Covert Affairs: Flipping the Script

We’ve been doing some talk recently about leading ladies.  And more importantly what it means for a tv show or book when your main character is female. There is something interesting happening in regards to this over on the USA show, Covert Affairs. Now, this is a little bit of a late to the party post because Covert Affairs is in it’s fourth season, but I’m going to mostly talk in general terms, with no major spoilers.

Here is our leading lady, getting herself out trouble via some quick thinking and an expensive pair of shoes.

Here’s our leading lady, getting herself out trouble via quick thinking and an expensive pair of shoes.

This is Annie (played by Piper Parabo). She is young, blonde, pretty, and idealistic. She is also a rookie CIA agent, pulled out of training early to deal with a man from her past. She is physically capable, fluent in many languages, has nerves of steel and is often ruled by her compassion.

Our leading man!

Our leading man!

This is Auggie (played by Christopher Gorham). He is a former navy seal and a current CIA analyst. He is Annie’s CIA handler, friend, and love interest. He is immensely intelligent, capable, funny and caring. He also happens to be blind.

Now this is great for a number of reasons. We don’t see a lot of disabilities on tv, and we certainly don’t see them in our leading men. I’m having a hard time coming up with an example of an action show where the leading man is blind, or deaf, or less than what we consider perfectly physically capable in any serious way. I think over the course of their runs, a lot of characters will deal with some kind of temporary physical disability gained in the line of fire, but they will then triumphantly overcome it. Temporary blindness is a big soapy one, but not something that tends to have a lasting impact. Continue reading

Late to the Party: World War Z (The Book)

[This is the first in a continuing series, Late to the Party, talking about culture that’s not so ‘pop’ anymore, because sometimes you have things to do for years on end instead of reading the latest book or watching the latest movie.  Max Brooks’s World War Z came out in 2006 and I’m only now getting around to read it.]

On the gorgeous Friday of Memorial Day weekend, my partner and I set off to Portland.  I had heard good things about the audiobook of World War Z and, knowing little about it except that people liked it and there were zombies, we downloaded it for the 3.5 hour drive.

[Note: An unabridged audiobook came out May 14 of this year but was not available for purchase on iTunes on Memorial Day weekend.  Or I didn’t see it.  Whatever.  Either way, this article is primarily about the abridged version of the audiobook, which has been in the market since 2007.]

I do want to be clear about this up front: I like a LOT of this work, both the audiobook and the book.  (After I finished listening to the audio, I ended up borrowing a copy to compare the two.)  Brooks’ prose isn’t necessarily anything to write home about, but the level of research and commitment that he brought to this hypothetical situation is outstanding.  I think that it achieves one of the most important objectives of science fiction, which is an earnest re-examination of our lives as they are through the lens of what they might become.

But (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming!), this achievement makes Brooks’s failures stand out in greater contrast.

Spoilers: There will be some about this work and the seminal zombie masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead.

Continue reading