By: Vanessa Tshionyi

ImageFemale Leads in Television

In the beginning of television, women were represented in stereotypical roles, usually dainty-house makers, who didn’t speak up against their husbands.  Slowly the image of women began changing, getting stronger, voicing their opinions, becoming sexually liberated. From I love Lucy that depicted an average stereotypical couple for the 1950’s to today’s television shows like The Mindy Project, which depict a  strong female lead, who also happens to be Indian.

                In the 1950’s a television series called I Love Lucy came on the air. I Love Lucy featured a married couple; Lucille and her husband Ricky, who enforced/portrayed what gender norms at the time. Lucy was a homemaker who stayed at home while her husband went out and made the money. In a couple of episodes Lucy went out to try and work, but always failed miserably, sending out the stereotype that women were only good in the kitchen and in the home. Lucy was also always causing trouble for her husband, often getting in trouble and needing her husband to help her out, also playing into the stereotype that women can’t do anything without the help of a man.  I Love Lucy wasn’t the only show at the time depicting women in this role, almost all of the television series, had women cast as mothers and homemakers.  As the decade progressed, females began getting more independent, with shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Charlie’s Angels. Although women were becoming more independent, they still fit into the stereotype that women needed a man to tell them what to do i.e. Charlie’s Angels, as the Angels needed Charlie to tell them what to do.  In the 80’s came the Cosby Show, which featured a working mom, who had been able to voice her opinion and also who was African American. Before, African Americans really did not have lead roles, or even showed up in television shows. In the 90’s came shows like Sex and the City, which featured sexually liberated, single, working women in New York.  Sex and the City had single, successful women living in New York City, looking for love.  SATC still has stereotypical female roles, as the main character is in love with and chasing after a seemingly unattainable man, and once she gets him, she doesn’t know what to do. The show also does not feature a lot of minority characters, or even ones in roles of power or having importance to the show.

                Fast forwarding to shows and female characters today, you have a lot of variety. You have shows nowadays that feature women as doctors, single women in charge and liberated. One show that I find I really like is the Mindy Project, because it features a woman doctor, head of her own practice, as well as she is Indian. It is rare to find women of color represented as the lead character in shows. Although she is this strong independent woman doctor, she still does/conforms to men, as she is constantly looking for a new boyfriend/someone to love her, as she doesn’t feel whole without a man. Scandal is also a show that features an African American lead character. Olivia Pope works at the White House, and is having a secret relationship with her former boss, the president of the United States of America. A lot of people argue that this show is just playing into the stereotype that an African American woman could only been the side girlfriend, and the mistress, as she isn’t good enough to be the leading lady. I think it is interesting to go back a look how far women have come in television, but it is also sad that they really have not actually came as far as everyone thinks. 

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