June 2015: Inspirations / tv

Square-eyed Feminist: Inspiration in Television

I’m a self-confessed TV addict and I’m never going clean.

With Netflix, 40d and BBC iPlayer – there are so many great shows, from the past and the present, at my disposal. With much of popular culture, I always try to remain critical. Widely watched television shows are a hotbed for feminist discussion. Some argue that gender representation reflect those of real life and others believe that it’s the opposite way round. Either way, television is brilliant for many reasons, one of which being how it can reflect real sexism.

That is exactly why I watch so much television, so I can stay informed and to find feminist inspiration when dealing with sexism and other issues myself. I have written a list of everything that I’m watching with added feminist discussion and examples of many fictional feminism icons out there.

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Jane the Virgin

This is possibly the most dramatic show on television right now – there is no end to the drama. Second to a virgin being artificially inseminated, what captivated me most is the bond between three women. Protagonist Jane lives with her strong female-driven family. The Villanueva clan consists of Jane, her mother (Xo), and her grandma (Alba). Through Jane’s pregnancy, break-ups, drug rings, secret identities and murder, the women remain strong and powerful. They argue and fight but ultimately they are each other’s role models. Jane’s father comes into the picture – which is great – but regardless, they were doing fine without him. There are also female ‘bad guys’, which debunks the myth that women are passive and demure. It’s also worth noting that Jane is never shamed, or stereotyped, for being a virgin. She is very aware of her sexuality, and knows exactly what she wants.

Adventure Time

Come on, grab your friends! Creator Pendleton Ward vomits a rainbow over your screen in the trippiest, smartest, funniest cartoon around. It’s interesting to watch Adventure Time through various lenses: a pleasure seeker’s, a philosopher’s and a feminist’s. The show provides shenanigans and social commentary, unlike many sci-fi and fantasy works out there. Where rigid gender roles still exist, Adventure Time completely diverges. There’s a non-binary console-shaped robot, episodes where the main characters swap genders, and a transgender cookie. Perhaps the most notable jab at the patriarchy is Princess Bubble-gum’s character. Adorned in pink, the Princess is a brilliant scientist and (perhaps more importantly) ruler of the Candy Kingdom. With feminist characters like this, inevitable sexism gets called out big time. My favourite moment in a children’s cartoon ever is a yellow dog shouting at a lechy old man, “your constant harassment of the female gender makes me sick!”

Sex and the City

After a lot of peer pressure from friends, I decided to finally see what the fuss was about. It’s a show about women and for women but does that make it a ‘feminist’ show? Yes and no. Sex and the City centres on four strong, sexually empowered, career-driven female friends. On the surface, this is brilliant, especially for the time that it was released (1998). However, all the women talk about is men. In one episode, no nonsense Miranda asks, “How does it happen that four such smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends?“. They fall out over this, make up, and then carry on talking about men. There’s some revolutionary discussions about female sexuality and friendships, however, if you banished all talk of men it would just be four women sat in over-priced bars staring at walls.

First Dates

Yes, that’s right. I’m discussing First Dates’ feminist credentials. Channel 4’s hugely popular series documents love-seekers meeting in London’s First Date’s Restaurant. Naturally, any shows about relationships and sex stimulates gender debate. Being the belligerent feminist that I am, I braced myself. Who would pay for the meal? Will there be any LGBTQ+ couples? I was pleasantly surprised. The show is an astute representation of British dating culture. There are dater of all varieties; LGBTQ+, BAME, elderly, young, charming underdogs and straight-up dickheads. Furthermore, gender politics plays out differently in each date. Some straight women expect their date to foot the bill, a lesbian couple discuss social prejudice and a woman flips her male date in a judo throw-down. A serious catch worries that if he doesn’t have heterosexual sex for a week he might turn gay. First Dates‘ reflects the dating scene, warts and all.

 

What do you guys think? Is SATC your holy grail? Do you fail to see Adventure Time’s feminist credentials?
Let me know in the comment section below!

WEDAELI CHIBELUSHI
Blogger, Freelance Writer, one half of Sanj Nandy’s Laboratoire.

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