If you haven’t noticed by some of my postings, I am very much about “girl power.” Maybe it was the influence of the strong women in my family or growing up during a time when females began to emerge and prove that women can do things just as well or better than men. I’ll never forget watching the 1999 Women’s World Cup and Brandi Chastain ripped off her shirt after scoring the winning goal for the U.S. It wasn’t so much received as something sexual but a celebration of accomplishment, strength, and liberation and if men can celebrate that way, why shouldn’t she?
What has been troubling me over the last few weeks is how strong female television characters are being received by some, not all, viewers of highly rated shows. Two characters that enter my mind right away is Skyler White from Breaking Bad and Tara Knowles from Sons of Anarchy, each of whom are married to a “King” of the underworld (Walter: drugs. Jax: guns) Although Breaking Bad had finished it’s run back in September, I am constantly reminded of the power struggle Skyler dealt with when I watch Tara weigh the options of what is right for her children and family. This season of Sons, writer Kurt Sutter kicked deception up a notch when he had Tara fake a miscarriage so she could push away from her husband and put distance between her family and the dangerous life of the motorcycle club. Although I did not agree with the way the character played out this scheme, I still understood the reasoning behind it and why it needed to be so extreme. After the episode aired, social media erupted with a lot hateful and irrational ideas about what should happen to this character. Some included death by the hands of her husband, suicide, and other unworthy demise ideas for Tara, who all along has been the moral compass of SOA. Skyler White’s character experienced the same reaction when she did not agree with her husband’s destructive and dangerous behavior in the drug business, which had a downward spiraling effect on her family.
The reality is, if this was a real situation for any person let alone a woman with a family, most wouldn’t blink an eye over one’s desire to leave this life. Anna Gunn, who played Skyler on Breaking Bad, said it best in a piece she contributed to the New York Times: “Could it be that they can’t stand a woman who won’t suffer silently or “stand by her man”? That they despise her because she won’t back down or give up?” Gunn then goes on to describe how she came to terms with the fact the hatred of her character wasn’t about her but the perceptions that some viewers had in regards to females.
To coincide with Gunn’s statement, I think this mind-frame goes beyond wives struggling with power hungry husbands in dangerous worlds. One of my favorite book series, “The Hunger Games,” centers around Katniss Everdeen, a strong girl from a poor district that becomes a symbol of hope and strength during a time of poverty and disarray. When the movie came out, I was excited to see Jennifer Lawrence make this character come alive by climbing trees, shooting arrows, and saving her male counterpart while still looking feminine. Even though most of the online “chatter” agreed with this feeling, there were also messages targeting the way the character looked and even her WEIGHT! Did Anna Gunn hit the nail on the head or what?
As these thoughts continue to dwindle in my mind and I struggle to accept the ignorance of others, I do still have hope that “Hollywood” is moving in the right direction with strong, heroine-type of female characters. Not all may be role models or make the best decisions but they are not June Clever, and dear I say, I’m grateful for that!