If you were to believe the media, 2011 has been the Year of the Lady, but I’m not buying it. Yes, Bridesmaids was the best comedy of the summer. It’s true that there were a host—or hostess (hey-o)—of new Fall shows featuring female leads. But everyone’s behaving as if these talented women have been hiding out, just waiting to unleash the funny when they were ready—when actually these women have been in TV shows and movies for years.
We simply have been overlooking them.
For the past decade, the airwaves have been filled with women famous only because the networks told us they were. Celebrated for their sociopathic behavior or sex tapes, these ladies have been a parade of catfights, catch phrases and narcissism. Even worse than all that, the producers of these shows have the nerve to call the genre “reality.” I imagine we, as a nation, have grown tired of all this reality, and have decided to embrace women who are real, and there are few women in entertainment realer than the ladies of Saturday Night Live.
The 36th anniversary of the first broadcast of Saturday Night Live was this week, which means many of us have only lived in a world where the show has existed. As we’ve grown up, we’ve watched the show evolve from one, where the funny women were marginalized by their male counterparts who didn’t think women could be funny, to the SNL of today, where the girls frequently outshine the boys. And while you may be part of the vocal portion of the populace who exclaims that the show hasn’t been good since [insert year here], you can’t deny the talent, sense of humor or creativity of the women on the show who probably had to work a lot harder to get there than the guys.
(And the ladies break less on camera. I’m just sayin’.)
One could argue that that hard work is part of the appeal of SNL’s lady alums. It’s easy to hate a celebutante reality “star,” but when you think about the comedy training at Groundlings or Second City, years of struggling on small New York or L.A. stages and the sheer luck of getting the approval of Lorne Michaels—you have to admire your typical SNL lady alum.
And that’s just for their sheer pluck. Add to that the fact that most of them got into this business because they just want to make people laugh, well, why wouldn’t you want to root for this person on television?
Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristin Wiig, like many of the performers on SNL, received comedy and improvisational training that stressed the importance of finding the humor in the familiar of life, because people find funny what they relate to. Your average reality star rose to notoriety because they came here to win, not to make friends—and then they never went away.
When ladies like Tina, Amy and Kristin started receiving more and more recognition and adulation for their characters and shows, perhaps that made us realize that television didn’t need to be the escape we may have needed for the past ten years. Rather, we may be ready once again to watch TV to be entertained by characters encountering situations we recognize, just funnier.
So, yes, you can get swept up in the media hype about the lady invasion on your boob tube, or we can simply acknowledge the fact that our culture is progressing past caring about Real Housewives to investing our time in real women.