On Sitcoms, Sexism, and Fractured Ankles

Well. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

You may have noticed that, apart from video posts, I haven’t been posting to this blog as much as usual. Long story short, it turns out that moving continents took a lot more energy than I’d thought it would. Add to that an almost-complete house renovation, internet cut-outs and a freshly fractured ankle and, woooo…

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So here I sit, crutches in hand, similes by my side, and a cast fastened round my leg like a sleeping cat, with a suggestion. In exchange for your attention, I’ll be posting a blog a week, on something to do with something that you may or may not be interested in. Sounds great, right? I’ll also start to crack on with my video-making, although the crutches make that a little awkward.

Being basically bed bound for the past two weeks has given me a lot of time to catch up on daytime television, including several weeks worth of Come Dine With Me, and far too many reruns of How I Met Your Mother (although it’s questionable whether you can ever watch too much HIMYM…)

I’ve also come rather late to the appreciation party for Miranda Hart’s eponymous sitcom. With the first season of Miranda streaming on Netflix right now, it was pretty easy to get addicted to the eccentric calamities that befall Hart as she navigates life. I was also impressed by the gender ratio on the programme. Out of six regular characters, four are female, including the lead and her primary antagonist, her mother Penny (played by Patricia Hodge).

As well as reversing the typical gender ratio, Miranda focuses on the female experience, with many of its jokes centered around interactions between women, as well as the daily pressures and expectations of being a woman in British society. In the very first episode, Miranda plays with stereotypes about women and relationships. The lead’s potential romance with show eye-candy Gary (played by Tom Ellis) is twice foiled: first when they return from a possible first date to find that Miranda’s best friend has used her flat to store a shipment of baby products, and then later when Gary spots Miranda trying on a wedding dress through a shop window (she was trying to prove her femininity to her engaged friends).

Watching the programme, I became increasingly aware of a sad truth. I was enjoying the programme so much not simply because it was funny (such fun) but also because I was seeing women onscreen, and not just as the love objects or ladette best friends of the lead, but as the central characters in their own right. No matter how much a male writer may try to represent female humour, there is something inescapably masculine about the comedy that men create. That’s not to say that I don’t adore classic programmes like Black Books and Teachers, but as I watched Miranda I wondered whether this was how funny it must be to be a man and watch a traditionally male-dominated sitcom.

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There are a lot of discussions about patriarchy and the media that have been had in many far more established publications than my humble blog, however as a longtime viewer and emerging creator it still strikes me as a pity.

Two weeks ago the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media published its report, “Gender Bias Without Borders,” which explored female characters in popular films across 11 countries. Among their findings were that the greater presence of women behind the camera had a positive effect on increasing (and improving) the representation of women onscreen, although no single country even approached a realistic gender ratio in their films.

One of the things that I found most interesting about this was that, unlike the presence of a female director or writer, the presence of a female producer had absolutely no effect upon the ratio of character genders. In other words, the only way to change the ratio is to tell our own stories, ourselves.

Gender inequality is rampant in global films. Not one country is anywhere near representing reality; girls and women comprise fully half of humanity. Not a third. Not a quarter. Half.

The full report is well worth a browse for anyone interested in feminism in film (and television).

And that brings me back to Miranda. It was created and written by Hart herself (she has a credit on every episode) while the sole director throughout the series run was Juliet May, who has also directed several episodes of female-centered Call The Midwife.

I’d love to see more sitcoms being created by women, not just about them, and I think that landmark sitcoms like Absolutely Fabulous do so much for women working in media. The only problem is that sometimes those programmes made by women are completely dismissed by male audiences as being “women’s shows.” But that’s a whole other rant.

So for now I’ll head back to my Netflix and boxsets

x C

Do you watch Miranda? Or ever fractured any bones? Let me know all and either in the comments below! And if you have any other sitcom recommendations then I’d love to hear them too.

5 thoughts on “On Sitcoms, Sexism, and Fractured Ankles

  1. Chris Brown says:

    I have watched Miranda and it is good, but copies the old You Have Been Watching formula. She is good though and refreshes a tired sit com situation.

  2. Chris Brown says:

    On the subject of feminism I have checked out Elaine Morgan who died last year. Her theory’s about human evolution were discredited by male counter parts. I like her hypothesise that mankind evolved in a semi aquatic state. She backs it up with a lot of evidence. See “The Aquatic Ape” and “The Descent Of Woman” . From Chris always seeing things from any perspective.

  3. Chris Brown says:

    I watched Miranda the other day with a completely open mind. I did not find it funny and I really was hoping for better.

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