English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: Politics

Murphy Brown, Off Screen

Last night I was procrastinating and catching up on the recent episodes of Saturday Night Live (indubitably not as good as the old seasons, sorry Pete Davidson). The episode with Jonah Hill came on and his monologue was his induction into the five timers club. Among the the notable figures in the club was the one and only Candice Bergen. Watching this 1980s boundary pushing feminist queen on my TV outside of her Murphy Brown role inspired me to base this blog post on the impact and outside life of Candice Bergen and her show Murphy Brown.

As we read in Stealing The Show, Murphy Brown was on TV in an era where people still tuned in to watch episodes as they were premiered because the era of streaming and Netflix had yet to begin. An iconic moment occurred after Candice Bergen’s single character gave birth and became a single mother (an episode which 70 million people watched) and Vice President Dan Quayle cited her as a poor role model who was “mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice.” Murphy Brown impacted American society, and during a time where “family values” were trying to fight the success LGBT and abortion rights groups had won in the previous years. (Now that these rights have come under fire again with the current U.S leaders Mike Pence and Trump, Candice Bergen has returned to her role).

The political climate in the 1980s to modern day continue to be shockingly similar. According to Time’s magazine, A day after the Murphy Brown reboot was announced Republican Senate candidate Courtland Sykes proclaimed that “I don’t want [my daughters] to grow up into career-obsessed banshees who forego home life and children and the happiness of family to become nail-biting manophobic hell-bent feminist she-devils.” Before, a comment life this would clearly be about Murphy Brown, however modern day TV has bless us with a plethora of stereotype defying women that this statement can refer to anyone.

Murphy Brown received 8 Emmy nominations and won 5. The shows 11 seasons were so impactful that Candice Bergen was even offered a job as a journalist on 60 minutes. The show had such an impact when it was originally on, it will be interesting to see what the new seasons bring.  

Murphy Brown reboot

Writing About “A Small Orange Blur”

I researched Lynn Sternberg  who wrote episode 9 of The Bold Type. By research I mean that I did a light Google search, clicked on her Twitter profile, and skimmed through her posts. For a writer, she doesn’t write many of her own tweets; the majority of her posts are retweets, and many of  her retweets are political in nature which is unsurprising in light of episode 9’s content. Excluding episode 1, The Bold Type always begins with a voiceover that  briefly highlights past events of previous episodes and introduces the main characters, Sutton, Kat and Jane. The voiceover is done by a female whose accent is hard to place. It doesn’t add anything to the story, but I have a feeling it was meant to sound powerful and refined. The voiceover’s only purpose is the introduction in the beginning, so its only value is in setting the tone for the episode, but it’s hardly memorable. What is memorable is the dialogue of The Bold Type; it feels so real and organic. I can see my friends and I having the same conversations, well maybe not the exact same conversations, but the feeling is the same. There is such an authenticity to the dialogue in every episode, and this episode is no different. Where this episode does stand out though is in its external references to the current political climate. With witty comments slipped in such as describing a glimpse of Trump as “a small orange blur” and Jacqueline referring to Trump as “Number 45”, Sternberg sure had her fun expressing her political beliefs.

I thought I might put a picture of Trump here, but I though I’d spare us all that pain, and just add a picture of an orange cat to represent “a small orange blur”.

In addition to subtle and not so subtle jokes, the episode explicitly showcased protests against President Trump. As another angle, this episode also took a softer more personal tone with Adena’s deportation. Of course, I do not know what it feels like to be deported, but the episode did its best in detailing certain aspects of deportation: the uncertainty, the powerlessness, the loss.

This is from when Adena calls Kat to tell her she’s being deported. It’s so sad when people who have nothing to apologize for feel like they need to apologize.

Balancing both the joking element along with seriousness is really a smart way to go about an issue such as this. Even in the midst of Adena’s hardship, a bit of humor surfaced when Kat called the Immigrants’ Rights Hotline and it put her on hold saying “our current volume is extremely high” which is just a humorous way to allude to the massive mistreatment of immigrants in the United States. Another bit of writing with a deeper meaning is when one of the characters says “the president has things totally screwed up out here” in reference to New York City traffic being completely gridlocked due to the president’s visit to the city. I have a deep suspicion that this statement was not only a reaction to some extra traffic in New York City but also to the president’s actions in the United States in general because “the president has things totally screwed up out here” too.

Who’s ready to party!? And talk about the world we want to leave our grandchildren?

The second episode in New Girl’s sixth season, “Hubbedy Bubby,” has a powerful theme, despite its foolish name. Throughout the whole episode, Jess, and optimistic and outspoken woman, is trying to encourage people to register for the upcoming 2016 election. The theme of the episode is that it is important for people to make their voice be heard and have an impact in their future.

Image result for new girl gif vote

Jess and Cece were ready and excited to encourage young Americans to vote.

The episode begins with Schmidt arguing that democracy is dead and that politics is all money and special interest groups. His cynical attitude sets him up to be Jess’ foil. In fact, he makes a bet that if she gets 5 new voters, he will vote for Hillary Clinton. His character supports the theme because he represents a large population of people who choose not to get involved because they think they have low political efficacy. He ends up getting dragged into helping campaign for Hillary, which is ironic because he is a Republican. This builds to the episode’s theme by showing that being a little involved is better than nothing.

Jess wants to campaign for Hillary, but when she gets to the campaign center, she is dissatisfied with the tasks given to her. The manager informs her to “just be respectful and informative” but Jess want to actually get out and recruit people and make change first-hand. She goes to a sorority house where she is greeted at the door by a woman saying “ew bye.” This is when Jess gets creative. She joins the party, but then talks about the importance of changing the world for their grandchildren and redistribution of wealth. After a long rant, she finally inspires the sorority girls to go and register (though she later leaves them because they support Trump). This emphasizes the theme in an unconventional way. Younger people may not be as attracted to politics and voting, but their votes are just as important, and sometimes they can only be reached through their interests, which is why television can be a powerful education tool.

The idea of creating change and speaking up for what you believe in is a theme throughout the majority of New Girl. Jess is a powerful and opinionated woman and she is always encouraging her friends to do more outside their comfort zone and speak out. She is always a positive character and leads the group into many adventures.

Speaking out and using your voice is so important in today’s age, which is why the theme of this episode is so relevant. Regardless of people like Schmidt, who are tired of politics, or people like the sorority girls, who just don’t care, democracy is still alive. This episode did a great job of using comedy, satire, and irony to convey a very important message and inspire young people to stand up for what they believe in.

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