This week’s tv shows

Saturday is the day that I catch up on the previous week’s tv shows, while at work. So yesterday I watched Fringe, 30 Rock, Hellcats, The Vampire Diaries, and Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.

I’ve been reading the manga series Nana, and just finished volume seven. And on Twitter yesterday it was proposed that Savannah from Hellcats, Hatchi from Nana, and Caroline from The Vampire Diaries should all be roommates and have adventures together. I have a real fondness for this character type — the girl who appears flighty and ditzy, the girl who places a high value on appearing positive and cheerful, the girl who seems trivial, but who then turns out to have a powerful determination and inner strength, far greater than suspected.

I particularly like this character when she’s paired with a female friend who initially seems tough as nails, with goals and determination, who guards herself and looks like she knows who she is and what she wants, but it turns out is emotionally more fragile than she seems and has trouble being strong when her plans go awry. In Hatchi’s case that’s Nana O., for Savannah that’s first Alice and then Marti, and for Caroline — well, she doesn’t actually have that dynamic at the start of the show. Elena sort of fits that part, but not really. I don’t think Elena is fragile in the slightest.

I like this character, and this dynamic, because it show different ways for women to be strong, different ways of being a good friend or a bad one. This character exists within and places value on a conformation to socially approved femininity, and that doesn’t make her less strong. I was thinking about this while watching this week’s 30 Rock, “TGS Hates Women.” The episode is a complex look at feminism and the entertainment industry, summarized here by Sady Doyle. But the part that is relevant to Hellcats is, there’s clearly more than one way to be a woman, a feminist, to be strong. Which also came up in the most recent Spartacus: Gods of the Arena episode, as Lucretia finally revealed what I suspected all along — namely that she is completely ruthless, really smart, and can play a long game.

The twin and conflicting obligations of friendship are in all of the shows I’ve mentioned — to support your friend in reaching their goals and to be happy for them, while also calling them out when they are screwing up. The tension between those things, the different choices the characters make, and how they all live with the consequences is a great story engine. Hellcats in particular does a great job with this. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.