Fall television 2011: Sexist or subversive?
Pan Am has been gearing up for their first season, seen here at a promo booth at a California Comic Con
September 22, 2011 9:44 PM
Like many TV fiends, I am eagerly anticipating the start of the fall television season but with some trepidation. Several of the shows being unveiled this season appear, at least on the surface, to be very sexist.
In particular, Pan Am, Playboy Club, and Charlie’s Angels are being accused of objectifying women as well as offering a warmly nostalgic view of the way society treated women in the past.
In Playboy Club, the most egregious offender, women spend a great deal of time scantily dressed in bunny outfits. Pan Am centres around stewardesses in the days when flight attendants were all female and had to fulfill strict female beauty ideals.
However, a closer examination may reveal a different interpretation. Pan Am provides a smattering of feminist ideas, such as the possibility that women can be even more effective spies than men. Charlie’s Angels has women who kick butt, even if they do have to take orders from a disembodied male voice through a phone box.
Granted, Playboy Club is pretty much indefensible and has rightly been condemned by several women’s groups in the States.
Whatever interpretation, keep in mind that the networks did not put their heads together to try to send a unified message about women. They are simply trying to make money by cashing in on the success of AMC’s Mad Men, which since its premiere in 2007 has been a critical darling and a major hit with audiences.
In its fourth season, Mad Men presented some very strong female characters. In particular, it has focused on the career advancement of Peggy Olsen, from secretary to co-founder of an ad agency.
Yet, in spite of Mad Men’s success, the reviews for Playboy Club, Pan Am, and Charlie’s Angels have all been negative, so it may not be the start of a trend.
In general, perhaps using television to shine a light on the past treatment of women is not such a bad thing. With increasing numbers of people believing that feminism is becoming irrelevant in the modern day, remembering past struggles and highlighting how far society has come could be a positive influence.
Ultimately, we will have to wait until the fall season starts to find out if the shows are sexist, subversive or just plain bad.