Read, Watched, Podcapped: Sticking to familiar territory, ‘Overdue’ begins new fantasy series, while ‘The Bechdel Cast’ tackles another rom-com

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Content warning: Sexual violence

Both podcasts stick to familiar genres this week — “Overdue” reads the first novel in another fantasy series, while “The Bechdel Cast” covers a lesser known romantic comedy.

“Overdue”

“This feels like a story you might start writing after playing D & D,” Craig declares, referencing the very popular fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Any listener familiar with the fantasy genre will likely quickly agree with Craig once he begins talking about Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora,” the book he read for this week. Published in 2006, the novel follows the titular character’s adventures as he becomes the leader of a con-artist group known as the Gentleman Bastards.

Craig notes that the author chose not to engage in many fantasy novel tropes, which Craig generally enjoyed, although he would have liked the deriven world to be more fleshed out. One of the results of this is that “The Lies” does not seem like the beginning of a series, despite it being so. Craig doesn’t have an opinion on this effect either way, but he and Andrew agree that most readers will expect more complex world building from a fantasy novel.

Contextual research for this episode from its hosts brings up a quote from Lynch in which he recognizes the mistakes he made with “The Lies” — one of which is the lack of female representation. Craig and Andrew proceed to have a lively discussion on the issue, which makes for some of their best analysis but also highlights the extreme gender disparity in most fantasy novels; the hosts seem to have a discussion on gender with each of the fantasies they cover.

Craig says he would “knock points off” for the almost nonexistent presence of women. Most of the characters are male, as the Gentleman Bastards’ group name would suggest. There is a former love interest mentioned, but she doesn’t actually appear in any action until the third book of the series. There are a handful of other female characters playing small, supporting roles, including some of the warriors the Gentleman Bastards fight at one point. And while it may be nice to see women fighting and not on the sidelines, Andrew points out that these women cannot be rooted for because they are placed in opposition with the Gentleman Bastards, whom the reader has been following the entire time.

Overall, Craig says the book is worth reading if you like either fantasy or crime, but this episode may not be worth listening to if you don’t, as the content feels very familiar.

“The Bechdel Cast”

Jamie opens the episode by declaring, “I’ve gone 40 days without sex I don’t know how many times.” Caitlin responds, “I’m pretty sure I’ve gone 40 months.” The film the hosts are covering this week is Michael Lehmann’s “40 Days and 40 Nights,” in which Matt Sullivan (Josh Hartnett) decides to give up sex for the duration of Lent. Caitlin and Jamie, joined by comedian Arielle Isaac Norman as the guest host, decided to cover this film in alignment with the Easter holiday.

To begin with, the overall messages presented about women in this film are laced with many problems. When Matt makes this decision, all of his co-workers make a bet about how long he will last before giving in. All of his female co-workers then only exist for a series of seduction scenes in which they try to get him to cave. The hosts discuss how this presents women as only having power — and screen time — through sex.

Then, there is the love interest, Erica (Shannyn Sossamon), who Matt meets just after beginning his 40 days. Firstly, Erica easily falls into the manic pixie dream girl trope — she’s presented as whimsical, her motivations don’t make sense, and her sole purpose seems to be to fix Matt. Throughout the film, she gets mad at him for irrational reasons, including the fact that he has an ex-girlfriend and the vow itself. Finally, she gets mad at him after Matt is raped by his ex-girlfriend, Nicole (Vinessa Shaw).

At the end of his 40 days, Matt is preparing to finally have sex with Erica and becomes delirious from his lack of sex — which the hosts also discuss the absurdity of — and falls into an unconscious state. During this state, he is raped by Nicole, who has learned of the betting pool and sets out to win. Matt then tells Erica that he thought it was her, and not Nicole, while in his delirious state. The hosts bring up that Matt doesn’t even call it rape, which is an issue in and of itself that would need to be unpacked, but Erica’s rage still doesn’t make sense, considering they barely have a relationship at this point. Plus, Nicole is presented as a stereotypical “conniving bitch” — just as his female co-workers were — but taken to the most extreme lengths.

The three hosts agree that there are very few things to like about this film in terms of female representation. Jamie notes that it is “not even (worth) a hate-watch.”

Nikki Munoz covers podcasts. Contact her at [email protected].