Veep, Knee-deep In Stereotypes
HBO’s new comedy “Veep” starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Salina Meyer premiering this past weekend takes yet another stab at the Washington culture and people who live and work here. I’ll leave the acting and other details to TV critics, but as I watched the first episode I saw not a “ferociously funny” new comedy (Washington Post) but the spinning of old, worn-out stereotypes, particularly about women.
The real Washington, D.C. has always type casted women into one of four roles: the innocent and idealistic ingenue, the harlot, the dutiful wife, the aggressive and power-hungry man-eating bitch (of course, category A can morph into one or more of the others). I see in Veep an image-conscious woman, Salina, who wants power but is seeking it out from everyone around her instead of finding it within herself. She has an equally rudderless Chief of Staff and a pantheon of losers working for her – either because she is too inept to know better or too powerless to fire them. I found myself distracted through out most of the episode, wondering why such a self-possessed and strong actress like Louis-Dreyfus would play the Vice President of the United States this way.
I also wondered if this wasn’t yet one more example on the towering pile of proof that women are still, in the 21st century, discriminated against—in Washington, in Hollywood and everywhere in between. Is this another subtle message to women and girls that we need to believe the lies that we are less capable and less able to have and exude real power and influence? We sit and wait around for powerful men to call and confer purpose on us? We need self-absorbed and conniving men half our age to tell us how to do our jobs? What is the message of this show? And, if it is all these things, why are we still buying it? There are so many strong, self-possessed and intelligent women in Washington right now – Democrats and Republicans – whom the producers and writers of Veep could have used as a model. Why is Salina not the hard-charging, glass-ceiling breaking, ass-kicking and name-taking woman in the mold of Sen. Barbara Mikulski or Secretary Hilary Clinton or former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson? These are women with goals and the skills to get the job done. They have broken down barriers and are mentoring the next generation of women while keeping up with the men – and doing it all without the bonehead scandals men constantly fall into.
Needless to say, I hope the show gets better, but I hold little hope. Things will not change until there is a mass uprising in this country of women and girls saying, “Enough is enough! I can be smart and funny and aggressive and feminine all at the same time and I don’t need to sit around and wait for things to happen to me, I will go out and make things happen!”
Image from http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethebox/2012/04/veep-julia-louis-dreyfus-gets-sort-of-vice-presidential-in-hbo-political-comedy.html