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Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Mike White – Creator/Writer of Enlightened

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Mike White - Creator/Writer of Enlightened

Enlightened is
hands down the best show that you aren’t watching.  It follows Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern), a
former corporate executive who post-nervous breakdown goes to a holistic rehab and
comes back a new, spiritual woman ready to do good in the world. But Amy’s own
self-destructive tendencies can tend to bog down her best intentions.

It’s a show that’s a hard sell–it’s dramatic, comedic,
contemplative and quiet. It’s unlike anything else on television and at its
center is Jellicoe–one of the most interesting, complex and sometimes
infuriating female characters on television. Created by Laura Dern and Mike White, Enlightened is in danger of not being
renewed for a third season. In light of this and the upcoming season finale,
White (who solely writes the show) has been doing numerous interviews and has really
great insights on female characters. In a recent, must-read interview with Vulture, White discusses his
frustrations with a lack of viewers and how female characters are perceived.

It irritates me. When the show came out, I saw that because
the face of the show was a woman, it was put in this box with The Big C and
these other female-led shows. And somehow it was a “less than” kind of show just
from people coming to it that way. If we had a male lead character, I think
people would have approached it in a different, kind of more serious-minded
way. It’s taken almost eighteen episodes to get people to get it. Now it’s kind
of cool to like the show. I don’t know why. Maybe because it has made some
inroads into some of the male characters [Levi and Tyler].

That sounds kind of cynical, but it’s the story of my
career. If I have a male protagonist, it’s a studio movie, and if it’s a female
protagonist, it’s an indie movie. That’s just how it is. It’s not about the
studios. It’s about America and who goes to see movies. Women are interested in
men and women, and men aren’t interested in the woman’s story. They just
aren’t. There are exceptions, but by and large… I mean I do think that it’s
feminizing for a guy to go see a movie with a female lead unless it’s Angelina
Jolie shooting people or Zero Dark Thirty or something that feels like it’s in
the male sphere. The devaluation of the traditional female roles or the
traditional female approach, it starts to feel like this is what’s wrong with
our country. Should I get off my high horse? [Laughs.]

We need more men out there like White calling out the ways
in which women-led entertainment is perceived and we also need more
well-written female characters like Amy Jellicoe on our television screens.

Enlightened’s season
two finale airs on 3/3 at 9:30pm on HBO. You can catch up on the series on HBO

Mike White on Enlightened’s Tough Road to a Third Season and
Why He Thinks Men Don’t Want to Watch Shows About Women

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