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8 Obnoxious Cliches about Men, Women and Sex in Otherwise Good TV Shows

As television becomes more daring, there are still many basic feminist ideas that read as taboo on the small screen.

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3. Liz Lemon steals a baby on “30 Rock.” While “30 Rock” employs a lot of traditional sexist tropes to create comic situations in its setting behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show at NBC, they are usually tweaked in some way to subvert expectations and avoid the typical sexist themes. Sure, Liz may be a loser at love, but you discover that it’s not because of TV’s steadfast belief that “career women” can’t find husbands, but because Liz herself is a misanthrope who sabotages every potential relationship because deep down, she has no real desire to share her life.

Would such a woman be baby crazy enough that, when given a random baby to hold at work, she loses her mind and wanders home, coochie-cooing the baby for half an hour until she realizes her terrible mistake and returns the baby in shame? It doesn’t make any sense, but this happens in one of the least funny incidents on the fast-paced sitcom. Sure, babies are cute, but there’s no way they’d try that story line with a male character. The show seemed to be suggesting that because Liz is female, she can barely control her baby lust or her strong desire to stay at home instead of hold an income-generating job. The show is much better off when it portrays Liz as a workaholic who can’t quite accept that she’s married to her job, rather than a baby-hungry, single-woman stereotype.

4. Detective Linden has stupid problems on “The Killing.” “The Killing” had one of the most promising pilot episodes of any TV series in recent memory, immediately drawing hopeful comparisons to luminary programs such as “Twin Peaks,” with its portrayal of a sharp detective trying to solve a single murder that has implications for an entire city. To add to the excitement, the show was built around a normal-seeming but highly competent female detective, setting expectations high that we would see a female professional portrayed honestly on television.

Unfortunately, the show demonstrated in a few episodes that it had no chance of living up to the high expectations. One of the most prominent demonstrations of its lack of imagination is the stereotypical, sexist problems the writers gave Sarah Linden in her personal life. She had a nagging son and fiancé, and while she clearly loved her work, we were expected to believe she was ready to throw it all away for marriage without really thinking it through. The ready assumption that professional women necessarily struggle with unsupportive families and a desire to head to the kitchen seemed like it was straight from a '70s-era reactionary film, and no amount of grim determination on actress Mirelle Enos’ face could cover up the flaws in her characterization.

5. Evil feminists fake a rape on “Veronica Mars.” The first two seasons of “Veronica Mars” nicely helped feminist TV fans minimize the withdrawal symptoms from the end of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The show followed a teenage girl who chooses to live a life of a private investigator instead of simply being content with high school and college. Sure, Veronica could never fully compete with Buffy in a one-on-one competition of witty, badass ladies with surprising vulnerabilities, but as a 21st-century Nancy Drew, she still provided the audience with mysteries to solve and a fun and clever heroine to root for.

Well, the writers must have realized they’d cultivated a feminist audience and feared they’d get cooties, because they spent the third season portraying feminists as evil bitches set on destroying the supposed wonderland of the college Greek system. Feminists on the show faked a rape specifically to take down the fraternities at Veronica’s college, and only Veronica has the wits to stop them.

 
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