“The CW has a positive history of prioritizing inclusion; however, Dynasty is full of minor clichés and predictable stereotypes.”
Title: Dynasty (2017)
Episodes Reviewed: S01E01 - S01E09
Creators: Sallie Patrick 👩🏼🇺🇸, Stephanie Savage 👩🏼🇨🇦, and Josh Schwartz 👨🏼🇺🇸
Writers: Sallie Patrick 👩🏼🇺🇸 (2 eps), Stephanie Savage 👩🏼🇨🇦 (1 ep), Josh Schwartz 👨🏼🇺🇸 (1 ep), Ali Adler 👩🏼🇨🇦🇺🇸 (1 ep), and various (3 ♂ and 3 ♀ , 2 of them POC)
Reviewed by Faryal Sarwar 👩🏽🇵🇰
Dynasty is a CW remake of the glitzy 1980s hit show that revolves around an egocentric billionaire, Blake Carrington (Grant Show), and his two children: an Ivanka Trump in the making with sky-high ambitions and a gay son who is out to do good against his father's corrupt ways. Thrown into the mix is their father's Venezuelan girlfriend who quickly infiltrates the lives of the Carringtons.
The drama may not be deep or thought-provoking, but Dynasty does provide murder, mystery, crime, and sex. At its best, the show mimics telenovelas like Jane the Virgin; unfortunately, its characters are largely forgettable, built on existing archetypes we’ve all seen before.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
Behind the scenes, Dynasty has done a great job representing women, boasting two showrunners of the three and a writers’ room that also skews female (at least for the first nine episodes of Season 1 being reviewed here).
On camera, the view is a little less rosy but still pretty good. Dynasty showcases two women in lead roles: Fallon Carrington, played by Elizabeth Gillies, and her stepmother Cristal Carrington née Flores, played by Nathalie Kelley. Both women receive significant screen time and are more empowered than their 80s counterparts. For example, in the original series, Fallon was not allowed in the boardroom but the modern rendition shows her gunning for the position of Chief Operating Officer at Carrington Atlantic, the family business. Similarly, Cristal was formerly Blake’s personal secretary but the 2017 update has her as the public relations executive.
Unfortunately, their characterizations remain gender-normative and toe the line of being stereotypical. Fallon is obsessed with clothes and constantly throws shade at Cristal’s appearances. Meanwhile, Cristal plays a manipulative damsel in distress who is ultra-skinny, perpetuating unrealistic standards of beauty. Meanwhile, despite welcome stretches of screen time, both continue to live in a “man’s world”. The remaining power brokers of the show such as Blake, his son Steven (James Mackay), the board of executives, and Fallon’s business contacts, are all male. Even their closest confidants are men—Fallon with her brother and Cristal with her nephew.
In short, men drive the world of Dynasty and the women play their game, using beauty and wiles to scrabble for a piece of the outrageous wealth still firmly ensconced in the hands of men.
The CW has a positive history of prioritizing inclusion—see Riverdale, Valor, or Teen Wolf—and Dynasty is no different, particularly in contrast to its source material. Although the Carringtons do remain a white family, the patriarch chooses to marry a Venezuelan woman, Cristal, whose actress is Peruvian-Argentine. Her nephew, Sam Jones, is accurately played by Venezuelan Rafael de la Fuente.
Fallon is involved in liaisons with two men of color, both black. One of them, Jeff Colby (Sam Adegoke), is a powerful billionaire with agency and a romantic storyline. In a welcome addition of another woman of color—albeit in a much smaller capacity than lead character Cristal—Jeff’s sister Monica Colby (Wakeema Hollis) garners multiple scenes.
But as we see with the imbalance of female characters, people of color too remain outliers in a white man’s world. And while the super-rich Jeff is a positive character, Fallon’s other plaything, Michael Culhane (Robert Christopher Riley), falls neatly into the trope of being a saintly black character. Usually of lower economic status—as Michael is, being the Carringtons’ chauffeur—this character is always coming to the rescue of white protagonists. Hopefully, the writers will develop him more in later episodes.
Dynasty includes two gay men in the main cast: Steven Carrington and Cristal’s nephew, Sam. The writers treat them as they do with other characters: both Steven and Sam receive their own scandals, romances, and political maneuverings. But they remain fairly stereotyped.
Specifically, gay men are generally portrayed in media as more caring and sensitive than straight men, often given best friends who are female. In Modern Family, for example, Mitchell Pritchett enjoys a close relationship with his sister, Claire Dunphy. In Dynasty, Steven is also close with his sister while Sam confides in his aunt.
Finally, neither of the men enjoy particularly positive characterizations. While Fallon and Cristal are slightly evil and extremely manipulative, they both impress with their political acumen. In contrast, despite being an environmentalist with the potential to challenge Carrington Atlantic’s dependency on fossil fuels, Steven is instead portrayed as weak-willed and always bends to his father’s wishes (and wallet).
Mediaversity Grade: B- 3.81/5
The makers of Dynasty have put in real efforts to update an 80s storyline to 2017 demographics. Unfortunately, perhaps due more to mediocre writing than any intended insult, the show is full of minor clichés and predictable stereotypes.
On the whole, it reveals how far media has come in terms of onscreen representation. But it also shows how far we have yet to go.