Reviewing Carole & Tuesday: LGBTQ representation and music industry woes

Readers: I thought I’d share a transcript of my recently created podcast, HermannView. Perhaps it could have been a bit more polished, I admit, which is why the second one will be even better! I’m new to this, so suggestions are welcome.

 

[Beginning music]

[Opening:] Hi, I’m Burkely. This is HermannView, a podcast, where I talk about anime, animated shows, archives, libraries and everything in between.

[Introduction:] Hello everyone! I’d like to introduce myself first before getting to the topics for this week. I recently earned a master’s degree in library science, also called a master of library and information Science or MLIS. And a couple of years before that, back in 2016, I earned a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in History. So, some of my podcasts will focus on those topics, while others will focus on my interest in animated shows and anime, which started this past summer and has continued to the present. And with that, let’s get on with the show this week.

[Commentary beginning:] This week, I’d like to talk about a show that I just finished watching. It’s called Carole & Tuesday. It focuses around two characters, one who comes from a very rich family: Tuesday, and another one who is a former refugee, and is often fired from her part-time jobs and is relatively poor. That’s Carole. Both of them are musically inclined. Carole has a keyboard and Tuesday has a guitar. So they’re both drawn together in the first episode of the show. And from then on, the main theme of the show is them trying to climb up the ladder of the music industry. Going from being little-known music artists to becoming a popular sensation. I’ll talk more about that later. About halfway through the show, the 11th episode, is when Tuesday is kidnapped by goons sent by her mother, Valerie, to abduct her and bring her back home. And her mother is a prominent politician who’s running for the presidency of the planet, which in this case is Mars. That means that the show has some sci-fi themes to say the least. [laughs] From then on, that’s episode eleven, the show starts to take more of a political slant in terms of criticism and commentary. Her mother ends up being sort of like the current U.S. president, but also a little like Marie Le Pen in France. That’s what she reminded me of, at least. In that way, the show becomes a commentary because the mother of Tuesday has a very strong anti-immigrant message. This becomes a sort of a sub story of the show, with there also being journalist who’s investigating it. This is tied into Carole and Tuesday trying to move up this music industry ladder.

There’s also a number of other topics which are worth noting. I have this nerdy sort of quest, as I call it, to watch animated shows and anime that have LGBTQ characters. With that, I’d like to highlight a number of LGBTQ characters in the show. The first of them is the agent and parent of Angela, who is a competitor to Carole and Tuesday. While I’m not going to give any spoilers on that, she basically doesn’t have a determinate gender because of the influence of the Martian environment. So she is what they call androgynous or you can call genderqueer or non-binary, whatever label you want to use. They call themselves androgynous in the show. Similarly, there is also Desmond, who is a highly respected solitary artist, and they describe themselves as androgynous also because of the radiation that falls on the planet, noting that they were, “originally a man but am turning into a woman” and are feeling emotionally as a man and a woman at the same time. They later play their last song for Carole and Tuesday, their manager, Gus, and Roddy, who is also one of their friends and a sound technician. However, they later return in the show’s last episode, singing with a bunch of other well-known music stars on the planet. There are also a few other characters, three of whom are bisexual. One of them is Ertegun, who is a major DJ on the planet of Mars. In one of the earliest episodes, he says he has love for “only capable dudes and great chicks.” That means he is bisexual. As the show moves forward, he has a big role as a secondary character.

There’s also Marie and Anne. Marie used to date Gus, who is Carole & Tuesday’s manager. But now she’s in this relationship with Anne, kissing her in front of Carole and Tuesday, surprising them, and both of them plan to get married. Since Anne is implied to have a male partner before Marie, this means that both Marie and Anne are bisexual. The weirdest character in a way, in terms of the fact that she is undoubtedly a stereotype, is Cybelle. [1] She is the biggest fan of Tuesday, but has a pretty dangerous obsession with her. And at one point, bites her on the neck, a la Marceline the Vampire Queen in “Red Starved.” It gets weird. [laugh] Tuesday realizes that she can’t let this person have this obsession with her anymore and rejects her. Cybelle becomes emotional wreck as a result. She puts a present in Tuesday’s dressing room. Inquisitive, Tuesday opens it. She screams, Carole comes running and sees that this present has blown up, injuring her hand. This means she can’t play guitar in the upcoming show. Tuesday still plays a song with Carole despite her arm being in a sling. They sing the first song they came up with together. After that, Cybelle is taken away and we never see her again for the rest of the show! But other than that, other than that character, the LGBTQ representation is pretty good.

Coming back to Cybelle for a second. Cybelle is about as bad as O.D. If any of you have watched Gatchaman Crowds. And there is a character named O.D. who is a horrible stereotype in that show. You could argue they are maybe genderqueer or non-binary. It’s never really established. Cybelle might be better, but it’s not very good representation. Other than that, I like the show a lot and its pacing. Its a very good show in terms of the episodic format, which others, like Steven Universe and Adventure Time have struggled with in the past, having occasional “filler” episodes. I wish Carole & Tuesday was longer and think it wraps up too quickly. That reminds me of what people say about the season five finale of Steven Universe, “Change Your Mind.” People say that the show wrapped up so quickly and they were rushing to get to the end. While this has has some validity, the show still holds together. In any case, the show’s creators, like Rebecca Sugar, moved the story forward quickly due to the possibility they would be cancelled, even over the lesbian wedding in “Reunited.” [2] I’ve read all sorts of different stories and watched different videos about this. So, I kinda know about it a little bit. Despite the problems with Awestruck Vox [he beefed with a fan back in 2017], or Kevin Williams, on The Roundtable, he has some good videos about this that I’d recommend people check out if they are interested. As for the new Steven Universe Future series, which is basically the final/capstone/epilogue series for the Steven Universe franchise, people have said the same thing. In terms of the cast and crew behind Steven Universe, they’re probably going to move into games and comic books and those sorts of things. I seriously doubt that they’re going to move toward any future animated series. Maybe I’m wrong and they will have a new show on HBO Max like Adventure Time. That’s always a possibility. I kind of doubt at this point, but maybe they will surprise me, even having a special on Lars in the Stars [I was trying to refer to “Lars of the Stars” here] or something like that. We’ll see what happens.

I bring this up because people make the same sorts of criticisms when it comes to Carole & Tuesday. Some don’t like the pacing of the show or the fact that all the songs are in English. Building on that, this show is very song-intensive and the songs are in English, English language to be specific, despite the fact that all the characters are speaking Japanese. If you were watching the dubbed version of the show it might not be a problem. But it’s weird if you’re watching the subbed version of the show and then you have these songs in English. That’s an executive decision they made. Moving on, almost every episode has a song in it. Additionally, every episode title in Carole & Tuesday is named after a specific song. I haven’t dug into it that much but every episode title seems to relate to what is happening in that episode specifically. That’s something I haven’t really seen before. While I haven’t watched a show specifically focused on music before, I have watched shows that have musical characters like Marceline in Adventure Time, voiced by Olivia Olsen, a singer, and she sings all sorts of songs.

Nerdily [laughs], in late 2019, I put together her whole music arc. I posted that on Reddit, along with a listing of all the episodes she’s appeared in within all the Adventure Time seasons. And you can put together that into at least 40 minutes of songs that she’s sang during the whole series. That’s only one example of shows that have musical characters. Just take Steven Universe: The Movie as an example. The whole thing is a musical, although not every line of it is sung like Les Miserables. [laughs]. Generally, Steven Universe, is stocked full of songs, although in Steven Universe Future so far, there’s only been a couple of songs that have appeared in the episodes, something which surprised some who had watched the movie. Coming back to Carole & Tuesday, this series specifically focuses on music, which is unlike any other animated series I’ve seen, as I noted earlier. As an additional plus, the show has a lot of LGBTQ representation in it. Furthermore, it focuses on a lot of struggles that people have in terms of getting through the music industry and tries to make the characters more realistic, especially when we come to Carole and Tuesday and the struggles that they have to go through. Although they have all this popularity, begun when Roddy uploads a video of them playing in the Immigrant Hall, which goes viral, they don’t have that much money. Carole is always getting fired from these part-time jobs. Tuesday has a part-time job at a food stand. I think the fame they get at the end is getting them   some money. But they’re really scraping by unlike some of their competitors.

One of those competitors is Angela, who helps them later on. And she has all this money. In fact, she works with Tao, this music producer who uses this advanced A.I., which reminds me a little of Rui in Gatchaman Crowds who has an A.I. and cross dresses. But I’ll talk about Gatchaman Crowds in another podcast in more detail. Back to Carole & Tuesday, let me continue talking about Angela. She doesn’t even come up with the songs she sings. Rather, Tao’s AI comes up with the songs and she just sings them. She doesn’t even write them or anything. She has this immense privilege that Carole and Tuesday don’t have at all. Carole and Tuesday are, in contrast, trying to come up the ladder, without a major record label behind them or anything.

Let me talk about Angela just a little more. In the second half of the show, she has an emotional breakdown almost equivalent to Angela Moss’s breakdown, Angela Moss played by Portia Doubleday, in Mr. Robot. The breakdown happens not in the recent season of Mr. Robot, because I haven’t seen that one, but the one before it. I think Season 4. In the Carole & Tuesday show, Angela not only loses her mother but Tao leaves her. There’s a person who’s stalking her. The so-called Black Knight who spies on her. So she really has a lot of trouble during these episodes, which Netflix divided into two parts, which you could argue are two different seasons. I say it’s all just one, but people watching Netflix probably think of it differently.

Another one of my favorite parts was Episode 9, “Dancing Queen,” where there appeared this Drag Queen quartet, The Mermaid Sisters, and they sing the funniest moment in the whole anime. They sing a 1-minute song named “Galactic Mermaid” with the most expletives ever, which is stopped by one of the judges, and they threaten the judge as a result, for being discriminatory. With that, they should be seen as LGBTQ characters as they call themselves “not men or women” and a “new kind of human” when they perform. I couldn’t stop laughing when listening to it. [laugh] That brings me to another reason to watch the show: comedic elements from episode to episode. At the same time, the show doesn’t always hold together as well. But I still really like it. And I think it is a really interesting show and I would really recommend it to anyone if you haven’t seen it. The episodes are about 22 to 23 minutes long, so you might feel that is too long or you be annoyed by the animated opening. That’s fine. I’d like to stand by the show in this respect however, since the episodes were the right length, in my opinion, and I enjoyed the animated opening, which was the same for the first half of the episodes. Up to episode 11 or 12 there is the same opening at the beginning and then they change it in the last half of the show.

There is one consistent part that stays in the animated opening of every episode: the so-called seven minute miracle, narrated by Gus, where all these musicians come together from across Mars and sing this song of freedom. This happens in the final episode, where Tuesday, her brother, and others have realized that Tuesday’s mother, Valerie, was manipulated by political consultant who wanted her to take all these anti-immigrant positions. So, she drops out. The final episode is the one where they ramped up too quickly, I’d argue. The song they sing is like We Are the World or even like that Simpsons parody where they’re all singing for Bart Simpson in the well in a song titled “We Are Sending Our Love (Down the Well)”. And it turns out to be a total fake, although he later falls down the well himself. You could say that the song in Carole & Tuesday and the idea it will “change” the world is unnecessarily idealistic. Perhaps that is true, but not everything in anime or animated shows is realistic, and there is no reason it should be.

I don’t have anything else to say about the show, except that I like the the realistic elements of it even though it is set on Mars. And some of the sub-stories, about Gus and all his connections, since he was former music producer, is sort of funny, the sleazy DJ, Ertegun, the AI music, Dunn, the father of Carole who finds out she is on Mars or the A.I. robot, which helped Carole and Tuesday produce this music video, which then later ends up to be a scam. So that doesn’t really work out. [laughs] Before ending this podcast, I’d like to focus on the importance of race in this anime. On the one hand, Carole and Tuesday are a multiracial musical duo, since Carole has brown skin and Tuesday has white skin. On the other, the immigrants who are arrested by the equivalent to ICE have the same skin color as Carole, which is part of the reason she is more sympathetic to them, at first, than Tuesday, who has immense privilege without question. I’ve read some reviews which argue there are racial stereotypes in the show itself. Personally, I think the show has some strong brown-skinned, or Black, if you are to use the racial categorization used primarily to refer to those who reside in the United States, characters, like Ezekiel, a rapper who immigrated from Earth and the rest of his “crew.”

There are all these other characters which I find fascinating. One of them is Tobe, a legendary record producer who works for Carole and Tuesday and he is a horrible person, along with being an asshole. Even so, he pushes them forward despite the fact that he really seems like a drunk when they first meet him, a terrifying scene. That scene makes it clear that socioeconomic differences are part and parcel of the show’s themes. Not only is there a clear difference of class between Carole and Tuesday and their competitor, Angela, but when Carole and Tuesday go to the favela, the slum, in the city, they are scared about what will happen to them. Such a response indicates their sensibilities: although they are also poor, they are scared of how others, who are poor, are living. This is more forthright than shows like Classroom of the Elite, for example, which only focuses on struggles between characters, in different school classes, aspiring to enter the highest class in Japanese society, some classes scheming against each other. I don’t want to spoil anything more about that show, but I will say it does focus on struggle between socioeconomic classes, in an allegory of sorts, although Carole & Tuesday is arguably stronger on this point since the two protagonists are relatively poor as I mentioned earlier.

With this theme and others, I would say this show holds together, in general. This is despite the fact it should have been a longer show as I noted earlier. All these these 24 episodes should have been part one. And then, there could’ve been another season. But, that’s not really the direction they wanted to go. The end of the show sets the stage for anyone writing any fanfics about Carole & Tuesday, with already 66 fictional works penned for characters in this anime on Archive of Our Own.

That’s about it. I don’t have anything else to say at this point. I’ve exhausted everything I’ve had to say about Carole & Tuesday and any related shows. Thank you, everyone, for listening. And I hope to see you next week.

[end of commentary]

[Closing:] You’ve just listened to an episode of Hermann View by Burkely Hermann. The opinions expressed in this podcast are my own and not reflective of any institution. Follow us [on podcasts.com] if you liked what you heard and share it with your friends. You can follow me on Instagram at historyhermann one word or on Twitter at history_hermann.

[ending music]


Notes

[1] When I tried to add an entry for Cybelle on the Wikipedia page, “List of animated series with LGBT characters” one user, apparently from Ontario, declared that “Cybelle’s sexuality is just as Ambiguous as Pytor and Benito (male mar’s brightest judge). Even the site TV tropes has her as ambiguous” and that “Cybelle from carole and tuesday in 2019 was never confirmed to be a lesbian. Just like Pytor and Benito haven’t been confirmed to be LGBT either.” My original text, which uses episodes 9, 10, and 11 as sources, along with a CBR review, a review in The Daily Dot, and the official character description which simply called her “Mars’ Brightest contestant and Tuesday’s biggest fan”. I used the following text along with classification of her as lesbian:

As Tuesday’s biggest fan, she has a dangerous obsession with her, leading the former to ultimately reject her. Cybelle becomes an emotional wreck because of Tuesday’s rejection, conducting an attack on Tuesday, hurting her hand with an exploding present, in an act of jealousy, minutes before they are supposed to play on stage.

There seems to be some that think she is lesbian on certain subreddits, with some even questioning what gender she is, while others classified her as a “creepy lesbian,” a description which is definitely accurate.

[2] Other articles show how Sugar and others fought for this to be a reality. When I say the possibility they would be cancelled, I think I was remembering this line in an article in The Guardian back in October 2019: “The wedding decision was not taken lightly. Sugar was aware that the episode, as well as her decision to come out as bisexual, could lead to funding being pulled or the show being dropped altogether.” Even that Reuters article, reprinted on another Reuters site, says that Sugar “had to battle for years to include it [the lesbian wedding between Ruby and Sapphire] in her show, which has been censored in multiple countries.”