|Women in Sci-Fi: A trend?
||[Aug. 2nd, 2006|02:09 pm]
the systerhood of the geek girls
Have you noticed an interesting trend with regards to women in sci-fi shows? It seems to me that the most recent crop of science fiction shows are much more gender-balanced and don't seem to have gender=power issues that many of the older shows have.
Eureka, for example. While the lead character is male, he has a female boss. (And his female subordinate has physically overpowered him on more than one occasion.) Surface, while short-lived, was also gender-balanced, with leads of both genders. The 4400 has leads of both genders and a female boss.
It's not just that these programs have actresses in lead roles or show female characters in positions of power; it's that they portray it as a non-issue. There's no feeling of these being 'token' female characters. *coughVoyagercough* Nor are they shows that are wholly gynocentric (like Xena or Dark Angel). They seem to do a better job of realistically representing equality than many of the older shows.
I think, if it is a trend, they're finally catching up to what some writers of sci-fi have been doing for years.
For example, you've heard me talk about my sociology teacher. Her main objection to 'science fiction' was that there were no strong female roles and that women in charge came off as 'super-bitches.' It blew her away when I told her to read David Weber's "Honor Harrington" series, which not only cast a female in the lead role, treats her with respect, but is written by a man. She thought that was impossible. And yet, at the time, sci-fi was one of the few genres where female leads were written with intelligence and treated with respect.
I also think it's not just sci-fi where the trend is... it's coming everywhere. I think one of the things that's happening is that science-fiction itself is starting to become more common. Sure, there have always been the 'one or two' shows with a science-fiction theme, but the number is growing. The fact that the 'main' networks are even starting to take a chance on it shows that.
On a more cynical note, there's also the fact that strong female characters do tend to bring in the female audience, which translates into more audience and more advertising cash. But that's the reality of commercial television: go where the money is.
Well, I mention sci-fi shows in particular because they have been a bastion of male chauvanism in popular culture. I mean, sitcoms? Since the days of Mary Tyler Moore and That Girl, they've been pretty female-focused. Dramas? Have been fairly gender-balanced since the eighties. Sci-Fi? So Not.
I mean - and this is no slam - take a look at Enterprise. Not only is the main cast weighted towards testosterone, but look at the storylines the women got as opposed to the men. (And don't even get me started about the Orion chicks, and where our eye candy is!)
And it's not just that show. In most sci-fi shows, the women are still ten times more likely to be in distress and in need of rescuing. How often do they rescue themselves? Whereas, if they put a male character in a situation like that, he gets himself out of it or at least aids in his own rescue.
You know I'm not all Go, feminists! or pursuing some Amazonian notion that women should have power over men, but I enjoy seeing strong female characters as well as strong male characters. I enjoy the balance, and especially when they manage to make strong female characters who are still feminine.
And yes, I agree that sci-fi lit preceded this trend. I think the same can be said of mainstream lit. Years ago, gynocentric novels were all labeled 'romance' and sort of written off as lesser works. Now the whole 'chick lit' genre (which is not something I particularly enjoy btw) is getting respect.
Interestingly, I think the reasons it is getting respect are - as you said - commercially motivated. Movies like Where the Heart Is, The Divine Secret of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, In Her Shoes, The Devil Wears Prada, and The Nanny Diaries have been popping up left and right over the last few years - all of which were big hits of the chick lit genre.