It’s a Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad TV World by Dr. Rosanne Welch from Mindful(l) Media 13

Mindful(l) Media is an audio podcast from Dr. Rosanne Welch helping the audience to be more Mindfull about the Media we both create and consume as it relates to the portrayal of Gender, Diversity, and Equality.

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It’s a Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad TV World by Dr. Rosanne Welch

Sad tv world

I gave an assignment this week that started me thinking because one of my students emailed me with a quandary. She had looked around at the options for one-hour dramas to write stories for and said something I hadn’t heard before…

We often hear how violent television has become — or how rude — or how disturbing the content, the steady stream of dead, mutilated bodies and the constant focus on florescently lit autopsy rooms, or worse — the fact that the murder room on Dexter had become so ubiquitous that How I Met Your Mother made a joke reference to it — the lead character, architect Ted Mosby, was asked to design just such a murder room and he naturally declined.

But this student said it wasn’t the violence, or the rudeness, or the murder room. She understood those dark stories were in vogue now. It was the overall, overwhelming feeling of sadness that overcame her while watching such moments over and over on television that bothered her. She really put her finger on something I had been feeling for a long long time. What used to be my favorite childhood place to hide from the world, my refuge, the place that would show me all the possibilities for a future that my small suburb couldn’t show me, isn’t providing the same thing for children today.In fact these kinds of visuals might be providing the opposite. 

I mean, when reading Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World, she told a story about how as a poor kid she had no lawyers in her immigrant family but by seeing Perry Mason on television, she learned about the profession she eventually inhabited so well that she was nominated to the Supreme Court. THAT is power.  Granted, all these forensic shows seem to have female doctors as the head medical examiners (like C.C.H. Pounder on NCIS: New Orleans) and that may be leading girls into STEM careers — but why aren’t there more Grey’s Anatomy’s out there, watching female doctors help the living rather and discuss the dark causes of the dead?

So why do we now wallow in worlds none of us really want to see in our future – or want our children to enter in their futures?  Sure, there are still lawyers and police officers on television – good ones and bad ones, as there always were.  And, sure, the bad ones can be more complex and therefore more interesting to write, but both the good ones and the bad ones show us more and more ruthless, ugly crimes and I have to say I’m growing tired of it. 

This is a tough comment for a female writer to make as it immediately leads to the idea that we are too soft to be considered for writing gigs on the tougher – Emmy-nominate-able shows.  But I say it isn’t that we are too prissy or too prudish – it’s that some of us, not all of us, are too optimistic, too joyful, to face those ugly stories all the time.  I mean, face it, we’re trying to work in a still male-dominated business which means we have optimism – and we are so excited by every teeny-tiny step forward, which means we’re overflowing with joy. 

I think the mistake is that we have connected the adjective ‘serious’ with ‘violent’ or ‘ugly’ when there are other ways to be serious in our writing.  I’m reminded of this by an article that’s going around the web this week about how after 30 years The Golden Girls is still the most progressive show in television.  

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