Not too long ago I posted a link to a rather odd video called Princess Valhalla Hawkwind. For readers who don’t know the television series The United States of Tara, the youtube clip would have made absolutely no sense. I awarded it a ‘postfeminist heroine of the week’ prize, but without explaining why. So perhaps it’s time to try put Princess Valhalla into context.
First, let me explain a little about the series. Don’t worry, there won’t be spoilers. In Australia the ABC is screening Series 2 once a week. (Except it has been rudely interupted mid-season by The Chaser’s election show. Boo!) You can also watch the series online via iView, but only one or two episodes are ever up at one time. The series is executive produced by Steven Spielberg, written by Diablo Cody (of Juno fame) and features Australia’s Toni Collette in the lead role.
Toni Collette is absolutely fantastic in this. So good that she has won Emmy and Golden Globe awards. She plays Tara, wife to Max and mother of teenage kids Kate and Marshall (perhaps my two favourite characters). Toni Collette also plays several other characters, in the form of Tara’s “alter egos” or Alters, because Tara suffers from dissociative identity disorder.
I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know how accurate a portrayal of the condition this is. But this is television, and as a piece of drama, it’s fantastic. I really love it. The acting is brilliant, the scripts are moving and hilarious and the relationships between the characters always strike me as believable. Each character copes with Tara’s mental illness in different ways, painting the complex story of a family in all its quirks, its tensions and its humour.
So where does this whacky Princess Valhalla Hawkwind character come in?
I’m glad you asked. Princess Valhalla Hawkwind is a fictional character within the series. We first come across her when Kate (in her new job as a debt-collector) has to track down a woman called Lynda P. Frazier. Lynda turns out to be an artist, and the creator of a comic-book featuring feminist super-hero Princess Valhalla. Kate and Lynda quickly become friends, hanging out and smoking pot. Kate becomes fascinated with the Princess Valhalla character, and in one episode she raids Lynda’s wardrobe to dress up in full Princess Valhalla costume.