Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Designing Women Creator on Feminist Comediennes on TV

I know. You've been counting down the days. Designing Women is finally available on DVD. Rich Heldenfels interviews creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason about the state of feminism on TV, over at the Akron Beacon Journal. A few clips:

''There's such a lack of strong women in comedy,'' Bloodworth-Thomason lamented. ''I think the television culture has changed. The role models just aren't out there.''

Instead, she sees an entertainment world where the focus is on the likes of Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters, where attention goes to ''attractive young girls who are . . . vapid and empty.''

...''I knew that feminism had gotten a black eye,'' she said. ''I wanted to have really good-looking, smart, sophisticated women.'' Although they had their flaws and quirks (especially Suzanne and Charlene), any one could make a sharp point. Any one could make you laugh.

...Bloodworth-Thomason got a rough lesson in [the changing state of feminism on TV] not long ago. She made a deal with HBO for a series called 12 Miles of Bad Road, set among the Texas rich. Six episodes were made. It had a great cast, including Lily Tomlin, Mary Kay Place, Gary Cole and Kim Dickens; it had a lot of snap, and moments that felt like Designing Women at its best. But there was a regime change at HBO, and the show never aired.

Nooooo! Not a cancelled Lily Tomlin TV show! Gah.

Bloodworth-Thomason writes of fewer feminist comedian role models on TV... at a time when comediennes seem to be making progress on TV. I guess the element lacking is the intentionally feminist writing- although I'd argue that most shows comedically depicting women's lives might be inherently feminist, in bringing women's experiences into the mainstream culture.

Designing Women was a bit before my time- I vaguely remember the reruns. I guess my generation's experience of feminist comedy TV shows falls somewhere between Clarissa Explains It All and... Ally McBeal? What am I forgetting?

1 comment:

  1. Also in the spirit of this post, NPR has a fun game "Create Your Own Julia Rant"(http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2009/05/a_designing_women_game_write_y.html?sc=fb&cc=fp). This highlights one of the many reasons Dixie Carter's character is beloved.