A good post from Nikki, in response to some of my writing, saying that it’s not enough to want more women writing and directing television episodes. She writes:
If we suggest that increasing the number of women ON television might increase the number of women BEHIND television, thereby effecting a change in how sexist or feminist television shows might be, we excuse men from the process entirely, except as Upholders of the Status Quo. Set aside the question about women behind the scenes and focus on the men behind the scenes, who are definitely still in power in the media and it’s that power structure that should be held accountable for the current portrayal of women on TV.
Amen. I’m a pretty firm believer in the carrot-and-stick thing, though, because it’s relatively easy for male creators to clap their hands over their ears when they’re being criticized for not giving us wonderful, developed female characters and just not listen. And it’s much easier to get people to listen when you’re praising, and for other people to see that praise and think “I want that!” So without further ado and in no particular order, 10 fantastic female characters on television who were created by men.
1. Trixie, Deadwood, David Milch: I know this list isn’t in order, but if it was, I’d still put it at the top. Milch’s prostitute-turned-accountant, pimp’s-trick-turned-Jewish-businessman’s-girlfriend would still be at the top. We meet Trixie at the beginning of the show when she’s been accused of murder, and watch her help another woman beat a drug addiction even when it means defying her employer’s orders; seek out an education no one ever gave her so she can have more options in life; stand up for her friends when they get married and grieve for them when they bury their children; and develop a new relationship. She’s always making choices. And when she takes steps backwards, we understand why, at the gut level. She’s empowered, but the show doesn’t fall prey to the trap that strong female characters created by men often do — that women’s liberation is purely a matter of will, not circumstance.
2. Alice Morgan, Luther, Neil Cross: Alice, who enters the scene when she murders her parents, melts down the gun, and feeds the remaining parts to her dog, is a certified crazy person, but she’s not a victim. Her attraction to John Luther doesn’t make her a nymphomaniac. And her decision to work cases comes out of a clearly defined alternate morality and worldview. Rather than setting her up to be judged by the audience, she’s a compelling — and sometimes very scary — way to see the universe.