Songs for the Struggling Artist


My Pandemic Guide to International TV – Part Two

Last week, I took us (mostly) to Spain, Italy and Turkey.

And now it’s on to France, Germany, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and beyond.

France gave me some quality TV and Netflix gave them all silly titles in English. (I get the sense that the folks at Netflix thinks Americans are dumb and need dumb titles.) One of the few shows set in contemporary times that compelled me was Call My Agent which I really wish they’d called its French title, Ten Percent (Dix Pour Cent). But no one asked me. So. One of the benefits of watching this show full of French stars was that when one of them appeared in the next French show I watched, I was very excited.

That show was The Bonfire of Destiny (French title: Le Bazar de la CharitéThe Charity Bazaar – which is much more descriptive as this is an important setting/event of the show). It was harrowing at first, since it begins with a lot of people dying in a really terrible fire (at a Charity Bazaar!) but then becomes a really intriguing look at class and gender and culture in 1897. It felt like an adaptation of a classic novel from the old days that never actually existed, with some really complicated romances. There is, I have discovered a Turkish version of this show and now I’d very much like to see that, too.

Then, there was the cold war era comedy delight called A Very Secret Service (in French: Au Service de la FranceIn Service of France, once again, a much better title!) It’s got fewer women in it than I prefer but its bureaucratic idiocy made me laugh a lot. I sing to myself a line from it occasionally for no good reason except that I enjoyed it so thoroughly – “Tamponné. Double Tamponné.”  (Stamped. Double Stamped.) In a giant global crisis, they are most flummoxed by which stamp to use for a form. It was a delight. A sexist delight but I didn’t care. And you know when I don’t care it must have been worth it.

On to Germany!

I started with Babylon Berlin last year. I’d avoided it for a while because I was afraid it was going to be too violent for me and it was too violent for me but my brother was living in Berlin at the time and he liked it so I watched it anyway and I wasn’t sorry, even if I did have to cover my eyes and ears more often than I’d like. I’d been curious about the Weimar era in Germany pretty much ever since Trump got elected so this show successfully brought me into those pre-Nazi times and helped me understand a few things. Also – a lot happens! Stylishly!

I also got hooked into Charité which is a series about a hospital in Berlin, based on historical people and events. The first season takes place in 1887 and deals with doctors’ attempts to cure and/or vaccinate against tuberculosis and diphtheria. It is a very interesting moment in time where some doctors are pushing for cleaning and sterilizing the hospital and the nurses and other doctors are skeptical. It is a fight that has a clear winner but in these times, is interesting to watch play out. Their second season takes place during World War Two and I have to say, watching a World War II show from a German hospital staff’s perspectives was hard but illuminating. Watching well meaning doctors look away from eugenics happening right in front of them or claiming that the harrowing tales of their government that made it to their ears was all propaganda. I guess I understand now how folks like that fooled themselves. I’m seeing people do that now.

But I haven’t just watched shows from Europe.

I’ve told you about Mexico’s House of Flowers already and I’m in the middle of The Five Juanas, which is very silly, soapy and kind of trashy. It’s about five women (named Juana! Surprise!) who discover they all have the same birthmark and therefore the same father. Ridiculous though it may be, it is super interesting to realize that I can sometimes distinguish between accents in Spanish now, after having watched so much TV from several places. I can hear that the Juana from Colombia sounds very different than the one who grew up in Spain, who sounds different from the three from Mexico.

There was a lot of pleasure in Colombia’s Always a Witch, even though its premise was off the charts problematic. (A slave woman in love with the master’s son is set to be burned at the stake for witchcraft but is saved by going to the future where she spends all her time trying to get back to her boyfriend. {Yes, the boyfriend whose family owned her.} Oh, Honey, no.) But the music was great and the witchery was fun and they realized their mistake by the second season but it may have been too late. I’m pretty sure it’s been cancelled. It is fascinating to watch a show screw itself up so badly.

On to Brazil!

One of the most unique shows I’ve seen on this kick I’ve been on was No One’s Looking which is about these bureaucratic angels who start to break the rules. It is an odd odd world and I admired the quirky design a lot. My favorite part may have been when the angel middle manager takes his team to go see some “stand up comedy” and it turns out to be a very sincere motivational speaker talking about angels. The angels watch from the balcony laughing their wings off. If you’ve ever wanted to watch office worker angels dance, take drugs and generally explore being human, this show is for you.

The other Brazilian show was called The Girls from Impanema (in English – in Portuguese it’s Coisa Mas Linda, which is a line from the song “Girl from Impanema”). This show falls in line with my usual interests by being the story of women at work, trying to make things work. The story is of a woman whose husband leaves her and so she starts a club and becomes the center of the Bossa Nova scene in Rio. I almost quit watching the show at the top of season two when they brought back her husband and he took over her club. And I guess this is a spoiler but I know I would have appreciated knowing that she and her girls would turn it around and send him packing again within a couple of episodes. The women in the show are all pretty amazing and do remarkable things. The biggest flaw is that the writers seem to subscribe to the “All Men Are Trash” school where even the good ones do some very bad things. I found all that pretty tiresome but the music and the cool dames kept me going. You’ll want to get out your bossa nova albums after this show.

Other shows I tried:

The Egyptian version of Gran Hotel (Hmmm. Nope. Didn’t do it for me.)

I tried to watch Cathedral by the Sea (Spanish) but if you start your show with repeated sexual assaults, I’m out.

I didn’t get more than 15 minutes into Bolivar (Colombian) or The Last Bastion (Peruvian).

The first episode of Paquita Salas (Spanish) had a quality. But I feel like I’ve seen that quality elsewhere and better in other shows.

There are a lot of cultural holes in my watching that I would like to fill in. I feel like I’m really missing a lot of good things from Asia and Africa. I tried Giri/Haji – which was just too macho for me and I’m interested in Kingdom but just can’t ever seem to face it. Anyone who can point me toward the Korean feminist period drama section of the video store will get a big thank you.

I realize, too, that I am constrained by the limitations of the streaming services. They only show me what THEY want to show me. I’m subject to Netflix’s tastes as much as my own. I may have to investigate alternative international streaming services. After all, Netflix has cancelled a lot of my favorite shows – and removed some great ones from the platform. (Gran Hotel, The Time in Between and I never got to see it but I heard The Ministry of Time was amazing.) I did just read that Netflix has started to open up to the African film and TV world so I’m looking forward to seeing what emerges there.

If you have international favs, please tell me about them, especially if they’re period dramas about women working. I may have exhausted Netflix’s Spanish TV resources and Amazon’s Pantaya service tends to not have English subtitles so I gotta branch out! Or get better at Spanish! At some point, I suppose I’ll want to watch more than a couple of shows in English again but for the moment, I’m just much more interested in the worlds far away from here.

Goals: To see TV from all these places.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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My Pandemic Guide to International TV – Part One

My guess is that international TV got its hooks into me these last two years because there’s something about getting so far away from the world I live in, they don’t even speak my language. Or maybe the extra “labor” of reading subtitles kept my attention when it was inclined to wander? Or maybe it’s like traveling in a period where I mostly just saw the kitchen table? Whatever the reason, the various streaming platforms have afforded me the opportunity of diving into international TV shows galore. Just in case you’ve been wanting to branch out, I thought I should write up some of my favorites and bring you into my international orbit.

I’m going to do this in a Two Part series as there’s, um, a lot here and I think it might be too much to sort through in one sitting. This first part features: Spain, Italy and Turkey

As you may know if you’re a regular reader of the blog, this journey began with Spanish TV shows. I’ve talked already about Cable Girls, The Time Between, Gran Hotel, 45 rpm and Velvet. I believe I’ve also made mention of High Seas (a show on which there is the world’s fastest vaccine development). Missing from this list are:

The Cook of Castamar – which was an absolutely lush period drama set in an estate in the 18th Century. It features an upstairs/downstairs love story, a few Dangerous Liason-y sort of love affairs and some royal batshittery. The ending is really abrupt, like they ran out of film and just had to hurry up and wrap it up. But other than that, this was one of my favorite shows of the year. The cinematography was like a Vermeer painting sometimes and the performances were extraordinary.

Morroco: Love in the Time of War which takes place at a military hospital in Morocco in the 1920s. It is full of strong lady nurses in crisp white uniforms having complicated affairs with handsome doctors. It also features some really impressive racism – and I don’t mean it’s good, of course, just kind of fascinating in its awfulness. I get the sense that Spain hasn’t quite grappled with these things yet. My favorite part of this show is something I’ve nearly written about multiple times but just never found the way.  It’s this love affair one of the Spanish nurses has with the Moroccan handy man. Everyone on the show is baffled by it. They just cannot understand what she’s doing with the uneducated Moroccan guy! And they never mention the fact that he’s just preternaturally handsome. Like, the man is an Adonis and not one single character is like: “Listen, I get it. He’s nice to look at. But – you should keep in mind he can’t read your letters.” The whole scenario made me laugh a lot. I mean – look at this guy:

“What do you SEE in him?” they cry, incredulously!

Oh, and Jaguar – a period drama about a spy ring who are trying to bring down Nazis who are harboring each other and helping one another escape in Franco’s Spain. It features the stars from Cable Girls, Velvet and 45 rpm so of course I had to watch it, even though there aren’t enough women in it. It’s a rough ride. But spies! Fighting Nazis! In the middle of a fascist regime!

One of the few shows I’ve watched that ISN’T a period drama is The Neighbor, which is a very boring title for a very eccentric and fun show. It’s a superhero story – but the man given the superpowers is kind of a shithead and he cannot figure out how to use his powers appropriately. The show goes to some extremely unexpected places. Never once have I been able to predict where it was going. It’s also very funny in a delightfully wacky way. I can’t figure out how to tell you the best parts of it without spoiling it, so, you know, watch a trailer.

Other contemporary Spanish shows I’ve watched:

Valeria which is a sort of contemporary Spanish Sex and the City. Watch it if you want to watch Spanish millennials pretend to have sex with each other in colorful apartments and to get a glimpse of some good looking Spanish Tortillas.

Money Heist which features actors from many other shows I’ve watched so though I tried to resist it (as it seemed like it was going to have too many guns and explosions for me) ultimately I succumbed and joined the rest of the world in being mildly obsessed with this show for a while. If there’s a Spanish show you’ve heard of, it’s probably this one. It has a dumb name in English, but its Spanish title translates to The House of Paper, which is much better. I only just finished watching it so I’m still digesting. I may have more to say about it later.

I believe I’ve already told you everything about the Italian shows I’ve watched: Zero, Luna Park, Luna Nera and Generazione 56k. I also watched An Astrological Guide to Broken Hearts which was a charming contemporary love/work story.  

One of my favorite shows of anywhere has been The Club, a show from Turkey that Netflix sold me on almost as soon as it came out. Sometimes they really nail it. (Most times they don’t. I find it hilarious how often they suggest shows I have already watched. Like, you know I watched that already. I watched it HERE!) Anyway – The Club mostly takes place in and around a nightclub in Istanbul, so it’s a show biz show and you know I’m a sucker for a show biz show. But it’s also about this period in the 50s where Nationalism and racism were on the rise. The Turkish Business Council seems to be gaining in power and targeting anyone who isn’t Muslim. Living in a country where Muslims are often the targets as I do, I found it very interesting to see these power dynamics reversed. One thing I learned from reading about it that wasn’t obvious in watching it, is that there are several languages spoken in the series. To my ear, it all just blended together, so I had no ideas folks were identifying themselves by their language sometimes. There’s one moment where a character speaks Greek to another who isn’t actually Greek and it condemns him. I’d love to be able to understand at least one of the languages spoken to catch some of these distinctions (or to have it noted in the titles which language was being spoken) but it’s just as thrilling with the subtitles as they were. And the musical numbers are both good theatre and good music. The story is complicated and I didn’t always trust where they were going but it made for some really interesting questions about redemption and loss.

The Club was so good, I instantly searched for other Turkish shows or movies but failed to find anything yet.

We’ll leave it here with my new taste for Turkish TV simmering.

Part Two will feature shows from France, Germany, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and beyond.

Look! Somewhere that’s not my apartment!

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Lessons from Italian Media

Back in 1993, I got my first passport and moved to Italy for my junior year abroad. One of the things I was most excited about was getting to see the culture and art of an entirely different country. The internet was in its infancy then, so going places was really the only way to see what other nations were making. I was hungry for Italian pop, Italian TV, Italian cinema, Italian theatre, whatever I could get my eyes and ears on. I understood, too, that watching and listening to these things would help me improve my language skills. I listened to the radio but the pop music was pretty lousy. I watched TV and the shows all seemed to be tacky variety shows full of show girls. I went to Italian theatre and mostly found translations of works in English. Only the cinema managed to deliver high quality contemporary art.

Meanwhile, I was studying the old stuff, too. I learned incisione (metal engraving), solfeggio and read incredible works from Italy’s past. In 1993, the great works were the old works, the Renaissance works, the great art of the past. I don’t regret a moment of it. I’m built for the classics.

However, I was baffled by how a people who were raised at the feet of such classical greatness could be inclined to make such trashy art. I found it very confusing.

Recently, I learned a lot more about Berlusconi, who was not yet in charge of the country when I moved there, but who WAS in charge of the media. I suspect there were a lot of tits on TV because Berlusconi was a fan of tits on TV. There was a lot of trashy pop on the radio because Berlusconi was pretty trashy and he had tremendous broadcast power. I mean, imagine if Trump were in charge of every single TV station and most of the radio. Now imagine what he’d put on those stations. That’s what Italian media was like in 1993 – 1994.

I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve been watching Italian TV shows lately and they are a world away from what I saw while I was there. They are artful. They are thoughtful and some of them feature really good Italian pop, which I’m delighted to discover has also radically improved in the last few decades.

I watched my first current Italian show by accident. Honestly, if I’d known it was Italian at the start, I’d have been a little wary. However, Netflix has worked out that I love a show about witches so it was selling me pretty hard on Luna Nera, which featured gorgeous production design in the trailer and was very thoroughly witchy. As I watched the opening scene, I realized that the sound was not matching their mouths and so I clicked around to see about turning off dubbing and – ecco – non ci credo – it’s in Italian. And it was great. It’s like a medieval Charmed with a power-hungry, witch-hunting bishop and a witch-hunting club. The design was glorious. The performances were excellent. The premise and the writing were very engaging. They left us on a cliffhanger and there is still no word on a Season 2. It may be cancelled? Or not? Anyway, I would like to see more Italian witches.

And then my friend wrote an article about another Italian show – one I’d put on my list and forgotten about – called Zero. You should, for sure, read her piece about it. It places the show in context and lays out why it’s so innovative. I’m generally a sucker for a show where someone has powers of some kind but the fact that this one is also about the real estate take-over of a poor immigrant community makes it all the more powerful. There were immigrants from Senegal living in Florence when I was there but most Italians and tourists behaved as though they weren’t there, as if they were invisible – except when it rained and you needed an umbrella, as they were often on the street selling them then. It’s telling that this show is about a young Senegalese immigrant who can turn invisible.

I feel like this show makes the best argument for why diversity in the arts matters. It’s not just that we get to see a story about a community we rarely get to hear stories about – but the immigrant influence feeds all strands of the artistic experience. The Italian music in the show seems to have an African influence and it makes for the best Italian pop I’ve ever heard. Also, it’s just really well done. Beautifully shot, engagingly written, surprising and exciting. This show, by the way, also ended in a cliffhanger and is also, as yet, not renewed.

And now that Netflix has my Italian TV number, they sold me immediately on Luna Park, which just came out. It’s a fun period drama that owes a lot to Italy’s Fellini past. I mean, you can’t watch a show about a carnival in Italy and not think of La Strada or even I Clown. I enjoyed so much of this show (aside from the contemporary music moments. Whyyyyyyyyy?!?!) and could feel my language skills seeping back into my brain as I watched my third Italian drama. And then, for the third time, the show ended on a cliffhanger, almost literally. The show only just came out, so it has not been renewed. But it’s good, you know? All three of these shows that Netflix has made happen, are good. They’re not in the least bit trashy. There were some boobs but they were in good taste, in that they weren’t on showgirls and they made sense in context.

So why am I telling you about all this Italian media? Do I just want you to watch these shows so Netflix will make more? Sure. Maybe. But really, I am not here to pat Netflix on the back. (This is definitely not the moment for that.) The cultural skill was clearly already there in the people who made these shows. Italian cinema is evidence of that. Italian artists know how to tell a story – it’s just that the media landscape was controlled by a buffoon and so they got buffoon art, for years. They needed the resources to make better art. Diversity matters, not just in the stories we tell but in the places we get to tell them. When you only have RAI 1, 2, 3 and so on and they’re all the same network, run by the same guy, it is very hard to get any interesting variety going.

I’m thrilled by the way Netflix is opening storytelling doors for Italian TV but I also worry, that as time goes by and Netflix begins to dominate the world’s watching experience, will it also lose the incredible global diversity that it’s currently tapping into? Will it become one of only a handful of places we can watch something? Will they control the narrative? Will they cancel all these shows that they left on a cliffhanger? And will they make any more or is it just these three and then they’re done investing in Italy?

Italian pop was terrible in the 90s in part because it was controlled by the same powers that controlled TV. It created a same-i-ness of sound and quality. Italians in the 90s mostly listened to pop in English. My Italian friends found my affection for Italian rapper, Jovanotti, kind of hilarious. I can still sing/rap along to large swaths of “Penso, Positivo” and “Serenata Rap.” So you know, I enjoyed some Italian pop but we couldn’t call it good, really. Now, here in the US, we have just three record companies and so much of American pop sounds the same. I fear we are headed toward an Italy in the 90s kind of world and I’m here to tell you that was not a good time for music or TV there.

But it is an exciting time for Italian TV and music now – diversity is coming in and making things cool and interesting. Though, there are way too many cliffhangers.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me make variety in the arts?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



The Time Machine of Music

Music can be a time machine. Play Duran Duran’s “Rio” and I am instantly transported to a carpeted spot in front of the Barbie doll mansion I’d created in my closet in the mid 80s. Put on Primus’ “Nature Boy” and I’m in a cargo van in 1997 with several Shakespeare dudes who are wildly flinging themselves around, while the Shakespeare dude driver nods his head in time. I did not like this song at the time but now I do, not just because I’m angrier these days, but because of how quickly it can return me to the past.

Music can evoke a time and place more directly and precisely than just about anything. (Smell can be a direct line to the past. It’s maybe more immediate but, it’s also often less specific about time.) Music is an incredibly powerful tool – which is why I’m entirely flabbergasted at a trend I’m noticing on television. Why would you use music from a different era than the one you’re trying to evoke?

The otherwise delightful Pursuit of Love mini-series used 80s and 90s tunes throughout, despite the fact that this show takes place in the 30s and 40s. I enjoyed hearing that Joan Armatrading song after so many years but I couldn’t tell you what happened in the show during it as I was pulled into the late 80s for its duration. (It’s from 1977 but it was much later that I discovered it.)

Then there’s the show that got me all fired up about this. 45 Revoluciones or 45 rpm. It’s a Spanish show (surprise!) about a pop music business in 1962. I enjoy a lot of things about it, like the way the woman music producer and her assistant deal with some overt sexism from her tech crew or the way it models a male boss fighting for his female “mano derecho.” But…the music is a disaster. The pop star’s hit song, the one we hear over and over again, is not a song from 1962, nor is it a contemporary song written to sound like it’s from 1962. It is, instead a song from 2012 that went to number one in 24 countries. It is a hit song from 7 years before this show was aired and 50 years after the show is meant to take place. Where exactly do they want to take us in that music time machine?

I hate this song choice so hard. I think they’re trying to say “This artist is so ahead of his time he sings songs from the future!” Or they’re trying to connect contemporary music listeners with this period drama? Or they’re trying to evoke some kind of blend of time periods? I don’t know. But the story of the show is a singer who nobody’s seen the likes of before playing fresh new music that blows everyone’s minds. Then to represent him, the creators choose some of the most middle of the road music from the last couple of decades. “Let her go” may have gone number one around the world (Number 3 in Spain) but it is a song so banal that I only recognized it from hearing it in the grocery store on occasion and found it entirely unremarkable. No disrespect to lovers of this song but it does not represent a stunning innovation in pop music.

Similarly, Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” which also makes an appearance on this fictional Spanish rock star’s album from 1962 is not a pop revolution in any way. Lady Gaga is glorious but she’s not out here busting up pop norms. She IS pop norms, albeit with wild costume and style innovations.

As I continued to watch 45 rpm, it got even more ridiculous with its music, careening wildly through time, moving from “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to “Shiny Happy People.” I shouted at the screen more than once.

I’ve learned that this show had the lowest viewer ratings EVER on that channel – and I don’t know if the music was what tanked it but I feel pretty confident it didn’t help.

Here’s the thing. All of that music featured in the show must have been VERY EXPENSIVE. With the money they spent to clear several worldwide hit songs, they could have hired multiple songwriters and composers who could have written them songs that evoked the period and ALSO felt a little modern. They could have had a soundtrack of new and exciting music that might have been a hit and might have drawn people to their show. Look at “That Thing You Do” which is a movie about a hit song from a similar period. The title song that Adam Schlesinger wrote for it became a hit and was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Hit movie. Hit song. Could have been you, 45 Revoluciones!

Or alternatively, they could have used actual music from 1962. They name checked Los Pekenikes – which is such a great band name, I had to look them up and listen to them and apparently, a band called Los Brincos was an inspiration for the story. They’re really fun to listen to! Is there some belief that the youth won’t respond to old music? I’d like to direct you to the soundtrack of Stand By Me (which I played relentlessly as a teen) which came out in the mid 80s and was filled with mostly old 50s tunes. Because of that film, the title song (from 1961) made another journey to the top ten in 1986. All that music placed that film firmly in its period and it was a giant hit. It’s happened before that contemporary youth get super into music of the past.

But maybe the youth of today are different from the youth of yesteryear and somehow can only tolerate banal contemporary pop? Somehow I don’t think so. I do think they’re being fed an unusually dull music diet, though. There is a flattening of sound, of genre, of time that has been happening over the last 20 years and it can’t be good for us. As Jaron Lanier has pointed out, there hasn’t been an innovation in pop music since Hip Hop and Grunge  – several decades ago. Can you distinguish the sound of something from the first decade of this century from this last decade? I sure can’t. It has a timelessness in its consistency and conformity. This is weird, folks. Can you imagine not being able to distinguish music from the 70s from music of the 60s? Or the 40s from the 50s? There’s a little crossover, sure, but you can make a kind of generalization about pop sound decade by decade until you get to this century. I suspect that one of the reasons this weird time bleed is happening on TV has to do with that strange sameiness of music: Who cares when music is from, when you have no way to tell any of it apart?

I start to wonder if this is connected to the conglomeration of the music business. There are currently really only three music companies. Warner, Sony and Universal own pretty much everything. Things like the Grammys are company celebrations of those three corporations. With a distinct lack of diversity in the business end, is it any wonder the music has had all its edges smoothed over? (The same thing is happening in publishing, btw. There are three major players who just eat up the little guys.) I suspect all this leads to an ahistorical music business which bleeds into an ahistorical film and TV business and now we have TV shows where the music time machine takes us to all the wrong places. You set it for 1962 and half of you ends up in 2012. That is a problematic time machine.

And it may extend beyond just the music in the shows. 45 Revoluciones, which, I’ll remind you, is set in 1962, made casual references to both The Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the dialogue. Now – I was not yet born in 1962 but even I know that neither of these bands was a worldwide sensation yet in 1962. You know how long it took me to confirm that fact? Less than a minute. I didn’t even have to go to the library. The Rolling Stones hadn’t even heard of the Rolling Stones until July of 1962 so there’s just no way a Spanish rocker would be excited to open for a band that did not yet even have a single recorded. (This sort of error, btw, is a great example of why it’s important to have age diversity on a team. I cannot believe NO ONE on this show flagged this highly irritating detail.)

I think being cavalier about music’s role in time is a huge mistake. It’s a mistake for broken time machine purposes in that you might take your audience to a different place than you were aiming and it’s also a huge mistake in making it harder for all the other elements in a scene to establish the era. The costumes can’t do all the work. Neither can the props or the production design.

If you want to pull the audience in two directions time-wise, okay, but if you choose only really popular songs, then your audience will inevitably have prior associations with that music. The odds that something bad has happened while listening to that song for any of the millions of people who have heard it many times before are very strong. Just…you know – triggering someone’s memories of their assault is one reason why you might not want to use super popular songs in your TV show. Hire a composer! The average song on Spotify has 8 listens. Maybe use one of those?

I don’t mean to pick on 45 rpm – everyone is doing this dumb music flattening – but there’s something particularly ironic about a show that has the word revolution in its title that shows us music neither historical nor revolutionary. The show takes place in a moment in Spain where pop music was creating some interesting cracks in the regime of the fascist dictator. The show gives us glimpses of what the collision of rock n roll and Franco’s Spain was like. It shows us the big dilemma of being obliged to sell out to a dictator and how people resisted, either directly or covertly. (Ironically, this show has literally sold out to an entirely different sort of regime by virtue of the flagrant Coca Cola product placement.)  The regime creates real problems in the lives of artists and record execs alike. Apparently, instrumental music, as well as music in French and English, escaped the censors in those early years or rock n roll just because the regime didn’t take any of it seriously. I’ve been listening to the actual music from that era in Spain and sure, it doesn’t sound revolutionary now, because we’ve had 50+ years with things that sound like it.

But since no one’s invented a new genre in decades, since we can’t experience a current music revolution, why can’t we take a trip in a musical time machine and discover, at least, what a revolution sounded like in the past? When The Rite of Spring was first performed, it was so new, so revolutionary, people rioted. We’ve lived in a world with that music in it for over a century, so it’s not a revolution for us, but if you make a show set in the early 20th century about modernism and you don’t use The Rite of Spring, you better play us something that sounds like a modern riot. Maybe you’ll even find us our modern Stravinsky. But why not take us on a trip in your music time machine? It’s a mellifluous way to travel.

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I reference a lot of music in this post so I made a playlist of it so if you’re curious to hear any of it, it’s here.

Concert à la vapeur by J. J. Granville
It’s not technically a time machine but wouldn’t it be cool if it was?

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

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“Trying to Help Women is Exhausting”
July 15, 2021, 12:24 am
Filed under: feminism, TV | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Look – I know I’m the kind of person that the guys who make Mythic Quest like to piss off. They’re out here making things, hoping they’ll do something to make me angry. I don’t know if they’ve ever said this out loud but it feels like their ethos is, “If I’m not making feminists mad, I’m not doing my job.” I know the type. I can tell when I’m being baited. So good job, dudes. You did it. Bait taken.

I started watching Mythic Quest after I read several heartfelt reviews of it and I realized that my complimentary subscription to Apple TV was about to expire. I figured I’d see what all the fuss was about, having been assured that one needn’t be a hard core gamer to enjoy it. Season One was a delight. The quarantine episode was touching. The stand alone episode about an entirely different game than the one the series about was innovative and like a short story in the middle of a wacky TV novel. They got me to like these people in Season 1 and then they started throwing punches.

There were some little digs at first and then the big punch was when the lead woman was asked to give a speech at a Women in Gaming conference. She did not want to do it but the men she worked for insisted and so she shows up in fancy hair and make-up (dictated by her male boss) and gives a mess of a speech about how she’s such a mess and not a good boss and always fucks up and the audience gives her a standing ovation. Then the joke of the episode is revealed – this speech that appears to have been her impromptu experience of falling apart on stage (“Oh, I can’t see the teleprompter. Ooops I farted.” Etc) was entirely scripted by her boss. He’s written her whole experience. Her success is really his. It’s pitched as her success because she manipulated him into writing it – but really – it’s clear, the writer is so good, he knew her so well and knows what women want so much, he would be an even better woman than a woman is. When I watched this episode, Season One had given me such good will, I decided that these guys made this choice because of the joke. It makes for a big pay-off comedy-wise to reveal that the boss is the author of the speech. It is funny. So, while what it implies is that women are not even capable of speaking for themselves on the subject of women, you can sort of forget the message, because of the joke. I mean, I couldn’t. I was pissed. But I think the average person could.

But then there was the episode where another woman – the “shrill” feminist character – drives the boss somewhere. She’s going on and on about her relationship with her partner and the boss explains to her that she’s missing her chance to get him to help her with her career. He tells her this is her moment to give her elevator pitch. He asks her what she wants.

She cannot answer. She doesn’t know what she wants. She doesn’t even know what an elevator pitch is! The boss is frustrated! He says something like, “Trying to help women is so exhausting!” This scene infuriated me. It’s still infuriating me. Because it seems to simply that all us ladies out here complaining, nay, whining, about wanting a seat at the table wouldn’t know what to do with it if we were given one! We don’t even know what an elevator pitch is! How is a white guy boss supposed to help these people who don’t even know what they WANT?!

I realize I’m meant to be the butt of the joke here – as one of those women advocating for social change but I don’t think that’s why I don’t find it funny. I can love a good joke at my own expense. I enjoy the women’s studies major in the Legally Blonde movie petitioning for an ovester, for example. But this joke on Mythic Quest just feels mean spirited – especially on TV (a place where 80% of shows have more male characters than female ones) representing an industry (gaming) that not only has trouble with their small numbers of women (women who, once they are there, are confronted with an incredibly toxic culture) but also an industry that has been the center of some of the most heinous harassment there is. (I’m talking about GamerGate and the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian here.)

Some say that GamerGate was the beginning of the irredeemably toxic direction of social media that may have led to the intense polarization of our populace and political mess we’ve had to deal with ever since. When Anita Sarkeesian started working on a video about Women in Videogames, she became the target of an unholy amount of horrific death threats and much much worse.

So – in THAT environment, to minimize one of the few women characters like this is just cruel. This character HAS a job in videogames, has already endured sexism, only some of which we’ve seen – and now when she’s given an opportunity, she balks because girls don’t even know what they want?

I’m not saying this couldn’t happen. I’m sure it does. Probably many a woman has choked when confronted with an opportunity a man feels he’s so generously doling out. But in this moment, when women’s work across ALL fields has been struck such a blow that it may take decades to recover, does THIS seem like a good time to laugh about a woman not knowing how to seize an opportunity or not knowing what she wants? When many women have lost the jobs they worked so hard to secure or had to give up their life’s work because there was no other option for childcare, does THIS seem like a good time to laugh at a woman who advocates for other women? Read the room, guys.

If women not knowing what they want was really a thing that happens, I have a suspicion about why. If this character in this episode was ambitious, she’d be less likely to be hired. Ambition is not (sociologically speaking) a desirable trait in women. Men who are like the boss in this show don’t tend to hire ambitious women. They hire women who will help them forward their own genius. The only reason this boss is hanging around with this “shrill” woman is because he wants someone to fight with, for his creative juices.

A woman who is overtly ambitious for herself would never make it past the front door.

But sure. Yes. Trying to help women is so exhausting.

And yet I DID notice that this episode was written by a woman (apparently the creator’s/lead’s sister) and that she also wrote the best episode last season – so..I don’t know what’s going on there, except that even smart talented ladies can throw out some anti-feminist garbage on occasion.

I ALSO noticed that this second season is missing comic genius Aparna Nancherla, both in the writer’s room and the cast, and I have to wonder if this downward slide into misogyny is partly due to her absence. I’m not trying to start a conspiracy theory here but this show does not get a mention on her Wikipedia page and I have to wonder if maybe fighting for women in such a world might have gotten a little bit too much to bear at a certain point. I know I wouldn’t want to do it.

The show does better at inclusivity than might be expected. There are five women in significant roles and four of them are BIPOC. So, that’s something. It’s just…such a drag to watch them pushed into such bummers of stories.

When I started writing this, the season wasn’t over yet and I had a small hope that this show would find a way to redeem itself but I gotta say, it didn’t quite. Sure, some of the women got some big wins but almost every one of them was more or less gifted to them, by a man. And while that’s not a terrible idea for men in power to start to take on (you know, being more generous to women in doling out opportunities is a good idea) it’s just kind of a drag for ambitious women to watch. (“Ok, so if I just find a nice powerful man to give me something, THAT will help me achieve my goals.”) If I were a woman in gaming, I might just try to use my own ambition to start something rather than try to get anything done with these bozos.

And if this show results in a glut of women-created games in response, then it will have been a good thing but I don’t know, man, I don’t know. Then are plenty of things in the world that make me mad, I’m not sure I need a silly show about a video game to be one of them.

This woman character just doesn’t know what she wants, ok? She’s just not clear! She just doesn’t know!

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Actors Are Not So Replaceable

We were watching the 4th Season of The Expanse – a show that takes place in the future where a lot of stuff happens in space. (We call it Space Stress – as in “You up for watching some Space Stress?”) The woman in charge of Earth was on a space shuttle talking with a man who seemed to be an advisor of some sort – maybe a vice president or secretary of education? “Who’s that guy?” we asked, since we’d never seen him before. Then the woman in charge of Earth (Chrisjen Avasarala is the character’s name.) introduced him to someone as her husband and we were, like, “What happened to her previous husband? Did he die? Have we taken a dramatic jump forward in time? Has so much time passed that her sweet husband died and she had time to remarry a younger busybody one?”

We were very confused since the show made absolutely no mention of what the deal was. It took looking up both the actors on IMDB and eventually finding an article about it to understand that they meant this guy to be same character as the one before. He had the same name, the same back story. It was supposed to be the same guy.

They were pulling a thing that they do on soap operas where they just change actors, without any reference to it. So, one day (in the 80s, just for example) you can be watching the soap opera, Santa Barbara, for example, because you really like Robin Wright’s performance and then, for example, suddenly her character has someone else’s face! (Yes, this happened. Yes, I’m glad she went on to do cooler things but my middle school self is still mad about the sudden switch!)

In the case of The Expanse, this switcheroo happened because they’d been canceled on one network and before they got picked up by Amazon, the actor playing the husband had another gig and was therefore unavailable. A challenge, for sure.

But there are a myriad of other solutions to this problem! Why did they think it was better to try and fool us? The second guy appears to be at least twenty years younger than the first one. (He is! He’s a full 18 years younger! I looked him up! He’s Gen X and the previous guy was a Boomer! There’s a whole generation in between them! The wife was born the same year as the first guy!) The new guy has an entirely different physique. They dressed him differently. AND, most frustratingly, they wrote him a completely different personality.

The first husband wasn’t around much on the show. He was a quiet presence who took care of their grandchildren and mostly offered love and support. He was the character the Earth ruler would send away to keep safe. The new husband was ALWAYS around, always chiming in or criticizing and the grandchildren they’d both been so concerned about were nowhere to be seen. He’d be an interesting character on the show if he weren’t supposed to be the previous guy. As a trusted advisor to Avasarala, he makes total sense – as her husband, he’s baffling. And I spent much of the show distracted by it. When the husband complained that Avasarala had changed, I was like, “Her?! Come on man. It’s you who’s changed! You are a totally different person! In every way!”

I just don’t understand why this show, which is good in so many ways, went so far off the rails with this choice.

They took us to a whole new planet in a whole new galaxy but they couldn’t maintain one logical human relationship? Why? Why? They could have done this EXACT story line if this guy was her gay best friend in an advisory role, for example. He could be her minister of New Worlds who we get to meet for the first time. They could have killed off the first husband, if they wanted to – and he could have been her second. They could have told us her husband was taking care of their grandkids on some other planet for a while and let this whole dumb story line go.

But instead they wrote an entirely new character in the place where a beloved old one was. Honestly, the husband had almost nothing to do in previous seasons but he’s such an extraordinary presence, we worried over him anyway. The new guy is a very good actor – but he’s betrayed by the position they’ve put him in by having him do something so out of line from what we knew the first guy to do.

This show doesn’t do a great job of writing dialogue for personal relationships. Whenever the characters try to have a meaningful talk that isn’t about space or interplanetary politics, it tends to get hilariously cliched and clumsy. Seeing how they seem to think one human can be exchanged with another without any hiccups helps me understand why those personal chats aren’t as good as the rest of the show. They just aren’t that interested in that human stuff. I mean, it’s fine. We watch this show for its space stuff, its alien stuff, its future gazing, interplanetary exploration stuff – not the human stuff so much. However, it just would be nice if they realized that different actors are different people and allowed for the audience to experience people as consistent humans. They can do better.

Unless – maybe aliens are writing this show and they don’t know the difference! Maybe to them those two guys are exactly the same. In the eyes of an alien, we are all alike and infinitely replaceable.

I made a poster of an alternate show title. Hey, if they can replace an actor, I can replace the title, right?

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Paulina Forgot to Cancel the Mariachi

When I started watching the Mexican TV show, House of Flowers, I was immediately struck by this one character’s way of speaking. She spoke so slowly and strangely, I thought maybe the actor was a non-native speaker – which would have been odd for a show about a family. I was so curious about this actor’s voice, I looked her up and discovered that, no, in fact, she is Mexican – though she trained in the US and worked at Steppenwolf, no less.

I had no explanation for this voice but I was still intrigued. Then a few episodes in, I had another question about this show, so I looked it up on Wikipedia and suddenly discovered that this character’s voice was a phenomenon. It had captivated people around the world and even become a social media viral sensation.

I learned that Cecilia Suárez, the actor, brought a version of the voice to the show and the writer/director encouraged her to take it further. It is, apparently, modeled on the speech of some upper crust Mexicans they knew. So it traveled from a highly specific population to social media challenges around the world. (My favorite crossover is the actors from the Cable Girls in Spain doing this voice from Mexico.) Netflix based their advertising campaign for Season 2 of this show on the popularity of the character Paulina’s voice. It’s huge, apparently.

The thing that delights me about this story is that the center of it is an actor’s choice. An actor looked at this character on the page and felt like she had a take on it. She tried a bold choice and her writer/director didn’t just approve it, he asked her to take it further.

Another thing I love about this is that she’s about my age. So this celebration of an acting phenom is not of some fresh faced newcomer but an experienced veteran of the craft. She’s a Gen X phenom, not a kid. It is such a good example of why we train. A novice would never even consider such a thing.

And it’s not just a silly voice. It’s a style grounded in the given circumstances of the piece, in the guts of the character- in such a way that it reveals things about her we wouldn’t otherwise know.

I also love that this celebration of an acting choice is happening in a comedy. Usually, it is only drama that draws admiration from the outside world but this comedy performance is shaking up those norms.

I know there are likely many things I’m missing about it. I’m sure if my Spanish were better, I’d catch details upon details but as it stands, I can catch a lot – just from sound and tempo. To even be able to notice a vocal choice in a language I don’t really speak feels extraordinary.

It just feels like the perfect model for collaboration in the dramatic arts. When we teach acting, we are always talking about choices. When we praise an actor, we praise their choices. When we’re looking for someone with some spirit, we choose someone who makes bold choices. But it is very difficult to find an instance where we see this in practice so vividly. Part of the reason awards tend to go to actors who have crying scenes is that it is the most visible demonstration of someone acting. But there are choices happening all the time that are just not obvious.

Cecilia Suárez’s voice choice is clearly a choice and a choice that was developed and nurtured in a collaborative process. Both actor and director took a risk in going with it. It’s odd! A more skittish director would never have approved it and a less bold actor would never have proposed it. It’s a risk for both of them. But they went forward with it and it seems that everyone loved it. There are memes of this actor now. There are videos and tweets and TikToks and Instagrams. This voice is a hit. And I find myself delighted – not just by the voice itself (though it is a delight) but by the worldwide celebration of an acting choice. It’s something this actor is doing, on purpose. It is something she created. It’s not a famous person she’s imitating or a disability she’s pretending to have. It’s a bonafide acting choice. It has become one of those things that would help me explain what an actor does. So many times, acting seems like it’s just a person being themselves in front of a camera saying other things than what they usually say – but Cecilia Suárez is acting. She made a big choice and now we get to enjoy her acting her face off with that extraordinary voice.

This line has become so famous you can buy fan-designed t-shirts of it.

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Should I Quit Acting Because of X?
May 23, 2021, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Acting, advice, art, business, movies, musicals, Quitting, theatre | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Since joining the acting subreddit, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts with a similar theme. They boil down to, “Will X prevent me from having an acting career?” or maybe more accurately, “I’m X or have X or did X. Should I quit acting?” In this equation, let X be a quality or physical attribute or life history.

I have such complicated feelings about these posts, mostly from young actors looking ahead at a possible professional life in acting. Because on one hand, yes. You should absolutely quit acting and do something else if that’s an option for you. Absolutely you should, if you’re looking for conventional success, run in the opposite direction of an actor’s life. No question.

But on the other hand, the reason to quit is not whatever you’re imagining. You shouldn’t quit because of your science degree or your scars or your background. It won’t be THOSE things that are obstacles to having an acting career. The obstacles to an acting career are everything. Everything is the problem. The problem is not whatever flaw you perceive yourself as having (or whatever some asshole teacher might have said to you). The problem is that it is a very hard business that almost everyone struggles in, in one way or another. The obstacles to an acting career are being born to non-celebrities or not having access to a generous trust fund. The obstacles are a lopsided system that values money and connections more than talent. The obstacles are a commercially driven capitalistic theatre scene that is not accountable to the public in any way but the question of whether or not they will buy tickets.

One thing I did not understand as a young actor is what an ongoing hustle working in the theatre would be. I imagined that I would get one acting gig and it would lead to another and that would lead to the next and so on until I ended up on Broadway. And once I was on Broadway, that would be it! I would have made it and I would be on Broadway until I died.

I think the moment I fully understood this wasn’t so was when my friend (and acting colleague) closed her show on Broadway, the one featuring several movie stars, and the next day went back to her catering gig. It’s possible there were a few actors in that show who went straight to another acting gig. There may have even been one or two that were slated for another show on Broadway. But for most of them, they closed the show and then went home to hustle up the next job. Possibly even the movie stars had to do this. (Though they surely had a lot more help from their agents and their next job wasn’t food service.)

Any acting career is a cycle of working and not working and an acting career is full of dumb reasons for not getting a gig. Mostly, you will never know. Sure – you could lose a gig because of your hair. But you could also GET a gig because of your hair. You cannot know. And while casting directors or agents may tell you some opinion about your appearance or your background, it’s not actually the casting director or agent who gives you the job. They are gatekeepers. And they are not always right about what the people inside the gates actually want. They might tell you a person with glasses like yours will never be cast but then you meet the director and the glasses spark their imagination and you get a call back because you were that interesting one with the glasses. So much of casting talk is about making people more average, more like the conventional but in my experience of running auditions, I have much more often cast people because they were fully themselves or quirky in a way that captivated my attention. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Sure, there are those who have no imagination and just cast the person like the last person who played Juliet so they’ll fit in the costume from ten years ago. That’s a thing, sure. But the artists out there, the visionary directors and writers, are looking for something more. After a full day of looking at people who all look the same, you, with your X walk in and maybe you change the view.


On the subreddit, it feels important to be optimistic and supportive of these young people’s dreams and just answer the question they asked. Should they quit because of their appearance? No. Absolutely not. They should quit because it’s a heartbreaking business but not because of whatever their imagined obstacle is. Is it possible that their obstacle, their X, will make it even harder? Very possible. But, I know some people with all the advantages. They are Adonis-looking white dudes who have talent to burn and no obvious obstacle, who gave the business their all for decades and are hustling now just like they were at the start. There is no guarantee. Not even for the children of movie stars, who generally have the most legs up of anyone.

Should you quit if you’re not the child of a movie star? If you’re looking for security, then, yes, you should quit.

But will you? That’s the question. If you’re tenacious and determined, no cold water of reality will stop you – and that is what you really need in this business. Not the “right” hairstyle or the “right” body or the “right” background but just some talent and ability to keep showing up and giving it a go. But still – I will only say these things here. In conversation with these young aspirants, I will only give them all the examples of people who had “X” and did it anyway. This is partly because I feel that whatever X represents, it is always something we need more of in theatre. We need more people with X, whatever it is, because they don’t see that represented onstage or onscreen and think they would not be chosen because of that. That’s a sign that we’re failing in representing the diversity of humanity well. So, if that person – with X – can ride the roller coaster of life in the arts, then they should not quit. They should get in here and make things better. Are there possibly fewer opportunities for them? Yeah. Possibly. But there are few opportunities period. Get on in and ride the roller coaster and don’t let X stop you.

Each generation re-makes the business. Your colleagues now can, and will probably, be your colleagues later. If you all have X and you want to get together and make an X movie or an X play, that’s good work! No one with X will worry about X in the future because you kicked open the X door for yourself and made room for those with X behind you. That’s what I want you to do, instead of quitting.

Someone told these actors they should quit because of those Xs. That someone is very silly.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

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Men Crying

Disculpe, pero – I cannot stop watching Spanish television shows during this pandemic. This is the third time, I know, but I’m on my fourth Bambú show and watching it (and the others) has made me think about something I had never really considered before.

It was during the finale of Season 2 of Velvet (a show about a high fashion couture store in Madrid in the 50s) that I thought, “watching that character cry is one of my favorite things onscreen. I could watch that guy cry for five more hours.” And that reminded me of how much I enjoyed the crying of another man in another show by the same production company, Gran Hotel. These creators show men crying in a way I have never seen in American media.

I’ll start with my favorite crying man and the one who inspired me to think about this. On Velvet, Pedro is often the comic relief of the show. He’s a man who cannot stop talking, especially about the woman he loves, to absolutely everyone – strangers on the train, his boss, anyone who will listen. It’s very funny and a little ridiculous, but heartfelt. And this character also cries fairly often – almost always from joy. We don’t really see him crying from sadness or despair.  He cries, tears streaming down his face, from love and affection. He cries with love for his son, for his friends and for the woman for whom he pines. I find it quite beautiful and I do not think I’ve ever seen such a thing on American TV. I’ve seen it in real life, I’m grateful to say. But on screen? Never before.

Anyway – the tears that really made me think about this were not Pedro’s love-sick tears. They were his tears of empathy. Pedro (played by Adrián Lastra, by the way. I shouldn’t ignore the extraordinary skill of this actor in this.) expressed his sympathy to an older man who had lost the woman he loved and Pedro’s eyes filled with tears and so did mine and damned if we didn’t all cry together. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. Two men crying together is apparently my jam. Attn. American media producers: I think you can start to make a dent in your toxic masculinity machine by putting more crying men on your screens!

Which brings me to the other crying man – the one from Gran Hotel. Unlike Pedro on Velvet who is pure clumsy goodness, Diego on Gran Hotel is the bad guy. We know he’s bad from the minute we meet him. He’s manipulative and dangerous and from the start we are worried about the female lead who is being compelled to marry him. He is trouble with a capital T. And, as the show goes on, he turns out to be a crier. He cries about genuinely difficult stuff. He cries over his troubled personal history and over his feelings for Alicia, the female lead. In fact, I think it is only when he is with Alicia that we see him cry. He sometimes seems to be genuinely distressed and sometimes seems to be using his emotions to manipulate her. I found it really extraordinary to watch a villain authentically cry. I feel like I’ve seen villains perform tears before – usually in a mocking way like, “Boo hoo hoo, Batman. I’ll get you later.” But I have never seen a bad guy use his own real tears as a weapon in his arsenal. I found it extraordinarily compelling. Because Diego’s tears are successful at shifting the tone of the room he’s in, in the fiction – but also in my response as an audience member. He evokes my sympathy, too, even though I’ve seen all the bad things he’s done. He shifts the needle, if only for a moment and makes us sympathize with him. I’ve heard about women weaponizing tears (and seen it demonstrated in Amy Cooper) but I’m not sure (again except with Amy Cooper) I ever really saw how that worked. But with Diego, I understand how he’s weaponized his tears, just like he’s weaponizing everything else. I’ve never felt such a contradictory set of responses to a (really terrible) villain getting their just deserts before. I was mostly cheering but also feeling sorry for him. It is masterful both from a writing side – and from a performance perspective. (Again, the actor should get so much applause. Thank you, Pedro Alonso.)

Thinking about this range of men crying within a small sample size of Spanish TV produced by Bambú Productions, I realized how limited my experience of this in American performance has been. We fetishize tears here, of course. Actors who cry (and snot!) win awards – so it’s not that we never see men cry. But the context is so much wider for crying than what ends up on American screens. I feel like there’s a door to open here. There’s a way to both expand our emotional vocabulary onscreen and, because things that happen on our screens impact our lives, it might spread out into our world, too.

I feel like a world where more men might be allowed to be like Pedro and cry for joy and for love and for empathy would be a better world, one in which I might be able to stop watching Spanish TV exclusively.

Pedro (Adrián Lastra) hugging Don Emilio (José Sacristán) on Velvet * I could watch these guys crying for days.

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