About-Face BlogGender InequalityOn The Pulse

Break from network TV means more than gratuitous boobs

By October 11, 2013 One Comment

For better or worse, the manner in which we consume media is vastly different than it was just ten years ago. The content is different, and the messages we are absorbing are undeniably different.

As new media outlets are developed and become increasingly segmented into niches, there are numerous questions about whether we move towards diversification or consolidate into one enormous, mind-numbing episode of Big Brother.

Heidi (Amanda Lund) and Angelica (Maria Blasucci) of Ghost Ghirls.

Heidi (Amanda Lund) and Angelica (Maria Blasucci) are very unprofessional ghost hunters and very funny ladies.

While the explosion of basic cable in the 1980s led people to fret about the dwindling morals of a generation, the more diversified modes of media that have become ubiquitous in recent years have undoubtedly given a voice to a more diversified audience.

As About-Face’s Sarah aptly describes in her article addressing Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, the series delves deeply into subjects and characters that are rarely seen on network TV or basic cable.

Though the series certainly has its problems, the characters represent a range of races, voices, sexualities, and personalities. Could the show have made it on basic cable? On network TV? LOL.

Network TV and basic cable seem to be stuck in a 10-year reality TV-rut. At the same time, HBO is churning out Girls, Netflix has OITNB, and, in an even less traditional form, Yahoo!Screen has the webseries Ghost Ghirls.

While I don’t endorse any of these productions as flawless representations of gender, they all have potential to start important conversations and all have a voice that I can relate to (the repeated use of the word “girl” in the titles is a conversation for a whole other day).

Shows such as FOX’s The New Girl and The Mindy Project may seem like a female-centered, mainstream comedies, but I can’t help but wonder how the shows might be different outside the constrictive context of network TV.

Elizabeth Meriwether

Elizabeth Meriwether’s thoughts on comedic female characters: “Funny women aren’t feminist symbols. Funny women are honest women.”

Elizabeth Meriwether, the creator of The New Girl, dispels the idea of her show as some sort of groundbreaking portrayal of a female character, saying the show “was always about this ensemble.” And the ensemble is predominately male.

Meriwether goes on to say that she was frustrated when female viewers expressed their disappointment that the show wasn’t more of a powerful statement for female characters:

The characters don’t have to be symbols of a bigger movement. I feel like we are really past that.”

In addition, a very interesting critique of The Mindy Project can be found here.

We may have lost the opportunities for water-cooler banter about the one particular television program (save for Breaking Bad) that aired on one of the big three networks, but we may gain a more accepting voice.

Maybe fresh representations of women will begin within niche markets and move to mainstream. Or maybe what we conceptualize as mainstream will change completely as increasing numbers of consumers are abandoning traditional TV systems for streaming.

Whatever the answer might be, this is undeniably an exciting time for media, and an opportunity for diversified characters and viewpoints to become the norm.

Ann Laudick is a recent graduate from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in Film and Media Studies. She is particularly interested in educating youth about the importance of media literacy to challenge problematic portrayals of women and sexuality.