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When I Grow Up

March 5, 2013

I’m a big critic of female portrayals in television and film. Often, women lack complexity and substance because writers rely on older stereotypes that have seduced audiences for decades. Most recently, we have the “Manic pixie dream girl” who saves the dazed and confused male lead  from an emotional crisis. These dream girls are male fantasies come to life and the saddest part is that they lack real substance. They exist for men. While these women are quirky, lovable, funny, and full-clothed, they still lack brains and career paths. Women finally got some reprieve because they don’t have to be perfect. You can be Zooey Deschanel from New Girl. But just be perfect at being that quirky, funny girl. Sigh…

1ed08509-1f10-4e41-a259-f780cef3fd44Anyhow, getting back on track, I’m inspired to discuss this topic because  I’ve fallen in love with Olivia Dunham from Fringe. She is a complicated, sophisticated, strong, sensitive, fearless, and complex character. Olivia breaks stereotypes because she is strong and vulnerable and beautiful and brainy. We often experience messages in our media that tell women they can only be one thing. Pretty girls don’t need to get smart because looks help them snag men and tough women are bitches so beware. I see these messages with my students where girls are more “delicate” and they don’t like to play as rough as boys. That may be true but it’s still a toss up as to whether that’s biology or socialization. I hope that I can help my students to be who they are and feel comfortable playing with Barbie Dolls and sports whenever they want.


I was excited to hear from one of my students last week during Show and Share that her doll is a “fashionista who loves the library and loves books.” That toy should be marketed to every girl on the planet.

When I grow up, I want to be Olivia Dunham…


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