One week ago, Mad Men ended with the image of Don Draper smiling into the camera. On the other side of the screen my face, as two ancient Greek theater masks facing each other, was rather the opposite: the face of disappointment. What a lacking finale –if not a complete disaster–, to the point that our own Homecoming Queen, who actually confessed to like the episodes, preferred to discuss the latest Penny Dreadful episodes over the series finales of a series of the relevance of Mad Men. This fact made look back to this year’s fiction and wonder: are we having a bad year?
…And we are back for the final part of the Telethinking Awards 2014. We have left the big categories for the end so do not miss them out!
You have already seen the first segment of our prestigious awards gala and, finally, today -so you can talk it over Christmas Eve dinner- we, or, in this case, the renown television critic The Homecoming Queen, bring you the second part. And the Telethinking Award goes to …
Elevators are no-places; spaces where we just pass through such as halls, subway stations, airports, spots that do not mark our memory nor catch our attention, perishable. Awkward spaces that, by definition, bother and unsettle us. Of course, it is when we are located within one of them that we show something hidden about ourselves, a little tic, perhaps, or a original way of responding to some stimulus. Elevators become, thus, revealers of human nature.
Contemporary television, as the great study of human psychology that it is, has taken good note of this, and many relevant TV series have made of elevators a great narrative device.
“Let me tell ya something. Nowadays, everybody’s gotta go to shrinks, and counselors, and go on “Sally Jessy Raphael” and talk about their problems. What happened to Gary Cooper? The strong, silent type. That was an American. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings. He just did what he had to do. See, what they didn’t know was once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings that they wouldn’t be able to shut him up! And then it’s dysfunction this, and dysfunction that, and dysfunction vaffancul!” – Tony Soprano
Modern cinema took off with two stares into camera: Harriet Andersson challenged the audience to judge her for her new affair in Summer with Monika (Bergman, 1953), and Jean Seberg did the same thing seven years later in À bout de souffle (Godard), probably a direct quotation of the previous film, when in its last shot she pretended to be something she was not. The look at the camera was thus established as a breach in form, the characters acknowledge their own performative act, related also to a subversion of the social and genre conventions, both women betray their lovers. Cinema would never be the same again, self-consciousness and reflexivity would become the main features of contemporary cinema, from films about the essence of cinema and acting (Persona) to studies of the generic and the thin barrier between reality and fiction disappearing in our current society (Synecdoche New York). Viewer, actor and character converge into one single entity.
Fargo, Penny Dreadful, and Halt and Catch Fire, these seem to be three of the shows called to set the pace of what’s to come in serial fiction. All of them star, or co-star, independent (even, sometimes, solitary) and melancholic women. Women finally released from the household, and we are talking here about shows set in the XIX century and the 80s, that take the initiative in their male-dominated fictional universes. But, what do these three newcomers look at? They are looking behind, they are looking at Peggy Olson, the character that made possible their status as groundbreaking female leads in contemporary television.