Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sports Night and the ladies

I am a huge Aaron Sorkin fan, and especially a huge fan of Sports Night. My rule of thumb is that anyone who owns the Sports Night DVDs is a good person (with some exceptions - but few).

Jennifer over at The Hathor Legacy has done a really nice critique of women characters in Sports Night. I didn't realize it until she mentioned it, but every single episode passes the Bechdel/Wallace test. Dana and Natalie, the two producers for the show-within-the-show, surprise surprise, talk about something else besides men constantly. What an amazing concept, huh?

She nails it with this:
On TV, women in these situations usually catfight, and men usually hit each other, then bond over beer and become best buddies. Dana and Sally do neither: they put professional accumen and the one thing they have in common - being women in a male-dominated field - ahead of more petty, personal concerns. Forget passing the Bechdel/Wallace test - this is a depiction of women with little in common but the men in their lives choosing not to let that theme rule their interactions.
Even though I've never been a fan of sports, I remember watching Sports Night when it was airing on Comedy Central (probably right after it was cancelled*). It never stood out to me as a show with better than average depictions of women, simply because I expected that television would show women characters with nuance and depth. I wasn't at the point where I cognatively realized that tv shows suck with showing women - I hadn't realized that women aren't the target audience for television.

Aaron Sorkin isn't always the greatest with his female characters; just yesterday I saw the West Wing episode introducing Ansely Hayes, an attractive Republican woman who comes to work in the Democratic White House (but she can get away with it because, you know, she looks like she does). But usually he's better than average, as Jennifer's post describes.

Jennifer also did a spot on analysis of the show's depiction of Dan Rydell, one of the sports anchors, which I think is a really good critique. So go watch the show, and if you pick up the DVDs (which recently had a 10 year anniversary re-release), I'll think you're a good person.

*Speaking of canceled TV shows I love, watch Kings on NBC so it doesn't have the same fate as Sports Night or Studio 60. More on Kings soon, I promise.

1 comment:

petpluto said...

I love Sports Night. I watched with bated breath when it was on ABC (even though it was on opposite my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I think The Hathor Legacy article nails it. I loved how the women were really friends, and how the women were really friends with the men. And yes, Dana was insecure in her relationships and Natalie was a gossip - but what I loved was how their foibles weren't there to degrade them and were also equally represented in the men around them. Everyone was capable professionally, and everyone screwed up personally (except Isaac... and possibly Kim). It was equal opportunity three-dimensionality. Sigh. Now I wish I didn't have to go to work so I could watch some Sports Night.