Women In Television: Breaking The Glass Ceiling

Women in Television: Breaking the Glass Ceiling

By Juliette Boland



Originally published December 20, 2021 

      Produced for Visions of Diversity, for USC School of Cinematic Arts, Women in Television examines female representation in television throughout the decades, notating the major shifts that occurred in the industry as well as proving how depictions and treatment of women have improved over the years. 

      Each decade portrayed in the documentary focuses on a specific type of woman that dominated the screen within a historical context. Beginning with the advent of television, the confined and domestic housewife seen in shows such as Bewitched to The Dick Van Dyke Show, women were often assigned supporting roles, a mold that was broken by comedy legend Lucille Ball and her groundbreaking series I Love Lucy. Shifting into the 1970s, a time where television, specifically Norman Lear’s poignant, family-centered shows, began to tackle political, social, and racial issues, women took the lead in their own stories, and more diverse faces filled the screen. Slowly but surely. The 1980s, reflecting the country’s return to traditional values, sexualized women and promoted unattainable beauty. Directly challenging these ideals and the male gaze, the 1990s favored the working woman whose lifestyle was specifically and stereotypically female and almost always revolved around her love life, as seen in Sex in the City. Finally, in recent years, due to Herculean waves of activism and social awareness like Black Lives Matter and the Me Too Movement, television has exponentially improved the embarrassingly lacking use of diversity. 

      Along with historical analysis, these points are supported by three women who offered personal stories as proof of what it was truly like to live and work as a female artist during these periods. Focusing on the importance and power of representation, Women in Television follows the stories of three interviewees who shared their experiences as women in the television industry, each providing different and unique perspectives. Charlene Tilton, star of hit series Dallas, speaks about the environment in the 70s as a young actress. Robin Bernheim Burger, Writer/Producer/Showrunner, of shows like Star Trek: Next Generation and When Calls the Heart, has had a decades long career working in the writers room and behind the scenes. Lastly, Emma Turner, producer of British programs like Eastenders and Holby City, illustrates the parallels between American and European television and their varying approaches to depicting female characters. 

      Discussing issues of pay inequality, labor, and sexism, these women demonstrate how far the industry has come but how far it still has to go. Women in Television showcases the longstanding flaws of this male and white dominated industry in order to encourage and amplify female voices. 

Written, Directed, Edited and all interviews conducted by Juliette Boland for University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and published on The Anglophile Channel.

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TAC’s Student Journalist: Juliette Boland is a Harvard Prize recipient and a four-time Los Angeles Press Club, National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award winner. She has covered entertainment news for The Anglophile Channel since the age of 11, becoming the youngest NAEJ award winner in LA Press Club history at age 12. Juliette is currently a junior at University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts majoring in Film & Television Production and minoring in Screenwriting. 

Follow Juliette on Instagram @Juliette_Boland