Can TV Women Have It All?

elizabeth berkley, the great unifierAn in-depth Flavorwire investigation into the fall TV schedule shows that we are indeed obsessed with the question of whether American women can “have it all” — lacking, as we do here, any kind of real social safety net or infrastructure for working moms. Basically it’s like a reality show everyday for many of us: Can we achieve reasonable success in our personal *and* professional lives without paid maternity leave, subsidized quality child care, or guaranteed health insurance?? And can we remain attractive while we’re at it? TUNE IN TONIGHT, AFTER “JERSEY SHORE.”

Not surprisingly, the results are mixed:

This year, we are blessed with so many different women: a detective who struggles to balance her work and personal life, a Secretary of State who struggles to balance her work and personal life, a CIA analyst who struggles to balance her work and personal life, and so on. Once again, TV wants to know: Can women have it all? …

The best plot description is of the fictionalized sitcom version of The Life of Hillary Clinton, which is an actual real thing that’s happening whether we like it or not, starring Tea Leoni: 

Elizabeth (Téa Leoni) might be the most powerful woman in the United States, but try telling that to her children! In Madam Secretary, Elizabeth becomes Secretary of State (the President calls her directly; she thinks it’s the PTA president calling), although she’s considered an outsider in Washington. As CBS puts it, Elizabeth “battles office politics and circumvents protocol as she negotiates global and domestic issues, both at the White House and at home.” Two houses! How will she keep them both clean (literally and figuratively, of course).

Can Elizabeth have it all? Not likely. Sure, she’s likable, intelligent, has a helpful husband, and knows what she’s doing, but she’s still a mother and that’s three strikes against her. Maybe this could work if she had a lower-profile job, but she’s working in DC politics, and that’s no place for a mom with emotions that could cloud her judgment. (The pilot already contains a political conflict that involves teens.) And what’s going to happen when her children inevitably find themselves in danger from terrorists during sweeps week?

All these super-professionals. I guess the point is that it will make us plebes feel better for being frazzled and constantly fucking up if we see CIA agents and cabinet members doing it too? But instead it reminds me of those rom coms where golden-haired little nymphets like Kate Hudson pretend to trip over things so that we plodding normals can relate to them.

O, how far we’ve come from “Roseanne,” when, like, ordinary middle- and working-class women were shown struggling, and being smart-asses, and not having it all, at least not in that Anne Marie Slaughter kind of way that has become the shorthand for what we somehow expect of ourselves / each other: A+ achievement in every realm.

If the prospect of this fall’s slate of Professional Ladies Leaning In doesn’t thrill you, you can return to classic TV like “The Gilmore Girls,” which is being released for the first time on Netflix streaming this fall. (Spoiler alert: Yes, both Lorelei and Rory could have it all.) Or give up and hold out for something completely different, something mindless and distracting, like the TV adaptations of the sexy Anne Rice novels “Beauty’s Punishment” and “Beauty’s Release.” Coming soon.



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