Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

The gendering of television reviews

I’ve noticed something odd about reviews of New Girl and Girls. Apart from the discourse that we’re now used to in a post-Bridesmaids world that women are ACTUALLY FUNNY and worth putting on TV, and the sad situation that it’s …

Mon, May 14, 2012, 17:50

   

I’ve noticed something odd about reviews of New Girl and Girls. Apart from the discourse that we’re now used to in a post-Bridesmaids world that women are ACTUALLY FUNNY and worth putting on TV, and the sad situation that it’s apparently a trend if there are more than two female-led programmes on television, which leads to conversations like this…

 

… there’s also something up with reviews of programmes that happen to star and/or be written by women. Gendered perspectives are being presented as review methods. On Vanity Fair we get a male and female perspective on the season finale of New Girl. On Slate, a bunch of guys review Girls.

I’m not sure why this is suddenly necessary. No one sits the Xposé team down for a podcast about their thoughts on last night’s Top Gear, nor do we stumble upon features titled ‘A Bunch Of White People Review the Fresh Prince Of Bel Air Boxset’. So why do female-led programmes need to be viewed through the male perspective, as if women on TV are infringing upon a schedule that should otherwise be reserved for reruns of Entourage and Ice Road Truckers?

This is something that last happened in and around That Great Seismic Event In Female Cinema History, the Sex and the City films. Around the second installment, Bidisha wrote in the Guardian about how the reviewing was generally misogynistic in tone. Plenty of the reviews at the time read something like: ‘Sex and the City: A Guy’s Perspective’, whereby the bloke would first confess he knew nothing about it, and then spend the rest of the review ridiculing the whole thing. Ha ha, stupid women and their stupid films. Funnily enough, I haven’t seen many reviews like ‘Every Film Michael Bay Has Ever Made: A Woman’s Perspective’.

Occasionally kids review children’s movies in publications, which although devoid in intricate critical dissections, is at least worthwhile given the target audience gets to say what they want about something made for them, even if that is something is generally along the lines of “I thought it was good because the fish could talk and that was good.”

But why the male perspective? Is it really necessary? Is it for legitimacy purposes, like when you read an incredibly positive article about an Irish play/ band/ book in an esteemed non-Irish international publication that people then delegitimise if the journalist happens Irish? Is it like ‘this is a programme for women, so to find out what it’s really like, we got a man to watch it’? Is it a tree falling in the forest moment – if a woman reviews a show for women does the programme or subsequent article even exist in the gendered criticism matrix?

 

Meanwhile, over at New York Magazine, six female showrunners engage in a round table discussion.

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