Recommendations for socially aware media both sincere and heartwarming?
March 8, 2013 9:00 AM   Subscribe

What are your recommendations for feminist friendly, social justice friendly media that portrays human beings outside of conventional stereotypes with positive themes?

Ok so, my specifics are specific.... I'm hoping to find some sitcomes, movies, tv series that portray human beings of various body sizes and ages (sitcoms features elderly people? People with very minimal to no visible make up (other than what is needed to make the color work on film), people who are conventionally not attractive- who are living fairly enjoyable/funny/ light experiences.

I know it would be easier to find this if my constraints didn't exclude drama as a category but I specifically do NOT like heavy content- I'm really looking for light hearted comedy, family warmth, and loving relationships on film. I'm happy to watch in subtitles if other cultures do this better than english speaking cultures. (Also I speak a bit of german so german speaking recommendations would be great).

I like the cosby show, I like seinfield, there are plenty of comedies that would probably fit in this category that aren't specifically "feminist" oriented and might even be not so politically correct in humor, but are kind of "all in good fun". I like medieval history and historical settings so things that take us out of these setting in which females are designed to look like barbie dolls while guys all get to be slacker doofs and it's fine. I watch TV/movies with teenage relatives and I feel like it's very hard to find shows that are both heart warming and light in the way Raven, wizards of waverly place or Zach and Cody are- but without the females gobbed in make up and hair products that make them look very unnatural-- and if possible a step up in the intelligence and social integrity of the humor and stereotypes portrayed. I like stupid humor, the Regular Show, Adventure Time-- I'm the kind of dork who likes cartoons and oddball humor-- but I also REALLY like feel good family TV.

I find that intelligence and social consciousness are hard to find in combo with feel good TV. (I guess perhaps when they say ignorance is bliss they mean it? lol)

Looking forward to answers! I'd rather have more answers than less, so please don't worry about fitting my constraints perfectly-- I'd just like to see if there are ideas I'm unaware of I could try!
posted by xarnop to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried "Ugly Betty"?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:06 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

'The Golden Girls' may suit some of your needs, and it appears that the price is right (free!) on Youtube.
posted by mr. digits at 9:11 AM on March 8, 2013

Freaks and Geeks
posted by twoporedomain at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Drop Dead Diva would work on both feminist and social justice angles. The main actress/character is a larger woman (who is often shown as fun and desireable) and also a lawyer - a lot of the episode plots are about what the 'right' thing to do in a case is, whether or not it's conventional. (IANAL, so I'm sure it's far from reality, but still.) It's fairly light, and there are strong work and friendship relationships there.

Ellen is a bit like this too - even before the actress/character came out, she was dating guys who weren't interesting or in tune with her dorkiness, she was fairly androgynous/unornamented in appearance, and there is a variety of characters rather than just thin twenty-somethings - her parents appear a lot. The final series, in which she's an out lesbian, spends a couple of episodes exploring how weird realising you're gay is and how much it will change who you are and what you do and how your family will react, then shows lesbian relationships as as happy/problematic as straight ones and in that sense entirely normal, which is great.

Just Shoot Me has a couple of sleazy-ish characters which might rule it out for you, but the main protagonist, Maya, is a feminist who worries that working for a glossy magazine compromises her principles.
posted by mippy at 9:18 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Getting On, which is written by and stars Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine and Joanna Scanlan, is wonderful, and fits all your criteria.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 9:19 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh hey! There is an entire genre that is made just for you it is called "Anything Ever Produced for British TV" and it is wonderful!

It runs the gamut from super heavy drama and costume dramas to completely light and rollicking. The characters are pretty varied.

Some of the older stuff is bawdy, but ultimately pokes fun at some of the same things that you are bothered by (sexism/objectification/etc.) - check out "Are You Being Served?" for a taste of that.
posted by jph at 9:46 AM on March 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Have you seen "Parks and Recreation"? It seems almost too obvious to be worth suggesting, but it's got a feminist main character who doesn't get made fun of for being a feminist, who can be dorky and silly but often succeeds in doing real good in the community, and one of the rare close friendships between women on TV. One of the more minor characters is a larger woman who is also attractive and has an active love life. Mostly, the humor is warm and dorky and not mean-spirited.

(The first season is much weaker than the following seasons, I think, so skip forward if it's uninteresting at first.)
posted by Jeanne at 9:49 AM on March 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Oh hey! There is an entire genre that is made just for you it is called "Anything Ever Produced for British TV" and it is wonderful!

I completely agree with this, and I was just getting ready to recommend The Vicar of Dibley. It's been a while since I've watched it, but I absolutely loved it. Obviously, there's some overt religious themes, but I'm an atheist and I never felt like the show was any kind of propaganda.
posted by gladly at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Company of Strangers is a great 1990 Canadian movie about a group of older women stranded by a bus accident, and how they open up to each other.

Speaking of Canadian media, the TV series Slings and Arrows is fantastic in so many ways.

Two UK shows you might enjoy are "The Vicar of Dibley" and "Waiting for God".

To go back a ways in US TV, "Good Times" was an interesting series.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:57 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would try Gilmore Girls if I were you.
posted by ferociouskitty at 10:21 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm often blown away by how diverse and inclusive the characters on the Nicktoon Hey Arnold are. When I was growing up, diversity in kids shows was starting to catch on, but in this very heavy handed PBS-edutainment kind of way. The characters on Hey Arnold never felt like token minorities; they were diverse because the show takes place in NYC and NYC is diverse.

Yes, it's a silly children's cartoon, but I think it deserves to be recognized for having so many fully-fleshed well-written characters that deviate from the "lots of happy white kids with two parents + one token sassy brown kid" formula of most kid's shows.

Just a tiny partial list of examples:

-Arnold's parents are dead and he is being raised by his grandparents.

-His best friend Gerald is African-American, Gerald's whole family are developed characters with names and personalities

-Harold (the bully) is Jewish, one episode shows him going through his Bar Mitzvah

-Mr. Hyunh (a boarding home resident) is a refugee of the Vietnam War

-Phoebe (the nerd) is half Asian, half Caucasian, if I remember correctly; that's not the mix of mixed-race I am, but I remember being blown away as a kid even seeing a multiracial kid depicted

-There's an episode that's all about a makeover party being crashed, and how super-femme girly-girlness isn't for everyone
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:40 AM on March 8, 2013

As Time Goes By is a British series that ran from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. They used to show it on PBS all the time--maybe they still do. Dench and Palmer's characters had had a romance in the 1950s but then were abruptly separated. They end up meeting again unexpectedly, nearly 40 years later, and the show is about the rekindling of their relationship. It's funny and well-acted--probably the first thing I ever saw Judi Dench in, and for a long time it's how I identified her (saw her in Shakespeare in Love, thought "Oh hey, it's that woman from As Time Goes By!"). I like it because it acknowledges that romance isn't just the purview of the young.

Corner Gas is a Canadian sitcom from 2004-2009 about a woman named Lacey who moves from the big city to a tiny prairie town in Saskatchewan after inheriting her aunt's diner. The diner is near the town's gas station, so she makes friends with the gas station staff, Brent and Wanda, and the employees there and thus gets to know the ways of the town's other oddball residents. Brent has a crush on Lacey and Wanda generally thinks she is a naive city slicker. The show is very lighthearted and the writing is witty (I always liked the wordplay); each episode is nicely self-contained once you know the basic premise of the show (Lacey as fish-out-of-water--though as time goes by she becomes more and more part of the community). The cast all look like people one might actually meet in a small Canadian town.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:04 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Corner Gas" made me think of Baghdad Cafe.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:11 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Surprised not to see Awkward Black Girl!
posted by cairdeas at 11:15 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Shortbus is what first came to mind for me. It's not altogether light — it deals in party with heavy themes, has heavy scenes — and is super sexual (a fair dose of penis and gay sex and straight sex) — but it is incredibly sincere and heartwarming and has people of all genders and shapes represented as full and awesome humans.

Made by John Cameron Mitchell who also made Hedwig.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:16 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Chenko at 11:53 AM on March 8, 2013

Response by poster: These have all been awesome answers! I am not very familiar with British sitcoms so I will be happy to check them out!
posted by xarnop at 7:43 PM on March 8, 2013

I think you would absolutely love Keeping Up Appearances.
posted by cairdeas at 7:47 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know it's been awhile since this Ask, but Roseanne has a lot of what you're looking for, too.
posted by chaiminda at 3:05 PM on March 11, 2013

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