TV Review: Dietland (2018)

 

– A feminist/positive-body-image wannabe

As recent trends about equality in sexes in the US, Dietland seems a perfect title in this flow. Even since the disappointing election happened in the states, a great number of TV shows want to have a say in politics, gender equality and especially feminism.

Created by Marti Noxon(also the creator of the amazing Sharp Objects), Dietland was adapted from Sarai Walker’s best-selling novel with the same name. Following the narrative of our heroine, Plum Kettle, we learnt that she is a ghostwriter in a beauty fashion magazine, who replies letters to “their girls” about beauty and teenage problems, from body image to self-harm; at the same time, she herself is insecure and desperately saves money for the surgery towards the perfect slim body.

In the pilot episode, it looks like a good premise—an underestimated smart girl who might eventually overcome her body-shaming demon. We see her terrible boss, a good friend from the cafe she sometimes bakes cakes for and then following a weird gothic mystery girl bringing her a new group of seeming revolution of the positive perspective of women body. By the time of the second episode, you are expecting how this girl goes from the old-fashioned beauty standard to being confident in herself. But no. There are several murders targeting some hateful men on the news, including brutally dropping them from a plane on the streets(which does not make any sense, the police could’ve easily tracked the plane and catch the killers), and make them confess that they have assaulted women before and themselves deserve to die.

Okay, so now you are probably thinking that those murders must have something to do with the secret women group our protagonist just joins. However, by the time of the eighth episode(only 10 episodes in this season), nothing much is being revealed yet. Our heroine breaks through her shell of body image and finally accept who she is as we expect, and we see how this female group is helping not only Plum but also other women with different obstacles in lives. So, what’s the deal with all those murders?

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Maybe because it may seem more interesting if the show is not just about female beauty dilemma but with a group of some underground aggressive feminists who want to show the world this is what the justice looks like through multiple killings. However, the whole series does not go that way together. By the final few episodes, it already looks like there are almost two different dimensions going on and it is nearly hard to follow what the show is about.

In spite of the storylines, the animation betters the frames and upgrades the more playful storytelling. It is always an eye-catcher when you design the animation to combine with the reality—it shows the possibilities of the characters’ minds.

And here’s some powerhouse performance too. Joy Nash, who plays Plum Kettle, acts from an insecure loner to a stand-up fighter; you can see her transform herself through the season. And the TV show usuals, Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) and Tamara Tunie (Law & Order: SVU), we are already familiar with them playing roles like these. Then there’s Robin Weigert, who plays a seeming therapist/leader in this female self-helping group. The funny thing is that this role reminds me of her playing the unconventional therapist in Concussion, still talking as confident as always.

I like the part of the show that makes me feel inspired. For instance, the way they unfold the process of convincing women that the slim body is not the only beauty that exists is quite moving, the sexism in the workplaces is played out authentically, and even after the insane murders plots, a woman on the news saying she finally gets to run at night and feel safe makes very much relevant to all women.

The manifesto we need to hear as a modern woman plays its most extreme game in Dietland. Despite the violence, which originally comes from a good cause, the show reflects what the society wants to see at the moment and educates the audience to not just watch the news like it is a gossip but pay more attention around yourself and start to take actual action.

 

 

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