Shannon the TV Consumer of 2005 is almost entirely different from the one going into 2015.
I couldn’t tell you with complete confidence what I was even watching back then. It probably wasn’t much: I was a college freshman trying to balance getting passable grades (but if my daughter asks…I really aimed for stars. Like…just try to make me sound as studious as possible here) and a blossoming social life. I remember only having time for the barest of standards when it came to my entertainment. Did The Such-and-Such Show make me laugh? Did it make sense? Were the characters somewhat smart? If they weren’t smart, were they hot? My only major campaign that I can truly recall was that I hoped against hope that Dave Chappelle would consider coming back and doing a decent season of the Chappelle Show. Other than that, I had no hard opinions regarding my television viewing experience that stick out as I type this. Strangely out of character for me; I have hard opinions about everything. Ask me one day how I feel about raisins in my food. I could go on for hours about this. Opinions on how my entertainment should look? I was fairly easy to please.
Another major difference: at the time, I didn’t identify myself as a feminist. As a matter of fact, I had some fairly misguided views regarding feminism, which I will try my damnedest not to blame entirely on the media…though it played a significant role. When I saw what I now understand was the Feminist Caricature, she looked nothing like me: she was white, had a slightly muscular build, cropped hair, donned a pretty killer scowl, and wore her hatred of men like a suit of armor. Understand this: she was (and is) beautiful. I just couldn’t relate. Therefore, without taking the time actually research and develop a clue, I just assumed that feminism wasn’t something that I was meant to be a part of. So I absorbed what my blessed television presented to me and took it as gospel (because when has TV ever lied to me?!), deciding that a proper representation of feminism in my viewing experience was just not that vital. My main concern: when is Chappelle coming back?
Things change in a decade, obviously. I’m 29, I hold a job in Corporate America, I’m the co-head of a household with my cool-as-hell husband and the mother of the most magnificent two-year-old girl. Also, I’m way more invested in my television than I was when I was 19. Though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that my “list of concerns” back then was necessarily flawed – there isn’t anything wrong with simply wanting a bunch of good looking people to make you laugh – I would say without hesitation that they have evolved greatly. I, like many, many others, look for my entertainment to serve as a form of escapism. From eight in the morning until five in the evening every weekday I have to deploy my Undercover Side Eye at a daily dose of sexism from certain coworkers and a select, very effective portion of upper management. More often than not I’m having to explain (patiently) to friends and family that yes, inequality of the sexes (especially for women of color and trans women) is still very much a thing. There isn’t enough time in the world to discuss the news’ documentation of our daily struggle as women. So yeah…I definitely looked to television to show that somebody gets it. Sometimes it does – like when Shonda Rhimes absolutely OWNS my screen on Thursday nights – and sometimes it doesn’t. Aside from my refusal to support problematic media and blaring my discontent/praise on any platform that’ll allow my very pointed voice, there isn’t much else I can do for now. I would love for that to change.
But I CAN make a solid promise to my beautiful women in television, as well as my fellow television enthusiasts. I’m calling it a mission statement, though I’m sure any business aficionado will be quick to let me know exactly why this isn’t an actual mission statement, but simply a list of promises. To them I say the same I say to my inner voice when it reminds me that listening to Sam Smith while I’m emotionally compromised is a bad idea: “Regardless of how right you clearly are, I’m still gonna do it.”
So, my many-faced TV Goddess, as a loving viewer and willing mouthpiece in these tweet-paved streets, I promise the following:
- To continue to support you publicly and privately, as well as encouraging others to do the same.
- To make my calls for widespread representation loud and unapologetic.
- To understand that you, Lady of the Screen, are going to be problematic at times. That’s just something that comes with being human. As long as it’s not irreversibly messed up, I won’t treat it as a deal-breaker (even as I lovingly call you out on it).
- To make any discussion that I host all-inclusive, voice-wise.
- To know the difference between having favorites and creating a competition that isn’t necessary.
- To try my best to not entirely snub reality television, as it can actually serve a great purpose when it uses its power for good instead of evil. Also, I can’t pretend that there aren’t episodes of Real Housewives of Atlanta and Mob Wives sitting in my DVR.
- To understand that your cosmetic choices are yours to make and not really my business to comment on. But also…
- To loudly celebrate when you look especially amazing.
- To try to know what I’m talking about in my occasional analysis. And finally,
- To continuously update this statement over time. Problems – and victories, hopefully – will arise and I will do what I can to keep up with all of it.
Now that we and our remotes have made it to 2015, what do you hope to see for our televised women in the new year?