Archivo de la categoría: Mixology

Mental Illness on Television: A real depiction.

TV has given us a lot of great stories to talk about, from extensive thesis of love to raw depictions of certain groups of individuals. Notwithstanding, mental illness had never been part of this particular interest before, until now.

2015, as I thoroughly explained before, saw the blossom of a new and greater TV era. Whilst characters, narratives and platforms improved subsequently their quality, with consistent achievements in their stories, actors, writers and producers sought for better and extraordinary ways to portray reality as real as possible.

Thus, we got down-to-earth trans characters like Maura  on ‘Transparent’, Sophia on ‘Orange Is The New Black’ and Nomi on ‘Sense8’, flawed and broken families looking for better ways to communicate with each other like the Rayburns on ‘Bloodline’ or the Gallaghers on ‘Shameless’, and even simple individuals looking for some peace of mind in their lives like Josh on ‘Man Seeking Woman’ or Sharon and Rob in ‘Catastrophe’.  Thereby, characters suffering from a mental illness  -a topic so typically overused when it came to mock people on TV- hit last year right in the bull’s-eye with their magnificent performance.

Mental illness is nothing to laugh about, nor its depiction on a TV show. With more than 450 million people around the globe suffering from it, it was only a matter of time for (american) television to get their act together around their faulty representation they have been managing on their narratives for so many time before.

Long gone are those bipolar characters whose only purpose on the story was to serve as a comical relief, or the clinical depressive  individuals who only made an appearence every now and then to remind the protagonists the dangers of self-medication.

Nowadays, we can learn about mental illness from well-constructed characters like Rebecca Bunch from ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ whose anxiety permeates and drives every aspect of her life (even in her show title), or Gretchen Cutler whose clinical depression merely cost her her job and love life in ‘You’re The Worst’, or Ian Gallagher whose bipolar disorder almost got him into jail on ‘Shameless US’.Yes, they suffer from a mental ilness but neither of them are limited by it or reduced to it in any kind of way.

When we first met Gretchen, in ‘You’re The Worst’, she’s a cynicall, carefree young woman whose only goal in her life is to get wasted every day. Indeed, Gretchen’s not a lovable character, she’s totally devoid of empathy and respect for others, something that, in a way, makes her even more real, that, later, on season two we learn about her mental illness and the ways she depicts it in her life. If ‘You’re The Worst’ were an entire different show, the writers could readily go with the easy way out and punish her actions with it, but, in this world, mental illness does not translate to some cross she has to carry, it’s really part of her life.

YOU'RE THE WORST -- "Born Dead" -- Episode 203 (Airs Wednesday, September 23, 10:30 pm e/p Pictured: Aya Cash as Gretchen. CR: Byron Cohen/FX

Gretchen’s clinical depression is that shameful aspect of her life that she has no control over,  whatsoever. So, when it hits her, there’s nothing she can do other than embrace it and try to live through the end of it. She knows it’ll consume her, but she also realize that it doesn’t define her. She doesn’t want to be saved, she only wants people to understand the situation she’s in and, for that matter, she doesn’t wallow around feeling like a victim. Even when sadness pervades every aspect of her life, she doesn’t allow people to feel sorry for her. She had already overcame it before and she’ll certainly do that again.

Whereas Gretchen welcomes her illness in a very familiar way, Ian Gallagher denys it constantly,  because they’re just in a whole different moments of their lives. Whilst we have the opportunity to met an already clinical depressed Gretchen we also have to witness the awful process Ian is in with his bipolar disorder. By being inherited, he does think his mental illness is a cross he has to bear and for a whole season we live through his suffering.

Ian Gallagher does not want to be ill and he doesn’t want people to treat him in that way or any special way, for that matter. As Gretchen, and everyone living with a mental illness, he didn’t choose to live with it, and he does everything in his hands to avoid reality, to extricate himself from his family and everything that constantly reminds him that he’s ill. Once again, we have a character who doesn’t want to be defined by his illness and who just wants to be himself. His old self. His sane self.

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I could only imagine that Gretchen hadn’t had an easy time dealing with her depression, but the way we see Ian fight through it is just devastating. He can’t gloss over the fact that his bipolar disorder is, and always have been, part of his life and, by disclaming it, he’s not only running away from his problems, but stockpiling new ones too.

Finally, we have Rebecca Bunch, a.k.a The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a character whose constant insecurities and over-the-top anxieties manipulate her life in ways she can barely understand. After all, she didn’t only move her entire life to her ex-boyfriend’s hometown just because it’s a great place -no matter how many times she repeats that to herself- she also ran away from her problems, her old self and her ‘stable’ life.

In a show where fucked up lives are core, and central, to the writers agenda, Rebecca’s illness is the best depiction of all. Thanks to the magic of the musical-style narrative, we get to see how her anxiety consumes her day by day. Either with a catchy song about ‘Sexy French Depression’ or with a glorified anthem for self-loathing like ‘You Stupid Bitch’, we have the opportunity to understand Rebecca’s anxiety levels.

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Rebecca, above all things, is in constant denial. She  doesn’t want to be seen as a crazy person -‘The situation is more nuanced than that’ she explains to us on the opening- and she’s continually reminding every single person that surrounds her, and, to some extent, herself,  that she doesn’t have a problem,  that she’s not ill and in any way ‘crazy’.

Each and every single one of this characters are on different stages of acceptance of their illness, but they certainly aren’t upstaged by them on no means. Yes, they suffer from it, but, at the same time, they’re looking for alternatives to cope with it, to deal with it.

In a world where representation and depictions on media are key to understand the world we live in, I found very refreshing the presence of this characters on their shows. Their portrayals are nothing but real and we must certainly ask for more individuals that people can relate to without that godawful feeling of being mocked.

The Clara Oswald Conundrum: The ghost, the immortal or the impossible girl.

Fair warning: This post is entirely devoted to Clara Oswald’s presence throughout Doctor Who’s seasons 7-9. Hence, there’ll be major spoilers from the entirety of season 9 and specially from the season finale.

Well, here we are again, at the brink of yet another divisive season of Doctor Who -one of the best I’ve seen, If I must say- and, yes, we must embarce ourselves to start saying  our goodbyes to yet another magnificent companion who’s currently leaving the show: Clara Oswald, but who’s really this impossible girl? What were her motives all along during her four-ish year arc? What we’ve learned from her? Fear not my dearest, my intention with this post is to make a deconstruction-ish of this misterious girl, a somewhat Swan Song to give a proper goodbye to one of my favorite Doctor Who companions ever. Shall we?

From the first moment we met Clara Oswald, (Our Clara, not one of her echos) in the last minutes of ‘The Snowmen’, we realize that she is no ordinary girl -of course, we mostly go on with it at this point of the story because we’ve already met two of her echos before- and she is really aware of it.

Her first line (“I don’t believe in ghosts”) could perfectly be set off against her immovable belief on the Doctor’s constant regard towards his companions as no more than ghosts (something  we can remember of on a dialogue taken from ‘Hide’). Something that, in my opinion,  could perfectly sum up everything that Clara was, her motives, and the person she became at the very end of her arc. A very powerful statement indeed.

Clara didn’t wanted to be another forgotten ghost on the Doctor’s graveyard in the first place. She wanted to be remembered, to be immortal. Whilst the ghost portrayal, in Clara’s mind,  operated as a remembrance of a lost life, the immortal persona acted out as a reminder of a life well lived.

That’s why she was constantly reminding him of this (“Run you clever boy, and remember me”), unknowingly that this very idea will ultimately seal her fate. As far as we know, Clara blew in into the world as a leaf, lived all kinds of adventures and fly off as wisp of smoke by facing the raven.

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When we first met her as a crucial character on ‘The Bells Of Saint John’, we learned that she was a nanny of two young children, something that her mother cared about and used to do. Symbolically, being a nanny is, at firsthand, the best way to be remembered by someone. Children often recall what they’ve learned from the regular presence of a certain individual in their childhood. Most of the times, this place goes to the nanny. This idea expanded itself when she met the Doctor.

Fearless and valiant, Clara accepted to travel with the Doctor’s Eleventh incarnation waiting to meet new and wonderful places where she can be remembered.  From The Rings Of Akhateh to Trenzalore, Clara Oswald found a way to be a constant in a lot of people’s life, and from the very moment she stepped into the Doctor’s timeline, she managed to stand by on every crucial moment of his entire life. After all, what better way to be immortal than splintering yourself throughout a Timelord’s timeline? The ultimate immortal being.

Make no mistake, Clara Oswald’s actions were not selfless. Notwithstanding, her feelings towards the Doctor were real. She did care about him, in fact, he became the most important man in her life later on. Something that messed her relation up with his boyfriend Danny Pink, in my opinion,  and narrative speaking, a character who’s sole function in the show was to humanize the already Doctor-like immortal Clara.

Therefore, one of the most Clara-like traits was, undoubtedly, her ability to always put everybody before her, specially when it came to children. Her tremendous dedication to guarantee safety and happiness in other people’s life was one of the main reasons the Doctor got another set of regenerations and, surely, why she started to teach on Coal Hill school on the first place.

Se devoted her entire life soothing children and making sure they didn’t grow up motherless (or fatherless) like she did. So, from the very beginning of her adventures, when she calmed down Merry Gejelh, to her last breath, when she sacrificed herself to the raven in order to give Rigsy’s son a full life with his dad, she  always had one thing in mind: never stand down when an infant’s life were in danger.

Clara’s actions were big and significant. Nevertheless, a great deal of them came from a reckless place of debauchery and overconfidence. Spending so much time along the Doctor’s side made her think that everything, even death, could (and should) be overcomed. Risks stopped being too dangerous and adventures became part of her life. At on point,  immortality wasn’t just only about being remembered, it also meant running away from death.

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This way of thinking suited perfectly to the Doctor’s M.O. His companion, on the other hand, wasn’t supposed to legitimize it. You see, immortality is a very tricky concept to begin with. In Clara’s case, her fearless choices and brave ways of thinking were the perfect combination to ratcheting her up towards this already traced road. One thing, that in my opinion, she didn’t reckoned to achieve in a real way.

That’s why her actions forced her to face the raven and  confront the consequences. Although, with the events occured on ‘Hell Bent’, Clara succesfully managed to delay her death just in time to enjoy a handful of adventures with a TARDIS of her own and a faithful companion embodied by Ashildr’s ‘Me’, whilst she became an eternal (but faceless) print on the Doctor’s mind. In the end Clara single-handedly became the (immortal) Doctor in spite all odds (she even died in a regeneration pose, for god’s sake!). The perfect ending to an impossible girl.

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So, please,  next time you think of Clara, ask yourself the next question: Clara Who?

 

 

 

 

 

TV and the new depiction of masculinity.

It’s true, we’re really living on the golden age of television. A golden age where we’re able to enjoy new ways of telling stories and where we can take pleasure on a certain variety  of alternative platforms to binge-watch our favorite show, or even get to know  their very own stellar productions (such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon), and yet, nothing has drawn more my attention  than an interesting development on  characterisation of masculinity upon  male protagonists.

Nowadays, we’re more than wont  to have an stereotipical male figure on TV and films that will gladly shove down our throats his socially constructed ideas of what it really is to be man; let’s make a list of all them, shall we? A man has to be strong, powerful and dauntless, he also has to provide for his family (mostly for his selfless wife) and never (at all cost) shed a single tear  for nothing and no one. A dude with this ideals will always have the power to overcome any problem without showing neither harm nor weakness. He will always be a manly man.

Fortunately, we’re kicking off a new era, one where this stereotipic ideas are really worn out. You just have to turn the TV on to come across a whole new badge of glorious male characters depicting a new way to see masculinity. From Catastrophe to Kevin From Work, from Man Seeking Woman to Master Of None, even You’re The Worst, all acting out new ideals, breaking paradigms and demolishing old preconceptions of manhood.

The men depicted on this shows are not afraid to show his feelings (what a travesty!) and, above all, they’re used to talk about them (double travesty!), they’re also allowed to feel vulnerable and to show this side of their being without remorse or self-deprecation (The travesty apocalypse is upon us!).

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 We get to see how a sensitive guy as Rob cares so much about pregnant girflriend Sharon’s feelings in spite her constant and utter denial of it on Catastrophe. The same thing happens on Man Seeking Woman, when main character Josh fantasies on meeting the perfect girl for him even though his heart is completely broken after his girlfriend left him for another guy. Even Jimmy, from You’re The Worst, has to show his true colors as he is being supportive when his girlfriend Gretchen falls through the black hole of clinical depression.

It really is a delight to come across such enlightning, enthralling and enriching new ways of portraying masculinity. We’re not empty vessels ready to be filled up in real life. Us men should, and must look for, and look up, another masculinities. Those that really defy our way to see life.

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That’s why I, for one, was more  than excited to welcome Kevin’s best friend, Brian, crying his heart out for the loss of the girl he thought was his true love on Kevin From Work and, even better, having an enthralling chat about his feelings, that doesn’t seem contrived at all, with his best friend while drinking some tea. Before this, I was really starting to worry that we’re going to be cursed with the perpetual, and godawful idea, of portraying men as a nonchalant non-crying Rambos.

I even get more excited when I stumble upon Dev, from Master Of None, trying to understand the way his girlfriend felt when she was mistreated by his boss after being totally polite to him. In fact, Aziz Ansari (creator and main character of the show) takes his time to tackle the clear differences between the inequal ways society treats men and women as a main theme on one episode of season one.

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So yes, I do know we will always have Rambos, Terminators and Conans The Barbarians to look up when its needed, but they’re not the only (and necessary) depiction of masculinity that the world needs. They’re the ones that the world want us to be.

Men in real life do have feelings in spite all the constant reminders, and reproachs, to not doing it so. Role models are everywhere too, we just have to look for those that matches with our way of seeing things and not by the ones who are trying to define us.

 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Or how to do a great musical sitcom.

It’s well known that cinema and television have been blended since the dawn of entertainment -figuratively speaking-, to produce all sorts of musical theatre adaptations.  Nowadays, we’re pretty much used to watch musical numbers  on TV and on big screens.

From Barbra Streisand to  Idina Menzel, ‘Glee’ to ‘Smash’  -even a special musical entry on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’- we’ve seen a handful of musical stories, lovely voices and passionate lives grow, and thrive, in order to enthrall TV and film audiences.

For a musical theatre fan, as myself, musicals aren’t just a tawdry representation of a bunch of people bursting out in a song for no good reason. No, musicals are more than this. They are the most utter depiction of our exhilaration to feel and express something so big that simple words can’t. Music makes us feel the same way feelings make us think about music. Music and feelings are forever linked.

Just think about every broken heart you’ve lived. Every laughter. Every promotion. Every downfall in your life. I bet there is a song that reminds you of it. And that’s fine. That’s the most human thing to do.  Musicals delves into this very idea.

So, you could imagine how excited I was when I’ve heard that The CW was going to produce a musical-themed TV show starring  Rachel Bloom (Youtube musical geek). I was literally screaming to the TV out of excitement. And, dear lord, was I right about it.

‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ narrates the life of Rebecca Bunch, a twenty-something lawyer living in New York. She, as any other musical theatre fan, likes to see everything behind a musical lense. So, when her ex-boyfriend Josh reappears in her life only to tell her he’s moving away the next day to a city on California named West Covina (only 2 hours from the beach; 4 with traffic!), she, naturally, decides it’s a great idea to do so. Whilst singing a song.

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From Rebecca’s point of view, every decision she makes is not (at all!) related to the fact that she’s still in love with Josh (at all!). Therefore, abandoning everything from her previous life to start a new one, in a city that she barely knows, it’s a totally plausible  thing to do within the context of her contrived yearning to do some changes in her life. The fact that her ex-boyfriend lives in the same city is just a simple (and very convenient) coincidence.

Thus, understanding this premise, we have the privilege to see through her life’s behind the scenes. Where  everything it’s perfectly (and wonderfully!) fine whilst all her cracks are hidden behind a riveting facade of happines and (false) confidence embedded with her constant need of self-deprecation.

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You see, Rebecca needs to sing in order to convince herself she’s doing the right thing; to assure  she has control over her life. Her constant need to burst out in a song is the only way she can accept the woeful reality upon her constantly smashing into her face. Singing is her way to become bystander of her own life. And that’s really the beauty of it. Music in ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ allows us to learn more about her than any other aspect of the show.

Rebecca sings about the smiling skies of West Covina whilst “this guy Josh” also happens to live there. At the same extent, she serenades her sweet “girl crush” on Josh’s girlfriend whom she only wants to lock in the basement with a soundproof wall and take over her identity.

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The introvert quirky lawyer, who doesn’t sings on a daily basis, is that part of Rebecca that everybody in the show knows. Not the real one. Her cracks won’t be visible to us until she (or any other person) start to sing out of nowhere. It’s really in that moment when we can quite see through her insecurities, fears, hopes and dreams. That’s when we’re allowed to poke around her mind.

Rebecca isn’t different from any of us, really. Whereas we all use all sort of mechanisms, to some extent, to run away from our realities and problems, she draws uppon music and long colorful sequences to quench all her demons. And on that precise moment is when we, as an audience, are capable to see  that the show is really hitting the bull’s-eye.

Ryan Murphy: The sloppy king of shock value moments.

There was, once upon a time, a -glorious- time when Ryan Murphy’s shows had a sense of cohesion and coherence. Characters were -more or less- taken seriuosly, narrative had -some- interest on putting story before shock value, and social statements were meant to tell something beyond the obvious.

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It feels like so long ago when we first enjoyed Glee’s  former season quirckness, or American Horror Story: Murder House’s simplicity. When characters depicted real-ish people and not cartoons of themselves.

How can we forget gleeful (sorry) charaters, as Rachel Berry, bare her soul with an anthem, without making a drama about it? How can we erase of our minds troubled individuals, such as Tate, managing the moral conundrums they always bump into, on American Horror Story: Murder House, without the  constant need to make a blood bath about it? (there’s literally an episode named like that).

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Nowadays, there’s not even a reminiscence left of what could’ve been Murphy’s (and Co.) path of glory. He, like every other director/writter/producer/entrepreneur that have had the opportunity to fly near the sun, fell off quickly. And I mean, really quickly.

And I get it, there’s really no easiest way to make it to the top than to be on everybody’s mind and conversations, I really do. But, in order to make great TV, the whole show has to be grounded onto something palpable, not onto one-liners, shock value moments or gruesome scenes.

At this day, theRyanverse is full of contradictions and incoherent displays. Therefore, it’s perfectly logical – and super funny- to mock people with disabilities in order to make a statement of not mocking people with disabilities (I know, right?) the same way is somewhat reasonable to victimize a not-so-helpless minority before giving a speech about the wrongs of unequal minority treatment.

AHS cast Jessica Land, Kathy Bates, Sarah Poulson, Angelea Bassett and exec producers Brad Fulchuck and Ryan Murphy (in cap). Phortographed on the set of season 3 'Coven' in New Orleans 9/29/13

You just have to take a look to his recent ouevres from, at least, the last five years to identify his distinguished blatant speech: Cheesy over the top nonsense looking for shock value to feed uncomfortably unconscious audiences.

Really, there’s no need to portray a series of appaling moments, on a tv show -as Murphy, clearly, tries to do on everyhting he touches- to keep an audience watching your show. I mean, yeah, it’s funny and quite fascinating to get a little startled, once in a while, with some disturbing scenes, but not on a daily basis and, surely, not in every sequence of your story.

No, Ryan, you don’t have to show us graphic scenes of a murderous doctor sawing the legs of an unfortunate prostitute to help us understand the consequences of violence, nor do you have to condemn drugs by showing us a junky being raped, after getting high, with a drill, by a faceless monster . It’s excesive, it’s tacky and it feels really worn out.

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It only seems that these group of people are more concerned into making a perfect ‘gifable’ moment before a grounded, hell, decent story.

Yes, we live on that age when technology has surpassed us, but that doesn’t mean that our stories have to depend entirely on social media responses and conversational topics. Great stories are always made with the perfect combination between jawdropping moments and well written arcs.