Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bad Girls and Cherry Hill: A Thrill and a Pill

An inmate displays her chains to deeply shocked but "too stoic to show it" Brits at an abortion clinic in the women in prison soap opera "Bad Girls."

While doing research on the HBO and the Rodriguez women in prison series, I found a great many sites announcing plans for a Fox Network women in prison drama tentatively titledCherry Hill,a spinoff from Fox's popularPrison Breakseries, to premier in 2008.

Unfortunately, every last one of them was clearly based on a press release issued October 24, 2007. And I couldn't find ANY more recent information about the show. This made me suspicious -- generally when a network is putting a show into production, they try to build audience for it by issuing press releases about casting, plans for the show, anything really to keep it in the news. And they didn't even get it into Google. That's not making any kind of effort at all.

A check of the Fox Network website's listing of upcoming shows for Fall 2008 revealed no shows titled Cherry Hill and none of the other shows were women in prison dramas. (It could have been retitled, as often happens -- I thought it had been when I encountered a new show called Dollhouse but that turned out to be a Joss Wheedon vehicle). So I'm thinking the show was either shelved or delayed ... something they're probably kicking themselves for since this is building up to be the Year of the Women in Prison Dramas.

Bad Girls

But if you're hungry for a women in prison drama right now, you're in luck if you have liberal digital cable. That's because the extravagantly gay Logo Channel is showing reruns of Bad Girls the British women in prison drama which is notable among bondage fans for being the only mainstream women in prison drama to feature a bit gag in one episode.

Season Five, episode 1. It doesn't have a title, just a number (often referred to as 5.1). The combination of fur coat and bit gag indicate an extreme fall from grace.

I've watched a couple of eps of Bad Girls and plan to watch many more (I only discovered its reruns when I researched the other women in prison dramas). Bad Girls is definitely in the Lifetime women in prison camp, big on the melodrama and the humiliation and the emotional stuff, but weak on strong bondage imagery.

To put this show in context of women in prison themed movies and tv shows in general, go to my index page on women in prison themed articles and read the one on "How to Make the Perfect Women in Prison Movie."

But it does play up what imagery it has very powerfully. Let me tell you what I saw on the very first ep of Bad Girls I watched,"Victim."

In "Victim" a pregnant addict inmate named Crystal goes to the clinic to have an abortion. Zandra is one of those crabby pregnant women, which is probably pretty common among pregnant prisoners -- if being knocked up and locked up doesn't make you crabby, probably nothing will. Zandra is escorted by Lorna, to whom she's cuffed via a chain about six feet long, and a male guard, to whom she is not cuffed. We see the cuff applied, and next scene they're standing in line at the clinic along with a bunch of "civilians" (the term the inmates use for non-prisoners).

Zandra (staring at the other people in line, whom we would suppose are staring at her, but in Britain everyone's too polite to do so openly): You want to know what it's like on the inside? (Holds up chain attached to her wrist so all can see it.) They don't call 'em screws for nothin'! ("Screw" is slang for "guard," implying she had been knocked up by a guard.)

Now if this had been an American women in prison melodrama there would have been some nice reaction shots of the crowd around her looking shocked. But I don't think Brits typically react to things, so there was none of that.

There was more cuff talk later. Zandra feigns distress at being cuffed during the operation, so Lorna, who's a decent, good-hearted kind of guard, uncuffs her once she's in the room where she's to be inspected, and leaves the male guard outside the door to guard her.

Being a male, he's unreliable, and Zandra escapes. Both guards are sweating bullets over this and spend several hours searching for Zandra, but no luck. Just as they give up and are calling the prison to let them know they've fucked up, Zandra appears crying. Seems she went home (duh!) to see her mom and boyfriend, and receive the terrible news (the only kind women at this prison ever get, I believe) that her boyfriend has found himself a new girlfriend.

As they approach the car to return to prison the male guard says the warden "Is gonna love you when she finds out what you've done." Zandra (who has been holding her hand up so the cuff and chain are clearly visible, a nice touch) replies, "Whats' she going to do, put me in prison?" The male guard points out that running away will get her a three-month extension on her sentence. Lorna suggests that they don't report Zandra for running away, her having already had a tough time today finding out about her boyfriend and all. Lorna is really looking to save her job -- uncuffing Zandra was very much Not Official Procedure. (There was a big stink in England a few years ago about women being forced to give birth while cuffed to the hospital bed, so this was probably quite the topical episode.)

Anyway, to get to the point, once they're in the car, Lorna lets Zandra have it (I'm paraphrase here):

Lorna (after Zandra has ragged on the male guard): You just button up, you. Because of what you have done, I am going to give a lot of pain to a lot of women! Because next time someone asks me to take the cuffs off, I'm not going to! Because of what you did!"

All in all, great dramatic use of the cuffs, however badly the visual imagery of the cuffs is handled.

I'll be watching for other strong dramatic uses of bondage imagery, but offhand I don't expect a lot ... this is very much a soap opera.


Pat Powers said...

I have watched four or five additional eps of this soap, and when it comes to bondage scenes, no soap. Not one. This is basically General Hospital with lockdowns. That said, a nice lesbian domination scene and a nude shower scene with assault. But I don't know if I'm gonna watch a lot more of it.

Roman said...

Just for the record, the inmate's name was Zandra, not Crystal. Crystal is the bible thumper.

Pat Powers said...

Thanks, I'll fix that.