I’ve written before about the possibility that male writers (ab)use female characters to project their own flaws and weaknesses into a story without violating the “Men Are Strong even when they’re Bad!” rule that seems to dominate film and TV making. The gist of my argument was: maybe badly drawn female characters don’t always represent a male writer’s fantasy woman. Maybe sometimes they’re projections of the male writer’s own insecurity.
The example I gave in the other article was how in season 8 of Stargate SG-1, the writers kept creating cheesy scenes in which poor exhausted Super!Sam got some comfort at the end of her long hard day – a luxury the male characters were never afforded. I took it as condescension to women, but getting comfort at the end of a long, heroic day sounds like a male fantasy to me. Maybe they felt they couldn’t show Jack, Daniel or Teal’c looking so
human weak, so Sam was the only character through whom they could express their own desire for comfort.
There’s another example of this projection I’ve offered before, somewhere: that marriage is something primarily sought by women. Again: the patriarchy could dissolve marriage anytime, if they don’t like it. They haven’t. In fact, more men are married than are women. Clearly, marriage is something men crave for various reasons, but they don’t want to admit it for fear of giving us power over them (“Aha, you need us!”) so they project the desire for marriage onto women. Again, this happens both on and off the screen, from the time little girls are encouraged to dream about their weddings, and little boys… aren’t.
Today I’ve thought of another example of this male projection at work: the idea that a woman is nothing without a man. This is one of those unfortunate attitudes that was prevalent in the real world before TV, but when you find you have a culture entirely constructed to force women to depend on men (by depriving women of the right to vote, own property, get educations and jobs), it doesn’t seem far-fetched to assume the driving force behind this is a horrible fear in men’s minds that women don’t need them as much as they need us.
When we see a female character who is nothing without a man, who spends all her time worrying about getting a man, who is willing to sublimate and compromise herself to get a man… are we looking at a male fantasy of a woman, or are we looking at a man’s troubling view of himself, cleverly disguised with a gender reversal?
Are there more examples?