Gender through an HBO Lens

Entourage

This year I turned 22, lost a significant amount of hope (for life in general, #YayAdulthood), and received enough iTunes credit from my big brother to pay for a full year of HBO Now. He’s the real MVP. Also, hand-me-downs get so much better when you’re older, and your sibling loves having the newest and latest technology (again, the real MVP).

But, back on track, one thing that I started watching – okay, okay, binging – has been Entourage. I’m currently on season 6, and I plan to finish this thing, because mama didn’t raise no quitter. However, I’ve already come to some conclusions about this show, which has helped me realize problems in others, but I write this today in the hopes that putting this out in the Universe will make the problems go away in the episodes I have yet to see. The pattern of the show would lead me to believe otherwise, but I’m thinking of it as Schrödinger’s television series, if you will.

960

Anyway, my big beef with Entourage is it’s lack of actual female roles. Women in the show are either workers (Danna Gordon, Babs, etc.), or romantic/sexual partners (Sloane, Ashley, etc.), in that the two worlds of having sex (in the present) and working do not combine. While we do get information on most of the women’s jobs, there is hardly any effort put into going into detail about their work, or frankly what they do when they aren’t with the boys. While there have been some caveats to this, all women in this series are deemed important based on the relationships they have with men. Women who seem to break the boundary between sex and work are the characters of Amanda and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, both of whom have relationships with the guys and tell us about their work lives outside of their relation to the men in the show.

It’s odd to me, because the show seems to be somewhat self reflexive on this issue (I specifically keep thinking back to one of the earlier episodes when a girl who’s with Drama states that Billy Walsh’s style reminds her of Goddard), although maybe it doesn’t see itself that way. In essence, what I mean to say is, the dudes who wrote this are like “wow, there’s not a lot of detail given to these women, isn’t it awful that the real world is like that?”. Bu—but, no, Dougie, the world is not like that. In any way.

And yet, somehow, seeing these problems, I still find the show interesting. Of course, there are other problems, like the stereotypical ways that race and sexuality are portrayed. Black people are relegated to rappers, car mechanics, and car thieves, while femme gays are the only portrayal we see (meaning Lloyd and his friends, Sloane and Eric’s 3-way, and the woman the Mayor goes home with). I will throw the show a bone here, and say that it seems to be mildly, and I mean very very mild like Pace picante, forward thinking in the way it portrays Jewish communities in Hollywood. To be honest, even that is lacking, and perhaps I’m busy comparing it to shows that have done it better (Transparent, for instance), but this is the only glimmer I see for Entourage in this regard.

Thinking about the show like this reminded me of something else though…

Sex and the City

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A show that portrays a one sided view of gender in a large metropolitan area, with limited focus on ranges of sexuality, race, and religion? Say no more fam.

(They also both have in common that there’s something about them that makes them really interesting wot watch, even when recognizing the problems they have)

Before I get into this let me say that while both Entourage and Sex and the City have shortcomings with regard to the way social structures are portrayed, Sex and the City has a purpose outside of itself in a way that Entourage does not. Women have historically been shamed for their sexual desires, and for attempting to achieve sexual pleasure. In making a show about women finding partners, having sex, and the problems they face as a result, this show attempts to break down many social barriers that existed before it’s creation and, to some extent, still exist today. The women in this show are varied in their sexual interests, though not in their race, religion, or sexual orientation. This show lacks any consistent voice of people of color, despite being in one of America’s most diverse city. Likewise, this show also lacks women who don’t prefer to be ‘feminine’. Lastly, why isn’t anyone ever broke in this show? Carrie discusses spending her rent money on shoes (very relatable to me, I am resisting, but LOOK), and yet we never see any of the characters lack for anything. How do you accurately portray life in the big city without discussing money on a real level?

My next question would then be, do these shows accurately portray life? Are they even attempting to?

I already know my answer, which is that no, they don’t. You can’t ignore the reality of our social makeup and then pretend to be portraying life, at least not in the way these shows do. 

This, of course, doesn’t mean they aren’t good to watch. I love eating those coke bottle gummies, but I don’t live with an understanding that they’ll nourish me, and in the same sense I watch Entourage knowing it’s entertaining, but I don’t expect it to nourish my soul.  🎬

Have you watched something recently that inspires you? Or maybe you have a favorite trash piece of TV as a go-to? Let me know below!

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