Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year, Responding to the "He Decade"

Happy 2010, all. I had a nice long break and saw two three-day long snow storms in two different states (or "state" in the case of the District of Columbia). I had a chance to read some books, see my family, and watch some movies. Good times.

I'm not going to attempt to write a decade-end post or a decade-beginning post, partly because some have argued the decade isn't over yet and partly because the marking of time is arbitrary anyway. There is, however, "decade wrap-up" piece I wanted to blog about today.

Via hortense at Jezebel, the New York Times has a piece today by Alessandra Stanley on the "self-absorbed man" in the aughts. She presents examples like Don Draper on Mad Men, Dr. House on House, and even referencing Jason Schwartzman in the new HBO series Bored to Death (isn't this just the same character Schwartzman always plays?).

Part of me hates to sum up a "trend" in a decade of television because it all depends on what you watch. If you just watched plot-driven shows like 24 or even Lost, you'd find the argument about the self-absorbed man pretty absurd. Still, I have noticed that some of my favorite characters on Mad Men -- Joan and Peggy -- got shoved to the side while the writers dealt with Don Draper's past, something that I became less and less interested in as the season went on.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about the trend piece is how much it isn't a trend. This piece could really be written about any decade since television was invented. Historically, male characters are typically more complex, more interesting, and more self-reflective than almost any female character. All too often, female characters in television play the hot wife of the dumpy comedian, the hot doctor/lawyer/detective opposite more complex male characters, the evil bitch, or the pretty but stupid sidekick.

It's true that this decade has seen more interesting and complex female characters than ever before: Kara Thrace from Battlestar Galactica, Buffy on Buffy (though admittedly I haven't actually seen the series yet), and Kristen Bell in the title character of Veronica Mars are just a few examples.

But by and large, your average female character usually isn't that interesting. (Anyone remember Gwyneth Paltrow in the first Iron Man movie?) To me the real story is that while female characters have made some interesting expansions in recent years, they are on the whole less interesting than male characters. Hardly surprising, when one considers the lack of female writers.

1 comment:

Emily Rutherford said...

Interesting when read in conjunction with this Times article about sex and male authors.

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