Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Suggs at St Georges, Bristol

You know Suggs, right? The lead singer out of Madness, those genial, jovial, cheeky Lahndan nutty boys. Yep, him. Considering the legacy of Madness, it’s impressive to remember that during their original five or so years in the 1980s, they notched up a whopping 14 top ten hits. That’s not bad work. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking they never went away – Madness had their first farewell concert in 1992… and have continued to perform farewell concerts several times a year ever since, and released an album of new material in 2009!

But in between all that, Suggs has tried to forge a career independent of the other six band members. He’s tried all sorts of things over the years: he presented karaoke show Night Fever on Channel 5, he had a cameo in The Edge of Love, and he’s had a chat show on ITV1. Oh, and he’s written a book, too! But the thing people love him for most of all is being Suggs out of Madness.

His show tonight, Suggs: My Life Story, sees him take to the stage in St Georges, with only a pianist for company, and stand beneath the hall’s imposing altar piece to deliver a music hall-esque performance of memories and jokes, while every now and then breaking into a few bars of a song. It’s a simple enough set-up and it suits him very well – with his Cockney accent, his likeable character, his natty suit. The only problem is it feels a little too scripted, and a little too much like Suggs is simply going through the motions. There’s nothing very natural about his speech, no sense of ad libbing or chancing his luck. But it comes over that Suggs seems like a top bloke, and the audience in the sold out hall clearly love him.

Suggs starts with a monologue about waking up on his 50th birthday to find his beloved cat has died, which takes him on a journey to his mum’s in Soho to find out more about the dad he never knew. This gives Suggs the opportunity to duck backwards and forwards through time to fill in the gaps – although I couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t simply go on BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are? to find out what he needed to know. 

His speech is peppered with snippets of songs, some brief, some longer, and mostly his own. Over the evening, we’re treated to bits of Lola, Baggy Trousers, Embarrassment and, of course, a wonderful rendition of It Must Be Love to close (which is my favourite ever love song, fact fans). The music is lovely, and what with it being the thing that made Suggs famous in the first place, it’s clearly what the audience most wants to hear.

My highlights of the show, musical moments aside, were his two mime gags: one of himself miming how he didn’t mine on Top Of The Pops, and another of himself miming using an old-fashioned phone box. Those were both priceless moments of comedy. Although I hope it’s not reading too much into it to observe that they were both silent moments.

While much of Suggs’ raconteur-style musings sound a little stilted, he’s a decidedly warm and charming host, and to spend a few hours in his company was a comfy pleasure. Heck, he got a standing ovation at the end!

To see where else Suggs is performing, please click here.

To see what other shows are coming up at St Georges, please click here.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Architects, Angels, Activists and the City of Bath

Hot off the press is Canadian academic Cynthia Hammond’s respectful appreciation of the unacknowledged work of women over the past centuries in creating the city of Bath as we know it - Architects, Angels, Activists and the City of Bath 1765-1965: Engaging with Women’s Spatial Interventions in Buildings and Landscape (Ashgate, £65). 

Divided into three sections, the book covers the lesser known female architects who are largely forgotten in the wake of men like John Wood the Elder and John Wood the Younger; a section on the representation of angels in the city, remarking on the relative absence of female angels at the famous Abbey and affecting to remedy this with a performance piece; and lastly a beautifully detailed section about the trampled Suffragettes’ Wood at Batheaston (see also this post from a few weeks ago).

While the whole book is fascinating, my main interest is the third section. I’d vaguely known of a Suffragettes’ Wood in Somerset for some time, but it was only after making contact with Dan Brown in early January that I gained access to his book (compiled with Hammond last year), and found long-lost books by Victoria Nimmo (Women of Violence, 1985) and Beatrice Dobbie (A Nest of Suffragettes in Somerset, 1979) in Bristol and Bath Libraries.

For those who don’t know about the Suffragettes’ Wood, please have a quick read of my previous post. And once you’re up to speed, revel in the fact that Hammond uses this book to take the research a step further and bring it up to date. Brown and Hammond’s previous book is more of a historical analysis and document, stating what happened and cataloguing as many of Colonel Blathwayt’s photographs as possible. 

What Hammond now does is retrace the steps of the suffragettes around Batheaston and Eagle House, and in the process she finds two (now elderly) women who used to play in the Suffragettes’ Wood as children, which enables Hammond to construct a detailed map locating where all the bushes and trees would have stood, and the location of each of the photographs.

What struck me the most was the amazing task Hammond undertook in attempting to rebuild the arboretum as far as humanly possible, given the fact the site is now a housing estate. She bought trees and conifers, and delivered them to all the residents of Eagle Park, inviting them to plant and care for the trees, and letting them know about the history of the site upon which they now live. 

Hammond’s respect for this task was extremely moving, and showed through as an intensely powerful gesture of support for the history of women in the United Kingdom. However, is it not shameful that we needed a Canadian woman to do this for us – was there really no one in England for cared enough to ensure the memory of the arboretum never died?

Hammond is rightly recognised as an authority on this subject: she has given papers about this at Bath Spa University, and written elsewhere about the arboretum. I hope her work never ceases, and that she continues to turn over more stones to unearth yet more amazing stories about this trampled site. Although, with it being 113 years since the first trees were planted at Eagle House, and about 40 years since the bulldozers demolished history, there cannot be many people alive who still have living memories of the arboretum. Which makes it all the more wonderful that Hammond managed to find two women who could share their memories with her. I can only image how her spine must have tingled as Hammond listened to these women speak – because my spine tingled when I read what they had to say.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Without Judy Blume, I’d know nothing about life

My much-loved Judy Blume collection
There is no other teen novelist who had such an impact on me as Judy Blume. And based on some Twitter conversations last night, I’m not alone in my enduring respect and love for Judy.  (Would it be too familiar to call her Auntie Judy?)
This came about after my mum yesterday produced a box of my old books. Among the battered copies of Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch series, Snoopy novels, and Adrian Mole diaries (held together with peeling Sellotape) were a handful of extremely tatty and well-thumbed Judy Blume novels.
It was like meeting up with old friends, ones who had held my hand through those confusing pre-pubescent years and early adolescence. There was Deenie, who endured a crippling back brace before facing the fear of her first period. And here’s Margaret, who confides in God about her worries about periods and her parents’ marriage. Don’t forget Stephanie, who had to handle the problem of juggling two best friends. And then there was Karen, who felt so alone after her parents got divorced; and Davey who was grieving for her father. But never forget Katherine and Michael, whose love was not to last, err, forever.
It surprised me to find just the six tatty paperbacks. Where were all the others? Judy wrote prolifically in the 1970s and 1980s and I’d read every one of her books. And then I realised that while I’d devoured everything Judy wrote, the act of owning books was certainly not taken for granted back when I was 11/12 and at the height of my Judy reading. This was before I had a Saturday job and my own money, so any books I owned came from birthday or Christmas presents or book tokens. Everything else was found in the school or public libraries, or borrowed and swapped with friends. In school holidays, we’d even post paperbacks to each other. There’s something very pleasing about remembering this early absorption in reading, and for it to be a shared pleasure – one that was not ordered by teachers but that was entirely self-generated, and one that was (at times) irritating to teachers and parents, who knew there were sometimes controversial topics in Judy’s books (periods, masturbation, bullying, racial abuse, parental divorce, the Holocaust, teenage sex…). 
Aged 11, I spent a year diligently scribbling in my Judy Blume Memory Book.
Needless to say, it is extremely embarrassing to read now.
I really don’t think it would be overstating the matter to say that Judy contributed to the bulk of my early education about puberty and growing up. Remember, I was reading Judy’s books in 1989/1990, while attending a convent school staffed by joyless Belgian nuns, and the internet was but a twinkle in someone’s eye. Pretty much all I knew about puberty came from the solitary school visit by the Dr Whites nurse: our class was not told the reason why our timetabled lesson was cancelled and we were being shepherded into the formal assembly hall, where a middle-aged nurse proceeded to show us some confusing watercolour pictures of cross-sections of the female body (minus head or legs), before issuing us all with a bag of leaflets and Dr Whites samples. Couple this with the solitary lesson about periods from our biology teacher, which involved her getting a Tampax out of its wrapper, and putting it in a glass of water to show us how big it would get. But at no point telling us why we would need such a scary looking thing, or even where we should put it. Honestly, I can only hope that sex education in British schools has progressed a lot in the past 22 years. And don’t get me started on the sex education video we were shown (in the school library, which was sealed off with ‘Do Not Enter’ signs, already making us aware that sex was a shameful act, a fact that was aided by the TV being positioned underneath a crucifix), which was filmed in the 1970s and involved some extremely hairy, naked people playing volleyball on a beach, and a starchy male scientist in a studio talking incomprehensibly about things like ‘penises’ and ‘vaginas’ (what were they?!).
So, thank heavens for Judy Blume. Thank heavens she wrote Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret and Deenie, to explain about periods and that they were perfectly normal, but that it was OK to be a bit confused about the whole thing. And thank heavens she wrote her books in such an accessible way that made you sure that here, finally, was an adult who understood what it was you needed to know, and whom your friends also read.
Woo! Judy wrote to me in February 1990...
I chose to overlook that it was a photocopied form letter.
But Judy didn’t just teach me about growing up, she also made me aware of a whole world outside of the tiny Somerset village I grew up in. Judy’s books were all set in her homeland of America. To 11-year-old me, there seemed as much chance of me going to the moon as to somewhere as exotic as America. After all, this was a country with a whole other dialogue! Judy’s books were peppered with words and phrases I didn’t understand, and needed to find out the meaning of. What were ‘cooties’? What was ‘the den’? What was Scotch tape? There were so many examples that made America seem way more glamorous than my provincial English existence. Why didn’t my school have a ‘homeroom’? Why didn’t we have a schoolbus? Or Halloween parades? What the heck was a ‘Y’? Looking back now, it’s terrifying to know that all the Jewish references were also alien to me – with my Catholic education and small-town English upbringing. It’s embarrassing to admit that. At my school, we had no knowledge of any religions outside of Church of England or Catholicism. As far as we knew, there were no other options. And since WW2 wasn’t covered in history classes, there was no need for us to know about Judaism. This alone is a terrifying lack in 1980s/1990s schooling.
What’s my favourite Judy book? It’s Deenie, the first book of Judy’s I read, and probably the one I’ve read more than any others (first accessed from the school library – but removed after the nuns discovered it had references to periods and masturbation). But Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret holds a strong place in my affections (a Christmas present, and a book I fondly remember while lying on the sofa with Neighbours on). And it’s impossible to overlook the significance of Forever on my young mind (bought with Christmas book tokens in WH Smith). I’m sure that book is responsible for many generations of women who remain unable to snigger when they hear the name Ralph – maybe Forever is single-handedly responsible for the decline in popularity of the name Ralph?!
Has Judy been sainted yet for her services to education? Because she should be. The very fact that so many of her books were deemed controversial or even placed on banned lists (here’s an article by Judy that explains more about this) is testament to the fact that her books were honest and true accounts of real topics that patriarchal society feared it would be damaging for young girls to know about.
Thank you, Judy, for writing all those important books, and for filling in the many glaring gaps in my education where my schools failed me. And thank you for introducing me to America, a land I still think of as romantic and exciting.
Here’s a powerful article in The Tablet about Judy’s Holocaust novel, Starring Sally J Freedman As Herself.
And here’s a Huffington Post article about Judy’s most controversial books.

HG Wells and the suffrage novel

First published in 1909, Ann Veronica is HG Wells’ novel addressing his support of women winning the right to vote and thereby gain their independence from men. And it’s a strange one.
Our heroine Vee is a 21-year-old, middle-class science scholar who lives with her widowed father and spinster aunt in Suburbia. She dreams of escaping her father’s overbearing control over her, and of taking up with her Bohemian friends… who have introduced her to the idea of women’s suffrage.
Ann Veronica is a book in two parts. In the first half of the novel, Vee is painted as a naïve but impassioned young woman who is determined to get what she wants by any means. HG Wells creates her as a malleable vehicle for demonstrating to his readers how suffocated women are without the vote, and the subsequent right to live independently of fathers or husbands.
Yet the second half of the novel, as has been widely agreed in reviews, descends into a tedious romance bearing little relation to the first half, and causing the reader to care little for what scrape Vee has now found herself in, and whether she can win yet more people round to her manipulative way of thinking.
This was a curious book to read as I work my way through as many suffrage novels as I can manage, but I’m not sure HG Wells put as much time and thought into this as he did with his better known books. There’s every cynical possibility that Ann Veronica was simply an outing for him to express his (supportive) views about the enfranchisement of women.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Feminism At The Movies

One of the wonderful things about this so-called third wave of feminism is the resurgence in academic books on the subject, tackled from a variety of angles. A small number of these books have been reviewed on this blog (far from all, though!), and I’m pleased to introduce another – particularly because this one focuses on the cinematic slant of feminism, a subject which I studied at MA level.
Feminism At the Movies: Understanding Gender In Contemporary Popular Cinema, is edited by Hilary Radner and Rebecca Stringer, and published by Routledge in 2011. It’s by the far the most comprehensive collection of essays on this topic I’ve seen, and takes in 21 essays by contributing scholars. These are loosely grouped into five categories: masculinity, a space for women, consumer culture, family and violence.
What Feminism At The Movies does so well, regardless of contributor, is that it makes each essay so accessible. This may be an academic textbook, but it is not weighted with elitist jargon and unfriendly terms, yet it is still beautifully referenced and prompts the further research and discussion you’d expect of a well-constructed argument.
Standout chapters include Rebecca Stringer’s comparisons of The Brave One and Hard Candy as examples of violent young women; Heather Brook’s perfectly captured critique of the wave of wedding films; and Michael DeAngelis’ sensitive examination of A Single Man.
More poignantly to topics currently in the news, David Hansen-Miller and Rosalind Gill’s chapter about “lad flicks” seemed particularly apt. They argue that this genre (including films such as Wedding Crashers, You, Me and Dupree, Superbad and Knocked Up) are emblematic of the misogynistic culture generated by the kind of high street misogyny that it sadly so prevalent nowadays. That in itself isn’t news, but the chapter is given the space it needs to explore how this genre of films typically present women (hard working, uptight) and men (slackers, fun), and then how it shows these men consistently “scoring” with a woman who seems out of their reach and subverting her to their way of thinking.
Conversely, other chapters propose the idea that female characters can be just as guilty of misogynistic behaviour. Not least in the wash of wedding movies, such as Bride Wars, which was unanimously panned by critics upon release for being anti-feminist and aggressive towards its female characters, neither of whom were in any way likeable.
However, films geared at a younger female audience, such as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, fare well as positive examples of a realistic portrayal of adolescence, early sex and friendship. As well as being an interesting example of how a short series of young adult novels has become a small film franchise, backed up by one of the earliest social media campaigns.
For more information about Feminism At The Movies, please visit Routledge’s website.

Iron Jawed Angels – a film about US suffrage

There are many oddities about this 2004 HBO film, which looks like it was made for TV. The most glaring of which is the jarring music, which at best can be described as sub-standard ‘90s trip hop: whatever you call it, it’s achingly out of place on a period film set in the late 1910s that focuses on the American fight for suffrage.
Iron Jawed Angels manages a double casting whammy with both Hilary Swank and Angelica Houston in strong roles, supported well by Frances O’Connor and Julia Ormond. The film is a biopic of Alice Paul (played by Swank), who led the campaign in America to ensure all women were granted the vote, and not just women in certain states.
While the story is fascinating, Iron Jawed Angels is by no means a good film! It is an extremely strangely constructed and produced film.
Hilary Swank is a fantastic actress, but she seems oddly cast as Alice Paul – her face and voice are too contemporary for the role. Similarly, the other suffragettes in her party look like 21st Century women playing dress-up in 19th Century costumes – which, in essence, they are.
And then there is the bizarre use of editing techniques: cross fades and jump cuts are painfully out of step in a period film, but they’re used ad nauseum here. And the mise-en-scene of the costumes is nothing more than grating – the actresses are dressed in glamorous 1910s outfits that seem far removed from clothes that women of their class and income would have worn. And the screen time and narrative pressure placed on Alice Paul’s blinkin’ pink hat are so over emphasised that it becomes excruciating. It’s certainly not subtle, as mise-en-scene should be.
And the sound? I found it hard to detach from the music, which was comical in its inappropriateness, and extremely distracting from the rest of the film. About half way through, I contemplated muting the DVD and switching the subtitles on in order to simply make the noise stop.
In short – as a film about the American suffrage movement, Iron Jawed Angels is (mostly) well acted and extremely interesting. But as a film in its own right, it is poorly directed, unsympathetically edited and horrifically soundtracked. I can’t think what would ever make me watch it again.

(As a footnote: I’ve heard rumours that the team behind Made In Dagenham are currently in the early stages of producing a film about the British suffrage campaign, which will be written by Abi Morgan – who scripted The Iron Lady and The Hour. More news on this as and when I hear it.)

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hooters in Bristol has closed

A family-friendly restaurant? Err...

After 16 months in a huge and garish establishment on Bristol’s regenerated harbourside (a conservation area, and a police-designated Community Impact Zone), Bristol Hooters has closed its symbolic doors for the last time. A notice on the door implies the parent company, Gallus, has gone into administration. And presumably this is because they weren’t generating the volume of custom they needed in order to meet their running costs.

I am not disappointed. I’m relieved.

“If you don’t like it, don’t go there”, people said. If only it was so easy. Hooters was slap bang in the middle of the city I live in. It was unavoidable.

To be clear, I’m not pleased that people are out of work. And I am not criticising the ‘girls’ who chose to work there – for a wage they knew was low, wearing a uniform they knew to be revealing, and working in an environment they presumably knew would be largely frequented by men. If people want to work in such conditions, that’s up to them.


Part of my problem with Hooters is that it masqueraded as a family-friendly restaurant, while really it’s USP was conventionally pretty waitresses, wearing a short and tight uniform, selling over-priced chicken and beer to mostly men. You can print a kids’ activity sheet up and offer child-size portions, but that doesn’t mean you’re a family-friendly restaurant. If Hooters had been honest about what it was (ie: a stag party destination), I would not have liked it any better – but at least it would have been, excuse the pun, more upfront.

My other problem with Hooters was that it was straightforward high-street misogyny, in the vein of Zoo, Nuts and lapdance clubs (yes, I know the waitresses at Hooters served food, nothing more). It perpetuated a long out-of-date idea that women are only and always sex symbols, but that only women who look a certain way (ie, young, slim, conventionally pretty etc) should be perceived as sex symbols. And by putting it on the high street, the message that women are only sex objects for the gratification of men is readily available for everyone to see, regardless of whether they want to.

After the petition to try and stop Hooters from opening at all garnered around 1,000 signatures in two weeks, the subsequent petition to ask councillors to investigate Hooters following the children’s party fiasco gathered 1,500 signatures in a matter of days – including Jonathan Ross and David Mitchell.

From the symbolic owls/breasts on the logos, door handles and doormat, to the sexist slogans plastered all over the menus and restaurant walls, to the bikini contests and breast-shaped cakes designed to be cut up at children’s birthday parties… Hooters has a simple USP: conventionally pretty women are paid to bring chicken and beer to (mostly) men, and they are paid to giggle and take an interest in these (mostly) men.

What I take comfort in is that clearly the people of Bristol are more intelligent than Hooters gave them credit for. It is not the campaigning or activism against Hooters’ opening in October 2010 that caused the closure of the Bristol branch in February 2012: it was the fact that the business could not generate enough custom, because people evidently don’t want what Hooters sells.


There were three Hooters in the UK: Nottingham, Bristol and Cardiff. I’ve been to them all, and eaten or drunk in them all. And in each of them the food was average tasting, the atmosphere synthetic, and the bill astronomical for what it was. I went to them purely because people kept saying: “How can you object to it if you’ve never even been there?”, assuming that I hadn’t been there. So I went, and I spoke to waitresses, and I spent time in all three Hooters branches.

I also applied for a job at the Bristol branch when they held an open interview session a few weeks before the place opened. True, I didn’t actually want a job at the place, and obviously they weren’t going to employ me (in my early 30s, I was a little out of their target age range – as my interviewer quickly pointed out) – despite the fact I have plenty of waitress experience. But I appreciated the opportunity to talk with a member of the restaurant’s management at length and find out more about the company. I wrote a blog post about it, which is available to read here.


When we were campaigning against Bristol City Council granting Hooters a licence in the summer of 2010, myself and many others spent many weeks and months researching the company (both in the UK and the US, where it originates), speaking with Hooters waitresses online, and finding out more about how the business operated and what it was doing. After doing a great deal of research and making an informed and educated assessment, we still considered that Hooters was an outdated and unnecessary business model, and could not see in what way Bristol would benefit from such an establishment. And as time has shown, Bristolians felt likewise.

It wasn’t just feminists who objected, either, despite what the local paper tells you. Plenty of residents’ groups (the Bristol branch was opposite some blocks of flats, and close to other residential areas) and religious groups also objected, and when I attended the licencing hearing for Hooters at the Council, members of these groups were well represented alongside the feminist campaigners.

I am not pleased that some people have lost their jobs, but I am pleased that such a degrading business has proven unpopular with the paying public. This really is a case of people voting with their feet. I hope the empty building is soon replaced with a more suitable venue, one that is genuinely family-friendly, and one that genuinely offers something different to the people of Bristol.


It’s been 24 hours since the news of Hooters’ closure has been circulated, and already the online abuse hurled at some of my fellow campaigners has been appalling. But I will not feel bullied out of writing this post by having read some of the awful comments these cowards have written.

These comments are seemingly from men who are saddened to lose Hooters (I wonder why!), and some former Hooters waitresses, all of whom are deliberately choosing to read that Hooters going into administration is the fault of feminist campaigners (it’s not – Hooters went into administration because they couldn’t generate enough custom), and that feminist campaigners are delighted at seeing ‘Hooters’ girls’ out of work (we’re not – and we hope they find more work soon, hopefully making good use of those degrees they kept telling us they were funding through their tips).

In fact, the comments that these people are writing (eg: “[Name of campaigner] is a cunt. I hate her… I’m going to find her address. She must pay”;  “angry stupid narrow minded bitches”, “I want to kick a feminist in the vagina, just for the pure irony” and so it goes on) serve only to prove that we were right that an exploitative establishment like Hooters exists to serve the type of people who enjoy degrading and abusing women, and see women as nothing more than objects.

We presented the licencing committee at Bristol City Council with plentiful similar comments from people who abused us for campaigning against the opening of the ‘breastaurant’ (as Hooters’ lawyers call it), but the council chose to ignore us. All this proves is we were right. I hope those who are receiving such hateful comments are able to recognise it for what it is, and I know those activists will only feel inspired to campaign stronger and harder in the future as a result of this.

The No To Hooters in the UK blog can be found here.

Further information about the campaign can be found on Bristol Fawcett’s website here.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Homeland - and the rise of female leads in TV dramas

In recent years, TV viewers have enjoyed several crime dramas with strong female leads.

Borgen, The Killing, Prime Suspect, The Closer… OK, the list starts to run a little thin here. But I’m pleased to say we can now add Homeland to the countdown, which is starting its UK airing on February 19, over on Channel 4.

Following it’s initial season in the US, Homeland has scored two Golden Globe wins – including Best Actress in a TV Series for the female lead Claire Danes, who plays CIA agent Carrie Mathison. A second season has been promised for the autumn.

Loosely based on Gideon Raff's Israeli TV series Prisoners of War, it centres on an American soldier, Sgt Nicholas Brody, (Damian Lewis) taken prisoner during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Left for dead, Brody miraculously returns to the US after years in captivity. CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) becomes convinced that the intelligence that led to his rescue was a set-up, and that this national hero may be connected to an Al-Qaeda plot to be carried out on American soil.
You can also throw in Carrie’s own psychological demons after her experiences working in Afghanistan, and the fact she is bipolar – a condition she keeps secret from her colleagues, fearing she would be thrown out of the CIA as unstable. What you end up with is an outwardly strong and successful female character, who is driven and respected, but who is inwardly struggling to keep her mind together.
But before you panic that this is another example of a female who is shown as weak due to illness of her lack of a relationship, please think again. I’m not going to give away any plot details, as (having just finished watching all 12 episodes) Homeland is full of many twists alongside the slow burning central narrative driver. But please take my word for it that this is another positive example of women being shown as good leaders. (Although, sure, if push comes to shove, we can find fault with some perceptions of Carrie’s character.)
As an aside, of the five shows I listed above, only one is UK-born (Prime Suspect). What does that tell us about the programming chiefs in our, excuse me, homeland TV stations? THAT is the big question.
TV Licensing statistics in the UK show that women generally watch more TV than men do, so surely it’s logical to put more women in strong, leading roles?
Yes, there are lots of fluffy, female-led shows like Gossip Girl, New Girl, 2 Broke Girls (can you spot a theme?)… but these programmes focus on women as ‘girls’ – as vulnerable, image-obsessed, fashion-focused, man-hunters whose main activities are designer shopping, obsessing over their relationship status, drinking cocktails with the ‘girls’ and coo-ing over a pair of expensive high heels, while waving a sparkle-encrusted Blackberry around. In short: vacuous. And really boring.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you tell women this is how ‘real’ women are, then this may be what viewers aspire to. But TV programmers should credit female audiences with more intelligence and create more characters along the lines of Sarah Lund and Carrie Mathison – women who really are impressive, strong, intelligent role models. Women who succeed, without tottering around in high heels, faffing about with calorific mascara wands, and worrying about their weight. In short, REAL women.
In the meantime, tune in to Homeland and enjoy Claire Danes’ ability to get the job done.