Thursday, April 12, 2012

GCB is not as bad as I feared it would be

Jewish date:  20 Nisan 5772 (Parashath Shemini).

Today’s holidays:  Ḥol hamMo‘edh Pesaḥ (Judaism), Day 5 of the ‘Omer (Judaism), Thursday in the Octave of Easter (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Print Olive (Church of the SubGenius), Feast of Mary d’Este Sturges (Thelema).


And now for another attempt at getting caught up blogging.  Today’s topic is the TV series GCB, which I have been watching on Hulu ever since Barry made me aware of the show’s religious nature.

The pilot episode struck me as something largely stereotyped and poorly thought out.  The main protagonist of the series is Amanda Vaughn, a woman whose husband Billy runs a scam, tries to flee with the money, and dies in a car crash with his mistress due to them doing something blatantly stupid and disgusting while driving.  Even though Amanda is not involved in the scam, the government seizes most of her and Billy’s property.  Nearly penniless, Amanda and her children, Laura and Will, return to a high-socioeconomic status section of Dallas to live with her (Amanda’s) mother Gigi.  This has two big downsides:

1) Gigi is crazy and acts in ways which drove Amanda to leave Dallas in the first place.  E.g., she dresses up Laura provocatively (and your humble blogger is strongly tempted to use much more derogatory language than that), teaches Will to mix (alcoholic) drinks, and fakes Amanda having a secret admirer in order to be able to give her expensive presents.

2) Amanda was a “meal girl” back in high school, and many of those people she was mean to still live in Dallas.  The list of regulars whom she offended is long enough to require a scorecard to keep track of:

  • Carlene Cockburn:  Chief antagonist, formerly called “Kitten”, formerly very plain, now a plastic surgery addict and very vindictive.
  • Sharon Peacham:  Ex-beauty queen, now food-obsessed housewife with self-esteem issues.  (The people making this show are trying to make it seem she is overweight, but one would never know it without the dialog.)
  • Heather Cruz:  Realtor.
  • Cricket Caruth-Reilly:  Business woman.  Formerly Bill’s girlfriend until Amanda stole him from her.
  • Ripp Cockburn:  Carlene’s husband.
  • Zack Peacham:  Sharon’s husband, car salesman.
  • Blake Reilly:  Cricket’s husband and business partner, rancher.

These characters are all serious, church-attending Christians, but Amanda is on the receiving end of a lot of rather unpleasant payback.  Carlene, despite frequently citing the Christian Bible (giving book, chapter, and verse), is particularly vindictive and rationalizes immoral behavior (such as “borrowing” a gift card from Amanda in order to be able to determine who her secret admirer is), intimidating Sharon into helping her.  Heather lies to Amanda to keep her from getting a good home and away from Gigi’s bad influence.  Cricket makes backhanded deals to keep Amanda from getting a good job.  And if all this mean-spirited stereotyping of observant Christians was not bad enough, Zack tries putting his moves on Amanda, and it is strongly implied that Blake is homosexual and is having an affair with his head rancher.

To make things worse, despite deeply regretting what she did in high school, Amanda is something of a hypocrite herself.  Despite Cricket’s efforts, Amanda does land a job—at a Hooters clone called Boobylicious.  And considering that Amanda is downright shocked when Gigi dresses up Laura indecently, the cognitive dissonance should be so huge that even fairly unintelligent people should be able to notice it.  (Those who wonder what is wrong with using sexuality to sell food may wish to reread the Coyote Ugly Sermon.)  The dress which Amanda wears to the Longhorn Ball is also immodest and tasteless.  Clearly Amanda is not being a good role model for her children, especially her daughter.  Admittedly dressing immodestly is not as bad as stealing (according to most of us, so far as your humble blogger can tell), but being less bad is not the same thing as being good.

Add to this that it is revealed that Carlene and Ripp are the real owners of Boobylicious and that the name for the show was originally planned to be Good Christian Bitches, and the initial impression is that the writers are a bunch of mean-spirited hacks who hate Christians and think that compared to them even someone who regularly does something sleazy is better.  And that impression would be wrong.

The writers do carry over everything from the pilot into the succeeding episodes, but the characters are not simple, unchanging cardboard cutouts.  Heather reconciles with Amanda very quickly, and her other “enemies” slowly develop better relations with her, even though so far in the series there has been plenty of friction.  While Carlene is the slowest to improve, she can be moved by argument—preferably citing appropriate scriptural sources—and she does have a conscience and care about other people.  (Her reactions may not always be the most sensible, but she does try.)  Sharon, while the most passive of the main characters, has been on a self-improvement kick since doing some volunteer work at the church and is taking more initiative.

The lack of cardboardness is particularly prominent in romantic relationships.  “Bad guys” in GCB can and do have loving, committed relationships.  To be sure, they have problems, but they work to overcome their problems.  The aforementioned business of Zack hitting on Amanda turns out to be due to some inner turmoil stirred up by her arrival; he repents his mistake and constantly works with Sharon to improve their relationship.  Carlene and Ripp also have some rocky moments, but they remain committed to each other.  Notable is the relationship between Cricket and Blake.  Blake is indeed homosexual, while Cricket is heterosexual.  While they satisfy their sexual urges with other people and do not hide the fact from each other, they are emotionally very intimate.

Also breaking cliché:  So far in the series, Amanda has not been sexually active, despite being the central character, and the only man she has ever been with is her husband Bill.  Carlene has been a little worse, only having gone all the way with Ripp, but having done some things in high school which she is not proud of.  (No details are available; the writers seem to want the viewers to use their imaginations.)  Neither currently violates Christian sexual mores, despite how they dress.

GCB is not what your humble blogger would consider an ideal series, and the content is not for everyone.  But it certainly is not as bad as first impressions suggest it is.

Peace and happy Pesaḥ.