Gay Girl’s Goggles: “Pan Am” SnapCap (1.03)


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 don’t think Pan Am really knows what kind of show it wants to be just yet. But I also don’t think that’s a problem because every variation — Cold War drama, nostalgic soap opera, feminist dramady — has something to offer. “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” had lots in common with the pilot episode, including a frantic pace and an unyielding score. But I actually liked it even better, probably because Christian Ricci‘s second-wave feminism is on full display this time around.


I continue to be impressed by the unapologetic way Pan Am pushes the women to the forefront of every story. In this episode, for example, Captain Dean nothing more than the girls’ ticket to the American embassy; Co-Captain Ted is just another dude making a pass at Laura; and the male journalists are Maggie’s means to a presidential end. I really, really, really want Kate to discover that she’s a lesbian. She’s certainly the best candidate. And if she falls in love with another international woman of mystery? Well, all the better!


Oh, man. Collette. Pan Am isn’t exactly subtle. It was obvious within the first three minutes that she didn’t want to go to Germany because of her past, and if you weren’t savvy enough to pick up on the why, she and Dean have a clunky conversation in which he literally says, “How old were you during the German occupation of France during World War II?” (She was three.) But clangy dialogue aside, Collette broke my heart. Actually, her whole story this week was a pretty ballsy move. It goes way deeper and darker than Pan Am‘s shiny exterior. And it tackles the impossibly complex conundrum of nation-state redemption vs. personal redemption. I’m pretty sure the version national anthem she sang was the one used during the Nazi reign. “From Maas to the Memel / From the Etsch to the Belt” would have, of course, included Collette’s home.


How weird was it watching some Europeans go, “Oh, are you Americans? We love Americans! Come, let’s celebrate the awesomeness of your country and your president together!” Every time I’ve been to Europe, I’ve pretended to be Canadian. But, I mean, this episode was so very Kennedy-era accurate. The spirit of hope and adventure and youth. As long as you don’t think about how Kennedy was assassinated five months after his Berlin speech, it sure does make you feel good. Pan Am is hitting it hard (and occasionally cheese-tastic) with the New Frontier thing, but it’s working for them. And it’s distancing them more and more from Mad Men.


Maggie’s story this week was my favorite. (Shocking, I know!) For starters, I’m just glad to see Ricci getting some screen time. And for seconders, I want to see Maggie’s character get more and more well-rounded. She said out loud the thing I’ve been saying about her all along: “I’m whatever I need to be.” She logged more hours on Kennedy’s campaign that any other volunteer, and by God, she’s going to do whatever it takes to shake his hand. Flirt? Check. Pillow fluff? Check. Beg, steal, break-and-enter? Check, check, check. Watching her tear up on the tarmac outside of Air Force One while Kennedy’s shadow waves at her from the door? So overwrought, but so, so good. I also loved when she barked at the Village Voice reporter, “Well, what should I be reading? The Ladies’ Home Journal?” No, Maggie. Not even a little bit!

What did you think of “Ich Bin Ein Berliner”? And what do you think of the show’s zig-zagging plot lines? Which is your favorite: the drama stuff, the spy stuff, the nostalgia stuff, or the feminism stuff?

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