Friday, August 07, 2009

In Defense of Julie Cooper

August 7th, 2009: I have been craving a good summer TV distraction lately, and since TV largely disappoints me these days (me falling love with a show is pretty much a guarantee that it will immediately be canceled, and we have no cable except HBO) I turned to our robust DVD collection to fill the void. We love TV on DVD and buy far more of that than actual movies. One title immediately jumped out at me from the multicolored rows in the cabinet:

You know you love it.

I was skeptical of this show when it started, dismissed it as teenage fluff - which it sort of is - but got sucked in during the first season's Thanksgiving episode. Some good friends of ours also admitted to watching it, and pretty soon we had a weekly couples-date going. This was before we moved to California, before it was even on our radar, but still some of the place names were familiar to me, since I had spent part of my childhood in the Golden State. It was good, silly fun, and it is that kind of TV I turn to now, in these muggy, grouchy days of summer.

My husband and I both had an immediate loathing for the Marissa Cooper character. Part of our love for the show was mocking her mercilessly, but after a while it's like shooting fish in a barrel, really. The poor little beautiful rich girl, with her alcohol problem and her shoplifting and her stupidity and her complete inability to come out and say what she means and her passive-aggressiveness and her constant needy clinging and her total lack of anything resembling a personality. She played everything doe-eyed and dumb, but somehow found a way to make everyone's lives miserable the instant they weren't focused on her. It drove me nuts.

Her mother, however, was a different story. I loved Julie Cooper. She was exactly the sort of trash-talking, manipulative, clutching villainess you want in a soap opera about beautiful rich people. She gets her comeuppance - more than once- in some very public smackdowns, but she keeps on going. In the end you wind up rooting for her, even though you don't want to.

More than that, I have to say I respected Julie Cooper. Admired her, even. Julie's backstory had her pregnant at not-quite-18 years old with the child of one of Newport Beach's shining scions. Married very young to someone who, despite his family's good standing with the country club, was sort of a hapless ne'r-do-well unable to handle real responsibility, Julie would've found herself thrust into a world of expensive cars and vicious tongues. She was from Riverside, which, while not as big a craphole as some parts of the IE (like, um, the part that we lived in), is not necessarily a nice place to grow up (they made it pretty obvious she didn't come from the big-houses-on-the-hill part of town). So what did Julie do? At the tender age of 18, she jumped right in and clawed her way to the top of the social mountain. She became not only one of the Newpsies, but their queen. Feared far and wide, Julie could organize a charity benefit for cancer kids or shoehorn her daughter into a coture dress with equal steely-eyed determination.

I have to say, I admire that.

And she's always got such great handbags...

1 comment:

Antoinette said...

I don't think I watched even 5 minutes of this show in total, but the lead actor (is his name Ben McKenzie?) is on this fabulous NBC show now called Southland. Which I love love love. :)