Vive Las Vegas

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I must admit, I quite enjoy Las Vegas. Sure, it’s cheesy, campy, and Danny and Ed invariable get the better of whatever grand scheme some criminal mastermind attempted to foist on them. But it doesn’t pretend to be anything but cheesy, campy fun, and I’ve always been a sucker for stuff which doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is.

And in it’s favour, it has some pretty decent female roles. Delinda is a ditz and a daddy’s girl, but she’s perfectly capable of running a busy restaurant (something no-one realises how hard it is until they’ve tried it) with great pizzazz, as well as being an experienced in several “˜men’s’ hobbies while still being very feminine. Sam is ruthlessly ambitious, going so far as to dig up the grave of a legendary casino host to get to his contact book, and is obviously a major reason the casino runs as efficiently as it does. She scams half the casino out of her husband who really should have known better, and she and Delinda pursue men the same way men pursue women. Mary is shyer then Delinda and Sam, but still very capable and always gets things done, no matter what pressure she’s under. All capable, confident women who I could respect and admire if they actually existed. Quite a feat for an American show which specialises in cheesy, campy fun.

Except then they introduce Monica Mancuso, played by Lara Flynn Boyle. Mancuso starts off well enough, a ruthlessly ambitious woman. She’s come from a few rungs beneath dirt on the social ladder, and clawed her way up by fair means or foul – rumours run to the effect of stripping and prostitution, as well as doing an Anna-Nicole and marrying a wealthy old man. None of this I minded; it showed she had hustle, a willingness to get out there and make something for herself.

At times Monica could be a bit eccentric – she pursued men aggressively and erratically, and picked pennies off the floor despite owning a multi-billion dollar casino – but I figured, she’s rich, and rich people can be eccentric. But then she starts getting reckless. She keeps butting into the job of her head of security, who finally quits. She turns off the security on a priceless Indian diamond, on loan from the Indian government, to try it on, only to have a thief waiting for such an opportunity steal it. She fires people at random, regardless of the business they bring to the casino. She gets it into her head that she and the new head of security (who doesn’t like her presence any more than the old one) are having some epic romance and sees him dobbing her into a potential buyer for the casino (for the sake of all their jobs and sanity) as an epic betrayal. And finally, she ends up flying off the roof (supposedly thanks to high cross-winds) and crashing to her death several hundred meters down the street.

I’ve written before about women who start of decent if flawed characters and ended up utter nutcases, but Mancuso has to be up there somewhere. Was the whole point to say, little lady, women can’t run casinos, can’t handle that much money, it’ll drive you crazy – let that be a lesson to all the other little ladies thinking of taking up such a challenge? Time after time I’ve seen perfectly good strong, ambitious, tension-creating characters reduced to stereotypes of bitchiness, incompetence or insanity. I guess men are trying to tell us that our real calling is to sit at home and let all the men have the fun.

Like Hell.

Comments

  1. Mecha says

    Okay, I want to engage in a thought experiment for a moment. Switch the genders of this little drama, and ask yourself how often a piece of entertainment depicting a cuthroat rags-to-riches man involves the man ultimately being crazy and having a detachment from reality, only to end up being brought down? It’s not rare. It’s not even uncommon. In fact, I would say that in almost every case where a casino appears in a show, its boss, often male, is amoral at best, and often cruel, if not outright psychotic and/or criminal. Nevermind most other rich people in shows getting that sort of treatment. Rich people are almost always somewhat to very crazy in pop culture, whether for good or ill or inaccurate.

    The not-so-unfortunate consequence of having women play major roles is that women are also going to end up being the crazy/criminal/evil antagonists. If the entire rest of the show shows realistic women… then maybe it’s just a case of the woman who, just like the bad man in a male-focused show, just isn’t all there. A woman, or a man, who believes they’re powerful, entitled, and all that… they’re out there. If you wonder what they were saying… well, she may have been crazy, but the society that forced her to strip, and scrabble, and scrounge, and pressed upon her to be the perfect powerful rich women drove her freaking nuts, or at least that’s what I’d say based simply upon the details you threw out. Just like the society that forces men to be the perfect paragon of manliness, to the detriment of everything in their lives, leaves them depressed, neurotic, or crazy-to-daed. Whichever show that was that someone said did that.

    In a sense, it reminds me of something that will definitely increase my geek quotient. Magic: The Gathering is a fantasy based card game, which hires a number of artists to do work for its cards. One of the notes in the style guide is, paraphrased, “You can’t draw a damsel in distress. If you show a woman, she has to be neutral, if not strong and kicking ass.” Which is a fair sentiment, and god knows that in Sci-Fi/Fantasy it’s needed. But what if a woman is in distress? What do you do? What happens when you have to portray a black person negatively? Or a woman negatively? Are you racist? Sexist? Even if you have a number of other well done non-stereotypical characters?

    Women have a long way to go for equality… but if every time they get portrayed in a stereotypical or negative fashion it’s sexist, it’s tough to blame people for having characters that end up Mary Sues. When the line’s too thin, even the well intentioned fall off.

    -Mecha

  2. scarlett says

    Well, what bothered me that that she started off quite plusible in her ruthlessness and eccentricity. She was eccentric, but she knew the value of money. then she went completely crazy and took pointless risks that could and did loose her money. Then she just got delusional until there was nothing left to salvage and off the roof of the Monecito she went.

  3. Mecha says

    Well, to touch on the flipside of the article that just got posted today, people who came from dirt may be hungry, but they’re also desperate. It’s very possible for someone to be so posessive and wanting and crazy about posessing and controlling that it really just destroys them.

    I suppose another part of the context is how important the character is, in terms of ‘is she part of a moral sub-plot, is she a central character that is being written out, etc’. In a show about Las Vegas, they might have just wanted to show how being money/power-hungry can destroy you in a flashier (as opposed to subtler, which I imagine they’re doing at various times) manner, no matter how rich they are.

    It’s tough to say without seeing it, really. But I can’t help but think of the many, many, many times a casino boss has been shown to be obsessive, controlling, blind to their flaws, and ultimately hoist by their own petard, and assign it to that. Even if it meant hitting an ugly, overused and stereotyped image of women.

    At least they seem to have Sam, who is ruthless and not crazy, by your describing. Here’s to hoping they don’t make a pattern of it. ^^;

    -Mecha

  4. scarlett says

    My issue is that when they send men crazy there’s a lot more consistancy, the character is usually set up from the start so when they go off the rails you can see where it came from. Male characters seem set up to actually go crazy and they contribute to the plot, but when they sent women crazy it’s like they just ran out of ideas so let’s have her go crazy/become inept/become a bitch.
    Take Maybourne from SG1. He was set up to be untrustworthy and even was he became more likeable, you never really trusted him. Whereas Moncuso started off relatvely stable as they it played out like, havinbg run out of ideas, they sent her off the rails. Men don’t get treated the same way, IMHO

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