Is the New TV Season Sexist?


Is "Jiggle TV" making an unfortunate comeback? In the old days of television, when Three's Company and Baywatch dominated the airwaves, the spotlight on many female characters was focused simply on their looks.  Even shows like Star Trek, which aimed to show the progressive strides of human beings in the future, arguably displayed some sexist depictions by today's standards.  Yet, maybe today's standards haven't really changed much at all, as some might say, judging by the new shows coming our way this season. 

September is here and new television programming is on our doorstep, ready to come into our living rooms.  TheWrap.com joined some other critics who have been pointing fingers recently at the networks for their new shows that seem to emphasize "T & A" instead of showing their female characters in what they profess should be a more positive and well-rounded light.

ABC has a remake of Charlie's Angels, the poster child (no pun intended for the late, great original angel Farrah Fawcett) of 1970s "Jiggle TV."  Is the super-model-looking crimefighting trio actually an example of the empowerment of women, or are they merely serving as nothing more than eye candy for a male audience? 

ABC also has a show about 1960s airline stewardesses (before they were called flight attendants) titled Pan Am.  NBC, likewise, has a drama set in the '60s with ladies in skimpy bunny outfits -- the highly hyped new series The Playboy Club.  Are these just retro chic shows aiming to capitalize on nostalgia and the success of AMC's Mad Men, or is the period setting just an excuse to be sexist and misogynistic with a built-in excuse that they're not actually showing women in a poor light? 

In their defense, both Pan Am and The Playboy Club seem to have plots that center on other dramatics beyond the bedroom.  Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, however, is calling for a boycott of The Playboy Club and some network affiliates across the country are refusing to air it.

Even the first teaser for NBC's remake of the highly acclaimed British series Prime Suspect was mildly gratuitous, showing Mario Bello in her police locker room, strapping on her gun and donning her police uniform.  I don't recall a similar closeup butt shot of the original actress Helen Mirren whenever I saw an episode on PBS.

I haven't seen full episodes of any of the shows mentioned above, so it would be unfair of me to take a stand on either side of the debate at this time.  Nevertheless, I do hope that the new television season provides some good characters, regardless of gender, and avoids relying too heavily on stereotypes.  The human body is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated, but not at the expense of objectifying women for the sake of television ratings. 

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