I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to lament about the lack of developed female characters in media. I’ve unfortunately been seeing a lot of The Smurfette Principle in New Girl and The Mindy Project this season.
I don’t want to wax poetic about how I’m disappointed in The Mindy Project because I love Mindy Kaling, but instead of the parade of funny, good looking men I’ve seen on the show, it would’ve been nice to add a few of her funny, good looking women in the mix instead of axing BFF Anna Camp (they never figured out how to integrate her personal life with her professional). Although Mindy isn’t the only woman onscreen, she has been downgrading her other female compatriots in the medical office such as the secretaries while giving more dimension and screen-time to her plethora of male colleagues (Jeremy Reed played by Edward Weeks, Danny Castellano played by Chris Messina, Morgan Tookers played by Ike Barinholtz, and newly added Peter Pretince played by Adam Pally) and love interests. They have snagged a guest appearance by Emmy winner Anna Gunn of Breaking Bad fame, and I’m interested to see how they incorporate her.
And while Cece Prekah is probably my favorite character on New Girl, we’ve seen her interact less and less with Jess as the seasons progressed. The only reason we still see her around is not because of her BFF-since-childhood, but because of her former flame Schmidt.
The good news is there are a handful of new female-centric sitcoms this season that has made these two turns slightly less painful for me.
The Trophy Wife (or is it just Trophy Wife?) has been the unexpected gem of this season. It’s managed to make relatable (if not exaggerated) characters from stereotypes that make you laugh and sometimes ponder the implications of certain parental styles. While my personal favorite parts are the mother-son stylings of Jackie and Burt (together and individually), the show has managed to showcase three very different women without really pitting them against each other, or elevating one over the others, a feat considering they were all, at one point, married to the same man (played by the affable Bradley Whitford).
Perfectionist first wife Diane and new age hippie second wife Jackie couldn’t be more different and then there’s new wife Kate, who’s young and vivacious, and learning how to be a (step)mother to her three stepchildren, all add a compelling dynamic to this particular take on the modern family. As I’ve noted, they’re not exactly friends, but they aren’t enemies either. The show does a great job at pointing out flaws, and benefits to each other their personalities that emphasize the importance of each in the family. (I completely forgot to mention Meg, Kate’s best friend, from her recent partying past – who is great, but doesn’t completely jive with the show yet, but finger crossed!)
My other show is Super Fun Night, which I know isn’t hitting the critics in any warm spots, but I’m really enjoying the trio of socially-awkward women at the center of the sitcom (but I could do without Rebel Wilson’s accented American accent). And yes, I’m having fun watching these three friends get in and out of hijinks in their reluctant, skittish manner. If I watched more than a couple episodes of Sex and the City, I’d probably say it’s like the Sex and the City for awkward geek girls, but it’s probably not that. It’s just nice, easy, sitcom fair with a female spin, whether traversing the difficulties of online dating, becoming disillusioned with your idol and a slow break from fandom, feeling inadequate compared to you sister, your girlfriends are by your side. There may be too many fat jokes but they feel trivial considering Rebel’s fictional Kimmie Boubier (pronounced boobier, so, I understand some of the issues) seem to be cutting it off before she becomes the joke (you can argue whether she’s helping or hurting) and seem trivial compared to even the most popular and critical darlings in like most jokes aimed at Jerry/Larry on Parks and Recreation, Scully on Brooklyn Nine Nine, and a quarter of the jokes on any given How I Met Your Mother (another quarter going toward slutty women jokes). But it’s looking like Super Fun Night will be cancelled soon anyway.
Along with these two shows, a few ensembles are also tickling my feminist (read: equal seeking) funny bone, notably Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine Nine, both from creator Mike Schur (with Greg Daniels and Dan Goor respectively). Not only have they both introduced some wonderful people-of-color-who-are-not-only-defined-by-their-race-or-have-their-race-ignored characters they also have some kickass, funny, flawed women – who talk to each other!
None of this should take away from the many varied talented men in entertainment, of course, but there’s room for more gender (and race) balance on television.