Commentary: Progress For Some Women Doesn’t Mean Progress For All In TV

By Nina Metz
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film” has a new report which finds “startlingly high percentages of programs” employ no women at all in prime jobs like director, producer, writer, director of photography or editor.

Chicago Tribune

About half the U.S. population are women. But on TV, only 38 percent of major characters are women. And off camera? Worse.

Every year, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film compiles stats, and lately, when we’re talking about who actually creates TV shows, 76 percent of the time we’re talking about men.

The most recent report found “startlingly high percentages of programs” employ no women at all in prime jobs like director, producer, writer, director of photography or editor. That’s right, zippo.

For a funny-scary reminder of what it looks like when men are driving most of Hollywood’s output, get a look at producer Ross Putman’s Twitter feed (@femscriptintros) for an ongoing catalog of female character descriptions (“ripe with young womanhood, lustrous dark skin and flashing eyes”) from real scripts.

But even female-led shows aren’t immune from stepping in it. Let’s call these moments “unforced errors.”

The other day I watched two series, created by and starring women, that casually “othered” a marginalized group in the name of comedy. And while it’s relatively minor stuff, TV shows do say something about the culture we live in.

Michi Trota, a Chicago-based writer and managing editor of Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, put it like this: “Whenever somebody says, ‘It’s just entertainment, what’s the big deal?’ it’s because entertainment tells us things about who we are and the way that the world is.”

Take “Playing House,” now in its third season on the USA Network. Created by and starring two women, Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, it captures the ease and silliness of a long, supportive friendship between pals eyeing middle age.

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