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Scandal

Presidents Better than Trump

The man has been voted out of office and we are breathing a sigh of relief. In fact, we’re ready to have the last laugh That’s why we’re imagining the fictional (actual or would-be) Presidents who would have done a better job the last four years. This is definitely not a list of best TV and movie presidents (there are many of those). No one played by Harrison Ford, Geena Davis, or Dennis Haysbert appears on it. There’s no President Bartlett or his equally improbable and impressive peers. We’re not talking the greats here. No, this is a list of presidential villains, traitors, and idiots. A list of fictional ne’er-do-wells who would all make better Presidents than the 45th person who actually held the office. Shall we?

House of Cards (2013–2018)

There are three Presidents on House of Cards per my count and they’re all better than one Donald Trump! There’s Garrett Walker, who’s kind-hearted but easily influenced. There’s Frank Underwood, who’s an evil murderer and master manipulator (or what you might call a skilled politician). And there’s my favorite, Claire Underwood, who is cold, calculating, and ruthless but actually interested in governing. See how they all have an upside?

Wag the Dog (1997)

To distract from a sex scandal, the President in this film fakes a war, distracting the American people and hoping to look like a hero. He’s clearly ok with lying but at least appears to know the difference between fact and fiction. Plus, the idea that a sex scandal is embarrassing (rather than something to be proud of) and the military is myth-making magic (rather than comprised of “losers”) undergirds Wag the Dog and reminds us of simpler times.

Veep (2012–2019)

We’re going to focus on the titular Selina Meyer here since she does become President and we never see President Hughes anyway. Like someone else we know, she’s an incompetent narcissist who lacks basic human abilities but at least is genuinely funny. Plus, while she may be racist, her brand of prejudice is more the microaggression kind and less the refuses-to-condemn-white-supremacy, separates-you-from-your-kids kind.

Dave (1993)

In Dave, a random guy who does Presidential impersonations ends up taking the office after the actual President falls into a coma during a love affair gone wrong. Titular everyman Dave turns out to be a good person, more driven by doing what’s right than seeking power, fame, or fortune. I’d take a Trump impersonator who cares about things like the homeless and full employment instead of what we had any day.

SCANDAL – “Transfer of Power” – In the final days of his presidency, Fitz uses his power to make some unexpected changes, on “Scandal,” airing THURSDAY, MAY 18 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Richard Cartwright) TONY GOLDWYN, BELLAMY YOUNG

Scandal (2012–2018)

Scandal’s Fitzgerald “Fitz” Thomas Grant III is not a great guy. He cheats on his wife, abuses his mistress, and you know, undermines democracy. Sure, he doesn’t know his team steals the election for him but he does know about the secret, extra-governmental force B613 and is cool with it. Yet, I’d rather have him (or his (ex)wife Millie) as President than Donald — at least you’d know that hyper-competent if morally-questionable Olivia Pope would really be at the helm.

The Manchurian Candidate (2004 and 1962)

Yes, the would-be-President in question here is brainwashed and mind-controlled, but he fights the powers that would see such a comprised figure in office, resisting his programming to the point of turning his gun on himself. Manchurian Candidate Raymond Shaw is a tragic figure, but ultimately a hero unlike, say, someone who willingly collaborates with a foreign power for personal gain…

Homeland (2011–2020)

Our (white) girl Carrie Mathison makes it through several US Presidents and while none of them make the best choices, we’d still take any of them over the Donald. There’s Elizabeth Keane, a stand-in for the actual 2016 favorite Hilary Clinton. Keane survives an assassination attempt only to turn on the entire intelligence community and endanger American ideals (like innocent until proven guilty). She’s a complicated figure but she does the right thing in the end, resigning so as to heal the country. A Biden-like centrist takes over but is quickly dispatched (helicopter goes bye-bye) and replaced with the most Trump-like character on this list, President Benjamin Hayes. He’s an idiot who’s quick to be influenced by other idiots and sees what he wants to see. But! He eventually learns, believes, and responds appropriately to the truth. Sounds pretty good, huh?

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Scandal, Killing Eve, and Roswell

We have no idea what’s going to happen. We don’t know who’s going to win the election, when we’ll know the results, or how Trump and his cronies will respond to any of it. We do know that sitting in front of the TV, watching mostly white male pundits flap their jaws in the face of all this uncertainly sounds like torture. They don’t know what’s going to happen either and they’ll mostly just repeat themselves as facts trickle in.

It’s only the future of the free world at stake! There’s got to be a better way. So while we’ll definitely be following favorites like Soledad O’Brien and Maria Hinojosa on Twitter, we need something to watch so as not to go insane. And we bet you do too.

Flowers
No

The Political

If you just can’t think of anything besides politics, we don’t blame you. It’s pretty all-consuming right now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn off CNN and escape the 2020 election cycle for a hot minute, assuming you already did your thing in terms of participation (and I bet you did because voter turn out is HIGH and I got A LOT of texts about the candidates/propositions/etc.).

So if you want to feel optimistic about the power of democracy, check out No. Starring our forever crush Gael Garcia Bernal, this delightful film follows how Chile overturned brutal dictator Pinochet through optimism and voting. Sounds good right?

If you’re more reveling in cynicism, go back to 1999’s Election, starring Reese Witherspoon. This high school satire has a scathing view of ambition, politics, and general human nature so it just might be what you want to watch right now.

Or if you’re more in the middle, feeling neither hopeful nor an impending sense of doom, go ahead and re-watch Scandal. At least in this fictional universe, everyone in office is beautiful and election rigging is purely a domestic affair.

Jane the Virgin

The Warm and Fuzzy

But maybe you want to get as far away from politics as humanly possible. Maybe you just want to watch something under a warm blanket that makes you feel cozy and optimistic. In that case, binge our favorite family comedies and restore your sense of basic human decency.

Jane the Virginwill always hold a special place in our hearts and now that we know how the whole love triangle thing ends, we can watch without worrying. So perhaps start your re-watch election night and just keep going until we know who the next President is?

Or take this moment to enjoy One Day At A Time. It’s one of the rare shows about a Latinx family being made right now and its star power is undeniable (as they said on the premiere of This is Us, “you don’t cancel Rita Moreno”).

If you’re too worried about your actual family to watch a Latinx show, let us suggest Schitt’s Creek. Make it through the first few episodes where every Rose family member is undeniably horrible and you’ll find a show that critiques whiteness and privilege as it celebrates humanity’s flaws, foibles, and capacity to change. Comforting, right?

Killing Eve

The Ultimate Distractions

But perhaps you’re not in the mood to be comforted. Maybe you just need something that will distract you long enough to know what the next fight will be. If that’s your situation, watch Killing Eve. You’ll be dying to know what happens next, what Villanelle wears next, and how Sandra Oh manages to be so incredible at everything she does.

If lady spies aren’t your thing (or you’re watching with a man-friend), slip into early aughts nostalgia with the newest Roswell. I believe it technically takes place today but the songs and costumes harken to an earlier era. Plus star Jeanine Mason is the heroine we need right now.

Lastly, let us recommend Away. Go ahead and skip the first episode of this Hilary Swank vehicle if you want to get distracted and you’ll quickly be sucked into the real-life dangers astronauts face. This series gets so much drama out of a spacewalk, a case of mono, even just watering a plant, it’s amazing. Plus, you know, human goodness triumphs in the end.

Flowers

So happy viewing — we’ll make it through this all together and as AOC says, no matter who wins, “We have to be better. We’re not good enough right now.”

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I Want to Live in Shondaland

I Want to Live in Shondaland

by Cristina Escobar

I want to live in Shondaland. Ideally, the universe of Grey’s Anatomy (and Station 19 and Private Practice). And not just because the God of Shondaland is a benevolent black woman. Or because Grey’s did a Dia de Los Muertos episode last week (and a voting episode the week before that).

No, I want to live Shondaland because I love its vision of humankind. You see in Grey’s Anatomy (and to a lesser degree Scandal and How To Get Away with Murder), we see people at the top of their profession, doing life-changing work. And what do those people look like? Yes, of course, they’re TV-level beautiful. But more than that, the doctors, lawyers, firefighters, and heroes of Shondaland are black and white and brown. Skinny and thick. Women and men, cis and trans. Christian and atheist and Jewish and Muslim. Some are addicts. Some are differently abled. Some are rich and some grew up as foster kids. There are no boards solely composed of old white men deciding the fate of the world. Instead, you have the beauty of all of humankind represented.

In Shondaland, POC characters like Olivia Pope may “have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have” but they rise to the challenge. The Doctors of Grey-Sloan Memorial exist in a true meritocracy, where previous generations (thanks Dr. Richard Webber, thanks Meredith’s mom) fought the good fight and pathed the way for this hard-earned present.

That isn’t to say that Shondaland’s fictional today is post racial. It’s not – there’s still discrimination of all kinds. In Grey’s Anatomy, we see it in the ways patients try to navigate a dysfunctional insurance system that leaves them picking between bankruptcy and life-saving medical treatment. We see it in Dr. Jo Wilson’s powerlessness in the face of domestic violence. We see it when patients and colleagues underestimate Dr. Miranda Bailey (remember when she messed up that white supremacist’s tattoo? Or had a visiting doctor running around the hospital trying to find the “Nazi”?).

I was particularly impressed when the show delved into the reason a (good) white doctor Amelia Shepherd believes a white intern (Dr. Jo Wilson) over a black intern she works with more closely (Dr. Stephanie Edwards). It may be implicit bias but Amelia doesn’t get off the hook easily as another black doctor (Dr. Maggie Pierce) holds her accountable and asks her not to make Edwards pay for mistake twice by forcing the issue of forgiveness. That’s what happens when you have several black characters, not just one. Those are the types of issues you can delve into when you’ve been passing the Bechdel test for 15 seasons. This nuance is so rare on TV where race and discrimination issues are usually either A. ignored or B. treated like a completely black-or-white issue with racist villains against justice-seeking (often white) freedom fighters (pun intended). We’ve got to get deeper in the stories we tell about what it means to be a person of color and Grey’s+ does that, week in and week out.

Now, I’m not saying Shondaland is perfect. It certainly mirrors some of the problems of today. It erases nursing for one, having the doctors do the work that nurses and other medical professionals do in real life. And since nursing is so tied to womanhood and femininity, this privileging of “doctor” over “nurse” reinforces our broader privileging of the “masculine” over the “feminine.”

Shondaland in general and Grey’s in particular romanticizes relationships between unequals, relying too much on young woman falls in love with male superior (see also Scandal). If there’s anything we learned from #MeToo and Bill Clinton, it’s that it’s actually pretty unsexy to sleep with a subordinate. And, of course, to live in Shondaland is to live in a world full of terrible tragedies and deadly violence whether it’s plane crashes, shootings, or bomb explosions. Lots of bad stuff happens and it happens at an alarming frequency. I’d have to worry about what crazy, once-in-a-lifetime type tragedy would happen to me every year.

And yet despite the increased risk of death, near death, and general drama, I’d live there if I could. It’s the leadership porn I so desperately need in the Trump era. You see, Shonda Rhimes writes about teams of diverse people who achieve great things. Teams with leaders like Dr. Miranda Bailey and Dr. Richard Webber. These are the people you want to be running your hospital, to be your teacher or boss, or dare I say leading the country. They tell you the hard truths, keep the bigger vision in mind, and act with integrity. They make you laugh and they falter, humans with their own quirks, regrets, and weaknesses. Yet, fundamentally, they are good people who are rewarded for their hard work and strong character. Doesn’t that sound like the universe you want to live in too?

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