Me Too & Media // Thoughts on Arrested Development & Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Netflix has been bringing it with the comedy recently! Between John Mulaney’s hysterical stand-up, to Michelle Wolf’s new weekly show, it’s been a great time to spend in bed doing depression binges and putting off all your responsibilities!It’s been solid for returning shows too! Well, it’s been fairly solid. Fan’s of Arrested Development may have been disappointed to learn that all the male stars are certified trash; in a recent New York Times roundtable, the subject of Jeffrey Tambor’s “difficult” (translation: abusive) on set behaviour came up, and the male cast wasted no time in defending him. Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth a.k.a the shows MVP) recounted that Tambor had blown up at her whilst on set, and the male stars (especially trashcan Jason Bateman) immediately defended him, claiming that everyone is an asshole on set, and being an actor is just so weird and so high pressure. (Meanwhile, I’m rolling my eyes from the hospital while I’ve got five patients about to crash, but no, please tell me how hard it is to learn a few lines and get your blocking). Jessica Walter was eventually reduced to tears and Alia Shawkhat was the only person in the entire room defending her.
I mean the good news is the new season is shockingly average, so no one needs to feel any nostalgic obligation to watch it!
It’s on in the background right now and I’m getting distracted by a gif of a bunny rabbit playing with toilet paper. In my defence is this not just the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen in your life.
Arrested Development Season 5 dropped on May 29th (the same day as the Boshemia Issue 03 launch, which is probably a coincidence, but also is it) and is still plagued with some of season 4’s issues; not enough ensemble scenes, convoluted plots and why is Ron Howard still around. Also, Jeffrey Tambor is in every single episode. A lot. A lot more than Will Arnett, Portia De Rossi and Tony Hale. For those of you who missed it during the #MeToo #TimesUp onslaught of allegations, Tambor’s makeup artist Tamara Delbridge, his assistant Van Barnes and trans actress Trace Lysette all accused Tambor of sexual harassment and abuse. His response was petulant at best. Given that his appearances on Arrested and The Death Of Stalin (both filmed before the accusations) have come with fairly little controversy, it seems that the public is willing to forgive. I guess #TimesUp for a bit – then wait a few months, release some previously filmed stuff and we’re good. How long before the new Woody Allen film is released, and hipsters everywhere say “Oh I know, I’m so ashamed but listen to that jazz soundtrack! I hear it’s a return to form!”
Can we actually start holding predatory men accountable for their actions as opposed to giving them a slap on the wrist then business back to normal? Yes, it’s great that Harvey Weinstein actually got arrested, but Jeffrey Tambor is on a highly anticipated hit comedy, James Franco just released another terrible directorial effort, and apparently, Louis CK is making his way through the New York comedy clubs. Surely, they have enough money to just live in obscurity forever? For at least a year?
It’s a real shame because Arrested Development was a hugely influential, iconic show that meant a so much to a lot of people, myself included. The past few months have hugely dampened my excitement for season 5, and honestly, it probably makes rewatching the most rewatchable show in history pretty sour.
To be fair, it’s better than season 4. I’m like 7 episodes in, have no idea what is going on, can’t recall a single joke and don’t really care about any of the characters, but it’s still better than season 4. I may have chuckled once or twice. Probably once.
The good news is that season 4 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was released on the 30th, and it is wonderful.
Tina Fey has always been a problematic fave of mine, and there are definitely some aspects of Kimmy Schmidt that are difficult to defend. The racial aspects of the show leave much to be desired, and season 4 has made the smart decision to largely ignore this. Instead, it’s gone full force into the darker sexual abuse aspect of the show. At its core, Kimmy Schmidt is a dark show; it’s about a woman who was kidnapped and sexually abused for fifteen years. While acting as a zany fish out of water show, under the bubbly surface there have been done serious statements about shame, PTSD, abuse and toxic masculinity. Season 4 gets explicit with the feminism as Kimmy’s goal becomes to take down bad men. The introduction of Bobby Moynihan’s Fran Dodd, a Men’s Rights Activist who doesn’t get it when engaged women don’t want him to rub their back and thinks that the world was a better place when women weren’t allowed to make their own decisions. He is the CE-Bro of “The Innocence Broject” (as in the Innocence Project, a sadly real organisation) which is dedicated to proving the innocence of people like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Lord Voldemort and Kimmy’s kidnapper Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Boshemia bae Jon Hamm). Episode 4 takes a departure from the typical single cam sitcom style and experiments with the mockumentary format. Much like 30 Rock’s “Queen Of Jordan” was a hilarious send-off of reality shows, Party Monster: Scratching The Surface nails the hyper-serious documentary format, and is hysterical. To even bother describing the jokes would do it a disservice, but the episode features plane footage, skipping stones, every DJ joke known to man, and real-life footage of Jon Hamm on a 90’s dating show.
It also shows the real way that normal men can get radicalised by dangerous ideology, and how dangerous MRA types are ready to pounce on male vulnerability and weaponise it.
Kimmy Schmidt also deals with the more insidious, everyday sexual assault where the perpetrators are completely oblivious. In episode 1, Kimmy’s naïve and peppy behaviour gets interpreted as sexual harassment (turns out taking your pants off at work isn’t just a hilarious goof), and instead of telling the accusers that they needed to see things from her perspective and get over it, the show acknowledges their feelings with as much validity as it does Kimmy’s.
“There’s a reckoning going on, and it is important and overdue as the library book I’ve been using as abs. This is not about you gurl, this is about your co-worker and how they feel.”
Even when the perpetrator is as someone as naïve and likeable as Kimmy, the show acknowledges that the people who we should be listening to are the victims, and how they feel. Even though Kimmy Schmidt deals with the radicalisation of men and the minds behind the villains, ultimately, it’s sympathies lean with the victim; in this case, the victim has a million dollar cheesy grin, a backpack and a newfound mission to rid the world of the patriarchy.