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Another Period – Season 03, Episode 01: ‘Congress’ Tackles Women’s Suffrage

The Bellacourt Sisters take up Hortense’s cause

Another Period has returned to Comedy Central to remind us of our current society’s shortcomings in a hilarious 1900’s environment. In the show’s third season premiere, ‘Congress’ finds Lillian and Beatrice mourning the death of their ugly duckling sister, Hortense, and later taking up her fight for women’s suffrage when they learn she was nearly famous because of it.

It’s this blend of Kardashian fame-hunger that started Another Period off on such a strong footing, and it’s assuring to see the third season start off similarly. Without learning of Hortense’s near fame, Lillian and Beatrice wouldn’t have cared about getting women the right to vote. Only when a horde of ‘ugly people’ show up to Hortense’s funeral do they realize the power she had, and they want it.

The funeral is led by their mother, Dodo, and her new boyfriend, Black Donahue, who have returned to the Bellacourt estate and kicked out the girls’ father. Black is a priest (which leads to inevitable, and somewhat forced sexual tension between him and the girls’ brother, Frederick.) Jemaine Clement plays Father Donahue as an entirely unlikable villain, controlling Dodo and leeching off her estate.

When she eventually stands up for herself and gives him the boot, it’s a satisfying moment, but Donahue may not be gone so soon — Another Period needs a villain (besides the Bellacourt sisters!) Unless the show were to introduce another similar character, it will enter its third season lacking a character for viewers to love to hate. While Hortense does get a brunt of the show’s malice, she’s lovable nonetheless, because she’s the show’s voice of reason. While Lillian and Beatrice are out being airheads, Hortense is fighting for women’s suffrage and equality.

Father Donahue, on the other hand, is just entirely what Another Period is criticizing: a male who thinks he is better than everyone else and can control them, despite being of meager means and with little talent. With the show tackling women’s suffrage from the start, it can continue this strong critique of present-day America with a central villain that mirrors those in positions of power trying to deny women and other minorities their rights.

Are Lillian and Beatrice the feminist icons their century needs? Another Period makes them unpredictably the heroines of ‘Congress.’ The girls want to usurp Hortense’s fame, trying to ‘ugly’ themselves and work with Hortense’s friends. They host a hilarious scene mirroring a provocative ‘wet car wash’ called a ‘Bathing Costume Carriage Wash.’ Other women look on, mortified that the girls are dressed scantily in full bathing suits that cover their entire bodies as they douse themselves with soapy water. It’s a hilarious moment made funnier by the stunned and amorous eyes of the men watching who eagerly sign the signatures Lillian and Beatrice need to get their movement sent to Congress.

The Carriage Wash is a success, sending the girls to Congress where they are surprised to learn they’ll be speaking to urge Congress to grant women’s suffrage. Blonde Beatrice actually makes a fine argument for the cause — men should give women their rights so that those women will, in turn, vote for them. But wouldn’t giving women the right to vote inspire them to vote for other women? The show’s answer: “Uh, women hate each other.”

Just as it appears women are about to be granted the right to vote thanks to Beatrice’s sound logic (whodathunk?) Hortense returns from the dead with a fresh face (Donna Lynne Champlin). The angry steroteypical ‘feminist’ demands to be heard and proclaims women must be given the right to vote and stop the patriarchy.

Another Period makes a clever commentary on the portrayal of feminists, especially angry ones, as Hortense brings about her own destruction, making the points her sisters made look negligible. While both forms of feminists are needed in society to bring  about change, in this instance, Beatrice’s was more appropriate. Hopefully viewers will be able to piece together that both Beatrice and Hortense were feminists speaking before Congress, and that not all feminists are like Hortense.

Other side stories explored in the season’s premiere included continued tension between Mr. Peepers and Mother Dodo, especially surrounding her romance with Father Donahue. At the end of the episode, servant Blanche switches her baby with one of the Bellacourt’s in order for it to have a better life, after being berated and ostracized about having a child in the first place. Expect Another Period to explore this further in future episodes, offering further commentary on women’s rights and economic classes.

Overall ‘Congress’ is a strong start to Another Period‘s third season. The show’s humor comes in its setting, making the parallels between society of a century ago and today seem not so different. Has our society really not come that far? Another Period doesn’t think so, and by having its viewers draw these parallels, real change just might be made…one day.

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Written by Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett is the creator and editor of POParazzi. He works primarily in Washington, DC. You can contact him at sam@poparazzi.org and visit his portfolio at sam-bennett.com.

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