Couch Pumpkin: Sofa Adventures
News and reviews for the big and small screens…where potatoes fear to tread.

Once upon a time, there were three little girls…

Charlie's Angels...

This week tv land has been all-a-twitter with news of a Charlie’s Angels remake (anyone else starting to HATE that word?) by ABC, who recently had good ratings with their remake of V (which I watched, found mediocre, and felt no compulsion to either review or keep watching – sorry).

First reaction: HELL NO.

The more measured reaction: I’m actually a fan of the original 70s version, ever since I got a VHS boxset for my 14th or 15th birthday. It’s good fun and mostly hilarious in a camp, 70s way. However, there’s no denying that it’s very much of its age – as much as I love the stories where the Angels go undercover as convict prostitutes, underwear models or beauty pageant contestants (BOJEST!), they’re enjoyable in the sense that we can shake our heads and say ‘ah, those crazy exploitative 70s!’. As it happens, my favourite character was always Sabrina, the girl who played the journalist/photographer/lawyer and usually got to keep her clothes on.

So what could we expect from a modern version? The recent films tried to parody the exploitative nature of the Angels’ investigations, but I can’t help but feel like they also fell into the trap themselves.

Let’s take a look at this clip, where the Angels (played by Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu), dress as German girls to help them in their mission:

It’s funny, sure, if you like laughing at outdated national stereotypes. And it’s also an (admittedly slight) exaggeration of the situations the original Angels were put in (apart from the one where they pretended to be alien abductees in the sex cult). On the other hand, isn’t a large part of its appeal the fact that Cameron  is wearing hotpants and Drew slaps an arse cheek? Or, if that’s not blatant enough, try this:

We all love seeing girls kick butt. I’m not going to complain that a tv studio wants to make a show with three female leads, because that’s a rare thing in this day and age. I’m not even going to complain about the saturated procedurals market, because this one won’t star a middle aged white guy with issues, unless they bump up Bosley’s part.

The main question is – where do you draw the line between parodying exploitation and becoming exploitation yourself? Where do you find the balance between allowing your kick ass heroines to look good, and making them unfeasibly sexy? How do you downplay the ick factor of a creepy, middle aged man using young women’s sexuality to his advantage?

Call me cynical, but I’m doubtful that a modern tv remake will actually be able to walk that line without seriously ovrhauling the concept of the show. Even Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, his latest canned project, didn’t always manage to overcome the difficulties of focusing a series on hot action babes – many would-be fans, particularly women, were put off by the show’s dodgy sexual politics. This wasn’t really helped by Fox’s promo department (because all men want their women soulless, but smart).

Charlie’s Angels was probably groundbreaking in its time, like Bionic Woman, but today such concepts are creaky throwbacks to the early days of feminism. Jill, Sabrina, Kelly et. al. forged a path for strong women on tv – however, what we need now are more rounded female characters, characters who may be kick ass, but not necessarily in high heels and a corset.

Or they could bypass these problems and go with the idea suggested by a poster at ONTD of having a gender swapped version where male Angels skateboard in tiny shorts.  You’d attract two minority audiences, subvert gender stereotypes and could probably get a neat sideline in tacky merchandise to boot!

No, seriously, let’s leave this stuff in the 70s where it belongs.

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One Response to “Once upon a time, there were three little girls…”

  1. […] https://couchpumpkin.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/once-upon-a-time-there-were-three-little-girls/Charlie’s Angels was probably groundbreaking in its time, like Bionic Woman, but today such concepts are creaky throwbacks to the early days of feminism. Jill, Sabrina, Kelly et. al. forged a path for strong women on tv – however, … […]


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