ENOUGH With Successful Women = Unhappy Characters in Film & TV!!

I love Wine Country on Netflix. Thrilled for Amy Poehler’s directorial debut – and wish I could drop myself into this female-led comedy about old friends coming together to celebrate a 50th birthday in Napa. It’s a fun escape. I’ve watched it twice.

What I don’t love, though, is Ana Gasteyer’s character, Catherine – or rather, how the character of Catherine, a successful reality television producer (oh, hey!) is portrayed: Unhappy, disconnected, career-obsessed.

Why are successful women in movies, television and books so often portrayed as mean, miserable, unfulfilled and missing out?

I am calling a moratorium on this clichéd character.

I heart you, Amy Poehler and your platform Smart Girls – so I’m asking you to imagine an alternative version in keeping the values we seem to share. Yes, it’s a comedy, and yes, Catherine is a stock character but…seeing these kinds of negative images of women has negative effects on us as individuals and a culture.

What if…

…when your character, Abby, was handing out the itineraries she said, “I’ve made time for any of us who need to check in with home or office – or both.” Not comedy gold, but plants a deep seed of permission – and support.

…instead of taking Catherine’s phone away at the winery, Naomi had mouthed “You are crushing it!” while making faces and trying to get Catherine to start flossing?

…Catherine didn’t have to turn down a job to win back the love of her posse? That’s a high price to pay to fit in. Imagine if Catherine instead yelled, “I got the job!” and the response was “What? We can’t hear you? OhMyGod! You slay! You earned it!” before taking that swan dive down the hill?

To be fair, this trope doesn’t start or end with Wine Country. It’s everywhere and it’s not gender-specific. Bankers are always the bad guys. The “bad” ambitious dad who misses the baseball game or music recital is alive and well in cliché-land. But he still doesn’t get asked how he’s handling childcare. Young people see very few examples of balanced, successful, working women in films and on television which is why Beth Pearson’s urban planner on This Is Us is a welcome exception.

Giving credit where credit is due, one of my virtual mentors, Jen Sincero, first brought this to my attention (Along with stop the self-deprecating humor. Why do we put ourselves down? To. Be. Liked.)

Manifesting expert, Sarah Centrella, colorfully points out that one of the number one reasons women “c**k block their dreams” is the deeply held, internalized belief that successful people are not nice. That when we become successful we will become someone that people do not like. It is deep work to unlock this fear because we’ve had years and constant repetition to process the false belief.

It comes up a lot in my life and career coaching. Buried deep inside many of us is the undermining narrative that we cannot live our values and be successful at the same time. We didn’t make it up, the images and stories are everywhere.

I have the good fortune to know many successful women. They are smart, fun, kind, down to earth, “good” people as my dad would say. I’d love to see them on TV.

Leave a Comment