|Ah, the wonderful dysfunction of Liz and Jenna...|
There were several iconic examples, but current TV shows rarely passed the Bechdel test. Female friendship plots either revolved entirely around men or were used as wacky sub-plots.
Well, a lot has changed over the last few years. Take a look at a few of the female friendships and buddy storylines found on TV today.
Sidebar: Can I just tell you how weird it is to watch culture change? I started writing about women in film and TV professionally about five years ago and so much has changed since then. Which tells me a couple things:
1. Speaking up makes a difference. Especially collectively. And...
2. Spending money makes a difference. When people showed up in droves to see "Bridesmaids" and even "Sex and the City" (Don't get me started, I hated that movie, but that's beside the point.) it showed that audiences could be interested in movies that didn't just revolve around men. (Even though, I mean...we kind of knew that already with Alien and Tomb Raider and a million other examples, but here's some evidence outside of the action genre and film:
2. Parks and Recreation - Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones)
3. Up All Night - Reagan (Christina Applegate) and Ava (Maya Rudolph)
4. New Girl - Cece (Hannah Simone) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel)
There are more female friendships than the few mentioned here. Add yours in the comments section.
Also worthy of mention? The entire cast of powerful female characters on "Once Upon a Time". The best thing about that is all the complexity offered. They don't all have to be friends or like each other, because we have (Hold your breath now!) character variety! Let's delve...
Though it would be easy for the show to stoop to stereotypes, the writers are consistently offering up character flaws to make the women of the show more three-dimensional. The innocent Snow White makes mistakes. The tough Sheriff has plenty of weaknesses. Even the Evil Queen gets a backstory, showing the motivations behind her behavior.
Why Are We Still Talking About This Again?
Think about it in a larger context. They're literally trying to bring the fairy tale culture into a real-world setting. Though it often devolves into soap opera storylines, think of the years and years of little girls being told their only choice was to admire and aspire to be an impossibly perfect princess.
Now, in the framework of those same fairy tales, they're able to choose from a police officer, teacher, mayor, etc. This is what constitutes the slow decline of gender bias. Real world variations. When women on television are displayed the same way that men are...flawed, complex, different from one another and different from stereotypes...that's when we are finally getting somewhere. Not that men don't have to suffer through their fair share of stereotypes. They certainly do. But I'm watching from my perspective, which is female. So it's my focus.
If a kid can grow up seeing a variety of female characters, those who aren't censored will begin to understand the difference between the stereotypes that end up on Girls Gone Wild commercials and the intelligent and self-protecting female characters.
If they're going to be exposed to all the horrible untruths TV provides about what it means to be a woman, there should at least be a continued presence of female starship captains, fighter pilots, scientists, and detectives to widen the spectrum.