I watch more TV than I care to admit. I’d love to blame it on having children and not being able to get out as much in the evenings but the truth is, I’ve always been a TV addict.
4KTV Panasonic invited me to share some thoughts on inspirational female characters from TV, past and present.
In the late nineties I fell hard for Carrie Bradshaw. The Sex and the City years saw me go from working behind bars at Uni to a dreary full time job in data entry for an insurance company. Not quite the blaze of glory I was led to believe would immediately follow my degree from a prestigious University, I’m not gonna lie.
I envied Carrie’s glamorous home working set-up and flighty lifestyle. I don’t think I ever even questioned how wildly unrealistic it was that writing a single newspaper column could earn her enough to afford that apartment and that designer walk-in wardrobe.
I’d watch her strutting around New York City in her towering Manolos, envious midriff poking out from the top of her tulle skirt, perfectly diffused nineties curls bouncing and seemingly endless amount of disposable income; and I completely idolised her.
Carrie and the girls showed that it was cool to be financially independent and sexually liberated. But let’s face it they were all wealthy, white and middle class. The men they dated were bankers, lawyers and artists. Despite being set in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, black and hispanic characters only occasionally popped up as cleaners or manicurists. Transgender prostitutes were referred to as “men” and bisexuality was dismissed as a phase.
And then there’s the rampant consumerism. Is it really something to be proud of to squander $40,000 (the equivalent of a deposit on an apartment) on a closet full of designer shoes? The millennials of today only wish they could trade their avocado toast for 150 pairs of Manolo Blahniks.
Twenty years later the world has moved on immeasurably; from a pre-9/11 Sex and the City to a post-Brexit and Trump world. I may have finally nailed the working from home thing but a designer wardrobe and washboard stomach are pretty low on my priority list.
The latest TV programme to really get me in the pit of the stomach has been the Handmaid’s Tale. It depicts a dark, oppressive and brutally violent regime in which woman are stripped of their freedom, identities and their bodily autonomy by an ultra-extreme, conservative religious government. Extreme though it is, you can’t fail to see the similarities between dystopian Gilead and the rise in extreme conservatism both in the USA and in our own country. It’s compelling but sobering.
In the face of extreme oppression, Offred is brave, determined and inspiring; rendering Carrie and her crew shallow, vapid and self obsessed by comparison.
Back at the turn of the millennium the Sex and the City girls were emblematic of female empowerment. Their success was measured by wealth, looks and consumption. If only the show itself could have aged as well as Sarah Jessica Parker has.
With the exception of reality TV, where looks and wealth are pretty much the only barometer of success, the inspirational female icons of the twenty-teens such as Rhianna, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham, Mayim Bialik and Lily Allen are using their platforms to speak out about body positivity, social inequality, white privilege, the patriarchy, the environment and LGBTQ rights.
The Handmaid’s Tale was written in 1984 but never has it been more relevant than in today’s world where civil liberty can not be taken for granted.
Offred – I’m with her.