The single girl is by no means the new girl in town. In fact, as a culture, we’re kind of obsessed with her.
She’s been the subject of chatter throughout 2011 and 2012. Women’s magazines have catered to the single girl by creating lists of cities most likely to end her unaccompanied plight or techniques for keeping a boyfriend. When that didn’t stick and the collective started to realize “Single Girl” wasn’t an affliction to be cured, but rather a state of being to be acknowledged, we switched to praising her for her strength and for changing the makeup of the single man and traditional relationships, like in Kate Bolick’s 2011 Atlantic cover story. The U.S. Census bureau reported that a record 17.8 million women were living on their own in 2011, bringing some much needed numerical support to this supposed phenomenon. Plus, women's health issues were some of the most hotly debated topics in the 2012 presidential election. But throughout all of this, we’re often talking about the upper echelon of single-ladydom – the benefits of being on one’s own, kicking ass and taking names in what used to be a “man’s world,” so to speak. But in 2012, the topic of the single girl reached new levels of legitimacy, especially on television.
The exalted (and equally despised, as Fox News recently reminded us) Single Girl of cultural note gained layers and stages within her seemingly one-note solo path. The most notable layer being that of the Poor, Single Girl life stage.
Series like HBO’s Girls, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, Fox’s New Girl, and even reality shows like Bravo’s Gallery Girls bring the plight of the broke girl into homes across the country. (In its heyday, Sex and the City may have been all about the single girl, but certainly never the financially strapped one.) It brings into relief the fact that women exist in this space where our hair isn’t always perfect. Our makeup doesn’t look like it does in the movies. Our socks don’t always match and sometimes we struggle to pay the gas bill. It’s not just a punchline and it doesn’t make us deadbeats or outliers, it’s simply a life stage. Bringing that fact into the stark light of television for the masses brings an air of legitimacy to what is very much a reality for many girls in the no-man’s land between college and middle age.
When it comes in the form of Zooey Deschanel’s doe-eyed New Girl, the pop culture advent isn’t universally embraced. The polka-dot-loving, grade-school-sing-a-long, Christmas-morning-pajama-loving girl becomes a beacon of infantilism. In fact, Deschanel’s on-screen and off-screen personas are to blame for the notion “that it's never been easier, more fun or more acceptable to remain locked in the warm, comfy embrace of childhood,” according to a Jezebel post by Girls writer Deborah Schoeneman.
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But in Season 2 of the Fox series, Deschanel’s Jess added another characteristic to her former Manic Pixie Dream girl: a lack of cash flow. Jess lost her job, and with it, her schoolgirl antics. She became a penniless weirdo struggling to find a sliver of happiness in a reality that just handed her a fresh dose of harsh reality. This manifested itself in Jess’ multi-episode quest to displace her unhappiness by finding an emotion-free sex-friend set-up with a Creed fan, which took over and let the foundation of the problem take a back seat until Episode 7, when Jess’ financial constraints finally caught up to her. Schmidt cut off the gas to the apartment and Jess finally had to face the music and get a job that probably wasn’t going to pay her big bucks so she could suffer along with the rest of us.
Of course Girls has been throwing down the broke lady gauntlet since day one. Lena Dunham’s Hannah is cut off by her parents, sending her on a journey through awful job interviews, thankless jobs, unpaid internships, and uncomfortable discussions about where she’s going to get money for her next rent payment. The series brings into focus a range of circumstances that might befall a single, broke girl living in Brooklyn, and the diverting and rarely blissful moments that help to distract from the truth of her precarious lifestyle. It’s cathartic for those living the awful (and sometimes awesome) truth, and comprehensive enough to allow for audiences at different life stages to embrace the reality they may not know themselves.
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But the broke girl isn’t a phenomenon pegged to the folks willing to shell out 15 bucks a month for HBO or risk the virus-ridden expanse of pirated Internet television. Even sweeping, broadcast audiences get a watered-down, broad stroke version of the broke girl thanks to Whitney Cummings' 2 Broke Girls sitcom. However, Max and Caroline get a punchline-chasing raw deal. It’s one thing to be broke and scraping by, allowing oneself to be tempted by the evil incarnate that is a pre-approved credit card, it’s quite another to dine out at a soup kitchen to save some dough. However, CBS’ broke girls have done both in Season 2 of the hit series. But broad strokes or not, the series is bringing the plight of the poor girl into the larger pop culture consuming consciousness.
Of course, the true mark of the poor girl as a trend is that she’s even infiltrated the realm of reality television. It’s a place that generally embraces personalities in three distinct categories: the rich and/or famous, the ridiculous and wacky, or the suckers competing for some overblown prize. Gallery Girls is admittedly a subject for hate-watching, but its content raised a question about this “poor girl” trend. Could it be a real movement in television?
Yes, it could. Not everyone in Bravo’s set of art-world ladies treads the broke girl line, but for the most part, finance as a struggle is a recurring theme for the series. Freelance photographer Angela Pham has to supplement her sporadic income with a waitressing job and modeling jobs here and there. Gallery owners Chantal Chadwick and Claudia Martinez Reardon struggle to pay the bills for their business and Reardon frets about making good on a business loan from her parents. Kerri Lisa works two full-time jobs in order to pursue her art world dreams… and keep her dream apartment in the West Village. By most stretches of the imagination, these reality starlets aren’t exactly the picture of the broke girl that we’ve come to expect (how many struggling ladies can drape themselves in such luxurious couture?), but the way in which their struggles are picked out and emphasized in the editing room before the episodes hit the television is an indication of the stories audiences are seeking.
It’s not enough for a post-graduate girl to be fun and fancy-free, wearing high-wasted pinstripe skirts and twirling her hair. That’s not what a “girl” is anymore. In 2012, the definition in popular culture evolved and diversified. Girls, in the non-pig-tail-appropriate sense of the word, became pre-adults, with all the faculties of a full-fledged grownup, but none of the practical experience. She’s a gawky fawn, learning to stand on her own two feet. Every once in a while, she won’t have enough dough for the electricity bill. She’ll hoof it home to mom and dad to get a short-term loan to stay afloat. She’ll accept a series of odd jobs to stay in the black. But all the while she’s growing; she’s working toward something other than a big, handsome man to hold her hand. Television series like Girls and New Girl have taken even the most adorable little lady off her pedestal, bringing her down to the level at which we feel free to explore, dissect, judge, and be entertained by her journey to full-on adulthood.
It’s a product of a changing environment – Pew Research reports that the number of nuptials has decreased by 29 percent since 1960, the average marrying age has risen from early 20s to 26.5 for women, and since the early ‘90s U.S. Census data has shown that there are more women than men attending college. That girl isn’t an anomaly and she isn’t hiding. She’s sitting next to you on the subway. She’s unavoidable. But the shift is also a product of acknowledgement. Every time audiences tune into one of these shows touting a broke girl heroine, they’re buying in. They’re accepting this financially-challenged, almost-adult. She’s not a stoned slacker or lost little lady. She’s a human, dealing with the struggles of early adulthood and she’s getting there.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Patrick McElhenney/FOX; Cliff Lipson/CBS]
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Accepting the Career Achievement Award at the Casting Society of America’s annual Artios Awards on Monday night (29Oct12) in Beverly Hills, Affleck revealed he initially signed on to oversee the gripping drama, starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, but he had to pass due to a deal he has with his wife to always put family first.
The actor/director said, "I was sure nothing would happen with the show. Now I hate the f**king show. I’ve never seen it."
Libby Goldstein, who helped assemble the cast for Homeland, poked fun at Affleck during the awards ceremony by reading a poem she had written about his decision to step down as director.
Other 2012 Artios Award winners for Outstanding Achievement in Casting included:
Big Budget Feature (Drama) - The Help (Kerry Barden & Paul Schnee)
Big Budget Feature (Comedy) - Crazy, Stupid, Love (Mindy Marin & Kara Lipson)
Feature - Studio or Independent (Drama) - My Week With Marilyn (Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood & Nina Gold)
Feature - Studio or Independent (Comedy) - The Artist (Heidi Levitt & Michael Sanford)
Low Budget Feature - Martha Marcy May Marlene (Susan Shopmaker)
Television Pilot (Drama) - Homeland (Junie Lowry Johnson, Libby Goldstein, Julie Tucker, Lisa Mae Fincannon & Craig Fincannon)
Television Pilot (Comedy) - Girls (Jennifer Euston)
Television Series (Drama) - The Good Wife (Mark Saks & John Andrews) and Homeland (Judy Henderson, Craig Fincannon & Lisa Mae Fincannon)
Television Series (Comedy) - Girls (Jennifer Euston)
Television Movie or Mini Series - Game Change (David Rubin, Richard Hicks, Pat Moran, Kathleen Chopin & Anne Davison)
Well if the title doesn’t say it all…Picking up where Alien vs. Predator left off those pesky aliens cause the Predator ship to crash on Earth setting them free near a Colorado town. A lone Predator (Ian Whyte encoring from AvP) comes to Earth to clean up the mess and what the hell maybe pick up a few human trophies too. Needless to say the town’s human residents are completely unprepared for this sort of inter-galactic free-for-all on their streets. This is after all the sort of town where everybody knows everybody but no one seems to notice when a spaceship crashes in the woods outside of town or when the self-same spaceship blows up the next day. In short you could say that they get what’s coming to them--and they sure do. Pretty dreadful all around. Then again Shane Salerno’s script is pointless to begin with. Steven Pasquale (TV’s Rescue Me) plays the ex-con hero Dallas (a nod to the original Alien). Reiko Aylesworth (TV’s 24) plays a veteran of the Gulf War who returns stateside just in time to engage in another one--a pretty pale homage to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character. John Ortiz plays the local sheriff one of the dullest (and dumbest) screen lawmen in recent memory. Veteran Robert Joy drops in briefly as a weasely U.S. Army colonel who would just as soon nuke the town as try to save it. Every time this film focuses on the (one-dimensional) human characters it stops cold. Unfortunately this happens a lot. There’s no reason to root for them because you simply don’t care. True to form most of them are sliced diced chopped lasered exploded from within and otherwise treated in a shabby fashion. They are simply fodder. Just for the record this is the sixth Alien film and the fourth Predator film and it holds the dubious distinction of being the worst of any of them. The special effects are just dandy but not much else is. This also marks the inauspicious feature directorial debut of noted visual effects artists Colin and Greg Strause (billed as “The Brothers Strause”). They clearly have an affinity for this sort of thing--and for the Alien and Predator franchises--but are just as clearly content to simply let the special effects run away with the story. The first Alien vs. Predator movie was no great shakes but it was better than it had any right to be. This one is not. Responding to the fans who wanted this film to be R-rated the Brothers Strause have delivered on that--and absolutely nothing more. It’s a pointless exercise.
At first glance The Family Stone appears to be yet another silly romp about family dynamics. But the Stones a vivacious loving liberal-minded New England family are more than just cardboard cut-outs; they’re as real as any dysfunctional family can be. The film begins with the Stones getting ready for their annual holiday gathering. Matriarch Sybil (Diane Keaton) is especially anxious to meet her eldest son’s (Dermot Mulroney) girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker). The family has been warned Meredith is a controlling neurotic New Yorker with very little redeemable qualities. And when Meredith arrives she certainly does nothing to dispel the notion meeting her potential eccentric in-laws with a mix of awkwardness confusion and hostility. Yet oddly enough the disruption brings about some needed changes within the family Stone allowing them to come together and realize their extraordinary capacity for love. Everyone in this stellar ensemble rises to the occasion and truly paints a very vivid picture of a family devoted to one another--but who are less than approachable to outsiders. As mom Keaton turns in yet another genuine look at a complicated woman dealing with some insurmountable obstacles while Craig T. Nelson as her loyal husband does a nice job conveying a warmth to their marriage. Playing their grownup children is Mulroney as the straight-laced “suit” Everett who isn’t all that priggish; Luke Wilson as the laid-back Ben who seems to have strayed the most from his family; and Rachel McAdams as the passionate if rather acerbic little sister. But the real revelation is Parker as the uptight highly unlikable Meredith. It’s quite a departure from her fun-lovin’ Sex
and the City days and the Parker--who truly is one of the better comedic actresses we have today--easily handles the unpleasant chores of playing someone suffering with chronic foot-in-mouth syndrome. Like many newbie filmmakers writer/director Thomas Bezucha--whose only other credit is the little seen indie Big Eden--has the advantage of having that certain fresh quality to his work. Stone’s dialogue is snappy poignant and spot-on as the Stones interact with each other in all too familiar ways. The whole Meredith scenario will perhaps have many of us remembering similar situations--from both sides of the fence. It’s just as painful to have to meet the family of someone you love for the first time as it is dealing with a family member’s poor choices in mates. And what makes
The Family Stone stand out even more is how Bezucha truly defines the term “dramedy.” From the trailer the film seemed to be a balls-out slap-sticky comedy which in many ways it is but you may be surprised to see how The Family Stone’s more serious tones will touch you.
In the late 19th century Dr. Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) a misunderstood monster hunter is summoned to Transylvania to ferret out Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and kill him once and for all. When Van Helsing gets to the small village where the vampire was last spotted he discovers he also must contend with Dracula's three seriously twisted vampire brides Dracula's angry henchman/werewolf--and a lovely gypsy princess named Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) who is hell-bent on eradicating Dracula and his bloodsucking kind for slaughtering her entire family. Oh and let's not forget Frankenstein's Monster (Shuler Hensley) who holds the key to Dracula's evil master plan--something about releasing his minions of unborn bat-like children from their goo-filled cocoons so they can wreck havoc on the world. Yuck. Sounds like our resident monster stomper and his sword-swinging gal pal have their work cut out for them. If Van Helsing does manage to kill all his monster foes does that mean he's out of a job?
Jackman has the whole antihero thing down pat. He adequately embodies the younger more virile Van Helsing dishing out as much pain and torture as he can on the undead--but the Aussie actor isn't given nearly as much meat to chew on as he did say delving into the complicated Wolverine in X-Men. Instead the monster hunter is relegated to carrying big weapons wearing a big hat and muttering something about having bad dreams to a past he can't remember. Same goes for Beckinsale. The British actress was oh-so-cool on the other side of the fence playing the chic vampire Selene in Underworld cutting her way through a myriad of werewolves. As Van Helsing's heavily accented female counterpart Anna however she just runs around with her sword blurting out such pathetic dialogue such as "Dracula took everything away from me and now I'm alone in the world" while Roxburgh's Dracula--who can't hold a candle to other far more charismatic Draculas before him--wails about being so very alone as his luscious brides hang upside down in front of him. Give me a break. At least Australian actor David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings) provides much-needed comic relief as Van Helsing's sidekick Carl a Catholic friar who doesn't much like playing hero.
With the requisite dark mood and tone action sequences and snazzy CGI-creations including the winged vampire brides and formidable werewolves you can see exactly where writer/director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) spent Van Helsing's nearly $150 million budget. But even all the bells and whistles can't tie together the film's vacuous nonsensical mumbo jumbo as Sommers attempts to bring classic movie monsters together in the same movie. Maybe in a tongue-in-cheek Abbott and Costello movie it could work but as a serious action-packed thriller clearly Dracula Frankenstein and the Wolf Man do not need to meet. On top of that Sommers steals from other movies as well such as recent films Underworld (the whole vampire vs. werewolf conflict) and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (Van Helsing defeats a rather familiar-looking Mr. Hyde at one point). Whatever originality there is in the film leaves you either scratching your head--Dracula has kids?--or rolling your eyes--Anna needs to kill Dracula so her nine-generations of family can reunite in Heaven? Please.