Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Senatorial Debate

First, the big news:

Judith O’Dea, who played the iconic role of “Barbara” in George A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic, Night of the Living Dead, has signed on to play Senator Gayle Hamlin in Women’s Studies.

Allow me to take a moment and totally geek out.

. . .

There. Much better.

Judith O'DeaO'Dea's character, Gayle Hamlin, is A U.S. senator whose party affiliation has conveniently been made ambiguous. (Who wrote this movie?) She's strong willed, a fighter who's passionate and believes that the world can be made a better place.

"Kind of like Hillary, right?"

Well, not exactly, though that's the comparison everybody wants to make. I don't want to get too political here. I like Hillary a lot. I think she exhibited class, dignity, and poise during Bill's embarrassing "interlude." I also think she has the ideas, drive, and thick skin it takes to lead this crazy, beautiful nation I call home. Plus, I'm of the mind that some positive feminine energy in our leadership is exactly what the world needs. However, there's something mildly androgynous and a little fake about Hillary that rubs me the wrong the way. Like she's a Stepford Wife programmed in 1994, except instead of being the perfect housewife, she's the perfect mouthpiece for her (male) political and (male) corporate overlords. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. Only time will tell though, right?

I liken the character of Hamlin more to someone like Ralph Nader, who's been down in the trenches trying to clean the system up. Politically, Hamlin is championing causes that a lot of her fellow politicians simply could care less about. In Hamlin's case, they are issues of women's rights. Also, Hamlin has been diagnosed with breast cancer and a lot of her colleagues think she's washed up politically.

Additionally, Hamlin is also mentor to the heroine of Women’s Studies, Mary (Cindy Marie Martin). Mary has been interning under Hamlin while getting her Masters degree and is prepped to join her staff full time. However, though Mary believes in Hamlin's ideals, she has some fear that her alignment with Hamlin may jeopardize her own burgeoning political career.

You'll remember from previous blogs that at the beginning of the film, Mary is caught between wanting to continue her political work for Hamlin and acquiescing to the desire of her boyfriend, Zack, to settle down and start a family. Hamlin is one of Mary's possible futures, and the first one the audience is exposed to in the film. She's everything Mary wants to be and is afraid of being.

It's a vital role in that Hamlin's presence is felt even when she's not on screen. So it seemed appropriate that we cast someone with a commanding presence. Judith O'Dea fits the role perfectly.

I could rattle on about Night of the Living Dead, Barbara, and the influence that character has on not just the women of Women's Studies but ALL horror movie heroines, but I think it's simply an understood part of the equation at this point. That we still talk about it today is all the proof you need that O'Dea's performance in that film was of the highest caliber.

O'Dea is still an amazing actress. If you don't believe me, pick up a copy of Jason Paul Collum's October Moon in which O'Dea plays the conservative matriarch of a married man who suddenly realizes he's gay. She only has a few scenes but they're gripping, with all the intensity, vigor and passion she had in her twenties, perhaps even more so because those traits are tempered with experience and wisdom.

"They're coming to get you, Barbara?" I think these days Barbara is ready.

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