April 21, 2021

Mellody Hobson, Chicago Corporate Trailblazer

A few years back, friends invited me to a luncheon benefiting a Chicago science and math school for girls. Chicago-born Mellody Hobson, the president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments, was the impressive keynote speaker. Not only was she a charismatic communicator, but she was whip smart and a terrific role model for girls interested in math and science.

This past week, Hobson was made chair of the board of directors for Starbucks, making her the only black board chairwoman of an S&P 500 company.

As side notes, Hobson and “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas have been married since 2013. On the tv show “The Good Wife,” Vanessa L. Williams based her character, Courtney Paige on Hobson’s TED talks presentations. Hobson is also a financial contributor to “Good Morning America.”

Founded in 1983, Ariel is the first and oldest minority-run mutual fund firm in the country. Although I am focusing on Hobson, I would be remiss in not mentioning John Rogers, Jr., founder and current CEO of Ariel, philanthropist and former board chairman of Chicago’s Park District.

Kudos to you, Mellody. We need more women like you to prove to young girls that careers in science and finance are indeed possible.

Riverdale on Netflix and the CW

Veronica, Betty & Archie on the CW’s Riverdale

Riverdale, originally conceived as a movie, took life instead as a tv series on the CW produced by CBS Television Studios and Warner Bros. Based on the Archie Comics, the main characters would be familiar to anyone who has ever read the iconic comic strip or one of the Archie comic books.

KJ Apa, a New Zealander who won the worldwide contest to play the red-headed Archie is amazing, as is Lili Reinhart embodying the blonde ponytailed Betty, the raven-haired Veronica brought to life by Camila Mendes and Cole Sprouse as the endearing loner, hat-wearing Jughead Jones.

The episodes are far darker than any comic book story line, however, with murder, teacher-student sexual relationships, teen pregnancy, drug-dealing, gang activity and financial skullduggery being essential points in the over-arching plot.

The script makes references to news events both current and past. When a teacher is suspected of seducing a student, someone calls it going “Mary Kay Letourneau.” Veronica’s father is a Bernie Madoff-type character who is doing prison time for ripping off investors.

Indeed, the dialogue has much in common with the Gilmore Girls for mentions of cultural trivia in whip smart banter, but that is where the comparison ends.

The cinematography, lighting and general tone are darker than midnight. The villains are over-the-top with mean comments that make no bones about their selfishness, vindictiveness and ill intent. This is not cinema vérité, but stylized soap opera and horror.

The notorious Blossom family on Riverdale

As an additional blast from the past, veteran actors with main and recurring roles are Luke Perry (90210), Robin Givens (Head of the Class), Skeet Ulrich (Jericho , Law & Order: LA) and Mädchen Amick (Twin Peaks).

Riverdale might be the series for fans of the Archie comic books, or parents who want to share a CW show with their kids. Just be prepared for some interesting discussions about thorny topics.

Season One is available for streaming on Netflix. Season Two is currently being broadcast Wednesdays on the CW network.

13 Reasons Why on Netflix

My hairdresser first mentioned this series on Netflix and I always check out what he recommends. Based on the popular 2007 novel, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and adapted by Brian Yorkey for the 13 episode Netflix series, I initially didn’t connect with the first few minutes of episode one. There were some stilted line readings by side characters and the high school setting seemed like an after-school special.

Then I fell in love with young male actor Dylan Minette (originally from Evansville, Indiana) who plays Clay Jensen, a square kid who knew Hannah Baker, a recent high school suicide. I was immediately sucked into the story through his eyes and ears as he listens to 13 tapes made by Hannah before she committed suicide. Each cassette is dedicated to someone who made her life miserable. I was hooked.

Katherine Langford, an Australian actress who auditioned for the part of Hannah over Skype, heartbreakingly depicts a beautiful, talented and troubled teen. Kate Walsh, Steven Weber and Brian d’Arcy James are a few of the actors who fill adult roles in the series, but it is the young thespians who steal the show; Christian Navarro playing the cryptic Tony Padilla; Alisha Boe as the promiscuous and rebellious Jessica Davis; Brandon Flynn and Justin Prentice playing jock-bullies Justin Foley and Bryce Walker, respectively.

This is not a show for the weak-kneed. Vivid re-enactments of rape and suicide had me yelling, “No, no, no…” Despite this warning, this limited series allows you into the current world of youth, social media and bullying. I have seen articles pro and con about allowing kids to watch these episodes. Certainly the issues of rape and suicide would have to be carefully discussed. I give this emotionally-charged series a guarded recommendation for those brave enough to go to dark and troubling places.