There’s an obnoxiously common businesswoman trope about the lady at the top whose horrible to every female in her path. Call it the “Working Girl” complex. We’re all just so sure that the corporate world is full of Sigourney Weaver’s out to steal our ideas and push us around. We lament that women can’t be nicer to each other, instead of competing to fill the uterus quota in the executive suites.
It was this trope that Amy Sherman-Palladino pulled out after recent criticism of her new show Bunheads. The show, which has been well-received by most, was criticized by none other than Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes, whose obviously doing pretty well in the television industry with Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal, sent out a tweet to Bunheads saying, “[R]eally? You couldn’t cast even ONE young dancer of color so I could feel good about my kid watching this show? NOT ONE?”
Sherman-Palladino’s show would not be the first this year to come under fire for lack of racial diversity. Lena Dunham‘s new show Girls suffered an intense amount of criticism for it’s all-white cast. It became such an issue that Dunham had to respond to the controversy. She not only explained where she was coming from when she wrote the show, she sounded optimistic about addressing the issue in the show at a later date. She said, “When I get a tweet from a girl who’s like, ‘I’d love to watch the show, but I wish there were more women of color.’ You know what? I do, too, and if we have the opportunity to do a second season, I’ll address that.”
However, Sherman-Palladino took the easy route. She used a familiar old trope to overlook the criticism, instead of addressing it. She responded by saying, ”Look, I’m not going to get into a pissing match with Shonda Rhimes, because she has 15,000 shows on the air, and she’s doing just fine for herself… [But] I’ve always felt like women have never supported — just in a general sense — women have never supported women to the level that they should.” Poor, poor Amy, the victim of a big, bad successful woman who isn’t supporting her fellow females…
Except that’s a horrible excuse to use. It’s not fair. Rhimes was addressing a serious issue, and one that many other mothers of color are probably disappointed about. They would like characters that their daughter’s can relate to. And Amy Sherman-Palladino is not poor little Melanie Griffith. She’s a successful woman who had an enormous hit with the show Gilmore Girls. She should be capable of handling a little criticism.
Even better, as Jessica Testa expertly demonstrated at Buzzfeed’s Shift, women in the television industry are immensely supportive of one another. Many female show creators have been happy to compliment, promote and cheer one another on as they all work in an extremely competitive industry. In fact, it looks like ladies of every industry could use the women of the small screen as role models. They’re proof that building each other up helps us all.
Shonda Rhimes was not pulling a Sigourney Weaver. She does not deserve to be chastised for failing to support her fellow woman. She was bringing up a legitimate issue that Sherman-Palladino still hasn’t responded to.
Every time women use this “Working Girl” complex to shift the blame, they make it harder for females everywhere. They perpetuate that idea that we’re selfish and solely focused on our own ambition. For many women, that’s not the case. For proof, we only need to look as far as the prime-time line-up.