6A - Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Ja'mie' too bland
to stand alone
This one-man show
needs a worthwhile
By ALEC STERNW
Daily Arts Writer
HBO has often extended its
ach in the comedy department,
mporting popular shows from
f the world. C+"
n 2007, the
remium Ja'imie Private
able network SchoolGirl
'ith "Sum- Sundays at0
er Heights 10:30 p.m.
igh," a side-
nny mocku- HBO
entary fol- Flutes forever.
wing the lives of a privileged
hoolgirl, a wannabe rapper and is the kind of show you really quickly.
drama teacher, all played by want to like - in the same way Whereas "Joey" had no adverse
ustralian comedian Chris Lilley. you really wanted to like "Joey," affect on the legacy of "Friends,"
our years later, Lilley used the the ill-fated "Friends" spinoff. "Ja'mie" actually does a disser-
ame formula with "Angry Boys," Like any of the characters on vice to "Summer Heights High,"
lesser, yet still memorable, com- "Friends," you could argue that emphasizing Lilley's reliance on
dy. Hoping to capitalize on the Matt LeBlanc's Joey Tribbi- one-note characters. From Ja'mie
access of his flagship series, Lil- ani was the funniest of the six to Jonah to Nathan to Gran (the
y plucked the privileged school- iconic, coffee-drinking pals. But latter two of "Angry Boys"), the
irl from his hilarious "Summer without Chandler, Ross, Rachel, overabundance of characters in
[eights High" trio and gave the Monica or Phoebe to play off each of the comedian's previous
haracter her own series. of, "Joey" lost the vibrancy and series provided much-needed
Ja'mie King made her debut quick, quirky comedy "Friends" breaks for the audience ... breaks
s a supporting character in Lil- did so well. LeBlanc was a vital that are sorely lacking in "Jamie."
y's first creation, "We Can Be part of "Friends," but never a And this is just the first half hour.
[roes," a series only made avail- leading man. His was one of a Getting through all six episodes
ble inthe United States for ashort half-dozen characters, without of "Private School Girl" will feel
me via HBO on Demand and the rest of whom viewers found more like a chore than a pleasure
BO Go. "Ja'mie: Private School little reason to tune in. for devoted fans of the character.
irl" returns the titular character Similarly, without the support It's not to say there aren't some
ome, following her senior year from Mr. G, Jonah or the Summer laughs here. Ja'mie is a very quot-
Hillford Girls Grammar as she Heights High backdrop, "Ja'mie" able character, thanks to whom
avigates her many roles, from is an overlong, tiresome explo- we now have the word quiche and
chool Captain to QueenBee. And ration of a character built for an a great way to reprimand some-
nlike "Summer Heights High," ensemble. Much like Joey's cru- one for stealing your Coke Zero.
amie" introduces viewers to cial role in "Friends," there can be And for better or worse, everyone
he King family: Ja'mie's mother, no "Summer Heights High" with- knows someone who is a little bit
ather and sister. "Jamie" is the out Jamie - but she's no star. In like the conceited, spoiled hero-
rst of two announced "Summer "Summer Heights High," Ja'mie ine. As a series, however, there is
[eights High" spinoffs, with a thinks the world revolves around no denying the failure of "Ja'mie,"
onah Takalua series coming next her, and it's funny that way. But a holistically unfunny attempt to
ear. in "Jamie," when the world actu- revisit a beloved member of the
"Ja'mie: Private School Girl" ally does, the fun wears off pretty Chris Lilley family.
RELEASE DATE- Wednesday, December 4, 2013
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'Coven' cursed with
confusing racial politics
A lot of critics and pop
culture dissectors have
been tryingto make
sense of the racial themes in
FX's "American Horror Story:
When I went
to jot down
was left with
a jumbled r
New Orleans UPADHYAYA
flashbacks to antebellum New
Orleans, race has been a part
of the show's thematic fabric
since the pilot's harrowing
opening scene. Kathy Bates's
Madame LaLaurie, a fictional-
ized rendering of the real-life
serial killer who tortured and
killed her slaves, brutalizes
a Black man she suspects of
sleeping with her daughter.
We're shown gratuitous shots
of deformed and bloodied vic-
tims - her seemingly bound-
aryless barbarity. It's slavery
as torture-porn. It's fucked up.
A few weeks after I saw the
premiere, "12 Years a Slave"
brought me face-to-face with
the depth of those indelible lac-
erations against Black bodies.
"Coven" doesn't confront that
depth or evoke the realness of
slavery's violence. Ryan Mur-
phy just wants to scare you.
Soon, we jump to the pres-
ent and meet Fiona Goode, the
Supreme (Jessica Lange, in all
her glory,) aka the Head Witch
In Charge of a powerful, albeit
dwindling, coven of witches.
We also meet voodoo queen
Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett,
in all her glory), an immortal
witch leader of a separate tribe.
With the exception of Queenie,
a young witch played by
Gabourey Sidibe, Fiona's coven
is entirely white, while Laveau
belongs to a long-standing line
of Black witches. "Coven," it
would seem, is Murphy and co-
creator Brad Falchuk's attempt
at tackling race.
But what is "Coven" trying to
say about race? With its para-
doxical messages and straight-
up misguided convictions,
figuring that out is about as
easy as diffusing a bomb while
blindfolded ... on rollerblades.
Ryan Murphy has always
been fascinated by oppressed
groups. "Glee" began as a
series for outcasts. The last
"AHS" chapter, "Asylum,"
doled out a searing critique of
the Catholic Church and a hor-
rifying glimpse at the violence
of homophobia. On "Coven,"
the witches are women, and
themes of power, sexism and
ageism ooze throughout. The
show wants so desperately to
comment on race and subjuga-
tion and privilege, but it seems
like no one in the writers room
really thought beyond "let's
place white witches and Black
witches in opposition to each
other and stir it all up with
some magic and awesome
"Coven" has been lauded
for its diversity, something
previous "AHS" tales lacked.
Sidibe and Bassett - though
both unfortunately only billed
as "special guest stars" -
in a w
een given a space on a "one Black friend" who some-
rk with glaring racial how serves as her Get Out of
once. Representations Racism Free Card.
nen of color on televi- Part of the problem lies in
'e on the rise, but most the fact that the show's Black
od television is still characters are underdeveloped.
helmingly white. As What do we really know about
this statement is, it's Queenie other than the fact
kable to be able to tune in that she likes fried chicken?
week and see Bassett - a Even Marie isn't all that well-
n who mainstream televi- defined; she's a caricature who
ould typically sideline Murphy brings out every once
her race and age - give a in a while to spit a sassy one-
a performance. liner or look awesome while
resentation is impor- performing a spell (admittedly,
ut at what cost? Look no Basset does look fabulous all
r than Laveau's "voodoo the time always.) While we've
" epithet, and it's clear seen a whole range of emotions
oven"'s representations from Fiona, Laveau wears the
k women aren't without same expression in every scene:
Ms. anger. She has plenty to be
at exactly are the roots angry about. She has lived for
ongoing war between hundreds of years, has seen one
u and Fiona? For Laveau, system of oppression replace
e undeniably founded another: slavery, segregation,
and privilege. In her Jim Crow, and now she lives in
he white witches have the present day where, despite
ed and appropriated decades of change, systemic
mmunity's magic. They racism persists. And here comes
ielded their privilege for Fiona Goode, waltzing into
ies, helping no one but her salon, talking about the
wn. Where were they preservation of "her own kind"
Laveau was witnessing and the continued suppression
families torn apart and of Laveau's "people," and it all
nted by anti-integration sounds pretty damn close to the
ce and lynchings? Laveau preachings of white supremacy.
t to guard her coven's (I mean, come on, she's called
s, right to deny Fiona the The Supreme.)
r to her relentless hunt Most problematically,
rnal life. Fiona and her "Coven" attempts to human-
have done nothing to ize LaLaurie. We've seen her
er or earn her trust over bloody past. LaLaurie isn't just
ars. Why should she give a racist, as Fiona calls her. She's
nything? sadistic and heartless. She mur-
na, on the other hand, ders, maims and humiliates her
s her rivalry with Laveau slaves, denying Black humanity.
ay that obscures racial And yet, when Fiona pulls
nce. She throws insults her out of her grave where she
eau entrenched in class. has been left alone with her
oe in another century," nightmares and suffering for
:rs, "you could have two all of eternity (a punishment
le salons." The writers doled out by Laveau), LaLaurie
o be under the impres- turns into a comical device.
oat, if Fiona never explic- By overplaying her foolish-
Is attention to Laveau's ness and even urging viewers
iess, she isn't a racist. to sympathize with her, the
nstead just the Witty- writers are stepping too far
r Diva Goddess, a charac- into "she's just a product of her
irphy loves to write and time" territory. Almost all of
perfectly plays. LaLaurie's scenes in the present
timeline are with Queenie, and
these moments aren't there to
o such thing develop Queenie; they instead
show LaLaurie developing a
s a Get Out more tolerant outlook ... out
of absolutely nowhere. Even if
of Racism we're not being asked to all-out
root for her, the fact that the
Free Card. writers want me to accept that
LaLaurie is a changed woman
after a few weeks of one-on-one
time as Queenie's slave (yep,
at Murphy and Co. forget that's the Band-Aid Fiona - and
classism and racism go really, Murphy - offers for her
n hand, and Fiona can past wickedness) makes me
all the euphemisms she queasy. And it doesn't help that
by saying Laveau is infe- an actress known for her com-
cause of her primitive edy was cast in the role, or that
or job as a hairdresser Bates plays the part a tad heavy
at have you. What she's on the theatrics.
saying is perfectly clear: The season isn't over yet, but
the lesser; you're the I have a hard time believing
Fiona calls herself Murphy and his team can make
immer, Marie the nail. sense of the chaotic shit-show
racist rhetoric, plain they've mashed together. When
mple. Fiona touts the fact "Coven" ends and we're back to
e voted for Obama twice a blank page for the next "AHS"
at there's nothing she installment, I have a feeling the
more than a racist. It all series will never have touched
s so much like the classic on the probing, vital conversa-
age employed by white tions about racial politics buried
who aren't aware of under all the spectacle and
own racism - people who camp.
entences with "I'm not
but ..." - that I wouldn't
prised if Fiona started
ing to Queenie as her
Upadhyaya is placing a
curse on Ryan Murphy. To help,
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