Recently, a friend posted this article on Facebook. Thanks, Cari!
No, I won't quiz you on it. But, I highly recommend it. Mostly because it's tackling a subject near and dear to my heart: "What's up with women/equality between the sexes today?" I thought the author had a fantastic way of describing a conundrum no one openly discusses when it comes to equality: if we're really all equal, that means for better AND for worse.
That means not all old people are wizened, confident and wanting to help guide the younger generations. That means not all women are automatically sensitive, caring, self-sacrificing or love so strong they push you away. That means not all gay people have stellar artistic skills and are entertaining.
That last one is always hard to swallow.
I'm More Equal Than You Are
I am writing this not to instill a sense of distrust or lacking community with the groups of those who are not in power--no, no. Unity, community and strength in numbers is the way to go--the only way to go if you're trying to get something done in this country.
But, this is the reality of my world I'm living in, and it's also the reality of the world the socially liberal groups are technically working towards: it doesn't matter you're female, or gay or purple. You can be purple and you can be an asshole but you won't be discriminated against because of being purple. You will be discriminated against for being an asshole. And I won't feel so bad for you if that happens.
It Made Money Therefore It Shall Never Die
It's a two-way street--people like watching things that are familiar, and writers are also inclined to use "what works" over and over again until it's beaten to a pulp.
I think writers are somewhat scared of writing anything outside of what's familiar. I know at one point it was new and boundary-breaking to have a black woman being sassy towards white people. But, I think it can be agreed that black women probably would like to be known as something beyond the friend who snap-snaps her fingers at you when you're being dumb or privileged or white.
I Did A Little Research
I liked the NY Times article because it talked about what is lacking today. The writer, Carina Chocano, an LA Times veteran and renowned television/movie critic, points out a key element to any good character is that they are human, rather than their non-human traits. But, in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, The Fifth Element (sorry guys--I'll back off the Fantasy genre), and Kill Bill, it's true they have faults, but they are faults that are not your average insecurities. These are super-human women, who lack any empathy or they are over-consumed by empathy and give up everything.
I can understand why the entertainment industry latched onto this--just like with the Sassy Black Female, here was a new character that could be plumbed for several years worth of money-making television and sequels. Plus, bonus! They got to make money and also rode the growing wave of Vagina Monologists I Am Woman Here Me Roar feminists.
I admit, if I had been able to type and the internet had existed in the early-mid 1990s, I would have been writing a completely different blog post, probably entitled "Strong Woman Is Good" in which I would proceed to compliment Xena and her awesome circular weapon-thing that she threw at evil men.
But now, as we are well out of the 1990s (how frightening) and looking towards the second decade of the new millennium, these caricatures seem haggard, tired and they will soon loose their monetary value for entertainment moguls. I wish I could just inform them of this and get this next step to equality over with.
Come to think of it...
[Enter The Man and Beryl]
[The Man and Beryl sit down at a standard interrogation room setup]
[Beryl opens note pad]
Beryl: So, Mr. Man. What's with all the sex-bomb, ass-kicking women?
The Man: People like ass-kickers.
The Man: Males age 18-35.
Beryl: What about females?
The Man: They like it too. We just don't count them. So, we don't know how many. We do know it's less than the males. So, we don't count them.
Beryl: How about bringing in more female characters who have weak tendencies?
The Man: Wait--what? Are you serious? We can go back to the damsel in distress days?
Beryl: No, no. Not damsel in distress. I mean overweight, insecure socially awkward--
The Man: Oh, we have those. We have plenty of those.
Beryl: Not comic-side-characters. Main characters.
The Man: ...does Gabrielle from Xena count?
Beryl: No. She was still an ass-kicker. And she was a side-kick to an ass-kicker.
The Man: You're just trying to cover up the female body! Not allow women's sexuality to play through for the raw power, supernatural strength that IS THE LIFE-GIVER WOMAN.
Beryl: What about sterile women?
The Man: Shut up! People don't like losers. People like winners.
Beryl: Not according to our research.
The Man: Oh really? Give me ten films/shows--and I mean block busters, not some dumb indie-flick that got an award at Sundance, where the main character is a loser. I dare you.
[Beryl flips notepad open and reads]
Beryl: American Pie Series (1-6), Austin Powers 1-3, Anchorman, There’s Something About Mary, Porky’s (1-3), Eurotrip, National Lampoon Series (continued since the 1978 version through 2007), 40 Days and 40 Nights, Scary Movie Series (1-6), Superhero Movie, Not Another Teen Movie, Meet the Spartans, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, The Sure Thing (in fact, anything from Rob Reiner), Clerks I & II, Tropic Thunder (or anything from Ben Stiller), Superbad, Knocked Up, 40-Year-Old Virgin (or anything with Steve Carrell in it), Old School, SNL, Family Guy, The Simpsons (in its 20th season), The Office (UK/US version)...
[The Man sits silently]
Beryl: Would you like me to go on?
The Man: No.
Beryl: Because I can tell you that for a fact American audiences are into loser main characters. Let me put it into terms you'd like: if you get some funny, awkward women in these main character roles, this could mean a whole lot of money. A lot of money for you.
The Man: Psh. Like anyone would want to go see women be 'funny' and not sexy-funny.
Beryl: Bridesmaids? 30-Rock's Liz Lemon?
The Man: ....Kristin Wiig and Tina Fey are lesbians.
Beryl: But, money-making lesbians.
The Man: Deal.