HOW “REALISTIC” IS THE PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN IN MEDIA?
Comedian/actor Tracy Morgan recently rolled his eyes and pithily called Lifetime Television “Man-bashing TV.” But now — awww! — our little girlie TV network is growing up! Lifetime grew out of her training bra (the notoriously sappy woman-as-victim-cum-redeemer Harlequinesque movies starring faded but still recognizable glamorzillas of evening serials), and is now swinging her Spanx-clad hips to the “realities” of Project Runway and Tori & Dean. The programmers at the Lifetime network are trying to attract a more hip and youthful female viewer — one who likes her designer dresses and the woes of celebrity mommyhood as much as her heroine’s redemption via the stalker’s/rapist’s/killer’s comeuppance in Act 3. Fine.
Why are women — at their “own” network, no less — portrayed as either victims or fluff heads? Are we more acceptable as cartoon characters? I’m all about a happy medium like Drop Dead Diva — a series about a smart, “real-woman” attorney who wakes up in the hospital inhabited/fueled by a recently deceased, body-swapped super model. Sounds eye-rolling, but I actually find that the tribulations of a formerly frumpy, intellegent woman learning to work her inner supermodel cleverly spotlights some real issues. Heavy hitters like Rosie O’Donnell, Paula Abdul, and the Bachelor’s Jake Pavela have made guest appearances, and the show (now in Season 2) co-stars Margeret Cho. Take a look.
FULL-ON GIRL POWER
Meanwhile, in feature film land, Danish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev recently spoke Charlie Rose (that oasis of intellegent interview shows) about the challenges of making his abuse-victim-as-heroine film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (based on the wildly popular Steig Larsson book). He talked about how rewarding it was to see women in the screening audiences hoot and holler in a seeming battle cry of strong identification with the repeatedly abused central female character and her bold, never-ending self-preservation and strength. Oplev said he’d intended to make a Swedish Silence of the Lambs or a La Femme Nikita (two of my all-time feminist faves), and I’d say he succeeded. Other films in this spirit include the original Alien and Long Kiss Goodnight, the identity-crisis allegory starring Geena Davis (founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media). Check out these flicks again with fresh eyes — there’s definitely something more to these characters than sheer ass-kicking.
Despite the fact that my progressive caveman hubster scoffs at such movies as being “unrealistic” (uh, because the James Bond or Mission Impossible films are totally rooted in reality?), I stay inspired, empowered and fresh when I expose myself to films where I know the physical prowess of the heroine is usually just a visual medium’s analogy of her strength of character and mental toughness — which, in my experience of many real women out there, IS realistic! The female intelligence, emotional resilience, wily self-preservation, savvy know-how, and inspiring balancing acts featured in these films are spiritually renewing for me. They tickle my third chakra and remind me to celebrate these qualities within myself, and that I can BE and want more.
Share with me how media portrayals of girls and women make you feel. Have you ever been made to identify with an abuse victim, a fashion slave, a perfectionist mommy, fat and ugly, or some other extreme and unrelalistic caricature? What identifying media or pop culture moments have shaped, changed, or mirrored you, and have stayed with you to this day?
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