After spilling 1,850 words in my last post lambasting Conan O’Brien for his awful sexist video game reviews, I feel obliged to highlight some surprisingly feminist entertainment to restore balance to the Dropout blog.
While we hold our feminist principles sacred, not all entertainment needs to offer sophisticated social commentary. I love watching feminist comedy shows like Inside Amy Schumer, but sometimes I just need to turn off my brain and be entertained. Comedy Central’s Drunk History, surprisingly, fills this niche very well.
As the title suggests, Drunk History doesn’t provide sophisticated, highbrow entertainment. The show’s creator gets a storyteller drunk and the storyteller then attempts to tell the audience an interesting story about a historical figure or event. As the story unfolds, a team of actors in period costume faithfully acts out the inebriated story. Add some low-budget special effects and some celebrity cameos and you have an entertaining (if unsophisticated) show. [Note: The UK has its own version of this show, based on the US version for once.]
One might not expect particularly progressive or feminist themes given the show’s dependence on drunkness, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised on two fronts.
First, the show includes a surprising number of female storytellers. In the show’s first incarnation as a Funny or Die series, 2 of the 8 storytellers (25%) were women. This ratio stayed the same in Series 1 on Comedy Central (2013); 6 of the 24 storytellers (25%) were women. Season 2 (2014) saw the ratio increase to 30%, with 9 of 30 storytellers being women. Season 3 (2015) increased the representation even further to include 15 women among the 36 storytellers (42%). At this rate, Season 4 might easily have 50% female representation among its storytellers.
Stories About Women
Second, an increasingly large minority of the stories focus on women.
[Full episodes for seasons 1-3 are available behind a paywall on Hulu.]
Funny or Die Series: 1 woman’s story out of 8 total stories (13%)
- Oney Judge (episode 3)
- Claudette Colvin (episode 1)
- Sybil Ludington (episode 2)
- Nellie Bly (episode 2)
- Sylvia Robinson (episode 3)
- Peggy Shippen (episode 8)
- Babe Didrikson (episode 9)
- Frances Cleveland (episode 10)
- Edith Wilson (episode 10)
- Dolly Madison (episode 10)
- Griselda Blanco (episode 2)
- Harriet Tubman (episode 4)
- Virginia Hall (episode 4)
- Dorothy Fuldheim (episode 5)
- Kentucky Daisey (episode 7)
- Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland (episode 8)
- Mary Phelps Jacob (episode 11)
- Ann Druyan (episode 13)
If the trend continues, we can expect roughly one in four stories in Season 4 to focus on women.
This isn’t 50/50 representation, but the show does a nice job including entertaining stories, voices, and performances from women without making a big fuss about it. It’s just what they do. If I wasn’t a feminist blogger I probably wouldn’t have noticed I wasn’t getting 100% white male stories. (The show also makes a point to regularly include stories highlighting minority groups.)Ultimately, this silly show makes me wonder why more media products don’t do more to present women’s stories. If a show full of drunk people can do the right thing by women and minorities and be successful, it can’t be that hard. (I’m looking at you Conan.)