Posted by: sarahtroxel12 | February 20, 2015

From TV to Reality

While researching something to post on this blog, I came across an article titled, “What we can learn from TV’s leading anti-heroines”. http://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2015/feb/18/what-we-can-learn-from-tvs-leading-anti-heroines

The article had many different clips of strong female characters from TV shows but the one that registered the most with me was the one about Alicia Florrick from The Good Wife.  In this particular clip, many people think that she is running for State’s Attorney, to which she keeps saying that she is not. Her husband is causing problems for her and on her way to go talk to him she runs into Gloria Steinem, a feminist icon in the show. Gloria mentions the rumored campaign but Alicia stops her to say it’s premature. Gloria continues to question Alicia on why she won’t run and continues to say how they need more good women to run. The clip concludes with the notion that Alicia is somewhat convinced now to run.

This refers back to the Wilson Chapter 4 reading we discussed in class. I personally have had a hard time reading some of the assigned material because all it ever seems like is complaining without bothering to figure out a solution. If something is bothering you, fix it. You can complain while fixing it, but at least you’re trying to make a difference. That is what Wilson talks about in this chapter. She continues the complaining at the beginning, then, actually gives a solution. She tells the reader that the way to empower women is to support them all the way to the top, then hold them accountable for mentoring and supporting more women to reach the top. Gloria is in a powerful position already and I’m sure she didn’t get there alone. So now she is mentoring and empowering Alicia, who is stuck in her husband’s shadow. Alicia mentions all the excuses women use, “I’m overwhelmed with life and work”, and Gloria shoots back, “well what woman isn’t overwhelmed?” All Gloria needed was one minute to empower another woman; one minute that was right before she was about to go on stage to talk to an audience!

The article mentions that Alicia Florrick feels like a fraud in some ways. She doesn’t think that she is good enough to run against all these men. McIntosh wrote an article on how women feel like frauds often. They downplay their own authority and accomplishments because they don’t see it as respectful to their followers. Alicia does this in the clip. She shies away from the fact that she could ever be considered a candidate to run for State’s Attorney. The article also says Alicia Florrick is “flawed but not weak; she suffers without being a victim and she’s ruthless and determined without being a total bitch, unlike many of her fellow TV lawyers”. Alicia breaks the double bind of being assertive but feminine. She does it. And that’s not weird to us, as we sit in our living rooms watching it. If we can sit at home and cheer Alicia on for sticking up for herself, why don’t we take her characteristics and use them in the real world? If someone was exactly like Alicia Florrick in the real world many people would admire her, just as we do in articles about the show and in our living rooms. Wilson also talks about having a role model and the concept of observational learning. As young women, we should be able to look at Alicia Florrick, admire her, and bring that admiration into our own lives and use it.

Why don’t we make the traits of these women characters a real life option? Do you think it could be accomplished if we brought the traits we admire in TV characters to the real world? Do you think there would be backlash towards a strong willed woman in a powerful position like there is now?

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Responses

  1. It is an option to apply TV characters traits to the real world, but it is not easy. TV makes being a professional woman and a mom look so easy to accomplish, but that is an idealistic version of how women today should be. There is more that goes into being a working mom and having it all, like who is helping the woman. Fathers, parents, and friends make being a working mother easier because you have support and someone to call on when things get stressed. Asking for help and support is the only way women will be able to be an assertive woman and feminine.
    I think, there still will be backlash against strong willed women and it will take years for that to go away. All we can do as women is to push through the criticisms and find others who support us.

  2. While I believe it is an option to translate TV character traits to the real world, it would be really difficult to do so. TV can often makes “real life” seem easy to accomplish. It’s a utopian version of how women can live their life as “having is all” or “balancing it all”, in reality no one in life can have their cake and eat it too.

    Women have to choose their professional life over their family at certain times, and vice versa. It’s a balancing act that we somehow manage, or don’t manage. But I do believe this contorted vision stems from media. As I said before in Morgan’s post, media creates an unrealistic expectation for women to live up to; that they can balance it all. Not to say there are not real concrete examples today of woman balancing her professional life and life at home…it can happen. I think it can happens because we are willing to support each other.

    It is unrealistic for anyone to go through life without asking for help or support from someone else. Women need help from other women, or men. Men need help from other men, and women (Even though men think they know where they are going without directions, deep down they know that their wife is right and they need to ask for directions).

    I really liked Chapter 4 in the Wilson reading, because we as women can translate these TV character’s traits into the real world by supporting each other. If a woman is assertive in the office, back her up and support her. Supporting one another like this can cause the ripple effect. One by one our ripples will form one big wave and we can create change.
    As for the last question; I think there still will be backlash against headstrong women. It will take a while for that to go away. We just have to encourage each other and support one another until it will dissipate. I don’t know if I’ve used this quote on the blog site or not, but I really think it pertains to this post. It’s by Michelle Obama;

    “As women, we must stand up for ourselves. As women, we must stand up for each other. As women we must stand up for justice for all”.

  3. I think that bringing traits we admire in TV characters in the real world unrealistic. I don’t know about everyone else, but I generally don’t view TV shows as being realistic (esp. the ones mentioned in the article). I mean, TV characters are made up along with the reactions of the TV characters. This is why it is unrealistic for society to translate TV characters’ traits to the real world because reactions to a women being confident and powerful would not receive the same reaction as it would on TV.

  4. I would agree that the characteristics that strong female roles such as that of Alicia in the Good Wife are positive in relation to women leadership, as it shows that women can be competent and successful as leaders. I also believe that this is true in real life with some women that they actually act in a confident way as Alicia does, though they are not the majority. Also as Wilson explains it is women the Glorias, who have had had success who need to be a re-enforcer to women who lack self-confidence in self. So these screen women are representations of real life women, but these real life women are a small percentage of the population.

    I think that the fact that many people see female leads in ways successfully navigating the double bind without even batting an eye, is due in part to two factors: the first, people do not recognize the double bind, and secondly, it is because the viewers accept that women can accomplish these things. For many average people the concept and ideas identified with the “double bind” are not thought of or known. Though these terms are used by people educated on the matter of women’s issues, there is a lack of understanding within the general public. This lack of understanding leads viewers to not recognize the struggles, or even more so the rarity of events such as these successful navigation of the double bind. In many ways in addition to a lack of knowledge, I think that many people accept and expect these women to accomplish this navigation of the work and home, the masculinity and femininity, the competent and incompetent. I also think that because these women are sexualized in their appearance they fit the image we have created for women and therefore it is easier to accept their success. If characters like Alicia did not fit these gendered expectations then there would be a discord in the viewers ind that would in return reject the image.

    As it relates to why we do not see this transcend the screen at home and see women successfully taking on the double bind and being praised instead of admonished is because one, it is harder to actually accept things in real life, and two, it is almost impossible to live up to the real expectations we set for female leaders to be everything.

  5. Well sadly, our lives aren’t perfectly scripted as this show is. We can’t control or predict people’s reactions to our leadership actions and styles. To deviate a bit from your questions…I was thinking while reading about how often girls will choose TV/movie characters as serious role models for their own lives. I think that can be dangerous and set extremely unrealistic goals and expectations.
    I also think, however, that these characters can have an extremely positive influence on girls in particular. If women were always portrayed as somewhat powerless by the media, then of course that would take a negative toll. Therefore, I think that it is beneficial to admire traits and behaviors in a woman’s leadership through the lens of the media, just as long as the viewer has a realistic grasp on the fact that this character cannot be their main role model throughout life.

  6. Sarah, you ask some really interesting questions. TV is an interesting beast because it isn’t reality and is scripted, but still, art represents life. People watch TV to escape from their problems, so when they see their problems in front of their face, that makes them uncomfortable and no longer entertained. While art is needed to challenge perspective and thought, that’s not the art that makes money, so it’s going to be hard to find that true reality on TV (unless it’s made into a comedy, but even then it’s almost making fun of it).

    Mimicking real women’s roles in the media is something difficult, but is also something that has come such a long way in a relatively short amount of time. I’m excited to see where the media will be in 10, 20, or even 50 years and see if and how society has changed and how that is reflected in the media.

  7. Unfortunately I do believe that it will take a lot of time before strong willed women in higher level positions are appreciated based on their capability to do the job. We as women have been trapped in this double bind for so long that there is no way that society will just flip one day. However going back to your example from The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick is a great example to younger women about what could be achieved. I have watch The Good Wife several times, mostly with my mom (who is obsessed), but every time I have watched the show I feel much more empowered and capable to thrive in a higher level leadership position. Even though it is a TV show what Alicia gives me at least is the reality that as a women in a leadership position you will be attacked and discriminated against but that you can also handle all of these situations with grace. If you believe in yourself or at least allude that you have the confidence you will gain respect. You will make friends and you will make some enemies but the people who can’t deal with a women being in charge aren’t really the type of people I would like to be around anyway. I think that media does present very good examples for women, to bolster imagination and creativity for how far they may be able to make it in a higher level leadership role. The problem is that most of these shows are geared towards an older audience. It is as if producers feel that the older audience needs this reassurance more than younger audiences which is a shame. What needs to change is more shows need to be created to prove to younger female audiences that they can achieve anything they set their mind to.


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