HTGAWM’s Annalise Keating and #metoo

Reviews, Tv Series

The reason I am here tonight is simple: after many years I realize I am not special, I am not “the unlucky one”, I am not different, I am not the only one, I am not #guilty. Since the Weinstein case came out on the news a few weeks ago, memories from the past -that never goes away- start playing in my head every time I stop to read about the testimonies of these women who, one by one, are finally denouncing the abuses and the sexual assaults they have been victim of, either in the past or in the current years.

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I had the same feeling when, thanks to my savior –the music-, I coped with adolescence and its aftereffects, becoming aware of the sad reality that sees many of us undergo mistreatments and abuses, accepting that “a trouble shared is a trouble halved”, and that we are all in this together. Still, whilst the sense of impotence and helplessness you get by feeling wronged by the world, the human existence and the mortal condition belong to boys and girls indiscriminately, it appears that what is going on right now is a massive uprising of female voices that, for many (too many) years, have been silenced. Muted by fear, by abusers, by society itself.

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Among the ones tweeting and sharing their “me too” message to make the world aware of a problem that has been smearing this sick sad society for centuries, there are not only women though. The oppressed, whether females, males, straight or gay, eventually felt they were strong enough and ready to speak up. There was no need to explain in detail, you only had to say “me too”, as if we were in school, the teacher asked a question and we had to raise our hands. Well, thank you Alyssa Milano for calling out to us victims of this broken system via social-media. Most of all, thank you Tarana Burke -credited by Alyssa, for creating this movement, more than 10 years ago, and that only now is coming to surface. Back then, Tarana wanted to help young women of color who were survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation, and who were not heard or believed. Today, everyone can be heard, we hope.

The picture is getting clearer, isn’t it? If you have been watching How to get away with murder these past few years, you can’t help but think of Annalise Keating, the protagonist of another great TV-show born from the magical mind of Shonda Rhimes. Let’s first have a look at the plot of the series:

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How to get away with murder

Genre: they want to call it “legal thriller drama”
Created byPeter Nowalk
StarringViola DavisBilly BrownAlfred EnochKatie FindlayJack FalaheeMatt McGorryAja Naomi KingKarla SouzaCharlie WeberLiza WeilConrad Ricamora
Watched on: Hulu and TV (FOX Italy)
Four Seasons, Sixty Episodes (48 aired so far) watched in: religious schedule of #TGIT.

Annalise Keating is a great lawyer, the best apparently, from what we understand, and also a Professor of Law at Middleton University in Philadelphia. Beyond her most trusted collaborators Frank and Bonnie, she picks five students to intern for her: Wes, Connor, Michaela, Asher, and Laurel. They work together to solve crimes that, through both flashbacks and flash-forwards, seem to be all related to one big homicide in which they are all involved: Sam, Annalise’s husband has been murdered because of his affair with Lila, a student at Middleton, who was killed before Sam, by someone unknown. One of the suspects, Rebecca, is a girl with whom Wes falls in love, and who turns everything into a big chaotic mess. Oh, Rebecca dies as well. Trust me, this is no spoiler alert as the rabbit hole has not even been crossed yet. By the end of season three, in fact, everything is literally screwed up and season four, which started almost three weeks ago, promises nothing but more troubles.

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Going back to Annalise and the “me too” movement, it first needs to be said that sensitive topics in the TV-show are obviously present (it is a crime drama after all), rape is condemned, although kept hidden for years, and sexual assault can be analyzed following several procedures, but it is not up to me, right now, to go deep into this kind of digression.

We need to focus on Annalise, and in particular, her relationship with her mother. The most intense moment in the whole series, from my point of view, is in the episode where the mother appears in the show, and the spectator can finally connect a few dots of the complicated story behind who Annalise, called Anna Mae by her mother, really is. The two women seem to have a weird bond: a strong mother and a strong daughter, who is eventually weak and misunderstood, start talking about their past, with Anna Mae accusing her mother of ignoring the sexual abuses she suffered because of her uncle. This is revealed by the touching scene when Annalise shouts “Did you know what he did to me?” until her mom starts listing the names, through the history of rape in their family, of those who did it to her and her sister, with a teacher and a reverend included. What strikes the most, and what hurts like a stab wound right between the back of your shoulders is hearing her words when she adds “Men take things! They’ve been taking things from women since the beginning of time, and it ain’t no reason to talk about it and get all messy everywhere. Certainly no reason to go to a head shrink or for help.” Wrong. It is and it was necessary to say it. To denounce it. To protect those who will come after, because no more people have to become victims. No more.

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Annalise’s self-worth, just like every victim’s confidence, was permanently scarred. Knowing her mother and her aunt had been violated did not make things easier, sharing the pain does not make it go away and it certainly does not cancel what caused the pain in the first place. Yet, by the end of the episode we realize that yes, silence has been reigning upon the family for years, the truth has been neglected for the quiet life, but eventually Annalise’s mother took care of her daughter’s abuser her own way: she burned the house while the uncle was drunk asleep on the couch, making it appear as if the fire started because of his cigarette falling. Being bright and kind of manipulative seems to be genetic in this family, although even the most dreadful action  is done for the greater good, sacrificing a person’s freedom for the sake of someone else’s life.

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Is it real then? Sexual harassment has been going on since the beginning of time so there is no need to make such a big deal out of it? Isn’t this like saying that if something has always been done that way, then there is no need to change it, although it is kind of obvious that it is deeply and terribly wrong? Eh, just think about it. Not a day, one.single.day passes by without having us (yes, I call myself in) molested, although we learned to just “accept” it, and move on. You walk down the street and that person approaches you “Hey pretty…” and you start walking faster to keep the distance. You stop at the traffic light waiting for the green light to cross, nobody is walking near you, and those people in their car start honking, at you, because there is no one else around; while they’re shouting obnoxious words you try to give them the evil stare, but they’re already mimicking oral sex right before your eyes. This to name just a few, of those moments that cannot be defined as “rare”, when you just “let it happen” because there is nothing that you can do. Sometimes you try to react, you shout back at these beasts, you show them the finger, always fearing a reaction, picturing yourself running because they could get mad or even overexcited because of what may seem like a fearless woman. Those other times though, you just shut up, with your blood boiling inside because you know that you can’t beat the pack if they attack, while going back from class, alone, on a Venetian day in spring, along a narrow calle that skirts the canal where four big men are unloading a boat. One points at you, so you look down: “ughhh, on that one I’d lie for hours pushing and pushing and pushing until she begs to stop”.

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Again, these are just a little part of the verbal assaults that we have to deal with since when we are born, with -let me say unfortunately for the time being-, a vagina. I won’t go over the actual physical assaults (and I am addressing only female victims for the sake of time and space in here, so allow me to focus on vagina owners for now) because those, as Annalise shows us, leave a mark on you that will never go away, and if you too can’t help but shed a tear while listening to Pink singing “that’s when dickhead put his hands on me” in U + UR hand during your morning run, giving a start to a list of flashbacks, well, just know that although this won’t change the past, you’re not the only one, you’re not alone, it is not your fault, you’re not wrong, you are a survivor.

See? I told you my reviews would be kind of alternative! All things considered, TV-series are fiction, but there is some truth in every fictional story.

 

 

Perception and mental wellness

Reviews, Tv Series

To begin with, why have I used wellness and not health? I will quote what the UNC webpage of Advisory Committee to the Chancellor for Employee Health and Wellness says with regard to this: “According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” So, mental health is the general term to refer to our emotional, psychological, and social …well-being. Mental wellness, as I am calling it here, is yes a synonyms of mental health, but I want to give it a slightly more positive connotation. The way our brain works affects how we think, feel, act and also how we make choices. Mental health is what makes us work properly in our society. Mental wellness, to me, is how we feel and if we feel -fine enough- to work, act, exist …in our society.

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There are several internal and external factors which contribute to a person’s mental wellness, including relationships with friends, loved ones, financial issues, workplace environment, and those that are called “coping behaviors” and skills. I wonder if I am interested in these topics because of my previous studies in psychology, but then I would have to ask why I was interested in psychology in the first place, back in the days. In this case, I would need a couple of years to go through this argument. So, no thank you. What remains though, is the fact that I just needed a word, perception, to be sure I would have binged watched another tv-show. Duh! And yes, the fact that Eric McCormack was the protagonist was a huge incentive because of Will and Grace, that kept me company during my first years at University, many, many years ago. (Oh, and by the way, a brand new season of Will and Grace is now showing on NBC, oh yeah!)

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I am going to introduce the plot of Perception-the series before continuing this digression on mental wellness:

Perception 

Genre: they want to call it “crime drama” …I would add something psychological too, but meh.
Created by: Kenneth Biller, Mike Sussman
StarringEric McCormackRachael Leigh CookKelly RowanArjay SmithLeVar BurtonScott Wolf
Watched on: FOX Italy
Three Seasons, Thirty-nine Episodes watched in: a couple of months.

Dr. Daniel Pierce is a neuropsychiatrist who teaches neuroscience at the (fictional) Chicago Lake Michigan University (CLMU), and his interest in neuroscience stems from his own long history of paranoid schizophrenia (everyone is interested is what touches them the most, I guess). He also works as an expert consultant for the FBI assisting closely a very Special Agent, Kate Moretti, who is a former student of Pierce’s classes back in the days. It is thanks to his hallucinations that, most of the times, he can pick out the clues allowing him and Agent Moretti to solve the crimes they are investigating. Lewicki, Dr. Pierce’s teaching assistant, is a fundamental asset for Prof. Pierce’s mental well-being, because he knows how to handle his crisis and his obsessions. Last, but not least, (considering she was in another tv-show, The O.C. another favorite of mine) Natalie Vincent played by Kelly Rowan, is the most favorite Pierce’s hallucination who manifests herself as a result of his schizophrenia, but who also serves as his counselor, clue collector and, of course, best friend. How the story “ends” in the last episode of season three is up to you to find out. No spoilers here. #Sorrynotsorry.

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One of the things I like the most is when a tv-series’ episode typically begins with a scene of the protagonist giving a lecture (missing academia much?), or introducing a sort of metaphysical problem, concerns, whatever, about an aspect of humanity that usually leads to the development of the plot itself (Grey’s Anatomy is another show that does something similar, I love you Shonda Rhimes). In this case, it is a brain fact or factor that becomes significant within the story, and reaching the end of the episode, the observations that the professor explains to the students about the paradoxes of human perception end his lecture. Brilliant, I know.

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Perception was canceled after the third season and there were controversies saying it passed a wrong idea about the schizophrenic disease. Now, seriously? The big issue for some was that the main character chose to go off of his meds whilst still managing to work and teach his students, having reasonings with his hallucination-friend, sharing the wrong idea that getting off of your meds is okay. Ugh, no. I bet this is not the message, as eventually Prof. Pierce is just an adult who sees that therapy is needed, but cannot be abused. Schizophrenia is a disease, a complex one which needs to be studied deeply, still. Also, not all the people diagnosed with schizophrenia are alike. The symptoms vary and the age when they first appear makes a huge difference for the prognosis. So every time we judge a tv-show, let’s remember the viewpoint and the actual fact that -this is fiction-, with a few hints of reality, yes, but basically fictional stories.

perception-eric-mccormack-1In conclusion, why was this show important, from my perspective? Because it opened a door on the so called “mental illnesses” that can be part of a person’s life without interfering so very much with their social life. I am not saying it does not affect their own lives, because it does, but it creates no harm, no danger for their social behavior if taken good care of and most of all, if responsibly studied and handled. An important part of mental health is how we perceive the world around us. A person with a mental disease may perceive things much differently than another person, but that does not mean it is the wrong way of perceiving it. Wouldn’t you sound crazy if you had X-rays in your eyes and told others you can see through their skin? Indeed. In many cases, therapy can help interpret and detect these perceptions, but these do not necessarily need to be corrected because someone evaluated and categorized them as distorted. They are simply different ways of perceiving the world around us that may make sense to a different being with a different sensibility, and sensitivity, than others. As they say, a word to the wise is unnecessary and If the cap fits, wear it.

Sympathy Love For The Devil: Lucifer (Morningstar)

Reviews, Tv Series

Please allow me to introduce myself himself, I’m he’s a man of wealth and taste …oh so much taste! Apologies to the Rolling Stones for stealing part of their Sympathy For The Devil‘s lyrics but it was totally, completely, relentlessly necessary. The charming angel who fell from Heaven to rule the world could not be portrayed in a better way: Tom Ellis is the bomb. His British (Welsh) accent gives that hint of allure to a character who, per se, attracts interest and attention. The Devil seduces you, he wants you to be free to do whatever you like despite those God dictated rules. What is actually wrong with that?

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I swear to… hmmm, anyway, I do not want to complain about religious views and beliefs, but allow me to be a little, how can I say this, blasphemous for someone… saying that I would rather worship someone like -this- light bringer, although fallen for only God knows why, than the Almighty him/herself, who is supposed to be pure love but then… Yeah, right. I mean, talking from the point of view of what tv-shows like this have to offer, giving a different, fantastic, imaginative perspective of fictional characters with all their personality colors and shades, there is nothing to be hated about this figure. If only everybody could just freely wear their masks and not care about judgments… or maybe, isn’t it what is actually happening as of right now? Wasn’t Shakespeare right when he made his characters in As You Like It say: “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players;/ They have their exits and their entrances, / And one man in his time plays many parts”? I think he was. Right, I mean.

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We all wake up in the morning and put on our daily façade, the one we offer to the world, which changes slightly depending on whom we encounter and where we are headed. We may smile to that stranger who showed us kindness, or give a bad look to that person on the other side of the street who is being a bully with someone else. Then we try to show strength and positivity to our children, although we might not be able to pay the rent next month, and we show a huge smile to the one standing in front of us in the mirror, because someone told us that you can trick the mind by making it believe you’re happy. Or when you cry. Aren’t we all characters then? Aren’t we God‘s favorite toys, actors in a movie he/she created for him/herself to get entertained? Isn’t Lucifer, all the demons, and the good angels around us, just other supporters of the greatest film of all times, with God in the role of the director, a few executive producers holding the finances to keep the recordings going (may be the Illuminati, who knows?) and almost six billions actors and actresses who are constantly playing on the sets that are all over the globe? Hmph, maybe. Until proven otherwise…

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Lucifer

Genre: they want to call it “crime-comedy drama”
Based onVertigo by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg
Starring: Tom Ellis, Lauren German, Kevin Alejandro, D. B. Woodside, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Scarlett Estevez, Kevin Rankin, Rachael Harris, Tricia Helfer, Aimee Garcia
Watched on: Netflix and TV (FOX)
Two Seasons, Thirty-one Episodes binge watched in: less than a week.

Lucifer Morningstar, the Devil, is our hero. He leaves Hell, and moves to the City of Angels, Los Angeles, of course, where else? Always impeccably dressed and …perfect, he runs a nightclub called “Lux”, and next to him he has his faithful demon: super sexy and strong Mazikeen, or Maze. When he meets the breathtakingly beautiful Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German), he can’t help but start to work with her trying to resolve crime cases for the LAPD: “Tell me your deepest desire”, his persuasive powers have no effect on her, but on everybody else they work perfectly.
dabdf76c0e77988b48653e53398ede6aAlong with Lucifer lives his brother Amenadiel, and later the goddess of all creation will join them, to take them back to Heaven, as she may or may not have something already planned. The angels’ mother escaped Hell in fact, where she was sent after causing disasters and whatsoever. All this happens while in LA people get killed and, following a sort of CSI style, every episode ends with every case closed. If not for the story itself, in case you hated to worship the devil in all of his forms, enjoy all the views of the coolest city in California, with scenes shot at the Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood, and all around the main attractions and typical spots of the LA county.