Entertainment & Media

Power Triangles: Love, Sex, and TV’s Modern Heroine

Originally published on CultralWeekly.com


Her intelligence is as enticing as her wit. Her appe­­­arance, impeccable and flawless, as if she stepped right off the cover of Vogue. Pass on the Pinot Grigio; she only takes red and prefers it by the bottle. Give her an unsolvable problem and she’ll not only rise to the occasion and conquer the issue at hand, but will do so with a smile on her face and not a hair out of place. Who is she? She’s the modern heroine gracing your television screen several nights a week. She’s the woman pulling females out of subordinate victim roles and placing them in the forefront. She’s the woman calling the shots except when it comes to her love life and in this case, it’s always complicated by two irresistible successful and charming men claiming her affection week after week.

Women have been making their mark on television for over half a century now. They’ve outshined their male leads, carried popular shows on their own, and have been listed as trailblazers for actresses today. The housewife of the ‘50s and ‘60s transformed to the single working girl and matriarch of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The ‘90s and early ‘2000s, presented a further evolution. There was the housewife who kept the family alive and fed while her husband made one dimwitted mistake after another. Then you had the woman who, despite career success, was always going through a revolving door of relationships, kissing frog after frog with no prince in sight.

The fact that female-centric shows are popular is nothing new, but the modern incarnation is something completely unique. This woman is powerful, fearless, has a closet full of designer suits and handbags, and always has her pick of bachelors to choose from. This woman is someone we could never be, but the fantasy is undeniably attractive.

Three of the most powerful heroines on television today are Scandal’s Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington), The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick (played by Juliana Margulies), and newcomer How to Get Away with Murder’s Annalise Keating (played by Viola Davis). It’s not enough that Olivia Pope runs a lucrative crisis management firm and can graciously self-medicate with a bottle of ’94 du Bellay without leaving a drop on her spotless white Armani suit. No, she also scores the attention of the President of the United States and a CIA Operative. Alicia Florrick’s situation differs slightly but only in the fact that she struggles between lusting after Will Gardner, her boss and managing partner of Chicago’s most successful law firm, and her commitment to Illinois Governor Peter Florrick, her unfaithful but remorseful husband. The men stealing our leading lady’s attention are just as wealthy and victorious as their female counterparts. Gone are the days of the girl next door tied between the bad boy from the streets and the popular jock. Our girl doesn’t settle for anything less than wealth, power, and model looks. Even Annalise Keating has one arm clutching a respected Homicide Detective and the other around her Psychology Professor husband.

Much like the horror movie conceit of the virgin’s survival, television dramas featuring female protagonists are relying more and more on simultaneous love affairs involving their main character. We’re less concerned with Olivia Pope’s latest crisis case and Alicia Florrick’s parenting skills, and more fixated on who will be occupying their bed this week. It’s the romance in these series that women viewers crave. They admire the fact that Olivia Pope and Alicia Florrick don’t need a man but rather choose to have one (or two) because they can.

One criticism is that this strips our heroine of her power and strength, but that isn’t necessarily true. The power triangles aren’t diminishing our leading ladies. Instead, our women are standing firm, controlling the fate of their male counterparts and leaving viewers obsessing over their next move. Call it a step back for women’s advancements in television, but the reality is that women viewers want their Cinderella fantasies and writers are expanding on that fairytale by dropping in a second Prince Charming. They’re utilizing the power triangle to expose our female and male characters’ vulnerability and flaws. They never twitch from fear nor doubt in the Oval Office and courtroom, but when in the presence of their lover, they lose control, leaving their weaknesses exposed to viewers. Train wrecks draw attention and keep these television series high in the ratings. We tune in each week to see our female protagonists triumph once again over overwhelming odds. As viewers, we enjoy placing bets over which lover they’ll choose this week. Triangle affairs are juicy. They keep viewers coming back each week and burning up the discussion boards proclaiming loyalty to “Team Fitz” or “Team Jake.” Final Score: Olivia Pope and Alicia Florrick – 2, Bachelors – 0

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That’s What She Said…And Other Famous TV Quotes

There’s no greater feeling than having a connection with someone who watches the same tv shows as you.  One line can bond you for life, leaving you cracking up louder than a drunk at a comedy club.  I could go on for pages listing the best tv lines, but I’ll save some virtual space and just “yada, yada, yada” about my most recent favs (in no particular order).

1. “Legen…Dary!”  – Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother

No one has better catch phrases than NPH himself.  Everything from his “self fives” to “challenge accepted” never gets old, but my all-time favorite Barney Stinson quote is “Legen…Wait for it…Dary.”  It just amplifies everything that is awesome in this world.

2. “Treat Yo Self” – Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, Parks and Recreation

Work hard, shop harder?  Yes, please!  Tom and Donna gave us permission to “Treat Yo Self” to whatever is you please because we all need a little retail indulgence every now and then, don’t you think?

3. “Deal Breaker” – Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

Tina Fey is the voice of reason for girls and women alike.  She’s smart, funny, and regardless of how self-deprecating she is about her looks, I think she’s fabulous gorgeous with a great bod!  Act all indifferent you want Tina, but we both know you limit your Hostess Ding Dongs and hit the gym more than Kelly Ripa’s 6-pack abs.  Anyway, back to the topic.  “Deal Breaker” cuts out the bullshit and forces you to move on…to something BETTER.  Grown-ass man still living and mooching off his mama?  Deal Breaker!  Employee comes into the office looking ravaged and smells like a fish?  Deal Breaker!  Dog refusing to keep his shits to outside?  Deal Breaker!  Okay, well not really because he’s a pup and you’ll always love him, but you get the point.  Tina’s “Deal Breaker” gives you the authority to call it as it is ditch whatever it is that isn’t working like a hot tomato.

4. “Turtle Time” – Ramona Singer, Real Housewives of New York City

Better than  RHOC Vicki’s “Wahoo,” no one can resist a little “Turtle Time.”  I think Ramona’s swag dance moves hype the saying even better.  After working a long week, who wouldn’t want to take off their shoes, down a little Pinot Grigio and Turtle Time it up?  I think every moment should be Turtle Time!

5. “Chang / Chang-ed / Chang-ing” – Professor Chang, Community

It’s like “Fuck.”  It can be a noun, verb, adverb, whatever you want to make it, which is why I love “Chang.”  You can “Chang It” or “Be Chang-ed” or “just Chang.”  Professor Chang may be crazy, but at least he’s making “Chang” happen.  It’s so fetch!

6.  “That’s What She Said” – Michael Scott, The Office
Thats-What-She-Said-Michael-Scott-Last-EpisodeCome on, it never gets old.  I’m a chick, and a proper one at that and even I can’t even resist when someone says something and the opportunity to blurt out, “That’s what she said” comes…”That’s what she said!”  See what I did there?  Right there?  I just did it.

  1. “It’s Handled” – Olivia Pope, Scandal

My favorite is actually, “I’m the Best” but I couldn’t find any attractive memes with it.  Scandal is like a more sophisticated soap opera my husband and I enjoy indulging in.  And by sophisticated, I mean it airs after 8pm.  Overly dramatic and ridiculous, the hubs and I have an ongoing joke that whenever a really intense scenario appears, one of us will ask, “will get it handled?” and the other responds, “yes, because she’s the best!”  Perfect drinking game.

  1. “Patrice!” – Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother

Poor Patrice.  She just wants to be Robin’s BFF, but is always the automatic scapegoat/punching bag when something goes wrong.  Oh well, I’m over pitying her because blaming her is just that much more entertaining.  Dammit Patrice!

Miss a favorite of yours?  Share in the comment section below.