I really like this post. It brings to mind another Shondaland show that has appeared on the airwaves in the time since this post. Recently, I wrote an essay in which I looked at the series How to Get Away with Murder through the lens of black feminist theory. Using Patria Hill Collins’ work as a guide, I discussed the show’s treatment of conventional stereotypes of African-American women.
I argued that in certain respects, How to Get Away with Murder reflects these stereotypes through the character of Annalise Keating (Viola Davis). Specifically, I found that aspects of Annalise’s personality reflects the “matriarch,” ‘Black lady’ ” and “jezebel” or “whore” stereotypes (Hill-Collins 69, 70-72, 80-81). Annalise’s matriarchal nature is evident in her domination of her “children,” her law students and associates, often to their detriment. She also personifies the ‘Black lady’ stereotype through her focus on her career goals, often to the detriment of her personal relationships. Thirdly, Annalise’s sexual behavior, such as her extramarital affair, reflects the jezebel/whore stereotype.
However, I also argued that despite its reflections of the aforementioned stereotypes, the show’s representation of African-American women is not completely negative. First, I argued the show also challenges the matriarchal stereotype through Annalise’s twofold impact on her children’s lives. Though Annalise’s matriarchal dominance often harms her children, it also benefits them. For example, through her control over their lives, Annalise helps her students and associates avoid prosecution for their various crimes. Thus, Annalise’s domination is not totally represented as a negative element. And, I argued How to Get Away with Murder reflects what HiIll-Collins calls “the emergent woman” image of African-American women (95-96). Specifically, the series portrays Annalise Keating as an individual who has the strength to overcome various personal hardships. Thus, Janelle’s post makes me think of my own study of Annalise Keating and How to Get Away with Murder.
Work Cited Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. 2nd ed. New York and London: Routledge, 2000.
Though I am several years late, I wanted to say how much I enjoyed your piece, Stefania. I also feel your observations about the recurring traits of Shonda Rhimes’ shows still apply in the present day. I can still see these elements in the Shondaland programs currently on television. These traits are especially evident on the shows that have appeared on the air in the time since your post’s original publication, such as How to Get Away with Murder and The Catch. I also like your choice of Shonda Rhimes as the subject of your post. I find her work as a showrunner and the U.S. television industry’s treatment of her fascinating. Thus, I always enjoy seeing studies on Shonda Rhimes and/or her shows. Thank you for curating this post.
Fortuitously, my #WGS361 students are reading all of the Pokemon Go posts for class this week: http://edmondchang.com/courses/361/. Pokemon Go is one of the games we are looking at this week.
Thank you for your post, Rossend. I really enjoy it. You address issues of How to Get Away with Murder that have preoccupied me as a scholar and as a fan. Your discussion of the show’s “narrative complexity” especially strikes me. I have been reading Jason Mittell’s work on the subject narrative complexity on contemporary television, particularly his book Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling (New York University Press, New York and London, 2015). As I read his descriptions of complex television and its elements, I often think of “How to Get Away with Murder.” Even before I read your piece, I have felt that the show has some of the same elements of narrative complexity described in the book. One such element is the program’s tendency to “reorder events through flashbacks, retelling past events, repeating story events from multiple perspectives, and jumbling chronologies” (Mittell 26). I have also been struck by the fact that “How to Get Away with Murder” combines episodic and serial formats. The program has story arcs that encompass many episodes or entire seasons, such as the mysteries concerning the deaths of Lila Stansgard and Sam Keating, the shooting of Annalise Keating, and the present mystery concerning the identity of the body found in the Keating house. However, there are also storylines that are resolved within the length of a single episode, such as some of the cases undertaken by Annalise’s law firm. In these and other respects, “How to Get Away with Murder” has seemed to me to be an example of complex television. Thus, I am struck by someone’s use of the phrase “narrative complexity” to describe the program.
I do wonder about the proportion of Pokémon Go play that happens during daylight hours versus at night, which would speak to how exactly the game fits into our everyday routines (and interestingly is another way of considering the rural/urban divide… I’ve heard everything from “rare spawns at night” to Niantic nerfing evening spawn rates to discourage “unsafe” activity, but have no idea what’s true). After the intense flurry of the first few months after release, my Pokémon playing is now less predictable and more opportunistic, and definitely confined to the daytime.
Speaking of intertextuality, a new little web-based game just hit Kongregate entitled “That Pokeyman Thing Your Grandkids Are Into” (Punch the Moon, 2016): http://www.kongregate.com/games/claedalus/that-pokeyman-thing-your-grandkids-are-into
Katharine, I love that you and your mom bonded over Pokémon Go excursions. I find myself now having to cajole my spouse or my child to go on walks or errands so that I can reach Pokémon “civilization,” too! And I had a similar experience to Ed’s (with the rat), except that in my case the rat was visibly in its death throes, probably because of campus pest control procedures. Not a comfortable moment, stopping to catch a rare Pokémon, only to see a real animal succumbing to poison before me.
A few things I didn’t get to mention in the post, that I find interesting and relevant:
-Some have downplayed PG’s data hogging, but I talked to an AT&T rep in early July who admitted to having already used 37GB (!) of data playing Pokémon Go after his shifts. Granted, he was wandering around for 9-10 hours a stretch, from what I gathered, so I have to hope that he gets unlimited data as an employee.
I think all of our posts thus far raise the possibilities for engaged and even radical interventions that Pokemon Go allows — albeit contingently — for connection, for pulling together different experiences and knowledge making, and for exploration and encountering defamiliarized geographies. Obviously, all of this is bracketed by the fact that these very technologies also reveal massive limitations and pitfalls. I think the repurposing of the previous GIS data was too much of a shortcut, especially without the capability of adding new stops, gyms, and such. (Granted I am not sure we are ready for carte blanche adding of stops and gyms.) It will be interesting to see if there is an attempt at a kind of redistribution. There are places in my city where the density of Pokestops is staggering—more frequent than bus stops along any given road or path.
I am also disappointed in the “augmented reality” aspect of the game, or rather, the “augmented camera view” I should say. In the first weeks of play, I talked with friends and folks about the moments when the game and the “real world” actually managed to coincide serendipitously. For example, I was walking in a park and I caught a Rattata; just at that moment, a real rat ran across the path. It would be fascinating if the game (or future games) allowed you to “take a picture” of a bird and it would randomly generate the possibility that it is actually a Pidgey and go from there.
I’m thrilled you’ve raised this point, especially since (optimistically) my own post focuses on how there’s ‘something for everyone’ in Pokémon Go, but obviously there remain a number of serious issues with the game. As a previously rural player I understand that frustration… and as an affluent white person I also need to acknowledge that the area I now live in is catered to by the game, I don’t need to worry about racial profiling while trying to catch Pokémon late at night, and as an able-bodied woman the ‘go’ aspect of the game is readily available to me.
There are numerous layers to this elite gamer profile, including the financial aspect you mention. Even beyond needing to pay for the phone and the data, there is the added problem of, with no Pokéstops in rural areas, there are no Pokéballs—no Pokéballs, no game. While living in the more remote parts of PA this summer, I seriously considered paying for coins/supplies and only withheld because my mom (also an avid gamer) was willing to drive out into town with me and play, making the trip worth it and emphasizing that we had the time to do so. There’s something to be said for those bonding experiences… though also the fact that we probably paid more for gas than we would have spent on coins in the first place.
This comment may be inappropriate for some users. Ahem.
How do we read the appropriation of Pokémon Go’s AR tech to create “Diglett” dick pics? Some of the shots I’ve seen (and I haven’t really looked) are rampantly heterosexist, with women staged in the background, ready to appreciate Diglett’s emergence. That’s not to say queer play wouldn’t be possible with the same meme, especially now that the new appraisal feature offers double entendres a-plenty: the difference, let’s say, between team leaders Candela or Blanche saying “The size of your Diglett is… colossal” and Spark saying “Your Diglett is just HUGE!”
And while we’re at it, for fun, here’s an experiment from an earlier installment: “I joined Grindr and only used trainer quotes from Pokémon Red”