Media professor to discuss changing roles of women on television

By on March 1, 2006

Assistant professor of media studies and public relations Lisa Burns will present a discussion on the portrayal of women in the media next Thursday, at East Haven’s Hagaman Memorial Library at 7 p.m.. The event is free and open to students and members of the general public.

Burns, a self-described “media junkie,” says this presentation, titled “TV’s Working Women and Desperate Housewives: Images of Women on TV Over the Years,” will allow her to indulge both her research interests and hobby of watching television. Outside the TV realm, Burns has also prepared research detailing the media’s portrayal of U.S. first ladies during the twentieth century and has offered commentary on shows including “Desperate Housewives” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

The professor cites “Buffy” as a long-time favorite program, and points to current primetime hits like “Lost” and “Veronica Mars” as examples of programming that showcases leading women in a positive light.

“Veronica Mars is smart, funny, cynical and sarcastic – a girl after my own heart,” Burns said. “I love seeing a young woman who is not afraid to admit that she is intelligent and who knows that her brains are her best asset.”

Television trends will also be discussed. While shows like “Mars” and “Housewives” are currently all the rage, Burns feels that many of today’s female ensemble casts hearken back to similar programming, citing “Sex and the City” as an update to Lifetime’s “The Golden Girls,” that has worked for the major networks in the past.

“What is sad is that Hollywood is always reluctant to take chances on these shows,” Burns said, referring to the female-driven programs.

“‘Desperate Housewives’ was turned down by every network before being picked up by ABC. Station executives were worried about a cast featuring 40-something actresses portraying suburban housewives, afraid that it wouldn’t appeal to their audience. What the execs were forgetting was that their audience includes a large number of 40-something suburban housewives.”

With the advent of shows like “Housewives,” Burns is optimistic that female-driven shows will continue to make it to the forefront of primetime lineups, once, of course, the reality TV phenomenon dies down. “The breakout hit “Grey’s Anatomy” is also an interesting new trend which bridges the intensity of an “ER” with the narrative style of “Sex and the City.”

For more information about Burns’ upcoming lecture, call the Hagaman Memorial Library at (203) 468-3890. While the program is free, seating is limited and registration is requested. The library is located at 227 Main Street in East Haven.


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