Women In Television Share This One Fatal Weakness

by Brenda Pitt

Homeland’s Carrie Mathison


TIME’s Eliana Dockterman has something to say about the seemingly empowered and independent female television characters in her essay “TV’s Strongest Female Characters Share One Stupid Flaw.” 


While applauding the increased presence of female “DC fixers, CIA operatives, [and] revenge-seeking killers” in shows like Scandal, Homeland, and Revenge, Dockterman sees a pattern: each of the lady protagonists jeopardizes her career and her life for a man. She sees her favorite female characters make self-destructive and bad decisions for their beloveds, and she’s fed up: “as a feminist, I bristle under the notion that women’s judgment can be so easily derailed by men,” she writes. 


Scandal’s Olivia Pope


And although she is on point, isn’t selflessness part of the magic of love? Don’t we long to see both men and women take risks for those they hold dear? Dockterman recognizes that it’s not only women who are consumed by love in TV. In Lost, multiple men sacrifice their lives for the women they love, and male superheroes often put themselves in harm’s way to protect a loved one. 


“Protect” is the key word there, and Dockterman sharply notes that the same heroism is not applied to women who make decisions and sacrifices based around those they love. While men are viewed as brave, and while their potential martyrdom serves as a symbol of masculine strength, women in these TV shows seem utterly defeated and helpless when they behave in a similar way. Scandal’s protagonist ends up in hiding, and Homeland’s Carrie Mathison undergoes electroshock therapy. I look forward to seeing more women in TV who are fortified by their love, not torn down by it. Where are the women who have love lives and work lives that nurture one another? And let’s see some more women like Mad Men’s Joan and Peggy, who, for Dockterman, are the few female TV characters who exude a sense of unparalleled independence.


Although I agree with Dockterman, I think her view is somewhat simplistic. There are moving moments when Claire Dane’s Carrie Mathison, for example, is heroic: in Season 2 of Homeland, she saves her beloved’s life. She in turn is healed and validated by the love. What do you think about television’s female characters? Let us know in the comments!


Thanks to TIME 

Images via Salon and The New York Times

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