like about seeing Moana’s relationship with her grandmother played out on the big screen? We also particularly appreciated the assumption that Moana, as the island chieftain’s only daughter, will take on her father’s role – no questions asked.
With the densely-written comedy charting the trials and tribulations of the U.S.’s second-in-command about to start its sixth season, now is a good time to get up to speed with everything you might have missed. It remains to be seen whether Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the titular character or the plots themselves will become more outlandish to keep pace with today’s political climate…
Season 3 of Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s darkly funny and relatable accidental-baby-sitcom is now airing in the UK and in the U.S. Fans are particularly looking forward to seeing the late Carrie Fisher reprise her role as the strongly opinionated mother-in-law.
Pretty Little Liars
Television has become increasingly highbrow in recent years and the same people who once scoffed at the pastime are now openly binge-watching Transparent the weekend it’s released. Or at least that’s the kind of show people are willing to admit they watch. For the more honest among us, there’s Pretty Little Liars, which is nearing the end of its final season. We could assert that “A” is standing in for the scrutiny young people face growing up surrounded by social media, or point out how often the show passes the Bechdel Test, but let’s be honest, it’s just fun. The secret’s out.