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The kernel idea for this blog came while watching last week’s episode of Smash, which purports to weave together the lives of five strong woman, but falls short. Karen Cartwright begins the series as a mousy singer who is nearly willing to sacrifice her career for her fiancee’s, until he cheats on her with a Ivy. She follows director Derek around like a puppy on a leash (no offense, Katharine McPhee—you remain my favourite actor on the show in spite of this) and she is contemplating yet another relationship with her song-writer protoge, Jeremy, a drug user bent on self-destruction. Ivy Lynn nearly commits suicide over her affair with her director, Derek Wills. Julia Houston, the writer of Marilyn, loses her husband because she has an affair with a man she can’t resist and winds up losing them both. She will almost certainly fall for the “dramaturge” with whom she has been working the past few weeks. Veronica Moore is a teen Broadway sweetheart wanting to shed her little girl image and have the world recognize her as the woman she’s become, but is afraid to talk back to her mother who clings to Veronica’s little girl persona. Eileen Rand is the producer of Marilyn who battles with her ex-husband, Jerry, falls in love with a mobster who appears to have been hired by her ex to sleep with her and fund her project with illegal gains so she will have no choice but to hand the project over to Jerry (which happened last week). I’ll admit, I’m no Anjelica Houston fan, but she played what was perhaps the strongest female character on the Smash block up until last week which saw her plead to her boyfriend not to turn himself in to save her, a scene that was uncomfortable to watch as it came off as behaviour unbecoming to someone in Houston’s stage of life, bordering on simpering, which destroyed the remaining strong female character on the show.
Oddly enough, aside from Juliana Margulies’ Alica, the best examples of strong women on the tube these days are the “princesses” on ABC’s Once Upon a Time. Readers of my blog will know I am a diehard fan, but hear me out before you snort in derision at my claim. Cora, the miller’s daughter from the original Rumplestiltskin tale and Regina’s mother, tore out her own heart so she could follow through with her plan to rule the kingdom without being side-tracked by her love for the golden imp. Though Henry was born in prison because Emma fell prey to a man, she has grown into an independent woman that barely flinches when she learns Neal, Henry’s father, is engaged to another woman. She is too busy trying to cast spells to protect her family which, at this point in time, includes the dying Rumplestiltskin. Even Snow White steps up. Determined to protect her family at all costs, she curses Cora’s heart and manipulates Regina into placing it back into Cora’s body, thus killing her. Though many tweeted about how they hate Snow, I admire her for having the courage to sacrifice something of herself to protect those around her. Previously, Snow relied on Charming or Emma to protect her. Her sacrifice to meet Charming in the burning room was less altruistic than it seemed. Sure, she got him an important message that ultimately saved she and Emma, but the real reason she did it was to feed her lovesick heart and to see Charming again. Don’t get me wrong; I think casting Ginny Goodwin in the part of Snow White was a stroke of brilliance, but last night’s episode, which saw Snow make a decision that changed her innocent, child-like princess status to that of full-grown woman, finally rendered her character much more interesting than probably ever. Regina, the only other “strong” woman portrayed last night missed the mark this time, as strength does not equate with hatred, which has been the character’s drive for most of this season. Instead, her willingness to seek revenge has consumed her humanity, rendering her character much flatter than an actor the calibre of Lana Parilla should be tasked to portray. I hope the coming weeks see Regina gain more of the self-sacrifice of Alicia, the compassion of the old Snow, while echoing the pre-Rumple Cora, the woman with drive who fights against her vulnerability. If she is up to the task, Regina has the power to become one of the (if not THE) strongest female characters on television today.
About the Author
Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.
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