So, I watched the first episode of Fairly Legal, the new show on the USA Network about Kate Reed (played by Sarah Shahi), a young, attractive lawyer-turned-mediator who works at her late father’s fancy shmancy law firm. I previously lambasted the show for sexually objectifying the character of Kate in its previews and advertisements (“So, what does justice look like? About 5′ 5”, brunette, great smile . . . .”).
However, having watched the pilot episode, I feel compelled to admit that I may have been too hasty in encouraging people to contact USA and ask them to cancel the show. What I saw on the pilot episode was completely different than what was advertised. Kate Reed’s, or rather, Sarah Shahi’s appearance wasn’t emphasized, especially in relation to her work. The character didn’t run her mediation sessions with her finger flirtatiously resting in her mouth like it does on all of the pictures USA decided to use to advertise the show. Rather, the character of Kate seems to be someone who is deeply concerned with her clients’ welfare. The pilot showed her struggling with conflicts between notions of justice and the reality of the law. It also showed her solving problems for clients in mediation sessions in clever and creative ways.
The difference between the advertisements for the show and the show itself provide a different, and more interesting critique, I think, on marketing and popular culture. The advertisements demonstrate what USA feels it must do or say to get you, the public, to watch its shows. USA thinks the only way you’ll tune in is if you’re given sex. You don’t care about justice unless it’s 5’5”, brunette, and has a great smile, right?
I noticed this marketing vs. actual product dichotomy recently with one of my Christmas presents from my father. He gave me a DVD copy of the film, Cyrus, the cover of which makes it look pretty damn dumb. It shows the main character, Cyrus (Jonah Hill), pushing John (John C. Reilly) away (or grabbing his chest, as I originally thought), and features the tagline, “Seriously, stay off his mom.” This makes the film look like a silly comedy about a weird, jealous son. I had never heard of it, and I was surprised that my dad, knowing my somewhat snooty taste in movies, gave it to me. He had seen it and insisted that I would like it. I watched it, and of course, my dad was right. The DVD cover, on the other hand, was not. In one way it is about a weird, jealous son, but it’s also one of most thoughtful and sensitive love stories I have seen in a long time. I can’t help but wonder how many potential viewers the film lost by the decision to make that DVD cover. As one friend who recently came over to my house said while examining the DVD, “Oh, is this good? I like these actors, but it looks like it could be really stupid.”