Half the population should have half of media representation

Eleanor Hasken Assistant photo editor

Eleanor Hasken
Assistant photo editor

Stock characters used only to diversify a production do minorities no favors.

Movies and television not targeted at female audiences sometimes add a token female character to appease the general masses.

Last time I checked, women comprised half the population but hold only 30 percent of all speaking roles, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

The Smurfette principle, also referred to as the Token Minority Principle, is defined by Tvtropes.com as the “tendency for works of fiction to have exactly one female amongst an ensemble of male characters.”

Smurfette, the only female “Smurf” in all of Smurfdom, was created by the evil wizard Gargamel in order to undermine the Smurfs.

This female character invaded the male Smurf world as a dark-haired lure until Papa Smurf had the kindness and generosity to turn her into a high-heeled blond female capable of living in a world of men.
It can be seen in other classics like “Star Wars” — Princess Leia — and “The Muppets” — Miss Piggy.

Here you may pause and say this is obviously outdated, that these examples are 30-plus years old.

I wish, but they are present in modern films and television as well.

Recently, “Rio 2,” a sequel to the children’s film “Rio,” has only one female in the primary cast. “The Lego Movie” represents the female audience primarily through Elizabeth Banks’ character, Wyldstyle. For films aimed at adults, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” lacks female presence.

The inexplicably still produced “Transformers” series has maintained a female love interest in its primary cast for the past three films.

In television shows it can be found in the first seasons of “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Daily Show” correspondents, and “Seinfeld.”

TVTropes is also quick to point out that many juries or TV panels are made up of two men and one woman.

Movie and TV executives continue to believe that the general audience is placated by having one representative from each perceived minority, while the heterosexual, white males are overrepresented at every turn.

If any aliens are intercepting our film and TV broadcasts they would probably believe Earth to be made up of 96 percent white males who are limited only by those pesky females who occasionally have the audacity to be on TV.

When bringing up this issue, I’ve found that “Sex and the City” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” come in to rebuke to my argument.

Yes, “Sex and the City” is written for a female audience. Subverting the social norm it is complex and perpetuates patriarchal stereotypes. “Buffy” on the other hand is pretty awesome — one girl proved capable of saving the world over and over.

But that is one example of female prowess against: “24,” “Smallville,” “Grimm,” “Supernatural,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Following,” “Dexter,” “Hannibal,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Psych,” “CSI,” “Law & Order,” “Monk,” “Power Rangers,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Seinfeld” and “Teen Wolf.”

The idea that women are not interesting characters, or that they’re not worth watching, is as antiquated as the damsel in distress story.

Women are not props. They are not “tokens” worth being used only when a love subplot is needed or a calm maternal figure must pass along wisdom.

Shows like “Veep” prove that it is possible to have powerful and interesting female characters who are not slaves to the patriarchy.

The media’s continued propagation of female stereotypes has to end. We are not manic pixie dream girls, damsels in distress or token minorities.

We are just as complex as these heterosexual white males who currently dominate modern media and we deserve to be heard.

Eleanor Hasken is the Kernel’s assistant photo editor and the editor of The Kentuckian. Her column appears weekly in the Kernel.
ehasken@kykernel.com.