This week in podcapping, “Overdue” delves into the difficult dynamic of a problematic writer producing entertaining literature, while “The Bechdel Cast” discusses the role of mediocrity in women’s representation. While both grapple with their respective tensions without producing a final conclusion, their conversations remain engaging nonetheless.
The hosts of “Overdue” focus on a sequel this week: Orson Scott Card’s “Speaker for the Dead,” the follow up to “Ender’s Game.” “Speaker for the Dead,” published in 1986, takes place about 3,000 years after the events of “Ender’s Game” — yet, because of the time dilation of space, Ender is still only in his 30s. A new alien race is discovered, presenting a threat to humanity, and Ender must face the new enemy.
In a previous episode, Andrew and Craig covered “Ender’s Game” and contended with Card’s public stance, rooted in his Mormon religion, against gay marriage. Craig, having loved the book growing up, especially had a hard time coming to terms with vehemently disagreeing with the author’s views. The pair discouraged their listeners from buying new copies of the book to read along with them, as to not contribute anything to Card himself.
They discourage the same for this week’s episode, as they delve into the sequel. Before discussing the novel itself, they return to the problematic author. Craig brings up the significant role of empathy in the novel, bringing attention to the contradictory nature of the author’s viewpoints. Andrew agrees, noting that the world within the book deems anything other than empathy a failure. He continues that, in light of this message, “It’s interesting to run up against the limits of Card’s own empathy for other people.” Without an answer to Card’s personal mentality on empathy, they move onto the novel itself.
While covering context, the hosts discuss how “Ender’s Game” is essentially an origin story for “Speaker for the Dead.” Card first wanted to write the plot of “Speaker,” yet knew he had to lay down its groundwork — resulting in “Ender’s Game,” which Craig refers to as “more digestible.”
The pair goes into a lengthened recap of the novel, extensively fleshing out the specific elements of the plot that are at play. As a listener, however, it is difficult to fully focus on the plot after the problematic views of the author have been laid out. Card’s lack of empathy overshadows his empathy-filled plot.
Thus, it is unsurprising that Andrew and Craig come back around to Card’s viewpoints at the end of the episode. Craig cites his frustrations of Card being able to so eloquently write about empathy — just to blatantly disregard it when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community.
And while Andrew and Craig succeed in effectively discussing Card’s controversy, they also never concretely state why they decided to cover this novel. Since they already covered “Ender’s Game,” it is worth considering the lasting implications of continuing a conversation and bringing attention to a problematic author.
“The Bechdel Cast”
Caitlin and Jamie are joined by comedian Danielle Perez this week to talk about the 1997 comedy film, “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.” Right away, Jamie brings up her relief in seeing “female protagonists who are absolutely mediocre” and who go against the idea that female leading characters must be perfect or overachieving.
Directed by David Mirkin, the film follows best friends Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow), who have been living together in Los Angeles since graduating high school. Romy is working as a cashier at a car dealership, while Michele is unemployed. When they hear about their upcoming high school reunion, they decide to come up with fake careers in order to impress their former classmates.
The hosts, generally, are pleased with the film’s representation of women, especially the central focal point of a close female friendship. Caitlin notes that the friendship is depicted quite realistically, leading to a relatability between viewers and protagonists.
One of the qualms the hosts have with the movie, however, is a strong antagonistic quality between its women. Despite the film depicting a healthy female friendship, the best friends experience arbitrary cattiness with other women in the film.
The character of Christie (Julia Campbell) is established as the main bully of Romy and Michele when they were in high school. At the end of the film, it is revealed that Christie’s life is not as perfect as it seems — her husband doesn’t have a fancy job, he cheats on her, etc. It is presented as a moment of triumph for Romy and Michele, as Christie’s life is set up as a laughing point. The hosts take issue with the idea of Christie’s life having to be tragic — and something to laugh at — for the leads to feel better about their own lives.
The conversation eventually comes back around to the idea of mediocre women. Jamie, while doing contextual research, found a piece of criticism strongly positioned against Romy and Michele’s mediocrity. The critic claims that white women are allowed to be mediocre, but if Romy and Michele were women of color, the film wouldn’t be consumed as enthusiastically by audiences.
After discussing this viewpoint, Caitlin, Jamie and Danielle agree that it is overall refreshing to see a female lead not have to be perfect. Danielle states how much she loves seeing girls in media who are “ditzy but get by somehow.” She continues, “I hate that women have to be exceptional just to be thought of as competent.”
Regardless of where your opinion on the matter lies, it is, nonetheless, a breath of fresh air to hear three women discuss the specifics of the personalities of two female leads in a fun comedy — one that was taken seriously at the time and is taken seriously now.
Contact Nikki Munoz at [email protected].