In Need of a Dramatic Change

This week I wrote a review of Miss Representation for Discordia Zine. For the uninitiated it is a documentary that examines the portrayal of women in the media and how it disempowers us politically.

At the end of the review I reflected on my own role in the media and how it can create much needed change. I made my own pledge to try and teach young women how to be their own storytellers by picking up a pen or a camera.

Then as my week progressed I saw my influence could reach further than that. A colleague asked me to read his feature script. It had a female protagonist who runs away from a life-changing event. It was a good script, but I felt the female lead was full of self-loathing and I could not relate to her.

Over lunch I shared my thoughts with the writer who was grateful for the analysis. He too struggled with his protagonist and told me one thing he really struggled with was she is ultimately saved by a man.  Together we discussed ways could get around this. By the end of it I felt I really had helped him create a stronger woman on screen.

However as Producers we can’t always be so influential. Australian drama is coming back on our tvs in force. Yet what are rating the highest are not our compelling stories about strong women.

Let’s look at the ratings winners Channel 9. Straight after the Olympics they launched straight in to Howzat – Kerry Packer’s War, then the new season of Underbelly followed by House Husbands.  Over 30 hours of Australian drama where we either celebrate misogyny or men struggling with domesticity.

However on Channel 10 we do get drama with female leads – Offspring and Puberty Blues. Shows where women (or young girls) are fumbling over their relationships with men (or young boys). In both series the females are full of angst except in one they are teenagers and the other a 30 something woman acting like one. An opportunity lost.

In order for us to really make an impact on how women are portrayed in the media, those within it need to be vigilant and really deconstruct what we are creating. When I recently told a peer I could not watch Danger 5 because I could not stand the way it portrayed women I was reminded it really is just celebrating a genre and period.

That is b-grade 60s tv, where women were all about their busts and little substance. Do we really need to go back there? It’s 2012, surely we can start to create – and commission – work that represents us now.

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