So... what is it? NBC's Playboy Club and ABC's Pan Am look eerily similar in aesthetic and content, minus one murder-coverup plot device. I don't have high expectations for these shows, but I'm interested in watching them to see how they both deal with the historical elements of the beginning of the feminist movement. I had a professor who worked as a flight attendant when she was younger and had written about the experiences of female flight attendants. Though not in the sixties, they were still subjected to being called "stewardesses" and having weight requirements.
Do TV-execs find it easier to cast a TV show with majority female characters when they can do so in the safe setting of the 1960s: an era of fraught racial and gender issues, but also a fashionable time that existed before our current state of political correctness and heightened sensitivity to diversity and social issues? People look at reality shows about the current Playboy Bunnies with pity because these women are depicted as dumb (and gross for hanging out with Hef so much), but putting bunny-costumed women in the 60s makes it glamorous again because straight up sexism is... glamorous.
But for all the feminism on TV, high quality dramas about women haven’t taken off. Women get plenty of meaty, complex roles in these top tier shows, but only as supporting characters in shows centered around men’s gender drama...Other upcoming female-centered dramas that aim to get a chunk of the audience for quality dramas don’t look any more interesting. Pan Am, a drama about stewardesses in the ’60s, seems like it’s trying to be Mad Men without any of the smarts. The Playboy Club looks like it was created by people who are sick of the actresses on Mad Men getting away with wearing ordinary clothes that have zero animal tails stuck on their asses...I blame the nation’s inability to deal directly with women engaged in complex, dramatic struggles that call gender roles into question. We are, after all, a country where people can go on TV and call Sarah Palin a feminist without choking on their own tongue. Perhaps the absurdities of being female in this modern era don’t lend themselves well to drama, but have to be approached sideways, through comedy. Women do very well heading up some of the best comedy on TV: 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, The Sarah Silverman Show.
In any case, I do want to watch Pan Am and The Playboy Club because even if the show's content is fluff (which it very well might be), I think it will be interesting to see how feminism is dealt with on the show. If it is done well and overtly, I think that would be great. If it's below-par, I think it will be just as indicative of the culture of the 1960s as it is to our current attitudes toward women.