I just finished the pilot of Amazon Studios’ new original series, ‘Betas,’ and for now, at least, I’m done.
The concept is fun. The writing is OK. But what turns me off is that it’s 2013, and this show, modern as it thinks it is (geeks! apps! startups!), is not showing me a modern world.
It’s not showing me women.
But wait, you’ll say. I see a woman right there in the picture at the top of this post. Yeah, she’s in there. There are other women in there. But they’re on the sidelines — at least in the pilot — in some tired ways that just don’t speak to me anymore.
To be clear: No show should have to check off boxes or carry the burden of some pet cause. “Betas” is one story in a zillion. It can and should do whatever it wants.
But when a series sets its stage in a fast-paced startup scene that’s all about hacking the status quo for the better, I guess I expected a bolder vision, and right from the start.
Here’s a breakdown of the women in the “Betas” pilot:
- Mikki (the woman in the photo). First appearance: Standing in an elevator at a coworking space. First interaction: A skinny guy hits on her. Second appearance: Outside a taco truck with skinny guy. Another guy — Mitchell, the nerdy guy of the four-friends crew—hits on her. Third appearance: She catches Mitchell sabotaging skinny guy’s phone and instead of getting mad about it, she wants in. She’s one of the boys while also being one of the boys’ crushes.
- Lisa. First appearance: Sitting at a bar checking her phone. First interaction: Trey, the CEO of the four-friend bunch takes the seat next to her, hits on her and fails. Second appearance: At a VC’s party. Trey had just pointed out, to developer guy Nash, intimidating successful man after intimidating successful man, each surrounded by beautiful women. Trey sees Lisa and doesn’t consider that she, like those intimidating successful men, might have any power. So when he finds out that she’s an associate of the VC he’s there to impress, and not just another pretty face, it comes as a pretty big shock.
- The blondes. These are extras. Cleavaged women huddling around the VC at his party like they only do in shows like this. Second appearance: Referenced in Trey’s demo of the four friends’ interest-matching app to the VC. You were talking to the blondes, Mr. VC, but this sexy brunette — (loads pic) — is who you should’ve been talking to.
- The webcam woman. Guess I should mention her. She appears on the laptop of Hobbes, the clown of the four-friends bunch. She’s topless, on a bed, live-streamed, while he’s at the laundromat.
Mikki will be the biggest female presence in the show, as the press materials make clear. Now look at what that title photo suggests about the characters’ roles:
Hobbes will get the drinks; Trey will call the shots; Nash will build and question; Mitchell will play games.
And Mikki? She’ll look over their shoulders and smile.
Maybe things change after the pilot. Maybe the show puts women in more interesting roles—the kinds of roles I see us take in real life—instead of leaving all these old assumptions unchallenged.
But until I hear that’s the case, I think I’ll pass.