At just eight episodes, Apple TV+’s latest docuseries, Gutsy, manages to draw attention to an incredible number of issues. More importantly, it shares the stories of many, many women who are actively doing the work. And, most importantly of all, despite following Hillary and Chelsea Clinton around, the series puts quite a number of women of color, BIPOC specifically, in the spotlight.
That’s not to say that there’s never a single rich white woman involved. Similarly, we can’t say that there aren’t questionable people (hi, Kim Kardashian) with a history of problematic AF comments and associations on the show. Personally, I’d also leave out, say, Amy Schumer, who is (unfortunately) in the very first episode. There’s even an awkward AF conversation about “cancel culture” in the second episode, which absolutely needs to be thrown into the pits of Hades.
So, to be clear: Gutsy is certainly imperfect. Even in the context of the series’ many positive aspects, there will still be some bits that make you go “???”
But I’d also argue that including Big Names, like the Clintons, and Megan Thee Stallion, or even some of the aforementioned messy ones, will — hopefully — be what draws people in. Because, as far as the balance of the docuseries goes, it’s those non-celebrity names, those women of color across the spectrum of Good (yes, capital G on this one), whom we really need to listen to.
There’s also a true heart to this thing that, quite frankly, it had no right having. With that being said, I can’t say as I’m upset that it’s there.
Some highlights from Gutsy docuseries
This is where we take a giant, possibly hypocritical, swerve. Coming into this thing, as Fangirlish‘s resident Law & Order: SVU reviewer and Mariska Hargitay fan (uh, to say the least), Hargitay was my “gateway” to even wanting to watch this series. Same goes for the Clintons, if we’re fully disclosing our biases here. So, while it’s not all about the rich white ladies — not by a longshot — it’s not that they’re completely invisible either.
But, in the end, it’s not the Name™ of Hargitay that makes her a highlight.
In the first place, Hillary and Chelsea meet with Mariska at a storytelling workshop, which automatically wins as a highlight for me, someone who uses the power of storytelling to keep the memory of Rubin Sztajer (z’l) and other Holocaust survivors alive. Striking a personal connection is, after all, is an easy way to make anything at all a highlight. Specific to Gutsy, it’s hearing Hargitay’s story, both at the workshop and in more “private” (or at least as private as something being filmed can be) with the Clintons, that’s the stick, though. The “more private” setting is where a single sentence made me need to get up and take a minute…
…but hers is not my story to tell.
I could write a title, or even some promotional tweets, that’d get me a lot of attention for “breaking” (exploiting, tbh) that story. But I’m not that person. So, here’s what I will say: I see you, I hear you, I believe you. And getting up, day after day, to work those hours portraying the ultimate survivor for all these years, while still having that unbelievably positive energy and demeanor, is made even more remarkable knowing…that.
But if you tune in for The™ Mariska Hargitay, you get to also hear about Katrina Cooke Brownlee, and Brittany K. Barnett, and Angelica Zaragoza, and Yurok Tribal Court Chief Judge Abby Abinanti, and all the important work they’re doing. You get to hear their stories. That’s what works about star power in a setting like this.
And, as the aforementioned Sztajer once taught me, that’s the greatest gift you can give: listening to their stories.
Gutsy, unlike so many other supposedly “feminist” venues, actually acknowledges that trans women are women. Period.
And found, or chosen, family is still family. Period.
The final episode, “Gutsy Women Are A Bunch of Mothers,” visits with Ceyenne Doroshow, Founder and Executive Director of G.L.I.T.S. Ceyenne shares not only the work that she is doing, but also the story of how Flawless Sabrina found her homeless on a bench in Central Park, took her in, and even explained gender identity to the biological mom who had kicked her out in the first place.
As an interesting connection: Among the lives Ceyenne has touched — also appearing in Gutsy — is one of Chelsea Clinton’s students.
But it’s not “just” Ceyenne, or “just” Drag Race season 13 winner Symone, or “just” any other one person. Gutsy visits with so many women, from so many backgrounds, in only eight episodes. Quite frankly, it makes other series’ inability to include more than maybe one or two Black or brown women — in much longer seasons — even more of an embarrassment.
Some more thoughts on Gutsy
- We don’t tip-toe around history on this series. See also: The “Yurok word for police translates as ‘men who steal children.’”
- And let’s not get into the beautiful shade at certain right-wingers who malign CRT. Because, frankly, those guys don’t deserve consideration — here, or anywhere else.
- Kimberlé Crenshaw, who “will not be told, ‘no, you cannot speak,'” on the other hand? Deserves all the consideration in the world. “Critical Race Theory isn’t an assault on white people.” Facts.
- “…a life well-lived is a difficult life.” A word.
- “I used to think that everyone was better than me. And now, I know what I bring to the table.” I—how to the first part. No. How.
- Amber Ruffin. Just…yes. Her whole…everything. Also. 2014???! Seriously. We have way, way, way, way, way more work to do.
- The mother/daughter stuff with the Clintons is particularly touching when there are photo albums and/or “you’re such a good sport, Mom” (with hugs!) involved. But the mother/daughter activism they highlight from Dolores Huerta’s family in the last episode, and from others throughout the series, is the real draw.
- “It didn’t make me dislike my country; it made me admire the young people who were trying to make our country live up to its highest ideals.”
- Carlotta Walls LaNier and Minnijean Brown-Trickey…the Master’s vs. GED comments. Watch it in Episode 7. Come be floored with me after.
- “I will always say yes to a dance lesson.” In which Chelsea Clinton is me, and I am Chelsea Clinton. Fun fact: She and I also both had cats named Socks in the 90s. But no, I didn’t steal them name from the White House; my cat had it first. (Inspired by Beverly Clearly’s book, thank you very much.)
- And while we’re on the subject of Chelsea, specifically, the number of times she makes it a point to ask for consent before embracing any of the series’ guests is so unfathomably important. I would probably recommend the series on that alone.
- If you’re a fan of Stella Kidd on Chicago Fire, you’ll want to meet real-life firefighter Jackie-Michelle Martinez, who works to support women who want to become firefighters.
- There’s too much to cover here. So, just…Watch it. Skip over anyone famous you find problematic. But watch it. Maybe that’s my final verdict on Gutsy, actually.
Gutsy premieres on Apple TV+, with all episodes streaming, on September 9.