The new fall TV season is dominated by women

Studio 360 has a new article about gender in the fall TV lineup and it’s good news for women actors:

The new fall TV season is upon us and there’s a not so subtle subtext: women rule.

The primetime lineup is dominated by new half-hour comedies featuring women in the lead roles, including HBO’s much anticipated Girls and network sitcoms New Girl starring Zooey Deschanel (FOX), Two Broke Girls (CBS) and Whitney (NBC).

Of course, women in leading roles doesn’t mean the shows themselves don’t still play off the same sexist stereotypes we’ve come to know and hate. As an added bonus (not), all the leading ladies are also white, skinny and able-bodied.

The “romantic vulnerability” that has long been a staple of female comedy “doesn’t disappear with the economic power,” Rosin says. She points to Deschanel’s character in New Girl as proof. “I mean she’s incredibly vulnerable in this show and neurotic. So how much has changed?”

Interestingly, the Studio 360 piece implies that Hannah Rosin’s Atlantic Magazine story from last year, The End of Men, which I critiqued here, is the reason for the surge in leading ladies.

What do you all think of the lady-filled fall line-up?

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17 Comments

  1. Posted September 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    “Of course, women in leading roles doesn’t mean the shows themselves don’t still play off the same sexist stereotypes we’ve come to know and hate.”

    I totally agree – It’s not as if having lead female characters necessarily means they are feminist characters, or that it’s a feminist show. Women on screen are great, but it would be AMAZING a show with a feminist framework – I know one such show could be hilarious, enjoyable for the masses, and profitable (I do believe!).

    • Posted September 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      I know a lot of people have said this, and it’s definitely not perfect, but I almost think that show you described exists. I love Parks and Recreation so much, so happy that its back!

  2. Posted September 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I second that. I just had to sit through a zillion “Whitney” ads, in which the title character urges women not to give their partners the silent treatment when they’re angry, because that’s a reward. The true punishment is talking (esp. about your feelings). Riiight.

    So is it better to have more women-centered shows if the women they’re centered around are clearly anti-woman?

  3. Posted September 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    The lack of people of colour and other marginalized groups on TV is nothing new, though. It is indeed a big issue, and worthy of a lot of comment. But let’s look at it this way: Last year, TV was dominated by a bunch of white able-bodied dudes. This year, the “white” and “able-bodied” hasn’t changed, but the “dude” has shifted a little; isn’t that something to be happy about? It is one step in the right direction.

    And I’m not entirely sure if we should expect the same old stereotypes about men and women, either. 2 Broke Girls doesn’t promise to be overly progressive, but some of the rest seem to go beyond the Chuck Lorre “MEN AND WOMEN ARE SO DIFFERENT” formula. Whitney in particular.

    I don’t think it would be a stretch to credit at least part of this to Bridesmaids’ success, either. I don’t want to suggest one movie was singularly responsible for the beginning of the women’s media revolution or anything remotely that hyperbolic, but it is undeniable that that movie had major impact. When it came out, us feminists were hugely anticipating what the public reaction would be, and we held our breath while we waited. But people loved it! Men loved it. Women loved it. That movie taught studios a little something about women, comedy, and audience-targeting. That’s what we all wanted! And now the TV lineup has responded positively to the idea of woman-driven comedy.

    Let’s call this one a victory, shall we? Again, I don’t want to belittle the issues associated with a lack of marginalized groups on television. But, again, that hasn’t shifted, and the only shift has been a positive one; I’d say that’s progress in my book.

    • Posted September 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      So, we should be happy with the knife 3 inches in our backs instead of 6 inches?

      • Posted September 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        Well…yeah. We shouldn’t be happy the knife’s there at all, but we should be pleased when it’s getting closer to being pulled out entirely; that gives the wound room to heal.

        • Posted September 27, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          With the knife in our backs??

          Why should we settle for being only slightly offended if the pain is till there? People who aren’t privileged enough to fit the Hollywood ideal – white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied – have been walking around with these perpetual knives for years. I don’t about you, but my back can only take so much.

  4. Posted September 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Right but we’ve also got that playboy bunnies thing coming so you’ve got your highs and lows.

  5. Posted September 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I’ve only seen New Girl and 2 Broke Girls, so I can’t comment on Whitney – except that the ads/commercials for it seemed pretty heinous. Although New Girl definitely isn’t breaking new feminist ground (lying on the couch crying and watching Dirty Dancing on repeat after a break-up), I found it kind of funny and charming regardless. The character definitely rides a fine line between charmingly and obnoxiously quirky, but she’s really nice, so she’s hard to disdain. As for 2 Broke Girls… the whole soundstage set and studio audience/laugh track just made it seem like a cheap dumb show, which it doesn’t have to be. It could have potential but its really hard to separate the show from its production value.

  6. Posted September 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I have to chime in to the chorus – all the advertising and reviews I’ve seen for these shows make them look as exciting as a root canal. The posters for “Whitney” all seem to feature her making smug comments on relationships that all play on gender stereotypes, often in a negative way. (Worst offender: one that reads “The Silent Treatment: Punishment or Reward?”)

    “2 Broke Girls” – Any number of genuinely broke Brooklynites I know (of all genders) are finding the posters for this a mini-aneurysm every time we pass one, based on the premise being “rich girl suddenly has to–GASP!–work for a living in a Brooklyn diner! Oh noes!!!!!”. The TV spot I keep seeing has the blond actress–the one wearing the big pearl necklace—trying to open a champagne bottle only to have it foam all over her! Ohhh, I see what you did there…

    The Zooey Daschenal thing – I guess there’s been a lot of discourse on the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” thing by now. the twee, quirky, non-threatening variation of actual bohemians that seem to exist in fiction for nerdy guys to fetishize. The real kind are SUCH a problem, they can get so surly and headstrong and then they do stuff like have goals and projects of their own they get emotionally invested in…this is not a remark on Zooey herself but on the type of character she tends to be cast as.

    I guess after seeing Roseanne show up Saturday I’m just reminded of how good her show was (until the end where she tried to turn it into “AbFab”), all those different women and girls with fully realized character personalities…I miss it.

  7. Posted September 23, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    gotta admit I know nothing about any of these shows. Zooey D gives me a toothache. I *guess* it could be seen as sortof a step in a right direction? Or, not. Sounds like more skinny white chicks with the charisma of a paper towel, to me.

    Bring back “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” !!!!!…

    I’m seeing a trend, and I mentioned this when my GF forced me to watch the latest x-men movie. The woman-child wife from Madmen played a VERRRRRY unconvincing Emma Frost.

    This is the reason I’ve avoided these movies for years, btw, the whole Storm debacle (do not get me started on the storm fiasco)… And don’t get me wrong, love me some Hallie Berry. LOVE. Ok? But as Storm??? shut the front door!!! I mean… …Angela Bassett coulda played the crap outta storm! SRSLY, they track down Hugh Jackman (perfect) but Storm needs to be a teeny tiny little non threatening mixed race woman with a delicate bone structure and a white wig??? COME ON! I contended way back when that this decision indicated not JUST the uneasiness men have with powerful female figures, but also a compromise with the uneasiness that white folks have with black women. Not for nothing did they choose a lovely mixed race woman with a delicate build…I mean, Hallie Berry is practically a freaking elf! She’s awesome, again, I’m not saying she’s not, I’m saying she’s not Storm.

    It seems to me that the proliferation of the manic pixie dream girl and the bubbleheaded playboy bunnie has begun to crowd out even your basic girl next door type, until the majority of women presented in the media these days are non threatening teeny tiny adorable little people who dominate NOTHING, not the conversation, not the show.

    Those armies of way too skinny white chicks who got the stage presence of a kleenex? heck, looks like a strong breeze would knock em over, and possibly snap they brittle bones..

    frak that, I’m not watching that crap.

    • Posted September 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      “frak that,I’m not watching that crap.”-i couldn’t agree more.

  8. Posted September 23, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    ARGH, why are they all called girls? Can I safely assume all these characters are in their 20s or 30s or 40s? That says a lot, to me. Sure, it’s female-heavy in the lead roles, but whose money/power is at work making it? Whose ideas of femininity are being promoted? Is there a feminist angle to any of these shows? Can we call grown women something other than children?

    • Posted September 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, THIS, totally. I am not a ‘girl’, I am a WOMAN. I’m not watching something that infantilizes women in the very title.

      I’m also not a ‘female’, a ‘chick’ or a ‘lady’. Thank you.

  9. Posted September 24, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I’ve read so many articles about women on tv this fall, and every single one seems to overlook the remake of Prime Suspect which, from the one episode I watched, seems excitingly feminist and all about tackling the difficulties of being a woman in a male dominated field. Why is no one talking about this show?

  10. Posted September 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Is the new season good news for women writers? If we’re seeing the same old stereotypes, maybe not.

  11. Posted September 24, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    As a woman of color, I am sick of seeing the same type of woman on the television screen. Can we please get some diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, weight, height etc.? And I mean not just shows that feature one heavy woman as a title character and whose weight is overly emphasized. I mean women who come from all degrees of shape, size and color as title characters. And not fetishizing or exoticizing the women of color they feature.

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