The volume of female-led programs is visibly on the rise, and with it comes storylines that may not have been explored in the past and new perceptions of what women are supposed to be doing on screen. But just this year, a number of lady gang shows are airing their final episodes: “Orange Is the New Black” will release its final season before 2020, “Jane the Virgin” is moving into spinoff territory and “Broad City” said a tearful goodbye last month.
Luckily, we have showrunners like Amy Poehler willing to keep up the momentum.
Poehler, whose feature-length directorial debut “Wine Country” is out May 10 on Netflix, talked to The Hollywood Reporter about what being a female creator has meant to both her identity as a woman and to the greater feminist agenda. Namely, that a lot is changing, and it’s time to buck up.
With a career spanning over 20 years, of course the landscape that Poehler’s been working with has transformed. The comedy that’s she’s so familiar with has always been drawn from social issues and current trends, and especially when it comes to female representation and what it means to be a woman in show business, the status quo is subject to revolutions.
“My generation was like, ‘Wear baggy clothes when you improvise, be one of the guys, don’t use your sexuality,’” Poehler said. “And women younger than me are like, ‘Uh, my sexuality is my own, I can use it however I want. It’s one of the many things about me. And I’m in control of it.’ And it’s like, right, right, right, right, right.”
The generational differences she’s faced, Poehler said, is something she has to constantly be reminded of in order to continue creating relatable, admirable characters; a large part of that, of course, is the growing naturalization of female sexuality and how it’s expressed on screen.
For “Broad City” especially, which Poehler served as executive producer on, the show was known for being hilariously real even when that called for raunchiness. She caught herself staunching the overt sexuality that stars and writers Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer were so keen on. And, of course, that explicitness is exactly what made “Broad City” popular.
On top of getting more comfortable with women being unapologetically women on screen, Poehler said she’s also had to become more aware of what she called her “deep institutionalized misogyny.”
“Our generation of women, Gen Xer women, we desexualized ourselves. And that stuff gets really ingrained,” she said. “I grew up in a time where trying to sympathize or empathize with the male experience was how I was able to be included in the experience.”
That’s not the case anymore. Female creators are taking control of their own narratives, and more and more programs are using all-women crews.
“It’s funny how people want to remind you that you're not male,” Maya Rudolph chimed in. “I know people think that we think about it, but we don’t. We're not thinking like, ‘Hey, it’s our turn, guys.’” Rather, woman are just becoming more and more empowered to do their thing.
And those things are sometimes suggestive and complicated, putting women in positions that we’re not necessarily used to, but definitely aren’t opposed to. It’s a new era, and getting on board may be uncomfortable at first, but creators like Poehler are forging ahead.
“Women are constantly criticized for being too emotional. Can we be allowed to be as messy, as all over the place, as inconsistent and as mediocre as men? Do we have to always be patient, special, nurturing, adaptable?” Poehler said.