Friday, November 20, 2009

In Praise of Nancy Botwin

Of course I came to the party late. 'Weeds' ended its five-season run on Showtime on August 31. I'm about halfway through season 4 at the moment, so, again, late. But let me just say this: though my research has been unscientific at best, I feel comfortable making the following pronouncement: Nancy Botwin is (or was) the best-written lady-character on TV.

It goes back to the Bechdel Rule. The rule that states it might be a good idea for women on TV to be well-rounded, well-written characters who aren't either simply ciphers for the men in the story or otherwise defined (or choosing to define themselves--I'm looking at you, Sex and the City) by the men in their lives. Too many female characters on TV spend a predominant amount of their time preoccupied with the men in their lives. They don't have agency. Things happen to them to which they are expected to react, but they're seldom pro-active and it's always about the boys (I'm looking at you now, Grey's Anatomy and Desparate Housewives--it's right there in your title!)

Which isn't to say it's a total wasteland out there. Think Peggy Olson in Mad Men. But she's not the anchor of that show, not its heart by far. No, I can think of no other show which is entirely anchored by the presence of a strong female character, who grows and develops, who is flawed and interesting, who gets the bulk of the screen time. (Though I have heard good things about Nurse Jackie)

TV occasionally tries to float us one, but the lady in question ends up either written deliberately as Queen Superbitch (see Canterbury's Law, a short-lived House knockoff where House is a girl and a lawyer instead of a doctor) or some kind of living saint (see HawthoRNe). Through five seasons of Weeds we got to follow Nancy Botwin as she triumphed, fucked up, escaped with her life, fucked up again, loved and lost and dealt a copious amount of pot.

I hope we see more of her.

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