Gender Differences in Casting Choices

I can’t watch every show that out there.  Not with some 144 scripted dramas currently showing on various platforms, however, in the shows I do watch I’m noticing a trend that is bothering me.  Extremely interesting and charismatic male leads, and woman characters that aren’t as strong or interesting.  It really hit me last night as I was watching the latest episode of Lucifer.  A very problematic show that I keep watching because of the amazing job being done by Tom Ellis in the lead role as Lucifer.  The show has improved once they got away from the “case of the week” set ups and are dealing more with supernatural issues.  It also drives me crazy that women are all ready to drop their panties for him, but not men.  They tried to take some of the curse off that by showing him in bed with both men and women, but it hasn’t taken away the bad taste.  But I digress.

Here’s the problem when it comes to gender issues and I’m going to stay on Lucifer since it’s the one that made my head explode — Chloe has to be the worst cop ever to wear the badge.  The violations of basic evidentiary rules make me nuts, but putting all that aside.  She’s not a strong character.  The actress just can’t hold her own against Ellis or D.B. Woodside who is compelling as Amenadiel.  They are finally giving the demon Mazikeen something to do, and that’s helping, but it seemed to take a long time for them to realize she might be interesting, and instead we were treated to the psychiatrist and the police captain, and every random woman going cross eyed for Lucifer and Chloe being maudlin and incompetent.

Then there’s Arrow and the problematic Laurel.  Up against the sister Sara played with great verve by Caity Lotz poor Laurel is very weak tea.  Felicity was great but the ditzy but brilliant thing was starting to wear a bit thin for me, and her reaction to Oliver’s decision to keep his son secret weakened her in my eyes.  I liked Thea a great deal, but the character seems to be less and less present in the cast.  Which leaves us once again with powerful male figures in Oliver, Diggle and Malcolm Merlyn.

Castle — I gave up on the show because the only thing propping up Beckett was Nathan Fillion in the lead role and the two cops in her unit who where terrific.

Gotham — the only stand out female character is Cat Woman.

The Magicians — Poor Alice is no match for Elliot and Penny or even Quentin.  Julia — everything she tries seems to end in disaster.

The Flash — the woman portraying Iris is improving, Caitlin gets to mope a lot, and they are playing against Barry, Joe, and the terrific Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells.

Last night I found myself longing for Buffy.

Some of this is the fault of the writers for not giving these women something meaty and powerful to do, but some of it is due to casting choices picking actresses who aren’t able to show strength and I’m not just talking about the ability to kick ass.  It’s their ability to be as compelling, charming, threatening, witty, in short as interesting as the men with whom they are matched.

And it’s not impossible.  I’ve already mentioned Buffy where we had not only Buffy but Willow and Arya and Dawn.  On Agents of SHIELD we have Skye/Daisy, and May.  Person of Interest — dear god, what incredible characters starting with Detective Carter, Root, Shaw, Zoe.   Orphan Black — many of the various clones are fascinating and of course you have Tatiana Maslany in the role and she’s stunning.

I’m sure people will be able to come up with shows that have powerful female leads of which I’m unaware — The Good Wife, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal?  But for a lot of the genre shows that I have been watching the presence of powerful, interesting women are pretty slim.  I find this depressing and I’m not sure how this can be countered.  But I’m going to try when I have the opportunity.

7 Responses to Gender Differences in Casting Choices

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Folks on Facebook pointed out some good examples of strong women characters. Agent Carter and Jessica Jones. Since I adored Jessica Jones I’m red faced for overlooking her. And I like Agent Carter though I thought the show got a bit silly toward the end of this second season.

  • Georgino ludwig says:

    Have you seen iZombie? Or the 100? One of the problems I’ve seen is the nature of the shows themselves. Like Arrow for example. It is a show about the transformation of Oliver Queen into the hero Green Arrow. It is also the gateway for a TV version of the DC universe. Which I love. Unfortunately DC gas over 50 comics, including Black Canary. The limitation of having now three shows means being unable to tell all the hundreds of stories DC has. That’s not to say they should neglect the female charactets, but rather they need to sit down and go back to the source material.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I see your point, but there is no reason for the women — even in supporting roles to be blah. Jessica Jones is damaged for a very real and valid reason, but still tough and then you see her regain her center and sense of self.

      • Georgino Ludwig says:

        any primary and secondary characters in any show should be interesting. as it creates a better sense of reality and depth for the viewer. sadly too many shows lack that richness.

  • Mac says:

    You might also try Catch. That one is littered with really great female characters.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Thanks. I’ll check it out. Of course I need another show to watch like I need 10 years on my life. There is just so much good TV right now.

  • Muldfeld says:

    My absolute favorite show on TV these past two years is “Halt and Catch Fire” on AMC — especially after the first 2 slightly melodramatic episodes. It has what you’re looking for: strong, equally treated female characters; they even take the lead in Season 2. I also thought Ronald D. Moore’s “Battlestar Galactica” had great roles for women.

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