Throughout the years, women on television sitcoms have been depicted stereotypically in their gender roles. Women were associated with a specific presence in front of an audience, one which left the role of comedian to their male counterparts. However, there has been a surge in modern television shows that exemplify feminism. As defined by Merriam Webster, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. The classic show Laverne and Shirley, for example, is about two young independent woman living together on their own while working at a Milwaukee brewery. An article, by Nara Rutten, mentions “three types of gender roles for women: the traditional woman, the liberated woman, and the modern woman.” The leads of Laverne and Shirley, are representative of a liberated womanhood, which is defined as women who are “freed from or opposed to traditional, social, and sexual attitudes or ways of behaving.” As we’ve grown more accustomed towards female lead presences on our favorite shows, it is our jobs as the viewers to understand the fundamentals behind the revolutionizing of women leading TV, in the most unconventional roles.
We are currently in the third-wave feminism and as society embraces female empowerment and equality in fair representation, we see various media platforms embracing the message as well. This as a result began creating communities of multiple individual acknowledging a cultural shift in our society. Becoming more aware of feminism and its purpose, we are able to conduct feminist TV analysis in order to consider how many television sitcoms portray female equality and embrace feminism.The roles of women on television have drastically changed over time; from Leave it to Beaver’s, June Cleaver’s stay-at-home housewife role to The Cosby Show’s, Clair Huxtable’s career-orientated role. In Gabrielle Moss’s article, Sitcoms are the Golden Land of Feminist TV Characters, she exclaims, “Sitcoms are broadening their ideas of what kind of woman a feminist can be, and I think we have more feminists as sitcom protagonists than we ever have before.”
What exactly does feminism imply? Whether or not the the foundation of its principles lie within fair representation and equality in opportunity, feminism is highlighting a new aspect to consider when it comes to roles in television; particularly situational comedies. While the rise of female lead characters are at an all time high, sitcoms are introducing a medium of power which women are not typically associated with: comedy. With shows such as 30 Rock, New Girl, and The Mindy Project, women are not only the ones in control, but they are the ones who dictate the last laugh. The transitioning into “female-friendly” TV is coming of age only because of the female pioneers who preceded. In an interview with Roseanne Barr and Mindy Kaling, it is Kaling who credits Burr for making it easier for powerhouses like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to break into the men’s world of creating comedy. Successful comedic women understand that focusing on the fight for feminism is not big enough to get them as far as they want to go. Essentially a concept of “fake it ‘till you make it,” true success is achieved when you believe that you are the best person for your job in the room. To get over gender, one must look past gender. Roseanne Burr for example, of the classic show “Roseanne” credits her success towards her mission of NOT directly addressing the concept of feminism. Her idea was to create the most accurate depiction of a working class woman and mother as she could, and she very well knew that the only way she could achieve the perfect culmination of her ideas was to produce and star in it it herself.
The idea of feminism and comedy is one which is both intertwined and transcendental. A prime example of transcendentalism in comedy is Clair Huxtable of “The Cosby Show” and the “Huxtable Effect.” Her characterization was one which inspired the likes of many current female sitcom leads to stop whining on their shows about girl power and how women should be treated by their men. Instead, the approach which was adopted was one of more directness: portraying roles of sharp wit which lead to power. Comedy on television is brasher now, leaving nothing unscathed as both male and female leads are truly submerging themselves within their crafts to be the funniest person in the room. Feminism is an issue which is unfortunately still an issue. It is an ideal and concept which should be realized to the fullest without prejudice. But the best way to attain power isn’t to beg an audience for it. As something great comedic women such as Roseanne, Tina, Amy, and Mindy understand: the way to keep feminism alive and relentless is to show no recollection of women being treated unfairly and to carry on slaying in men’s territory.
This blog is a joint effort brought to you by bloggers jasselyngtz and tahesincerely
If any of these topics interest you, check out their blogs for more!