Author: Navani Otero

WHM: Celebrating Leading Ladies

Ladies are stealing the spotlight with major feature roles in all genres lately and we’re not talking damsels in distress. We’ve moved past solely running a household and are instead running the nation’s politics, crime-stopping super hero style and just simply running amok. Broad City’s success (which ranked our #1 show of 2015) proved that women characters are popular with men too, dispelling the myth that females aren’t funny. To celebrate Women’s History Month we’re paying homage to our top 10 leading ladies on the screen now.

Jessica Jones, Marvel’s Jessica Jones [Netflix]

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Fighting crime half-naked is so last year. Welcome Jessica Jones, Hell’s Kitchen’s private investigator/protector extraordinaire. When a car accident that killed her parents left her with super-human strength, she started using her powers to help others. Now she holds her own against the city’s scummiest crooks of all shapes and sizes, even coming to the aid of her boo Luke Cage in bar fights. She’s traded in a cape for jeans and a leather jacket making her my fave super-hero costume to date.

Claire Underwood, House of Cards [Netflix]

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Claire Underwood is shifting what women’s roles look like in both marriage and politics. She is not only stylish, beautiful, and childless – she is equally conniving, manipulative, and unapologetic. Her relationship with Frank alone defies societal norms. Not only do they have an open relationship romantically when necessary, they support each other’s careers by plotting murders, wars, and strategic political shakedowns. Talk about #relationshipgoals. As first lady she is not just sitting around picking China for the state dinners, that’s for sure. It becomes quickly apparent Frank is nothing without her help. I think I’d want to be her if she didn’t scare me so much. For now, I’ll settle on finding the white pantsuit she wore in season four and being her Facebook friend.

Olivia Pope, Scandal [ABC/HULU]

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While Claire is running Washington from within the White House, Olivia Pope runs it from outside. As the fixer extraordinaire for hire she has the most powerful men and women at her mercy. She does it as a complicated, Black, single women to boot. The only male that might have SOME influence on her is her father, who basically has the CIA in his back pocket. Not even the President can pin her down. When he offered her marriage she chose her freedom instead proving she is not looking to be rescued by anyone.

Elizabeth McCord, Madam Secretary [CBS/Netflix]

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When the President himself requests you to work for him, you know you are killing it. After leaving her high-level post at the CIA for ethical reasons, Elizabeth accepts the position Secretary of State where she uses her keen knowledge of the Middle East, her outside-the-box thinking and morals to navigate foreign policy at work, and her family at home. I love when good people win.

Dana Scully, The X-Files [FOX/HULU] 

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Dana Scully is the scientist/special-agent yin to Mulder’s yang. She brings common sense, forensics and science-backed data to Mulder’s incredulous theories while investigating X-Files. She reminds us women have way more to offer than their looks or fashion sense by being not only the voice of reason, but most times the smartest person in the room. Plus, I am pretty sure there wouldn’t be a Veronica Mars without her.

Ilana and Abbi, Broad City [Comedy Central]

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While unlike many of the others on this list this duo is not navigating politics, navigating life in NYC \can be just as complex. Ilana and Abbi are BFFs — the mistresses of their domain, they have each other’s back against the struggles of NYC, whether it’s coming up with creative ideas to make quick money for tickets to a Lil Wayne show or getting Tinder dates to pay a cover for a house party to raise funds for an exterminator. The struggle is real, yo. This hilarious ensemble reminds us never to take life or ourselves too seriously.

Kimmy Schmidt, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt [Netflix]

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Kimmy’s life began when she discovered the world was not indeed coming to an end and was rescued from her cult. Finding yourself alone in New York City can be super scary, but Kimmy has the chutzpah to stand on her and make a life for herself there and not return back to her hometown. That’s hash brown brave.

Mickey, Love [Netflix]

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Mickey is a twenty-something radio producer living it up in Los Angeles, jumping from one toxic relationship to another when she meets nerdy Gus. She wears bathing suits as shirts, curses out convenience store cashiers, and battles addiction in her own unique, if half-hearted, way. Basically, she is a hot mess. But how wonderfully powerful it is to have a woman own her mess the way Mickey does. She is not putting on any airs; Gus knows exactly what he is dealing with and for that she gets an A for authenticity. She debunks the idea that women have to be totally together to be deserving of love.

Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife [CBS]

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When Alicia’s husband Peter is arrested in a scandal and no longer serving as State Attorney, she is forced to step out of her domestic role and back into corporate America. She begins her career over as a litigator and balances not only work but the family and repercussions from Peter’s fall from grace, proving she is much more than just a good wife.

Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons [FOX/HULU]

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Who knew one of the most iconic, fearless feminist icons of my lifetime would come in the form of an eight-year-old cartoon? Lisa is like any other child who loves science, reading, and education. She is seen taking on books like Sax and the Single Girl and The Bell Jar in her leisure. And despite constant ridicule and challenges, she not only stays true to herself and her beliefs but has the gall to question beliefs of others. You see this in the “Lisa vs. Malibu” ep where she debunks women’s stereotypical roles via her talking Malibu Stacy doll who suggests they “go bake for the boys.” Lisa instead creates her own doll – Lisa Lionheart. I mean not that there is anything wrong with being a stay-at-home mom, but Lisa thinks women should have the choice and space to explore different ideas. Like the space she made in Malibu Stacy’s handmade apt where she can “print her weekly feminist newsletter” –  if she should choose.

Rom-Com Protagonists We Love to Hate

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Judd Appatow’s latest opus dropped yesterday on Netflix and comes in the form of a 10-episode romantic comedy title Love. It attempts to understand what love is by chronicling the relationship between self-loathing and self-sabotaging alcoholic Mickey (Gillian Jacobs)  and Gus (Paul Rust), an OCD, socially awkward on-set tutor. Their courtship evolves from one misstep after another in the new trend of two dysfunctional people coming together and finding solace in each other’s mess. It’s a trend that means viewers end up falling for characters that are really not so nice. Need more examples that this is a thing? Here’s four other delightfully wicked rom-coms featuring the most awful, unlikable protagonists.

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Casual [Hulu]
Newly divorced Valerie moves in with her brother Alex and together they embark on dating while raising her teenage daughter. Sounds so lovely and sweet, right? Wrong. We figure out pretty quickly how selfish and narcissistic both Valerie and Alex are. Lifelong bachelor Alex is rich from his dating start up success so he barely does anything productive including work. Valerie gets romantically involved with anyone remotely linked to both her brother and daughter for some reason. The idea of two broken people coming to together to magically heal each other usually works when it centers around two people dating. When it’s a brother and sister it’s just weird and borders on incestuous at times. But for some reason you can’t look away.

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You’re the Worst [FXX, Hulu]
When Jimmy Shive-Overly and Gretchen Cutler meet at a wedding it’s dislike at first sight. The two bond over their shared anti-relationship sentiments. We are sure we loathe them because Jimmy is a narcissist that just got kicked out of said wedding for disrespecting the bride. Meanwhile, Gretchen is a cynic leaving with a stolen gift. What kind of people are these? What starts as a one-night stand blossoms in some dark, dysfunctional way into a GASP, relationship, much to their surprise. We can’t help but keep watching the terror unfold. Luckily, the one-liners in here and the amazing supporting characters give the couple and show some redeeming value.

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Sleeping with Other People [Amazon Video, iTunes]
Addiction rears it’s head again here in this modern day When Harry Met Sally. Jake and Lainey have a one stand in college and then 12 years later run into each other at a sex-addicts-anonymous meeting. Yep, that’s where we are headed with this. Both have just cheated on their significant others causing the demise of their perspective relationships, surprise, surprise. Jake is an expert at Peter Panning and cuts out at the first sign of trouble in any relationship and sleeps with someone else. Lainey is obsessed with her unavailable gynecologist making her non-committal. Again, not nice people! They make a pact to try something new and just be platonic friends. No sexy time, just friends. And somehow this works. Of course, they fall in love with each other and push those feelings away. Lainey does the sensible thing and moves out of state. But then Jake does the inevitable rom-com grand gesture of beating up the gynecologist and now they realize they have to be together.

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Togetherness [HBO]
If you want a recipe for dysfunction take one self-loathing, out of work actor friend, one unfocused, selfish sister and one unhappily married couple mix together and put in the same house and Voila! That’s the premise for one of the realest depictions of the trials and tribulations of marriage on TV. Brett and Michelle Pierson’s marriage is in that weird mundane stage where they have lost all the passion and zest. Brett is super grouchy while trying to find himself and Michelle wants to have more fun. They take in Michelle’s little sister Tina and Brett’s BFF Alex, somewhat out of pity but probably more for a distraction. Tina offers to help Alex become the leading man he’s always wanted to be and in the process they become great friends. When Alex professes his undying love for Tina she opts for dating the rich producer guy who actually has his own place instead. OOF. Oh and Michelle rediscovers her passion, with someone who is not her husband.

What We’re Streaming: Chelsea Does

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You either love Chelsea or hate her but one thing is for sure – what you see is what you get. That remains true in her latest venture, Chelsea Does, now streaming on Netflix. In the four episode docu-series an unapologetically Chelsea Handler delves into topics of marriage, racism, drugs and technology.

Highlights include seeing Chelsea squirm in uncomfortable moments where she is in way over her head and can’t really manipulate the conversation – like anytime she is speaking to children or attempting computer programming. In “Marriage” Handler approaches an untapped source for relationship advice, a group of kids under 10. They assure her that she is not too old to get married although “sometimes you don’t get married if you have too much work to do.” These are the times where she is most vulnerable and human. That and when she is attempting to engage her 80-plus-year-old dad in a dialogue about marriage. As Handler openly shares she is 40 and wants to settle down with someone, he calmly spews out to her brother how Chelsea is simply “not marriage material.” OOF. You leave with a whole new level of sympathy for her surviving her dad.

Thankfully, levity resumes in “Silicon Valley” where she takes on the tycoons of tech to learn how to use her cell phone and pitch an idea for an app. The beta version of her app “Gotta Go” is completed and it actually works! She tests it when she wants to get out of a children’s computer programming class she is failing miserably at. Who hasn’t been there.  Toodles, programming, let’s leave it to the kiddies.

Things get super intense when Chelsea takes on racism. She interviews Al Sharpton to get some ideas on how to break down barriers at an individual level. He offers some really sage ideas and super useful takeaways. Then Chelsea travels down south and interviews some pro-confederate groups who offer up their take on slavery, including the assertion that slaves were loved and cared for and didn’t have it so bad. Chelsea’s quick-witted sarcasm and blunt sassiness are extremely appreciated at this point.

In the end, traditional Chelsea Lately fans will be thrilled with the series. It’s not too far off comedically from her on-the-street stints done on her earlier show, while continuing the spirit of the panel discussion — only now it’s composed of her bffs and family. True documentary buffs and non-Chelsea fans might have a harder time taking the series seriously, but there are some real gems if you watch closely enough, and the levity Chelsea brings to touchy and sometimes upsetting topics is at times a gem in itself. She challenges us not to take ourselves too seriously at the end of the day, even when discussing super serious subjects. I urge everyone to take her up on the challenge.