Last summer we were a bit spoiled. We had Political Animals, a USA Network mini-series about a former first lady who became Secretary of State and then decided to run for President (I wonder who that could be based on?), Lena Dunham’s tour de force Girls, and VEEP starring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as the vice president of the United States. The critically acclaimed Bunheads, from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, also debuted last summer. None of the characters on this show were perfect but they were all strong, smart, and super intriguing. When it comes to finding strong female characters this summer our options are comparatively pretty darn bleak.
First of all, summer is pretty rough anyway when it comes to finding good television. I mean our regular shows that get us through the year are on hiatus. Game of Thrones just ended and Mad Men is almost over. Get ready to hear some crickets on Mondays in your office.
But sometimes summer can be an opportunity for lesser-known networks to produce something amazing. A television diamond in the rough, if you will. After all Mad Men premiered on AMC on July 19, 2007. Before that no one watched anything on AMC except old movies and the cast was full of no-names (very handsome no-names, but still no-names). Mad Men, now in its sixth season, is a critically praised hit and has a cult-like following.
But I do not think we are going to get a Mad Men this summer. Not with shows like this to choose from: Devious Maids, Mistresses, and Princesses: Long Island. Maids, mistresses, and princesses? What year is it? 1942? Give me some vampires, lawyers, and doctors with emotional problems!
I would say after doing some research I should give Devious Maids (Lifetime) more of a chance as it is produced by Eva Longoria and features an all-Latina cast (something hardly ever seen on TV), but the promos and marketing for the series are getting absolutely slammed for perpetuating stereotypes. The show may actually be good but the marketing campaign is ruining it. Watch the trailer below:
And then we have Mistresses (ABC.) This is another poorly-marketed show. Basically they are trying to sell the sexy aspect of sinning, but if you watch this show the women are actually all very conflicted about their out of wedlock affairs. The show is about four intelligent women but we have to watch them do incredibly thoughtless things that not only impact their marriages and family but also their careers. What’s sexy about that? This show is supposed to fill a Desperate Housewives void but Mistresses is just not doing it for me.
Finally we have the reality show Princesses: Long Island. Now, I won’t lie. I actually love this show. Any woman that wears one of those headbands around her head with a leopard-print maxi dress for the occasion of going to the grocery store is super intriguing to me. But, it is a wee bit depressing that none of the women on the show — which focuses on six unmarried women in their late 20s born and bred in Long Island who tend to care more about the superficial things in life — seem to have jobs or any career aspirations (except for one). Their biggest goal in life is to find a husband so they can move from their parent’s payroll to their hubbies’. Entertainment wise it is amazing. There have already been fights about Facebook poking, stolen boyfriends, and threats to punch someone in the face and we aren’t even on the third episode yet. Role model wise though it is a pretty pitiful.
This is depressing considering television is often hailed as a better place for women, in terms of power, creativity, and female representation in characters, as compared to film. Meghan Casserly of Forbes, in an article titled “Is Television The Best Place for Women In Hollywood?” wrote:
From Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers, whose Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice success has been built on the backs of female characters to new girls Lena Dunham and Liz Meriwether, the small screen is increasingly the space for female screenwriters, producers, and directors to showcase interesting female plot lines and characters — without being ghettoized by the trappings of chick-flick labels.
But television isn’t totally perfect. According to The Center for Study of Women in Television and Film, in 2011 women made up 26 percent of all creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography, which is up one point from the previous year and five points from the 1997-98 season. But 68 percent of all shows don’t even have a female writer on staff. “It’s harder; there are less women looking for work. It’s easier to have an all-white male writing staff,” said Dan Harmon, the creator and showrunner of the NBC sitcom Community.
And clearly this summer, we are seeing the less perfect side of television. We are seeing the side that is dressed up in a maid costume slapping another woman for stealing her boyfriend.
So you may get some laughs this summer (and some fashion tips) but for now, I’d stick to New Girl (created by Liz Meriwether, and produced by and starring Zooey Deschanel) reruns.