Whether are not you believe the current era can be classified as the “third wave of feminism,” it’s hard to deny the changing portrayals of women in the media. With the immense popularity of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the new girl-power TV lineup and the emergence of R-rated comedies targeting women, could Hollywood’s reputation as an old boys’ club be over?
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have long been praised for their respective characters, Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope, that subvert the stereotypes of women on TV hit comedies “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation.” In season seven of “30 Rock”, Fey’s character decides to get married. Her struggle over not being a “typical,” princess-like bride and yet desiring a special, once-in-a-lifetime day is summed up wonderfully in her interaction with her husband-to-be, Criss.
Criss: Liz, it’s ok to be a human woman.
Liz: No it’s not, it’s the worst! Because of society!
Fey acknowledges the conflicting modern paradox between wanting to be taken seriously, yet also wanting to enjoy stereotypically “girly” activities. By the end of the episode she fuses them together by getting married in her Princess Leia costume.
Poehler’s Knope takes a blunter approach to gender inequality in the season five episode of “Parks and Recreation,” called “Women in Garbage.” In it, Knope attempts to prove the government wrong in their assertion that women are unable to handle the physical strain of working in sanitation. By the end of the episode, Knope has not only finished faster than the men and fixed a refrigerator-related problem not even the heads of the department could solve, but her quote, “we can’t just be as good as the men, we have to be better,” is revealing of the additional effort women must go through for respect in the workplace. Further, Poehler’s comment towards Bill Clinton at the Golden Globes – “That was Hillary Clinton’s husband!” – subverts both the typical slut-shaming of Monica Lewinsky and the idea that a wife’s status is closely tied to her husband’s accomplishments. Poehler embodies real progress in attitudes towards women.
This rising trend in girl power could also be seen in the fall TV line-up for 2012, which featured “Ben and Kate” and “The Mindy Project,” two shows whose main characters do nothing to hide their femininity while solving the problems of the hapless males in their lives. Together with Zooey Deschanel’s returning role in “New Girl,” the women on these shows fight for the fact that you can love flowery dresses and cute animals while still being a strong and intelligent person.
Although these shows are encouraging, there is still work to be done. “30 Rock” just had its final episode and the other shows discussed above struggle with ratings and face an uncertain future. More widely watched shows like “The Big Theory” or even “Modern Family” routinely place women in two stereotypical categories: pretty and dumb – Haley and Penny – or ugly and smart – Alex and Amy Farrah Fowler.
On the cinema side, movies like “Bridesmaids,” one of the first big-budget, female-driven R-rated comedies, was the most financially successful of all Judd Apatow’s productions. “Bridesmaids” proves that having an all-female cast does not alienate viewers and can be winsome. However, other similar films, like the Hangover-esque movie “Bachelorette,” found only a niche audience, leading to worries that other films of a similar nature will have a hard time finding funding.
While there is certainly work to be done outside the entertainment industry to finally close the gender gap, supporting outlets that portray women in a positive light is a helpful step in the right direction.
Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Kelly Katz at Kelly.firstname.lastname@example.org.