This second part of our Season 5 analysis focuses on one of the most important parts of Tina’s character development: her job as a film executive and producer.
Tina and her job played a more prominent role in S5 than previous seasons. We knew that she was a movie executive in S1, but we did not see her in her work environment until Season 3. In Seasons 3 and 4, Tina’s job as a movie executive was used more to tell other parts of her story instead of focusing on the work itself. In Season 3, Tina’s job was used to tell her “going back to men” storyline, and to drive a wedge between her and Bette. In Season 4, the movie storyline was used more for comedy and to set up future storylines. Season 5 is the only season in which the audience actually sees Tina working, encountering work issues, and dealing with them. Although we saw snippets of Tina at work from S3 onward, it was in this season that Tina’s professional life was dealt with in depth.
A working Tina is a fascinating Tina to watch, and hints were given about her abilities in past seasons. In season one, she got Dan Foxworthy, who according to Alice is very hard to get, as her marriage counselor. Once Tina started working for the social justice center she got a hotshot lawyer to do pro bono work for them, which really impressed Bette. In S2, she wrote a grant proposal which won funding – and certainly got Helena’s attention too. In S3, Josh praised Tina for being a good producer. In S4, Kate Arden showed great admiration for her past work, and Bette trumpeted Tina’s past professional achievements to Jenny’s agents. These all served as a prologue to seeing Tina in action as a film executive and producer.
Tina on set is the go-to person, the problem solver. She is confident and sure of herself. Her colleagues respect her and go to her for answers. On the set of Lez Girls, Tina is faced with two major challenges: an inexperienced director and an immature lead actress. On top of this, the actress and director are sleeping together. Tina is constantly frustrated and exasperated by the two of them, but she deals with them as best as she can.
Laurel played ‘Producer Tee,’ a nickname fondly coined by fans, with a confident swagger. Her body language was different, and she strode around with her head held high and looked people in the eyes as she told them what to do. She was in her element and knew what she was doing. Laurel made the audience believe in Tina’s experience and confidence in the movie business.
Producer Tee isn’t always ‘nice.’ She curses, judges a lead by her ‘fuckability,’ and arranges a beard for her lead actress, Nikki, to cover up her true sexuality. Tina in producer mode is a woman in power who has to play the game in a dog-eat-dog industry. Yet through all this, Laurel never lost sight of Tina’s compassion, a characteristic which has so defined the Tina character. When Tina learned that Jenny would be the film’s director, she was incredulous. But when she realized that there’s nothing she can do about it, the first thing she did was go to Jenny and try to help her become a better director – although she knows Jenny is hostile towards her, and she might get rebuffed for her effort. Tina was kind to Adele when Adele was just an assistant, and when Adele solved the lead actress problem for her by arranging a meeting between Nikki and Jenny, Tina gave her full credit for pulling it off. When Tina learned that Nikki had gotten a hold of the SheBar flyer that Adele “accidentally” dropped in front of Nikki, she was angry but immediately apologized for losing her temper and went to deal with the problem. Tina gets things done in a high-powered job, but in a very different way from Bette or Helena. She does not yell at people or insult them, nor does derive her power from family money. And when Tina gets frustrated, she curses at the air and then deals with the problem. That’s why the cast and crew respect her and go to her when they encounter problems.
The relationship of Tina and Jenny was one of the most interesting storylines of the season, and it was a very important part of the Lez Girls storyline. They start out being nemeses … and end up as real friends. It is an interesting and complicated dynamic, and the development of their friendship has been subtle but palpable. Tina comes to respect Jenny’s professional abilities as a director in the end, but she had actually extended the hand of friendship to Jenny long before that: in the very beginning of the series, it was Tina who welcomed Jenny to the neighborhood, giving her rosemary and later inviting her to join the gang at The Planet. Deep in Jenny’s heart, she knew Tina has been a friend to her even though she wasn’t willing to admit it.
Indeed, it’s not a coincidence that the first scene Jenny shot of the Lez Girls movie is the reenactment of that rosemary scene. As Jenny keeps and smells the rosemary after Nikki’s refusal to use it as a prop, we see that the memory of that moment means something to Jenny. It is the midpoint of the season, and Jenny’s antagonism towards Tina is slowly dwindling. She pushes Tina’s buttons out of habit and because it’s fun, but not out of real spite. By 510, Jenny is actually almost cordial with Tina. Jenny called out to Tina and tried to placate her when Tina threatened to quit, hung out with her at the table during the camp fire while Tina made sandwiches, and gave insight into Tina and Bette’s relationship after the big reveal.
Adele’s betrayal brought Tina and Jenny even closer together. When Adele first revealed her intentions by showing Jenny, Tina, Aaron, and the agents the sex tape of Jenny and Nikki, Tina immediately asked Adele to stop the tape and questioned Adele about what she wanted. Although Tina was as shocked as anybody else in that room, she was calm and levelheaded, trying to find a rational way out of the situation. Jenny recognized Tina’s strength and friendship in this moment of crisis, and turned to her with tear filled eyes asking for reassurance. When the guards tried to kick Jenny off the set, Tina stopped them so that Jenny could walk out with some dignity.
This leads to the emotional high point of the Tina-Jenny storyline, the scene beside Jenny’s trailer. Tina shows great compassion to someone who hasn’t treated her well in the past, but whom she has always considered as a friend. Jenny finally realizes what a true and loyal friend Tina has been to her. With a heartfelt hug between them, a new bond was born. Laurel and Mia did a superb job, and laid bare the emotions of their characters through their facial expressions and in their eyes. These two characters have come a long way, from that first moment with the rosemary to this moment of comfort – not just in their relationship with each other, but also in their personal growth.
Tina may not have been able to give Jenny back her director’s seat, but she did fight for the ending that they both believed in. What progress from S4, when Tina was reluctant to pursue Jenny’s book for development into a film, because the book was about the private life of her and her friends. Tina was nevertheless very sincere when she said to Jenny: “Jenny, movies reach a huge audience. It can make a big difference. Teenage girls in the Midwest who are afraid to come out of the closet should see your movie. It can change their life. It can really affect people.”
This is the reason that Tina was able to let go of the fact that the movie is a fictionalized and twisted version of her private life, and committed to trying to make it happen. This message gives the movie meaning, and in the end it is what Jenny herself tried to achieve. Adele’s usurping of Jenny’s position put the project in crisis mode, but Tina calmed the staff down and was willing to see it through for the good of the movie. When the marketing people suggested a change to the ending, so that Jessie would go back to her boyfriend, Tina’s immediate reaction was, “no way.”
At the wrap party in 512, it was revealed that Adele went behind Tina’s back and agreed to the change along with Aaron and William. A furious Tina bursts through the restaurant door, vehemently objecting to the decision. When Aaron says Jessie never felt gay anyway, she turns angrily to him and asks: “What the fuck would you know about it?” Tina then bluntly asks Adele, “How do you do it, how do you live with yourself?”
Throughout the movie’s production, we have not seen Tina use such strong words with her colleagues before. She was adamant in her stance against changing the movie’s ending. When Adele kicked Tina off the set earlier in the day, Tina didn’t make much fuss because she knew getting into a fight with Adele at that point does not help the movie. Tina knows how to pick her battles, and when it counts, she fights passionately because it is something she believes in. No matter what the outcome may be, Tina has triumphed in showing viewers what she is made of: she is a level-headed executive, a loyal friend, someone you can trust and rely on, and someone with principles who would fight for the things she believes in.
Laurel played that last scene with great passion. We could see the fire in her eyes and the agitated way she was moving about. There was no doubt that Tina will fight tooth and nail for what she believes is important. With Producer Tee, Laurel showed us a side of Tina that we didn’t get to see very often in the past seasons: a working woman who knows what she is doing, who is in her element, confident and sure, yet also possesses compassion, loyalty, and integrity. She has earned many new fans with her portrayal. And for those who have always believed that those traits were in Tina all along and were merely buried or lying dormant when she quit her job to have a baby, the result was indeed a very rewarding one.
Next: Three scenes from Season 5.