A Prediction for Fabulously Feminist Fall ShowsOctober 06, 2015
On the heels of the 2015 Emmys — where women showrunners claimed many of the night’s awards — attention was refocused on how women’s progress in TV — both in front of and behind the camera — has hit a standstill. Boxed In, the annual report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, released updated statistics last month about the representation of women onscreen and the success of women in the industry. And while the numbers are about as glum as you might imagine (in 2014–15, females accounted for less than half of all speaking characters on prime-time network TV), the report also urges that having women behind the camera is key to evolving those figures: Shows with more women creators and producers tend to have significantly more women writers, directors, and cast members.
But this fall’s lineup is actually promising; there’s a host of shows set to debut that have women at the helms. So could this year’s surge of women-fueled television finally be the tipping point for gender equality in Hollywood? Let’s hope so. But for now, while some networks keep rolling out predictable programs chock-full of patriarchal roles and doting females with few lines, I’ll be grabbing the popcorn for shows that are powered by and prioritize the stories of talented women.
A (Hopefully Feminist) TV Guide
1. Queen Sugar (OWN, coming soon)
If you’re going to predict the success of a show by whether or not it’s got a powerhouse behind it, Queen Sugar has two: Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey. The forthcoming drama — which DuVernay (of Selma fame) will write, direct, and executive produce — is a book adaptation. It follows Charlotte Bordelon, a widowed 30-something woman who, along with her daughter, trades in Los Angeles for her Louisiana roots after inheriting her father’s sugarcane plantation. And like all women who suddenly inherit a sugarcane plantation, Bordelon will grapple with a search for identity and probably some family drama, if we’re lucky.
2. The Good Girls Revolt (Amazon, coming soon)
Based on the book by the same name from Lynn Povich, writer Dana Calvo and executive producer Lynda Obst reignite the true events of how a group of women employees at Newsweek turned the workplace landscape upside down in the 1960s. Suing their bosses twice in order to gain their rightful positions as journalists and managers at the magazine, the show has a Mad Men quality about it (as in, you know, lots of typewriters and great hairstyles) but with much less scotch drinking and more of a commanding female cast, which includes Genevieve Angelson, Joy Bryant, Anna Camp, and Grace Gummer.
3. Angel from Hell (CBS, November 5)
If you liked Psych and Glee, you’re in luck, because Angel from Hell scored its two leading ladies from those very shows. Maggie Lawson and Jane Lynch come together for this fantastical comedy about an overworked dermatologist and her recently revealed (and not-so-heavenly) guardian angel. There likely won’t be tons of politics or social commentary, but there will be plenty of laughs from these two extremely funny ladies.
4. Flesh and Bone (Starz, November 8)
Moira Walley-Beckett showed off her writing and producing chops with Breaking Bad, and she’s back to do it again with this new drama that stars Sarah Hay (of Black Swan). Created by Walley-Beckett, the eight-part show seeks to pull back the, uh, curtain on the ballet stage for a more authentic representation of the harsh expectations and dysfunctional environment that dancers in a ballet company — especially women — are sometimes subject to.
5. Z (Amazon, coming soon)
It’s the roaring 1920s, and socialite Zelda Fitzgerald (whose husband you might have heard of?) is an icon of the decade, as well as the focus of this new biopic drama. The series, which is executive produced by five women including Dawn Prestwich who is also the writer, will follow Fitzgerald’s marriage and mental health struggles, as well as her artistic endeavors — she was an author in her own right — and emergence as a symbol of liberated women during the Jazz Age. Portraying Fitzgerald is the outspoken feminist Christina Ricci.
6. One Mississsippi (Amazon, coming soon)
Co-written and produced by and starring (oh my!) comedy queen Tig Notaro, One Mississippi is a semi-autobiographical show that follows Notaro, who returns home to Mississippi after the death of her mother. Dealing with her own health problems in addition to the shock of losing her mom, this is clearly a comedy (a dark one). Notaro, who’s basically running a one-woman show, is teamed up with fellow comedian Louis CK to executive produce, as well as director Nicole Holofcener and producer and writer Diablo Cody, whose track record for delivering progressive, feminist plotlines has me expecting greatness.
7. Supergirl (CBS, October 26)
Already asking in the pilot why she isn’t called superwoman instead of girl (yeah, why?), Kara Zor-El (Superman’s cousin) establishes herself as a feminist figure from the very start of this refreshingly smart show. Starring Melissa Benoist and Calista Flockhart, this superhero series meets up with Kara Zor-El as she’s on the verge of revealing her powers to — and saving — the world. Full of moxie, she’s definitely up for the task, in between dealing with a boss that makes coffee nervous (think Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada) and lounging about her spacious Manhattan loft that of course any 24-year-old could afford.
Some year, hopefully soon, the Boxed In report won’t be needed anymore, because the statistics will show that Hollywood has changed. And the change can begin at home — all of our homes — on the couch, in our pj’s, when we make choices about what (and whom) to watch. Who knows what these shows will bring, but they’re set up for good things. Let’s watch and see.
This post was written by AAUW Editorial Assistant Elizabeth Escobar.
It’s been over for a while, but we can all keep learning from this awesomely-feminist show.
This AAUW Fellowships and Grants alumnae won an Emmy for her documentary!
It’s important that Hollywood promote strong female protagonists (and that people show up to watch them).