Saturday, March 31, 2012

Where Have All The Strong Women Gone?

Searching the web the other day, I came across this interesting article about the lack of strong female leads in popular TV series of today. In the article the author, Daniel Bettridge, makes an argument that shows such as Gossip Girl and 90210 feature female leads that are “little more than expensive clothes horses.” He claims that their male counterparts define these female characters. The shows center around who’s doing what and who’s seeing who rather than an interesting, female empowering storyline. Bettridge questions where shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars have gone. Shows that instead feature, according to him, petty, vein, and overall pathetic women have replaced shows that included leading female superheroines.

           I agree with Bettridge’s argument, but I think that he is too fast to dismiss the female characters of such shows as weak. Sure, Gossip Girl centers around Blair Waldorf, a spoiled Upper East Side princess, and her numerous love interests, but it also shows Blair as an independent, powerful (in that she can manipulate anyone and basically always gets her way), and intelligent woman. She goes to Columbia with her best friend, Serena, and gets a competitive internship. Her mother owns her own fashion company. Another character in the show, Jenny Humphrey, proves her talent as a designer before she even graduates high school. Although the females in this show are born with countless privileges, they also work hard to succeed and be independent, proving that they, too, are strong female characters. They may not have Wonder Woman’s superpowers or Buffy’s ass-kicking mentality, but they are certainly viable representations of a strong, modern-day woman trying to succeed in the real world.

            It was written in 2009, so it is a little outdated, but I still think that Bettridge overlooked some of the strength that can be seen in leading female characters today. Also, many new shows, such as The Vampire Diaries, center on strong female characters that are honorable, independent, and fierce. It is unquestionable that there has yet to be a show that features a character as powerful as Buffy, but I think that Bettridge didn’t give enough credit to the leading ladies of today’s shows. 


  1. As much as I love my female shows of today, Gossip Girl included, I can see the point that Bettridge was attempting to make in his argument. He could've been a little less brash, but that doesn't mean the ideas he brought forth aren't essentially true. Shows like 90210 and Gossip Girl do feature girls and their sometimes petty problems, however, I feel that the key issue is that these characters tend to be very wealthy and very privileged, therefore they do not have to worry too much about heavy issues.

    I do enjoy these shows for complete entertainment purposes, but I can agree with Bettridge in saying that I don't think these girls from these shows are role models or people that should be regarded as true, strong, female empowering characters.

  2. Even though I enjoy an occasional Gossip Girl, I have to agree with Bettridge that the girls in this show aren't ideal role models for young woman. I have not seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer so I cannot make the comparison between the two shows; however, according to the popular support of Buffy as a favorable superheroine, I believe Blair Waladorf to be inferior when it comes to superheroinism. Blair is a very selfish and spiteful character who is preoccupied with wealth and status rather than helping others and taking advantage of her education at Columbia. On the other hand, she is very entertaining to watch but being entertaining certainly does not mean admirable.

  3. While I agree that there are flaws in the female characters featured in shows like Gossip Girl, I also think that these characters cannot be completely dismissed as weak. Especially in regards to Bettridge’s comment that they are “little more than expensive clothes horses”, I do not think that this generalization can be made. Buffy also makes comments about fashion, but she is not called a “clothes horse” as these other characters are. Blair Waldorf may not have the physical strength that Buffy does, but she does show her ability to be powerful in her manipulation of other characters. I think that female characters such as Blair can be seen as more weak in comparison to others, but they too have their own strengths.


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