The question our group has chosen is: How have the portrayals of the female companions of the Doctor in the BBC television show Doctor Who changed over the course of the show’s run, including the old and new series? We arrived at this question after first selecting the show we wanted to talk about. We chose Doctor Who because it is a long standing show that spans many decades, and since the female companion is such a significant and constant aspect of the show, we felt that Doctor Who would be a good litmus test for the changes of societal attitudes as regards female representation in television. We decided to research societal changes in attitudes regarding women because understanding the history of sexism is necessary for understanding sexism today. Doctor Who is an especially good way to explore this question because fiction can be an unconscious reflection of the majority’s opinions as shows are often calculated to appeal to as many people as possible. Our question is important because we can understand the historical background of today’s attitudes towards women as represented by fictional female characters in a show that is enjoyed by many demographics, and has been airing through many more generations than the average television show does. We are looking forward to diving into this research project and discovering how women have been portrayed throughout the decades-long run of Doctor Who.
Please excuse the lack of indentation. WordPress is really trying me here.
Doan, Alesha E. “‘What’s Wrong with Being Sexy?’ Why Political
Science Needs to Get Serious about Sexuality.” PS: Political Science &
Politics, vol. 44, no. 1, 2011, https://search.proquest.com/pqrl/docview/
839849726/3A78EBE88EB34B57PQ/18?accountid=11107. Accessed 17
This article discusses the manner in which the use of female characters is sometimes intentional in television, and more specifically, in comedy sketch shows. It draws upon specific examples from SNL and compares the popularity of female political characters versus those of the male gender. The author argues that while certain comments can be made by male characters, those same comments actually have much more resonance when spoken by females. She specifically investigates the portrayal of the show’s mid-to-late-2000’s era characters such as former president Barack Obama and his political opponent the late John McCain. The importance of these characters’ comments about sexuality is compared to comments made by female actors impersonating Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, two other candidates for the presidency. It is seen that the female characters’ quotes elicited a much more positive response from audiences than the male characters’. This article is valuable for research given that it places emphasis on the manner in which females are often used in comedy in order to generate a boost in audience morale and appreciation of the show’s content. The conclusions drawn in this article can be applied to females as a whole in comedy and television.
Fulton, DoVeanna S. “Comic Views and Metaphysical Dilemmas:
Shattering Cultural Images through Self-Definition and
Representation by Black Comediennes.” Journal of American
Folklore, vol. 117, no. 463, 2004, https://search.proquest.com/pqrl
Accessed 17 September 2018.
This article discusses the expectations of females and their roles in comedy and television. It deeply investigates cases pertaining to specifically African-American females in comedy. The author argues that they tend to experience much different expectations and dilemmas as compared to their male colleagues and fellow comedians who are not of minority races. She points out that in the past, women were not seen as fit to explore the field of comedy, and she shows that women of minority races still struggle exceedingly with this enigma of exclusivity in comedy to this day. This article is not only of value due to its mentioning of minority women in comedy but also due to its solid connection between societal enigmas in the past and the present. This connection through the passage of time allows for one to see the effects of previous societal beliefs in comedy that are present today. It is especially helpful due to its relevance in today’s comedy shows that include, or in many cases do not include, women of minority.
Press, Andrea, and Terry Strathman. “Work, Family, and Social Class
in Television Images of Women: Prime-Time Television and the
Construction of Postfeminism.” Women and Language, vol. 16, no. 2,
3FF771C22EDPQ/1?accountid=11107. Accessed 17 September 2018.
This article opens with a discussion on the tendency of television shows to undermine the day-to-day struggles of the average woman throughout her lifetime. The authors form an argument that leans towards the basis of an unrealistic portrayal of women on television. Societal ideologies are compared to the generalized female character on the majority of television shows. The authors place great importance on the early sitcom I Love Lucy and the role that Lucille Ball played as America’s woman on television. The article then investigates several other female-focused shows throughout several generations that correspond to the various eras of the development of feminism. The authors conclude that women’s roles as portrayed on television ultimately coincided with the changing roles of women out in the workforce and in their households. This article is undoubtedly valuable due to its comprehensive overview of women’s roles on television and how they changed as similar changes were observed out in society. This overview allows for a greater understanding of the stages of the development of feminism. It also helps in understanding the past and present and how these two entities practically determine the course of feminism, both on- and off-screen.
Romano, Tricia. “SNL’s Kenan Thompson and the Invisible Black
Women of Comedy.” The Daily Beast, 17 October 2013, https://search.
PQ/1?accountid=11107. Accessed 17 September 2018.
This article is focused on a quote by Kenan Thompson, a long-time actor and comedian on SNL. It pokes at the subtle truth lying behind a controversial quote of his that was centered on the fact that there are very few black women on both SNL and comedy shows in general. The author uses quotes from various sources that dig into Thompson’s words. She concludes that he is not necessarily wrong; there are multiple professionals in the world of comedy who also know and admit that black women in comedy are a very rare occurrence. Upon its publishing in 2013, the article directly states that since the show first aired nearly forty years ago, there have only been four black women on the permanent cast. This article is of great value due to its complexity in discussing the issue of minority women on SNL specifically. The multiple sources that are cited in the article give exceedingly important facts and quotes from insiders and showrunners on the show, and its focus on women of minority gives large insight to the gap that still exists in SNL and in the comedy business as a whole.
Schilling, Dave. “Why Sasheer Zamata Never Had a Chance on
Saturday Night Live.” Vulture, 30 May 2017, http://www.vulture.
ce.html. Accessed 17 September 2018.
This article focuses directly on Sasheer Zamata, a young cast member of SNL who, compared to other cast members, did not last but seconds on the show. The author compares her short career run with other black females and holds an in-depth discussion on the history of black females on the show. He argues that over the show’s entirety, there has only been two black females who has managed to keep her place on the show: Leslie Jones and Maya Rudolph. It is concluded that personas that did not fit into the “white baby-boomer ideas of what is funny” had little to no chance of keeping their spots in the skits. The author concludes that black females other than Rudolph and Jones just have not seem to have “what it takes” to survive in the largely white world of SNL. This article is of value because it compares lesser known black females with those who were (and still are) staples in the show’s history. He notes that the disappearance of Zamata from the cast is just another case in the cycle of black women being overshadowed in comedy, especially on SNL.
Tally, Margaret J. “Television Women from Lucy to Friends: Fifty
Years of Sitcoms and Feminism.”The Journal of American Culture,
vol. 27, no. 2, 2004, https://search.proquest.com/pqrl/docview/
Accessed 17 September 2018.
This article is a review for Lynn Spangler’s book Television Women from ‘Lucy’ to ‘Friends’: Fifty Years of Sitcoms and Feminism. It goes over how Spangler recognizes how trends in television spark trends in society and vice versa. The author notes that Spangler makes an interesting point in noticing that women sometimes seem to enjoy unrealistic images of themselves, even though these images are mostly “regressive” in their portrayal of women’s roles in their careers and households. In this manner, the article brings some controversy to light; the reader is then allowed to see that these past observations by Spangler are indeed still relevant in today’s society. The article is valuable for research in the way that it serves to connect the dots of some underlying stigmas in television and comedy shows today. One can see that general audiences will sometimes continue to enjoy shows even though character portrayals are not ideal. It can also be said that television’s portrayal of women was just as important to real-world citizens in the early stages of television as continues to be now.