Friday, May 8, 2015

So, what exactly does television have against strong women?

I'm seeing a bit of a trend in television lately. The trend is "Let's make this great female character that a certain group of people can really connect with...and then kill her off!". Admittedly, I watch too much tv. I prefer tv that is well written and thought provoking, but I also get caught up in crime dramas and the like, some of which many people would call "trash tv". I wouldn't. Trash tv, to me, is stuff like Springer...and anything involving a Kardashian. I don't have much use for reality tv. I do love my food shows, and I'll watch any Gordon Ramsay show, especially Hell's Kitchen. to the whole point of this post. Last week, NBC had a "crossover event" linking two shows I watch with one I don't. (I watch SVU and Chicago PD.) On the third part of the event (on SVU), one of my favorite characters on PD was murdered: Nadia DeCotis, played by Stella Maeve. Nadia was something of a reclamation project. She was a junkie and a prostitute that Det. Erin Lindsay (played by Sophia Bush) decided to help get on her feet. Through the course of two seasons, we watched Lindsay pick Nadia up when she fell off the wagon, dragged her to rehab, pushed her to better herself, moved her into her apartment. Nadia worked hard, had a goal to be CPD, took criminology classes. Essentially, she turned her life around. So, what do the writers do? Cast her aside as an afterthought...have her get abducted by a serial killer, brutally raped, tortured and beaten and left dead on a beach. So, are they essentially saying, "Why bother?" If you invest in a character the way they did with Nadia (who really was beautifully played by Maeve), why chuck it all to fit this story line? There are SEVEN male characters on Chicago PD that have had bigger story arcs. This leaves three women, with Nadia's death. Lindsay (who has the largest arc of the three), Kim Burgess (who is often shown making bad choices and showing bad judgment) and Sgt. Trudy Platt, played with great depth by Amy Morton, but on the screen far too little for my liking. Honestly, I can count at least three of those male characters that are entirely expendable, but instead they get rid of the compelling Nadia character. So, are women forever to play second fiddle to less compelling characters who only take up space as eye candy? I was glad that I was among a large portion of people who were touched by Nadia and Stella Maeve's portrayal of her, so much so that people flooded Chicago PD's Facebook page with feelings of complete dismay and utter horror at the description of her torture, rape and murder on SVU. It actually was quite graphically described.  

One of the biggest offenders of "let's kill off all of the women" is another show I've watched faithfully from the beginning, "Supernatural". Yes, the show IS essentially about Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester and the dynamic between the brothers, at its base. My gripe is that not one developed female character on that show EVER gets to survive. The latest casualty was one of the best female characters the show has had, and my favorite, Charlie Bradbury, played by the fantastic Felicia Day. I had a feeling that, in the last episode, she was going to die, and of course, my instincts were dead on. (Pun intended.) The thing wasn't necessary to the plot. Charlie didn't HAVE to die. The circumstances surrounding her demise made little sense. Plus...the fucking guy who killed her had ONE FUCKING ARM. Really?! On Charlie's worst day, she could have taken this guy. Charlie also was probably the most developed female character in the history of the show. She was entirely different: smart as hell, a hacker, a gamer, quirky and a lesbian. Many fans of the show will say that it's the curse of being considered "Winchester family" (by extension), but there are a lot of people HIGHLY PISSED that Charlie is dead. I am one of those people who yelled, "Fuck this show!" at his tv last night and, in a fit of anger, posted on my Facebook about it briefly...later chastised by my cousins and a few other people for blurting out a spoiler. I couldn't help myself, as usual. Will I continue to watch Supernatural? Yes. I will see it through to the end, but...after watching Nadia die on PD and then, a week later losing Charlie, I started to think deeper about what Hollywood is doing.

Women, despite every advancement in society and every foot forward made, are still marginalized as a whole. Oh, you doubt me? Have you read any headlines lately? Watched the news? Are you aware of the rape culture in America? Slut shaming? Why wouldn't Hollywood move on to the next face? Men are, more often than not, front and center in television, movies, music...the list goes on. It seems easy enough for the writers of a show to cast aside a strong female when a stronger or more dominant man wants to have his way. Expendable seems like the best word here. Female characters become expendable to whatever story line said show is going for. Off the top of my head, I can think of many others who became expendable on their respective shows: Claire Kincaid and Alex Borgia on Law & Order, Jo, Ellen and Mary on Supernatural, Fish Mooney on Gotham, Tara, Jenny, Anya, Joyce and Darla on Buffy, Cordelia on Angel...I could go on. Also, it seems the Sci-Fi and Horror realms are particularly harsh on heroines and super villains.

It's been mentioned to me that not enough women watch female led shows. That might be partially true. It's possible that networks aren't reaching the demographics they've intended to. It's also entirely possible that, to these networks, there isn't enough interest in seeing heroines from the general public. Movies are just as guilty. Joss Whedon has unfairly gotten a lot of crap over Black Widow, but...who else is presenting any films or shows with a female superhero as the lead? Why is it such a taboo to think that people would be interested in such a thing? The closest we've come to a female superhero in a film was Chloe Grace Moretz' portrayal of Hit Girl in Kick Ass. What exactly are we giving younger women to emulate right now? What are we telling them by making their lives expendable, even if it is just the small screen?

In the end, it's all about the money, and if studios can't cash in on a show, its merchandise, etc., they're not going to green light anything that will ultimately make them lose money. I hope that Supergirl turns out to be a hit when it makes it on the air this year. Someone has to stand up and give strong women a platform on television, otherwise, it's business as usual in this patriarchal country. Don't think that something as simple as a television show or a movie can't hold certain social mores. Women will ultimately continue to be an afterthought to a country run into the ground by its backward thinking. It's another link in a chain that holds back progress. 

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