Despite the Name, It’s All About the Women on Masters of Sex.

This article was originally published on TheVine on 17th October, 2014.

I recently spent a weekend in August listening to international guest of the Melbourne Writers Festival Emily Nussbaum, television critic for The New Yorker, wax lyrical about the “golden age of prestige TV” and its respective “antiheroes”. While we’ve been watching the Don Drapers, Tony Sopranos and Walter Whites for the past fifteen years it’s time for a new dawn of television where women are the focus, such as Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black and pretty much anything Shonda Rhimes puts her Midas touch to.

One such show that comes to mind is Masters of Sex, the second season finale of which aired on SBS last night. Masters might seem to focus on the man it’s named for, the steely, socially awkward OBGYN, Bill Masters, played by Michael Sheen, but who it’s really concerned with are the women in his life. These include the long-suffering wife, Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald), whose trajectory sees her struggle with the changing attitudes of the late ’50s and early ’60s, and the woman her husband is having an affair with: research assistant in Masters’ study of human sexual response, Virginia Johnson, played expertly by Lizzy Caplan. Both Masters and Johnson justify their extramarital activities by being adamant that “it’s for the work”. While nary a facet of Masters isn’t shown to Virginia at some stage or another he recoils from Libby, runs his mother out of town, slut-shames former sex worker cum secretary Betty and Virginia at times, and I don’t think there’s been an instance in which he interacts with his two infant sons.  In a scene that echoes Breaking Bad’s “I’m the one who knocks!”, Bill rages at Libby when she confronts him about their money troubles that “I provide the roof!”

Audiences may struggle to reconcile the way Masters treats the women in his personal life with his important medical work, not unlike Don Draper, for example, in the “masculinity masterpieces”—as Nussbaum put it in her presentation at the Writers Festival—of yore.

Masters of Sex is a show that has almost unbelievably advanced attitudes towards sex for the time it’s set and the fictional Masters and Johnson are held up as paragons of progression. At work Masters masquerades as the good, bleeding-heart doctor stuck in the conservative ’50s, as seen when he refuses to perform gender assignment surgery on an intersex baby. Masters similarly declines a teenaged patient’s parents request for her to undergo a hysterectomy to curb her sexual appetite. Careful, Bill, your God complex is showing.

Like Orange is the New Black, a show that follows a wide range of incarcerated women’s lives using a middle-class white woman as the Trojan horse to gain entry into that world, Masters’ focus on a male doctor is a cipher to take a better look at Virginia, Libby et al. in a time when women were viewed as second class citizens. (Some would argue that nothing much as changed.)

Also like OITNB, perhaps this has to do with the fact that it is a created by women, not “prickly auteurs and the antiheroes they love”, to borrow yet another line from Nussbaum. A different Emily—this time Emily Tatti, editor of online literary journal Ricochet—tweeted that “You can tell it’s written by women, you just don’t get female characters like that in other shows!”

Showrunner Michelle Ashford explains Masters of Sex’s portrayal of women thusly:

“[In season one] three of our episodes were directed by women, our staff was half women, my producing partner is a woman. A lot of the people that have interviewed us say, ‘Wow, this whole show is run by women.’ We look at each other and think, ‘We didn’t design it that way.’ And that’s actually pretty great.”

The capable, relatable women who are received by audiences as such outnumber the titular Masters. Where Breaking Bad’s Skyler White was eviscerated by armchair commentators for expressing concern over her husband’s drug dealing and the actress that played her subsequently wrote a New York Times op-ed about it, Libby’s “problem that has no name”, for example, is portrayed as empathetic. And Virginia might get around but she is never characterised as wanton to the audience. Other such “strong female characters”, to use the clichéd term, that aren’t so much likeable as they are realistic portrayals of women in the world include How to Get Away with Murder’s Annalise Keating, Hannah Horvath of Girls, and any number of the women on Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and OITNB.

Masters of Sex is busy ushering in this new era of television that sees antiheroes shift ever so slightly out of the frame and the women who love them—or, in many instances, merely tolerate them—have their time in the spotlight.

Elsewhere: [NPR] Orange Creator Jenji Kohan: “Piper Was My Trojan Horse.”

[HuffPo] Masters of Sex Creator Michelle Ashford: “I Had Every Horrible Job Imaginable.”

[NYTimes] I Have a Character Issue.

[Amazon] The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.

[New Statesman] I Hate Strong Female Characters.

[Buzzfeed] Not Here to Make Friends.

All Dogs Go to Seven.

This article was originally published on TheVine on 9th July, 2012.

As Australia’s Got Talent nears its grand final, I find myself wondering why the hell the scandalous Kyle Sandilands is still hosting the family show.

You’d have to be oblivious to the Aussie media scene for the past few years not to remember the lie detector-sexual assault incident, the Magda Szubanski-concentration camp comments and the on-air berating of a journalist for her appearance after she expressed concern over the integrity of Sandilands’ and Jackie O’s radio show.

Despite this, Channel Seven still seems to deem him a valuable talent and, perhaps because of this, a host that draws in the ratings. I can understand his presence on a show like Ten’s Can of Worms or The Footy Show on Nine, which aim to shock, but what does Sandilands really bring to the judging panel on a talent show that airs in the kiddie timeslot of 7:30pm? The straight-talking, older white male talent show host trope in the vein of Simon Cowell and Ian “Dicko” Dickson is a tired one. Sandilands may not be causing any trouble at the moment, but you can bet another controversy is right around the corner…  

But Sandilands’ prominence is by no means a standalone occurrence in Seven’s lineup: After it was revealed that former NRL player Matthew Johns was involved in group sex with his fellow Cronulla Sharks teammates and a teenager whose consent was questionable at best, he received his own Channel Seven footy program, the creatively titled Matty Johns Show. And, staying with sportsmen, what about the Ben Cousins doco, Such is Life, which at once tragically and glamorously profiled his life as an addict? What about former Home & Away actor, Lincoln Lewis, whose sex tape with a co-star went public the same day he was announced as a contestant on the dancing show in 2009? Convenient, hey? Did you know fellow H&A alum Dan Ewing was charged with assault against his fiancé at the end of 2011, the same year he was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, a show that loves its bad boys? Speaking of assault, it was only after Matthew Newton beat girlfriend Rachael Taylor in a Rome hotel room in 2010 that he was axed as host of—you guessed it, another family-geared talent show—The X-Factor. I suppose his history of trashing hotel rooms and violence with previous intimate partner Brooke Satchwell was written off as a onetime thing. Remember Axle Whitehead’s public act of indecency at the 2006 ARIA’s was all but forgotten when he moved to Summer Bay and received a gig as host of the network’s World’s Strictest Parents in 2009. And who could forget Brendan Fevola’s illustrious career of AFL tradeoffs, drug- and alcohol-fuelled benders, gambling problems, infidelity, inappropriate picture-taking of Lara Bingle and, just last week, his grammatically-incorrect Twitter tirade against a country footy umpire? Apparently, Channel Seven: Fev was signed up for this years’ season of DWTS as its lovable larrikin.

Television commentator Andrew Mercado put it best two years ago in the wake of the Newton incident when he wrote:

“… [T]he station is chock a block full of bad boys on big pay packets who are being rewarded for their unsavourity [sic] indiscretions with higher profile jobs during the family hour… So let me get this straight—gang bangers, bullies and bashers are in but closeted gay men (like NSW Transport Minister David Campbell) are to be outed on the 6pm News.”

But why? It’s not like any of the abovementioned men—bar perhaps Sandilands, who the general public pretty much abhor—are huge drawcards for the station like Charlie Sheen was for CBS (and, by extension, Channel Nine). Johns is but a blip on the radar of sports programming, Newton and Cousins have descended into the cycle of mental illness, and I challenge any non-H&A fan to identify Ewing by name.

A quick look at the Seven corporate website indicates the male chauvinist pig syndrome transfers from in front of the camera to behind it, with an all-male board of directors and management team. While I’m in no way insinuating that the male bosses at Seven get up to the same kind of extra-curriculars their talent does, could it be a contributing factor to the swept-under-the-rug mentality the commercial channels seem to subscribe to?

If so, could, at the very least, a lone female on the board be the voice of reason? I doubt it. The boys club zeitgeist of most traditional forms of media (nay, most industries in general) is not going to be permeated by one woman alone, despite their best intentions: just look at Mia Freedman’s foray into television at Channel Nine. And why should it be a woman’s job to make sure over-privileged, under-accountable man-children behave in their personal lives? Wouldn’t a better solution be to not reward verbal insults, physical violence, drug use, lewd behavior and sexual assault with free-to-air-time in the first place, regardless of who’s performing it and who’s in charge?

On the other channels, while Channel Ten is debuting Australia’s version of Jersey Shore, The Shire, in a couple of weeks and Sheen’s new vehicle, Anger Management, is sure to be a ratings hit, ABC and SBS push forward with groundbreaking shows that don’t reward the dominant, bad boy bogan culture, like Go Back to Where You Came From (celebrity version coming soon!) and Joe Hildebrand’s Dumb, Drunk & Racist. Unfortunately, the latter two programs appeal to what all-too-often happens to be the minority, while many of the shows listed throughout this piece are geared towards the lowest common denominator: those who are perfectly happy with the status quo or don’t notice what’s wrong with it.

The Perception of Power in Orange is the New Black.

orange is the new black season 3 piper

*This piece contains spoilers for the third season of Orange is the New Black.

In the lead up to last Friday’s debut of Orange is the New Black’s third season, promos littered the internet about how the show would deal heavily with faith and motherhood this time around.

The motherhood motif bookends the season, with the inaugural episode opening with a Mother’s Day fete at Litchfield while the requisite flashbacks deal primarily with each prisoner’s relationship to motherhood, whether as a parent or a daughter.

But one of the less obvious but just as imperative themes of season three is power and the perception of it.

Power manifests itself in many guises this season but takes root in several main storylines.

Piper, using the money in her commissary account (a privilege her upper middle class pre-prison lifestyle affords her in itself), buys out all the noodle flavouring packets the prisoners have taken to seasoning Litchfield’s new, inedible menu with as an incentive to the other inmates to give her their used underwear to sell in her prison panty business.

Of course, she supplies the underwear that she steals from the new prison “sweatshop” which has Piper, new inmate Stella (played by Ruby Rose), et al. earning $1 an hour sewing “$90 bras” for lingerie company Whispers. And when Stella betrays her by stealing her profits two days before her release, Piper exercises her dominance over her new lover by planting contraband in Stella’s cell and it’s off to max(imum security) she goes.

Piper had originally pointed the finger at Flaca who’d been agitating for “fair pay for skanky panties” in a parallel storyline to the power plays prison manager Joe Caputo has to make as Litchfield becomes privatised. The guards turn to him as they attempt to unionise in the face of pay cuts and lost benefits, however rumblings of Caputo’s internal struggle to be a good guy versus being paid his dues that we saw last season (when Officer Bennett confessed his relationship and subsequent pregnancy with Dayanara Diaz and Caputo told him to sweep it under the rug) reveal themselves and he throws the guards under the bus.

orange is the new black season 3 norma

Religion presents as a powerful currency inside as mute Norma is held up as a deity to the meth head laundry crew, Soso and even Poussey. Being the one lorded over in an abusive, polygamous relationship in her backstory, we see Norma relish her newfound religious power.

Meanwhile, Cindy leads her friends in their quest for Kosher meals. While the others are claiming Kosher ’cause it tastes good, Cindy actually has a religious revelation of sorts, and becomes a Jew by season’s end.

orange is the new black season three pennsatucky rape coates donuts

Perhaps one of the more harrowing exhibits of power and just how little female prisoners have is in Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett’s trajectory. Her backstory paints a depressing picture of trading sex for soft drink and after her sensitive and sexually giving high school boyfriend leaves town, she’s raped by a former paramour who didn’t like that she cut off his supply of sex.

Food acts as a snare in Doggett’s relationship with a new guard who also works at a donut shop. During their errand runs off prison grounds, they stop to feed their uneaten donuts to ducks in an uncomfortable violation of prisoner-guard relations. While nothing funny happens for a few more episodes, and it’s unclear whether the guard had designs on assaulting Doggett from the beginning, it reinforces that even if a prisoner is willing, the imbalance of power between guards and inmates is too great for there to be a clear choice. (This is echoed in Daya’s pregnancy.)

Other, arguably less obvious manifestations of power can be seen in the ignorance and violence that further marginalises the already marginalised as rumours about Sophia’s transition circulate; Taystee’s newfound role as the “mumma” of her friendship group; Red’s return to the kitchen; Angie’s escape and, later, the entire prison population’s Litchfield Redemption.

Despite the fun, sisterly environment Orange is the New Black can sometimes portray Litchfield to be, women in prison—and, by extension, women in the outside world—have a lot less power than this article might suggest. In back to back episodes that look at perception, Flaca says of her counterfeit LSD business that “people will believe what you tell them” while Chang is told by a business associate that it’s not whether the exotic animal parts they’re smuggling “work, but whether you think they work.” Even Norma seems incredulous to her apparent religious powers, with her fellow inmates perceiving her hugs when she sees them as their “morning blessing”. Cindy might not have chosen Judaism had she continued her frivolous pre-prison lifestyle, but freedom of religion is a small exertion of power she can express in incarceration.

These seemingly small grabs at power, or the perception of it, is crucial in an environment where lives may depend on it. And in Litchfield, it’s all the women have.

Related: Physical & Mental Health on Orange is the New Black.

Orange is the New Black‘s Morello’s Fractured Relationship with Romance.

Elsewhere: [Vulture] Orange is the New Black Season Three Will Be Lighter, Focused on Faith & Motherhood.

Images via Screenrants, She Knows, IMDB.

Grey’s Anatomy Season 11 Final: The Carousel Never Stops Turning*.

grey's anatomy season 11 final scene

Grey’s Anatomy fans upset over the sudden death of Derek Shepherd attempted to influence the show’s storyline by creating a petition to “Bring McDreamy Back!”, currently at over 100,000 signatures.

But I, for one, am excited to see where this hasty writing out of actor Patrick Dempsey will take Meredith Grey and the rest of the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about all the affecting, tragic deaths Grey’s Anatomy viewers have been subjected to over the years and they’ve all served as moments of growth for the characters: Izzie built a clinic for patients without insurance with the money Denny left her; Teddy’s husband’s death served as the catalyst to disrupt her friendship with Owen and to eventually leave the hospital; Lexie and Mark’s deaths influenced the change in hospital name and administration; and Dr. Thomas dying whilst operating with Cristina led her to return to Seattle.

In the episodes following Derek’s death, I was hoping for more of an exploration of the grief Meredith et al. were experiencing. Instead, about nine months of Meredith and her children’s lives flew by in one ninety minute episode as she found out she was pregnant with another child for her and Derek and fled Seattle as her mother did so many years ago.

But we’ve seen the “dark and twisty” Meredith, dwelling on her distant and sick mother, her father’s abandonment, Lexie’s death, George’s death, and now Derek’s death, so maybe, with the birth of Derek’s posthumous child, Meredith will come out the other side with a lighter perspective on life. The final scene of last night’s episode, with her taking sisters Maggie and Amelia’s hands and leading them to “dance it out” at Richard and Catherine’s wedding, would seem to indicate this.

This is not to say that grief won’t resurface as a theme of season twelve, which the show has been renewed for.

There might be hope for that yet as showrunner Shonda Rhimes said that “Meredith and the entire Grey’s Anatomy family are about to enter uncharted territory as we head into this new chapter of her life. The possibilities for what may come are endless. As Ellis Grey would say: The carousel never stops turning.”

Grey’s Anatomy has long ceased to be about the love affair between Meredith and Derek, anyway; hell, Derek was barely in this season as he took a job in Washington D.C. For the last two seasons, at least, the show has focussed on Meredith, her work and her friendships. In the aftermath of season eight’s plane crash, we saw Cristina flee for Minnesota while Meredith was left to cope with the death of her sister and an impending pregnancy. Cristina may be gone now, but the bonds between Alex and Meredith have strengthened, being the only two of their intern class to last in Seattle. The introduction of long lost sister Maggie and the return of Amelia means Meredith has other women to turn to, however begrudgingly.

But, if season twelve is the show’s last, it might make sense that Meredith’s pregnancy and disappearance were rushed. Despite Grey’s Anatomy being known as a show that rips beloved characters from Grey Sloan when we least expect it, perhaps it would like to go out with a celebration of the lives of the doctors still lucky enough to be practicing there. And the lives they’ve saved.

*Spoiler alert.

Related: Top 10 Grey’s Anatomy Deaths.

Leaning In to Grey’s Anatomy.

Elsewhere: [Junkee] 60,000 Seriously Pissed Off Grey’s Anatomy Fans Are Petitioning to Bring Back a Dead Character.

[] Bring Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd BACK!!!

Image via Buzzfeed.

TV: Three Problems with Married at First Sight.

married at first sight

While there are many more things that are problematic with Married at First Sight, below are just three that have gotten my goat about Nine’s new reality show.

Marriage Equality is Not Yet a Thing.

The argument could be made that with shows like this and Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marriage (she was actually married to Kris Humphries for closer to two years when the divorce proceedings were finalised), the sanctity of marriage has well and truly crumbled, so why would gay people want to marry anyway? Civil unions and de facto partnerships are basically like marriage anyway, right? Married at First Sight is not about that. If we are to truly believe that everyone is equal, then gay couples should have the right to marry the wrong person, file for divorce after 72 days and go on yet another reality show designed to embarrass its contestants. Married at First Sight doesn’t really have any bearing on the progress of marriage equality but it does throw a basic human right in the faces of those who don’t have it.

It Prevents Quality Aussie Programming From Being Made.

Sure, it’s cheaper to produce a crappy reality show void of storytelling and quality acting or even to buy the rights to an overseas scripted program than to put effort into an original Aussie show. But with the recent and continued success of shows like Nine’s own House Husbands and Love Child, surely there’s an audience for Aussie programming that doesn’t comprise of the lowest common denominator.

It Promotes Marriage as the Most Important Thing.

I’ve written about marriage and babies being the done thing for adults, and Married at First Sight does nothing to break that stereotype. That getting married to someone you’ve never met because you’re a certain age and haven’t yet found The One (what even is The One?) is more desirable than being alone and doing your thing is truly sad. Further to the above point, maybe a doco or reality show about the increasingly unmarried and childless adult population would be preferable to yet another pop cultural product that highlights the apparent inferiority of people (namely women) who choose not to go that route.

Related: Women Who Are Unsuccessful with Men Are Presumed Gay.

Celebrating the Single Life.

Image via Twitter.

TV: Top 10 Grey’s Anatomy Deaths*.

If Grey’s Anatomy knows how to do one thing (apart from stay on the air for eleven seasons despite most people being ignorant to its longevity) it’s a tragic death.

In case you didn’t catch last night’s high-stakes episode or were exposed to whisperings of spoilers on social media, Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd, the titular Meredith Grey’s One True Love and Grey Sloane Memorial Hospital’s resident neurosurgeon, departed the earthly realm with a combination of car wreck injuries and shoddy doctoring.

For those who have followed the show for the past decade or just tuned in to see what all the fuss was about, allow me to regale you with Grey’s Anatomy’s top ten death scenes.

Denny Duquette.

When people think of Grey’s Anatomy, they think of its season one-through-three heyday. Smack bang in the middle of that was dreamy heart transplant patient Denny Duquette (played by the equally-as-dreamy Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Izzie going AWOL by cutting Denny’s LVAD wire to move him further up the transplant list. That was all for nothing, though, as Denny later suffered a fatal stroke post-transplant and died. But not before proposing to Izzie.

George O’Malley.

Season five was when Grey’s started to kill its main cast off left, right and centre. It began with the death of original intern George O’Malley, who got hit by a bus by jumping in front of it to save an unknown woman on his way to join the army. Quelle tragédie. To add to the drama, George was brought into the hospital he used to work at as a John Doe patient, his extensive injuries from the accident rendering him unrecognisable. It was Meredith who made the ID, though, when George traced his nickname, 007—license to kill, after he almost did just that to his first patient—into her hand.

Reed Adamson & Charles Percy.

Grey’s didn’t wait long to thrust their next tragedy on its audience: season six’s cliffhanger saw a gunman loose in the hospital, intent on seeking out and killing McDreamy! He managed to hit his target, but not before taking out Mercy West Hospital transfers Reed Adamson and Charles Percy. Just to tug at those heartstrings even further, as Percy lay dying in Dr. Miranda Bailey’s (and Mandy Moore’s!) arms, he asked her to tell Reed that he loved her. Excuse me, there’s something in my eye.


Having watched Scott Foley more recently on Scandal, it’s hard to believe Dr. Teddy Altman’s husband died all the way back in season eight. His love for Teddy started when he was her patient and she was involved with another man. Thought they only married so Henry could receive Teddy’s health insurance, Teddy soon fell in love with him only for him to die on the table whilst Teddy’s protege Cristina Yang was operating on him. Henry was somewhat of a Manic Pixie Dream Husband, serving as the catalyst for Teddy to break off her friendship with Chief Owen Hunt when he elected not to tell her that Henry had died until after she finished her own surgery.

Lexie Grey.

It seems that one season (seven) without a catastrophe was enough so season eight took us out with a bang. Or, more specifically, a plane crash. Derek’s hand was mangled and Arizona wound up losing a leg, but it was clear that Lexie bore the brunt of the crash, getting pinned under some debris. As Grey’s is wont to do, at least she got to tell Mark she loved him.

Mark Sloan.

Which brings us to McSteamy. He was also involved in the crash but, along with Meredith and Cristina, seemed to escape relatively unscathed. It wasn’t until the first two episodes of the following season that we realised the extent of his injuries, which saw him succumb in hospital. Why you gotta do me like that, Grey’s?

Dr. Thomas.

In season nine Cristina took a job at the world famous Mayo Clinic to escape “Seattle Grace Mercy Death”. Without her “person” Meredith and traumatised from last season’s plane crash, “dinosaur” cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Thomas takes Cristina under his wing only to die in the OR during surgery. While not as catastrophic as many of Grey’s other deaths, this one was positioned as yet another tragedy in Cristina’s life.

Heather Brooks.

Season nine’s cliffhanger saw a freak storm hit Seattle, flooding the hospital’s generator and leaving them without power. Intern Ross was sent to find Dr. Webber who was sussing out the damage in the basement however, not wanting to miss out on surgery, he roped intern Heather (played by Tina Majorino) into it which ultimately led to her (and Dr. Webber’s) electrocution. Only one doctor survived.

Derek Shepherd.

How many personal tragedies can one person handle?! Meredith has drowned, watched her husband get shot, almost become “pink mist” in a bomb threat, watched her mother try to commit suicide, been abandoned by her father (twice!), given birth in the middle of a massive storm that caused a power outage at the hospital and been in a plane crash in which her sister and husband’s best friend died. Phew!

But last night she faced perhaps the biggest tribulation when her husband Derek Shepherd died. Having saved four people from a car wreck on his way to the airport, we thought Derek would escape unscathed only to have a truck round the corner and ram his car. At the hospital, the doctors stated that they were not equipped to treat such trauma and rushed to treat Derek’s abdominal injuries instead of checking for brain swelling. By the time they realised he needed brain surgery and paged the on-call neurosurgeon, who was 90 minutes away, Derek was braindead. Oh, the tragic irony.

Honorable mentions: Meredith’s distant mother, dying after a long battle with Alzheimer’s; Lexie’s mum, who died after a routine exploratory surgery for reflux, spurring Meredith’s father to disown her… again; Bonnie (who you might remember as Dawson’s Creek’s Abby, a patient impaled by a pole) and Dylan, the bomb squad guy, were both very affecting losses to Meredith in early seasons; Doc, Meredith’s cancer-ridden dog who was then adopted by Derek and Addison; April and Jackson’s surprise pregnancy ended in tragedy as they had to terminate due to a fatal birth defect; Adele, Richard Webber’s wife, died of a heart attack after surgery for an aneurism.

Which Grey’s Anatomy deaths affected you the most?

*Spoiler alert for all eleven seasons of Grey’s Anatomy.

Related: Top 10 Grey’s Anatomy Moments.

Gun Shot Wound to the Head: Grey’s Anatomy Season Final.

Seattle Grace Mercy Death”: Grey’s Anatomy “Song Beneath the Song” Review.

TV: Catching Up on Women-Friendly Media.

emily nussbaum kristen wiig jenji kohan lena dunham mindy kaling sundance panel

Summer is usually a time when I catch up on TV shows I’ve neglected throughout the year.

In Australia, (when I owned a TV) all the shows would be on hiatus and in its place tennis and cricket as far as the eye can see. Likewise, American TV comes to a halt usually from about Thanksgiving which gives me ample time to keep up with the Kardashians or, in a more high brow vein, Breaking Bad, which I finally watched in its entirety this time last year.

Recently I lamented to a friend that this summer I’ve been watching more movies and, like, reading instead of catching up on shows like I should be. There’s so many on my list: The Good Wife, Orphan Black, Parks & Rec, House of Cards. I didn’t even watch American Horror Story: Freak Show when it started a few months ago and, low and behold, it just aired its season finale.

So what better time to catch up on it than this past (long) weekend? (And yes, I am well aware that AHS cannot be construed as women-friendly, but stay with me.)

I also have ample days off from my day job in the next week so, in addition to more freelance work and my side gig at OCW, I should be able to finish the 13 episode season by the next weeks’ end.

I intend to work just as hard throughout the year, but I also need to make sure I engage in self-care to keep the momentum up. So when I’ve emptied out my brain onto the page and filled it again with the words of others, what better way to unwind with some TV that functions as a hug?

I’ve been very vocal about my love for Grey’s Anatomy: when I was sick a few weeks ago, I knew I should have started one of the abovementioned shows but I just needed comforting in a way that no one but Meredith Grey and co. could do, so I rewatched the first half of this season. It, along with its Shondaland cohorts Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, return this week and I’ve got a hot date with the Middleton Law School kids and President Grant on the weekend.

From there, I intend to either dip into The Good Wife or House of Cards as research for a piece I’ve been ruminating over for months. While the beauty of many Netflix-based shows is their short seasons allowing quick consumption, there’s a good six seasons of The Good Wife, so who knows when I’ll emerge from Alicia Florrick’s law offices?

In contrast to the abovementioned shows, it was only a few years ago that many of the books, movies and TV shows that I was drawn to were about men. My favourite authors were men, the movies I was interested in seeing at the cinema were about men, and many of the TV shows I watched were all about men. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favourite authors are still men (Dominick Dunne and Mick Foley), and I’m hanging out to see Foxcatcher at the movies. But on the whole, I’m so fucking sick of only learning about men’s lives—either real or fictional.

That’s why, this year, I’m making a conscious effort to consume media about women and other minorities. What started out as something I was completely unaware of has blossomed into a newfound appreciation for the voices of women I may not have seeked out before. I’ve slowly started to realise that all the shows I watch are about women—OITNB, Total Divas, Girls, Revenge, 2 Broke Girls, The Mindy Project—as are the shows I intend to. I’ve only recently started watching movies again, and I started with Nora Ephron’s cannon over Christmas and New Years. Wild is the next movie I intend to see at the cinema. And my reading list from the past month has consisted of Roxane Gay, Janet Mock, Donna Tartt, Lena Dunham, Brigid Delaney and Amy Poehler, amongst many others.

Which shows—and other media—are you looking forward to consuming this year?

Related: Hustle, Loyalty & Respect: Where I’m Taking My Career in 2015.

The Golden Age of Television.

Physical & Mental Health on Orange is the New Black.

Girls: A Season Two Retrospective.

Revenge is a Dish Best Served by a Woman.

2 Broke & Tampon-less Girls.

Elsewhere: [Bitch Flicks] The Choice to be a Total Diva.

Image via InStyle.