Let’s talk about women. Last night was a big moment for women in the entertainment industry. As I watched the Golden Globes last night, I couldn’t help but notice not only the number of complex, complicated roles women were nominated for, but also the ways in which problematic gender stereotypes were subverted. Throughout Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s opening act, the two women drew attention to double-standards in the industry, highlighting Amal Clooney’s incredible work as a lawyer and activist on a number of crucial human rights issues. Fey noted the impossible beauty standards that women are held to, while inverting typical sexualizing discourses about women’s bodies by playing a game of “Would You Rather” with the men in the audience. In a field that has been dominated and oriented around the male gaze, women were staring right back and presenting the world with new formulations of looking.
Acceptance speeches by winning actresses followed in the spirit of gender equity, celebrating the diversity of roles, the superb writing and the focus on women’s stories. Gina Rodriguez won for Jane the Virgin, vexing the historically fraught ideal of virginal, naïve women who have to atone for the sins of Eve. Joanne Froggatt of Downtown Abbey took the opportunity to discuss the pervasive shame and invisibility that still surrounds issues of rape and sexual abuse. And Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent, dedicated the award to Leelah Alcorn, a transgender girl whose suicide demonstrates the very real ways in which discrimination and ignorance can kill. Gender as a culturally constructed, socially contingent concept matters. Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda gave the ultimate rebuttal to the myth that women aren’t funny and Twitter’s response to misogynistic comments like Jeremy Renner’s attest to the fact that sexism will not be tolerated the way it has been in years past.
2015 also got off to a great start for women in television. Agent Carter burst on the screen last week with all the vivacity and sass I was hoping for. The first two episodes take place after WWII, as women begin to chafe against the reintroduction of anachronistic gender roles, relegated to domestic responsibilities and secretarial jobs while veterans return from the battlefield. Peggy Carter scoffs at a radio show’s dramatization of the rescue of a helpless nurse by Captain America, while she embarks on her own espionage, utilizing her co-workers’ masculinist attitudes to her benefit. Part of what made the dynamic between Carter and Cap so compelling is that Steve Rogers needed a super-serum to obtain prestige and power in the American military, while Carter quite literally earned her stars and stripes. While Cap sits on ice, it falls to Carter to build a post-WWII justice department that protects and values women’s voices and strengths.
Meanwhile, in other geeky news, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino confirmed that Korrasami is canon with their groundbreaking finale to Legend of Korra (2012-2014), a show celebrating women’s skills as warriors, innovators, inventors, politicians and peacemakers. The CW announced last night the production of animated DC series Vixen, one of the Justice League’s original kick-ass women. Television is increasingly becoming the province where social justice issues regarding gender, ethnicity and sexuality are explored, atomized and reconfigured into novel, more diverse and realistic shapes. If last night is any indication, we can endeavor to show that women of all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds, can be heroes. That’s what I’m talking about.
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Gray, Emma & Taylor Trudon (2015). “The Most Feminist Moments of the 2015 Golden Globes.” The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/11/feminist-golden-globes-2015_n_6453108.html
Kilkenny, Katie (2015). “Agent Carter, Super Riveter.” The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/01/agent-carter-peggy-the-super-riveter/384237/
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Lange, Ariane (2015). “21 Gloriously Feminist Moments from ‘Agent Carter’.” Buzzfeed. http://www.buzzfeed.com/arianelange/gloriously-feminist-moments-from-agent-carter?utm_term=4ldqpia#.fea1dnGWd
Markus, Christopher & Stephen McFeely (2015). Agent Carter. ABC Studios & Marvel Television.
Pasulka, Nicole (2015). “After Leelah Alcorn’s Suicide, Trans Youth Fight Broader Bias.” NPR. http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2015/01/08/375203856/trans-teens-respond-to-leelah-alcorns-death
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