Sunday, June 25, 2006

Ascent of a Woman

I was a big fan of the TV show, West Wing. I came to the program late, but I've loved catching up on all the episodes with DVD's from Netflix. I adore Martin Sheen's President Bartlett, and would vote for him in a heartbeat. I'd even work for him, stuffing envelopes or any other pedantic thing I could do that would let me be on the fringes of such a charismatic figure's reign.

So, I was excited about the prospect of another show about a US President, especially since this one featured the first woman President, played by Geena Davis. The show got big press, and the early ratings were fabulous. I was so geeked, thinking to myself that people were getting the idea that a woman in the White House was not only acceptable, but desirable! And on the first episode, when President Mackenzie "Mac" Allen walked onto the House floor and "Hail to the Chief" began to play, I actually felt shivers down my spine. "May I live long enough to see this for real," I prayed.

Sadly enough, the honeymoon for this President ended all to early. There were lots of behind the scenes changes, and the network kept pre-empting and then rescheduling the show, until the word came down just a few weeks ago that this Commander in Chief was being impeached for good.

In a survey quoted in last week's New York Times, 90% of those asked said they would vote for a woman President if the "right candidate came along." However, only 55% of those polled stated their opinion that the country as a whole was "ready" to accept a woman as President.

Although I was pleasantly surprised at the 90% who would vote for a woman President, it's the dissenting 55% that interest me. Here in America, a country whose very existence sprang from the desire for equality under the law and freedom of expression, a country who has always been on the cutting edge of scientific and technological achievement, a country that goes around the world blatantly and physically declaring it's superiority, it seems wrong that we somehow aren't "ready" to accept a woman as our leader. It's not as if there are no other examples to follow - there are women currently at the helm in Ireland, Germany, Finland, Chile, Liberia, and the Phillippines. But the American public's social and cultural idea of women hasn't caught up with the realities of women's roles in the modern world. And we really haven't yet raised a generation of young women with the idea that they can be anything they want to be, including the ruler of the free world.

No doubt we're making progress. When I was a child, a TV show about a woman President would have been considered science fiction, if it was even allowed on the air at all. At least, although briefly, President Allen was taken seriously as a character. She was able to portray a woman making the tough decisions when necessary, but also bringing a sly strength and common sense to her dealings with politicians both at home and abroad, much as a very clever mother would in her relationship with unruly teenagers.

Perhaps there's hope for me to hear "Hail to the Chief" being played for Madame President. That would certainly be music to my ears!

7 Comments:

Blogger deirdre said...

I never saw this show, but heard good things about it. The West Wing was my favorite for a long time - loved that fast dialogue and all the characters. I, too, am surprised by the American publics' willingness to vote for a woman and belief that we're not ready yet. Hmmm. I hope it will happen in my lifetime too.

6/25/2006  
Blogger Star said...

My husband and I were devoted fans of The West Wing as well. We missed the first season but were clued in by friends on how good it was and were able to catch it in summer reruns (remember those days?) and were ready and waiting when Season 2 began.

The poll results don't surprise me at all because I don't think I personally know any man that would vote for a woman for president. It doesn't matter how nice, polite or forward-thinking they are, I don't think they are ready to see that happen.

It amazes me that anyone of worth, man or woman, wants to run for public office anymore. We put all the candidates, their families, business associates, and friends through the wringer in the press long before election day. Mud is thrown, lies are created, statements are twisted tighter than a pretzel.

Is it any wonder that only weasels want to run for office?

I'm going to miss The West Wing. I'm only left with Monk now, and they'll probably cancel that halfway through the season.

6/25/2006  
Blogger paris parfait said...

And music to my ears too! Great post. I really hope a woman president is elected in our lifetime. Other countries do it - why can't we? I think a woman could solve a lot of problems that men tend to perpetuate with their cluelessness.

6/26/2006  
Blogger Catherine said...

I didn't like "Commander in Chief" nearly as much as I liked "The West Wing". It may be just the changed political climate after 9/11, but I felt that the writers made MacKenzie Allan way more right wing and hawkish than President Bartlett, because it was the only way that a woman president would be accepted. I don't think it's an advance to have women leaders (as we do in New Zealand), if they have to out-macho the men to be accepted.
As for the comment about Monk, I love it. But over here they bury it at one o'clock on a Thursday afternoon, and I keep forgetting to set the DVD to record it.

6/26/2006  
Blogger madretz said...

Nice post, thanks for sharing your words. I agree about how charismatic President Bartlett was. I was also a devoted Commander in Chief watcher although I feel like the writers had trouble focusing on where they wanted the show to go. Perhaps b/c of the changes behind the scene you mentioned.

I, too, hope to see a woman president in my lifetime.

6/28/2006  
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