Feminism in Television

What feminism means and its values have long been hotly debated. The idea that woman can do on their own for themselves, or do exactly what a man can without being criticized has been a recurring theme both in life and on the small television screen. Female characters who are always looking for a husband, fairytale characters who need a man to come and rescue them because they couldn't figure out an escape on their own have been examples time and time again of how television does not know how to progress. Then again, when television viewers can't find inclusion anywhere in prime time either, you tend to be disheartened and not optimistic about anything network television has to offer.

Actress Shannon Woodward recently put things perfectly when she tweeted @shannonwoodward: I'm gonna start a Kickstarter to buy everyone a dictionary so they can look up the word "feminism." This came be fittingly after The Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting was asked recently by Redbook if she was a feminist to which she said, "Is it bad if I say no? It's not really something I think about. Things are different now, and I know a lot of the work that paved the way for women happened before I was around...I was never that feminist girl demanding equality, but maybe that's because I've never really faced inequality." It is laughable that she feels this way, because she portrays attractive airhead Penny on The Big Bang Theory who has always had a jock boyfriend who never treated her well until nerdy Leonard (Johnny Galecki) shows her smart can be sexy too. When Cuoco-Sweeting says that she has never really faced inequality, maybe Shannon Woodward should use the Kickstarter fund for a copy of the dictionary to be hand delivered to Cuoco-Sweeting.

More and more Canadian shows and web series are thinking outside of the box women have been put into on US network television and are making sure that women aren't being seen as fragile, docile creatures that they are continually portrayed to be. Unlike the prime time show Once Upon A Time, which constantly has its character Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) trying to perpetually swoop in and save the day for Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) against her wishes, Canadian web series and television shows have begun to show women as their own saviors. Once Upon A Time often forgets that strong female characters aren't just physically fit, they are mentally fit and capable of guiding their own journeys. Canadian web series shows like Carmilla and Canadian television shows like Strange Empire and Lost Girl are perpetually showing and highlighting that we can throw feminist conventions out the window.

These ladies aren't shrinking violets or women under the thumb of a man. They have each other and the ability to make their own decisions. In the web series Carmilla we have a group of female college students that when faced with danger or the idea that something weird is going on they don't look for a man to find the answer or help them. It's not even something that they have to do consciously. It is just their automatic response. As the character Laura (played by Elise Bauman) spectacularly says, "We need to girl the hell up!"

In Strange Empire we meet Canadian frontier women in the 1860s who are forced to be independent after a majority of the men in their camp are killed. This series continues to portray women as capable, intelligent and resourceful. After all, you never know what you're truly made of until life forces you to find out. Instead of looking for new suitors or waiting for cues from a man, this group of ladies makes their own life for themselves, a new future, filled with their own decisions, mistakes and triumphs. Even the conventional ideas of masculine and feminine roles are skewed in the show when Dr. Rebecca Blithley (Melissa Farman) begins a relationship with Morgan Finn (Joanne Boland) who dresses and identifies as a man, but whose body is physically female. On the Canadian TV series Lost Girl the character Bo (Anna Silk) struggles with her "desire to be saved by men" that was ingrained in her by her small town roots as well as her need to be her own savior in order to fulfill her own destiny.

So why are Canadian based web series and shows taking a stand more than US prime time network shows? We have examples of ass kicking ladies on television like Emily Thorne (Emily Van Camp) from the show Revenge and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) on Scandal, but television is always taking one step forward and then taking two steps backwards. There is never a time when both younger and older women aren't impressionable, and it's been long overdue for US network television to modernize and feminize. As we begin a new year US network television should take notes from Canadian web series and television shows that showcase the feminist ideals that have almost been obliterated on television. We don't need anymore women looking for a husband and home, we need women who can understand that they are capable enough for themselves and can make a life on their own.