Winner and Losers… is a Loser

I was looking forward to new Australian comedy/drama Winners and Losers, which follows four best friends from an all-girls school who were losers in high schools and meet up again at their school reunion. It looked very female-centric, with the men being secondary a la McLeod’s Daughter’s and I rather like Virginia Gay.

I was bitterly disappointed.

In the beginning, our four protagonists, Frances (Gay), Sophie, Rebecca and Jenny fluctuate between disinterest and uncertainty about attending, although they all end up going. There is a scene with Rebecca and her fiance Matt where she admits that she doesn’t want to go with Jenny, who she is still friends with, because Jenny is fat and sensitive about her appearance and likely to spend the night getting upset, which Rebecca doesn’t want to deal with. However it was intended to be played, it came across as Rebecca saying ‘well, I’m a skinny blonde so I’ll be alright, but I don’t want to go with the fattie’. Yeah, way to support a mate.

To start off with, the school villianness who organised the reunion, Tiffany Turner, makes Regina George from Mean Girls look like Mother Theresa. Imagine if Regina had spent ten years planning a school reunion just so she could heap more misery on the girls she had made miserable in high school. That’s Tiffany. She heaps the cruel barbs as if it’s still 2001. She refers to Jenny and Sophie by their high-school nicknames (Gross-Out and So Wong respectively), she makes a point of informing Rebecca that she once slept with Matt and she jeers when she finds the four of them pow-wowwing in the bathroom ‘just like old times’ (when she would drive them in there in tears). If it had been played as satire, it might have been funny, but as far as I could gather, Tiffany was played perfectly straight.

Once they all get there, the cattiness comes into full force. Nothing makes the other women at the reunion happy; Sophie has lost half her body weight (I’d say more like two-thirds, judging by the high-school photo she shows) and looks gorgeous, but she went into personal training instead of medicine, so she’s a ‘loser’. Frances has a MBA from Harvard but she isn’t married so she’s a ‘loser’. (Tiffany, meanwhile, is twice-divorced with a figure about as realistic as Barbie’s but is a ‘winner’… I know the writers must have been making a point somewhere in there, but it was lost on me.) There’s an implication that Tiffany has dug up a bunch of humiliating photos and called it a nostalgic slideshow, but it ends early for our protagonists when Jenny, fed up with Tiffany’s cruelty, gives a speech about how all anyone came for was to dispariage everyone else and that Tiffany was a loser who was faker than ever. It’s pretty much the only good bit of the episode.

The four women go out for their own reunion, which culminates in buying a lottery ticket. (More on this later.) They vow to remain in touch, and Frances makes an effort to get the ball rolling, but really, I found it difficult to care. None of the women came across as really interesting, and I found Rebecca’s comments about Jenny particularly unsupportive for a so-called friend.

At the end of the episode, they’ve won $8m… and it looks like next week brings up the fact that Jenny didn’t actually go in. Cue tears and tantrums about her not getting ‘her share’, I’m sure. If it had been over a more trifling sum, fair enough, but really, ladies, what can you do with $2.6m that you can’t do with $2m? I realise it’s easy to say when it’s hypothetical, but I don’t see money in that kind of proportion worth squabbling over, and I don’t think it will make a very good foundation for a show that’s supposed to be about friendship.

I mentioned McLeod’s before. Ironically, like McLeod’s this show passes the Bechdel test spectacularly, to a point that I’m not sure there was a single conversation between two men, let alone about something other than  a woman. But it just goes to show that you that you can pass the Bechdel test and still have a lousy script stuff with trite characters on your hands; the reason these women talk about something other than men is that they spend all their time disparaging women with varying degrees of cruelty.

At least there’s one good thing to say about this show: it appears to be the lowest-rating debut for an Australian series in some time, despite the heavy marketing campaign and plum timeslot, so hopefully it won’t be around for too long.

Comments

  1. Sally says

    Thank you, Gabriela. My impressions of the series were fairly similar.

    Incidentally, I received an invitation to my own school reunion shortly before the show debuted — I didn’t go.

    At the risk of derailing the thread, let me say that I understand the mindset of the “Queen Bees & Wannabes,” but I reject it — I simply refuse to buy into the social conditioning which ‘mandates’ women competing for male attention (From birth in our society, girls are taught that relationships with persons of the same gender as themselves are ‘secondary,’ that “real women stand by their men, not their girlfriends.” Boys are taught this, too — it becomes ‘natural’ for them, and (many) boys and men go into absolute toxic meltdown when they think that women are ‘betraying’ them by ‘banding together’ against them. Thus, for a girl whose background has been dominated by one of these ‘alpha-male’ chimpanzee-men, being a hyper-competitive ‘bitch,’ dumping on other women and competing for male ‘favour,’ becomes a way to ‘stay alive’ socially, and often physically too)

    However, I never understood the desire for Reunions of any sort, especially High School Reunions . I have been lucky enough to have kept in touch with those people whom I considered ‘friends’ and have been happy to ignore the ones who dunked my head in the toilet because I’m gay. Why would I want to subject myself to their ‘attentions’ once more? To show them that I’ve succeeded in spite of their attempts to grind me down? I don’t care, and, quite frankly, I doubt if they would either. Nor do I think that, having had an epiphany, they might fall on their knees and beg my forgiveness. Yes, I know … it’s all about Nostalgia (“Good Times, Good Friends,” “The past is better the second time around” and “This was the last time we were all ‘Innocent of Life’.”) — ‘Golden Ages’ in the past might be less scary, but they are no more real than those for which we might hope in the future.

    • Gabriella says

      I went to mine – completely overrated. It was pleasant enough but I don’t think I spoke to anyone for more than about five minutes. You make a good point; you keep in touch with those you wanted to, and often there was a good reason you didn’t keep in touch with others. It wasn’t a case of ‘omg she was such a bitch to me’ as much as ‘meh, never had anything to say to them and nothing’s changed’.

      Thus, for a girl whose background has been dominated by one of these ‘alpha-male’ chimpanzee-men, being a hyper-competitive ‘bitch,’ dumping on other women and competing for male ‘favour,’ becomes a way to ‘stay alive’ socially

      That sounds very much like Tiffany, except it made no sense that she would still be gunning for these women ten years down the track. It felt to me like she’d spent the last decade thinking ‘how can I humiliate them some more?’ over girls who had never *been* her competition.

      And it doesn’t really help that I don’t see any comaraderie between the four main actors that makes me believe they would be such close friends. One of the reasons I like Gay is that I loved the chemistry she shared with Wil Traval on All Saints; you could totally tell they were good friends in RL. I don’t get that on W&A.

      Nor do I like Bec’s relationship with her faincee. (We’re too poor to set a date… oh, now we’re millionaire – well *you’re* a millionaire but what’s mine is yours but I STILL don’t want to set a date… oh, now there’s a threat that her and her millions might leave, quick, set a date.) Now, I’m just sticking it out to see what ludicrous rationale they come up with for Tiffany trying to get hold of their money. My best guess is a defamation suit, which, given we don’t have punitive damage, would get her a few grand at most. Certainly not a significant claim. Mind you, I DID love the way Jenny delivered the line ‘we’re rich… because of you!’. That and her litlte speech about Tiffany’s fakeness at the reunion were the only good bits I’ve seen so far. Four episodes, twenty or so seconds of salvagable stuff. Yep, definitely a loser.

      • says

        Right in one, Gabriella, she’s suing them. But apparently its on the basis it defamed her reputation and her reputation is her job (not sure what that means).
        5 bucks says its counter-quashed with character witnesses saying what a bitch she is.
        Not to gossip on a show written off….

        Its not a top show, no. While its interesting to see how little money changes people, is it just me that thinks the more woman characters you put in a show, the more controlling they try to be? Like they know they’re sharing focus, so try to make every scrap of their tv life ‘perfect’. Thats a point not very well articulated, but it stands

        • says

          Note to Paul and everyone: I initially deleted this comment because we don’t use words like “bitch” here (see comment guidelines) unless we’re thinking of it as in quotes, as in reflecting someone else’s attitude. I wasn’t clear on whether Paul was saying HE considers this woman a bitch or thinks others will. If the former: individual women are routinely marginalized for being “bitches”, an extremely flexible classification which means anything from a woman being cruel to a woman refusing to offer sex to someone, or like me, a woman who speaks her mind empowers others to speak theirs, and shields them from the misogynistic majority. If the latter, then, yes, I’m sure people will write her off as a bitch, but that won’t be fair, even if she isn’t the loveliest person. After all, men who behave exactly like a lot of “bitches” are saluted for it.

          The second paragraph is indeed poorly articulated – it sounds like the standard misogynist argument that why we MUST marginalize women, because they’re such catty, jealous, fighting things who don’t know how to be team players. That is indeed how male-dominated entertainment encourages women to act, but in my experience (and I think anyone else’s who’s really paid honest attention), male and female individuals are equally likely to be selfish or more cooperative.

          On that note, I believe Scarlett has some further rebuttal too. :)

          • Attackfish says

            I thought the second paragraph was about how the more female characters you have on a show, the more cattiness the writers/producers feel need to be injected into them to “make them interesting enough”. But I’m probably being very generous. If that is Paul’s point however, it’s a good one. Most mainstream fiction creators seem to view female friendship, true, kind, loving friendship as anathema. (Female besties thread FTW, BTW.)

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