Disappointing (and downright bad) portrayals of women in TV series and movies

The Real Housewives of Atlanta cast. Image: Bravo
The Real Housewives of Atlanta cast. Image: Bravo

I don’t know about you, but I love watching TV and movies and reading books. I especially love consuming these types of media when it shows women in strong, powerful roles where they’re fully fledged characters.

But sometimes I come across portrayals of women that are just plain shocking. The characters are one dimensional, have no redemption arc and are treated as mere plot points for the male characters in the story. 

We deserve more than to just be sexy, bikini clad, high heel-wearing fodder for mediocre male characters who really do nothing to progress the human race, but are somehow lauded as heroes of the silver and small screen and celebrated for their wit, charm and humour.

All the one night stands and ex girlfriends of Barney Stinson – How I Met Your Mother

We often only see Barney’s point of view in the interactions between him and the many nameless and faceless female characters he’s hooked up with. Yes, I know it’s the point – because that’s how Barney sees them, but the storytellers force us to identify with Barney since these women are never given real personality traits or anything other than a storyline involving how “crazy” they are (remember the crazy/hot scale?).

They’re almost always dressed provocatively and are pegged as incredibly stupid and shallow which is why they go along with Barney’s schemes in the first place. No one says anything about the fact that Barney treats women like shit by first manipulating them into sleeping with him and then blaming or humiliating them for believing his lies.

Image: Popsugar

All the women featured in Two and A Half Men

Another show that often used women as merely sexual ploys to help further the plot lines of the male characters, or play to their masculinity. Every woman is seen as either unintelligent, superficial bimbos meant to be seen as sexy, but not capable of their own agency, or they’re seen as crazy villains like in the case of the main characters’ mother and Alan’s ex wife their neighbour Rose. 

image: Zetaboards

The women of the American Pie series

None of them were particularly well portrayed or given any proper background story and were used simply ploys to further the stories of the male characters (are you starting to see a trend here?).

To be fair, what did we expect from a franchise centred around four white cisgendred men who all want to lose their virginity before college? I suppose hoping that the women who are featured in these movies would be portrayed as actual people is too much to hope for.

Michelle, who eventually becomes Jim’s wife, is seen as some sort of sexual gatekeeper, but is never given any proper storyline of her own where she’s seen as an actual intelligent human being with thoughts and feelings.

And don’t get me started on Stifler and the way he treats the female characters and how they hardly even seem to have names.

And remember the really rapey joke from American Pie: Reunion where Jim’s kid’s babysitter tries to seduce him after getting drunk and then Stifler says he wants a look at her “goodies” when she’s passed out? Yeah, it makes me really uncomfortable too. 

image: Gfycat

The women in those shitty horror movies

The “damsel in distress” idea has become part and parcel of many horror movies.

The woman always needs saving from something whether it be paranormal or a scary baddie with a giant knife/chainsaw and is almost always in tears because she can’t work out that she should run out of the house and away from the killer instead of upstairs where she’ll most certainly be hacked to death or attacked by the paranormal being.

And what is with all the falling down?! It’s like no woman in a horror movie can run without falling so the killer can catch up a bit.

While there are examples of women taking their own back in horror movies (like Scream or Don’t Breathe) most women in horror are still treated as if they’re only there to look pretty and be vulnerable to the thing that wants to kill her. 

Image: Book my show

Women in reality TV shows

Urgh, I hate reality TV. Especially reality TV that pits women against each other or plays up their worst qualities for the sake of ratings.

Yes, we can be mean and say hurtful things and be competitive, but women are multifaceted beings with thoughts, feelings and emotions too. Often shows like Dance Moms or Toddlers in Tiaras show that women are shrewd and mean not just to each other, but to their kids too, wanting them to succeed no matter what and having no other facets to their personalities but that.

Or when best friends fight over men because that’s what grown ass women do. Or, my personal (least) favourite, shows like The Bachelor where women need to compete against each other for the attention of a man.

Now I’m not saying any of these women are perfect, or don’t have flaws in their personalities, but to be portrayed as only shallow, vain, money obsessed, etc. is unfair and portrays a stereotype about women in those situations that can be harmful.

image: alexthielen.me

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