Prior to “30 Rock,” having a woman be both the star and writer of a major television show was a rare occurrence. It’s safe to say that the game has completely changed. Creator, writer and star Tina Fey has successfully exited prime time television not only having influenced others to follow in her footsteps of doing it all, but also helping the industry redefine female roles.
Liz Lemon, Fey’s character on “30 Rock,” stands out from the standard protagonist by proudly possessing multiple quirks that range from overindulging in food to coining memorable catch phrases such as, “I want to go to there” and “Blergh.” Despite the fact that she has the desire to have both a successful career and family, Liz is an encouraging reminder to women that they are allowed to be silly and that they can have a distinct personality.
Similarly, Leslie Knope of “Parks and Recreation” has distinguishing qualities that include political ambitions, an over-the-top but loving commitment to her friends and family and an eternal love for waffles and other breakfast foods. Characters such as Leslie are refreshing, unlike typical Mary Sue characters, because of their strong advocacy for girl power, something that seems to have disappeared from television in 2013.
Female creators and stars of recently developed shows such as “Girls” and “The Mindy Project” have taken these current ideas and gender roles into account and gone a step further by actively promoting physical self-acceptance. At first glance, Lena Dunham’s “Girls” character, Hannah Horvath, is not the ideal weight for Hollywood standards. Hannah is not the perfect, twentysomething, size-two woman — she is not the false impression many shows have led us to believe is the norm. Hannah is not afraid to admit that she is not conventionally skinny and does not have a problem showing off her body, conveying a message to other young women that their body type is acceptable in spite of what society might say. Although she does have a momentary complaint that she is “11 pounds overweight,” the only things you will see Hannah obsessing over on this show are her questionable experiences and career ambitions.
Comparable to Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope, Mindy Lahiri of “The Mindy Project” is another female character who defies the common female archetypes. Although she is evidently “girly” with her pop culture and fashion obsessions, Mindy has no problem voicing her own opinions and disregarding what others might think. Like Hannah Horvath, she does not meet the conventional weight standards but does not let her weight define her, even when a colleague of hers remarks that she should lose 15 pounds.
Unfortunately, the misconceptions surrounding female characters on television have not been magically solved just yet. Hold on to your stereotypical jokes about a woman’s place in the kitchen though, because these shows are just what we need to keep moving in the right direction.