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May 06 2009

Where Have All The Superheroines Gone? A look at current TV trends since the end of Buffy and Veronica Mars.

I have a terrible confession to make. I have never seen an episode of Dr. Who, nor have I ever read any book, and in fact, I cannot even tell you the first thing about what the show is about.

But, otherwise, the point here is well taken. There has been somewhat of a blowback against shows with strong females leads, outside of the ones mentioned here- wihc all were cancelled (or in BSG, ended with a good closure). If Buffy was the model, and so influential (which I believe it was), where are the shows today that are continuing to build upon what it accomplished? Instead, we get Gossip Girl, 90210 and other frippery of higher spending, boyfriend cheating and desiring, etc.

Me, I blame Paris Hilton. :-)
There's still Claire out there getting it done, but perhaps not qualifying because she came, sans irony, from being a cheerleader (and because it's become trendy to dislike the actress for no readily apparent reason). And her show doesn't center around her enough, perhaps, to merit her attention as an heiress to the Buffy-Veronica Mars legacy. An argument could have been made for Alex on "Lost", but A) relatively minor role, and B) they completely and randomly threw away the character. Sarah on "Chuck", as well as Ellie, both qualify, but "Chuck" is still hoping for renewal.

I don't find anything about "Dollhouse" particularly evocative of all that female empowerment mojo of "Buffy" and "Veronica Mars"; there are only three female characters who are not fundamentally and perpetually victimized, and two of them (Aisha Hands and Ivy) are supporting roles, with Adelle being the third.

I think what Dana identifies straddles gender lines -- a blanket of total superficiality has been dropped over television in terms of what is supposed to be admirable about people. "Gossip Girl" is just as big an offender for its shallow and banal male characters as for its female.

Shows that try to buck this have struggled a lot this year -- I doubt if "Heroes" had come along even a year later, it wouldn't have grabbed hold. "Chuck" has great exemplars of heroism and empowerment for men and women alike in almost every major character, and it's been fighting hard for renewal. I'm not sure what's out there in development.
And more to the point, why have they stopped wearing Spandex. *g*
I think that's an interesting topic that could be explored, but I don't think this article does a particularly good job of it. It says we now have to turn to sci-fi for strong heroines, but Buffy and Veronica Mars were as much or more genre shows as they were "teen" dramas, so I don't see that shift. I mean they were portraying teenage women and the examples in BSG etc. were all adults, but that really wasn't addressed.
Also, I don't think the author has actually watched Gossip Girl, just watched the previews maybe. The girls are the main characters there, and they're far from clothes horses concerned only with boyfriends. It is a soap, so there are a lot of plot lines and arcs about relationships and melodrama themes, something Buffy and Veronica also had, but these characters follow right along in Buffy and Veronica's vein of being strong and independent. They aren't living to snare a boy, but negotiating relationships with them as equals. And their concerns go beyond love to a lot of real world issues with identity, adulthood and family.
I'm not arguing that there are superheroines around so much anymore, and I would like to see them make a come-back, but I just don't think this article was particularly insightful on the topic.
The truth that this article fails to state is that there was never an over-abundance of strong female roles on television. While yes, we did have Buffy and Veronica Mars as well as others, it has still been a male-dominated world. But TV does represent real life, and perhaps with time and more articles like this and more caring creators like Joss, we will see more female role models on TV.

All we can do is demand it from Hollywood.
It seems to me that science fiction peaked 70+ years ago. Science fantasy peaked in the late 1970s. And “strong women character” tv shows peaked soon after the turn of this century. Do you think people in the 60’s were writing articles about how there is less and less westerns? Or that there are no great “cowboy” heroes anymore? For years “they” have been claiming that musicals have been making a nice comeback. Here's a hint, they aren't.

The truth is that with an ever growing arsenal of viewing mediums, video is reaching more people in more places than ever before. If you are going to feed 10 people, you can cater to their tastes more closely than if you are attempting to feed 10 million people. What happens when you serve ice-cream to those 10 million? Everyone ends up with vanilla. And I think that may explain why we have 100 reality shows and only a few science fiction shows.
What do they mean, "shop rather than slay"? Buffy could do both equally well!
Here we have predominantly soap operas, where most of the time, heroines go suffering, all the bad wrighting lenght of it, till the end.

I'm not sure about BSG as a model, since I have a female friend who hates to the bone the show, exactly cause the change of Starbuck's sex from the original series.

The Dr Who reference was nice (I loved Lady Christina), but I believe you guys, in USA give more importance to Paris Hilton then she deserves. If the girl was so influential, Obama should have lost some votes when she was against McCain, and the country wasn't having troubles with obesity. ;)
Castle has a strong female lead.

Also theres Sarah from Chuck.
Oblique but significant spoilers for 24 if you're behind US pace, but that show has a load of fantastic female characters this year.

In fact, if you look at the major players in the current arc, the majority are dynamic, professional women -- Kiefer, President Taylor, Olivia, Jon Voight, Renee, Chloe, Tony, Cara (the conduit to and field agent of "the Group"). Plus a few characters of both genders who will probably be more important in future episodes like Aaron, Kim, Janis and Wilson.
I miss Buffy and Veronica :~(

Bones, The Closer and Law & Order all feature strong female characters. But I'm not really into procedurals. I need my weekly heroine fix.
Filmtx...I'm glad that heroine has an 'e' at the end...haha...I'm so used to hearing that sentence without it!!
Most procedurals that are on now have many strong women characters. CSI NY & Las Vegas, Cold Case, Without A Trace, as someone else said: Castle, and Harper's Island has a main character that has to deal with a serial killer! (And stupid people that don't notice when their friends go missing...)
So, plenty of strong women. Strong women with superpowers? Not so much, no. Especially in shows geared towards a younger crowd.

[ edited by NYPinTA on 2009-05-07 00:53 ]

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