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Things We Saw Today

Things We Saw Today: A Comparison of Notable Women in Scifi vs. Mainstream Television

In before somebody says this isn’t a comprehensive look, that it doesn’t acknowledge of the sexualization of female characters on either side of the picture, and that their favorite character isn’t represented/isn’t representative of that archetype. Think of it as a discussion starter. (Reddit via Blastr)

What worked about [the pairing of Uhura and Spock], in fact, was that Abrams and Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci did something that movies rarely do, but that is, in fact, totally natural: showed two characters in a relationship using sexual contact as a means of expressing tenderness rather than desire. The fact that Spock needed comfort in the wake of extreme trauma was specific to the plot, but there was no reason the person he got comfort from also needed to illuminate the Romulan threat. The same could easily, and comfortably, be true of a gay character. Someone should tell Abrams that it’s not a victory over tokenism to keep gay people invisible, especially when that invisibility is increasingly obviously at odds with the Star Trek vision of a progressive future.Alyssa Rosenberg, making a very valid point that deserves mentioning.

Heeeey, somebody who remembered that Bruce Wayne had two parents! (Sorry, I’ve seen a little bit too much of that portrait where Martha’s face is obscured to highlight that we’re supposed to be thinking about Thomas UNT ONLY THOMAS and then there’s Batman Begins!Martha who has no lines. No, I have not been reading Flashpoint. Yes I am aware.) (Yasmin Liang)

Jill Thompson, artist behind The Little Endless, draws Supergirl, Batgirl, and Wonder Girl like the darndest. (Bleeding Cool.)

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  • Christopher Power

    Wait … so Uhura should have been what … some low rank ensign for that scene to be meaningful?  I’m not totally sure what the statement is getting at about that scene.  I thought it was great that she had a strong presence that was completely independent of that comforting role.

  • Anonymous

    Well, to use as intended for discussion, the one character from the picture that stood out most as being uhh…the most out-of-place would be Deborah Morgan from Dexter. The happiest the character has been, genuinely was when she became rose from being an officer in Vice to homicide and then getting her detectives’s shield. And the words ‘strong and intelligent’ fit a whole lot more than ‘subservient’. Which kind of leads me to a point. She is by no means a perfect character, like every single other character in the series she has the potential for crippling flaws. In Deb’s particular case romantic relationships would certainly be one of those. But does a flawed character automatically mean it’s a bad portrayal of a woman? I’d have to argue it does not.

  • super

    If trek really wanted to go down this route introducing a gay character or relationship they had many chances especially with the DAX character or the trill species.  Focusing creative energy’s in this way isn’t going to help the overall story and in fact will be a distraction.  If you want to do same sex story line… then do it the same way it was done in Babylon 5 with the Susan Ivanova character.  Hint at it but don’t make a huge thing about it.  Now if they do a story line like Kirk and Spock as lovers like BSG did with APollo and Starbuck..the film will flop big time in the theaters. 
    Now a small side story of the next trek movie should be to some degree be about Old Spock looking for a way to change history back to the way it once was.  Wouldn’t it be natural to want to do that?  Or lets drop that obvious story line to focus on a gay character..yeah that’s what trek fans want to see. 

  • AlannaBennett

    I’d argue that a character without flaws isn’t a good portrayal of many things. 

  • Anonymous

    Aw dang, they put Skylar White in the Ladies of Prime Time pile?
    Anyone givin’ her flak for being dependent, subservient and inactive I think has not seen the show.  That also seems like a wide definition of prime time.

  • Sarah Rice

    Abrams had said in an interview that he would have a LGBT character in the nest Star Trek movie if it felt organic (or something like that).  Basically he said he didn’t want to be accused of tokenism or shoe-horning in a gay character.  This lady is pointing out that a romance doesn’t have to be earth-shatteringly connected to the plot in order to be shown.  Yes, Uhura had a part other than Spock’s girlfriend and that’s great.  However heterosexual romantic moments are treated as a given while movie makers don’t want to use LGBT characters unless ‘gayness’ is a focus of the movie.  And that’s not necessary.  What if, in the scenes of the cadets leaving for various ships, there had been a couple or two who exchanged goodbye kisses and at least one pair had been same sex?  I think she’s just pointing out that homosexual romantic feelings can be portrayed as naturally as heterosexual feelings. 

  • Rebecca Elouise Padrick

    Yeah, when the hell has Skyler White ever been subservient to Walt or
    any other man? She is super smart, cunning, independent, and self
    possessed. I agree with the above poster, I feel like whoever included Skyler on that list has never actually watched Breaking Bad.

  • bob lumsden

    “Or lets drop that obvious story line to focus on a gay character..yeah that’s what trek fans want to see.”

    No one is suggesting making the next Star Trek movie into a romantic gay comedy in space, the point is to increase visibility of queer characters. Presumably if the future is intellectually, socially and sexually progressive, it would follow that there would be openly queer characters in society and in star fleet itself. Why is it suddenly too much to include images of well adjusted queer adults sharing a romantic or sexual relationship when the sex lives of all the other main characters are often displayed and explored in detail in the various series (definitely no hinting at or beating around the bush when it comes to Riker)? To exclude LGBTQ (etc. etc.) characters from these explorations, to not even mention their existence, is an omission; it’s a dishonest representation of humanity and the future that Star Trek envisions.  
    That you view the desire of the Star Trek’s many queer fans to see a openly queer character as a hostile takeover of the second movie is telling. It speaks to the very ugly notion that nerd culture must cater predominantly, if not exclusively, to white, straight men (which it does for the most part), and also that you perceive any serious critique of popular nerd culture as a direct threat to your identity (it isn’t, it’s critique). What do you stand lose really if there is a small clip of a same sex couple kissing goodbye to add to the cultural texture of the movie? Perhaps only your fantasy of a place where there are no queer people.

    P.S. For your information there are many trekkies who would like to see Kirk and Spock make out. Just Saying.

  • Amanda Jean Carroll

    But… it’s not that it isn’t a complete comparison, it’s that it’s not a comparison at all. It’s just some examples of strong women and them some examples of arguably weak ones. Singling out Betty Draper, for example, is ridiculous — it is abundantly clear that her character is more than just a character, she’s a comment on the sexism of the 50′s housewife system that created her. Mad Men has featured plenty of strong women, like, say, Peggy. Just like Star Trek had Nurse Chapel and Yeoman Rand. If this was a comparison of most popular or well known characters, it would have more merit — as it is, it’s just evidence chosen to support a specific outcome. 

  • Frodo Baggins

    Yeah, except Deborah Morgan is incredibly obnoxious. God I could not stand that character.

  • Frodo Baggins

    And Sopranos had Meadow Soprano, a female Sicilian Don, and a stone cold FBI agent.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Those are some Barbie-proportioned super heroes, alright.

  • Wat No

    That women of SciFi Vs. women of women of Primetime graphic would work much better if they both described the same traits. The women of SciFi caption discusses their jobs and the women of Primetime caption talks about their personalities and emotions. Meridith Grey is a doctor, is she less a doctor because she’s also obnoxious and needy? And I don’t know why Skylar White and Carmella Soprano are even on the list. Or why Starbuck being a pilot makes her less of a complete fruitcake.

  • K.K.

    I haven’t watched Battlestar Galactica, but Mary McDonnell is an inspiring person in and of herself. She gave an amazing presentation at my university last year on women in power.

  • super

    if it was so many then it would be economically viable.  Since they didn’t even come close to making one even with easy way of doing it with the trill character shows the exact opposite.  Arguments that TNGs aborted effort was back in the 90s was to early with Dr Crusher and the trill who changed gender.    They might be valid but then they had another opportunity in the early 21st century with Ds9 Dax and worf.  This was when Dax was killed and trill was put into a new host body.  But unlike with TNG the trill was put into another host body as the same sex as the previous host body. 
    Now if you want increase visibility in a trek movie you are going to have to do it with the core bridge characters.  The backlash you will face for tampering with the original characters like that will be massive. 
    Also one more thing in the total history of Star Trek movies there isn’t much romance or sexual relationships except if it involves kirk and even that isn’t that much. 

  • mittbabysqueak

    no one has mentioned this yet, but…
    they banned fahrenheit 451
    THEY BANNED FAHRENHEIT 451!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Abel Undercity

    Citation, please.

  • Gina

    Um, the link above in the article? It’s on GeekSugar’s list.

  • Ms. Sunlight

    There are people I meet in real life I find obnoxious.  Being obnoxious doesn’t mean that a character is not nuanced and well-portrayed.  Besides obnoxiousness is subjective.  YMMV.

  • Ms. Sunlight

    I know.  Beyond ironic.

    I actually got that book from a school book club when I was 12.  Still a favourite.

  • Becca Martin

    other people have pointed out, that women of prime time vs. sci-fi
    graphic is a bit baffling and definitely pointless, what with its
    obvious selection of characters specifically to confirm to its point. As
    someone else pointed out up-thread, choosing Betty draper instead of
    Sally is an obvious example of how biased this is. I don’t even dislike,
    say, Callie on BSG, but if that graphic had Callie vs. Peggy instead of
    Roslin and Starbuck vs. Betty, you’d reach a different conclusion. Not
    to mention using Rachel from Friends when that was years ago! Now in the
    same time slot you have female comedy leads like Tina Fey/Liz Lemon and
    Amy Poehler/Leslie Knope (and if you don’t think Leslie Knope is one of
    the best role models on TV not just for women, but for the whole world,
    I think you’re wrong).

    mostly I want to point out that no matter what you think of Jersey
    Shore, reducing Snooki, who is a REAL PERSON, to a couple of dismissive
    phrases is pretty damn female unfriendly, in my opinion.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Just because she’s a woman doesn’t mean it’s anti-woman to hate her. Just like you can hate Donald Trump with out hating men.

  • Joseph Caine

    I have to agree with a lot of the comments here, the comparison of sci-fi women to prime-time women reeks of confirmation bias. The inclusion of Betty Draper is especially bad, because her character is a deconstruction of this very list, and shares the screen with characters like Peggy Olson and Sally Draper. Carmella Soprano is obviously much more nuanced than “She needs Tony Soprano to be fulfilled”, and Deborah Morgan’s relationships have never been more important to her than police work. (Consider the fact that her best relationship was with someone who could absolutely understand her passion for it.)

    Many of these characters show characterstics that could easily land them on both lists. Starbuck, for example, is a tough pilot who survived years of abuse from her mother, but the main stories her character goes through are : a)being caught in a love triangle and b)having daddy issues.

    tl;dr this list is a false dichotomy that breaks down hard on any actual examination.

  • Life Lessons

    And that is why I love SF/Fantasy.

  • Maiasaura

    Is that Batgirl or Batwoman?  With the flaming red hair, the porcelain-doll-skin, and the gothic makeup, it looks like Kate Kane to me.  Granted, I know very little about the Bat-Universe, so….

  • Null

    All very well said, a few things to add:

    SF doesn’t take place in the real world, so you have a lot more leeway for making a female captain of a starship than you do for a female 18-th century warship. In reality, strong women often had to work through manipulating the men around them.

    Male nerds seem to fantasize about intelligent, capable women much more than male non-nerds do. Hollywood and TV are happy to oblige with female doctors, scientists, etc.

    They’re all going to look like Barbie dolls, because TV is full of beautiful people. Ugly guys don’t do well in Hollywood outside of Judd Apatow movies. 

  • Nikki Lincoln

    But she also derives a lot of happiness from being coupled up, and ends up with the closest guy in every season.  Yes, she is a cop and is smart and is willing to risk a lot for her job, but in relationships she is super dependent and needy and clings to whatever is closest.

    I would say Blair Waldorf doesn’t fit in this list. She is extremely career driven and will do anything to succeed and time and time again she leaves the love of her life because she knows that he’s only going to bring down her rise to success. There is nothing about her that is subservient. To anyone. Ever.

  • Frodo Baggins

    You mean outside of nearly the entire genre of comedy? Zack Galifianakis, Chris Farley, John Belushi, Rick Moranis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Will Ferrell, Rodney Dangerfield, etc. They are some ugly, funny, lots-of-work-getting dudes. Where are the female equivalents? Kristen Wiig is certainly a damn sight nicer-looking. Even in dramas, I don’t see many women who look like Paul Giamatti or Phillip Seymour Hoffman getting lead roles.

    And TV? Sitcoms are notorious for pairing men with female counterparts who are more conventionally attractive. King of Queens, Still Standing, Everybody Loves Raymond, Modern Family, Cosby Show, George Lopez, Family Guy, Simpsons. Hell, it goes all the way back to The Honeymooners. Men are there to be laughed at, women are there to be looked at.

  • Wat No

    Maybe from whiners who can’t deal with teh gay. Personally, I hope they do gay it up, people who don’t like it can either get the fuck out of my fandom or learn to project themselves onto characters that may not share their race, gender or sexual orientation like the rest of us have to. I’m tired of hearing how it would ruin it for you or people wouldn’t like it. You’re so busy shouting people down I sincerely doubt you have the first clue about what people would like. Nerds don’t just come in straight, white and male and those voices are neither the only voices nor are they the most important voices. Rather than fighting the tide, roll with it. It’s not going to hurt you to have to consider other people for a change.

  • gia manry

    I believe the formal debate/logic term is “cherry-picking.” :)

    To some extent I’m over that element of it; what I don’t like is this supposed distinction; that “geek” can’t also be “mainstream” or primetime. There’s a TON of overlap.For example: my research currently indicates that the original Star Trek aired during primetime- Thursday for the first season, Monday for the third; they were in the death slot on Friday for the second season but still in the “primetime” time frame (8:30 to 9).

  • gia manry

    ^- This is actually one of the things that to this day makes ‘Roseanne’ blow my mind. Not just because it was entertaining (albeit obnoxious at times), but because somehow it managed to GET and STAY on the air for nine years!

  • Neville Ross

    The main characters are not gay, why make them out to be? The right way to do it is to simply introduce a gay character, as shown in this popular fan series. Or, do what some inventive fans did, and create a fan show with two gay character as the main focus.