The Reel Dad’s top seven portrayals of women and TV
“Bombshell” tells a story from the headlines about the challenges women can face when working in television. Over the years, many strong performances by actresses have helped us learn what it takes to succeed in this industry. Here are seven of my favorites.
Faye Dunaway in “Network” (1976): captures the choices, and compromises, that anyone may face when climbing the professional ladder. Dunaway won an Oscar for playing a woman who must compete with strong men in an industry dominated by aggressive behavior. How Diana matches the men word for word, action for action, forces her to question the authenticity of her presence, as she begins to second guess her choices to achieve what she thought would matter.
Holly Hunter in “Broadcast News” (1987) tells a captivating tale of Jane, a woman who hates being the smartest person in any room. Becoming a movie star with this performance, Hunter brings her own likable personality to a character who can engage at the same time she antagonizes, who can frustrate while she delights. Hunter also makes us wonder how welcome people can be when intimidated by someone they clearly realize knows oh so much more.
Jane Fonda in “The China Syndrome” (1978) offers a thrilling look at the role a reporter can play in revealing an essential story. That this reporter usually finds herself trapped by “happy news” makes her progression even more compelling. Fonda’s intelligent portrayal shows how, when pressure mounts, the instincts we follow can define the results we achieve. And her timeless film also reveals how far organizations will go to protect their reputations.
Emma Thompson in “Late Night” (2019) considers what can happen when a major television star faces the realities of time, change, and the challenge to remain relevant. In an award-worthy performance, Thompson portrays the host of a long-running late-night television show who realizes the end may be in sight. How she reacts to the passage of the time, and possibilities for change, reveals that fear knows no time frame.
Doris Day in “The Thrill of It All” (1963) captures the urgency of early 1960’s television when it would appear that anyone could become a star. Doris Day delights as a doctor’s wife who accidentally finds herself as the focus of a series of broadcast commercials. How unprepared she is for her fame only makes “Beverly” more endearing. Day is pitch perfect as a woman who resists the spotlight while thoroughly enjoying its warmth.
Nicole Kidman in “To Die For” (1995) dares to question how much someone should be blamed for being self-serving. Kidman became a movie star for playing a vane, ambitious and ultimately ruthless television weather reporter. What she does on the air becomes secondary to what she plans in her off time when she decides life would be easier if her husband went away. For good. Kidman delights and frightens at the same time.
Sally Field in “Soapdish” (1991) uses the exaggerated world of television soap opera to examine how people with larger-than-life egos deal with the everyday realities that life can bring. Sally Field is a total joy as a woman obsessed with her stardom, fascinated by the devotion of her fans, and demanding of the entourage she employs. Field’s unique ability to be truthful and ridiculous makes the film outrageously fun as well as thought provoking.
Yes, moviemakers love women in television. And so do audiences. Enjoy.