In a cautiously optimistic era of post-“Bridesmaids” feminist comedy, TV shows starring funny women have been on the rise. The funny woman on TV does not seem to exist without masses of men constantly surrounding her, however. When this happens, these shows lose their female protagonist to a series of hackneyed romantic triangles and male-centric plots.
Shows like “The Mindy Project” and “New Girl” have female leads — OB/GYN Mindy Lahiri and teacher Jessica Day, respectively — but feature a largely male cast, making these characters one of the only females on their shows. As modern entertainment revels in the female empowerment era established by Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig, there is now a stronger emphasis on female-led movies and shows. The problem is that these shows still need to attract a wide viewership from both genders, so to make up for this powerful female lead, they compensated with a male-dominated cast, establishing an overwhelming presence that is meant to appeal to the male demographic.
At the price of relinquishing a truly female-led show for high ratings, these shows wear the facade of feminism when, in actuality, all the females in the shows focus on the males around them, sometimes acting childlike and undignified while doing so. Jessica worries about relationships in every episode, as does Mindy. Neither show consistently passes the Bechdel Test, in which a work of fiction only passes if it features two or more women who talk about something other than men.
In most episodes of the two supposedly feminist shows, Jessica spends much of her time discussing guy problems with various cast members, mostly male, and Mindy discusses her guy troubles mainly with guys. There are hardly any other prominent female cast members in “The Mindy Project,” and every episode revolves around relationship problems. While females flounder over their love lives, however, the males of the show find no problem conversing among themselves about their work, family, friends and lives in general.
Though the main storylines of these TV shows revolves around a female lead, males often dominate the cast. The shows are just examples of a trend that appears throughout female-led comedies. On the whole, television does not have enough faith in the comedic capabilities of women to have them star in their own show — and lead it too.
Email Audrey Deng at [email protected]