On the one hand, this TV season has had more sitcoms staring women than any in recent memory, which is good! On the other hand, all those funny ladies on TV have been subject to a pretty unfair level of scrutiny and blowback, as the characters they portray are generally flawed people and don’t do a great job of representing their entire demographic. Because, you know, they’re not supposed to. It’s a pretty shitty thing, and while Lena Dunham and Girls have borne the brunt of the flawed funny ladies blowback lately, Zooey Deschanel’s character on New Girl got her fair share of criticism as well, especially in the first weeks of the show’s existence. Lace Jacob over at the Daily Beast sat down with New Girl creator Liz Meriwether, and this section in which she talks about the intense criticism is well worth reading:
Why do you think female-centric comedies such as New Girl or Girls are the subject of harsh viewer criticism?Lena [Dunham] is a really good friend of mine, but I can only really speak to my show. I was definitely surprised by the level of anger or snark in reaction to some of the elements of our show. There is definite snarkiness about male stuff and male-dominated shows and all that, but there is a lot of stuff coming from other girls and women that I found surprising, a pressure that our show was a symbol of something or that we were trying to make some statement or that we represented something bigger in the political landscape that we really didn’t. At the end of the day we are making a sitcom. It’s not even an HBO show. That was definitely weird for me. It was a new side of the culture wars, or whatever you would call it, that I wasn’t that excited to find out about. I have been writing women characters for as long as I could write, and it has been really important to me to make funny women characters.Funny people are flawed people, and what that has been difficult to get your mind around is this idea that to make a really funny character, that character has to be messed up in some way, or off, or immature to a fault, or a weirdo. You have to find something comedic about a character, and that means that the character can’t be an organized, Type A, bleeding-heart, lovely person. The characters don’t have to be symbols of a bigger movement. I feel like we are really past that.What people were trying to insinuate was that Jess is emblematic of all women, instead of seeing her as one woman.Yes. It feels like there is a double standard there, because there are certainly plenty of male characters where you don’t do that. I don’t see Ben Stiller inNight at the Museum as emblematic of all museum security guards around the world. Or men.
Good points, all! It’s good to keep in mind that no matter how much we love comedies and how important to us they are personally, they’re still just TV shows designed to make people laugh. Of all of the responsibilities they have, representing an entire gender or demographic with accuracy isn’t near the top of the list.