The newsroom of FYI is filled with intelligent and driven characters. The show depicts a workplace with an even distribution of men and women, a structure which promotes gender equality in business. However, despite its progressive appearances, stereotypes often find themselves written into Murphy Brown, from the constant hiring of inept new secretaries (the variety of which are female, except for the one male who eventually ends up returning to his job in sports) to the position of executive producer being filled by a male. The representation of gender stereotypes can be further analyzed by the leading women of the show, Corky Sherwood and Murphy Brown.
Murphy Brown is a show that challenges gender normative roles with its lead character. An ambitious and well respected women, Murphy is a protagonist who defies the expected. She can be seen playing football with the boys in the office, she is never afraid when a challenge comes her way (even in the case of death threats), she is depicted with a sex drive and as someone who used to smoke and drink religiously, and she always gets what she wants, as she insights fear in even the executive producer. By creating this strong female character, Diane English is able to successfully combat gender stereotypes, and she does it so well not only because of Murphy’s natural “masculinity” but also because she is a multidimensional character who is also often depicted with a sense of softness, grace, and care.
When the impressive characterization of Murphy placed beside Corky, the show finds itself to be disappointing. While Murphy is challenging gender stereotypes, Corky is fulfilling them all. Her character is a cliche “dumb blonde”. She covers stories such as “the darker side of liposuction” and counts her greatest achievement to be winning Miss America. In an episode based around feminism, Corky feels inspired and decides her great feminist achievement will be not wearing a bra to work (to which all the men in the office inappropriately shout with joy). Corky’s character seems to counteract the progressiveness the show tries to establish, however the show does not completely fail with her. While she does fill many traditional and demeaning gender roles, she does combat others. In an episode where she gets her first real journalism assignment, Corky displays an empowering sense of passion and ambition. After being sabotaged by Murphy multiple times, Corky continues to fight for her dream of being a real journalist. Just like Murphy Brown, she ends up being a multidimensional character who has the ability to be a positive role model.
While Murphy Brown is by no means a perfect show when it comes to gender representation, it manages to portray many progressive concepts that were no doubt a challenge at the time.