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Murderess… Netflix’s Alias Grace series

‘All the same, Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word— musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor. Murderer is merely brutal. It’s like a hammer, or a lump of metal. I would rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those are the only choices.’ Quote from the novel, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.

Alias Grace review

Alias Grace is a six part Netflix series adapted from Margaret Atwood’s (one of my favourite authors, who also penned such game changers as The Handmaid’s Tale) bestselling novel. Atwood previously wrote about Miss Marks in her 1970s play The Servant Girl. What’s intriguing is that it’s based on the 1843 true story of Grace Marks and Jason McDermott. Written for the screen by award winning screenwriter, Sarah Polley, who is reported to have spent a couple of decades— first approaching Atwood at age seventeen— trying to bring Alias Grace to life. ‘People know they need to look brutally and honestly at the world,’ Polley says about the appeal of Atwood’s work.

The series, starring Sarah Gadon, is a well constructed and haunting story. It details the murder of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery by Marks and McDermott. It has been a popular watch. After only a few weeks on Netflix and Rolling Stone dubbed it ‘…the most relevant show on television.’

Author of Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood

Atwood, who is a celebrated feminist writer, highlighted throughout the novel the differences in the way female and male murders are treated. And how they are perceived and regarded by society (then and now). And, of course, takes an intimate look at The Woman Question

Atwood has stated about the protagonist and real life Grace ‘…The interesting thing is the way everybody projects their ideas onto Grace.’

Leaves us questioning (as many of the characters are also) is she a victim of the situation and ‘… a good girl with a pliable nature…’ [page 25] (and trying to make the best of) or is she a cold blooded murderer and ‘…cunning and devious…’ [page 25]. It also highlights how a murder is not in and of itself. That people, especially women, are three dimensional, even if they commit what are considered to be evil acts. 

Atwood said in this interview with her publisher, Penguin Randomhouse: ‘Other people took the view that women, when they got going, were inherently more evil than men, and that it was therefore Grace who had instigated the crime and led McDermott on. So you had a real split between woman as demon and woman as pathetic.’

Who will like Alias Grace?

It holds something for most audience members. It comprises history, feminist overtones, mental health, supernatural, domesticity (specifically quilting is used as a prominent leitmotif) and— of course— romance. And whilst it may be historical, the themes and concerns are just as present today. Solidifying the necessity to storytell and excavate these themes until the light that touches them to perpetrate radical change. Building on the increasing popularity of flawed female characters and unreliable narrators that we are equally harrowed by and empathetic towards. In the vein of Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, Fates and Furies and Jessica Jones. We are now embracing the idea the women are more multifaceted and whole than they have ever been depicted and that even the most determined murderess still has the capacity to love, feel empathy, create long lasting and meaningful friendships.

Additionally I found the recent series of The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace both pleasingly true to the novels. The details, the same mysterious atmosphere, ambiguous ending and pertinent premises come across exactly as I anticipated.

Alias Grace is an easier watch that the harrowing The Handmaid’s Tale. And whilst it will question your sensitivities and will haunt you for at least a week afterwards, it will not leave you in terror like The Handmaid’s Tale. Knowing it’s in the past and not a probable speculative fictional future.  

What’s more, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a cameo appearance by Margaret Atwood herself.

You’ll love Alias Grace if you liked…

Making a Murderer
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Sinner
Top of the Lake

TV nerds that we love

Imagine the drudgery that would afflict television if computer technology was never invented? There’d be so many fewer hacking shows to watch. What would we even do with all that spare time? Invent computers, probably…Has anyone settled on the collective noun for a group hackers, by the way?

Here’s a brief list of some of our favourite male TV nerds:

Huck (Diego Munoz) from Scandal

Diego Munaz

Played by Guillermo Diaz

A gruff hacker in our favourite crisis management team (led by Olivia Pope) in Scandal, Huck is a former CIA agent that is light on conversation but heavy on mystery. ‘…Low-key and quietly brilliant Huck…’  proffers a sturdy air that you can’t help but interpret as reliable.

For an added bonus the actor that plays Huck is gay and has a tattoo of Madonna’s face on his arm… what’s not to love?

Walter O’Brien from </Scorpion>

walter from scorpion - tv nerds

Played by Elyes Gabel

The show and character was inspired by the real life Walter O’Brien who is a hacker and computer expert. At only eleven years old, he hacked into NASA (just like the real life Walter O’Brien did) and has since been commissioned by Homeland to work for them.

One of Walter’s most endearing traits is his rapid connection with his on again, off again love interest (Paige)’s son.

The TV show, Scorpion, was suggested to producers by O’Brien with the hopes that it would attract more employees to his company. Now that’s an expensive recruitment drive!

Abed Nadir from Community

Abed from Community - tv nerds

Played by Danny Pudi

A personal favourite of mine, with his russet skin and his adorable quirks and of course, his obsessive love of television (relatable), Abed is the full package.

It is alluded to in Community that Abed displays characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome and doesn’t pick up on emotional or social cues as well as the other characters.

Abed also has a strong and admirable life philosophy and self esteem:

‘I’ve got self esteem falling out of my butt. That’s why I was willing to change for you guys because when you really know who you are and what you like about yourself, changing for other people isn’t such a big deal.’

And whilst he may be no match for his counterpart Troy who is played by Donald Glover (you all know him from Childish Gambino fame) our boy can rap in Spanish.

And in English…

Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory

jim parsons - tv nerds

Played by Jim Parsons

Everyone’s favourite pedant and TV nerd, Sheldon (pardon me, that’s Dr. Sheldon Lee Cooper, B.S., M.S., M.A., Ph.D., Sc.D.), is as fresh faced as he is intelligent. As a theoretical physicist, Sheldon steals the show with his prodigal abilities, stilted personality traits and particularities and his top Theremin playing.

Plus those over expressive eyebrows.

Elliot Alderson from Mr Robot

rami malek - tv nerds

Played by Rami Malek

Struggling with dissociative disorder, clinical depression and social anxiety disorder, Elliot is the people’s cyber vigilante that “hacks for good” on the intriguing Mr Robot. Played by the enigmatic Malek, of Egyptian heritage, who is also a twin. The show is often praised for its accuracy when it comes to detailing their hack-ventures and technological authenticity.

Elliot’s pet fish is called Qwerty and isn’t that just the best name for a nerd pet?

Did you know: Malek took typing lessons to prepare for his role of quick fingered hacker Elliot? 

Bertram Gilfoyle from Silicon Valley

Gilfoyle silicon valley

Played by Martin Starr

With monotone delivery and an acerbic tongue Bertram, known as Gilfoyle is the long haired, Satan worshipping Senior Security Architect in Richard’s hacker group in the HBO series, Silicon Valley.

I could literally name the entire core group of start up-preneurs in Silicon Valley but since Martin Starr is a bonafide favourite, Gilfoyle gets the mention. Martin Starr gets bonus points for his entrenched nerdism from his Freaks and Geeks days.

Did you know: in season two of Silicon Valley, Gilfoyle named the computer servers Anton, after Satanist, Anton LaVey. 

Chidi Anagonye from The Good Place

chidi the good place is one of tv nerds

Played by William Jackson Harper

Unabashedly one of my favourite characters on one of my favourite TV shows is Chidi. Chidi is a philosophy professor with a passion for moral ethics who was born in Nigeria and moved to Senegal. The name Chidi means ‘God lives’, which is fitting symbolism for The Good Place and even for the eternal code of ethics that the character abides.

‘Who needs a soulmate, anyway? My soulmate will be… books,’ Chidi Anagonye.

Who has been missed? Share your favourites below.

The glorious history of television

‘Good evening and welcome to television.’

Television is surely the most amazing and influential invention of the modern age. Television (TV) is one of the most beloved telecommunications medium that transmits coloured or monochrome moving images, accompanied by matching audio. The word television is derived from an ancient Greek word τῆλε which means “tele”. And from Latin word “visio” which means sight.  The history of television is an important one.

The first television

The first television (as we know it) was invented in 1927. It was first used in Australia in 1928 but introduced into homes in September 1956 by some dude in US (who grew up without electricity mind you). This same fellow banned his own kids from watching television! Stating that…

‘there’s nothing on it worthwhile, and we’re not going to watch it in this household, and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet,’ Philo T Farnsworth

Despite the nineteen twenties release date, some of the technology used (such as the Nipkow disk) was invented back as far as 1884. In line with the release of the television, of course, had to come the release of the video camera.

What’s even more fascinating is that the first colour and even the first 3D television began to emerge all the way back in 1928. But it wasn’t until after some initial tests, NBC made its first field test of colour television in February 1941.
The invention of television became a part of human life in the late 1920s but as an experiment only. But this was several years before the real technology and invention of television were marketed.

Television was poised as ‘so important in its implications that it is bound to affect all society,’ by David Sarnoff, RCA President during the 1939 unveiling.

‘…a new art so important in its implications that it is bound to affect all society.’

history of television

The first television remote control

The world’s first remote control, Tele Zoom A few years later came the world’s first remote control. Of sorts. It was known as the Tele Zoom and its only function was that it could zoom in and was attached by a cord. The remote control that we are more familiar with, a wireless one that can change channels etc, was released in 1955.

In Australia during the mid fifties, after ABC, Channel Nine and Channel Seven had launched ‘…only 1 per cent of Sydney residents and 5 per cent of Melbourne residents owned a TV, a luxury that cost six to 10 times the average weekly wage,’ Sydney Morning Herald

It was around the mid sixties when television started to surpass other mediums as a more trusted, reliable and turned to source of information and entertainment. During the late 1950s, television was considered as an important medium to sway and promote a public opinion and it continued to increase in influence.

History of flat screen television

Flat screens hit the market around 2005. And from there, TV units, broadcasting and the way we consume television briskly morphed into an all encompassing consumer fest. At the end of the 2000s, digital television transmissions gained some serious popularity across the world. Additionally there was more serious (and pleasing) development including the SD TV (standard definition TV) to HDTV (high definition TV). The developments and range in definition meant that resolution became much, much higher (and the picture incredibly clearer).

2010 saw a rise in use of the smart television and incorporated one of the best inventions to man, the internet. With this revolutionary development saw a big shift in the way we consumed, created and experienced television.

Some of us who were born in the early eighties or earlier might even remember a time when a television had a test pattern after midnight. And to “warm up” when it was switched on it made that glorious “zip” sound. Plus as you turned it off and it looked like someone had pulled the entire screen into a small hole at the back of the appliance. Fun times! Thankfully, television has twenty four hour programming or on demand capabilities these days.

It’s predicted that by 2021 (that’s actually only two years away) there will be 1.68 billion TV households worldwide. And with that a thousand billion dollar industry will continue to burgeon and shapeshift before our very eyes, literally.

Four Netflix things to watch

Sometimes, no matter what you try, you can’t seem to shake a bad mood. It happens to the best, and chirpiest, of us. But here are four Netflix things to watch that will almost certainly pull you out of a bad mood and have you sparkling again.

The Good Place

the good place on netflix
Ted Danson in The Good Place

A delightful and wholesome comedy that will help alleviate your existential angst, whilst teaching you about philosophy. In an afterlife where you can’t swear that was created by a character played by Ted Danson, a pleasant omniscient computer in human form called Janet and a protagonist played by everyone’s favourite Kristen Bell, there is a lot to love about The Good Place. 

​Jim Gaffigan – stand up specials

On Australian Netflix there are five Jim Gaffigan stand up specials: Obsessed, Mr Universe, Beyond the Pale, Cinco and King Baby. His jokes are gentle and unoffensive (except, maybe, to vegans) and it’s a refreshing change from all the shouty, frustrated white man comedy that dominates the stage. Gaffigan gets bonus points for never making fun of “being too PC”.

Schitt’s Creek

schitts creek tv series
Dan and Eugene Levy. Image credit: Getty Images

Created by and starring charming father and son duo, Dan and Eugene Levy (those eyebrows!), this surprising comedy relies on the vigour of all the well crafted characters. As well as the absurd setting that the Rose family have found themselves in. Schitt’s Creek is a “fish out of water” tale that is cringe worthy without being painful. It’s also rewarding when we get to witness vapid characters experience personal expansion.  

Now You See Me

now you see me movie

Perhaps I’m swayed by my love of magic and illusions but this heist movie (and its sequel) is one of the most pleasurable movies to watch on Netflix. The Now You See Me cast is so robust with Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and more. And the ongoing tricks, mystery and sense of theatre are thrilling and unpredictable. Great if you like movies like the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy.

​Watched them all and need more Netflix things to watch? Why not try Pine Gap?

parks and rec tv show

Five writing tips I learnt from Parks and Recreation

Watch on Stan

parks and rec stan australia

There are a lot of lessons that watching plenty of TV can offer particularly when it comes to writing.  Parks and Recreation is one of my most beloved sitcoms and I have spent years falling asleep to its obnoxious “doot a la doot” theme song.

​Here are four things I learnt from the writers of Parks N’ Rec. What I learnt from Parks and Recreation

  1. The character of Lesley Knope was already formed in creator, Amy Poehler’s head, she just needed to write the TV show that would fit around her and refine how the world and responded to her.
  2. Fart jokes are always funny.
  3. Write the lines for the characters, not for the audience.
  4. A writing project is just like any other project and a project needs a good leader – either in a team or a part of yourself.
Stan TV series

Catch all seasons of Parks and Recreation on Stan.