Tuesday, April 27, 2021

TV: Types

Types. Stereotypes is how some confuse the process. In the early days of film types took hold. A similar process had existed with stage plays but due to the distance -- the physical distance -- of the audience from the stage, typing was nothing like what it became in the film world. The physical distance from a screen didn't matter the way that it did from the stage. This was because the projection on the screen created people larger than life and because one of the elements in film is the close up which enlarges the actor even more.


Types are not stereotypes but types can be used to create stereotypes. For example, we've long pointed out that the film studios created a gay stereotype and did so to protect actors that they had under contract (to protect their investment) by creating a stereotype of what it meant to be gay. If that was gay, then William Haines couldn't be gay or Ramon Novarro or . . . Those playing the swish stereotype often weren't gay. They read gay (in part because of the stereotype that the studio created). Read. That's what typing was about.

Jean Harlow? She was never going to come across as genteel and to the manor born, for example. Yes, she did come across as the dumb blond type but that types was stretched and expanded over the years. Marilyn Monroe, for example, offered a compassion that really wasn't present in Jean Harlow. Goldie Hawn offered a sweetness that expanded the type. Typing did not mean you were good in a role, for example. It just meant that it was thought the audience would accept you. For example, onscreen Jayne Mansfield did little acting to praise and onscreen she didn't expand the type. Offscreen? You could make a different argument. But in terms of film, she really didn't offer a great deal. Sheree North is another one that studios poured their hopes into and she didn't deliver. Two decades later, when she had a lived in quality, she would and did deliver but she was typed differently by then. (Her role on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, for example, was not a dumb blond role).

Types were most often imposed upon supporting actors. Was Thelma Ritter really a great actress? Was Walter Brennan? Or did they deliver so strongly onscreen due being cast according to type? Leading performers? They frequently had the power to be cast against type and to show real acting (or what was considered real acting). Some failed, some succeeded. But in terms of becoming a true film star, even now, you need typing. Meryl Streep, for example, avoided typing. Some idiot wrongly convinced her she could play anything. And she can play anything . . . badly.

It's why she's a known actress but why she never became a film star. Meryl does not sell tickets as the box office for her many (too many?) films has made clear. Compare her with, for example, Julia Roberta and you'll see what movie stardom really means. Jessica Lange, by contrast, is a versatile actress but, even so, it was being cast according to type that made her a film star.

A film star, unlike a character actor is not a long running role. At best, you're looking at a ten year run in most cases. The desire for the new and the over familiarity that typing breeds in the audience tends to ends starring roles for men and women. We'll come back to the women aspect of that in a minute.

But what got us thinking about typing to begin with was HBO's MADE FOR LOVE series. The series revolves around Hazel Green-Gogol, played by Cristin Milioti, who is married to a tech wizard and escaping the confined experience he has put her in, especially after he's had a chip implanted in her that will meld her mind to his. Cristin is wonderful in the role. But we do wonder how she got cast in it. We wonder that especially because she was a guest star on one of the best episodes of 30 ROCK, "TGS Hates Women." In that episode, she plays Abby Flynn, a popular comedian that Liz wants to hire for TGS. Jack says no until he sees a photo of her. Her act is that she's a "sexy baby." Liz is offended and finds her to be a throwback and an insult to women while Jenna is jealous and wants Abby destroyed. Liz finds out that Abby Flynn is really Abby Grossman and outs her online and in a meeting. Now Abby can be true herself. Problem, she created Abby Flynn to escape an abusive ex-boyfriend who is a stalker and threatens her.

Again, Cristen is a great in MADE FOR LOVE and was great in that episode of 30 ROCK but, we wonder, what is it that casting reads in her as "woman abused"?

The eight episode season moves quickly. And it establishes quickly that Hazel is not an innocent. She stole a dress from her best friend that resulted in the friend failing her design class. She ran scams on college campuses. When she married a billionaire, she did not bother with her father (played by Ray Romano). And the cruelty isn't in the past.

She's cruel to her husband Byron (Billy Magnussen). Now he's abusive in that he's locked her away and prevented her from having any freedom of movement -- she's locked in one of his cubes where people do visit but she's not able to leave. He doesn't like to leave himself and is scared of the outside world. His fears do not excuse his abuse. And we're not bothered by any of her efforts to tell him off or gross him out (due to the chip he implanted, he can see through Hazel's eyes). But there was a moment that was true cruelty.

In episode eight, he's in the real world solely to try to convince her to return to him and the cube.

They meet up in a diner. Hazel gets him to talk about how he needs her. In talking about this, he gets worked up, as she can tell. And he orgasms as the table. At first, her reaction appears to be ihappy but that switches to cruelty. Throughout their ten year marriage, she has never seen that. While he's sexually satisfied her, he's never satisfied himself in her presence. This was a very vulnerable moment for him and she is gleefully mocking him.

After all he's done, she may have every right to be gleeful. But we were shocked. She will return to the cube with him -- because her father is sick and only Byron's technology can save him.

She's a complex character and we applaud that. We'd also enjoy seeing a second season (no determination has been made on that yet).

Types. We're back to women older than Cristen. And we're dealing with how a film star is sent packing specifically a film actress. We were looking at Lucy Flores' Twitter feed and we saw a Tweet we agreed with politically but not artistically.r

She had reTweeted Renee Bracey Sherman's response to US House Rep Carolyn Maloney.


Maloney had tweeted about a NEW YORK TIMES list of the highest paid chief executives and wondered why no women were on the list? Renee had noted that that was really not the issue, meaning the outrageous pay was outrageous however you broke it down -- by gender, by race, etc.

And, again, we agree with that politically. Where we have the problem is artistically.

Women get phased out as film stars at a certain age. And that's for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is the lack of real life precedence. PATTON is about a general, for example. We are completely opposed to the Iraq War but we do realize that it provides the chance for actresses to play a wider range of roles in film. The chance. May or may not happen. How many films in the 70s and onward featured women in roles of power in the media? There's WATERGATE but that was based on a true story. Dorothy Schiff was the owner and publisher of THE NEW YORK POST from 1939 until 1976. From 1969 to 1979, Katharine Graham held the title of publisher at THE WASHINGTON POST. So from 1960 through 1976, two of the country's biggest papers had female publishers. But that really wasn't reflected in films about journalism. Film doesn't progress at a rapid pace. And it has a very narrow view of what types of films that they will make about women over the age of fifty. Hopefully, the transition women have made into various roles will allow studios to care about actresses over the age of fifty. Hopefully.

We don't know. But we do know one thing for sure, Ashli Babbitt was a woman. "Was" because she was shot dead. She was part of the DC riot back in January. Is it because she was part of the riot that so few seem to care about her death? Is it because she was a Trump supporter? Apparently, typing goes beyond films. There appears to be a "type" that the media will choose to lament and a type they won't. Ashli was unarmed when was shot dead by a police officer. Why did he choose to shoot and why to shoot her when others were around? Those are questions that should be explored but if you don't fit the media's 'type' apparently they will ask questions about you and your beliefs but never ask why you were shot or debate what the point was in shooting you to begin with?



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