Matriarchy Wins: Law and Order: SVU Takes on the Duggars

Law and Order: SVU - Meet the Bakers. Starring the dad from Two of a Kind.

Law and Order: SVU – Meet the Bakers. Starring the dad from Two of a Kind.

In October,  NBC announced  Law and Order: SVU would tackle the Duggar family scandal. In spite of almost never watching SVU, I immediately knew this episode would capture my attention. (Gee, I wonder why?)

No other reality TV family has broadcast as many lies, secrets and falsehoods as the Duggars. They are the perfect public figures to build a standard, ripped-from-the-headlines, whodunit narrative around. But this episode of SVU presents an elaborate fantasy. The path the fictional patriarch and matriarch take to healing and redemption is unlikely to ever unfold in the real world space the Duggars occupy. Continue reading

10 Years of a Blog


A snapshot of this blog from 2013

Today is the 10th anniversary of For Cinephiles by a Cinefille. I had no idea when I started this blog with zero fanfare and one loyal reader (my sister) that it would still be limping around 10 years later.

I created this blog when I was 16. Yes, 16. As I sat at my parents’ old desktop PC and tinkered with a Blogger account, I built something that seemed like a cool idea. Continue reading

The End of Degrassi, The End of an Era

degrassi season 1

Degrassi: The Next Generation – Season 1

When I list my favorite TV series – E.R., Mad Men, Sports Night, Friday Night Lights, Freaks and Geeks, The Good Wife – I always mention Degrassi. I love including Degrassi partly because I enjoy watching someone process how a Canadian teen soap can possibly be on par with more high brow television. I also include Degrassi because it is a damn good television show that often gets passed over simply because it is about teenagers.

You can imagine my disappointment when news broke yesterday that Degrassi: The Next Generation would end its run on TeenNick and MTVCanada after 14 seasons. (Keep in mind, it seems likely that Degrassi will find a new home. Creator Stephen Stohn also tweeted something rather cryptic this morning.) Regardless of what happens next, I’m way more bummed about the mere possibility of Degrassi-less future than a 27-year-old woman should be.

Ironically, although I have an unabashed love for many teen shows (namely Skins), I didn’t start watching Degrassi:The Next Generation until I was in college. Netflix happened to be streaming some of the early seasons and I quickly got drawn into this television universe inhabited by totally normal looking teenagers. By the time Paige was dealing with trauma after being raped and Manny had an abortion at age 14, I was hooked.

Accidents Will Happen (Season 3)

“Accidents Will Happen” (Season 3)

Since my initial binge watch, I’ve caught up on Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High. I’ve fallen in love with so many characters and friendships. Ellie Nash is my long lost emo Canadian soul sister. I cried over J.T.’s death. I wanted better for Anya. I hated then loved Holly J. I shipped Eclare at first but I am totally over their relationship now. I could care less about some characters (sorry Chantal) and I will never understand Spemma (Does anyone??). And somehow after all this time, I’m never dissatisfied by an episode of Degrassi. Except maybe when Clare was hooking up with her almost stepbrother.

Everything imaginable has happened at Degrassi High. Abusive parents, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, cancer, murders, cyber bullying, mental illness, school shootings, gang violence, questionable sexy times in the Ravine. Hell, the school practically burned down in the Season 14A finale. What’s amazing is that it took 369 episodes for that to happen.

Unlike so many teen shows, Degrassi has never been out of touch. Thanks to its longevity, it has tackled issues well before they were cultural norms. Lately, the series has been eons ahead of most shows in its representations of teenage sexuality and mental illness.

Fiona and Imogen became a (short-lived) power couple.


Cam, a hockey player, struggled to adapt to Degrassi and committed suicide.

Adam, a transgender student, fought for acceptance and then died while texting and driving.


These narratives, which are so prevalent in the high school experience, have been normalized and validated through the lens of Degrassi. Only The Fosters and sometimes Switched at Birth are consistently on par with Degrassi. Most other teen shows, with their weirdly too old and attractive casts, are too over-the-top and have too many vampires/werewolves/pretty little liars to really feel like authentic representations of being a teenager.

Degrassi has been around for so long now, many fans simply tune in for pure nostalgia. It’s been remarkable to read over the past day how many people actually care that Degrassi could end. I suppose there was always a sense that Degrassi, kind of like the real high school you went to, would be lingering in the background until you were ready to let go completely.

19 Kids and Counting: Why A Duggar Spinoff Could Work

I’ve never understood this marketing campaign.

I’ve never understood this marketing campaign.

The Duggars of 19 Kids and Counting are many things. They are an unorthodox family. They are Conservatives. They are public Evangelicals. They are hypocrites.

In the week since InTouch Weekly published the police report about Josh Duggar’s acts of child molestation, tabloids, advertisers and networks have been quick to respond. You can no longer stream episodes on either Hulu or The latest issue of People, typically the Duggars #1 fan, also covers the scandal.

Casually pretending to not have a symbiotic relationship with the Duggars.

People Magazine: Casually pretending to not have a symbiotic relationship with the Duggars.

There are also rumors that TLC is considering developing a 19 Kids and Counting spinoff, which would focus on daughters Jill and Jessa.

I know what you’re thinking. How can TLC possibly be considering a spinoff? Hasn’t this family already gotten away with enough hypocrisy?

First, as I have previously written, 19 Kids and Counting is TLC and Discovery’s most profitable show. The network and mass media company will go to great lengths to keep any Duggars on television. Second, a spinoff centered around the Duggar daughters could be intriguing reality television and a potentially genius move.

For those not up on the lives of every Duggar, Jill and Jessa are both married and starting families. (Jill gave birth in May; Jessa is due in November.) They are also presumed to be two of their brother’s victims.

Jessa Seewald and Jill Dillard

Jessa Seewald and Jill Dillard

After 200 episodes, 19 Kids and Counting has become boring reality television. Like really boring. When the Duggars 2.0 began courtships, engagements, and families of their own, the show’s plots became redundant. There are only so many wedding and birth episodes a viewer can take. Even before the scandal broke, the show needed a major shake up. Obviously a child molestation scandal is a terrible way to generate new story material and interest in a long running series, but that is exactly what is happening. (Or at least, what TLC is presumably hoping will happen.)

Now consider this. The Duggars have gone to great lengths to keep much of their public lives and agenda separate from the image purported by their reality show. Even as the Duggars 2.0 began using social media (something they can’t do until they begin a courtship) and revealed their strong conservative political/social beliefs, the show itself remained rooted in the idea that the Duggars are just an abnormally large family living the American Dream. But the truth has come out and the aftermath is potentially devastating for both the Duggars and TLC.

For a spinoff to be successful and worthy of any viewers time, Jim Bob, Michelle and Josh must be removed completely. Josh Duggars deserves no platform to redeem himself. Neither do Jim Bob or Michelle, who have little purpose on their own show. (Their oldest daughters do most of the actual child rearing.)

If the focus does shift to Jill and Jessa, then the sisters must be as open and honest about their past as possible. The spinoff cannot keep any secrets from audiences anymore. Abuse is an unspoken reality about life in as an Evangelical. Because Evangelical churches are patriarchal institutions, abusers are protected from ramifications. For any Duggar to publicly discuss their experiences as abuse victims would rock the house of Bill Gothard, so to speak.

19 Kids and Counting has spent nearly a decade masking extreme patriarchy behind a veil of Christian family values. So yes, a Duggar spinoff centered around the Duggar women would be revolutionary. And if handled properly, it is the kind of show that might actually earn the (some) Duggars actual respect.

(An alternative scenario for a spinoff, and there are many, is perhaps more likely. But I prefer to imagine a Duggar spinoff as close to Breaking Duggar as possible.)

The Unseen Realities of 19 Kids and Counting

“Reality TV promises its audience revelatory insight into the lives of others as it withholds and subverts full access to it.” — Laurie Ouellette and Susan Murray, Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture

19 kids and counting

It finally happened. After almost a decade of being America’s favorite oversized Evangelical family next door, the Duggars of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting are experiencing a scandal for which there might actually be repercussions.

Here is (some of) what we know so far:

  • On Thursday May 21, InTouch published a police report indicating allegations that oldest son Josh Duggar was accused of child molestation in 2006. His father Jim Bob waited more than a year to report the accusations.
  • Josh Duggar has since apologized and resigned as Executive Director of the Family Research Council (FRC).
  • Various blogs and websites are now uncovering many of the less often discussed aspects of the Duggars religion and lifestyle. Buzzfeed, for instance, has a post on the homeschooling practices the Duggars promote via 19 Kids and Counting.
  • Other media outlets have reported that the allegations about Josh Duggar have been circulating on the Internet for years. (This is true. I first heard about the allegations some time ago.)
  • TLC has pulled, not canceled, episodes of 19 Kids and Counting. You can still watch full episodes on and there remains significant demands for cancellation.
  • As of May 27, 19 Kids and Counting has lost advertisers including General Mills and Walgreens.
  • While it seems that the scandal has simmered down over the long weekend, expect more news to spiral in the coming days until TLC makes a definitive decision on the future of 19 Kids and Counting.

Coincidentally, I wrote a final paper on 19 Kids and Counting for my Media, Culture & Power in International Communications course two weeks ago. (Snaps for grad school.) For the past month, I have been researching everything from the Duggar family and the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) to representations of extreme lifestyles on reality television to the branding of TLC and Discovery Communications. Needless to say, I have been following this scandal more closely than I ever paid attention to the similar fallouts that occurred with Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Jon & Kate Plus 8.

Much of what is being written across the Internet right now focuses on the scandal itself – especially the cringeworthy behavior of various Duggars over the years. Yet what is not happening enough is actually looking at how a show like 19 Kids and Counting in an integral part of a complex media system.

When you examine a show like 19 Kids and Counting, you quickly realize that more is going on than you could ever imagine. These are the main points we should focus on when we talk about the Duggars, the media empire they’ve built, and what is at stake for TLC/Discovery Communications.

Continue reading

On Mad Men

mad men season 7

Mad Men has generated an inordinate amount of think pieces this week. It’s overwhelming to say the least. While I certainly don’t need to contribute another aside to the story, a few thoughts about this show keep percolating in my mind.

For one, there is something different Mad Men’s public discourse – every commentary is able to find a different angle about the show or to highlight one last piece of hidden meaning that is still lingering behind each frame. This culture of commentary speaks to the complexity and nuance of each episode, every word of dialogue, each painstakingly, slow, frustrating bit of character development. (Come on, Trudy. Don’t let Pete play you like that, again.)

In many ways, I think the critiques a single episode of Mad Men can generate might be its best legacy. This series about a specific time in media history and American culture has not only elevated the medium of television itself but also taken television criticism in new directions. A decade from now, when every culture critic revisits the legacy of Mad Men, the conversations we have been having today will remain as thought-provoking as ever. (I can almost guarantee it will be Peggy Olsen and her story – not Don Draper’s – we will be most concerned with by then.)

Don Draper, more than any other Mad Men character, isn’t a character at all. He’s a symbol, something created and embellished through advertising. So much about him – his past and his future – is left unanswered.

This is why Mad Men has generates legitimate conspiracy theories and it is these conspiracies that separate Mad Men from Breaking Bad or The Wire. These conspiracy theories make the public discourse surrounding Mad Men fascinating and surreal. The theories range from absurd to completely plausible. They’re funny and carefully thought out. Above all, they are an expression of basic human desires.

We are naturally driven to be curious and seek out the truth. There has to be more to every story. (This is partially why fanfiction exists. The writers left something out and it becomes up to fans to fill in the blanks.)

But the beauty of being human is that you can never know everything. It’s impossible. And yet, that can’t be all there is. There has to be some hidden, profound truths behind a glass of red wine spilled on Don Draper’s white carpet.

The desire to know every detail about Mad Men, to find meaning behind every prop, to craft unlikely scenarios, also says a great deal about the nuance of the show itself. Mad Men relishes in time and banality and the ordinary nature of space. The slowness of an episode’s structure is deliberate and it drives audiences insane. For those of us who have spent 92 episodes devouring every detail of Mad Men’s world, there has to be more. Except there never is more.

I have my own ideas how Mad Men could end but none of them are likely or worth writing about.

As the series comes to an end tonight, I see this show as nothing more than a profound reflection on every day life. Mad Men may be set decades in the past but the feelings and experiences are immensely relatable for today’s audiences. (Human nature, like the story arcs on Mad Men, slowly evolves.) The characters will continue existing in this fictional universe we won’t be privy to anymore. Any similarities to Sharon Tate or D.B. Cooper are just coincidence. And that’s it. That’s how it all ends. But we’re all better for having experienced the subtle richness of this television show. It’s hard to imagine there will be any series like Mad Men again.

What I Learned From… 9 to 5

I want this hat.

I want that hat and that cherry lapel pin for my Jane Fonda-Lily Tomlin-Madeline Albright Theme Parties

Once again, I’ve neglected this blog. As an apology, I’ve decided to write a new What I Learned From…

In the following post, I will reveal snarky insights about a popular movie. Several months from now, someone will stumble upon this post via the Google and think I am completely serious/clueless about the movie I’ve watched and what I’ve written. (Why else would a post on The Godfather – Part 3 from 2012 still get so much traffic?)

In anticipation of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s new Netflix series Aaron Sorkin inspired FanFiction Grace and Frankie, here is what I learned from 9 to 5. Continue reading