It’s summer and there’s a lot of tv to watch. If you’re looking for something with a sci fi twist, you have a wide variety of options. Vampires, demons, and time-travel are all readily available.
Almost all of these shows, however, have a male lead or have an exclusively male main cast. Supernatural revolves around brothers Sam and Dean who, occasionally assisted by other male characters, fight- you guessed it- supernatural creatures. Women are often portrayed as helpless and/or victimized. In Doctor Who, the Doctor (always male) gallivants through space and time. He has many diverse adventures, but he’s generally just getting his female companions out of trouble. The deadly creatures in Being Human are male, while the woman in the trio is a ghost, literally invisible to ordinary humans.
The few shows on tv that do showcase a female lead tend to hyper-sexualize them. Elena of Vampire Diaries is pursued for her looks and the past, present, and future of her sexual relations are a main turning point of the show. Lost Girl Bo, while able to seriously kick some butt, is a succubus, putting her sexuality and sexual prowess at the forefront of the show. Her ability to dominate and overcome her foes comes directly from her sexual exploits. Other strong lead women who are not objectified and over-sexualized are surprisingly absent from sci-fi television.
This isn’t a problem in other genres. Sitcoms, law dramas, crime dramas, and soap operas all include shows that feature women in main or recurring roles that are depicted as cunning, witty, kind, cruel, nerdy, and/or funny. In many shows, women’s actions and personalities are valued over their overt sexuality, but this is not the case for today’s sci-fi shows.
This hasn’t always been the case either. The X Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are powerhouse sci-fi shows with leading ladies that kick butt and take names. Melinda of Ghost Whisperer and the sisters of Charmed are also recent tv regulars in the sci-fi genre. It obviously isn’t impossible or even undesirable to keep women out of the front lines of the supernatural and fantastic. We just have to make it happen.