Feminist Questions for this Fall's Television Premieres
I love television.
When I am not being a “good” doc student, I am a self-professed television-connoisseur. If I’m not doing research, I’m writing about the media.
Transparency is incredibly important in what I do, whether it’s research, therapy or writing. I write as a white, European cis-gendered woman of ‘average’ physical build who grew up on a farm in rural Ohio. I identify as a 20-something, spiritual, middle class, bisexual, woman (although, very flexible regarding binaries of attraction). I am able-bodied, but when I was 19 I had a stroke and could not walk and was, in many ways, dis-abled. After rehabilitation my personal and social identity shifted back into able-bodiedness. And, one of my strongest identities – I identify as a Feminist.
If anyone else watches television – even just a little bit – I hope you’ve seen the variety of shows that have either premiered or started another season this fall. Some of these shows are absolutely thrilling (I’m slightly hooked on The Blacklist, but that’s beside the point) and all of the shows can provoke some interesting, feminist-oriented questions in one way or another…
Television – a huge media source – is one of the most fascinating things that we encounter. Below I touch on some shows that have stood out for me this season. I encourage you all to be effective media consumers and question the portrayals of women and other marginalized groups (whether by race, religion, sexual orientation, ability, etc). Fictional or not, critically analyze what you watch!
Once Upon A Time. We are in the third season and, if you have been paying attention in any way, the show combines every single possible fantasy/fairy tale character into one giant, thick, interesting plot idea. Complicated, but still captivating. One character was presented as bisexual on this show – because I do not want to provide any spoilers, you can see anarticle (and the clip) here.
Positive LGBT representation in television is rare if it presented at all – we do have a few shows, but a character coming out as bisexual is a really good first. Any other shows you can think of that allow a character to come out with a non-binary sexual orientation? Thumbs up for that character development in OUaT!
Super Fun Night. Rebel Wilson is an interesting character. This is a new show this season – Rebel has two friends and the show centers around documentary-esque theme of her ‘crazy’ life. Now, the issue that I see coming up over and over again is fat shaming. From the first episode the joke always comes back to Rebel’s weight. Her body becomes the joke. Her body is the joke. Most scenes, in some way, use Rebel’s character in a way which exposes her in public (e.g., skirt torn off by an elevator), or talking about how “non-sexual” she is. Here is a clip with the character and her sister – listen for the punch line regarding Rebel and the bikini at the pool.
Thoughts? That is just one of hundreds of jokes about Rebel’s weight in this show. Approximately 90% all the punch lines in this series have involved her weight in some way. Now, there are numerous debates regarding who can use jokes and humor and whether or not it is “okay” if the joke falls back on the joke teller – but that is beyond the scope of this brief review.
Now, this show just started – sometimes shows start off with very strong stereotypes and begin to level out… I hope that happens with this show and they make an attempt to combat fat shaming attitudes and behaviors.
The Michael J. Fox Show. This is a pretty impactful show for me this season as my grandfather has struggled with Parkinson’s Disease for almost 2 decades. Michael J. Fox plays himself (but uses the last name Henry) in this comedy that, in some ways, makes the disease a little more visible and places it in the context of “real life.” Fox addresses a powerful issue in this show: How he has been defined by his disease. This trailer captures some of those initial scenes of the series.
A differently-abled identity becomes salient in a culture that privileges able-bodied folks. One easy thing to do is look around your campuses. Is campus accessible to a variety of different abilities? Whether that means ramps in easy-to-access locations or functioning elevators in buildings with several floors, is campus accessible to everyone? If there is an issue, bring it up. It was a powerful moment to address the fact that on my campus that one ramp that leads into the building goes straight into a stairwell with no access to the ground floor. No one thinks about it until someone needs to have access.
Can you all think of any shows that present differently-abled individuals in the spotlight? There is IronSide and MONK – what else?
I presented three television shows that stand out to me this season. What are all of ya’ll watching that bring up some feminist-oriented questions??
Written by Samantha D. Christopher