The Feminist Themes To Watch Out For In TNT's Claws

Photo: Courtesy Of TNT.
There are going to be a couple of noteworthy shows competing for your Sunday Funday attention this summer. Power returns for its fourth season on June 25. The highly anticipated Game of Thrones is back to crush our dreams on July 16. And the sophomore season of Issa Rae’s Insecure drops on July 23. However, while you’re creating your watch strategy for all of these shows, be sure to include Claws, because feminism.
TNT’s new dramedy premiered last night with a diverse, all-star, female-led cast: Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston, Judy Reyes, Jenn Lyon, and Karrueche Tran. The five women play manicurists at the fictional Nail Artisans of Manatee County. However, all is not as it seems. The shop has been laundering money for an illegal pharmaceutical drug ring, in hopes of securing a better location and going totally legit.
But like any good television, it’s the real life issues that make it really worth watching. And its cast is not the only way that Claws is honoring women’s issues. Here are some of the feminist themes that came up in the first episode.
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Photo: Courtesy Of TNT.
Equal pay

Desna (Nash) is the salon owner who serves as a mother figure to the rest of the women in the salon. At home, she cares for her adult brother with special needs. Her romantic relationship with younger beau Roller — the entitled, and very metrosexual, son of the local kingpin — was the catalyst for the shop’s money washing. Shit gets real when Desna is shorted on the $20,000 bonus she was expecting to purchase a new salon and leave the drug trade behind her. When she inquires about the money, she is told to stay in her place and be grateful for the $3,000 she was offered.

Sound familiar? Black women are the most educated and underpaid group in country. Apparently Desna, with her unique aesthetician skills, is one of them.
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Photo: Courtesy Of TNT.
LGBT inclusion & gender expression

Judy Reyes has traded in the feminine wiles you might remember from her tenure as Carla Espinosa on Scrubs for something more masculine in Claws. She plays Quiet Anne, a pedicurist and bodyguard at the shop. Rocking cornrows and basketball shorts, Anne is a lesbian and, even though she barely speaks because “words are bullshit,” she is quite a hit with at least one of the clients at Nail Artisans.

Reyes gave me some insight on getting into the mindset of Quiet Anne. “There’s two particular people in my life. One of the past and one who’s in my life right now that I based the character on,” she told me during my set visit. “They’re amazing women and it was a very vivid image of what they were like and who they are in my life. So, it was easy to characterize them for me. I know so many Latina women that are so hot, so sexy, and we used to go clubbing and stuff. It felt a little natural for me to energize that.” The main challenge for Reyes? “Not speaking.”

There isn’t nearly enough representation of masculine-of-center women's friendships, work, and life outside of their sexuality on television. Claws is delivering.
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Photo: Courtesy Of TNT.
Supporting the formerly incarcerated

Polly (Preston) is a demure red-head who embodies all of the classic demureness of a Southern Belle, except for the house arrest bracelet she wears on her ankle. She was arrested for identity fraud and was forced to pay restitution to the elderly victims she scammed. Unlike most people who are freshly released from prison, Polly has a job waiting for her at the nail salon. It’s a fate I wish for more of the characters on Orange is the New Black, and formerly incarcerated women all over the country.

The connection between these two shows was also not lost on Preston. She loves working with so many women. “Honestly, that is really one of the draws of the whole thing. To have a show centered around five women and five diverse women not just in ethnicity, but in age and shape, style and all of it,” she told me when I visited the New Orleans set. “I’m a huge fan of Orange Is The New Black and every time I watch that show I’m thinking, ‘I wish I could be on a show like that!’ It’s so much about the women’s stories and we get the same amount of attention to detail that men have been getting since the beginning of TV. I feel lucky, in a way, but I also feel like it’s time.”

Damn right it is.