Doing it for themselves: Female shows take TV by storm

Doing it for themselves: Female shows take TV by storm

Aftershocks of the #MeToo movement are being felt in the way women are being portrayed.
12 Apr, 2019

A tsunami of dramas about women having to deal with useless, no-good and even murderous men is about to break on television screens across the world.

From Latin America to Australia, the aftershocks of the #MeToo movement are being felt in the way women are being portrayed, with a sharp spike in female-driven stories.

Millennia of patriarchy have given women creators selling their shows at the giant MIPTV market on the French Riviera at Cannes plenty of material to work with.

Spanish actress Leticia Dolera heralded a new order with a rousing feminist speech when “Perfect Life”, the series she wrote, directed and starred in, took the top prize at the parallel Canneseries festival.

She dedicated her win to all the women “who have fought stereotypes being forced on them, and all those who weren't able to”.

There was also stirring talk from veteran actress Diana Rigg, an early icon of girl power in the 1960s as Emma Peel in “The Avengers”, who hailed Phoebe Waller-Bridge's cult BBC show “Fleabag” as a “major step forward for women.

“Real women as they are” are finally being seen on screen, she told AFP.

'Taking power'

Analyst Virginia Mouseler of The Wit database said the big trend in global drama is “women on the verge of everything — nervous breakdowns, rage and taking power”.

The biggest cable show in America this year is “Dirty John” starring Hollywood star Eric Bana as a really bad guy who manipulates a spectacularly wealthy woman.

Based on the true-crime podcast, it comes with a companion documentary about the serial crook, who earned his nickname from his rampant philandering.

Over the border in French-speaking Canada, audiences have been glued to “Monster”, another drawn-from-life story of a violent, gaslighting truly nasty man who tries to control his young wife.

But women get revenge for a sex crime from the past in the new Swedish show “Honour”, Mouseler said. The tale of four avenging female lawyers has already been snapped up by a string of European broadcasters.

'Disastrous males'

Another murder story with a more ironic edge, “Bad Mothers”, has been a big hit Down Under. Its five female friends also have to deal with a complement of “disastrous males”, the analyst said.

There are bellylaughs aplenty — mostly at men's expense — in the hilarious Spanish series “Dangerous Moms”, a big hit with movers and shakers at Cannes which also won the MIPTV drama prize.

Like “Perfect Life”, which beat the acclaimed tragi-comic Israeli series “Nehama” (Widower) and “The Walking Dead” creator Channing Powell's compelling new digital age thriller “The Feed”, “Dangerous Moms” owes a debt to cult Spanish director Pedro Almodovar in its comedy.

Dolera urged women that now is the time to “tell your stories. Writing with empathy is a great tool to fight against hate, ignorance and machismo.

“Culture should include a woman's point of view,” the Catalan actress added.

“Tell your story and spread the message,” she declared, her voice cracking with emotion.

Women activists put their lives on the line to save the rainforest and its indigenous people from a powerful gold mining company in the new big-budget Brazilian series “Aruanas”.

Mouseler said its motifs of “girl power, #MeToo themes, disastrous men and a group of women overcoming adversity” were typical of the new wave of female-centred dramas including the highly rated British university-set show “Cheat” and the Dutch crime family saga “Judas”.

These themes are also seeping into historical dramas, like the South American hit “Argentina, Land of Passion and Revenge” and the Ukrainian epic about a woman who becomes the sex slave of a feudal lord, “Love in Chains”.

There is a place for men, however, in this new order.

The forthcoming Spanish-language Netflix series “Toyboy” features a male stripper who moonlights as a prostitute, servicing wealthy female clients, until he gets framed for murder.

“Not all men are bad,” Mouseler quipped.