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The UK is currently celebrating 100 years of women having the right to vote and the challenging fight required to reach that point. Here are eight of our absolute favorite female agitators depicted in TV & film.

Good Girls Revolt: The best female agitators in film and TV

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The UK is currently celebrating 100 years of women having the right to vote and the challenging fight required to reach that point. In fighting for their rights, the Suffragettes took radical action and were made up of countless female agitators who refused to back down and who believed in women’s rights so ardently, they were prepared to sacrifice their lives for it.

Be it fictional depictions, portrayal of real life women, or a blend of the two, there have been some powerful women fighting for change shown on screen. Here are eight of our absolute favorite female agitators depicted in TV & film.

Good Girls Revolt (2015)

Patti Robinson and Jane Hollander (Genevieve Angelson and Anna Camp)

The sadly short lived Amazon Originals series is based on the real life revolt female researchers performed in protest of the sexism they perceived in the Newsweek offices in the early 70s. Shrewdly fictionalized as News of the Week magazine, the show centers around the second wave feminist movement of the time and within it, characters Patti and Jane are smart, tough, and outspoken in fighting for the respect they deserve for their work and for equality in the workplace.

Queen Sugar (2016-)

Nova Bordelon (Rutina Wesley)

Not only is Nova a journalist and Black Lives Matter activist shrewdly finding a myriad of ways with which to strive for change, but the character of Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed drama also has firm roots within her community, highlighting the importance of change at a local level. She’s ferocious, passionate, intelligent, and a pillar of strength.

The Seashell and The Clergyman (1928)

La femme du général (Genica Athanasiou)

Germaine Dulac’s classic surrealist film remains one of the most radical feminist films ever made. The movie’s central female character is about as subversive as they come – particularly for the time the film was made and released – in resisting the power of a king and the desires of a priest. There’s even a sequence in which she holds a burning bra above her head in protest! In 1928! Unsurprisingly, the film was subsequently banned, with the British Board of Film Censors somehow conceding it’s simultaneously “meaningless” and “objectionable”.

Erin Brockovich (2000)

Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts)

Steven Soderbergh’s powerful biopic is based on the true life exploits of environmental activist Erin Brockovich – an unemployed single mom who single-handedly takes on a Californian power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply. Erin refuses to back down, shut up, or step back when people with more power demand her to, and she continues to shake down a complex of corruption until she can finally see justice and accountability in sight.

Marianne & Juliane (1981)

Marianne and Juliane (Barbara Sukowa and Jutta Lampe)

Margarethe von Trotta’s German New Wave classic explores a bond between two sisters and their radically different approaches to the fight for women’s rights. While Juliane uses words and information as a journalist to spread her message, Marianne is a militant street fighter who refuses to back down or be polite. The film offers a critical female perspective on a violent time in West German history.

Born in Flames (1983)

Honey

Providing a futuristic glimpse at a feminist uprising, Lizzie Borden’s transgressive science fiction film has countless female agitators at its heart, but we have a particular soft spot for Honey – the soft spoken Radio Phoenix leader who joins forces with other women to implement a full on revolution for equal rights. The film pays a loving tribute to the contributions of women of color in political change that’s not often seen on screen.

Norma Rae (1979)

Norma Rae (Sally Field)

Based on Crystal Lee Sutton’s experiences of organizing a union with her coworkers at a textile mill in North Carolina, Field depicts a rebel-rousing, working-class woman standing up for workers’ rights despite the obvious dangers and challenges involved. As well as portraying a formidable woman fighting for rights, the film also deals with further issues of sexual freedom and institutionalized racism that sees Norma remaining resilient against various structures of oppression.

Suffragette (2015)

Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan)

A fictional rendering of many of the pioneering women involved in the British fight for the right to vote, Maud faces repeated challenges as she continues to battle for women’s rights, including being thrown out by her husband and fired from her job. The experiences Maud endures – including being brutally force fed while on hunger strike – reflects some of the real life experiences the Suffragettes went through in their fight.

This weekend marked the end of the 2018 ATX Festival. With the year that Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large has had, it’s no surprise talks turned to the discussion of women in the workplace.

Why Hollywood’s diversity problem starts in the writers’ room

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This weekend marked the end of the 2018 ATX Festival, the annual event that celebrates and showcases the past, present, and future of the television industry. With the year the entertainment industry’s had, it’s no surprise talks turned to the discussion of women in the workplace. Utilizing this period of introspection that follows the sexual harassment scandal regarding disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and other industry figures, the power dynamics inside the writers’ room was a resounding theme on Saturday during a panel discussion.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Liz Tigelaar (Little Fires Everywhere), Christopher C. Rogers (Halt and Catch Fire), Shawn Ryan (Timeless), Rina Mimoun (Everwood), and Patrick Sean Smith (Greek), as well as moderator Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead) discussed the challenges of finding experienced female writers and giving “difficult” industry women second chances. Opening up about their experiences with diversity issues in the writers’ rooms, the TV showrunners also explained how things are starting to change.

Tigelaar – who is currently working on her upcoming Hulu adaptation Little Fires Everywhere starring Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies) and Kerry Washington (Django Unchained) – said she is looking for diverse voices across the board as she’s staffing the room. “And not in a token way, like I checked a box — but in a deeply substantial way. I’m not just talking about staff writers but co-EPs and others shaping the show.” For example, since the story is largely about motherhood, she’s aiming to have moms, dads, and people who don’t want kids contributing to the script. “I want to round it out in a full way.” This was just one of many examples discussed on Saturday about how the writing rooms are shifting and moving towards inclusivity in every sense of the word. However, this was not always the case.

Frat house environment

ATX Festival

During the 80s and 90s, American production houses attempted to recognize their issue of sexism in the workplace by hiring more female staff, but this led to a new issue – the token woman. As screenwriter and author Debbie Moon declared when discussing an open letter from female screenwriters calling on TV to change, “Female screenwriters have been aware of this for a long time. We all have our war stories. The exec who said ‘We already have a show written by a woman,’ or the commissioner who felt that a female lead wouldn’t appeal to a wide audience. The times we’ve been the only woman in the writing team, routinely talked over and ignored.”

A similar story was discussed by Mimoun at ATX Festival, who recounted a time when she became the token woman on a comedy years ago after the showrunner was forced to hire a female writer by the studio. “It was constant hazing. Naked pictures being drawn of me . . . one rape joke after another.” Luckily there was one showrunner – Greg Berlanti – who fought hard to hand her Everwood when he was ready to move on. “At the time, he (Warner Bros. TV executive Peter Roth) was like, ‘Hell, no,’ but Greg stood up for me and said, ‘Well, she’s doing it.’”

Likewise, Orange Is the New Black’s Jenji Kohan opened up last year about her experiences of sexism in the workplace, suffered when she was a struggling TV writer. In an interview with The New Yorker, Kohan discussed how sexist an environment it was in the writing rooms and how difficult it was as a woman and a new mother. Working in the 90s on shows like Friends, Gilmore Girls, and Sex and the City, Kohan said she experienced years of stunted ambition and Hollywood sexism.

“She had her ‘tit grabbed’; her name was taken off a script. Once, when she was pregnant and about to have a job interview, her agent advised her to wear a big shirt and eat candy, so that the showrunner would think she was just fat. After a pitch meeting for The Larry Sanders Show, her agent told her that the show’s star, Garry Shandling, wasn’t comfortable working with women. ‘I was fired from everything,’ Kohan said.”

These stories mirror the experiences of most female writers – as Moon said, “We all have our war stories.” For UnREAL showrunner Stacy Rukeyser, she described the malecentric writing rooms as resembling a “frat house” and discussed the uncomfortable experience of her two-year job on One Tree Hill when she once had to beg the showrunner not to install a hot tub outside the writers’ room. In her guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Rukeyser explained, “Showrunner Mark Schwahn created, from the top down, a writers’ room that I described at the time, perhaps naively, as a frat house — and that I now see as a misogynistic quagmire.”

Why diversity is important

Lyle Friedman

Over to the big screen, and a recent study highlighted why diversity in the writing rooms is key to recognition on screen. This thesis was tested by 2016 research from TV writer Lyle Friedman, data scientist Matt Daniels, and researcher Ilia Blinderman, who examined four thousand films reviewed on the website that lists movies that do or don’t pass the Bechdel test. For a movie to pass, it must include two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

The team gathered the results from films between 1995 to 2015 from the site, then broke it down in terms of the gender of the writers, producers, and directors on each film. “Their study found that movies in which women were involved in the production were far more likely to pass the Bechdel test,” noted Forbes. “When writing teams are entirely male, about fifty percent of films fail the Bechdel test, the study shows. Add a woman to the team and only a third of films fail. The seven films written entirely by women in their data set all pass the Bechdel test.”

Daniels went on to muse that this might not necessarily relate to overt sexism, but that “these people were just writing about themselves.” This issue translates with regards to how women are represented on screen and how their stories are told. Perhaps no one has made this quite so crystal clear as indie producer Ross Putman, who launched the Twitter account @femscriptintros in 2016 to share some of the most offensive introductions for female characters that he has read in movie scripts over the years. Entries include, “JANE pours her gorgeous figure into a tight dress, slips into her stiletto-heeled fuck-me shoes, and checks herself in the dresser mirror,” and, “JANE, 28, athletic but sexy. A natural beauty. Most days she wears jeans, and she makes them look good.” Clearly if we want female characters with more depth than having the ability to make jeans look good, changes need to be made in the writing room.

A different picture

Liz Tigelaar

Recent years have shown this frat house culture starting to change and this is only set to shift even further as the entertainment industry wakes up to its diversity issue in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal. And it’s not just women who are fighting for these changes – at ATX, when asked how a showrunner can put his or her writers in a position to succeed, Ryan noted the importance of leading by example. “If, in the first day of work, you’re making crude jokes about women sexually or you’re making ethnic jokes, people are going to think that’s how the show is going to run.” Avoiding these jokes is crucial, but so is taking on board a diverse staff. “That means diversity of gender and race, but also geographic diversity and diversity of thought.”

Tigelaar also spoke up and was honest about how she had previously overlooked the importance of diversity. For example, when she was hiring writers for Life Unexpected, she recalls centering on the scripts of those she liked in meetings and the writers who were going to complement each other. “When I thought I was being thoughtful, I was being thoughtless,” she acknowledged. “Now, obviously, I’m thinking about it in a much deeper way.” While there’s still some way to go with regards to gender parity in the writing room, the fact that writers – both male and female – are experiencing introspection and taking action to make changes behind the scenes shows that a shift is occurring and showrunners are moving outside of the traditional system to fill the writers’ room with talent from all walks of life. Not just the “single, white male” slot.

For five long seasons, Netflix’s hit political drama 'House of Cards' has seen Claire & Frank Underwood at the helm of the US government. That’s all set to change with the forthcoming final season.

Claire Underwood’s turn: What will ‘House of Cards’ look like with a female POTUS?

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The Underwood nation is under attack and it’s up to one woman to whip it into shape – that woman is Claire Underwood.

For five long seasons, Netflix’s hit political drama House of Cards has seen Claire & Frank Underwood (Robin Wright & Kevin Spacey respectively) at the helm of the US government as President and First Lady. That’s all set to change with the forthcoming sixth and final season as after five years of scheming to get control of the White House, Frank’s stepping down from his role.

As you’ll be well aware, the reason for Frank’s abrupt exit is due to the allegations made against Spacey in the wake of the sexual misconduct scandal, leading to the decision to cut the actor from the show and continue with Claire front and center. While it’s sudden, Claire has always dominated as she navigated the power-hungry halls of Washington and by the end of season five, she’d already started to assume the position of her husband. In light of Netflix dropping a series of S6 first-look images, we’re discussing what a Wright-led House of Cards will look like now Claire is in charge. Introducing the new President you’ll love to hate. Spoilers ahead!

My turn

'House of Cards'

Majoritively, the many plots of the show are settled. Claire’s killed her lover Tom Yates, everyone who knows about the election meddling are dead, and the ICO leader Yusuf Al Ahmadi has been pacified. But that’s not to say there isn’t a lot more juice coming our way now that Claire is POTUS.

So while S5 focused on Frank’s re-election bid, it turns out this was all a plan to move out of the position (to find true power in the private sector) and put the First Lady in control. However, in a cruel twist Claire went back on her promise to let Frank off from his crimes during office, leaving him under threat from potential prosecution.

With Claire in control, we wonder what actions she will take in her new position. As Screen Rant pointed out, Claire is a wartime President and her first action as Leader of the Free World is to deal with the ongoing war in Syria, a threat that built up throughout the season. “This is one facet of power we’re yet to see explored in the show and will surely advance the already fractured relationship between the Underwood administration and Russia’s President Petrov. How will Claire cope as the pressures and body count mounts up – ruthless or toothless?” With what we’ve seen of Claire so far, no doubt the answer will be ruthless.

With regards to her staff, the end of S5 appears to pitch Mark Usher (Campbell Scott) as the most likely to take the spot as Vice President – whoever claims the position, they’re sure to play a significant part in Claire’s office. Elsewhere, we know that Seth Grayson (Derek Cecil) is out as Press Secretary and replaced by the equally ambitious Sean Jeffries (Korey Jackson), “a fact the current administration is trying to hide in the transition but will inevitably come out,” added Screen Rant.

Loads of WTF moments

Although Frank’s been at the helm of the misdeeds for five epic seasons, Claire has been there all the way, playing dirty during her climb to the top and proving time and time again that the two are cut from the same cloth. There’s not a lot she won’t do to gain and maintain power, which is why we’re eagerly awaiting in anticipation what tactics she’ll be whipping out in S6 as she attempts to retain her position as US President.

One thing Claire’s not afraid to do is use her feminine wiles to seduce and / or overpower her male counterparts, from giving her bodyguard an old fashioned while he’s on his deathbed to awkwardly boning Frank while he’s crying on the floor to making the Russian Ambassador watch her pee. She’s also taken some absolutely scandalous actions during her time in office, including her epic revenge on rapist General Dalton McGinnis, assisting her mom with suicide, and using sexual assault victim Megan Hennessey to help promote a sexual assault bill for personal gain. Yikes!

See ya, Frank!

Breaking the stereotypes perpetuated by preceding political dramas, House of Cards paints Claire Underwood to be just as ruthless as her male counterparts. In short, Claire Underwood is an absolute savage and while we might be saying goodbye to the central character, expect more sex, lies, and scandal with a female POTUS at the helm. And if you’re already dreading the looming end to the show, just remember it’s rumored there are plenty of spinoff ideas being thrown about in the Netflix backroom.

In a genre that often explores the infinite possibilities of the universe and the rich diverse cultures that may span it, science fiction hasn’t done a great job of queer representation on screen.

Exploring the new queer frontier: Why sci-fi needs to change

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A starship can boldly go where no man has gone before, but it seems some TV shows have a bit more trouble with that. Sci-fi may examine a wide variety of potential human scenarios, but queer representation hasn’t generally made the cut in plot construction over the years. Even if Han and Chewie got lonely on one of those Kessel spice runs after all, we never saw any touchy-feely to balance the bicker.

It’s a more complex subject than the sci-fi genre avoiding this particular facet of life. Mainstream science fiction on screen almost exclusively made out as if LGBTQI people won’t exist at all in the future. As standards relaxed in media in general, token deference was paid to the lifestyles, though zero screen time for actual affectionate behaviors was set aside.

Even now LGBTQI characters can count on their sexuality being ignored. Finally Star Trek decided to depict LGBTQI characters in Star Trek: Discovery, which had the distinction of portraying the first male-on-male kiss in the canon, between life partners Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Dr. Culver (Wilson Cruz). Culver was killed off in a surprise twist, though Cruz has implied the character will return because he shares “an epic love story” with Stamets which evidently transcends death.

In 2016, Star Trek fans found out Sulu (John Cho) would be depicted as a canon gay character in Star Trek: Beyond. But little more than a brief scene between Sulu and his partner proved this exciting reveal was more whimper than bang. Cho even revealed to Vulture that some gay romance was actually cut from ST:B. “There was a kiss that I think is not there anymore. It wasn’t like a make-out session. We’re at the airport with our daughter. It was a welcome-home kiss. I’m actually proud of that scene, because it was pretty tough.”

The gay couple in Independence Day: Resurgence phoned in another instance of sci-fi sexual boundary stretching, confining the on-screen romance to hand-holding between Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) and his lover Dr. Isaacs (John Storey). Leads Liam Hemsworth and Maika Monroe’s straight characters engage in quite the slurp-fest when they’re reunited and save the world, while Okun and Isaacs’ separation in death is greeted with a typically tasteless joke about knitting.

Alien: Covenant has been praised for the gay couple in its ensemble cast of doomed characters, although very little in the movie indicated their queerness. It’s not that every queer depiction requires a character to get some action or show affection – it can be that much more fresh when they’re not solely defined by their sexuality.

Anya (Gina Rodriguez) in Alex Garland’s Annihilation made that much more impact because her queerness is barely touched upon within the story – but is overt in how the character was portrayed by Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin). Anya’s vibe gave the world one of the finest butch queer sci-fi characters since Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) in Aliens – not because of diversity, but because it was the verisimilitudinous choice for the story.

Gina Rodriguez in 'Annihilation'

In her interview with Vice Magazine, coordinator for New York queer non-profit Geeks Out Jono Jarrett opined that science fiction is the best place for queer identity to be given more emphasis. “It’s not a place to stifle expression of any kind, especially something so human as queerness.” If producers agree, we might start to see more effective representations.

James Gunn obviously squirmed under the contentious climate of intersectional sensitivity in mentioning that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 features a queer character: “. . . there are a lot of gay people in the world”, and in the Marvel Comic Universe “we don’t really know who’s gay and who’s not. It could be any of them.” Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is no exception; the character’s queerness revolves exclusively around occasional punchlines and sight gags.

Given the taboos broken in the last few years, the future looks bright for LGBTQI depiction in sci-fi – if writers and directors can win the fight to show human emotion as it is, under the auspices of their imagination of what the world could be.