Sunday, 12 February 2017

Why is it still so damn difficult to be a woman on TV?

Although years behind the rest of the world, my wife is currently addicted to Breaking Bad. I know. We're just really good at taking our time with these things. I didn't watch Friends until 2005, and now I'm one of those people who's all 'What?! You've never watched it?!'

We did try Breaking Bad a couple of years ago, right after it ended and it was all anyone could talk about. We watched two episodes, and I just wasn't into it. When people kept telling me to keep pushing through that because it's 'the best TV show ever', I just couldn't gather up the interest. Then my Dad recently watched it, loved it, and my wife decided to give it another try. I'm not exactly watching it properly, but I find my attention wandering while I'm writing and it's on so I'm seeing a lot of it. It is good, no doubt about that. The characters are well developed, the acting is perfection.

To be honest, it's the lack of women that causes my lack of interest. I honestly don't know if that's a Feminism thing or a gay thing. Not like I need a hot woman to hold my interest, I just tend to get bored by 99% male casts, no matter how good the acting.

For a lot of people, Breaking Bad is the best TV show ever, and that's fair enough. To me, that's Orange is the New Black. I love it no matter how many times I've seen it, the acting, from the incredibly varied cast, is incredible. The script, the diversity, the fact that there are decent storylines for queer women, all adds up to a perfect show.

So I was thinking about these two shows while my wife was watching Breaking Bad tonight. While it was on the air, and for a while afterward, I heard so many people talking about how irritating they found Skyler. They'd say she was the only thing wrong with the show, she was annoying, she nagged. So I came to the show with that in mind, expecting to agree because I heard it from people I usually agreed with, who I considered intelligent people (*cough* Men *cough*). What I found instead was that she's a well-developed character, who responds realistically to the situations she's placed in. The sleeping with the boss storyline was kind of predictable, but at least she called the shots. And she is hilarious! Maybe it's because most of the time she's the only woman on the show, I think she's pretty cool.

When people talk about OITNB, most often the criticism I hear is that Piper is annoying, that she's unlikeable. I'm am not going to argue, sometimes she is frustrating and a just plain terrible person. Why is this a bad thing? Because I don't get it. She is evolving over the seasons, she's trying to make a bearable life for herself in prison, (you know, not a place you expect to find the most likable folk at the best of times). It wouldn't bother me if people didn't talk about it like it's something the show is getting wrong. I've heard people say they stopped watching it because of this.

It's an ensemble show, she isn't the main character anymore and hasn't been for some time. Everyone in it isn't supposed to be likable and making good choices all the time. No-one says they stopped watching Breaking Bad because Walter was a terrible person. He too is frustrating and makes bad decisions. You could say, yes but he's making meth and he's in that world, he has to do bad things. Well, Piper's in prison with her drug dealer ex-girlfriend.

Maybe I'm missing something, and all this criticism is genuinely felt by people. Right now I don't think that's the case. I think that Piper and Skyler are criticized harshly because they are women. These are my two examples, but I have no doubt it is the case with more shows than this. If they were men, no-one would be saying these things. Women are still expected to be likable, be quietly supportive, and look good doing it. It is ridiculous that this is still worth writing about in 2017. There's so much more representation we need to see on TV. It's hard enough to get decent LGBT* representation, so why aren't even straight, white, cis-women, being treated fairly yet?

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