An executive at major entertainment company recently passed on my pitch for a television script. He stated he loved the comedy and my pitch, but that I should’ve hidden the fact that my lead character didn’t have her life together. His opinion made me look at how women are represented in media, and how I as a writer/blogger/screenwriter add to that. When you look at television shows like, “The big Bang Theory”, “Entourage”, ”How I Met Your Mother”, and pretty much most of the shows starring men who were apart of other insanely successful shows; for instance Kevin James and Matt LeBlanc have both recently found renewed success in their new tv roles. These shows and many more are male driven representations of sexuality, fatherhood, married life and work relationships, where the lead protagonists do not have their shit together.
All of these shows are well written/acted, funny in their own right, and feature common tropes about the bumbling father who after getting married, and having kids, all of a sudden has no idea how to raise their middle school aged-children…comedy ensues. Or the single group of guys partying their way around the globe and having an insane amount of amazing sex with some of the most beautiful women you’ve ever seen, but in all other aspects of their lives are unable to also get their shit together…comedy and hot sex scenes ensue. Then there are the nice guys who seemingly have their professional lives together, working for a museum, accounting firm etc, but cannot for the life of them find a woman to settle down with…hilarious dating scenarios, comedy, awkward sex scenes ensue.
These are of course just a few examples, and there are women centered television shows that have the same tropes in them, which are just as hilarious-if not more-than their male counterparts. Shows like ‘Two Broke Girls’ and ‘Insecure’ show women as hilarious, flawed, and complex. The women on these shows and included in the shows from the examples above add so much to the screen that they are literally changing the way women are viewed by not just men, but other women. Seeing smart, beautiful, female scientists on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ makes me happy. Knowing the Issa Rae has shined a huge spotlight on black work relationships, love and sex in a funny and relatable way literally fills me with hope.
As a black woman writer, I along with my sister writers of color: Asian, Latin, Muslim, Native…are tirelessly working to change the way we are seen, and not just by breaking racial stereotypes, but challenge the patriarchal way in which women are viewed still to this day in society. Although we had classic female centered shows like ‘Girlfriends’, ‘Sex & the City’, and ‘Living Single’ that focused on women’s sexuality, friendships, and careers in new ways, we still have to fight against the stigma of patriarchy.
Log onto Instagram or Twitter right now and you will find a plethora of memes and think pieces where women are being labeled as thots, hoes, sluts etc for behaving a certain way. That “certain way” is usually in the form of sexual expression whether it be through the way we dress, pose for a picture, who we date or if we are unmarried past a certain age.
Rejection is apart of the game no matter where you are on the field, and I will never stop playing. As a writer/actor I will face rejection for the remainder of my career, and can look at it objectively, and use it for a greater purpose. When this particular executive rejected my pitch and sent me that note, I took time to really absorb his feedback, and decide if I was going to change my characters entire being based on what he said. I didn’t, and I won’t.
As a woman I am flawed, funny, complicated, overuse the word ‘yo’, watch way too much ‘Family Guy’, eat cereal for dinner, work at a nine-to-five just to pay rent, and relentlessly pursue my goals and dreams with a never take no for an answer determination. My characters are bad ass women who are not perfect, just as all the women I know, and I am proud of who they are, and the women they will become.
Sometimes people want to put you in a box because that’s where their ideals live, but you do not have to join them at that table. It’s okay to still be figuring out who you are and what you want. Be yourself and you will always flourish. There is someone out there right now waiting to receive what you have to offer. Do not give up or compromise who you are to get to where you want to be. Criticism can propel you or, if you allow it, stop you from becoming a success. Thankfully another executive didn’t feel the same way as this one did, and I’m moving forward…I’ll keep you posted on how things are progressing.
How do you face criticism in your career? Sound off in the comment section below!