Tag Archives: Nashville

“Strong Female Characters”? No thanks.

NewStatesman piece is going around this week called “I Hate Strong Female Characters,” and it’s actually pretty good. Sophia McDougall makes the not-new but needs-repeating argument that we conflate the presence of “strong female characters” in our media with equality. She points out that a) implying strength as an unusual asset for female characters is belittling (would we crow about a film with strong male characters? HAH) and that b) boxing female characters into narrow tropes of success (she can roundhouse kick!) reduces human complexity and replaces one archetype with another. Putting Scarlet Johnson on the cover of the Avengers does not equality make, even if she can roundhouse.  See Margaret Lyons’ similar argument regarding The Newsroom

Khandi Alexander as LaDonna Baptiste-Williams on Treme

Khandi Alexander as LaDonna Baptiste-Williams on Treme

Though I wouldn’t state my position with quite the extremity McDougall’s essay title suggests (though that’s probably just a smart editor baiting for clicks), I generally feel the same way. The female characters that I am thrilled to see in TV and movies are complicated, multi-faceted, not-always-right, not-always-wrong humans. While there’s an aspirational part of me that will always love CJ Cregg (The Jackal is forever in my heart), CJ is not complicated for me. She is strong and devoted and loyal and smart, but I always agree with her. She never makes mistakes. Never behaves badly, or selfishly, or shows weakness that isn’t also designed to show strength. She is an idealized version of what I want a press secretary to be (Remember “Crackpots and These Women?” Bartlett idealizes her too) and never forces me to confront hard truths or tough ethical dilemmas.

There’s room for the CJs, of course, but it’s also important that we show that women can be messy and difficult (This is the age of the anti-hero, right? How about an anti-heroine?) They can be good people who make mistakes, or bad people who aren’t always bad, or, you know, just people who are hella complicated because they’re humans. Here are a few of the characters that I generally like because they are forceful, ambitious, strong, driven but who are sometimes dishonest, weak, foolish, selfish, conflicted, etc. 

  • Deb Morgan (Dexter)
  • Skyler White (Breaking Bad)
  • Piper Chapman (Orange is the New Black…actually, everyone on Orange is the New Black)
  • Rayna James, Juliette Barnes (Nashville)
  • Jeanette Desautel, LaDonna Baptiste-Williams (Treme)
  • Peggy Olson (Mad Men)
  • Carrie Mathison (Homeland)
  • Claire Underwood (House of Cards)
  • Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)
  • Diane Lockhart, Alicia Florrick (The Good Wife)

There’s something to be said for the fact that I could pull this list off the top of my head. I do think things are getting better, with more and more interesting (not “strong,” but interesting) roles for women. So what do we want? I think McDougall sums it up well:

What do I want instead of a Strong Female Character? I want a male:female character ratio of 1:1 instead of 3:1 on our screens. I want a wealth of complex female protagonists who can be either strong or weak or both or neither, because they are more than strength or weakness. Badass gunslingers and martial artists sure, but also interesting women who are shy and quiet and do, sometimes, put up with others’ shit because in real life there’s often no practical alternative. And besides heroines, I want to see women in as many and varied secondary and character roles as men: female sidekicks, mentors, comic relief, rivals, villains.

Related Post: Things that are not the opposite of misogyny

Related Post: The best two minutes on TV about sex ever. 

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Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Really Good Writing by Other People

Sunday Scraps 85

sunday85

1. SPORTS: This Charles Siebert piece for the New York Times Magazine about the rigors and stresses of trying to make an NFL team is fascinating. How much do you want it? And how much are you willing to take to get it?

2. BOOKS: Super great Atlantic essay about author Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, State of Play) and her new bookstore in Nashville. As a lover of independent bookstores, I think this is all kinds of awesome.

3. CHRIS BROWN: After violent exchange with a female comedian on Twitter, Chris Brown deleted his account. The always excellent Roxane Gay on why criticizing Brown isn’t racist, and why it also is pretty f’ing complicated.

4. ELECTION: Curious about how all those Obama for America emails with subject lines like “Hey” or “It’s officially over” played out? Businessweek has some answers.

5. PAIN: There’s an extremely rare medical condition where you feel no pain. Sounds great, right? Not unless you step on a nail, scratch yourself bloody, or break an ankle and don’t realize it. The New York Times has an examination.

6. MEDIA: The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has put together an excellent report about the representation of women on screen (especially on children and family programming) and Mother Jones has a summary of some of the most telling facts and figures.

Related Post: Sunday 84 – Letters from astronauts, the female male model, bedrooms around the world.

Related Post: Sunday 83 – Hillary Clinton’s next move, Denver public schools, Mormons on the Romney bus

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Filed under Body Image, Books, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sports, Uncategorized

Sunday Scraps 81

1. NASHVILLE: My new favorite soapy music dramz, Nashville, is written by Callie Khouri (who wrote Thelma and Louise). She’s interviewed by NYMag about feminism, country music, and Connie Britton.

2. SEX: In light of new movie The Sessions, Slate has an interview with a real life sex surrogate. I’m on board with this concept, but I’m skeptical that it would be treated with the same clinical approach when women are the ones seeking help with intimacy…

3. TAILOR: A holocaust survivor, Martin Greenfield, now makes suits for the President. America, sometimes pretty cool after all.

4. ELECTION: From ChartPorn, a map of the U.S. where the states are reshaped proportional to campaign spending.

5. BILL: Bill Maher is really not my cup of tea, but sometimes he gets it right. In this clip, he nails Romney to the tree of his most batshit, conservative peers.

6. ANITA: My girl Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency is interviewed by Global News about that whole time when the internet went crazy and threatened to kill/rape/beat her for researching video games and violence.

Related Post: Sunday 80: Colbert in Playboy, Leslie Gore’s PSA, Iceland’s constitution, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 79: Harper Lee, Oprah, the Clintons, etc.

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Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex