I set out to write a post a few days back about positive images of independent, married women in pop culture, and I ran into a problem. I couldn't think of any.
The closest I could come was Mad About You, but, as that show was on when I was very young, I don't remember most of it. I'm currently waiting for Netflix to deliver the first two discs of season 1, and then I'll let you know what I find. The second thought (OK, it wasn't my thought, but I should have thought of it myself :) ) I had was the Bartlets in The West Wing, but even that image of marriage had its issues. When the president went public about his MS, his wife, Abbey, came under scrutiny because she was a doctor and she helped cover it up in the first place. And then she voluntarily suspended her medical license. To save her husband's job. The only saving grace here is how totally pissed off she was about it.
However, when I asked on Facebook and Twitter for some positive images of marriages, I got lots of responses along the lines of According to Jim, The George Lopez Show, and Friday Night Lights. Now, I may be biased because I hate every single family sitcom out there, but it shocks me to see that people think that A) these women are independent and B) these are good marriages. In almost every single Everybody Loves Raymond-esque sitcom, the wife doesn't work and drives her husband up a wall on a daily basis by criticizing his every move. I hate to even have to say this, but this is not a positive image of marriage.
I began watching Friday Night Lights on Monday because I had never seen it and was intrigued by the number of people telling me the marriage between the coach and his wife was an awesome example of marriage in popular culture. While it is a fantastic show so far (I have literally cried at every single of the first 9 episodes), and while the coach and his wife do work together very well and work out whatever problem they have, she is far from independent. She doesn't have a job when the season begins, and when she does get a job, he's upset about it. Granted, she keeps the job and does what she has to do, but outside of work, she continually plays the role of his beautiful wife, hosting parties and smiling while hanging on his arm at events at his beck and call.
Now, you might argue that this is art imitating life, but I disagree. There are a lot of strong, independent women out there who are married and who don't exist solely to be arm candy or host parties or complain about their husbands. But where are those images on television? Or in movies? The lack of these images of positive wife role models leaves would-be free thinking women in the dust when it comes to how to have a great marriage and maintain independence and a sense of self. I know part of the reason I had such a hard time during my first year of marriage is that I was trying to negotiate the images I have seen in popular culture (I grew up with Home Improvement, Full House, and then my entire high school was obsessed with Everybody Loves Raymond, Friends, and Sex in the City.) that tell me not only that if I got married, the fun would be over, but also that wives should take care of their husbands, care for children, criticize everything their husbands do wrong, not work, etc.
So I ask you, readers, where are the positive images of wives in pop culture? And how are we - the newly married, independent, free thinking women of society - supposed to turn for an example of how to make it work?
Originally posted at Small Strokes.