Gay Girl’s Goggles: “Pan Am” SnapCap (1.02)


When only four percent of scripted TV shows feature LGBT characters, what’s a gay girl to do? Why, strap on your gay goggles and watch TV along with us, of course! Our handy appraisal scale is better than any old letter grade. Other sites A+. We say, “What about our lezzy-lady feelings?”

I did a little digging around the internet after Sunday night’s Pan Am because something felt kind of weird to me about the pacing and plotting, and lo! I discovered that “We’ll Always Have Paris” was leftover footage from the original pilot mixed with some new story/footage so it could fill out a full episode. Which makes perfect sense. We got some hasty resolution to stuff I thought it would take a full series to resolve (Kate and Laura’s relationship with their mother, for example), and some prolonged resolution to things I thought we’d never see again (Bridget, for example).

The pilot wrote a giant, glossy check of Majestic Clipper proportions, and while the second episode didn’t exactly cash it, it did convince me that it has the ability to make good on it after a full season.


I think Pan Am may be the only show on TV where the women pass the Bechdel Test and the men don’t. Maggie talks to Miss Havemeyer about the stupidity of her girdle-loving ways. Kate talks to Bridget about the dangers of spy stuff. Laura and Kate talk to each other about growing up with an overbearing, impossible-to-please mother. All the ladies talk to the other ladies about fulfilling their adventuring dreams in Paris. The only person who wants to talk about boys, boys, boys is Mrs. Cameron, and neither Laura nor Kate feel like listening to it. In fact, even Laura’s fiance doesn’t feel like listening to it. He kind of indicates that Laura following her dreams has inspired him to follow his dreams. Once he saves up from the big loss his checking account suffered when he bought her that engagement ring.

Meanwhile, the boys spend their whole time obsessing over the girls. I just think it’s fascinating and kind of awesome that this show is such a ratings success with that formula. Other networks, take note!


I don’t give a flip about Laura’s relationship with her fiance. Paris. Flowers. Groveling. So cliche. I do, however, give many flips about Kate’s international espionage. I love how the show upped the ante this week by showing the consequences of getting dimed out as a spy during the Cold War. Bridget has been exiled to Kansas. Her dream was adventure and heroism, and she ended up in Middle America. Kate understands it for the death threat it is. Again, the sobbiest sad-sack feelings are Captain Dean’s, but they’re also the most boring. When he was monologuing to Collette, my friend who was watching with me literally fell asleep.


“We’ll Always Have Paris” was a lot less THIS IS THE SIXTIES, YOU GUYS! than the pilot episode. In fact, with the exception of the little throwaway line about New York’s new baseball team (The Metropolitans), and all that talk about the Cold War, and Maggie’s feminist flare (see below), there wasn’t much to distinguish the episode from a standard ABC drama. Which I think is probably a good thing. Although, Pan Am should feel free to take plenty of liberties in this area since The Playboy Club just got cancelled and Mad Men isn’t slated for return until next year. They’ve got the time period all to themselves for the moment.


So Maggie is going to be the one from whom we get our look at the burgeoning voice of ’60s feminism. First we see her give Miss Havemeyer hell for clowning on Laura’s weight, and then we see her refusing to back down when a passenger tries to have his way with her. First she stabs him in the leg with a fork, and then she stands her ground when the co-pilot tries to make her smooth it over with some booze. This struggle of Maggie’s love of adventure vs. the misogynistic restraints of Maggie’s job is going to be a really cool thing, I think. Pan Am isn’t hammering it, but they’re not backing away from it either. I feel like Christina Ricci has been underused so far, but I get the feeling it’s because Pan Am knows they need to rope in viewers with an appetizer before they hit them in the head with an entree of social justice. (That was a weird metaphor, huh? Wash it down with some of this first class champagne.)

And here’s another cool thing: There’s this underlying theme in Pan Am that the women are doing a whole subversive thing within the social system to ultimately break the social system. It was interesting to see that thread play out in Bridget’s outing as a spy. Because it was Dean’s incompetence and jealousy as much as anything that caused it to happen. The girls know what they’re doing, and they just need the guys to leave them alone so they can get it done.

What did you think of the second episode of Pan Am? Are you even more attached now that NBC has cancelled The Playboy Club?

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