Posted by: laurenschaaf15cnuedu | February 15, 2018

Weeds

In the video we watched the other day it was talking about strong women in television and showed a clip of Nancy Botwin, the main protagonist from the show Weeds. I recently finished it and I wasn’t praising her woman leadership but rather was distracted by her white pretty woman privilege.

Nancy Botwin is a pretty white suburban house wife who takes up selling weed after her husband dies and she needs to start making money. In the beginning she partners with a black mother/son duo who teachers her how to sell. Throughout the show, she narrowly escapes punishment by flirting and sleeping with the enemy while this family has to go into hiding. She also partners with a Hispanic man and then marries a Hispanic drug king in Mexico, both of whom go to jail while she just gets a slap on the wrist and continues selling drugs.

This show was written by a white woman. I looked it up since I was curious. She’s most well known for writing Orange Is The New Black, a netflix original hit show that shows a variety of minority women in a very human and positive way. They are human with weaknesses but always relateable and admirable. It surprises me that a show would glorify a woman who uses her sexuality and privilege to escape punishment. The other minorities including the humorous black woman Heylia are unable to manipulate other people to their advantage.

She shows masculine leadership in the way she manipulates people and claws her way to the top. She’s fiercely independent and even includes her children in her schemes. Heylia, a black woman, actually shows more feminine leadership by including her children and extended family in her selling operation. She is tough but fair and is loyal with those who respect her.

It seemed unfair to show Nancy as a strong woman in leadership as an example in the video. Understandably, she is a strong leader and the most memorable character in the show. However, the show made me sad that many other minorities who did the same crimes as she did, were held more accountable. Her being a masculine leader is not a bad leadership style, she just manipulates those around her especially the men who fall in love with her.

It is important in tv shows to demonstrate successful women leadership who don’t ruin the lives of those around them or unfairly move up in the world and leave others behind. As we have said multiple times in this class, media representation is so important and we must show both men and women that women can be successful and well liked. Nancy Botwin is not a good role model for young children to look up to.

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Responses

  1. I’ve never watched the show but I’m familiar with its plot (and you gave a pretty good summary). While I agree with you that Nancy is 1. not a very good role model for young women and 2. displays unfair advantages compared to the minorities who she’s associated with, I think this may have been an intentional device used by the director. As you mentioned, the director is well-known for Orange is the New Black, a widely popular and successful Netflix original that has continued for several seasons now. I am an avid fan of this show, as I think is accurately – and often times humorously – depicts the diverse problems that plague America’s prison system, especially as they pertain to women and minorities. Thus, I feel that the director attempted to transfer the blatancy of privilege into Weeds, albeit unsuccessfully, as many viewers may see it as the director merely being negligent of the underpinnings of such sensitive social situations. As I said before, I am not familiar with this show but, because I have watched OITNB, I think this director is well aware of the implications of the injustices which many women face in the world today.

  2. It is interesting that a woman writes the show. In class, we have often touched on how there aren’t many women writers, directors, or producers, so the female perspective is not often portrayed in TV and movies. I have never seen Weeds (besides the first episode), but from your post I gather that the main character, Nancy, displays more agentic leadership qualities. This seems more puzzling to me since a woman wrote the show.
    According to our classroom studies, it would seem like if a woman wrote the show, Nancy would be more feminine with her leadership style. One theory I have is that the female writer purposefully made Nancy agentic to demonstrate that figureheads, male or female, are most successful when they display those characteristics. On the other hand, it could be that the writer did not even think about the way she was writing the character of Nancy. Rather, the writer wrote Nancy to be a strong leader, which naturally had agentic qualities. On a similar note, since there are few female writers in Hollywood, it’s possible that the few women workers were hired because they shared similar agentic characteristics and male perspectives. In this case, Nancy’s agentic personality would not be intentional at all, but rather an afterthought of the character that the writer naturally created and wrote about.
    This class has challenged me to wonder how everything works behind the scenes of the TV screen. As we noted from our documentary, everyone is heavily influenced by the media, whether we know it or not. I often wonder if writers and directors recognize it too!

  3. I think that’s a very interesting idea that you brought up. While we watched this documentary in class and held a discussion about the way women are portrayed by the media. I would say, and I’d admit it myself, that the documentary was taken at face value. I am not familiar with the show, Weeds, but I took it that this character and this woman was an empowering figure, but listening to your argument and the bit of extra information you’ve found, I would agree that this woman does not seem to possess to use positive forms of leadership as a woman. I just find it interesting that even in a documentary, which we’re supposed to learn from and take examples, that there is an example such as the one that you’ve now brought to light. That even in this “positive” media of women, there still seems to be a negative aspect to it.

  4. I think her character isn’t a role model, per say, but still is breaking boundaries as a female character. Why? Because she’s the female version of a male archetype: the rogue.

    A rogue character is someone who isn’t necessarily lawful but is charming and just nice enough. Think Robin Hood, Han Solo, and Jack Sparrow. They’re not the best people (often putting self interest first) but are clever, engaging, and not too mean to estrange them from the audience. They might steal, seduce, and swashbuckle their way through trials, but their humor and savvy make us love them. Nancy strikes me as a female version of this trope, from what you described. Rogues aren’t women, often; I believe it’s because the type is heavily tied to independence and agency (less feminine), also we don’t tolerate a woman sleeping around or brazenly breaking the law as much.

    All in all, I think it’s super cool there’s a female character like this. We should have more female rogues in fiction.

  5. The discussion of the “rogue” female character archetype reminded me of the film Thelma and Louise. The film centers around two women who live in a small town, one of whom has an abusive husband, and they go on a weekend escape that takes a dark turn as they end up murdering a man who tried to rape one of them. After they realize that the odds are stacked against them in pleading self-defense, they realize they have no other option but to embrace breaking the law while trying to escape to Mexico. These women do not act the way anyone expects them to, and they deviate from the surrounding society’s pressures to be submissive, feminine, and polite. However, (spoiler alert) they end up dead.
    This story reminds me of the original post in that the main female character is put in a position of needing to do the immoral or criminal in order to ensure her own survival. She is put in the position of having to act in agentic and aggressive ways in a traditionally masculine manner in order to survive and succeed. However, Thelma and Louise are not role models, in fact, they are tragic examples of how years of abuse and trauma can completely numb a person to believe that they have no other option but violence. They are tragic examples of how abuse (from males in their life) can dramatically influence their identity moreso than their own agency to change their life and get the help they need. This is the tragedy that I think plays out in a lot of female characters – “man drives them crazy enough to become tough and succeed”.

  6. I have never seen Weeds but I do agree that the main character should not be idolized. Not only is she involved with illegal activities but utilizing her sexuality as a tool to better herself should not be viewable. I make this point for a couple of reasons 1. younger women (under the age of 18) will see this behavior and how she is escaping punishment and moving up in the world as an “easier” route and may be susceptible to imitating such behavior. That is just the younger woman perspective the other perspective is that considering the show may be targeted for those over the age of 18, they may follow the same path. 2. Women 18 and up are getting closer to becoming a part of the work force, and I highly do not support this behavior, but if adult women viewing how this character is moving up so quickly with little consequences they are even more susceptible to imitating this behavior that could lead to quick and early benefits in a line of work. Everyone should understand that this behavior is unacceptable, unfair and completely inappropriate that it should not be glorified in the media. This behavior if it became a norm would completely flip all of the progressive women have made towards becoming regular leaders that have equal opportunity and respect. overall, yes I agree that she should not be idolized.

  7. I also find it very interesting that a women would write a show ignoring all the problems of minorities when as the film in class discussed, we as women have to stand up for each other and other minority groups. I have not seen Weed myself but definitely agree that the main character should not be idealized. I myself have been paying lots of attention to the shows I watch and have been especially impressed with Grey’s Anatomy. I asked a few friends who also watch the show and was surprised to hear that some of them actually found the show to be very overwhelming because they thought that the topics of minorities was being shoved in their faces. I could definitely see where the are coming from but that in order to make a difference in our society we have to become comfortable with talking about the topics that are making people so comfortable. For instance, the last episode I watched had a scene with seven people, all of which were women and I thought it was amazing. The friend I was with ,however, said that it was unrealistic and I asked if he would have said the same thing if it were all men in the scene.

  8. Great post about women in leadership in the TV industry! I definitely agree with you, and I would also like to see women use masculine leadership styles for the good of those around them. However, our culture is so wrapped up in action and drama. I believe that the main character not caring about others could be part of what draws people in. The show Breaking Bad portrays a man in this same manner, so I don’t think it is anything particularly against women. I do want to see more of what we talked about in class yesterday: women having everything – romance, masculine qualities, not overly-sexualized, etc. I think movies like Wonder Woman (2017) are definitely helping the female leadership public image. However, that was definitely over-sexualized. The next step is to give females that same type of leadership role without objectifying them. I think we’re making progress, but we still have a ways to go.

  9. This is an interesting point, and I think really reflects the issue with images portrayed in the media. It is extremely unfortunate that in our society often times doing drugs is only punishable for those who are either poor, or not white. Rich people who are able to influence through power and are considered to be generally good citizens generally are able to get off of certain charges and be treated in expensive rehabilitation programs, whereas deaths of people of color who are shot by police are then later justified by people simply for having marijuana on their person. It’s a double standard that is largely perpetrated by the media, and glorified when rich, white people are portrayed partaking in drugs and having it be accepted as a mental health issue whereas if someone of color partakes in drugs its associated with criminality. These schemas and portrayals in media have real life consequences, and effect all aspects of society, and perceptions and decisions of leaders as well.

  10. This post made me think of all the times that women have gotten away with just a warning when getting pulled over by policemen. I know plenty of females that have gotten pulled over by a policeman due to speeding or rolling through a stop sign and were able to either cry or flirt their way out of it. When we watched Missrepresentation in class, we talked about how women are seen as objects rather than human beings, and men treat them as such. I think many women are aware of this, and rather than fighting back, they will sometimes use it to their advantage. Women know how they can affect men, so they choose to to utilize their bodies or feminine traits to get out of trouble with men.
    I have never watched Weeds, so I am unfamiliar with Nancy Botwin’s character. It seems as though Nancy used her gender and appearance as a tool to get what she wanted. She knew that, due to her looks, she was able to persuade men to do things that she wanted in ways that other people could not. She was probably used to the way men have been objectifying her throughout her entire life, so she decided to use that to her advantage. I agree with you that television shows should focus on showcasing strong, powerful women that positively affect the lives of those around her. However, since the movie industry is dominated by men, many of them do not understand how and why women behave in the ways that they do, so it is difficult for them to put themselves in their shows and write strong roles for them. It is very unfortunate, but I don’t think things will change much unless more women are able to enter into the movie making industry.


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