Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Image of women in the workforce reflective in “Newsroom”

Part of my summer assignments to myself involved catching up on various television shows, made possible by actual free time and my parent’s premium channel subscription.

I just finished catching up on “Girls,” a hilariously cynical HBO series that follows four young girls in New York City. And while yes, a HBO series about four girls roughin’ it in New York City doesn’t sound entirely original, the only thing that reminded me of “Sex and the City” was a strategically placed poster in one of the character’s rooms.

But, since I watched all ten episodes of the first season in a week, I turned to my next eventual conquest, the new HBO series “The Newsroom.” As a journalist, the setting (a newsroom…) attracted me, and the cast of Jeff Daniels, Dev Patel from “Slumdog Millionaire” and that guy from “Law and Order,” as well as director Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network” and “The West Wing”), pulled me in.

The first episode opens with a question-and-answer session between two politicians and the lead character, a news anchor played by Jeff Daniels. This scene ends with a rant probed by a student’s question.

I credited the long monologue in this scene to it being a character-developing rant, one necessary to see what kind of person the lead character was. But unfortunately, the endless speeches do not end here. I then attributed the excessive dialogue in the first episode to character establishment, but after finishing the second, it seems that the unrealistic bantering is actually part of every episode.

The characters, like the dialogue, are over-the-top and unrealistic. Jeff Daniels loves playing a pompous asshole, which is a stark difference from his character in the last thing I saw him in, “101 Dalmatians.” The plot is confused, as if the writer is still trying to decide if it’s actually about the newsroom or cliché drama between coworkers.

But my biggest issue with the show is not the dialogue, characters or lack of focus: it’s how the women are portrayed. The two women leads, Emily Mortimer as producer “Mac” and Allison Pill as reporter “Maggie,” are neurotic and unstable. Constantly overwhelmed by out-of-office induced emotions, they are almost useless in a work environment. They both are either previously or currently romantically involved with a “higher-up” in their office, and they both allow these relationships to overshadow their professionalism.

Perhaps this characterization is reflective of Sorkin’s own experience with women (lest we not forget the psycho girlfriend of “Eduardo” in “The Social Network”), but more than likely, this is a genuine interpretation of women in the workforce. Yet this impression of women’s ability to handle the stresses of work and outside life is not unique to “The Newsroom” or other examples of mass media.

The idea behind our “neuroticism” and inability to be capable workers is attached to the idea behind our “womanly” roles and expectations. Surely we cannot be as dedicated to our job as our male counterpart – we have to produce and raise babies, of course! And that baby thing? It explains our hormonal crazes. And if you’re an “attractive woman,” then you definitely aren’t there for your brains.

I hope you noted my sarcasm, for the image of women as caregivers, sex objects and softies in the boardroom is standing on its last legs. The United States is starting to see a role reversal, and the number of women in the workforce with positions of leadership is increasing. Recently, Yahoo! named Marissa Mayer as their new CEO. Mayer is not only a woman, but she is pregnant, as well. There’s your proof that women can, in fact, do it all.

And although there are stories of female triumph to be found, there are still not enough examples. As Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote in “The Atlantic,” women may be able to do it all, but “they can’t have it all.” Having to choose between babies or a career is not a choice men have to make, but it one that many women feel obliged to consider.

And part of that is due to images of emotionally driven women, like those found in “The Newsroom.” Part of it is also the assumption that certain roles, like raising a child, cooking and “being mom” are for women, not men. Another is that women are one or the other: attractive or smart.

There are three fallacies found in those assumptions. One, women are more than capable of being strong workers in any setting, while still maintaining a life outside the office. Two, men are just as easily capable of changing diapers. And three, women are equal in intelligence to men, regardless of their appearance. Here’s the real question, though: is society man enough to admit these things?

SoRelle Wyckoff is the opinions editor for The Crimson White.

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