Friday, January 06, 2006

Women to Watch: Lady MacBeth Gilmore

How many women wield power on television? No, let me rephrase my question – how many women wield power on television without using sexuality?

Television swarms with sexy seductresses. In fact, if you start profiling based on most shows, be wary of any nubile, blond bombshells. They're vixens, apparently, or else, victims. Unless their name was "Buffy."

But under the radar, in a smart, snappy comedy, Emily Gilmore has been rising in power. Played to perfection by Kelly Bishop, Emily is an impressive antagonist. She's shrewd. She's sassy. She's even sympathetic. But what truly sets her apart from other female adversaries?

Sex is not her weapon.

Oh - and did I mention – she’s over the age of fifty. But Emily’s no artifact. She's a vibrant and complicated power-house who can do both right and wrong - knowingly. Unlike Marie Barone on Raymond, Emily doesn’t fool herself into thinking her motives are selfless. She exercises control over daughter and granddaughter without apology. She’s archetypal, really; reminiscent of fairy tale queens who usurp their own step-daughters.

Sure, since she lives inside a comedy, Emily will never compete with Lady MacBeth. But she’s far more convincing and commanding than most desperate housewives. And she’s one of the reasons Gilmore Girls has grown stronger these past few seasons. The show is allowing a grandmother to play the “villain” without playing the “fool,” and it’s working.

6 repartee:

Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

Why is it on television that the "comedies" seem to present a truer view of life than the dramas?

The heart of the Gilmore Girls are the two mother-daughter relationships and the charater of Emily Gilmore is a woman of incredibly strong will, with a strong point of view regarding what is wrong and what is right. She makes mistakes and repeats those mistakes again, but yet she also learns from her mistakes. She is predictable, yet can surprise, but never in a way that doesn't make sense upon reflection.

I read a reviewer recently who said that there is better writing these days on television than there is in the movies, for it is only in television (with some exceptions, like "Brokeback Mountain") that a writer can explore a character in depth.

In great writing, the more we know about a character, the more mysterious their layers become and I think that is true in the case of Emily Gilmore, a character exceptionally well written and performed. She could've been just another WASP caricature but she is a woman of strength, weakness, humor, and poignancy.

1/07/2006 3:53 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Yes! Emily Gilmore (in other hands) might have become little more than a caricature, but Kelly Bishop's portrayal combined with the show's fairly consistent writing allow this woman an interesting range of comedy and drama - and yes, sometimes, melodrama ;).

Always glad to hear from another fan! :)

1/09/2006 10:27 AM  
Blogger Mercy wrote...

Said this before but spot on.

It'll soon amount to a crime if she's overlooked for her contributions to the show and to upping the class and REAL ACTING factor on the telly. I think anyone who really appreciates sublime and gutsy work will be ready to storm the bastille if we're made to wait any longer for her to get her kudos.

1/13/2006 1:30 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, Mercy! I’m ready to storm the Bastille when you are - hehe! I love your fighting spirit.

I really missed Emily in the last episode. The storylines tend to feel stronger to me when she's woven into them.

:) Good to see you!

1/13/2006 8:05 AM  
Blogger The Poodle's Friend wrote...

I completely agree. Emily Gilmore is one 'evil' character you cannot possibly hate. You find yourself thinking that she's manipulation exemplified, but at the same time you can't help but admire how she gets everything she wants. And I can totally see where Lorelai gets her sense of humour.
Unfortunately, TV shows get dubbed here in Italy, but Emily still manages to be great, and that's saying a lot. If you had ever seen Buffy in Italian, you'd cringe at every word (especially as Cordelia sounds like a thirty year-old).
Thank Joss for DVDs!

1/28/2006 8:10 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Poodle's Friend - Welcome fellow Buffy & Emily Gilmore fan - :D

Yes! Emily does demonstrate such admirable skill (alongside the desperation) in her "manipulation" - making for a very interesting psychological study.

You're so right about her humor (oh, she's wickedly funny!!!). So many shows aim for humor solely based on detached one-liners, but here, humor is grounded in solid characterizations (like Buffy & gang).

Cordelia speaking Italian? Hmm... her character might like that - ;)

1/28/2006 4:20 PM  

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