Janice Steele from ‘Mile High’

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There was a character on Mile High, Janice Steele, who was the show’s ‘Bitch’ character (you know, the mean woman stereotype that every show has). She wielded her small amount of power as the boss of the airline hosts with ruthlessness and pettiness. She strings along a man almost young enough to be her son (twelve years) with indifference. She was a miserable human being whose face was beginning to show years of hard living.

As the show progressed, the writers took the time to show what circumstances had made this woman. I gathered she had been a plain girl with desperately low self-esteem. She fell in love with a married man, Nigel Croaker, a pilot for her airline, and stood by him through a divorce, second marriage, and second divorce. All this time he played around with women younger and more attractive then her, going back to her because she was loyal and faithful after those women got sick of him and dumped his sorry ass.

So the inference to me was that she clung to whatever small power she had because it was her only power. She had been insecure as a child, and her bad judgment with men – one man in particular – had fortified her insecurity. She sees the man she loves playing around under her nose – even after he’s moved in with her (on account wife #2 kicked him out) – and knows that some day, loyalty and fidelity are not going to bring him back.

So she takes out her impotent anger at her younger lover, her insubordinate crew.

Over the course of two seasons, we see Janice is very competent at her job. And while the writers explained the circumstances which had made her so prickly, they never did much in the way of mellow her – just enough to make her an almost-sympathetic ‘Bitch’.

I thought this showed a fair amount of respect towards her. So many times I’ve seen the ‘Bitch’ character either reform, or go so spectacularly off the rails that she is either committed or slinks off in disgrace. But Janice was realistic in her reasons for being what she was, and that the only ‘reforming’ she did was that the audience often got a chance to see why she was what she was. It’s really hard to hate someone once you see that the man they love – even if it is a gross display of bad judgment – has, at best, an amount of fondness for them, and certainly no respect.

Eventually, she leaves him, and it was clear to me it was a hard decision to make – but one that had to be made for the sake of what dignity she had left. Again, it seemed like a realistic portrayal – she was humiliated for years, and the only salvation was going to come from walking away on her own two feet.

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