I spent Mother’s Day thinking about mothers and women in general as portrayed in the media. I was struck by how many mothers/wives/girlfriends, etc., die in media productions. For instance, in NCIS, the main star, Gibbs, loses his first wife to a drug dealer and an ex-wife to a revenge bullet through her head. We find out in flashbacks that his mother died when he was a young teenager.
A bullet to the head also killed the first female agent on the show. The wife of the purported head of NCIS is killed in a drive by shooting while having dinner in her own home. The husband, of course, survived. And the mother of one agent’s child is accidentally blown up.
In the spin off series, NCIS: LA, an agent loses his wife to a kidnapping. He gets to watch her slowly suffocate to death. Another agent starts the series with a mother who also died from a bullet in the head but whose supposedly dead father suddenly surfaces alive. Stretching credulity to the limits, the female agent on the LA show is both captured by the Taliban and has a helicopter fall on her. Both incidents require the men to save her.
And that’s just one franchise.
In all the NCIS shows I mentioned, the male agents never die. The same ones that started the series continue with the series except for one lucky agent who got his own show. And despite the fact that these shows supposedly portray strong, capable women, in the end they die while the men live to avenge them.
Want more? Check out Disney. Cinderella – dead mother. Bambi – dead mother. Snow White – dead mother. Pinocchio – no mom. Belle and Jasmine – dead mothers. Ariel – watched her mother die. The list goes on but you get the point.
So the question inevitably arises as to what the mostly male producers and writers of these shows have against women. Why must they all die but the male protagonists live on forever? Why are these people so afraid to let the woman live and the man die? And shouldn’t the women who share their lives with the men who keep offing women in their scripts be a little nervous?
I’ve asked this question among female friends and the consensus is that strong women intimidate some men. They find it more comfortable to kill them off so that the male characters can get on with their lives without the hassle of a smart woman looking over their shoulder or showing them up. Maybe this is true. It certainly is a more comforting theory than imagining that the men harbor some secret anger against their mothers, wives, daughters and girlfriends that they are acting out in their productions.
I would like to blame Orangeman and his misogynistic approach towards women and their private parts for this but I can’t. It existed long before he made it ok to bring his version of locker room talk and actions into the public arena. In fact, he may be a product of this attitude that women must die so men can be tragically brokenhearted but somehow go on through the pain to achieve great things. Not that Orangeman is achieving great things but you get the idea.
Many women question how a century after the suffragettes fought for the vote and almost fifty years after feminism raised the question of female equality, we can still be living in a world where women routinely make less than men despite being equally capable and productive. We still have workplaces where sexual harassment is accepted as just part of the job and only stops (goes underground?) when it’s made public. I’d use Fox as an example but I really don’t think they are outliers in this. While you may see older, less than svelte men delivering your news at night, you will rarely see a woman of a certain age on a national broadcast unless she’s found the money to keep herself looking twenty-nine forever.
Women still have a long way to go in this country to achieve even partial parity with men in the workplace and in society. I hope the generation now entering the workforce is filled with women who will finally stand up and demand equal pay for equal work, equal recognition and status for equal effort. Maybe one of them can become a scriptwriter in Hollywood and start knocking off men so women can be the heroines who avenge their deaths.
I can dream, can’t I?