Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Ramblings about Women on TV

I don't know whether it is the significantly cooled off weather, our seemingly never-ending-and-lagging downstairs house improvement project, the fact that I feel like I live in a time-warp or what, but I have had a hard time coming up with anything awfully interesting to blog about recently. I have had several topics in mind, but for some reason I can't seem to get my head around them. Take, for example, the fact that I started watching The Confessions of a Shopaholic the other night, and couldn't go further than perhaps 45 minutes. I got to thinking about the types of women I see on tv. I was so utterly disgusted with the portrayal of the main character of the film (a materialistic, superficial and insecure woman whom I was probably supposed to identify with), that I simply couldn't finish watching the film (at the end of which, let me guess, she probably realises that she needs the cute man in her life to tell her she is just fine as she is, in order to beat her disastrous spending habits).

Last night I watched an old episode of Sex and the City, and couldn't help wondering why I was supposed to identify with these four women, when all they seem to do is shop, gossip, and struggle with their love lives, as if it was a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I used to watch Sex and the City all the time. When it first came out, it seemed fresh and different. I used to see the characters in a heroic light - they seemed like strong women, women who had taken charge of their lives and lived independently, and relied on friendship. For whatever reason, (perhaps it was just the type of episode I watched, or the way my own life has changed) yesterday Carrie & Co. (and especially Carrie) just seemed awfully lonely, desperate and insecure to me. See, this is the type of stuff I think about, and to some extent would like to write about in a cohesive manner, but I just can't seem to get my head around it. I can't figure out why most women on tv annoy me these days. Whether it is Carrie in SATC, Dr Brennan in Bones, or Kate in Lost, I almost feel like they are out there to make women feel good about themselves in completely the wrong way.

Instead of making women think they don't need to buy a new pair of shoes for every new date, characters like Carrie almost insist that we do. Not because we need to, but because we have the right to (it is our money, right, and as independent women we can decide for ourselves), and therefore should want to. And in case you have blown your savings on 100 pairs of Manolos, don't worry, because your art gallery friend will lend you the money to save your ass because that's what friendship is for. No matter how professionally successful Dr Brennan is in Bones, she remains incomplete because she doesn't give into her feelings. We, the audience, are supposed to feel a little sorry for her, but we know deep down in our hearts that eventually she must sacrifice her professional partnership for love, because isn't that what women do? In Lost, because Kate has been going back and forth between Jack and Sawyer (more or less depending on which one is wanted by someone else), her character has been reduced to a desperate, weak runaway woman whose destiny is only tied into the man she eventually settles down with (and for the record, if she ends up with Sawyer, I will be very, very upset, because he deserves someone better!).

I don't know what the point of these types of female characters is, and I don't know why I get so angry. Am I supposed to feel empowered as a woman because my own existence feels more meaningful than theirs? Am I supposed to see tv women as role models or even feminists, because they at least seemingly do whatever it is they decide to do? Or am I supposed to identify with them because they are flawed just like everyone else? I just feel sorry for them. I can't identify, and don't even want to. Maybe I just watch too much tv. Well, at least I have Betty White.

Top: second hand / Salvation Army
Cardigan: Urban Outfitters
Trousers: H&M
Knee socks: Gold Toe
Shoes: Jessica Simpson
Necklace: JBL


Jane W. said...

I can completely relate to your comments about SATC. I've never seen an episode, and I don't particularly want too. I just don't "get" it. I thought the Shopaholic book was pretty funny, mostly because I could totally realte to Becky's rationalizations (that was me in my 20s).

Modesty is Pretty said...

I'm so glad I don't have TV because much f what it's shown is pure junk as you have just mentioned, I can't comment on my thoughts of the shows because I don't watch them but I believe you and makes me want to watch them even less. My friend goes crazy over Twilight and we watched it and love is so...I don't know it's like love from the media has to hurt, have sex and sexual attraction and so twisted it's not even real. And that's what's portrayed as "love." Many of the programs on TV make me sick to my stomach because of what they portray that a single woman should feel, do, love, etc.

Charlotte said...

Do you write essays? Because dear blogpal, you need to--what you think about is thought-provoking, and working on an essay about women as presented on TV is a good way to wrap your head around it. Good discipline. Get a copy of BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS. You'll see that writers take on material not so different from this, and it makes for good reading. And you have the writing chops to do it.

Teenysparkles said...

agree agree agree. on all counts. I'm struggling with music video clips - at least 70% of them are so over-sexualised. And worst of all, so many of them are women objectifying themselves. What are my children going to garner from this? I like music, but does a video have to be of a gratuitious sexual nature to be enjoyed? Sorry to rant on your blog.

Eyeliah said...

ol! that shopoholic movie was awful, I read the book first and it was okay but the movie (bleech!). I even was in theater for it. The styling wasn’t even done well. As for S&TC, I find them very relatable to my life at times and at others I cannot relate at all! Carrie is defined a lot by her mistakes (never should have left Aiden) but I always found Charlotte someone to admire (on the relationship front). Miranda has always been so awful to Steve, Samantha finally lands an amazing man and then leaves him for no good reason and Carrie deserves better than Big. Also none of them have found an even balance of work and home in their lives.

Someone said...

Doesn't all this flawed/self-sacrificing female crap just piss you off? I too am entirely sick of it.

The dear Emperor and I just saw Iron Man 2 on Friday and..."she must sacrifice her professional partnership for love, because isn't that what women do?" happened there like clockwork, as of course I recognized immediately. (Not to mention the other expected sexist BS in the movie.) Jebus f'n christ, what is the problem...I would have thought we had gotten beyond Mahogany and suchlike, but as long as men are still writing the plots, that's how we are portrayed.

What a crock, eh?

Sal said...

I abhorred SATC for just the reasons you outlined. I couldn't relate to ANY of those characters.

I've been thinking of writing a bit about Joss Whedon's treatment of female characters, but I need to do some real thinking about it first. He definitely presents some non-traditional roles in Buffy and Firefly ... but not sure they're as solid as they appear.

Skyline Eyes said...

Great post! Nothing like a good feminism rant to put a smile on my face (:
and your outfit is lovely by the way.

tigerteacher said...

I hear you, sister! Sometimes I think that the women I see in movies/tv shows are endlessly playing out Sense and Sensibility: will it be the dashing but unreliable Willoughby or the sincere but less exciting Colonel Brandon? It doesn't seem to bear much resemblance to the nuances of real life at all.

For what it's worth, every episode I've ever seen of SATC I found sort of depressing and essentially lonely...like these gals were friends with one another but treated everyone else in their lives without kindness or warmth.

As always, you look great!
-Mary :-)

Karenina said...

I found I started feeling much, much better about myself and my outlook on life when I dropped mainstream media from my life. I don't have a working TV, rent/go to very few movies (and those I rent are carefully chosen) and spend more time on independently created, lovingly crafted blogs (like this one!:)) than I do on mainstream internet sites. I also love books (gasp!)
For me, the majority of representations of women in mainstream media made me feel as if my entire sex was constantly being slammed as weak, whiny, sneaky, conniving pathological; we were stalkers, shopaholics, ball-crushers, crybabies, bridezillas, booty bouncing babymommas...you name it. I didn't see female characters I related to; I saw a lot of drama queens I wanted to slap. Nowhere was my no-nonsense, completely calm best friend. Nor did I see my level headed, good-natured boss. No, all I saw where caricatures of what women are "supposed" to be. And now, sadly, I see those caricatures being played out everyday in the halls of the school I teach at. It's quite sad.

No, I'm afriad that the majority of time I spend looking at media is for the purpose of deconstructing it, and trying to make lessons that will show my students why they can find better ways to entertain themselves.

I advise you to try ditching mainstream media for a while, turning to good books or alternative media, and see if your outlook improves any. Oh, and Charlotte's advice about writing the essay is bang on; you do have the chops!

Keep on writing great posts.

jungleworldcitizen said...

I watch maybe two hours of tv a day, which I consider way too much :D
But weirdly the only women characters I like and can relate to are Melinda, from Ghost Whisperer, a show "totally out of reality", but still a character I'd proudly see as a role model if she existed, and agent Teresa Lisbon, from the Mentalist, who has some serious problems but still has an intriguing, interesting way of handling things.

Kristen said...

I read your guest post on Sal's blog and want to tell you that I have heard comments like that all of my life (you're too skinny, don't you eat) and I'm not in the industry -- just naturally thin. I applaud you for bringing to light the fact that the public's perception of models hurts all women. Thank you.

Monkey said...

I would enjoy watching a show about a woman with a job she enjoyed who is not bothered by her single status. It seems they make shows like this about men, but I can't seem to think of anything with women...maybe Mary Tyler Moore?

Jamie said...

You wrote a guest post on Already Pretty today, which I read and found very well-written and full of insight into body-image issues. Well done!

So I clicked on the link to your own blog and found this post, which I completely disagree with! Go figure right? I see where you are coming from, but I disagree that these women should be objects of pity.

Whenever, I read stuff where women are slagging other women for liking clothes, or liking rom-coms, chick-lit, etc, I always feel the need to stand up for the frivolous. So here's my dissenting voice - I'm still a strong woman, even though I love all the fantasy and fluff.

La Historiadora de Moda said...

I just came across your blog via Already Pretty, and I'm so glad I did!

I loved SATC, although I had a number of problems with certain elements of it, particularly Carrie's miraculous career boost that enabled her to spend even more ridiculous amounts of money. I despised the movie because even the strong friendship element seemed to become so caricaturized. And I'm sure the sequel will be abominable.

a cat of impossible colour said...

I have the same feelings about SAT. When it first came out, I thought it was great, and that the women were strong and independent. Now I think the opposite. Amazing how much your perception can change in a few years.

And don't even get me started on Bella from Twilight. Am angry just thinking about what she represents.

poet said...

I haven't seen any of these because I don't own a TV, but what you say sounds very thoughtful and I agree with most of it based on the hearsay about these portrayals that reaches me... I do have one comment though on your discussion of the character who doesn't give in to her feelings, which is supposed to make us feel sorry for her, which is bad because it promotes the idea that women have to put relationships above career: I personally believe that it is good for a person - be they female, or male, or in-between [this is me trying very hard to be PC] - to be in touch with their feelings and work towards fulfilling their emotional needs instead of suppressing them for some higher external goal, so yes, I think it's right that a character portrayed as doing this is also portrayed in a way to evoke our pity. Except - and that's an important point - we should see people of each gender portrayed that way, not just women.

Ehm, also, with respect to the shoe- and clothes-buying, I'm a woman who does a lot of that, but I take pride in spending a minimum amount of money on it :)

And last but not least, your guest post on Already Pretty rocks! Very interesting to hear a contribution from inside the modeling business! I agree, we need to tackle the issue from the point that we want the diversity present in society portrayed on the catwalk... You can be long and skinny and beautiful (you are, and I don't understand why anyone could have thought you had an eating disorder - you look thoroughly healthy!), or short and curvy and beautiful, or anything in-between. Bad things only start happening when people try to mold themselves into a shape that isn't theirs... So thanks for your insightful writings!

ほし said...

Ah, completely agree. Apparently the women who do not like these stereotypical depictions of women is few...most of my friends are love-crazed over SatC. Horrifyingly enough, one of them firmly believes that she has to live her like just like Carrie. Oh god...

Another is doing her PhD dissertation on feminism in the workplace and discussing SatC. Excuse me? What feminism? I don't think they're feminists at all, what with their willingness to sacrifice much of themselves for a man and to societal preconceptions.

I hated Bride Wars. Like, seriously. And how the television industry is making a living on the sick enjoyment people get by peering into other people's lives and mocking them or sinking into jealousy over what they covet from a character or a reality tv personality.


Other than that, very well written and agreed on all counts! Hopefully, you'll publish someday! :)

Cat's Meow said...

I read one of the shopaholic books (haven't seen the movie) and didn't like it AT ALL. I mean it didn't address that she clearly had a problem, it was made to seem like she would be fine if she just got a little more money to get away from her debt. I get that it's supposed to be light and fun but there was NO substance at all. Far better book is the "Save Karyn" by Karyn Bosnak, telling her real-life shopaholic story and how she got out. With the help of internet no less ;)