Welcome to the Two Oh One Four. Fourteen years into the new millennium and we are still having the same conversations about politics, women and the media. Our depiction of female politicians in the media, especially as more women enter the real political sphere, lags behind the reality. Real women entering elected positions is creating a real model of the politician “lady version,” yet fictional media representations of the political landscape not only disregards our increasing presence, the TV version of female politicians stands in stark contrast to the reality. Even in politically based TV shows with strong female characters, for example Scandal, the women in elected positions are portrayed as emotional, cheating, ambitious at all costs (until they lose because of lady parts) characters.
Let’s compare the two female candidates attempting presidential bids on Scandal to two actual female politicians, Senator Wendy Davis (D- TX) and Senator Michelle Bachmann (R- MN), who hold political office and are making considerable waves in national news this year.
Candidate 1: Josephine Marcus (D- Montana) (played by Lisa Kudrow)
Likely character pitch: Naive, yet ‘intelligent’ female candidate who unexpectedly makes waves for off the cuff comments becomes a serious presidential candidate. A childhood secret threatens to derail her run and Olivia saves the day. Marcus is politically unpolished and repeatedly fails to grasp the realities of running for president in the current media environment. She constantly exclaims ‘why does the public need to know about [insert personal issue]?’ as if the thought that her private life might become interesting to the public or her opponents never crossed her mind when she decided she would run for president. Eventually the character must sacrifice herself because she loves her daughter more than she desires to be president. O,h and somewhere in there she gives an amazing feminist speech, which I’m assuming is suppose to appease us, yet she completely fails to live up to her speech.
Conclusion: AWWW… this would be cute if it didn’t involve possibly being president of the FUCKING UNITED STATES. Any one, but especially a woman, who manages to put together a reasonable bid for a presidential nomination cannot be this naive, I’ve worked on a lot of elections, and candidates can be dumb but they can not be naive; naivety is the first thing to be weeded out.
Candidate 2: VP Sally Langston (R – Texas) (played by Kate Burton)
Likely Character Pitch: Highly moral woman who helps bring the right over but is willing to bend her defining morals to become president, by switching to a pro-choice stance. VP Langston is consumed by her ambition, and demonstrates repeatedly her willingness to sacrifice everything with cold collected calculation. However when her husband does the nasty with another man, which she implies she understood prior to their marriage, Sally flips and stabs him to death, effectively ending her run against the president.
Conclusion: Bitches be crazy.
Candidate 1: Wendy Davis (D- Texas)
Character pitch: Known for her ability to filibuster unlike this country has seen since the 18th century, she knowingly positioned herself as the face of the new blue Texas. After getting gerrymandered out of her district she decided to stage one last great state stand defending women’s right to their bodies in pink sneakers. Almost immediately following this highly viewed senate session (over 100,000 people watched the live feed, over 150,000 tweeted, and many, such as myself, found themselves unable to access the State Senate Live Feed because of bandwidth problems), Senator Davis announced her bid for governor of Texas, and there is considerable buzz about a presidential run in the future. In contrast to the fictional Marcus, Davis fully understands the implications of stepping onto the national stage, and further more is carefully crafting a public image useful for promoting her political goals.
Conclusion: These pink sneakers were meant for running (for president).
Candidate 2: Michele Bachmann (R – Minnesota)
Character Pitch: The darling of the Tea Party, Bachmann is as close as a religious libertarian can get to a true ideology. She believes what she believes, or at least knows that deviating is bad base politics. Bachman clearly challenged the Republican establishment by incorporating the Tea Party wing better than the old white males who tried to cater their rhetoric to the new, very scary, branch. I do not like Bachmann, but there is no way that the woman who stood in front of the country and called out the old Republicans would ever compromise her ‘values’ in a party that uses flip flopping to out their own incumbents in state primaries. Moreover, there is no way a gun toting, Minnesotan, hunter would ever be stupid enough to stab her husband on a publicly owned rug when the presidency was within reach.
Conclusion: Bitches be crazy, but not stupid.
The dumbing down of female candidates, on both sides, in media representations is dangerous. What 90s kid doesn’t remember Topanga telling the class she was going to be the first female president of the United States? I believed that, and I was surprisingly disappointed when as an adult she became a ‘little wife’ to Corey (who I thought would be a great first husband). For kids of the 90s, female television characters under the age of 15 talked about breaking the glass ceiling, yet that conversation disappeared after they started dating. This model eerily mirrors the current statistics on women in the work place. Whether society models media or media models society is an issue too long for this post, but if we want to foster strong women in the future maybe we need to start looking at the women we are showing to young girls and women around us. In reality women in politics have made record strides this year, yet in media they are still stuck in the 1850s. Maybe its time somebody grew up.