"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" creator and star Rachel Bloom worked as an actor for a long time before she got famous and won a Golden Globe.
Along the way, she got used to seeing casting calls like this:
A photo posted by Rachel Bloom (@racheldoesstuff) on
The notice has offended her so often that Bloom decided to write a parody version of it for the male characters on her show. And it's glorious:
"Sexist breakdowns and shallow female characters are almost always synonymous with lazy writing," Bloom said in an email. "Good writers treat every character with respect and imagine who they are beyond their physical attributes."
Men in film, TV, and on stage get to be three-dimensional people with personalities all the time — and when they're not, it's strange.
See, for example, the famous casting breakdown for the musical "Hamilton:"
Miranda's casting notes for Hamilton. https://t.co/uY0dM6ZFHt https://t.co/GyfJ2cMI1n— southpaw (@southpaw) 1456772961
Compare "Cool, steely reserve." "Dripping with swagger," "Entitled, pouty nihilist" to "attractive," "thin," or wearing "sexy attire" and the problem becomes clear.
The adjectives used to describe the female characters in the Backstage posting contain virtually no information about who those characters actually are as people (except "introverted" — basically code for "seen and not heard"). Are they funny? Intellectual? Where do they come from? Are they religious? Do they like kneeboarding?
We don't know any of that.
The only things we do know are things a dude chatting them up for five minutes at a party might notice about them.
These casting calls suggest that women are still on screen (or on stage) to be looked at, rather than identified with.
Writing fully drawn characters with rich, well-developed inner lives — male or female — isn't easy.
But that's the job.
Putting women on TV or in movies simply so they can play objects of desire says something about what our culture values most about them. In a world where women only comprise 34% of major characters in film, every characterization matters.
Thankfully, more TV shows and movies are doing it right these days.
Shows like Bloom's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," which features a flawed, but fully human, female protagonist for one.
Movies like the Melissa McCarthy-helmed "Spy" and "Ghostbusters," which demonstrate that women can lead giant blockbusters with lots of explosions just as ably as men.
And smash-hit musicals like "Hamilton," which, although it features only a few women, draws them fully and with respect.
Ultimately, women on screen should be just like women in real life.
Talkative nurses who read The Economist and call their brother twice a day. Introverted ferry boat captains who go to church every Sunday and obsess over their stamp collection. Spiky doctors who nervously chew flexi-straws and have a soft spot for amphibians.
And yes, even, occasionally eye candy.
Eye candy who loves nature documentaries and sings in an amateur choir on Tuesdays.