Feminist-Friendly Summer TV

Today’s post is going to be a happy one to offset the fact that it is Monday (worse than that, it’s a Monday that I had to get up extra early to have blood drawn for some tests before work.) I write a lot about TV shows, movies, and other forms of media that I find problematic, but I rarely write about the shows I love. Here’s a quick list of awesome feminist-friendly TV. Please, feel free to throw your own recommendations up in the comments!

Huge is my new favorite show on television right now. I didn’t have high hopes for this show at first, but I was tentatively excited for a show that revolved around a cast of fat teenagers because it theoretically meant that we might be seeing realistic three-dimensional fat characters on TV for a change. The show has had it’s hiccups but for the most part it has been nuanced, realistic, and honestly entertaining for the first few episodes. It airs on Mondays at 9pm on ABC family. The most recent episode can be viewed on Hulu, or you can just read the awesome recaps on Fatshionista (they honestly may be more enjoyable than the show itself!)

King of the Hill. I HATED this show for no good reason up until T and I ended up watching it one night last year, for lack of anything else to do. I’ve been hooked ever since. The show conveys so many good messages, but it does so in an incredibly funny way and it never seems preachy. For instance, Hank and Peggy’s relationship is a true partnership; Peggy is pretty much a feminist and Hank totally supports her desires to work outside of the home and have ambitions. Even when she does things that he disagrees with (like teaching Sex Ed.) Hank supports her. The show features many strong female characters, but it goes beyond that in terms of feminism. My favorite episode, The Peggy Horror Picture Show, centers around Peggy Hill meeting a drag queen named Caroline while shopping for shoes at a specialty store because her feet are too big for most women’s shoes. Peggy and Caroline quickly become good friends but Peggy doesn’t realize Caroline is a drag queen [I say drag-queen instead of transgender person here because, from what I recall, that’s how she identified in the show], while Caroline assumes Peggy is a drag queen herself. This episode manages to depict the drag lifestyle in a favorable and humanizing light – it doesn’t make drag into a punchline at all, instead, it educates while being entertaining. King of the Hill airs weeknights at 10pm, 10:30pm, 2:00am, and 2:30am on Cartoon Network and weeknights at 1:00am, and 1:30am on Fox.

What Would You Do. The season (unfortunately) ended abruptly after just a few episodes this summer, but ultimately that’s good news because it turns out that WWYD got such good ratings ABC decided to film a full season for the Fall! What Would You Do uses hidden cameras to gain an understanding of how real people would react to various scenarios in a series of awesome social experiments. It appeals to me because I love psychology, but also because it has a lot of practical value. For instance, watching other people react to things like witnessed violence, racism, ageism, etc. could make the viewer more likely to react in a real-life situation by giving them a concrete example as to what they can do, thus cutting through the bystander effect. During each scenario they also interview experts, so the viewer walks away more informed about various issues. The new season is slated to premier sometime in the fall (check John Quinones’ twitter for up-to-date information!)  In the meantime various clips from the show can be found on the ABC website and Youtube and ABC sometimes does re-runs!

Here’s a particularly moving clip from What Would You Do?

Degrassi is totally a feminist show because it provides an unbiased (if unrealistic due to it’s soap opera esque nature) view of life as a teenager. In the past the show has taken on heavy topics like rape, STIs, abortion, violence, bullying, cancer, and teenager motherhood in a nuanced way. Somehow the show manages to cram in all of these “very special” topics without often feeling preachy. Current story lines include the struggles of a gay character to accept his sexuality and come out to his community; a character’s struggles to accept the fact that her parents have lost nearly all of their money; plus, Degrassi is planning to introduce a transgender character this season (though I’m a bit disappointed that a cisgender actor was chosen to play the role.) If you get The N then Degrassi is all new every weeknight at 9pm for the next five weeks. Plus, they post all of the episodes online pretty quickly!

That’s about all I can think up for now. Other than this I pretty much just watch Top Chef, Design Star, Next Food Network Star… and about a million other shows that follow this same exact format because I am apparently an incredibly boring person. Please, feel free to share your awesome feminist-friendly shows in the comments! [If you’re unsure as to whether or not a show is feminist-friendly, the Bechdel Test is a good starting point.]

Related Reading:

20 Feminist TV Characters on Jezebel

Buffy, Superheroes, and Raising Young Feminists on Feministe

4 thoughts on “Feminist-Friendly Summer TV

  1. MASSIVE KOTH fan here – my bf and I dressed up as Hank and Peggy for H’ween last year. I’m a fan partially because there aren’t a ton of shows that don’t depict Southern folks as unintelligent and lazy. I’m a little troubled by that specific episode, but it does a better job of portraying folks on the trans spectrum with some respect than most.

  2. I guess I should have put a little disclaimer before talking about that first episode, since I haven’t seen it in ages & I’m not a trans person so I can’t really judge how well it does… but it struck me as a respectful portrayal, if nothing else and I appreciated the fact that the punchline of the “joke” was about Hank and Peggy’s obliviousness, rather than the fact that Caroline was trans. If nothing else, that puts it far ahead of most TV shows!

    Last night I just caught Degrassi’s latest episode, where they introduced a transgender character for the first time… I’m even more excited about this one because Degrassi typically handles it’s characters and plotlines well, without much stereotyping :)

  3. Quick note about the KotH episode mentioned, Caroline and the other drag queens clearly identify as drag queens and NOT as trans* people. Caroline is shown out of drag, and they explicitly portray and state that they are are drag queens.

    just to clarify. :)

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