Why stereotypes need to die, cont’d: The women of Community weigh in

A follow-up to my previous post: While movies are still failing to represent women adequately onscreen, television — at least some television — appears to be a different story. The Daily Beast has posted a great interview with the three female cast members of Community — Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Gillian Jacobs — along with Megan Ganz, one of the show’s writers; and if you’re a fan looking forward to the show’s return on March 15, this is definitely worth a look.

On the effect of having several women on the show’s writing staff:

Jacobs: […] It’s hard for us to tell when we get a script at a table read who wrote what line or who pitched what joke. But you always just have this feeling that there are women — smart, articulate, funny women — in the room advocating for these female characters.

Ganz: You wouldn’t be able to pull anything apart. It’s not like women work on the women types of storylines. We don’t just come in every day and say, “I think Troy and Britta should kiss.” Everybody works on every storyline. It’s the same reason that it’s good to have women in the room, and the same reason it’s good to have men and ethnicities represented and older people and younger people. If you find a story that everybody likes and everybody relates to in some way, then you know you have a good story. But if you’re telling a story and all the women are going, “I’m checked out of this, I just don’t really care,” then you’re going to have some problems.

[…]

Brown: […] I think what’s changing now is that more women are in positions of power. With your Tina Feys and Kristen Wiigs, you have more women in the driver’s seat. They know what we really are. The ladies in the Community writers’ office, they know who we really are.

On how the show challenges ethnic and gender stereotypes:

Jacobs: A friend of mine wrote a script, a feminist romantic comedy. She had a feminist scholar consult on it. My friend said, “Oh, my friend Gillian read it and really loved it.” She goes, “Gillian Jacobs, you mean: Britta Perry, feminist icon?” That gives me a lot of pride that women really identify with Britta. The thing that is unique about her is that she is never the subject of slut shaming. Like, she’s one of the only female characters that doesn’t ever get punished for having an active sex life. […]

Brown: As a black actor, it’s refreshing that I’m not playing the “sassy black woman.” It’s something that [show creator] Dan Harmon was cognizant of from the beginning. It is something that I’m always cognizant of. Every woman on the planet has sass and smart-ass qualities in them, but it seems sometimes only black women are defined by it. Shirley is a fully formed woman that had a sassy moment. Her natural set point, if anything, is rage. That’s her natural set point, suppressed rage, which comes out as kindness and trying to keep everything tight. […]

Brie: You could say the same thing too about Danny [Pudi] and Abed. I mean you know Danny’s played four or five Sanjays. […] Even still he’ll get called in for auditions and they’ll be like, “Can you do the accent?” We get to do different things in every episode, and it’s not just about gender or race. It’s about having well-rounded characters and a wide range of adventures so that we’re just never playing the same thing. […]

Ganz: The same thing that drives Dan away from your typical sitcom storylines is the same thing that drives him away from making any one character a stereotype, because it’s just too easy.

Read the rest. Community has been brilliant so far, and and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Including, I hope, a fourth season, if there’s any justice in the universe.

(Photo via NBC Universal)

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