“Wonder Woman! Progress of Female TV Roles” (March 2013)

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By: Saffie Kamara

In recognition of Women’s History Month, Districtly Speaking concluded our series with a month-long discussion on women empowerment. On March 25th, our town hall focused on the progression of female TV roles. Panelists included Shani Simpson, Museum Educator Local Artist & Blogger, Claritza Jimenez, TV Producer, Associated Press and Lauren Allen, Blogger.

The discussion kicked off with references to the TV show “Scandal” created by African American writer, Shonda Rhimes featuring African American actress, Kerry Washington.

dstv5“In Hollywood, we don’t have enough Black writers.” said Jimenez.

In almost forty years, African American actresses have not had a leading role on primetime TV. With “Scandal” being a big hit on ABC, Kerry Washington has paved the way for other actresses to have leading roles as well. Recently, “Deception” made a premier on NBC which stars Meagan Good.

Although we are seeing this progression of women on TV, we are also seeing another side which is reality TV. This became the primary topic during our town hall.

“Now as I’ve gotten older, I watch TV more so based on my interest as opposed to scripts.” Simpson said.

Whether watching reality TV is our guilty pleasure or we watch it for pure entertainment, the panelists and audience members agreed “we are still watching it.” The different opinions in the room regarding women in reality TV kept the conversation going. Some members believed that the drama and sexuality made reality shows entertaining while others wanted to see more diversity on TV.

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“More socioeconomic narratives would be something I would like to see.” said Allen.

As TV shows such as “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Basketball Wives” are making their way to TV stations, some participants expressed that they did not like the violent and sexual portrayal of these women. Meanwhile, Jimenez viewed this as a good way for business development.

“While we are judging women on “[Real] Housewives [of] [Atlanta]” and “Basketball Wives” it is actually building a platform for these women.” Jimenez said.

According to audience member Yetunde Okesola, most of these reality TV stars do not even fit the titles of these TV shows and are still able to make these business ventures.

“Most of these women are not even housewives.” said Okesola.

As the town hall continued, panelists and audience members discussed the difference in roles between reality TV and films such as Tyler Perry.

“When you’re a film director and this is your craft, it should be a little more complex and then you give me “Madea’s Family Reunion?” I set the bar higher for Tyler Perry.” said Jimenez.

According to Allen however, reality TV shows such as “Real Housewives of Atlanta” were no better than Tyler Perry’s simplistic scripts.

As the town hall came to a close, it was mentioned that there is still a need for more female presence behind the scenes.

“If we have more women bringing more to the table we can change the gender disparity.” Simpson said.

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