Looking at Oval Office through TV


Sometimes going through my newsfeed I feel as if all of us are living in United States of America because everyone is talking about their upcoming presidential election passionately as if they are going to have election and their fate is going to be decided in November 2016. In a sense that is the truth. World is ruled by America and America is ruled by their president.

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And the twist in the current race which is making it even more significant is first time in the history a woman is in the last leg of contest for becoming the leader of the free world, as they say in Hollywood. People have been supporting her overwhelmingly (again talking only going by my newsfeed) because everyone hates her opponent and mostly because it is high time for Oval Office to have a Madam President. Still there are few reservations against her because of her corruption charges, she is too weak to forgive a straying husband, her views on gay marriage is under cloud and she has had few questionable stances in matter of international human rights. Because of these allegations against her it is worrisome when one thinks about the kind of precedent she would set for all females aspiring to be president in future and in general for feminism.

As a TV nerd I can’t stop comparing this scenario with the 5th episode of 4th season of Veep. Amy, the female aide expressed these thoughts to the presidential candidate/temporary president Selina Meyer in the typical colourful language of Veep

The fact that you are a woman means we will have no more women presidents because we tried one and she f–king sucked.

The words apply to Hillary. She is a trailblazer. She will always be talked about while talking about any kind of glass ceiling. People supporting her today will judge her most ruthlessly once she wins because the huge support she is getting from media and social media as a woman is more about “she is a woman so she must be good and needs to be supported” and less as an idea of feminism or equality for women. Richard Nixon had Watergate but did it stop Americans choosing another male president? But if Hillary errs even a little whole female race will be judged. Huge messing ups from males are expected but females are expected of being perfect in everything they do.

Is it because women are inherently better, more sensitive and less corruptible than men? The correct answer is, it doesn’t matter because every human should have equal rights and a woman is underrepresented or no representation in Oval Office till now. And more importantly it is unfair to judge people unequally. We may never know the exact answer statistically if women are better but that’s how they are projected in popular media version of feminism.

For instance Lesli Knope (played by Amy Poehler) in Parks and Recreation is Legally Blonde level of optimistic, enthusiast and honest. Every day she deals with male colleagues who are capitalist, boorish, rapey, sexist, or/and corrupt. Most of her well intentioned schemes for welfare of the local area bite dust because of the above mentioned men.

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And this depiction of female politician as inherently good but helpless in front of the ganging up of boys’ club is extended till Oval Office. Going back to HBO’s Veep, the show narrates the story of the Vice President of America Selina Meyer. First she was the Veep or the Vice President and then she became interim president. Throughout she has been in the presidential race too. It is supposed to be a comedy about a mumbling politician and her ne’er-do-well coterie. It is exactly that and hence a laugh riot. But three things struck me about the show from the beginning.

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Firstly the artistically expressed insults and curses. Generally I am not a cursing person. I don’t like liberal use of F words. The shows produced by HBO and Netflix are full of F words. Although I love the shows but I can’t see the reason of using the F word and other curses unless it is totally inevitable. I carry the same view regarding insults. I feel if one is using insults to get some laughs then it shows their lack of real talent in humour writing. But all my opinions are thrown out of the window the day I started watching Veep. First time I realised the insults writing can require highest order of brilliance and ingenuity. And mind you the insults are no way near the level of roastings in Indian. According a post going viral the joke in an Indian show was “you must have eaten lots of Jaamun in childhood to get such dark coloured skin”. The lack of laugh in this line is laughable. Just to give a glimpse into Veep’s standard here’s a line.

Jonah, you’re not even a man, you’re like an early draft of a man where they just sketched out a giant, mangled skeleton but they didn’t have time to add details like pigment or self-respect. You’re Frankenstein’s monster if his monster was made entirely of dead d**ks.

This show has one of the finest usage of words I have seen on screen. I have not seen the British sitcom “The Thick of It” hence can’t say how much the creative language of Veep is borrowed from it.

The second thing about the show I noticed was Selina Meyer might not be as honest and sincere as Leslie Knope but from the first season it can be seen she has few good ideas to go about. For instance she started her tenure in Veep office to work on clean energy but was sabotaged from all around. She is sincere even when she is faking it. She was sidetracked by the “boys’ club” so many times. She tries hard to be one of the boys because she is ambitious and being one of the “boys” only can take you places. She is being scrutinized a lot about her child and her love life. She knows female politicians have to look good to win hence she is determined to become president before her figure becomes too shaggy to hold a sleeveless dress. She is not in some fool’s paradise, she thinks and behaves realistically. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been playing Selina brilliantly. She maybe goofy clownish most of the time but still you can see the fear and vulnerability in her eyes when she faces imminent defeat or when she is let down by her men.

Selina has a goofy but loyal coterie. But among them Selina trust Amy the most. This is the third significant thing about the show I feel. Selina and Amy share a special relationship. Selina in most crucial matters give most importance to Amy’s opinion. Amy in spite of whatever she says is extremely loyal and protective of Selina. They had a fall out but Amy forgot all about it and ran to Selina when she knew she was needed.

After Seinfeld, arguably the greatest comedy of all time, the actors supposedly suffered from Seinfeld-curse. None of the lead actors could get success in any of their acting ventures. Finally in 2012 Julia Louis-Dreyfus broke the jinx with Veep. Not only Veep is a hit among both critics and viewers; Julia has become one of the greatest comedians ever by winning Prime Time Emmy in each year the show has been on air. Apart from Emmy she has won many other important awards for the show.

She is supported by a brilliant ensemble of cast. Some of them are established names in acting field. They play the blundering staffs perfectly. One wonders how with these kinds of staffs in West Wing America gets anything done at all. Should not the superpower be managed by staffs as efficient as they showed in the NBC drama “The West Wing”? Aired from 1999 to 2006 the critically acclaimed show won many awards. The cast is ensemble of many talented actors including Rob Lowe and Martin Sheen. Like Parks and Recreation here mostly viewers are treated with a political fairy tale. The president is honest, sincere and aboveboard. His staffs have never heard of any kind of spinning public relation or manipulation. They face problems and scandals and solve it with the most honest way. They portray a clean and hardworking image of America.

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Contrary to this the scandals are dealt by hook or crook in the show Scandal. I have seen only a couple of episode of the show (don’t judge me please, judge the person who has limited the day to 24 hours) hence can’t say more than that.

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And scandals are created in Oval Office in Netflix’s House of Cards to grab power. The show again based on a British show of the same name give us a nail biting political thriller. The dialogues in this show are inventive just like Veep. But in place of curses this show used most polished words to convey the most ruthless truth.

It’s so refreshing to work with someone who’ll throw a saddle on a gift horse rather than look it in the mouth.

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Like Macbeth and Lady Macbeth Frank and Claire Underwood eliminates their opponents one by one. The brilliant Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright dazzle us with their evilness. Viewers hate them yet can’t stop getting fascinated. The woman in the show is as bad as possible. Claire is anti-Knope in her morality and her style. She is monochromatic as contrast to Leslie’s vibrant colours.

But in real life women like men are in a spectrum, a few only belong to the poles. They are more like Selina. Women are human beings hence they must have equal representation everywhere including the highest office in the world.

In a fair world people would not have talked about Hillary’s gender and Trump’s fake tan but about their opinions about world politics, past corruption changes, their stances on planned parenthood and most importantly how unlike her opponent Hillary is an experienced office holder hence should perform better.

May the better candidate win! And going by the way media going gaga over Ms Michelle Obama I won’t be surprised if she joins the race after four years or eight years (depending on who wins this time). So here’s a toast to the women everywhere breaking the glass ceilings.

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