It’s a complicated week, and there’s one series I decided not to include. That would be “The Nevers”. While its current showrunner is Philippa Goslett, she took over fairly late in the development of the HBO show’s first season. Joss Whedon was the showrunner and developed the show until late last year. He’s faced a range of allegations concerning racism, misogyny, and abuse going back decades. It doesn’t seem appropriate to include the show when Goslett took over so late. I wrote earlier in the week about the shadow Whedon’s abuse casts over his productions and what that means for fans of “The Nevers” and his previous work.
I try to keep what qualifies a show’s inclusion in this feature on the technical side, in an effort to reduce any bias I may not realize as I write it. There are projects that have very occasionally crossed that guideline – blatant racist propaganda or QAnon bullshit is directly harmful, and it won’t ever be featured here.
Choosing not to feature something is rare. It happens less than once a month. I’d rather err on the side of including something but detailing issues it might have – such as I did with the various controversies surrounding “Mulan”, “Cuties”, or “Funny Boy”. Sometimes these controversies are earned, sometimes not, and I don’t imagine I’m qualified to be the arbiter of every single one of them for anywhere between 3-to-15 titles in a given week. Sometimes the best thing for me to do is to list the piece, and detail what I know about the controversy so that the reader has the same information that I do.
That changes when something is more clearly harmful. There’s a reason I never included Sia’s feature directorial debut “Music” – because Autism organizations and Autistic communities uniformly said it was bigoted, misrepresentative, and harmful. If this feature is informational, though, shouldn’t I still include something like that without judgment?
Here’s the thing. If the purpose of this feature is to platform a marginalized group of people who don’t have access to the same resources, promotion, and marketing because of bigotry, then there has to be a line that stops before that platform is built on bigotry toward another marginalized group.
That line becomes fuzzy when it comes to many films. Do I include something made in cooperation with the Chinese government, when they’re running concentration camps targeting Uighurs? If I don’t, can I still include something made in cooperation with the U.S. government, when we’ve been running concentration camps targeting Latin-Americans, or with a state government that operates justice systems and prison pipelines that are effectively labor camp systems that target Black people?
Contrary to popular belief, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement advises that Israeli artists should only be boycotted when they fit extremely specific preconditions – there’s no circumstance in which I can know that every single cast and crew member on a project fits them. I have to limit it to what I can research about the reason for a project being shared here – the showrunner, director, or whether BDS leaders have said anything about the project as a whole. That research is in very short supply. In its absence, my assumption has to be that it does not meet those boycotting preconditions.
Do I get all of these things right every time? I’m sure I don’t. There’s no perfect place to put that line. I’m certainly not sure that I’ve made the right decision every single time. In the case of “The Nevers”, it’s not a situation regarding involvement of a systemically harmful government or an explicitly bigoted portrayal. It’s simply about the timing between an abusive male showrunner and the woman who took over. If that switch had happened a few months earlier or if it had a greater impact on the first season, I’d feature the show. If Whedon himself was less problematic, I might feature the show. As is, I don’t want to paper over Whedon’s involvement because the series is showrun by a woman now, when pretty much everything that will be made available this season was showrun by a man – and an abusive one at that.
Frank of Ireland (Amazon)
showrunners Sharon Horgan, Clelia Mountford
directed by M.J. Delaney
“Frank of Ireland” poses an opportunity for various Gleesons to work together. Domhnall is probably the one you’ll recognize. (He played General Hux in the new Star Wars trilogy and Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter franchise.) Brother Brian Gleeson joins him in a show about a musician stuck living with his mother. Father Brendan Gleeson appears in at least one episode, though I don’t know if he’s playing their father in the show.
Sharon Horgan has produced on British comedies “Catastrophe”, “Motherland”, and “Frayed”. She’s also written on the first two. You might also know her as an actress from “Catastrophe”, movies like “Game Night”, or for her work voicing Courtney on “BoJack Horseman” and Queen Dagmar on “Disenchanted”. Clelia Mountford has produced with Horgan many times; the two run production company Merman together.
Director M.J. Delaney has previously helmed “Ted Lasso” and a range of documentary shorts.
You can watch “Frank of Ireland” on Amazon.
directed by April Mullen
A private investigator is hired to research a suspicious death in a small town. He becomes convinced the case relates to his own daughter’s death and that he’s just at the tip of a larger conspiracy. “Wander” is based in part on the theft of indigenous land and disappearance of indigenous, Black, and people of color.
The cast includes Aaron Eckhart, Tommy Lee Jones, Katheryn Winnick, Heather Graham, Raymond Cruz, and Branden Fehr.
Director April Mullen is an Anishinaabe Algonquin director who’s helmed episodes of “Killjoys”, “Wynonna Earp”, and “Legends of Tomorrow”.
directed by Jessica Kavana Dornbusch
Israel ‘Reefa’ Hernandez-Llach is a Colombian immigrant in Miami. It’s his last summer before going to college in New York on an art scholarship. Before he can get there, he suffers an act of police terrorism.
The film is based on actual events, where Israel was beaten and murdered by Miami Beach Police in 2013. Officers chased him for blocks before beating and tasering him for spray-painting graffiti in an area that’s a popular tourist destination in large part because of the work of artists like him. The eventual wrongful death settlement cost the police department a mere $100,000.
Writer-director Jessica Kavana Dornbusch is the child of Uruguayan immigrants. This is her first feature film since 2006’s “Love and Debate”.
The Stand In (Netflix)
directed by Jamie Babbit
An actress who’s growing dissatisfied with her career trades places with her identical stand-in. Both are played by Drew Barrymore.
Director Jamie Babbit has helmed episodes of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”, “Russian Doll”, and “Silicon Valley”, among dozens of other high-profile comedy series.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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