Monday, January 12, 2009

Showtime wants me

Showtime has been trying out a new strategy for hooking in subscribers,previewing the first episode of new series The United States of Tara on over 100 different platforms over a week prior to the show's debut on the premium network. I caught it the first day it was available via the Netflix streaming video service, but it is now available much more broadly. It's a smart move, I think, in that it allows the viewer to sample what s/he might be buying if they subscribe to the service. As someone who subscribes and unsubscribes to premium channels as shows I want to watch come and go, it is particularly effective for me.

But it's really effective because I just loved, loved, loved the show. I know it's only been one episode but I am already quite impressed with its feminist sensibility. This doesn't much surprise me, as it was created and written by Diablo Cody, whose Juno script was also one of the more feminist pieces of mainstream culture I've seen of late. Unlike Juno, however, Tara jumps right into its progressive vision (I think it takes Juno until she tells her parents about the pregnancy for the tone of the film to shift and for me to start feeling really into it).

Tara seems particularly resonant with what I think of as third wave feminism. By this I mean that it is acutely aware of the multiplicity of identity. Now, that may seem way obvious, given the fact that the show's premise is our protagonist's multiple personality disorder. But that seems to serve more as metaphor than anything--it allows the show to experiment with different dimensions of Tara's identity in ways that a non-mentally ill character in a realist program could not. What stood out for me in ep. 1 was how very much the dimensions of Tara's identities served to explore dimensions of gender identity (and this before I've even seen Alice, the hyper-feminine '50s housewife alter). Hypersexual teen alter T and male Vietnam vet Buck already exemplify gendered extremes, though Alice will surely help make clear that those extremes do not appear on a linear continuum but rather a three-dimensional series of planes, with multiple versions of femininity, at least, vying for dominance.

Even better is the attitude of Tara's family toward her alters and thereby to her range of gendered identities. In the first episode they are totally and comfortably accepting. This is just the way things are for them. In fact, they seem to sort of benefit from the different identities Tara takes on, as if no singly gendered self can be the all things to all members of the family that many would wish. Whether this will turn out to be a critique of the multiple demands placed upon women, or whether it will remain an acceptance, even embrace, of the many selves we all might be if given the chance remains to be seen.

But I'm pretty sure that Showtime is going to get my subscription dollars so I can find out.


Dan said...

Meh. Showtime gets my dollars just because it's included in the package I need to have HBO. Other than Weeds, Showtime consistently draws my attention and then poops directly on it...usually by the 3rd episode.

Showtime's '100 platforms' strategy is like the media equivalent of dropping fliers from an airplane. Does supply and demand come into play here? Too much supply? Either way, I'll be tuning in to the count-the-distribution-methods-on-one-hand network for the Big Love premiere.

Dan Heath said...

After watching it...I think free is the best price for the pilot.