Tag Archives: tv

why dietland matters

Coming off of SaTC week, let’s focus on some very different television: Dietland.  Based on the 2015 book by Sarai Walker, this show tells the story of a “morbidly obese” woman, Alicia “Plum” Kettle, who has put her entire life on hold until she is no longer fat.  She denies herself more than just food: she denies herself feelings, love, sex, socializing, a career, her writing, baking, hopes and dreams.  Her life is limited to a few blocks of Brooklyn (HI PARK SLOPE!) except for days she goes in to her employer, a Hearst Media style publisher in Hudson Yards (which is where L’Oreal is based in reality), where she ghostwrites for a glamourously thin editor played by Juliana Marguiles.  By the third episode though, she’s realizing she isn’t denying herself life because she hates herself.  She’s denying herself life because the world hates her.

Show protagonist Joy Nash – in “normal” joyful clothes as herself, and as the self-denying trying-to-be-invisible Plum Kettle

So far the reviews have been mixed: the show is well written, well put together, and different than anything else on TV, but tries to cram in a lot.  The original material is almost hallucinatory in its surreality at times, so I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise.  The problem is that the sheer density of the book has resulted in reviews which speak too much to the crowded nature of the show, and fail to notice that this is the first show to openly talk about two important topics.  The first of these is the way American society has, for years, taught women to enable and ignore poor behavior by men, while, at the same time, punishing and mocking women for behaving (or appearing, which seems to be considered a behavior in itself) in non-standard ways.  The second of these is the national addiction to antidepressants, and the impact of long term use and withdrawal.  Selling pharmaceuticals to one in four Americans is so lucrative than I’m genuinely shocked anyone called out that it might not be a good idea.


First of all, I’m incredibly impressed that this show actually depicts and narrates the constant pressure women feel  in society to allow men to engage in the behavior that makes women feel bad, while simultaneously pressuring us to not engage in behavior that would make anyone else around us uncomfortable.  It is the first time I’ve seen a show on TV that portrays a fat woman being sexually harassed for no reason, and acknowledging that she is reluctant to speak up or clap back because g-d forbid she she should make it worse. Dietland actually takes this a bit further, and not only calls out men’s shitty behavior, but actually tries to show us all how to hold men accountable for it, without putting all the pressure to resist on the women who are the victims of said shitty behavior.  In last night’s episode, when a man harassed a woman in a convenience store, the other women in the bodega banded together to film and shame him.   We do not all have to torture and kill rapists as the shadowy “Jennifer” organization does, but as a society, we do need to call out men who harass women on the street or who slut-shame them in convenience stores.

This is one of the reasons why Dietland matters.  It shows men’s response to women who do not follow a socially acceptable code of conduct, which includes not only behavior, but appearance.   Society should hold men accountable for making choices to “grab women by the pussy”, rather than giggling and infantilizing those choices as “boys will be boys“.  And when a man bro’s out at the expense of a woman, making a comment on her weight or appearance for his own amusement (as a custodial worker does, mocking Plum to his buddy in an elevator), it is the responsibility of the other men to tell him he’s an ass.

The second reason this show matters is that it shows a protagonist going off anti-depressants and the consequences for doing so.  There are many voices of reason that remind Plum she was on doctor prescribed pills, that she should, at the least, wean off them rather than go cold turkey.  But antidepressant withdrawal is a BFD as we begin to discover that it is easy to reap initial benefits from medication, but difficult as hell to get back off said medication when it becomes ineffective.  No one really wants to talk about how awful it is to try to come off antidepressants, a consequence that is not well researched and on which patients are certainly not well educated when they start the medication in the first place.  It’s doubtful that I would have turned down antidepressants in 2005 had i known it would be such an awful experience to come off those drugs in 2018.  However, I was not prepared for how awful the withdrawal would be, nor was I really prepared to face the fact that the antidepressants hadn’t been working for years.  The NYT has been running a whole series on this recently, which is as much about the withdrawal as it is about the fact that no one is studying withdrawal.  To have a mainstream TV show address the idea of antidepressant withdrawal feels extremely timely as we start to investigate what the real long term effects of these medications are.

I do wish Dietland addressed the proven fact that antidepressants rarely remain effective for more than a few years.  In the book and TV adaptation, Plum is on Y, an antidepressant that seems to have successfully repressed her feelings ever since she began taking it to cope with rejection from a man she trusted with her feelings.  The show addresses the ready willingness with which we sacrifice joy to avoid despair, the way we are encouraged to embrace antidepressants out of emotional risk aversion.  It does not address the real challenge, which is that if an antidepressant is prescribed for real depression, we are very likely on borrowed time with it – and we must take ownership for hacking our own brains in anticipation of the day it no longer works.

So for these two threads alone – Dietland matters.  It’s got its clunky parts, and can be jarring and unfinished in places.  The reviews are not wrong in that it is trying to cram a lot of plot and theme into a single hour long episode.  However, I believe this is important TV.  The more we portray these issues in television, the more we address the way we, as a society, still choose gender inequality.  This show reminds us that as women, our inequality is constantly reinforced through the beauty and body image standards imposed on us, both by men and by ourselves. The more we show the methodology in which women are made lesser, the more we can find ways to make us equal.




Week Two of unemployment

As many of you know, I quit my job this summer. August 26th was my last day. Of course, I expected to have my next steps lined up by the time I quit, because all through August, I was interviewing for a job with a NYC agency that I thought I would get an offer for. But the agency decided to go with an internal candidate, and now, I’m back to Square One of Job Searching. Bother.

More importantly though, this means downtime in my employment schedule. Because I really had expected to be working in NYC by now, I wasn’t job searching for most of August. I will now need to take a few weeks to move back down the path towards interviews with new prospective employers. It takes anywhere from two weeks to a month to get from initial screening calls to in-person interviews for the kind of jobs I’m looking for, because so many people at an agency are involved. But I have two initial phone interviews with agencies back East tomorrow, so I can hope to move back down that path soon.

I’m still kind of lost in the interim though. The last time I was unemployed, I had Ben home with me three days a week. Now, because we want to keep him at school in case I have to travel, he is still there full time. So I have fifty-plus hours a week to fill, and absolutely no routine. I have things to do, of course, but on an anti-schedule that is very different than the narrow windows i had on either end of a workday. Suddenly, I can watch the sort of basic cable daytime TV that I’ve never seen before, like the Today Show, or The View. I can go to daytime exercise classes. I can run errands and grocery shop during the week. But it’s taken me most of this week to re-assess my goals, my projects, and what are the new priorities now that I don’t have a full time career job to put so much time and energy into.

First of all, I need to find a job, and job searching is a Major Project that also includes a lot of self promotion. Keeping up my professional image across every social media channel possible is important, and that means continuing to blog, tweet, post to Google+, and update LinkedIn. It also means constantly searching for jobs or potential employers in our target cities, writing cover letters, and sending in resumes. It is a LOT OF WORK that I am currently procrastinating by writing this post.

Second, I do have a few freelance projects to work on. Former colleagues and connections who now know I’m free have looped me in on some of their work. It keeps my media planning skills up, and keeps me challenged, especially when it’s for small businesses where every dollar in ROI counts. It’s mostly local planning, so I can really integrate the SoLoMo (social, local, mobile) tactics that make up a solid local strategy.

Third, I need to lose weight before I go back into the interview process. Overweight women are less likely to be hired than their slender counterparts. But now, I have the time and energy to really invest in diet and exercise. I found instructions online for a program that trains sedentary people like me into runners, with day by day details (today I walked for half an hour, with 30 second running intervals every five minutes). I claimed a free week of yoga at Yogaworks in Larchmont Village. I plan to take my bike, which has been in pieces in the closet for three years, and tune it up at the Bike Kitchen next Monday when they’re open during the day. Then I can ride my bike to the Echo Park pool and train in lap swimming. I have Pilates and spinning and Pop Physique classes to use. I have enough exercise options to transform me into a much healthier, stronger, more toned version of myself. And I can do a couple rounds on the Fat Flush diet once I get the exercise routine down, and really kickstart the process.

Fourth, I’d like to work on my writing skills again. I used to blog almost daily, and I fell out of that habit years ago. I’d like to be able to write better, whether it’s short magazine style articles, or maybe even a novel. Maybe, during this time, I can work a little more on my writing, and return that method of expression to my life.

And finally, of course, I have time to be a better wife and mother to Paul and Ben. I can have dinner ready when they get home, so Ben doesn’t get over-hungry waiting for me to cook (this usually results in a hunger related hissyfit when dinner is actually served). I can take some of the household chores, like cleaning and laundry, off Paul’s shoulders. Actually, I can even take traditionally male chores over, like managing all the household finances and learning to do some of the repair work I would usually ask Paul to handle. I can research and put together better activities for Ben that help him learn and let us spend more time together, like more crafts child friendly cooking, or finding activities and events we can do on the weekends. I will still have the energy at the end of the day to take Ben to the park or the library, and give Paul a break at home. And I can make sure the boys get high nutrition, home cooked meals, three meals a day, which is something I always TRIED to do, but couldn’t always find the energy to execute on.

Unfortunately, none of the above will result in any financial payment in the short term. But obviously, they’re all long term reward programs. Job searching and improving my image, both professional and physical, will result in better job opportunities for me. Freelance work and writing skills could bring in some extra cash down the line, and help me improve my core competencies while I’m working on them. And investing in my family is ALWAYS worthwhile, because I love them, and want to do the best things possible for my men. While I have this time, I may as well use it to set these programs in motion. Besides, I think I have just given myself a brand new fifty hour week schedule…even if I didn’t mean to.

if this works, my tivo is now a slingbox

One of the things that mildly annoys me about going home is missing American TV. I don’t watch THAT much TV, but what I do, I’m very intent on seeing. Like, y’know, Weeds. Or, yes, I admit it, I will be disappointed if I have to wait a whole week to see the season premiere of My Name Is Earl.

Therefore, I Google’d transferring TIVO shows over the Interweb, and got this thread. It was VERY VERY HELPFUL. Now I can access my TiVO like a web server, and download shows that can be watched with the TiVO software. It’s a very considerate back door fix that allows even tech-competent folks to access their shows remotely (if it works), but doesn’t violate TiVO’s copyright and content access restrictions. TiVO does not sanction this method of watching TV. Very smart, TiVO.

If it works from outside my home network…my TiVO is basically a Slingbox, and I will be up to date on all the season premieres while on the go next week. Too cool.

musings on mass media

Yes, it’s morning. Yes, I’m awake. This early. Shocking, but I’ve been getting up earlier these days, so I can bike to work without being late.

Perhaps this is because my roomate finally got the wi-fi up to full, efficient 54MPS, and I’m able to transfer TiVO recordings directly to my computer, from whence they shall be burned to DVDs. I bought a $50 chunk of software for that exact purpose. I explained this to my mother yesterday on the phone. Who pointed out that I could well be using this technology to record the new episodes of The Sopranos and send them up to her in Canada, because otherwise, she’d have to wait almost a year until they hit the Canadian Bravo! channel.

Actually, it kind of shocks me, still, how much media input there is to be had right now, at this point in history. (I’m about to self-indulge and use my own consumption as the example basis.)

media i get and what it means

not quite sure where the morning went

One year ago today, I was home in Victoria, with my father in the hospital. I remember watching him, a confused old man in UVic sweatpants, hobble down the hall with his walker. His false teeth were still a bit too big for his face, and he shook when he walked, and he kept forgetting I lived in Los Angeles, not Vancouver or Seattle. And he was better than he had been the month before, but he was still so sick, and I went home to L.A. miserable and broken hearted to see my father so ravaged by his own damn stupidity. No one thought he would walk again, or regain much more use of his brain – the recovery he’d already made in the five weeks since his minor stroke was considered exceptional.

That was the last of three emergency visits, and by the time I went home again in May of 2005, Dad was up to a cane. When I came home two months ago in September, he was absolutely zipping around with it. When I go home in two more weeks, fifty-four weeks after that last fall visit a year ago, I imagine he’ll be better still. He’s graduated to increased weights and resistance in his physio work, goes to the gym twice a week to work on his legs with the therapists, and looks/acts like his old self. I can’t say enough how proud I am of him for working to get better, how grateful I am to my mother for pushing and encouraging him, and how happy I am just to whatever Higher Powers there are for seeing fit to help my old dad regenerate his brain.

I know I post about this a lot, but every time an anniversary comes up of one of those horrible trips home, it reminds me again, I am lucky. Many things may be wrong in my social life right now, and people may be upset with me, but as my father says, “well, it’s all a bit of a tempest in a pot of tea, isn’t it kid?”, and compared to the big things – my family, for example – it is.

This morning, I was woken up by someone listening to or watching some sort of Baptist evangelism at a high volume. So I got up, realized I was still in my tights and miniskirt from Bar Sinister last night, changed into jeans, and stumbled into the living room to make coffee and watch TV. And after a minute of flipping through the DirecTV guide, I found…an entire HOUR of Depeche Mode themed programming on VH1 Classic.

I *heart* VH1 classic, by the way. I will watch classic alternative videos for HOURS. And I was delighted to find a program that interspersed a “hanging out interview” with the band, with classic Depeche Mode videos. Especially since it’s such a contrast from, say, “The Meaning of Love” video to “Halo”. (Yes, sammynella, they showed the HA LO video, and I thought of you.)

And then I flipped over to the History Channel, and they were running a documentary on Vikings. So that was another half hour.

The problem is, with the TV, I tend to lose time. I should have made it to the Farmer’s Market and back by now. But I’m still moving slowly – having everything I’ve done wrong in the past year come back to haunt me all at once tends to paralyze me still, especially when I stop and think about everything that’s been said to me this week. TV is just a way of distracting myself until I can get over it completely.

But last night did cheer me up immensely. I went to Bar Sinister with a few of the core group of really good friends that I’ve been extremely lucky to have. And I also adore Bar Sinister. It’s one of the most fun places for me to be. When we got in, Nine Inch Nails’ “Ringfinger” was on, and it went directly into an Assemblage 23 track. They play Joy Division, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, and the remix of Depeche Mode’s “Fly on the Windscreen” and the Rammstein cover of “Stripped” over the course of the evening, and before I left around 1:30, played “Cities in Dust” (Siouxsie), “Cuts You up” (Peter Murphy) and “Lucretia, My Reflection” (Sisters of Mercy) all in a row. And I will go in there and dance for two hours to that kind of goth music, and wonder where the time went.

And it’s been a great experience also in that all the friends I take there love it. They come and dance, and even if they don’t know the music the way my roomate and I do (Andrew and I were yelling back and forth over whether one track was Seabound or Covenant – it was Seabound) they still love to listen to and dance to it. Everyone seems to like going. Which makes me very happy.

And of course, all that dancing wears me out. Last night, I fell asleep fully dressed, in the poofy pinstriped miniskirt, cut-up black T-shirt, patterned black tights and layers of eyeliner I’d worn out. I still have a piece of black velvet ribbon tied around my neck, and the studded leather wristcuff I bought years ago around my right wrist. But I felt so much better for going.

So now it’s noon, and I’ve been up since 9am, and I’m not quite sure where the morning went. I still get paralyzed by sadness, or lost in distractions to avoid thinking about everything that’s been said to me, or about me. But I’m starting to come out of that daze, and focus on the things that do make me happy, and on being with the people who also make me happy, and I hope, I hope, in two weeks or so…I won’t be taking any of this sadness back to Victoria for Thanksgiving.