What’s Been On My Mind This Week

Question Mark

1. I’ve started watching True Detective, HBO’s new crime drama that Sky Atlantic broadcasts here in the UK on Saturday evenings. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two Louisiana detectives who worked on a notorious serial killer case in 1995, the show starts with the two cops being interviewed about the case seventeen years later. This immediately raises a host of questions: Did they arrest the wrong man? Has there been another, similar murder? Why did their working relationship come to an end? The first episode is gripping, haunting and melancholic, and McConaughey is superb. In many respects it’s not your standard television crime/thriller drama. And yet . . . It’s no surprise to find that it categorically fails the Bechdel Test, which requires that a work of fiction includes two women who have a conversation with each other about something other than men. The women here are either naked murder victims, tattooed and posed with antlers on their heads, or are prostitutes, girlfriends, mistresses . . . I’m aware that, having watched only a couple of episodes, I’m guilty of passing a very hasty judgement. The objectification of women is clearly one of True Detective‘s major themes and perhaps the creators want to confront us with the terrible things men regularly do to women and show that they often go unpunished. But would it be too much to ask for them to do this by also giving us real female characters who actually have some soul, as opposed to just being a piece of ass?

2. Silk has returned to the BBC! The brilliant Maxine Peake is back as Martha Costello, and she makes a fantastic entrance in the first episode: drinking, dancing (to The Clash and Joy Division) and getting it on with colleague and fellow-QC, Clive Reeder (Rupert Penry-Jones). Silk is at its best when dealing with the lives of those who work at Shoe Lane Chambers: the office politics, gender politics, class politics and power play. Unfortunately, however, the cases that the barristers work on often feel a little thin, as was the case in this opening episode.

3. I re-read Mary Beard’s lecture on the Public Voice of Women, now available for free on the London Review of Books‘s website here. In it Beard talks about how women’s voices are often – still – not being heard in the public sphere. Beard takes Greco-Roman Antiquity as her starting point – she is a Classicist, after all – and examines theories of gendered speaking, and how our attitudes, assumptions and prejudices towards women speaking out or venturing into what is seen as more traditional male territory are ‘hard-wired’ into our culture. I urge you all to read it.

4. The VIDA Count 2013. It’s interesting that Mary Beard’s lecture formed part of the Winter Season of talks hosted by the London Review of Books, a publication not known for the equal treatment of women in its pages. VIDA is an American organisation that ‘seeks to explore critical and cultural perceptions of writing by women’, but what it is best known for is its annual publication of The Count, a yearly inventory of how many women and men are published or reviewed in major literary magazines. 2010 was the first year VIDA published The Count, and it spearheaded an important conversation about inequality in the literary world, a debate that continues to make headlines. You can read the recently published results of The VIDA Count 2013 on VIDA’s website.

5. Next week is the fourth annual Women of the World Festival on London’s Southbank. Taking place around International Women’s Day (8th March), the Festival celebrates the achievements of women all over the world but also examines the obstacles that prevent women from achieving their full potential and contributing to the world.

6. Ellen DeGeneres hosts the Oscars tonight for the second time. In 2007 she became the first openly gay person to host the event. This year’s Awards appear to be particularly beleaguered, however: from the date being pushed back so as not to coincide with the Winter Olympics, to Hollywood and Blue Jasmine being rocked by the latest Woody Allen sex scandal, from The Wolf of Wall Street being accused of celebrating sexism, hedonism and misogyny to the fact that – apparently – 66% of Americans have not seen a single one of the Best Picture nominees (they seem to prefer the Lego movie).

7. I’m currently reading Thirst by Kerry Hudson. Hudson’s first novel, Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, won a host of awards, and deservedly so. Yet there’s a special name for what happens to those writers who fall flat after writing a blistering debut: Second Novel Syndrome. But Thirst is brilliant; just as awkward, funny and moving as Tony Hogan. Even better, it’s also largely set in London, and Hudson really brings the city – in all its glory and ugliness – to life. Do remember to look out for it when it’s published in July.

8. I’m currently listening to St. Vincent’s self-titled new album. The cover artwork is suggestive of some David Bowie-esque metamorphosis, and Annie Clark demonstrates with this record that she is still as innovative as ever. Her virtuosity and confidence continue to be wonderfully refreshing at a time when we’re being fed so much manufactured pop music, and her lyrics are full of depth and nuance, too. Go listen.

Categories: On My Mind . . .

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