Numerous studies show that even today women are not only perceived, but also often placed in the supporting roles rather than portray one of the leading characters. Thus, male dominance continues to represent the norm both in film and television. The realm of television, however, seems to have a more balanced structure and, or at least it appears that there is more freedom and space for women in TV series.
One such example is HBO’s Big Little Lies that premiered earlier this year and truly depicts what female power means in only 7 episodes. The three leading characters, all female, Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Jane (Shailene Woodley) are bound by their main occupation of being mothers, that is, mothers of first graders. All three of them have dreams and ambitions, of course, yet their first and foremost worry remains the bringing up of their kids.
Just when you think that a TV series with three female leading characters is ground-breaking, you are once again reminded of the traditional view of women that links them to being caretakers in the form of a mother, wife, girlfriend, sister, etc. As studies further reveal, ”female characters were more likely than males to play personal life-oriented roles such as wife or mother.”¹
Big Little Lies, in fact, opens up with a murder investigation, but the suspense is kept till the last episode of who the murdered was. Instead, the show creates some sort of pastiche that simultaneously lets out moments from the past, present and future, so as to keep you hooked up. Ultimately, it does the job, for by the middle of the show, you find yourself all cuddled up waiting to discover the what, when and how!
Some compare Big Little Lies to ABC’s Pretty Little Liars, only the first is the more grown-up version of the latter. Others even say it reminds them of one of the latest additions to Netflix’s family, 13 Reasons Why. Yet, Big Little Lies carries the depth and relevance that neither of the shows develops, since the issues that HBO’s production tackles are issues that often stay ignored or unresolved, issues that are relevant to many adults – issues such as adultery and physical abuse – issues that we must talk about.
Big Little Lies surely is the feminist answer to shows like Mad Men, yet networks continue to disregard the notion of placing women in a working environment, which is definitely something that I’ll be looking forward to seeing if there is a second season.
¹ Boxed In 2015-16: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in Television