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No Man, No Cry

Why removing romance from TV will not help feminism.

by
Hannah Sternberg

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March 28, 2014 - 4:00 pm
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In reading this Atlantic article on The Good Wife‘s big twist, this jumped out at me:

And television characters, especially women, often make decisions that keep them in the orbit of their love interests, even when it doesn’t make sense to what we know about them. For example, would a savvy political fixer like Olivia Pope on Scandal really risk her career to keep working on her lover Fitz’s presidential campaign? In the Veronica Mars movie, would Veronica—who spent three seasons of her show plotting how to escape her corrupt hometown of Neptune—really give up a stable life in New York City to return home and rekindle a romance with Logan? While “Olitz” and “LoVe” fans get to enjoy seeing their favorite couples together, it comes at the cost of diminishing Olivia and Veronica as believable characters.

I understand the bigger point that, in the context of these characters’ established desires and priorities, it’s jarring for them to change course for romance. Except that I’ve seen, first hand, the way that love can inspire people (male and female!) to dramatically revise their life plans. In that sense, the ability to adapt to a new emotional landscape (or simply shift priorities over time) is a realistic trait for a character.

While I agree with the article’s premise that TV needs more female characters whose lives don’t revolve solely around romance, I don’t think the answer is to gradually eliminate romance (or romantically-motivated life decisions) from female characters’ lives. Every time I see a debate about this, I heave a sigh and think wistfully of Joss Whedon’s two greatest creations, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. Even their secondary female characters are complex and interesting women, while other shows often reduce secondary female characters to nothing but their romantic story lines (or role as best friend).

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All Comments   (7)
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In Buffy, Willow made the "choice" to become a lesbian. (I thought people were born with their sexuality predetermined?) Whedon was celebrated by the Hollywood PC crowd. When all the fan boys who were hot for Willow complained, he said something snotty like "we'll miss them as viewers".

When it seemed like Willow might be wavering and wanting to go straight again, Whedon said it wasn't going to happen because he didn't want an entire nation of lesbians scared at him.

And there you have it. Josh Whedon scared of lesbians.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
>>"Every time I see a debate about this, I heave a sigh and think wistfully of Joss Whedon’s two greatest creations, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly."

Good to periodically note the wonder that was Buffy -- one of the most richly and entertainingly (in the deepest sense) developed series in television history.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I usually get the impression that feminists will only be happy if women are islands, dependent upon no one but herself, solitary, lonely islands.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
And Morena Baccarin.....let's not forget about her!
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Alyson Hannigan is a babe.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
You had me at Jewel Staite.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
TV dramas of the '60s had very little romance. That was for the daytime soaps.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
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