Lovely Ladies

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First of all, all women who are not imaginary are “real women.” Five feet tall or six feet tall, ninety pounds or three-hundred pounds. Are they real? Are they women? Then they are, in fact, real women.

Okay, now that that is out of the way, I want to talk about women on television. On 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy insists at one point that a female character who has gained weight needs to either immediately lose 30 pounds or gain 60—anything in between “has no place on television.” It’s a funny line, because it’s a funny show. But I think that we all know what he was talking about.

No matter how beautiful they might be, women in television tend to be wedged into certain body-shapes, particularly if the audience is supposed to believe that they are attractive. Oh, the exact size of the actress’ clothing might change—there is a range (a range that often increases during times of economic struggle, oddly enough—remember the “top-heavy” models of the early 1980s?). Think about, say, Penny from The Big Bang Theory (a show which could get its own ranting post for a number of reasons).

There are some key examples that are wonderful deviations from this type while remaining beautiful. Did you guys watch Dollhouse, one of the best shows ever made (and, in particular, the best thing that Joss Whedon has every done—which is saying quite a lot)? Eliza Dushku and Dichen Lachman certainly fit the bill for the particular type of stunning beauty that we are accustomed to seeing on television. And, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with that. These are beautiful women. Were I sexually interested in women, that would almost certainly be my preferred body-type. But do you know who else was on that show and gorgeous? Miracle Laurie. She is so pretty, you guys. And she is definitely not fat. But she is definitely not slender, either. Still gorgeous. I love that she was on television, and on television playing …

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The Women Of Star Trek

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I am not Star Trek’s biggest fan. I love science fiction; I like Star Trek. I’ve been watching it since early in elementary school (though not regularly until I was watching Star Trek: Voyager in middle school). It’s neat. At its very beginning, it was very cutting-edge. And, for the most part, the Star Trek franchise comes across as progressive.*

The original Star Trek series had the first televised interracial kiss—and that was in the era of censoring comic books because they showed a nameless black astronaut floating in the background. And that’s awesome. But there are downsides to nerd culture, and those are reflected in Star Trek. Star Trek is not always quite so progressive. Sometimes, when compared to other television shows, it lags behind.

While both of these are changing, nerd culture has not, historically, been incredibly friendly to the gay community or to women. To be clear, that has changed a great deal in the past couple of decades (and especially in the past few years). But the women on Star Trek: The Original Series were too often sexual contrasts for the womanizing buffoon that was Captain Kirk.

So, Star Trek had the first interracial kiss. Babylon 5, also known as the greatest science fiction show ever made, had two male characters go undercover as a pair of newlyweds (and, of course, neither batted an eye, because of course same-sex marriage is commonplace in 2260). On Babylon 5, it was also suggested that two female protagonists may have been lovers (though this was progressive for an early 1990s science fiction show, but not for television in general). To my knowledge, the first same-sex kiss between men on a science fiction show was on Stargate: Atlantis. Star Trek tends to convey messages like this symbolically, through interactions with alien cultures.

Star Trek’s treatment of women is, honestly, almost confusing. Captain Kathryn Janeway captained Voyager; she is one of the strongest (and most delightfully terrifying) female characters (or characters, really) whom I can imagine. With Kate Mulgrew’s fantastic …

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