Nel's New Day

August 30, 2011

Fall TV Season Turns to Male Domination

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:32 PM

As summer ends, cable television first-runs end, and TV-watchers wait for the fall season to begin. In the past, those who hate “reality TV” (like me) turned more and more to re-runs on cable channels, but this year has promised more “drama.” Oh yeah.

Frazier Moore of The Associated Press is touting “girl power.” Evidently the word “woman” is disappearing in our male-oriented culture today because two new sitcoms also use “girl” in the title. A new CBS show is called A Gifted Man. Why not use the title A Gifted Boy? That’s probably self-explanatory.

“Among the two dozen shows premiering this fall on the five major networks, women will be standing tall,” according to Moore. How are they “standing tall”? ABC’s Pan Am has “sleek flight attendants,” and NBC’s The Playboy Club features “satin dolls.” Also the 35-year-old Charlie’s Angels has returned with “an updated but no less jiggly version.”

Moore states that these shows highlight “high-profile jobs that called for beauty, performance and impeccable service, even while offering women a rare chance to get ahead.” The women who worked in these jobs a half century ago, including Gloria Steinem, would disagree. The job of Playboy Bunny was characterized by hard work, harsh conditions, and unfair wages and treatment in a position requiring the service of men. Making less than $200 to $300 a week and wearing a costume that didn’t allow a woman to breathe—in fact required her to wrap gauze around her waist to keep the boning from rubbing her skin raw—is not a good definition of getting ahead.

To demonstrate their sex appeal, the white-only, attractive flight attendants during the time when the TV show is set were required to stay single, keep stringent weight regulations, and be under the age of 32. Forcing women out of their jobs at an early age saved the airlines money for pensions, benefits, paid vacation time, and raises. Flight attendants were also used as sex objects in advertising, as in the National Airlines “Fly Me” campaign with taglines of “I’m _______. Fly me to _______.”

Questioned about the retroactive blow to feminism,  “bunny” actor Amber Heard, said, “It’s just chauvinistic to deny women their sexuality.” Kelli Garner, who plays a flight attendant, chimed in with “if there’s a way that women have a bit more power over men, it’s the power of their sexuality if used smartly.”

At the age of 27, Garner would have just five more years of her “sexuality” as a flight attendant before she would be fired. She might want to think of that as she declares her power over men. As a lesbian, Heard evidently doesn’t worry about having her sexuality denied by men.

Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., the executive director for Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, suggests that, particularly in these financial times, both male viewers and the overwhelmingly male decision-makers at the networks may want to retreat into less complicated, more comforting times, using the new shows as a security blanket.

“As women continue to gain economic, social and political power, there is always some sort of backlash, a desire to put women ‘back in their place,”‘ Lauzen adds. Looking at the credits for the shows in question, Lauzen noted, “many of the important behind-the-scenes roles on these shows are filled by males.” Drew Barrymore’s executive-producer role on Charlie’s Angels and Nancy Ganis’ position as an executive producer of Pan Am stand as prominent exceptions.

Despite Barrymore and Ganis, I’m heading back to re-runs on cable TV—or maybe Modern Marvels on the History Channel. I’d rather watch manufacturing than mostly-naked women catering to men.

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