America has never been readier for a female president, which may be why there are two new shows about women politicos this fall.
The NY Times argues that CBS’s Madam Secretary and NBC’s State of Affairs both riff on Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and her potential future presidency. In Madam Secretary, Tea Leoni plays a put-together career woman and devoted wife and mother. Showrunner Barbara Hall has said, “I believe the challenge of creating a woman in leadership is to not show her life broken in every other respect.”
The references to Clinton are more oblique in State of Affairs, which centers on a CIA analyist (Katherine Heigl) who reports directly to the (black female) president (Alfre Woodard). The Times’ Alessandra Stanley writes, “In both pilots, Hillaryesque heroines lobby for risky rescue operations in the Middle East and then watch via satellite as the mission unfolds. Both women defy naysayers who question their foreign policy decisions.”
Most interesting, though, is the double-edged sword these characters represent in terms of gender progress. Stanley notes, “What is especially striking is that in an age of deep cynicism about Washington, the new portraits of women in high office are painted in rosy shades of respect and admiration. While many of their more self-serving colleagues pursue ignoble agendas, network heroines in top positions are multitasking do-gooders trying to keep the nation safe.” It’s great to have female role models in the corridors of power, but those characters are still burdened by gender-essentialist notions about women being more noble, maternal, and altruistic than their male counterparts.
As welcome as Madam Secretary and State of Affairs are, then, in providing more examples of women in power, I’ll personally stick with HBO’s Veep, where Julia Louis-Dreyfus can be as petty, vengeful, and ambitious as the guys. And yet there’s no denying that those network dramas will help foster a more progressive culture where there’s nothing strange about seeing a woman in the Oval Office.
[via NY Times]