Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Favorite Women of 'Californication'

The hubby and I recently finished watching all seven seasons of Californication on Netflix. I didn't love the show, mainly because the two main male protagonists, Hank Moody (David Duchovny) and Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler), are misogynistic, unrepentantly racist douchebags. (Unrepentant racism was also a problem with Weeds, a show I liked better than Californication despite its flaws.)

The main female protagonists, Karen and Marcy, aren't much better. Karen is ridiculously indecisive. Marcy has a serious cocaine addiction and a mean streak. Mia is a thief who perpetrates a literary fraud, and a troublemaker in general. (A troublemaker isn't necessarily a bad thing, and there's a part of me that feels for Mia.) They're difficult women - interesting and complex characters, to be sure, but still not very likable as written. Methinks the team of writers was overburdened with testosterone.

Instead, my favorite women of the series are:

1. Becca Moody. By far the most sympathetic character on the show, Karen and Hank's musically talented daughter's biggest fault is her terrible, terrible taste in boyfriends. (One of them is played by The Perks of Being a Wallflower's Ezra Miller. He was a cheater.) Can we really blame her, though? Karen and Hank are hardly good role models of adult relationships. I'm not judging them for non-monogamy, which I do not have a problem with, but for their reckless attitudes toward other people's feelings and disregard for the consequences of their actions.

Becca is played by Madeleine Martin. She's a beautiful young woman (born in 1993, so currently aged 21) with the sweetest, most musical voice. If you watch Cartoon Network, you may know her as the voice of Fionna on Adventure Time.

2. Jackie. Played by Susan Sarandon's daughter, Eva Amurri Martino, Jackie is a recurring character in my favorite season, Season 3. She's a student in Hank's creative writing class by day and a stripper by night. Like her mother (on whom I have a perma-crush, no matter her age - loved her as the futuristic shamaness in Cloud Atlas), Amurri Martino is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. My favorite thing about Jackie as a character is the way she draws attention to the fact that strippers - a job too often degraded, along with all the forms of sex work and related jobs - are human beings, not things to be used and discarded. Go girl.

Like many of the fictional characters on this list, Jackie is never given a last name. In general, if a character isn't given a last name, that means the character doesn't get much development in the series. It's telling that a male character is much more likely to be fully named on this show.

3. Faith. Played by Maggie Grace, Faith came along in Season 6, when Hank is in rehab for his serious drinking problem. (It doesn't work.) Faith is a muse, inspiring rock musicians to write beautiful songs. She acts as Hank's muse when he has to turn his novel-turned-movie into a rock opera. His work sucks, but that probably has to do with Hank's limited productivity rather than with Faith.

You may remember Maggie Grace from such films as Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 and such TV shows as Lost. In the Twilight Saga, she was the vampire Irina. She ran to the Volturi to tell them about what she thought was an immortal child, and her reward for trying to do the right thing - at least in her mind - was death. On Lost, as Shannon she overcame her spoiled, selfish, manipulative nature and fell in love with Sayid, and her reward was death. Her characters have no luck.*

4. Jill. Hank's TA (teaching assistant)/one of several lovers in Season 3 is played by Diane Farr, who also wrote The Girl Code. She doesn't just play a smart cookie on TV, she's an actual smart cookie. Jill No Last Name represents women who are very, very smart and also highly sexual, with no contradictions between the two aspects to their personalities. Also, she is absolutely gorgeous.

5. Trixie. Another working girl, Trixie No Last Name the call girl is played by Judy Greer. Greer deserves to be a Hanukkah Hottie, and she should have a bigger fandom than she does. She's played a few roles I find particularly memorable, including Fern/Violette in a '90s cult classic, Jawbreaker, and the one you'd least suspect of being a werewolf in a stupid horror movie that I love, Cursed. (Okay, I really just like the part where Milo Ventimiglia tries to kiss Jesse Eisenberg.) She's also an author.

Trixie is a sex worker because she loves sex. Like Jackie, she helps humanize and give dignity to women that society traditional considers unacceptable.

6. Pearl. Played by Zoe Kravitz (our beloved Christina from Divergent), Pearl is not a love interest of Hank or Charlie, but rather the friend and bandmate of Becca. Their fictional band is called Queens of Dogtown, whereas Kravitz's real band is called Lolawolf. Lolawolf is a mixed-gender trio, but the Queens of Dogtown are an all-woman group.

7. Sue Colloni. The most outrageous and over-the-top of the characters listed here, Sue Colloni is an agent Charlie comes to work with after he's fired from his previous job for excessive masturbation at work. She's played by Kathleen Turner with outrageous aplomb, because Colloni (as she likes to call herself) knows no shame. Why should she? She knows she's the best, even if her working relationship with her artists is highly unconventional and unabashedly sexual. Colloni represents the woman who's old enough to know what she wants and go for it.

*Shannon and her stepbrother Boone (played by Ian Somerhalder pre-Vampire Diaries, who by the way is currently dating Nikki Reed from the Twilight movies) are an example of a more socially acceptable incestuous fictional character pairing, as we discussed here, because they are not biologically related. These types of pairing make up a subgenre of erotica called pseudo-incest. And I'm not judging you if you're into it.

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