All Hail the Women of TV
By Cindi Leive
The ironic thing about my editing this, Glamour's TV Issue, is that I was the one kid on my block forbidden to watch TV as a child. No "Jeffersons." No "M*A*S*H." No "Happy Days!" (You don't even want to know how long it took me to figure out what on earth kids were quoting when they said, "Sit on it, Potsie.") There was a brief moment when I caught six minutes of Speed Racer at a friend's house and decided I wanted to change my name to Trixie, after the hero's feisty pixie-haired girlfriend, but in general, I was TV-oblivious.
Boy, have I made up for my slow start.
Cheers, "Saturday Night Live," and "General Hospital" were my gateway drugs — the rules had relaxed by high school — followed by some oh-so-nineties addictions: "Seinfeld," "The Larry Sanders Show," "Freaks and Geeks," "Sex and the City." In my thirties, 24 taught me the art of binge-watching, and I spent an entire maternity leave catching up on three seasons of "Lost" (while bonding with my infant, I promise). But although I liked those shows, I never obsessed over them the way I and so many other female fans do with the current crop — so many programs telling great stories about women, by women, starring women.
All of which is why this month's issue is dedicated to TV, and its fierce female protagonists. As Uzo Aduba ("Orange Is the New Black") puts it, after years of shallow female characters, "We're swimming into the deep end, and the water's fine." And there are so many damn good women, chief among them our cover stars (interviewed by Megan Angelo — read all three interviews here, here, and here). In fact, an ambitious actress is more likely to find a real, fleshed-out role on TV than in the movies these days: 42 percent of all major characters on TV in 2013 and 2014 were female, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. That's not ideal (hello, 51 percent of the population!), but it's vastly better than the men's locker room that is the film world, where women made up only 30 percent of characters who even got to speak in the top-grossing films of the past seven years.
TV doesn't exactly get a Feminist Gold Star just yet: Too many shows still debase their leading ladies on a regular basis (turns out I can quit you, "Game of Thrones"). And TV's female characters still tend to be whiter than real-life American women, and younger than the dudes they costar with; they are also — and this is just weird — less likely to hold a defined job than their male counterparts.
But I'm pretty sure some of the women in this issue are going to help fix that, because in TV, women are increasingly running the show. Olivia Pope exists because Shonda Rhimes created her, just as Jenji Kohan helped birth OITNB's army of amazing women, and Tina Fey, the inspired and kooky Kimmy Schmidt.
And this range is a good thing, because the more delightful, infuriating, lovable, hateable, relatable characters there are, the better. Maybe you relate to Amy Schumer — or Amy on "The Big Bang Theory." No matter. As Rhimes herself recently put it in a wonderful speech, "You should get to turn on your TV and see your tribe…see your people, someone out there like you, existing. So that you know on your darkest day that when you run — metaphorically or physically run — there's somewhere, someone, to run to. That your tribe is waiting. You are not alone."
Isn't that beautiful?
More From Glamour:
• Taraji P. Henson on Empire, Being a Single Mom, and the Art of Fearlessness
• Gina Rodriguez on Jane the Virgin: "She Ain't Two Pounds, but She's Sexy"
• If You Want to Be Friends With Emma Roberts, Know This: "To Me, Loyalty Is the Biggest Thing"
• Hillary Clinton Does the Nae Nae and More Political News From This Week
Photo Credit: Paul Zimmerman/WireImage