Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Women in TV, from a Cynical Dude's Perspective

Good news: The new fall TV season is dominated by female leads! Bad news: The percentage of female TV writers/producers is less than half what it was 5 years ago! Why is this? I really don’t know. Truthfully, if I can’t see on Hulu or Netflix (or whatever the hell Netflix will call itself to further gouge my pocket), I will probably not see it. However, for the three of you who still have televisions and cable or satellite, I feel for you. There are some promising things, like Whitney, Zooey Deschenal’s New Girl and the remake of Prime Suspect, but there are also a few potentially visual abortions, like Charlie’s Angels, Playboy Club, and Pan Am.

Charlie’s Angels is nothing but a remake of the original show, which, let’s be honest, was nothing but a 70’s style exploitation film-on-TV, depicting hot women in tight clothes doing violent stuff, except this time, there’s a black woman in it. On the bright side, they cast her as the ex-cop, and NOT the reformed thief. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a dude. I’m all for watching hot women in tight clothes doing violent stuff. I watched both of the Charlie’s Angel movie remakes and enjoyed them, but there is no real substance to the plot. I knew what I was going to see: Hot women, tight clothes, explosions. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I highly doubt that this new Charlie’s Angels will be the bastion of female empowerment…but if I want to see Annie Ilonzeh throw an escaping bank robber or of a burning helicopter then shake the ashes of the wreckage out of her afro in slow motion, I’m probably going to tune in…What! I’m a dude! Don’t you f***ing look at me like that!

The real stand-out pariahs, though, are Pan Am and Playboy Club. I read descriptions about both of them, and neither of them looks appealing. It’s a shame, because Christina Ricci is in Pan Am, and I usually like her. They are both set in the 1960s, in the heyday of American society, when a gin for lunch was the norm, the working girls were smoking hot, and there weren’t any brown people…except for the so-called “chocolate bunny” in Playboy Club. I’m not even going to get into how horrid that bit of writing is. I don’t care if it was the black character describing herself as a chocolate bunny; it’s the writers who put those words in her mouth. Essentially, ABC and NBC were trying to remake Mad Men, but to be honest, they look like s*** tacos.

Pan Am follows the lives of Pan Am flight attendants, or as they were called back then, stewardesses, as they navigate their days to become successful in their careers, which essentially meant they had to primp themselves, watch their weight, make sure they were showing enough leg and cleavage, and smile and be bubbly for all their customers’ and supervisors’ flirts and sexual advances, no matter how disgusting they may be. Conversely, The Playboy Club follows the lives of hostesses working in 1960s Chicago Playboy Club, as they navigate their days to become successful in their careers, which essentially meant they had to primp themselves, watch their weight, make sure they were showing enough leg and cleavage, and smile and be bubbly for all their customers’ and supervisors’ flirts and sexual advances, no matter how disgusting they may be.

I know! They’re so disparate! I mean, The Playboy Club has a black woman, after all. Both of these shows glamorise a time when in order for a woman to succeed in the workplace, she had to be the prettiest, bubbliest, plastic images of themselves, when what they thought meant so much less than how fast they could server their male bosses a coffee or vermouth. They set back the women’s movement 40-50 years…oh wait…it IS set in the ‘60s, so I guess that's about right!…The biggest slap in the face is that it glamorises one thing, and completely ignores the tumultuous truth of the 1960s. Were these comedies, I might give them slack, but they are touted as dramas. How about examining the women's plight as being seen just objects, and their struggle to define themselves as individuals instead of just meat? Instead, these period shows depict an era of a fictional candy-coated chickfest that was really awesome, but only to the oblivious white men of the time. This is what happens when only 15% of the TV writers in Hollywood are women.

I don’t have proof, but I think that TV in general is catered toward white men 18-49. I’m not the only one who thinks this either. Beside the period pieces of s***, there are shows like Last Man Standing about a man who’s house is dominated by his wife and three daughters, and he’s pulled in to spend even MORE time taking care of his daughters because his wife got a promotion at her work. Oh you poor thing, having to man up and take care of your family! Cry me a f***ing river. Also, taking Home Improvement and replacing the sons with daughters is not really all that creative.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a dude. I like women and their many lady physical aspects. I love legs, and butts and boobs just like any other red-blooded American heterosexual man. I’ve collected Playboy before, and I won’t even PRETEND like I got them for the articles. The articles are actually quite good, but let’s be real: I bought them for the boobs, and if Angela Bassett should decide to pose for Playboy, I will buy ALL of the copies. However, this new TV season does not look promising. I truly hope that the aforementioned shows fail, and the ones with strong female leads (mostly crime dramas) succeed. I hope that Hollywood starts hiring more female writers, too.

Notice I didn’t mention the lack of brown people in prime time. The reason is that after shows like The Wayans Brothers and Homeboys in Outer Space and movies like Soul Plane and ANYTHING by Tyler Perry, I’m surprised that a law has not passed to ban black people from getting within 100 metres of a filming studio. We had our chance with Cosby and A Different World, and we blew it.

…Seriously, Soul Plane? Was the title Nig-Air already copyrighted?

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