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Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Mike White - Creator/Writer of Enlightened

Features
by Kerensa Cadenas
March 1, 2013 1:16 PM
1 Comment
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Mike White and Laura Dern on Enlightened
Mike White and Laura Dern on Enlightened
Enlightened is hands down the best show that you aren't watching.  It follows Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern), a former corporate executive who post-nervous breakdown goes to a holistic rehab and comes back a new, spiritual woman ready to do good in the world. But Amy's own self-destructive tendencies can tend to bog down her best intentions.

It's a show that's a hard sell--it's dramatic, comedic, contemplative and quiet. It's unlike anything else on television and at its center is Jellicoe--one of the most interesting, complex and sometimes infuriating female characters on television. Created by Laura Dern and Mike White, Enlightened is in danger of not being renewed for a third season. In light of this and the upcoming season finale, White (who solely writes the show) has been doing numerous interviews and has really great insights on female characters. In a recent, must-read interview with Vulture, White discusses his frustrations with a lack of viewers and how female characters are perceived.

It irritates me. When the show came out, I saw that because the face of the show was a woman, it was put in this box with The Big C and these other female-led shows. And somehow it was a "less than" kind of show just from people coming to it that way. If we had a male lead character, I think people would have approached it in a different, kind of more serious-minded way. It's taken almost eighteen episodes to get people to get it. Now it's kind of cool to like the show. I don't know why. Maybe because it has made some inroads into some of the male characters [Levi and Tyler].

That sounds kind of cynical, but it's the story of my career. If I have a male protagonist, it's a studio movie, and if it's a female protagonist, it's an indie movie. That's just how it is. It's not about the studios. It's about America and who goes to see movies. Women are interested in men and women, and men aren't interested in the woman's story. They just aren't. There are exceptions, but by and large... I mean I do think that it's feminizing for a guy to go see a movie with a female lead unless it's Angelina Jolie shooting people or Zero Dark Thirty or something that feels like it's in the male sphere. The devaluation of the traditional female roles or the traditional female approach, it starts to feel like this is what's wrong with our country. Should I get off my high horse? [Laughs.]

We need more men out there like White calling out the ways in which women-led entertainment is perceived and we also need more well-written female characters like Amy Jellicoe on our television screens.

Enlightened's season two finale airs on 3/3 at 9:30pm on HBO. You can catch up on the series on HBO GO.

Mike White on Enlightened's Tough Road to a Third Season and Why He Thinks Men Don't Want to Watch Shows About Women (Vulture)

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1 Comment

  • Elle Kamihira | March 3, 2013 11:26 AMReply

    I love Mike White. Please, lets have more of him and more of Enlightened. Enlightened is on par with The Wire in terms of commenting in a truthful way about the real lived lives of Americans. It speaks about male privilege, corporate hegemony (and how those are connected!) in a way we've never seen on television. Its revolutionary in the way it sticks by Amy. Lets stick by this show!!!

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