Emmy Week 2011: The Roundup

The 2011 Emmy Awards aired Sunday, September 18th

Glee! by Cali Loria

Having a character on TV who does not fit into the mold of being a perfect Westernized ideal of beauty would, in someone else’s hands, be refreshing. Glee, however, focuses on the extremes of women, enjoying the overt and campy hyperbolization of its characters which, in essence, detracts from actual storylines and only serves to render the women flat and one-dimensional: Jewish starlet, slut, dumb blonde, conniving cheerleader, sassy black woman, an Asian, and, now, a full-fleshed female. Glee has a recipe with every ingredient, but stirred together it’s one big lump of heterogeneous stereotypes. I’m not saying this couple should not exist; I am simply implying that it may have been beneficial to give her a love interest that does not appear to be ten seconds from dumping pigs blood over her head at prom.

Leslie Knope by Diane Shipley

Thank goodness then, that in season two the Leslie we know and love emerged. Still an idealist, but with a strong practical streak and the ability to get things done. No longer mooning over a long-ago office-mate tryst, but having an actual love life. She’s not optimistic because she doesn’t know better, but because she chooses to be, as a survival mechanism. Instead of considering her an affable fool, her now-best friend Ann tells her she’s, “Cool, sexy, funny, and smart.” 
She’s also competent: she not only gets that park built, she re-instates Pawnee’s harvest festival, bringing in thousands of dollars in tourism and new business, and saving her department in the process. We start to see that maybe her earlier pronouncements were prescient: why *shouldn’t* Leslie Knope be the first female president?

Here There Be Sexism? Game of Thrones and Gender by Megan Kearns

When I watched the premiere of Game of Thrones, I almost choked on all the rampant misogyny. I kept watching, lured by the premise and intrigued by the complex plots, curious if things for women would improve. Throughout the first season women are raped, beaten, burned and trafficked. I suppose you could chalk it up to the barbarism of medieval times. And I’m sure many will claim that as the show’s defense…or that the men face just as brutal and severe a life. I also recognize that there’s a difference between displaying sexism because it’s the time period and condoning said sexism. But this IS a fantasy, not history, meaning the writers can imagine any world they wish to create. So why imagine a misogynistic one?

Mags Bennett: As Wholesome as Apple Pie by Molly Brayman

But in season two, the show gives us Mags Bennett, head of the Bennett clan, a matriarch wielding absolute power (and a ball-peen hammer) over her territory. She sets herself apart from both the women and the men in the show and their prescribed gender roles, inhabiting both enforcer and nurturer, often at the same time. Margo Martindale, a well-lauded stage actor, too often is relegated to the screen margin, playing the supporting roles of gruff nurse (Mercy), sassy neighbor (The Riches) or kindly old friend (Dexter). Martindale admits in a recent interview that a role like “Mags Bennett comes along maybe just once in a lifetime.” But roles like this—multi-faceted, problematic, and compelling—are what we need to see more of on television.

Jane Krakowski and the Dedicated Ignorance of Jenna Maroney by Kyle Sanders

That’s what I love about 30 Rock. Sure, it’s Tina Fey’s baby: she created the series and has written a majority of episodes while also starring as the show’s protagonist. But what makes her funny is the company she keeps. Tina’s straight-woman, self-conscious, prudish Liz Lemon is the complete opposite of the outrageous Tracy Jordan or confident Jack Donaghy. But it’s her interaction with Jane Krakowski’s Jenna Maroney that is most comedic. Of course, they’re both women, but what works is their chaos/order dynamic: While Liz maintains the order ofTGS (the fictional sketch-comedy show-within-the-show), Jenna brings the chaos and gets freaky with it in a public bathroom stall.

Friday Night Lights: Deep in the Heart of Texas by Lee Skallerup Bessette

Each woman in Friday Night Lights, like each man in the show, is defined by their relationship to football. Or rather, the town tries to define them by their relationship to the featured football team (either the Dillon Panthers during the first seasons or the East Dillon Lions during the last two). What is and remains fascinating to me is how in the face of this identity pressure, the women are often more successful in redefining themselves than the men. 
(I’d have included pictures, but I defy you to find a picture of any of these women on the Internet that doesn’t put them in some sort of come-hither pose that exposes a whole lot of skin. Sigh. These ladies deserve better.)

Liz Lemon: The ‘Every Woman’ of Prime Time by Lisa Mathews

Liz Lemon, the protagonist created and portrayed by Tina Fey on NBC’s 30 Rock, is one of television’s most recognizable and loved characters for her outlandish antics and so-real-it-hurts single-line commentaries on women and society.
On the surface, Liz charms the audience with her awkward girl-next-door looks, geeky-smart plastic-framed glasses that she apparently doesn’t need to improve her vision, inappropriate behavior in the workplace and her penchant for drawing the unlucky hand in love. Yet getting to know Liz on a deeper level inspires a sense that this is a woman who, while filled with self-loathing and assorted neuroses, has a heart for people and justice and a knack for making the ridiculous hilarious.
Tami Taylor, My Hero by Lee Skallerup Bessette
If there is one woman in Dillon who stands head and shoulders above them all, it’s Tami Taylor. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem too hard to do. Mothers in Dillon have not been the most successful characters; they were either drunk/druggies (Mama Collette, Vince’s mother, Becky’s mother), absent (Jess’ mother, Mama Riggins, Matt Saracen’s mother), or one-dimensional (abuse victim, religious nut, etc). Is it any wonder, then, that Tami Taylor becomes the go-to woman for many of the “lost children” of Dillon?

Why Steely Homicide Detective Sarah Linden is So Refreshing by Megan Kearns

Based on the Danish TV series Forbrydelsen (The Crime), the gritty series premieres with Linden, played superbly by Emmy-nominated Mireille Enos, jogging in the woods. It’s her last day in the Seattle police department as she’s moving with her son, Jack, to marry her fiancé in California. But she gets pulled back in to her work in homicide by the murder of teenager Rosie Larsen.
Unlike many other crime shows, the plot continually shifts from the murder investigation to Detective Linden’s home life to how Rosie’s family handles their grief to a local mayoral campaign. Through the unfolding case, we see how grief affects each of the characters differently. Raising themes of misogyny, racism and xenophobia, the show uniquely focuses on how a tragedy affects a family and ultimately how those ripples affect a community.

And don’t forget our Mad Men Week Roundup, featuring numerous articles on Mad Men!