Why Are The Emmys Honoring Rape Scenes?

Before reading this, please note that I am not trying to take a stance on whether rape should or should not be portrayed on television. I understand that it is a severe crime that happens all too frequently in the world, but I also understand that it has become a go-to plot line for many of today’s most popular and critically acclaimed series.

To begin, let me note that four of the six nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series play characters who are raped on the screen. Anna Gunn, as Skyler White in Breaking Bad, is raped by her husband in Season Two, as he attempts to take out his pent up rage in the couple’s kitchen. Joanne Froggatt, as Anna Bates in Downton Abbeycaused two waves of controversy – once when Season Four’s fourth episode was released in the UK and again when it aired in the US – when her character is violently raped in the servants’ quarters. It was one of those scenes that never seemed to end. Christina Hendricks, as Joan Holloway Harris in Mad Men, is raped by her husband when he drunkenly visits her in her office. Lena Headey, as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones, is raped by her brother and secret lover Jamie beside the corpse of their dead son, Joffrey.

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Each of these incidents mark a powerful character arc for the women involved, who end up forever scarred by the attacks.

After the nominations were announced, many fans of Scandal took to the Internet to vent about the snub of Bellamy Young in the same category. She portrays the First Lady of the United States, Melody “Mellie” Fitzgerald, who is raped by her father-in-law in a flashback.

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Another show that garnered a lot of attention from the Television Academy this year was FX’s American Horror Story: Coven, raking in 17 nominations. This twelve episode mini-series includes three separate rape scenes – the victims being Madison Montgomery, Queenie, and Kyle Spencer.

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Again, I do not believe I am qualified to judge whether or not these scenes should be so prevalent on our television screens, but it seems as though today’s most complex narratives are involving rape, and the actresses portraying the victims seem to be getting recognition for their work. Is it good that these women are helping to expose crimes that they are often forced to keep secret? In the example of Anna Bates, a married woman living in the 1920s, admission of being raped would mar her reputation and Lord Grantham would have no other option but to relieve her of her duties in order to avoid a scandal (something that household knows a thing or two about). On the other hand, is it becoming too normalized? Should we have expected Madison Montgomery to have been raped at the frat party?

I apologize if this post was a little heavier than usual, but I saw the trend in the nominations and thought it would be interesting to bring up.

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Goodbye, Walter White

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Sunday night, we bid farewell to Walter White, a beloved husband, father, brother-in-law, teacher, mentor, defamed drug lord, and archetype-shattering anti-hero. Over the course of the show’s five seasons, we have seen one man’s descent into the tantalizing void of greed, leaving no victims unscathed. In the Season Three finale, we see the magnitude of Walt’s decisions, as two commercial airlines crash over his home because Jane’s father, an air traffic controller, couldn’t focus on his job after learning of his daughter’s overdose – something Walt witnessed and could have stopped.

While some are sad to see the drug lord’s story laid to rest, others are happy that the show ended on top, snagging the Best Drama Emmy last week. Some notable shows that audiences agree ran their course far before their finales are Lost, Heroes, Dexter, and, currently, Mad Men.

Fans were also pleasantly surprised at the amount of loose ends Executive Producer Vince Gilligan was able to tie up in the final two episodes, especially the well-deserved bow-out for the druggie fan favorites Badger and Skinny Pete.

Breaking Bad played with our emotions during the hour-long finale, replaying clips from Season One as Walt’s conscious becomes flooded with guilt. For once in his life, Walt confesses to Skyler that everything he did was for him – not the family. “I liked it,” he manages to say. “I was good at it.” If that doesn’t scream character arc, then maybe his selflessness in the show’s final moments will make you change your mind. I’ll leave you there without spoiling too much of the tale.

As for the legacy of Breaking Bad? It will become a textbook example in all categories – writing, directing, cinematography, and, of course, acting. Without Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, and the rest of the amazing cast, the show wouldn’t be the success it is. They made the strange place of Albuquerque, New Mexico feel like home. They made us apart of the White family. Heck, they made cooking meth into an art, let alone feasible by your favorite chemistry teacher and his dead-beat student.

So here’s to you, the great Heisenberg. And to many A-1 Days to come.

Looking Forward with BREAKING BAD

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What more can I say about Sunday night’s antepenultimate (fancy word meaning third to last; sports fans may know this as the quarter finals) episode?
Between Hank’s death and Walter’s now infamously misconstrued phone call to his wife, the episode exceeded my expectations and has been attracting a lot of attention. Since the episode aired, employees at AMC’s headquarters have been stuck in a continuous Sue Heck dance-loop.
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While other blogs have given you a play-by-play of the full forty-two minute masterpiece, I thought I’d spend this time contemplating a few matters at hand as we prepare ourselves for the final two episodes of this great series.
Before I make a prediction of the White family’s fate, let me lay out what we know:

1. Walter White skipped town, presumably with the help of Saul’s vacuum repairman, after knowingly victimizing his wife and family with his police-tapped phone.
2. Jesse Pinkman is being held prisoner by Todd and his Nazi-branded uncle. Using the picture of his ex-girlfriend Andrea and her son Brock, they blackmail Jesse into cooking meth again. We assume that he will be forced to continue as a part of Lydia’s global meth operation.
3. In the Season Five Part 1 premiere, we saw a flash-forward of Walt returning to Albuquerque. By the way he places the bacon on his plate at the local Denny’s, we know that it is his birthday – one of Skyler’s tradition we see in the episode “51.” In the same scene, he has a full head of hair, a New Hampshire license plate, and a pretty hefty gun.
4. In the Season Five Part 2 premiere, we see Walter drive from the Denny’s to his now-abandoned and dilapidated home. The living room appears charred and “Heisenberg” is spray painted on the wall. Walter goes into his room to retrieve the ricin, which has been stored in his handy-dandy wall outlet.
5. On his way out, his neighbor Carol appears petrified. It is obvious that the world now knows the truth about Walter White.

So what does this all mean? Here’s what I think/hope is going to happen.

1. Skyler, Flynn, Holly, and Marie will be put under Witness Protection. Walter will never see them again.
2. Walter will return to Albuquerque to kill Todd and his uncle’s crew, thereby liberating Jesse of servitude. This is what the gun is for.
3. Walt will then give the ricin back to Jesse – this will be a symbolic gesture, as if he is giving Jesse the power to kill him, just as Walter had the power to kill Jesse many times before.
4. Walter and Jesse will drive through downtown Albuquerque and pick up Wendy for old time’s sake.

So these are my (edited) predictions for the final two episodes of Breaking Bad, which will forever be one of the most realistic, dramatic, eye-opening, genre-shattering, mind-bending show on television. In addition to its amazing writing, the cast is brilliant – especially noting the often hated on Anna Gunn. Let me just say, her New York Times article perfectly narrates her life’s struggle over the course of the show’s production. Let’s just say I got chills when this happened.

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While I will be watching the Emmy Awards next Sunday night, I expect ratings to dip a bit for Breaking Bad‘s upcoming episode, but the finale on September 29th should hit record numbers. Maybe surpass The Walking Dead? One can dream.

BREAKING BAD vs. the Decay of Pop Culture (VMAs)

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Sunday night is usually my favorite part of the week. I get to make some popcorn, put my feet up, dim the lights just right, tune into AMC, and watch Breaking Bad in the company of my Twitter friends. But last night, something disturbed my peace and focus. Millions upon millions of Americans reverted to their pre-pubescent girl mindsets as Miley Cyrus twerked her way across stage, followed by the quiver-inducing reunion of N*Sync. Needless to say, I couldn’t find my usually Twitter friends in the muck that littered my feed. Anyway, for those so-called “adults” who were busy watching the decay of pop culture in America, I hope you see this and I spoil last night’s episode of Breaking Bad for you. You kind of deserve it and you kind of know that.

The episode opens with a somewhat humorous encounter between Adam and two of Lydia’s henchmen at a diner, where Walter’s former apprentice relays the story of their great train heist. The crew rolls out with a tank full of methylamine as a cheerful tune plays from the stereo.

Over at the White household, Walter stops Flynn from going to his Aunt Marie’s by sweet-talking him and revealing to his son that his cancer is back. Flynn, being the oblivious sucker that he is, takes the bait as Marie waits anxiously for her nephew to come over – thinking that she can protect him from the drug lord and his many burnt bridges.

Later, Walt, Skyler, Hank, and Marie meet at a restaurant, where the conniving duo ask that their children be left alone. Before they even order appetizers, Walt and Skyler leave, placing a CD on the table as they go.

Standing speechless in their living room, Hank and Marie play the video: a twisted confession from Walt that recounts the entire past year from his perspective as Hank’s coerced sidekick in the meth empire. Walt sites the $177,000 that he was “forced” to give to Hank to pay for his treatment and physical therapy after the shooting.

Meanwhile, Walt advises Jesse to leave town. After some tears and a weird Voldemort hug, Saul sets the young apprentice up with a new identity and a ride to Alaska, but not before Jesse realizes that his ricin-filled cigarette is missing.

Jesse misses his ride and goes ape-shit in the office of Saul Goodman, Attorney at Law, and ultimately snags a pistol off the conman, who reveals that Walt has the ricin. For those who don’t remember, this is troubling to Jesse because he now has proof that Walt was responsible for poisoning Brock at the end of Season 4, even though the ricin was never used (he used the berries from the plant in his backyard). But still, Jesse’s rage continues as he barges into the seemingly empty White household and dumps a can of gasoline in the living room – which we know will be burnt from Episode 8’s flash forward.

Then it goes to black. Is anyone home? Flynn? Holly? Will the fire take anyone’s life? Will anyone actually die in this show? With only five episodes left, I expect each and every one of you to never take a Sunday night for granted ever again – looking at you, Miley.

BREAKING BAD Returns with “Bloody Money”

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After months of anxious anticipation, Breaking Bad is back – with quite the vengeance. The episode, entitled “Bloody Money,” marks the beginning of the end for the second half of the fifth and final season of the AMC drama.

We start out with a glimpse into Walt’s future, where he breaks into his own abandoned and dilapidated house (which is still in better condition than Don Draper’s childhood whorehouse). The now full-haired Walt, who we saw in an earlier episode leaving a diner with his New Hampshire licensed car, marches straight to his trusty electrical outlet to retrieve the still-unused capsule of ricin. As he leaves the house, his neighbor stares in a trembling trance and drops her groceries as Walt mutters, “Hello, Carol.”

Flash back to Hank on the toilet in modern times. Like the emotionally unstable Hank we have come to know and kind of love, he becomes very disoriented (and the lack of camera focus doesn’t let you forget how distraught he is about discovering Walt’s dirty little secret). He stashes Walt’s copy of Leaves of Grass, with Gale’s note printed inside, in his bag and bolts with his wife. After a relatively unnecessary car crash and a classic Marie freak out, Hank is out on leave from work…again.

Soon, we come to learn that Skyler and Walt’s carwash has become a financial success – just not successful enough to launder the thousands of dollars from Walt’s meth days. Lydia, the international meth transporter extraordinaire, pays the carwash a visit and offers Walt an opportunity to come back for a big money deal. But Skyler goes into full maternal mode and tells her off like only a mother could.

Over at the Pinkman residence, Jesse and his trusty pals Skinny Pete and Badger, the latter goes on a mindless, drugged-up rant about Star Trek. I wonder who had more fun: the writers writing the scene or Matt Jones performing it?

Again, Jesse is feeling conflicted about all the money he has accumulated, so he goes to Saul to sort out his “debts,” but Walt thinks that leaving large sums of money to Mike’s granddaughter and the missing boy’s parents will only stir more police investigation. So Jesse, in a scene where Aaron Paul was clearly determined to win another Emmy, throws wads of the “bloody money” out of his car in the slums of Albuquerque.

In a chemo-induced vomiting fit, Walt discovers that his bathroom copy of Leaves of Grass is missing, which leads him to find Hank’s GPS tracker under the frame of his car. In the episode’s climax (a moment we have been waiting months for), Walt confronts Hank and they brawl. Hank comes out on top physically, but Walt pulls the “I’m dying” card and assures his brother-in-law that he will never see the inside of a jail cell.

One thing I didn’t like about the episode’s ending was the writers’ feeble attempt to make yet another badass Walter White quote: “Tread lightly.” We’ve already heard the man utter the words, “Say my name,” “I’m in the empire business,” and, “I am the one who knocks,” so I just feel like, “Tread lightly,” pushes the envelope a little bit.

All in all, I was happy with the return of Breaking Bad. Nothing crazy happened – everything went according to prediction. But what will happen in the future timeline and how will the two timelines converge? Let’s just hope Marie doesn’t have any more shoplifting urges and the show can go out with a bang.