There are no lady anti-heroes on television because SEXISM! Well, except for two of the most popular television series out there, but reality never counts when it’s time to invent the next Women as Victim Narrative. Will they ever get tired of this bullshit?

29 Jun

 

 

James Gandolfini passed away last week, leaving behind a grieving family and an iconic role that redefined the television landscape. Gandolfini’s portrayal of Tony Soprano is heralded as one of the finest, most deeply nuanced and conflicted characters ever to grace the big-screen TV.

 

tony

 

Tony Soprano was the quintessential anti-hero. He is immoral, violent, sociopathic, completely dedicated to his family, and utterly ruthless in carrying out his business, which happens to be criminal. And rather than see him as a bad guy, we love him.

 

That’s how the anti-hero works. He’s basically a bastard, but we can’t help love him. Mad Max. Dirty Harry. Tyler Durden. Travis Bickle. All classic anti-heroes.

 

de niro

 

And Gandolofini was on par with DeNiro and Eastwood in his portrayal of a very bad man who is still so very good at the same time.

 

The actor’s transfixing blend of gruffness and vulnerability breathed life into most memorable TV protagonist ever.

 

http://www.salon.com/2013/06/20/james_gandolfini_no_character_captured_the_longing_and_melancholy_of_american_life_better_than_tony_soprano/

 

The majority of commentary on Gandolfini’s passing was respectful and appropriately elegiac, as common courtesy dictates that it should be. But give the world ten days, and sure enough, the Atlantic has an article up about how, yeah sure, Tony Soprano was a great character, but let’s not forget that characters like Tony Soprano are only ever written for men, and waaaaaaaaaah – where are all the lady anti-heroes?

 

None of this is a knock on James Gandolfini, a phenomenal actor who will be missed. Nor is it a knock on his legacy of extraordinary roles currently being written for other actors. But when people talk about antiheroes, the rise of character actors, and a new age of dramatic television, it is important to note that these changes do not yet fully include women.

 

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/06/where-is-the-female-tony-soprano/277270/

 

Akash Nikolas, the man who wrote the piece at the Atlantic apparently spends a lot of time watching television, and he keeps a sharp eye on the ladies, and valiantly raises the flag that there just aren’t any lady heroes quite like Tony Soprano.

 

Most of those characters appear on cable, which is still friendlier territory for the antihero, but more importantly, all of those characters are men. In contextualizing the sea change of antiheroes in TV dramas, we must remember that it is still limited to male characters and male actors. There are very few leading antiheroines on television, and virtually none of them have a drama series built around them.

 

Yoo-hoo, Akash, you seem to have missed two of the best shows on TV, both of which feature amazing anti-heroes who also happen to be ….. WOMEN!

 

Let me introduce you to Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones.

 

cersei1

 

http://judgybitch.com/2013/04/02/westeros-where-men-are-men-and-women-are-women-and-everybody-is-fucking-awesome/

And the Dowager Countess Grantham, Downton Abbey.

 

violet

 

http://judgybitch.com/2013/01/08/with-great-privilege-comes-great-responsibility-or-why-i-love-downton-abbey/

 

How did Akash miss Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey? How do you miss two of the most talked about, most watched, most awarded shows on television? It’s hard to fathom, other than to guess that he came up with his premise first, and then went hunting for his evidence, discarding whatever didn’t fit his preconceived ideas, and in the process ignored the TWO BEST SHOWS ON TELEVISION.

 

That’s quite a feat. Rather like looking for the best American car and discarding Ford and GM off the bat. What does that leave? Tesla?

 

tesla

 

Actually, Tesla is pretty cool, but it’s market share is tiny compared to Ford and GM.

http://www.teslamotors.com/en_CA

 

Cersei Lannister. What an evil witch. She marries Robert Baratheon at her father’s urging, but has sex with her twin brother to produce the heirs to the Iron Throne. When little Bran Stark catches the incestuous pair, she watches Jamie Lannister throw him to his death without flinching. When Bran survives his fall, paralyzed, but very much alive, she conspires to have his throat cut in his bed.

 

She is nasty, vindictive, scheming, brutal, sarcastic, cruel and utterly dedicated to her children and the throne. When Littlefinger tells Cersei that “knowledge is power”, Cersei turns to her guards and says this:

 

Seize him. Cut his throat. Wait! I’ve changed my mind. Let him go.

Power is power!

 

 

sansa

 

When she sees Sansa Stark, only 12 years old talking to Sir Loras, her first thoughts are to violent retribution.

Tyrion Lannister: I don’t suppose there is anything we can do about this?

Cersei Lannister: We can have them both killed.

 

ned

 

When Ned Stark explains his modus operandi to Cersei, she responds in kind.

 

Eddard Stark: I was trained to kill my enemies, Your Grace.

Cersei Lannister: As was I.

 

Cersei is ruthless and merciless and has approximately zero concern or sympathy for anyone outside her blood family. And she is magnificent!

 

It’s hard to imagine her as anything other than an anti-hero. She is just a terrible, awful person, and her flaw is that she is incredibly intelligent and conniving, but she cannot see that others are just as intelligent as she is. Cersei is compelling, we watch her with spellbound fascination, but she is a not a woman any of us (one hopes) would like to be.

 

Cersei is not “on the fence” in terms of her anti-hero qualities. It boggles the mind that Akash sat down and wrote a mewling piece of feminist boot-licking all the while ignoring someone as powerful and captivating as Cersei Lannister.

 

I call bullshit. It’s a deliberate attempt to create a complaint, and a suggestion of unfairness and misogyny where NONE EXISTS.

 

Cersei is not alone in her anti-heroism. Here is the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by the incomparable Dame Maggie Smith.

 

violet 2

 

Bitchy, snotty, self-absorbed, insulting, classist, racist, and utterly dedicated to her family and ancestral seat, the Dowager Countess is an anti-hero of epic proportions. She has zero concerns for anyone around her other than her family, and she does not want any part of her life polluted with those she considers “beneath her”, and that is almost everyone.

 

waiter

 

She is offended when her son only wears black tie to dinner (he ought to have been in tails).

Violet: “Do you think I might have a drink? Oh, I’m so sorry – I thought you were a waiter.”

 

She disapproves of Mrs. Crawley’s philanthropic enthusiasm:

Countess Violet: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”

Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”

Countess Violet: “I must’ve said it wrong.”

 

She is unapologetic about leaving her children to be raised by the help:

Isobel: “Were you a very involved mother with Robert and Rosamund?”

Violet: “Does it surprise you?”

Isobel: “A bit. I’d imagined them surrounded by nannies and governesses, being starched and ironed to spend an hour with you after tea.”

Violet: “Yes, but it was an hour every day.”

 

She is offended by Edith’s ambitions to write.

Matthew: “Edith has had an invitation to write a newspaper column.”

Violet: “When may she expect an offer to appear on the London stage?”

 

turkish

 

She doesn’t think the death of the Turkish Ambassador in her home is that big of a deal, because he wasn’t English, after all.

 

Violet: “One can’t go to pieces at the death of every foreigner. We’d all be in a constant state of collapse whenever we opened a newspaper.”

 

She dislikes any attention paid to the “little people”. They are servants and that is all.

Violet: “It always happens when you give these little people power, it goes to their heads like strong drink.”

 

lord anthony

 

Even when you make the cut, socially, Violet is still ruthless. At her grand-daughter’s wedding, she has this to say about the groom:

Violet: “He looks as if he’s waiting for a beating from the headmaster.”

 

In short, she is insufferable. There is really nothing to like about the Dowager, and yet she is the highlight of every episode. Beloved for being a crotchety, curmudgeonly snob with hopelessly antiquated views on pretty much everything. Within the context of period drama, which tends not to feature a whole lot of violent bloodshed, she is an anti-hero.

 

The one thing both Cersei and the Dowager have in common is that their unpleasantness is dedicated to preserve one thing, and one thing only: their families. Cersei doesn’t lust for power for herself, although she does rather enjoy it. She is loyal to the idea that her son shall win the game of thrones, and all her sons into the future will be kings. Violet isn’t a snobby cunt for fun, although she does enjoy it. She is protecting a class system that has privileged her son and she wants to see those privileges continued and damn everybody else.

 

When Tony Soprano is fiercely, psychotically protective of his family, that’s admirable. It’s what men are supposed to do. Provide, be loyal, be useful, be devoted. A man whose world centers on his wife and children is a man doing what he ought to be doing, and no matter how unpleasant and ugly his methods, we can respect and admire him for at least getting the point of his existence.

 

But when a woman’s life centers on her family, and her SONS in particular, that triggers a bit of anxiety. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both Cersei and Violet’s husbands are dead, and the majority of their effort goes towards promoting the interests of their sons.

 

Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey are stories about legacy. What you leave behind you. For most of us, that will be children. And there we have the sticking point. Children are your most important accomplishment. Anti-hero women turn the relationship between mother and son into a dysfunctional web of lies and deceit and pretensions and conspiracy and generally make a giant mess out of what should be their greatest achievement, but there is absolutely no question that their children are the only things that matter.

 

baby

 

 

And that is just the story feminists try to squash.

 

Children do not matter. Children should NOT matter. Children are a burden. They are a trap designed to subjugate you to a man. They are expensive, time-consuming afflictions that will bring you not pleasure and fulfillment, but regrets and frustrated ambitions. You’ll wish you never had them.

 

nokids

 

So don’t have them. Very clever. Good plan.

 

http://judgybitch.com/2013/02/07/babies-we-dont-need-no-stinking-babies-the-genius-of-amanda-marcotte-again/

 

Akash is dead wrong that there are no female anti-heroes on television. I wonder if he realizes exactly what narrative he is promoting when he ignores two of the biggest shows on TV? And what does he get out of kow-towing to an ideology that comes down to nihilism?

 

Without children, we all lose. There is no society. When you play the Game of Thrones, you win, or you die. There is no middle ground. In the Game of Declining to Reproduce, you can’t win, but you will die, and leave nothing behind you.

 

And if everyone plays, we all die.

 

empty

 

There’s nothing heroic about that.

 

Lots of love,

 

JB

35 Responses to “There are no lady anti-heroes on television because SEXISM! Well, except for two of the most popular television series out there, but reality never counts when it’s time to invent the next Women as Victim Narrative. Will they ever get tired of this bullshit?”

  1. Andrei June 29, 2013 at 17:12 #

    Something I’d wish we’d see more of in the media (movies/series/video games) is female heroes that sacrifice themselves in order to save others.

    We see male heroes cast in this role very often, where they sacrifice themselves to save their loved one, their children or even the human species (like the recent Oblivion), but rarely, if ever, do we see the same of female heroes in the media.

    While some might argue it’s never really been women’t strong suit to sacrifice themselves to save others ( 😛 ), I argue that it would be good if we educated future generations to understand that one’s gender plays no part in the undertaking of heroic deeds or sacrifice.

    The media today is, for all intents and purposes (and whether we like it or not), a cornerstone of youth education. Educate young girls to understand that they too can be heroes and save others, and perhaps we will see more who do just that.

    PS. I am however, in no way trying to say it is any person’s responsibility to sacrifice themselves for others.

    Like

  2. judgybitch June 29, 2013 at 17:14 #

    Ripley in the Alien series comes to mind, but you’re right.

    Not a common trope.

    Like

  3. LostSailor June 29, 2013 at 17:49 #

    I’d also add to the list the character of Gemma Morrow on Sons of Anarchy, played by the incomparable Katie Sagal. Hey, she even won a Golden Globe for her role! Bah, nothing to see here folks…

    Gemma is the ruthless matriarch of her family and the motorcycle club. And she is ruthlessly devoted to her family. In season one, she has an encounter with a young girl who slept with her husband, and in a great scene, swiped a kid’s skateboard on the sidewalk and cracked it across the girl’s head. She gave the meth-head mother of her first grandchild an overdose in her hospital bed to keep her away from the boy. In season two, in order to keep her family and club intact, she concealed her brutal gang rape that was designed to tear them apart. Yet she’s tender and loving to her own with her son and two grandsons. Much like Tony Soprano.

    But, I guess Gemma doesn’t count, since the series isn’t solely based around her. She’s just a major leading character, but not the sole leading character. And, of course, there are men in the series, so that makes it dismissible.

    Like

  4. Emily June 29, 2013 at 18:41 #

    The Boss from the Metal Gear Solid series is a perfect example of a woman who sacrificed herself, I think. I can’t think of any other examples off the top of my head though.

    Like

  5. Emcee June 29, 2013 at 19:30 #

    The Boss is one of my favourite characters in video games. It boggles my mind that she doesn’t come up more often (not necessarily regarding self-sacrifice), especially now that gender representation is such a hot topic in gaming.

    Like

  6. Radical Suburbanite June 29, 2013 at 23:11 #

    I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica (again) with my husband and many of the main characters could be described as female anti-heroes. Caprica Six was instrumental in the near annihilation of the human race but she’s still sympathetic because her love for Gaius Baltar creates more empathy for humans as the story continues. Starbuck is rude, belligerent, mercurial and defies authority at every turn. She’s also loyal and smart and fiercely determined to lead the surviving humans to Earth. Laura Roslin is mostly cast in the hero role, but she shows a complete willingness to be ruthless and an “ends justify the means” kind of leader. And Ellen Tigh is the epitome of a female antihero. She’s conniving and awful most of the time, but she shows that she’ll do absolutely anything to protect her husband.

    I could list more characters, but you get the idea.

    BSG is one of the most balanced shows I can think of in terms of the strength of both of its male and female roles.

    Like

  7. James Versluis June 29, 2013 at 23:59 #

    Nurse Jackie?

    Like

  8. Jase June 30, 2013 at 04:16 #

    Um, The Atlantic article was about LEAD actresses who have an entire drama series built around them. Since Game of Thrones is an ensemble, that’s probably why Cersei Lannister wasn’t included. Ditto the Dowager Countess who is a supporting character (and not really a murderous villain).

    Like

  9. judgybitch June 30, 2013 at 04:31 #

    Oh, and the Sopranos is totally not an ensemble piece

    Yeah, okay

    Good point.

    Like

  10. Exfernal June 30, 2013 at 10:20 #

    Pfff. It seems that civility and subtlety are not natural traits. Well, they are acquired with experience.

    Like

  11. earl June 30, 2013 at 11:10 #

    “How did Akash miss Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey?”

    Maybe she has never seen or heard of them…therefore they don’t exist.

    Like

  12. earl June 30, 2013 at 11:17 #

    “Children are your most important accomplishment.”

    For women yes…for men conquering yourself is the most important accomplishment.

    Which is why for an anti-hero man…he has no fear. You love the guy because he has a plan and doesn’t care what people think about how he goes about the plan.

    Women never conquer themselves…they need a man to do that. The only thing they can conquer is their children.

    Like

  13. Liz June 30, 2013 at 13:10 #

    Several literary examples of female antagonists-as-main-character come to mind (East of Eden, Steven King’s Misery, ect). I can also think of a lot of movies with that theme, some of them based on books (The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, The Devil Wears Prada, Basic Instinct, ect). But I can’t think of any television series with a prominent female antagonist character the series revolves around. Gemma from SOA was mentioned, and she’s a good example of a strong female antagonist character, but she is tangential to the plot, as is the dowager countess on Downtown Abbey. Cersei is the only one I can think of with a large primary roll, but the series doesn’t exactly revolve around her (I usually skip over her parts in the book as I find her unlikeable in the extreme).

    I look at it differently. If there were a demand for main character female antagonists, we’d see more of them. Entertainment is a profit driven industry. Could be any numer of reasons, two of which readily come to mind: People quickly tire of watching a female antagonist lead (I know I do). What might work for a movie in that respect doesn’t flow as well in a longstanding series, and viewers have different emotions when watching a female villain versus a male villain. Also the potential for feminist outrage…they might complain there aren’t enough female lead villains now but the moment they actually get them, we’ll hear: “of course they can’t write a strong female lead without making her into a bitch! Sexism!” Yawn.

    Like

  14. Liz June 30, 2013 at 13:13 #

    Just to add, Battlestar Gallactica took had a lot of great female antagonists, but they too played a tangential roll, and went in and out of the series over time, so the viewship didn’t tire of seeing them.

    Like

  15. Marlo Rocci June 30, 2013 at 14:52 #

    On a planet with 7 billion individuals of a single destructive species, I actually think it’s a good thing that we stop having kids.

    The thing is: once you have decided that having kids is a bad idea for the planet, then you end up judging women solely on what they can bring to the workforce. I wonder how this plays out in the mind of feminists?

    Like

  16. Liz June 30, 2013 at 17:44 #

    Once you have decided that having kids is a bad idea for the planet and people stop having them, there is no future and the workforce is far less relevant. Can’t take it with ya. And no one at the end of his/her life wishes they spent more time at the office.

    Like

  17. Rhyneocerus June 30, 2013 at 19:11 #

    Cersei would arrange a tragic accident for Joffrey in a heartbeat if she thought she could gain and retain the Iron Throne in her own right. Raw, naked ambition.

    Like

  18. judgybitch June 30, 2013 at 19:18 #

    No way! She would never hurt Joffrey. If he were Robert’s son, maybe. But there is too much of Jaimie in him.

    I can’t imagine it.

    Like

  19. LostSailor June 30, 2013 at 22:05 #

    Well, I’d say that Admiral Cain in season two was an antagonist who was in a primary, not tangential role…

    Like

  20. earl June 30, 2013 at 22:15 #

    Man has been a destructive species since being introduced to the planet…less of them doesn’t mean the world will be a better place.

    And if you live long enough…you are going to see a sharp nosedive trend down in the population because of what has happened.

    Like

  21. Radical Suburbanite June 30, 2013 at 22:48 #

    Excellent example. I can’t believe I left her out. Personally I feel that BSG was actually weighted more in favor of the female characters and it was mostly an ensemble show all the way through.

    Like

  22. Exfernal June 30, 2013 at 23:36 #

    Among various reasons against parenthood there is a single very good one – strong congenital tendencies for making one’s life terminally miserable, like in this example.

    Like

  23. Liz July 1, 2013 at 03:20 #

    Admiral Cain’s time on the series was very shortlived, hence my point.

    Like

  24. Liz July 1, 2013 at 03:56 #

    Just to add, I really didn’t want to see Admiral Cain more than the one season either, and I doubt I’m alone (hence the point, again). There just doesn’t seem much of a demand for ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Again’ or ‘The Devil Still Wears Prada’ type sequels. I just think people grow tired of female villains pretty quickly. I don’t envision the female equivalent of Dexter, or Gaius Baltar, ect obtaining as popular a following.

    Like

  25. Marlo Rocci July 1, 2013 at 04:52 #

    Feminist research:
    1. Make shit up.
    2. Publish the shit in enough places that everyone believes your shit.
    3. Call anyone who doesn’t believe your shit a misogynist.

    Like

  26. RubberPunch July 1, 2013 at 07:43 #

    About females and war: A female leader may not want to send her sons into battle, but she most certainly will send yours.

    Like

  27. Master Beta July 1, 2013 at 09:02 #

    Pretty much every character Angelina Jolie ever played I would call an anti-heroine, wouldn’t you?
    Also cat-woman.
    Selene from the underworld series is an anti-heroine for sure.
    Alice from resident evil series has questionable motives.
    Elektra is a murdering assassin.
    B from Kill Bill – also a murdering assassin.
    Sharon Stone – basic instinct

    That’s off the top of my head.

    Like

  28. Liz July 1, 2013 at 12:39 #

    Movies, not series. People can take female antagonist primary roles for a limited time. But most of those movies sucked anyway, except tomb raider, and most of those characters were more a flawed heroines than villains.

    We’ve had the wicked witch/wicked stepmother/wicked stepsister meme for centuries…and like it when they die.

    Like

  29. Radical Suburbanite July 1, 2013 at 16:02 #

    Oh, I don’t know. I remember when “Dynasty” was very popular and Joan Collins gain a pretty solid following playing Alexis. My mom watches soap operas religiously and you always have a female vixen/antihero as one of the main characters. The soaps don’t generally bring the characters to prime time, but it shows that there is an audience (primarily female) for them. I think a female in the Dexter mould could be interesting if done well.

    Like

  30. Kitsunegari July 2, 2013 at 00:32 #

    Agree 100%. BSG had badass female characters and a diverse cast, and none of it felt forced….it was pure unadulterated damn good television.

    Like

  31. Cid July 2, 2013 at 22:35 #

    Japanese media in general actually has a boat load of female heroes sacrificing themselves. It is definitely a lot rarer in Western media…

    Like

  32. chdeeje reed May 8, 2014 at 00:40 #

    I looking for for a man ain’t scared tah do nothing ND tah go all da way cuz I am for dis money

    Like

  33. Sammie June 20, 2014 at 10:22 #

    I need to point out, Cersei does not care for her children as a devoted mother; she cares for them with a frame of narcissism. They are an extension of herself and therefore, are important. They can get her into more powerful positions that she missed out on from being born as a woman, as opposed to a man, who hold the power that she craves. This article is great, but you have misjudged Cersei’s character greatly.

    Like

  34. judgybitch June 20, 2014 at 10:24 #

    What an excellent observation! Toman and Marcella absolutely. But I think she really did love Joffrey, at least a little bit.

    Like

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